Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
The Canterbury Tales and Other Poems.
By Geoffrey Chaucer.
WHEN that Aprilis, with his showers swoot*, *sweet
The drought of March hath pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such licour,
Of which virtue engender'd is the flower;
When Zephyrus eke with his swoote breath
Inspired hath in every holt* and heath *grove, forest
The tender croppes* and the younge sun *twigs, boughs
Hath in the Ram <1> his halfe course y-run,
And smalle fowles make melody,
That sleepen all the night with open eye,
(So pricketh them nature in their corages*); *hearts, inclinations
Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers <2> for to seeke strange strands,
To *ferne hallows couth* in sundry lands; *distant saints known*<3>
And specially, from every shire's end
Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful Martyr for to seek,
That them hath holpen*, when that they were sick. *helped
Befell that, in that season on a day,
In Southwark at the Tabard <4> as I lay,
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devout corage,
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry folk, *by aventure y-fall *who had by chance fallen
In fellowship*, and pilgrims were they all, into company.* <5>
That toward Canterbury woulde ride.
The chamber, and the stables were wide,
And *well we weren eased at the best.* *we were well provided
And shortly, when the sunne was to rest, with the best*
So had I spoken with them every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made forword* early for to rise, *promise
To take our way there as I you devise*. *describe, relate
But natheless, while I have time and space,
Ere that I farther in this tale pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to reason,
To tell you alle the condition
Of each of them, so as it seemed me,
And which they weren, and of what degree;
And eke in what array that they were in:
And at a Knight then will I first begin.
A KNIGHT there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To riden out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his Lorde's war,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farre*, *farther
As well in Christendom as in Heatheness,
And ever honour'd for his worthiness
At Alisandre <6> he was when it was won.
Full often time he had the board begun
Above alle nations in Prusse.<7>
In Lettowe had he reysed,* and in Russe, *journeyed
No Christian man so oft of his degree.
In Grenade at the siege eke had he be
Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie. <8>
At Leyes was he, and at Satalie,
When they were won; and in the Greate Sea
At many a noble army had he be.
At mortal battles had he been fifteen,
And foughten for our faith at Tramissene.
In listes thries, and aye slain his foe.
This ilke* worthy knight had been also *same <9>
Some time with the lord of Palatie,
Against another heathen in Turkie:
And evermore *he had a sovereign price*. *He was held in very
And though that he was worthy he was wise, high esteem.*
And of his port as meek as is a maid.
He never yet no villainy ne said
In all his life, unto no manner wight.
He was a very perfect gentle knight.
But for to telle you of his array,
His horse was good, but yet he was not gay.
Of fustian he weared a gipon*, *short doublet
Alle *besmotter'd with his habergeon,* *soiled by his coat of mail.*
For he was late y-come from his voyage,
And wente for to do his pilgrimage.
With him there was his son, a younge SQUIRE,
A lover, and a lusty bacheler,
With lockes crulle* as they were laid in press. *curled
Of twenty year of age he was I guess.
Of his stature he was of even length,
And *wonderly deliver*, and great of strength. *wonderfully nimble*
And he had been some time in chevachie*, *cavalry raids
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie,
And borne him well, *as of so little space*, *in such a short time*
In hope to standen in his lady's grace.
Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead
All full of freshe flowers, white and red.
Singing he was, or fluting all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gown, with sleeves long and wide.
Well could he sit on horse, and faire ride.
He coulde songes make, and well indite,
Joust, and eke dance, and well pourtray and write.
So hot he loved, that by nightertale* *night-time
He slept no more than doth the nightingale.
Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable,
And carv'd before his father at the table.<10>
A YEOMAN had he, and servants no mo'
At that time, for *him list ride so* *it pleased him so to ride*
And he was clad in coat and hood of green.
A sheaf of peacock arrows<11> bright and keen
Under his belt he bare full thriftily.
Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly:
His arrows drooped not with feathers low;
And in his hand he bare a mighty bow.
A nut-head <12> had he, with a brown visiage:
Of wood-craft coud* he well all the usage: *knew
Upon his arm he bare a gay bracer*, *small shield
And by his side a sword and a buckler,
And on that other side a gay daggere,
Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear:
A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen.
An horn he bare, the baldric was of green:
A forester was he soothly* as I guess. *certainly
There was also a Nun, a PRIORESS,
That of her smiling was full simple and coy;
Her greatest oathe was but by Saint Loy;
And she was cleped* Madame Eglentine. *called
Full well she sang the service divine,
Entuned in her nose full seemly;
And French she spake full fair and fetisly* *properly
After the school of Stratford atte Bow,
For French of Paris was to her unknow.
At meate was she well y-taught withal;
She let no morsel from her lippes fall,
Nor wet her fingers in her sauce deep.
Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep,
That no droppe ne fell upon her breast.
In courtesy was set full much her lest*. *pleasure
Her over-lippe wiped she so clean,
That in her cup there was no farthing* seen *speck
Of grease, when she drunken had her draught;
Full seemely after her meat she raught*: *reached out her hand
And *sickerly she was of great disport*, *surely she was of a lively
And full pleasant, and amiable of port, disposition*
And *pained her to counterfeite cheer *took pains to assume
Of court,* and be estately of mannere, a courtly disposition*
And to be holden digne* of reverence. *worthy
But for to speaken of her conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous,* *full of pity
She woulde weep if that she saw a mouse
Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.
Of smalle houndes had she, that she fed
With roasted flesh, and milk, and *wastel bread.* *finest white bread*
But sore she wept if one of them were dead,
Or if men smote it with a yarde* smart: *staff
And all was conscience and tender heart.
Full seemly her wimple y-pinched was;
Her nose tretis;* her eyen gray as glass;<13> *well-formed
Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red;
But sickerly she had a fair forehead.
It was almost a spanne broad I trow;
For *hardily she was not undergrow*. *certainly she was not small*
Full fetis* was her cloak, as I was ware. *neat
Of small coral about her arm she bare
A pair of beades, gauded all with green;
And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen,
On which was first y-written a crown'd A,
And after, *Amor vincit omnia.* *love conquers all*
Another Nun also with her had she,
[That was her chapelleine, and PRIESTES three.]
A MONK there was, a fair *for the mast'ry*, *above all others*<14>
An out-rider, that loved venery*; *hunting
A manly man, to be an abbot able.
Full many a dainty horse had he in stable:
And when he rode, men might his bridle hear
Jingeling <15> in a whistling wind as clear,
And eke as loud, as doth the chapel bell,
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet, <16>
Because that it was old and somedeal strait
This ilke* monk let olde thinges pace, *same
And held after the newe world the trace.
He *gave not of the text a pulled hen,* *he cared nothing
That saith, that hunters be not holy men: for the text*
Ne that a monk, when he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless;
This is to say, a monk out of his cloister.
This ilke text held he not worth an oyster;
And I say his opinion was good.
Why should he study, and make himselfe wood* *mad <17>
Upon a book in cloister always pore,
Or swinken* with his handes, and labour, *toil
As Austin bid? how shall the world be served?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therefore he was a prickasour* aright: *hard rider
Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl of flight;
Of pricking* and of hunting for the hare *riding
Was all his lust,* for no cost would he spare. *pleasure
I saw his sleeves *purfil'd at the hand *worked at the end with a
With gris,* and that the finest of the land. fur called "gris"*
And for to fasten his hood under his chin,
He had of gold y-wrought a curious pin;
A love-knot in the greater end there was.
His head was bald, and shone as any glass,
And eke his face, as it had been anoint;
He was a lord full fat and in good point;
His eyen steep,* and rolling in his head, *deep-set
That steamed as a furnace of a lead.
His bootes supple, his horse in great estate,
Now certainly he was a fair prelate;
He was not pale as a forpined* ghost; *wasted
A fat swan lov'd he best of any roast.
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.
A FRIAR there was, a wanton and a merry,
A limitour <18>, a full solemne man.
In all the orders four is none that can* *knows
So much of dalliance and fair language.
He had y-made full many a marriage
Of younge women, at his owen cost.
Unto his order he was a noble post;
Full well belov'd, and familiar was he
With franklins *over all* in his country, *everywhere*
And eke with worthy women of the town:
For he had power of confession,
As said himselfe, more than a curate,
For of his order he was licentiate.
Full sweetely heard he confession,
And pleasant was his absolution.
He was an easy man to give penance,
*There as he wist to have a good pittance:* *where he know he would
For unto a poor order for to give get good payment*
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive.
For if he gave, he *durste make avant*, *dared to boast*
He wiste* that the man was repentant. *knew
For many a man so hard is of his heart,
He may not weep although him sore smart.
Therefore instead of weeping and prayeres,
Men must give silver to the poore freres.
His tippet was aye farsed* full of knives *stuffed
And pinnes, for to give to faire wives;
And certainly he had a merry note:
Well could he sing and playen *on a rote*; *from memory*
Of yeddings* he bare utterly the prize. *songs
His neck was white as is the fleur-de-lis.
Thereto he strong was as a champion,
And knew well the taverns in every town.
And every hosteler and gay tapstere,
Better than a lazar* or a beggere, *leper
For unto such a worthy man as he
Accordeth not, as by his faculty,
To have with such lazars acquaintance.
It is not honest, it may not advance,
As for to deale with no such pouraille*, *offal, refuse
But all with rich, and sellers of vitaille*. *victuals
And *ov'r all there as* profit should arise, *in every place where&
Courteous he was, and lowly of service;
There n'as no man nowhere so virtuous.
He was the beste beggar in all his house:
And gave a certain farme for the grant, <19>
None of his bretheren came in his haunt.
For though a widow hadde but one shoe,
So pleasant was his In Principio,<20>
Yet would he have a farthing ere he went;
His purchase was well better than his rent.
And rage he could and play as any whelp,
In lovedays <21>; there could he muchel* help. *greatly
For there was he not like a cloisterer,
With threadbare cope as is a poor scholer;
But he was like a master or a pope.
Of double worsted was his semicope*, *short cloak
That rounded was as a bell out of press.
Somewhat he lisped for his wantonness,
To make his English sweet upon his tongue;
And in his harping, when that he had sung,
His eyen* twinkled in his head aright, *eyes
As do the starres in a frosty night.
This worthy limitour <18> was call'd Huberd.
A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard,
In motley, and high on his horse he sat,
Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat.
His bootes clasped fair and fetisly*. *neatly
His reasons aye spake he full solemnly,
Sounding alway th' increase of his winning.
He would the sea were kept <22> for any thing
Betwixte Middleburg and Orewell<23>
Well could he in exchange shieldes* sell *crown coins <24>
This worthy man full well his wit beset*; *employed
There wiste* no wight** that he was in debt, *knew **man
So *estately was he of governance* *so well he managed*
With his bargains, and with his chevisance*. *business contract
For sooth he was a worthy man withal,
But sooth to say, I n'ot* how men him call. *know not
A CLERK there was of Oxenford* also, *Oxford
That unto logic hadde long y-go*. *devoted himself
As leane was his horse as is a rake,
And he was not right fat, I undertake;
But looked hollow*, and thereto soberly**. *thin; **poorly
Full threadbare was his *overest courtepy*, *uppermost short cloak*
For he had gotten him yet no benefice,
Ne was not worldly, to have an office.
For him was lever* have at his bed's head *rather
Twenty bookes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle, and his philosophy,
Than robes rich, or fiddle, or psalt'ry.
But all be that he was a philosopher,
Yet hadde he but little gold in coffer,
But all that he might of his friendes hent*, *obtain
On bookes and on learning he it spent,
And busily gan for the soules pray
Of them that gave him <25> wherewith to scholay* *study
Of study took he moste care and heed.
Not one word spake he more than was need;
And that was said in form and reverence,
And short and quick, and full of high sentence.
Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,
And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.
A SERGEANT OF THE LAW, wary and wise,
That often had y-been at the Parvis, <26>
There was also, full rich of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of great reverence:
He seemed such, his wordes were so wise,
Justice he was full often in assize,
By patent, and by plein* commission; *full
For his science, and for his high renown,
Of fees and robes had he many one.
So great a purchaser was nowhere none.
All was fee simple to him, in effect
His purchasing might not be in suspect* *suspicion
Nowhere so busy a man as he there was
And yet he seemed busier than he was
In termes had he case' and doomes* all *judgements
That from the time of King Will. were fall.
Thereto he could indite, and make a thing
There coulde no wight *pinch at* his writing. *find fault with*
And every statute coud* he plain by rote *knew
He rode but homely in a medley* coat, *multicoloured
Girt with a seint* of silk, with barres small; *sash
Of his array tell I no longer tale.
A FRANKELIN* was in this company; *Rich landowner
White was his beard, as is the daisy.
Of his complexion he was sanguine.
Well lov'd he in the morn a sop in wine.
To liven in delight was ever his won*, *wont
For he was Epicurus' owen son,
That held opinion, that plein* delight *full
Was verily felicity perfite.
An householder, and that a great, was he;
Saint Julian<27> he was in his country.
His bread, his ale, was alway *after one*; *pressed on one*
A better envined* man was nowhere none; *stored with wine
Withoute bake-meat never was his house,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous,
It snowed in his house of meat and drink,
Of alle dainties that men coulde think.
After the sundry seasons of the year,
So changed he his meat and his soupere.
Full many a fat partridge had he in mew*, *cage <28>
And many a bream, and many a luce* in stew**<29> *pike **fish-pond
Woe was his cook, *but if* his sauce were *unless*
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear.
His table dormant* in his hall alway *fixed
Stood ready cover'd all the longe day.
At sessions there was he lord and sire.
Full often time he was *knight of the shire* *Member of Parliament*
An anlace*, and a gipciere** all of silk, *dagger **purse
Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk.
A sheriff had he been, and a countour<30>
Was nowhere such a worthy vavasour<31>.
An HABERDASHER, and a CARPENTER,
A WEBBE*, a DYER, and a TAPISER**, *weaver **tapestry-maker
Were with us eke, cloth'd in one livery,
Of a solemn and great fraternity.
Full fresh and new their gear y-picked* was. *spruce
Their knives were y-chaped* not with brass, *mounted
But all with silver wrought full clean and well,
Their girdles and their pouches *every deal*. *in every part*
Well seemed each of them a fair burgess,
To sitten in a guild-hall, on the dais. <32>
Evereach, for the wisdom that he can*, *knew
Was shapely* for to be an alderman. *fitted
For chattels hadde they enough and rent,
And eke their wives would it well assent:
And elles certain they had been to blame.
It is full fair to be y-clep'd madame,
And for to go to vigils all before,
And have a mantle royally y-bore.<33>
A COOK they hadde with them for the nones*, *occasion
To boil the chickens and the marrow bones,
And powder merchant tart and galingale.
Well could he know a draught of London ale.
He could roast, and stew, and broil, and fry,
Make mortrewes, and well bake a pie.
But great harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That, on his shin a mormal* hadde he. *ulcer
For blanc manger, that made he with the best <34>
A SHIPMAN was there, *wonned far by West*: *who dwelt far
For ought I wot, be was of Dartemouth. to the West*
He rode upon a rouncy*, as he couth, *hack
All in a gown of falding* to the knee. *coarse cloth
A dagger hanging by a lace had he
About his neck under his arm adown;
The hot summer had made his hue all brown;
And certainly he was a good fellaw.
Full many a draught of wine he had y-draw
From Bourdeaux-ward, while that the chapmen sleep;
Of nice conscience took he no keep.
If that he fought, and had the higher hand,
*By water he sent them home to every land.* *he drowned his
But of his craft to reckon well his tides, prisoners*
His streames and his strandes him besides,
His herberow*, his moon, and lodemanage**, *harbourage
There was none such, from Hull unto Carthage **pilotage<35>
Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake:
With many a tempest had his beard been shake.
He knew well all the havens, as they were,
From Scotland to the Cape of Finisterre,
And every creek in Bretagne and in Spain:
His barge y-cleped was the Magdelain.
With us there was a DOCTOR OF PHYSIC;
In all this worlde was there none him like
To speak of physic, and of surgery:
For he was grounded in astronomy.
He kept his patient a full great deal
In houres by his magic natural.
Well could he fortune* the ascendent *make fortunate
Of his images for his patient,.
He knew the cause of every malady,
Were it of cold, or hot, or moist, or dry,
And where engender'd, and of what humour.
He was a very perfect practisour
The cause y-know,* and of his harm the root, *known
Anon he gave to the sick man his boot* *remedy
Full ready had he his apothecaries,
To send his drugges and his lectuaries
For each of them made other for to win
Their friendship was not newe to begin
Well knew he the old Esculapius,
And Dioscorides, and eke Rufus;
Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien;
Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen;
Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin;
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin. <36>
Of his diet measurable was he,
For it was of no superfluity,
But of great nourishing, and digestible.
His study was but little on the Bible.
In sanguine* and in perse** he clad was all *red **blue
Lined with taffeta, and with sendall*. *fine silk
And yet *he was but easy of dispense*: *he spent very little*
He kept *that he won in the pestilence*. *the money he made
For gold in physic is a cordial; during the plague*
Therefore he loved gold in special.
A good WIFE was there OF beside BATH,
But she was somedeal deaf, and that was scath*. *damage; pity
Of cloth-making she hadde such an haunt*, *skill
She passed them of Ypres, and of Gaunt. <37>
In all the parish wife was there none,
That to the off'ring* before her should gon, *the offering at mass
And if there did, certain so wroth was she,
That she was out of alle charity
Her coverchiefs* were full fine of ground *head-dresses
I durste swear, they weighede ten pound <38>
That on the Sunday were upon her head.
Her hosen weren of fine scarlet red,
Full strait y-tied, and shoes full moist* and new *fresh <39>
Bold was her face, and fair and red of hue.
She was a worthy woman all her live,
Husbands at the church door had she had five,
Withouten other company in youth;
But thereof needeth not to speak as nouth*. *now
And thrice had she been at Jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a strange stream
At Rome she had been, and at Bologne,
In Galice at Saint James, <40> and at Cologne;
She coude* much of wand'rng by the Way. *knew
Gat-toothed* was she, soothly for to say. *Buck-toothed<41>
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Y-wimpled well, and on her head an hat
As broad as is a buckler or a targe.
A foot-mantle about her hippes large,
And on her feet a pair of spurres sharp.
In fellowship well could she laugh and carp* *jest, talk
Of remedies of love she knew perchance
For of that art she coud* the olde dance. *knew
A good man there was of religion,
That was a poore PARSON of a town:
But rich he was of holy thought and werk*. *work
He was also a learned man, a clerk,
That Christe's gospel truly woulde preach.
His parishens* devoutly would he teach. *parishioners
Benign he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patient:
And such he was y-proved *often sithes*. *oftentimes*
Full loth were him to curse for his tithes,
But rather would he given out of doubt,
Unto his poore parishens about,
Of his off'ring, and eke of his substance.
*He could in little thing have suffisance*. *he was satisfied with
Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder, very little*
But he ne left not, for no rain nor thunder,
In sickness and in mischief to visit
The farthest in his parish, *much and lit*, *great and small*
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff.
This noble ensample to his sheep he gaf*, *gave
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught,
And this figure he added yet thereto,
That if gold ruste, what should iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewed* man to rust: *unlearned
And shame it is, if that a priest take keep,
To see a shitten shepherd and clean sheep:
Well ought a priest ensample for to give,
By his own cleanness, how his sheep should live.
He sette not his benefice to hire,
And left his sheep eucumber'd in the mire,
And ran unto London, unto Saint Paul's,
To seeke him a chantery<42> for souls,
Or with a brotherhood to be withold:* *detained
But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold,
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry.
He was a shepherd, and no mercenary.
And though he holy were, and virtuous,
He was to sinful men not dispitous* *severe
Nor of his speeche dangerous nor dign* *disdainful
But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To drawen folk to heaven, with fairness,
By good ensample, was his business:
*But it were* any person obstinate, *but if it were*
What so he were of high or low estate,
Him would he snibbe* sharply for the nones**. *reprove **nonce,occasion
A better priest I trow that nowhere none is.
He waited after no pomp nor reverence,
Nor maked him a *spiced conscience*, *artificial conscience*
But Christe's lore, and his apostles' twelve,
He taught, and first he follow'd it himselve.
With him there was a PLOUGHMAN, was his brother,
That had y-laid of dung full many a fother*. *ton
A true swinker* and a good was he, *hard worker
Living in peace and perfect charity.
God loved he beste with all his heart
At alle times, were it gain or smart*, *pain, loss
And then his neighebour right as himselve.
He woulde thresh, and thereto dike*, and delve, *dig ditches
For Christe's sake, for every poore wight,
Withouten hire, if it lay in his might.
His tithes payed he full fair and well,
Both of his *proper swink*, and his chattel** *his own labour* **goods
In a tabard* he rode upon a mare. *sleeveless jerkin
There was also a Reeve, and a Millere,
A Sompnour, and a Pardoner also,
A Manciple, and myself, there were no mo'.
The MILLER was a stout carle for the nones,
Full big he was of brawn, and eke of bones;
That proved well, for *ov'r all where* he came, *wheresoever*
At wrestling he would bear away the ram.<43>
He was short-shouldered, broad, a thicke gnarr*, *stump of wood
There was no door, that he n'old* heave off bar, *could not
Or break it at a running with his head.
His beard as any sow or fox was red,
And thereto broad, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop* right of his nose he had *head <44>
A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs
Red as the bristles of a sowe's ears.
His nose-thirles* blacke were and wide. *nostrils <45>
A sword and buckler bare he by his side.
His mouth as wide was as a furnace.
He was a jangler, and a goliardais*, *buffoon <46>
And that was most of sin and harlotries.
Well could he steale corn, and tolle thrice
And yet he had a thumb of gold, pardie.<47>
A white coat and a blue hood weared he
A baggepipe well could he blow and soun',
And therewithal he brought us out of town.
A gentle MANCIPLE <48> was there of a temple,
Of which achatours* mighte take ensample *buyers
For to be wise in buying of vitaille*. *victuals
For whether that he paid, or took *by taile*, *on credit
Algate* he waited so in his achate**, *always **purchase
That he was aye before in good estate.
Now is not that of God a full fair grace
That such a lewed* mannes wit shall pace** *unlearned **surpass
The wisdom of an heap of learned men?
Of masters had he more than thries ten,
That were of law expert and curious:
Of which there was a dozen in that house,
Worthy to be stewards of rent and land
Of any lord that is in Engleland,
To make him live by his proper good,
In honour debtless, *but if he were wood*, *unless he were mad*
Or live as scarcely as him list desire;
And able for to helpen all a shire
In any case that mighte fall or hap;
And yet this Manciple *set their aller cap* *outwitted them all*
The REEVE <49> was a slender choleric man
His beard was shav'd as nigh as ever he can.
His hair was by his eares round y-shorn;
His top was docked like a priest beforn
Full longe were his legges, and full lean
Y-like a staff, there was no calf y-seen
Well could he keep a garner* and a bin* *storeplaces for grain
There was no auditor could on him win
Well wist he by the drought, and by the rain,
The yielding of his seed and of his grain
His lorde's sheep, his neat*, and his dairy *cattle
His swine, his horse, his store, and his poultry,
Were wholly in this Reeve's governing,
And by his cov'nant gave he reckoning,
Since that his lord was twenty year of age;
There could no man bring him in arrearage
There was no bailiff, herd, nor other hine* *servant
That he ne knew his *sleight and his covine* *tricks and cheating*
They were adrad* of him, as of the death *in dread
His wonning* was full fair upon an heath *abode
With greene trees y-shadow'd was his place.
He coulde better than his lord purchase
Full rich he was y-stored privily
His lord well could he please subtilly,
To give and lend him of his owen good,
And have a thank, and yet* a coat and hood. *also
In youth he learned had a good mistere* *trade
He was a well good wright, a carpentere
This Reeve sate upon a right good stot*, *steed
That was all pomely* gray, and highte** Scot. *dappled **called
A long surcoat of perse* upon he had, *sky-blue
And by his side he bare a rusty blade.
Of Norfolk was this Reeve, of which I tell,
Beside a town men clepen* Baldeswell, *call
Tucked he was, as is a friar, about,
And ever rode the *hinderest of the rout*. *hindmost of the group*
A SOMPNOUR* was there with us in that place, *summoner <50>
That had a fire-red cherubinnes face,
For sausefleme* he was, with eyen narrow. *red or pimply
As hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow,
With scalled browes black, and pilled* beard: *scanty
Of his visage children were sore afeard.
There n'as quicksilver, litharge, nor brimstone,
Boras, ceruse, nor oil of tartar none,
Nor ointement that woulde cleanse or bite,
That him might helpen of his whelkes* white, *pustules
Nor of the knobbes* sitting on his cheeks. *buttons
Well lov'd he garlic, onions, and leeks,
And for to drink strong wine as red as blood.
Then would he speak, and cry as he were wood;
And when that he well drunken had the wine,
Then would he speake no word but Latin.
A fewe termes knew he, two or three,
That he had learned out of some decree;
No wonder is, he heard it all the day.
And eke ye knowen well, how that a jay
Can clepen* "Wat," as well as can the Pope. *call
But whoso would in other thing him grope*, *search
Then had he spent all his philosophy,
Aye, Questio quid juris,<51> would he cry.
He was a gentle harlot* and a kind; *a low fellow<52>
A better fellow should a man not find.
He woulde suffer, for a quart of wine,
A good fellow to have his concubine
A twelvemonth, and excuse him at the full.
Full privily a *finch eke could he pull*. *"fleece" a man*
And if he found owhere* a good fellaw, *anywhere
He woulde teache him to have none awe
In such a case of the archdeacon's curse;
*But if* a manne's soul were in his purse; *unless*
For in his purse he should y-punished be.
"Purse is the archedeacon's hell," said he.
But well I wot, he lied right indeed:
Of cursing ought each guilty man to dread,
For curse will slay right as assoiling* saveth; *absolving
And also 'ware him of a significavit<53>.
In danger had he at his owen guise
The younge girles of the diocese, <54>
And knew their counsel, and was of their rede*. *counsel
A garland had he set upon his head,
As great as it were for an alestake*: *The post of an alehouse sign
A buckler had he made him of a cake.
With him there rode a gentle PARDONERE <55>
Of Ronceval, his friend and his compere,
That straight was comen from the court of Rome.
Full loud he sang, "Come hither, love, to me"
This Sompnour *bare to him a stiff burdoun*, *sang the bass*
Was never trump of half so great a soun'.
This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax,
But smooth it hung, as doth a strike* of flax: *strip
By ounces hung his lockes that he had,
And therewith he his shoulders oversprad.
Full thin it lay, by culpons* one and one, *locks, shreds
But hood for jollity, he weared none,
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
Him thought he rode all of the *newe get*, *latest fashion*<56>
Dishevel, save his cap, he rode all bare.
Such glaring eyen had he, as an hare.
A vernicle* had he sew'd upon his cap. *image of Christ <57>
His wallet lay before him in his lap,
Bretful* of pardon come from Rome all hot. *brimful
A voice he had as small as hath a goat.
No beard had he, nor ever one should have.
As smooth it was as it were new y-shave;
I trow he were a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, from Berwick unto Ware,
Ne was there such another pardonere.
For in his mail* he had a pillowbere**, *bag <58> **pillowcase
Which, as he saide, was our Lady's veil:
He said, he had a gobbet* of the sail *piece
That Sainte Peter had, when that he went
Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ him hent*. *took hold of
He had a cross of latoun* full of stones, *copper
And in a glass he hadde pigge's bones.
But with these relics, whenne that he fond
A poore parson dwelling upon lond,
Upon a day he got him more money
Than that the parson got in moneths tway;
And thus with feigned flattering and japes*, *jests
He made the parson and the people his apes.
But truely to tellen at the last,
He was in church a noble ecclesiast.
Well could he read a lesson or a story,
But alderbest* he sang an offertory: *best of all
For well he wiste, when that song was sung,
He muste preach, and well afile* his tongue, *polish
To winne silver, as he right well could:
Therefore he sang full merrily and loud.
Now have I told you shortly in a clause
Th' estate, th' array, the number, and eke the cause
Why that assembled was this company
In Southwark at this gentle hostelry,
That highte the Tabard, fast by the Bell.<59>
But now is time to you for to tell
*How that we baren us that ilke night*, *what we did that same night*
When we were in that hostelry alight.
And after will I tell of our voyage,
And all the remnant of our pilgrimage.
But first I pray you of your courtesy,
That ye *arette it not my villainy*, *count it not rudeness in me*
Though that I plainly speak in this mattere.
To tellen you their wordes and their cheer;
Not though I speak their wordes properly.
For this ye knowen all so well as I,
Whoso shall tell a tale after a man,
He must rehearse, as nigh as ever he can,
Every word, if it be in his charge,
*All speak he* ne'er so rudely and so large; *let him speak*
Or elles he must tell his tale untrue,
Or feigne things, or finde wordes new.
He may not spare, although he were his brother;
He must as well say one word as another.
Christ spake Himself full broad in Holy Writ,
And well ye wot no villainy is it.
Eke Plato saith, whoso that can him read,
The wordes must be cousin to the deed.
Also I pray you to forgive it me,
*All have I* not set folk in their degree, *although I have*
Here in this tale, as that they shoulden stand:
My wit is short, ye may well understand.
Great cheere made our Host us every one,
And to the supper set he us anon:
And served us with victual of the best.
Strong was the wine, and well to drink us lest*. *pleased
A seemly man Our Hoste was withal
For to have been a marshal in an hall.
A large man he was with eyen steep*, *deep-set.
A fairer burgess is there none in Cheap<60>:
Bold of his speech, and wise and well y-taught,
And of manhoode lacked him right naught.
Eke thereto was he right a merry man,
And after supper playen he began,
And spake of mirth amonges other things,
When that we hadde made our reckonings;
And saide thus; "Now, lordinges, truly
Ye be to me welcome right heartily:
For by my troth, if that I shall not lie,
I saw not this year such a company
At once in this herberow*, am is now. *inn <61>
Fain would I do you mirth, an* I wist* how. *if I knew*
And of a mirth I am right now bethought.
To do you ease*, and it shall coste nought. *pleasure
Ye go to Canterbury; God you speed,
The blissful Martyr *quite you your meed*; *grant you what
And well I wot, as ye go by the way, you deserve*
Ye *shapen you* to talken and to play: *intend to*
For truely comfort nor mirth is none
To ride by the way as dumb as stone:
And therefore would I make you disport,
As I said erst, and do you some comfort.
And if you liketh all by one assent
Now for to standen at my judgement,
And for to worken as I shall you say
To-morrow, when ye riden on the way,
Now by my father's soule that is dead,
*But ye be merry, smiteth off* mine head. *unless you are merry,
Hold up your hands withoute more speech. smite off my head*
Our counsel was not longe for to seech*: *seek
Us thought it was not worth to *make it wise*, *discuss it at length*
And granted him withoute more avise*, *consideration
And bade him say his verdict, as him lest.
Lordings (quoth he), now hearken for the best;
But take it not, I pray you, in disdain;
This is the point, to speak it plat* and plain. *flat
That each of you, to shorten with your way
In this voyage, shall tellen tales tway,
To Canterbury-ward, I mean it so,
And homeward he shall tellen other two,
Of aventures that whilom have befall.
And which of you that bear'th him best of all,
That is to say, that telleth in this case
Tales of best sentence and most solace,
Shall have a supper *at your aller cost* *at the cost of you all*
Here in this place, sitting by this post,
When that ye come again from Canterbury.
And for to make you the more merry,
I will myselfe gladly with you ride,
Right at mine owen cost, and be your guide.
And whoso will my judgement withsay,
Shall pay for all we spenden by the way.
And if ye vouchesafe that it be so,
Tell me anon withoute wordes mo'*, *more
And I will early shape me therefore."
This thing was granted, and our oath we swore
With full glad heart, and prayed him also,
That he would vouchesafe for to do so,
And that he woulde be our governour,
And of our tales judge and reportour,
And set a supper at a certain price;
And we will ruled be at his device,
In high and low: and thus by one assent,
We be accorded to his judgement.
And thereupon the wine was fet* anon. *fetched.
We drunken, and to reste went each one,
Withouten any longer tarrying
A-morrow, when the day began to spring,
Up rose our host, and was *our aller cock*, *the cock to wake us all*
And gather'd us together in a flock,
And forth we ridden all a little space,
Unto the watering of Saint Thomas<62>:
And there our host began his horse arrest,
And saide; "Lordes, hearken if you lest.
Ye *weet your forword,* and I it record. *know your promise*
If even-song and morning-song accord,
Let see now who shall telle the first tale.
As ever may I drinke wine or ale,
Whoso is rebel to my judgement,
Shall pay for all that by the way is spent.
Now draw ye cuts*, ere that ye farther twin**. *lots **go
He which that hath the shortest shall begin."
"Sir Knight (quoth he), my master and my lord,
Now draw the cut, for that is mine accord.
Come near (quoth he), my Lady Prioress,
And ye, Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness,
Nor study not: lay hand to, every man."
Anon to drawen every wight began,
And shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by a venture, or sort*, or cas**, *lot **chance
The sooth is this, the cut fell to the Knight,
Of which full blithe and glad was every wight;
And tell he must his tale as was reason,
By forword, and by composition,
As ye have heard; what needeth wordes mo'?
And when this good man saw that it was so,
As he that wise was and obedient
To keep his forword by his free assent,
He said; "Sithen* I shall begin this game, *since
Why, welcome be the cut in Godde's name.
Now let us ride, and hearken what I say."
And with that word we ridden forth our way;
And he began with right a merry cheer
His tale anon, and said as ye shall hear.
Notes to the Prologue
1. Tyrwhitt points out that "the Bull" should be read here, not
"the Ram," which would place the time of the pilgrimage in the
end of March; whereas, in the Prologue to the Man of Law's
Tale, the date is given as the "eight and twenty day of April,
that is messenger to May."
2. Dante, in the "Vita Nuova," distinguishes three classes of
pilgrims: palmieri - palmers who go beyond sea to the East,
and often bring back staves of palm-wood; peregrini, who go
the shrine of St Jago in Galicia; Romei, who go to Rome. Sir
Walter Scott, however, says that palmers were in the habit of
passing from shrine to shrine, living on charity -- pilgrims on the
other hand, made the journey to any shrine only once,
immediately returning to their ordinary avocations. Chaucer
uses "palmer" of all pilgrims.
3. "Hallows" survives, in the meaning here given, in All Hallows
-- All-Saints -- day. "Couth," past participle of "conne" to
know, exists in "uncouth."
4. The Tabard -- the sign of the inn -- was a sleeveless coat,
worn by heralds. The name of the inn was, some three
centuries after Chaucer, changed to the Talbot.
5. In y-fall," "y" is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon "ge"
prefixed to participles of verbs. It is used by Chaucer merely to
help the metre In German, "y-fall," or y-falle," would be
"gefallen", "y-run," or "y-ronne", would be "geronnen."
6. Alisandre: Alexandria, in Egypt, captured by Pierre de
Lusignan, king of Cyprus, in 1365 but abandoned immediately
afterwards. Thirteen years before, the same Prince had taken
Satalie, the ancient Attalia, in Anatolia, and in 1367 he won
Layas, in Armenia, both places named just below.
7. The knight had been placed at the head of the table, above
knights of all nations, in Prussia, whither warriors from all
countries were wont to repair, to aid the Teutonic Order in their
continual conflicts with their heathen neighbours in "Lettowe"
or Lithuania (German. "Litthauen"), Russia, &c.
8. Algesiras was taken from the Moorish king of Grenada, in
1344: the Earls of Derby and Salisbury took part in the siege.
Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in Africa;
but "Palmyrie" has been suggested as the correct reading. The
Great Sea, or the Greek sea, is the Eastern Mediterranean.
Tramissene, or Tremessen, is enumerated by Froissart among
the Moorish kingdoms in Africa. Palatie, or Palathia, in
Anatolia, was a fief held by the Christian knights after the
Turkish conquests -- the holders paying tribute to the infidel.
Our knight had fought with one of those lords against a heathen
9. Ilke: same; compare the Scottish phrase "of that ilk," --
that is, of the estate which bears the same name as its owner's
10. It was the custom for squires of the highest degree to carve
at their fathers' tables.
11. Peacock Arrows: Large arrows, with peacocks' feathers.
12. A nut-head: With nut-brown hair; or, round like a nut, the
hair being cut short.
13. Grey eyes appear to have been a mark of female beauty in
14. "for the mastery" was applied to medicines in the sense of
"sovereign" as we now apply it to a remedy.
15. It was fashionable to hang bells on horses' bridles.
16. St. Benedict was the first founder of a spiritual order in the
Roman church. Maurus, abbot of Fulda from 822 to 842, did
much to re-establish the discipline of the Benedictines on a true
17. Wood: Mad, Scottish "wud". Felix says to Paul, "Too
much learning hath made thee mad".
18. Limitour: A friar with licence or privilege to beg, or
exercise other functions, within a certain district: as, "the
limitour of Holderness".
19. Farme: rent; that is, he paid a premium for his licence to
20. In principio: the first words of Genesis and John, employed
in some part of the mass.
21. Lovedays: meetings appointed for friendly settlement of
differences; the business was often followed by sports and
22. He would the sea were kept for any thing: he would for
anything that the sea were guarded. "The old subsidy of
tonnage and poundage," says Tyrwhitt, "was given to the king
'pour la saufgarde et custodie del mer.' -- for the safeguard and
keeping of the sea" (12 E. IV. C.3).
23. Middleburg, at the mouth of the Scheldt, in Holland;
Orwell, a seaport in Essex.
24. Shields: Crowns, so called from the shields stamped on
them; French, "ecu;" Italian, "scudo."
25. Poor scholars at the universities used then to go about
begging for money to maintain them and their studies.
26. Parvis: The portico of St. Paul's, which lawyers frequented
to meet their clients.
27. St Julian: The patron saint of hospitality, celebrated for
supplying his votaries with good lodging and good cheer.
28. Mew: cage. The place behind Whitehall, where the king's
hawks were caged was called the Mews.
29. Many a luce in stew: many a pike in his fish-pond; in those
Catholic days, when much fish was eaten, no gentleman's
mansion was complete without a "stew".
30. Countour: Probably a steward or accountant in the county
31. Vavasour: A landholder of consequence; holding of a duke,
marquis, or earl, and ranking below a baron.
32. On the dais: On the raised platform at the end of the hall,
where sat at meat or in judgement those high in authority, rank
or honour; in our days the worthy craftsmen might have been
described as "good platform men".
33. To take precedence over all in going to the evening service
of the Church, or to festival meetings, to which it was the
fashion to carry rich cloaks or mantles against the home-
34. The things the cook could make: "marchand tart", some
now unknown ingredient used in cookery; "galingale," sweet or
long rooted cyprus; "mortrewes", a rich soup made by stamping
flesh in a mortar; "Blanc manger", not what is now called
blancmange; one part of it was the brawn of a capon.
35. Lodemanage: pilotage, from Anglo-Saxon "ladman," a
leader, guide, or pilot; hence "lodestar," "lodestone."
36. The authors mentioned here were the chief medical text-
books of the middle ages. The names of Galen and Hippocrates
were then usually spelt "Gallien" and "Hypocras" or "Ypocras".
37. The west of England, especially around Bath, was the seat
of the cloth-manufacture, as were Ypres and Ghent (Gaunt) in
38. Chaucer here satirises the fashion of the time, which piled
bulky and heavy waddings on ladies' heads.
39. Moist; here used in the sense of "new", as in Latin,
"mustum" signifies new wine; and elsewhere Chaucer speaks of
"moisty ale", as opposed to "old".
40. In Galice at Saint James: at the shrine of St Jago of
Compostella in Spain.
41. Gat-toothed: Buck-toothed; goat-toothed, to signify her
wantonness; or gap-toothed -- with gaps between her teeth.
42. An endowment to sing masses for the soul of the donor.
43. A ram was the usual prize at wrestling matches.
44. Cop: Head; German, "Kopf".
45. Nose-thirles: nostrils; from the Anglo-Saxon, "thirlian," to
pierce; hence the word "drill," to bore.
46. Goliardais: a babbler and a buffoon; Golias was the founder
of a jovial sect called by his name.
47. The proverb says that every honest miller has a thumb of
gold; probably Chaucer means that this one was as honest as his
48. A Manciple -- Latin, "manceps," a purchaser or contractor -
- was an officer charged with the purchase of victuals for inns
of court or colleges.
49. Reeve: A land-steward; still called "grieve" -- Anglo-Saxon,
"gerefa" in some parts of Scotland.
50. Sompnour: summoner; an apparitor, who cited delinquents
to appear in ecclesiastical courts.
51. Questio quid juris: "I ask which law (applies)"; a cant law-
52 Harlot: a low, ribald fellow; the word was used of both
sexes; it comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb to hire.
53. Significavit: an ecclesiastical writ.
54. Within his jurisdiction he had at his own pleasure the young
people (of both sexes) in the diocese.
55. Pardoner: a seller of pardons or indulgences.
56. Newe get: new gait, or fashion; "gait" is still used in this
sense in some parts of the country.
57. Vernicle: an image of Christ; so called from St Veronica,
who gave the Saviour a napkin to wipe the sweat from His face
as He bore the Cross, and received it back with an impression
of His countenance upon it.
58. Mail: packet, baggage; French, "malle," a trunk.
59. The Bell: apparently another Southwark tavern; Stowe
mentions a "Bull" as being near the Tabard.
60. Cheap: Cheapside, then inhabited by the richest and most
prosperous citizens of London.
61. Herberow: Lodging, inn; French, "Herberge."
62. The watering of Saint Thomas: At the second milestone on
the old Canterbury road.
THE KNIGHT'S TALE <1>
WHILOM*, as olde stories tellen us, *formerly
There was a duke that highte* Theseus. *was called <2>
Of Athens he was lord and governor,
And in his time such a conqueror
That greater was there none under the sun.
Full many a riche country had he won.
What with his wisdom and his chivalry,
He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie,<3>
That whilom was y-cleped Scythia;
And weddede the Queen Hippolyta
And brought her home with him to his country
With muchel* glory and great solemnity, *great
And eke her younge sister Emily,
And thus with vict'ry and with melody
Let I this worthy Duke to Athens ride,
And all his host, in armes him beside.
And certes, if it n'ere* too long to hear, *were not
I would have told you fully the mannere,
How wonnen* was the regne of Feminie, <4> *won
By Theseus, and by his chivalry;
And of the greate battle for the nonce
Betwixt Athenes and the Amazons;
And how assieged was Hippolyta,
The faire hardy queen of Scythia;
And of the feast that was at her wedding
And of the tempest at her homecoming.
But all these things I must as now forbear.
I have, God wot, a large field to ear* *plough<5>;
And weake be the oxen in my plough;
The remnant of my tale is long enow.
I will not *letten eke none of this rout*. *hinder any of
Let every fellow tell his tale about, this company*
And let see now who shall the supper win.
There *as I left*, I will again begin. *where I left off*
This Duke, of whom I make mentioun,
When he was come almost unto the town,
In all his weal, and in his moste pride,
He was ware, as he cast his eye aside,
Where that there kneeled in the highe way
A company of ladies, tway and tway,
Each after other, clad in clothes black:
But such a cry and such a woe they make,
That in this world n'is creature living,
That hearde such another waimenting* *lamenting <6>
And of this crying would they never stenten*, *desist
Till they the reines of his bridle henten*. *seize
"What folk be ye that at mine homecoming
Perturben so my feaste with crying?"
Quoth Theseus; "Have ye so great envy
Of mine honour, that thus complain and cry?
Or who hath you misboden*, or offended? *wronged
Do telle me, if it may be amended;
And why that ye be clad thus all in black?"
The oldest lady of them all then spake,
When she had swooned, with a deadly cheer*, *countenance
That it was ruthe* for to see or hear. *pity
She saide; "Lord, to whom fortune hath given
Vict'ry, and as a conqueror to liven,
Nought grieveth us your glory and your honour;
But we beseechen mercy and succour.
Have mercy on our woe and our distress;
Some drop of pity, through thy gentleness,
Upon us wretched women let now fall.
For certes, lord, there is none of us all
That hath not been a duchess or a queen;
Now be we caitives*, as it is well seen: *captives
Thanked be Fortune, and her false wheel,
That *none estate ensureth to be wele*. *assures no continuance of
And certes, lord, t'abiden your presence prosperous estate*
Here in this temple of the goddess Clemence
We have been waiting all this fortenight:
Now help us, lord, since it lies in thy might.
"I, wretched wight, that weep and waile thus,
Was whilom wife to king Capaneus,
That starf* at Thebes, cursed be that day: *died <7>
And alle we that be in this array,
And maken all this lamentatioun,
We losten all our husbands at that town,
While that the siege thereabouten lay.
And yet the olde Creon, wellaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the city,
Fulfilled of ire and of iniquity,
He for despite, and for his tyranny,
To do the deade bodies villainy*, *insult
Of all our lorde's, which that been y-slaw, *slain
Hath all the bodies on an heap y-draw,
And will not suffer them by none assent
Neither to be y-buried, nor y-brent*, *burnt
But maketh houndes eat them in despite."
And with that word, withoute more respite
They fallen groff,* and cryden piteously; *grovelling
"Have on us wretched women some mercy,
And let our sorrow sinken in thine heart."
This gentle Duke down from his courser start
With hearte piteous, when he heard them speak.
Him thoughte that his heart would all to-break,
When he saw them so piteous and so mate* *abased
That whilom weren of so great estate.
And in his armes he them all up hent*, *raised, took
And them comforted in full good intent,
And swore his oath, as he was true knight,
He woulde do *so farforthly his might* *as far as his power went*
Upon the tyrant Creon them to wreak*, *avenge
That all the people of Greece shoulde speak,
How Creon was of Theseus y-served,
As he that had his death full well deserved.
And right anon withoute more abode* *delay
His banner he display'd, and forth he rode
To Thebes-ward, and all his, host beside:
No ner* Athenes would he go nor ride, *nearer
Nor take his ease fully half a day,
But onward on his way that night he lay:
And sent anon Hippolyta the queen,
And Emily her younge sister sheen* *bright, lovely
Unto the town of Athens for to dwell:
And forth he rit*; there is no more to tell. *rode
The red statue of Mars with spear and targe* *shield
So shineth in his white banner large
That all the fieldes glitter up and down:
And by his banner borne is his pennon
Of gold full rich, in which there was y-beat* *stamped
The Minotaur<8> which that he slew in Crete
Thus rit this Duke, thus rit this conqueror
And in his host of chivalry the flower,
Till that he came to Thebes, and alight
Fair in a field, there as he thought to fight.
But shortly for to speaken of this thing,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes king,
He fought, and slew him manly as a knight
In plain bataille, and put his folk to flight:
And by assault he won the city after,
And rent adown both wall, and spar, and rafter;
And to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of their husbands that were slain,
To do obsequies, as was then the guise*. *custom
But it were all too long for to devise* *describe
The greate clamour, and the waimenting*, *lamenting
Which that the ladies made at the brenning* *burning
Of the bodies, and the great honour
That Theseus the noble conqueror
Did to the ladies, when they from him went:
But shortly for to tell is mine intent.
When that this worthy Duke, this Theseus,
Had Creon slain, and wonnen Thebes thus,
Still in the field he took all night his rest,
And did with all the country as him lest*. *pleased
To ransack in the tas* of bodies dead, *heap
Them for to strip of *harness and of **weed, *armour **clothes
The pillers* did their business and cure, *pillagers <9>
After the battle and discomfiture.
And so befell, that in the tas they found,
Through girt with many a grievous bloody wound,
Two younge knightes *ligging by and by* *lying side by side*
Both in *one armes*, wrought full richely: *the same armour*
Of whiche two, Arcita hight that one,
And he that other highte Palamon.
Not fully quick*, nor fully dead they were, *alive
But by their coat-armour, and by their gear,
The heralds knew them well in special,
As those that weren of the blood royal
Of Thebes, and *of sistren two y-born*. *born of two sisters*
Out of the tas the pillers have them torn,
And have them carried soft unto the tent
Of Theseus, and he full soon them sent
To Athens, for to dwellen in prison
Perpetually, he *n'olde no ranson*. *would take no ransom*
And when this worthy Duke had thus y-done,
He took his host, and home he rit anon
With laurel crowned as a conquerour;
And there he lived in joy and in honour
Term of his life; what needeth wordes mo'?
And in a tower, in anguish and in woe,
Dwellen this Palamon, and eke Arcite,
For evermore, there may no gold them quite* *set free
Thus passed year by year, and day by day,
Till it fell ones in a morn of May
That Emily, that fairer was to seen
Than is the lily upon his stalke green,
And fresher than the May with flowers new
(For with the rose colour strove her hue;
I n'ot* which was the finer of them two), *know not
Ere it was day, as she was wont to do,
She was arisen, and all ready dight*, *dressed
For May will have no sluggardy a-night;
The season pricketh every gentle heart,
And maketh him out of his sleep to start,
And saith, "Arise, and do thine observance."
This maketh Emily have remembrance
To do honour to May, and for to rise.
Y-clothed was she fresh for to devise;
Her yellow hair was braided in a tress,
Behind her back, a yarde long I guess.
And in the garden at *the sun uprist* *sunrise
She walketh up and down where as her list.
She gathereth flowers, party* white and red, *mingled
To make a sotel* garland for her head, *subtle, well-arranged
And as an angel heavenly she sung.
The greate tower, that was so thick and strong,
Which of the castle was the chief dungeon<10>
(Where as these knightes weren in prison,
Of which I tolde you, and telle shall),
Was even joinant* to the garden wall, *adjoining
There as this Emily had her playing.
Bright was the sun, and clear that morrowning,
And Palamon, this woful prisoner,
As was his wont, by leave of his gaoler,
Was ris'n, and roamed in a chamber on high,
In which he all the noble city sigh*, *saw
And eke the garden, full of branches green,
There as this fresh Emelia the sheen
Was in her walk, and roamed up and down.
This sorrowful prisoner, this Palamon
Went in his chamber roaming to and fro,
And to himself complaining of his woe:
That he was born, full oft he said, Alas!
And so befell, by aventure or cas*, *chance
That through a window thick of many a bar
Of iron great, and square as any spar,
He cast his eyes upon Emelia,
And therewithal he blent* and cried, Ah! *started aside
As though he stungen were unto the heart.
And with that cry Arcite anon up start,
And saide, "Cousin mine, what aileth thee,
That art so pale and deadly for to see?
Why cried'st thou? who hath thee done offence?
For Godde's love, take all in patience
Our prison*, for it may none other be. *imprisonment
Fortune hath giv'n us this adversity'.
Some wick'* aspect or disposition *wicked
Of Saturn<11>, by some constellation,
Hath giv'n us this, although we had it sworn,
So stood the heaven when that we were born,
We must endure; this is the short and plain.
This Palamon answer'd, and said again:
"Cousin, forsooth of this opinion
Thou hast a vain imagination.
This prison caused me not for to cry;
But I was hurt right now thorough mine eye
Into mine heart; that will my bane* be. *destruction
The fairness of the lady that I see
Yond in the garden roaming to and fro,
Is cause of all my crying and my woe.
I *n'ot wher* she be woman or goddess, *know not whether*
But Venus is it, soothly* as I guess, *truly
And therewithal on knees adown he fill,
And saide: "Venus, if it be your will
You in this garden thus to transfigure
Before me sorrowful wretched creature,
Out of this prison help that we may scape.
And if so be our destiny be shape
By etern word to dien in prison,
Of our lineage have some compassion,
That is so low y-brought by tyranny."
And with that word Arcita *gan espy* *began to look forth*
Where as this lady roamed to and fro
And with that sight her beauty hurt him so,
That if that Palamon was wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as much as he, or more.
And with a sigh he saide piteously:
"The freshe beauty slay'th me suddenly
Of her that roameth yonder in the place.
And but* I have her mercy and her grace, *unless
That I may see her at the leaste way,
I am but dead; there is no more to say."
This Palamon, when he these wordes heard,
Dispiteously* he looked, and answer'd: *angrily
"Whether say'st thou this in earnest or in play?"
"Nay," quoth Arcite, "in earnest, by my fay*. *faith
God help me so, *me lust full ill to play*." *I am in no humour
This Palamon gan knit his browes tway. for jesting*
"It were," quoth he, "to thee no great honour
For to be false, nor for to be traitour
To me, that am thy cousin and thy brother
Y-sworn full deep, and each of us to other,
That never for to dien in the pain <12>,
Till that the death departen shall us twain,
Neither of us in love to hinder other,
Nor in none other case, my leve* brother; *dear
But that thou shouldest truly farther me
In every case, as I should farther thee.
This was thine oath, and mine also certain;
I wot it well, thou dar'st it not withsayn*, *deny
Thus art thou of my counsel out of doubt,
And now thou wouldest falsely be about
To love my lady, whom I love and serve,
And ever shall, until mine hearte sterve* *die
Now certes, false Arcite, thou shalt not so
I lov'd her first, and tolde thee my woe
As to my counsel, and my brother sworn
To farther me, as I have told beforn.
For which thou art y-bounden as a knight
To helpe me, if it lie in thy might,
Or elles art thou false, I dare well sayn,"
This Arcita full proudly spake again:
"Thou shalt," quoth he, "be rather* false than I, *sooner
And thou art false, I tell thee utterly;
For par amour I lov'd her first ere thou.
What wilt thou say? *thou wist it not right now* *even now thou
Whether she be a woman or goddess. knowest not*
Thine is affection of holiness,
And mine is love, as to a creature:
For which I tolde thee mine aventure
As to my cousin, and my brother sworn
I pose*, that thou loved'st her beforn: *suppose
Wost* thou not well the olde clerke's saw<13>, *know'st
That who shall give a lover any law?
Love is a greater lawe, by my pan,
Than may be giv'n to any earthly man:
Therefore positive law, and such decree,
Is broke alway for love in each degree
A man must needes love, maugre his head.
He may not flee it, though he should be dead,
*All be she* maid, or widow, or else wife. *whether she be*
And eke it is not likely all thy life
To standen in her grace, no more than I
For well thou wost thyselfe verily,
That thou and I be damned to prison
Perpetual, us gaineth no ranson.
We strive, as did the houndes for the bone;
They fought all day, and yet their part was none.
There came a kite, while that they were so wroth,
And bare away the bone betwixt them both.
And therefore at the kinge's court, my brother,
Each man for himselfe, there is no other.
Love if thee list; for I love and aye shall
And soothly, leve brother, this is all.
Here in this prison musten we endure,
And each of us take his Aventure."
Great was the strife and long between these tway,
If that I hadde leisure for to say;
But to the effect: it happen'd on a day
(To tell it you as shortly as I may),
A worthy duke that hight Perithous<14>
That fellow was to the Duke Theseus
Since thilke* day that they were children lite** *that **little
Was come to Athens, his fellow to visite,
And for to play, as he was wont to do;
For in this world he loved no man so;
And he lov'd him as tenderly again.
So well they lov'd, as olde bookes sayn,
That when that one was dead, soothly to sayn,
His fellow went and sought him down in hell:
But of that story list me not to write.
Duke Perithous loved well Arcite,
And had him known at Thebes year by year:
And finally at request and prayere
Of Perithous, withoute ranson
Duke Theseus him let out of prison,
Freely to go, where him list over all,
In such a guise, as I you tellen shall
This was the forword*, plainly to indite, *promise
Betwixte Theseus and him Arcite:
That if so were, that Arcite were y-found
Ever in his life, by day or night, one stound* *moment<15>
In any country of this Theseus,
And he were caught, it was accorded thus,
That with a sword he shoulde lose his head;
There was none other remedy nor rede*. *counsel
But took his leave, and homeward he him sped;
Let him beware, his necke lieth *to wed*. *in pledge*
How great a sorrow suff'reth now Arcite!
The death he feeleth through his hearte smite;
He weepeth, waileth, crieth piteously;
To slay himself he waiteth privily.
He said; "Alas the day that I was born!
Now is my prison worse than beforn:
*Now is me shape* eternally to dwell *it is fixed for me*
Not in purgatory, but right in hell.
Alas! that ever I knew Perithous.
For elles had I dwelt with Theseus
Y-fettered in his prison evermo'.
Then had I been in bliss, and not in woe.
Only the sight of her, whom that I serve,
Though that I never may her grace deserve,
Would have sufficed right enough for me.
O deare cousin Palamon," quoth he,
"Thine is the vict'ry of this aventure,
Full blissfully in prison to endure:
In prison? nay certes, in paradise.
Well hath fortune y-turned thee the dice,
That hast the sight of her, and I th' absence.
For possible is, since thou hast her presence,
And art a knight, a worthy and an able,
That by some cas*, since fortune is changeable, *chance
Thou may'st to thy desire sometime attain.
But I that am exiled, and barren
Of alle grace, and in so great despair,
That there n'is earthe, water, fire, nor air,
Nor creature, that of them maked is,
That may me helpe nor comfort in this,
Well ought I *sterve in wanhope* and distress. *die in despair*
Farewell my life, my lust*, and my gladness. *pleasure
Alas, *why plainen men so in commune *why do men so often complain
Of purveyance of God*, or of Fortune, of God's providence?*
That giveth them full oft in many a guise
Well better than they can themselves devise?
Some man desireth for to have richess,
That cause is of his murder or great sickness.
And some man would out of his prison fain,
That in his house is of his meinie* slain. *servants <16>
Infinite harmes be in this mattere.
We wot never what thing we pray for here.
We fare as he that drunk is as a mouse.
A drunken man wot well he hath an house,
But he wot not which is the right way thither,
And to a drunken man the way is slither*. *slippery
And certes in this world so fare we.
We seeke fast after felicity,
But we go wrong full often truely.
Thus we may sayen all, and namely* I, *especially
That ween'd*, and had a great opinion, *thought
That if I might escape from prison
Then had I been in joy and perfect heal,
Where now I am exiled from my weal.
Since that I may not see you, Emily,
I am but dead; there is no remedy."
Upon that other side, Palamon,
When that he wist Arcita was agone,
Much sorrow maketh, that the greate tower
Resounded of his yelling and clamour
The pure* fetters on his shinnes great *very <17>
Were of his bitter salte teares wet.
"Alas!" quoth he, "Arcita, cousin mine,
Of all our strife, God wot, the fruit is thine.
Thou walkest now in Thebes at thy large,
And of my woe thou *givest little charge*. *takest little heed*
Thou mayst, since thou hast wisdom and manhead*, *manhood, courage
Assemble all the folk of our kindred,
And make a war so sharp on this country
That by some aventure, or some treaty,
Thou mayst have her to lady and to wife,
For whom that I must needes lose my life.
For as by way of possibility,
Since thou art at thy large, of prison free,
And art a lord, great is thine avantage,
More than is mine, that sterve here in a cage.
For I must weep and wail, while that I live,
With all the woe that prison may me give,
And eke with pain that love me gives also,
That doubles all my torment and my woe."
Therewith the fire of jealousy upstart
Within his breast, and hent* him by the heart *seized
So woodly*, that he like was to behold *madly
The box-tree, or the ashes dead and cold.
Then said; "O cruel goddess, that govern
This world with binding of your word etern* *eternal
And writen in the table of adamant
Your parlement* and your eternal grant, *consultation
What is mankind more *unto you y-hold* *by you esteemed
Than is the sheep, that rouketh* in the fold! *lie huddled together
For slain is man, right as another beast;
And dwelleth eke in prison and arrest,
And hath sickness, and great adversity,
And oftentimes guilteless, pardie* *by God
What governance is in your prescience,
That guilteless tormenteth innocence?
And yet increaseth this all my penance,
That man is bounden to his observance
For Godde's sake to *letten of his will*, *restrain his desire*
Whereas a beast may all his lust fulfil.
And when a beast is dead, he hath no pain;
But man after his death must weep and plain,
Though in this worlde he have care and woe:
Withoute doubt it maye standen so.
"The answer of this leave I to divines,
But well I wot, that in this world great pine* is; *pain, trouble
Alas! I see a serpent or a thief
That many a true man hath done mischief,
Go at his large, and where him list may turn.
But I must be in prison through Saturn,
And eke through Juno, jealous and eke wood*, *mad
That hath well nigh destroyed all the blood
Of Thebes, with his waste walles wide.
And Venus slay'th me on that other side
For jealousy, and fear of him, Arcite."
Now will I stent* of Palamon a lite**, *pause **little
And let him in his prison stille dwell,
And of Arcita forth I will you tell.
The summer passeth, and the nightes long
Increase double-wise the paines strong
Both of the lover and the prisonere.
I n'ot* which hath the wofuller mistere**. *know not **condition
For, shortly for to say, this Palamon
Perpetually is damned to prison,
In chaines and in fetters to be dead;
And Arcite is exiled *on his head* *on peril of his head*
For evermore as out of that country,
Nor never more he shall his lady see.
You lovers ask I now this question,<18>
Who lieth the worse, Arcite or Palamon?
The one may see his lady day by day,
But in prison he dwelle must alway.
The other where him list may ride or go,
But see his lady shall he never mo'.
Now deem all as you liste, ye that can,
For I will tell you forth as I began.
When that Arcite to Thebes comen was,
Full oft a day he swelt*, and said, "Alas!" *fainted
For see this lady he shall never mo'.
And shortly to concluden all his woe,
So much sorrow had never creature
That is or shall be while the world may dure.
His sleep, his meat, his drink is *him byraft*, *taken away from him*
That lean he wex*, and dry as any shaft. *became
His eyen hollow, grisly to behold,
His hue sallow, and pale as ashes cold,
And solitary he was, ever alone,
And wailing all the night, making his moan.
And if he hearde song or instrument,
Then would he weepen, he might not be stent*. *stopped
So feeble were his spirits, and so low,
And changed so, that no man coulde know
His speech, neither his voice, though men it heard.
And in his gear* for all the world he far'd *behaviour <19>
Not only like the lovers' malady
Of Eros, but rather y-like manie* *madness
Engender'd of humours melancholic,
Before his head in his cell fantastic.<20>
And shortly turned was all upside down,
Both habit and eke dispositioun,
Of him, this woful lover Dan* Arcite. *Lord <21>
Why should I all day of his woe indite?
When he endured had a year or two
This cruel torment, and this pain and woe,
At Thebes, in his country, as I said,
Upon a night in sleep as he him laid,
Him thought how that the winged god Mercury
Before him stood, and bade him to be merry.
His sleepy yard* in hand he bare upright; *rod <22>
A hat he wore upon his haires bright.
Arrayed was this god (as he took keep*) *notice
As he was when that Argus<23> took his sleep;
And said him thus: "To Athens shalt thou wend*; *go
There is thee shapen* of thy woe an end." *fixed, prepared
And with that word Arcite woke and start.
"Now truely how sore that e'er me smart,"
Quoth he, "to Athens right now will I fare.
Nor for no dread of death shall I not spare
To see my lady that I love and serve;
In her presence *I recke not to sterve.*" *do not care if I die*
And with that word he caught a great mirror,
And saw that changed was all his colour,
And saw his visage all in other kind.
And right anon it ran him ill his mind,
That since his face was so disfigur'd
Of malady the which he had endur'd,
He mighte well, if that he *bare him low,* *lived in lowly fashion*
Live in Athenes evermore unknow,
And see his lady wellnigh day by day.
And right anon he changed his array,
And clad him as a poore labourer.
And all alone, save only a squier,
That knew his privity* and all his cas**, *secrets **fortune
Which was disguised poorly as he was,
To Athens is he gone the nexte* way. *nearest <24>
And to the court he went upon a day,
And at the gate he proffer'd his service,
To drudge and draw, what so men would devise*. *order
And, shortly of this matter for to sayn,
He fell in office with a chamberlain,
The which that dwelling was with Emily.
For he was wise, and coulde soon espy
Of every servant which that served her.
Well could he hewe wood, and water bear,
For he was young and mighty for the nones*, *occasion
And thereto he was strong and big of bones
To do that any wight can him devise.
A year or two he was in this service,
Page of the chamber of Emily the bright;
And Philostrate he saide that he hight.
But half so well belov'd a man as he
Ne was there never in court of his degree.
He was so gentle of conditioun,
That throughout all the court was his renown.
They saide that it were a charity
That Theseus would *enhance his degree*, *elevate him in rank*
And put him in some worshipful service,
There as he might his virtue exercise.
And thus within a while his name sprung
Both of his deedes, and of his good tongue,
That Theseus hath taken him so near,
That of his chamber he hath made him squire,
And gave him gold to maintain his degree;
And eke men brought him out of his country
From year to year full privily his rent.
But honestly and slyly* he it spent, *discreetly, prudently
That no man wonder'd how that he it had.
And three year in this wise his life be lad*, *led
And bare him so in peace and eke in werre*, *war
There was no man that Theseus had so derre*. *dear
And in this blisse leave I now Arcite,
And speak I will of Palamon a lite*. *little
In darkness horrible, and strong prison,
This seven year hath sitten Palamon,
Forpined*, what for love, and for distress. *pined, wasted away
Who feeleth double sorrow and heaviness
But Palamon? that love distraineth* so, *afflicts
That wood* out of his wits he went for woe, *mad
And eke thereto he is a prisonere
Perpetual, not only for a year.
Who coulde rhyme in English properly
His martyrdom? forsooth*, it is not I; *truly
Therefore I pass as lightly as I may.
It fell that in the seventh year, in May
The thirde night (as olde bookes sayn,
That all this story tellen more plain),
Were it by a venture or destiny
(As when a thing is shapen* it shall be), *settled, decreed
That soon after the midnight, Palamon
By helping of a friend brake his prison,
And fled the city fast as he might go,
For he had given drink his gaoler so
Of a clary <25>, made of a certain wine,
With *narcotise and opie* of Thebes fine, *narcotics and opium*
That all the night, though that men would him shake,
The gaoler slept, he mighte not awake:
And thus he fled as fast as ever he may.
The night was short, and *faste by the day *close at hand was
That needes cast he must himself to hide*. the day during which
And to a grove faste there beside he must cast about, or contrive,
With dreadful foot then stalked Palamon. to conceal himself.*
For shortly this was his opinion,
That in the grove he would him hide all day,
And in the night then would he take his way
To Thebes-ward, his friendes for to pray
On Theseus to help him to warray*. *make war <26>
And shortly either he would lose his life,
Or winnen Emily unto his wife.
This is th' effect, and his intention plain.
Now will I turn to Arcita again,
That little wist how nighe was his care,
Till that Fortune had brought him in the snare.
The busy lark, the messenger of day,
Saluteth in her song the morning gray;
And fiery Phoebus riseth up so bright,
That all the orient laugheth at the sight,
And with his streames* drieth in the greves** *rays **groves
The silver droppes, hanging on the leaves;
And Arcite, that is in the court royal
With Theseus, his squier principal,
Is ris'n, and looketh on the merry day.
And for to do his observance to May,
Remembering the point* of his desire, *object
He on his courser, starting as the fire,
Is ridden to the fieldes him to play,
Out of the court, were it a mile or tway.
And to the grove, of which I have you told,
By a venture his way began to hold,
To make him a garland of the greves*, *groves
Were it of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves,
And loud he sang against the sun so sheen*. *shining bright
"O May, with all thy flowers and thy green,
Right welcome be thou, faire freshe May,
I hope that I some green here getten may."
And from his courser*, with a lusty heart, *horse
Into the grove full hastily he start,
And in a path he roamed up and down,
There as by aventure this Palamon
Was in a bush, that no man might him see,
For sore afeard of his death was he.
Nothing ne knew he that it was Arcite;
God wot he would have *trowed it full lite*. *full little believed it*
But sooth is said, gone since full many years,
The field hath eyen*, and the wood hath ears, *eyes
It is full fair a man *to bear him even*, *to be on his guard*
For all day meeten men at *unset steven*. *unexpected time <27>
Full little wot Arcite of his fellaw,
That was so nigh to hearken of his saw*, *saying, speech
For in the bush he sitteth now full still.
When that Arcite had roamed all his fill,
And *sungen all the roundel* lustily, *sang the roundelay*<28>
Into a study he fell suddenly,
As do those lovers in their *quainte gears*, *odd fashions*
Now in the crop*, and now down in the breres**, <29> *tree-top
Now up, now down, as bucket in a well. **briars
Right as the Friday, soothly for to tell,
Now shineth it, and now it raineth fast,
Right so can geary* Venus overcast *changeful
The heartes of her folk, right as her day
Is gearful*, right so changeth she array. *changeful
Seldom is Friday all the weeke like.
When Arcite had y-sung, he gan to sike*, *sigh
And sat him down withouten any more:
"Alas!" quoth he, "the day that I was bore!
How longe, Juno, through thy cruelty
Wilt thou warrayen* Thebes the city? *torment
Alas! y-brought is to confusion
The blood royal of Cadm' and Amphion:
Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man,
That Thebes built, or first the town began,
And of the city first was crowned king.
Of his lineage am I, and his offspring
By very line, as of the stock royal;
And now I am *so caitiff and so thrall*, *wretched and enslaved*
That he that is my mortal enemy,
I serve him as his squier poorely.
And yet doth Juno me well more shame,
For I dare not beknow* mine owen name, *acknowledge <30>
But there as I was wont to hight Arcite,
Now hight I Philostrate, not worth a mite.
Alas! thou fell Mars, and alas! Juno,
Thus hath your ire our lineage all fordo* *undone, ruined
Save only me, and wretched Palamon,
That Theseus martyreth in prison.
And over all this, to slay me utterly,
Love hath his fiery dart so brenningly* *burningly
Y-sticked through my true careful heart,
That shapen was my death erst than my shert. <31>
Ye slay me with your eyen, Emily;
Ye be the cause wherefore that I die.
Of all the remnant of mine other care
Ne set I not the *mountance of a tare*, *value of a straw*
So that I could do aught to your pleasance."
And with that word he fell down in a trance
A longe time; and afterward upstart
This Palamon, that thought thorough his heart
He felt a cold sword suddenly to glide:
For ire he quoke*, no longer would he hide. *quaked
And when that he had heard Arcite's tale,
As he were wood*, with face dead and pale, *mad
He start him up out of the bushes thick,
And said: "False Arcita, false traitor wick'*, *wicked
Now art thou hent*, that lov'st my lady so, *caught
For whom that I have all this pain and woe,
And art my blood, and to my counsel sworn,
As I full oft have told thee herebeforn,
And hast bejaped* here Duke Theseus, *deceived, imposed upon
And falsely changed hast thy name thus;
I will be dead, or elles thou shalt die.
Thou shalt not love my lady Emily,
But I will love her only and no mo';
For I am Palamon thy mortal foe.
And though I have no weapon in this place,
But out of prison am astart* by grace, *escaped
I dreade* not that either thou shalt die, *doubt
Or else thou shalt not loven Emily.
Choose which thou wilt, for thou shalt not astart."
This Arcite then, with full dispiteous* heart, *wrathful
When he him knew, and had his tale heard,
As fierce as lion pulled out a swerd,
And saide thus; "By God that sitt'th above,
*N'ere it* that thou art sick, and wood for love, *were it not*
And eke that thou no weap'n hast in this place,
Thou should'st never out of this grove pace,
That thou ne shouldest dien of mine hand.
For I defy the surety and the band,
Which that thou sayest I have made to thee.
What? very fool, think well that love is free;
And I will love her maugre* all thy might. *despite
But, for thou art a worthy gentle knight,
And *wilnest to darraine her by bataille*, *will reclaim her
Have here my troth, to-morrow I will not fail, by combat*
Without weeting* of any other wight, *knowledge
That here I will be founden as a knight,
And bringe harness* right enough for thee; *armour and arms
And choose the best, and leave the worst for me.
And meat and drinke this night will I bring
Enough for thee, and clothes for thy bedding.
And if so be that thou my lady win,
And slay me in this wood that I am in,
Thou may'st well have thy lady as for me."
This Palamon answer'd, "I grant it thee."
And thus they be departed till the morrow,
When each of them hath *laid his faith to borrow*. *pledged his faith*
O Cupid, out of alle charity!
O Regne* that wilt no fellow have with thee! *queen <32>
Full sooth is said, that love nor lordeship
Will not, *his thanks*, have any fellowship. *thanks to him*
Well finden that Arcite and Palamon.
Arcite is ridd anon unto the town,
And on the morrow, ere it were daylight,
Full privily two harness hath he dight*, *prepared
Both suffisant and meete to darraine* *contest
The battle in the field betwixt them twain.
And on his horse, alone as he was born,
He carrieth all this harness him beforn;
And in the grove, at time and place y-set,
This Arcite and this Palamon be met.
Then change gan the colour of their face;
Right as the hunter in the regne* of Thrace *kingdom
That standeth at a gappe with a spear
When hunted is the lion or the bear,
And heareth him come rushing in the greves*, *groves
And breaking both the boughes and the leaves,
Thinketh, "Here comes my mortal enemy,
Withoute fail, he must be dead or I;
For either I must slay him at the gap;
Or he must slay me, if that me mishap:"
So fared they, in changing of their hue
*As far as either of them other knew*. *When they recognised each
There was no good day, and no saluting, other afar off*
But straight, withoute wordes rehearsing,
Evereach of them holp to arm the other,
As friendly, as he were his owen brother.
And after that, with sharpe speares strong
They foined* each at other wonder long. *thrust
Thou mightest weene*, that this Palamon *think
In fighting were as a wood* lion, *mad
And as a cruel tiger was Arcite:
As wilde boars gan they together smite,
That froth as white as foam, *for ire wood*. *mad with anger*
Up to the ancle fought they in their blood.
And in this wise I let them fighting dwell,
And forth I will of Theseus you tell.
The Destiny, minister general,
That executeth in the world o'er all
The purveyance*, that God hath seen beforn; *foreordination
So strong it is, that though the world had sworn
The contrary of a thing by yea or nay,
Yet some time it shall fallen on a day
That falleth not eft* in a thousand year. *again
For certainly our appetites here,
Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love,
All is this ruled by the sight* above. *eye, intelligence, power
This mean I now by mighty Theseus,
That for to hunten is so desirous --
And namely* the greate hart in May -- *especially
That in his bed there dawneth him no day
That he n'is clad, and ready for to ride
With hunt and horn, and houndes him beside.
For in his hunting hath he such delight,
That it is all his joy and appetite
To be himself the greate harte's bane* *destruction
For after Mars he serveth now Diane.
Clear was the day, as I have told ere this,
And Theseus, with alle joy and bliss,
With his Hippolyta, the faire queen,
And Emily, y-clothed all in green,
On hunting be they ridden royally.
And to the grove, that stood there faste by,
In which there was an hart, as men him told,
Duke Theseus the straighte way doth hold,
And to the laund* he rideth him full right, *plain <33>
There was the hart y-wont to have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth on his way.
This Duke will have a course at him or tway
With houndes, such as him lust* to command. *pleased
And when this Duke was come to the laund,
Under the sun he looked, and anon
He was ware of Arcite and Palamon,
That foughte breme*, as it were bulles two. *fiercely
The brighte swordes wente to and fro
So hideously, that with the leaste stroke
It seemed that it woulde fell an oak,
But what they were, nothing yet he wote*. *knew
This Duke his courser with his spurres smote,
*And at a start* he was betwixt them two, *suddenly*
And pulled out a sword and cried, "Ho!
No more, on pain of losing of your head.
By mighty Mars, he shall anon be dead
That smiteth any stroke, that I may see!
But tell to me what mister* men ye be, *manner, kind <34>
That be so hardy for to fighte here
Withoute judge or other officer,
As though it were in listes royally. <35>
This Palamon answered hastily,
And saide: "Sir, what needeth wordes mo'?
We have the death deserved bothe two,
Two woful wretches be we, and caitives,
That be accumbered* of our own lives, *burdened
And as thou art a rightful lord and judge,
So give us neither mercy nor refuge.
And slay me first, for sainte charity,
But slay my fellow eke as well as me.
Or slay him first; for, though thou know it lite*, *little
This is thy mortal foe, this is Arcite
That from thy land is banisht on his head,
For which he hath deserved to be dead.
For this is he that came unto thy gate
And saide, that he highte Philostrate.
Thus hath he japed* thee full many year, *deceived
And thou hast made of him thy chief esquier;
And this is he, that loveth Emily.
For since the day is come that I shall die
I make pleinly* my confession, *fully, unreservedly
That I am thilke* woful Palamon, *that same <36>
That hath thy prison broken wickedly.
I am thy mortal foe, and it am I
That so hot loveth Emily the bright,
That I would die here present in her sight.
Therefore I aske death and my jewise*. *judgement
But slay my fellow eke in the same wise,
For both we have deserved to be slain."
This worthy Duke answer'd anon again,
And said, "This is a short conclusion.
Your own mouth, by your own confession
Hath damned you, and I will it record;
It needeth not to pain you with the cord;
Ye shall be dead, by mighty Mars the Red.<37>
The queen anon for very womanhead
Began to weep, and so did Emily,
And all the ladies in the company.
Great pity was it as it thought them all,
That ever such a chance should befall,
For gentle men they were, of great estate,
And nothing but for love was this debate
They saw their bloody woundes wide and sore,
And cried all at once, both less and more,
"Have mercy, Lord, upon us women all."
And on their bare knees adown they fall
And would have kissed his feet there as he stood,
Till at the last *aslaked was his mood* *his anger was
(For pity runneth soon in gentle heart); appeased*
And though at first for ire he quoke and start
He hath consider'd shortly in a clause
The trespass of them both, and eke the cause:
And although that his ire their guilt accused
Yet in his reason he them both excused;
As thus; he thoughte well that every man
Will help himself in love if that he can,
And eke deliver himself out of prison.
Of women, for they wepten ever-in-one:* *continually
And eke his hearte had compassion
And in his gentle heart he thought anon,
And soft unto himself he saide: "Fie
Upon a lord that will have no mercy,
But be a lion both in word and deed,
To them that be in repentance and dread,
As well as-to a proud dispiteous* man *unpitying
That will maintaine what he first began.
That lord hath little of discretion,
That in such case *can no division*: *can make no distinction*
But weigheth pride and humbless *after one*." *alike*
And shortly, when his ire is thus agone,
He gan to look on them with eyen light*, *gentle, lenient*
And spake these same wordes *all on height.* *aloud*
"The god of love, ah! benedicite*, *bless ye him
How mighty and how great a lord is he!
Against his might there gaine* none obstacles, *avail, conquer
He may be called a god for his miracles
For he can maken at his owen guise
Of every heart, as that him list devise.
Lo here this Arcite, and this Palamon,
That quietly were out of my prison,
And might have lived in Thebes royally,
And weet* I am their mortal enemy, *knew
And that their death li'th in my might also,
And yet hath love, *maugre their eyen two*, *in spite of their eyes*
Y-brought them hither bothe for to die.
Now look ye, is not this an high folly?
Who may not be a fool, if but he love?
Behold, for Godde's sake that sits above,
See how they bleed! be they not well array'd?
Thus hath their lord, the god of love, them paid
Their wages and their fees for their service;
And yet they weene for to be full wise,
That serve love, for aught that may befall.
But this is yet the beste game* of all, *joke
That she, for whom they have this jealousy,
Can them therefor as muchel thank as me.
She wot no more of all this *hote fare*, *hot behaviour*
By God, than wot a cuckoo or an hare.
But all must be assayed hot or cold;
A man must be a fool, or young or old;
I wot it by myself *full yore agone*: *long years ago*
For in my time a servant was I one.
And therefore since I know of love's pain,
And wot how sore it can a man distrain*, *distress
As he that oft hath been caught in his last*, *snare <38>
I you forgive wholly this trespass,
At request of the queen that kneeleth here,
And eke of Emily, my sister dear.
And ye shall both anon unto me swear,
That never more ye shall my country dere* *injure
Nor make war upon me night nor day,
But be my friends in alle that ye may.
I you forgive this trespass *every deal*. *completely*
And they him sware *his asking* fair and well, *what he asked*
And him of lordship and of mercy pray'd,
And he them granted grace, and thus he said:
"To speak of royal lineage and richess,
Though that she were a queen or a princess,
Each of you both is worthy doubteless
To wedde when time is; but natheless
I speak as for my sister Emily,
For whom ye have this strife and jealousy,
Ye wot* yourselves, she may not wed the two *know
At once, although ye fight for evermo:
But one of you, *all be him loth or lief,* *whether or not he wishes*
He must *go pipe into an ivy leaf*: *"go whistle"*
This is to say, she may not have you both,
All be ye never so jealous, nor so wroth.
And therefore I you put in this degree,
That each of you shall have his destiny
As *him is shape*; and hearken in what wise *as is decreed for him*
Lo hear your end of that I shall devise.
My will is this, for plain conclusion
Withouten any replication*, *reply
If that you liketh, take it for the best,
That evereach of you shall go where *him lest*, *he pleases
Freely without ransom or danger;
And this day fifty weekes, *farre ne nerre*, *neither more nor less*
Evereach of you shall bring an hundred knights,
Armed for listes up at alle rights
All ready to darraine* her by bataille, *contend for
And this behete* I you withoute fail *promise
Upon my troth, and as I am a knight,
That whether of you bothe that hath might,
That is to say, that whether he or thou
May with his hundred, as I spake of now,
Slay his contrary, or out of listes drive,
Him shall I given Emily to wive,
To whom that fortune gives so fair a grace.
The listes shall I make here in this place.
*And God so wisly on my soule rue*, *may God as surely have
As I shall even judge be and true. mercy on my soul*
Ye shall none other ende with me maken
Than one of you shalle be dead or taken.
And if you thinketh this is well y-said,
Say your advice*, and hold yourselves apaid**. *opinion **satisfied
This is your end, and your conclusion."
Who looketh lightly now but Palamon?
Who springeth up for joye but Arcite?
Who could it tell, or who could it indite,
The joye that is maked in the place
When Theseus hath done so fair a grace?
But down on knees went every *manner wight*, *kind of person*
And thanked him with all their heartes' might,
And namely* these Thebans *ofte sithe*. *especially *oftentimes*
And thus with good hope and with hearte blithe
They take their leave, and homeward gan they ride
To Thebes-ward, with his old walles wide.
I trow men woulde deem it negligence,
If I forgot to telle the dispence* *expenditure
Of Theseus, that went so busily
To maken up the listes royally,
That such a noble theatre as it was,
I dare well say, in all this world there n'as*. *was not
The circuit a mile was about,
Walled of stone, and ditched all without.
*Round was the shape, in manner of compass,
Full of degrees, the height of sixty pas* *see note <39>*
That when a man was set on one degree
He letted* not his fellow for to see. *hindered
Eastward there stood a gate of marble white,
Westward right such another opposite.
And, shortly to conclude, such a place
Was never on earth made in so little space,
For in the land there was no craftes-man,
That geometry or arsmetrike* can**, *arithmetic **knew
Nor pourtrayor*, nor carver of images, *portrait painter
That Theseus ne gave him meat and wages
The theatre to make and to devise.
And for to do his rite and sacrifice
He eastward hath upon the gate above,
In worship of Venus, goddess of love,
*Done make* an altar and an oratory; *caused to be made*
And westward, in the mind and in memory
Of Mars, he maked hath right such another,
That coste largely of gold a fother*. *a great amount
And northward, in a turret on the wall,
Of alabaster white and red coral
An oratory riche for to see,
In worship of Diane of chastity,
Hath Theseus done work in noble wise.
But yet had I forgotten to devise* *describe
The noble carving, and the portraitures,
The shape, the countenance of the figures
That weren in there oratories three.
First in the temple of Venus may'st thou see
Wrought on the wall, full piteous to behold,
The broken sleepes, and the sikes* cold, *sighes
The sacred teares, and the waimentings*, *lamentings
The fiery strokes of the desirings,
That Love's servants in this life endure;
The oathes, that their covenants assure.
Pleasance and Hope, Desire, Foolhardiness,
Beauty and Youth, and Bawdry and Richess,
Charms and Sorc'ry, Leasings* and Flattery, *falsehoods
Dispence, Business, and Jealousy,
That wore of yellow goldes* a garland, *sunflowers <40>
And had a cuckoo sitting on her hand,
Feasts, instruments, and caroles and dances,
Lust and array, and all the circumstances
Of Love, which I reckon'd and reckon shall
In order, were painted on the wall,
And more than I can make of mention.
For soothly all the mount of Citheron,<41>
Where Venus hath her principal dwelling,
Was showed on the wall in pourtraying,
With all the garden, and the lustiness*. *pleasantness
Nor was forgot the porter Idleness,
Nor Narcissus the fair of *yore agone*, *olden times*
Nor yet the folly of King Solomon,
Nor yet the greate strength of Hercules,
Th' enchantments of Medea and Circes,
Nor of Turnus the hardy fierce courage,
The rich Croesus *caitif in servage.* <42> *abased into slavery*
Thus may ye see, that wisdom nor richess,
Beauty, nor sleight, nor strength, nor hardiness
Ne may with Venus holde champartie*, *divided possession <43>
For as her liste the world may she gie*. *guide
Lo, all these folk so caught were in her las* *snare
Till they for woe full often said, Alas!
Suffice these ensamples one or two,
Although I could reckon a thousand mo'.
The statue of Venus, glorious to see
Was naked floating in the large sea,
And from the navel down all cover'd was
With waves green, and bright as any glass.
A citole <44> in her right hand hadde she,
And on her head, full seemly for to see,
A rose garland fresh, and well smelling,
Above her head her doves flickering
Before her stood her sone Cupido,
Upon his shoulders winges had he two;
And blind he was, as it is often seen;
A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen.
Why should I not as well eke tell you all
The portraiture, that was upon the wall
Within the temple of mighty Mars the Red?
All painted was the wall in length and brede* *breadth
Like to the estres* of the grisly place *interior chambers
That hight the great temple of Mars in Thrace,
In thilke* cold and frosty region, *that
There as Mars hath his sovereign mansion.
In which there dwelled neither man nor beast,
With knotty gnarry* barren trees old *gnarled
Of stubbes sharp and hideous to behold;
In which there ran a rumble and a sough*, *groaning noise
As though a storm should bursten every bough:
And downward from an hill under a bent* *slope
There stood the temple of Mars Armipotent,
Wrought all of burnish'd steel, of which th' entry
Was long and strait, and ghastly for to see.
And thereout came *a rage and such a vise*, *such a furious voice*
That it made all the gates for to rise.
The northern light in at the doore shone,
For window on the walle was there none
Through which men mighten any light discern.
The doors were all of adamant etern,
Y-clenched *overthwart and ende-long* *crossways and lengthways*
With iron tough, and, for to make it strong,
Every pillar the temple to sustain
Was tunne-great*, of iron bright and sheen. *thick as a tun (barrel)
There saw I first the dark imagining
Of felony, and all the compassing;
The cruel ire, as red as any glede*, *live coal
The picke-purse<45>, and eke the pale dread;
The smiler with the knife under the cloak,
The shepen* burning with the blacke smoke *stable <46>
The treason of the murd'ring in the bed,
The open war, with woundes all be-bled;
Conteke* with bloody knife, and sharp menace. *contention, discord
All full of chirking* was that sorry place. *creaking, jarring noise
The slayer of himself eke saw I there,
His hearte-blood had bathed all his hair:
The nail y-driven in the shode* at night, *hair of the head <47>
The colde death, with mouth gaping upright.
Amiddes of the temple sat Mischance,
With discomfort and sorry countenance;
Eke saw I Woodness* laughing in his rage, *Madness
Armed Complaint, Outhees*, and fierce Outrage; *Outcry
The carrain* in the bush, with throat y-corve**, *corpse **slashed
A thousand slain, and not *of qualm y-storve*; *dead of sickness*
The tyrant, with the prey by force y-reft;
The town destroy'd, that there was nothing left.
Yet saw I brent* the shippes hoppesteres, <48> *burnt
The hunter strangled with the wilde bears:
The sow freting* the child right in the cradle; *devouring <49>
The cook scalded, for all his longe ladle.
Nor was forgot, *by th'infortune of Mart* *through the misfortune
The carter overridden with his cart; of war*
Under the wheel full low he lay adown.
There were also of Mars' division,
The armourer, the bowyer*, and the smith, *maker of bows
That forgeth sharp swordes on his stith*. *anvil
And all above depainted in a tower
Saw I Conquest, sitting in great honour,
With thilke* sharpe sword over his head *that
Hanging by a subtle y-twined thread.
Painted the slaughter was of Julius<50>,
Of cruel Nero, and Antonius:
Although at that time they were yet unborn,
Yet was their death depainted there beforn,
By menacing of Mars, right by figure,
So was it showed in that portraiture,
As is depainted in the stars above,
Who shall be slain, or elles dead for love.
Sufficeth one ensample in stories old,
I may not reckon them all, though I wo'ld.
The statue of Mars upon a carte* stood *chariot
Armed, and looked grim as he were wood*, *mad
And over his head there shone two figures
Of starres, that be cleped in scriptures,
That one Puella, that other Rubeus. <51>
This god of armes was arrayed thus:
A wolf there stood before him at his feet
With eyen red, and of a man he eat:
With subtle pencil painted was this story,
In redouting* of Mars and of his glory. *reverance, fear
Now to the temple of Dian the chaste
As shortly as I can I will me haste,
To telle you all the descriptioun.
Depainted be the walles up and down
Of hunting and of shamefast chastity.
There saw I how woful Calistope,<52>
When that Dian aggrieved was with her,
Was turned from a woman to a bear,
And after was she made the lodestar*: *pole star
Thus was it painted, I can say no far*; *farther
Her son is eke a star as men may see.
There saw I Dane <53> turn'd into a tree,
I meane not the goddess Diane,
But Peneus' daughter, which that hight Dane.
There saw I Actaeon an hart y-maked*, *made
For vengeance that he saw Dian all naked:
I saw how that his houndes have him caught,
And freten* him, for that they knew him not. *devour
Yet painted was, a little farthermore
How Atalanta hunted the wild boar;
And Meleager, and many other mo',
For which Diana wrought them care and woe.
There saw I many another wondrous story,
The which me list not drawen to memory.
This goddess on an hart full high was set*, *seated
With smalle houndes all about her feet,
And underneath her feet she had a moon,
Waxing it was, and shoulde wane soon.
In gaudy green her statue clothed was,
With bow in hand, and arrows in a case*. *quiver
Her eyen caste she full low adown,
Where Pluto hath his darke regioun.
A woman travailing was her beforn,
But, for her child so longe was unborn,
Full piteously Lucina <54> gan she call,
And saide; "Help, for thou may'st best of all."
Well could he painte lifelike that it wrought;
With many a florin he the hues had bought.
Now be these listes made, and Theseus,
That at his greate cost arrayed thus
The temples, and the theatre every deal*, *part <55>
When it was done, him liked wonder well.
But stint* I will of Theseus a lite**, *cease speaking **little
And speak of Palamon and of Arcite.
The day approacheth of their returning,
That evereach an hundred knights should bring,
The battle to darraine* as I you told; *contest
And to Athens, their covenant to hold,
Hath ev'reach of them brought an hundred knights,
Well-armed for the war at alle rights.
And sickerly* there trowed** many a man, *surely <56> **believed
That never, sithen* that the world began, *since
For to speaken of knighthood of their hand,
As far as God hath maked sea and land,
Was, of so few, so noble a company.
For every wight that loved chivalry,
And would, *his thankes, have a passant name*, *thanks to his own
Had prayed, that he might be of that game, efforts, have a
And well was him, that thereto chosen was. surpassing name*
For if there fell to-morrow such a case,
Ye knowe well, that every lusty knight,
That loveth par amour, and hath his might
Were it in Engleland, or elleswhere,
They would, their thankes, willen to be there,
T' fight for a lady; Benedicite,
It were a lusty* sighte for to see. *pleasing
And right so fared they with Palamon;
With him there wente knightes many one.
Some will be armed in an habergeon,
And in a breast-plate, and in a gipon*; *short doublet.
And some will have *a pair of plates* large; *back and front armour*
And some will have a Prusse* shield, or targe; *Prussian
Some will be armed on their legges weel;
Some have an axe, and some a mace of steel.
There is no newe guise*, but it was old. *fashion
Armed they weren, as I have you told,
Evereach after his opinion.
There may'st thou see coming with Palamon
Licurgus himself, the great king of Thrace:
Black was his beard, and manly was his face.
The circles of his eyen in his head
They glowed betwixte yellow and red,
And like a griffin looked he about,
With kemped* haires on his browes stout; *combed<57>
His limbs were great, his brawns were hard and strong,
His shoulders broad, his armes round and long.
And as the guise* was in his country, *fashion
Full high upon a car of gold stood he,
With foure white bulles in the trace.
Instead of coat-armour on his harness,
With yellow nails, and bright as any gold,
He had a beare's skin, coal-black for old*. *age
His long hair was y-kempt behind his back,
As any raven's feather it shone for black.
A wreath of gold *arm-great*, of huge weight, *thick as a man's arm*
Upon his head sate, full of stones bright,
Of fine rubies and clear diamants.
About his car there wente white alauns*, *greyhounds <58>
Twenty and more, as great as any steer,
To hunt the lion or the wilde bear,
And follow'd him, with muzzle fast y-bound,
Collars of gold, and torettes* filed round. *rings
An hundred lordes had he in his rout* *retinue
Armed full well, with heartes stern and stout.
With Arcita, in stories as men find,
The great Emetrius the king of Ind,
Upon a *steede bay* trapped in steel, *bay horse*
Cover'd with cloth of gold diapred* well, *decorated
Came riding like the god of armes, Mars.
His coat-armour was of *a cloth of Tars*, *a kind of silk*
Couched* with pearls white and round and great *trimmed
His saddle was of burnish'd gold new beat;
A mantelet on his shoulders hanging,
Bretful* of rubies red, as fire sparkling. *brimful
His crispe hair like ringes was y-run,
And that was yellow, glittering as the sun.
His nose was high, his eyen bright citrine*, *pale yellow
His lips were round, his colour was sanguine,
A fewe fracknes* in his face y-sprent**, *freckles **sprinkled
Betwixte yellow and black somedeal y-ment* *mixed <59>
And as a lion he *his looking cast* *cast about his eyes*
Of five and twenty year his age I cast* *reckon
His beard was well begunnen for to spring;
His voice was as a trumpet thundering.
Upon his head he wore of laurel green
A garland fresh and lusty to be seen;
Upon his hand he bare, for his delight,
An eagle tame, as any lily white.
An hundred lordes had he with him there,
All armed, save their heads, in all their gear,
Full richely in alle manner things.
For trust ye well, that earles, dukes, and kings
Were gather'd in this noble company,
For love, and for increase of chivalry.
About this king there ran on every part
Full many a tame lion and leopart.
And in this wise these lordes *all and some* *all and sundry*
Be on the Sunday to the city come
Aboute prime<60>, and in the town alight.
This Theseus, this Duke, this worthy knight
When he had brought them into his city,
And inned* them, ev'reach at his degree, *lodged
He feasteth them, and doth so great labour
To *easen them*, and do them all honour, *make them comfortable*
That yet men weene* that no mannes wit *think
Of none estate could amenden* it. *improve
The minstrelsy, the service at the feast,
The greate giftes to the most and least,
The rich array of Theseus' palace,
Nor who sate first or last upon the dais.<61>
What ladies fairest be, or best dancing
Or which of them can carol best or sing,
Or who most feelingly speaketh of love;
What hawkes sitten on the perch above,
What houndes liggen* on the floor adown, *lie
Of all this now make I no mentioun
But of th'effect; that thinketh me the best
Now comes the point, and hearken if you lest.* *please
The Sunday night, ere day began to spring,
When Palamon the larke hearde sing,
Although it were not day by houres two,
Yet sang the lark, and Palamon right tho* *then
With holy heart, and with an high courage,
Arose, to wenden* on his pilgrimage *go
Unto the blissful Cithera benign,
I meane Venus, honourable and digne*. *worthy
And in her hour <62> he walketh forth a pace
Unto the listes, where her temple was,
And down he kneeleth, and with humble cheer* *demeanour
And hearte sore, he said as ye shall hear.
"Fairest of fair, O lady mine Venus,
Daughter to Jove, and spouse of Vulcanus,
Thou gladder of the mount of Citheron!<41>
For thilke love thou haddest to Adon <63>
Have pity on my bitter teares smart,
And take mine humble prayer to thine heart.
Alas! I have no language to tell
Th'effecte, nor the torment of mine hell;
Mine hearte may mine harmes not betray;
I am so confused, that I cannot say.
But mercy, lady bright, that knowest well
My thought, and seest what harm that I feel.
Consider all this, and *rue upon* my sore, *take pity on*
As wisly* as I shall for evermore *truly
Enforce my might, thy true servant to be,
And holde war alway with chastity:
That make I mine avow*, so ye me help. *vow, promise
I keepe not of armes for to yelp,* *boast
Nor ask I not to-morrow to have victory,
Nor renown in this case, nor vaine glory
Of *prize of armes*, blowing up and down, *praise for valour*
But I would have fully possessioun
Of Emily, and die in her service;
Find thou the manner how, and in what wise.
I *recke not but* it may better be *do not know whether*
To have vict'ry of them, or they of me,
So that I have my lady in mine arms.
For though so be that Mars is god of arms,
Your virtue is so great in heaven above,
That, if you list, I shall well have my love.
Thy temple will I worship evermo',
And on thine altar, where I ride or go,
I will do sacrifice, and fires bete*. *make, kindle
And if ye will not so, my lady sweet,
Then pray I you, to-morrow with a spear
That Arcita me through the hearte bear
Then reck I not, when I have lost my life,
Though that Arcita win her to his wife.
This is th' effect and end of my prayere, --
Give me my love, thou blissful lady dear."
When th' orison was done of Palamon,
His sacrifice he did, and that anon,
Full piteously, with alle circumstances,
*All tell I not as now* his observances. *although I tell not now*
But at the last the statue of Venus shook,
And made a signe, whereby that he took
That his prayer accepted was that day.
For though the signe shewed a delay,
Yet wist he well that granted was his boon;
And with glad heart he went him home full soon.
The third hour unequal <64> that Palamon
Began to Venus' temple for to gon,
Up rose the sun, and up rose Emily,
And to the temple of Dian gan hie.
Her maidens, that she thither with her lad*, *led
Th' incense, the clothes, and the remnant all
That to the sacrifice belonge shall,
The hornes full of mead, as was the guise;
There lacked nought to do her sacrifice.
Smoking* the temple full of clothes fair, *draping <65>
This Emily with hearte debonnair* *gentle
Her body wash'd with water of a well.
But how she did her rite I dare not tell;
But* it be any thing in general; *unless
And yet it were a game* to hearen all *pleasure
To him that meaneth well it were no charge:
But it is good a man to *be at large*. *do as he will*
Her bright hair combed was, untressed all.
A coronet of green oak cerriall <66>
Upon her head was set full fair and meet.
Two fires on the altar gan she bete,
And did her thinges, as men may behold
In Stace of Thebes <67>, and these bookes old.
When kindled was the fire, with piteous cheer
Unto Dian she spake as ye may hear.
"O chaste goddess of the woodes green,
To whom both heav'n and earth and sea is seen,
Queen of the realm of Pluto dark and low,
Goddess of maidens, that mine heart hast know
Full many a year, and wost* what I desire, *knowest
To keep me from the vengeance of thine ire,
That Actaeon aboughte* cruelly: *earned; suffered from
Chaste goddess, well wottest thou that I
Desire to be a maiden all my life,
Nor never will I be no love nor wife.
I am, thou wost*, yet of thy company, *knowest
A maid, and love hunting and venery*, *field sports
And for to walken in the woodes wild,
And not to be a wife, and be with child.
Nought will I know the company of man.
Now help me, lady, since ye may and can,
For those three formes <68> that thou hast in thee.
And Palamon, that hath such love to me,
And eke Arcite, that loveth me so sore,
This grace I pray thee withoute more,
As sende love and peace betwixt them two:
And from me turn away their heartes so,
That all their hote love, and their desire,
And all their busy torment, and their fire,
Be queint*, or turn'd into another place. *quenched
And if so be thou wilt do me no grace,
Or if my destiny be shapen so
That I shall needes have one of them two,
So send me him that most desireth me.
Behold, goddess of cleane chastity,
The bitter tears that on my cheekes fall.
Since thou art maid, and keeper of us all,
My maidenhead thou keep and well conserve,
And, while I live, a maid I will thee serve.
The fires burn upon the altar clear,
While Emily was thus in her prayere:
But suddenly she saw a sighte quaint*. *strange
For right anon one of the fire's *queint
And quick'd* again, and after that anon *went out and revived*
That other fire was queint, and all agone:
And as it queint, it made a whisteling,
As doth a brande wet in its burning.
And at the brandes end outran anon
As it were bloody droppes many one:
For which so sore aghast was Emily,
That she was well-nigh mad, and gan to cry,
For she ne wiste what it signified;
But onely for feare thus she cried,
And wept, that it was pity for to hear.
And therewithal Diana gan appear
With bow in hand, right as an hunteress,
And saide; "Daughter, stint* thine heaviness. *cease
Among the goddes high it is affirm'd,
And by eternal word writ and confirm'd,
Thou shalt be wedded unto one of tho* *those
That have for thee so muche care and woe:
But unto which of them I may not tell.
Farewell, for here I may no longer dwell.
The fires which that on mine altar brenn*, *burn
Shall thee declaren, ere that thou go henne*, *hence
Thine aventure of love, as in this case."
And with that word, the arrows in the case* *quiver
Of the goddess did clatter fast and ring,
And forth she went, and made a vanishing,
For which this Emily astonied was,
And saide; "What amounteth this, alas!
I put me under thy protection,
Diane, and in thy disposition."
And home she went anon the nexte* way. *nearest
This is th' effect, there is no more to say.
The nexte hour of Mars following this
Arcite to the temple walked is
Of fierce Mars, to do his sacrifice
With all the rites of his pagan guise.
With piteous* heart and high devotion *pious
Right thus to Mars he said his orison
"O stronge god, that in the regnes* old *realms
Of Thrace honoured art, and lord y-hold* *held
And hast in every regne, and every land
Of armes all the bridle in thine hand,
And *them fortunest as thee list devise*, *send them fortune
Accept of me my piteous sacrifice. as you please*
If so be that my youthe may deserve,
And that my might be worthy for to serve
Thy godhead, that I may be one of thine,
Then pray I thee to *rue upon my pine*, *pity my anguish*
For thilke* pain, and thilke hote fire, *that
In which thou whilom burned'st for desire
Whenne that thou usedest* the beauty *enjoyed
Of faire young Venus, fresh and free,
And haddest her in armes at thy will:
And though thee ones on a time misfill*, *were unlucky
When Vulcanus had caught thee in his las*, *net <69>
And found thee ligging* by his wife, alas! *lying
For thilke sorrow that was in thine heart,
Have ruth* as well upon my paine's smart. *pity
I am young and unconning*, as thou know'st, *ignorant, simple
And, as I trow*, with love offended most *believe
That e'er was any living creature:
For she, that doth* me all this woe endure, *causes
Ne recketh ne'er whether I sink or fleet* *swim
And well I wot, ere she me mercy hete*, *promise, vouchsafe
I must with strengthe win her in the place:
And well I wot, withoute help or grace
Of thee, ne may my strengthe not avail:
Then help me, lord, to-morr'w in my bataille,
For thilke fire that whilom burned thee,
As well as this fire that now burneth me;
And do* that I to-morr'w may have victory. *cause
Mine be the travail, all thine be the glory.
Thy sovereign temple will I most honour
Of any place, and alway most labour
In thy pleasance and in thy craftes strong.
And in thy temple I will my banner hong*, *hang
And all the armes of my company,
And evermore, until that day I die,
Eternal fire I will before thee find
And eke to this my vow I will me bind:
My beard, my hair that hangeth long adown,
That never yet hath felt offension* *indignity
Of razor nor of shears, I will thee give,
And be thy true servant while I live.
Now, lord, have ruth upon my sorrows sore,
Give me the victory, I ask no more."
The prayer stint* of Arcita the strong, *ended
The ringes on the temple door that hong,
And eke the doores, clattered full fast,
Of which Arcita somewhat was aghast.
The fires burn'd upon the altar bright,
That it gan all the temple for to light;
A sweete smell anon the ground up gaf*, *gave
And Arcita anon his hand up haf*, *lifted
And more incense into the fire he cast,
With other rites more and at the last
The statue of Mars began his hauberk ring;
And with that sound he heard a murmuring
Full low and dim, that saide thus, "Victory."
For which he gave to Mars honour and glory.
And thus with joy, and hope well to fare,
Arcite anon unto his inn doth fare.
As fain* as fowl is of the brighte sun. *glad
And right anon such strife there is begun
For thilke* granting, in the heav'n above, *that
Betwixte Venus the goddess of love,
And Mars the sterne god armipotent,
That Jupiter was busy it to stent*: *stop
Till that the pale Saturnus the cold,<70>
That knew so many of adventures old,
Found in his old experience such an art,
That he full soon hath pleased every part.
As sooth is said, eld* hath great advantage, *age
In eld is bothe wisdom and usage*: *experience
Men may the old out-run, but not out-rede*. *outwit
Saturn anon, to stint the strife and drede,
Albeit that it is against his kind,* *nature
Of all this strife gan a remedy find.
"My deare daughter Venus," quoth Saturn,
"My course*, that hath so wide for to turn, *orbit <71>
Hath more power than wot any man.
Mine is the drowning in the sea so wan;
Mine is the prison in the darke cote*, *cell
Mine the strangling and hanging by the throat,
The murmur, and the churlish rebelling,
The groyning*, and the privy poisoning. *discontent
I do vengeance and plein* correction, *full
I dwell in the sign of the lion.
Mine is the ruin of the highe halls,
The falling of the towers and the walls
Upon the miner or the carpenter:
I slew Samson in shaking the pillar:
Mine also be the maladies cold,
The darke treasons, and the castes* old: *plots
My looking is the father of pestilence.
Now weep no more, I shall do diligence
That Palamon, that is thine owen knight,
Shall have his lady, as thou hast him hight*. *promised
Though Mars shall help his knight, yet natheless
Betwixte you there must sometime be peace:
All be ye not of one complexion,
That each day causeth such division,
I am thine ayel*, ready at thy will; *grandfather <72>
Weep now no more, I shall thy lust* fulfil." *pleasure
Now will I stenten* of the gods above, *cease speaking
Of Mars, and of Venus, goddess of love,
And telle you as plainly as I can
The great effect, for which that I began.
Great was the feast in Athens thilke* day; *that
And eke the lusty season of that May
Made every wight to be in such pleasance,
That all that Monday jousten they and dance,
And spenden it in Venus' high service.
But by the cause that they shoulde rise
Early a-morrow for to see that fight,
Unto their reste wente they at night.
And on the morrow, when the day gan spring,
Of horse and harness* noise and clattering *armour
There was in the hostelries all about:
And to the palace rode there many a rout* *train, retinue
Of lordes, upon steedes and palfreys.
There mayst thou see devising* of harness *decoration
So uncouth* and so rich, and wrought so weel *unkown, rare
Of goldsmithry, of brouding*, and of steel; *embroidery
The shieldes bright, the testers*, and trappures** *helmets<73>
Gold-hewen helmets, hauberks, coat-armures; **trappings
Lordes in parements* on their coursers, *ornamental garb <74>;
Knightes of retinue, and eke squiers,
Nailing the spears, and helmes buckeling,
Gniding* of shieldes, with lainers** lacing; *polishing <75>
There as need is, they were nothing idle: **lanyards
The foamy steeds upon the golden bridle
Gnawing, and fast the armourers also
With file and hammer pricking to and fro;
Yeomen on foot, and knaves* many one *servants
With shorte staves, thick* as they may gon**; *close **walk
Pipes, trumpets, nakeres*, and clariouns, *drums <76>
That in the battle blowe bloody souns;
The palace full of people up and down,
There three, there ten, holding their questioun*, *conversation
Divining* of these Theban knightes two. *conjecturing
Some saiden thus, some said it shall he so;
Some helden with him with the blacke beard,
Some with the bald, some with the thick-hair'd;
Some said he looked grim, and woulde fight:
He had a sparth* of twenty pound of weight. *double-headed axe
Thus was the halle full of divining* *conjecturing
Long after that the sunne gan up spring.
The great Theseus that of his sleep is waked
With minstrelsy, and noise that was maked,
Held yet the chamber of his palace rich,
Till that the Theban knightes both y-lich* *alike
Honoured were, and to the palace fet*. *fetched
Duke Theseus is at a window set,
Array'd right as he were a god in throne:
The people presseth thitherward full soon
Him for to see, and do him reverence,
And eke to hearken his hest* and his sentence**. *command **speech
An herald on a scaffold made an O, <77>
Till the noise of the people was y-do*: *done
And when he saw the people of noise all still,
Thus shewed he the mighty Duke's will.
"The lord hath of his high discretion
Considered that it were destruction
To gentle blood, to fighten in the guise
Of mortal battle now in this emprise:
Wherefore to shape* that they shall not die, *arrange, contrive
He will his firste purpose modify.
No man therefore, on pain of loss of life,
No manner* shot, nor poleaxe, nor short knife *kind of
Into the lists shall send, or thither bring.
Nor short sword for to stick with point biting
No man shall draw, nor bear it by his side.
And no man shall unto his fellow ride
But one course, with a sharp y-grounden spear:
*Foin if him list on foot, himself to wear. *He who wishes can
And he that is at mischief shall be take*, fence on foot to defend
And not slain, but be brought unto the stake, himself, and he that
That shall be ordained on either side; is in peril shall be taken*
Thither he shall by force, and there abide.
And if *so fall* the chiefetain be take *should happen*
On either side, or elles slay his make*, *equal, match
No longer then the tourneying shall last.
God speede you; go forth and lay on fast.
With long sword and with mace fight your fill.
Go now your way; this is the lordes will.
The voice of the people touched the heaven,
So loude cried they with merry steven*: *sound
God save such a lord that is so good,
He willeth no destruction of blood.
Up go the trumpets and the melody,
And to the listes rode the company
*By ordinance*, throughout the city large, *in orderly array*
Hanged with cloth of gold, and not with sarge*. *serge <78>
Full like a lord this noble Duke gan ride,
And these two Thebans upon either side:
And after rode the queen and Emily,
And after them another company
Of one and other, after their degree.
And thus they passed thorough that city
And to the listes came they by time:
It was not of the day yet fully prime*. *between 6 & 9 a.m.
When set was Theseus full rich and high,
Hippolyta the queen and Emily,
And other ladies in their degrees about,
Unto the seates presseth all the rout.
And westward, through the gates under Mart,
Arcite, and eke the hundred of his part,
With banner red, is enter'd right anon;
And in the selve* moment Palamon *self-same
Is, under Venus, eastward in the place,
With banner white, and hardy cheer* and face *expression
In all the world, to seeken up and down
So even* without variatioun *equal
There were such companies never tway.
For there was none so wise that coulde say
That any had of other avantage
Of worthiness, nor of estate, nor age,
So even were they chosen for to guess.
And *in two ranges faire they them dress*. *they arranged themselves
When that their names read were every one, in two rows*
That in their number guile* were there none, *fraud
Then were the gates shut, and cried was loud;
"Do now your devoir, younge knights proud
The heralds left their pricking* up and down *spurring their horses
Now ring the trumpet loud and clarioun.
There is no more to say, but east and west
In go the speares sadly* in the rest; *steadily
In go the sharpe spurs into the side.
There see me who can joust, and who can ride.
There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick;
He feeleth through the hearte-spoon<79> the prick.
Up spring the speares twenty foot on height;
Out go the swordes as the silver bright.
The helmes they to-hewen, and to-shred*; *strike in pieces <80>
Out burst the blood, with sterne streames red.
With mighty maces the bones they to-brest*. *burst
He <81> through the thickest of the throng gan threst*. *thrust
There stumble steedes strong, and down go all.
He rolleth under foot as doth a ball.
He foineth* on his foe with a trunchoun, *forces himself
And he him hurtleth with his horse adown.
He through the body hurt is, and *sith take*, *afterwards captured*
Maugre his head, and brought unto the stake,
As forword* was, right there he must abide. *covenant
Another led is on that other side.
And sometime doth* them Theseus to rest, *caused
Them to refresh, and drinken if them lest*. *pleased
Full oft a day have thilke Thebans two *these
Together met and wrought each other woe:
Unhorsed hath each other of them tway* *twice
There is no tiger in the vale of Galaphay, <82>
When that her whelp is stole, when it is lite* *little
So cruel on the hunter, as Arcite
For jealous heart upon this Palamon:
Nor in Belmarie <83> there is no fell lion,
That hunted is, or for his hunger wood* *mad
Or for his prey desireth so the blood,
As Palamon to slay his foe Arcite.
The jealous strokes upon their helmets bite;
Out runneth blood on both their sides red,
Sometime an end there is of every deed
For ere the sun unto the reste went,
The stronge king Emetrius gan hent* *sieze, assail
This Palamon, as he fought with Arcite,
And made his sword deep in his flesh to bite,
And by the force of twenty is he take,
Unyielding, and is drawn unto the stake.
And in the rescue of this Palamon
The stronge king Licurgus is borne down:
And king Emetrius, for all his strength
Is borne out of his saddle a sword's length,
So hit him Palamon ere he were take:
But all for nought; he was brought to the stake:
His hardy hearte might him helpe naught,
He must abide when that he was caught,
By force, and eke by composition*. *the bargain
Who sorroweth now but woful Palamon
That must no more go again to fight?
And when that Theseus had seen that sight
Unto the folk that foughte thus each one,
He cried, Ho! no more, for it is done!
I will be true judge, and not party.
Arcite of Thebes shall have Emily,
That by his fortune hath her fairly won."
Anon there is a noise of people gone,
For joy of this, so loud and high withal,
It seemed that the listes shoulde fall.
What can now faire Venus do above?
What saith she now? what doth this queen of love?
But weepeth so, for wanting of her will,
Till that her teares in the listes fill* *fall
She said: "I am ashamed doubteless."
Saturnus saide: "Daughter, hold thy peace.
Mars hath his will, his knight hath all his boon,
And by mine head thou shalt be eased soon."
The trumpeters with the loud minstrelsy,
The heralds, that full loude yell and cry,
Be in their joy for weal of Dan* Arcite. *Lord
But hearken me, and stinte noise a lite,
What a miracle there befell anon
This fierce Arcite hath off his helm y-done,
And on a courser for to shew his face
He *pricketh endelong* the large place, *rides from end to end*
Looking upward upon this Emily;
And she again him cast a friendly eye
(For women, as to speaken *in commune*, *generally*
They follow all the favour of fortune),
And was all his in cheer*, as his in heart. *countenance
Out of the ground a fire infernal start,
From Pluto sent, at request of Saturn
For which his horse for fear began to turn,
And leap aside, and founder* as he leap *stumble
And ere that Arcite may take any keep*, *care
He pight* him on the pummel** of his head. *pitched **top
That in the place he lay as he were dead.
His breast to-bursten with his saddle-bow.
As black he lay as any coal or crow,
So was the blood y-run into his face.
Anon he was y-borne out of the place
With hearte sore, to Theseus' palace.
Then was he carven* out of his harness. *cut
And in a bed y-brought full fair and blive* *quickly
For he was yet in mem'ry and alive,
And always crying after Emily.
Duke Theseus, with all his company,
Is come home to Athens his city,
With alle bliss and great solemnity.
Albeit that this aventure was fall*, *befallen
He woulde not discomforte* them all *discourage
Then said eke, that Arcite should not die,
He should be healed of his malady.
And of another thing they were as fain*. *glad
That of them alle was there no one slain,
All* were they sorely hurt, and namely** one, *although **especially
That with a spear was thirled* his breast-bone. *pierced
To other woundes, and to broken arms,
Some hadden salves, and some hadden charms:
And pharmacies of herbs, and eke save* *sage, Salvia officinalis
They dranken, for they would their lives have.
For which this noble Duke, as he well can,
Comforteth and honoureth every man,
And made revel all the longe night,
Unto the strange lordes, as was right.
Nor there was holden no discomforting,
But as at jousts or at a tourneying;
For soothly there was no discomfiture,
For falling is not but an aventure*. *chance, accident
Nor to be led by force unto a stake
Unyielding, and with twenty knights y-take
One person all alone, withouten mo',
And harried* forth by armes, foot, and toe, *dragged, hurried
And eke his steede driven forth with staves,
With footmen, bothe yeomen and eke knaves*, *servants
It was *aretted him no villainy:* *counted no disgrace to him*
There may no man *clepen it cowardy*. *call it cowardice*
For which anon Duke Theseus *let cry*, -- *caused to be proclaimed*
To stenten* alle rancour and envy, -- *stop
The gree* as well on one side as the other, *prize, merit
And either side alike as other's brother:
And gave them giftes after their degree,
And held a feaste fully dayes three:
And conveyed the kinges worthily
Out of his town a journee* largely *day's journey
And home went every man the righte way,
There was no more but "Farewell, Have good day."
Of this bataille I will no more indite
But speak of Palamon and of Arcite.
Swelleth the breast of Arcite and the sore
Increaseth at his hearte more and more.
The clotted blood, for any leache-craft* *surgical skill
Corrupteth and is *in his bouk y-laft* *left in his body*
That neither *veine blood nor ventousing*, *blood-letting or cupping*
Nor drink of herbes may be his helping.
The virtue expulsive or animal,
From thilke virtue called natural,
Nor may the venom voide, nor expel
The pipes of his lungs began to swell
And every lacert* in his breast adown *sinew, muscle
Is shent* with venom and corruption. *destroyed
Him gaineth* neither, for to get his life, *availeth
Vomit upward, nor downward laxative;
All is to-bursten thilke region;
Nature hath now no domination.
And certainly where nature will not wirch,* *work
Farewell physic: go bear the man to chirch.* *church
This all and some is, Arcite must die.
For which he sendeth after Emily,
And Palamon, that was his cousin dear,
Then said he thus, as ye shall after hear.
"Nought may the woful spirit in mine heart
Declare one point of all my sorrows' smart
To you, my lady, that I love the most:
But I bequeath the service of my ghost
To you aboven every creature,
Since that my life ne may no longer dure.
Alas the woe! alas, the paines strong
That I for you have suffered and so long!
Alas the death, alas, mine Emily!
Alas departing* of our company! *the severance
Alas, mine hearte's queen! alas, my wife!
Mine hearte's lady, ender of my life!
What is this world? what aske men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave
Al one, withouten any company.
Farewell, my sweet, farewell, mine Emily,
And softly take me in your armes tway,
For love of God, and hearken what I say.
I have here with my cousin Palamon
Had strife and rancour many a day agone,
For love of you, and for my jealousy.
And Jupiter so *wis my soule gie*, *surely guides my soul*
To speaken of a servant properly,
With alle circumstances truely,
That is to say, truth, honour, and knighthead,
Wisdom, humbless*, estate, and high kindred, *humility
Freedom, and all that longeth to that art,
So Jupiter have of my soul part,
As in this world right now I know not one,
So worthy to be lov'd as Palamon,
That serveth you, and will do all his life.
And if that you shall ever be a wife,
Forget not Palamon, the gentle man."
And with that word his speech to fail began.
For from his feet up to his breast was come
The cold of death, that had him overnome*. *overcome
And yet moreover in his armes two
The vital strength is lost, and all ago*. *gone
Only the intellect, withoute more,
That dwelled in his hearte sick and sore,
Gan faile, when the hearte felte death;
Dusked* his eyen two, and fail'd his breath. *grew dim
But on his lady yet he cast his eye;
His laste word was; "Mercy, Emily!"
His spirit changed house, and wente there,
As I came never I cannot telle where.<84>
Therefore I stent*, I am no divinister**; *refrain **diviner
Of soules find I nought in this register.
Ne me list not th' opinions to tell
Of them, though that they writen where they dwell;
Arcite is cold, there Mars his soule gie.* *guide
Now will I speake forth of Emily.
Shriek'd Emily, and howled Palamon,
And Theseus his sister took anon
Swooning, and bare her from the corpse away.
What helpeth it to tarry forth the day,
To telle how she wept both eve and morrow?
For in such cases women have such sorrow,
When that their husbands be from them y-go*, *gone
That for the more part they sorrow so,
Or elles fall into such malady,
That at the laste certainly they die.
Infinite be the sorrows and the tears
Of olde folk, and folk of tender years,
In all the town, for death of this Theban:
For him there weepeth bothe child and man.
So great a weeping was there none certain,
When Hector was y-brought, all fresh y-slain,
To Troy: alas! the pity that was there,
Scratching of cheeks, and rending eke of hair.
"Why wouldest thou be dead?" these women cry,
"And haddest gold enough, and Emily."
No manner man might gladden Theseus,
Saving his olde father Egeus,
That knew this worlde's transmutatioun,
As he had seen it changen up and down,
Joy after woe, and woe after gladness;
And shewed him example and likeness.
"Right as there died never man," quoth he,
"That he ne liv'd in earth in some degree*, *rank, condition
Right so there lived never man," he said,
"In all this world, that sometime be not died.
This world is but a throughfare full of woe,
And we be pilgrims, passing to and fro:
Death is an end of every worldly sore."
And over all this said he yet much more
To this effect, full wisely to exhort
The people, that they should them recomfort.
Duke Theseus, with all his busy cure*, *care
*Casteth about*, where that the sepulture *deliberates*
Of good Arcite may best y-maked be,
And eke most honourable in his degree.
And at the last he took conclusion,
That there as first Arcite and Palamon
Hadde for love the battle them between,
That in that selve* grove, sweet and green, *self-same
There as he had his amorous desires,
His complaint, and for love his hote fires,
He woulde make a fire*, in which th' office *funeral pyre
Of funeral he might all accomplice;
And *let anon command* to hack and hew *immediately gave orders*
The oakes old, and lay them *on a rew* *in a row*
In culpons*, well arrayed for to brenne**. *logs **burn
His officers with swifte feet they renne* *run
And ride anon at his commandement.
And after this, Duke Theseus hath sent
After a bier, and it all oversprad
With cloth of gold, the richest that he had;
And of the same suit he clad Arcite.
Upon his handes were his gloves white,
Eke on his head a crown of laurel green,
And in his hand a sword full bright and keen.
He laid him *bare the visage* on the bier, *with face uncovered*
Therewith he wept, that pity was to hear.
And, for the people shoulde see him all,
When it was day he brought them to the hall,
That roareth of the crying and the soun'.
Then came this woful Theban, Palamon,
With sluttery beard, and ruggy ashy hairs,<85>
In clothes black, y-dropped all with tears,
And (passing over weeping Emily)
The ruefullest of all the company.
And *inasmuch as* the service should be *in order that*
The more noble and rich in its degree,
Duke Theseus let forth three steedes bring,
That trapped were in steel all glittering.
And covered with the arms of Dan Arcite.
Upon these steedes, that were great and white,
There satte folk, of whom one bare his shield,
Another his spear in his handes held;
The thirde bare with him his bow Turkeis*, *Turkish.
Of brent* gold was the case** and the harness: *burnished **quiver
And ride forth *a pace* with sorrowful cheer** *at a foot pace*
Toward the grove, as ye shall after hear. **expression
The noblest of the Greekes that there were
Upon their shoulders carried the bier,
With slacke pace, and eyen red and wet,
Throughout the city, by the master* street, *main <86>
That spread was all with black, and wondrous high
Right of the same is all the street y-wrie.* *covered <87>
Upon the right hand went old Egeus,
And on the other side Duke Theseus,
With vessels in their hand of gold full fine,
All full of honey, milk, and blood, and wine;
Eke Palamon, with a great company;
And after that came woful Emily,
With fire in hand, as was that time the guise*, *custom
To do th' office of funeral service.
High labour, and full great appareling* *preparation
Was at the service, and the pyre-making,
That with its greene top the heaven raught*, *reached
And twenty fathom broad its armes straught*: *stretched
This is to say, the boughes were so broad.
Of straw first there was laid many a load.
But how the pyre was maked up on height,
And eke the names how the trees hight*, *were called
As oak, fir, birch, asp*, alder, holm, poplere, *aspen
Willow, elm, plane, ash, box, chestnut, lind*, laurere, *linden, lime
Maple, thorn, beech, hazel, yew, whipul tree,
How they were fell'd, shall not be told for me;
Nor how the goddes* rannen up and down *the forest deities
Disinherited of their habitatioun,
In which they wonned* had in rest and peace, *dwelt
Nymphes, Faunes, and Hamadryades;
Nor how the beastes and the birdes all
Fledden for feare, when the wood gan fall;
Nor how the ground aghast* was of the light, *terrified
That was not wont to see the sunne bright;
Nor how the fire was couched* first with stre**, *laid **straw
And then with dry stickes cloven in three,
And then with greene wood and spicery*, *spices
And then with cloth of gold and with pierrie*, *precious stones
And garlands hanging with full many a flower,
The myrrh, the incense with so sweet odour;
Nor how Arcita lay among all this,
Nor what richess about his body is;
Nor how that Emily, as was the guise*, *custom
*Put in the fire* of funeral service<88>; *appplied the torch*
Nor how she swooned when she made the fire,
Nor what she spake, nor what was her desire;
Nor what jewels men in the fire then cast
When that the fire was great and burned fast;
Nor how some cast their shield, and some their spear,
And of their vestiments, which that they wear,
And cuppes full of wine, and milk, and blood,
Into the fire, that burnt as it were wood*; *mad
Nor how the Greekes with a huge rout* *procession
Three times riden all the fire about <89>
Upon the left hand, with a loud shouting,
And thries with their speares clattering;
And thries how the ladies gan to cry;
Nor how that led was homeward Emily;
Nor how Arcite is burnt to ashes cold;
Nor how the lyke-wake* was y-hold *wake <90>
All thilke* night, nor how the Greekes play *that
The wake-plays*, ne keep** I not to say: *funeral games **care
Who wrestled best naked, with oil anoint,
Nor who that bare him best *in no disjoint*. *in any contest*
I will not tell eke how they all are gone
Home to Athenes when the play is done;
But shortly to the point now will I wend*, *come
And maken of my longe tale an end.
By process and by length of certain years
All stinted* is the mourning and the tears *ended
Of Greekes, by one general assent.
Then seemed me there was a parlement
At Athens, upon certain points and cas*: *cases
Amonge the which points y-spoken was
To have with certain countries alliance,
And have of Thebans full obeisance.
For which this noble Theseus anon
Let* send after the gentle Palamon, *caused
Unwist* of him what was the cause and why: *unknown
But in his blacke clothes sorrowfully
He came at his commandment *on hie*; *in haste*
Then sente Theseus for Emily.
When they were set*, and hush'd was all the place *seated
And Theseus abided* had a space *waited
Ere any word came from his wise breast
*His eyen set he there as was his lest*, *he cast his eyes
And with a sad visage he sighed still, wherever he pleased*
And after that right thus he said his will.
"The firste mover of the cause above
When he first made the faire chain of love,
Great was th' effect, and high was his intent;
Well wist he why, and what thereof he meant:
For with that faire chain of love he bond* *bound
The fire, the air, the water, and the lond
In certain bondes, that they may not flee:<91>
That same prince and mover eke," quoth he,
"Hath stablish'd, in this wretched world adown,
Certain of dayes and duration
To all that are engender'd in this place,
Over the whiche day they may not pace*, *pass
All may they yet their dayes well abridge.
There needeth no authority to allege
For it is proved by experience;
But that me list declare my sentence*. *opinion
Then may men by this order well discern,
That thilke* mover stable is and etern. *the same
Well may men know, but that it be a fool,
That every part deriveth from its whole.
For nature hath not ta'en its beginning
Of no *partie nor cantle* of a thing, *part or piece*
But of a thing that perfect is and stable,
Descending so, till it be corruptable.
And therefore of His wise purveyance* *providence
He hath so well beset* his ordinance,
That species of things and progressions
Shallen endure by successions,
And not etern, withouten any lie:
This mayst thou understand and see at eye.
Lo th' oak, that hath so long a nourishing
From the time that it 'ginneth first to spring,
And hath so long a life, as ye may see,
Yet at the last y-wasted is the tree.
Consider eke, how that the harde stone
Under our feet, on which we tread and gon*, *walk
Yet wasteth, as it lieth by the way.
The broade river some time waxeth drey*. *dry
The greate townes see we wane and wend*. *go, disappear
Then may ye see that all things have an end.
Of man and woman see we well also, --
That needes in one of the termes two, --
That is to say, in youth or else in age,-
He must be dead, the king as shall a page;
Some in his bed, some in the deepe sea,
Some in the large field, as ye may see:
There helpeth nought, all go that ilke* way: *same
Then may I say that alle thing must die.
What maketh this but Jupiter the king?
The which is prince, and cause of alle thing,
Converting all unto his proper will,
From which it is derived, sooth to tell
And hereagainst no creature alive,
Of no degree, availeth for to strive.
Then is it wisdom, as it thinketh me,
To make a virtue of necessity,
And take it well, that we may not eschew*, *escape
And namely what to us all is due.
And whoso grudgeth* ought, he doth folly, *murmurs at
And rebel is to him that all may gie*. *direct, guide
And certainly a man hath most honour
To dien in his excellence and flower,
When he is sicker* of his goode name. *certain
Then hath he done his friend, nor him*, no shame *himself
And gladder ought his friend be of his death,
When with honour is yielded up his breath,
Than when his name *appalled is for age*; *decayed by old age*
For all forgotten is his vassalage*. *valour, service
Then is it best, as for a worthy fame,
To dien when a man is best of name.
The contrary of all this is wilfulness.
Why grudge we, why have we heaviness,
That good Arcite, of chivalry the flower,
Departed is, with duty and honour,
Out of this foule prison of this life?
Why grudge here his cousin and his wife
Of his welfare, that loved him so well?
Can he them thank? nay, God wot, neverdeal*, -- *not a jot
That both his soul and eke themselves offend*, *hurt
And yet they may their lustes* not amend**. *desires **control
What may I conclude of this longe serie*, *string of remarks
But after sorrow I rede* us to be merry, *counsel
And thanke Jupiter for all his grace?
And ere that we departe from this place,
I rede that we make of sorrows two
One perfect joye lasting evermo':
And look now where most sorrow is herein,
There will I first amenden and begin.
"Sister," quoth he, "this is my full assent,
With all th' advice here of my parlement,
That gentle Palamon, your owen knight,
That serveth you with will, and heart, and might,
And ever hath, since first time ye him knew,
That ye shall of your grace upon him rue*, *take pity
And take him for your husband and your lord:
Lend me your hand, for this is our accord.
*Let see* now of your womanly pity. *make display*
He is a kinge's brother's son, pardie*. *by God
And though he were a poore bachelere,
Since he hath served you so many a year,
And had for you so great adversity,
It muste be considered, *'lieveth me*. *believe me*
For gentle mercy *oweth to passen right*." *ought to be rightly
Then said he thus to Palamon the knight; directed*
"I trow there needeth little sermoning
To make you assente to this thing.
Come near, and take your lady by the hand."
Betwixte them was made anon the band,
That hight matrimony or marriage,
By all the counsel of the baronage.
And thus with alle bliss and melody
Hath Palamon y-wedded Emily.
And God, that all this wide world hath wrought,
Send him his love, that hath it dearly bought.
For now is Palamon in all his weal,
Living in bliss, in riches, and in heal*. *health
And Emily him loves so tenderly,
And he her serveth all so gentilly,
That never was there worde them between
Of jealousy, nor of none other teen*. *cause of anger
Thus endeth Palamon and Emily
And God save all this faire company.
Notes to The Knight's Tale.
1. For the plan and principal incidents of the "Knight's Tale,"
Chaucer was indebted to Boccaccio, who had himself borrowed
from some prior poet, chronicler, or romancer. Boccaccio
speaks of the story as "very ancient;" and, though that may not
be proof of its antiquity, it certainly shows that he took it from
an earlier writer. The "Tale" is more or less a paraphrase of
Boccaccio's "Theseida;" but in some points the copy has a
distinct dramatic superiority over the original. The "Theseida"
contained ten thousand lines; Chaucer has condensed it into less
than one-fourth of the number. The "Knight's Tale" is supposed
to have been at first composed as a separate work; it is
undetermined whether Chaucer took it direct from the Italian of
Boccaccio, or from a French translation.
2. Highte: was called; from the Anglo-Saxon "hatan", to bid or
call; German, "Heissen", "heisst".
3. Feminie: The "Royaume des Femmes" -- kingdom of the
Amazons. Gower, in the "Confessio Amantis," styles
Penthesilea the "Queen of Feminie."
4. Wonnen: Won, conquered; German "gewonnen."
5. Ear: To plough; Latin, "arare." "I have abundant matter for
discourse." The first, and half of the second, of Boccaccio's
twelve books are disposed of in the few lines foregoing.
6. Waimenting: bewailing; German, "wehklagen"
7. Starf: died; German, "sterben," "starb".
8. The Minotaur: The monster, half-man and half-bull, which
yearly devoured a tribute of fourteen Athenian youths and
maidens, until it was slain by Theseus.
9. Pillers: pillagers, strippers; French, "pilleurs."
10. The donjon was originally the central tower or "keep" of
feudal castles; it was employed to detain prisoners of
importance. Hence the modern meaning of the word dungeon.
11. Saturn, in the old astrology, was a most unpropitious star to
be born under.
12. To die in the pain was a proverbial expression in the French,
used as an alternative to enforce a resolution or a promise.
Edward III., according to Froissart, declared that he would
either succeed in the war against France or die in the pain --
"Ou il mourroit en la peine." It was the fashion in those times to
swear oaths of friendship and brotherhood; and hence, though
the fashion has long died out, we still speak of "sworn friends."
13. The saying of the old scholar Boethius, in his treatise "De
Consolatione Philosophiae", which Chaucer translated, and
from which he has freely borrowed in his poetry. The words are
"Quis legem det amantibus?
Major lex amor est sibi."
("Who can give law to lovers? Love is a law unto himself, and
14. "Perithous" and "Theseus" must, for the metre, be
pronounced as words of four and three syllables respectively --
the vowels at the end not being diphthongated, but enunciated
separately, as if the words were printed Pe-ri-tho-us, The-se-us.
The same rule applies in such words as "creature" and
"conscience," which are trisyllables.
15. Stound: moment, short space of time; from Anglo-Saxon,
"stund;" akin to which is German, "Stunde," an hour.
16. Meinie: servants, or menials, &c., dwelling together in a
house; from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a crowd. Compare
German, "Menge," multitude.
17. The pure fetters: the very fetters. The Greeks used
"katharos", the Romans "purus," in the same sense.
18. In the medieval courts of Love, to which allusion is
probably made forty lines before, in the word "parlement," or
"parliament," questions like that here proposed were seriously
19. Gear: behaviour, fashion, dress; but, by another reading, the
word is "gyre," and means fit, trance -- from the Latin, "gyro," I
20. Before his head in his cell fantastic: in front of his head in
his cell of fantasy. "The division of the brain into cells,
according to the different sensitive faculties," says Mr Wright,
"is very ancient, and is found depicted in mediaeval
manuscripts." In a manuscript in the Harleian Library, it is
stated, "Certum est in prora cerebri esse fantasiam, in medio
rationem discretionis, in puppi memoriam" (it is certain that in
the front of the brain is imagination, in the middle reason, in the
back memory) -- a classification not materially differing from
that of modern phrenologists.
21. Dan: Lord; Latin, "Dominus;" Spanish, "Don."
22. The "caduceus."
23. Argus was employed by Juno to watch Io with his hundred
eyes but he was sent to sleep by the flute of Mercury, who then
cut off his head.
24. Next: nearest; German, "naechste".
25. Clary: hippocras, wine made with spices.
26. Warray: make war; French "guerroyer", to molest; hence,
perhaps, "to worry."
27. All day meeten men at unset steven: every day men meet at
unexpected time. "To set a steven," is to fix a time, make an
28. Roundelay: song coming round again to the words with
which it opened.
29. Now in the crop and now down in the breres: Now in the
tree-top, now down in the briars. "Crop and root," top and
bottom, is used to express the perfection or totality of anything.
30. Beknow: avow, acknowledge: German, "bekennen."
31. Shapen was my death erst than my shert: My death was
decreed before my shirt ws shaped -- that is, before any clothes
were made for me, before my birth.
32. Regne: Queen; French, "Reine;" Venus is meant. The
common reading, however, is "regne," reign or power.
33. Launde: plain. Compare modern English, "lawn," and
French, "Landes" -- flat, bare marshy tracts in the south of
34. Mister: manner, kind; German "muster," sample, model.
35. In listes: in the lists, prepared for such single combats
between champion and accuser, &c.
36. Thilke: that, contracted from "the ilke," the same.
37. Mars the Red: referring to the ruddy colour of the planet, to
which was doubtless due the transference to it of the name of
the God of War. In his "Republic," enumerating the seven
planets, Cicero speaks of the propitious and beneficent light of
Jupiter: "Tum (fulgor) rutilis horribilisque terris, quem Martium
dicitis" -- "Then the red glow, horrible to the nations, which
you say to be that of Mars." Boccaccio opens the "Theseida" by
an invocation to "rubicondo Marte."
38. Last: lace, leash, noose, snare: from Latin, "laceus."
39. "Round was the shape, in manner of compass,
Full of degrees, the height of sixty pas"
The building was a circle of steps or benches, as in the ancient
amphitheatre. Either the building was sixty paces high; or, more
probably, there were sixty of the steps or benches.
40. Yellow goldes: The sunflower, turnsol, or girasol, which
turns with and seems to watch the sun, as a jealous lover his
41. Citheron: The Isle of Venus, Cythera, in the Aegean Sea;
now called Cerigo: not, as Chaucer's form of the word might
imply, Mount Cithaeron, in the south-west of Boetia, which was
appropriated to other deities than Venus -- to Jupiter, to
Bacchus, and the Muses.
42. It need not be said that Chaucer pays slight heed to
chronology in this passage, where the deeds of Turnus, the
glory of King Solomon, and the fate of Croesus are made
memories of the far past in the time of fabulous Theseus, the
43. Champartie: divided power or possession; an old law-term,
signifying the maintenance of a person in a law suit on the
condition of receiving part of the property in dispute, if
44. Citole: a kind of dulcimer.
45. The picke-purse: The plunderers that followed armies, and
gave to war a horror all their own.
46. Shepen: stable; Anglo-Saxon, "scypen;" the word
"sheppon" still survives in provincial parlance.
47. This line, perhaps, refers to the deed of Jael.
48. The shippes hoppesteres: The meaning is dubious. We may
understand "the dancing ships," "the ships that hop" on the
waves; "steres" being taken as the feminine adjectival
termination: or we may, perhaps, read, with one of the
manuscripts, "the ships upon the steres" -- that is, even as they
are being steered, or on the open sea -- a more picturesque
49. Freting: devouring; the Germans use "Fressen" to mean
eating by animals, "essen" by men.
50. Julius: i.e. Julius Caesar
51. Puella and Rubeus were two figures in geomancy,
representing two constellations-the one signifying Mars
retrograde, the other Mars direct.
52. Calistope: or Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, seduced by
Jupiter, turned into a bear by Diana, and placed afterwards, with
her son, as the Great Bear among the stars.
53. Dane: Daphne, daughter of the river-god Peneus, in
Thessaly; she was beloved by Apollo, but to avoid his pursuit,
she was, at her own prayer, changed into a laurel-tree.
54. As the goddess of Light, or the goddess who brings to light,
Diana -- as well as Juno -- was invoked by women in childbirth:
so Horace, Odes iii. 22, says:--
"Montium custos nemorumque, Virgo,
Quae laborantes utero puellas
Ter vocata audis adimisque leto,
("Virgin custodian of hills and groves, three-formed goddess
who hears and saves from death young women who call upon
her thrice when in childbirth")
55. Every deal: in every part; "deal" corresponds to the
German "Theil" a portion.
56. Sikerly: surely; German, "sicher;" Scotch, "sikkar," certain.
When Robert Bruce had escaped from England to assume the
Scottish crown, he stabbed Comyn before the altar at Dumfries;
and, emerging from the church, was asked by his friend
Kirkpatrick if he had slain the traitor. "I doubt it," said Bruce.
"Doubt," cried Kirkpatrick. "I'll mak sikkar;" and he rushed
into the church, and despatched Comyn with repeated thrusts of
57. Kemped: combed; the word survives in "unkempt."
58. Alauns: greyhounds, mastiffs; from the Spanish word
"Alano," signifying a mastiff.
59. Y-ment: mixed; German, "mengen," to mix.
60. Prime: The time of early prayers, between six and nine in
61. On the dais: see note 32 to the Prologue.
62. In her hour: in the hour of the day (two hours before
daybreak) which after the astrological system that divided the
twenty-four among the seven ruling planets, was under the
influence of Venus.
63. Adon: Adonis, a beautiful youth beloved of Venus, whose
death by the tusk of a boar she deeply mourned.
64. The third hour unequal: In the third planetary hour;
Palamon had gone forth in the hour of Venus, two hours before
daybreak; the hour of Mercury intervened; the third hour was
that of Luna, or Diana. "Unequal" refers to the astrological
division of day and night, whatever their duration, into twelve
parts, which of necessity varied in length with the season.
65. Smoking: draping; hence the word "smock;" "smokless," in
Chaucer, means naked.
66. Cerrial: of the species of oak which Pliny, in his "Natural
History," calls "cerrus."
67. Stace of Thebes: Statius, the Roman who embodied in the
twelve books of his "Thebaid" the ancient legends connected
with the war of the seven against Thebes.
68. Diana was Luna in heaven, Diana on earth, and Hecate in
hell; hence the direction of the eyes of her statue to "Pluto's
dark region." Her statue was set up where three ways met, so
that with a different face she looked down each of the three;
from which she was called Trivia. See the quotation from
Horace, note 54.
69. Las: net; the invisible toils in which Hephaestus caught Ares
and the faithless Aphrodite, and exposed them to the
"inextinguishable laughter" of Olympus.
70. Saturnus the cold: Here, as in "Mars the Red" we have the
person of the deity endowed with the supposed quality of the
planet called after his name.
71. The astrologers ascribed great power to Saturn, and
predicted "much debate" under his ascendancy; hence it was
"against his kind" to compose the heavenly strife.
72. Ayel: grandfather; French "Aieul".
73. Testers: Helmets; from the French "teste", "tete", head.
74. Parements: ornamental garb, French "parer" to deck.
75. Gniding: Rubbing, polishing; Anglo-Saxon "gnidan", to rub.
76. Nakeres: Drums, used in the cavalry; Boccaccio's word is
77. Made an O: Ho! Ho! to command attention; like "oyez", the
call for silence in law-courts or before proclamations.
78. Sarge: serge, a coarse woollen cloth
79. Heart-spoon: The concave part of the breast, where the
lower ribs join the cartilago ensiformis.
80. To-hewen and to-shred: "to" before a verb implies
extraordinary violence in the action denoted.
81. He through the thickest of the throng etc.. "He" in this
passage refers impersonally to any of the combatants.
82. Galaphay: Galapha, in Mauritania.
83. Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in
Africa; but "Palmyrie" has been suggested as the correct
84. As I came never I cannot telle where: Where it went I
cannot tell you, as I was not there. Tyrwhitt thinks that
Chaucer is sneering at Boccacio's pompous account of the
passage of Arcite's soul to heaven. Up to this point, the
description of the death-scene is taken literally from the
85. With sluttery beard, and ruggy ashy hairs: With neglected
beard, and rough hair strewn with ashes. "Flotery" is the general
reading; but "sluttery" seems to be more in keeping with the
picture of abandonment to grief.
86. Master street: main street; so Froissart speaks of "le
87. Y-wrie: covered, hid; Anglo-Saxon, "wrigan," to veil.
88. Emily applied the funeral torch. The "guise" was, among the
ancients, for the nearest relative of the deceased to do this, with
89. It was the custom for soldiers to march thrice around the
funeral pile of an emperor or general; "on the left hand" is
added, in reference to the belief that the left hand was
propitious -- the Roman augur turning his face southward, and
so placing on his left hand the east, whence good omens came.
With the Greeks, however, their augurs facing the north, it was
just the contrary. The confusion, frequent in classical writers, is
complicated here by the fact that Chaucer's description of the
funeral of Arcite is taken from Statius' "Thebaid" -- from a
Roman's account of a Greek solemnity.
90. Lyke-wake: watching by the remains of the dead; from
Anglo-Saxon, "lice," a corpse; German, "Leichnam."
91. Chaucer here borrows from Boethius, who says:
"Hanc rerum seriem ligat,
Terras ac pelagus regens,
Et coelo imperitans, amor."
(Love ties these things together: the earth, and the ruling sea,
and the imperial heavens)
THE MILLER'S TALE.
When that the Knight had thus his tale told
In all the rout was neither young nor old,
That he not said it was a noble story,
And worthy to be *drawen to memory*; *recorded*
And *namely the gentles* every one. *especially the gentlefolk*
Our Host then laugh'd and swore, "So may I gon,* *prosper
This goes aright; *unbuckled is the mail;* *the budget is opened*
Let see now who shall tell another tale:
For truely this game is well begun.
Now telleth ye, Sir Monk, if that ye conne*, *know
Somewhat, to quiten* with the Knighte's tale." *match
The Miller that fordrunken was all pale,
So that unnethes* upon his horse he sat, *with difficulty
He would avalen* neither hood nor hat, *uncover
Nor abide* no man for his courtesy, *give way to
But in Pilate's voice<1> he gan to cry,
And swore by armes, and by blood, and bones,
"I can a noble tale for the nones* *occasion,
With which I will now quite* the Knighte's tale." *match
Our Host saw well how drunk he was of ale,
And said; "Robin, abide, my leve* brother, *dear
Some better man shall tell us first another:
Abide, and let us worke thriftily."
By Godde's soul," quoth he, "that will not I,
For I will speak, or elles go my way!"
Our Host answer'd; "*Tell on a devil way*; *devil take you!*
Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome."
"Now hearken," quoth the Miller, "all and some:
But first I make a protestatioun.
That I am drunk, I know it by my soun':
And therefore if that I misspeak or say,
*Wite it* the ale of Southwark, I you pray: *blame it on*<2>
For I will tell a legend and a life
Both of a carpenter and of his wife,
How that a clerk hath *set the wrighte's cap*." *fooled the carpenter*
The Reeve answer'd and saide, "*Stint thy clap*, *hold your tongue*
Let be thy lewed drunken harlotry.
It is a sin, and eke a great folly
To apeiren* any man, or him defame, *injure
And eke to bringe wives in evil name.
Thou may'st enough of other thinges sayn."
This drunken Miller spake full soon again,
And saide, "Leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wife, he is no cuckold.
But I say not therefore that thou art one;
There be full goode wives many one.
Why art thou angry with my tale now?
I have a wife, pardie, as well as thou,
Yet *n'old I*, for the oxen in my plough, *I would not*
Taken upon me more than enough,
To deemen* of myself that I am one; *judge
I will believe well that I am none.
An husband should not be inquisitive
Of Godde's privity, nor of his wife.
So he may finde Godde's foison* there, *treasure
Of the remnant needeth not to enquere."
What should I more say, but that this Millere
He would his wordes for no man forbear,
But told his churlish* tale in his mannere; *boorish, rude
Me thinketh, that I shall rehearse it here.
And therefore every gentle wight I pray,
For Godde's love to deem not that I say
Of evil intent, but that I must rehearse
Their tales all, be they better or worse,
Or elles falsen* some of my mattere. *falsify
And therefore whoso list it not to hear,
Turn o'er the leaf, and choose another tale;
For he shall find enough, both great and smale,
Of storial* thing that toucheth gentiless, *historical, true
And eke morality and holiness.
Blame not me, if that ye choose amiss.
The Miller is a churl, ye know well this,
So was the Reeve, with many other mo',
And harlotry* they tolde bothe two. *ribald tales
*Avise you* now, and put me out of blame; *be warned*
And eke men should not make earnest of game*. *jest, fun
Notes to the Prologue to the Miller's Tale
1. Pilate, an unpopular personage in the mystery-plays of the
middle ages, was probably represented as having a gruff, harsh
2. Wite: blame; in Scotland, "to bear the wyte," is to bear the
Whilom there was dwelling in Oxenford
A riche gnof*, that *guestes held to board*, *miser *took in boarders*
And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With him there was dwelling a poor scholer,
Had learned art, but all his fantasy
Was turned for to learn astrology.
He coude* a certain of conclusions *knew
To deeme* by interrogations, *determine
If that men asked him in certain hours,
When that men should have drought or elles show'rs:
Or if men asked him what shoulde fall
Of everything, I may not reckon all.
This clerk was called Hendy* Nicholas; *gentle, handsome
Of derne* love he knew and of solace; *secret, earnest
And therewith he was sly and full privy,
And like a maiden meek for to see.
A chamber had he in that hostelry
Alone, withouten any company,
Full *fetisly y-dight* with herbes swoot*, *neatly decorated*
And he himself was sweet as is the root *sweet
Of liquorice, or any setewall*. *valerian
His Almagest,<1> and bookes great and small,
His astrolabe,<2> belonging to his art,
His augrim stones,<3> layed fair apart
On shelves couched* at his bedde's head, *laid, set
His press y-cover'd with a falding* red. *coarse cloth
And all above there lay a gay psalt'ry
On which he made at nightes melody,
So sweetely, that all the chamber rang:
And Angelus ad virginem<4> he sang.
And after that he sung the kinge's note;
Full often blessed was his merry throat.
And thus this sweete clerk his time spent
After *his friendes finding and his rent.* *Attending to his friends,
and providing for the
cost of his lodging*
This carpenter had wedded new a wife,
Which that he loved more than his life:
Of eighteen year, I guess, she was of age.
Jealous he was, and held her narr'w in cage,
For she was wild and young, and he was old,
And deemed himself belike* a cuckold. *perhaps
He knew not Cato,<5> for his wit was rude,
That bade a man wed his similitude.
Men shoulde wedden after their estate,
For youth and eld* are often at debate. *age
But since that he was fallen in the snare,
He must endure (as other folk) his care.
Fair was this younge wife, and therewithal
As any weasel her body gent* and small. *slim, neat
A seint* she weared, barred all of silk, *girdle
A barm-cloth* eke as white as morning milk *apron<6>
Upon her lendes*, full of many a gore**. *loins **plait
White was her smock*, and broider'd all before, *robe or gown
And eke behind, on her collar about
Of coal-black silk, within and eke without.
The tapes of her white volupere* *head-kerchief <7>
Were of the same suit of her collere;
Her fillet broad of silk, and set full high:
And sickerly* she had a likerous** eye. *certainly **lascivious
Full small y-pulled were her browes two,
And they were bent*, and black as any sloe. *arched
She was well more *blissful on to see* *pleasant to look upon*
Than is the newe perjenete* tree; *young pear-tree
And softer than the wool is of a wether.
And by her girdle hung a purse of leather,
Tassel'd with silk, and *pearled with latoun*. *set with brass pearls*
In all this world to seeken up and down
There is no man so wise, that coude thenche* *fancy, think of
So gay a popelot*, or such a wench. *puppet <8>
Full brighter was the shining of her hue,
Than in the Tower the noble* forged new. *a gold coin <9>
But of her song, it was as loud and yern*, *lively <10>
As any swallow chittering on a bern*. *barn
Thereto* she coulde skip, and *make a game* *also *romp*
As any kid or calf following his dame.
Her mouth was sweet as braket,<11> or as methe* *mead
Or hoard of apples, laid in hay or heath.
Wincing* she was as is a jolly colt, *skittish
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she bare upon her low collere,
As broad as is the boss of a bucklere.
Her shoon were laced on her legges high;
She was a primerole,* a piggesnie <12>, *primrose
For any lord t' have ligging* in his bed, *lying
Or yet for any good yeoman to wed.
Now, sir, and eft* sir, so befell the case, *again
That on a day this Hendy Nicholas
Fell with this younge wife to rage* and play, *toy, play the rogue
While that her husband was at Oseney,<13>
As clerkes be full subtle and full quaint.
And privily he caught her by the queint,* *cunt
And said; "Y-wis,* but if I have my will, *assuredly
For *derne love of thee, leman, I spill."* *for earnest love of thee
And helde her fast by the haunche bones, my mistress, I perish*
And saide "Leman, love me well at once,
Or I will dien, all so God me save."
And she sprang as a colt doth in the trave<14>:
And with her head she writhed fast away,
And said; "I will not kiss thee, by my fay*. *faith
Why let be," quoth she, "let be, Nicholas,
Or I will cry out harow and alas!<15>
Do away your handes, for your courtesy."
This Nicholas gan mercy for to cry,
And spake so fair, and proffer'd him so fast,
That she her love him granted at the last,
And swore her oath by Saint Thomas of Kent,
That she would be at his commandement,
When that she may her leisure well espy.
"My husband is so full of jealousy,
That but* ye waite well, and be privy, *unless
I wot right well I am but dead," quoth she.
"Ye muste be full derne* as in this case." *secret
"Nay, thereof care thee nought," quoth Nicholas:
"A clerk had *litherly beset his while*, *ill spent his time*
*But if* he could a carpenter beguile." *unless
And thus they were accorded and y-sworn
To wait a time, as I have said beforn.
When Nicholas had done thus every deal*, *whit
And thwacked her about the lendes* well, *loins
He kiss'd her sweet, and taketh his psalt'ry
And playeth fast, and maketh melody.
Then fell it thus, that to the parish church,
Of Christe's owen workes for to wirch*, *work
This good wife went upon a holy day;
Her forehead shone as bright as any day,
So was it washen, when she left her werk.
Now was there of that church a parish clerk,
The which that was y-cleped Absolon.
Curl'd was his hair, and as the gold it shone,
And strutted* as a fanne large and broad; *stretched
Full straight and even lay his jolly shode*. *head of hair
His rode* was red, his eyen grey as goose, *complexion
With Paule's windows carven on his shoes <16>
In hosen red he went full fetisly*. *daintily, neatly
Y-clad he was full small and properly,
All in a kirtle* of a light waget*; *girdle **sky blue
Full fair and thicke be the pointes set,
And thereupon he had a gay surplice,
As white as is the blossom on the rise*. *twig <17>
A merry child he was, so God me save;
Well could he letten blood, and clip, and shave,
And make a charter of land, and a quittance.
In twenty manners could he trip and dance,
After the school of Oxenforde tho*,<18> *then
And with his legges caste to and fro;
And playen songes on a small ribible*; *fiddle
Thereto he sung sometimes a loud quinible* *treble
And as well could he play on a gitern.* *guitar
In all the town was brewhouse nor tavern,
That he not visited with his solas*, *mirth, sport
There as that any *garnard tapstere* was. *licentious barmaid*
But sooth to say he was somedeal squaimous* *squeamish
Of farting, and of speeche dangerous.
This Absolon, that jolly was and gay,
Went with a censer on the holy day,
Censing* the wives of the parish fast; *burning incense for
And many a lovely look he on them cast,
And namely* on this carpenter's wife: *especially
To look on her him thought a merry life.
She was so proper, and sweet, and likerous.
I dare well say, if she had been a mouse,
And he a cat, he would *her hent anon*. *have soon caught her*
This parish clerk, this jolly Absolon,
Hath in his hearte such a love-longing!
That of no wife took he none offering;
For courtesy he said he woulde none.
The moon at night full clear and brighte shone,
And Absolon his gitern hath y-taken,
For paramours he thoughte for to waken,
And forth he went, jolif* and amorous, *joyous
Till he came to the carpentere's house,
A little after the cock had y-crow,
And *dressed him* under a shot window <19>, *stationed himself.*
That was upon the carpentere's wall.
He singeth in his voice gentle and small;
"Now, dear lady, if thy will be,
I pray that ye will rue* on me;" *take pity
Full well accordant to his giterning.
This carpenter awoke, and heard him sing,
And spake unto his wife, and said anon,
What Alison, hear'st thou not Absolon,
That chanteth thus under our bower* wall?" *chamber
And she answer'd her husband therewithal;
"Yes, God wot, John, I hear him every deal."
This passeth forth; what will ye bet* than well? *better
From day to day this jolly Absolon
So wooeth her, that him is woebegone.
He waketh all the night, and all the day,
To comb his lockes broad, and make him gay.
He wooeth her *by means and by brocage*, *by presents and by agents*
And swore he woulde be her owen page.
He singeth brokking* as a nightingale. *quavering
He sent her piment <20>, mead, and spiced ale,
And wafers* piping hot out of the glede**: *cakes **coals
And, for she was of town, he proffer'd meed.<21>
For some folk will be wonnen for richess,
And some for strokes, and some with gentiless.
Sometimes, to show his lightness and mast'ry,
He playeth Herod <22> on a scaffold high.
But what availeth him as in this case?
So loveth she the Hendy Nicholas,
That Absolon may *blow the bucke's horn*: *"go whistle"*
He had for all his labour but a scorn.
And thus she maketh Absolon her ape,
And all his earnest turneth to a jape*. *jest
Full sooth is this proverb, it is no lie;
Men say right thus alway; the nighe sly
Maketh oft time the far lief to be loth. <23>
For though that Absolon be wood* or wroth *mad
Because that he far was from her sight,
This nigh Nicholas stood still in his light.
Now bear thee well, thou Hendy Nicholas,
For Absolon may wail and sing "Alas!"
And so befell, that on a Saturday
This carpenter was gone to Oseney,
And Hendy Nicholas and Alison
Accorded were to this conclusion,
That Nicholas shall *shape him a wile* *devise a stratagem*
The silly jealous husband to beguile;
And if so were the game went aright,
She shoulde sleepen in his arms all night;
For this was her desire and his also.
And right anon, withoute wordes mo',
This Nicholas no longer would he tarry,
But doth full soft unto his chamber carry
Both meat and drinke for a day or tway.
And to her husband bade her for to say,
If that he asked after Nicholas,
She shoulde say, "She wist* not where he was; *knew
Of all the day she saw him not with eye;
She trowed* he was in some malady, *believed
For no cry that her maiden could him call
He would answer, for nought that might befall."
Thus passed forth all thilke* Saturday, *that
That Nicholas still in his chamber lay,
And ate, and slept, and didde what him list
Till Sunday, that* the sunne went to rest. *when
This silly carpenter *had great marvaill* *wondered greatly*
Of Nicholas, or what thing might him ail,
And said; "I am adrad*, by Saint Thomas! *afraid, in dread
It standeth not aright with Nicholas:
*God shielde* that he died suddenly. *heaven forbid!*
This world is now full fickle sickerly*. *certainly
I saw to-day a corpse y-borne to chirch,
That now on Monday last I saw him wirch*. *work
"Go up," quod he unto his knave*, "anon; *servant.
Clepe* at his door, or knocke with a stone: *call
Look how it is, and tell me boldely."
This knave went him up full sturdily,
And, at the chamber door while that he stood,
He cried and knocked as that he were wood:* *mad
"What how? what do ye, Master Nicholay?
How may ye sleepen all the longe day?"
But all for nought, he hearde not a word.
An hole he found full low upon the board,
Where as the cat was wont in for to creep,
And at that hole he looked in full deep,
And at the last he had of him a sight.
This Nicholas sat ever gaping upright,
As he had kyked* on the newe moon. *looked <24>
Adown he went, and told his master soon,
In what array he saw this ilke* man. *same
This carpenter to *blissen him* began, *bless, cross himself*
And said: "Now help us, Sainte Frideswide.<25>
A man wot* little what shall him betide. *knows
This man is fall'n with his astronomy
Into some woodness* or some agony. *madness
I thought aye well how that it shoulde be.
Men should know nought of Godde's privity*. *secrets
Yea, blessed be alway a lewed* man, *unlearned
That *nought but only his believe can*. *knows no more
So far'd another clerk with astronomy: than his "credo."*
He walked in the fieldes for to *pry
Upon* the starres, what there should befall, *keep watch on*
Till he was in a marle pit y-fall.<26>
He saw not that. But yet, by Saint Thomas!
*Me rueth sore of* Hendy Nicholas: *I am very sorry for*
He shall be *rated of* his studying, *chidden for*
If that I may, by Jesus, heaven's king!
Get me a staff, that I may underspore* *lever up
While that thou, Robin, heavest off the door:
He shall out of his studying, as I guess."
And to the chamber door he gan him dress* *apply himself.
His knave was a strong carl for the nonce,
And by the hasp he heav'd it off at once;
Into the floor the door fell down anon.
This Nicholas sat aye as still as stone,
And ever he gap'd upward into the air.
The carpenter ween'd* he were in despair, *thought
And hent* him by the shoulders mightily, *caught
And shook him hard, and cried spitously;* *angrily
"What, Nicholas? what how, man? look adown:
Awake, and think on Christe's passioun.
I crouche thee<27> from elves, and from wights*. *witches
Therewith the night-spell said he anon rights*, *properly
On the four halves* of the house about, *corners
And on the threshold of the door without.
"Lord Jesus Christ, and Sainte Benedight,
Blesse this house from every wicked wight,
From the night mare, the white Pater-noster;
Where wonnest* thou now, Sainte Peter's sister?" *dwellest
And at the last this Hendy Nicholas
Gan for to sigh full sore, and said; "Alas!
Shall all time world be lost eftsoones* now?" *forthwith
This carpenter answer'd; "What sayest thou?
What? think on God, as we do, men that swink.*" *labour
This Nicholas answer'd; "Fetch me a drink;
And after will I speak in privity
Of certain thing that toucheth thee and me:
I will tell it no other man certain."
This carpenter went down, and came again,
And brought of mighty ale a large quart;
And when that each of them had drunk his part,
This Nicholas his chamber door fast shet*, *shut
And down the carpenter by him he set,
And saide; "John, mine host full lief* and dear, *loved
Thou shalt upon thy truthe swear me here,
That to no wight thou shalt my counsel wray*: *betray
For it is Christes counsel that I say,
And if thou tell it man, thou art forlore:* *lost<28>
For this vengeance thou shalt have therefor,
That if thou wraye* me, thou shalt be wood**." *betray **mad
"Nay, Christ forbid it for his holy blood!"
Quoth then this silly man; "I am no blab,* *talker
Nor, though I say it, am I *lief to gab*. *fond of speech*
Say what thou wilt, I shall it never tell
To child or wife, by him that harried Hell." <29>
"Now, John," quoth Nicholas, "I will not lie,
I have y-found in my astrology,
As I have looked in the moone bright,
That now on Monday next, at quarter night,
Shall fall a rain, and that so wild and wood*, *mad
That never half so great was Noe's flood.
This world," he said, "in less than half an hour
Shall all be dreint*, so hideous is the shower: *drowned
Thus shall mankinde drench*, and lose their life." *drown
This carpenter answer'd; "Alas, my wife!
And shall she drench? alas, mine Alisoun!"
For sorrow of this he fell almost adown,
And said; "Is there no remedy in this case?"
"Why, yes, for God," quoth Hendy Nicholas;
"If thou wilt worken after *lore and rede*; *learning and advice*
Thou may'st not worken after thine own head.
For thus saith Solomon, that was full true:
Work all by counsel, and thou shalt not rue*. *repent
And if thou worke wilt by good counseil,
I undertake, withoute mast or sail,
Yet shall I save her, and thee, and me.
Hast thou not heard how saved was Noe,
When that our Lord had warned him beforn,
That all the world with water *should be lorn*?" *should perish*
"Yes," quoth this carpenter," *full yore ago*." *long since*
"Hast thou not heard," quoth Nicholas, "also
The sorrow of Noe, with his fellowship,
That he had ere he got his wife to ship?<30>
*Him had been lever, I dare well undertake,
At thilke time, than all his wethers black,
That she had had a ship herself alone.* *see note <31>
And therefore know'st thou what is best to be done?
This asketh haste, and of an hasty thing
Men may not preach or make tarrying.
Anon go get us fast into this inn* *house
A kneading trough, or else a kemelin*, *brewing-tub
For each of us; but look that they be large,
In whiche we may swim* as in a barge: *float
And have therein vitaille suffisant
But for one day; fie on the remenant;
The water shall aslake* and go away *slacken, abate
Aboute prime* upon the nexte day. *early morning
But Robin may not know of this, thy knave*, *servant
Nor eke thy maiden Gill I may not save:
Ask me not why: for though thou aske me
I will not telle Godde's privity.
Sufficeth thee, *but if thy wit be mad*, *unless thou be
To have as great a grace as Noe had; out of thy wits*
Thy wife shall I well saven out of doubt.
Go now thy way, and speed thee hereabout.
But when thou hast for her, and thee, and me,
Y-gotten us these kneading tubbes three,
Then shalt thou hang them in the roof full high,
So that no man our purveyance* espy: *foresight, providence
And when thou hast done thus as I have said,
And hast our vitaille fair in them y-laid,
And eke an axe to smite the cord in two
When that the water comes, that we may go,
And break an hole on high upon the gable
Into the garden-ward, over the stable,
That we may freely passe forth our way,
When that the greate shower is gone away.
Then shalt thou swim as merry, I undertake,
As doth the white duck after her drake:
Then will I clepe,* 'How, Alison? How, John? *call
Be merry: for the flood will pass anon.'
And thou wilt say, 'Hail, Master Nicholay,
Good-morrow, I see thee well, for it is day.'
And then shall we be lordes all our life
Of all the world, as Noe and his wife.
But of one thing I warne thee full right,
Be well advised, on that ilke* night, *same
When we be enter'd into shippe's board,
That none of us not speak a single word,
Nor clepe nor cry, but be in his prayere,
For that is Godde's owen heste* dear. *command
Thy wife and thou must hangen far atween*, *asunder
For that betwixte you shall be no sin,
No more in looking than there shall in deed.
This ordinance is said: go, God thee speed
To-morrow night, when men be all asleep,
Into our kneading tubbes will we creep,
And sitte there, abiding Godde's grace.
Go now thy way, I have no longer space
To make of this no longer sermoning:
Men say thus: Send the wise, and say nothing:
Thou art so wise, it needeth thee nought teach.
Go, save our lives, and that I thee beseech."
This silly carpenter went forth his way,
Full oft he said, "Alas! and Well-a-day!,'
And to his wife he told his privity,
And she was ware, and better knew than he
What all this *quainte cast was for to say*. *strange contrivance
But natheless she fear'd as she would dey, meant*
And said: "Alas! go forth thy way anon.
Help us to scape, or we be dead each one.
I am thy true and very wedded wife;
Go, deare spouse, and help to save our life."
Lo, what a great thing is affection!
Men may die of imagination,
So deeply may impression be take.
This silly carpenter begins to quake:
He thinketh verily that he may see
This newe flood come weltering as the sea
To drenchen* Alison, his honey dear. *drown
He weepeth, waileth, maketh *sorry cheer*; *dismal countenance*
He sigheth, with full many a sorry sough.* *groan
He go'th, and getteth him a kneading trough,
And after that a tub, and a kemelin,
And privily he sent them to his inn:
And hung them in the roof full privily.
With his own hand then made he ladders three,
To climbe by *the ranges and the stalks* *the rungs and the uprights*
Unto the tubbes hanging in the balks*; *beams
And victualed them, kemelin, trough, and tub,
With bread and cheese, and good ale in a jub*, *jug
Sufficing right enough as for a day.
But ere that he had made all this array,
He sent his knave*, and eke his wench** also, *servant **maid
Upon his need* to London for to go. *business
And on the Monday, when it drew to night,
He shut his door withoute candle light,
And dressed* every thing as it should be. *prepared
And shortly up they climbed all the three.
They satte stille well *a furlong way*. *the time it would take
"Now, Pater noster, clum,"<32> said Nicholay, to walk a furlong*
And "clum," quoth John; and "clum," said Alison:
This carpenter said his devotion,
And still he sat and bidded his prayere,
Awaking on the rain, if he it hear.
The deade sleep, for weary business,
Fell on this carpenter, right as I guess,
About the curfew-time,<33> or little more,
For *travail of his ghost* he groaned sore, *anguish of spirit*
*And eft he routed, for his head mislay.* *and then he snored,
Adown the ladder stalked Nicholay; for his head lay awry*
And Alison full soft adown she sped.
Withoute wordes more they went to bed,
*There as* the carpenter was wont to lie: *where*
There was the revel, and the melody.
And thus lay Alison and Nicholas,
In business of mirth and in solace,
Until the bell of laudes* gan to ring, *morning service, at 3.a.m.
And friars in the chancel went to sing.
This parish clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That is for love alway so woebegone,
Upon the Monday was at Oseney
With company, him to disport and play;
And asked upon cas* a cloisterer** *occasion **monk
Full privily after John the carpenter;
And he drew him apart out of the church,
And said, "I n'ot;* I saw him not here wirch** *know not **work
Since Saturday; I trow that he be went
For timber, where our abbot hath him sent.
And dwellen at the Grange a day or two:
For he is wont for timber for to go,
Or else he is at his own house certain.
Where that he be, I cannot *soothly sayn.*" *say certainly*
This Absolon full jolly was and light,
And thought, "Now is the time to wake all night,
For sickerly* I saw him not stirring *certainly
About his door, since day began to spring.
So may I thrive, but I shall at cock crow
Full privily go knock at his window,
That stands full low upon his bower* wall: *chamber
To Alison then will I tellen all
My love-longing; for I shall not miss
That at the leaste way I shall her kiss.
Some manner comfort shall I have, parfay*, *by my faith
My mouth hath itched all this livelong day:
That is a sign of kissing at the least.
All night I mette* eke I was at a feast. *dreamt
Therefore I will go sleep an hour or tway,
And all the night then will I wake and play."
When that the first cock crowed had, anon
Up rose this jolly lover Absolon,
And him arrayed gay, *at point devise.* *with exact care*
But first he chewed grains<34> and liquorice,
To smelle sweet, ere he had combed his hair.
Under his tongue a true love <35> he bare,
For thereby thought he to be gracious.
Then came he to the carpentere's house,
And still he stood under the shot window;
Unto his breast it raught*, it was so low; *reached
And soft he coughed with a semisoun'.* *low tone
"What do ye, honeycomb, sweet Alisoun?
My faire bird, my sweet cinamome*, *cinnamon, sweet spice
Awaken, leman* mine, and speak to me. *mistress
Full little thinke ye upon my woe,
That for your love I sweat *there as* I go. *wherever
No wonder is that I do swelt* and sweat. *faint
I mourn as doth a lamb after the teat
Y-wis*, leman, I have such love-longing, *certainly
That like a turtle* true is my mourning. *turtle-dove
I may not eat, no more than a maid."
"Go from the window, thou jack fool," she said:
"As help me God, it will not be, 'come ba* me.' *kiss
I love another, else I were to blame",
Well better than thee, by Jesus, Absolon.
Go forth thy way, or I will cast a stone;
And let me sleep; *a twenty devil way*. *twenty devils take ye!*
"Alas!" quoth Absolon, "and well away!
That true love ever was so ill beset:
Then kiss me, since that it may be no bet*, *better
For Jesus' love, and for the love of me."
"Wilt thou then go thy way therewith?" , quoth she.
"Yea, certes, leman," quoth this Absolon.
"Then make thee ready," quoth she, "I come anon."
[And unto Nicholas she said *full still*: *in a low voice*
"Now peace, and thou shalt laugh anon thy fill."]<36>
This Absolon down set him on his knees,
And said; "I am a lord at all degrees:
For after this I hope there cometh more;
Leman, thy grace, and, sweete bird, thine ore.*" *favour
The window she undid, and that in haste.
"Have done," quoth she, "come off, and speed thee fast,
Lest that our neighebours should thee espy."
Then Absolon gan wipe his mouth full dry.
Dark was the night as pitch or as the coal,
And at the window she put out her hole,
And Absolon him fell ne bet ne werse,
But with his mouth he kiss'd her naked erse
Full savourly. When he was ware of this,
Aback he start, and thought it was amiss;
For well he wist a woman hath no beard.
He felt a thing all rough, and long y-hair'd,
And saide; "Fy, alas! what have I do?"
"Te he!" quoth she, and clapt the window to;
And Absolon went forth at sorry pace.
"A beard, a beard," said Hendy Nicholas;
"By God's corpus, this game went fair and well."
This silly Absolon heard every deal*, *word
And on his lip he gan for anger bite;
And to himself he said, "I shall thee quite*. *requite, be even with
Who rubbeth now, who frotteth* now his lips *rubs
With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips,
But Absolon? that saith full oft, "Alas!
My soul betake I unto Sathanas,
But me were lever* than all this town," quoth he *rather
I this despite awroken* for to be. *revenged
Alas! alas! that I have been y-blent*." *deceived
His hote love is cold, and all y-quent.* *quenched
For from that time that he had kiss'd her erse,
Of paramours he *sette not a kers,* *cared not a rush*
For he was healed of his malady;
Full often paramours he gan defy,
And weep as doth a child that hath been beat.
A softe pace he went over the street
Unto a smith, men callen Dan* Gerveis, *master
That in his forge smithed plough-harness;
He sharped share and culter busily.
This Absolon knocked all easily,
And said; "Undo, Gerveis, and that anon."
"What, who art thou?" "It is I, Absolon."
"What? Absolon, what? Christe's sweete tree*, *cross
Why rise so rath*? hey! Benedicite, *early
What aileth you? some gay girl,<37> God it wote,
Hath brought you thus upon the viretote:<38>
By Saint Neot, ye wot well what I mean."
This Absolon he raughte* not a bean *recked, cared
Of all his play; no word again he gaf*, *spoke
For he had more tow on his distaff<39>
Than Gerveis knew, and saide; "Friend so dear,
That hote culter in the chimney here
Lend it to me, I have therewith to don*: *do
I will it bring again to thee full soon."
Gerveis answered; "Certes, were it gold,
Or in a poke* nobles all untold, *purse
Thou shouldst it have, as I am a true smith.
Hey! Christe's foot, what will ye do therewith?"
"Thereof," quoth Absolon, "be as be may;
I shall well tell it thee another day:"
And caught the culter by the colde stele*. *handle
Full soft out at the door he gan to steal,
And went unto the carpentere's wall
He coughed first, and knocked therewithal
Upon the window, light as he did ere*. *before <40>
This Alison answered; "Who is there
That knocketh so? I warrant him a thief."
"Nay, nay," quoth he, "God wot, my sweete lefe*, *love
I am thine Absolon, my own darling.
Of gold," quoth he, "I have thee brought a ring,
My mother gave it me, so God me save!
Full fine it is, and thereto well y-grave*: *engraved
This will I give to thee, if thou me kiss."
Now Nicholas was risen up to piss,
And thought he would *amenden all the jape*; *improve the joke*
He shoulde kiss his erse ere that he scape:
And up the window did he hastily,
And out his erse he put full privily
Over the buttock, to the haunche bone.
And therewith spake this clerk, this Absolon,
"Speak, sweete bird, I know not where thou art."
This Nicholas anon let fly a fart,
As great as it had been a thunder dent*; *peal, clap
That with the stroke he was well nigh y-blent*; *blinded
But he was ready with his iron hot,
And Nicholas amid the erse he smote.
Off went the skin an handbreadth all about.
The hote culter burned so his tout*, *breech
That for the smart he weened* he would die; *thought
As he were wood*, for woe he gan to cry, *mad
"Help! water, water, help for Godde's heart!"
This carpenter out of his slumber start,
And heard one cry "Water," as he were wood*, *mad
And thought, "Alas! now cometh Noe's flood."
He sat him up withoute wordes mo'
And with his axe he smote the cord in two;
And down went all; he found neither to sell
Nor bread nor ale, till he came to the sell*, *threshold <41>
Upon the floor, and there in swoon he lay.
Up started Alison and Nicholay,
And cried out an "harow!" <15> in the street.
The neighbours alle, bothe small and great
In ranne, for to gauren* on this man, *stare
That yet in swoone lay, both pale and wan:
For with the fall he broken had his arm.
But stand he must unto his owen harm,
For when he spake, he was anon borne down
With Hendy Nicholas and Alisoun.
They told to every man that he was wood*; *mad
He was aghaste* so of Noe's flood, *afraid
Through phantasy, that of his vanity
He had y-bought him kneading-tubbes three,
And had them hanged in the roof above;
And that he prayed them for Godde's love
To sitten in the roof for company.
The folk gan laughen at his phantasy.
Into the roof they kyken* and they gape, *peep, look.
And turned all his harm into a jape*. *jest
For whatsoe'er this carpenter answer'd,
It was for nought, no man his reason heard.
With oathes great he was so sworn adown,
That he was holden wood in all the town.
For every clerk anon right held with other;
They said, "The man was wood, my leve* brother;" *dear
And every wight gan laughen at his strife.
Thus swived* was the carpentere's wife, *enjoyed
For all his keeping* and his jealousy; *care
And Absolon hath kiss'd her nether eye;
And Nicholas is scalded in the tout.
This tale is done, and God save all the rout*. *company
Notes to the Miller's Tale
1. Almagest: The book of Ptolemy the astronomer, which
formed the canon of astrological science in the middle ages.
2. Astrolabe: "Astrelagour," "astrelabore"; a mathematical
instrument for taking the altitude of the sun or stars.
3. "Augrim" is a corruption of algorithm, the Arabian term for
numeration; "augrim stones," therefore were probably marked
with numerals, and used as counters.
4. Angelus ad virginem: The Angel's salutation to Mary; Luke i.
28. It was the "Ave Maria" of the Catholic Church service.
5. Cato: Though Chaucer may have referred to the famous
Censor, more probably the reference is merely to the "Moral
Distichs," which go under his name, though written after his
time; and in a supplement to which the quoted passage may be
6. Barm-cloth: apron; from Anglo-Saxon "barme," bosom or
7. Volupere: Head-gear, kerchief; from French, "envelopper,"
to wrap up.
8. Popelet: Puppet; but chiefly; young wench.
9. Noble: nobles were gold coins of especial purity and
brightness; "Ex auro nobilissimi, unde nobilis vocatus," (made
from the noblest (purest) gold, and therefore called nobles) says
10. Yern: Shrill, lively; German, "gern," willingly, cheerfully.
11. Braket: bragget, a sweet drink made of honey, spices, &c.
In some parts of the country, a drink made from honeycomb,
after the honey is extracted, is still called "bragwort."
12. Piggesnie: a fond term, like "my duck;" from Anglo-Saxon,
"piga," a young maid; but Tyrwhitt associates it with the Latin,
"ocellus," little eye, a fondling term, and suggests that the "pigs-
eye," which is very small, was applied in the same sense.
Davenport and Butler both use the word pigsnie, the first for
"darling," the second literally for "eye;" and Bishop Gardner,
"On True Obedience," in his address to the reader, says: "How
softly she was wont to chirpe him under the chin, and kiss him;
how prettily she could talk to him (how doth my sweet heart,
what saith now pig's-eye)."
13. Oseney: A once well-known abbey near Oxford.
14. Trave: travis; a frame in which unruly horses were shod.
15. Harow and Alas: Haro! was an old Norman cry for redress
or aid. The "Clameur de Haro" was lately raised, under peculiar
circumstances, as the prelude to a legal protest, in Jersey.
16. His shoes were ornamented like the windows of St. Paul's,
especially like the old rose-window.
17. Rise: Twig, bush; German, "Reis," a twig; "Reisig," a copse.
18. Chaucer satirises the dancing of Oxford as he did the French
of Stratford at Bow.
19. Shot window: A projecting or bow window, whence it was
possible shoot at any one approaching the door.
20. Piment: A drink made with wine, honey, and spices.
21. Because she was town-bred, he offered wealth, or money
reward, for her love.
22. Parish-clerks, like Absolon, had leading parts in the
mysteries or religious plays; Herod was one of these parts,
which may have been an object of competition among the
amateurs of the period.
23 ."The nighe sly maketh oft time the far lief to be loth": a
proverb; the cunning one near at hand oft makes the loving one
afar off to be odious.
24. Kyked: Looked; "keek" is still used in some parts in the
sense of "peep."
25. Saint Frideswide was the patroness of a considerable priory
at Oxford, and held there in high repute.
26. Plato, in his "Theatetus," tells this story of Thales; but
it has since appeared in many other forms.
27. Crouche: protect by signing the sign of the cross.
28. Forlore: lost; german, "verloren."
29. Him that harried Hell: Christ who wasted or subdued hell: in
the middle ages, some very active exploits against the prince of
darkness and his powers were ascribed by the monkish tale-
tellers to the saviour after he had "descended into hell."
30. According to the old mysteries, Noah's wife refused to
come into the ark, and bade her husband row forth and get him
a new wife, because he was leaving her gossips in the town to
drown. Shem and his brothers got her shipped by main force;
and Noah, coming forward to welcome her, was greeted with a
box on the ear.
31. "Him had been lever, I dare well undertake,
At thilke time, than all his wethers black,
That she had had a ship herself alone."
"At that time he would have given all his black wethers, if she
had had an ark to herself."
32. "Clum," like "mum," a note of silence; but otherwise
explained as the humming sound made in repeating prayers;
from the Anglo-Saxon, "clumian," to mutter, speak in an under-
tone, keep silence.
33. Curfew-time: Eight in the evening, when, by the law of
William the Conqueror, all people were, on ringing of a bell, to
extinguish fire and candle, and go to rest; hence the word
curfew, from French, "couvre-feu," cover-fire.
34. Absolon chewed grains: these were grains of Paris, or
Paradise; a favourite spice.
35. Under his tongue a true love he bare: some sweet herb;
another reading, however, is "a true love-knot," which may
have been of the nature of a charm.
36. The two lines within brackets are not in most of the
editions: they are taken from Urry; whether he supplied them or
not, they serve the purpose of a necessary explanation.
37. Gay girl: As applied to a young woman of light manners,
this euphemistic phrase has enjoyed a wonderful vitality.
38. Viretote: Urry reads "meritote," and explains it from
Spelman as a game in which children made themselves giddy by
whirling on ropes. In French, "virer" means to turn; and the
explanation may, therefore, suit either reading. In modern slang
parlance, Gerveis would probably have said, "on the rampage,"
or "on the swing" -- not very far from Spelman's rendering.
39. He had more tow on his distaff: a proverbial saying: he was
playing a deeper game, had more serious business on hand.
40. Ere: before; German, "eher."
41. Sell: sill of the door, threshold; French, "seuil," Latin,
"solum," the ground.
THE REEVE'S TALE.
WHEN folk had laughed all at this nice case
Of Absolon and Hendy Nicholas,
Diverse folk diversely they said,
But for the more part they laugh'd and play'd;* *were diverted
And at this tale I saw no man him grieve,
But it were only Osewold the Reeve.
Because he was of carpenteres craft,
A little ire is in his hearte laft*; *left
He gan to grudge* and blamed it a lite.** *murmur **little.
"So the* I," quoth he, "full well could I him quite** *thrive **match
With blearing* of a proude miller's eye, *dimming <1>
If that me list to speak of ribaldry.
But I am old; me list not play for age; <2>
Grass time is done, my fodder is now forage.
This white top* writeth mine olde years; *head
Mine heart is also moulded* as mine hairs; *grown mouldy
And I do fare as doth an open-erse*; *medlar <3>
That ilke* fruit is ever longer werse, *same
Till it be rotten *in mullok or in stre*. *on the ground or in straw*
We olde men, I dread, so fare we;
Till we be rotten, can we not be ripe;
We hop* away, while that the world will pipe; *dance
For in our will there sticketh aye a nail,
To have an hoary head and a green tail,
As hath a leek; for though our might be gone,
Our will desireth folly ever-in-one*: *continually
For when we may not do, then will we speak,
Yet in our ashes cold does fire reek.* *smoke<4>
Four gledes* have we, which I shall devise**, *coals ** describe
Vaunting, and lying, anger, covetise*. *covetousness
These foure sparks belongen unto eld.
Our olde limbes well may be unweld*, *unwieldy
But will shall never fail us, that is sooth.
And yet have I alway a coltes tooth,<5>
As many a year as it is passed and gone
Since that my tap of life began to run;
For sickerly*, when I was born, anon *certainly
Death drew the tap of life, and let it gon:
And ever since hath so the tap y-run,
Till that almost all empty is the tun.
The stream of life now droppeth on the chimb.<6>
The silly tongue well may ring and chime
Of wretchedness, that passed is full yore*: *long
With olde folk, save dotage, is no more. <7>
When that our Host had heard this sermoning,
He gan to speak as lordly as a king,
And said; "To what amounteth all this wit?
What? shall we speak all day of holy writ?
The devil made a Reeve for to preach,
As of a souter* a shipman, or a leach**. *cobbler <8>
Say forth thy tale, and tarry not the time: **surgeon <9>
Lo here is Deptford, and 'tis half past prime:<10>
Lo Greenwich, where many a shrew is in.
It were high time thy tale to begin."
"Now, sirs," quoth then this Osewold the Reeve,
I pray you all that none of you do grieve,
Though I answer, and somewhat set his hove*, *hood <11>
For lawful is *force off with force to shove.* *to repel force
This drunken miller hath y-told us here by force*
How that beguiled was a carpentere,
Paraventure* in scorn, for I am one: *perhaps
And, by your leave, I shall him quite anon.
Right in his churlish termes will I speak,
I pray to God his necke might to-break.
He can well in mine eye see a stalk,
But in his own he cannot see a balk."<12>
Notes to the Prologue to the Reeves Tale.
1. "With blearing of a proude miller's eye": dimming his eye;
playing off a joke on him.
2. "Me list not play for age": age takes away my zest for
3. The medlar, the fruit of the mespilus tree, is only edible when
4. Yet in our ashes cold does fire reek: "ev'n in our ashes live
their wonted fires."
5. A colt's tooth; a wanton humour, a relish for pleasure.
6. Chimb: The rim of a barrel where the staves project beyond
7. With olde folk, save dotage, is no more: Dotage is all that is
left them; that is, they can only dwell fondly, dote, on the past.
8. Souter: cobbler; Scottice, "sutor;"' from Latin, "suere," to
9. "Ex sutore medicus" (a surgeon from a cobbler) and "ex
sutore nauclerus" (a seaman or pilot from a cobbler) were both
proverbial expressions in the Middle Ages.
10. Half past prime: half-way between prime and tierce; about
half-past seven in the morning.
11. Set his hove; like "set their caps;" as in the description of
the Manciple in the Prologue, who "set their aller cap". "Hove"
or "houfe," means "hood;" and the phrase signifies to be even
12. The illustration of the mote and the beam, from Matthew.
At Trompington, not far from Cantebrig,* *Cambridge
There goes a brook, and over that a brig,
Upon the whiche brook there stands a mill:
And this is *very sooth* that I you tell. *complete truth*
A miller was there dwelling many a day,
As any peacock he was proud and gay:
Pipen he could, and fish, and nettes bete*, *prepare
And turne cups, and wrestle well, and shete*. *shoot
Aye by his belt he bare a long pavade*, *poniard
And of his sword full trenchant was the blade.
A jolly popper* bare he in his pouch; *dagger
There was no man for peril durst him touch.
A Sheffield whittle* bare he in his hose. *small knife
Round was his face, and camuse* was his nose. *flat <2>
As pilled* as an ape's was his skull. *peeled, bald.
He was a market-beter* at the full. *brawler
There durste no wight hand upon him legge*, *lay
That he ne swore anon he should abegge*. *suffer the penalty
A thief he was, for sooth, of corn and meal,
And that a sly, and used well to steal.
His name was *hoten deinous Simekin* *called "Disdainful Simkin"*
A wife he hadde, come of noble kin:
The parson of the town her father was.
With her he gave full many a pan of brass,
For that Simkin should in his blood ally.
She was y-foster'd in a nunnery:
For Simkin woulde no wife, as he said,
But she were well y-nourish'd, and a maid,
To saven his estate and yeomanry:
And she was proud, and pert as is a pie*. *magpie
A full fair sight it was to see them two;
On holy days before her would he go
With his tippet* y-bound about his head; *hood
And she came after in a gite* of red, *gown <3>
And Simkin hadde hosen of the same.
There durste no wight call her aught but Dame:
None was so hardy, walking by that way,
That with her either durste *rage or play*, *use freedom*
*But if* he would be slain by Simekin *unless
With pavade, or with knife, or bodekin.
For jealous folk be per'lous evermo':
Algate* they would their wives *wende so*. *unless *so behave*
And eke for she was somewhat smutterlich*, *dirty
She was as dign* as water in a ditch, *nasty
And all so full of hoker*, and bismare**. *ill-nature **abusive speech
Her thoughte that a lady should her spare*, *not judge her hardly
What for her kindred, and her nortelrie* *nurturing, education
That she had learned in the nunnery.
One daughter hadde they betwixt them two
Of twenty year, withouten any mo,
Saving a child that was of half year age,
In cradle it lay, and was a proper page.* *boy
This wenche thick and well y-growen was,
With camuse* nose, and eyen gray as glass; *flat
With buttocks broad, and breastes round and high;
But right fair was her hair, I will not lie.
The parson of the town, for she was fair,
In purpose was to make of her his heir
Both of his chattels and his messuage,
And *strange he made it* of her marriage. *he made it a matter
His purpose was for to bestow her high of difficulty*
Into some worthy blood of ancestry.
For holy Church's good may be dispended* *spent
On holy Church's blood that is descended.
Therefore he would his holy blood honour
Though that he holy Churche should devour.
Great soken* hath this miller, out of doubt, *toll taken for grinding
With wheat and malt, of all the land about;
And namely* there was a great college *especially
Men call the Soler Hall at Cantebrege,<4>
There was their wheat and eke their malt y-ground.
And on a day it happed in a stound*, *suddenly
Sick lay the manciple* of a malady, *steward <5>
Men *weened wisly* that he shoulde die. *thought certainly*
For which this miller stole both meal and corn
An hundred times more than beforn.
For theretofore he stole but courteously,
But now he was a thief outrageously.
For which the warden chid and made fare*, *fuss
But thereof *set the miller not a tare*; *he cared not a rush*
He *crack'd his boast,* and swore it was not so. *talked big*
Then were there younge poore scholars two,
That dwelled in the hall of which I say;
Testif* they were, and lusty for to play; *headstrong <6>
And only for their mirth and revelry
Upon the warden busily they cry,
To give them leave for but a *little stound*, *short time*
To go to mill, and see their corn y-ground:
And hardily* they durste lay their neck, *boldly
The miller should not steal them half a peck
Of corn by sleight, nor them by force bereave* *take away
And at the last the warden give them leave:
John hight the one, and Alein hight the other,
Of one town were they born, that highte Strother,<7>
Far in the North, I cannot tell you where.
This Alein he made ready all his gear,
And on a horse the sack he cast anon:
Forth went Alein the clerk, and also John,
With good sword and with buckler by their side.
John knew the way, him needed not no guide,
And at the mill the sack adown he lay'th.
Alein spake first; "All hail, Simon, in faith,
How fares thy faire daughter, and thy wife."
"Alein, welcome," quoth Simkin, "by my life,
And John also: how now, what do ye here?"
"By God, Simon," quoth John, "need has no peer*. *equal
Him serve himself behoves that has no swain*, *servant
Or else he is a fool, as clerkes sayn.
Our manciple I hope* he will be dead, *expect
So workes aye the wanges* in his head: *cheek-teeth <8>
And therefore is I come, and eke Alein,
To grind our corn and carry it home again:
I pray you speed us hence as well ye may."
"It shall be done," quoth Simkin, "by my fay.
What will ye do while that it is in hand?"
"By God, right by the hopper will I stand,"
Quoth John, "and see how that the corn goes in.
Yet saw I never, by my father's kin,
How that the hopper wagges to and fro."
Alein answered, "John, and wilt thou so?
Then will I be beneathe, by my crown,
And see how that the meale falls adown
Into the trough, that shall be my disport*: *amusement
For, John, in faith I may be of your sort;
I is as ill a miller as is ye."
This miller smiled at their nicety*, *simplicity
And thought, "All this is done but for a wile.
They weenen* that no man may them beguile, *think
But by my thrift yet shall I blear their eye,<9>
For all the sleight in their philosophy.
The more *quainte knackes* that they make, *odd little tricks*
The more will I steal when that I take.
Instead of flour yet will I give them bren*. *bran
The greatest clerks are not the wisest men,
As whilom to the wolf thus spake the mare: <10>
Of all their art ne count I not a tare."
Out at the door he went full privily,
When that he saw his time, softely.
He looked up and down, until he found
The clerkes' horse, there as he stood y-bound
Behind the mill, under a levesell:* *arbour<11>
And to the horse he went him fair and well,
And stripped off the bridle right anon.
And when the horse was loose, he gan to gon
Toward the fen, where wilde mares run,
Forth, with "Wehee!" through thick and eke through thin.
This miller went again, no word he said,
But did his note*, and with these clerkes play'd, *business <12>
Till that their corn was fair and well y-ground.
And when the meal was sacked and y-bound,
Then John went out, and found his horse away,
And gan to cry, "Harow, and well-away!
Our horse is lost: Alein, for Godde's bones,
Step on thy feet; come off, man, all at once:
Alas! our warden has his palfrey lorn.*" *lost
This Alein all forgot, both meal and corn;
All was out of his mind his husbandry*. *careful watch over
"What, which way is he gone?" he gan to cry. the corn*
The wife came leaping inward at a renne*, *run
She said; "Alas! your horse went to the fen
With wilde mares, as fast as he could go.
Unthank* come on his hand that bound him so *ill luck, a curse
And his that better should have knit the rein."
"Alas!" quoth John, "Alein, for Christes pain
Lay down thy sword, and I shall mine also.
I is full wight*, God wate**, as is a roe. *swift **knows
By Godde's soul he shall not scape us bathe*. *both <13>
Why n' had thou put the capel* in the lathe**? *horse<14> **barn
Ill hail, Alein, by God thou is a fonne.*" *fool
These silly clerkes have full fast y-run
Toward the fen, both Alein and eke John;
And when the miller saw that they were gone,
He half a bushel of their flour did take,
And bade his wife go knead it in a cake.
He said; I trow, the clerkes were afeard,
Yet can a miller *make a clerkes beard,* *cheat a scholar* <15>
For all his art: yea, let them go their way!
Lo where they go! yea, let the children play:
They get him not so lightly, by my crown."
These silly clerkes runnen up and down
With "Keep, keep; stand, stand; jossa*, warderere. *turn
Go whistle thou, and I shall keep* him here." *catch
But shortly, till that it was very night
They coulde not, though they did all their might,
Their capel catch, he ran alway so fast:
Till in a ditch they caught him at the last.
Weary and wet, as beastes in the rain,
Comes silly John, and with him comes Alein.
"Alas," quoth John, "the day that I was born!
Now are we driv'n till hething* and till scorn. *mockery
Our corn is stol'n, men will us fonnes* call, *fools
Both the warden, and eke our fellows all,
And namely* the miller, well-away!" *especially
Thus plained John, as he went by the way
Toward the mill, and Bayard* in his hand. *the bay horse
The miller sitting by the fire he fand*. *found
For it was night, and forther* might they not, *go their way
But for the love of God they him besought
Of herberow* and ease, for their penny. *lodging
The miller said again," If there be any,
Such as it is, yet shall ye have your part.
Mine house is strait, but ye have learned art;
Ye can by arguments maken a place
A mile broad, of twenty foot of space.
Let see now if this place may suffice,
Or make it room with speech, as is your guise.*" *fashion
"Now, Simon," said this John, "by Saint Cuthberd
Aye is thou merry, and that is fair answer'd.
I have heard say, man shall take of two things,
Such as he findes, or such as he brings.
But specially I pray thee, hoste dear,
Gar <16> us have meat and drink, and make us cheer,
And we shall pay thee truly at the full:
With empty hand men may not hawkes tull*. *allure
Lo here our silver ready for to spend."
This miller to the town his daughter send
For ale and bread, and roasted them a goose,
And bound their horse, he should no more go loose:
And them in his own chamber made a bed.
With sheetes and with chalons* fair y-spread, *blankets<17>
Not from his owen bed ten foot or twelve:
His daughter had a bed all by herselve,
Right in the same chamber *by and by*: *side by side*
It might no better be, and cause why,
There was no *roomer herberow* in the place. *roomier lodging*
They suppen, and they speaken of solace,
And drinken ever strong ale at the best.
Aboute midnight went they all to rest.
Well had this miller varnished his head;
Full pale he was, fordrunken, and *nought red*. *without his wits*
He yoxed*, and he spake thorough the nose, *hiccuped
As he were in the quakke*, or in the pose**. *grunting **catarrh
To bed he went, and with him went his wife,
As any jay she light was and jolife,* *jolly
So was her jolly whistle well y-wet.
The cradle at her beddes feet was set,
To rock, and eke to give the child to suck.
And when that drunken was all in the crock* *pitcher<18>
To bedde went the daughter right anon,
To bedde went Alein, and also John.
There was no more; needed them no dwale.<19>
This miller had, so wisly* bibbed ale, *certainly
That as a horse he snorted in his sleep,
Nor of his tail behind he took no keep*. *heed
His wife bare him a burdoun*, a full strong; *bass <20>
Men might their routing* hearen a furlong. *snoring
The wenche routed eke for company.
Alein the clerk, that heard this melody,
He poked John, and saide: "Sleepest thou?
Heardest thou ever such a song ere now?
Lo what a compline<21> is y-mell* them all. *among
A wilde fire upon their bodies fall,
Who hearken'd ever such a ferly* thing? *strange <22>
Yea, they shall have the flow'r of ill ending!
This longe night there *tides me* no rest. *comes to me*
But yet no force*, all shall be for the best. *matter
For, John," said he, "as ever may I thrive,
If that I may, yon wenche will I swive*. *enjoy carnally
Some easement* has law y-shapen** us *satisfaction **provided
For, John, there is a law that sayeth thus,
That if a man in one point be aggriev'd,
That in another he shall be relievd.
Our corn is stol'n, soothly it is no nay,
And we have had an evil fit to-day.
And since I shall have none amendement
Against my loss, I will have easement:
By Godde's soul, it shall none, other be."
This John answer'd; Alein, *avise thee*: *have a care*
The miller is a perilous man," he said,
"And if that he out of his sleep abraid*, *awaked
He mighte do us both a villainy*." *mischief
Alein answer'd; "I count him not a fly.
And up he rose, and by the wench he crept.
This wenche lay upright, and fast she slept,
Till he so nigh was, ere she might espy,
That it had been too late for to cry:
And, shortly for to say, they were at one.
Now play, Alein, for I will speak of John.
This John lay still a furlong way <23> or two,
And to himself he made ruth* and woe. *wail
"Alas!" quoth he, "this is a wicked jape*; *trick
Now may I say, that I is but an ape.
Yet has my fellow somewhat for his harm;
He has the miller's daughter in his arm:
He auntred* him, and hath his needes sped, *adventured
And I lie as a draff-sack in my bed;
And when this jape is told another day,
I shall be held a daffe* or a cockenay <24> *coward
I will arise, and auntre* it, by my fay: *attempt
Unhardy is unsely, <25> as men say."
And up he rose, and softely he went
Unto the cradle, and in his hand it hent*, *took
And bare it soft unto his beddes feet.
Soon after this the wife *her routing lete*, *stopped snoring*
And gan awake, and went her out to piss
And came again and gan the cradle miss
And groped here and there, but she found none.
"Alas!" quoth she, "I had almost misgone
I had almost gone to the clerkes' bed.
Ey! Benedicite, then had I foul y-sped."
And forth she went, till she the cradle fand.
She groped alway farther with her hand
And found the bed, and *thoughte not but good* *had no suspicion*
Because that the cradle by it stood,
And wist not where she was, for it was derk;
But fair and well she crept in by the clerk,
And lay full still, and would have caught a sleep.
Within a while this John the Clerk up leap
And on this goode wife laid on full sore;
So merry a fit had she not had *full yore*. *for a long time*
He pricked hard and deep, as he were mad.
This jolly life have these two clerkes had,
Till that the thirde cock began to sing.
Alein wax'd weary in the morrowing,
For he had swonken* all the longe night, *laboured
And saide; "Farewell, Malkin, my sweet wight.
The day is come, I may no longer bide,
But evermore, where so I go or ride,
I is thine owen clerk, so have I hele.*" *health
"Now, deare leman*," quoth she, "go, fare wele: *sweetheart
But ere thou go, one thing I will thee tell.
When that thou wendest homeward by the mill,
Right at the entry of the door behind
Thou shalt a cake of half a bushel find,
That was y-maked of thine owen meal,
Which that I help'd my father for to steal.
And goode leman, God thee save and keep."
And with that word she gan almost to weep.
Alein uprose and thought, "Ere the day daw
I will go creepen in by my fellaw:"
And found the cradle with his hand anon.
"By God!" thought he, "all wrong I have misgone:
My head is *totty of my swink* to-night, *giddy from my labour*
That maketh me that I go not aright.
I wot well by the cradle I have misgo';
Here lie the miller and his wife also."
And forth he went a twenty devil way
Unto the bed, there as the miller lay.
He ween'd* t' have creeped by his fellow John, *thought
And by the miller in he crept anon,
And caught him by the neck, and gan him shake,
And said; "Thou John, thou swines-head, awake
For Christes soul, and hear a noble game!
For by that lord that called is Saint Jame,
As I have thries in this shorte night
Swived the miller's daughter bolt-upright,
While thou hast as a coward lain aghast*." *afraid
"Thou false harlot," quoth the miller, "hast?
Ah, false traitor, false clerk," quoth he,
"Thou shalt be dead, by Godde's dignity,
Who durste be so bold to disparage* *disgrace
My daughter, that is come of such lineage?"
And by the throate-ball* he caught Alein, *Adam's apple
And he him hent* dispiteously** again, *seized **angrily
And on the nose he smote him with his fist;
Down ran the bloody stream upon his breast:
And in the floor with nose and mouth all broke
They wallow, as do two pigs in a poke.
And up they go, and down again anon,
Till that the miller spurned* on a stone, *stumbled
And down he backward fell upon his wife,
That wiste nothing of this nice strife:
For she was fall'n asleep a little wight* *while
With John the clerk, that waked had all night:
And with the fall out of her sleep she braid*. *woke
"Help, holy cross of Bromeholm," <26> she said;
"In manus tuas! <27> Lord, to thee I call.
Awake, Simon, the fiend is on me fall;
Mine heart is broken; help; I am but dead:
There li'th one on my womb and on mine head.
Help, Simkin, for these false clerks do fight"
This John start up as fast as e'er he might,
And groped by the walles to and fro
To find a staff; and she start up also,
And knew the estres* better than this John, *apartment
And by the wall she took a staff anon:
And saw a little shimmering of a light,
For at an hole in shone the moone bright,
And by that light she saw them both the two,
But sickerly* she wist not who was who, *certainly
But as she saw a white thing in her eye.
And when she gan this white thing espy,
She ween'd* the clerk had wear'd a volupere**; *supposed **night-cap
And with the staff she drew aye nere* and nere*, *nearer
And ween'd to have hit this Alein at the full,
And smote the miller on the pilled* skull; *bald
That down he went, and cried," Harow! I die."
These clerkes beat him well, and let him lie,
And greithen* them, and take their horse anon, *make ready, dress
And eke their meal, and on their way they gon:
And at the mill door eke they took their cake
Of half a bushel flour, full well y-bake.
Thus is the proude miller well y-beat,
And hath y-lost the grinding of the wheat;
And payed for the supper *every deal* *every bit
Of Alein and of John, that beat him well;
His wife is swived, and his daughter als*; *also
Lo, such it is a miller to be false.
And therefore this proverb is said full sooth,
"*Him thar not winnen well* that evil do'th, *he deserves not to gain*
A guiler shall himself beguiled be:"
And God that sitteth high in majesty
Save all this Company, both great and smale.
Thus have I quit* the Miller in my tale. *made myself quits with
Notes to the Reeve's Tale
1. The incidents of this tale were much relished in the Middle
Ages, and are found under various forms. Boccaccio has told
them in the ninth day of his "Decameron".
2. Camuse: flat; French "camuse", snub-nosed.
3. Gite: gown or coat; French "jupe."
4. Soler Hall: the hall or college at Cambridge with the gallery
or upper storey; supposed to have been Clare Hall.
(Transcribers note: later commentators identify it with King's
Hall, now merged with Trinity College)
5. Manciple: steward; provisioner of the hall. See also note 47
to the prologue to the Tales.
6. Testif: headstrong, wild-brained; French, "entete."
7. Strother: Tyrwhitt points to Anstruther, in Fife: Mr Wright
to the Vale of Langstroth, in the West Riding of Yorkshire.
Chaucer has given the scholars a dialect that may have belonged
to either district, although it more immediately suggests the
more northern of the two.
(Transcribers note: later commentators have identified it with a
now vanished village near Kirknewton in Northumberland.
There was a well-known Alein of Strother in Chaucer's
8. Wanges: grinders, cheek-teeth; Anglo-Saxon, "Wang," the
cheek; German, "Wange."
9. See note 1 to the Prologue to the Reeves Tale
10. In the "Cento Novelle Antiche," the story is told of a mule,
which pretends that his name is written on the bottom of his
hind foot. The wolf attempts to read it, the mule kills him with a
kick in the forehead; and the fox, looking on, remarks that
"every man of letters is not wise." A similar story is told in
"Reynard the Fox."
11. Levesell: an arbour; Anglo-Saxon, "lefe-setl," leafy seat.
12. Noth: business; German, "Noth," necessity.
13. Bathe: both; Scottice, "baith."
14. Capel: horse; Gaelic, "capall;" French, "cheval;" Italian,
"cavallo," from Latin, "caballus."
15. Make a clerkes beard: cheat a scholar; French, "faire la
barbe;" and Boccaccio uses the proverb in the same sense.
16. "Gar" is Scotch for "cause;" some editions read, however,
"get us some".
17. Chalons: blankets, coverlets, made at Chalons in France.
18. Crock: pitcher, cruse; Anglo-Saxon, "crocca;" German,
"krug;" hence "crockery."
19. Dwale: night-shade, Solanum somniferum, given to cause
20. Burdoun: bass; "burden" of a song. It originally means the
drone of a bagpipe; French, "bourdon."
21. Compline: even-song in the church service; chorus.
22. Ferly: strange. In Scotland, a "ferlie" is an unwonted or
23. A furlong way: As long as it might take to walk a furlong.
24. Cockenay: a term of contempt, probably borrowed from the
kitchen; a cook, in base Latin, being termed "coquinarius."
compare French "coquin," rascal.
25. Unhardy is unsely: the cowardly is unlucky; "nothing
venture, nothing have;" German, "unselig," unhappy.
26. Holy cross of Bromeholm: A common adjuration at that
time; the cross or rood of the priory of Bromholm, in Norfolk,
was said to contain part of the real cross and therefore held in
27. In manus tuas: Latin, "in your hands".
THE COOK'S TALE.
THE Cook of London, while the Reeve thus spake,
For joy he laugh'd and clapp'd him on the back:
"Aha!" quoth he, "for Christes passion,
This Miller had a sharp conclusion,
Upon this argument of herbergage.* *lodging
Well saide Solomon in his language,
Bring thou not every man into thine house,
For harbouring by night is perilous.
*Well ought a man avised for to be* *a man should take good heed*
Whom that he brought into his privity.
I pray to God to give me sorrow and care
If ever, since I highte* Hodge of Ware, *was called
Heard I a miller better *set a-work*; *handled
He had a jape* of malice in the derk. *trick
But God forbid that we should stinte* here, *stop
And therefore if ye will vouchsafe to hear
A tale of me, that am a poore man,
I will you tell as well as e'er I can
A little jape that fell in our city."
Our Host answer'd and said; "I grant it thee.
Roger, tell on; and look that it be good,
For many a pasty hast thou letten blood,
And many a Jack of Dover<1> hast thou sold,
That had been twice hot and twice cold.
Of many a pilgrim hast thou Christe's curse,
For of thy parsley yet fare they the worse.
That they have eaten in thy stubble goose:
For in thy shop doth many a fly go loose.
Now tell on, gentle Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee be not *wroth for game*; *angry with my jesting*
A man may say full sooth in game and play."
"Thou sayst full sooth," quoth Roger, "by my fay;
But sooth play quad play,<2> as the Fleming saith,
And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith,
Be thou not wroth, else we departe* here, *part company
Though that my tale be of an hostelere.* *innkeeper
But natheless, I will not tell it yet,
But ere we part, y-wis* thou shalt be quit."<3> *assuredly
And therewithal he laugh'd and made cheer,<4>
And told his tale, as ye shall after hear.
Notes to the Prologue to the Cook's Tale
1. Jack of Dover: an article of cookery. (Transcriber's note:
suggested by some commentators to be a kind of pie, and by
others to be a fish)
2. Sooth play quad play: true jest is no jest.
3. It may be remembered that each pilgrim was bound to tell
two stories; one on the way to Canterbury, the other returning.
4. Made cheer: French, "fit bonne mine;" put on a pleasant
A prentice whilom dwelt in our city,
And of a craft of victuallers was he:
Galliard* he was, as goldfinch in the shaw**, *lively **grove
Brown as a berry, a proper short fellaw:
With lockes black, combed full fetisly.* *daintily
And dance he could so well and jollily,
That he was called Perkin Revellour.
He was as full of love and paramour,
As is the honeycomb of honey sweet;
Well was the wenche that with him might meet.
At every bridal would he sing and hop;
He better lov'd the tavern than the shop.
For when there any riding was in Cheap,<1>
Out of the shoppe thither would he leap,
And, till that he had all the sight y-seen,
And danced well, he would not come again;
And gather'd him a meinie* of his sort, *company of fellows
To hop and sing, and make such disport:
And there they *sette steven* for to meet *made appointment*
To playen at the dice in such a street.
For in the towne was there no prentice
That fairer coulde cast a pair of dice
Than Perkin could; and thereto *he was free *he spent money liberally
Of his dispence, in place of privity.* where he would not be seen*
That found his master well in his chaffare,* *merchandise
For oftentime he found his box full bare.
For, soothely, a prentice revellour,
That haunteth dice, riot, and paramour,
His master shall it in his shop abie*, *suffer for
All* have he no part of the minstrelsy. *although
For theft and riot they be convertible,
All can they play on *gitern or ribible.* *guitar or rebeck*
Revel and truth, as in a low degree,
They be full wroth* all day, as men may see. *at variance
This jolly prentice with his master bode,
Till he was nigh out of his prenticehood,
All were he snubbed* both early and late, *rebuked
And sometimes led with revel to Newgate.
But at the last his master him bethought,
Upon a day when he his paper<2> sought,
Of a proverb, that saith this same word;
Better is rotten apple out of hoard,
Than that it should rot all the remenant:
So fares it by a riotous servant;
It is well lesse harm to let him pace*, *pass, go
Than he shend* all the servants in the place. *corrupt
Therefore his master gave him a quittance,
And bade him go, with sorrow and mischance.
And thus this jolly prentice had his leve*: *desire
Now let him riot all the night, or leave*. *refrain
And, for there is no thief without a louke,<3>
That helpeth him to wasten and to souk* *spend
Of that he bribe* can, or borrow may, *steal
Anon he sent his bed and his array
Unto a compere* of his owen sort, *comrade
That loved dice, and riot, and disport;
And had a wife, that held *for countenance* *for appearances*
A shop, and swived* for her sustenance. *prostituted herself
. . . . . . . <4>
Notes to the Cook's Tale
1. Cheapside, where jousts were sometimes held, and which
was the great scene of city revels and processions.
2. His paper: his certificate of completion of his apprenticeship.
3. Louke: The precise meaning of the word is unknown, but it
is doubtless included in the cant term "pal".
4. The Cook's Tale is unfinished in all the manuscripts; but in
some, of minor authority, the Cook is made to break off his
tale, because "it is so foul," and to tell the story of Gamelyn, on
which Shakespeare's "As You Like It" is founded. The story is
not Chaucer's, and is different in metre, and inferior in
composition to the Tales. It is supposed that Chaucer expunged
the Cook's Tale for the same reason that made him on his death-
bed lament that he had written so much "ribaldry."
THE MAN OF LAW'S TALE.
Our Hoste saw well that the brighte sun
Th' arc of his artificial day had run
The fourthe part, and half an houre more;
And, though he were not deep expert in lore,
He wist it was the eight-and-twenty day
Of April, that is messenger to May;
And saw well that the shadow of every tree
Was in its length of the same quantity
That was the body erect that caused it;
And therefore by the shadow he took his wit*, *knowledge
That Phoebus, which that shone so clear and bright,
Degrees was five-and-forty clomb on height;
And for that day, as in that latitude,
It was ten of the clock, he gan conclude;
And suddenly he plight* his horse about. *pulled <1>
"Lordings," quoth he, "I warn you all this rout*, *company
The fourthe partie of this day is gone.
Now for the love of God and of Saint John
Lose no time, as farforth as ye may.
Lordings, the time wasteth night and day,
And steals from us, what privily sleeping,
And what through negligence in our waking,
As doth the stream, that turneth never again,
Descending from the mountain to the plain.
Well might Senec, and many a philosopher,
Bewaile time more than gold in coffer.
For loss of chattels may recover'd be,
But loss of time shendeth* us, quoth he. *destroys
It will not come again, withoute dread,*
No more than will Malkin's maidenhead,<2>
When she hath lost it in her wantonness.
Let us not moulde thus in idleness.
"Sir Man of Law," quoth he, "so have ye bliss,
Tell us a tale anon, as forword* is. *the bargain
Ye be submitted through your free assent
To stand in this case at my judgement.
Acquit you now, and *holde your behest*; *keep your promise*
Then have ye done your devoir* at the least." *duty
"Hoste," quoth he, "de par dieux jeo asente; <3>
To breake forword is not mine intent.
Behest is debt, and I would hold it fain,
All my behest; I can no better sayn.
For such law as a man gives another wight,
He should himselfe usen it by right.
Thus will our text: but natheless certain
I can right now no thrifty* tale sayn, *worthy
But Chaucer (though he *can but lewedly* *knows but imperfectly*
On metres and on rhyming craftily)
Hath said them, in such English as he can,
Of olde time, as knoweth many a man.
And if he have not said them, leve* brother, *dear
In one book, he hath said them in another
For he hath told of lovers up and down,
More than Ovide made of mentioun
In his Epistolae, that be full old.
Why should I telle them, since they he told?
In youth he made of Ceyx and Alcyon,<4>
And since then he hath spoke of every one
These noble wives, and these lovers eke.
Whoso that will his large volume seek
Called the Saintes' Legend of Cupid:<5>
There may he see the large woundes wide
Of Lucrece, and of Babylon Thisbe;
The sword of Dido for the false Enee;
The tree of Phillis for her Demophon;
The plaint of Diane, and of Hermion,
Of Ariadne, and Hypsipile;
The barren isle standing in the sea;
The drown'd Leander for his fair Hero;
The teares of Helene, and eke the woe
Of Briseis, and Laodamia;
The cruelty of thee, Queen Medea,
Thy little children hanging by the halse*, *neck
For thy Jason, that was of love so false.
Hypermnestra, Penelop', Alcest',
Your wifehood he commendeth with the best.
But certainly no worde writeth he
Of *thilke wick'* example of Canace, *that wicked*
That loved her own brother sinfully;
(Of all such cursed stories I say, Fy),
Or else of Tyrius Apollonius,
How that the cursed king Antiochus
Bereft his daughter of her maidenhead;
That is so horrible a tale to read,
When he her threw upon the pavement.
And therefore he, *of full avisement*, *deliberately, advisedly*
Would never write in none of his sermons
Of such unkind* abominations; *unnatural
Nor I will none rehearse, if that I may.
But of my tale how shall I do this day?
Me were loth to be liken'd doubteless
To Muses, that men call Pierides<6>
(Metamorphoseos <7> wot what I mean),
But natheless I recke not a bean,
Though I come after him with hawebake*; *lout <8>
I speak in prose, and let him rhymes make."
And with that word, he with a sober cheer
Began his tale, and said as ye shall hear.
Notes to the Prologue to The Man of Law's Tale
1. Plight: pulled; the word is an obsolete past tense from
2. No more than will Malkin's maidenhead: a proverbial saying;
which, however, had obtained fresh point from the Reeve's
Tale, to which the host doubtless refers.
3. De par dieux jeo asente: "by God, I agree". It is
characteristic that the somewhat pompous Sergeant of Law
should couch his assent in the semi-barbarous French, then
familiar in law procedure.
4. Ceyx and Alcyon: Chaucer treats of these in the introduction
to the poem called "The Book of the Duchess." It relates to the
death of Blanche, wife of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, the
poet's patron, and afterwards his connexion by marriage.
5. The Saintes Legend of Cupid: Now called "The Legend of
Good Women". The names of eight ladies mentioned here are
not in the "Legend" as it has come down to us; while those of
two ladies in the "legend" -- Cleopatra and Philomela -- are her
6. Not the Muses, who had their surname from the place near
Mount Olympus where the Thracians first worshipped them; but
the nine daughters of Pierus, king of Macedonia, whom he
called the nine Muses, and who, being conquered in a contest
with the genuine sisterhood, were changed into birds.
7. Metamorphoseos: Ovid's.
8. Hawebake: hawbuck, country lout; the common proverbial
phrase, "to put a rogue above a gentleman," may throw light on
the reading here, which is difficult.
THE TALE. <1>
O scatheful harm, condition of poverty,
With thirst, with cold, with hunger so confounded;
To aske help thee shameth in thine hearte;
If thou none ask, so sore art thou y-wounded,
That very need unwrappeth all thy wound hid.
Maugre thine head thou must for indigence
Or steal, or beg, or borrow thy dispence*. *expense
Thou blamest Christ, and sayst full bitterly,
He misdeparteth* riches temporal; *allots amiss
Thy neighebour thou witest* sinfully, *blamest
And sayst, thou hast too little, and he hath all:
"Parfay (sayst thou) sometime he reckon shall,
When that his tail shall *brennen in the glede*, *burn in the fire*
For he not help'd the needful in their need."
Hearken what is the sentence of the wise:
Better to die than to have indigence.
*Thy selve* neighebour will thee despise, *that same*
If thou be poor, farewell thy reverence.
Yet of the wise man take this sentence,
Alle the days of poore men be wick'*, *wicked, evil
Beware therefore ere thou come to that prick*. *point
If thou be poor, thy brother hateth thee,
And all thy friendes flee from thee, alas!
O riche merchants, full of wealth be ye,
O noble, prudent folk, as in this case,
Your bagges be not fill'd with *ambes ace,* *two aces*
But with *six-cinque*, that runneth for your chance;<2> *six-five*
At Christenmass well merry may ye dance.
Ye seeke land and sea for your winnings,
As wise folk ye knowen all th' estate
Of regnes*; ye be fathers of tidings, *kingdoms
And tales, both of peace and of debate*: *contention, war
I were right now of tales desolate*, *barren, empty.
But that a merchant, gone in many a year,
Me taught a tale, which ye shall after hear.
In Syria whilom dwelt a company
Of chapmen rich, and thereto sad* and true, *grave, steadfast
Clothes of gold, and satins rich of hue.
That widewhere* sent their spicery, *to distant parts
Their chaffare* was so thriftly** and so new, *wares **advantageous
That every wight had dainty* to chaffare** *pleasure **deal
With them, and eke to selle them their ware.
Now fell it, that the masters of that sort
Have *shapen them* to Rome for to wend, *determined, prepared*
Were it for chapmanhood* or for disport, *trading
None other message would they thither send,
But come themselves to Rome, this is the end:
And in such place as thought them a vantage
For their intent, they took their herbergage.* *lodging
Sojourned have these merchants in that town
A certain time as fell to their pleasance:
And so befell, that th' excellent renown
Of th' emperore's daughter, Dame Constance,
Reported was, with every circumstance,
Unto these Syrian merchants in such wise,
From day to day, as I shall you devise* *relate
This was the common voice of every man
"Our emperor of Rome, God him see*, *look on with favour
A daughter hath, that since the the world began,
To reckon as well her goodness and beauty,
Was never such another as is she:
I pray to God in honour her sustene*, *sustain
And would she were of all Europe the queen.
"In her is highe beauty without pride,
And youth withoute greenhood* or folly: *childishness, immaturity
To all her workes virtue is her guide;
Humbless hath slain in her all tyranny:
She is the mirror of all courtesy,
Her heart a very chamber of holiness,
Her hand minister of freedom for almess*." *almsgiving
And all this voice was sooth, as God is true;
But now to purpose* let us turn again. *our tale <3>
These merchants have done freight their shippes new,
And when they have this blissful maiden seen,
Home to Syria then they went full fain,
And did their needes*, as they have done yore,* *business **formerly
And liv'd in weal*; I can you say no more. *prosperity
Now fell it, that these merchants stood in grace* *favour
Of him that was the Soudan* of Syrie: *Sultan
For when they came from any strange place
He would of his benigne courtesy
Make them good cheer, and busily espy* *inquire
Tidings of sundry regnes*, for to lear** *realms **learn
The wonders that they mighte see or hear.
Amonges other thinges, specially
These merchants have him told of Dame Constance
So great nobless, in earnest so royally,
That this Soudan hath caught so great pleasance* *pleasure
To have her figure in his remembrance,
That all his lust*, and all his busy cure**, *pleasure **care
Was for to love her while his life may dure.
Paraventure in thilke* large book, *that
Which that men call the heaven, y-written was
With starres, when that he his birthe took,
That he for love should have his death, alas!
For in the starres, clearer than is glass,
Is written, God wot, whoso could it read,
The death of every man withoute dread.* *doubt
In starres many a winter therebeforn
Was writ the death of Hector, Achilles,
Of Pompey, Julius, ere they were born;
The strife of Thebes; and of Hercules,
Of Samson, Turnus, and of Socrates
The death; but mennes wittes be so dull,
That no wight can well read it at the full.
This Soudan for his privy council sent,
And, *shortly of this matter for to pace*, *to pass briefly by*
He hath to them declared his intent,
And told them certain, but* he might have grace *unless
To have Constance, within a little space,
He was but dead; and charged them in hie* *haste
To shape* for his life some remedy. *contrive
Diverse men diverse thinges said;
And arguments they casten up and down;
Many a subtle reason forth they laid;
They speak of magic, and abusion*; *deception
But finally, as in conclusion,
They cannot see in that none avantage,
Nor in no other way, save marriage.
Then saw they therein such difficulty
By way of reason, for to speak all plain,
Because that there was such diversity
Between their bothe lawes, that they sayn,
They trowe* that no Christian prince would fain** *believe **willingly
Wedden his child under our lawe sweet,
That us was given by Mahound* our prophete. *Mahomet
And he answered: "Rather than I lose
Constance, I will be christen'd doubteless
I must be hers, I may none other choose,
I pray you hold your arguments in peace,<4>
Save my life, and be not reckeless
To gette her that hath my life in cure,* *keeping
For in this woe I may not long endure."
What needeth greater dilatation?
I say, by treaty and ambassadry,
And by the Pope's mediation,
And all the Church, and all the chivalry,
That in destruction of Mah'metry,* *Mahometanism
And in increase of Christe's lawe dear,
They be accorded* so as ye may hear; *agreed
How that the Soudan, and his baronage,
And all his lieges, shall y-christen'd be,
And he shall have Constance in marriage,
And certain gold, I n'ot* what quantity, *know not
And hereto find they suffisant surety.
The same accord is sworn on either side;
Now, fair Constance, Almighty God thee guide!
Now woulde some men waiten, as I guess,
That I should tellen all the purveyance*, *provision
The which the emperor of his noblesse
Hath shapen* for his daughter, Dame Constance. *prepared
Well may men know that so great ordinance
May no man tellen in a little clause,
As was arrayed for so high a cause.
Bishops be shapen with her for to wend,
Lordes, ladies, and knightes of renown,
And other folk enough, this is the end.
And notified is throughout all the town,
That every wight with great devotioun
Should pray to Christ, that he this marriage
Receive *in gree*, and speede this voyage. *with good will, favour*
The day is comen of her departing, --
I say the woful fatal day is come,
That there may be no longer tarrying,
But forward they them dressen* all and some. *prepare to set out*
Constance, that was with sorrow all o'ercome,
Full pale arose, and dressed her to wend,
For well she saw there was no other end.
Alas! what wonder is it though she wept,
That shall be sent to a strange nation
From friendes, that so tenderly her kept,
And to be bound under subjection
of one, she knew not his condition?
Husbands be all good, and have been *of yore*, *of old*
That knowe wives; I dare say no more.
"Father," she said, "thy wretched child Constance,
Thy younge daughter, foster'd up so soft,
And you, my mother, my sov'reign pleasance
Over all thing, out-taken* Christ *on loft*, *except *on high*
Constance your child her recommendeth oft
Unto your grace; for I shall to Syrie,
Nor shall I ever see you more with eye.
"Alas! unto the barbarous nation
I must anon, since that it is your will:
But Christ, that starf* for our redemption, *died
So give me grace his hestes* to fulfil. *commands
I, wretched woman, *no force though I spill!* *no matter though
Women are born to thraldom and penance, I perish*
And to be under mannes governance."
I trow at Troy when Pyrrhus brake the wall,
Or Ilion burnt, or Thebes the city,
Nor at Rome for the harm through Hannibal,
That Romans hath y-vanquish'd times three,
Was heard such tender weeping for pity,
As in the chamber was for her parting;
But forth she must, whether she weep or sing.
O firste moving cruel Firmament,<5>
With thy diurnal sway that crowdest* aye, *pushest together, drivest
And hurtlest all from East till Occident
That naturally would hold another way;
Thy crowding set the heav'n in such array
At the beginning of this fierce voyage,
That cruel Mars hath slain this marriage.
Unfortunate ascendant tortuous,
Of which the lord is helpless fall'n, alas!
Out of his angle into the darkest house;
O Mars, O Atyzar,<6> as in this case;
O feeble Moon, unhappy is thy pace.* *progress
Thou knittest thee where thou art not receiv'd,
Where thou wert well, from thennes art thou weiv'd. <7>
Imprudent emperor of Rome, alas!
Was there no philosopher in all thy town?
Is no time bet* than other in such case? *better
Of voyage is there none election,
Namely* to folk of high condition, *especially
Not *when a root is of a birth y-know?* *when the nativity is known*
Alas! we be too lewed*, or too slow. *ignorant
To ship was brought this woeful faire maid
Solemnely, with every circumstance:
"Now Jesus Christ be with you all," she said.
There is no more,but "Farewell, fair Constance."
She *pained her* to make good countenance. *made an effort*
And forth I let her sail in this manner,
And turn I will again to my matter.
The mother of the Soudan, well of vices,
Espied hath her sone's plain intent,
How he will leave his olde sacrifices:
And right anon she for her council sent,
And they be come, to knowe what she meant,
And when assembled was this folk *in fere*, *together*
She sat her down, and said as ye shall hear.
"Lordes," she said, "ye knowen every one,
How that my son in point is for to lete* *forsake
The holy lawes of our Alkaron*, *Koran
Given by God's messenger Mahomete:
But one avow to greate God I hete*, *promise
Life shall rather out of my body start,
Than Mahomet's law go out of mine heart.
"What should us tiden* of this newe law, *betide, befall
But thraldom to our bodies, and penance,
And afterward in hell to be y-draw,
For we *renied Mahound our creance?* *denied Mahomet our belief*
But, lordes, will ye maken assurance,
As I shall say, assenting to my lore*? *advice
And I shall make us safe for evermore."
They sworen and assented every man
To live with her and die, and by her stand:
And every one, in the best wise he can,
To strengthen her shall all his friendes fand.* *endeavour<8>
And she hath this emprise taken in hand,
Which ye shall heare that I shall devise*; *relate
And to them all she spake right in this wise.
"We shall first feign us *Christendom to take*; *embrace Christianity*
Cold water shall not grieve us but a lite*: *little
And I shall such a feast and revel make,
That, as I trow, I shall the Soudan quite.* *requite, match
For though his wife be christen'd ne'er so white,
She shall have need to wash away the red,
Though she a fount of water with her led."
O Soudaness*, root of iniquity, *Sultaness
Virago thou, Semiramis the second!
O serpent under femininity,
Like to the serpent deep in hell y-bound!
O feigned woman, all that may confound
Virtue and innocence, through thy malice,
Is bred in thee, as nest of every vice!
O Satan envious! since thilke day
That thou wert chased from our heritage,
Well knowest thou to woman th' olde way.
Thou madest Eve to bring us in servage*: *bondage
Thou wilt fordo* this Christian marriage: *ruin
Thine instrument so (well-away the while!)
Mak'st thou of women when thou wilt beguile.
This Soudaness, whom I thus blame and warray*, *oppose, censure
Let privily her council go their way:
Why should I in this tale longer tarry?
She rode unto the Soudan on a day,
And said him, that she would *reny her lay,* *renounce her creed*
And Christendom of priestes' handes fong*, *take<9>
Repenting her she heathen was so long;
Beseeching him to do her that honour,
That she might have the Christian folk to feast:
"To please them I will do my labour."
The Soudan said, "I will do at your hest,*" *desire
And kneeling, thanked her for that request;
So glad he was, he wist* not what to say. *knew
She kiss'd her son, and home she went her way.
Arrived be these Christian folk to land
In Syria, with a great solemne rout,
And hastily this Soudan sent his sond,* *message
First to his mother, and all the realm about,
And said, his wife was comen out of doubt,
And pray'd them for to ride again* the queen, *to meet
The honour of his regne* to sustene. *realm
Great was the press, and rich was the array
Of Syrians and Romans met *in fere*. *in company*
The mother of the Soudan rich and gay
Received her with all so glad a cheer* *face
As any mother might her daughter dear
And to the nexte city there beside
A softe pace solemnely they ride.
Nought, trow I, the triumph of Julius
Of which that Lucan maketh such a boast,
Was royaller, or more curious,
Than was th' assembly of this blissful host
But O this scorpion, this wicked ghost,* *spirit
The Soudaness, for all her flattering
Cast* under this full mortally to sting. *contrived
The Soudan came himself soon after this,
So royally, that wonder is to tell,
And welcomed her with all joy and bliss.
And thus in mirth and joy I let them dwell.
The fruit of his matter is that I tell;
When the time came, men thought it for the best
That revel stint,* and men go to their rest. *cease
The time is come that this old Soudaness
Ordained hath the feast of which I told,
And to the feast the Christian folk them dress
In general, yea, bothe young and old.
There may men feast and royalty behold,
And dainties more than I can you devise;
But all too dear they bought it ere they rise.
O sudden woe, that ev'r art successour
To worldly bliss! sprent* is with bitterness *sprinkled
Th' end of our joy, of our worldly labour;
Woe *occupies the fine* of our gladness. *seizes the end*
Hearken this counsel, for thy sickerness*: *security
Upon thy glade days have in thy mind
The unware* woe of harm, that comes behind. *unforeseen
For, shortly for to tell it at a word,
The Soudan and the Christians every one
Were all *to-hewn and sticked* at the board, *cut to pieces*
But it were only Dame Constance alone.
This olde Soudaness, this cursed crone,
Had with her friendes done this cursed deed,
For she herself would all the country lead.
Nor there was Syrian that was converted,
That of the counsel of the Soudan wot*, *knew
That was not all to-hewn, ere he asterted*: *escaped
And Constance have they ta'en anon foot-hot*, *immediately
And in a ship all steereless,* God wot, *without rudder
They have her set, and bid her learn to sail
Out of Syria *again-ward to Itale.* *back to Italy*
A certain treasure that she thither lad,* *took
And, sooth to say, of victual great plenty,
They have her giv'n, and clothes eke she had
And forth she sailed in the salte sea:
O my Constance, full of benignity,
O emperores younge daughter dear,
He that is lord of fortune be thy steer*! *rudder, guide
She bless'd herself, and with full piteous voice
Unto the cross of Christ thus saide she;
"O dear, O wealful* altar, holy cross, *blessed, beneficent
Red of the Lambes blood, full of pity,
That wash'd the world from old iniquity,
Me from the fiend and from his clawes keep,
That day that I shall drenchen* in the deepe. *drown
"Victorious tree, protection of the true,
That only worthy were for to bear
The King of Heaven, with his woundes new,
The white Lamb, that hurt was with a spear;
Flemer* of fiendes out of him and her *banisher, driver out
On which thy limbes faithfully extend,<10>
Me keep, and give me might my life to mend."
Yeares and days floated this creature
Throughout the sea of Greece, unto the strait
Of Maroc*, as it was her a venture: *Morocco; Gibraltar
On many a sorry meal now may she bait,
After her death full often may she wait*, *expect
Ere that the wilde waves will her drive
Unto the place *there as* she shall arrive. *where
Men mighten aske, why she was not slain?
Eke at the feast who might her body save?
And I answer to that demand again,
Who saved Daniel in the horrible cave,
Where every wight, save he, master or knave*, *servant
Was with the lion frett*, ere he astart?** *devoured ** escaped
No wight but God, that he bare in his heart.
God list* to shew his wonderful miracle *it pleased
In her, that we should see his mighty workes:
Christ, which that is to every harm triacle*, *remedy, salve
By certain meanes oft, as knowe clerkes*, *scholars
Doth thing for certain ende, that full derk is
To manne's wit, that for our, ignorance
Ne cannot know his prudent purveyance*. *foresight
Now since she was not at the feast y-slaw,* *slain
Who kepte her from drowning in the sea?
Who kepte Jonas in the fish's maw,
Till he was spouted up at Nineveh?
Well may men know, it was no wight but he
That kept the Hebrew people from drowning,
With drye feet throughout the sea passing.
Who bade the foure spirits of tempest,<11>
That power have t' annoye land and sea,
Both north and south, and also west and east,
Annoye neither sea, nor land, nor tree?
Soothly the commander of that was he
That from the tempest aye this woman kept,
As well when she awoke as when she slept.
Where might this woman meat and drinke have?
Three year and more how lasted her vitaille*? *victuals
Who fed the Egyptian Mary in the cave
Or in desert? no wight but Christ *sans faille.* *without fail*
Five thousand folk it was as great marvaille
With loaves five and fishes two to feed
God sent his foison* at her greate need. *abundance
She drived forth into our ocean
Throughout our wilde sea, till at the last
Under an hold*, that nempnen** I not can, *castle **name
Far in Northumberland, the wave her cast
And in the sand her ship sticked so fast
That thennes would it not in all a tide: <12>
The will of Christ was that she should abide.
The Constable of the castle down did fare* *go
To see this wreck, and all the ship he sought*, *searched
And found this weary woman full of care;
He found also the treasure that she brought:
In her language mercy she besought,
The life out of her body for to twin*, *divide
Her to deliver of woe that she was in.
A manner Latin corrupt <13> was her speech,
But algate* thereby was she understond. *nevertheless
The Constable, when him list no longer seech*, *search
This woeful woman brought he to the lond.
She kneeled down, and thanked *Godde's sond*; *what God had sent*
But what she was she would to no man say
For foul nor fair, although that she should dey.* *die
She said, she was so mazed in the sea,
That she forgot her minde, by her truth.
The Constable had of her so great pity
And eke his wife, that they wept for ruth:* *pity
She was so diligent withoute slouth
To serve and please every one in that place,
That all her lov'd, that looked in her face.
The Constable and Dame Hermegild his wife
Were Pagans, and that country every where;
But Hermegild lov'd Constance as her life;
And Constance had so long sojourned there
In orisons, with many a bitter tear,
Till Jesus had converted through His grace
Dame Hermegild, Constabless of that place.
In all that land no Christians durste rout;* *assemble
All Christian folk had fled from that country
Through Pagans, that conquered all about
The plages* of the North by land and sea. *regions, coasts
To Wales had fled the *Christianity *the Old Britons who
Of olde Britons,* dwelling in this isle; were Christians*
There was their refuge for the meanewhile.
But yet n'ere* Christian Britons so exiled, *there were
That there n'ere* some which in their privity not
Honoured Christ, and heathen folk beguiled;
And nigh the castle such there dwelled three:
And one of them was blind, and might not see,
But* it were with thilk* eyen of his mind, *except **those
With which men maye see when they be blind.
Bright was the sun, as in a summer's day,
For which the Constable, and his wife also,
And Constance, have y-take the righte way
Toward the sea a furlong way or two,
To playen, and to roame to and fro;
And in their walk this blinde man they met,
Crooked and old, with eyen fast y-shet.* *shut
"In the name of Christ," cried this blind Briton,
"Dame Hermegild, give me my sight again!"
This lady *wax'd afrayed of that soun',* *was alarmed by that cry*
Lest that her husband, shortly for to sayn,
Would her for Jesus Christe's love have slain,
Till Constance made her hold, and bade her wirch* *work
The will of Christ, as daughter of holy Church
The Constable wax'd abashed* of that sight, *astonished
And saide; *"What amounteth all this fare?"* *what means all
Constance answered; "Sir, it is Christ's might, this ado?*
That helpeth folk out of the fiendes snare:"
And *so farforth* she gan our law declare, *with such effect*
That she the Constable, ere that it were eve,
Converted, and on Christ made him believe.
This Constable was not lord of the place
Of which I speak, there as he Constance fand,* *found
But kept it strongly many a winter space,
Under Alla, king of Northumberland,
That was full wise, and worthy of his hand
Against the Scotes, as men may well hear;
But turn I will again to my mattere.
Satan, that ever us waiteth to beguile,
Saw of Constance all her perfectioun,
And *cast anon how he might quite her while;* *considered how to have
And made a young knight, that dwelt in that town, revenge on her*
Love her so hot of foul affectioun,
That verily him thought that he should spill* *perish
But* he of her might ones have his will. *unless
He wooed her, but it availed nought;
She woulde do no sinne by no way:
And for despite, he compassed his thought
To make her a shameful death to dey;* *die
He waiteth when the Constable is away,
And privily upon a night he crept
In Hermegilda's chamber while she slept.
Weary, forwaked* in her orisons, *having been long awake
Sleepeth Constance, and Hermegild also.
This knight, through Satanas' temptation;
All softetly is to the bed y-go,* *gone
And cut the throat of Hermegild in two,
And laid the bloody knife by Dame Constance,
And went his way, there God give him mischance.
Soon after came the Constable home again,
And eke Alla that king was of that land,
And saw his wife dispiteously* slain, *cruelly
For which full oft he wept and wrung his hand;
And ill the bed the bloody knife he fand
By Dame Constance: Alas! what might she say?
For very woe her wit was all away.
To King Alla was told all this mischance
And eke the time, and where, and in what wise
That in a ship was founden this Constance,
As here before ye have me heard devise:* *describe
The kinges heart for pity *gan agrise,* *to be grieved, to tremble*
When he saw so benign a creature
Fall in disease* and in misaventure. *distress
For as the lamb toward his death is brought,
So stood this innocent before the king:
This false knight, that had this treason wrought,
*Bore her in hand* that she had done this thing: *accused her falsely*
But natheless there was great murmuring
Among the people, that say they cannot guess
That she had done so great a wickedness.
For they had seen her ever virtuous,
And loving Hermegild right as her life:
Of this bare witness each one in that house,
Save he that Hermegild slew with his knife:
This gentle king had *caught a great motife* *been greatly moved
Of this witness, and thought he would inquere by the evidence*
Deeper into this case, the truth to lear.* *learn
Alas! Constance, thou has no champion,
Nor fighte canst thou not, so well-away!
But he that starf for our redemption, *died
And bound Satan, and yet li'th where he lay,
So be thy stronge champion this day:
For, but Christ upon thee miracle kithe,* *show
Withoute guilt thou shalt be slain *as swithe.* *immediately*
She set her down on knees, and thus she said;
"Immortal God, that savedest Susanne
From false blame; and thou merciful maid,
Mary I mean, the daughter to Saint Anne,
Before whose child the angels sing Osanne,* *Hosanna
If I be guiltless of this felony,
My succour be, or elles shall I die."
Have ye not seen sometime a pale face
(Among a press) of him that hath been lad* *led
Toward his death, where he getteth no grace,
And such a colour in his face hath had,
Men mighte know him that was so bestad* *bested, situated
Amonges all the faces in that rout?
So stood Constance, and looked her about.
O queenes living in prosperity,
Duchesses, and ye ladies every one,
Have some ruth* on her adversity! *pity
An emperor's daughter, she stood alone;
She had no wight to whom to make her moan.
O blood royal, that standest in this drede,* *danger
Far be thy friendes in thy greate need!
This king Alla had such compassioun,
As gentle heart is full filled of pity,
That from his eyen ran the water down
"Now hastily do fetch a book," quoth he;
"And if this knight will sweare, how that she
This woman slew, yet will we us advise* *consider
Whom that we will that shall be our justice."
A Briton book, written with Evangiles,* *the Gospels
Was fetched, and on this book he swore anon
She guilty was; and, in the meanewhiles,
An hand him smote upon the necke bone,
That down he fell at once right as a stone:
And both his eyen burst out of his face
In sight of ev'rybody in that place.
A voice was heard, in general audience,
That said; "Thou hast deslander'd guilteless
The daughter of holy Church in high presence;
Thus hast thou done, and yet *hold I my peace?"* *shall I be silent?*
Of this marvel aghast was all the press,
As mazed folk they stood every one
For dread of wreake,* save Constance alone. *vengeance
Great was the dread and eke the repentance
Of them that hadde wrong suspicion
Upon this sely* innocent Constance; *simple, harmless
And for this miracle, in conclusion,
And by Constance's mediation,
The king, and many another in that place,
Converted was, thanked be Christe's grace!
This false knight was slain for his untruth
By judgement of Alla hastily;
And yet Constance had of his death great ruth;* *compassion
And after this Jesus of his mercy
Made Alla wedde full solemnely
This holy woman, that is so bright and sheen,
And thus hath Christ y-made Constance a queen.
But who was woeful, if I shall not lie,
Of this wedding but Donegild, and no mo',
The kinge's mother, full of tyranny?
Her thought her cursed heart would burst in two;
She would not that her son had done so;
Her thought it a despite that he should take
So strange a creature unto his make.* *mate, consort
Me list not of the chaff nor of the stre* *straw
Make so long a tale, as of the corn.
What should I tellen of the royalty
Of this marriage, or which course goes beforn,
Who bloweth in a trump or in an horn?
The fruit of every tale is for to say;
They eat and drink, and dance, and sing, and play.
They go to bed, as it was skill* and right; *reasonable
For though that wives be full holy things,
They muste take in patience at night
Such manner* necessaries as be pleasings *kind of
To folk that have y-wedded them with rings,
And lay *a lite* their holiness aside *a little of*
As for the time, it may no better betide.
On her he got a knave* child anon, *male <14>
And to a Bishop and to his Constable eke
He took his wife to keep, when he is gone
To Scotland-ward, his foemen for to seek.
Now fair Constance, that is so humble and meek,
So long is gone with childe till that still
She held her chamb'r, abiding Christe's will
The time is come, a knave child she bare;
Mauricius at the font-stone they him call.
This Constable *doth forth come* a messenger, *caused to come forth*
And wrote unto his king that clep'd was All',
How that this blissful tiding is befall,
And other tidings speedful for to say
He* hath the letter, and forth he go'th his way. *i.e. the messenger
This messenger, to *do his avantage,* *promote his own interest*
Unto the kinge's mother rideth swithe,* *swiftly
And saluteth her full fair in his language.
"Madame," quoth he, "ye may be glad and blithe,
And thanke God an hundred thousand sithe;* *times
My lady queen hath child, withoute doubt,
To joy and bliss of all this realm about.
"Lo, here the letter sealed of this thing,
That I must bear with all the haste I may:
If ye will aught unto your son the king,
I am your servant both by night and day."
Donegild answer'd, "As now at this time, nay;
But here I will all night thou take thy rest,
To-morrow will I say thee what me lest.*" *pleases
This messenger drank sadly* ale and wine, *steadily
And stolen were his letters privily
Out of his box, while he slept as a swine;
And counterfeited was full subtilly
Another letter, wrote full sinfully,
Unto the king, direct of this mattere
From his Constable, as ye shall after hear.
This letter said, the queen deliver'd was
Of so horrible a fiendlike creature,
That in the castle none so hardy* was *brave
That any while he durst therein endure:
The mother was an elf by aventure
Become, by charmes or by sorcery,
And every man hated her company.
Woe was this king when he this letter had seen,
But to no wight he told his sorrows sore,
But with his owen hand he wrote again,
"Welcome the sond* of Christ for evermore *will, sending
To me, that am now learned in this lore:
Lord, welcome be thy lust* and thy pleasance, *will, pleasure
My lust I put all in thine ordinance.
"Keepe* this child, albeit foul or fair, *preserve
And eke my wife, unto mine homecoming:
Christ when him list may send to me an heir
More agreeable than this to my liking."
This letter he sealed, privily weeping.
Which to the messenger was taken soon,
And forth he went, there is no more to do'n.* *do
O messenger full fill'd of drunkenness,
Strong is thy breath, thy limbes falter aye,
And thou betrayest alle secretness;
Thy mind is lorn,* thou janglest as a jay; *lost
Thy face is turned in a new array;* *aspect
Where drunkenness reigneth in any rout,* *company
There is no counsel hid, withoute doubt.
O Donegild, I have no English dign* *worthy
Unto thy malice, and thy tyranny:
And therefore to the fiend I thee resign,
Let him indite of all thy treachery
'Fy, mannish,* fy! O nay, by God I lie; *unwomanly woman
Fy, fiendlike spirit! for I dare well tell,
Though thou here walk, thy spirit is in hell.
This messenger came from the king again,
And at the kinge's mother's court he light,* *alighted
And she was of this messenger full fain,* *glad
And pleased him in all that e'er she might.
He drank, and *well his girdle underpight*; *stowed away (liquor)
He slept, and eke he snored in his guise under his girdle*
All night, until the sun began to rise.
Eft* were his letters stolen every one, *again
And counterfeited letters in this wise:
The king commanded his Constable anon,
On pain of hanging and of high jewise,* *judgement
That he should suffer in no manner wise
Constance within his regne* for to abide *kingdom
Three dayes, and a quarter of a tide;
But in the same ship as he her fand,
Her and her younge son, and all her gear,
He shoulde put, and crowd* her from the land, *push
And charge her, that she never eft come there.
O my Constance, well may thy ghost* have fear, *spirit
And sleeping in thy dream be in penance,* *pain, trouble
When Donegild cast* all this ordinance.** *contrived **plan, plot
This messenger, on morrow when he woke,
Unto the castle held the nexte* way, *nearest
And to the constable the letter took;
And when he this dispiteous* letter sey,** *cruel **saw
Full oft he said, "Alas, and well-away!
Lord Christ," quoth he, "how may this world endure?
So full of sin is many a creature.
"O mighty God, if that it be thy will,
Since thou art rightful judge, how may it be
That thou wilt suffer innocence to spill,* *be destroyed
And wicked folk reign in prosperity?
Ah! good Constance, alas! so woe is me,
That I must be thy tormentor, or dey* *die
A shameful death, there is no other way.
Wept bothe young and old in all that place,
When that the king this cursed letter sent;
And Constance, with a deadly pale face,
The fourthe day toward her ship she went.
But natheless she took in good intent
The will of Christ, and kneeling on the strond* *strand, shore
She saide, "Lord, aye welcome be thy sond* *whatever thou sendest
"He that me kepte from the false blame,
While I was in the land amonges you,
He can me keep from harm and eke from shame
In the salt sea, although I see not how
As strong as ever he was, he is yet now,
In him trust I, and in his mother dere,
That is to me my sail and eke my stere."* *rudder, guide
Her little child lay weeping in her arm
And, kneeling, piteously to him she said
"Peace, little son, I will do thee no harm:"
With that her kerchief off her head she braid,* *took, drew
And over his little eyen she it laid,
And in her arm she lulled it full fast,
And unto heav'n her eyen up she cast.
"Mother," quoth she, "and maiden bright, Mary,
Sooth is, that through a woman's eggement* *incitement, egging on
Mankind was lorn,* and damned aye to die; *lost
For which thy child was on a cross y-rent:* *torn, pierced
Thy blissful eyen saw all his torment,
Then is there no comparison between
Thy woe, and any woe man may sustene.
"Thou saw'st thy child y-slain before thine eyen,
And yet now lives my little child, parfay:* *by my faith
Now, lady bright, to whom the woeful cryen,
Thou glory of womanhood, thou faire may,* *maid
Thou haven of refuge, bright star of day,
Rue* on my child, that of thy gentleness *take pity
Ruest on every rueful* in distress. *sorrowful person
"O little child, alas! what is thy guilt,
That never wroughtest sin as yet, pardie?* *par Dieu; by God
Why will thine harde* father have thee spilt?** *cruel **destroyed
O mercy, deare Constable," quoth she,
"And let my little child here dwell with thee:
And if thou dar'st not save him from blame,
So kiss him ones in his father's name."
Therewith she looked backward to the land,
And saide, "Farewell, husband rutheless!"
And up she rose, and walked down the strand
Toward the ship, her following all the press:* *multitude
And ever she pray'd her child to hold his peace,
And took her leave, and with an holy intent
She blessed her, and to the ship she went.
Victualed was the ship, it is no drede,* *doubt
Abundantly for her a full long space:
And other necessaries that should need* *be needed
She had enough, heried* be Godde's grace: *praised <15>
For wind and weather, Almighty God purchase,* *provide
And bring her home; I can no better say;
But in the sea she drived forth her way.
Alla the king came home soon after this
Unto the castle, of the which I told,
And asked where his wife and his child is;
The Constable gan about his heart feel cold,
And plainly all the matter he him told
As ye have heard; I can tell it no better;
And shew'd the king his seal, and eke his letter
And saide; "Lord, as ye commanded me
On pain of death, so have I done certain."
The messenger tormented* was, till he *tortured
Muste beknow,* and tell it flat and plain, *confess <16>
From night to night in what place he had lain;
And thus, by wit and subtle inquiring,
Imagin'd was by whom this harm gan spring.
The hand was known that had the letter wrote,
And all the venom of the cursed deed;
But in what wise, certainly I know not.
Th' effect is this, that Alla, *out of drede,* *without doubt*
His mother slew, that may men plainly read,
For that she traitor was to her liegeance:* *allegiance
Thus ended olde Donegild with mischance.
The sorrow that this Alla night and day
Made for his wife, and for his child also,
There is no tongue that it telle may.
But now will I again to Constance go,
That floated in the sea in pain and woe
Five year and more, as liked Christe's sond,* *decree, command
Ere that her ship approached to the lond.* *land
Under an heathen castle, at the last,
Of which the name in my text I not find,
Constance and eke her child the sea upcast.
Almighty God, that saved all mankind,
Have on Constance and on her child some mind,
That fallen is in heathen hand eftsoon* *again
*In point to spill,* as I shall tell you soon! *in danger of
Down from the castle came there many a wight
To gauren* on this ship, and on Constance: *gaze, stare
But shortly from the castle, on a night,
The lorde's steward, -- God give him mischance, --
A thief that had *renied our creance,* *denied o
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