The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Clerkes Tale

“Sir Clerk of Oxenford,” our hoste sayde,

“Ye ryde as stille and coy as doth a mayde,

Al newly spousèd, sittyng at the board;

This day I herd not of your mouth a word.

I trowe ye study som disputacioún;

But Salomon saith, every thing hath sesoún.

For Goddis sake! be thou of better cheere,

It is no tyme for to stody here.

Tel us som mery tale, by your fay;

For if a man is entred unto play,

He needes must unto that play assent.

But preche not, as freres do in Lent,

To make us for our olde synnes wepe,

Nor let thy tale make us for to slepe.

Tel us som mery thing of áventúres.

Youre termes, your coloúrs, and your figúres,

Keep them in store, til so be that ye endite

High style, as whan that men to kynges write.

Speke so playn at this tyme, we yow praye,

That we may understonde that ye saye.”

This worthy Clerk benignely answerde;
“Sir host,” quoth he, “I am under your word,
Ye have of us as now the governaúnce,
And therfor wil I do you óbeissaunce,
As fer as resoun askith verrily.
I wil you telle a tale, which that I
Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk,
Y-provèd by his wordes and his werk.
He is now ded, and naylèd in his chest,
And may God give his soule wel good rest!
Fraunces Petrark, the laureat poéte,
Highte this clerk, whos retoricke swete
Illumynd al Ytail of poetrie,
As Linian did of philosophie,
Or lawe, or other art particuler;
But deth, that wol not suffre us duellen here,
But as it were a twyncling of an eye,
Them bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
But forth to tellen of this worthy man,
That taughte me this tale, as I first bigan,
I say that he first with high stile enditith
(Er he the body of his tale writith)
A prologe, in the which describith he
Piemounde, and of Saluces the contree,
And spekith of Appenyne the hilles hye,
That be the boundes of al west Lombardye;
And of mount Vesulus in special,
Wher as the Po out of a welle smal
Takith his firste springyng and his source,
That est-ward ay increseth in his cours
To Emyl-ward, to Ferare, and to Venise,
The which a long thing were to devyse.
And trewely, as to my juggement,
Me thinketh this prológe impertinent,
Save that he wold expounden his matére;
But this the tale is which that ye shal heere.”

Ther is at the west ende of Italie,
Doun at the root of Vesulus the colde,
A lusty playn, abundaunt of plentee,
Wher many a tour and toun thou maist byholde,
That foundid were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many anothir délitable sight,
And Sáluces this noble contray hight.

A marquys whilom duellèd in that lond,
As did his worthy eldris him bifore,
Obedient and redy to his hond,
Were alle his servaunts, bothe lesse and more.
Thus in delyt he lyveth and hath of yore,
Biloved and dreaded, thurgh favour of fortúne,
Bothe by his lordes and by his comúne.

Withal he was, to speke of lineáge,
The gentlest knighte born in Lumbardye,
A fair persóne, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curtesie;
Discret y-nough to guiden his contré,
Savynge in somme things he was to blame;
And Walter was this yonge lordes name.

I blame him thus, that he considered nought
In tyme comyng what might him bityde,
But on his present pleasure was his thought,
As for to hauke and hunte on every syde;
Wel ny al othir cures let he slyde,
And eek he wolde not (that was worst of al)
Wedden a wyf for nought that might bifal.

Only that poynt his peple bar so sore,
That flocking on a day to him thay went,
And one of them, that wisest was of lore,
(Either bycause his lord wolde best assent
That he shuld telle him what his peple ment,
Or else that he coude wel shewe such matére)
He to the marquys sayd as ye shal here.

“O noble marquys, your humanitee,
Assureth us and giveth us hardynesse,
For now the matter is of necessitee,
That we to you may telle oure hevynesse;
Accept, o lord, now of your gentilesse,
That we with piteous hert to you complayne,
And let your eares not my vois disdeyne.

“Though I have nought to do in this matére
More than another man hath in this place,
Yit for as moche as ye, my lord so deere,
Have alway shewèd me favoúr and grace,
I dare the better ask of you a space
Of audience, to shewen oure request,
And ye, my lord, to do as seemeth best.

“For certes, lord, so wel we loven yow
And al your werk, and ever have doon, that we
Coude not ourselve lightly devysen how
We mighte lyve more in felicitee:
Save one thing, lord, if that your wille be,
That for to be a weddid man you list
Then were your pepel in there hertes at rest.

“Bow then your neck undir that blisful yoke
Of sovereigneté, nought of servíse,
Which that men clepe spousail or wedlok;
And think too, lord, among your thoughtes wise,
How that our dayes passe in sondry wyse;
For though we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde,
Ay fleeth the tyme, it will no man abyde.

“And though your grene youthe floure to day,
In crepith age alway as stille as stone,
And deth menáceth every age, to slay
Ech man and al, for ther escapith none.
And as certéyn, as we knowe every one
That we shal deye, so uncertéyn we alle
Be of that day that deth shal on us falle.

“Accepte thenne of us the trewe entent,
That never yit refusid al youre hest,
And we wil, lord, if that ye wil assent,
Choose you a wyf, in short tyme atte lest,
Born of the gentilest and the highest
Of al this lond, so that it oughte seme
Honour to God and you, as we can deme.

“Deliver us out of al this careful drede
And tak a wyf, for hye Goddes sake.
For if it so bifel, which God forbede,
That deth to your lignage an end shuld make,
And that a straunge súccessoúr shulde take
Your heritage, O! wo were us alive!
Wherfor we pray yow hastily to wyve.”

There meeke prayer and there piteous chere
Made the marquys for to have pitee.
“Ye wolde,” quoth he, “myn owne peple deere,
To that I never thought constreigne me.
I me rejoysid in my libertee,
That selden tyme is founde in mariáge;
Where I was free, I must be in serváge.

“But natheles I see your trewe entent,
And trust unto your wit, and have doon ay;
Wherfor of my free wil I wil assent
To wedde me, as soon as ever I may.
But wher as ye have profred me to day
To choose me a wyf, I wol release
That choys, and pray you of that profre cease.

“For God it wot, that childer oft have been
Unlik there worthy eldris them bifore;
Bountee cometh al of God, nought of the strain
Of which thay be engendrid and i-bore.
I trust in Goddis bountee, and therfóre
My mariáge, and myn estat and rest,
To God I leve, he shal do atte best.

“Let me alone in choosing of my wif,
That charge upon my bak I wil endure.
But I you pray, and charge upon your lyf,
That what wyf that I take, ye me assure
To worshippe whil that hir lif may endure,
In word and werk, bothe heer and every where,
As she an emperoures doughter were.

“And forthermor thus shal ye swere, that ye
Against my chois shal never murmur or stryve,
For since I shal forgo my libertee
At your request, so may I ever thrive,
Where my own hert is set, ther wil I wyve.
And save ye wil assent in such manére,
I pray you spek no more of this matére.”

With herty wil thay sworen and assenten
To al this thing, ther sayde no wight nay,
Bysechyng him of grace, ere that thay wenten,
That he wolde graunte them a certeyn day
Of his spousail, as soone as ever he may;
For yit alway the peple som what dredde
Lest that the marquys wolde no wyf wedde.

He graunted them a day, as seemed best,
On which he wolde be weddid certeynly;
And sayd he dede al this at there requeste.
And thay with humble hert obediently,
Knelyng upon there knees ful reverently,
Him thanken alle, and thus thay have an ende
Of their entent, and hom agein they wende.

And herupon he to his officeris
Comaundith al the feste to prepare,
And to his privé knightes and squyéres
Such charge gave to do his wil with care:
And thay obeyen his word in al manére,
And ech of them doth al his diligence
To do unto the feste reverence.

Pars Secunda

Nought fer fro this same palys honuráble,
Wher as this marquys shaped his mariáge,
Ther stood a thorp, of sighte delitáble,
In which the pore folk of that világe
Hadden their bestes and their pasturage,
Which after labour took their sustenaúnce,
Of which the erthe gaf them ábundaúnce.

Among this pore folk there duelt a man,
Which that was holden porest of them alle;
But hye God som tyme sende can
His grace unto a litel oxe stalle.
Janicula men of that thorp him calle.
A doughter had he, fair y-nough to sight,
And Grisildes this yonge mayden hight.

But for to speke of vertuous beautee,
She was of al the fayrest under the sonne;
For porely i-fostered up was she,
No love of pleasure was in hir body run;
Far ofter of the welle than of the tunne
She dronk, and, for she wolde vertu please,
She knew wel labour, but no ydel ease.

But though this mayden tender were of age,
Yet in the brest of her virginitee
Ther was enclosèd rype and firm corráge;
And in gret reverence and charitee
Hir olde pore fader fostered she;
And, whil she spun, sheep on the feld she kept,
She never yet was idel til she slept.

And when she hom — ward com she wolde brynge
Wortes or other herbes tymes ofte,
The which she shred and seethed for her lyvýng,
And made hir bed ful hard, and nothing softe.
And ay she kept hir fadres lif aloft,
With every óbeissance and diligence,
That child may do to fadres reverence.

Upon Grisild, this pore créatúre,
Ful ofte times this marquys set his eye,
As he on huntyng rode par áventúre.
And when it fel he might hir wel espye,
He not with wantoun lokyng of folýe
His eyen caste, but in sober wyse
Upon hir look he wold him oft avise,

Comendyng in his hert hir wommanhede,
And eek hir vertu, passyng any other wight
Of so yong age, as wel in look as dede.
For though the peple have no gret insight
In virtu, he considereth aright
Hir goodness, and disposèd that he wolde
Wedde only her, if ever he wedde sholde.

The day of weddyng cam, but no wight can
Tellen at al what womman it shulde be;
For which mervayle wondrith many a man,
And sayden, whan they were in privitee,
“Wil not our lord yet leve his vanitee?
Wil he not wedde a wyf? allas the while!
Why wil he thus himself and us bigyle?”

But natheles this marquys hath done make
Of gemmes, set in gold and in azúre,
Broches and rynges, for Grisildes sake,
And of hir clothing took he the mesúre,
By another mayde y-lik hir of statúre,
And eek of other ornamentes alle.
That unto such a weddyng shulde falle.

The tyme of morning of the same day
Approchith, that this weddyng shulde be,
And al the palys put was in array,
Bothe halle and chambur, each in their degré,
Houses of office stuffid with plentee,
Ther mayst thou see richesse of every kinde
That men from al Itayle may seke and finde.

This royal marquys, royally arrayd,
Lordes and ladyes in his compaignye,
The which unto the feste were y-prayed,
And of his retenu the bachelerie,
With many a sound of sondry melodye,
Unto the vilage, of which I yow tolde,
In this array the right way have they holde.

Grysild of this (God wot) ful innocent,
That for hir fashionèd was al the array,
To fetche water at a welle is went,
And cometh hom as soone as ever she may,
For wel she had herd say, that on that day
The marquys shulde wedde, and, if she might,
She wold have seyen somwhat of that sight.

She sayd, “I wol with other maydenes stonde,
That be my felawes, in oure dore, and see
The marquysesse, and I wil take in hond
To do at hom, as soone as it may be,
The labour which that longeth unto me,
And thenne may I at leysir hir byholde,
When they their way into the castel holde.”

And as she wold over the thresshold goon,
The marquys cam and gan hir for to calle.
And she set doun her water-pot anon
Bisides the threschold of this oxe stalle,
And doun upon hir knees she gan to falle,
With sobre countenaunce she knelith stille,
Til she had herd what was the lordes wille.

This thoughtful marquys spak unto this mayde
Ful soberly, and sayd in this manére:
“Wher is your fader, Grisildes?” he sayde.
And she with reverence and humble cheere
Answerde, “My lord, he is al redy here.”
And in she goth withouten more thought,
And to the marquys she hir fader brought.

He by the hond than takith this olde man.
And sayde thus, whan he him had aside:
“Janicula, I neither may nor can
Longer the plesaunse of myn herte hyde;
If that ye vouchesafe, what so betyde,
Thy doughter wil I take ere that I wende
As for my wyf, unto hir lyves ende.

“Thou lovest me, I wot it wel certéyn,
And wert my faithful liege-man i-bore,
And al that likith me, I dar wel sayn,
It likith thee and specially therfore
Tel me that poynt, as ye have herd bifore,
If that thou wilt unto that purpos agree,
As for thy sone-in-lawe to take me.”

The sodeyn case the man astoneyd so,
That red he wax, abassht, and al quakyng
He stood, and scarce sayd he wordes mo,
But only this: “Lord,” quoth he, “my willyng
Is as ye wol; against youre good likyng
I wil no thing, ye be my lord so dere;
Right as yow wolde, so governe this matére.”

“Yit wil I,” quoth this markys softely,
“That in thy chambre, I and thou and she
Meet al of us togider, and knowest thou why?
For I wil aske if that it hir wille be
To be my wyf, and in al to list to me;
And al this shal be doon in thy presénce,
I wil not speke out of thyn audience.”

And in the chamber, while thay were aboute
Their talkyng, as ye al shal after here,
The peple cam unto the hous withoute,
And wondrid moche, in how honést manére
And tendurly she kept hir fader dere;
But most of al Grisildes wonder might,
For never had she seene such a sight.

No wonder is though that she were aferd,
To see so gret a gest come in that place;
She never had suche gestes seen or herd,
For which she lokèd forth with ful pale face.
But shortely this matere forth to chace,
These are the wordes that the marquys sayde
To this benigne, verray, faithful mayde.

“Grisyld,” he sayde, “ye shal wel under-stonde,
It liketh to your fader and to me,
That I you wedde, and eek it may so stonde,
As I suppose ye wil that it so be;
But these demaundes aske I first,” quoth he,
“That since it shal be doon in hasty wyse,
Wol ye assent, or wayte and you advyse?

“I say this, be ye redy with good hert
To al my wil, and that I frely may
As me best pleaseth do you laughe or smert,
And never ye to murmur, night or day;
And eek whan I say yea, ye say not nay,
Neyther by word, nor frownyng countenaunce?
Swer this, and here swer I our álliaunce.”

Wondryng upon this word, quakyng for drede,
She sayde: “Lord, undigne I and unworthy
To take that gret honoúr that ye me bede;
But as ye wil your self, right so wil I;
And here I swere, that never wityngly
In werk, or thought, I wil you disobeye
Even to be deed, though me were loth to dye.”

“This is ynough, Grisilde myn,” quoth he.
And forth he goth with a ful sobre chere,
Out at the dore, and after that cam she,
And to the peple he sayd in this manére:
“This is my wyf,” quoth he, “that stondith here.
Honoúr and love hir, I yow alle pray,
Who so me loveth; ther is no more to say.”

And for that no thing of hir olde gear
She shulde brynge unto his hous, he bad
That wommen shuld despoilen hir right there,
Of which these ladyes were nought ful glad
To handle hir clothes wherin she was clad;
But natheles this mayde bright of hew
Fro foot to heed thay shrouded have al newe.

Hir heres have thay kempt, that lay untressed
Ful rudely, and with their fyngres smale
A crown upon hir heed thay have yplaced,
And set hir ful of brooches gret and smale.
Of hir array what shuld I make a tale?
Scarce the peple hir knew for hir fairnésse,
Whan she translated was in such richésse.

This marquis hath hir spousèd with a ryng
Brought for the same cause, and then hir sette
Upon on hors snow-whyt, and wel amblyng,
And to his palys, with no further let,
(With joyful peple, that hir ladde and mette)
Conveyèd hire, and thus the day they spende
In revel, til the sonne gan descende.

And shortly forth this tale for to chace,
I say, that to this newe marquisesse
God hath such favour sent hir of his grace,
That it seemed not by any liklynesse
That she was born and fed in rudenesse,
As in a cote, or in an oxe stalle,
But nourisht in an emperoures halle.

To every wight she waxen is so deere
And worshipful, that folk where she was born,
And from hir birthe knew hir yer by yere,
Scarce trowèd thay, but dorst have boldly sworn,
That to Janicle, of which I spak biforn,
No daughter she were, for as by cónjectúre
They thought she was another créatúre.

For though that ever vertuous was she,
She was encresèd in such excellence
Of maners goode, i-set in high bountee,
And so discret, and fair of eloquence,
So benigne, and so digne of reverence,
And coude so the peples hert embrace,
That ech hir loveth that lokith in hir face.

Nought only of Saluces in the toun
Publisshèd was the bountee of hir name,
But eek byside in many a regioún,
If one sayd wel, another sayd the same.
So spredde wide her bounté and her fame,
That men and wommen, as wel yong as olde,
Go to Saluces upon hir to byholde.

Thus Walter lowly, nay but royally,
Weddid with fortunat honestetee,
In Goddes pees lyveth ful esily
At home, and outward grace ynough hath he;
And for he saw that under low degree
Was ofte vertu y-hid, the peple him helde
A prudent man, and that is seen ful selde.

Nought only this Grisildes thurgh hir witte
Knew al the wayes of wifly homlynesse,
But eek when that the tyme requirèd it,
The comun profyt coude she wel redresse;
Ther was no discord, rancour, or hevynesse
In al that lond, that she coude not appese,
And wisly bryng them alle in rest and ese.

Though that hir housbond absent were anon,
If gentilmen, or other of hir contree,
Were wroth, she wolde brynge them at one,
So wyse and rype wordes hadde she,
And judgement of so gret equitee,
That she from heven sent was, as men wende,
Peple to save, and every wrong to amende.

Nought longe tyme after that this Grisilde
Was wedded, she a doughter hath i-bore;
Though she had lever hadde a manne childe,
Glad was this marquis and the folk therfore,
For though a mayden child come al byfore,
She may unto a manne child attaine
By liklihed, and she is not barrén.

Incipit Tertia Pars

Ther fel, as fallith many tymes mo,
Whan that this child hath soukèd but a lyte,
This marquys in his herte longith so
Tempten his wyf, hir promise for to wit,
That he might not out of his herte yit
Put this desir his wyfe for to assaye;
Needlesse, God wot, he thought hir to affraye.

He had assayèd hir ynough bifore,
And fond hir ever good, what needith it
To tempten hir, and alway more and more?
Though som men prayse it for a subtil wit,
But as for me, I praise it never a whit
To assay a wyf when that it is no neede,
And putten hir in anguish and in dreede.

For which this marquis wrought in this manére;
He com alone a-night ther as she lay,
With sterne face, and with ful troubled cheere,
And sayde thus, “Grislid,” quoth he, “that day
That I you took out of your pore array,
And putte yow in estat of high noblesse,
Ye have not that forgeten, as I gesse.

“I say, Grisild, this present dignitee
In which that I have put you, as I trowe,
Let it not make you forgetful for to be
That I you took in pore estat ful lowe,
And with no welth, ye must your selve knowe.
Tak heed of every word that I you say,
Ther is no wight that herith it but we tway.

“Ye wot your self how that ye comen heere
Into this hous, it is nought long ago;
And though to me that ye be leef and deere,
Unto my nobles ye be no thing so.
Thay seyn, to them it is gret shame and wo
For to be subject and be in serváge
To thee, that born art of a smal villáge.

“And namely since thy doughter was i-bore,
These wordes have thay spoken douteles.
But I desire, as I have doon byfore,
To lyve my lif with them in rest and pees;
I may not in this case be rekkeless;
I must do with thy doughter for the beste,
Not as I wolde, but at my peples heste.

“And yit, God wot, this is ful loth to me.
But natheles withoute youre witynge
Wil I not do; but this wold I,” quoth he,

“That ye to me agree in al this thing.
Shew now your paciens in your ássentíng,
That thou me gavest and swor in yon villáge,
That day that makèd was oure mariáge.”

Whan she had herd al this she nought betrayed
Neyther in word, in cheer, or countenaunce,
(For, as it semede, she was nought dismayed);
She sayde, “Lord, al lieth in your plesaunce;
My child and I, with hertly obeisaunce,
Be youres al, and ye may save or spille
Your oune thing; werk al after your wille.

“Ther may no thing, so God my soule save,
Plese you, that may at al displesen me;
Nor I desire no thing for to have,
Nor drede for to lose, save only ye,
This wil is in myn hert, and ay shal be,
No length of tyme or deth may this deface,
Nor chaunge my corrage to another place.”

Glad was this marquis of hir answeryng,
But yit he feynèd as he were not so.
Al drery was his cheer and his lokýng,
Whan that he shold out of the chambre go.
Soon after this, a forlong way or tuo,
He prively hath told al his entent
Unto a man, and unto his wyf him sent.

A maner sergeant was this privé man,
The which that faithful oft he founden hadde
In thinges grete, and eek such folk wel can
Do execucioún in thinges badde;
The lord knew wel that he him loved and dradde.
And whan this sergeant wist his lordes wille,
Into the chamber he stalkèd him ful stille.

“Madame,” he sayde, “ye most forgive it me,
Though I do things to which men me constreyn;
Ye be so wys, that ful wel knowe ye,
That lordes hestes we may not gainsayn.
Ye may biwayl it or ye may compleyn;
But men must needes unto their wil obeye
And so wol I, there is no more to seye.

“This child I am comaundid for to take.”
And spak no more, but out the child he hente
Dispiteously, and gan a signe make,
As though he wold have slayn it, ere he wente.
Grisild must suffer al and al consent;
And as a lamb she sitteth meeke and stille,
And let this cruel sergeant do his wille.

Suspecious was the ill fame of this man,
Suspect his face, suspect his word also,
Suspect the tyme in which he this bigan.
Allas! hir doughter, that she lovèd so,
She wende he wold have burst hir herte a tuo;
But natheles she held her soft and stil,
Conformyng hir to al her housbondes wil.

But atte last to speken she bigan,
And mekely she to the sergeant preyde,
So as he was a worthy gentilman,
That she most kisse hir child, ere that it deyde.
And on hir arm this litel child she leyde,
With ful sad face, and gan the child to blesse,
And lullyd it and after gan it kesse.

And thus she sayd in hir benigne vois:
“Farwel, my child, I shal thee never see;
But since I thee have markèd with the cross,
Of Jesu Criste blessèd may thou be,
That for us deyde upon a cros of tree;
Thy soule, litel child, I him bytake,
For this night shalt thou deyen — for my sake.”

I trowe that to a nurse in this hard case
It had been sad this sighte for to see;
Wel might a moder than have cryed allas,
But natheles so stedefast was she,
That she endurèd al adversitee,
And to the sergeant mekely she sayde,
“Have her agayn your litel yonge mayde.

“Go now,” quoth she, “and do my lordes heste;
But one thing wil I pray you of your grace,
That save my lord forbede you atte leste,
Bury this litel body in som place,
That bestes and briddes do it no trespáce.”
But he no word wil to the purpos say,
But took the child and went upon his way.

This sergeant com unto this lord agayn,
And of Grisildes wordes and hir cheere
He tolde poynt for poynt, in short and playn,
And him presentith with his doughter deere.
Somwhat this lord hath pity in his manère,
But natheles his purpos held he stille,
As lordes do, whan thay wil have their wille;

And bad the sergeaunt that he privily
Sholde this childe ful softe wynde and wrappe,
With alle circumstaunces tendurly,
And cary it in a cofre, or in his lappe;
And upon peyne his heed off for to swappe
That no man shulde knowe of this entent,
Nor whence he com, nor whider that he went;

But at Boloyne, to his sister deere,
That at this tyme of Panik was countesse,
He shuld it take, and shewe hir this matére,
Byseching her to do her busynesse
This child to fostre up in gentilesse,
And whos child that it was he bad hir hyde
From every wight, for ought that mighte bytyde.

The sergeant goth, and hath fulfild this thing.
But to this marquys now retourne we;
For now goth he ful fast ymaginyng,
If by his wyves face he mighte see,
Or by hir word perceyve at al, that she
Were chaungèd, but he never chaunge coude fynde,
But ever the same y-like stille and kynde.

As glad, as humble, as busy in servíse
And eek in love, as she was wont to be;
Was she to him, in every maner wyse;
Nor of hir doughter nought one word spak she;
No chaunge at al for no adversitee
Was seyn in hir, and never hir doughter’s name
She namèd hath, in ernest or in game.

Incipit Quarta Pars

In this estaat ther passèd be foure yer
Ere she with childe was, but, as God wolde,
A manne child she bar by this waltier,
Ful gracious, and fair for to biholde;
And whan that folk it to his fader tolde,
Nought only he, but al in his contré, merye
Prayse God and thank him in humilitee.

When it was tuo yer old upon a daye
This markys purposèd in newe wyse
To tempt his wif agayne if that he may.
As though her daughteres deth wold not suffyse
O needeless another sacrifyse;
But weddid men know never no mesure,
What that thay fynde a pacient créatúre,

“Wyf,” quoth this marquys, “ye have herdere this
My peple hardly bere oure mariáge,
And namly since my sone y-boren is,
Now is it wors than ever in al our age;
The murmur sleth myn hert and my corráge,
For to myn eeres cometh the vois so smerte,
That it wel nigh destroyèd hath myn herte.

“Now saye thay thus, When Walter is agon
Than shal the blood of Janicula succede,
And be our lord, for other have we non.
Suche wordes saith my peple, out of drede.
Wel ought I of such murmur taken heede,
For certeynly I drede such senténce,
Though thay not spekn in myn audiénce.

“I wolde lyve in pees, if that I might;
Wherfor I am disposid utterly,
As I his sister servede in this night,
Right so thynk I to serve him privily.
This warn I you, that ye not sodeinly
Your selfe for this newe wo shuld not affray:
Be pacient, as beforen, I you praye.”

“I have,” quoth she, “sayd thus and ever shal,
I wil no thing, I wish no thing certayn,
But as you list; nought greveth me at al,
Though that my doughter and my sone be slayn
At your comaundement; this is to sayne,
I have not had not part of children twayne,
But first syknes, and after wo and payne.

“Ye be oure lord, do with your owne thing
Right as you list, ax thou no thing of me;
For as I left at hom al my clothing,
When I first com to you, right so,” quoth she,
“Left I my wille and al my libertee,
And took your clothing; wherfor I you preye,
Do youre plesaúnce, I wil youre hest obeye.

“And certes, if I hadde prescience
Your wil to knowe, ere ye youre hest me tolde,
I wold it do withoute negligence.
But now I wot your pleasure, and what ye wolde,
Al your plesaúnce ferm and stable I holde,
For wist I that my deth wolde do you ease,
Right gladly wold I deyen, you to please.

“Deth may me make no comparisoún
Unto your love.” And whan her constancie
This markys herd and saw, he cast adoun
His eyen tuo, and wondrith how that she
In pacience suffreth al this crueltee;
And forth he goth with drery countenaúnce,
But to his hert it was ful gret plesaúnce,

This ugly sergeaunt in the same wise
That he hir doughter tooke, right so he,
Or worse, if men can worse way devyse,
Hath caught hir sone, that ful was of beautee.
And ever in al so pacient was she,
That she no signe made of hevynesse,
But kist hir son, and after gan him blesse.

Save this she prayèd him, if that he mighte,
Her litel son he wold in erthe grave,
His tendre lymes, delicate to sight,
From foules and from bestes him to save.
But she no answer of him mighte have.
He went his way, as though he hadde no thoughte,
But to Boloyne he tenderly it broughte.

This marquis wondreth ever the longer the more
Upon hir pacience, and if that he
Hadde not sothly knowen therbifore,
That parfytly hir children lovèd she,
He wold have thought that of some subtiltee
And of malice, or of cruèl corráge,
That she hadde suffred this with still viságe.

But wel he knew, that, next himself, certayn
She loved hir children best in every wise.
But now of wommen wold I aske fayn,
If these assayes mighten not suffice?
What coude a sterne housebonde more devyse
To prove hir wyfhode and her stedefastnesse,
And he contynuyng ever in sterneness?

But ther be folk of such condicioún,
That, when thay have a certeyn purpos take,
Thay can nought stynt of their intencioun,
But, right as though they bounden were to a stake,
Thay wil not of their firste purpos slake;
Right so this marquys fully hath purpósèd
To tempt his wyf, as he was first disposèd.

He watcheth, if by word or countenaunce
That she to him was chaungèd in viságe.
But never coude he fynde variaunce,
She was ay one in hert and in corage;
And ay the ferther that she was in age,
The more trewe, if that possible were,
She was to him, and more kind of cheere.

For which it semyde this, that of them tuo
Ther was but one wil; for as Walter lest,
The same plesaúnce was hir wil also;
And, God be thankèd, al fel for the best.
She shewèd wel, for no worldly unrest
A wyf, as she hir self, no thinge sholde
Wish in effect, but as hir housbond wolde.

The slaunder of Walter ofte and wyde spradde,
That of a cruel hert he wikkedly,
For he a pore womman weddid hadde,
Hath mordrid bothe his children privily;
Such murmur was among them comunly.
No wonder is; for to the peples eere
Ther com no word, but that thay morderid were.

For which, wher as his peple al byfore
Had loved him wel, the slaunder of his diffame
Made it that thay him hatede more and more;
To be a mordrer is an hateful name.
But natheles, for ernest or for game,
He of his cruel purpos wold not stente.
To tempt his wyf was set al his intente.

Whan that his doughter twelf yer was of age,
He to the court of Rome, in suche wise
Informèd of his wille, sent his messáge,
Comaundyng them, such bulles to devyse,
As to his cruel purpos may suffise,
How that the pope, for his peples reste,
Bad him to wedde another; it were best.

I say, he bad that thay shulde countrefete
The popes bulles, makyng mencioún
That he hath leve his firste wyf to forget,
As by the popes dispensacioún,
To stynte rancour and discencioún
Bitwix his peple and him; thus sayd the bulle,
The which is publisshid and read atte fulle.

The rude pepel, as it no wonder is,
Wende ful wel that it had been right so.
But when these tydynges come to Grísildís,
I deeme that hir herte was ful wo;
But sobrely she stil for evermo
Disposid was, this humble créatúre,
Thadversitee of fortun al to endure;

Abydyng ever his wil and his plesaúnce,
To whom that she was given, hert and al,
As though he were her erthlie súfficiénce.
But shortly I this story telle shal,
This marquys writen hath in speciál
A letter, in which he shewith his intent.
And secretly to Boloyne he it sent.

To the erl of Panyk, which that long ago
Weddid his sister, prayd he specially
To bryngen hom agayn his children tuo
In honurable estaat al openly.
But one thing he him prayèd utterly,
That he to no wight, though men wold inquere,
Shuld tellen not that they his children were,

But say the mayde shuld i-weddid be
Unto the markys of Saluce anon.
And as this erl was prayèd, so dede he,
For at day set, he on his way is gon
Toward Saluce, and lordes many a one
In riche array, this mayden for to guyde,
Hir yonge brother rydyng by hir syde.

Arrayèd was towárd hir mariáge
This fresshe mayde al ful of gemmes clere;
Hir brother which that seven yer was of age,
Arrayèd eek ful fressh in his manére;
And thus in gret noblesse and with glad chere
Toward Saluces shapyng their journay,
For day to day thay ryden on their way.

Incipit Pars Quinta

Among al this, after his wikked uságe,
This marquis yit his wif to tempte more
Unto the utterest proofe of hir corráge,
Fully to have experiens and lore,
If that she were as stedefast as byfore,
He on a day in open audience
Ful boystrously hath sayd hir this sentence.

“Certes, Grisildes, I had y-nough plesaúnce
To have you to my wif, for your goodnésse,
And for youre trouthe, and for your obeissaúnce,
Nought for your lignage, nor for your richesse;
But now know I in verray sothfastnesse,
That in gret lordship, if I wel avyse,
Ther is gret servitude in sondry wyse;

“I may not do, as every ploughman may;
My peple me constreignith for to take
Another wyf, and crien day by day;
And eek the pope, rancour for to slake,
Consentith, and I must it undertake;
And trewely, thus moche I wol you saye,
My newe wif is comyng by the waye.

“Be strong of hert, and voyde anon your place,
And that same dower that ye broughten me
Tak it agayn, I graunt it of my grace.
Returne to your fadres hous,” quoth he,
“No man may alway have prosperitee.
With even hert I counseil you endure
The strok of fortune or of áventure.”

And she agayn answerd in pacience:
“My lord,” quoth she, “I wot, and wist alway,
How that bitwixe your magnificence
And my povérte no wight can or may
Make comparisoun, it is no nay;
I never held me digne in no manére
To be your wyf, nor yet your chamberere.

“And in this hous, where ye me lady made,
(The highe God take I for my witnesse,
May he in mercy make my soule glade)
I never thought me lady or maistresse,
But humble servaunt to your worthinesse,
And ever shal, whil that my lyf may dure,
Aboven every worldly créatúre.

“That ye so longe of your benignitee
Held me in honour and nobilitee,
Wher as I was not worthy for to be,
That thonk I God, whom on my knees I preye
Recompence you, ther is no more to seye.
Unto my fader gladly wil I wende,
And with him duelle unto my lyves ende.

“Where I was fostred as a child ful smal,
Til I be deed my lyf ther wil I lede,
A widow clene in body, hert, and al;
For since I gave to you my maydenhede,
And am your trewe wyf, it is no drede,
Forbid it, God, that such a lordes wif
Shulde take another housbond al her lif.

“And of your newe wif, God of his grace
So graunte you wealth and prosperitee;
For I wil gladly yielden hir my place,
In which that I was blisful wont to be.
For since it liketh you, my lord,” quoth she,
“That once were al my joy and myn hertes reste,
That I shal go, I wil go whan you leste.

“But wheras now ye profre me such dower
As I ferst brought, wel is it in my mynde,
It were my wrecchid clothes, no thing faire,
The whiche to me were hard now for to fynde.
O goode God! how gentil and how kynde
Ye semède by your speche and your viságe,
That day that makèd was our mariáge!

“But soth is sayd, allas, I fynd it trewe,
For in effect it provèd is on me,
Love is nought old as when that it is newe.
But certes, lord, for no adversitee
Even though I dye the deth, it shal not be
That ever in word or werk I shal repente
That I you gave myn hert in whole entente.

“My lord, ye wot that in my fadres place
Ye dede me strippe out of my pore wede,
And richely cladden me of your faire grace;
To you brought I nought else in myne neede
But faith, and nakednesse, and maydenhede;
And here agayn my clothyng I restore,
And eek my weddyng ryng — for evermore.

“The remenant of your jewels redy be
Within your chambur dore dare I sayn.
Naked out of my fadres hous,” quoth she,
“I com, and naked must I torne agayn.
Al your plesaunce wold I fulfille fayn;
But yit I hope it be not youre entent,
That I smockless out of your paleys went.

“Ye coude not do so díshonést a thing,
That thilke body, in which your children leye,
Bifore the peple shulde, in my walkyng,
Be seen al bare: wherfore I you pray
Let me not lik a worm go by the way;
Remembre you, myn owne lord so deere,
I was your wyf, though I unworthy were.

“Wherfor, in guerdoun of my maydenhede,
Which that I brought and nought agayn I bere,
Vouchsafe to geve me only to my meede
But such a smok as I was wont to were,
That I therwith may cover the body of her
That was your wif; and here take I my leve
Of yow, myn owne lord, lest I you greve.”

“The smok,” quoth he, “that thou hast on thy bak,
Let it be stille, and ber it forth with thee.”
But scarcely for teres the word he spak,
But went his way for ruthe and for pitee.
Byforn the folk hirselven strippith she,
And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare,
Toward hir fader house forth is she fare.

The folk hir follow wepyng in hir weye,
And fortune ay thay cursen as thay gon;
But she fro wepyng kept hir eyen dry,
And in this tyme no word spak she noon.
Hir fader, that this tyding herd anon,
Cursed the day and tyme, that natúre
Shaped him to ben a lyve créatúre.

For oute of doute this olde pore man
Was ever suspect of hir high honoúr;
For ever he deemèd, since that it bigan,
That whan the lord fulfillèd had his hour,
Him wolde thinke that it were dishonoúr
To his estate, so lowe for to light,
And send hir hom as sone as ever he might.

To meet his doughter hastily goth he;
For he by noyse of folk knew hir comyng;
And with hir olde cote, as it might be,
He covered hir ful sorwfully wepynge;
To touch her body might he it nought bringe,
For rude was the cloth, and more of age
By many yeres than at hir mariáge.

Thus with hir fader for a certeyn space
Dwellith this flour of wifly pacience,
That neyther by her wordes nor hir face,
Byforn the folk, nor eek in this absence,
She shewèd that to hir was done offence,
Nor of hir high estate no rémembraúnce
At al hadde she, as by hir countenaunce.

No wonder is, for in hir gret estate
Hir spirit was ever in playn humilitee;
No courtly speeches, no maner delicate,
No pompe, no semblances of royaltee;
But ful of pacient benignitee,
Discrete, and prideless, ay honurable,
And to hir housbond ever meke and stable.

Men speke of Job, and most for his humblesse,
And as clerkes, when they wil, can wel endite,
Always of men; but in good sothfastnesse,
Though clerkes prayse wommen but a lite,
There can no man in humblesse him acquyte
As wommen can, nor can be half so trewe
As wommen be, save it be somthing newe.

Pars Sexta

From Boloyne is this erl of Panik y-come,
Of which the fame up-sprong to more and lasse,
And to the peples eeres alle and some
Was knowen eek, that a newe marquisesse
He with him brought, in such pomp and richesse,
That never was ther seyn with mannes eye
So noble array in al West Lombardye.

The marquys, which that made and knew al this,
Ere that this erl was come, sent his messáge
After the silly pore Grísildis;
And she with humble hert and glad viságe,
Not with a swollen hert in hir corráge,
Cam at his hest, and on hir knees hir sette,
And reverently and wyfly did him greet.

“Grisild,” quoth he, “my wil is utterly,
This mayden, that shal weddid be to me,
Receyvèd be to morrow as royally
As it possible is in myn hous to be;
And eek that every wight in his degree
Have his estaat in seat and in servyse,
In high plesaunce, as I can best devyse.

“I have no womman súffisant certéyne
The chambres for to array in ordinance
After my wil, and therfor wold I feyne,
That thin were al such courtly governaúnce;
Thow knowest eek of old al my plesaunce;
Though ille thy garments be and thin arraye,
Do thou thy duetie atte leste weye.”

“Nought only, lord, that I am glad,” quoth she,
“To do your wil, but I desire also
You for to serve and plese in my degree,
Withoute feyntyng, and shal evermo;
And never for no happinesse or wo,
The ghost withinne myn herte shal never cease
To love you best with al trewe gentilesse.”

And with that word she gan the hous to dight,
And tables for to sette, and beddes make,
And peynèd hir to do al that she might,
Preying the chamberers for Goddes sake
To hasten them, and faste swepe and shake,
And she the moste servisable of alle
Hath every chamber arrayèd, and his halle.

Abouten morning gan this lord alight,
That with him brought these noble children tweye;
For which the peple ran to see that sight
Of al the pompe and al the riche arraye.
And than at once amonges them thay seye,
That Walter was no fool, though that him lest
To chaunge his wyf; for it was for the best.

For she is fairer, as thay demen alle,
Than is Grisild, and tenderer of age,
And fairer fruyt bitwen them shulde falle,
And more plesaunt for hir high lynáge,
Hir brother eek so fair was of viságe,
That them to see the peple hath caught plesaúnce,
Comending now the marquys governaúnce.

O stormy poeple, unfirm and ever untrewe,
And undiscret, and chaunging as a vane,
Delytyng ever in rumour that is newe,
For lik the moone ay waxe ye and wane;
Deere at a grote your prayse and your disdeyn,
Youre word is fals, your service yvel previth,
A ful gret fool is he that you believeth.

Thus sayde the sober folke in that citee,
When that the peple gasèd up and doun;
For thay were glad right for the noveltee,
To have a newe lady in their toun.
No more of this now make I mencioun,
But to Grisild agayn wol I me addresse,
And telle hir constance, and hir busynesse.

Ful busy was Grisild in every thing,
That to the feste was appertinent:
Right nought was she abassht of hir clothíng,
Though it were rude, and somwhat eek to-rent.
But with glad cheer she to the gate is went,
With other folk, to griete the marquisesse,
And after that doth forth hir busynesse.

With so glad chier his gestes she receyveth,
So connyngly eche one in his degree,
That no defaute no man apperceyveth,
But ay thay wondren what she mighte be,
That in so poor array was there to see,
And knewe such honour and such reverénce,
And worthily thay praysen hir prudence.

In al this mene-whil her wit she spente
This mayde and eek hir brother to comende
With al hir hert in ful plesaunt entent,
So wel, that no man coude her works amende;
But atte last whan that these lordes wend
To sitte doun to mete, he gan to calle
Grisild, as she was busy in his halle.

“Grisyld,” quoth he, as it were in his play,
“How likith thee my wif and-hir beautee?”
“Right wel, my lord,” quoth she, “for in good fay,
A fairer saw I never none than she.
I pray to God give hir prosperitee;
And so hope I, that he wil to you sende
Pleasaunce ynough unto your lyves ende.

“One thing warn I you and biseke also,
Hurte not ever with no tormentýnge
This tendre mayden, as ye have done mo;
For she is fostrid in hir norischinge
More tendrely, and to my súpposýnge
She coude not adversitee endure,
As coude a pore fostrid créatúre.”

And when this Walter saw hir pacience,
Hir glade cheer, and no malice at al,
And he so oft hadde doon to hir offence,
And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
Continuyng ever hir innocence overal,
This sturdy marquys gan his herte addresse
To pity al hir wyfly stedefastnesse.

“This is ynough, Grisilde myn,” quoth he,
“Be now no more agast, no more afraide.
I have thy faith and thy benignitee,
As wel as ever womman was, assayed
In gret estate, and poore estate arrayed:
Now knowe I, dere wyf, thy stedefastnesse;”
And hir in armes took, and gan hir kisse.

And she for wonder took of it no keepe;
She herde not what thing he to hir spoke,
She fared as she had stert out of a sleepe,
Til she out of hir masidnesse awoke.
“Grisild,” quoth he, “biforen al this folke,
Thou art my wyf, none other wil I have,
Nor never had, so God my soule save.

“This is my doughter, which thou hast supposèd
To be my wif; that other faithfully
Shal be myn heir, as I have ay purpósèd;
Thou bare them in thy body trewely.
At Boloyne have I kept him privily;
Tak them agayn, for now mayst thou not seye,
That thou hast lost noon of thy children tweye.

“And folk, that other weyes have seyd of me,
I warn them wel, that I have doon this deede
For no malice, ne for no crueltee,
But for to assay in thee thy wommanhede;
And not to slay my children, (God forbede!)
But for to kepe them privily and stille,
Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wil.”

When she this herd, a-suoone doun she fallith
For piteous joy, and after her swoonýng
She bothe hir yonge children to hir callith,
And in hir armes piteously wepyng
Embraseth them, and tenderly kissyng,
Ful lik a moder with hir salte tear
She bathide bothe their visage and their hair.

O, such a piteous thing it was to see
Her swoonyng, and hir humble vois to heere!
Graunt mercy, lord, God thank it you,” quoth she,
“That ye have savèd me my childer deere.
Now care I never to be deed right here,
Since I stond in your love and in your grace,
Nor reek of deth, ne whan my spirit passe.

“O tender deere yonge children myne,
Youre woful moder ymagined stedefastly,
That cruel houndes or some foul vermýne
Had eten you; but God of his mercy,
And your benigne fader tenderly
Hath kept you safe.” And in conclusioun
Al sodeinly she swappèd to erthe adoun.

And in hir swoon so sadly holdith she
Hir children tuo, whan she gan them tembrace
That with gret sleight and gret diffícultee
The children from her arm they coude unlace.
O! many a teer on many a piteous face
Doun ran of them that stooden hir bisyde,
That scarce aboute hir mighte thay abyde.

Waltier hir gladith, and hir sorrow slakith,
She rysith up abasshèd from hir traunce,
And every wight hir joy and feste makith,
Til she hath caught agayn hir countenance,
Walter hir doth so faithfully plesaúnce,
That it was dayntee for to see how fayn
And glad thei were, now thay be met agayn.

These ladys, whan that thay her taken may,
Have taken hir, and into chambre gon,
And strippen hir out of hir rude array,
And in a cloth of gold that brighte shon,
With a coroun of many a riche stone
Upon hir hed, thay into halle hir brought;
And ther she was honoúrèd as hir ought.

Thus hath this piteous day a blisful ende;
For every man and womman doth his might
This day in mirth and revel to despende,
Til on the welkin shon the sterres bright;
Far more solemne in every mannes sight
This feste was, and gretter of costáge,
Than was the revel of hir mariáge.

Ful many a yer in high prosperitee
Lyven these tuo in concord and in rest,
And richely his doughter maried he
Unto a lord, one of the worthiest
Of al Ytaile, and thanne in pees and rest
His wyves fader in his court he kepith,
Til that the soule out of his body crepith.

His sone succedith in his heritage,
In rest and pees, after his fader day;
And fortunat was eek in mariage,
Though he put not his wif in such assay.
This world is not so strong, no, by my fay,
As it hath ben in olde tymes yore,
And herken, what this author saith therfore.

This story is sayd, not for that wyves sholde
Folwe Grisild, in her humilitee,
For this coude not be borne, no, though they wolde;
But for that every wight in his degree
Shoulde be constant in adversitee,
As was Grisilde, therfore Petrark writeth
This story, which with high stile he enditeth.

For since a womman was so pacient
Unto a mortal man, wel more we oughte
Receyven al in quiet that God us sent.
Why sholde he not us prove, men that he wroughte,
But he not temptith no man that he boughte,
As saith seint Jame, if ye his epistle rede;
He provith folk al day, it is no drede;

And suffrith us, al for our exercise,
With sharpe scourges of adversitee
Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wise;
Nought for to knowe oure wille, for certes he,
Ere we were born, knew al our frailtee;
And for oure best is al his governaunce;
Let us thanne lyve in vertuous suffraunce.

But one word, lordes, herken ere I go:
It were ful hard to fynde now a dayes
Grisildes in a toun or three or tuo;
For if that thay were put to such assayes,
The gold of them hath now so badde allays
With bras, that though the coyn be fair at eye,
It wolde rather burst in tuo than ply.

For which heer, for the wyves love of Bathe —
Whos lyf and alle of hir secte God meyntene
In their hy place where God them planted hath —
I wil with lusty herte fresch and grene,
Saye you a song to glade you, I wene;
And lat us stynt of ernestful matére.
Herken my song, that saith in this manére.

Chaucers Farewel

Grisild is deed, and eek hir pacience,
And bothe togider buried in Itayle;
For which I crye in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be to assayle
His wyves pacience, in hope to fynde
Grisildes — for in certeyn he shal fayle.

O noble wyves, ful of high prudence,
Let no humilitee your tonges veil;
Nor let no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of you a story of such marvayle,
As of Grisildes, pacient and kynde,
Lest the Lean Cow yow swallow in hir entraile.

Follow Echo, that holdith no silence,
But ever answereth at each wordes tayle;
Be nought befoolèd for your innocence,
But sharply arm you in youre cote of maile;
Imprinte wel this lessoun on your mynde,
For comun profyt, since it may avayle.

Ye archewyves, stand ye at defens,
Since ye be strong, as is a gret camél,
Nor suffre not that men you do offens.
And slendre wives, cruel in batáyle,
Be eager as is a tyger yond in Inde;
Ay chatter as a mylle, I you counsaile.

Drede them not, do them no reverence,
For though thin housbond armèd be in mayle,
The arrows of thy crabbid eloquence
Shal perse his brest, and eek his vizor frail:
In jelousy I counsel thou him bynde,
And thou shalt make him cower as doth a quayle.

If thou be fair, when folk be in presénce
Shew thou thy visage and thin ápparaíle;
If thou be ugly, be free of thin expens,
To gete thee frendes do al thy travayle;
Be ay of chier as light as leaf in winde,
And let them care and wepe, and wryng and wayle.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52