709 Thise olde gentil Britouns in hir dayes
710 Of diverse aventures maden layes,
711 Rymeyed in hir firste Briton tonge,
712 Whiche layes with hir instrumentz they songe
713 Or elles redden hem for hir plesaunce;
714 And oon of hem have I in remembraunce,
715 Which I shal seyn with good wyl as I kan.
716 But, sires, by cause I am a burel man,
717 At my bigynnyng first I yow biseche,
718 Have me excused of my rude speche.
719 I lerned nevere rethorik, certeyn;
720 Thyng that I speke, it moot be bare and pleyn.
721 I sleep nevere on the Mount of Pernaso,
722 Ne lerned Marcus Tullius Scithero.
723 Colours ne knowe I none, withouten drede,
724 But swiche colours as growen in the mede,
725 Or elles swiche as men dye or peynte.
726 Colours of rethoryk been to me queynte;
727 My spirit feeleth noght of swich mateere.
728 But if yow list, my tale shul ye heere.
729 In Armorik, that called is Britayne,
730 Ther was a knyght that loved and dide his payne
731 To serve a lady in his beste wise;
732 And many a labour, many a greet emprise,
733 He for his lady wroghte er she were wonne.
734 For she was oon the faireste under sonne,
735 And eek therto comen of so heigh kynrede
736 That wel unnethes dorste this knyght, for drede,
737 Telle hire his wo, his peyne, and his distresse.
738 But atte laste she, for his worthynesse,
739 And namely for his meke obeysaunce,
740 Hath swich a pitee caught of his penaunce
741 That pryvely she fil of his accord
742 To take hym for hir housbonde and hir lord,
743 Of swich lordshipe as men han over hir wyves.
744 And for to lede the moore in blisse hir lyves,
745 Of his free wyl he swoor hire as a knyght
746 That nevere in al his lyf he, day ne nyght,
747 Ne sholde upon hym take no maistrie
748 Agayn hir wyl, ne kithe hire jalousie,
749 But hire obeye, and folwe hir wyl in al,
750 As any lovere to his lady shal,
751 Save that the name of soveraynetee,
752 That wolde he have for shame of his degree.
753 She thanked hym, and with ful greet humblesse
754 She seyde, “Sire, sith of youre gentillesse
755 Ye profre me to have so large a reyne,
756 Ne wolde nevere God bitwixe us tweyne,
757 As in my gilt, were outher werre or stryf.
758 Sire, I wol be youre humble trewe wyf —
759 Have heer my trouthe — til that myn herte breste.”
760 Thus been they bothe in quiete and in reste.
761 For o thyng, sires, saufly dar I seye,
762 That freendes everych oother moot obeye,
763 If they wol longe holden compaignye.
764 Love wol nat been constreyned by maistrye.
765 Whan maistrie comth, the God of Love anon
766 Beteth his wynges, and farewel, he is gon!
767 Love is a thyng as any spirit free.
768 Wommen, of kynde, desiren libertee,
769 And nat to been constreyned as a thral;
770 And so doon men, if I sooth seyen shal.
771 Looke who that is moost pacient in love,
772 He is at his avantage al above.
773 Pacience is an heigh vertu, certeyn,
774 For it venquysseth, as thise clerkes seyn,
775 Thynges that rigour sholde nevere atteyne.
776 For every word men may nat chide or pleyne.
777 Lerneth to suffre, or elles, so moot I goon,
778 Ye shul it lerne, wher so ye wole or noon;
779 For in this world, certein, ther no wight is
780 That he ne dooth or seith somtyme amys.
781 Ire, siknesse, or constellacioun,
782 Wyn, wo, or chaungynge of complexioun
783 Causeth ful ofte to doon amys or speken.
784 On every wrong a man may nat be wreken.
785 After the tyme moste be temperaunce
786 To every wight that kan on governaunce.
787 And therfore hath this wise, worthy knyght,
788 To lyve in ese, suffrance hire bihight,
789 And she to hym ful wisly gan to swere
790 That nevere sholde ther be defaute in here.
791 Heere may men seen an humble, wys accord;
792 Thus hath she take hir servant and hir lord —
793 Servant in love, and lord in mariage.
794 Thanne was he bothe in lordshipe and servage.
795 Servage? Nay, but in lordshipe above,
796 Sith he hath bothe his lady and his love;
797 His lady, certes, and his wyf also,
798 The which that lawe of love acordeth to.
799 And whan he was in this prosperitee,
800 Hoom with his wyf he gooth to his contree,
801 Nat fer fro Pedmark, ther his dwellyng was,
802 Where as he lyveth in blisse and in solas.
803 Who koude telle, but he hadde wedded be,
804 The joye, the ese, and the prosperitee
805 That is bitwixe an housbonde and his wyf?
806 A yeer and moore lasted this blisful lyf,
807 Til that the knyght of which I speke of thus,
808 That of Kayrrud was cleped Arveragus,
809 Shoop hym to goon and dwelle a yeer or tweyne
810 In Engelond, that cleped was eek Briteyne,
811 To seke in armes worshipe and honour —
812 For al his lust he sette in swich labour —
813 And dwelled there two yeer; the book seith thus.
814 Now wol I stynten of this Arveragus,
815 And speken I wole of Dorigen his wyf,
816 That loveth hire housbonde as hire hertes lyf.
817 For his absence wepeth she and siketh,
818 As doon thise noble wyves whan hem liketh.
819 She moorneth, waketh, wayleth, fasteth, pleyneth;
820 Desir of his presence hire so destreyneth
821 That al this wyde world she sette at noght.
822 Hire freendes, whiche that knewe hir hevy thoght,
823 Conforten hire in al that ever they may.
824 They prechen hire, they telle hire nyght and day
825 That causelees she sleeth hirself, allas!
826 And every confort possible in this cas
827 They doon to hire with al hire bisynesse,
828 Al for to make hire leve hire hevynesse.
829 By proces, as ye knowen everichoon,
830 Men may so longe graven in a stoon
831 Til som figure therinne emprented be.
832 So longe han they conforted hire til she
833 Receyved hath, by hope and by resoun,
834 The emprentyng of hire consolacioun,
835 Thurgh which hir grete sorwe gan aswage;
836 She may nat alwey duren in swich rage.
837 And eek Arveragus, in al this care,
838 Hath sent hire lettres hoom of his welfare,
839 And that he wol come hastily agayn;
840 Or elles hadde this sorwe hir herte slayn.
841 Hire freendes sawe hir sorwe gan to slake
842 And preyde hire on knees, for Goddes sake,
843 To come and romen hire in compaignye,
844 Awey to dryve hire derke fantasye.
845 And finally she graunted that requeste,
846 For wel she saugh that it was for the beste.
847 Now stood hire castel faste by the see,
848 And often with hire freendes walketh shee
849 Hire to disporte upon the bank an heigh,
850 Where as she many a ship and barge seigh
851 Seillynge hir cours, where as hem liste go.
852 But thanne was that a parcel of hire wo,
853 For to hirself ful ofte, ” Allas!” seith she,
854 “Is ther no ship, of so manye as I se,
855 Wol bryngen hom my lord? Thanne were myn herte
856 Al warisshed of his bittre peynes smerte.”
857 Another tyme ther wolde she sitte and thynke,
858 And caste hir eyen dounward fro the brynke.
859 But whan she saugh the grisly rokkes blake,
860 For verray feere so wolde hir herte quake
861 That on hire feet she myghte hire noght sustene.
862 Thanne wolde she sitte adoun upon the grene,
863 And pitously into the see biholde,
864 And seyn right thus, with sorweful sikes colde:
865 “Eterne God, that thurgh thy purveiaunce
866 Ledest the world by certein governaunce,
867 In ydel, as men seyn, ye no thyng make.
868 But, Lord, thise grisly feendly rokkes blake,
869 That semen rather a foul confusion
870 Of werk than any fair creacion
871 Of swich a parfit wys God and a stable,
872 Why han ye wroght this werk unresonable?
873 For by this werk, south, north, ne west, ne eest,
874 Ther nys yfostred man, ne bryd, ne beest;
875 It dooth no good, to my wit, but anoyeth.
876 Se ye nat, Lord, how mankynde it destroyeth?
877 An hundred thousand bodyes of mankynde
878 Han rokkes slayn, al be they nat in mynde,
879 Which mankynde is so fair part of thy werk
880 That thou it madest lyk to thyn owene merk.
881 Thanne semed it ye hadde a greet chiertee
882 Toward mankynde; but how thanne may it bee
883 That ye swiche meenes make it to destroyen,
884 Whiche meenes do no good, but evere anoyen?
885 I woot wel clerkes wol seyn as hem leste,
886 By argumentz, that al is for the beste,
887 Though I ne kan the causes nat yknowe.
888 But thilke God that made wynd to blowe
889 As kepe my lord! This my conclusion.
890 To clerkes lete I al disputison.
891 But wolde God that alle thise rokkes blake
892 Were sonken into helle for his sake!
893 Thise rokkes sleen myn herte for the feere.”
894 Thus wolde she seyn, with many a pitous teere.
895 Hire freendes sawe that it was no disport
896 To romen by the see, but disconfort,
897 And shopen for to pleyen somwher elles.
898 They leden hire by ryveres and by welles,
899 And eek in othere places delitables;
900 They dauncen and they pleyen at ches and tables.
901 So on a day, right in the morwe-tyde,
902 Unto a gardyn that was ther bisyde,
903 In which that they hadde maad hir ordinaunce
904 Of vitaille and of oother purveiaunce,
905 They goon and pleye hem al the longe day.
906 And this was on the sixte morwe of May,
907 Which May hadde peynted with his softe shoures
908 This gardyn ful of leves and of floures;
909 And craft of mannes hand so curiously
910 Arrayed hadde this gardyn, trewely,
911 That nevere was ther gardyn of swich prys
912 But if it were the verray paradys.
913 The odour of floures and the fresshe sighte
914 Wolde han maked any herte lighte
915 That evere was born, but if to greet siknesse
916 Or to greet sorwe helde it in distresse,
917 So ful it was of beautee with plesaunce.
918 At after-dyner gonne they to daunce,
919 And synge also, save Dorigen allone,
920 Which made alwey hir compleint and hir moone,
921 For she ne saugh hym on the daunce go
922 That was hir housbonde and hir love also.
923 But nathelees she moste a tyme abyde
924 And with good hope lete hir sorwe slyde.
925 Upon this daunce, amonges othere men,
926 Daunced a squier biforn Dorigen,
927 That fressher was and jolyer of array,
928 As to my doom, than is the month of May.
929 He syngeth, daunceth, passynge any man
930 That is, or was, sith that the world bigan.
931 Therwith he was, if men sholde hym discryve,
932 Oon of the beste farynge man on lyve;
933 Yong, strong, right vertuous, and riche, and wys,
934 And wel biloved, and holden in greet prys.
935 And shortly, if the sothe I tellen shal,
936 Unwityng of this Dorigen at al,
937 This lusty squier, servant to Venus,
938 Which that ycleped was Aurelius,
939 Hadde loved hire best of any creature
940 Two yeer and moore, as was his aventure,
941 But nevere dorste he tellen hire his grevaunce.
942 Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce.
943 He was despeyred; no thyng dorste he seye,
944 Save in his songes somwhat wolde he wreye
945 His wo, as in a general compleynyng;
946 He seyde he lovede and was biloved no thyng.
947 Of swich matere made he manye layes,
948 Songes, compleintes, roundels, virelayes,
949 How that he dorste nat his sorwe telle,
950 But langwissheth as a furye dooth in helle;
951 And dye he moste, he seyde, as dide Ekko
952 For Narcisus, that dorste nat telle hir wo.
953 In oother manere than ye heere me seye,
954 Ne dorste he nat to hire his wo biwreye,
955 Save that, paraventure, somtyme at daunces,
956 Ther yonge folk kepen hir observaunces,
957 It may wel be he looked on hir face
958 In swich a wise as man that asketh grace;
959 But nothyng wiste she of his entente.
960 Nathelees it happed, er they thennes wente,
961 By cause that he was hire neighebour,
962 And was a man of worshipe and honour,
963 And hadde yknowen hym of tyme yoore,
964 They fille in speche; and forth, moore and moore,
965 Unto his purpos drough Aurelius,
966 And whan he saugh his tyme, he seyde thus:
967 “Madame,” quod he, “by God that this world made,
968 So that I wiste it myghte youre herte glade,
969 I wolde that day that youre Arveragus
970 Wente over the see, that I, Aurelius,
971 Hadde went ther nevere I sholde have come agayn.
972 For wel I woot my servyce is in vayn;
973 My gerdon is but brestyng of myn herte.
974 Madame, reweth upon my peynes smerte;
975 For with a word ye may me sleen or save.
976 Heere at youre feet God wolde that I were grave!
977 I ne have as now no leyser moore to seye;
978 Have mercy, sweete, or ye wol do me deye!”
979 She gan to looke upon Aurelius;
980 “Is this youre wyl,” quod she, “and sey ye thus?
981 Nevere erst,” quod she, “ne wiste I what ye mente.
982 But now, Aurelie, I knowe youre entente,
983 By thilke God that yaf me soule and lyf,
984 Ne shal I nevere been untrewe wyf
985 In word ne werk, as fer as I have wit;
986 I wol been his to whom that I am knyt.
987 Taak this for fynal answere as of me.”
988 But after that in pley thus seyde she:
989 ” Aurelie,” quod she, “by heighe God above,
990 Yet wolde I graunte yow to been youre love,
991 Syn I yow se so pitously complayne.
992 Looke what day that endelong Britayne
993 Ye remoeve alle the rokkes, stoon by stoon,
994 That they ne lette ship ne boot to goon —
995 I seye, whan ye han maad the coost so clene
996 Of rokkes that ther nys no stoon ysene,
997 Thanne wol I love yow best of any man;
998 Have heer my trouthe, in al that evere I kan.”
999 “Is ther noon oother grace in yow?” quod he.
1000 “No, by that Lord,” quod she, “that maked me!
1001 For wel I woot that it shal never bityde.
1002 Lat swiche folies out of youre herte slyde.
1003 What deyntee sholde a man han in his lyf
1004 For to go love another mannes wyf,
1005 That hath hir body whan so that hym liketh?”
1006 Aurelius ful ofte soore siketh;
1007 Wo was Aurelie whan that he this herde,
1008 And with a sorweful herte he thus answerde:
1009 “Madame,” quod he, “this were an inpossible!
1010 Thanne moot I dye of sodeyn deth horrible.”
1011 And with that word he turned hym anon.
1012 Tho coome hir othere freendes many oon,
1013 And in the aleyes romeden up and doun,
1014 And nothyng wiste of this conclusioun,
1015 But sodeynly bigonne revel newe
1016 Til that the brighte sonne loste his hewe;
1017 For th’ orisonte hath reft the sonne his lyght —
1018 This is as muche to seye as it was nyght —
1019 And hoom they goon in joye and in solas,
1020 Save oonly wrecche Aurelius, allas!
1021 He to his hous is goon with sorweful herte.
1022 He seeth he may nat fro his deeth asterte;
1023 Hym semed that he felte his herte colde.
1024 Up to the hevene his handes he gan holde,
1025 And on his knowes bare he sette hym doun,
1026 And in his ravyng seyde his orisoun.
1027 For verray wo out of his wit he breyde.
1028 He nyste what he spak, but thus he seyde;
1029 With pitous herte his pleynt hath he bigonne
1030 Unto the goddes, and first unto the sonne:
1031 He seyde, ” Appollo, god and governour
1032 Of every plaunte, herbe, tree, and flour,
1033 That yevest, after thy declinacion,
1034 To ech of hem his tyme and his seson,
1035 As thyn herberwe chaungeth lowe or heighe,
1036 Lord Phebus, cast thy merciable eighe
1037 On wrecche Aurelie, which that am but lorn.
1038 Lo, lord! My lady hath my deeth ysworn
1039 Withoute gilt, but thy benignytee
1040 Upon my dedly herte have som pitee.
1041 For wel I woot, lord Phebus, if yow lest,
1042 Ye may me helpen, save my lady, best.
1043 Now voucheth sauf that I may yow devyse
1044 How that I may been holpen and in what wyse.
1045 “Youre blisful suster, Lucina the sheene,
1046 That of the see is chief goddesse and queene
1047 (Though Neptunus have deitee in the see,
1048 Yet emperisse aboven hym is she),
1049 Ye knowen wel, lord, that right as hir desir
1050 Is to be quyked and lighted of youre fir,
1051 For which she folweth yow ful bisily,
1052 Right so the see desireth naturelly
1053 To folwen hire, as she that is goddesse
1054 Bothe in the see and ryveres moore and lesse.
1055 Wherfore, lord Phebus, this is my requeste —
1056 Do this miracle, or do myn herte breste —
1057 That now next at this opposicion
1058 Which in the signe shal be of the Leon,
1059 As preieth hire so greet a flood to brynge
1060 That fyve fadme at the leeste it oversprynge
1061 The hyeste rokke in Armorik Briteyne;
1062 And lat this flood endure yeres tweyne.
1063 Thanne certes to my lady may I seye,
1064 ‘Holdeth youre heste, the rokkes been aweye.’
1065 “Lord Phebus, dooth this miracle for me.
1066 Preye hire she go no faster cours than ye;
1067 I seye, preyeth your suster that she go
1068 No faster cours than ye thise yeres two.
1069 Thanne shal she been evene atte fulle alway,
1070 And spryng flood laste bothe nyght and day.
1071 And but she vouche sauf in swich manere
1072 To graunte me my sovereyn lady deere,
1073 Prey hire to synken every rok adoun
1074 Into hir owene dirke regioun
1075 Under the ground, ther Pluto dwelleth inne,
1076 Or nevere mo shal I my lady wynne.
1077 Thy temple in Delphos wol I barefoot seke.
1078 Lord Phebus, se the teeris on my cheke,
1079 And of my peyne have som compassioun.”
1080 And with that word in swowne he fil adoun,
1081 And longe tyme he lay forth in a traunce.
1082 His brother, which that knew of his penaunce,
1083 Up caughte hym and to bedde he hath hym broght.
1084 Dispeyred in this torment and this thoght
1085 Lete I this woful creature lye;
1086 Chese he, for me, wheither he wol lyve or dye.
1087 Arveragus, with heele and greet honour,
1088 As he that was of chivalrie the flour,
1089 Is comen hoom, and othere worthy men.
1090 O blisful artow now, thou Dorigen,
1091 That hast thy lusty housbonde in thyne armes,
1092 The fresshe knyght, the worthy man of armes,
1093 That loveth thee as his owene hertes lyf.
1094 No thyng list hym to been ymaginatyf,
1095 If any wight hadde spoke, whil he was oute,
1096 To hire of love; he hadde of it no doute.
1097 He noght entendeth to no swich mateere,
1098 But daunceth, justeth, maketh hire good cheere;
1099 And thus in joye and blisse I lete hem dwelle,
1100 And of the sike Aurelius wol I telle.
1101 In langour and in torment furyus
1102 Two yeer and moore lay wrecche Aurelyus,
1103 Er any foot he myghte on erthe gon;
1104 Ne confort in this tyme hadde he noon,
1105 Save of his brother, which that was a clerk.
1106 He knew of al this wo and al this werk,
1107 For to noon oother creature, certeyn,
1108 Of this matere he dorste no word seyn.
1109 Under his brest he baar it moore secree
1110 Than evere dide Pamphilus for Galathee.
1111 His brest was hool, withoute for to sene,
1112 But in his herte ay was the arwe kene.
1113 And wel ye knowe that of a sursanure
1114 In surgerye is perilous the cure,
1115 But men myghte touche the arwe or come therby.
1116 His brother weep and wayled pryvely,
1117 Til atte laste hym fil in remembraunce,
1118 That whiles he was at Orliens in Fraunce —
1119 As yonge clerkes that been lykerous
1120 To reden artes that been curious
1121 Seken in every halke and every herne
1122 Particuler sciences for to lerne —
1123 He hym remembred that, upon a day,
1124 At Orliens in studie a book he say
1125 Of magyk natureel, which his felawe,
1126 That was that tyme a bacheler of lawe,
1127 Al were he ther to lerne another craft,
1128 Hadde prively upon his desk ylaft;
1129 Which book spak muchel of the operaciouns
1130 Touchynge the eighte and twenty mansiouns
1131 That longen to the moone, and swich folye
1132 As in oure dayes is nat worth a flye —
1133 For hooly chirches feith in oure bileve
1134 Ne suffreth noon illusioun us to greve.
1135 And whan this book was in his remembraunce,
1136 Anon for joye his herte gan to daunce,
1137 And to hymself he seyde pryvely:
1138 “My brother shal be warisshed hastily;
1139 For I am siker that ther be sciences
1140 By whiche men make diverse apparences,
1141 Swiche as thise subtile tregetoures pleye.
1142 For ofte at feestes have I wel herd seye
1143 That tregetours withinne an halle large
1144 Have maad come in a water and a barge,
1145 And in the halle rowen up and doun.
1146 Somtyme hath semed come a grym leoun;
1147 And somtyme floures sprynge as in a mede;
1148 Somtyme a vyne, and grapes white and rede;
1149 Somtyme a castel, al of lym and stoon;
1150 And whan hem lyked, voyded it anon.
1151 Thus semed it to every mannes sighte.
1152 “Now thanne conclude I thus: that if I myghte
1153 At Orliens som oold felawe yfynde
1154 That hadde thise moones mansions in mynde,
1155 Or oother magyk natureel above,
1156 He sholde wel make my brother han his love.
1157 For with an apparence a clerk may make,
1158 To mannes sighte, that alle the rokkes blake
1159 Of Britaigne weren yvoyded everichon,
1160 And shippes by the brynke comen and gon,
1161 And in swich forme enduren a wowke or two.
1162 Thanne were my brother warisshed of his wo;
1163 Thanne moste she nedes holden hire biheste,
1164 Or elles he shal shame hire atte leeste.”
1165 What sholde I make a lenger tale of this?
1166 Unto his brotheres bed he comen is,
1167 And swich confort he yaf hym for to gon
1168 To Orliens that he up stirte anon,
1169 And on his wey forthward thanne is he fare
1170 In hope for to been lissed of his care.
1171 Whan they were come almoost to that citee,
1172 But if it were a two furlong or thre,
1173 A yong clerk romynge by hymself they mette,
1174 Which that in Latyn thriftily hem grette,
1175 And after that he seyde a wonder thyng:
1176 “I knowe,” quod he, “the cause of youre comyng.”
1177 And er they ferther any foote wente,
1178 He tolde hem al that was in hire entente.
1179 This Briton clerk hym asked of felawes
1180 The whiche that he had knowe in olde dawes,
1181 And he answerde hym that they dede were,
1182 For which he weep ful ofte many a teere.
1183 Doun of his hors Aurelius lighte anon,
1184 And with this magicien forth is he gon
1185 Hoom to his hous, and maden hem wel at ese.
1186 Hem lakked no vitaille that myghte hem plese.
1187 So wel arrayed hous as ther was oon
1188 Aurelius in his lyf saugh nevere noon.
1189 He shewed hym, er he wente to sopeer,
1190 Forestes, parkes ful of wilde deer;
1191 Ther saugh he hertes with hir hornes hye,
1192 The gretteste that evere were seyn with ye.
1193 He saugh of hem an hondred slayn with houndes,
1194 And somme with arwes blede of bittre woundes.
1195 He saugh, whan voyded were thise wilde deer,
1196 Thise fauconers upon a fair ryver,
1197 That with hir haukes han the heron slayn.
1198 Tho saugh he knyghtes justyng in a playn;
1199 And after this he dide hym swich plesaunce
1200 That he hym shewed his lady on a daunce,
1201 On which hymself he daunced, as hym thoughte.
1202 And whan this maister that this magyk wroughte
1203 Saugh it was tyme, he clapte his handes two,
1204 And farewel! Al oure revel was ago.
1205 And yet remoeved they nevere out of the hous,
1206 Whil they saugh al this sighte merveillous,
1207 But in his studie, ther as his bookes be,
1208 They seten stille, and no wight but they thre.
1209 To hym this maister called his squier,
1210 And seyde hym thus: “Is redy oure soper?
1211 Almoost an houre it is, I undertake,
1212 Sith I yow bad oure soper for to make,
1213 Whan that thise worthy men wenten with me
1214 Into my studie, ther as my bookes be.”
1215 “Sire,” quod this squier, “whan it liketh yow,
1216 It is al redy, though ye wol right now.”
1217 “Go we thanne soupe,” quod he, “as for the beste.
1218 Thise amorous folk somtyme moote han hir reste.”
1219 At after-soper fille they in tretee
1220 What somme sholde this maistres gerdon be
1221 To remoeven alle the rokkes of Britayne,
1222 And eek from Gerounde to the mouth of Sayne.
1223 He made it straunge, and swoor, so God hym save,
1224 Lasse than a thousand pound he wolde nat have,
1225 Ne gladly for that somme he wolde nat goon.
1226 Aurelius, with blisful herte anoon,
1227 Answerde thus: “Fy on a thousand pound!
1228 This wyde world, which that men seye is round,
1229 I wolde it yeve, if I were lord of it.
1230 This bargayn is ful dryve, for we been knyt.
1231 Ye shal be payed trewely, by my trouthe!
1232 But looketh now, for no necligence or slouthe
1233 Ye tarie us heere no lenger than to-morwe.”
1234 “Nay,” quod this clerk, “have heer my feith to borwe.”
1235 To bedde is goon Aurelius whan hym leste,
1236 And wel ny al that nyght he hadde his reste.
1237 What for his labour and his hope of blisse,
1238 His woful herte of penaunce hadde a lisse.
1239 Upon the morwe, whan that it was day,
1240 To Britaigne tooke they the righte way,
1241 Aurelius and this magicien bisyde,
1242 And been descended ther they wolde abyde.
1243 And this was, as thise bookes me remembre,
1244 The colde, frosty seson of Decembre.
1245 Phebus wax old, and hewed lyk laton,
1246 That in his hoote declynacion
1247 Shoon as the burned gold with stremes brighte;
1248 But now in Capricorn adoun he lighte,
1249 Where as he shoon ful pale, I dar wel seyn.
1250 The bittre frostes, with the sleet and reyn,
1251 Destroyed hath the grene in every yerd.
1252 Janus sit by the fyr, with double berd,
1253 And drynketh of his bugle horn the wyn;
1254 Biforn hym stant brawen of the tusked swyn,
1255 And “Nowel” crieth every lusty man.
1256 Aurelius in al that evere he kan
1257 Dooth to this maister chiere and reverence,
1258 And preyeth hym to doon his diligence
1259 To bryngen hym out of his peynes smerte,
1260 Or with a swerd that he wolde slitte his herte.
1261 This subtil clerk swich routhe had of this man
1262 That nyght and day he spedde hym that he kan
1263 To wayten a tyme of his conclusioun;
1264 This is to seye, to maken illusioun,
1265 By swich an apparence or jogelrye —
1266 I ne kan no termes of astrologye —
1267 That she and every wight sholde wene and seye
1268 That of Britaigne the rokkes were aweye,
1269 Or ellis they were sonken under grounde.
1270 So atte laste he hath his tyme yfounde
1271 To maken his japes and his wrecchednesse
1272 Of swich a supersticious cursednesse.
1273 His tables Tolletanes forth he brought,
1274 Ful wel corrected, ne ther lakked nought,
1275 Neither his collect ne his expans yeeris,
1276 Ne his rootes, ne his othere geeris,
1277 As been his centris and his argumentz
1278 And his proporcioneles convenientz
1279 For his equacions in every thyng.
1280 And by his eighte speere in his wirkyng
1281 He knew ful wel how fer Alnath was shove
1282 Fro the heed of thilke fixe Aries above,
1283 That in the ninthe speere considered is;
1284 Ful subtilly he kalkuled al this.
1285 Whan he hadde founde his firste mansioun,
1286 He knew the remenaunt by proporcioun,
1287 And knew the arisyng of his moone weel,
1288 And in whos face, and terme, and everydeel;
1289 And knew ful weel the moones mansioun
1290 Acordaunt to his operacioun,
1291 And knew also his othere observaunces
1292 For swiche illusiouns and swiche meschaunces
1293 As hethen folk useden in thilke dayes.
1294 For which no lenger maked he delayes,
1295 But thurgh his magik, for a wyke or tweye,
1296 It semed that alle the rokkes were aweye.
1297 Aurelius, which that yet despeired is
1298 Wher he shal han his love or fare amys,
1299 Awaiteth nyght and day on this myracle;
1300 And whan he knew that ther was noon obstacle,
1301 That voyded were thise rokkes everychon,
1302 Doun to his maistres feet he fil anon,
1303 And seyde, “I woful wrecche, Aurelius,
1304 Thanke yow, lord, and lady myn Venus,
1305 That me han holpen fro my cares colde.”
1306 And to the temple his wey forth hath he holde,
1307 Where as he knew he sholde his lady see.
1308 And whan he saugh his tyme, anon-right hee,
1309 With dredful herte and with ful humble cheere,
1310 Salewed hath his sovereyn lady deere:
1311 “My righte lady,” quod this woful man,
1312 “Whom I moost drede and love as I best kan,
1313 And lothest were of al this world displese,
1314 Nere it that I for yow have swich disese
1315 That I moste dyen heere at youre foot anon,
1316 Noght wolde I telle how me is wo bigon.
1317 But certes outher moste I dye or pleyne;
1318 Ye sle me giltelees for verray peyne.
1319 But of my deeth thogh that ye have no routhe,
1320 Avyseth yow er that ye breke youre trouthe.
1321 Repenteth yow, for thilke God above,
1322 Er ye me sleen by cause that I yow love.
1323 For, madame, wel ye woot what ye han hight —
1324 Nat that I chalange any thyng of right
1325 Of yow, my sovereyn lady, but youre grace —
1326 But in a gardyn yond, at swich a place,
1327 Ye woot right wel what ye bihighten me;
1328 And in myn hand youre trouthe plighten ye
1329 To love me best — God woot, ye seyde so,
1330 Al be that I unworthy am therto.
1331 Madame, I speke it for the honour of yow
1332 Moore than to save myn hertes lyf right now —
1333 I have do so as ye comanded me;
1334 And if ye vouche sauf, ye may go see.
1335 Dooth as yow list; have youre biheste in mynde,
1336 For, quyk or deed, right there ye shal me fynde.
1337 In yow lith al to do me lyve or deye —
1338 But wel I woot the rokkes been aweye.”
1339 He taketh his leve, and she astoned stood;
1340 In al hir face nas a drope of blood.
1341 She wende nevere han come in swich a trappe.
1342 ” Allas,” quod she, “that evere this sholde happe!
1343 For wende I nevere by possibilitee
1344 That swich a monstre or merveille myghte be!
1345 It is agayns the proces of nature.”
1346 And hoom she goth a sorweful creature;
1347 For verray feere unnethe may she go.
1348 She wepeth, wailleth, al a day or two,
1349 And swowneth, that it routhe was to see.
1350 But why it was to no wight tolde shee,
1351 For out of towne was goon Arveragus.
1352 But to hirself she spak, and seyde thus,
1353 With face pale and with ful sorweful cheere,
1354 In hire compleynt, as ye shal after heere:
1355 ” Allas,” quod she, “on thee, Fortune, I pleyne,
1356 That unwar wrapped hast me in thy cheyne,
1357 Fro which t’ escape woot I no socour,
1358 Save oonly deeth or elles dishonour;
1359 Oon of thise two bihoveth me to chese.
1360 But nathelees, yet have I levere to lese
1361 My lif than of my body to have a shame,
1362 Or knowe myselven fals, or lese my name;
1363 And with my deth I may be quyt, ywis.
1364 Hath ther nat many a noble wyf er this,
1365 And many a mayde, yslayn hirself, allas,
1366 Rather than with hir body doon trespas?
1367 “Yis, certes, lo, thise stories beren witnesse:
1368 Whan thritty tirauntz, ful of cursednesse,
1369 Hadde slayn Phidon in Atthenes atte feste,
1370 They comanded his doghtres for t’ areste
1371 And bryngen hem biforn hem in despit,
1372 Al naked, to fulfille hir foul delit,
1373 And in hir fadres blood they made hem daunce
1374 Upon the pavement, God yeve hem meschaunce!
1375 For which thise woful maydens, ful of drede,
1376 Rather than they wolde lese hir maydenhede,
1377 They prively been stirt into a welle
1378 And dreynte hemselven, as the bookes telle.
1379 “They of Mecene leete enquere and seke
1380 Of Lacedomye fifty maydens eke,
1381 On whiche they wolden doon hir lecherye.
1382 But was ther noon of al that compaignye
1383 That she nas slayn, and with a good entente
1384 Chees rather for to dye than assente
1385 To been oppressed of hir maydenhede.
1386 Why sholde I thanne to dye been in drede?
1387 Lo, eek, the tiraunt Aristoclides,
1388 That loved a mayden, heet Stymphalides,
1389 Whan that hir fader slayn was on a nyght,
1390 Unto Dianes temple goth she right,
1391 And hente the ymage in hir handes two,
1392 Fro which ymage wolde she nevere go.
1393 No wight ne myghte hir handes of it arace
1394 Til she was slayn, right in the selve place.
1395 “Now sith that maydens hadden swich despit
1396 To been defouled with mannes foul delit,
1397 Wel oghte a wyf rather hirselven slee
1398 Than be defouled, as it thynketh me.
1399 What shal I seyn of Hasdrubales wyf,
1400 That at Cartage birafte hirself hir lyf?
1401 For whan she saugh that Romayns wan the toun,
1402 She took hir children alle, and skipte adoun
1403 Into the fyr, and chees rather to dye
1404 Than any Romayn dide hire vileynye.
1405 Hath nat Lucresse yslayn hirself, allas,
1406 At Rome, whan that she oppressed was
1407 Of Tarquyn, for hire thoughte it was a shame
1408 To lyven whan she hadde lost hir name?
1409 The sevene maydens of Milesie also
1410 Han slayn hemself, for verrey drede and wo,
1411 Rather than folk of Gawle hem sholde oppresse.
1412 Mo than a thousand stories, as I gesse,
1413 Koude I now telle as touchynge this mateere.
1414 Whan Habradate was slayn, his wyf so deere
1415 Hirselven slow, and leet hir blood to glyde
1416 In Habradates woundes depe and wyde,
1417 And seyde, ‘My body, at the leeste way,
1418 Ther shal no wight defoulen, if I may.”
1419 “What sholde I mo ensamples heerof sayn,
1420 Sith that so manye han hemselven slayn
1421 Wel rather than they wolde defouled be?
1422 I wol conclude that it is bet for me
1423 To sleen myself than been defouled thus.
1424 I wol be trewe unto Arveragus,
1425 Or rather sleen myself in som manere,
1426 As dide Demociones doghter deere
1427 By cause that she wolde nat defouled be.
1428 O Cedasus, it is ful greet pitee
1429 To reden how thy doghtren deyde, allas,
1430 That slowe hemself for swich manere cas.
1431 As greet a pitee was it, or wel moore,
1432 The Theban mayden that for Nichanore
1433 Hirselven slow, right for swich manere wo.
1434 Another Theban mayden dide right so;
1435 For oon of Macidonye hadde hire oppressed,
1436 She with hire deeth hir maydenhede redressed.
1437 What shal I seye of Nicerates wyf,
1438 That for swich cas birafte hirself hir lyf?
1439 How trewe eek was to Alcebiades
1440 His love, that rather for to dyen chees
1441 Than for to suffre his body unburyed be.
1442 Lo, which a wyf was Alceste,” quod she.
1443 “What seith Omer of goode Penalopee?
1444 Al Grece knoweth of hire chastitee.
1445 Pardee, of Laodomya is writen thus,
1446 That whan at Troie was slayn Protheselaus,
1447 Ne lenger wolde she lyve after his day.
1448 The same of noble Porcia telle I may;
1449 Withoute Brutus koude she nat lyve,
1450 To whom she hadde al hool hir herte yive.
1451 The parfit wyfhod of Arthemesie
1452 Honured is thurgh al the Barbarie.
1453 O Teuta, queene, thy wyfly chastitee
1454 To alle wyves may a mirour bee.
1455 The same thyng I seye of Bilyea,
1456 Of Rodogone, and eek Valeria.”
1457 Thus pleyned Dorigen a day or tweye,
1458 Purposynge evere that she wolde deye.
1459 But nathelees, upon the thridde nyght,
1460 Hoom cam Arveragus, this worthy knyght,
1461 And asked hire why that she weep so soore;
1462 And she gan wepen ever lenger the moore.
1463 ” Allas,” quod she, “that evere was I born!
1464 Thus have I seyd,” quod she, “thus have I sworn” —
1465 And toold hym al as ye han herd bifore;
1466 It nedeth nat reherce it yow namoore.
1467 This housbonde, with glad chiere, in freendly wyse
1468 Answerde and seyde as I shal yow devyse:
1469 “Is ther oght elles, Dorigen, but this?”
1470 “Nay, nay,” quod she, “God helpe me so as wys!
1471 This is to muche, and it were Goddes wille.”
1472 “Ye, wyf,” quod he, “lat slepen that is stille.
1473 It may be wel, paraventure, yet to day.
1474 Ye shul youre trouthe holden, by my fay!
1475 For God so wisly have mercy upon me,
1476 I hadde wel levere ystiked for to be
1477 For verray love which that I to yow have,
1478 But if ye sholde youre trouthe kepe and save.
1479 Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe” —
1480 But with that word he brast anon to wepe,
1481 And seyde, “I yow forbede, up peyne of deeth,
1482 That nevere, whil thee lasteth lyf ne breeth,
1483 To no wight telle thou of this aventure —
1484 As I may best, I wol my wo endure —
1485 Ne make no contenance of hevynesse,
1486 That folk of yow may demen harm or gesse.”
1487 And forth he cleped a squier and a mayde:
1488 “Gooth forth anon with Dorigen,” he sayde,
1489 ” And bryngeth hire to swich a place anon.”
1490 They take hir leve, and on hir wey they gon,
1491 But they ne wiste why she thider wente.
1492 He nolde no wight tellen his entente.
1493 Paraventure an heep of yow, ywis,
1494 Wol holden hym a lewed man in this
1495 That he wol putte his wyf in jupartie.
1496 Herkneth the tale er ye upon hire crie.
1497 She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth;
1498 And whan that ye han herd the tale, demeth.
1499 This squier, which that highte Aurelius,
1500 On Dorigen that was so amorus,
1501 Of aventure happed hire to meete
1502 Amydde the toun, right in the quykkest strete,
1503 As she was bown to goon the wey forth right
1504 Toward the gardyn ther as she had hight.
1505 And he was to the gardyn-ward also;
1506 For wel he spyed whan she wolde go
1507 Out of hir hous to any maner place.
1508 But thus they mette, of aventure or grace,
1509 And he saleweth hire with glad entente,
1510 And asked of hire whiderward she wente;
1511 And she answerde, half as she were mad,
1512 “Unto the gardyn, as myn housbonde bad,
1513 My trouthe for to holde — allas, allas!”
1514 Aurelius gan wondren on this cas,
1515 And in his herte hadde greet compassioun
1516 Of hire and of hire lamentacioun,
1517 And of Arveragus, the worthy knyght,
1518 That bad hire holden al that she had hight,
1519 So looth hym was his wyf sholde breke hir trouthe;
1520 And in his herte he caughte of this greet routhe,
1521 Considerynge the beste on every syde,
1522 That fro his lust yet were hym levere abyde
1523 Than doon so heigh a cherlyssh wrecchednesse
1524 Agayns franchise and alle gentillesse;
1525 For which in fewe wordes seyde he thus:
1526 “Madame, seyth to youre lord Arveragus
1527 That sith I se his grete gentillesse
1528 To yow, and eek I se wel youre distresse,
1529 That him were levere han shame (and that were routhe)
1530 Than ye to me sholde breke thus youre trouthe,
1531 I have wel levere evere to suffre wo
1532 Than I departe the love bitwix yow two.
1533 I yow relesse, madame, into youre hond
1534 Quyt every serement and every bond
1535 That ye han maad to me as heerbiforn,
1536 Sith thilke tyme which that ye were born.
1537 My trouthe I plighte, I shal yow never repreve
1538 Of no biheste, and heere I take my leve,
1539 As of the treweste and the beste wyf
1540 That evere yet I knew in al my lyf.
1541 But every wyf be war of hire biheeste!
1542 On Dorigen remembreth, atte leeste.
1543 Thus kan a squier doon a gentil dede
1544 As wel as kan a knyght, withouten drede.”
1545 She thonketh hym upon hir knees al bare,
1546 And hoom unto hir housbonde is she fare,
1547 And tolde hym al, as ye han herd me sayd;
1548 And be ye siker, he was so weel apayd
1549 That it were impossible me to wryte.
1550 What sholde I lenger of this cas endyte?
1551 Arveragus and Dorigen his wyf
1552 In sovereyn blisse leden forth hir lyf.
1553 Nevere eft ne was ther angre hem bitwene.
1554 He cherisseth hire as though she were a queene,
1555 And she was to hym trewe for everemoore.
1556 Of thise two folk ye gete of me namoore.
1557 Aurelius, that his cost hath al forlorn,
1558 Curseth the tyme that evere he was born:
1559 ” Allas!” quod he. ” Allas, that I bihighte
1560 Of pured gold a thousand pound of wighte
1561 Unto this philosophre! How shal I do?
1562 I se namoore but that I am fordo.
1563 Myn heritage moot I nedes selle,
1564 And been a beggere; heere may I nat dwelle
1565 And shamen al my kynrede in this place,
1566 But I of hym may gete bettre grace.
1567 But nathelees, I wole of hym assaye,
1568 At certeyn dayes, yeer by yeer, to paye,
1569 And thanke hym of his grete curteisye.
1570 My trouthe wol I kepe, I wol nat lye.”
1571 With herte soor he gooth unto his cofre,
1572 And broghte gold unto this philosophre,
1573 The value of fyve hundred pound, I gesse,
1574 And hym bisecheth, of his gentillesse,
1575 To graunte hym dayes of the remenaunt;
1576 And seyde, “Maister, I dar wel make avaunt,
1577 I failled nevere of my trouthe as yit.
1578 For sikerly my dette shal be quyt
1579 Towardes yow, howevere that I fare
1580 To goon a-begged in my kirtle bare.
1581 But wolde ye vouche sauf, upon seuretee,
1582 Two yeer or thre for to respiten me,
1583 Thanne were I wel; for elles moot I selle
1584 Myn heritage; ther is namoore to telle.”
1585 This philosophre sobrely answerde,
1586 And seyde thus, whan he thise wordes herde:
1587 “Have I nat holden covenant unto thee?”
1588 “Yes, certes, wel and trewely,” quod he.
1589 “Hastow nat had thy lady as thee liketh?”
1590 “No, no,” quod he, and sorwefully he siketh.
1591 “What was the cause? Tel me if thou kan.”
1592 Aurelius his tale anon bigan,
1593 And tolde hym al, as ye han herd bifoore;
1594 It nedeth nat to yow reherce it moore.
1595 He seide, ” Arveragus, of gentillesse,
1596 Hadde levere dye in sorwe and in distresse
1597 Than that his wyf were of hir trouthe fals.”
1598 The sorwe of Dorigen he tolde hym als;
1599 How looth hire was to been a wikked wyf,
1600 And that she levere had lost that day hir lyf,
1601 And that hir trouthe she swoor thurgh innocence,
1602 She nevere erst hadde herde speke of apparence.
1603 “That made me han of hire so greet pitee;
1604 And right as frely as he sente hire me,
1605 As frely sente I hire to hym ageyn.
1606 This al and som; ther is namoore to seyn.”
1607 This philosophre answerde, “Leeve brother,
1608 Everich of yow dide gentilly til oother.
1609 Thou art a squier, and he is a knyght;
1610 But God forbede, for his blisful myght,
1611 But if a clerk koude doon a gentil dede
1612 As wel as any of yow, it is no drede!
1613 Sire, I releesse thee thy thousand pound,
1614 As thou right now were cropen out of the ground,
1615 Ne nevere er now ne haddest knowen me.
1616 For, sire, I wol nat taken a peny of thee
1617 For al my craft, ne noght for my travaille.
1618 Thou hast ypayed wel for my vitaille.
1619 It is ynogh, and farewel, have good day!”
1620 And took his hors, and forth he goth his way.
1621 Lordynges, this question, thanne, wol I aske now,
1622 Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?
1623 Now telleth me, er that ye ferther wende.
1624 I kan namoore; my tale is at an ende.