And whan they herden the goodliche wordes of dame Prudence, they weren so supprised and ravysshed, and hadden so greet joye of hire that wonder was to telle. "A, lady," quod they, "ye han shewed unto us the blessynge of swetnesse, after the sawe of David the prophete; for the reconsilynge which we been nat worthy to have in no manere, but we oghte requeren it with greet contricioun and humylitee, ye of youre grete goodnesse have presented unto us. Now se we wel that the science and the konnynge of Salomon is ful trewe. For he seith that 'sweete wordes multiplien and encreescen freendes, and maken shrewes to be debonaire and meeke.'
"Certes," quod they, "we putten oure dede and al oure matere and cause al hooly in youre goode wyl and been redy to obeye to the speche and comandement of my lord Melibee. And therfore, deere and benygne lady, we preien yow and biseke yow as mekely as we konne and mowen, that it lyke unto youre grete goodnesse to fulfillen in dede youre goodliche wordes. For we consideren and knowelichen that we han offended and greved my lord Melibee out of mesure, so ferforth that we be nat of power to maken his amendes. And therfore we oblige and bynden us and oure freendes for to doon al his wyl and his comandementz. But peraventure he hath swich hevynesse and swich wratthe to us ward, by cause of oure offense, that he wole enjoyne us swich a peyne as we mowe nat bere ne susteene. And therfore, noble lady, we biseke to youre wommanly pitee to taken swich avysement in this nede that we, ne oure freendes, be nat desherited ne destroyed thurgh oure folye."
"Certes," quod Prudence, "it is an hard thyng and right perilous that a man putte hym al outrely in the arbitracioun and juggement, and in the myght and power of his enemys. For Salomon seith, 'leeveth me, and yeveth credence to that I shal seyn: I seye,' quod he, 'ye peple, folk and governours of hoolychirche, to thy sone, to thy wyf, to thy freend, ne to thy broother, ne yeve thou nevere myght ne maistrie of thy body whil thou lyvest.' Now sithen he deffendeth that man sholde nat yeven to his broother ne to his freend the myght of his body, by a strenger resoun he deffendeth and forbedeth a man to yeven hymself to his enemy. And nathelees I conseille you that ye mystruste nat my lord, for I woot wel and knowe verraily that he is debonaire and meeke, large, curteys, and nothyng desirous ne coveitous of good ne richesse. For ther nys nothyng in this world that he desireth, save oonly worshipe and honour. Forthermoore I knowe wel and am right seur that he shal nothyng doon in this nede withouten my conseil; and I shal so werken in this cause that, by the grace of oure lord god, ye shul been reconsiled unto us."
Thanne seyden they with o voys, "worshipful lady, we putten us and oure goodes al fully in youre wil and disposicioun, and been redy to comen, what day that it like unto youre noblesse to lymyte us or assigne us, for to maken oure obligacioun and boond as strong as it liketh unto youre goodnesse, that we mowe fulfille the wille of yow and of my lord Melibee.
Whan dame Prudence hadde herd the answeres of thise men, she bad hem goon agayn prively; and she retourned to hir lord Melibee, and tolde hym how she foond his adversaries ful repentant, knowelechynge ful lowely hir synnes and trespas, and how they were redy to suffren al peyne, requirynge and preiynge hym of mercy and pitee.
Thanne seyde Melibee: "he is wel worthy to have pardoun and foryifnesse of his synne. That excuseth nat his synne, but knowelecheth it and repenteth hym, axinge indulgence. For Senec seith, 'ther is the remissioun and foryifnesse, where as the confessioun is'; for confessioun is neighebor to innocence. And he seith in another place that 'he that hath shame of his synne and knowlecheth it, is worthy remissioun.' And therfore I assente and conferme me to have pees; but it is good that we do it nat withouten the assent and wyl of oure freendes."
Thanne was Prudence right glad and joyeful, and seyde: "Certes, sire," quod she, "ye han wel and goodly answered; for right as by the conseil, assent, and help of youre freendes ye han been stired to venge yow and maken werre, right so withouten hire conseil shul ye nat accorden yow ne have pees with youre adversaries. For the lawe seith: 'ther nys no thyng so good by wey of kynde as a thyng to be unbounde by hym that it was ybounde.'"
And thanne dame Prudence, withouten delay or tariynge, sente anon hire messages for hire kyn, and for hire olde freendes which that were trewe and wyse, and tolde hem by ordre in the presence of Melibee al this mateere as it is aboven expressed and declared, and preyden hem that they wolde yeven hire avys and conseil what best were to doon in this nede. And whan Melibees freendes hadde taken hire avys and deliberacioun of the forseide mateere, and hadden examyned it by greet bisynesse and greet diligence, they yave ful conseil for to have pees and reste, and that Melibee sholde receyve with good herte his adversaries to foryifnesse and mercy.
And whan dame Prudence hadde herd the assent of hir lord Melibee, and the conseil of his freendes accorde with hire wille and hire entencioun, she was wonderly glad in hire herte, and seyde: "ther is an old proverbe," quod she, "seith that 'the goodnesse that thou mayst do this day, do it, and abide nat ne delaye it nat til tomorwe.' And therfore I conseille that ye sende youre messages, swiche as been discrete and wise, unto youre adversaries, tellynge hem on youre bihalve that if they wole trete of pees and of accord, that they shape hem withouten delay or tariyng to comen unto us." Which thyng parfourned was in dede. And whanne thise trespassours and repentynge folk of hire folies, that is to seyn, the adversaries of Melibee, hadden herd what thise messagers seyden unto hem, they weren right glad and joyeful, and answereden ful mekely and benignely, yeldynge graces and thankynges to hir lord Melibee and to al his compaignye; and shopen hem withouten delay to go with the messagers, and obeye to the comandement of hir Lord Melibee.
And right anon they tooken hire wey to the court of Melibee, and tooken with hem somme of hire trewe freendes to maken feith for hem and for to been hire borwes. And whan they were comen to the presence of Melibee, he seyde hem thise wordes: "it standeth thus," quod Melibee, "and sooth it is, that ye, causelees and withouten skile and resoun, han doon grete injuries and wronges to me and to my wyf Prudence, and to my doghter also. For ye han entred into myn hous by violence, and have doon swich outrage that alle men knowen wel that ye have disserved the deeth. And therfore wol I knowe and wite of yow wheither ye wol putte the punyssement and the chastisynge and the vengeance of this outrage in the wyl of me and of my wyf Prudence, or ye wol nat?"
Thanne the wiseste of hemthre answerde for hem alle, and seyde, "sire," quod he, "we knowen wel that we been unworthy to comen unto the court of so greet a lord and so worthy as ye been. For we han so greetly mystaken us, and han offended and agilt in swich a wise agayn youre heigh lordshipe, that trewely we han disserved the deeth. But yet, for the grete goodnesse and debonairetee that al the world witnesseth of youre persone, we submytten us to the excellence and benignitee of youre gracious lordshipe, and been redy to obeie to alle youre comandementz; bisekynge yow that of youre merciable pitee ye wol considere oure grete repentaunce and lowe submyssioun, and graunten us foryevenesse of oure outrageous trespas and offense. For wel we knowe that youre liberal grace and mercy strecchen hem ferther into goodnesse than doon oure outrageouse giltes and trespas into wikkednesse, al be it that cursedly and dampnablely we han agilt agayn youre heigh lordshipe."
Thanne Melibee took hem up fro the ground fulbenignely, and receyved hire obligaciouns and hir boondes by hire othes upon hire plegges and borwes, and assigned hem a certeyn day to retourne unto his court, for to accepte and receyve the sentence and juggement that Melibee wolde comande to be doon on hem by the causes aforeseyd. Whiche thynges ordeyned, every man retourned to his hous.
And whan that dame Prudence saugh hir tyme, she freyned and axed hir lord Melibee what vengeance he thoughte to taken of his adversaries.
To which Melibee answerde, and seyde: "Certes, quod he, I thynke and purpose me fully to desherite hem of al that evere they han, and for to putte hem in exil for evere.
"Certes," quod dame Prudence, "this were a crueel sentence and muchel agayn resoun. For ye been riche ynough, and han no nede of oother mennes good; and ye myghte lightly in this wise gete yow a coveitous name, which is a vicious thyng, and oghte been eschued of every good man. For after the sawe of the word of the apostle, 'coveitise is roote of alle harmes.' And therfore it were bettre for yow to lese so muchel good of youre owene, than for to taken of hir good in this manere; for bettre it is to lesen good with worshipe, than it is to wynne good with vileynye and shame. And everi man oghte to doon his diligence and his bisynesse to geten hym a good name. And yet shal he nat oonly bisie hym in kepynge of his good name, but he shal also enforcen hym alwey to do somthyng by which he may renovelle his good name. For it is writen that 'the olde good loos or good name of a man is soone goon and passed, whan it is nat newed ne renovelled.' And as touchynge that ye seyn ye wole exile youre adversaries, that thynketh me muchel agayn resoun and out of mesure, considered the power that they hanyeve yow upon hemself. And it is writen that 'he is worthy to lesen his privilege, that mysuseth the myght and the power that is yeven hym.' And I sette cas ye myghte enjoyne hem that peyne by right and by lawe, which I trowe ye mowe nat do, I seye ye mighte nat putten it to execucioun peraventure, and thanne were it likly to retourne to the werre as it was biforn. And therfore, if ye wole that men do yow obeisance, ye moste deemen moore curteisly; this is to seyn, ye moste yeven moore esy sentences and juggementz. For it is writen that 'he that moost curteisly comandeth, to hym men moost obeyen.' And therfore I prey yow that in this necessitee and in this nede ye caste yow to overcome youre herte. For Senec seith that 'he that overcometh his herte, overcometh twies.' And Tullius seith: "ther is no thyng so comendable in a greet lord as whan he is debonaire and meeke, and appeseth him lightly. And I prey yow that ye wole forbere now to do vengeance, in swich a manere that youre goode name may be kept and conserved, and that men mowe have cause and mateere to preyse yow of pitee and of mercy, and that ye have no cause to repente yow of thyng that ye doon. For Senec seith, 'he overcometh in an yvel manere that repenteth hym of his victorie.' Wherfore I pray yow, lat mercy been in youre herte, to th' effect and entente that God almighty have mercy on yow in his laste juggement. For Seint Jame seith in his epistle: 'juggement withouten mercy shal be doon to hym that hath no mercy of another wight.'"
Whanne Melibee hadde herd the grete skiles and resouns of dame Prudence, and hire wise informaciouns and techynges, his herte gan enclyne to the wil of his wif, considerynge hir treweentente, and conformed hym anon, and assented fully to werken after hir conseil; and thonked God, of whom procedeth al vertu and alle goodnesse, that hym sente a wyf of so greet discrecioun. And whan the day cam that his adversaries sholde appieren in his presence, he spak unto hem ful goodly, and seyde in this wyse: "al be it so that of youre pride and heigh presumpcioun and folie, and of youre necligence and unkonnynge, ye have mysborn yow and trespassed unto me, yet for as muche as I see and biholde youre grete humylitee, and that ye been sory and repentant of youre giltes, it constreyneth me to doon yow grace and mercy. Wherfore I receyve yow to my grace, and foryeve yow outrely alle the offenses, injuries, and wronges that ye have doon agayn me and myne, to this effect and to this ende that God of his endelees mercy wole at the tyme of oure diynge foryeven us oure giltes that we han trespassed to hym in this wrecched world. For doutelees, if we be sory and repentant of the synnes and giltes which we han trespassed in the sighte of oure lord God, he is so free and so merciable that he wole foryeven us oure giltes, and bryngen us to the blisse that nevere hath ende." Amen.
Heere is ended Chaucers Tale of Melibee and of Dame Prudence