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1 “Sire Clerk of Oxenford,” oure Hooste sayde,
2 “Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde
3 Were newe spoused, sittynge at the bord;
4 This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word.
5 I trowe ye studie aboute som sophyme;
6 But Salomon seith ‘every thyng hath tyme.’
7 “For Goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere!
8 It is no tyme for to studien heere.
9 Telle us som myrie tale, by youre fey!
10 For what man that is entred in a pley,
11 He nedes moot unto the pley assente.
12 But precheth nat, as freres doon in Lente,
13 To make us for oure olde synnes wepe,
14 Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.
15 “Telle us som murie thyng of aventures.
16 Youre termes, youre colours, and youre figures,
17 Keepe hem in stoor til so be ye endite
18 Heigh style, as whan that men to kynges write.
19 Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, we yow preye,
20 That we may understonde what ye seye.”
21 This worthy clerk benignely answerde:
22 “Hooste,” quod he, “I am under youre yerde;
23 Ye han of us as now the governance,
24 And therfore wol I do yow obeisance,
25 As fer as resoun axeth, hardily.
26 I wol yow telle a tale which that I
27 Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk,
28 As preved by his wordes and his werk.
29 He is now deed and nayled in his cheste;
30 I prey to God so yeve his soule reste!
31 “Fraunceys Petrak, the lauriat poete,
32 Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete
33 Enlumyned al Ytaille of poetrie,
34 As Lynyan dide of philosophie,
35 Or lawe, or oother art particuler;
36 But Deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer,
37 But as it were a twynklyng of an ye,
38 Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
39 “But forth to tellen of this worthy man
40 That taughte me this tale, as I bigan,
41 I seye that first with heigh stile he enditeth,
42 Er he the body of his tale writeth,
43 A prohemye, in the which discryveth he
44 Pemond and of Saluces the contree,
45 And speketh of Apennyn, the hilles hye,
46 That been the boundes of West Lumbardye,
47 And of Mount Vesulus in special,
48 Where as the Poo out of a welle smal
49 Taketh his firste spryngyng and his sours,
50 That estward ay encresseth in his cours
51 To Emele-ward, to Ferrare, and Venyse,
52 The which a long thyng were to devyse.
53 And trewely, as to my juggement,
54 Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent,
55 Save that he wole conveyen his mateere;
56 But this his tale, which that ye may heere.”

The Tale

57 Ther is, at the west syde of Ytaille,
58 Doun at the roote of Vesulus the colde,
59 A lusty playn, habundant of vitaille,
60 Where many a tour and toun thou mayst biholde,
61 That founded were in tyme of fadres olde,
62 And many another delitable sighte,
63 And Saluces this noble contree highte.
64 A markys whilom lord was of that lond,
65 As were his worthy eldres hym bifore;
66 And obeisant, ay redy to his hond,
67 Were alle his liges, bothe lasse and moore.
68 Thus in delit he lyveth, and hath doon yoore,
69 Biloved and drad, thurgh favour of Fortune,
70 Bothe of his lordes and of his commune.
71 Therwith he was, to speke as of lynage,
72 The gentilleste yborn of Lumbardye,
73 A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age,
74 And ful of honour and of curteisye;
75 Discreet ynogh his contree for to gye,
76 Save in somme thynges that he was to blame;
77 And Walter was this yonge lordes name.
78 I blame hym thus: that he considered noght
79 In tyme comynge what myghte hym bityde,
80 But on his lust present was al his thoght,
81 As for to hauke and hunte on every syde.
82 Wel ny alle othere cures leet he slyde,
83 And eek he nolde — and that was worst of alle —
84 Wedde no wyf, for noght that may bifalle.
85 Oonly that point his peple bar so soore
86 That flokmeele on a day they to hym wente,
87 And oon of hem, that wisest was of loore —
88 Or elles that the lord best wolde assente
89 That he sholde telle hym what his peple mente,
90 Or elles koude he shewe wel swich mateere —
91 He to the markys seyde as ye shul heere:
92 “O noble markys, youre humanitee
93 Asseureth us and yeveth us hardinesse,
94 As ofte as tyme is of necessitee,
95 That we to yow mowe telle oure hevynesse.
96 Accepteth, lord, now of youre gentillesse
97 That we with pitous herte unto yow pleyne,
98 And lat youre eres nat my voys desdeyne.
99 ” Al have I noght to doone in this mateere
100 Moore than another man hath in this place,
101 Yet for as muche as ye, my lord so deere,
102 Han alwey shewed me favour and grace
103 I dar the bettre aske of yow a space
104 Of audience to shewen oure requeste,
105 And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow leste.
106 “For certes, lord, so wel us liketh yow
107 And al youre werk, and evere han doon, that we
108 Ne koude nat us self devysen how
109 We myghte lyven in moore felicitee,
110 Save o thyng, lord, if it youre wille be,
111 That for to been a wedded man yow leste;
112 Thanne were youre peple in sovereyn hertes reste.
113 “Boweth youre nekke under that blisful yok
114 Of soveraynetee, noght of servyse,
115 Which that men clepe spousaille or wedlok;
116 And thenketh, lord, among youre thoghtes wyse
117 How that oure dayes passe in sondry wyse,
118 For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde,
119 Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde.
120 ” And thogh youre grene youthe floure as yit,
121 In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon,
122 And deeth manaceth every age, and smyt
123 In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon;
124 And al so certein as we knowe echoon
125 That we shul deye, as uncerteyn we alle
126 Been of that day whan deeth shal on us falle.
127 ” Accepteth thanne of us the trewe entente,
128 That nevere yet refuseden youre heeste,
129 And we wol, lord, if that ye wole assente,
130 Chese yow a wyf, in short tyme atte leeste,
131 Born of the gentilleste and of the meeste
132 Of al this land, so that it oghte seme
133 Honour to God and yow, as we kan deeme.
134 “Delivere us out of al this bisy drede,
135 And taak a wyf, for hye Goddes sake!
136 For if it so bifelle, as God forbede,
137 That thurgh youre deeth youre lyne sholde slake,
138 And that a straunge successour sholde take
139 Youre heritage, O wo were us alyve!
140 Wherfore we pray you hastily to wyve.”
141 Hir meeke preyere and hir pitous cheere
142 Made the markys herte han pitee.
143 “Ye wol,” quod he, “myn owene peple deere,
144 To that I nevere erst thoughte streyne me.
145 I me rejoysed of my liberte,
146 That seelde tyme is founde in mariage;
147 Ther I was free, I moot been in servage.
148 “But nathelees I se youre trewe entente,
149 And truste upon youre wit, and have doon ay;
150 Wherfore of my free wyl I wole assente
151 To wedde me, as soone as evere I may.
152 But ther as ye han profred me to-day
153 To chese me a wyf, I yow relesse
154 That choys and prey yow of that profre cesse.
155 “For God it woot, that children ofte been
156 Unlyk hir worthy eldres hem bifore;
157 Bountee comth al of God, nat of the streen
158 Of which they been engendred and ybore.
159 I truste in Goddes bountee, and therfore
160 My mariage and myn estaat and reste
161 I hym bitake; he may doon as hym leste.
162 “Lat me allone in chesynge of my wyf —
163 That charge upon my bak I wole endure.
164 But I yow preye, and charge upon youre lyf,
165 What wyf that I take, ye me assure
166 To worshipe hire, whil that hir lyf may dure,
167 In word and werk, bothe heere and everywheere,
168 As she an emperoures doghter weere.
169 ” And forthermoore, this shal ye swere: that ye
170 Agayn my choys shul neither grucche ne stryve;
171 For sith I shal forgoon my libertee
172 At youre requeste, as evere moot I thryve,
173 Ther as myn herte is set, ther wol I wyve;
174 And but ye wole assente in swich manere,
175 I prey yow, speketh namoore of this matere.”
176 With hertely wyl they sworen and assenten
177 To al this thyng — ther seyde no wight nay —
178 Bisekynge hym of grace, er that they wenten,
179 That he wolde graunten hem a certein day
180 Of his spousaille, as soone as evere he may;
181 For yet alwey the peple somwhat dredde,
182 Lest that the markys no wyf wolde wedde.
183 He graunted hem a day, swich as hym leste,
184 On which he wolde be wedded sikerly,
185 And seyde he dide al this at hir requeste.
186 And they, with humble entente, buxomly,
187 Knelynge upon hir knees ful reverently,
188 Hym thonken alle; and thus they han an ende
189 Of hire entente, and hoom agayn they wende.
190 And heerupon he to his officeres
191 Comaundeth for the feste to purveye,
192 And to his privee knyghtes and squieres
193 Swich charge yaf as hym liste on hem leye;
194 And they to his comandement obeye,
195 And ech of hem dooth al his diligence
196 To doon unto the feeste reverence.
197 Noght fer fro thilke paleys honurable,
198 Wher as this markys shoop his mariage,
199 There stood a throop, of site delitable,
200 In which that povre folk of that village
201 Hadden hir beestes and hir herbergage,
202 And of hire labour tooke hir sustenance,
203 After that the erthe yaf hem habundance.
204 Amonges thise povre folk ther dwelte a man
205 Which that was holden povrest of hem alle;
206 But hye God somtyme senden kan
207 His grace into a litel oxes stalle;
208 Janicula men of that throop hym calle.
209 A doghter hadde he, fair ynogh to sighte,
210 And Grisildis this yonge mayden highte.
211 But for to speke of vertuous beautee,
212 Thanne was she oon the faireste under sonne;
213 For povreliche yfostred up was she,
214 No likerous lust was thurgh hire herte yronne.
215 Wel ofter of the welle than of the tonne
216 She drank, and for she wolde vertu plese,
217 She knew wel labour but noon ydel ese.
218 But thogh this mayde tendre were of age,
219 Yet in the brest of hire virginitee
220 Ther was enclosed rype and sad corage;
221 And in greet reverence and charitee
222 Hir olde povre fader fostred shee.
223 A fewe sheep, spynnynge, on feeld she kepte;
224 She wolde noght been ydel til she slepte.
225 And whan she homward cam, she wolde brynge
226 Wortes or othere herbes tymes ofte,
227 The whiche she shredde and seeth for hir lyvynge,
228 And made hir bed ful hard and nothyng softe;
229 And ay she kepte hir fadres lyf on-lofte
230 With everich obeisaunce and diligence
231 That child may doon to fadres reverence.
232 Upon Grisilde, this povre creature,
233 Ful ofte sithe this markys sette his ye
234 As he on huntyng rood paraventure;
235 And whan it fil that he myghte hire espye,
236 He noght with wantown lookyng of folye
237 His eyen caste on hire, but in sad wyse
238 Upon hir chiere he wolde hym ofte avyse,
239 Commendynge in his herte hir wommanhede,
240 And eek hir vertu, passynge any wight
241 Of so yong age, as wel in chiere as dede.
242 For thogh the peple have no greet insight
243 In vertu, he considered ful right
244 Hir bountee, and disposed that he wolde
245 Wedde hire oonly, if evere he wedde sholde.
246 The day of weddyng cam, but no wight kan
247 Telle what womman that it sholde be;
248 For which merveille wondred many a man,
249 And seyden, whan they were in privetee,
250 “Wol nat oure lord yet leve his vanytee?
251 Wol he nat wedde? Allas! Allas, the while!
252 Why wole he thus hymself and us bigile?”
253 But nathelees this markys hath doon make
254 Of gemmes, set in gold and in asure,
255 Brooches and rynges, for Grisildis sake;
256 And of hir clothyng took he the mesure
257 By a mayde lyk to hire stature,
258 And eek of othere aornementes alle
259 That unto swich a weddyng sholde falle.
260 The time of undren of the same day
261 Approcheth, that this weddyng sholde be,
262 And al the paleys put was in array,
263 Bothe halle and chambres, ech in his degree;
264 Houses of office stuffed with plentee
265 Ther maystow seen, of deyntevous vitaille
266 That may be founde as fer as last Ytaille.
267 This roial markys, richely arrayed,
268 Lordes and ladyes in his compaignye,
269 The whiche that to the feeste weren yprayed,
270 And of his retenue the bachelrye,
271 With many a soun of sondry melodye,
272 Unto the village of the which I tolde
273 In this array the righte wey han holde.
274 Grisilde of this, God woot, ful innocent,
275 That for hire shapen was al this array,
276 To fecchen water at a welle is went,
277 And cometh hoom as soone as ever she may;
278 For wel she hadde herd seyd that thilke day
279 The markys sholde wedde, and if she myghte,
280 She wolde fayn han seyn som of that sighte.
281 She thoghte, “I wole with othere maydens stonde,
282 That been my felawes, in oure dore and se
283 The markysesse, and therfore wol I fonde
284 To doon at hoom, as soone as it may be,
285 The labour which that longeth unto me,
286 And thanne I may at leyser hire biholde,
287 If she this wey unto the castel holde.”
288 And as she wolde over hir thresshfold gon,
289 The markys cam and gan hire for to calle;
290 And she set doun hir water pot anon,
291 Biside the thresshfold, in an oxes stalle,
292 And doun upon hir knes she gan to falle,
293 And with sad contenance kneleth stille,
294 Til she had herd what was the lordes wille.
295 This thoghtful markys spak unto this mayde
296 Ful sobrely, and seyde in this manere:
297 “Where is youre fader, O Grisildis?” he sayde.
298 And she with reverence, in humble cheere,
299 Answerde, “Lord, he is al redy heere.”
300 And in she gooth withouten lenger lette,
301 And to the markys she hir fader fette.
302 He by the hand thanne took this olde man,
303 And seyde thus, whan he hym hadde asyde:
304 “Janicula, I neither may ne kan
305 Lenger the plesance of myn herte hyde.
306 If that thou vouche sauf, what so bityde,
307 Thy doghter wol I take, er that I wende,
308 As for my wyf, unto hir lyves ende.
309 “Thou lovest me, I woot it wel certeyn,
310 And art my feithful lige man ybore,
311 And al that liketh me, I dar wel seyn
312 It liketh thee, and specially therfore
313 Tel me that poynt that I have seyd bifore,
314 If that thou wolt unto that purpos drawe,
315 To take me as for thy sone-in-lawe.”
316 This sodeyn cas this man astonyed so
317 That reed he wax; abayst and al quakynge
318 He stood; unnethes seyde he wordes mo,
319 But oonly thus: “Lord,” quod he, “my willynge
320 Is as ye wole, ne ayeynes youre likynge
321 I wol no thyng, ye be my lord so deere;
322 Right as yow lust, governeth this mateere.”
323 “Yet wol I,” quod this markys softely,
324 “That in thy chambre I and thou and she
325 Have a collacioun, and wostow why?
326 For I wol axe if it hire wille be
327 To be my wyf and reule hire after me.
328 And al this shal be doon in thy presence;
329 I wol noght speke out of thyn audience.”
330 And in the chambre, whil they were aboute
331 Hir tretys, which as ye shal after heere,
332 The peple cam unto the hous withoute,
333 And wondred hem in how honest manere
334 And tentifly she kepte hir fader deere.
335 But outrely Grisildis wondre myghte,
336 For nevere erst ne saugh she swich a sighte.
337 No wonder is thogh that she were astoned
338 To seen so greet a gest come in that place;
339 She nevere was to swiche gestes woned,
340 For which she looked with ful pale face.
341 But shortly forth this matere for to chace,
342 Thise arn the wordes that the markys sayde
343 To this benigne, verray, feithful mayde:
344 “Grisilde,” he seyde, “ye shal wel understonde
345 It liketh to youre fader and to me
346 That I yow wedde, and eek it may so stonde,
347 As I suppose, ye wol that it so be.
348 But thise demandes axe I first,” quod he,
349 “That, sith it shal be doon in hastif wyse,
350 Wol ye assente, or elles yow avyse?
351 “I seye this: be ye redy with good herte
352 To al my lust, and that I frely may,
353 As me best thynketh, do yow laughe or smerte,
354 And nevere ye to grucche it, nyght ne day?
355 And eek whan I sey ‘ye,’ ne sey nat ‘nay,’
356 Neither by word ne frownyng contenance?
357 Swere this, and heere I swere oure alliance.”
358 Wondrynge upon this word, quakynge for drede,
359 She seyde, “Lord, undigne and unworthy
360 Am I to thilke honour that ye me beede,
361 But as ye wole youreself, right so wol I.
362 And heere I swere that nevere willyngly,
363 In werk ne thoght, I nyl yow disobeye,
364 For to be deed, though me were looth to deye.”
365 “This is ynogh, Grisilde myn,” quod he.
366 And forth he gooth with a ful sobre cheere
367 Out at the dore, and after that cam she,
368 And to the peple he seyde in this manere:
369 “This is my wyf,” quod he, “that standeth heere.
370 Honoureth hire and loveth hire, I preye,
371 Whoso me loveth; ther is namoore to seye.”
372 And for that no thyng of hir olde geere
373 She sholde brynge into his hous, he bad
374 That wommen sholde dispoillen hire right theere;
375 Of which thise ladyes were nat right glad
376 To handle hir clothes, wherinne she was clad.
377 But nathelees, this mayde bright of hewe
378 Fro foot to heed they clothed han al newe.
379 Hir heris han they kembd, that lay untressed
380 Ful rudely, and with hir fyngres smale
381 A corone on hire heed they han ydressed,
382 And sette hire ful of nowches grete and smale.
383 Of hire array what sholde I make a tale?
384 Unnethe the peple hir knew for hire fairnesse
385 Whan she translated was in swich richesse.
386 This markys hath hire spoused with a ryng
387 Broght for the same cause, and thanne hire sette
388 Upon an hors, snow-whit and wel amblyng,
389 And to his paleys, er he lenger lette,
390 With joyful peple that hire ladde and mette,
391 Conveyed hire; and thus the day they spende
392 In revel, til the sonne gan descende.
393 And shortly forth this tale for to chace,
394 I seye that to this newe markysesse
395 God hath swich favour sent hire of his grace
396 That it ne semed nat by liklynesse
397 That she was born and fed in rudenesse,
398 As in a cote or in an oxe-stalle,
399 But norissed in an emperoures halle.
400 To every wight she woxen is so deere
401 And worshipful that folk ther she was bore,
402 And from hire birthe knewe hire yeer by yeere,
403 Unnethe trowed they — but dorste han swore —
404 That to Janicle, of which I spak bifore,
405 She doghter were, for, as by conjecture,
406 Hem thoughte she was another creature.
407 For though that evere vertuous was she,
408 She was encressed in swich excellence
409 Of thewes goode, yset in heigh bountee,
410 And so discreet and fair of eloquence,
411 So benigne and so digne of reverence,
412 And koude so the peples herte embrace,
413 That ech hire lovede that looked on hir face.
414 Noght oonly of Saluces in the toun
415 Publiced was the bountee of hir name,
416 But eek biside in many a regioun,
417 If oon seide wel, another seyde the same;
418 So spradde of hire heighe bountee the fame
419 That men and wommen, as wel yonge as olde,
420 Goon to Saluce upon hire to biholde.
421 Thus Walter lowely — nay, but roially —
422 Wedded with fortunat honestetee,
423 In Goddes pees lyveth ful esily
424 At hoom, and outward grace ynogh had he;
425 And for he saugh that under low degree
426 Was ofte vertu hid, the peple hym heelde
427 A prudent man, and that is seyn ful seelde.
428 Nat oonly this Grisildis thurgh hir wit
429 Koude al the feet of wyfly hoomlinesse,
430 But eek, whan that the cas required it,
431 The commune profit koude she redresse.
432 Ther nas discord, rancour, ne hevynesse
433 In al that land that she ne koude apese,
434 And wisely brynge hem alle in reste and ese.
435 Though that hire housbonde absent were anon,
436 If gentil men or othere of hire contree
437 Were wrothe, she wolde bryngen hem aton;
438 So wise and rype wordes hadde she,
439 And juggementz of so greet equitee,
440 That she from hevene sent was, as men wende,
441 Peple to save and every wrong t’ amende.
442 Nat longe tyme after that this Grisild
443 Was wedded, she a doghter hath ybore,
444 Al had hire levere have born a knave child;
445 Glad was this markys and the folk therfore,
446 For though a mayde child coome al bifore,
447 She may unto a knave child atteyne
448 By liklihede, syn she nys nat bareyne.
449 Ther fil, as it bifalleth tymes mo,
450 Whan that this child had souked but a throwe,
451 This markys in his herte longeth so
452 To tempte his wyf, hir sadnesse for to knowe,
453 That he ne myghte out of his herte throwe
454 This merveillous desir his wyf t’ assaye;
455 Nedelees, God woot, he thoghte hire for t’ affraye.
456 He hadde assayed hire ynogh bifore,
457 And foond hire evere good; what neded it
458 Hire for to tempte, and alwey moore and moore,
459 Though som men preise it for a subtil wit?
460 But as for me, I seye that yvele it sit
461 To assaye a wyf whan that it is no nede,
462 And putten hire in angwyssh and in drede.
463 For which this markys wroghte in this manere:
464 He cam allone a-nyght, ther as she lay,
465 With stierne face and with ful trouble cheere,
466 And seyde thus: “Grisilde,” quod he, “that day
467 That I yow took out of youre povere array,
468 And putte yow in estaat of heigh noblesse —
469 Ye have nat that forgeten, as I gesse?
470 “I seye, Grisilde, this present dignitee,
471 In which that I have put yow, as I trowe,
472 Maketh yow nat foryetful for to be
473 That I yow took in povre estaat ful lowe,
474 For any wele ye moot youreselven knowe.
475 Taak heede of every word that y yow seye;
476 Ther is no wight that hereth it but we tweye.
477 “Ye woot youreself wel how that ye cam heere
478 Into this hous, it is nat longe ago;
479 And though to me that ye be lief and deere,
480 Unto my gentils ye be no thyng so.
481 They seyn, to hem it is greet shame and wo
482 For to be subgetz and been in servage
483 To thee, that born art of a smal village.
484 ” And namely sith thy doghter was ybore
485 Thise wordes han they spoken, doutelees.
486 But I desire, as I have doon bifore,
487 To lyve my lyf with hem in reste and pees.
488 I may nat in this caas be recchelees;
489 I moot doon with thy doghter for the beste,
490 Nat as I wolde, but as my peple leste.
491 ” And yet, God woot, this is ful looth to me;
492 But nathelees withoute youre wityng
493 I wol nat doon; but this wol I,” quod he,
494 “That ye to me assente as in this thyng.
495 Shewe now youre pacience in youre werkyng,
496 That ye me highte and swore in youre village
497 That day that maked was oure mariage.”
498 Whan she had herd al this, she noght ameved
499 Neither in word, or chiere, or contenaunce,
500 For, as it semed, she was nat agreved.
501 She seyde, “Lord, al lyth in youre plesaunce.
502 My child and I, with hertely obeisaunce,
503 Been youres al, and ye mowe save or spille
504 Youre owene thyng; werketh after youre wille.
505 “Ther may no thyng, God so my soule save,
506 Liken to yow that may displese me;
507 Ne I desire no thyng for to have,
508 Ne drede for to leese, save oonly yee.
509 This wyl is in myn herte, and ay shal be;
510 No lengthe of tyme or deeth may this deface,
511 Ne chaunge my corage to another place.”
512 Glad was this markys of hire answeryng,
513 But yet he feyned as he were nat so;
514 Al drery was his cheere and his lookyng,
515 Whan that he sholde out of the chambre go.
516 Soone after this, a furlong wey or two,
517 He prively hath toold al his entente
518 Unto a man, and to his wyf hym sente.
519 A maner sergeant was this privee man,
520 The which that feithful ofte he founden hadde
521 In thynges grete, and eek swich folk wel kan
522 Doon execucioun in thynges badde.
523 The lord knew wel that he hym loved and dradde;
524 And whan this sergeant wiste his lordes wille,
525 Into the chambre he stalked hym ful stille.
526 “Madame,” he seyde, “ye moote foryeve it me,
527 Though I do thyng to which I am constreyned.
528 Ye been so wys that ful wel knowe ye
529 That lordes heestes mowe nat been yfeyned;
530 They mowe wel been biwailled or compleyned,
531 But men moote nede unto hire lust obeye,
532 And so wol I; ther is namoore to seye.
533 “This child I am comanded for to take” —
534 And spak namoore, but out the child he hente
535 Despitously, and gan a cheere make
536 As though he wolde han slayn it er he wente.
537 Grisildis moot al suffre and al consente,
538 And as a lamb she sitteth meke and stille,
539 And leet this crueel sergeant doon his wille.
540 Suspecious was the diffame of this man,
541 Suspect his face, suspect his word also;
542 Suspect the tyme in which he this bigan.
543 Allas! Hir doghter that she loved so,
544 She wende he wolde han slawen it right tho.
545 But nathelees she neither weep ne syked,
546 Conformynge hire to that the markys lyked.
547 But atte laste to speken she bigan,
548 And mekely she to the sergeant preyde,
549 So as he was a worthy gentil man,
550 That she moste kisse hire child er that it deyde.
551 And in hir barm this litel child she leyde
552 With ful sad face, and gan the child to blisse,
553 And lulled it, and after gan it kisse.
554 And thus she seyde in hire benigne voys,
555 “Fareweel my child! I shal thee nevere see.
556 But sith I thee have marked with the croys
557 Of thilke Fader — blessed moote he be! —
558 That for us deyde upon a croys of tree,
559 Thy soule, litel child, I hym bitake,
560 For this nyght shaltow dyen for my sake.”
561 I trowe that to a norice in this cas
562 It had been hard this reuthe for to se;
563 Wel myghte a mooder thanne han cryd “allas!”
564 But nathelees so sad stidefast was she
565 That she endured al adversitee,
566 And to the sergeant mekely she sayde,
567 “Have heer agayn youre litel yonge mayde.
568 “Gooth now,” quod she, “and dooth my lordes heeste;
569 But o thyng wol I prey yow of youre grace,
570 That, but my lord forbad yow, atte leeste
571 Burieth this litel body in som place
572 That beestes ne no briddes it torace.”
573 But he no word wol to that purpos seye,
574 But took the child and wente upon his weye.
575 This sergeant cam unto his lord ageyn,
576 And of Grisildis wordes and hire cheere
577 He tolde hym point for point, in short and pleyn,
578 And hym presenteth with his doghter deere.
579 Somwhat this lord hadde routhe in his manere,
580 But nathelees his purpos heeld he stille,
581 As lordes doon, whan they wol han hir wille;
582 And bad this sergeant that he pryvely
583 Sholde this child softe wynde and wrappe,
584 With alle circumstances tendrely,
585 And carie it in a cofre or in a lappe;
586 But, upon peyne his heed of for to swappe,
587 That no man sholde knowe of his entente,
588 Ne whenne he cam, ne whider that he wente;
589 But at Boloigne to his suster deere,
590 That thilke tyme of Panik was countesse,
591 He sholde it take and shewe hire this mateere,
592 Bisekynge hire to doon hire bisynesse
593 This child to fostre in alle gentillesse;
594 And whos child that it was he bad hire hyde
595 From every wight, for oght that may bityde.
596 The sergeant gooth, and hath fulfild this thyng;
597 But to this markys now retourne we.
598 For now gooth he ful faste ymaginyng
599 If by his wyves cheere he myghte se,
600 Or by hire word aperceyve, that she
601 Were chaunged; but he nevere hire koude fynde
602 But evere in oon ylike sad and kynde.
603 As glad, as humble, as bisy in servyse,
604 And eek in love, as she was wont to be,
605 Was she to hym in every maner wyse;
606 Ne of hir doghter noght a word spak she.
607 Noon accident, for noon adversitee,
608 Was seyn in hire, ne nevere hir doghter name
609 Ne nempned she, in ernest nor in game.
610 In this estaat ther passed been foure yeer
611 Er she with childe was, but, as God wolde,
612 A knave child she bar by this Walter,
613 Ful gracious and fair for to biholde.
614 And whan that folk it to his fader tolde,
615 Nat oonly he but al his contree merye
616 Was for this child, and God they thanke and herye.
617 Whan it was two yeer old, and fro the brest
618 Departed of his norice, on a day
619 This markys caughte yet another lest
620 To tempte his wyf yet ofter, if he may.
621 O nedelees was she tempted in assay!
622 But wedded men ne knowe no mesure,
623 Whan that they fynde a pacient creature.
624 “Wyf,” quod this markys, “ye han herd er this
625 My peple sikly berth oure mariage;
626 And namely sith my sone yboren is,
627 Now is it worse than evere in al oure age.
628 The murmur sleeth myn herte and my corage,
629 For to myne eres comth the voys so smerte
630 That it wel ny destroyed hath myn herte.
631 “Now sey they thus: ‘Whan Walter is agon,
632 Thanne shal the blood of Janicle succede
633 And been oure lord, for oother have we noon.’
634 Swiche wordes seith my peple, out of drede.
635 Wel oughte I of swich murmur taken heede,
636 For certeinly I drede swich sentence,
637 Though they nat pleyn speke in myn audience.
638 “I wolde lyve in pees, if that I myghte;
639 Wherfore I am disposed outrely,
640 As I his suster servede by nyghte,
641 Right so thenke I to serve hym pryvely.
642 This warne I yow, that ye nat sodeynly
643 Out of youreself for no wo sholde outreye;
644 Beth pacient, and therof I yow preye.”
645 “I have,” quod she, “seyd thus, and evere shal:
646 I wol no thyng, ne nyl no thyng, certayn,
647 But as yow list. Naught greveth me at al,
648 Though that my doughter and my sone be slayn —
649 At youre comandement, this is to sayn.
650 I have noght had no part of children tweyne
651 But first siknesse, and after, wo and peyne.
652 “Ye been oure lord; dooth with youre owene thyng
653 Right as yow list; axeth no reed at me.
654 For as I lefte at hoom al my clothyng,
655 Whan I first cam to yow, right so,” quod she,
656 “Lefte I my wyl and al my libertee,
657 And took youre clothyng; wherfore I yow preye,
658 Dooth youre plesaunce; I wol youre lust obeye.
659 ” And certes, if I hadde prescience
660 Youre wyl to knowe, er ye youre lust me tolde,
661 I wolde it doon withouten necligence;
662 But now I woot youre lust, and what ye wolde,
663 Al youre plesance ferme and stable I holde;
664 For wiste I that my deeth wolde do yow ese,
665 Right gladly wolde I dyen, yow to plese.
666 “Deth may noght make no comparisoun
667 Unto youre love.” And whan this markys say
668 The constance of his wyf, he caste adoun
669 His eyen two, and wondreth that she may
670 In pacience suffre al this array;
671 And forth he goth with drery contenance,
672 But to his herte it was ful greet plesance.
673 This ugly sergeant, in the same wyse
674 That he hire doghter caughte, right so he —
675 Or worse, if men worse kan devyse —
676 Hath hent hire sone, that ful was of beautee.
677 And evere in oon so pacient was she
678 That she no chiere maade of hevynesse,
679 But kiste hir sone, and after gan it blesse;
680 Save this, she preyede hym that, if he myghte,
681 Hir litel sone he wolde in erthe grave
682 His tendre lymes, delicaat to sighte,
683 Fro foweles and fro beestes for to save.
684 But she noon answere of hym myghte have.
685 He wente his wey, as hym no thyng ne roghte,
686 But to Boloigne he tendrely it broghte.
687 This markys wondred, evere lenger the moore,
688 Upon hir pacience, and if that he
689 Ne hadde soothly knowen therbifoore
690 That parfitly hir children loved she,
691 He wolde have wend that of som subtiltee,
692 And of malice, or for crueel corage,
693 That she hadde suffred this with sad visage.
694 But wel he knew that next hymself, certayn,
695 She loved hir children best in every wyse.
696 But now of wommen wolde I axen fayn
697 If thise assayes myghte nat suffise?
698 What koude a sturdy housbonde moore devyse
699 To preeve hir wyfhod and hir stedefastnesse,
700 And he continuynge evere in sturdinesse?
701 But ther been folk of swich condicion
702 That whan they have a certein purpos take,
703 They kan nat stynte of hire entencion,
704 But, right as they were bounden to that stake,
705 They wol nat of that firste purpos slake.
706 Right so this markys fulliche hath purposed
707 To tempte his wyf as he was first disposed.
708 He waiteth if by word or contenance
709 That she to hym was changed of corage,
710 But nevere koude he fynde variance.
711 She was ay oon in herte and in visage,
712 And ay the forther that she was in age,
713 The moore trewe, if that it were possible,
714 She was to hym in love, and moore penyble.
715 For which it semed thus: that of hem two
716 Ther nas but o wyl, for as Walter leste,
717 The same lust was hire plesance also.
718 And, God be thanked, al fil for the beste.
719 She shewed wel, for no worldly unreste
720 A wyf, as of hirself, nothing ne sholde
721 Wille in effect, but as hir housbonde wolde.
722 The sclaundre of Walter ofte and wyde spradde,
723 That of a crueel herte he wikkedly,
724 For he a povre womman wedded hadde,
725 Hath mordred bothe his children prively.
726 Swich murmur was among hem comunly.
727 No wonder is, for to the peples ere
728 Ther cam no word but that they mordred were.
729 For which, where as his peple therbifore
730 Hadde loved hym wel, the sclaundre of his diffame
731 Made hem that they hym hatede therfore.
732 To been a mordrere is an hateful name;
733 But nathelees, for ernest ne for game,
734 He of his crueel purpos nolde stente;
735 To tempte his wyf was set al his entente.
736 Whan that his doghter twelve yeer was of age,
737 He to the court of Rome, in subtil wyse
738 Enformed of his wyl, sente his message,
739 Comaundynge hem swiche bulles to devyse
740 As to his crueel purpos may suffyse —
741 How that the pope, as for his peples reste,
742 Bad hym to wedde another, if hym leste.
743 I seye, he bad they sholde countrefete
744 The popes bulles, makynge mencion
745 That he hath leve his firste wyf to lete,
746 As by the popes dispensacion,
747 To stynte rancour and dissencion
748 Bitwixe his peple and hym; thus seyde the bulle,
749 The which they han publiced atte fulle.
750 The rude peple, as it no wonder is,
751 Wenden ful wel that it hadde be right so;
752 But whan thise tidynges came to Grisildis,
753 I deeme that hire herte was ful wo.
754 But she, ylike sad for everemo,
755 Disposed was, this humble creature,
756 The adversitee of Fortune al t’ endure,
757 Abidynge evere his lust and his plesance,
758 To whom that she was yeven herte and al,
759 As to hire verray worldly suffisance.
760 But shortly if this storie I tellen shal,
761 This markys writen hath in special
762 A lettre, in which he sheweth his entente,
763 And secreely he to Boloigne it sente.
764 To the Erl of Panyk, which that hadde tho
765 Wedded his suster, preyde he specially
766 To bryngen hoom agayn his children two
767 In honurable estaat al openly.
768 But o thyng he hym preyede outrely,
769 That he to no wight, though men wolde enquere,
770 Sholde nat telle whos children that they were,
771 But seye the mayden sholde ywedded be
772 Unto the Markys of Saluce anon.
773 And as this erl was preyed, so dide he;
774 For at day set he on his wey is goon
775 Toward Saluce, and lordes many oon
776 In riche array, this mayden for to gyde,
777 Hir yonge brother ridynge hire bisyde.
778 Arrayed was toward hir mariage
779 This fresshe mayde, ful of gemmes cleere;
780 Hir brother, which that seven yeer was of age,
781 Arrayed eek ful fressh in his manere.
782 And thus in greet noblesse and with glad cheere,
783 Toward Saluces shapynge hir journey,
784 Fro day to day they ryden in hir wey.
785 Among al this, after his wikke usage,
786 This markys, yet his wyf to tempte moore
787 To the outtreste preeve of hir corage,
788 Fully to han experience and loore
789 If that she were as stidefast as bifoore,
790 He on a day in open audience
791 Ful boistously hath seyd hire this sentence:
792 “Certes, Grisilde, I hadde ynogh plesance
793 To han yow to my wyf for youre goodnesse,
794 As for youre trouthe and for youre obeisance,
795 Noght for youre lynage, ne for youre richesse;
796 But now knowe I in verray soothfastnesse
797 That in greet lordshipe, if I wel avyse,
798 Ther is greet servitute in sondry wyse.
799 “I may nat doon as every plowman may.
800 My peple me constreyneth for to take
801 Another wyf, and crien day by day;
802 And eek the pope, rancour for to slake,
803 Consenteth it — that dar I undertake —
804 And trewely thus muche I wol yow seye:
805 My newe wyf is comynge by the weye.
806 “Be strong of herte, and voyde anon hir place;
807 And thilke dowere that ye broghten me,
808 Taak it agayn; I graunte it of my grace.
809 Retourneth to youre fadres hous,” quod he;
810 “No man may alwey han prosperitee.
811 With evene herte I rede yow t’ endure
812 The strook of Fortune or of aventure.”
813 And she agayn answerde in pacience:
814 “My lord,” quod she, “I woot, and wiste alway,
815 How that bitwixen youre magnificence
816 And my poverte no wight kan ne may
817 Maken comparison; it is no nay.
818 I ne heeld me nevere digne in no manere
819 To be youre wyf, no, ne youre chamberere.
820 ” And in this hous, ther ye me lady maade —
821 The heighe God take I for my witnesse,
822 And also wysly he my soule glaade —
823 I nevere heeld me lady ne mistresse,
824 But humble servant to youre worthynesse,
825 And evere shal, whil that my lyf may dure,
826 Aboven every worldly creature.
827 “That ye so longe of youre benignitee
828 Han holden me in honour and nobleye,
829 Where as I was noght worthy for to bee,
830 That thonke I God and yow, to whom I preye
831 Foryelde it yow; ther is namoore to seye.
832 Unto my fader gladly wol I wende,
833 And with hym dwelle unto my lyves ende.
834 “Ther I was fostred of a child ful smal,
835 Til I be deed my lyf ther wol I lede,
836 A wydwe clene in body, herte, and al.
837 For sith I yaf to yow my maydenhede,
838 And am youre trewe wyf, it is no drede,
839 God shilde swich a lordes wyf to take
840 Another man to housbonde or to make!
841 ” And of youre newe wyf God of his grace
842 So graunte yow wele and prosperitee!
843 For I wol gladly yelden hire my place,
844 In which that I was blisful wont to bee.
845 For sith it liketh yow, my lord,” quod shee,
846 “That whilom weren al myn hertes reste,
847 That I shal goon, I wol goon whan yow leste.
848 “But ther as ye me profre swich dowaire
849 As I first broghte, it is wel in my mynde
850 It were my wrecched clothes, nothyng faire,
851 The whiche to me were hard now for to fynde.
852 O goode God! How gentil and how kynde
853 Ye semed by youre speche and youre visage
854 The day that maked was oure mariage!
855 “But sooth is seyd — algate I fynde it trewe,
856 For in effect it preeved is on me —
857 Love is noght oold as whan that it is newe.
858 But certes, lord, for noon adversitee,
859 To dyen in the cas, it shal nat bee
860 That evere in word or werk I shal repente
861 That I yow yaf myn herte in hool entente.
862 “My lord, ye woot that in my fadres place
863 Ye dide me streepe out of my povre weede,
864 And richely me cladden, of youre grace.
865 To yow broghte I noght elles, out of drede,
866 But feith, and nakednesse, and maydenhede;
867 And heere agayn your clothyng I restoore,
868 And eek your weddyng ryng, for everemore.
869 “The remenant of youre jueles redy be
870 Inwith youre chambre, dar I saufly sayn.
871 Naked out of my fadres hous,” quod she,
872 “I cam, and naked moot I turne agayn.
873 Al youre plesance wol I folwen fayn;
874 But yet I hope it be nat youre entente
875 That I smoklees out of youre paleys wente.
876 “Ye koude nat doon so dishonest a thyng,
877 That thilke wombe in which youre children leye
878 Sholde biforn the peple, in my walkyng,
879 Be seyn al bare; wherfore I yow preye,
880 Lat me nat lyk a worm go by the weye.
881 Remembre yow, myn owene lord so deere,
882 I was youre wyf, though I unworthy weere.
883 “Wherfore, in gerdon of my maydenhede,
884 Which that I broghte, and noght agayn I bere,
885 As voucheth sauf to yeve me, to my meede,
886 But swich a smok as I was wont to were,
887 That I therwith may wrye the wombe of here
888 That was youre wyf. And heer take I my leeve
889 Of yow, myn owene lord, lest I yow greve.”
890 “The smok,” quod he, “that thou hast on thy bak,
891 Lat it be stille, and bere it forth with thee.”
892 But wel unnethes thilke word he spak,
893 But wente his wey, for routhe and for pitee.
894 Biforn the folk hirselven strepeth she,
895 And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare,
896 Toward hir fadre hous forth is she fare.
897 The folk hire folwe, wepynge in hir weye,
898 And Fortune ay they cursen as they goon;
899 But she fro wepyng kepte hire eyen dreye,
900 Ne in this tyme word ne spak she noon.
901 Hir fader, that this tidynge herde anoon,
902 Curseth the day and tyme that Nature
903 Shoop hym to been a lyves creature.
904 For out of doute this olde poure man
905 Was evere in suspect of hir mariage;
906 For evere he demed, sith that it bigan,
907 That whan the lord fulfild hadde his corage,
908 Hym wolde thynke it were a disparage
909 To his estaat so lowe for t’ alighte,
910 And voyden hire as soone as ever he myghte.
911 Agayns his doghter hastily goth he,
912 For he by noyse of folk knew hire comynge,
913 And with hire olde coote, as it myghte be
914 He covered hire, ful sorwefully wepynge.
915 But on hire body myghte he it nat brynge,
916 For rude was the clooth, and moore of age
917 By dayes fele than at hire mariage.
918 Thus with hire fader for a certeyn space
919 Dwelleth this flour of wyfly pacience,
920 That neither by hire wordes ne hire face,
921 Biforn the folk, ne eek in hire absence,
922 Ne shewed she that hire was doon offence;
923 Ne of hire heighe estaat no remembraunce
924 Ne hadde she, as by hire contenaunce.
925 No wonder is, for in hire grete estaat
926 Hire goost was evere in pleyn humylitee;
927 No tendre mouth, noon herte delicaat,
928 No pompe, no semblant of roialtee,
929 But ful of pacient benyngnytee,
930 Discreet and pridelees, ay honurable,
931 And to hire housbonde evere meke and stable.
932 Men speke of Job, and moost for his humblesse,
933 As clerkes, whan hem list, konne wel endite,
934 Namely of men, but as in soothfastnesse,
935 Though clerkes preise wommen but a lite,
936 Ther kan no man in humblesse hym acquite
937 As womman kan, ne kan been half so trewe
938 As wommen been, but it be falle of newe.
939 Fro Boloigne is this Erl of Panyk come,
940 Of which the fame up sprang to moore and lesse,
941 And to the peples eres, alle and some,
942 Was kouth eek that a newe markysesse
943 He with hym broghte, in swich pompe and richesse
944 That nevere was ther seyn with mannes ye
945 So noble array in al West Lumbardye.
946 The markys, which that shoop and knew al this,
947 Er that this erl was come, sente his message
948 For thilke sely povre Grisildis;
949 And she with humble herte and glad visage,
950 Nat with no swollen thoght in hire corage,
951 Cam at his heste, and on hire knees hire sette,
952 And reverently and wisely she hym grette.
953 “Grisilde,” quod he, “my wyl is outrely
954 This mayden, that shal wedded been to me,
955 Received be to-morwe as roially
956 As it possible is in myn hous to be,
957 And eek that every wight in his degree
958 Have his estaat, in sittyng and servyse
959 And heigh plesaunce, as I kan best devyse.
960 “I have no wommen suffisaunt, certayn,
961 The chambres for t’ arraye in ordinaunce
962 After my lust, and therfore wolde I fayn
963 That thyn were al swich manere governaunce.
964 Thou knowest eek of old al my plesaunce;
965 Thogh thyn array be badde and yvel biseye,
966 Do thou thy devoir at the leeste weye.”
967 “Nat oonly, lord, that I am glad,” quod she,
968 “To doon youre lust, but I desire also
969 Yow for to serve and plese in my degree
970 Withouten feyntyng, and shal everemo;
971 Ne nevere, for no wele ne no wo,
972 Ne shal the goost withinne myn herte stente
973 To love yow best with al my trewe entente.”
974 And with that word she gan the hous to dighte,
975 And tables for to sette, and beddes make;
976 And peyned hire to doon al that she myghte,
977 Preyynge the chambereres, for Goddes sake,
978 To hasten hem, and faste swepe and shake;
979 And she, the mooste servysable of alle,
980 Hath every chambre arrayed and his halle.
981 Abouten undren gan this erl alighte,
982 That with hym broghte thise noble children tweye,
983 For which the peple ran to seen the sighte
984 Of hire array, so richely biseye;
985 And thanne at erst amonges hem they seye
986 That Walter was no fool, thogh that hym leste
987 To chaunge his wyf, for it was for the beste.
988 For she is fairer, as they deemen alle,
989 Than is Grisilde, and moore tendre of age,
990 And fairer fruyt bitwene hem sholde falle,
991 And moore plesant, for hire heigh lynage.
992 Hir brother eek so fair was of visage
993 That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce,
994 Commendynge now the markys governaunce.
995 “O stormy peple! Unsad and evere untrewe!
996 Ay undiscreet and chaungynge as a fane!
997 Delitynge evere in rumbul that is newe,
998 For lyk the moone ay wexe ye and wane!
999 Ay ful of clappyng, deere ynogh a jane!
1000 Youre doom is fals, youre constance yvele preeveth;
1001 A ful greet fool is he that on yow leeveth.”
1002 Thus seyden sadde folk in that citee,
1003 Whan that the peple gazed up and doun,
1004 For they were glad, right for the noveltee,
1005 To han a newe lady of hir toun.
1006 Namoore of this make I now mencioun,
1007 But to Grisilde agayn wol I me dresse,
1008 And telle hir constance and hir bisynesse.
1009 Ful bisy was Grisilde in every thyng
1010 That to the feeste was apertinent.
1011 Right noght was she abayst of hire clothyng,
1012 Thogh it were rude and somdeel eek torent;
1013 But with glad cheere to the yate is went
1014 With oother folk to greete the markysesse,
1015 And after that dooth forth hire bisynesse.
1016 With so glad chiere his gestes she receyveth,
1017 And so konnyngly, everich in his degree,
1018 That no defaute no man aperceyveth,
1019 But ay they wondren what she myghte bee
1020 That in so povre array was for to see,
1021 And koude swich honour and reverence,
1022 And worthily they preisen hire prudence.
1023 In al this meene while she ne stente
1024 This mayde and eek hir brother to commende
1025 With al hir herte, in ful benyngne entente,
1026 So wel that no man koude hir pris amende.
1027 But atte laste, whan that thise lordes wende
1028 To sitten doun to mete, he gan to calle
1029 Grisilde, as she was bisy in his halle.
1030 “Grisilde,” quod he, as it were in his pley,
1031 “How liketh thee my wyf and hire beautee?”
1032 “Right wel,” quod she, “my lord; for, in good fey,
1033 A fairer saugh I nevere noon than she.
1034 I prey to God yeve hire prosperitee;
1035 And so hope I that he wol to yow sende
1036 Plesance ynogh unto youre lyves ende.
1037 “O thyng biseke I yow, and warne also,
1038 That ye ne prikke with no tormentynge
1039 This tendre mayden, as ye han doon mo;
1040 For she is fostred in hire norissynge
1041 Moore tendrely, and, to my supposynge,
1042 She koude nat adversitee endure
1043 As koude a povre fostred creature.”
1044 And whan this Walter saugh hire pacience,
1045 Hir glade chiere, and no malice at al,
1046 And he so ofte had doon to hire offence,
1047 And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
1048 Continuynge evere hire innocence overal,
1049 This sturdy markys gan his herte dresse
1050 To rewen upon hire wyfly stedfastnesse.
1051 “This is ynogh, Grisilde myn,” quod he;
1052 “Be now namoore agast ne yvele apayed.
1053 I have thy feith and thy benyngnytee,
1054 As wel as evere womman was, assayed,
1055 In greet estaat and povreliche arrayed.
1056 Now knowe I, dere wyf, thy stedfastnesse” —
1057 And hire in armes took and gan hire kesse.
1058 And she for wonder took of it no keep;
1059 She herde nat what thyng he to hire seyde;
1060 She ferde as she had stert out of a sleep,
1061 Til she out of hire mazednesse abreyde.
1062 “Grisilde,” quod he, “by God, that for us deyde,
1063 Thou art my wyf, ne noon oother I have,
1064 Ne nevere hadde, as God my soule save!
1065 “This is thy doghter, which thou hast supposed
1066 To be my wyf; that oother feithfully
1067 Shal be myn heir, as I have ay disposed;
1068 Thou bare hym in thy body trewely.
1069 At Boloigne have I kept hem prively;
1070 Taak hem agayn, for now maystow nat seye
1071 That thou hast lorn noon of thy children tweye.
1072 ” And folk that ootherweys han seyd of me,
1073 I warne hem wel that I have doon this deede
1074 For no malice, ne for no crueltee,
1075 But for t’ assaye in thee thy wommanheede,
1076 And nat to sleen my children — God forbeede! —
1077 But for to kepe hem pryvely and stille,
1078 Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wille.”
1079 Whan she this herde, aswowne doun she falleth
1080 For pitous joye, and after hire swownynge
1081 She bothe hire yonge children to hire calleth,
1082 And in hire armes, pitously wepynge,
1083 Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissynge
1084 Ful lyk a mooder, with hire salte teeres
1085 She bathed bothe hire visage and hire heeres.
1086 O which a pitous thyng it was to se
1087 Hir swownyng, and hire humble voys to heere!
1088 “Grauntmercy, lord, God thanke it yow,” quod she,
1089 “That ye han saved me my children deere!
1090 Now rekke I nevere to been deed right heere;
1091 Sith I stonde in youre love and in youre grace,
1092 No fors of deeth, ne whan my spirit pace!
1093 “O tendre, o deere, o yonge children myne!
1094 Youre woful mooder wende stedfastly
1095 That crueel houndes or som foul vermyne
1096 Hadde eten yow; but God of his mercy
1097 And youre benyngne fader tendrely
1098 Hath doon yow kept” — and in that same stounde
1099 Al sodeynly she swapte adoun to grounde.
1100 And in hire swough so sadly holdeth she
1101 Hire children two, whan she gan hem t’ embrace,
1102 That with greet sleighte and greet difficultee
1103 The children from hire arm they gonne arace.
1104 O many a teere on many a pitous face
1105 Doun ran of hem that stooden hire bisyde;
1106 Unnethe abouten hire myghte they abyde.
1107 Walter hire gladeth and hire sorwe slaketh;
1108 She riseth up, abaysed, from hire traunce,
1109 And every wight hire joye and feeste maketh
1110 Til she hath caught agayn hire contenaunce.
1111 Walter hire dooth so feithfully plesaunce
1112 That it was deyntee for to seen the cheere
1113 Bitwixe hem two, now they been met yfeere.
1114 Thise ladyes, whan that they hir tyme say,
1115 Han taken hire and into chambre gon,
1116 And strepen hire out of hire rude array,
1117 And in a clooth of gold that brighte shoon,
1118 With a coroune of many a riche stoon
1119 Upon hire heed, they into halle hire broghte,
1120 And ther she was honured as hire oghte.
1121 Thus hath this pitous day a blisful ende,
1122 For every man and womman dooth his myght
1123 This day in murthe and revel to dispende
1124 Til on the welkne shoon the sterres lyght.
1125 For moore solempne in every mannes syght
1126 This feste was, and gretter of costage,
1127 Than was the revel of hire mariage.
1128 Ful many a yeer in heigh prosperitee
1129 Lyven thise two in concord and in reste,
1130 And richely his doghter maryed he
1131 Unto a lord, oon of the worthieste
1132 Of al Ytaille; and thanne in pees and reste
1133 His wyves fader in his court he kepeth,
1134 Til that the soule out of his body crepeth.
1135 His sone succedeth in his heritage
1136 In reste and pees, after his fader day,
1137 And fortunat was eek in mariage,
1138 Al putte he nat his wyf in greet assay.
1139 This world is nat so strong, it is no nay,
1140 As it hath been in olde tymes yoore,
1141 And herkneth what this auctour seith therfoore.
1142 This storie is seyd nat for that wyves sholde
1143 Folwen Grisilde as in humylitee,
1144 For it were inportable, though they wolde,
1145 But for that every wight, in his degree,
1146 Sholde be constant in adversitee
1147 As was Grisilde; therfore Petrak writeth
1148 This storie, which with heigh stile he enditeth.
1149 For sith a womman was so pacient
1150 Unto a mortal man, wel moore us oghte
1151 Receyven al in gree that God us sent;
1152 For greet skile is he preeve that he wroghte.
1153 But he ne tempteth no man that he boghte,
1154 As seith Seint Jame, if ye his pistel rede;
1155 He preeveth folk al day, it is no drede,
1156 And suffreth us, as for oure excercise,
1157 With sharpe scourges of adversitee
1158 Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wise;
1159 Nat for to knowe oure wyl, for certes he,
1160 Er we were born, knew al oure freletee;
1161 And for oure beste is al his governaunce.
1162 Lat us thanne lyve in vertuous suffraunce.
1163 But o word, lordynges, herkneth er I go:
1164 It were ful hard to fynde now-a-dayes
1165 In al a toun Grisildis thre or two;
1166 For if that they were put to swiche assayes,
1167 The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes
1168 With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at ye,
1169 It wolde rather breste a-two than plye.
1170 For which heere, for the Wyves love of Bathe —
1171 Whos lyf and al hire secte God mayntene
1172 In heigh maistrie, and elles were it scathe —
1173 I wol with lusty herte, fressh and grene,
1174 Seyn yow a song to glade yow, I wene;
1175 And lat us stynte of ernestful matere.
1176 Herkneth my song that seith in this manere:
1177 Grisilde is deed, and eek hire pacience,
1178 And bothe atones buryed in Ytaille;
1179 For which I crie in open audience
1180 No wedded man so hardy be t’ assaille
1181 His wyves pacience in trust to fynde
1182 Grisildis, for in certein he shal faille.
1183 O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
1184 Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naille,
1185 Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
1186 To write of yow a storie of swich mervaille
1187 As of Grisildis pacient and kynde,
1188 Lest Chichevache yow swelwe in hire entraille!
1189 Folweth Ekko, that holdeth no silence,
1190 But evere answereth at the countretaille.
1191 Beth nat bidaffed for youre innocence,
1192 But sharply taak on yow the governaille.
1193 Emprenteth wel this lessoun in youre mynde,
1194 For commune profit sith it may availle.
1195 Ye archewyves, stondeth at defense,
1196 Syn ye be strong as is a greet camaille;
1197 Ne suffreth nat that men yow doon offense.
1198 And sklendre wyves, fieble as in bataille,
1199 Beth egre as is a tygre yond in Ynde;
1200 Ay clappeth as a mille, I yow consaille.
1201 Ne dreed hem nat; doth hem no reverence,
1202 For though thyn housbonde armed be in maille,
1203 The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence
1204 Shal perce his brest and eek his aventaille.
1205 In jalousie I rede eek thou hym bynde,
1206 And thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille.
1207 If thou be fair, ther folk been in presence,
1208 Shewe thou thy visage and thyn apparaille;
1209 If thou be foul, be fre of thy dispence;
1210 To gete thee freendes ay do thy travaille;
1211 Be ay of chiere as light as leef on lynde,
1212 And lat hym care, and wepe, and wrynge, and waille!
1212a [This worthy Clerk, whan ended was his tale,
1212b Oure Hooste seyde, and swoor, “By Goddes bones,
1212c Me were levere than a barel ale
1212d My wyf at hoom had herd this legende ones!
1212e This is a gentil tale for the nones,
1212f As to my purpos, wiste ye my wille;
1212g But thyng that wol nat be, lat it be stille.”]

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