The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Maunciples Tale

Wit ye not where ther standeth a litel toun

Which that y-clepèd is Bob-up-and-doun,

Under the Blee in Caunterbury wey?

Ther gan our oste for to jape and pley,

And seyde, “Sirs, what! Dun is in the myre!

Is ther no man for preyer or for hyre,

That wil awake our felaw heer behinde?

A theef might him ful lightly robbe and binde

See how he nappeth. See for Goddes bones

As he wil falle from his hors at once.

Is that a cook of London, with mischaunce?

Let him com forth, he knoweth his penaúnce,

For he shal tell a tale by my fey

Although it be not worth a bottle of hey.

Awake, thou cook,” quoth he, “God give thee scorn,

What eyleth thee to sleepen in the morn

So that thou mayst not holden up thin hed?”

This cook that was ful pale and nothing red

Seyde to our host, “So God my soule blesse,

Ther is yfallen on me such hevinesse

I know not why that I wold rather sleepe

Than drink the beste galon wyn in Chepe.”

“Wel,” quoth the Maunciple, “if it may do ese

To thee, Sir Cook, and to no wight displese,

Which that heer rydeth in this companye

And that our Host wil, of his curtesie,

So wil I now excuse thee of thy tale;

For, in good faith, thy visage is ful pale,

Thine eyen be dazèd eek as that me thinketh

And wel I wot thy breth ful soure stinketh,

That sheweth wel thou art not wel disposed.

Of me, certain, thou shalt not be y-glosed,

See how he yawneth, lo, this drunken wight,

As though he wolde us swallow anon right.

Hold close thy mouth, man, by my faders kin

The devil of helle sette his foot therein,

Thy cursed breth infecte wil us alle,

Fy, stinking swyn, fy! evil thee befal!

A! take good heed, sirs, of this lusty man,

Now, sweete sir, wil ye joust at the fan?

Thereto me thinketh ye be wel y-shape,

I trowe that ye have dronk the rype grape,

And that is when men playen with a fan.”

And with this speche the cook in wrath began

Upon the Maunciple to nodde faste

For lakke of speche and doun the hors him caste,

Wher stil he lay til that men him up took;

This was a fayre rydyng for the Cook.

Alas! he hadde not held him by his ladel,

And ere that he agayn was in his saddle,

Ther was gret shovynge bothe to and fro

To lift him up and muche care and wo,

So unweldy was this sory pallid ghost,

And to the Maunciple thanne spak oure Host:

“Bycause that drink that dominacioun

Upon this man, by my salvacioun

I trow he lewedly wil tell his tale.

For were it wyn, or olde moysty ale,

That he hath dronk, he spekith in his nose,

And snesith fast, and eek he hath the pose.

He hath also to do more than ynough

To kepe him and his hors out of the slough,

And if he falle fro his hors eftsone,

Than shal we alle have ynough to doone

In liftyng up his hevy dronken neck.

Tel on thy tale, of him make I no reck.

But yit, Maunciple, in faith thou art too nyce,

Thus openly reprove him of his vice;

Another day he wil, par áventúre,

Chalénge the, and bring thee to his lure;

I mene, he speke wol of smale thinges,

As for to question of thy rekenynges,

That were not honest, if it cam to proof.”

Quoth the Maunciple, “That were a gret meschief:

So might he lightly bringe me in the snare,

Yit had I rather payen for the mare

He rideth on, than he shulde with me stryve.

I wil not wrath him, may I ever thrive!

That that I spak, I sayd a hasty word.

And wit ye what? I have heer in a gourd

A draught of wyn, yea of ripe grape,

And right anon ye shal see a good jape.

This cook shal drinke thereof, if I may;

On peyn of deth he wol nought say me nay.”

And certeinly, to tellen as it was,

Of this vessel the cook dronk fast, (allas!

What needith it? he drank ynough biforn);

And whan he hadde dronken from his horn,

To the Maunciple he took the gourd agayn.

And of that draught the Cook was wonder fayn,

And thankéd him in such wise as he coude.

Than gan our Host to laughe wonder loude,

And sayd, “I see wel it is necessarie

Wher that we go good drynk with us to carie;

For that wol torne rancour and desese

To accord and love, and many a wrong appese,

O thou Bacus, i-blessid be thi name,

That so canst tornen ernest into game!

Worship and thonke be to thy dietee;

Of that mater ye get no more of me.

Tel on thi tale, Mauncipel, I thee pray.”

“Wel, sir,” quoth he, “now herkyn what I say.”

When Phebus duelther in this erthe adoun,
As olde bookes maken mencioún,
He was the moste lusty bachiler
Of al this world, and eek the best archér.
He slew Phiton the serpent, as he lay
Slepyng benethe the soonne upon a day;
And many another noble worthy dede
He with his bowe wrought, as men may rede.
Pleyen he coude on every mynstralcye
And syngen, that it was a melodye
To heren of his clere vois the sound.
Certes the kyng of Thebes, Amphioun,
That with his singyng builded that citee,
Coud never synge half so wel as he.
Bysides he was of all the semeliest man,
That is or was, since that the world bigan.
What nedith it his feature to descryve?
For in this worlde is noon so faire alyve.
He was therwith fulfild of gentilesse,
Of honour, and of parfyt worthinesse.

This phebus, that was flour of bachelrie,
As wel in fredom, as in chivalrie,
For his disport, in signe of victorie
Of Phiton, so as telleth us the storie,
Was wont to beren in his hond a bowe.
Now had this Phebus in his hous a crowe,
Which in a cage he fostred many a day,
And taught it skeken, as men do a jay.
Whit was this crowe, as is a snow-whyt swan,
And countrefete the speche of every man
He coude, whan he shulde tell a tale.
Ther is withinne this world no nightingale
That coude by a thousandth part so wel
Singe so mery that it was mervaile.
Now had this Phebus in his hous a wyf,
Which that he lovèd more than his lif,
And night and day did evermor diligence
Hir for to please, and do hir reverence;
Save only, if the soth that I shal sayn,
Jalous he was, and wold have kept hir fayn,
For him were loth deceivèd for to be;
And so is every wight in such degree;
But al for nought for it availeth nought.
A good wyf, that is clene of werk and thought,
Schuld not be kept under no key certágn;
And trewely the labour is in vayn
To kepe a shrewe, for it wil nought be;
This hold I for a verray certainty,
To spille labour for to kepe wyves;
Thus olde clerkes writen in there Iyves.

But now to purpos, as I first bigan.
This worthi Phebus doth al that he can
To pleasen hir, wenyng by such pleasánce,
And for his manhood and his governaúnce,
That no man shuld han put him fro hir loove.
But, God it woot, no man so strong can prove
As to destroy a thing, the which natúre
Hath naturelly set in a créatúre.
Tak any brid, and put him in a cage,
And do al thin entent, and thy coráge,
To foster it tenderly with mete and drynk,
And eek with alle the deyntees thou canst think,
And keep it al so kyndly as thou may;
Although his cage of gold be never so gay,
Yit hath this brid, by twenty thousand fold,
Far rather in a forest, wyld and cold,
Go eten wormes, and such wrecchidnes.
For ever this brid wil do his busyness
To scape out of his cage whan that he may;
His libertee the brid desireth aye.
Let take a cat, and foster him wel with mylk
And tender fleish, and mak his bed of silk,
And let him see a mous go by the wal,
Anon he wayveth mylk and fleish, and al,
And every deyntee which is in that hous,
Such appetit hath he to ete the mous.
Lo, heer hath nature his dominacioun,
And appetit will pass discrescioun.
Also a she wolf hath a vilayns kynde;
The lowest wolf of al that she may fynde,
Or lest of reputacioun, him wol she take
In tyme whan hir list to have a mate.
Alle these ensamples tel I for those men
That be untrewe; I speke not of wommen.
For men have ever a lecherous appetit
On lower thing to párforme there delit
Than on her wyves, be thayt never so faire,
Nor never so trewe, nor so debonaire.
Flesh is so fickel, God give it mischaunce,
That we can in no thinge have plesaúnce
That longeth unto vertu eny while.
This Phebus, which that thought upon no gile,
Deceyvèd was for al his jolitee;
For under him another hadde she,
A man of litil reputacioun,
Nought worth to Phebus in comparisoun.
Mor harm it is; it happeth ofte so;
Of which ther cometh bothe harm and wo.
And so bifel whan Phebus was absént,
His wif anon hath for hir lemman sent.
Her lemman? certes, this is a knavish speche;
Forgive it me, and that I you biseche.
The wise Plato saith, as ye may rede,
The word must neede accorde with the dede,
If men shal telle propurly a thing,
The word must wel accord with the thing werkyng.
I am a boystous man, right thus say I;
There is no difference trewely
Bytwix a wyf that is of high degree,
If of hir body díshonést she be
And one the poorest wenche, other then this,
If so be that thay werke bothe amys,
But that the gentil in estat above
She shal be clepèd his lady as in love;
And, for that other is a pore womman,
She shal be cleped his wenche and his lemman;
And, God it wot, my goode lieve brother,
Men layn the one as lowe as lieth that other.
Right so betwixe a cruel gret tiraúnt
And an outlaw, or ese a thef erraúnt,
The same I say, there is no difference,
(To Alisaunder told was this senténce)
But, for the tiraunt is of greter might
By force of soldiers for to slay doun right,
And brenne hous and home, and make ruin,
Lo, therfor is he cleped a capitayn;
And, for an outlawe hath but soldiers few,
And not so gret distruccioún may do,
Nor bringe a contree to so gret meschief,
Men clepen him an outlawe or a theef.
But, for I am a man not texted wel,
I will to you no more ensaumples tel;
I wol go to my tale, as I bigan.

Whan Phebus wyf hadde sent for hir lemman,
Anon thay wroughten al her stelthy love.
This white crow, that hung in cage above,
Bihild there werk, and sayde never a word.
And whan that hom was come Phebus the lord,
This crowe sang, “Cuckow, cuckow, cuckow!”
“What? brid,” quod Phebus, “what song singest thou?
Never were thou wont to merily to synge,
But to myn hert it was a réjoysýnge
To here thi vois? allas! what song is this?”
“By God,” quoth he, “I synge not amys.
Phebus,” quoth he, “for al thy worthyness,
For al thy beautee and thy gentiless,
For alle thy songes, and thy menstralcie,
For al thy watching, blinded is thin eye,
By one of litel reputacioun,
Nought worth to thee as in comparisoun
The value of a gnat, so may I thrive;
For on thy bed thy wif I saw him swyve.”
What will ye more? the crowe anon him tolde,
By sadde tokens, and by wordes bolde,
How that his wyf had doon hir treacherie,
Him to gret shame, and to gret vilonye;
And told him oft he saw it with his ee.
This Phebus gan away-ward for to flee;
He thought would brast in tuo this sorrowful herte.
His bowe he bent, and sett therin a dart;
And in his ire he hath his wif i-slain;
This is theffect, ther is no more to sayn.
For sorrow of which he brak his menstralcye,
Bothe harp and lute, cithern and psalterie;
And eek he brak his arwes, and his bowe;
And after that thus spak he to the crowe;
“Traytour,” quoth he, “with tunge of scorpioún,
Thou hast me brought to my confusioún;
Allas that I was born! why not be deed?
O dere wyf, O gemme of lustyhed,
That were to me so stedfast and so trewe,
Now liest thou deed, with face pale of hewe,
Ful gulteles, that dorst I swere i-wis.
O hasty hond, to do so foule amys.
O troubled wit, O ire rekkeless,
That unavysèd smytest gulteless.
O wantrust, ful of fals suspeccioun,
Wher was thy wit and thy discrecioun?
O, every man be war of hastiness,
Nor trowe no thing withoute gret witnesse.
Smyt nought too soone, ere that thou wite why,
And be avysèd wel and sobrely,
Ere ye do eny execucioun
For al your wrath uppon suspeccioun.
Allas! a thousand folk hath hasty ire
Fordon, ere Dun hath brought them in the myre.
Allas! for sorrow I wil myselven slay.”
And to the crowe, “O false theef,” sayd he,
“I wyl thee quyt anon thy false tale.
Thow song whilom as any nightyngale,
Now shalt thou, false thef, thy song have done,
And eek thy white fetheres, everi one,
Nor never in al thy lyf shalt thou more speke;
Thus shal men on a fals theef vengeaunce wreke.
Thou and thin ofspring ever shal be blake,
Nor never sweete noyse shal ye make,
But ever crye before tempest and rayn,
In tokenyng that thurgh thee my wyf was slayn.”

And to the crowe he stert, and that anon,
And puld his white fetheres every one,
And made him blak, and reft from him his song,
And eek his speche, and out at dore him slong
Unto the devel, to which I him bytake;
And for this cause he alle crowes blake.

Lordyngs, by this ensample, I you pray,
Be war, and take kepe what ye say;
Nor telle never man in al youre lif,
How that another man hath loved his wyf;
He wol you haten mortelly certeýn.
Dan Salamon, as wise clerkes seyn,
Techeth a man to kepe his tonge wel.
But, as I sayd, I am not texted wel;
But natheles thus taughte me my dame;
“My sone, thenk on the crowe, in Goddes name.
My son, keep wel thy tonge, and kep thy frend;
A wicked tonge is worse than a feend;
My sone, fro a feend men may them free,
My sone, God of his endless charitee
Wallid a tonge with teeth, and lippes eek
That man shal him avyse what he speek
My sone, ful ofte by too moche speche
Hath many a man ben spilt, as clerkes teche;
But for a litil speche advisedly
Is no man spilt, to speke generally.
My sone, thy tonge sholdest thou restreine
At alle tyme, save whan thou dost thy peyne
To speke of God in honour and prayére.
The firste vertue, sone, if thou wilt here,
Is to restreine and kepe wel thy tonge;
Thus lerne children, whan that thay be yonge.
My sone, of moche speking evel avised,
When lasse speking had ynough suffised,
Cometh moche harm; thus was me told and taught;
In moche speche synne wantith nought.
Knowest thou whereto a hasty tonge serveth?
Right as a swerd for-kutteth and for-carveth
An arm a-two, my dere sone, right so
A tonge cutteth frendship al a-two.
A jangler is to God abhominable.
Rede Salamon, so wys and honourable.
Rede David in his Psalmes, rede Senek.
My sone, spek not, but with thy heed do beck,
Dissemble as thou were deef, if that thou heere
A jangler speke of peritous mateére.
The Flemyng saith, and learn it at the best.
That litil jangling causeth more rest.
My sone, if thou no wikked word hast sayd,
Thou shalt not drede for to be betrayed;
But he that hath myssayd, I dar wel sayn,
He may be no way call his word agayn.
Thing that is sayd is sayd, and forth it goth,
Though him repent, or be him never so loth,
He is his thral, to whom that he hath sayd
A tale, for which he is now yvel repaid.
My sone, be war, and be no author newe
Of tydyngs, whether thay be fals or trewe;
Wher-so thou comest, amonges hy or lowe,
Kep wel thy tonge, and thenk upon the crowe.

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