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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Clerk's Tale

Sequitur pars quarta.
Here follows the fourth part

610        In this estaat ther passed been foure yeer
Er she with childe was; but as God wolde,
A knave child she bar by this Walter,
Ful gracious and fair for to biholde.
And whan that folk it to his fader tolde,
615Nat oonly he, but al his contree, merye
Was for this child, and God they thanke and herye.

       Whan it was two yeer old, and fro the brest
Departed of his norice, on a day
This markys caughte yet another lest
620To tempte his wyf yet ofter if he may.
O, nedelees was she tempted in assay!
But wedded men ne knowe no mesure,
Whan that they fynde a pacient creature.

       "Wyf," quod this markys, "ye han herd er this
625My peple sikly berth oure mariage;
And namely sith my sone yboren is,
Now is it worse than evere in al oure age.
The murmur sleeth myn herte and my corage,
For to myne eres comth the voys so smeerte,
630That it wel ny destroyed hath myn herte.

       Now sey they thus, `whan Walter is agon,
Thanne shal the blood of Janicle succede,
And been oure lord, for oother have we noon.'
Swiche wordes seith my peple, out of drede,
635Wel oughte I of swich murmur taken heede,
For certeinly I drede swich sentence,
Though they nat pleyn speke in myn audience.

       I wolde lyve in pees, if that I myghte;
Wherfore I am disposed outrely
640As I his suster servede by nyghte,
Right so thenke I to serve hym pryvely.
This warne I yow, that ye nat sodeynly
Out of yourself for no wo sholde outreye.
Beth pacient, and therof I yow preye."

645        "I have," quod she, "seyd thus, and evere shal,
I wol no thyng, ne nyl no thyng, certayn,
But as yow list. Naught greveth me at al
Though that my doughter and my sone be slayn-
At youre comandement, this is to sayn.
650I have noght had no part of children tweyne
But first siknesse, and after wo and peyne.

       Ye been oure lord, dooth with your owene thyng
Right as yow list, axeth no reed at me;
For as I lefte at hoom al my clothyng,
655Whan I first cam to yow, right so," quod she,
"Lefte I my wyl and al my libertee,
And took youre clothyng, wherfore I yow preye,
Dooth youre plesaunce; I wol youre lust obeye.

       And certes, if I hadde prescience
660Youre wyl to knowe, er ye youre lust me tolde,
I wolde it doon withouten necligence.
But now I woot your lust and what ye wolde,
Al youre plesance ferme and stable I holde,
For wiste I that my deeth wolde do yow ese,
665Right gladly wolde I dyen yow to plese.

       Deth may noght make no comparisoun
Unto youre love!" and whan this markys say
The constance of his wyf, he caste adoun
His eyen two, and wondreth that she may
670In pacience suffre al this array;
And forth he goth with drery contenance,
But ot his herte it was ful greet plesance.

       This ugly sergeant, in the same wyse
That he hir doghter caughte, right so he
675Or worse, if men worse kan devyse,
Hath hent hire sone, that ful was of beautee,
And evere in oon so pacient was she,
That she no chiere maade of hevynesse,
But kiste hir sone, and after gan it blesse.

680        Save this, she preyde hym, that if he myghte,
Hir litel sone he wolde in erthe grave
His tendre lymes, delicaat to sighte,
Fro foweles and fro beestes for to save.
But she noon answere of hym myghte have,
685He wente his wey, as hym nothyng ne roghte,
But to Boloigne he tendrely it broghte.

       This markys wondred evere lenger the moore
Upon hir pacience, and if that he
Ne hadde soothly knowen therbifoore
690That parfitly hir children loved she,
He wolde have wend that of som subtiltee,
And of malice, or for crueel corage,
That she hadde suffred this with sad visage.

       But wel he knew that next hymself, certayn,
695She loved hir children best in every wyse;
But now of wommen wolde I axen fayn,
If thise assayes myghte nat suffise,
What koude a sturdy housbonde moore devyse
To preeve hire wyfhod or hir stedefastnesse,
700And he continuynge evere in sturdinesse?

       But ther been folk of swich condicioun
That whan they have a certein purpos take
They kan nat stynte of hir entencioun,
But right as they were bounden to that stake
705They wol nat of that firste purpos slake.
Right so this markys fulliche hath purposed
To tempte his wyf, as he was first disposed.

       He waiteth, if by word or contenance
That she to hym was changed of corage;
710But nevere koude he fynde variance,
She was ay oon in herte and in visage.
And ay the forther that she was in age,
The moore trewe, if that it were possible-
She was to hym in love, and moore penyble.

715        For which it semed thus, that of hem two
Ther nas but o wyl; for, as Walter leste,
The same lust was hir plesance also,
And, God be thanked, al fil for the beste.
She shewed wel, for no worldly unreste
720A wyf as of hirself no thing ne sholde
Wille in effect, but as hir housbonde wolde.

       The sclaundre of Walter ofte and wyde spradde,
That of a crueel herte he wikkedly,
For he a povre womman wedded hadde,
725Hath mordred bothe his children prively.-
Swich murmur was among hem comunly;
No wonder is, for to the peples ere
Ther cam no word, but that they mordred were.

       For which, wher as his peple therbifore
730Hadde loved hym wel, the sclaundre of his diffame
Made hem, that they hym hatede therfore.
To been a mordrere is an hateful name;
But nathelees, for ernest ne for game
He of his crueel purpos nolde stente:
735To tempte his wyf was set al his entente.

       Whan that his doghter twelf yeer was of age,
He to the court of Rome in subtil wyse
Enformed of his wyl sente his message,
Comaundynge hem swiche bulles to devyse
740As to his crueel purpos may suffyse,
How that the pope as for his peples reste
Bad hym to wedde another, if hym leste.

       I seye, he bad they sholde countrefete
The popes bulles, makynge mencioun
745That he hath leve his firste wyf to lete
As by the popes dispensacioun,
To stynte rancour and dissencioun
Bitwixe his peple and hym, thus seyde the bulle,
The which they han publiced atte fulle.

750        The rude peple, as it no wonder is,
Wenden ful wel that it hadde be right so;
But whan thise tidynges cam to Grisildis,
I deeme that hir herte was ful wo.
But she, ylike sad for everemo,
755Disposed was, this humble creature,
The adversitee of Fortune al t'endure,

       Abidynge evere his lust and his plesance
To whom that she was yeven, herte and al,
As to hire verray worldly suffisance.
760But shortly, if this storie I tellen shal,
This markys writen hath in special
A lettre, in which he sheweth his entente,
And secreely he to Boloigne it sente;

       To the Erl of Panyk, which that hadde tho
765Wedded his suster, preyde he specially
To bryngen hoom agayn hise children two,
In honurable estaat al openly;
But o thyng he hym preyede outrely,
That he to no wight, though men wolde enquere,
770Sholde nat telle whos children that they were,

       But seye, the mayden sholde ywedded be
Unto the Markys of Saluce anon.
And as this Erl was preyed, so dide he;
For at day set he on his wey is goon
775Toward Saluce, and lordes many oon,
In riche array this mayden for to gyde,
Hir yonge brother ridynge hir bisyde.

       Arrayed was toward hir mariage
This fresshe mayde, ful of gemmes cleere;
780Hir brother, which that seven yeer was of age,
Arrayed eek ful fressh in his manere.
And thus in greet noblesse, and with glad cheere,
Toward Saluces shapynge hir journey,
Fro day to day they ryden in hir wey.


Explicit quarta pars.
Here ends the fourth part



Next:
The Clerk's Tale, Fifth Part (ll. 785-938)