“In faith, Squiér, thou hast thee wel y-quit
And gentilly, I praise wel thy wit,”
Quoth the Frankeleyn, “considering thin youthe,
So felingly thou spekest, sir, in truth,
As to my thought, none other that is here,
In eloquence shal ever be thy pere,
If that thou live; God geve thee goode chaunce,
And in vertue send thee continuance,
For thy speking I love it wel,” quoth he.
“I have a son, and by the Trinitee
I rather wold than twenty pound worth land,
Though it right now were fallen in myn hand,
He were a man of suche discretion,
As that ye be; fie on possession,
Unless a man be vertuous withal
I have my sone snubbèd, and yet shal,
For he to vertue listeth not to entende,
But for to play at dice, and to dispende,
And lese al that he hath, is his uságe;
And he had rather talken with a page,
Than to commune with any gentil wight,
When he might lernen gentillesse aright.”
“Straw for your gentillesse!” quoth our hoste.
“What? Frankeleyn, in faith, sir, wel thou knowest,
That eche of you must tellen at the lest
A tale or two, or breken his behest.”
“That know I wel, sir,” quoth the Frankeleyn,
“I pray you have me not in your disdein,
Though I to this man spoke a word or two.”
“Telle on thy tale, withouten wordes mo.”
“Gladly, sir hoste,” quoth he, “I wil obeye
Unto your wille; now herken what I seye;
I wil you not contrarien in no wise,
As fer as that my wittes may suffice.
I pray to God that it may plesen you,
Than wot I wel that it is good y-now.”
These olde gentile Britouns in their dayes
Of diverse áventures maden layes,
Al rymèd in their firste Britoun tonge;
Whiche layes with their instruments they songe,
Or else redden them for their plesaunce,
And one of them have I in rémembraunce,
Which I shal seye with as goode wille as I can,
But, sirs, bycause I am a common man,
At my begynnyng first I you beseche
Have me excusèd of my rude speche,
I lernèd never rhetorick certayn;
That thing I speke, it wil be bare and playn;
I slepte never on the mount of Pernaso,
Ne lernèd never Tullius, nor Cicero.
Colours of rhetorick non are in my hed,
But suche coloures as growen in the mede,
Or else suche as men dye with or peynte;
Colours of rethorik be to me too quaint;
My spyrit feleth nought of suche matére.
But if ye liste my tale shal ye now here.
Ther was a knight, that loved and foughte amain
In Armoryke, that clepèd is Britéyne,
To serve a lady in his beste wise;
And many a labour, and many a grete emprise
He for his lady wrought, ere she was wonne;
For she was one the fairest under sonne,
And eke therto came of so high kindred,
That scarce durst this knight for verie drede
Telle her his woe, his peyne, and his distresse.
But at the laste she for his worthinesse,
And chiefly for his meke obéissance,
Hath suche a pitee felt for his penaunce,
That privily she felle into accord
To take him for her housbonde, and her lord,
(Of suche lordshipe as men have over their wives);
And, for to lede the more in blisse their lyves,
Of his free wille he swor it as a knight,
That never in his wille by day or night
Wolde he upon him take the mastery
Against her wille, nor guard her jealously,
But her obey, and follow her wille in al,
As eny lover to his lady shal;
Save that the name of sovereynetee
That wolde he have because of his degree.
She thanketh him, and with ful grete humblesse
She sayde; “Sir, since of your gentilnesse
Ye profre me to have so large a reyne,
May never God, I pray, betwixe us tweyne,
For guilt of mine, bring eyther war or stryf.
Sir, I wil be your humble trewe wife,
Have here my trothe, til that myn herte fail.”
Thus be they bothe in quiete and in wele.
For one thing, masters, safly dare I saye,
That frendes al each other must obeye,
If they wille longe holde companye
Love wil nought be constreined by mastery.
When mastery cometh, the god of love anon
Beteth his wynges, and fare wel, he is gon.
Love is a thing, as any spirit, free.
Wommen of nature loven libertée,
And nought to be constreinèd as a thral;
And so do men, if I the sooth say shal.
Loke who that is most pacient in love,
He is ful certes others al above.
An high vertúe is Patience, certeyn,
For it vanquíssheth, as these clerkes seyn,
Thynges that rigour never can atteine.
For every word men may nought chyde or pleyne.
Lern then to suffre, or elles, it must be so,
Ye shall it lernen whether ye wil or no.
For in this worlde certeyn no wight ther is,
That he ne doth or saith som tyme amiss.
Sickness or wrath or constellacioun,
Wyn, woe, or changynge of complexioun,
Causeth ful often to do amiss or speak.
For every wrong men cannot vengeance take;
Sometimes and often must be temperaunce
To every wight that loveth governance.
Therefore this knight his wife for to plese
Hath promised she shal live in rest and ese;
And sche to him ful wisely gan to swere,
That never shulde ther be defaulte in her.
Here may men see an humble wyse accord;
Thus that she taken her servaunt and her lorde,
Servaunt in love, and lord in mariáge.
Then was he bothe in lordshipe and serváge.
Serváge? Not so. In lordshipe al above,
Since that he hath his lady and his love;
His lady certes, and his wyf also,
The lawe of love alloweth bothe two.
And when he was in this prosperitee,
Home with his wyf he goeth to his countree,
Nought far fro Penmark where his dwellyng was,
And ther he lyveth in blisse and in solás.
Who coude telle, but he hadde wedded be,
The joy, the ese, and the prosperitee,
That is bitwixe an housebond and his wyf?
A yeer and more lasteth this blissful life,
Til that this knight, of which I speke thus,
That of kindred was cleped Arveragus,
Thought for to go and dwelle a yeer or tweyne
In Engelond, that cleped eke was Bretáyne,
To seek in armes worshipe and honoúr,
For all his wille was sette in such laboúr;
And dwelleth there two year; the boke saith thus.
Now wil I stynte of this Arviragus,
And speken I wil of Dorygen his wyf,
That loveth her husbonde as her hertes lyf.
And for his absens wepeth she and grieveth,
As doth a noble wyf when that she loveth;
She mourneth, waketh, wayleth, fasteth, pleyneth;
Desire of his presénce hire so constreyneth,
That al this wyde world she sette at nought.
Her frendes, which that knewe her hevy thought,
Confórted her in al that ever they may;
They preche to her, thay telle her night and day,
That without cause she sleeth her self alas
And every comfort possible in this case
They do to her, with all their busyness,
And all to make hire stay her hevynesse.
By length of tyme ye know wel, every one,
Men may so longe graven in the stone,
Til some figúre therinne imprentyd be;
So longe have they confórted her, that she
Receyvèd hath, by hope and by resoún,
The impryntynge of their consollacioún.
Through which her grete sorrow gan aswage;
She may nought alway lyve in suche rage.
And eke Arviragus, in al this care,
Hath sent his lettres home of his wel-fare,
And that he wolde swiftly come ayayn,
Or else this sorrow hadde her herte slayn.
Her frendes sawe her grief begin to slake,
And preyèd her on knees, for Goddes sake,
To come and sport her in their companýe,
Away to dryve her darke fantasýe;
And fynally she graunted that requeste,
For wel she saw that it was for the best.
Now stood her castel faste by the see,
And often with here freendes walkèd she,
Her to disporte upon the banke on high,
Wher many shippes and barges saylen by
Takyng their cours, wher as they liste to go.
But yet was there a parcelle of hir woe,
For to her self ful often, seyde she,
“Is ther no shipp, so many that I see,
Wil brynge back my lord? then wolde myn herte
Al cease to feel this bitter peynes smerte.”
Another tyme ther wolde she sitte and think,
And caste her eyen dounward from the brynk;
But when she saw the grisly rockes blak,
For verray fear so wolde here herte quake.
That on her feet she mighte nought hir sustaine.
Thenne wolde she sitte adoun upon the grene,
And piteously into the see byholde,
And say right thus, with sorowful sighes cold.
“Eterne God, that through thy providence
Ledest the world by certein governaunce,
In ydelnesse, as men say ye nothinge make.
But, Lord, these grisly feendly rockes blak,
That semen rather a foul confusioún
Of werk, than any fayr creacioún
Of suche a parfyt God so strong and stable,
Why have ye wrought this werk unresonáble?
For by this werke, south, north, est, and west,
Ther is y-fostred neither man nor beast;
It doth no good, to my witt, but annoyeth.
See ye not, Lorde, how mankynde it destroyeth?
An hundred thousand bodyes of mankynde
Have rockes slayn, forgotten out of mynde;
Which mankynde is of al thy werk the best
That Thou hast made it chief of al the rest,
Then semèd it, ye hadde gret charitee
Toward mankynde; but how then may it be,
That ye suche meanes take it to distroyen?
Whiche meanes do no good, but ever annoyen.
I wot wel, clerkes wil say it as they list,
By arguments, that al is for the beste,
Though I cannot the causes truly knowe;
But the goode God that made the wynde to blowe,
Kepe safe my lord, this is mine orisoún;
To clerkes leve I disputacioún;
But wolde God, that al the rockes blak
Were sonken into helle for his sake
These rockes slay myn herte for verray feere.”
Thus wolde she sayn with many a piteous teere.
Her frendes sawe that it was no dispórt
To roamen by the see, but díscomfórt,
And shaped them for to pleyen somwhere else.
They led her by the ryveres and by wells,
And in al other places delitábles;
They daunce and playe at chesse and eke at tables.
So on a day, right in the morning tyde,
Unto a gardyne that was there besyde,
In which that thay hadde made their ordinance
Of victual, and of other purveyance,
They go and pleyen al the longe day;
And this was on the sixte morn of May,
Which May hadde peynted with his softe showers
This gardyn ful of leves and of floures:
And crafte of mannes hande so curiously
Arayèd hath this gardyn cunningly,
That never was ther gardyn of such prys,
Save that it were the verrey Paradys.
The odure of floures and the fresshe sight,
Wolde have made eny pensyf herte light
That ever was born, save that a gret siknesse
Or too gret sorrow held it in distresse,
And after dyner they began to daunce,
So ful it was of beautee and plesaunce,
And synge also, but Dorigen sang alone.
She made alwey her cómpleynt and hire mone,
For that she saw not in the daunce move,
The one that was her housbond, and her love;
But none the less she muste a tyme abyde,
And with good hope she let her sorrow glyde.
Upon this daunce, amonges other men,
Dauncèd a squier biforen Dorigen,
That fressher was and jolyer of array,
As I have heard, than is the monthe of May.
He syngeth and daunceth passyng any man,
That is or hath been since this world bygan;
Therwith he was, if men shulde him discryve,
One of the beste farynge men alive,
Yong, strong, ryht vertuous and riche, and wys,
And wel biloved, and holden in grete price.
And shortly, if the sooth I tellen shal,
Unwytyng of this Dorigen at al,
This lusty squyer, servaunt to Venús,
Which that y-clepéd was Aurelius,
Had loved her best of eny créatúre
Tuo yeer and more, as was his áventúre;
But never durste he telle her of his grevaunce,
Withoute cuppe he drank al his penaúnce.
He was dispeyrèd, nothing durst he seye,
Save in his talk somwhat wolde he display
His woe, as in a general cómpleynýng;
He sayde, he loved and was biloved nothing.
Of suche mater of love he made his layes,
Songes and compleigntes, dirges and roundelays;
How that he durste nought his sorrow telle,
That languissheth as fire slowe in helle;
And die he seyde he muste, as did Echo
For Narcissus, that durste nought telle her woe.
But in no other maner than I seye
He durste not to her his woe betreye,
Save paraventure some tyme at the daunce,
When yong folk kepen al their óbservaúnce
It may wel be he lokèd on her face
In such a wise, as one that asketh grace,
But nothing wiste she of his entent.
And yet it happèd, ere they thence are went,
Bycause that he was her neygheboúre,
And was a man of worshipe and honoúr,
And she hadde knowen him long in tyms yore,
They felle in speche, and ofte more and more
Unto his purpose drew Aurelius;
And when he saw his tyme, he sayde thus.
“Madame,” quoth he, “by God, that this world made,
So that I wist it mighte your herte glad,
I wolde that day, that your Arviragus
Went on the see, that I Aurelius
Had went that I shulde never have come again;
For wel I wot my servise is in vayn,
My guerdon is but bersting of myn herte.
Madame, have pitee upon my peynes smerte,
For as with a sword ye may me slay or saven.
Here at youre foot God wold that I were graven
I have now no more leisure for to seye;
Have mercy on me, swete, or let me die.”
She gan to loke upon Aurelius;
“Is this youre wille,” quoth she, “and say ye thus?
Never,” quoth she, “wist I what ye have mente,
But now, Aurely, I knowe youre entente.
By the goode God, that gaf me soule and lyf,
Never shal I be found untrewe wif
In word or werk; as fer as I have wit,
I wole be his to whom that I am knyt.”
But after that in pley thus seyde she:
“Take this for fynal answer as for me.
Aurelye,” quoth she, “by high God above,
Yet wil I graunte you to be my love,
Since I you see so piteously compleyne,
Looke on the daye when al along Bretayne
Ye shal remoove the rockes stone by stone,
That roome ther be for shippes and boats to gon;
I say, when ye have made these costes so clene
Of rockes, that ther is no stone y-sene,
Than wil I love you best of any man,
Have here my trothe, in al that ever I can.”
“Is ther none other grace in you?” quoth he.
“No, by that Lord,” quoth she, “that made me,
For wel I wot that that shal never betyde.
Let such folýe out of youre herte glyde.
What glory shulde a man have in his life,
That he shulde love another mannes wyf?”
Woe was Aurely when that he this herde,
And with a sorrowful herte he thus answérde.
“Madame,” quoth he, “this were impossíble.
Then must I deye a sodeyn deth orríble.”
And with that word he tornèd him anon.
Then came her other frendes many a one,
And in the alleyes roamèd up and doun,
And nothing wiste of this conclusioún,
But sodeinly began to revel newe,
Til that the brighte sonne had lost his hewe,
For the hórizón had lost the sunnes light,
(This is as moche to say that it was night);
And home they go in joye and in solás;
Save only wrecched Aurelius, allas.
He to his hous is gon with sorrowful hert.
He seith, he may not from his deth depart.
He thinketh that he felith his herte cold,
Up to the hevene his handes gan he hold,
And on his kneës bare he sette him doun,
And in his ravynge sayd his orisoún.
For verray woe out of his witte he brake,
He knew nought what he seyde, but thus he spake;
With piteous herte hath he his pleynt bygunne
Unto the goddes and first unto the sonne.
He sayde, “Apollo, God and governoúr
Of every plaunte, of herbe, tree, and flour,
That gevest by thy declinacioun
To each of them his tyme and his sesoún,
When that thy place in heven is low or high;
Lord Phebus, cast thin merciable eye
On wrecched Aúrelý, that am forlorn.
Lo, lord, my lady hath my deth y-sworne
Withouten gilt; let thy benignitee
Upon my dedly herte have sum pitee.
For wel I wot, lord Phebus, if ye liste,
Ye may be helpe, save my lady, beste.
Now vouchesafe, that I may you devyse
How that I may be helped and in what wyse.
Your blisful sister, Lúcina the shene,
That of the see is chief goddésse and queene; —
Though Néptunús have deity in the see,
Yit emperesse aboven him is she;
Ye knowen wel, lord, right as her desire
Is to be lighted by the sunnes fire,
For which she followeth you ful busily,
Right so the see desireth naturelly
To folwen her, as she that is goddésse
Bothe in the see and ryveres more and lesse.
Wherefore lord Phebus, this is myn request,
Do this myrácle, or myn herte wil brest;
That thou next at this apposicioun,
Whiche in the signe shal be of the Lion,
Do pray to her so grete a flood to brynge
That five fathome at least it overspringe
The hyeste rocke in Armorik Britayne,
And lete this flod endure yeres twayne;
Then certes to my lady may I saye,
Grant me your grace, the rockes be awaye,
Lord Phebus, do this miracle for me,
Pray her she go no faster cours than ye;
I say thus, pray your sister that she go
No faster cours than ye these yeres two;
Then shal she be ever at the fulle alway
And springe-flood lasten bothe night and day.
And if she vouchesafe not in such manér
To graunte me my lady soverein dere,
Preye her to synken every rocke adoun
Into her owne darke regioún
Under the grounde, where Pluto duelleth inne,
Or nevermore shal I my lady wynne.
Thy temple in Delphos wil I barefoot seek;
Lord Phebus, see the teeres on my cheek;
And of my peyne have some compassioún.”
And with that word in swoone he felle adoun,
And longe tyme he lieth in a traunce.
His brother, which that knew of his penaúnce,
Up caught him, and to bedde he hath him broughte.
Despayring in his turment and his thought,
Lo I this woeful créatúre let lye,
Nought is to me whether he lyve or dye.
Arveragus with health and gret honoúr
(As he that was of chyvalry the flour)
Is comen home, and other worthy men.
O, blisful art thou now, thou Dorigen,
That hast thy lusty housbonde in thin armes.
The fresshe knight, the worthy man of armes,
That loveth thee, as his own hertes lyf;
Nothing thought he to be imaginatyff,
If any wight hadde spoke, whilst he was oute,
To her of love; he made ther-of no doute;
He nought attendeth to no suche matére,
But daunceth, justith, maketh goode cheere.
And thus in joye and blisse I let him dwelle,
And of the swete Aurelyus wol I telle.
In langure and in furious turments thus
Tuo yer and more lay wrecched Aurelius,
Ere any foot on erthe he mighte gon;
No comfort in this tyme found he non,
Save in his brother, which that was a clerk.
He knew of al this wo and al this werk;
For to no other créatúre certeýn
Of this matére durste he no worde seyn;
Under his brest he bar it more secree
Than ever dide Pamphilius for Galathee.
His brest was hole without for to be sene,
But in his herte ay was the arrow kene;
And wel ye knowen of an inward sore
In surgerie ful perilous is the cure,
Save man might touche the arwe or come therby.
His brother wepeth and wayleth privyly,
Til atte last him fel in rémembraúnce,
That whiles he was at Orlyaunce in Fraunce,
As yonge clerkes, that be desirous
To reden artes that be curious,
Seken in every corner low and hy
Particuler sciénces to studie,
He him remembreth, that upon a chance,
A studie book he saw at Orlyaúnce
Of magique naturel, whiche his felawe,
(That was that tyme a bachiler of lawe),
Though he were there to lerne of lawe the craft,
Had privily upon his desk y-left;
This book spak moche of operaciouns
Touchynge the eight and twenty mancioúns
That longen to the moon, and suche folýe
As in oure dayes is nought worth a flye;
For holy chirche saith, in our byleeve,
Suffre no vaine illusioun you to greeve.
And whan this boke was in rémembraúnce,
Anon for joye his herte gan to daunce,
And to him selve he sayde pryvely;
“My brother shal be curèd hastely;
For I am sure that ther be sciénces,
By whiche men maken dyverse ápparénces,
Like to the subtile juggelours when they play
For ofte at festes have I herd it say,
That juggelours, withinne an halle large,
Have made in comen water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and doun.
Som tyme hath semèd come a grym leoun,
Some tyme a castel al of lym and ston,
And whan they would it vanisshèd anon;
Thus semèd it to every mannes sight.
Now then conclude I thus, if that I might
At Orleaunce som olde felaw finde,
That hadde the moones mancioúns in mynde,
Or othere magik naturel above,
He sholde wel make my brother have his love.
For with an apparens a clerk may make
To mannes sight, that alle the rokkes blake
Of Britaigne were y-vanisshed every one,
And shippes by the brinke might come and goon,
And in such forme endure a yeer or tuo
Then were my brother curèd of his wo,
Then must she needes do al she promised
Or else he shal hir shamen at the leste.”
What shulde I make a lenger tale of this?
Unto his brothers bedde comen he is,
And such comfórt he gaf him, for to gon
To Orlyaunce, that he up starte anon,
And on his way he hastely doth fare,
In hope to be releasèd of his care.
When thay were come almost to that citee,
As if it were a forlong tuo or thre,
A yong clerk romyng by himself they mette,
Which that in Latyn thriftily them grette.
And after that he sayde a wonder thing;
“I know,” quoth he, “the cause of youre comyng.”
And ere they forther any foote went,
He told them alle that was in there entent.
(This Brytoun clerk him askèd to be told,
Of felaws that he knew in dayes olde;
And he him answerde that they dede were,
For which he wep ful ofte many a tere.)
Doun of his hors Aurelius light anon,
And forth with this magicien is he gon
Home to his hous, and made them wel at ese;
They lacked no vitayle that a man might plese.
So wel arayed a hous as that was there,
Aurelius in his lyfe saw never.
He shewèd him, ere he went to sopére,
Forestes, parkes ful of wilde deere.
And how the faukons have the heron slayne,
Then saw he knightes justen in a playne,
And after this he dide him such plesaúnce,
That he him shewed his lady in a daunce,
In which himself he dauncèd, as he thouht.
And when this mayster, that this magique wrought,
Saw it was tyme he clapped his hondes two,
And fare-wel! the revel is no mo.
And yit removed they never out of this hous,
Whiles they sawe this sight so merveylous;
But in his study, where his bookes be,
They saten stille, and no wight but they three.
To him his mayster called then a squiére,
And seyde him thus “Is redy oure sopére?
Almost an hour it is, I undertake,
Since I you bad oure souper for to make,
Whan that this worthy men wenten with me
Into my study, where my bokes be.”
“Sir,” quoth this squyer, “when it lyketh you,
It is al redy, if ye wol eten now.”
“Go we then soupe,” quoth he, “and it is beste,
You lover folk som tyme must have reste.”
At after souper felle they in tretee
What somme shulde this maystres guerdon be,
To moven all the rokkes of Brytaigne,
And eek fro Gerounay to the mouth of Sayne.
He made it hard, and swore, so God him save,
Lasse than a thousand pound he wolde nought have,
And from that same somme he wolde not goon.
Aurilius with blisful hert anon
Him answerde thus; “Fy on a thousand pound!
This wyde world, which that men say is round,
I wold it give, if I were lord of it.
This bargeyn is now made, for we be knyt;
Ye shal be payèd trewly by my trothe.
But keep us not by negligence or slouthe,
An houre lenger than the morwe morn.”
“Nay,” quod the clerk, “I have my faith y-sworn.”
To bed is gon Aurilius when he leste,
And wel ny al the night he had his reste,
What with his labour, and his hope of blisse,
His woful hert of penaunce had release.
Upon the morwe, when that it was day,
To Breteign take thei the righte way,
Aurilius, and this magicien bisyde,
And be descendid where thay wil abyde;
And this was, as these bookes me remembre,
The colde frosty seisoun of Decembre.
Phebus wax old, and sanke low adoun,
Though in his hote declinacioún
He shon as burnèd gold, with stremes bright;
But now in Capricorn adoun he light,
Wher as he shon ful pale; I dar wel sayn
The bitter frostes with the sleet and rayn
Destroyèd have the grene in every yerd.
Janus sit by the fyr with double beard,
And drynketh from his bugle horn the wyn;
Biforn him is the braun of tuskèd swyn,
And “Nowell” crieth every lusty man.
Aurilius, in al that ever he can,
Doth to his maister chier and reverence,
And peyneth him to do his diligence
To bringen him out of his peynes smerte,
Or with a swerd he wolde slytte his herte.
This subtil clerk such ruth had of his man,
That night and day he werketh al he can,
To wayte a tyme for his conclusioun;
This is to say, to make illusioun,
By such an apparence of jogelrie,
(I can no termes of astrologie)
That she and every wight shold think and saye,
That from Breteygn the rokkes were awaye,
Or else they sonken were under the grounde.
So atte last he hath a tyme i-founde
To make his trickes and his wrecchednesse
Of such a supersticious cursednesse.
His tables Tollitanes forth he broughte
Ful wel corrected, nowhere lakked nought,
Neither his collect, ne his single yeeres,
Neither his rootes, nor his other geeres,
As be his centris, and his argumentis,
And his proporcienels convenientis
For their equaciouns in every thing.
And by his eighte speere in his worchíng,
He knew ful wel how fer Allnath was shove
Fro the heed of fixèd Aries above,
That in the ninthe speere considred is.
Ful subtilly he calculateth this.
Whan he had founde his firste mansioún,
He knew the remnaunt by proporcioun;
And knew the arisyng of this moone wel,
And in whos face in heaven, and every del;
And knew ful wel the moones mansioún
According to his operacioún;
And knew also his other óbservánces,
For suche illusions and suche mischances,
As hethen folk usèd in thilke dayes.
For which no longer makèd he delayes,
But through his magic, for a week or tweye,
It semèd that the rokkes were away.
Aurilius, who yet dispayrèd is
If he shal have his love or fare amiss,
Awayteth night and day on this mirácle;
And when he knew that there was no obstácle,
That vanished were these rokkes every one,
Doun to his maistres feet he fel anon,
And sayd; “I wrecched woful Aurilius,
Thanke you, lord, and my lady Venus,
That me have helpèd fro my cares colde.”
And to the temple his way forth he hath holde,
Where well he knew he shold his lady see.
And when he saw his tyme, anon right he
With dredful hert and with ful humble cheere
Saluted hath his owne lady deere.
“My soverayn lady,” quoth this woful man,
“Whom I most drede, and love, as I best can,
And would full loth in al this world displese,
Were it not that I for you have such disese,
That I most deye here at youre foot anon,
Nought wold I tellen of my woe and moan,
But certes most I dye or else complain;
Ye sleen me innocent for verrey peyne.
But of my deth though that ye have no ruth,
Consider now, ere that ye breke your trothe;
Repente you for thilke God above,
Or else me slay, bycause that I you love.
For, wel ye know, madame, your promise;
Nat that I claim now eny thing for this
Of you, my soverayn lady, but youre grace;
But in a gardyn yonder, at such a place,
Ye wot right wel what ye have promised me,
And in myn hand your trothe plighted ye,
To love me best; God wot ye sayde so,
Al be that I unworthy am therto;
Madame, I speke it for the honoúr of you,
More than to save myn hertes lif right now
I have done so as ye comaunded me,
And if ye doubte me, ye may go see.
Do as you list, have youre byheste in mynde,
For quyk or deed, right there ye shal me fynde;
In you it lieth to make me lyve or deye?
But wel I wot the rokkes be away.”
He taketh his leve, and she astonèd stood;
In alle her face was not one drop of blood;
She never thought to have been in such a trappe.
“Allas!” quoth she, “that ever this shulde happe.
For thought I never by possibility
That such a monstre or merveyl mighte be;
It is agaynst the process of natúre.”
And home she goth a sorwful créatúre,
For very fere scarcely may she go.
She wepeth, wayleth al a day or two,
And swooneth, that it ruthe was to see;
But why it was, to no wight tolde she,
For out of toune was gon Arviragus.
But to her self she spak, and sayde thus,
With face pale, and with ful sorwful chere,
In hir compleint, as ye shal after here.
“Allas!” quoth she, “on thee, Fortúne, I pleyne,
That unaware hast wrapped me in thy cheyne,
From which to escape, know I no socoúr,
Save only deth, or else dishonoúr;
One of these two bihoveth me to choose,
But none the less, yet have I rather lose
My lif, than of my body to have shame,
Or knowe my-selve fals, or lose my name;
And with my deth I may be quit, I wis.
Hath ther not many a noble wyf, ere this,
And many a mayden, slayn hir-self, allas!
Rather than with her body do trespás?
Yes certeynly; lo, stories bere witnés.
When thirty tyraunts ful of cursedness
Hadde slayn Phidon in Athenes at the feste,
Thay cómaunded his daughtres to areste,
And bryngen them bifore them in despite
Al naked, to fulfille their foule delight;
And in their fadres blood they made them daunce
Upon the pavement, God give them meschaunce.
For which these woful maydens, ful of drede,
Rather than they wolde lose their maydenhede,
They privily did lepe into a welle,
And drowned them-selfen, as the bookes telle.
#&147;They of Mycenæ did inquere and seeke
Of Lacidomye fifty maydenes eek,
On whom thay wolden do their leccherie;
But ther was noon of al that companye
That was not slayn, and with a good entente
And rather chose to deye, than to assente
To ben deprivèd of her maydenhede.
Why shuld I then to deye be in drede?
“Lo eek the tyraunt Aristoclides,
That loved a mayden named Stimphalides,
When that her father slayn was on a night,
Unto Dyanes temple went she right,
And took the ymage in her hondes two,
Fro which ymáge wold she never go,
No wight could from the ymage her hands unlace,
Til she was slayn right in the selve place.
Now since that maydens hadde such despite
To be defoulèd with mannes foul delight,
Wel aught a wyf rather hir-self to slay,
Than be defoulèd, as it thenketh me.
“What shal I sey of Hasdrubaldes wyf,
That at Cartage byreft hir-self of lyf?
For when she saw that Romayns won the toun,
She took her children alle, and skipte adoun
Into the fyr, and rather chose to deye,
Than that a Romayn did her vilonye.
“Hath not Lucresse slayn her-self, allas!
At Rome, when that she oppressid was
Of Tarquyn? for her thought it was a shame
To lyven, when she hadde lost her name.
“The seven maydens of Milisie also
Have slayn themself for very drede and wo,
Rather than folk of Gawle them shulde oppresse.
More than a thousand stories, as I gesse,
Could I now telle as touching this matére.
“When Habradace was slayn, his wif so deere
Hir-self did slay, and let her blood to glyde
In Habradaces woundes, deepe and wyde;
And seyd, my body at the leste way
Ther shal no wight defoulen, if I may.
Why shold I more ensamples herof sayn?
Since that so many have them-selven slayn
Wel rather than they wolde defoulèd be,
I wol conclude that it is best for me
To slay myself than be defoulèd thus.
I wol be trewe unto Arviragus,
Or rather slay myself in som manér,
As did Democionis doughter deere.
Bycause she wolde nought defoulèd be.
O Cedasus, it is ful gret pity
To reden how thy doughters dyed, allas!
That slowe themself for suche maner case.
As gret a pity was it or wel more,
The Theban mayden, that for Nichonore
Herself did slay, right for such kind of wo.
Another Theban mayden did right so,
For one of Macidone had hir oppressed,
She with her deth her maydenhede redressed.
What shal I say of Nicerátis wif,
That for such case bereft hirself hir lyf?
How trewe eek was to Alcebiades
His love, that rather for to dyen chose,
Than for to suffre his body unburied be?
Lo, what a wif was Alceste,” quoth she,
“What saith Omer of good Penelopee?
Al Grece knoweth of her chastitee.
Pardi, of Laodomya is writen thus,
That whan at Troye was slain Protheselaus,
No longer wold she lyve after his day.
The name of noble Porcia telle I may;
Withoute Brutus kynde she myght not lyve,
To whom she had al whole her herte give.
The parfyt wyfhod of Artemesye
Honóurèd is through al the Barbarie.
O Theuta queen, thy wifly chastitee
To alle wyves may a mirour be.”
Thus playnèd Dorigen a day or tweye,
Purposyng ever that she wolde deye;
But nonetheless upon the thirde night
Home cam Arviragus, the worthy knight,
And askèd her why that she wepte so sore;
And she gan wepen ever more and more.
“Allas!” quoth she, “that ever was I born!
Thus have I sayd,” quoth she, “thus have I sworn;”
And told him al, as ye have herd bifore;
It nedeth nought reherse it you no more.
This housbond with glad chere in noble wise
Answerd and sayde, as I shal you devyse.
“Is ther aught elles, Dorigen, but this?”
“Nay, nay,” quoth she, “God me so be witnéss,
This is too moche, if it were Goodes wille.”
“Yea, wyf,” quoth he, “let things slepe that be stille,
It may be wel peráventure to day,
Ye shal your trothe holden, by my fay.
For God so wisly mercy have on me,
I hadde rather piercèd for to be,
For very love which to you I have,
Unless ye sholde your trothe kepe and save.
Trothe is the highest thing that men may kepe.”
But with that word he gan anon to wepe,
And sayde, “I yow forbede on peyne of deth,
That never while thee lasteth lyf or breth,
To no wight telle thou of this áventúre.
As I may best I wil my wo endure.
Nor make no countenaunce of hevynesse,
That folk of you may deme harm or gesse.”
And forth he cleped a squyer and a mayde.
“Go forth anon with Dorigen,” he sayde,
“And bring ye her to such a place anon.”
Thay take their leve, and on their wey are gon;
But thay ne wiste why she thither went,
He wold to no wight tellen his entent.
This squyer, which was named Aurelius,
On Dorigen that was so amerous,
Peráventure he happèd her to mete
Amyd the toun, right in the live strete;
As she was bound to go as was her othe
Toward the gardyn, there to kepe her trothe.
And he was to the gardyn-ward also;
For wel he spyèd when she wolde go
Out of her hous, to eny maner place.
But thus thay mette of áventure or grace,
And he saluteth her with glad entent,
And askith her whither and why she went.
And she him answered, half as she were mad,
“Unto the gardyn, as myn housbond bad,
My trothe for to holde, allas! allas!”
Aurilius gan wondre on this case,
And in his hert had gret compassioún
Of her, and of her lamentacioún,
And of Arviragus the worthy knight,
That bad her hold al that she hadde plight,
So loth he was his wif shuld breke hir trothe.
And in his hert he felt of this gret ruth,
And thoughte it best in hys opinioún,
That he shold leve his vile intencioún,
Nor do to her a cherlish wickedness
Agaynst nobilitee and gentilesse
For which in fewe wordes sayd he thus.
“Madame, tell your lord Arviragus,
That since I see his grete gentilesse
To you, and eek I see wel your distresse,
That he wold rather have shame (and that were ruthe)
Than that to me ye shulde breke youre trothe,
I have wel rather ever to suffre woo,
Than for to harme the love bytwix you two.
I you relesse, madame, into your hand
Quyt every promise made and every bond
That ye have given to me as herebefore,
Since thilke tyme which that ye were born.
My trothe I plight, I shal you never grieve
For no promise, and here I take my leve,
As of the trewest and the beste wif
That ever yet I knew in al my lyf.
Let every wyf be ware of eny othe,
On Dorigen remember and her trothe.
Thus can a squyer do a gentil dede,
As wel as can a knyght, withoute drede.”
She thanketh him upon her knees al bare,
And home unto her housbond is she fare,
And told him al, as ye have herd me sayd;
And, be ye sure, he was so wel repayd,
That it were impossíble for me to write.
What shuld I longer of this case endite?
Arviragus and Dorigen his wif
In sovereyn blisse leden al their lyf,
Nor never was there anger them bytwen;
He cherissheth her as though she were a queen,
And she was to him trewe for evermore;
Of these two folk ye get of me nomore.
Aurilius, that his cost hath al forlorn,
Curseth the tyme that ever he was born.
“Allas!” quoth he, “allas, that by my bond
I promised to this wighte a thousand pound
Of pure gold, alas, now have I none;
I see no more, but that I am for-done.
Myn heritáge must I needes selle,
And be a begger, here may I not duelle,
And shamen al my kyndrede in this place,
Save I of him may gete better grace.
But nonetheles I wil of him assay
On certeyn dayes yeer by yeer to pay,
And thanke him of his grete curtesye.
My trothe wol I kepe, I wol noght lye.”
With herte sore he goth unto his cofre,
And broughte gold unto this philosóphre,
The value of fyf hundred pound, I gesse,
And him bysecheth of his gentilesse
To graunte him time for the rémenaúnt;
And sayde, “Maister, I dar make avaunt,
I fayled never of my trothe as yit.
For certaynly my dette shal be quyt
Towardes you, how so that ever I fare
To go a begger in my kirtle bare;
But if ye wold vouchesafe on surety
Two yeer or three for to respite me,
Then were I wel, for else most I selle
Myn heritage, ther is nomore to telle.”
This philosóphre sobrely answerde,
And seyde thus, when he these wordes herde;
“Have I not holden covenaunt unto thee?”
“Yes certes, wel and trewely,” quoth he.
“Hast thou nought had thy lady as thee liketh?”
“No, no,” quoth he, and sorrowfully he sigheth.
“What was the cause? tel me, if thou can.”
Aurilius his tale anon bygan,
And told him al as ye have herd bifore,
It needeth nat to you reherse it more.
He sayde, Arviragus of gentilesse
Had rather dye in sorrow and distresse,
Than that his wyf shold of hir trouthe be fals.
The sorrow of Dorigen he tolde him also,
How loth she was to be a wykked wyf,
And that she rather wold have lost hir lyf;
And that hir trothe she kept thurgh innocence;
She never had heard speke of ápparence;
“That made me have of her so gret pytý.
And right as freely as he sent her me,
As frely sent I her to him agayn.
This is the summe, ther is no more to sayn.”
The phílosópher answerd, “Deere brother,
Each one of you did gentilly to other;
Thou art a squyer, and he is a knight,
But God forbid it in his blisful might,
Unless a clerk coud do as gentil dede
As wel as eny of you, it is no drede.
Sire, I relesse thee thy thousond pound,
As if thou now were crept out of the ground,
And never bifore now had knowen me.
For, sir, I wil not take a peny of thee
For al my craft, nor nought for my travayle;
Thou hast y-payèd wel for my vitayle.
It is ynough, and far wel, have good day.”
And took his hors, and forth he goth his way.
Lordynges, this questioun wolde I axe now,
Which was the moste noble, thinke you?
Now telle me, ere that I ferther wende.
I can no more, my tale is at an ende.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:48