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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Manciple's Tale

Heere bigynneth the Maunciples Tale of the Crowe.

105        Whan Phebus dwelled heere in this world adoun,
As olde bookes maken mencioun,
He was the mooste lusty bachiler
In al this world, and eek the beste archer.
He slow Phitoun the serpent, as he lay
110Slepynge agayn the sonne upon a day;
And many another noble worthy dede
He with his bowe wroghte, as men may rede.
       Pleyen he koude on every mynstralcie,
And syngen, that it was a melodie
115To heeren of his cleere voys the soun.
Certes, the kyng of Thebes, Amphioun,
That with his syngyng walled that citee,
Koude nevere syngen half so wel as hee.
Therto he was the semelieste man,
120That is or was sith that the world bigan.
What nedeth it hise fetures to discryve?
For in this world was noon so fair on lyve.
He was therwith fulfild of gentillesse,
Of honour, and of parfit worthynesse.
125        This Phebus that was flour of bachilrie,
As wel in fredom as in chivalrie,
For his desport, in signe eek of victorie
Of Phitoun, so as telleth us the storie,
Was wont to beren in his hand a bowe.
130       Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a crowe,
Which in a cage he fostred many a day,
And taughte it speken as men teche a jay.
Whit was this crowe, as is a snow-whit swan,
And countrefete the speche of every man
135He koude, whan he sholde telle a tale.
Therwith in al this world no nyghtngale
Ne koude, by an hondred thousand deel,
Syngen so wonder myrily and weel.
       Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a wyf
140Which that he lovede moore than his lyf;
And nyght and day dide evere his diligence
Hir for to plese and doon hire reverence.
Save oonly, if the sothe that I shal sayn,
Jalous he was, and wolde have kept hire fayn,
145For hym were looth byjaped for to be-
And so is every wight in swich degree;
But al in ydel, for it availleth noght.
A good wyf that is clene of werk and thoght
Sholde nat been kept in noon awayt, certayn.
150And trewely the labour is in vayn
To kepe a shrewe, for it wol nat bee.
This holde I for a verray nycetee,
To spille labour for to kepe wyves,
Thus writen olde clerkes in hir lyves.
155       But now to purpos, as I first bigan:
This worthy Phebus dooth al that he kan
To plesen hir, wenynge that swich plesaunce,
And for his manhede and his governaunce,
That no man sholde han put hym from hire grace.
160But God it woot, ther may no man embrace
As to destreyne a thyng, which that nature
Hath natureelly set in a creature.
       Taak any bryd, and put it in a cage,
And do al thyn entente and thy corage
165To fostre it tendrely with mete and drynke,
Of alle deyntees that thou kanst bithynke;
And keepe it al so clenly as thou may,
Although his cage of gold be nevere so gay,
Yet hath this bryd, by twenty thousand foold,
170Levere in a forest that is rude and coold
Goon ete wormes, and swich wrecchednesse;
For evere this bryd wol doon his bisynesse
To escape out of his cage, whan he may.
His libertee this brid desireth ay.
175       Lat take a cat, and fostre hym wel with milk,
And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
And lat hym seen a mous go by the wal,
Anon he weyveth milk and flessh and al,
And every deyntee that is in that hous,
180Swich appetit he hath to ete a mous.
Lo, heere hath lust his dominacioun,
And appetit fleemeth discrecioun.
       A she wolf hath also a vileyns kynde,
The lewedeste wolf that she may fynde,
185Or leest of reputacioun wol she take,
In tyme whan hir lust to han a make.
       Alle thise ensamples speke I by thise men,
That been untrewe, and no thyng by wommen,
For men han evere a likerous appetit
190On lower thyng to parfourne hire delit,
Than on hire wyves, be they nevere so faire,
Ne nevere so trewe, ne so debonaire.
Flessh is so newefangel, with meschaunce,
That we ne konne in no thyng han plesaunce
195That sowneth into vertu any while.
       This Phebus, which that thoghte upon no gile,
Deceyved was, for al his jolitee.
For under hym another hadde shee,
A man of litel reputacioun,
200Nat worth to Phebus in comparisoun.
The moore harm is, it happeth ofte so,
Of which ther cometh muchel harm and wo.
       And so bifel, whan Phebus was absent,
His wyf anon hath for hir lemman sent;
205Hir lemman? Certes, this is a knavyssh speche,
Foryeveth it me, and that I yow biseche.
The wise Plato seith, as ye may rede,
The word moot nede accorde with the dede.
If men shal telle proprely a thyng,
210The word moot cosyn be to the werkyng.
I am a boystous man, right thus seye I.
Ther nys no difference trewely
Bitwixe a wyf that is of heigh degree-
If of hire body dishoneste she bee-
215And a povre wenche, oother than this,
If it so be they werke bothe amys,
But that the gentile in hire estaat above,
She shal be cleped his lady as in love,
And for that oother is a povre womman,
220She shal be cleped his wenche, or his lemman;
And God it woot, myn owene deere brother,
Men leyn that oon as lowe as lith that oother.
       Right so bitwixe a titlelees tiraunt
And an outlawe, or a theef erraunt,
225The same I seye, ther is no difference.
To Alisaundre was toold this sentence:
That for the tiraunt is of gretter myght,
By force of meynee for to sleen dounright,
And brennen hous and hoom, and make al playn,
230Lo, therfore is he cleped a capitayn;
And for the outlawe hath but smal meynee,
And may nat doon so greet an harm as he,
Ne brynge a contree to so greet mescheef,
Men clepen hym an outlawe or a theef.
235But, for I am a man noght textueel,
I wol noght telle of textes never a deel;
I wol go to my tale as I bigan.
Whan Phebus wyf had sente for hir lemman,
Anon they wroghten al hir lust volage.
240       The white crowe that heeng ay in the cage
Biheeld hire werk, and seyde nevere a word,
And whan that hoom was com Phebus the lord,
This crowe sang, "Cokkow! Cokkow! Cokkow!"
       "What bryd!" quod Phebus, "what song syngestow?
245Ne were thow wont so myrily to synge
That to myn herte it was a rejoysynge
To heere thy voys? Allas, what song is this?"
       "By God," quod he, "I synge nat amys.
Phebus," quod he, "for al thy worthynesse,
250For al thy beautee and thy gentillesse,
For al thy song and al thy mynstralcye,
For al thy waityng, blered is thyn eye
With oon of litel reputacioun
Noght worth to thee, as in comparisoun
255The montance of a gnat, so moote I thryve,
For on thy bed thy wyf I saugh hym swyve."
       What wol ye moore? The crowe anon hym tolde,
By sadde tokenes and by wordes bolde,
How that his wyf han doon hire lecherye,
260Hym to greet shame and to greet vileynye,
And tolde hym ofte, he saugh it with hise eyen.
       This Phebus gan aweyward for to wryen,
And thoughte his sorweful herte brast atwo,
His bowe he bente and sette ther inne a flo,
265And in his ire his wyf thanne hath he slayn.
This is th'effect, ther is namoore to sayn,
For sorwe of which he brak his mynstralcie,
Bothe harpe, and lute, and gyterne, and sautrie,
And eek he brak hise arwes and his bowe,
270And after that thus spak he to the crowe.
       "Traitour," quod he, "with tonge of scorpioun,
Thou hast me broght to my confusioun,
Allas, that I was wroght! Why nere I deed?
O deere wyf, O gemme of lustiheed,
275That were to me so sad and eek so trewe,
Now listow deed with face pale of hewe,
Ful giltelees, that dorste I swere, ywys.
O rakel hand, to doon so foule amys!
O trouble wit, O ire recchelees!
280That unavysed smyteth gilteles.
O wantrust, ful of fals suspecioun,
Where was thy wit and thy discrecioun?
O every man, be war of rakelnesse,
Ne trowe no thyng withouten strong witnesse.
285Smyt nat to soone, er that ye witen why,
And beeth avysed wel and sobrely,
Er ye doon any execucioun
Upon youre ire for suspecioun.
Allas, a thousand folk hath rakel ire
290Fully fordoon, and broght hem in the mire!
Allas, for sorwe I wol myselven slee!"
       And to the crowe, "O false theef," seyde he,
"I wol thee quite anon thy false tale;
Thou songe whilom lyk a nyghtngale,
295Now shaltow, false theef, thy song forgon,
And eek thy white fetheres everichon.
Ne nevere in al thy lyf ne shaltou speke,
Thus shal men on a traytour been awreke.
Thou and thyn ofspryng evere shul be blake,
300Ne nevere sweete noyse shul ye make,
But evere crie agayn tempest and rayn,
In tokenynge that thurgh thee my wyf is slayn."
And to the crowe he stirte, and that anon,
And pulled hise white fetheres everychon,
305And made hym blak, and refte hym al his song,
And eek his speche, and out at dore hym slong,
Unto the devel-which I hym bitake;
And for this caas been alle crowes blake.
       Lordynges, by this ensample I yow preye,
310Beth war and taketh kepe what I seye:
Ne telleth nevere no man in youre lyf
How that another man hath dight his wyf;
He wol yow haten mortally, certeyn.
Daun Salomon, as wise clerkes seyn,
315Techeth a man to kepen his tonge weel.
But as I seyde, I am noght textueel;
But nathelees, thus taughte me my dame;
"My sone, thenk on the crowe, on Goddes name.
My sone, keepe wel thy tonge and keepe thy freend,
320A wikked tonge is worse than a feend.
My sone, from a feend men may hem blesse.
My sone, God of his endelees goodnesse
Walled a tonge with teeth and lippes eke,
For man sholde hym avyse what he speeke.
325My sone, ful ofte for to muche speche
Hath many a man been spilt, as clerkes teche.
But for litel speche, avysely,
Is no man shent, to speke generally.
My sone, thy tonge sholdestow restreyne
330At alle tymes, but whan thou doost thy peyne
To speke of God in honour and in preyere;
The firste vertu sone, if thou wolt leere,
Is to restreyne and kepe wel thy tonge.
Thus lerne children, whan that they been yonge,
335My sone, of muchel spekyng yvele avysed,
Ther lasse spekyng hadde ynough suffised,
Comth muchel harm - thus was me toold and taught. -
In muchel speche synne wanteth naught.
Wostow wherof a rakel tonge serveth?
340Right as a swerd forkutteth and forkerveth
An arme a-two, my deere sone, right so
A tonge kutteth freendshipe al atwo.
A jangler is to God abhomynable;
Reed Salomon, so wys and honurable,
345Reed David in hise psalmes, reed Senekke.
My sone, spek nat, but with thyn heed thou bekke;
Dissimule as thou were deef, it that thou heere
A jangler speke of perilous mateere.
The Flemyng seith, and lerne it if thee leste,
350That litel janglyng causeth muchel reste.
My sone, if thou no wikked word hast seyd,
Thee thar nat drede for to be biwreyd;
But he that hath mysseyd, I dar wel sayn,
He may by no wey clepe his word agayn.
355Thyng that is seyd is seyd, and forth it gooth;
Though hym repente, or be hym leef or looth,
He is his thral to whom that he hath sayd
A tale, of which he is now yvele apayd.
My sone, be war, and be noon auctour newe
360Of tidynyges, wheither they been false or trewe,
Wherso thou com, amonges hye or lowe,
Kepe wel thy tonge, and thenk upon the crowe."


Heere is ended the Maunciples Tale of the Crowe.




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