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 Shipman's Tale A marchant whilom dwelled at Seint-Denys,
That riche was, for which men helde hym wys.
A wyf he hadde of excellent beautee;
And compaignable and revelous was she,
Which is a thyng that causeth more dispence
Than worth is al the chiere and reverence
That men hem doon at festes and at daunces.
Swiche salutaciouns and contenaunces
Passen as dooth a shadwe upon the wal;
10 But wo is hym that payen moot for al!
The sely housbonde, algate he moot paye,
He moot us clothe, and he moot us arraye,
Al for his owene worshipe richely,
In which array we daunce jolily.
And if that he noght may, par aventure,
Or ellis list no swich dispence endure,
But thynketh it is wasted and ylost,
Thanne moot another payen for oure cost,
Or lene us gold, and that is perilous.
20 This noble marchaunt heeld a worthy hous,
For which he hadde alday so greet repair
For his largesse, and for his wyf was fair,
That wonder is; but herkneth to my tale.
Amonges alle his gestes, grete and smale,
Ther was a monk, a fair man and a boold --
I trowe a thritty wynter he was oold --
That evere in oon was drawynge to that place.
This yonge monk, that was so fair of face,
Aqueynted was so with the goode man,
30 Sith that hir firste knoweliche bigan,
That in his hous as famulier was he
As it is possible any freend to be.
And for as muchel as this goode man,
And eek this monk of which that I bigan,
Were bothe two yborn in o village,
The monk hym claymeth as for cosynage,
And he agayn; he seith nat ones nay,
But was as glad therof as fowel of day,
For to his herte it was a greet plesaunce.
40 Thus been they knyt with eterne alliaunce,
And ech of hem gan oother for t' assure
Of bretherhede whil that hir lyf may dure.
Free was daun John, and manly of dispence,
As in that hous, and ful of diligence
To doon plesaunce, and also greet costage.
He noght forgat to yeve the leeste page
In al that hous; but after hir degree,
He yaf the lord, and sitthe al his meynee,
Whan that he cam, som manere honest thyng,
50 For which they were as glad of his comyng
As fowel is fayn whan that the sonne up riseth.
Na moore of this as now, for it suffiseth.
But so bifel, this marchant on a day
Shoop hym to make redy his array
Toward the toun of Brugges for to fare,
To byen there a porcioun of ware;
For which he hath to Parys sent anon
A messager, and preyed hath daun John
That he sholde come to Seint-Denys to pleye
60 With hym and with his wyf a day or tweye,
Er he to Brugges wente, in alle wise.
This noble monk, of which I yow devyse,
Hath of his abbot, as hym list, licence,
By cause he was a man of heigh prudence
And eek an officer, out for to ryde,
To seen hir graunges and hire bernes wyde,
And unto Seint-Denys he comth anon.
Who was so welcome as my lord daun John,
Oure deere cosyn, ful of curteisye?
70 With hym broghte he a jubbe of malvesye,
And eek another ful of fyn vernage,
And volatyl, as ay was his usage.
And thus I lete hem ete and drynke and pleye,
This marchant and this monk, a day or tweye.
The thridde day, this marchant up ariseth,
And on his nedes sadly hym avyseth,
And up into his countour-hous gooth he
To rekene with hymself, wel may be,
Of thilke yeer how that it with hym stood,
80 And how that he despended hadde his good,
And if that he encressed were or noon.
His bookes and his bagges many oon
He leith biforn hym on his countyng-bord.
Ful riche was his tresor and his hord,
For which ful faste his countour-dore he shette;
And eek he nolde that no man sholde hym lette
Of his acountes, for the meene tyme;
And thus he sit til it was passed pryme.
Daun John was rysen in the morwe also,
90 And in the gardyn walketh to and fro,
And hath his thynges seyd ful curteisly.
This goode wyf cam walkynge pryvely
Into the gardyn, there he walketh softe,
And hym saleweth, as she hath doon ofte.
A mayde child cam in hire compaignye,
Which as hir list she may governe and gye,
For yet under the yerde was the mayde.
"O deere cosyn myn, daun John," she sayde,
"What eyleth yow so rathe for to ryse?"
100 "Nece," quod he, "it oghte ynough suffise
Fyve houres for to slepe upon a nyght,
But it were for an old appalled wight,
As been thise wedded men, that lye and dare
As in a fourme sit a wery hare,
Were al forstraught with houndes grete and smale.
But deere nece, why be ye so pale?
I trowe, certes, that oure goode man
Hath yow laboured sith the nyght bigan
That yow were nede to resten hastily."
110 And with that word he lough ful murily,
And of his owene thought he wax al reed.
This faire wyf gan for to shake hir heed
And seyde thus, "Ye, God woot al," quod she.
"Nay, cosyn myn, it stant nat so with me;
For, by that God that yaf me soule and lyf,
In al the reawme of France is ther no wyf
That lasse lust hath to that sory pley.
For I may synge `allas and weylawey
That I was born,' but to no wight," quod she,
120 "Dar I nat telle how that it stant with me.
Wherfore I thynke out of this land to wende,
Or elles of myself to make an ende,
So ful am I of drede and eek of care."
This monk bigan upon this wyf to stare,
And seyde, "Allas, my nece, God forbede
That ye, for any sorwe or any drede,
Fordo youreself; but telleth me youre grief.
Paraventure I may, in youre meschief,
Conseille or helpe; and therfore telleth me
130 Al youre anoy, for it shal been secree.
For on my portehors I make an ooth
That nevere in my lyf, for lief ne looth,
Ne shal I of no conseil yow biwreye."
"The same agayn to yow," quod she, "I seye.
By God and by this portehors I swere,
Though men me wolde al into pieces tere,
Ne shal I nevere, for to goon to helle,
Biwreye a word of thyng that ye me telle,
Nat for no cosynage ne alliance,
140 But verraily for love and affiance."
Thus been they sworn, and heerupon they kiste,
And ech of hem tolde oother what hem liste.
"Cosyn," quod she, "if that I hadde a space,
As I have noon, and namely in this place,
Thanne wolde I telle a legende of my lyf,
What I have suffred sith I was a wyf
With myn housbonde, al be he youre cosyn."
"Nay," quod this monk, "by God and Seint Martyn,
He is na moore cosyn unto me
150 Than is this leef that hangeth on the tree!
I clepe hym so, by Seint Denys of Fraunce,
To have the moore cause of aqueyntaunce
Of yow, which I have loved specially
Aboven alle wommen, sikerly.
This swere I yow on my professioun.
Telleth youre grief, lest that he come adoun;
And hasteth yow, and gooth youre wey anon."
"My deere love," quod she, "O my daun John,
Ful lief were me this conseil for to hyde,
160 But out it moot; I may namoore abyde.
Myn housbonde is to me the worste man
That evere was sith that the world bigan.
But sith I am a wyf, it sit nat me
To tellen no wight of oure privetee,
Neither abedde ne in noon oother place;
God shilde I sholde it tellen, for his grace!
A wyf ne shal nat seyn of hir housbonde
But al honour, as I kan understonde;
Save unto yow thus muche I tellen shal:
170 As helpe me God, he is noght worth at al
In no degree the value of a flye.
But yet me greveth moost his nygardye.
And wel ye woot that wommen naturelly
Desiren thynges sixe as wel as I:
They wolde that hir housbondes sholde be
Hardy and wise, and riche, and therto free,
And buxom unto his wyf and fressh abedde.
But by that ilke Lord that for us bledde,
For his honour, myself for to arraye,
180 A Sonday next I moste nedes paye
An hundred frankes, or ellis I am lorn.
Yet were me levere that I were unborn
Than me were doon a sclaundre or vileynye;
And if myn housbonde eek it myghte espye,
I nere but lost; and therfore I yow preye,
Lene me this somme, or ellis moot I deye.
Daun John, I seye, lene me thise hundred frankes.
Pardee, I wol nat faille yow my thankes,
If that yow list to doon that I yow praye.
190 For at a certeyn day I wol yow paye,
And doon to yow what plesance and service
That I may doon, right as yow list devise.
And but I do, God take on me vengeance
As foul as evere hadde Genylon of France."
This gentil monk answerde in this manere:
"Now trewely, myn owene lady deere,
I have," quod he, "on yow so greet a routhe
That I yow swere, and plighte yow my trouthe,
That whan youre housbonde is to Flaundres fare,
200 I wol delyvere yow out of this care;
For I wol brynge yow an hundred frankes."
And with that word he caughte hire by the flankes,
And hire embraceth harde, and kiste hire ofte.
"Gooth now youre wey," quod he, "al stille and softe,
And lat us dyne as soone as that ye may;
For by my chilyndre it is pryme of day.
Gooth now, and beeth as trewe as I shal be."
"Now elles God forbede, sire," quod she;
And forth she gooth as jolif as a pye,
210 And bad the cookes that they sholde hem hye,
So that men myghte dyne, and that anon.
Up to hir housbonde is this wyf ygon,
And knokketh at his countour boldely.
"Quy la?" quod he. "Peter! it am I,"
Quod she; "What, sire, how longe wol ye faste?
How longe tyme wol ye rekene and caste
Youre sommes, and youre bookes, and youre thynges?
The devel have part on alle swiche rekenynges!
Ye have ynough, pardee, of Goddes sonde;
220 Com doun to-day, and lat youre bagges stonde.
Ne be ye nat ashamed that daun John
Shal fasting al this day alenge goon?
What, lat us heere a messe, and go we dyne."
"Wyf," quod this man, "litel kanstow devyne
The curious bisynesse that we have.
For of us chapmen, also God me save,
And by that lord that clepid is Seint Yve,
Scarsly amonges twelve tweye shul thryve
Continuelly, lastynge unto oure age.
230 We may wel make chiere and good visage,
And dryve forth the world as it may be,
And kepen oure estaat in pryvetee,
Til we be deed, or elles that we pleye
A pilgrymage, or goon out of the weye.
And therfore have I greet necessitee
Upon this queynte world t' avyse me,
For everemoore we moote stonde in drede
Of hap and fortune in oure chapmanhede.
"To Flaundres wol I go to-morwe at day,
240 And come agayn, as soone as evere I may.
For which, my deere wyf, I thee biseke,
As be to every wight buxom and meke,
And for to kepe oure good be curious,
And honestly governe wel oure hous.
Thou hast ynough, in every maner wise,
That to a thrifty houshold may suffise.
Thee lakketh noon array ne no vitaille;
Of silver in thy purs shaltow nat faille."
And with that word his countour-dore he shette,
250 And doun he gooth, no lenger wolde he lette.
But hastily a messe was ther seyd,
And spedily the tables were yleyd,
And to the dyner faste they hem spedde,
And richely this monk the chapman fedde.
At after-dyner daun John sobrely
This chapman took apart, and prively
He seyde hym thus: "Cosyn, it standeth so,
That wel I se to Brugges wol ye go.
God and Seint Austyn spede yow and gyde!
260 I prey yow, cosyn, wisely that ye ryde.
Governeth yow also of youre diete
Atemprely, and namely in this hete.
Bitwix us two nedeth no strange fare;
Farewel, cosyn; God shilde yow fro care!
And if that any thyng by day or nyght,
If it lye in my power and my myght,
That ye me wol comande in any wyse,
It shal be doon right as ye wol devyse.
"O thyng, er that ye goon, if it may be,
270 I wolde prey yow: for to lene me
An hundred frankes, for a wyke or tweye,
For certein beestes that I moste beye,
To stoore with a place that is oures.
God helpe me so, I wolde it were youres!
I shal nat faille surely of my day,
Nat for a thousand frankes, a mile way.
But lat this thyng be secree, I yow preye,
For yet to-nyght thise beestes moot I beye.
And fare now wel, myn owene cosyn deere;
280 Graunt mercy of youre cost and of youre cheere."
This noble marchant gentilly anon
Answerde and seyde, "O cosyn myn, daun John,
Now sikerly this is a smal requeste.
My gold is youres, whan that it yow leste,
And nat oonly my gold, but my chaffare.
Take what yow list; God shilde that ye spare.
"But o thyng is, ye knowe it wel ynogh
Of chapmen, that hir moneie is hir plogh.
We may creaunce whil we have a name,
290 But goldlees for to be, it is no game.
Paye it agayn whan it lith in youre ese;
After my myght ful fayn wolde I yow plese."
Thise hundred frankes he fette forth anon,
And prively he took hem to daun John.
No wight in al this world wiste of this loone
Savynge this marchant and daun John allone.
They drynke, and speke, and rome a while and pleye,
Til that daun John rideth to his abbeye.
The morwe cam, and forth this marchant rideth
300 To Flaundres-ward; his prentys wel hym gydeth
Til he came into Brugges murily.
Now gooth this marchant faste and bisily
Aboute his nede, and byeth and creaunceth.
He neither pleyeth at the dees ne daunceth,
But as a marchaunt, shortly for to telle,
He let his lyf, and there I lete hym dwelle.
The Sonday next the marchant was agon,
To Seint-Denys ycomen is daun John,
With crowne and berd al fressh and newe yshave.
310 In al the hous ther nas so litel a knave,
Ne no wight elles, that he nas ful fayn
That my lord daun John was come agayn.
And shortly to the point right for to gon,
This faire wyf acorded with daun John
That for thise hundred frankes he sholde al nyght
Have hire in his armes bolt upright;
And this acord parfourned was in dede.
In myrthe al nyght a bisy lyf they lede
Til it was day, that daun John wente his way,
320 And bad the meynee "Farewel, have good day!"
For noon of hem, ne no wight in the toun,
Hath of daun John right no suspecioun.
And forth he rydeth hoom to his abbeye,
Or where hym list; namoore of hym I seye.
This marchant, whan that ended was the faire,
To Seint-Denys he gan for to repaire,
And with his wyf he maketh feeste and cheere,
And telleth hire that chaffare is so deere
That nedes moste he make a chevyssaunce,
330 For he was bounden in a reconyssaunce
To paye twenty thousand sheeld anon.
For which this marchant is to Parys gon
To borwe of certeine freendes that he hadde
A certeyn frankes; and somme with him he ladde.
And whan that he was come into the toun,
For greet chiertee and greet affeccioun,
Unto daun John he first gooth hym to pleye;
Nat for to axe or borwe of hym moneye,
But for to wite and seen of his welfare,
340 And for to tellen hym of his chaffare,
As freendes doon whan they been met yfeere.
Daun John hym maketh feeste and murye cheere,
And he hym tolde agayn, ful specially,
How he hadde wel yboght and graciously,
Thanked be God, al hool his marchandise,
Save that he moste, in alle maner wise,
Maken a chevyssaunce, as for his beste,
And thanne he sholde been in joye and reste.
Daun John answerde, "Certes, I am fayn
350 That ye in heele ar comen hom agayn.
And if that I were riche, as have I blisse,
Of twenty thousand sheeld sholde ye nat mysse,
For ye so kyndely this oother day
Lente me gold; and as I kan and may,
I thanke yow, by God and by Seint Jame!
But nathelees, I took unto oure dame,
Youre wyf, at hom, the same gold ageyn
Upon youre bench; she woot it wel, certeyn,
By certeyn tokenes that I kan hire telle.
360 Now, by youre leve, I may no lenger dwelle;
Oure abbot wole out of this toun anon,
And in his compaignye moot I goon.
Grete wel oure dame, myn owene nece sweete,
And fare wel, deere cosyn, til we meete!"
This marchant, which that was ful war and wys,
Creanced hath, and payd eek in Parys
To certeyn Lumbardes, redy in hir hond,
The somme of gold, and gat of hem his bond;
And hoom he gooth, murie as a papejay,
370 For wel he knew he stood in swich array
That nedes moste he wynne in that viage
A thousand frankes aboven al his costage.
His wyf ful redy mette hym atte gate,
As she was wont of oold usage algate,
And al that nyght in myrthe they bisette;
For he was riche and cleerly out of dette.
Whan it was day, this marchant gan embrace
His wyf al newe, and kiste hire on hir face,
And up he gooth and maketh it ful tough.
380 "Namoore," quod she, "by God, ye have ynough!"
And wantownly agayn with hym she pleyde
Til atte laste thus this marchant seyde:
"By God," quod he, "I am a litel wrooth
With yow, my wyf, although it be me looth.
And woot ye why? By God, as that I gesse
That ye han maad a manere straungenesse
Bitwixen me and my cosyn daun John.
Ye sholde han warned me, er I had gon,
That he yow hadde an hundred frankes payed
390 By redy token; and heeld hym yvele apayed,
For that I to hym spak of chevyssaunce;
Me semed so, as by his contenaunce.
But nathelees, by God, oure hevene kyng,
I thoughte nat to axen hym no thyng.
I prey thee, wyf, ne do namoore so;
Telle me alwey, er that I fro thee go,
If any dettour hath in myn absence
Ypayed thee, lest thurgh thy necligence
I myghte hym axe a thing that he hath payed."
400 This wyf was nat afered nor affrayed,
But boldely she seyde, and that anon,
"Marie, I deffie the false monk, daun John!
I kepe nat of his tokenes never a deel;
He took me certeyn gold, that woot I weel --
What! Yvel thedam on his monkes snowte!
For, God it woot, I wende, withouten doute,
That he hadde yeve it me bycause of yow
To doon therwith myn honour and my prow,
For cosynage, and eek for beele cheere
410 That he hath had ful ofte tymes heere.
But sith I se I stonde in this disjoynt,
I wol answere yow shortly to the poynt.
Ye han mo slakkere dettours than am I!
For I wol paye yow wel and redily
Fro day to day, and if so be I faille,
I am youre wyf; score it upon my taille,
And I shal paye as soone as ever I may.
For by my trouthe, I have on myn array,
And nat on wast, bistowed every deel;
420 And for I have bistowed it so weel
For youre honour, for Goddes sake, I seye,
As be nat wrooth, but lat us laughe and pleye.
Ye shal my joly body have to wedde;
By God, I wol nat paye yow but abedde!
Forgyve it me, myn owene spouse deere;
Turne hiderward, and maketh bettre cheere."
This marchant saugh ther was no remedie,
And for to chide it nere but folie,
Sith that the thyng may nat amended be.
430 "Now wyf," he seyde, "and I foryeve it thee;
But, by thy lyf, ne be namoore so large.
Keep bet thy good, this yeve I thee in charge."
Thus endeth my tale, and God us sende
Taillynge ynough unto oure lyves ende. Amen
"Wel seyd, by corpus dominus," quod oure Hoost,
"Now longe moote thou saille by the cost,
Sire gentil maister, gentil maryneer!
God yeve the monk a thousand last quade yeer!
A ha! Felawes, beth ware of swich a jape!
440 The monk putte in the mannes hood an ape,
And in his wyves eek, by Seint Austyn!
Draweth no monkes moore unto youre in.
"But now passe over, and lat us seke aboute,
Who shal now telle first of al this route
Another tale;" and with that word he sayde,
As curteisly as it had been a mayde,
"My lady Prioresse, by youre leve,
So that I wiste I sholde yow nat greve,
I wolde demen that ye tellen sholde
450 A tale next, if so were that ye wolde.
Now wol ye vouche sauf, my lady deere?"
"Gladly," quod she, and seyde as ye shal heere.
Next: The Prioress' Prologue