Legends and Sagas
The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at sacred-texts.com
The Canterbury Tales
The Clerk's Tale Ther is, at the west syde of Ytaille,
Doun at the roote of Vesulus the colde,
A lusty playn, habundant of vitaille,
60 Where many a tour and toun thou mayst biholde,
That founded were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many another delitable sighte,
And Saluces this noble contree highte.
A markys whilom lord was of that lond,
As were his worthy eldres hym bifore;
And obeisant, ay redy to his hond,
Were alle his liges, bothe lasse and moore.
Thus in delit he lyveth, and hath doon yoore,
Biloved and drad, thurgh favour of Fortune,
70 Bothe of his lordes and of his commune.
Therwith he was, to speke as of lynage,
The gentilleste yborn of Lumbardye,
A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curteisye;
Discreet ynogh his contree for to gye,
Save in somme thynges that he was to blame;
And Walter was this yonge lordes name.
I blame hym thus: that he considered noght
In tyme comynge what myghte hym bityde,
80 But on his lust present was al his thoght,
As for to hauke and hunte on every syde.
Wel ny alle othere cures leet he slyde,
And eek he nolde -- and that was worst of alle --
Wedde no wyf, for noght that may bifalle.
Oonly that point his peple bar so soore
That flokmeele on a day they to hym wente,
And oon of hem, that wisest was of loore --
Or elles that the lord best wolde assente
That he sholde telle hym what his peple mente,
90 Or elles koude he shewe wel swich mateere --
He to the markys seyde as ye shul heere:
"O noble markys, youre humanitee
Asseureth us and yeveth us hardinesse,
As ofte as tyme is of necessitee,
That we to yow mowe telle oure hevynesse.
Accepteth, lord, now of youre gentillesse
That we with pitous herte unto yow pleyne,
And lat youre eres nat my voys desdeyne.
"Al have I noght to doone in this mateere
100 Moore than another man hath in this place,
Yet for as muche as ye, my lord so deere,
Han alwey shewed me favour and grace
I dar the bettre aske of yow a space
Of audience to shewen oure requeste,
And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow leste.
"For certes, lord, so wel us liketh yow
And al youre werk, and evere han doon, that we
Ne koude nat us self devysen how
We myghte lyven in moore felicitee,
110 Save o thyng, lord, if it youre wille be,
That for to been a wedded man yow leste;
Thanne were youre peple in sovereyn hertes reste.
"Boweth youre nekke under that blisful yok
Of soveraynetee, noght of servyse,
Which that men clepe spousaille or wedlok;
And thenketh, lord, among youre thoghtes wyse
How that oure dayes passe in sondry wyse,
For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde,
Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde.
120 "And thogh youre grene youthe floure as yit,
In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon,
And deeth manaceth every age, and smyt
In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon;
And al so certein as we knowe echoon
That we shul deye, as uncerteyn we alle
Been of that day whan deeth shal on us falle.
"Accepteth thanne of us the trewe entente,
That nevere yet refuseden youre heeste,
And we wol, lord, if that ye wole assente,
130 Chese yow a wyf, in short tyme atte leeste,
Born of the gentilleste and of the meeste
Of al this land, so that it oghte seme
Honour to God and yow, as we kan deeme.
"Delivere us out of al this bisy drede,
And taak a wyf, for hye Goddes sake!
For if it so bifelle, as God forbede,
That thurgh youre deeth youre lyne sholde slake,
And that a straunge successour sholde take
Youre heritage, O wo were us alyve!
140 Wherfore we pray you hastily to wyve."
Hir meeke preyere and hir pitous cheere
Made the markys herte han pitee.
"Ye wol," quod he, "myn owene peple deere,
To that I nevere erst thoughte streyne me.
I me rejoysed of my liberte,
That seelde tyme is founde in mariage;
Ther I was free, I moot been in servage.
"But nathelees I se youre trewe entente,
And truste upon youre wit, and have doon ay;
150 Wherfore of my free wyl I wole assente
To wedde me, as soone as evere I may.
But ther as ye han profred me to-day
To chese me a wyf, I yow relesse
That choys and prey yow of that profre cesse.
"For God it woot, that children ofte been
Unlyk hir worthy eldres hem bifore;
Bountee comth al of God, nat of the streen
Of which they been engendred and ybore.
I truste in Goddes bountee, and therfore
160 My mariage and myn estaat and reste
I hym bitake; he may doon as hym leste.
"Lat me allone in chesynge of my wyf --
That charge upon my bak I wole endure.
But I yow preye, and charge upon youre lyf,
What wyf that I take, ye me assure
To worshipe hire, whil that hir lyf may dure,
In word and werk, bothe heere and everywheere,
As she an emperoures doghter weere.
"And forthermoore, this shal ye swere: that ye
170 Agayn my choys shul neither grucche ne stryve;
For sith I shal forgoon my libertee
At youre requeste, as evere moot I thryve,
Ther as myn herte is set, ther wol I wyve;
And but ye wole assente in swich manere,
I prey yow, speketh namoore of this matere."
With hertely wyl they sworen and assenten
To al this thyng -- ther seyde no wight nay --
Bisekynge hym of grace, er that they wenten,
That he wolde graunten hem a certein day
180 Of his spousaille, as soone as evere he may;
For yet alwey the peple somwhat dredde,
Lest that the markys no wyf wolde wedde.
He graunted hem a day, swich as hym leste,
On which he wolde be wedded sikerly,
And seyde he dide al this at hir requeste.
And they, with humble entente, buxomly,
Knelynge upon hir knees ful reverently,
Hym thonken alle; and thus they han an ende
Of hire entente, and hoom agayn they wende.
190 And heerupon he to his officeres
Comaundeth for the feste to purveye,
And to his privee knyghtes and squieres
Swich charge yaf as hym liste on hem leye;
And they to his comandement obeye,
And ech of hem dooth al his diligence
To doon unto the feeste reverence.
Noght fer fro thilke paleys honurable,
Wher as this markys shoop his mariage,
There stood a throop, of site delitable,
200 In which that povre folk of that village
Hadden hir beestes and hir herbergage,
And of hire labour tooke hir sustenance,
After that the erthe yaf hem habundance.
Amonges thise povre folk ther dwelte a man
Which that was holden povrest of hem alle;
But hye God somtyme senden kan
His grace into a litel oxes stalle;
Janicula men of that throop hym calle.
A doghter hadde he, fair ynogh to sighte,
210 And Grisildis this yonge mayden highte.
But for to speke of vertuous beautee,
Thanne was she oon the faireste under sonne;
For povreliche yfostred up was she,
No likerous lust was thurgh hire herte yronne.
Wel ofter of the welle than of the tonne
She drank, and for she wolde vertu plese,
She knew wel labour but noon ydel ese.
But thogh this mayde tendre were of age,
Yet in the brest of hire virginitee
220 Ther was enclosed rype and sad corage;
And in greet reverence and charitee
Hir olde povre fader fostred shee.
A fewe sheep, spynnynge, on feeld she kepte;
She wolde noght been ydel til she slepte.
And whan she homward cam, she wolde brynge
Wortes or othere herbes tymes ofte,
The whiche she shredde and seeth for hir lyvynge,
And made hir bed ful hard and nothyng softe;
And ay she kepte hir fadres lyf on-lofte
230 With everich obeisaunce and diligence
That child may doon to fadres reverence.
Upon Grisilde, this povre creature,
Ful ofte sithe this markys sette his ye
As he on huntyng rood paraventure;
And whan it fil that he myghte hire espye,
He noght with wantown lookyng of folye
His eyen caste on hire, but in sad wyse
Upon hir chiere he wolde hym ofte avyse,
Commendynge in his herte hir wommanhede,
240 And eek hir vertu, passynge any wight
Of so yong age, as wel in chiere as dede.
For thogh the peple have no greet insight
In vertu, he considered ful right
Hir bountee, and disposed that he wolde
Wedde hire oonly, if evere he wedde sholde.
The day of weddyng cam, but no wight kan
Telle what womman that it sholde be;
For which merveille wondred many a man,
And seyden, whan they were in privetee,
250 "Wol nat oure lord yet leve his vanytee?
Wol he nat wedde? Allas! Allas, the while!
Why wole he thus hymself and us bigile?"
But nathelees this markys hath doon make
Of gemmes, set in gold and in asure,
Brooches and rynges, for Grisildis sake;
And of hir clothyng took he the mesure
By a mayde lyk to hire stature,
And eek of othere aornementes alle
That unto swich a weddyng sholde falle.
260 The time of undren of the same day
Approcheth, that this weddyng sholde be,
And al the paleys put was in array,
Bothe halle and chambres, ech in his degree;
Houses of office stuffed with plentee
Ther maystow seen, of deyntevous vitaille
That may be founde as fer as last Ytaille.
This roial markys, richely arrayed,
Lordes and ladyes in his compaignye,
The whiche that to the feeste weren yprayed,
270 And of his retenue the bachelrye,
With many a soun of sondry melodye,
Unto the village of the which I tolde
In this array the righte wey han holde.
Grisilde of this, God woot, ful innocent,
That for hire shapen was al this array,
To fecchen water at a welle is went,
And cometh hoom as soone as ever she may;
For wel she hadde herd seyd that thilke day
The markys sholde wedde, and if she myghte,
280 She wolde fayn han seyn som of that sighte.
She thoghte, "I wole with othere maydens stonde,
That been my felawes, in oure dore and se
The markysesse, and therfore wol I fonde
To doon at hoom, as soone as it may be,
The labour which that longeth unto me,
And thanne I may at leyser hire biholde,
If she this wey unto the castel holde."
And as she wolde over hir thresshfold gon,
The markys cam and gan hire for to calle;
290 And she set doun hir water pot anon,
Biside the thresshfold, in an oxes stalle,
And doun upon hir knes she gan to falle,
And with sad contenance kneleth stille,
Til she had herd what was the lordes wille.
This thoghtful markys spak unto this mayde
Ful sobrely, and seyde in this manere:
"Where is youre fader, O Grisildis?" he sayde.
And she with reverence, in humble cheere,
Answerde, "Lord, he is al redy heere."
300 And in she gooth withouten lenger lette,
And to the markys she hir fader fette.
He by the hand thanne took this olde man,
And seyde thus, whan he hym hadde asyde:
"Janicula, I neither may ne kan
Lenger the plesance of myn herte hyde.
If that thou vouche sauf, what so bityde,
Thy doghter wol I take, er that I wende,
As for my wyf, unto hir lyves ende.
"Thou lovest me, I woot it wel certeyn,
310 And art my feithful lige man ybore,
And al that liketh me, I dar wel seyn
It liketh thee, and specially therfore
Tel me that poynt that I have seyd bifore,
If that thou wolt unto that purpos drawe,
To take me as for thy sone-in-lawe."
This sodeyn cas this man astonyed so
That reed he wax; abayst and al quakynge
He stood; unnethes seyde he wordes mo,
But oonly thus: "Lord," quod he, "my willynge
320 Is as ye wole, ne ayeynes youre likynge
I wol no thyng, ye be my lord so deere;
Right as yow lust, governeth this mateere."
"Yet wol I," quod this markys softely,
"That in thy chambre I and thou and she
Have a collacioun, and wostow why?
For I wol axe if it hire wille be
To be my wyf and reule hire after me.
And al this shal be doon in thy presence;
I wol noght speke out of thyn audience."
330 And in the chambre, whil they were aboute
Hir tretys, which as ye shal after heere,
The peple cam unto the hous withoute,
And wondred hem in how honest manere
And tentifly she kepte hir fader deere.
But outrely Grisildis wondre myghte,
For nevere erst ne saugh she swich a sighte.
No wonder is thogh that she were astoned
To seen so greet a gest come in that place;
She nevere was to swiche gestes woned,
340 For which she looked with ful pale face.
But shortly forth this matere for to chace,
Thise arn the wordes that the markys sayde
To this benigne, verray, feithful mayde:
"Grisilde," he seyde, "ye shal wel understonde
It liketh to youre fader and to me
That I yow wedde, and eek it may so stonde,
As I suppose, ye wol that it so be.
But thise demandes axe I first," quod he,
"That, sith it shal be doon in hastif wyse,
350 Wol ye assente, or elles yow avyse?
"I seye this: be ye redy with good herte
To al my lust, and that I frely may,
As me best thynketh, do yow laughe or smerte,
And nevere ye to grucche it, nyght ne day?
And eek whan I sey `ye,' ne sey nat `nay,'
Neither by word ne frownyng contenance?
Swere this, and heere I swere oure alliance."
Wondrynge upon this word, quakynge for drede,
She seyde, "Lord, undigne and unworthy
360 Am I to thilke honour that ye me beede,
But as ye wole youreself, right so wol I.
And heere I swere that nevere willyngly,
In werk ne thoght, I nyl yow disobeye,
For to be deed, though me were looth to deye."
"This is ynogh, Grisilde myn," quod he.
And forth he gooth with a ful sobre cheere
Out at the dore, and after that cam she,
And to the peple he seyde in this manere:
"This is my wyf," quod he, "that standeth heere.
370 Honoureth hire and loveth hire, I preye,
Whoso me loveth; ther is namoore to seye."
And for that no thyng of hir olde geere
She sholde brynge into his hous, he bad
That wommen sholde dispoillen hire right theere;
Of which thise ladyes were nat right glad
To handle hir clothes, wherinne she was clad.
But nathelees, this mayde bright of hewe
Fro foot to heed they clothed han al newe.
Hir heris han they kembd, that lay untressed
380 Ful rudely, and with hir fyngres smale
A corone on hire heed they han ydressed,
And sette hire ful of nowches grete and smale.
Of hire array what sholde I make a tale?
Unnethe the peple hir knew for hire fairnesse
Whan she translated was in swich richesse.
This markys hath hire spoused with a ryng
Broght for the same cause, and thanne hire sette
Upon an hors, snow-whit and wel amblyng,
And to his paleys, er he lenger lette,
390 With joyful peple that hire ladde and mette,
Conveyed hire; and thus the day they spende
In revel, til the sonne gan descende.
And shortly forth this tale for to chace,
I seye that to this newe markysesse
God hath swich favour sent hire of his grace
That it ne semed nat by liklynesse
That she was born and fed in rudenesse,
As in a cote or in an oxe-stalle,
But norissed in an emperoures halle.
400 To every wight she woxen is so deere
And worshipful that folk ther she was bore,
And from hire birthe knewe hire yeer by yeere,
Unnethe trowed they -- but dorste han swore --
That to Janicle, of which I spak bifore,
She doghter were, for, as by conjecture,
Hem thoughte she was another creature.
For though that evere vertuous was she,
She was encressed in swich excellence
Of thewes goode, yset in heigh bountee,
410 And so discreet and fair of eloquence,
So benigne and so digne of reverence,
And koude so the peples herte embrace,
That ech hire lovede that looked on hir face.
Noght oonly of Saluces in the toun
Publiced was the bountee of hir name,
But eek biside in many a regioun,
If oon seide wel, another seyde the same;
So spradde of hire heighe bountee the fame
That men and wommen, as wel yonge as olde,
420 Goon to Saluce upon hire to biholde.
Thus Walter lowely -- nay, but roially --
Wedded with fortunat honestetee,
In Goddes pees lyveth ful esily
At hoom, and outward grace ynogh had he;
And for he saugh that under low degree
Was ofte vertu hid, the peple hym heelde
A prudent man, and that is seyn ful seelde.
Nat oonly this Grisildis thurgh hir wit
Koude al the feet of wyfly hoomlinesse,
430 But eek, whan that the cas required it,
The commune profit koude she redresse.
Ther nas discord, rancour, ne hevynesse
In al that land that she ne koude apese,
And wisely brynge hem alle in reste and ese.
Though that hire housbonde absent were anon,
If gentil men or othere of hire contree
Were wrothe, she wolde bryngen hem aton;
So wise and rype wordes hadde she,
And juggementz of so greet equitee,
440 That she from hevene sent was, as men wende,
Peple to save and every wrong t' amende.
Nat longe tyme after that this Grisild
Was wedded, she a doghter hath ybore,
Al had hire levere have born a knave child;
Glad was this markys and the folk therfore,
For though a mayde child coome al bifore,
She may unto a knave child atteyne
By liklihede, syn she nys nat bareyne.
Ther fil, as it bifalleth tymes mo,
450 Whan that this child had souked but a throwe,
This markys in his herte longeth so
To tempte his wyf, hir sadnesse for to knowe,
That he ne myghte out of his herte throwe
This merveillous desir his wyf t' assaye;
Nedelees, God woot, he thoghte hire for t' affraye.
He hadde assayed hire ynogh bifore,
And foond hire evere good; what neded it
Hire for to tempte, and alwey moore and moore,
Though som men preise it for a subtil wit?
460 But as for me, I seye that yvele it sit
To assaye a wyf whan that it is no nede,
And putten hire in angwyssh and in drede.
For which this markys wroghte in this manere:
He cam allone a-nyght, ther as she lay,
With stierne face and with ful trouble cheere,
And seyde thus: "Grisilde," quod he, "that day
That I yow took out of youre povere array,
And putte yow in estaat of heigh noblesse --
Ye have nat that forgeten, as I gesse?
470 "I seye, Grisilde, this present dignitee,
In which that I have put yow, as I trowe,
Maketh yow nat foryetful for to be
That I yow took in povre estaat ful lowe,
For any wele ye moot youreselven knowe.
Taak heede of every word that y yow seye;
Ther is no wight that hereth it but we tweye.
"Ye woot youreself wel how that ye cam heere
Into this hous, it is nat longe ago;
And though to me that ye be lief and deere,
480 Unto my gentils ye be no thyng so.
They seyn, to hem it is greet shame and wo
For to be subgetz and been in servage
To thee, that born art of a smal village.
"And namely sith thy doghter was ybore
Thise wordes han they spoken, doutelees.
But I desire, as I have doon bifore,
To lyve my lyf with hem in reste and pees.
I may nat in this caas be recchelees;
I moot doon with thy doghter for the beste,
490 Nat as I wolde, but as my peple leste.
"And yet, God woot, this is ful looth to me;
But nathelees withoute youre wityng
I wol nat doon; but this wol I," quod he,
"That ye to me assente as in this thyng.
Shewe now youre pacience in youre werkyng,
That ye me highte and swore in youre village
That day that maked was oure mariage."
Whan she had herd al this, she noght ameved
Neither in word, or chiere, or contenaunce,
500 For, as it semed, she was nat agreved.
She seyde, "Lord, al lyth in youre plesaunce.
My child and I, with hertely obeisaunce,
Been youres al, and ye mowe save or spille
Youre owene thyng; werketh after youre wille.
"Ther may no thyng, God so my soule save,
Liken to yow that may displese me;
Ne I desire no thyng for to have,
Ne drede for to leese, save oonly yee.
This wyl is in myn herte, and ay shal be;
510 No lengthe of tyme or deeth may this deface,
Ne chaunge my corage to another place."
Glad was this markys of hire answeryng,
But yet he feyned as he were nat so;
Al drery was his cheere and his lookyng,
Whan that he sholde out of the chambre go.
Soone after this, a furlong wey or two,
He prively hath toold al his entente
Unto a man, and to his wyf hym sente.
A maner sergeant was this privee man,
520 The which that feithful ofte he founden hadde
In thynges grete, and eek swich folk wel kan
Doon execucioun in thynges badde.
The lord knew wel that he hym loved and dradde;
And whan this sergeant wiste his lordes wille,
Into the chambre he stalked hym ful stille.
"Madame," he seyde, "ye moote foryeve it me,
Though I do thyng to which I am constreyned.
Ye been so wys that ful wel knowe ye
That lordes heestes mowe nat been yfeyned;
530 They mowe wel been biwailled or compleyned,
But men moote nede unto hire lust obeye,
And so wol I; ther is namoore to seye.
"This child I am comanded for to take" --
And spak namoore, but out the child he hente
Despitously, and gan a cheere make
As though he wolde han slayn it er he wente.
Grisildis moot al suffre and al consente,
And as a lamb she sitteth meke and stille,
And leet this crueel sergeant doon his wille.
540 Suspecious was the diffame of this man,
Suspect his face, suspect his word also;
Suspect the tyme in which he this bigan.
Allas! Hir doghter that she loved so,
She wende he wolde han slawen it right tho.
But nathelees she neither weep ne syked,
Conformynge hire to that the markys lyked.
But atte laste to speken she bigan,
And mekely she to the sergeant preyde,
So as he was a worthy gentil man,
550 That she moste kisse hire child er that it deyde.
And in hir barm this litel child she leyde
With ful sad face, and gan the child to blisse,
And lulled it, and after gan it kisse.
And thus she seyde in hire benigne voys,
"Fareweel my child! I shal thee nevere see.
But sith I thee have marked with the croys
Of thilke Fader -- blessed moote he be! --
That for us deyde upon a croys of tree,
Thy soule, litel child, I hym bitake,
560 For this nyght shaltow dyen for my sake."
I trowe that to a norice in this cas
It had been hard this reuthe for to se;
Wel myghte a mooder thanne han cryd "allas!"
But nathelees so sad stidefast was she
That she endured al adversitee,
And to the sergeant mekely she sayde,
"Have heer agayn youre litel yonge mayde.
"Gooth now," quod she, "and dooth my lordes heeste;
But o thyng wol I prey yow of youre grace,
570 That, but my lord forbad yow, atte leeste
Burieth this litel body in som place
That beestes ne no briddes it torace."
But he no word wol to that purpos seye,
But took the child and wente upon his weye.
This sergeant cam unto his lord ageyn,
And of Grisildis wordes and hire cheere
He tolde hym point for point, in short and pleyn,
And hym presenteth with his doghter deere.
Somwhat this lord hadde routhe in his manere,
580 But nathelees his purpos heeld he stille,
As lordes doon, whan they wol han hir wille;
And bad this sergeant that he pryvely
Sholde this child softe wynde and wrappe,
With alle circumstances tendrely,
And carie it in a cofre or in a lappe;
But, upon peyne his heed of for to swappe,
That no man sholde knowe of his entente,
Ne whenne he cam, ne whider that he wente;
But at Boloigne to his suster deere,
590 That thilke tyme of Panik was countesse,
He sholde it take and shewe hire this mateere,
Bisekynge hire to doon hire bisynesse
This child to fostre in alle gentillesse;
And whos child that it was he bad hire hyde
From every wight, for oght that may bityde.
The sergeant gooth, and hath fulfild this thyng;
But to this markys now retourne we.
For now gooth he ful faste ymaginyng
If by his wyves cheere he myghte se,
600 Or by hire word aperceyve, that she
Were chaunged; but he nevere hire koude fynde
But evere in oon ylike sad and kynde.
As glad, as humble, as bisy in servyse,
And eek in love, as she was wont to be,
Was she to hym in every maner wyse;
Ne of hir doghter noght a word spak she.
Noon accident, for noon adversitee,
Was seyn in hire, ne nevere hir doghter name
Ne nempned she, in ernest nor in game.
610 In this estaat ther passed been foure yeer
Er she with childe was, but, as God wolde,
A knave child she bar by this Walter,
Ful gracious and fair for to biholde.
And whan that folk it to his fader tolde,
Nat oonly he but al his contree merye
Was for this child, and God they thanke and herye.
Whan it was two yeer old, and fro the brest
Departed of his norice, on a day
This markys caughte yet another lest
620 To tempte his wyf yet ofter, if he may.
O nedelees was she tempted in assay!
But wedded men ne knowe no mesure,
Whan that they fynde a pacient creature.
"Wyf," quod this markys, "ye han herd er this
My peple sikly berth oure mariage;
And namely sith my sone yboren is,
Now is it worse than evere in al oure age.
The murmur sleeth myn herte and my corage,
For to myne eres comth the voys so smerte
630 That it wel ny destroyed hath myn herte.
"Now sey they thus: `Whan Walter is agon,
Thanne shal the blood of Janicle succede
And been oure lord, for oother have we noon.'
Swiche wordes seith my peple, out of drede.
Wel oughte I of swich murmur taken heede,
For certeinly I drede swich sentence,
Though they nat pleyn speke in myn audience.
"I wolde lyve in pees, if that I myghte;
Wherfore I am disposed outrely,
640 As I his suster servede by nyghte,
Right so thenke I to serve hym pryvely.
This warne I yow, that ye nat sodeynly
Out of youreself for no wo sholde outreye;
Beth pacient, and therof I yow preye."
"I have," quod she, "seyd thus, and evere shal:
I wol no thyng, ne nyl no thyng, certayn,
But as yow list. Naught greveth me at al,
Though that my doughter and my sone be slayn --
At youre comandement, this is to sayn.
650 I have noght had no part of children tweyne
But first siknesse, and after, wo and peyne.
"Ye been oure lord; dooth with youre owene thyng
Right as yow list; axeth no reed at me.
For as I lefte at hoom al my clothyng,
Whan I first cam to yow, right so," quod she,
"Lefte I my wyl and al my libertee,
And took youre clothyng; wherfore I yow preye,
Dooth youre plesaunce; I wol youre lust obeye.
"And certes, if I hadde prescience
660 Youre wyl to knowe, er ye youre lust me tolde,
I wolde it doon withouten necligence;
But now I woot youre lust, and what ye wolde,
Al youre plesance ferme and stable I holde;
For wiste I that my deeth wolde do yow ese,
Right gladly wolde I dyen, yow to plese.
"Deth may noght make no comparisoun
Unto youre love." And whan this markys say
The constance of his wyf, he caste adoun
His eyen two, and wondreth that she may
670 In pacience suffre al this array;
And forth he goth with drery contenance,
But to his herte it was ful greet plesance.
This ugly sergeant, in the same wyse
That he hire doghter caughte, right so he --
Or worse, if men worse kan devyse --
Hath hent hire sone, that ful was of beautee.
And evere in oon so pacient was she
That she no chiere maade of hevynesse,
But kiste hir sone, and after gan it blesse;
680 Save this, she preyede hym that, if he myghte,
Hir litel sone he wolde in erthe grave
His tendre lymes, delicaat to sighte,
Fro foweles and fro beestes for to save.
But she noon answere of hym myghte have.
He wente his wey, as hym no thyng ne roghte,
But to Boloigne he tendrely it broghte.
This markys wondred, evere lenger the moore,
Upon hir pacience, and if that he
Ne hadde soothly knowen therbifoore
690 That parfitly hir children loved she,
He wolde have wend that of som subtiltee,
And of malice, or for crueel corage,
That she hadde suffred this with sad visage.
But wel he knew that next hymself, certayn,
She loved hir children best in every wyse.
But now of wommen wolde I axen fayn
If thise assayes myghte nat suffise?
What koude a sturdy housbonde moore devyse
To preeve hir wyfhod and hir stedefastnesse,
700 And he continuynge evere in sturdinesse?
But ther been folk of swich condicion
That whan they have a certein purpos take,
They kan nat stynte of hire entencion,
But, right as they were bounden to that stake,
They wol nat of that firste purpos slake.
Right so this markys fulliche hath purposed
To tempte his wyf as he was first disposed.
He waiteth if by word or contenance
That she to hym was changed of corage,
710 But nevere koude he fynde variance.
She was ay oon in herte and in visage,
And ay the forther that she was in age,
The moore trewe, if that it were possible,
She was to hym in love, and moore penyble.
For which it semed thus: that of hem two
Ther nas but o wyl, for as Walter leste,
The same lust was hire plesance also.
And, God be thanked, al fil for the beste.
She shewed wel, for no worldly unreste
720 A wyf, as of hirself, nothing ne sholde
Wille in effect, but as hir housbonde wolde.
The sclaundre of Walter ofte and wyde spradde,
That of a crueel herte he wikkedly,
For he a povre womman wedded hadde,
Hath mordred bothe his children prively.
Swich murmur was among hem comunly.
No wonder is, for to the peples ere
Ther cam no word but that they mordred were.
For which, where as his peple therbifore
730 Hadde loved hym wel, the sclaundre of his diffame
Made hem that they hym hatede therfore.
To been a mordrere is an hateful name;
But nathelees, for ernest ne for game,
He of his crueel purpos nolde stente;
To tempte his wyf was set al his entente.
Whan that his doghter twelve yeer was of age,
He to the court of Rome, in subtil wyse
Enformed of his wyl, sente his message,
Comaundynge hem swiche bulles to devyse
740 As to his crueel purpos may suffyse --
How that the pope, as for his peples reste,
Bad hym to wedde another, if hym leste.
I seye, he bad they sholde countrefete
The popes bulles, makynge mencion
That he hath leve his firste wyf to lete,
As by the popes dispensacion,
To stynte rancour and dissencion
Bitwixe his peple and hym; thus seyde the bulle,
The which they han publiced atte fulle.
750 The rude peple, as it no wonder is,
Wenden ful wel that it hadde be right so;
But whan thise tidynges came to Grisildis,
I deeme that hire herte was ful wo.
But she, ylike sad for everemo,
Disposed was, this humble creature,
The adversitee of Fortune al t' endure,
Abidynge evere his lust and his plesance,
To whom that she was yeven herte and al,
As to hire verray worldly suffisance.
760 But shortly if this storie I tellen shal,
This markys writen hath in special
A lettre, in which he sheweth his entente,
And secreely he to Boloigne it sente.
To the Erl of Panyk, which that hadde tho
Wedded his suster, preyde he specially
To bryngen hoom agayn his children two
In honurable estaat al openly.
But o thyng he hym preyede outrely,
That he to no wight, though men wolde enquere,
770 Sholde nat telle whos children that they were,
But seye the mayden sholde ywedded be
Unto the Markys of Saluce anon.
And as this erl was preyed, so dide he;
For at day set he on his wey is goon
Toward Saluce, and lordes many oon
In riche array, this mayden for to gyde,
Hir yonge brother ridynge hire bisyde.
Arrayed was toward hir mariage
This fresshe mayde, ful of gemmes cleere;
780 Hir brother, which that seven yeer was of age,
Arrayed eek ful fressh in his manere.
And thus in greet noblesse and with glad cheere,
Toward Saluces shapynge hir journey,
Fro day to day they ryden in hir wey.
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,
790 He on a day in open audience
Ful boistously hath seyd hire this sentence:
"Certes, Grisilde, I hadde ynogh plesance
To han yow to my wyf for youre goodnesse,
As for youre trouthe and for youre obeisance,
Noght 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.
800 My 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:
My newe wyf is comynge by the weye.
"Be strong of herte, and voyde anon hir place;
And thilke dowere 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
The strook of Fortune or of aventure."
And she agayn answerde in pacience:
"My lord," quod she, "I woot, and wiste alway,
How that bitwixen youre magnificence
And my poverte no wight kan ne may
Maken comparison; it is no nay.
I ne heeld me nevere digne in no manere
To be youre 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 mistresse,
But humble servant to youre worthynesse,
And 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,
Where as I was noght worthy for to bee,
830 That 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,
Til 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
840 Another 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 hire my place,
In which that I was blisful wont to bee.
For 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
850 It were my wrecched clothes, nothyng 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!
"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
860 That 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.
To yow broghte I noght elles, out of drede,
But feith, and nakednesse, and maydenhede;
And heere agayn your clothyng I restoore,
And eek your weddyng ryng, for everemore.
"The remenant of youre jueles redy be
870 Inwith youre chambre, dar I saufly sayn.
Naked out of my fadres hous," quod she,
"I cam, and naked moot I turne agayn.
Al youre plesance wol I folwen fayn;
But yet I hope it be nat youre entente
That I smoklees out of youre paleys wente.
"Ye koude nat doon so dishonest a thyng,
That thilke wombe in which youre children leye
Sholde biforn the peple, in my walkyng,
Be seyn al bare; wherfore I yow preye,
880 Lat me nat lyk a worm go by the weye.
Remembre yow, myn owene lord so deere,
I was youre wyf, though I unworthy weere.
"Wherfore, in gerdon of my maydenhede,
Which that I broghte, and noght agayn I bere,
As 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 youre 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,
And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare,
Toward hir fadre hous forth is she fare.
The folk hire folwe, wepynge in hir weye,
And Fortune ay they cursen as they goon;
But she fro wepyng kepte hire eyen dreye,
900 Ne 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 poure man
Was 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 t' alighte,
910 And voyden hire as soone as ever he myghte.
Agayns his doghter hastily goth he,
For he by noyse of folk knew hire comynge,
And with hire olde coote, as it myghte be
He covered hire, ful sorwefully wepynge.
But on hire body myghte he it nat brynge,
For rude was the clooth, and moore of age
By dayes fele than at hire mariage.
Thus with hire fader for a certeyn space
Dwelleth this flour of wyfly pacience,
920 That neither by hire wordes ne hire face,
Biforn the folk, ne eek in hire absence,
Ne shewed she that hire was doon offence;
Ne of hire heighe estaat no remembraunce
Ne hadde she, as by hire contenaunce.
No wonder is, for in hire 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,
930 Discreet 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,
Though 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.
Fro Boloigne is this Erl of Panyk come,
940 Of which the fame up sprang to moore and lesse,
And to 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 ye
So noble array in al West Lumbardye.
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,
950 Nat with no swollen thoght in hire corage,
Cam at his heste, and on hire knees hire sette,
And reverently and wisely she hym grette.
"Grisilde," quod he, "my wyl is outrely
This mayden, that shal wedded been to me,
Received 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 old al my plesaunce;
Thogh 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 youre lust, but I desire also
Yow for to serve and plese in my degree
970 Withouten 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,
And tables for to sette, and beddes make;
And peyned hire 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,
980 Hath 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;
And 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,
990 And fairer fruyt bitwene hem sholde falle,
And moore plesant, for hire heigh lynage.
Hir brother eek so fair was of visage
That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce,
Commendynge now the markys governaunce.
"O stormy peple! Unsad and evere untrewe!
Ay undiscreet and chaungynge as a fane!
Delitynge evere in rumbul that is newe,
For lyk the moone ay wexe ye and wane!
Ay ful of clappyng, deere ynogh a jane!
1000 Youre 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,
To 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
1010 That to the feeste was apertinent.
Right noght was she abayst of hire 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,
And after that dooth forth hire bisynesse.
With so glad chiere his gestes she receyveth,
And so konnyngly, everich in his degree,
That no defaute no man aperceyveth,
But ay they wondren what she myghte bee
1020 That in so povre array was for to see,
And koude swich honour and reverence,
And worthily they preisen hire prudence.
In al this meene while she ne stente
This mayde and eek hir brother to commende
With 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 hire beautee?"
"Right wel," quod she, "my lord; for, in good fey,
A fairer saugh I nevere noon than she.
I prey to God yeve hire prosperitee;
And 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;
1040 For she is fostred in hire norissynge
Moore tendrely, and, to my supposynge,
She koude nat adversitee endure
As koude a povre fostred creature."
And whan this Walter saugh hire pacience,
Hir glade chiere, and no malice at al,
And he so ofte had doon to hire offence,
And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
Continuynge evere hire innocence overal,
This sturdy markys gan his herte dresse
1050 To rewen upon hire 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,
In greet estaat and povreliche arrayed.
Now knowe I, dere wyf, thy stedfastnesse" --
And hire in armes took and gan hire kesse.
And she for wonder took of it no keep;
She herde nat what thyng he to hire seyde;
1060 She 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!
"This is thy doghter, which thou hast supposed
To be my wyf; that oother feithfully
Shal be myn heir, as I have ay disposed;
Thou bare hym in thy body trewely.
At Boloigne have I kept hem prively;
1070 Taak 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,
But for t' assaye in thee thy wommanheede,
And nat 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
1080 For pitous joye, and after hire swownynge
She bothe hire yonge children to hire calleth,
And in hire armes, pitously wepynge,
Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissynge
Ful lyk a mooder, with hire salte teeres
She bathed bothe hire visage and hire heeres.
O which a pitous thyng it was to se
Hir swownyng, and hire humble voys to heere!
"Grauntmercy, lord, God thanke it yow," quod she,
"That ye han saved me my children deere!
1090 Now rekke I nevere to been deed right heere;
Sith I stonde in youre love and in youre grace,
No fors of deeth, ne whan my spirit pace!
"O tendre, o deere, o yonge children myne!
Youre woful mooder wende stedfastly
That 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 hire 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
Doun ran of hem that stooden hire bisyde;
Unnethe abouten hire myghte they abyde.
Walter hire gladeth and hire sorwe slaketh;
She riseth up, abaysed, from hire traunce,
And every wight hire joye and feeste maketh
1110 Til she hath caught agayn hire 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,
Han taken hire and into chambre gon,
And strepen hire out of hire rude array,
And in a clooth of gold that brighte shoon,
With a coroune of many a riche stoon
Upon hire heed, they into halle hire broghte,
1120 And 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.
For 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,
1130 And 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.
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,
1140 As it hath been in olde tymes yoore,
And herkneth what this auctour seith therfoore.
This storie is seyd nat for that wyves sholde
Folwen Grisilde as in humylitee,
For it were inportable, though they wolde,
But for that every wight, in his degree,
Sholde be constant in adversitee
As was Grisilde; therfore Petrak writeth
This storie, which with heigh stile he enditeth.
For sith a womman was so pacient
1150 Unto 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;
He 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,
1160 Er 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 now-a-dayes
In al a toun Grisildis thre or two;
For if 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 ye,
It wolde rather breste a-two than plye.
1170 For which heere, for the Wyves love of Bathe --
Whos lyf and al hire secte 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;
And lat us stynte of ernestful matere.
Herkneth my song that seith in this manere:
Grisilde is deed, and eek hire pacience,
And bothe atones buryed in Ytaille;
For which I crie in open audience
1180 No wedded man so hardy be t' assaille
His wyves pacience in trust to fynde
Grisildis, for in certein he shal faille.
O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naille,
Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of yow a storie of swich mervaille
As of Grisildis pacient and kynde,
Lest Chichevache yow swelwe in hire entraille!
Folweth Ekko, that holdeth no silence,
1190 But 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.
Ye archewyves, 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;
1200 Ay 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.
In 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;
1210 To gete thee freendes ay do thy travaille;
Be ay of chiere as light as leef on lynde,
And lat hym care, and wepe, and wrynge, and waille!
[This worthy Clerk, whan ended was his tale,
Oure Hooste seyde, and swoor, "By Goddes bones,
Me were levere than a barel ale
My 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."]
Next: The Merchant's Prologue