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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Clerk's Tale

Pars sexta.
Sixth part

       Fro Boloigne is this Erl of Panyk come,
940Of which the fame up sprang to moore and lesse,
And in the peples eres, alle and some,
Was kouth eek that a newe markysesse
He with hym broghte, in swich pompe and richesse,
That nevere was ther seyn with mannes eye
945So noble array in al Westlumbardye.

       The markys, which that shoop and knew al this,
Er that this Erl was come, sente his message
For thilke sely povre Grisildis;
And she with humble herte and glad visage,
950Nat with no swollen thoght in hire corage
Cam at his heste, and on hir knees hire sette,
And reverently and wysely she hym grette.

       "Grisilde," quod he, "my wyl is outrely
This mayden, that shal wedded been to me,
955Received be to-morwe as roially
As it possible is in myn hous to be;
And eek that every wight in his degree
Have his estaat in sittyng and servyse
And heigh plesaunce, as I kan best devyse.

960        I have no wommen, suffisaunt, certayn,
The chambres for t'arraye in ordinaunce
After my lust, and therfore wolde I fayn
That thyn were al swich manere governaunce;
Thou knowest eek of olde al my plesaunce,
965Thogh thyn array be badde and yvel biseye,
Do thou thy devoir at the leeste weye."

       "Nat oonly lord, that I am glad," quod she,
"To doon your lust, but I desire also
Yow for to serve and plese in my degree
970Withouten feyntyng, and shal everemo.
Ne nevere, for no wele ne no wo,
Ne shal the goost withinne myn herte stente
To love yow best with al my trewe entente."

       And with that word she gan the hous to dighte,
975And tables for to sette, and beddes make,
And peyned hir to doon al that she myghte,
Preyynge the chambereres for Goddes sake
To hasten hem, and faste swepe and shake,
And she, the mooste servysable of alle,
980Hath every chambre arrayed, and his halle.

       Abouten undren gan this Erl alighte,
That with hym broghte thise noble children tweye,
For which the peple ran to seen the sighte
Of hire array, so richely biseye;
985And thanne at erst amonges hem they seye,
That Walter was no fool, thogh that hym leste
To chaunge his wyf, for it was for the beste.

       "For she is fairer," as they deemen alle,
"Than is Grisilde, and moore tendre of age,
990And fairer fruyt bitwene hem sholde falle,
And moore plesant for hir heigh lynage."
Hir brother eek so faire was of visage,
That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce,
Commendynge now the markys governaunce.

995        "O stormy peple, unsad and evere untrewe!
Ay undiscreet and chaungynge as a vane,
Delitynge evere in rumbul that is newe;
For lyk the moone ay wexe ye and wane,
Ay ful of clappyng, deere ynogh a jane,
1000Youre doom is fals, youre constance yvele preeveth,
A ful greet fool is he that on yow leeveth!"

       Thus seyden sadde folk in that citee,
Whan that the peple gazed up and doun,
For they were glad right for the noveltee
1005To han a newe lady of hir toun.
Namoore of this make I now mencioun,
But to Grisilde agayn wol I me dresse,
And telle hir constance and hir bisynesse.

       Ful bisy was Grisilde in every thyng
1010That to the feeste was apertinent.
Right noght was she abayst of hir clothyng,
Thogh it were rude and somdeel eek torent,
But with glad cheere to the yate is went
With oother folk to greete the markysesse,
1015And after that dooth forth hir bisynesse.

       With so glad chiere hise gestes she receyveth,
And konnyngly everich in his degree,
That no defaute no man aperceyveth,
But ay they wondren what she myghte bee
1020That in so povre array was for to see,
And koude swich honour and reverence;
And worthily they preisen hire prudence.

       In al this meenewhile she ne stente
This mayde and eek hir brother to commende
1025With al hir herte, in ful benyngne entente,
So wel that no man koude hir pris amende
But atte laste, whan that thise lordes wende
To sitten doun to mete, he gan to calle
Grisilde, as she was bisy in his halle.

1030        "Grisilde," quod he, as it were in his pley,
"How liketh thee my wyf and hir beautee?"
"Right wel," quod she, "my lord, for in good fey
A fairer saugh I nevere noon than she.
I prey to God yeve hir prosperitee,
1035And so hope I that he wol to yow sende
Plesance ynogh unto youre lyves ende.

       O thyng biseke I yow, and warne also
That ye ne prikke with no tormentynge
This tendre mayden, as ye han doon mo;
1040For she is fostred in hir norissynge
Moore tendrely, and to my supposynge
She koude nat adversitee endure,
As koude a povre fostred creature."

       And whan this Walter saugh hir pacience,
1045Hir glade chiere, and no malice at al,
And he so ofte had doon to hir offence
And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
Continuynge evere hir innocence overal,
This sturdy markys gan his herte dresse
1050To rewen upon hir wyfly stedfastnesse.

       "This is ynogh Grisilde myn," quod he,
"Be now namoore agast, ne yvele apayed.
I have thy feith and thy benyngnytee
As wel as evere womman was, assayed
1055In greet estaat, and povreliche arrayed;
Now knowe I, goode wyf, thy stedfastnesse!"
And hire in armes took, and gan hir kesse.

       And she for wonder took of it no keep.
She herde nat, what thyng he to hir seyde.
1060She ferde as she had stert out of a sleep,
Til she out of hire mazednesse abreyde.
"Grisilde," quod he, "by God that for us deyde,
Thou art my wyf, ne noon oother I have,
Ne nevere hadde, as God my soule save.

1065 This is thy doghter which thou hast supposed
To be my wyf; that oother feithfully
Shal be myn heir, as I have ay purposed;
Thou bare hym in thy body trewely.
At Boloigne have I kept hem prively.
1070Taak hem agayn, for now maystow nat seye
That thou hast lorn noon of thy children tweye.

       And folk that ootherweys han seyd of me,
I warne hem wel that I have doon this deede
For no malice, ne for no crueltee,
1075But for t'assaye in thee thy wommanheede,
And not to sleen my children - God forbeede! -
But for to kepe hem pryvely and stille,
Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wille."

       Whan she this herde, aswowne doun she falleth
1080For pitous joye, and after hir swownynge
She bothe hir yonge children unto hir calleth,
And in hir armes pitously wepynge
Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissynge
Ful lyk a mooder, with hir salte teeres
1085She bathed bothe hir visage and hir heeres.

       O, which a pitous thyng it was to se
Hir swownyng, and hir humble voys to heere!
"Grauntmercy, lord, that thanke I yow," quod she,
"That ye han saved me my children deere!
1090Now rekke I nevere to been deed right heere.
Sith I stonde in your love and in your grace,
No fors of deeth, ne whan my spirit pace!

       O tendre, O deere, O yonge children myne!
Your woful mooder wende stedfastly
1095That crueel houndes, or som foul vermyne
Hadde eten yow; but God of his mercy
And youre benyngne fader tendrely
Hath doon yow kept," - and in that same stounde
Al sodeynly she swapte adoun to grounde.

1100        And in hir swough so sadly holdeth she
Hire children two, whan she gan hem t'embrace,
That with greet sleighte and greet difficultee
The children from hire arm they gonne arace.
O many a teere on many a pitous face
1105Doun ran, of hem that stooden hir bisyde;
Unnethe abouten hir myghte they abyde.

       Walter hir gladeth, and hir sorwe slaketh,
She riseth up abaysed from hir traunce,
And every wight hir joye and feeste maketh,
1110Til she hath caught agayn hir contenaunce.
Walter hire dooth so feithfully plesaunce,
That it was deyntee for to seen the cheere.
Bitwixe hem two, now they been met yfeere.

       Thise ladyes, whan that they hir tyme say,
1115Han taken hir and into chambre gon,
And strepen hire out of hir rude array
And in a clooth of gold that brighte shoon,
With a coroune of many a riche stoon
Upon hir heed, they into halle hir broghte,
1120And ther she was honured as hire oghte.

       Thus hath this pitous day a blisful ende,
For every man and womman dooth his myght
This day in murthe and revel to dispende,
Til on the welkne shoon the sterres lyght.
1125For moore solempne in every mannes syght
This feste was, and gretter of costage,
Than was the revel of hire mariage.

       Ful many a yeer in heigh prosperitee
Lyven thise two in concord and in reste.
1130And richely his doghter maryed he
Unto a lord, oon of the worthieste
Of al Ytaille, and thanne in pees and reste
His wyves fader in his court he kepeth,
Til that the soule out of his body crepeth.

1135        His sone succedeth in his heritage
In reste and pees, after his fader day,
And fortunat was eek in mariage-
Al putte he nat his wyf in greet assay;
This world is nat so strong, it is no nay,
1140As it hath been of olde tymes yoore.
And herkneth what this auctour seith therfore.

       This storie is seyd, nat for that wyves sholde
Folwen Grisilde as in humylitee,
For it were inportable, though they wolde,
1145But for that every wight in his degree
Sholde be constant in adversitee
As was Grisilde. Therfore Petrark writeth
This storie, which with heigh stile he enditeth.

       For sith a womman was so pacient
1150Unto a mortal man, wel moore us oghte
Receyven al in gree that God us sent.
For greet skile is, he preeve that he wroghte.
But he ne tempteth no man that he boghte,
As seith Seint Jame, if ye his pistel rede;
1155He preeveth folk al day, it is no drede,

       And suffreth us, as for oure excercise,
With sharpe scourges of adversitee
Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wise,
Nat for to knowe oure wyl, for certes he
1160Er we were born knew al oure freletee,
And for oure beste is al his governaunce.
Lat us thanne lyve in vertuous suffraunce.

       But o word, lordynges, herkneth er I go,
It were ful hard to fynde nowadayes
1165In al a toun Grisildis thre or two;
For it that they were put to swiche assayes,
The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes
With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at eye,
It wolde rather breste atwo than plye.

1170        For which, heere for the Wyves love of Bathe,
Whos lyf and al hir seete God mayntene
In heigh maistrie, and elles were it scathe,
I wol with lusty herte fressh and grene
Seyn yow a song, to glade yow, I wene,
1175And lat us stynte of ernestful matere.
Herkneth my song, that seith in this manere.


Lenvoy de Chaucer

       Grisilde is deed, and eek hire pacience,
And bothe atones buryed in Ytaille,
For which I crie in open audience
1180No wedded man so hardy be t'assaille
His wyves pacience, in hope to fynde
Grisildis, for in certein he shal faille.

       O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naille,
1185Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of yow a storie of swich mervaille
As of Grisildis, pacient and kynde,
Lest Chichivache yow swelwe in hire entraille!

       Folweth Ekko, that holdeth no silence,
1190But evere answereth at the countretaille;
Beth nat bidaffed for youre innocence,
But sharply taak on yow the governaille.
Emprenteth wel this lessoun in youre mynde
For commune profit, sith it may availle.

1195        Ye archiwyves, stondeth at defense,
Syn ye be strong as is a greet camaille.
Ne suffreth nat that men yow doon offense,
And sklendre wyves, fieble as in bataille,
Beth egre as is a tygre yond in Ynde,
1200Ay clappeth as a mille, I yow consaille.

       Ne dreed hem nat, doth hem no reverence,
For though thyn housbonde armed be in maille,
The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence
Shal perce his brest and eek his aventaille.
1205In jalousie I rede eek thou hym bynde,
And thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille.

       If thou be fair, ther folk been in presence
Shewe thou thy visage and thyn apparaille;
If thou be foul, be fre of thy dispence,
1210To gete thee freendes ay do thy travaille,
Be ay of chiere as light as leef on lynde,
And lat hym care, and wepe, and wryng, and waille.


Bihoold the murye Wordes of the Hoost.

       This worthy clerk, whan ended was his tale,
Oure hoost seyde, and swoor by goddes bones,
1215Me were levere than a barel ale
Me wyf at hoom had herd this legende ones;
This is a gentil tale for the nones,
As to my purpos, wiste ye my wille,-
But thyng that wol nat be, lat it be stille."

Heere endeth the Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.




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