The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Schipmannes Tale

A Marchaunt whilom dwelled at Seint Denys,

That riche was, for which men hild him wys.

A wyf he had of excellent beauté,

And companable, and reverent was sche;

Which is a thing that causeth more despence,

Than worth is al the cher and reverence

That men doon hem at festes or at daunces.

Such salutaciouns and continaunces

Passeth, as doth the schadow on a wal;

But wo is him that paye moot for al.

The sely housbond algat moste paye,

He most us clothe in ful good arraye

Al for his oughne worschip richely;

In which array we daunce jolily.

And if that he may not, paraventure,

Or elles wil not such dispens endure,

But thynketh it is wasted and i-lost,

Than moot another paye for oure cost,

Or lene us gold, and that is perilous.

This worthy marchaunt huld a noble hous,
For which he hadde alday gret repair
For his largesce, and for his wyf was fair.
What wonder is? but herkneth to my tale.

Amonges al these gestes gret and smale,
Ther was a monk, a fair man and a bold,
I trowe, thritty wynter he was old,
That ever in oon was drawyng to that place.
This yonge monk, that was so fair of face,
Aqueynted was so with the goode man,
Sithen that her firste knowleche bygan,
That in his hous as familier was he
As it possibil is a frend to be.
And for as mochil as this goode man
And eek this monk, of which that I bygan,
Were bothe tuo i-born in oon village,
The monk him claymeth, as for cosynage;
And he ayein him saith nat oones nay,
But was as glad therof, as foul of day,
For to his hert it was a gret plesaunce.
Thus ben thay knyt with eterne alliaunce,
And ilk of hem gan other to assure
Of brotherhed, whil that her lif may dure.
Fre was daun Johan, and manly of despence
As in that hous, and ful of diligence
To do plesaunce, and also gret costage;
He nought foryat to yeve the leste page
In al that hous; but, after her degré,
He yaf the lord, and siththen his meyné,
Whan that he com, som maner honest thing;
For which thay were as glad of his comyng
As foul is fayn, whan that the sonne upriseth.
No mor of this as now, for it suffiseth.

But so bifel, this marchaunt on a day
Schop him to make redy his array
Toward the toun of Bruges for to fare,
To byen ther a porcioun of ware;
For which he hath to Paris sent anoon
A messanger, and prayed hath dan Johan
That he schulde come to Seint Denys, and playe
With him, and with his wyf, a day or twaye,
Er he to Brigges went, in alle wise.
This nobil monk, of which I yow devyse,
Hath of his abbot, as him list, licence,
(Bycause he was a man of heih prudence,
And eek an officer) out for to ryde,
To se her graunges and her bernes wyde;
And unto Seint Denys he cometh anoon.
Who was so welcome as my lord dan Johan,
Oure deere cosyn, ful of curtesie?
With him brought he a jubbe of malvesie,
And eek another ful of wyn vernage,
And volantyn, as ay was his usage;
And thus I lete hem ete, and drynk, and playe,
This marchaunt and this monk, a day or twaye.

The thridde day this marchaund up he riseth,
And on his needes sadly him avyseth;
And up into his countour hous goth he,
To rekyn with him-self, as wel may be,
Of thilke yer, how that it with him stood,
And how that he dispended had his good,
And if that he encresced were or noon.
His bookes and his bagges many oon
He hath byforn him on his counter bord,
For riche was his tresor and his hord;
For which ful fast his contour dore he schette;
And eek he wolde no man schold him lette
Of his accomptes, for the mene- tyme;
And thus he sat, til it was passed prime.

Dan Johan was risen in the morn also,
And in the gardyn walkith to and fro.
And hath his thinges said ful curteisly.
This good wyf com walkyng ful prively
Into the gardyn, ther he walketh softe,
And him salueth, as sche hath doon ful ofte.
A mayde child com in hir compaignie,
Which as hir list sche may governe and gye,
For yit under the yerde was the mayde.
“O dere cosyn myn, dan Johan,” sche sayde,
“What ayleth yow so rathe to arise?”
“Nece,” quod he, “it aught y-nough suffise
Fyve houres for to slepe upon a night;
But it were for eny old palled wight,
As ben these weddid men, that ly and dare,
As in a forme ther lith a wery hare,
Were al for-straught with houndes gret and smale.
But, dere nece, why be ye so pale?
I trowe certis, that oure goode man
Hath on yow laborid, sith the night bygan,
That yow were nede to resten hastiliche.”
And with that word he lowgh ful meriliche,
And of his owne thought he wex al reed.

This faire wyf bygan to schake hir heed,
And sayde thus, “Ye, God wot al,” quod sche.
“Nay, cosyn myn, it stant not so with me.
For by that God, that yaf me soule and lif,
In al the reme of Fraunce is ther no wyf
That lasse lust hath to that sory play;
For I may synge allas and waylaway
That I was born; but to no wight,” quod sche
“Dar I not telle how it stont with me.
Wherfor I think out of this lond to wende,
Or elles of my-self to make an ende,
So ful am I of drede and eek of care.”

This monk bygan upon this wyf to stare;
And sayd, “Allas! my nece, God forbede,
That ye for eny sorw, or eny drede,
Fordo your self; but telleth me your greef,
Paraventure I may in youre mescheef
Councel or help; and therfor telleth me
Al your annoy, for it schal be secré.
For on my portos here I make an oth,
That never in my lif, for lief ne loth,
Ne schal I of no counseil you bywraye.”
“The same ayein,” quod sche, “to yow I saye.
By God and by this portos wil I swere,
Though men me wolde al in peces tere,
Ne schal I never, for to go to helle,
Bywreye a word of thing that ye me telle,
Not for no cosynage, ne alliaunce,
But verrayly for love and affiaunce.”
Thus ben thay sworn, and herupon i-kist,
And ilk of hem told other what hem list.

“Cosyn,” quod sche, “if that I had a space,
As I have noon, and namly in this place,
Then wold I telle a legend of my lyf,
What I have suffred sith I was a wyf
With myn housbond, though he be your cosyn.”
“Nay,” quod this monk, “by God and seint Martyn!
He nis no more cosyn unto me,
Than is this leef that hongeth on the tre;
I cleped him so, by seint Denis of Fraunce,
To have the more cause of acqueyntaunce
Of yow, which I have loved specially
Aboven alle wommen sikerly;
This swere I yow on my professioun.
Tellith youre greef, lest that he come adoun,
And hasteth yow; and goth your way anoon.”
“My deere love,” quod sche, “O dan Johan!
Ful leef me were this counseil for to hyde,
But out it moot, I may no more abyde.
Myn housbond is to me the worste man,
That ever was siththe the world bigan;
But sith I am a wif, it sit nought me
To telle no wight of oure priveté,
Neyther a-bedde, ne in none other place;
God schilde I scholde telle it for his grace!
A wyf ne schal not say of hir housbonde
But al honour, as I can understonde.
Save unto yow thus moche telle I schal;
As help me God, he is not worth at al,
In no degré, the valieu of a flie.
But yit me greveth most his nigardye.
And wel ye wot, that wymmen naturelly
Desiren sixe thinges, as wel as I.
They wolde that here housbondes scholde be
Hardy, and wys, and riche, and therto fre,
And buxom to his wyf, and freisch on bedde.
But by the Lord that for us alle bledde,
For his honour my-selven to arraye,
A sonday next comyng yit most I paye
An hundred frank, or elles I am lorn.
Yit were me lever that I were unborn,
Than me were doon a sclaunder or vilenye.
And if myn housbond eek might it espie,
I ner but lost; and therfor I yow praye
Lene me this somme, or elles mot I deye.
Dan Johan, I seie, lene me this hundreth frankes;
Pardé I wil nouht faile the my thankes,
If that yow lust to do that I yowe praye.
For at a certein day I wol yow paye,
And do to yow what pleasaunce and servise
That I may do, right as you list devyse;
And but I do, God take on me vengeaunce,
As foul as hadde Geneloun of Fraunce!”

This gentil monk answerd in this manere;
“Now trewely, myn owne lady deere,
I have on yow so gret pité and reuthe,
That I yow swere, and plighte yow my treuthe,
Than whan your housbond is to Flaundres fare,
I schal deliver yow out of youre care,
For I wol bringe yow an hundred frankes.”
And with that word he caught hir by the schankes,
And hir embraced hard, and kite hir ofte.
“Goth now your way,” quod he, “al stille and softe,
And let us dyne as sone as ever ye maye,
For by my chilindre it is prime of daye;
Goth now, and beth as trew as I schal be.”
“How elles God forbede, sire!” quod sche.
And forth sche goth, as joly as a pye,
And bad the cookes that thai schold hem hye,
So that men myghte dyne, and that anoon.
Up to hir housbond this wif is y-goon,
And knokketh at his dore boldely.
Quy est la?” quod he. “Peter! it am I,”
Quod sche. “How longe, sire, wol ye faste?
How longe tyme wol ye reken and caste
Your sommes, and your bokes, and your thinges?
The devel have part of alle such rekenynges.
Ye have i-nough pardy of Goddes sonde.
Com doun to day, and let your bagges stonde.
Ne be ye not aschamed, that daun Johan
Schal alday fastyng thus elenge goon?
What? let us hiere masse, and go we dyne.”

“Wif,” quod this man, “litel canstow divine
The curious besynesse that we have;
For of us chapmen, al-so God me sake,
And by that lord that cleped is seint Ive,
Scarsly amonges twelve, two schuln thrive
Continuelly, lastyng unto our age.
We may wel make cheer and good visage,
And dryve forth the world, as it may be,
And kepen our estat in priveté,
Til we be deed, or elles that we playe
A pilgrimage, or goon out of the waye;
And therfor have I gret necessité
Upon this queynte world to avyse me.
For evermor we moste stond in drede
Of hap and fortun in our chapmanhede.
To Flaundres wil I go to morw at day,
And come agayn as soone as ever I may;
For which, my deere wif, I the byseeke
As be to every wight buxom and meeke,
And for to kepe oure good be curious,
And honestly governe wel our hous.
Thou hast y-nough, in every maner wise,
That to a thrifty housbond may suffise.
The lakketh noon array, ne no vitaile;
Of silver in thy purs thou mayst not faile.”
And with that word his countour dore he schitte.
And doun he goth; no lenger wold he lette;
And hastily a masse was ther i-sayd,
And spedily the tables were i-layd,
And to the dyner faste thay hem spedde,
And rychely this chapman the monk fedde.

And after dyner daun Johan sobrely
This chapman took on-part, and prively
Sayd him thus: “Cosyn, it stondeth so,
That, wel I se, to Brigges wol ye go;
God and seint Austyn spede you and gyde.
I pray yow, cosyn, wisly that ye ryde;
Governeth yow also of your diete
Al temperelly, and namely in this hete.
Betwix us tuo nedeth no straugne fare;
Far wel, cosyn, God schilde you fro care.
If eny thing ther be by day or night,
If it lay in my power and my might,
That ye wil me comaunde in eny wise,
It schal be doon, right as ye wol devyse.
O thing er that ye goon, if it mighte be,
I wolde praye yow for to lene me
An hundred frankes for a wyke or tweye,
For certeyn bestis that I moste beye,
To store with a place that is oures;
(God help me so, I wolde it were youres!)
I schal not faile seurly of my day,
Nought for a thousand frankes, a myle way.
But let this thing be secré, I yow praye;
For for the bestis this night most I paye.
And fare now wel, myn owne cosyn deere;
Graunt mercy of your cost and of your cheere.”

This noble merchaunt gentilly anoon
Answerd and sayde: “O cosyn daun Johan,
Now sikerly this is a smal request;
My gold is youres, whanne that yow lest,
And nought oonly my gold, but my chaffare;
Tak what yow liste, God schilde that ye spare!
But oon thing is, ye know it wel y-nough
Of chapmen, that her money is here plough.
We may creaunce whils we have a name,
But goldles for to be it is no game.
Pay it agayn, whan it lith in your ese;
After my might ful fayn wold I yow plese.”
This hundred frankes he fet forth anoon,
And prively he took hem to daun Johan;
No wight in al this world wist of this loone,
Savyng the marchaund, and daun Johan alloone.
Thay drynke, and speke, and rome a while and playe,
Til that dan Johan rydeth to his abbaye.
The morwe cam, and forth this marchaund rideth
To Flaundres-ward, his prentis wel him gydeth,
To that he cam to Brigges merily.
Now goth this marchaund faste and busily
About his neede, and bieth, and creaunceth;
He neither pleyeth atte dys, ne daunceth;
But as a marchaund, schortly for to telle,
He had his lyf, and ther I let him duelle.

The sonday next the marchaund was agoon,
To Seint Denys i-come is daun Johan,
With croune and berd al freisch and newe i-schave.
In al the hous ther nas so litel a knave,
Ne no wight elles, that he nas ful fayn;
For that my lord dan Johan was come agayn.
And schortly to the poynte for to gon,
This faire wif acordith with dan Johan,
That for these hundred frank he schuld al night
Have hir in his armes bolt upright;
And this acord parformed was in dede.
In mirth al night a bisy lif they lede
Til it was day, than dan Johan went his way,
And bad the meigné far wel, have good day.
For noon of hem, ne no wight in the toun,
Hath of dan Johan noon suspeccioun;
And forth he rideth hom to his abbay,
Or wher him list, no more of him I say.

This marchaund, whan that endid was the faire,
To Seynt Denys he gan for to repeire,
And with his wif he maketh fest and cheere,
And tellith hir that chaffar is so deere,
That needes most he make a chevisaunce,
For he was bounde in a reconisaunce,
To paye twenty thousand scheldes anoon.
For which this marchaund is to Paris goon,
To borwe of certeyn frendes that he hadde
A certein frankes, and some with him he ladde.
And whan that he was come into the toun
For gret chiertee and gret affeccioun,
Unto dan Johan he first goth him to playe;
Nought for to borwe of him no kyn monaye,
But for to wite and se of his welfare,
And for to telle him of his chaffare,
As frendes doon, whan thay ben met in fere.
Dan Johan him maketh fest and mery cheere;
And he him told agayn ful specially,
How he hadde bought right wel and graciously
(Thanked be God)! al hole his marchaundise;
Save that he most in alle manere wise
Maken a chevyssauns, as for his best;
And than he schulde be in joye and rest.
Dan Johan answerde, “Certis I am fayn,
That ye in hele are comen hom agayn;
And if that I were riche, as have I blisse,
Of twenty thousand scheld schulde ye not mysse
For ye so kyndely this other day
Lente me gold; and as I can and may
I thanke yow, by God and by seint Jame.
But natheles I took it to oure dame,
Youre wif at home, the same gold ayein
Upon your bench, sche wot it wel certeyn,
By certein toknes that I can hir telle.
Now by your leve, I may no lenger duelle;
Oure abbot wol out of this toun anoon,
And in his compaignye moot I goon.
Grete wel oure dame, myn owen nece swete,
And far wel, dere cosyn, til that we meete.”
This marchaund, which that was bothe war and wys,
Creaunced hath, and payed eek in Parys
To certeyn Lombardes redy in her hond
This somme of gold, and took of hem his bond,
And hom he goth, as mery as a popinjay.
For wel he knew he stood in such array,
That needes most he wynne in that viage
A thousand frankes, above al his costage.
His wyf ful redy mette him at the gate,
As sche was wont of old usage algate;
And al that night in mirthe thay ben sette,
For he was riche, and clerly out of dette.
Whan it was day, this marchaund gan embrace
His wyf al newe, and kite hir on hir face,
And up he goth, and maketh it ful tough.
“No more,” quod sche, “by God, ye have y-nough;”
And wantounly with him sche lay and playde,
Till atte laste thus this marchaund sayde:—
“By God,” quod he, “I am a litel wroth
With yow, my wyf, although it be me loth;
And wite ye why? by God, as that I gesse,
Ye han i-maad a maner straungenesse
Bitwixe me and my cosyn dan Johan.
Ye schold have warned me, er I hadde goon,
That he yow had an hundred frankes payd
By redy tokne; and huld him evil appayd
For that I to him spak of chevysuance,
(Me semede so as by his countenaunce);
But natheles, by God of heven king!
I thoughte nought to axe him no thing.
I pray the, wyf, do thou no more so.
Tel me alway, er that I fro the go,
If eny dettour have in myn absence
I-payed the, lest in thy necgligence
I may him axe a thing that he hath payed.”

This wyf was not affered ne affrayed,
But boldely sche sayde, and that anoon:
“Marry! I diffy that false monk, dan Johan!
I kepe not of his tokenes never a del;
He took me a certeyn gold, that wot I wel.
What? evel thedom on his monkes snowte!
For, God it wot! I wende withoute doute,
That he had yeve it me, bycause of yow,
To do therwith myn honour and my prow,
For cosynage, and eek for bele cheer
That he hath had ful ofte tyme heer.
But synnes that I stonde in this disjoynt,
I wol answere yow schortly to the poynt.
Ye han mo slakke dettours than am I;
For I wol paye yow wel and redily
Fro day to day, and if so be I faile,
I am your wif, score it upon my taile,
And I schal paye it as soone as I may.
For by my trouthe, I have on myn array,
And nought on wast, bistowed it every del.
And for I have bistowed it so wel
To youre honour, for Goddes sake I saye,
As beth nought wroth, but let us laugh and playe;
Ye schul my joly body have to wedde;
By God, I wol not paye yow but on bedde;
Foryeve it me, myn owne spouse deere;
Turne hider-ward and make better cheere.”

This marchaund saugh noon other remedy;
And for to chide, it was but foly,
Sith that the thing may not amendid be.
“Now, wif,” he sayde, “and I foryive it the;
But by thi lif, ne be no more so large;
Keep better my good, this yive I the in charge.
Thus endeth now my tale, and God us sende
Talyng y-nough, unto our lyves ende!”

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