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11. THE MERCHANT’S TALE

Prologue

1213 “Wepyng and waylyng, care and oother sorwe
1214 I knowe ynogh, on even and a-morwe,”
1215 Quod the Marchant, “and so doon other mo
1216 That wedded been. I trowe that it be so,
1217 For wel I woot it fareth so with me.
1218 I have a wyf, the worste that may be;
1219 For thogh the feend to hire ycoupled were,
1220 She wolde hym overmacche, I dar wel swere.
1221 What sholde I yow reherce in special
1222 Hir hye malice? She is a shrewe at al.
1223 Ther is a long and large difference
1224 Bitwix Grisildis grete pacience
1225 And of my wyf the passyng crueltee.
1226 Were I unbounden, also moot I thee,
1227 I wolde nevere eft comen in the snare.
1228 We wedded men lyven in sorwe and care.
1229 Assaye whoso wole, and he shal fynde
1230 That I seye sooth, by Seint Thomas of Ynde,
1231 As for the moore part — I sey nat alle.
1232 God shilde that it sholde so bifalle!
1233 ” A, goode sire Hoost, I have ywedded bee
1234 Thise monthes two, and moore nat, pardee;
1235 And yet, I trowe, he that al his lyve
1236 Wyflees hath been, though that men wolde him ryve
1237 Unto the herte, ne koude in no manere
1238 Tellen so muchel sorwe as I now heere
1239 Koude tellen of my wyves cursednesse!”
1240 “Now,” quod oure Hoost, “Marchaunt, so God yow blesse,
1241 Syn ye so muchel knowen of that art
1242 Ful hertely I pray yow telle us part.”
1243 “Gladly,” quod he, “but of myn owene soore,
1244 For soory herte, I telle may namoore.”

The Tale

1245 Whilom ther was dwellynge in Lumbardye
1246 A worthy knyght, that born was of Pavye,
1247 In which he lyved in greet prosperitee;
1248 And sixty yeer a wyflees man was hee,
1249 And folwed ay his bodily delyt
1250 On wommen, ther as was his appetyt,
1251 As doon thise fooles that been seculeer.
1252 And whan that he was passed sixty yeer,
1253 Were it for hoolynesse or for dotage
1254 I kan nat seye, but swich a greet corage
1255 Hadde this knyght to been a wedded man
1256 That day and nyght he dooth al that he kan
1257 T’ espien where he myghte wedded be,
1258 Preyinge oure Lord to graunten him that he
1259 Mighte ones knowe of thilke blisful lyf
1260 That is bitwixe an housbonde and his wyf,
1261 And for to lyve under that hooly boond
1262 With which that first God man and womman bond.
1263 “Noon oother lyf,” seyde he, “is worth a bene,
1264 For wedlok is so esy and so clene,
1265 That in this world it is a paradys.”
1266 Thus seyde this olde knyght, that was so wys.
1267 And certeinly, as sooth as God is kyng,
1268 To take a wyf it is a glorious thyng,
1269 And namely whan a man is oold and hoor;
1270 Thanne is a wyf the fruyt of his tresor.
1271 Thanne sholde he take a yong wyf and a feir,
1272 On which he myghte engendren hym an heir,
1273 And lede his lyf in joye and in solas,
1274 Where as thise bacheleris synge “allas,”
1275 Whan that they fynden any adversitee
1276 In love, which nys but childyssh vanytee.
1277 And trewely it sit wel to be so,
1278 That bacheleris have often peyne and wo;
1279 On brotel ground they buylde, and brotelnesse
1280 They fynde whan they wene sikernesse.
1281 They lyve but as a bryd or as a beest,
1282 In libertee and under noon arreest,
1283 Ther as a wedded man in his estaat
1284 Lyveth a lyf blisful and ordinaat
1285 Under this yok of mariage ybounde.
1286 Wel may his herte in joy and blisse habounde,
1287 For who kan be so buxom as a wyf?
1288 Who is so trewe, and eek so ententyf
1289 To kepe hym, syk and hool, as is his make?
1290 For wele or wo she wole hym nat forsake;
1291 She nys nat wery hym to love and serve,
1292 Though that he lye bedrede til he sterve.
1293 And yet somme clerkes seyn it nys nat so,
1294 Of whiche he Theofraste is oon of tho.
1295 What force though Theofraste liste lye?
1296 “Ne take no wyf,” quod he, “for housbondrye,
1297 As for to spare in houshold thy dispence.
1298 A trewe servant dooth moore diligence
1299 Thy good to kepe than thyn owene wyf,
1300 For she wol clayme half part al hir lyf.
1301 And if thou be syk, so God me save,
1302 Thy verray freendes, or a trewe knave,
1303 Wol kepe thee bet than she that waiteth ay
1304 After thy good and hath doon many a day.
1305 And if thou take a wyf unto thyn hoold
1306 Ful lightly maystow been a cokewold.”
1307 This sentence, and an hundred thynges worse,
1308 Writeth this man, ther God his bones corse!
1309 But take no kep of al swich vanytee;
1310 Deffie Theofraste, and herke me.
1311 A wyf is Goddes yifte verraily;
1312 Alle othere manere yiftes hardily,
1313 As londes, rentes, pasture, or commune,
1314 Or moebles — alle been yiftes of Fortune
1315 That passen as a shadwe upon a wal.
1316 But drede nat, if pleynly speke I shal:
1317 A wyf wol laste, and in thyn hous endure,
1318 Wel lenger than thee list, paraventure.
1319 Mariage is a ful greet sacrement.
1320 He which that hath no wyf, I holde hym shent;
1321 He lyveth helplees and al desolat —
1322 I speke of folk in seculer estaat.
1323 And herke why — I sey nat this for noght —
1324 That womman is for mannes helpe ywroght.
1325 The hye God, whan he hadde Adam maked,
1326 And saugh him al allone, bely-naked,
1327 God of his grete goodnesse seyde than,
1328 “Lat us now make an helpe unto this man
1329 Lyk to hymself”; and thanne he made him Eve.
1330 Heere may ye se, and heerby may ye preve,
1331 That wyf is mannes helpe and his confort,
1332 His paradys terrestre, and his disport.
1333 So buxom and so vertuous is she,
1334 They moste nedes lyve in unitee.
1335 O flessh they been, and o fleesh, as I gesse,
1336 Hath but oon herte, in wele and in distresse.
1337 A wyf! a, Seinte Marie, benedicite!
1338 How myghte a man han any adversitee
1339 That hath a wyf? Certes, I kan nat seye.
1340 The blisse which that is bitwixe hem tweye
1341 Ther may no tonge telle, or herte thynke.
1342 If he be povre, she helpeth hym to swynke;
1343 She kepeth his good, and wasteth never a deel;
1344 Al that hire housbonde lust, hire liketh weel;
1345 She seith nat ones “nay,” whan he seith “ye.”
1346 “Do this,” seith he; ” Al redy, sire,” seith she.
1347 O blisful ordre of wedlok precious,
1348 Thou art so murye, and eek so vertuous,
1349 And so commended and appreved eek
1350 That every man that halt hym worth a leek
1351 Upon his bare knees oughte al his lyf
1352 Thanken his God that hym hath sent a wyf,
1353 Or elles preye to God hym for to sende
1354 A wyf to laste unto his lyves ende.
1355 For thanne his lyf is set in sikernesse;
1356 He may nat be deceyved, as I gesse,
1357 So that he werke after his wyves reed.
1358 Thanne may he boldely beren up his heed,
1359 They been so trewe and therwithal so wyse;
1360 For which, if thou wolt werken as the wyse,
1361 Do alwey so as wommen wol thee rede.
1362 Lo, how that Jacob, as thise clerkes rede,
1363 By good conseil of his mooder Rebekke,
1364 Boond the kydes skyn aboute his nekke,
1365 For which his fadres benyson he wan.
1366 Lo Judith, as the storie eek telle kan,
1367 By wys conseil she Goddes peple kepte,
1368 And slow hym Olofernus, whil he slepte.
1369 Lo Abigayl, by good conseil how she
1370 Saved hir housbonde Nabal whan that he
1371 Sholde han be slayn; and looke, Ester also
1372 By good conseil delyvered out of wo
1373 The peple of God, and made hym Mardochee
1374 Of Assuere enhaunced for to be.
1375 Ther nys no thyng in gree superlatyf,
1376 As seith Senek, above an humble wyf.
1377 Suffre thy wyves tonge, as Catoun bit;
1378 She shal comande, and thou shalt suffren it,
1379 And yet she wole obeye of curteisye.
1380 A wyf is kepere of thyn housbondrye;
1381 Wel may the sike man biwaille and wepe,
1382 Ther as ther nys no wyf the hous to kepe.
1383 I warne thee, if wisely thou wolt wirche,
1384 Love wel thy wyf, as Crist loved his chirche.
1385 If thou lovest thyself, thou lovest thy wyf;
1386 No man hateth his flessh, but in his lyf
1387 He fostreth it, and therfore bidde I thee
1388 Cherisse thy wyf, or thou shalt nevere thee.
1389 Housbonde and wyf, what so men jape or pleye,
1390 Of worldly folk holden the siker weye;
1391 They been so knyt ther may noon harm bityde,
1392 And namely upon the wyves syde.
1393 For which this Januarie, of whom I tolde,
1394 Considered hath, inwith his dayes olde,
1395 The lusty lyf, the vertuous quyete,
1396 That is in mariage hony-sweete,
1397 And for his freendes on a day he sente,
1398 To tellen hem th’ effect of his entente.
1399 With face sad his tale he hath hem toold.
1400 He seyde, “Freendes, I am hoor and oold,
1401 And almoost, God woot, on my pittes brynke;
1402 Upon my soule somwhat moste I thynke.
1403 I have my body folily despended;
1404 Blessed be God that it shal been amended!
1405 For I wol be, certeyn, a wedded man,
1406 And that anoon in al the haste I kan.
1407 Unto som mayde fair and tendre of age,
1408 I prey yow, shapeth for my mariage
1409 Al sodeynly, for I wol nat abyde;
1410 And I wol fonde t’ espien, on my syde,
1411 To whom I may be wedded hastily.
1412 But forasmuche as ye been mo than I,
1413 Ye shullen rather swich a thyng espyen
1414 Than I, and where me best were to allyen.
1415 “But o thyng warne I yow, my freendes deere,
1416 I wol noon oold wyf han in no manere.
1417 She shal nat passe twenty yeer, certayn;
1418 Oold fissh and yong flessh wolde I have fayn.
1419 Bet is,” quod he, “a pyk than a pykerel,
1420 And bet than old boef is the tendre veel.
1421 I wol no womman thritty yeer of age;
1422 It is but bene-straw and greet forage.
1423 And eek thise olde wydwes, God it woot,
1424 They konne so muchel craft on Wades boot,
1425 So muchel broken harm, whan that hem leste,
1426 That with hem sholde I nevere lyve in reste.
1427 For sondry scoles maken sotile clerkis;
1428 Womman of manye scoles half a clerk is.
1429 But certeynly, a yong thyng may men gye,
1430 Right as men may warm wex with handes plye.
1431 Wherfore I sey yow pleynly, in a clause,
1432 I wol noon oold wyf han right for this cause.
1433 For if so were I hadde swich myschaunce
1434 That I in hire ne koude han no plesaunce,
1435 Thanne sholde I lede my lyf in avoutrye
1436 And go streight to the devel whan I dye.
1437 Ne children sholde I none upon hire geten;
1438 Yet were me levere houndes had me eten
1439 Than that myn heritage sholde falle
1440 In straunge hand, and this I telle yow alle.
1441 I dote nat; I woot the cause why
1442 Men sholde wedde, and forthermoore woot I
1443 Ther speketh many a man of mariage
1444 That woot namoore of it than woot my page
1445 For whiche causes man sholde take a wyf.
1446 If he ne may nat lyven chaast his lyf,
1447 Take hym a wyf with greet devocioun,
1448 By cause of leveful procreacioun
1449 Of children to th’ onour of God above,
1450 And nat oonly for paramour or love;
1451 And for they sholde leccherye eschue,
1452 And yelde hir dette whan that it is due;
1453 Or for that ech of hem sholde helpen oother
1454 In meschief, as a suster shal the brother,
1455 And lyve in chastitee ful holily.
1456 But sires, by youre leve, that am nat I.
1457 For — God be thanked! — I dar make avaunt
1458 I feele my lymes stark and suffisaunt
1459 To do al that a man bilongeth to;
1460 I woot myselven best what I may do.
1461 Though I be hoor, I fare as dooth a tree
1462 That blosmeth er that fruyt ywoxen bee;
1463 And blosmy tree nys neither drye ne deed.
1464 I feele me nowhere hoor but on myn heed;
1465 Myn herte and alle my lymes been as grene
1466 As laurer thurgh the yeer is for to sene.
1467 And syn that ye han herd al myn entente,
1468 I prey yow to my wyl ye wole assente.”
1469 Diverse men diversely hym tolde
1470 Of mariage manye ensamples olde.
1471 Somme blamed it, somme preysed it, certeyn,
1472 But atte laste, shortly for to seyn,
1473 As al day falleth altercacioun
1474 Bitwixen freendes in disputisoun,
1475 Ther fil a stryf bitwixe his bretheren two,
1476 Of whiche that oon was cleped Placebo;
1477 Justinus soothly called was that oother.
1478 Placebo seyde, “O Januarie, brother,
1479 Ful litel nede hadde ye, my lord so deere,
1480 Conseil to axe of any that is heere,
1481 But that ye been so ful of sapience
1482 That yow ne liketh, for youre heighe prudence,
1483 To weyven fro the word of Salomon.
1484 This word seyde he unto us everychon:
1485 ‘Wirk alle thyng by conseil,’ thus seyde he,
1486 ‘ And thanne shaltow nat repente thee.’
1487 But though that Salomon spak swich a word,
1488 Myn owene deere brother and my lord,
1489 So wysly God my soule brynge at reste,
1490 I holde youre owene conseil is the beste.
1491 For, brother myn, of me taak this motyf:
1492 I have now been a court-man al my lyf,
1493 And God it woot, though I unworthy be,
1494 I have stonden in ful greet degree
1495 Abouten lordes of ful heigh estaat;
1496 Yet hadde I nevere with noon of hem debaat.
1497 I nevere hem contraried, trewely;
1498 I woot wel that my lord kan moore than I.
1499 What that he seith, I holde it ferme and stable;
1500 I seye the same, or elles thyng semblable.
1501 A ful greet fool is any conseillour
1502 That serveth any lord of heigh honour,
1503 That dar presume, or elles thenken it,
1504 That his conseil sholde passe his lordes wit.
1505 Nay, lordes been no fooles, by my fay!
1506 Ye han youreselven shewed heer to-day
1507 So heigh sentence, so holily and weel,
1508 That I consente and conferme everydeel
1509 Youre wordes alle and youre opinioun.
1510 By God, ther nys no man in al this toun,
1511 Ne in Ytaille, that koude bet han sayd!
1512 Crist halt hym of this conseil ful wel apayd.
1513 And trewely, it is an heigh corage
1514 Of any man that stapen is in age
1515 To take a yong wyf; by my fader kyn,
1516 Youre herte hangeth on a joly pyn!
1517 Dooth now in this matiere right as yow leste,
1518 For finally I holde it for the beste.”
1519 Justinus, that ay stille sat and herde,
1520 Right in this wise he to Placebo answerde:
1521 “Now, brother myn, be pacient, I preye,
1522 Syn ye han seyd, and herkneth what I seye.
1523 Senek, amonges othere wordes wyse,
1524 Seith that a man oghte hym right wel avyse
1525 To whom he yeveth his lond or his catel.
1526 And syn I oghte avyse me right wel
1527 To whom I yeve my good awey fro me,
1528 Wel muchel moore I oghte avysed be
1529 To whom I yeve my body for alwey.
1530 I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley
1531 To take a wyf withouten avysement.
1532 Men moste enquere — this is myn assent —
1533 Wher she be wys, or sobre, or dronkelewe,
1534 Or proud, or elles ootherweys a shrewe,
1535 A chidestere, or wastour of thy good,
1536 Or riche, or poore, or elles mannyssh wood.
1537 Al be it so that no man fynden shal
1538 Noon in this world that trotteth hool in al,
1539 Ne man, ne beest, swich as men koude devyse;
1540 But nathelees it oghte ynough suffise
1541 With any wyf, if so were that she hadde
1542 Mo goode thewes than hire vices badde;
1543 And al this axeth leyser for t’ enquere.
1544 For, God it woot, I have wept many a teere
1545 Ful pryvely, syn I have had a wyf.
1546 Preyse whoso wole a wedded mannes lyf,
1547 Certein I fynde in it but cost and care
1548 And observances, of alle blisses bare.
1549 And yet, God woot, my neighebores aboute,
1550 And namely of wommen many a route,
1551 Seyn that I have the mooste stedefast wyf,
1552 And eek the mekeste oon that bereth lyf;
1553 But I woot best where wryngeth me my sho.
1554 Ye mowe, for me, right as yow liketh do;
1555 Avyseth yow — ye been a man of age —
1556 How that ye entren into mariage,
1557 And namely with a yong wyf and a fair.
1558 By hym that made water, erthe, and air,
1559 The yongeste man that is in al this route
1560 Is bisy ynough to bryngen it aboute
1561 To han his wyf allone. Trusteth me,
1562 Ye shul nat plesen hire fully yeres thre —
1563 This is to seyn, to doon hire ful plesaunce.
1564 A wyf axeth ful many an observaunce.
1565 I prey yow that ye be nat yvele apayd.”
1566 “Wel,” quod this Januarie, “and hastow ysayd?
1567 Straw for thy Senek, and for thy proverbes!
1568 I counte nat a panyer ful of herbes
1569 Of scole-termes. Wyser men than thow,
1570 As thou hast herd, assenteden right now
1571 To my purpos. Placebo, what sey ye?”
1572 “I seye it is a cursed man,” quod he,
1573 “That letteth matrimoigne, sikerly.”
1574 And with that word they rysen sodeynly,
1575 And been assented fully that he sholde
1576 Be wedded whanne hym liste and where he wolde.
1577 Heigh fantasye and curious bisynesse
1578 Fro day to day gan in the soule impresse
1579 Of Januarie aboute his mariage.
1580 Many fair shap and many a fair visage
1581 Ther passeth thurgh his herte nyght by nyght,
1582 As whoso tooke a mirour, polisshed bryght,
1583 And sette it in a commune market-place,
1584 Thanne sholde he se ful many a figure pace
1585 By his mirour; and in the same wyse
1586 Gan Januarie inwith his thoght devyse
1587 Of maydens whiche that dwelten hym bisyde.
1588 He wiste nat wher that he myghte abyde.
1589 For if that oon have beaute in hir face,
1590 Another stant so in the peples grace
1591 For hire sadnesse and hire benyngnytee
1592 That of the peple grettest voys hath she;
1593 And somme were riche and hadden badde name.
1594 But nathelees, bitwixe ernest and game,
1595 He atte laste apoynted hym on oon,
1596 And leet alle othere from his herte goon,
1597 And chees hire of his owene auctoritee;
1598 For love is blynd alday, and may nat see.
1599 And whan that he was in his bed ybroght,
1600 He purtreyed in his herte and in his thoght
1601 Hir fresshe beautee and hir age tendre,
1602 Hir myddel smal, hire armes longe and sklendre,
1603 Hir wise governaunce, hir gentillesse,
1604 Hir wommanly berynge, and hire sadnesse.
1605 And whan that he on hire was condescended,
1606 Hym thoughte his choys myghte nat ben amended.
1607 For whan that he hymself concluded hadde,
1608 Hym thoughte ech oother mannes wit so badde
1609 That inpossible it were to repplye
1610 Agayn his choys; this was his fantasye.
1611 His freendes sente he to, at his instaunce,
1612 And preyed hem to doon hym that plesaunce,
1613 That hastily they wolden to hym come;
1614 He wolde abregge hir labour, alle and some.
1615 Nedeth namoore for hym to go ne ryde;
1616 He was apoynted ther he wolde abyde.
1617 Placebo cam, and eek his freendes soone,
1618 And alderfirst he bad hem alle a boone,
1619 That noon of hem none argumentes make
1620 Agayn the purpos which that he hath take,
1621 Which purpos was plesant to God, seyde he,
1622 And verray ground of his prosperitee.
1623 He seyde ther was a mayden in the toun,
1624 Which that of beautee hadde greet renoun,
1625 Al were it so she were of smal degree;
1626 Suffiseth hym hir yowthe and hir beautee.
1627 Which mayde, he seyde, he wolde han to his wyf,
1628 To lede in ese and hoolynesse his lyf;
1629 And thanked God that he myghte han hire al,
1630 That no wight his blisse parten shal.
1631 And preyed hem to laboure in this nede,
1632 And shapen that he faille nat to spede;
1633 For thanne, he seyde, his spirit was at ese.
1634 “Thanne is,” quod he, “no thyng may me displese,
1635 Save o thyng priketh in my conscience,
1636 The which I wol reherce in youre presence.
1637 “I have,” quod he, “herd seyd, ful yoore ago,
1638 Ther may no man han parfite blisses two —
1639 This is to seye, in erthe and eek in hevene.
1640 For though he kepe hym fro the synnes sevene,
1641 And eek from every branche of thilke tree,
1642 Yet is ther so parfit felicitee
1643 And so greet ese and lust in mariage
1644 That evere I am agast now in myn age
1645 That I shal lede now so myrie a lyf,
1646 So delicat, withouten wo and stryf,
1647 That I shal have myn hevene in erthe heere.
1648 For sith that verray hevene is boght so deere
1649 With tribulacion and greet penaunce,
1650 How sholde I thanne, that lyve in swich plesaunce
1651 As alle wedded men doon with hire wyvys,
1652 Come to the blisse ther Crist eterne on lyve ys?
1653 This is my drede, and ye, my bretheren tweye,
1654 Assoilleth me this question, I preye.”
1655 Justinus, which that hated his folye,
1656 Answerde anon right in his japerye;
1657 And for he wolde his longe tale abregge,
1658 He wolde noon auctoritee allegge,
1659 But seyde, “Sire, so ther be noon obstacle
1660 Oother than this, God of his hygh myracle
1661 And of his mercy may so for yow wirche
1662 That, er ye have youre right of hooly chirche,
1663 Ye may repente of wedded mannes lyf,
1664 In which ye seyn ther is no wo ne stryf.
1665 And elles, God forbede but he sente
1666 A wedded man hym grace to repente
1667 Wel ofte rather than a sengle man!
1668 And therfore, sire — the beste reed I kan —
1669 Dispeire yow noght, but have in youre memorie,
1670 Paraunter she may be youre purgatorie!
1671 She may be Goddes meene and Goddes whippe;
1672 Thanne shal youre soule up to hevene skippe
1673 Swifter than dooth an arwe out of a bowe.
1674 I hope to God, herafter shul ye knowe
1675 That ther nys no so greet felicitee
1676 In mariage, ne nevere mo shal bee,
1677 That yow shal lette of youre savacion,
1678 So that ye use, as skile is and reson,
1679 The lustes of youre wyf attemprely,
1680 And that ye plese hire nat to amorously,
1681 And that ye kepe yow eek from oother synne.
1682 My tale is doon, for my wit is thynne.
1683 Beth nat agast herof, my brother deere,
1684 But lat us waden out of this mateere.
1685 The Wyf of Bathe, if ye han understonde,
1686 Of mariage, which we have on honde,
1687 Declared hath ful wel in litel space.
1688 Fareth now wel. God have yow in his grace.”
1689 And with this word this Justyn and his brother
1690 Han take hir leve, and ech of hem of oother.
1691 For whan they saughe that it moste nedes be,
1692 They wroghten so, by sly and wys tretee,
1693 That she, this mayden which that Mayus highte,
1694 As hastily as evere that she myghte
1695 Shal wedded be unto this Januarie.
1696 I trowe it were to longe yow to tarie,
1697 If I yow tolde of every scrit and bond
1698 By which that she was feffed in his lond,
1699 Or for to herknen of hir riche array.
1700 But finally ycomen is the day
1701 That to the chirche bothe be they went
1702 For to receyve the hooly sacrement.
1703 Forth comth the preest, with stole aboute his nekke,
1704 And bad hire be lyk Sarra and Rebekke
1705 In wysdom and in trouthe of mariage;
1706 And seyde his orisons, as is usage,
1707 And croucheth hem, and bad God sholde hem blesse,
1708 And made al siker ynogh with hoolynesse.
1709 Thus been they wedded with solempnitee,
1710 And at the feeste sitteth he and she
1711 With othere worthy folk upon the deys.
1712 Al ful of joye and blisse is the paleys,
1713 And ful of instrumentz and of vitaille,
1714 The mooste deyntevous of al Ytaille.
1715 Biforn hem stoode instrumentz of swich soun
1716 That Orpheus, ne of Thebes Amphioun,
1717 Ne maden nevere swich a melodye.
1718 At every cours thanne cam loud mynstralcye
1719 That nevere tromped Joab for to heere,
1720 Nor he Theodomas, yet half so cleere
1721 At Thebes whan the citee was in doute.
1722 Bacus the wyn hem shynketh al aboute,
1723 And Venus laugheth upon every wight,
1724 For Januarie was bicome hir knyght
1725 And wolde bothe assayen his corage
1726 In libertee, and eek in mariage;
1727 And with hire fyrbrond in hire hand aboute
1728 Daunceth biforn the bryde and al the route.
1729 And certeinly, I dar right wel seyn this,
1730 Ymeneus, that god of weddyng is,
1731 Saugh nevere his lyf so myrie a wedded man.
1732 Hoold thou thy pees, thou poete Marcian,
1733 That writest us that ilke weddyng murie
1734 Of hire Philologie and hym Mercurie,
1735 And of the songes that the Muses songe!
1736 To smal is bothe thy penne, and eek thy tonge,
1737 For to descryven of this mariage.
1738 Whan tendre youthe hath wedded stoupyng age,
1739 Ther is swich myrthe that it may nat be writen.
1740 Assayeth it youreself; thanne may ye witen
1741 If that I lye or noon in this matiere.
1742 Mayus, that sit with so benyngne a chiere,
1743 Hire to biholde it semed fayerye.
1744 Queene Ester looked nevere with swich an ye
1745 On Assuer, so meke a look hath she.
1746 I may yow nat devyse al hir beautee.
1747 But thus muche of hire beautee telle I may,
1748 That she was lyk the brighte morwe of May,
1749 Fulfild of alle beautee and plesaunce.
1750 This Januarie is ravysshed in a traunce
1751 At every tyme he looked on hir face;
1752 But in his herte he gan hire to manace
1753 That he that nyght in armes wolde hire streyne
1754 Harder than evere Parys dide Eleyne.
1755 But nathelees yet hadde he greet pitee
1756 That thilke nyght offenden hire moste he,
1757 And thoughte, ” Allas! O tendre creature,
1758 Now wolde God ye myghte wel endure
1759 Al my corage, it is so sharp and keene!
1760 I am agast ye shul it nat susteene.
1761 But God forbede that I dide al my myght!
1762 Now wolde God that it were woxen nyght,
1763 And that the nyght wolde lasten everemo.
1764 I wolde that al this peple were ago.”
1765 And finally he dooth al his labour,
1766 As he best myghte, savynge his honour,
1767 To haste hem fro the mete in subtil wyse.
1768 The tyme cam that resoun was to ryse;
1769 And after that men daunce and drynken faste,
1770 And spices al aboute the hous they caste,
1771 And ful of joye and blisse is every man —
1772 Al but a squyer, highte Damyan,
1773 Which carf biforn the knyght ful many a day.
1774 He was so ravysshed on his lady May
1775 That for the verray peyne he was ny wood.
1776 Almoost he swelte and swowned ther he stood,
1777 So soore hath Venus hurt hym with hire brond,
1778 As that she bar it daunsynge in hire hond;
1779 And to his bed he wente hym hastily.
1780 Namoore of hym at this tyme speke I,
1781 But there I lete hym wepe ynogh and pleyne
1782 Til fresshe May wol rewen on his peyne.
1783 O perilous fyr, that in the bedstraw bredeth!
1784 O famulier foo, that his servyce bedeth!
1785 O servant traytour, false hoomly hewe,
1786 Lyk to the naddre in bosom sly untrewe,
1787 God shilde us alle from youre aqueyntaunce!
1788 O Januarie, dronken in plesaunce
1789 In mariage, se how thy Damyan,
1790 Thyn owene squier and thy borne man,
1791 Entendeth for to do thee vileynye.
1792 God graunte thee thyn hoomly fo t’ espye!
1793 For in this world nys worse pestilence
1794 Than hoomly foo al day in thy presence.
1795 Parfourned hath the sonne his ark diurne;
1796 No lenger may the body of hym sojurne
1797 On th’ orisonte, as in that latitude.
1798 Night with his mantel, that is derk and rude,
1799 Gan oversprede the hemysperie aboute;
1800 For which departed is this lusty route
1801 Fro Januarie, with thank on every syde.
1802 Hoom to hir houses lustily they ryde,
1803 Where as they doon hir thynges as hem leste,
1804 And whan they sye hir tyme, goon to reste.
1805 Soone after that, this hastif Januarie
1806 Wolde go to bedde; he wolde no lenger tarye.
1807 He drynketh ypocras, clarree, and vernage
1808 Of spices hoote t’ encreessen his corage;
1809 And many a letuarie hath he ful fyn,
1810 Swiche as the cursed monk, daun Constantyn,
1811 Hath writen in his book De Coitu;
1812 To eten hem alle he nas no thyng eschu.
1813 And to his privee freendes thus seyde he:
1814 “For Goddes love, as soone as it may be,
1815 Lat voyden al this hous in curteys wyse.”
1816 And they han doon right as he wol devyse.
1817 Men drynken and the travers drawe anon.
1818 The bryde was broght abedde as stille as stoon;
1819 And whan the bed was with the preest yblessed,
1820 Out of the chambre hath every wight hym dressed,
1821 And Januarie hath faste in armes take
1822 His fresshe May, his paradys, his make.
1823 He lulleth hire; he kisseth hire ful ofte;
1824 With thikke brustles of his berd unsofte,
1825 Lyk to the skyn of houndfyssh, sharp as brere —
1826 For he was shave al newe in his manere —
1827 He rubbeth hire aboute hir tendre face,
1828 And seyde thus, ” Allas! I moot trespace
1829 To yow, my spouse, and yow greetly offende
1830 Er tyme come that I wil doun descende.
1831 But nathelees, considereth this,” quod he,
1832 “Ther nys no werkman, whatsoevere he be,
1833 That may bothe werke wel and hastily;
1834 This wol be doon at leyser parfitly.
1835 It is no fors how longe that we pleye;
1836 In trewe wedlok coupled be we tweye,
1837 And blessed be the yok that we been inne,
1838 For in oure actes we mowe do no synne.
1839 A man may do no synne with his wyf,
1840 Ne hurte hymselven with his owene knyf,
1841 For we han leve to pleye us by the lawe.”
1842 Thus laboureth he til that the day gan dawe;
1843 And thanne he taketh a sop in fyn clarree,
1844 And upright in his bed thanne sitteth he,
1845 And after that he sang ful loude and cleere,
1846 And kiste his wyf, and made wantown cheere.
1847 He was al coltissh, ful of ragerye,
1848 And ful of jargon as a flekked pye.
1849 The slakke skyn aboute his nekke shaketh
1850 Whil that he sang, so chaunteth he and craketh.
1851 But God woot what that May thoughte in hir herte,
1852 Whan she hym saugh up sittynge in his sherte,
1853 In his nyght-cappe, and with his nekke lene;
1854 She preyseth nat his pleyyng worth a bene.
1855 Thanne seide he thus, “My reste wol I take;
1856 Now day is come, I may no lenger wake.”
1857 And doun he leyde his heed and sleep til pryme.
1858 And afterward, whan that he saugh his tyme,
1859 Up ryseth Januarie; but fresshe May
1860 Heeld hire chambre unto the fourthe day,
1861 As usage is of wyves for the beste.
1862 For every labour somtyme moot han reste,
1863 Or elles longe may he nat endure;
1864 This is to seyn, no lyves creature,
1865 Be it of fyssh, or bryd, or beest, or man.
1866 Now wol I speke of woful Damyan,
1867 That langwissheth for love, as ye shul heere;
1868 Therfore I speke to hym in this manere:
1869 I seye, “O sely Damyan, allas!
1870 Andswere to my demaunde, as in this cas.
1871 How shaltow to thy lady, fresshe May,
1872 Telle thy wo? She wole alwey seye nay.
1873 Eek if thou speke, she wol thy wo biwreye.
1874 God be thyn helpe! I kan no bettre seye.”
1875 This sike Damyan in Venus fyr
1876 So brenneth that he dyeth for desyr,
1877 For which he putte his lyf in aventure.
1878 No lenger myghte he in this wise endure,
1879 But prively a penner gan he borwe,
1880 And in a lettre wroot he al his sorwe,
1881 In manere of a compleynt or a lay,
1882 Unto his faire, fresshe lady May;
1883 And in a purs of sylk heng on his sherte
1884 He hath it put, and leyde it at his herte.
1885 The moone, that at noon was thilke day
1886 That Januarie hath wedded fresshe May
1887 In two of Tawr, was into Cancre glyden;
1888 So longe hath Mayus in hir chambre abyden,
1889 As custume is unto thise nobles alle.
1890 A bryde shal nat eten in the halle
1891 Til dayes foure, or thre dayes atte leeste,
1892 Ypassed been; thanne lat hire go to feeste.
1893 The fourthe day compleet fro noon to noon,
1894 Whan that the heighe masse was ydoon,
1895 In halle sit this Januarie and May,
1896 As fressh as is the brighte someres day.
1897 And so bifel how that this goode man
1898 Remembred hym upon this Damyan,
1899 And seyde, “Seynte Marie! how may this be,
1900 That Damyan entendeth nat to me?
1901 Is he ay syk, or how may this bityde?”
1902 His squieres, whiche that stooden ther bisyde,
1903 Excused hym by cause of his siknesse,
1904 Which letted hym to doon his bisynesse;
1905 Noon oother cause myghte make hym tarye.
1906 “That me forthynketh,” quod this Januarie,
1907 “He is a gentil squier, by my trouthe!
1908 If that he deyde, it were harm and routhe.
1909 He is as wys, discreet, and as secree
1910 As any man I woot of his degree,
1911 And therto manly, and eek servysable,
1912 And for to been a thrifty man right able.
1913 But after mete, as soone as evere I may,
1914 I wol myself visite hym, and eek May,
1915 To doon hym al the confort that I kan.”
1916 And for that word hym blessed every man,
1917 That of his bountee and his gentillesse
1918 He wolde so conforten in siknesse
1919 His squier, for it was a gentil dede.
1920 “Dame,” quod this Januarie, “taak good hede,
1921 At after-mete ye with youre wommen alle,
1922 Whan ye han been in chambre out of this halle,
1923 That alle ye go se this Damyan.
1924 Dooth hym disport — he is a gentil man;
1925 And telleth hym that I wol hym visite,
1926 Have I no thyng but rested me a lite;
1927 And spede yow faste, for I wole abyde
1928 Til that ye slepe faste by my syde.”
1929 And with that word he gan to hym to calle
1930 A squier, that was marchal of his halle,
1931 And tolde hym certeyn thynges, what he wolde.
1932 This fresshe May hath streight hir wey yholde
1933 With alle hir wommen unto Damyan.
1934 Doun by his beddes syde sit she than,
1935 Confortynge hym as goodly as she may.
1936 This Damyan, whan that his tyme he say,
1937 In secree wise his purs and eek his bille,
1938 In which that he ywriten hadde his wille,
1939 Hath put into hire hand, withouten moore,
1940 Save that he siketh wonder depe and soore,
1941 And softely to hire right thus seyde he:
1942 “Mercy! And that ye nat discovere me,
1943 For I am deed if that this thyng be kyd.”
1944 This purs hath she inwith hir bosom hyd
1945 And wente hire wey; ye gete namoore of me.
1946 But unto Januarie ycomen is she,
1947 That on his beddes syde sit ful softe.
1948 He taketh hire, and kisseth hire ful ofte,
1949 And leyde hym doun to slepe, and that anon.
1950 She feyned hire as that she moste gon
1951 Ther as ye woot that every wight moot neede;
1952 And whan she of this bille hath taken heede,
1953 She rente it al to cloutes atte laste,
1954 And in the pryvee softely it caste.
1955 Who studieth now but faire fresshe May?
1956 Adoun by olde Januarie she lay,
1957 That sleep til that the coughe hath hym awaked.
1958 Anon he preyde hire strepen hire al naked;
1959 He wolde of hire, he seyde, han som plesaunce;
1960 He seyde hir clothes dide hym encombraunce,
1961 And she obeyeth, be hire lief or looth.
1962 But lest that precious folk be with me wrooth,
1963 How that he wroghte, I dar nat to yow telle,
1964 Or wheither hire thoughte it paradys or helle.
1965 But heere I lete hem werken in hir wyse
1966 Til evensong rong and that they moste aryse.
1967 Were it by destynee or by aventure,
1968 Were it by influence or by nature,
1969 Or constellacion, that in swich estaat
1970 The hevene stood that tyme fortunaat
1971 Was for to putte a bille of Venus werkes —
1972 For alle thyng hath tyme, as seyn thise clerkes —
1973 To any womman for to gete hire love,
1974 I kan nat seye; but grete God above,
1975 That knoweth that noon act is causelees,
1976 He deme of al, for I wole holde my pees.
1977 But sooth is this, how that this fresshe May
1978 Hath take swich impression that day
1979 Of pitee of this sike Damyan
1980 That from hire herte she ne dryve kan
1981 The remembrance for to doon hym ese.
1982 “Certeyn,” thoghte she, “whom that this thyng displese
1983 I rekke noght, for heere I hym assure
1984 To love hym best of any creature,
1985 Though he namoore hadde than his sherte.”
1986 Lo, pitee renneth soone in gentil herte!
1987 Heere may ye se how excellent franchise
1988 In wommen is, whan they hem narwe avyse.
1989 Som tyrant is, as ther be many oon
1990 That hath an herte as hard as any stoon,
1991 Which wolde han lat hym sterven in the place
1992 Wel rather than han graunted hym hire grace,
1993 And hem rejoysen in hire crueel pryde,
1994 And rekke nat to been an homycide.
1995 This gentil May, fulfilled of pitee,
1996 Right of hire hand a lettre made she,
1997 In which she graunteth hym hire verray grace.
1998 Ther lakketh noght oonly but day and place
1999 Wher that she myghte unto his lust suffise,
2000 For it shal be right as he wole devyse.
2001 And whan she saugh hir tyme, upon a day
2002 To visite this Damyan gooth May,
2003 And sotilly this lettre doun she threste
2004 Under his pilwe; rede it if hym leste.
2005 She taketh hym by the hand and harde hym twiste
2006 So secrely that no wight of it wiste,
2007 And bad hym been al hool, and forth she wente
2008 To Januarie, whan that he for hire sente.
2009 Up riseth Damyan the nexte morwe;
2010 Al passed was his siknesse and his sorwe.
2011 He kembeth hym, he preyneth hym and pyketh,
2012 He dooth al that his lady lust and lyketh,
2013 And eek to Januarie he gooth as lowe
2014 As evere dide a dogge for the bowe.
2015 He is so plesant unto every man
2016 (For craft is al, whoso that do it kan)
2017 That every wight is fayn to speke hym good,
2018 And fully in his lady grace he stood.
2019 Thus lete I Damyan aboute his nede,
2020 And in my tale forth I wol procede.
2021 Somme clerkes holden that felicitee
2022 Stant in delit, and therfore certeyn he,
2023 This noble Januarie, with al his myght,
2024 In honest wyse, as longeth to a knyght,
2025 Shoop hym to lyve ful deliciously.
2026 His housynge, his array, as honestly
2027 To his degree was maked as a kynges.
2028 Amonges othere of his honeste thynges,
2029 He made a gardyn, walled al with stoon;
2030 So fair a gardyn woot I nowher noon.
2031 For, out of doute, I verraily suppose
2032 That he that wroot the Romance of the Rose
2033 Ne koude of it the beautee wel devyse;
2034 Ne Priapus ne myghte nat suffise,
2035 Though he be god of gardyns, for to telle
2036 The beautee of the gardyn and the welle
2037 That stood under a laurer alwey grene.
2038 Ful ofte tyme he Pluto and his queene,
2039 Proserpina, and al hire fayerye,
2040 Disporten hem and maken melodye
2041 Aboute that welle, and daunced, as men tolde.
2042 This noble knyght, this Januarie the olde,
2043 Swich deyntee hath in it to walke and pleye,
2044 That he wol no wight suffren bere the keye
2045 Save he hymself; for of the smale wyket
2046 He baar alwey of silver a clyket,
2047 With which, whan that hym leste, he it unshette.
2048 And whan he wolde paye his wyf hir dette
2049 In somer seson, thider wolde he go,
2050 And May his wyf, and no wight but they two;
2051 And thynges whiche that were nat doon abedde,
2052 He in the gardyn parfourned hem and spedde.
2053 And in this wyse, many a murye day,
2054 Lyved this Januarie and fresshe May.
2055 But worldly joye may nat alwey dure
2056 To Januarie, ne to no creature.
2057 O sodeyn hap! O thou Fortune unstable!
2058 Lyk to the scorpion so deceyvable,
2059 That flaterest with thyn heed whan thou wolt stynge;
2060 Thy tayl is deeth, thurgh thyn envenymynge.
2061 O brotil joye! O sweete venym queynte!
2062 O monstre, that so subtilly kanst peynte
2063 Thy yiftes under hewe of stidefastnesse,
2064 That thou deceyvest bothe moore and lesse!
2065 Why hastow Januarie thus deceyved,
2066 That haddest hym for thy fulle freend receyved?
2067 And now thou hast biraft hym bothe his yen,
2068 For sorwe of which desireth he to dyen.
2069 Allas, this noble Januarie free,
2070 Amydde his lust and his prosperitee,
2071 Is woxen blynd, and that al sodeynly.
2072 He wepeth and he wayleth pitously;
2073 And therwithal the fyr of jalousie,
2074 Lest that his wyf sholde falle in som folye,
2075 So brente his herte that he wolde fayn
2076 That som man bothe hire and hym had slayn.
2077 For neither after his deeth nor in his lyf
2078 Ne wolde he that she were love ne wyf,
2079 But evere lyve as wydwe in clothes blake,
2080 Soul as the turtle that lost hath hire make.
2081 But atte laste, after a month or tweye,
2082 His sorwe gan aswage, sooth to seye;
2083 For whan he wiste it may noon oother be,
2084 He paciently took his adversitee,
2085 Save, out of doute, he may nat forgoon
2086 That he nas jalous everemoore in oon;
2087 Which jalousye it was so outrageous
2088 That neither in halle, n’ yn noon oother hous,
2089 Ne in noon oother place, neverthemo,
2090 He nolde suffre hire for to ryde or go,
2091 But if that he had hond on hire alway;
2092 For which ful ofte wepeth fresshe May,
2093 That loveth Damyan so benyngnely
2094 That she moot outher dyen sodeynly
2095 Or elles she moot han hym as hir leste.
2096 She wayteth whan hir herte wolde breste.
2097 Upon that oother syde Damyan
2098 Bicomen is the sorwefulleste man
2099 That evere was, for neither nyght ne day
2100 Ne myghte he speke a word to fresshe May,
2101 As to his purpos, of no swich mateere,
2102 But if that Januarie moste it heere,
2103 That hadde an hand upon hire everemo.
2104 But nathelees, by writyng to and fro
2105 And privee signes wiste he what she mente,
2106 And she knew eek the fyn of his entente.
2107 O Januarie, what myghte it thee availle,
2108 Thogh thou myghtest se as fer as shippes saille?
2109 For as good is blynd deceyved be
2110 As to be deceyved whan a man may se.
2111 Lo, Argus, which that hadde an hondred yen,
2112 For al that evere he koude poure or pryen,
2113 Yet was he blent, and, God woot, so been mo
2114 That wenen wisly that it be nat so.
2115 Passe over is an ese, I sey namoore.
2116 This fresshe May, that I spak of so yoore,
2117 In warm wex hath emprented the clyket
2118 That Januarie bar of the smale wyket,
2119 By which into his gardyn ofte he wente;
2120 And Damyan, that knew al hire entente,
2121 The cliket countrefeted pryvely.
2122 Ther nys namoore to seye, but hastily
2123 Som wonder by this clyket shal bityde,
2124 Which ye shul heeren, if ye wole abyde.
2125 O noble Ovyde, ful sooth seystou, God woot,
2126 What sleighte is it, thogh it be long and hoot,
2127 That Love nyl fynde it out in som manere?
2128 By Piramus and Tesbee may men leere;
2129 Thogh they were kept ful longe streite overal,
2130 They been accorded, rownynge thurgh a wal,
2131 Ther no wight koude han founde out swich a sleighte.
2132 But now to purpos: er that dayes eighte
2133 Were passed [of] the month of [Juyn], bifil
2134 That Januarie hath caught so greet a wil,
2135 Thurgh eggyng of his wyf, hym for to pleye
2136 In his gardyn, and no wight but they tweye,
2137 That in a morwe unto his May seith he:
2138 “Rys up, my wyf, my love, my lady free!
2139 The turtles voys is herd, my dowve sweete;
2140 The wynter is goon with alle his reynes weete.
2141 Com forth now, with thyne eyen columbyn!
2142 How fairer been thy brestes than is wyn!
2143 The gardyn is enclosed al aboute;
2144 Com forth, my white spouse! Out of doute
2145 Thou hast me wounded in myn herte, O wyf!
2146 No spot of thee ne knew I al my lyf.
2147 Com forth, and lat us taken oure disport;
2148 I chees thee for my wyf and my confort.”
2149 Swiche olde lewed wordes used he.
2150 On Damyan a signe made she,
2151 That he sholde go biforn with his cliket.
2152 This Damyan thanne hath opened the wyket,
2153 And in he stirte, and that in swich manere
2154 That no wight myghte it se neither yheere,
2155 And stille he sit under a bussh anon.
2156 This Januarie, as blynd as is a stoon,
2157 With Mayus in his hand, and no wight mo,
2158 Into his fresshe gardyn is ago,
2159 And clapte to the wyket sodeynly.
2160 “Now wyf,” quod he, “heere nys but thou and I,
2161 That art the creature that I best love.
2162 For by that Lord that sit in hevene above,
2163 Levere ich hadde to dyen on a knyf
2164 Than thee offende, trewe deere wyf!
2165 For Goddes sake, thenk how I thee chees,
2166 Noght for no coveitise, doutelees,
2167 But oonly for the love I had to thee.
2168 And though that I be oold and may nat see,
2169 Beth to me trewe, and I wol telle yow why.
2170 Thre thynges, certes, shal ye wynne therby:
2171 First, love of Crist, and to youreself honour,
2172 And al myn heritage, toun and tour;
2173 I yeve it yow, maketh chartres as yow leste;
2174 This shal be doon to-morwe er sonne reste,
2175 So wisly God my soule brynge in blisse.
2176 I prey yow first, in covenant ye me kisse;
2177 And though that I be jalous, wyte me noght.
2178 Ye been so depe enprented in my thoght
2179 That, whan that I considere youre beautee
2180 And therwithal the unlikly elde of me,
2181 I may nat, certes, though I sholde dye,
2182 Forbere to been out of youre compaignye
2183 For verray love; this is withouten doute.
2184 Now kys me, wyf, and lat us rome aboute.”
2185 This fresshe May, whan she thise wordes herde,
2186 Benyngnely to Januarie answerde,
2187 But first and forward she bigan to wepe.
2188 “I have,” quod she, “a soule for to kepe
2189 As wel as ye, and also myn honour,
2190 And of my wyfhod thilke tendre flour,
2191 Which that I have assured in youre hond,
2192 Whan that the preest to yow my body bond;
2193 Wherfore I wole answere in this manere,
2194 By the leve of yow, my lord so deere:
2195 I prey to God that nevere dawe the day
2196 That I ne sterve, as foule as womman may,
2197 If evere I do unto my kyn that shame,
2198 Or elles I empeyre so my name,
2199 That I be fals; and if I do that lak,
2200 Do strepe me and put me in a sak,
2201 And in the nexte ryver do me drenche.
2202 I am a gentil womman and no wenche.
2203 Why speke ye thus? But men been evere untrewe,
2204 And wommen have repreve of yow ay newe.
2205 Ye han noon oother contenance, I leeve,
2206 But speke to us of untrust and repreeve.”
2207 And with that word she saugh wher Damyan
2208 Sat in the bussh, and coughen she bigan,
2209 And with hir fynger signes made she
2210 That Damyan sholde clymbe upon a tree
2211 That charged was with fruyt, and up he wente.
2212 For verraily he knew al hire entente,
2213 And every signe that she koude make,
2214 Wel bet than Januarie, hir owene make,
2215 For in a lettre she hadde toold hym al
2216 Of this matere, how he werchen shal.
2217 And thus I lete hym sitte upon the pyrie,
2218 And Januarie and May romynge myrie.
2219 Bright was the day, and blew the firmament;
2220 Phebus hath of gold his stremes doun ysent
2221 To gladen every flour with his warmnesse.
2222 He was that tyme in Geminis, as I gesse,
2223 But litel fro his declynacion
2224 Of Cancer, Jovis exaltacion.
2225 And so bifel, that brighte morwe-tyde
2226 That in that gardyn, in the ferther syde,
2227 Pluto, that is kyng of Fayerye,
2228 And many a lady in his compaignye,
2229 Folwynge his wyf, the queene Proserpyna,
2230 Which that he ravysshed out of [Ethna]
2231 Whil that she gadered floures in the mede —
2232 In Claudyan ye may the stories rede,
2233 How in his grisely carte he hire fette —
2234 This kyng of Fairye thanne adoun hym sette
2235 Upon a bench of turves, fressh and grene,
2236 And right anon thus seyde he to his queene:
2237 “My wyf,” quod he, “ther may no wight seye nay;
2238 Th’ experience so preveth every day
2239 The tresons whiche that wommen doon to man.
2240 Ten hondred thousand [tales] tellen I kan
2241 Notable of youre untrouthe and brotilnesse.
2242 O Salomon, wys, and richest of richesse,
2243 Fulfild of sapience and of worldly glorie,
2244 Ful worthy been thy wordes to memorie
2245 To every wight that wit and reson kan.
2246 Thus preiseth he yet the bountee of man:
2247 ‘ Amonges a thousand men yet foond I oon,
2248 But of wommen alle foond I noon.’
2249 “Thus seith the kyng that knoweth youre wikkednesse.
2250 And Jhesus, filius Syrak, as I gesse,
2251 Ne speketh of yow but seelde reverence.
2252 A wylde fyr and corrupt pestilence
2253 So falle upon youre bodyes yet to-nyght!
2254 Ne se ye nat this honurable knyght,
2255 By cause, allas, that he is blynd and old,
2256 His owene man shal make hym cokewold.
2257 Lo, where he sit, the lechour, in the tree!
2258 Now wol I graunten, of my magestee,
2259 Unto this olde, blynde, worthy knyght
2260 That he shal have ayen his eyen syght,
2261 Whan that his wyf wold doon hym vileynye.
2262 Thanne shal he knowen al hire harlotrye,
2263 Bothe in repreve of hire and othere mo.”
2264 “Ye shal?” quod Proserpyne, “wol ye so?
2265 Now by my moodres sires soule I swere
2266 That I shal yeven hire suffisant answere,
2267 And alle wommen after, for hir sake,
2268 That, though they be in any gilt ytake,
2269 With face boold they shulle hemself excuse,
2270 And bere hem doun that wolden hem accuse.
2271 For lak of answere noon of hem shal dyen.
2272 Al hadde man seyn a thyng with bothe his yen,
2273 Yit shul we wommen visage it hardily,
2274 And wepe, and swere, and chyde subtilly,
2275 So that ye men shul been as lewed as gees.
2276 “What rekketh me of youre auctoritees?
2277 I woot wel that this Jew, this Salomon,
2278 Foond of us wommen fooles many oon.
2279 But though that he ne foond no good womman,
2280 Yet hath ther founde many another man
2281 Wommen ful trewe, ful goode, and vertuous.
2282 Witnesse on hem that dwelle in Cristes hous;
2283 With martirdom they preved hire constance.
2284 The Romayn geestes eek make remembrance
2285 Of many a verray, trewe wyf also.
2286 But, sire, ne be nat wrooth, al be it so,
2287 Though that he seyde he foond no good womman,
2288 I prey yow take the sentence of the man;
2289 He mente thus, that in sovereyn bontee
2290 Nis noon but God, but neither he ne she.
2291 “Ey! for verray God that nys but oon,
2292 What make ye so muche of Salomon?
2293 What though he made a temple, Goddes hous?
2294 What though he were riche and glorious?
2295 So made he eek a temple of false goddis.
2296 How myghte he do a thyng that moore forbode is?
2297 Pardee, as faire as ye his name emplastre,
2298 He was a lecchour and an ydolastre,
2299 And in his elde he verray God forsook;
2300 And if God ne hadde, as seith the book,
2301 Yspared him for his fadres sake, he sholde
2302 Have lost his regne rather than he wolde.
2303 I sette right noght, of al the vileynye
2304 That ye of wommen write, a boterflye!
2305 I am a womman, nedes moot I speke,
2306 Or elles swelle til myn herte breke.
2307 For sithen he seyde that we been jangleresses,
2308 As evere hool I moote brouke my tresses,
2309 I shal nat spare, for no curteisye,
2310 To speke hym harm that wolde us vileynye.”
2311 “Dame,” quod this Pluto, “be no lenger wrooth;
2312 I yeve it up! But sith I swoor myn ooth
2313 That I wolde graunten hym his sighte ageyn,
2314 My word shal stonde, I warne yow certeyn.
2315 I am a kyng; it sit me noght to lye.”
2316 ” And I,” quod she, “a queene of Fayerye!
2317 Hir answere shal she have, I undertake.
2318 Lat us namoore wordes heerof make;
2319 For sothe, I wol no lenger yow contrarie.”
2320 Now lat us turne agayn to Januarie,
2321 That in the gardyn with his faire May
2322 Syngeth ful murier than the papejay,
2323 “Yow love I best, and shal, and oother noon.”
2324 So longe aboute the aleyes is he goon,
2325 Til he was come agaynes thilke pyrie
2326 Where as this Damyan sitteth ful myrie
2327 An heigh among the fresshe leves grene.
2328 This fresshe May, that is so bright and sheene,
2329 Gan for to syke, and seyde, ” Allas, my syde!
2330 Now sire,” quod she, “for aught that may bityde,
2331 I moste han of the peres that I see,
2332 Or I moot dye, so soore longeth me
2333 To eten of the smale peres grene.
2334 Help, for hir love that is of hevene queene!
2335 I telle yow wel, a womman in my plit
2336 May han to fruyt so greet an appetit
2337 That she may dyen but she of it have.”
2338 ” Allas,” quod he, “that I ne had heer a knave
2339 That koude clymbe! Allas, allas,” quod he,
2340 “For I am blynd!” “Ye, sire, no fors,” quod she;
2341 “But wolde ye vouche sauf, for Goddes sake,
2342 The pyrie inwith youre armes for to take,
2343 For wel I woot that ye mystruste me,
2344 Thanne sholde I clymbe wel ynogh,” quod she,
2345 “So I my foot myghte sette upon youre bak.”
2346 “Certes,” quod he, “theron shal be no lak,
2347 Mighte I yow helpen with myn herte blood.”
2348 He stoupeth doun, and on his bak she stood,
2349 And caughte hire by a twiste, and up she gooth —
2350 Ladyes, I prey yow that ye be nat wrooth;
2351 I kan nat glose, I am a rude man —
2352 And sodeynly anon this Damyan
2353 Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng.
2354 And whan that Pluto saugh this grete wrong,
2355 To Januarie he gaf agayn his sighte,
2356 And made hym se as wel as evere he myghte.
2357 And whan that he hadde caught his sighte agayn,
2358 Ne was ther nevere man of thyng so fayn,
2359 But on his wyf his thoght was everemo.
2360 Up to the tree he caste his eyen two,
2361 And saugh that Damyan his wyf had dressed
2362 In swich manere it may nat been expressed,
2363 But if I wolde speke uncurteisly;
2364 And up he yaf a roryng and a cry,
2365 As dooth the mooder whan the child shal dye:
2366 “Out! Help! Allas! Harrow!” he gan to crye,
2367 “O stronge lady stoore, what dostow?”
2368 And she answerde, “Sire, what eyleth yow?
2369 Have pacience and resoun in youre mynde.
2370 I have yow holpe on bothe youre eyen blynde.
2371 Up peril of my soule, I shal nat lyen,
2372 As me was taught, to heele with youre eyen,
2373 Was no thyng bet, to make yow to see,
2374 Than strugle with a man upon a tree.
2375 God woot, I dide it in ful good entente.”
2376 “Strugle?” quod he, “Ye, algate in it wente!
2377 God yeve yow bothe on shames deth to dyen!
2378 He swyved thee; I saugh it with myne yen,
2379 And elles be I hanged by the hals!”
2380 “Thanne is,” quod she, “my medicyne fals;
2381 For certeinly, if that ye myghte se,
2382 Ye wolde nat seyn thise wordes unto me.
2383 Ye han som glymsyng, and no parfit sighte.”
2384 “I se,” quod he, “as wel as evere I myghte,
2385 Thonked be God! With bothe myne eyen two,
2386 And by my trouthe, me thoughte he dide thee so.”
2387 “Ye maze, maze, goode sire,” quod she;
2388 “This thank have I for I have maad yow see.
2389 Allas,” quod she, “that evere I was so kynde!”
2390 “Now, dame,” quod he, “lat al passe out of mynde.
2391 Com doun, my lief, and if I have myssayd,
2392 God helpe me so, as I am yvele apayd.
2393 But, by my fader soule, I wende han seyn
2394 How that this Damyan hadde by thee leyn,
2395 And that thy smok hadde leyn upon his brest.”
2396 “Ye, sire,” quod she, “ye may wene as yow lest.
2397 But, sire, a man that waketh out of his sleep,
2398 He may nat sodeynly wel taken keep
2399 Upon a thyng, ne seen it parfitly,
2400 Til that he be adawed verraily.
2401 Right so a man that longe hath blynd ybe,
2402 Ne may nat sodeynly so wel yse,
2403 First whan his sighte is newe come ageyn,
2404 As he that hath a day or two yseyn.
2405 Til that youre sighte ysatled be a while
2406 Ther may ful many a sighte yow bigile.
2407 Beth war, I prey yow, for by hevene kyng,
2408 Ful many a man weneth to seen a thyng,
2409 And it is al another than it semeth.
2410 He that mysconceyveth, he mysdemeth.”
2411 And with that word she leep doun fro the tree.
2412 This Januarie, who is glad but he?
2413 He kisseth hire and clippeth hire ful ofte,
2414 And on hire wombe he stroketh hire ful softe,
2415 And to his palays hoom he hath hire lad.
2416 Now, goode men, I pray yow to be glad.
2417 Thus endeth heere my tale of Januarie;
2418 God blesse us, and his mooder Seinte Marie!

The Epilogue

2419 “Ey! Goddes mercy!” seyde oure Hooste tho,
2420 “Now swich a wyf I pray God kepe me fro!
2421 Lo, whiche sleightes and subtilitees
2422 In wommen been! For ay as bisy as bees
2423 Been they, us sely men for to deceyve,
2424 And from the soothe evere wol they weyve;
2425 By this Marchauntes tale it preveth weel.
2426 But doutelees, as trewe as any steel
2427 I have a wyf, though that she povre be,
2428 But of hir tonge, a labbyng shrewe is she,
2429 And yet she hath an heep of vices mo;
2430 Therof no fors! Lat alle swiche thynges go.
2431 But wyte ye what? In conseil be it seyd,
2432 Me reweth soore I am unto hire teyd.
2433 For and I sholde rekenen every vice
2434 Which that she hath, ywis I were to nyce.
2435 And cause why? It sholde reported be
2436 And toold to hire of somme of this meynee —
2437 Of whom, it nedeth nat for to declare,
2438 Syn wommen konnen outen swich chaffare;
2439 And eek my wit suffiseth nat therto
2440 To tellen al; wherfore my tale is do.”

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11. THE MERCHANT’S TALE - GEOFFREY CHAUCER