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From The Canterbury Tales:
Introduction to the Man of Law's Tale

The wordes of the Hoost to the compaignye.

       Oure Hooste saugh wel that the brighte sonne
The ark of his artificial day hath ronne
The ferthe part, and half an houre and moore;
And though he were nat depe expert in loore,
5He wiste it was the eightetethe day
Of Aprill, that is messager to May;
And saugh wel, that the shadwe of every tree
Was as in lengthe the same quantitee
That was the body erect that caused it,
10And therfore by the shadwe he took his wit
That Phebus, which that shoon so clere and brighte,
Degrees was fyve and fourty clombe on highte;
And for that day, as in that latitude,
It was ten at the clokke, he gan conclude,
15And sodeynly he plighte his hors aboute.-
       "Lordynges," quod he, "I warne yow, al this route,
The fourthe party of this day is gon.
Now for the love of God and of Seint John,
Leseth no tyme, as ferforth as ye may.
20Lordynges, the tyme wasteth nyght and day,
And steleth from us, what pryvely slepynge,
And what thurgh necligence in oure wakynge,
As dooth the streem, that turneth nevere agayn,
Descendynge fro the montaigne into playn.
25Wel kan Senec and many a philosophre
Biwaillen tyme, moore than gold in cofre.
For 'Los of catel may recovered be,
But los of tyme shendeth us,' quod he.
It wol nat come agayn, withouten drede,
30Namoore than wole Malkynes maydenhede,
Whan she hath lost it in hir wantownesse.
Lat us nat mowlen thus in ydelnesse;
       Sir Man of Lawe," quod he, "so have ye blis,
Telle us a tale anon, as forward is.
35Ye been submytted thurgh youre free assent
To stonden in this cas at my juggement.
Acquiteth yow as now of youre biheeste,
Thanne have ye do youre devoir atte leeste."
       "Hooste," quod he, "Depardieux ich assente,
40To breke forward is nat myn entente.
Biheste is dette, and I wole holde fayn
Al my biheste, I kan no bettre sayn.
For swich lawe as a man yeveth another wight,
He sholde hymselven usen it by right;
45Thus wole oure text, but nathelees certeyn
I kan right now no thrifty tale seyn;
That Chaucer, thogh he kan but lewedly
On metres and on rymyng craftily,
Hath seyd hem in swich Englissh as he kan,
50Of olde tyme, as knoweth many a man.
And if he have noght seyd hem, leve brother,
In o book, he hath seyd hem in another.
For he hath toold of loveris up and doun
Mo than Ovide made of mencioun,
55In hise Episteles that been ful olde;
What sholde I tellen hem, syn they ben tolde?
       In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcione,
And sitthen hath he spoken of everichone
Thise noble wyves and thise loveris eke.
60Whoso that wole his large volume seke
Cleped the Seintes Legende of Cupide,
Ther may he seen the large woundes wyde
Of Lucresse, and of Babilan Tesbee,
The swerd of Dido for the false Enee,
65The tree of Phillis for hir Demophon,
The pleinte of Dianire and Hermyon,
Of Adriane and of Isiphilee,
The bareyne yle stondynge in the see,
The dreynte Leandre for his Erro,
70The teeris of Eleyne, and eek the wo
Of Brixseyde, and of the, Ladomea,
The crueltee of the, queene Medea,
Thy litel children hangyng by the hals
For thy Jason, that was in love so fals.
75O Ypermystra, Penolopee, Alceste,
Youre wyfhede he comendeth with the beste!
       But certeinly no word ne writeth he
Of thilke wikke ensample of Canacee,
That loved hir owene brother synfully; -
80Of swiche cursed stories I sey fy!-
Or ellis of Tyro Appollonius,
How that the cursed kyng Antiochus
Birafte his doghter of hir maydenhede,
That is so horrible a tale for to rede,
85Whan he hir threw upon the pavement.
And therfore he, of ful avysement,
Nolde nevere write, in none of his sermouns,
Of swiche unkynde abhomynaciouns;
Ne I wol noon reherce, if that I may.
90       But of my tale how shall I doon this day?
Me were looth be likned, doutelees,
To Muses that men clepe Pierides -
Methamorphosios woot what I mene -
But nathelees, I recche noght a bene
95Though I come after hym with hawebake,
I speke in prose, and lat him rymes make."
And with that word he, with a sobre cheere,
Bigan his tale, as ye shal after heere.


Next:
The Man of Law's Prologue (ll. 99-133)