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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Clerk's Tale

Sequitur pars quinta.
Here follows the fifth part

785        Among al this, after his wikke usage,
This markys yet his wyf to tempte moore
To the outtreste preeve of hir corage,
Fully to han experience and loore,
If that she were as stidefast as bifoore,
790He on a day in open audience
Ful boistously hath seyd hir this sentence.

       "Certes, Grisilde, I hadde ynogh plesance,
To han yow to my wyf for your goodnesse,
As for youre trouthe, and for your obeisance -
795Noght for youre lynage, ne for youre richesse;
But now knowe I, in verray soothfastnesse,
That in greet lordshipe, if I wel avyse,
Ther is greet servitute in sondry wyse.

       I may nat doon as every plowman may;
800My peple me constreyneth for to take
Another wyf, and crien day by day,
And eek the pope, rancour for to slake,
Consenteth it, that dar I undertake -
And trewely thus muche I wol yow seye,
805My newe wyf is comynge by the weye.

       Be strong of herte, and voyde anon hir place,
And thilke dower that ye broghten me
Taak it agayn, I graunte it of my grace.
Retourneth to youre fadres hous," quod he;
810"No man may alwey han prosperitee.
With evene herte I rede yow t'endure
This strook of Fortune or of aventure."

       And she answerde agayn in pacience,
"My lord," quod she, "I woot and wiste alway
815How that bitwixen youre magnificence
And my poverte, no wight kan ne may
Maken comparisoun; it is no nay.
I ne heeld me nevere digne in no manere
To be your wyf, no, ne youre chamberere.

820        And in this hous ther ye me lady maade -
The heighe God take I for my witnesse,
And also wysly he my soule glaade -
I nevere heeld me lady ne maistresse,
But humble servant to youre worthynesse,
825And evere shal whil that my lyf may dure
Aboven every worldly creature.

       That ye so longe of youre benignitee
Han holden me in honour and nobleye,
Wher as I was noght worthy for to bee,
830That thonke I God and yow, to whom I preye
Foryelde it yow; ther is namoore to seye.
Unto my fader gladly wol I wende,
And with hym dwelle unto my lyves ende.

       Ther I was fostred of a child ful smal,
835Til I be deed, my lyf ther wol I lede,
A wydwe clene in body, herte, and al,
For sith I yaf to yow my maydenhede
And am youre trewe wyf, it is no drede,
God shilde swich a lordes wyf to take
840Another man, to housbonde or to make.

       And of youre newe wyf, God of his grace
So graunte yow wele and prosperitee,
For I wol gladly yelden hir my place
In which that I was blisful wont to bee.
845For sith it liketh yow my lord," quod shee,
"That whilom weren al myn hertes reste,
That I shal goon, I wol goon whan yow leste.

       But ther as ye me profre swich dowaire
As I first broghte, it is wel in my mynde
850It were my wrecched clothes, no thyng faire,
The whiche to me were hard now for to fynde.
O goode God! how gentil and how kynde
Ye semed by youre speche and youre visage
The day that maked was oure mariage!

855        But sooth is seyd - algate I fynde it trewe,
For in effect it preeved is on me -
Love is noght oold, as whan that it is newe,
But certes, lord, for noon adversitee,
To dyen in the cas it shal nat bee
860That evere in word or werk I shal repente
That I yow yaf myn herte in hool entente.

       My lord, ye woot that in my fadres place
Ye dide me streepe out of my povre weede,
And richely me cladden of youre grace.
865To yow broghte I noght elles, out of drede,
But feith, and nakednesse, and maydenhede.
And heere agayn my clothyng I restoore,
And eek my weddyng ryng for everemore.

       The remenant of youre jueles redy be
870In-with youre chambre, dar I saufly sayn.
Naked out of my fadres hous," quod she,
"I cam, and naked moot I turne agayn.
Al your plesance wol I folwen fayn,
But yet I hope it be nat your entente
875That I smoklees out of your paleys wente.

       Ye koude nat doon so dishonest a thyng,
That thilke wombe in which your children leye,
Sholde biforn the peple in my walkyng
Be seyn al bare; wherfore I yow preye,
880Lat me nat lyk a worm go by the weye!
Remembre yow, myn owene lord so deere,
I was your wyf, though I unworthy weere.

       Wherfore, in gerdoun of my maydenhede
Which that I broghte, and noght agayn I bere,
885As voucheth sauf to yeve me to my meede
But swich a smok as I was wont to were,
That I therwith may wrye the wombe of here
That was your wyf. And heer take I my leeve
Of yow, myn owene lord, lest I yow greve."

890        "The smok," quod he, "that thou hast on thy bak,
Lat it be stille, and bere it forth with thee."
But wel unnethes thilke word he spak,
But wente his wey for routhe and for pitee.
Biforn the folk hirselven strepeth she,
895And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare,
Toward hir fader hous forth is she fare.

       The folk hir folwe, wepynge in hir weye,
And Fortune ay they cursen, as they goon;
But she fro wepyng kepte hir eyen dreye,
900Ne in this tyme word ne spak she noon.
Hir fader, that this tidynge herde anoon,
Curseth the day and tyme that nature
Shoop hym to been a lyves creature.

       For out of doute this olde povre man
905Was evere in suspect of hir mariage,
For evere he demed, sith that it bigan,
That whan the lord fulfild hadde his corage,
Hym wolde thynke it were a disparage
To his estaat, so lowe for talighte,
910And voyden hir as soone as ever he myghte.

       Agayns his doghter hastily goth he,
For he by noyse of folk knew hir comynge,
And with hir olde coote, as it myghte be,
He covered hir, ful sorwefully wepynge,
915But on hir body myghte he it nat brynge.
For rude was the clooth, and moore of age
By dayes fele than at hir mariage.

       Thus with hir fader for a certeyn space
Dwelleth this flour of wyfly pacience,
920That neither by hir wordes ne hir face,
Biforn the folk, ne eek in hir absence,
Ne shewed she that hir was doon offence,
Ne of hir heighe estaat no remembraunce
Ne hadde she, as by hir contenaunce.

925        No wonder is, for in hir grete estaat
Hire goost was evere in pleyn humylitee.
No tendre mouth, noon herte delicaat,
No pompe, no semblant of roialtee,
But ful of pacient benyngnytee,
930Discreet and pridelees, ay honurable,
And to hire housbonde evere meke and stable.

       Men speke of Job, and moost for his humblesse,
As clerkes whan hem list konne wel endite,
Namely of men; but as in soothfastnesse,
935Though clerkes preise wommen but a lite,
Ther kan no man in humblesse hym acquite,
As womman kan, ne kan been half so trewe
As wommen been, but it be falle of newe.



Next:
The Clerk's Tale, Sixth Part (ll. 939-1218)