1 Woot ye nat where ther stant a litel toun
2 Which that ycleped is Bobbe-up-and-doun,
3 Under the Blee, in Caunterbury Weye?
4 Ther gan oure Hooste for to jape and pleye,
5 And seyde, “Sires, what! Dun is in the myre!
6 Is ther no man, for preyere ne for hyre,
7 That wole awake oure felawe al bihynde?
8 A theef myghte hym ful lightly robbe and bynde.
9 See how he nappeth! See how, for cokkes bones,
10 That he wol falle fro his hors atones!
11 Is that a cook of Londoun, with meschaunce?
12 Do hym come forth, he knoweth his penaunce;
13 For he shal telle a tale, by my fey,
14 Although it be nat worth a botel hey.
15 Awake, thou Cook,” quod he, “God yeve thee sorwe!
16 What eyleth thee to slepe by the morwe?
17 Hastow had fleen al nyght, or artow dronke?
18 Or hastow with som quene al nyght yswonke,
19 So that thow mayst nat holden up thyn heed?”
20 This Cook, that was ful pale and no thyng reed,
21 Seyde to oure Hoost, “So God my soule blesse,
22 As ther is falle on me swich hevynesse,
23 Noot I nat why, that me were levere slepe
24 Than the beste galon wyn in Chepe.”
25 “Wel,” quod the Maunciple, “if it may doon ese
26 To thee, sire Cook, and to no wight displese,
27 Which that heere rideth in this compaignye,
28 And that oure Hoost wole, of his curteisye,
29 I wol as now excuse thee of thy tale.
30 For, in good feith, thy visage is ful pale,
31 Thyne eyen daswen eek, as that me thynketh,
32 And, wel I woot, thy breeth ful soure stynketh:
33 That sheweth wel thou art nat wel disposed.
34 Of me, certeyn, thou shalt nat been yglosed.
35 See how he ganeth, lo, this dronken wight,
36 As though he wolde swolwe us anonright.
37 Hoold cloos thy mouth, man, by thy fader kyn!
38 The devel of helle sette his foot therin!
39 Thy cursed breeth infecte wole us alle.
40 Fy, stynkyng swyn! Fy, foule moote thee falle!
41 A, taketh heede, sires, of this lusty man.
42 Now, sweete sire, wol ye justen atte fan?
43 Therto me thynketh ye been wel yshape!
44 I trowe that ye dronken han wyn ape,
45 And that is whan men pleyen with a straw.”
46 And with this speche the Cook wax wrooth and wraw,
47 And on the Manciple he gan nodde faste
48 For lakke of speche, and doun the hors hym caste,
49 Where as he lay, til that men hym up took.
50 This was a fair chyvachee of a cook!
51 Allas, he nadde holde hym by his ladel!
52 And er that he agayn were in his sadel,
53 Ther was greet showvyng bothe to and fro
54 To lifte hym up, and muchel care and wo,
55 So unweeldy was this sory palled goost.
56 And to the Manciple thanne spak oure Hoost:
57 “By cause drynke hath dominacioun
58 Upon this man, by my savacioun,
59 I trowe he lewedly wolde telle his tale.
60 For, were it wyn or oold or moysty ale
61 That he hath dronke, he speketh in his nose,
62 And fneseth faste, and eek he hath the pose.
63 “He hath also to do moore than ynough
64 To kepen hym and his capul out of the slough;
65 And if he falle from his capul eftsoone,
66 Thanne shal we alle have ynogh to doone
67 In liftyng up his hevy dronken cors.
68 Telle on thy tale; of hym make I no fors.
69 “But yet, Manciple, in feith thou art to nyce,
70 Thus openly repreve hym of his vice.
71 Another day he wole, peraventure,
72 Reclayme thee and brynge thee to lure;
73 I meene, he speke wole of smale thynges,
74 As for to pynchen at thy rekenynges,
75 That were nat honest, if it cam to preef.”
76 “No,” quod the Manciple, “that were a greet mescheef!
77 So myghte he lightly brynge me in the snare.
78 Yet hadde I levere payen for the mare
79 Which he rit on, than he sholde with me stryve.
80 I wol nat wratthen hym, also moot I thryve!
81 That that I spak, I seyde it in my bourde.
82 And wite ye what? I have heer in a gourde
83 A draghte of wyn, ye, of a ripe grape,
84 And right anon ye shul seen a good jape.
85 This Cook shal drynke therof, if I may.
86 Up peyne of deeth, he wol nat seye me nay.”
87 And certeynly, to tellen as it was,
88 Of this vessel the Cook drank faste, allas!
89 What neded hym? He drank ynough biforn.
90 And whan he hadde pouped in this horn,
91 To the Manciple he took the gourde agayn;
92 And of that drynke the Cook was wonder fayn,
93 And thanked hym in swich wise as he koude.
94 Thanne gan oure Hoost to laughen wonder loude,
95 And seyde, “I se wel it is necessarie,
96 Where that we goon, good drynke with us carie;
97 For that wol turne rancour and disese
98 T’ acord and love, and many a wrong apese.
99 “O Bacus, yblessed be thy name,
100 That so kanst turnen ernest into game!
101 Worshipe and thank be to thy deitee!
102 Of that mateere ye gete namoore of me.
103 Telle on thy tale, Manciple, I thee preye.”
104 “Wel, sire,” quod he, “now herkneth what I seye.
105 Whan Phebus dwelled heere in this erthe adoun,
106 As olde bookes maken mencioun,
107 He was the mooste lusty bachiler
108 In al this world, and eek the beste archer.
109 He slow Phitoun, the serpent, as he lay
110 Slepynge agayn the sonne upon a day;
111 And many another noble worthy dede
112 He with his bowe wroghte, as men may rede.
113 Pleyen he koude on every mynstralcie,
114 And syngen that it was a melodie
115 To heeren of his cleere voys the soun.
116 Certes the kyng of Thebes, Amphioun,
117 That with his syngyng walled that citee,
118 Koude nevere syngen half so wel as hee.
119 Therto he was the semelieste man
120 That is or was sith that the world bigan.
121 What nedeth it his fetures to discryve?
122 For in this world was noon so faire on-lyve.
123 He was therwith fulfild of gentillesse,
124 Of honour, and of parfit worthynesse.
125 This Phebus, that was flour of bachilrie,
126 As wel in fredom as in chivalrie,
127 For his desport, in signe eek of victorie
128 Of Phitoun, so as telleth us the storie,
129 Was wont to beren in his hand a bowe.
130 Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a crowe
131 Which in a cage he fostred many a day,
132 And taughte it speken, as men teche a jay.
133 Whit was this crowe as is a snow-whit swan,
134 And countrefete the speche of every man
135 He koude, whan he sholde telle a tale.
136 Therwith in al this world no nyghtyngale
137 Ne koude, by an hondred thousand deel,
138 Syngen so wonder myrily and weel.
139 Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a wyf
140 Which that he lovede moore than his lyf,
141 And nyght and day dide evere his diligence
142 Hir for to plese and doon hire reverence,
143 Save oonly, if the sothe that I shal sayn,
144 Jalous he was, and wolde have kept hire fayn.
145 For hym were looth byjaped for to be,
146 And so is every wight in swich degree;
147 But al in ydel, for it availleth noght.
148 A good wyf, that is clene of werk and thoght,
149 Sholde nat been kept in noon awayt, certayn;
150 And trewely the labour is in vayn
151 To kepe a shrewe, for it wol nat bee.
152 This holde I for a verray nycetee,
153 To spille labour for to kepe wyves:
154 Thus writen olde clerkes in hir lyves.
155 But now to purpos, as I first bigan:
156 This worthy Phebus dooth al that he kan
157 To plesen hire, wenynge for swich plesaunce,
158 And for his manhede and his governaunce,
159 That no man sholde han put hym from hir grace.
160 But God it woot, ther may no man embrace
161 As to destreyne a thyng which that nature
162 Hath natureelly set in a creature.
163 Taak any bryd, and put it in a cage,
164 And do al thyn entente and thy corage
165 To fostre it tendrely with mete and drynke
166 Of alle deyntees that thou kanst bithynke,
167 And keep it al so clenly as thou may,
168 Although his cage of gold be never so gay,
169 Yet hath this brid, by twenty thousand foold,
170 Levere in a forest that is rude and coold
171 Goon ete wormes and swich wrecchednesse.
172 For evere this brid wol doon his bisynesse
173 To escape out of his cage, yif he may.
174 His libertee this brid desireth ay.
175 Lat take a cat, and fostre hym wel with milk
176 And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
177 And lat hym seen a mous go by the wal,
178 Anon he weyveth milk and flessh and al,
179 And every deyntee that is in that hous,
180 Swich appetit hath he to ete a mous.
181 Lo, heere hath lust his dominacioun,
182 And appetit fleemeth discrecioun.
183 A she-wolf hath also a vileyns kynde.
184 The lewedeste wolf that she may fynde,
185 Or leest of reputacioun, wol she take,
186 In tyme whan hir lust to han a make.
187 Alle thise ensamples speke I by thise men
188 That been untrewe, and nothyng by wommen.
189 For men han evere a likerous appetit
190 On lower thyng to parfourne hire delit
191 Than on hire wyves, be they never so faire,
192 Ne never so trewe, ne so debonaire.
193 Flessh is so newefangel, with meschaunce,
194 That we ne konne in nothyng han plesaunce
195 That sowneth into vertu any while.
196 This Phebus, which that thoghte upon no gile,
197 Deceyved was, for al his jolitee.
198 For under hym another hadde shee,
199 A man of litel reputacioun,
200 Nat worth to Phebus in comparisoun.
201 The moore harm is, it happeth ofte so,
202 Of which ther cometh muchel harm and wo.
203 And so bifel, whan Phebus was absent,
204 His wyf anon hath for hir lemman sent.
205 Hir lemman? Certes, this is a knavyssh speche!
206 Foryeveth it me, and that I yow biseche.
207 The wise Plato seith, as ye may rede,
208 The word moot nede accorde with the dede.
209 If men shal telle proprely a thyng,
210 The word moot cosyn be to the werkyng.
211 I am a boystous man, right thus seye I:
212 Ther nys no difference, trewely,
213 Bitwixe a wyf that is of heigh degree,
214 If of hir body dishonest she bee,
215 And a povre wenche, oother than this —
216 If it so be they werke bothe amys —
217 But that the gentile, in estaat above,
218 She shal be cleped his lady, as in love;
219 And for that oother is a povre womman,
220 She shal be cleped his wenche or his lemman.
221 And, God it woot, myn owene deere brother,
222 Men leyn that oon as lowe as lith that oother.
223 Right so bitwixe a titlelees tiraunt
224 And an outlawe or a theef erraunt,
225 The same I seye: ther is no difference.
226 To Alisaundre was toold this sentence,
227 That, for the tirant is of gretter myght
228 By force of meynee for to sleen dounright,
229 And brennen hous and hoom, and make al playn,
230 Lo, therfore is he cleped a capitayn;
231 And for the outlawe hath but smal meynee,
232 And may nat doon so greet an harm as he,
233 Ne brynge a contree to so greet mescheef,
234 Men clepen hym an outlawe or a theef.
235 But for I am a man noght textueel,
236 I wol noght telle of textes never a deel;
237 I wol go to my tale, as I bigan.
238 Whan Phebus wyf had sent for hir lemman,
239 Anon they wroghten al hire lust volage.
240 The white crowe, that heeng ay in the cage,
241 Biheeld hire werk, and seyde never a word.
242 And whan that hoom was come Phebus, the lord,
243 This crowe sang “Cokkow! Cokkow! Cokkow!”
244 “What, bryd?” quod Phebus. “What song syngestow?
245 Ne were thow wont so myrily to synge
246 That to myn herte it was a rejoysynge
247 To heere thy voys? Allas, what song is this?”
248 “By God,” quod he, “I synge nat amys.
249 Phebus,” quod he, “for al thy worthynesse,
250 For al thy beautee and thy gentilesse,
251 For al thy song and al thy mynstralcye,
252 For al thy waityng, blered is thyn ye
253 With oon of litel reputacioun,
254 Noght worth to thee, as in comparisoun,
255 The montance of a gnat, so moote I thryve!
256 For on thy bed thy wyf I saugh hym swyve.”
257 What wol ye moore? The crowe anon hym tolde,
258 By sadde tokenes and by wordes bolde,
259 How that his wyf had doon hire lecherye,
260 Hym to greet shame and to greet vileynye,
261 And tolde hym ofte he saugh it with his yen.
262 This Phebus gan aweyward for to wryen,
263 And thoughte his sorweful herte brast atwo.
264 His bowe he bente, and sette therinne a flo,
265 And in his ire his wyf thanne hath he slayn.
266 This is th’ effect; ther is namoore to sayn;
267 For sorwe of which he brak his mynstralcie,
268 Bothe harpe, and lute, and gyterne, and sautrie;
269 And eek he brak his arwes and his bowe,
270 And after that thus spak he to the crowe:
271 “Traitour,” quod he, “with tonge of scorpioun,
272 Thou hast me broght to my confusioun;
273 Allas, that I was wroght! Why nere I deed?
274 O deere wyf! O gemme of lustiheed!
275 That were to me so sad and eek so trewe,
276 Now listow deed, with face pale of hewe,
277 Ful giltelees, that dorste I swere, ywys!
278 O rakel hand, to doon so foule amys!
279 O trouble wit, O ire recchelees,
280 That unavysed smyteth gilteles!
281 O wantrust, ful of fals suspecion,
282 Where was thy wit and thy discrecion?
283 O every man, be war of rakelnesse!
284 Ne trowe no thyng withouten strong witnesse.
285 Smyt nat to soone, er that ye witen why,
286 And beeth avysed wel and sobrely
287 Er ye doon any execucion
288 Upon youre ire for suspecion.
289 Allas, a thousand folk hath rakel ire
290 Fully fordoon, and broght hem in the mire.
291 Allas! For sorwe I wol myselven slee!”
292 And to the crowe, “O false theef!” seyde he,
293 “I wol thee quite anon thy false tale.
294 Thou songe whilom lyk a nyghtyngale;
295 Now shaltow, false theef, thy song forgon,
296 And eek thy white fetheres everichon,
297 Ne nevere in al thy lif ne shaltou speke.
298 Thus shal men on a traytour been awreke;
299 Thou and thyn ofspryng evere shul be blake,
300 Ne nevere sweete noyse shul ye make,
301 But evere crie agayn tempest and rayn,
302 In tokenynge that thurgh thee my wyf is slayn.”
303 And to the crowe he stirte, and that anon,
304 And pulled his white fetheres everychon,
305 And made hym blak, and refte hym al his song,
306 And eek his speche, and out at dore hym slong
307 Unto the devel, which I hym bitake;
308 And for this caas been alle crowes blake.
309 Lordynges, by this ensample I yow preye,
310 Beth war, and taketh kep what that ye seye:
311 Ne telleth nevere no man in youre lyf
312 How that another man hath dight his wyf;
313 He wol yow haten mortally, certeyn.
314 Daun Salomon, as wise clerkes seyn,
315 Techeth a man to kepen his tonge weel.
316 But, as I seyde, I am noght textueel.
317 But nathelees, thus taughte me my dame:
318 “My sone, thenk on the crowe, a Goddes name!
319 My sone, keep wel thy tonge, and keep thy freend.
320 A wikked tonge is worse than a feend;
321 My sone, from a feend men may hem blesse.
322 My sone, God of his endelees goodnesse
323 Walled a tonge with teeth and lippes eke,
324 For man sholde hym avyse what he speeke.
325 My sone, ful ofte, for to muche speche
326 Hath many a man been spilt, as clerkes teche,
327 But for litel speche avysely
328 Is no man shent, to speke generally.
329 My sone, thy tonge sholdestow restreyne
330 At alle tymes, but whan thou doost thy peyne
331 To speke of God, in honour and preyere.
332 The firste vertu, sone, if thou wolt leere,
333 Is to restreyne and kepe wel thy tonge;
334 Thus lerne children whan that they been yonge.
335 My sone, of muchel spekyng yvele avysed,
336 Ther lasse spekyng hadde ynough suffised,
337 Comth muchel harm; thus was me toold and taught.
338 In muchel speche synne wanteth naught.
339 Wostow wherof a rakel tonge serveth?
340 Right as a swerd forkutteth and forkerveth
341 An arm a-two, my deere sone, right so
342 A tonge kutteth freendshipe al a-two.
343 A jangler is to God abhomynable.
344 Reed Salomon, so wys and honurable;
345 Reed David in his psalmes; reed Senekke.
346 My sone, spek nat, but with thyn heed thou bekke.
347 Dissimule as thou were deef, if that thou heere
348 A janglere speke of perilous mateere.
349 The Flemyng seith, and lerne it if thee leste,
350 That litel janglyng causeth muchel reste.
351 My sone, if thou no wikked word hast seyd,
352 Thee thar nat drede for to be biwreyd;
353 But he that hath mysseyd, I dar wel sayn,
354 He may by no wey clepe his word agayn.
355 Thyng that is seyd is seyd, and forth it gooth,
356 Though hym repente, or be hym nevere so looth.
357 He is his thral to whom that he hath sayd
358 A tale of which he is now yvele apayd.
359 My sone, be war, and be noon auctour newe
360 Of tidynges, wheither they been false or trewe.
361 Whereso thou come, amonges hye or lowe,
362 Kepe wel thy tonge and thenk upon the crowe.”