The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Marchantes Tale.

Here biginneth the Marchantes Tale.


Whylom ther was dwellinge in Lumbardye

A worthy knight, that born was of Pavye,

In which he lived in greet prosperitee;

And sixty yeer a wyflees man was he,

And folwed ay his bodily delyt


On wommen, ther-as was his appetyt,

As doon thise foles that ben seculeer.

And whan that he was passed sixty yeer,

Were it for holinesse or for dotage,


I can nat seye, but swich a greet corage


Hadde this knight to been a wedded man,

That day and night he dooth al that he can

Tespyen where he mighte wedded be;

Preyinge our lord to granten him, that he

Mighte ones knowe of thilke blisful lyf


That is bitwixe an housbond and his wyf;

And for to live under that holy bond

With which that first god man and womman bond,

‘Non other lyf,’ seyde he, ‘is worth a bene;


For wedlok is so esy and so clene,


That in this world it is a paradys.’

Thus seyde this olde knight, that was so wys.

Heading. So E. Hn. Pt.   1246. Pt. at; Ln. in (for of).

 And certeinly, as sooth as god is king,

To take a wyf, it is a glorious thing,

And namely whan a man is old and hoor;


Thanne is a wyf the fruit of his tresor.

Than sholde he take a yong wyf and a feir,

On which he mighte engendren him an heir,

And lede his lyf in Ioye and in solas,


Wher-as thise bacheleres singe ‘allas,’


Whan that they finden any adversitee

In love, which nis but childish vanitee.

And trewely it sit wel to be so,

That bacheleres have often peyne and wo;

On brotel ground they builde, and brotelnesse


They finde, whan they wene sikernesse.

They live but as a brid or as a beste,

In libertee, and under non areste,

Ther-as a wedded man in his estaat


Liveth a lyf blisful and ordinaat,


Under the yok of mariage y-bounde;

Wel may his herte in Ioye and blisse habounde.

For who can be so buxom as a wyf?

Who is so trewe, and eek so ententyf

To kepe him, syk and hool, as is his make?


For wele or wo, she wol him nat forsake.

She nis nat wery him to love and serve,

Thogh that he lye bedrede til he sterve.

And yet somme clerkes seyn, it nis nat so,


Of whiche he, Theofraste, is oon of tho.


What force though Theofraste liste lye?

‘Ne take no wyf,’ quod he, ‘for housbondrye,

As for to spare in houshold thy dispence;

A trewe servant dooth more diligence,

Thy good to kepe, than thyn owene wyf.


For she wol clayme half part al hir lyf;

And if that thou be syk, so god me save,

Thy verray frendes or a trewe knave

Wol kepe thee bet than she that waiteth ay


After thy good, and hath don many a day.

[T. om.

And if thou take a wyf un-to thyn hold,

[T. om.

Ful lightly maystow been a cokewold.’

This sentence, and an hundred thinges worse,

Wryteth this man, ther god his bones corse!

But take no kepe of al swich vanitee;


Deffye Theofraste and herke me.

1271. E. Thanne.   1274, 1278. E. bacheleris.   1281, 2. E. Pt. beest, arreest; Cm. Ln. beste, areste.   1285. E. Hn. this; rest the.   1293. E. Cp. nis; rest is.   1301. E. Hn. Cm. om. that.   1305, 6. Not in Cp. Ln.; in a spurious form in Hn. Pt. Hl.   1310. Cp. Hl. herkne; Pt. Ln. herkeneth.

 A wyf is goddes yifte verraily;

Alle other maner yiftes hardily,

As londes, rentes, pasture, or commune,


Or moebles, alle ben yiftes of fortune,


That passen as a shadwe upon a wal.

But dredelees, if pleynly speke I shal,

A wyf wol laste, and in thyn hous endure,

Wel lenger than thee list, paraventure.

1316. Cm. dredles; Hn. Hl. dreed nat; Cp. Ln. drede nought; Pt. drede it nouȝt.

 Mariage is a ful gret sacrement;


He which that hath no wyf, I holde him shent;

He liveth helplees and al desolat,

I speke of folk in seculer estaat.

And herke why, I sey nat this for noght,


That womman is for mannes help y-wroght.


The hye god, whan he hadde Adam maked,

And saugh him al allone, bely-naked,

God of his grete goodnesse seyde than,

‘Lat us now make an help un-to this man

Lyk to him-self;’ and thanne he made him Eve.


Heer may ye se, and heer-by may ye preve,

That wyf is mannes help and his confort,

His paradys terrestre and his disport.

So buxom and so vertuous is she,


They moste nedes live in unitee.


O flesh they been, and o flesh, as I gesse,

Hath but on herte, in wele and in distresse.

1323. Cp. herkne; Pt. Ln. Hl. herken.

 A wyf! a! Seinte Marie, benedicite!

How mighte a man han any adversitee

That hath a wyf? certes, I can nat seye.


The blisse which that is bitwixe hem tweye

Ther may no tonge telle, or herte thinke.

If he be povre, she helpeth him to swinke;

She kepeth his good, and wasteth never a deel;


Al that hir housbonde lust, hir lyketh weel;


She seith not ones ‘nay,’ whan he seith ‘ye.’

‘Do this,’ seith he; ‘al redy, sir,’ seith she.

O blisful ordre of wedlok precious,

Thou art so mery, and eek so vertuous,

And so commended and appreved eek,


That every man that halt him worth a leek,

Up-on his bare knees oghte al his lyf

Thanken his god that him hath sent a wyf;

Or elles preye to god him for to sende


A wyf, to laste un-to his lyves ende.


For thanne his lyf is set in sikernesse;

He may nat be deceyved, as I gesse,

So that he werke after his wyves reed;

Than may he boldly beren up his heed,

They been so trewe and ther-with-al so wyse;


For which, if thou wolt werken as the wyse,

Do alwey so as wommen wol thee rede.

1340. Hl. ioye (for blisse).   1348. E. Hn. murye.   1350. Hl. holt; Ln. holdeth.   1351. E. oughte; Hn. Cm. oghte.   1357. E. reede; Hn. Cm. Cp. reed.   The scribe of E. misses 1358-61, by confusing this reed with rede (1361).   1358-61. From Hn.; so Cm.; so the rest (nearly).   1358. Hn. kepen; rest beren, bere.

 Lo, how that Iacob, as thise clerkes rede,

By good conseil of his moder Rebekke,


Bond the kides skin aboute his nekke;


Thurgh which his fadres benisoun he wan.

 Lo, Iudith, as the storie eek telle can,

By wys conseil she goddes peple kepte,

And slow him, Olofernus, whyl he slepte.

 Lo Abigayl, by good conseil how she


Saved hir housbond Nabal, whan that he

Sholde han be slayn; and loke, Ester also

By good conseil delivered out of wo

The peple of god, and made him, Mardochee,


Of Assuere enhaunced for to be.


 Ther nis no-thing in gree superlatyf,

As seith Senek, above an humble wyf.

 Suffre thy wyves tonge, as Caton bit;

She shal comande, and thou shalt suffren it;

And yet she wol obeye of curteisye.


A wyf is keper of thyn housbondrye;

Wel may the syke man biwaille and wepe,

Ther-as ther nis no wyf the hous to kepe.

I warne thee, if wysly thou wolt wirche,


Love wel thy wyf, as Crist loveth his chirche.


If thou lovest thy-self, thou lovest thy wyf;

No man hateth his flesh, but in his lyf

He fostreth it, and therfore bidde I thee,

Cherisse thy wyf, or thou shalt never thee.

Housbond and wyf, what so men Iape or pleye,


Of worldly folk holden the siker weye;

They been so knit, ther may noon harm bityde;

And namely, up-on the wyves syde.

For which this Ianuarie, of whom I tolde,


Considered hath, in with his dayes olde,


The lusty lyf, the vertuous quiete,

That is in mariage hony-swete;

And for his freendes on a day he sente,

To tellen hem theffect of his entente.

1384. E. Hn. loued; Cm. louede; Cp. Pt. Ln. loueth; Hl. doth.

 With face sad, his tale he hath hem told;


He seyde, ‘freendes, I am hoor and old,

And almost, god wot, on my pittes brinke;

Up-on my soule somwhat moste I thinke.

I have my body folily despended;


Blessed be god, that it shal been amended!


For I wol be, certeyn, a wedded man,

And that anoon in al the haste I can,

Un-to som mayde fair and tendre of age.

I prey yow, shapeth for my mariage

Al sodeynly, for I wol nat abyde;


And I wol fonde tespyen, on my syde,

To whom I may be wedded hastily.

But for-as-muche as ye ben mo than I,

Ye shullen rather swich a thing espyen


Than I, and wher me best were to allyen.

1402. E. Cm. the; rest my.   1410. Cp. Ln. aspye.


 But o thing warne I yow, my freendes dere,

I wol non old wyf han in no manere.

She shal nat passe twenty yeer, certayn;

Old fish and yong flesh wolde I have ful fayn.

Bet is,’ quod he, ‘a pyk than a pikerel;


And bet than old boef is the tendre veel.

I wol no womman thritty yeer of age,

It is but bene-straw and greet forage.

And eek thise olde widwes, god it woot,


They conne so muchel craft on Wades boot,


So muchel broken harm, whan that hem leste,

That with hem sholde I never live in reste.

For sondry scoles maken sotil clerkis;

Womman of manye scoles half a clerk is.

But certeynly, a yong thing may men gye,


Right as men may warm wex with handes plye.

Wherfore I sey yow pleynly, in a clause,

I wol non old wyf han right for this cause.

For if so were, I hadde swich mischaunce,


That I in hir ne coude han no plesaunce,


Thanne sholde I lede my lyf in avoutrye,

And go streight to the devel, whan I dye.

Ne children sholde I none up-on hir geten;

Yet were me lever houndes had me eten,

Than that myn heritage sholde falle


In straunge hand, and this I tell yow alle.

I dote nat, I woot the cause why

Men sholde wedde, and forthermore wot I,

Ther speketh many a man of mariage,


That woot na-more of it than woot my page,


For whiche causes man sholde take a wyf.

If he ne may nat liven chast his lyf,

Take him a wyf with greet devocioun,

By-cause of leveful procreacioun

Of children, to thonour of god above,


And nat only for paramour or love;

And for they sholde lecherye eschue,

And yelde hir dettes whan that they ben due;

Or for that ech of hem sholde helpen other


In meschief, as a suster shal the brother;


And live in chastitee ful holily.

But sires, by your leve, that am nat I.

For god be thanked, I dar make avaunt,

I fele my limes stark and suffisaunt

To do al that a man bilongeth to;


I woot my-selven best what I may do.

Though I be hoor, I fare as dooth a tree

That blosmeth er that fruyt y-woxen be;

A blosmy tree nis neither drye ne deed.


I fele me nowher hoor but on myn heed;


Myn herte and alle my limes been as grene

As laurer thurgh the yeer is for to sene.

And sin that ye han herd al myn entente,

I prey yow to my wil ye wole assente.’

1418. E. Hn. Pt. om. ful.   1420. Cm. bef; Cp. Pt. beef.   Hl. Ln. om. the.   1427. E. sotile.   1432. E. Cm. Cp. Ln. om. right.   1433. E. were that I.   1436. Hl. Hn. go; Cp. Pt. Ln. so; E. Cm. om.   E. vnto (for to).   1438. E. Pt. leuere that houndes.   1446. E. Siththe; Cm. Sith (for If).   Hn. Cm. Hl. ne; rest om.   1451. E. Hl. Cp. Pt. leccherye.   1456. Cm. siris.   1462. E. Cp. that; Ln. Hl. that the; Cm. than; Hn. Pt. the.   1463. E. Hn. And; Pt. That; rest A.

 Diverse men diversely him tolde


Of mariage manye ensamples olde.

Somme blamed it, somme preysed it, certeyn;

But atte laste, shortly for to seyn,

As al day falleth altercacioun


Bitwixen freendes in disputisoun,


Ther fil a stryf bitwixe his bretheren two,

Of whiche that oon was cleped Placebo,

Iustinus soothly called was that other.

 Placebo seyde, ‘o Ianuarie, brother,

Ful litel nede had ye, my lord so dere,


Conseil to axe of any that is here;

But that ye been so ful of sapience,

That yow ne lyketh, for your heighe prudence,

To weyven fro the word of Salomon.


This word seyde he un-to us everichon:


“Wirk alle thing by conseil,” thus seyde he,

“And thanne shaltow nat repente thee.”

But though that Salomon spak swich a word,

Myn owene dere brother and my lord,

So wisly god my soule bringe at reste,


I hold your owene conseil is the beste.

For brother myn, of me tak this motyf,

I have now been a court-man al my lyf.

And god it woot, though I unworthy be,


I have stonden in ful greet degree


Abouten lordes of ful heigh estaat;

Yet hadde I never with noon of hem debaat.

I never hem contraried, trewely;

I woot wel that my lord can more than I.

What that he seith, I holde it ferme and stable;


I seye the same, or elles thing semblable.

A ful gret fool is any conseillour,

That serveth any lord of heigh honour,

That dar presume, or elles thenken it,


That his conseil sholde passe his lordes wit.


Nay, lordes been no foles, by my fay;

Ye han your-selven shewed heer to-day

So heigh sentence, so holily and weel,

That I consente and conferme every-deel

Your wordes alle, and your opinioun.


By god, ther nis no man in al this toun

Nin al Itaille, that coude bet han sayd;

Crist halt him of this conseil wel apayd.

And trewely, it is an heigh corage


Of any man, that stopen is in age,


To take a yong wyf; by my fader kin,

Your herte hangeth on a Ioly pin.

Doth now in this matere right as yow leste,

For finally I holde it for the beste.’

1479. E. hadde.   1490. Mss. holde.   1491. E. taak.   1503. E. Hn. Cm. elles; rest ones.   1506. Hn. Cm. shewed; E. seyd; Hl. y-spoken; rest spoken.   1511. E. Nyn; rest Ne in.   Cm. al; rest om.   1512. E. Hn. ins. ful (Cm. wol) before wel; rest Crist holdeth him of this ful wel apayd.   1514. Cp. Hl. stopen; Ln. stoupin; E. Hn. stapen; Cm. schapyn.   1517. E. matiere.

 Iustinus, that ay stille sat and herde,


Right in this wyse to Placebo answerde:

'Now brother myn, be pacient, I preye,

Sin ye han seyd, and herkneth what I seye.

Senek among his othere wordes wyse


Seith, that a man oghte him right wel avyse,


To whom he yeveth his lond or his catel.

And sin I oghte avyse me right wel

To whom I yeve my good awey fro me,

Wel muchel more I oghte avysed be

To whom I yeve my body; for alwey


I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley

To take a wyf with-oute avysement.

Men moste enquere, this is myn assent,

Wher she be wys, or sobre, or dronkelewe,


Or proud, or elles other-weys a shrewe;


A chydester, or wastour of thy good,

Or riche, or poore, or elles mannish wood.

Al-be-it so that no man finden shal

Noon in this world that trotteth hool in al,

Ne man ne beest, swich as men coude devyse;


But nathelees, it oghte y-nough suffise

With any wyf, if so were that she hadde

Mo gode thewes than hir vyces badde;

And al this axeth leyser for tenquere.


For god it woot, I have wept many a tere


Ful prively, sin I have had a wyf.

Preyse who-so wole a wedded mannes lyf,

Certein, I finde in it but cost and care,

And observances, of alle blisses bare.

And yet, god woot, my neighebores aboute,


And namely of wommen many a route,

Seyn that I have the moste stedefast wyf,

And eek the mekeste oon that bereth lyf.

But I wot best wher wringeth me my sho.


Ye mowe, for me, right as yow lyketh do;


Avyseth yow, ye been a man of age,

How that ye entren in-to mariage,

And namely with a yong wyf and a fair.

By him that made water, erthe, and air,

The yongest man that is in al this route


Is bisy y-nogh to bringen it aboute

To han his wyf allone, trusteth me.

Ye shul nat plese hir fully yeres three,

This is to seyn, to doon hir ful plesaunce.


A wyf axeth ful many an observaunce.


I prey yow that ye be nat yvel apayd.’

1520. All but Cm. insert he before Right, or to, or answerde.   1531. E. Hn. Ln. withouten.   1539. E. Cm. which.   Hl. man can; Cp. Pt. men conne; E. Hn. Cm. men koude.   1543. Cp. Pt. Ln. Hl. to enquere.   1545. Hn. Cm. Cp. Pt. Ln. sin that I hadde.   1551. Ln. stedfast.   1559. E. yongeste.   1560. E. ynough; Cm. I-nogh.   1562. Cm. Hl. plese; rest plesen.

 ‘Wel,’ quod this Ianuarie, ‘and hastow sayd?

Straw for thy Senek, and for thy proverbes,

I counte nat a panier ful of herbes

Of scole-termes; wyser men than thow,


As thou hast herd, assenteden right now

To my purpos; Placebo, what sey ye?’

1566. E. Hn. ysayd; Cm. Hl. sayd; Cp. Pt. Ln. al said.

 ‘I seye, it is a cursed man,’ quod he,

‘That letteth matrimoine, sikerly.’


And with that word they rysen sodeynly,


And been assented fully, that he sholde

Be wedded whanne him list and wher he wolde.

1573. E. Hn. Hl. matrimoigne; Pt. matrimoyne; rest matrimonye.

 Heigh fantasye and curious bisinesse

Fro day to day gan in the soule impresse

Of Ianuarie aboute his mariage.


Many fair shap, and many a fair visage

Ther passeth thurgh his herte, night by night.

As who-so toke a mirour polished bright,

And sette it in a commune market-place,


Than sholde he see many a figure pace


By his mirour; and, in the same wyse,

Gan Ianuarie inwith his thoght devyse

Of maydens, whiche that dwelten him bisyde.

He wiste nat wher that he mighte abyde.

For if that oon have beaute in hir face,


Another stant so in the peples grace

For hir sadnesse, and hir benignitee,

That of the peple grettest voys hath she.

And somme were riche, and hadden badde name.


But nathelees, bitwixe ernest and game,


He atte laste apoynted him on oon,

And leet alle othere from his herte goon,

And chees hir of his owene auctoritee;

For love is blind al day, and may nat see.

And whan that he was in his bed y-broght,


He purtreyed, in his herte and in his thoght,

Hir fresshe beautee and hir age tendre,

Hir myddel smal, hir armes longe and sclendre,

Hir wyse governaunce, hir gentillesse,


Hir wommanly beringe and hir sadnesse.


And whan that he on hir was condescended,

Him thoughte his chois mighte nat ben amended.

For whan that he him-self concluded hadde,

Him thoughte ech other mannes wit so badde,

That inpossible it were to replye


Agayn his chois, this was his fantasye.

His freendes sente he to at his instaunce,

And preyed hem to doon him that plesaunce,

That hastily they wolden to him come;


He wolde abregge hir labour, alle and some.


Nedeth na-more for him to go ne ryde,

He was apoynted ther he wolde abyde.

1582. E. And; rest As.   E. polisshed.   1584. E. Thanne.   E. Hn. se ful many.   1587. E. Cm. Pt. dwellen.   1591. E. Cm. benyngnytee.   1602. E. sklendre.   1609. E. repplye.   1611. E. Cm. Hise.   1615. Ln. hem.

 Placebo cam, and eek his freendes sone,

And alderfirst he bad hem alle a bone,

That noon of hem none argumentes make


Agayn the purpos which that he hath take;

‘Which purpos was plesant to god,’ seyde he,

‘And verray ground of his prosperitee.’

1617. E. Cm. Hise.

 He seyde, ther was a mayden in the toun,


Which that of beautee hadde greet renoun,


Al were it so she were of smal degree;

Suffyseth him hir youthe and hir beautee.

Which mayde, he seyde, he wolde han to his wyf,

To lede in ese and holinesse his lyf.

And thanked god, that he mighte han hire al,


That no wight of his blisse parten shal.

And preyde hem to labouren in this nede,

And shapen that he faille nat to spede;

For thanne, he seyde, his spirit was at ese.


‘Thanne is,’ quod he, ‘no-thing may me displese,


Saue o thing priketh in my conscience,

The which I wol reherce in your presence.

1630. Cm. of; Cp. Ln. with; rest om.   1631. Hn. labouren; rest laboure.

 I have,’ quod he, ‘herd seyd, ful yore ago,

Ther may no man han parfite blisses two,

This is to seye, in erthe and eek in hevene.


For though he kepe him fro the sinnes sevene,

And eek from every branche of thilke tree,

Yet is ther so parfit felicitee,

And so greet ese and lust in mariage,


That ever I am agast, now in myn age,


That I shal lede now so mery a lyf,

So delicat, with-outen wo and stryf,

That I shal have myn hevene in erthe here.

For sith that verray hevene is boght so dere,

With tribulacioun and greet penaunce,


How sholde I thanne, that live in swich plesaunce

As alle wedded men don with hir wyvis,

Come to the blisse ther Crist eterne on lyve is?

This is my drede, and ye, my bretheren tweye,


Assoilleth me this questioun, I preye.’

1645. E. myrie; Hn. murye.


 Iustinus, which that hated his folye,

Answerde anon, right in his Iaperye;

And for he wolde his longe tale abregge,

He wolde noon auctoritee allegge,

But seyde, ‘sire, so ther be noon obstacle


Other than this, god of his hye miracle

And of his mercy may so for yow wirche,

That, er ye have your right of holy chirche,

Ye may repente of wedded mannes lyf,


In which ye seyn ther is no wo ne stryf.


And elles, god forbede but he sente

A wedded man him grace to repente

Wel ofte rather than a sengle man!

And therfore, sire, the beste reed I can,

Dispeire yow noght, but have in your memorie,


Paraunter she may be your purgatorie!

She may be goddes mene, and goddes whippe;

Than shal your soule up to hevene skippe

Swifter than dooth an arwe out of the bowe!


I hope to god, her-after shul ye knowe,


That their nis no so greet felicitee

In mariage, ne never-mo shal be,

That yow shal lette of your savacioun,

So that ye use, as skile is and resoun,

The lustes of your wyf attemprely,


And that ye plese hir nat to amorously,

And that ye kepe yow eek from other sinne.

My tale is doon:— for my wit is thinne.

Beth nat agast her-of, my brother dere.’—


(But lat us waden out of this matere.


The Wyf of Bathe, if ye han understonde,

Of mariage, which we have on honde,

Declared hath ful wel in litel space). —

‘Fareth now wel, god have yow in his grace.’

1660. Hn. Pt. hye; E. hygh.   1661. E. his hygh mercy; rest om. hygh.   1665. Cp. Pt. Ln. but if.   1672. E. Thanne.   1682. Incomplete.   1686. Hn. we; rest ye.

 And with this word this Justin and his brother


Han take hir leve, and ech of hem of other.

For whan they sawe it moste nedes be,

They wroghten so, by sly and wys tretee,

That she, this mayden, which that Maius highte,


As hastily as ever that she mighte,


Shal wedded be un-to this Ianuarie.

I trowe it were to longe yow to tarie,

If I yow tolde of every scrit and bond,

By which that she was feffed in his lond;

Or for to herknen of hir riche array.


But finally y-comen is the day

That to the chirche bothe be they went

For to receyve the holy sacrement.

Forth comth the preest, with stole aboute his nekke,


And bad hir be lyk Sarra and Rebekke,


In wisdom and in trouthe of mariage;

And seyde his orisons, as is usage,

And crouched hem, and bad god sholde hem blesse,

And made al siker y-nogh with holinesse.

1691. Hn. Cp. sawe; E. Hl. saugh.   E. Hn. Cm. Hl. ins. that bef. it.   E. om. nedes.   1692. sly] Hl. sleighte.   1693. Mss. Mayus.   1698. Hl. feoffed.   1704. E. lyk to; rest om. to.   1706. his] E. hir.   1707. E. Hn. Cm. croucheth.

 Thus been they wedded with solempnitee,


And at the feste sitteth he and she

With other worthy folk up-on the deys.

Al ful of Ioye and blisse is the paleys,

And ful of instruments and of vitaille,


The moste deyntevous of al Itaille.


Biforn hem stoode swiche instruments of soun,

That Orpheus, ne of Thebes Amphioun,

Ne maden never swich a melodye.

1715. So Cm. Hl.; E. puts swich before soun; Hn. repeats swich before soun.

 At every cours than cam loud minstraleye,

That never tromped Ioab, for to here,


Nor he, Theodomas, yet half so clere,

At Thebes, whan the citee was in doute.

Bacus the wyn hem skinketh al aboute,

And Venus laugheth up-on every wight.


For Ianuarie was bicome hir knight,


And wolde bothe assayen his corage

In libertee, and eek in mariage;

And with hir fyrbrond in hir hand aboute

Daunceth biforn the bryde and al the route.

And certeinly, I dar right wel seyn this,


Ymenëus, that god of wedding is,

Saugh never his lyf so mery a wedded man.

Hold thou thy pees, thou poete Marcian,

That wrytest us that ilke wedding murie


Of hir, Philologye, and him, Mercurie


And of the songes that the Muses songe.

To smal is bothe thy penne, and eek thy tonge,

For to descryven of this mariage.

Whan tendre youthe hath wedded stouping age,

Ther is swich mirthe that it may nat be writen;


Assayeth it your-self, than may ye witen

If that I lye or noon in this matere.

1718. E. Hn. thanne; Hl. ther.   1731. E. myrie; Hn. murye.   1740. E. thanne.   1741. E. matiere.

 Maius, that sit with so benigne a chere,

Hir to biholde it semed fayëryë;


Quene Ester loked never with swich an yë


On Assuer, so meke a look hath she.

I may yow nat devyse al hir beautee;

But thus muche of hir beautee telle I may,

That she was lyk the brighte morwe of May,

Fulfild of alle beautee and plesaunce.

1742. E. benyngne; chiere.   1743. Cp. Pt. Hl. fayerye: rest fairye.   1744. Pt. Hl. ye; Cp. yhe; rest eye.


 This Ianuarie is ravisshed in a traunce

At every time he loked on hir face;

But in his herte he gan hir to manace,

That he that night in armes wolde hir streyne


Harder than ever Paris dide Eleyne.


But nathelees, yet hadde he greet pitee,

That thilke night offenden hir moste he;

And thoughte, ‘allas! o tendre creature!

Now wolde god ye mighte wel endure

Al my corage, it is so sharp and kene;


I am agast ye shul it nat sustene.

But god forbede that I dide al my might!

Now wolde god that it were woxen night,

And that the night wolde lasten evermo.


I wolde that al this peple were ago.’


And finally, he doth al his labour,

As he best mighte, savinge his honour,

To haste hem fro the mete in subtil wyse.

1751. Hl. lokith.

 The tyme cam that reson was to ryse;

And after that, men daunce and drinken faste,


And spyces al aboute the hous they caste;

And ful of Ioye and blisse is every man;

All but a squyer, highte Damian,

Which carf biforn the knight ful many a day.


He was so ravisshed on his lady May,


That for the verray peyne he was ny wood;

Almost he swelte and swowned ther he stood.

So sore hath Venus hurt him with hir brond,

As that she bar it daunsinge in hir hond.

And to his bed he wente him hastily;


Na-more of him as at this tyme speke I.

But ther I lete him wepe y-nough and pleyne,

Til fresshe May wol rewen on his peyne.

1772. E. Hn. Cm. highte; rest that highte (hight).   1780. Hl. as; rest om. E. om. I.


 O perilous fyr, that in the bedstraw bredeth!


O famulier foo, that his servyce bedeth!


O servant traitour, false hoomly hewe,

Lyk to the naddre in bosom sly untrewe,

God shilde us alle from your aqueyntaunce!

O Ianuarie, dronken in plesaunce

Of mariage, see how thy Damian,


Thyn owene squyer and thy borne man,

Entendeth for to do thee vileinye.

God graunte thee thyn hoomly fo tespye.

For in this world nis worse pestilence


Than hoomly foo al day in thy presence.

1784. Cp. Hl. famuler; Pt. famulere; Ln. famylere.   1786. Hn. Cp. neddre; Cm. neddere; Hl. nedder; Pt. adder.   1789. Pt. Hl. Of; Cp. Ln. O(!); rest In.   1790. Cm. bore; Cp. Ln. Hl. borne; rest born.   1792. Cp. Ln. to espye; Hn. Hl. espye.


 Parfourned hath the sonne his ark diurne,

No lenger may the body of him soiurne

On thorisonte, as in that latitude.

Night with his mantel, that is derk and rude,

Gan oversprede the hemisperie aboute;


For which departed is this lusty route

Fro Ianuarie, with thank on every syde.

Hom to hir houses lustily they ryde,

Wher-as they doon hir thinges as hem leste,


And whan they sye hir tyme, goon to reste.


Sone after that, this hastif Ianuarie

Wolde go to bedde, he wolde no lenger tarie.

He drinketh ipocras, clarree, and vernage

Of spyces hote, tencresen his corage;

And many a letuarie hadde he ful fyn,


Swiche as the cursed monk dan Constantyn

Hath writen in his book de Coitu;

To eten hem alle, he nas no-thing eschu.

And to his privee freendes thus seyde he:


‘For goddes love, as sone as it may be,


Lat voyden al this hous in curteys wyse.’

And they han doon right as he wol devyse.

Men drinken, and the travers drawe anon;

The bryde was broght a-bedde as stille as stoon;

And whan the bed was with the preest y-blessed,


Out of the chambre hath every wight him dressed.

And Ianuarie hath faste in armes take

His fresshe May, his paradys, his make.

He lulleth hir, he kisseth hir ful ofte


With thikke bristles of his berd unsofte,


Lyk to the skin of houndfish, sharp as brere,

For he was shave al newe in his manere.

He rubbeth hir aboute hir tendre face,

And seyde thus, ‘allas! I moot trespace

To yow, my spouse, and yow gretly offende,


Er tyme come that I wil doun descende.

But nathelees, considereth this,’ quod he,

‘Ther nis no werkman, what-so-ever he be,

That may bothe werke wel and hastily;


This wol be doon at leyser parfitly.


It is no fors how longe that we pleye;

In trewe wedlok wedded be we tweye;

And blessed be the yok that we been inne,

For in our actes we mowe do no sinne.

A man may do no sinne with his wyf,


Ne hurte him-selven with his owene knyf;

For we han leve to pleye us by the lawe.’

Thus laboureth he til that the day gan dawe;

And than he taketh a sop in fyn clarree,


And upright in his bed than sitteth he,


And after that he sang ful loude and clere,

And kiste his wyf, and made wantoun chere.

He was al coltish, ful of ragerye,

And ful of Iargon as a flekked pye.

The slakke skin aboute his nekke shaketh,


Whyl that he sang; so chaunteth he and craketh.

But god wot what that May thoughte in hir herte,

Whan she him saugh up sittinge in his sherte,

In his night-cappe, and with his nekke lene;


She preyseth nat his pleying worth a bene.


Than seide he thus, ‘my reste wol I take;

Now day is come, I may no lenger wake.’

And doun he leyde his heed, and sleep til pryme.

And afterward, whan that he saugh his tyme,

Up ryseth Ianuarie; but fresshe May


Holdeth hir chambre un-to the fourthe day,

As usage is of wyves for the beste.

For every labour som-tyme moot han reste,

Or elles longe may he nat endure;


This is to seyn, no lyves creature,


Be it of fish, or brid, or beest, or man.

1802. E. Hl. hous; rest houses.   1808. Cp. Pt. Hl. to encresen.   1809. E. hath.   1810. E. om. cursed.   1812. Cm. Ln. was; rest nas.   1824. Cp. HL. thikke; rest thilke (with lk = kk).   E. Cm. brustles.   1838. E. Hn. Cm. om. our.   1843. E. thanne; fyne.   1844. E. thanne.   1846. E. wantowne.   1847. E. coltissh.   1848. Cp. Pt. Girgoun; Ln. Girgun.   1851. Hn. thoghte.   1855. E. Thanne.   1860. Pt. Ln. Hl. Holdeth; Cp. Holt; E. Hn. Heeld; Cm. Held.

 Now wol I speke of woful Damian,

That languissheth for love, as ye shul here;

Therfore I speke to him in this manere:

I seye, ‘O sely Damian, allas!


Answere to my demaunde, as in this cas,

How shaltow to thy lady fresshe May

Telle thy wo? She wole alwey seye “nay”;

Eek if thou speke, she wol thy wo biwreye;


God be thyn help, I can no bettre seye.’

1867. Cp. langureth; Pt. languowreth; Ln. longurith.   1870. E. Andswere.


 This syke Damian in Venus fyr

So brenneth, that he dyeth for desyr;

For which he putte his lyf in aventure,

No lenger mighte he in this wyse endure;

But prively a penner gan he borwe,


And in a lettre wroot he al his sorwe,

In manere of a compleynt or a lay,

Un-to his faire fresshe lady May.

And in a purs of silk, heng on his sherte,


He hath it put, and leyde it at his herte.


 The mone that, at noon, was, thilke day

That Ianuarie hath wedded fresshe May,

In two of Taur, was in-to Cancre gliden;

So longe hath Maius in hir chambre biden,

As custume is un-to thise nobles alle.


A bryde shal nat eten in the halle,

Til dayes foure or three dayes atte leste

Y-passed been; than lat hir go to feste.

The fourthe day compleet fro noon to noon,


Whan that the heighe masse was y-doon,


In halle sit this Ianuarie, and May

As fresh as is the brighte someres day.

And so bifel, how that this gode man

Remembred him upon this Damian,

And seyde, ‘Seinte Marie! how may this be,


That Damian entendeth nat to me?

Is he ay syk, or how may this bityde?’

His squyeres, whiche that stoden ther bisyde,

Excused him by-cause of his siknesse,


Which letted him to doon his bisinesse;


Noon other cause mighte make him tarie.

1888. Hl. Hn. Cp. abiden.   1892. E. thanne.   1896. E. fressh.   1902. E. Hise.

 ‘That me forthinketh,’ quod this Ianuarie,

‘He is a gentil squyer, by my trouthe!

If that he deyde, it were harm and routhe;

He is as wys, discreet, and as secree


As any man I woot of his degree;

And ther-to manly and eek servisable,

And for to been a thrifty man right able.

But after mete, as sone as ever I may,


I wol my-self visyte him and eek May,


To doon him al the confort that I can.’

And for that word him blessed every man,

That, of his bountee and his gentillesse,

He wolde so conforten in siknesse

His squyer, for it was a gentil dede.


‘Dame,’ quod this Ianuarie, ‘tak good hede,

At-after mete ye, with your wommen alle,

Whan ye han been in chambre out of this halle,

That alle ye go see this Damian;


Doth him disport, he is a gentil man;


And telleth him that I wol him visyte,

Have I no-thing but rested me a lyte;

And spede yow faste, for I wole abyde

Til that ye slepe faste by my syde.’

And with that word he gan to him to calle


A squyer, that was marchal of his halle,

And tolde him certeyn thinges, what he wolde.

1920. E. taak.   1921. E. noon; rest mete.

 This fresshe May hath streight hir wey y-holde,

With alle hir wommen, un-to Damian.


Doun by his beddes syde sit she than,


Confortinge him as goodly as she may.

This Damian, whan that his tyme he say,

In secree wise his purs, and eek his bille,

In which that he y-writen hadde his wille,

Hath put in-to hir hand, with-outen more,


Save that he syketh wonder depe and sore,

And softely to hir right thus seyde he:

‘Mercy! and that ye nat discovere me;

For I am deed, if that this thing be kid.’


This purs hath she inwith hir bosom hid,


And wente hir wey; ye gete namore of me.

But un-to Ianuarie y-comen is she,

That on his beddes syde sit ful softe.

He taketh hir, and kisseth hir ful ofte,

And leyde him doun to slepe, and that anon.


She feyned hir as that she moste gon

Ther-as ye woot that every wight mot nede.

And whan she of this bille hath taken hede,

She rente it al to cloutes atte laste,


And in the privee softely it caste.


 Who studieth now but faire fresshe May?

Adoun by olde Ianuarie she lay,

That sleep, til that the coughe hath him awaked;

Anon he preyde hir strepen hir al naked;

He wolde of hir, he seyde, han som plesaunce,


And seyde, hir clothes dide him encombraunce,

And she obeyeth, be hir lief or looth.

But lest that precious folk be with me wrooth,

How that he wroghte, I dar nat to yow telle;


Or whether hir thoughte it paradys or helle;


But here I lete hem werken in hir wyse

Til evensong rong, and that they moste aryse.

1957. Hn. Cm. coghe; Ln. couhe.   1962. E. ye; Cm. the; rest that.   1964. E. wheither that; Hn. Cm. Hl. om. that.   1966. Cp. Ln. euesong.

 Were it by destinee or aventure,

Were it by influence or by nature,

Or constellacion, that in swich estat


The hevene stood, that tyme fortunat

Was for to putte a bille of Venus werkes

(For alle thing hath tyme, as seyn thise clerkes)

To any womman, for to gete hir love,


I can nat seye; but grete god above,


That knoweth that non act is causelees,

He deme of al, for I wol holde my pees.

But sooth is this, how that this fresshe May

Hath take swich impression that day,

For pitee of this syke Damian,


That from hir herte she ne dryve can

The remembraunce for to doon him ese.

‘Certeyn,’ thoghte she, ‘whom that this thing displese,

I rekke noght, for here I him assure,


To love him best of any creature,


Though he na-more hadde than his sherte.’

Lo, pitee renneth sone in gentil herte.

1967. All but Ln. Hl. ins. by after or.   1969, 70. E. estaat, fortunaat.   1971. Hn. Hl. As; E. Cp. Pt. Ln. Was.

 Heer may ye se how excellent franchyse

In wommen is, whan they hem narwe avyse.

Som tyrant is, as ther be many oon,


That hath an herte as hard as any stoon,

Which wolde han lete him sterven in the place

Wel rather than han graunted him hir grace;

And hem reioysen in hir cruel pryde,


And rekke nat to been an homicyde.

1991. E. Cm. lat.   E. storuen.   1993. E. crueel.


 This gentil May, fulfilled of pitee,

Right of hir hande a lettre made she,

In which she graunteth him hir verray grace;

Ther lakketh noght but only day and place,

Wher that she mighte un-to his lust suffyse:


For it shal be right as he wol devyse.

And whan she saugh hir time, up-on a day,

To visite this Damian goth May,

And sotilly this lettre doun she threste


Under his pilwe, rede it if him leste.


She taketh him by the hand, and harde him twiste

So secrely, that no wight of it wiste,

And bad him been al hool, and forth she wente

To Ianuarie, whan that he for hir sente.

1996. Hn. Hl. maked; Cm. makede.   1998. Cm. Hl. but only; rest only but.   2002. All visite; perhaps read visiten.   2007. she] E. he.   2008. hir] E. him.

 Up ryseth Damian the nexte morwe,


Al passed was his siknesse and his sorwe.

He kembeth him, he proyneth him and pyketh,

He dooth al that his lady lust and lyketh;

And eek to Ianuarie he gooth as lowe


As ever dide a dogge for the bowe.


He is so plesant un-to every man,

(For craft is al, who-so that do it can)

That every wight is fayn to speke him good;

And fully in his lady grace he stood.

Thus lete I Damian aboute his nede,


And in my tale forth I wol procede.

2011. E. preyneth; Hn. prayneth; Hl. pruneth.   2018. Hn. Cm. ladyes; rest lady.

 Somme clerkes holden that felicitee

Stant in delyt, and therefor certeyn he,

This noble Ianuarie, with al his might,


In honest wyse, as longeth to a knight,


Shoop him to live ful deliciously.

His housinge, his array, as honestly

To his degree was maked as a kinges.

Amonges othere of his honest thinges,

He made a gardin, walled al with stoon;


So fair a gardin woot I nowher noon.

For out of doute, I verraily suppose,

That he that wroot the Romance of the Rose

Ne coude of it the beautee wel devyse;


Ne Priapus ne mighte nat suffyse,


Though he be god of gardins, for to telle

The beautee of the gardin and the welle,

That stood under a laurer alwey grene.

Ful ofte tyme he, Pluto, and his quene,

Proserpina, and al hir fayërye

Disporten hem and maken melodye

Aboute that welle, and daunced, as men tolde.

2024, 2028. E. Hn. Cm. Cp. honeste.   2032. Cm. Hl. romanus; Ln. romans.   2039. Cp. Hl. fayerie; rest fairye.

 This noble knight, this Ianuarie the olde,

Swich deintee hath in it to walke and pleye,


That he wol no wight suffren bere the keye


Save he him-self; for of the smale wiket

He bar alwey of silver a smal cliket,

With which, whan that him leste, he it unshette.

And whan he wolde paye his wyf hir dette

In somer seson, thider wolde he go,

And May his wyf, and no wight but they two;

And thinges whiche that were nat doon a-bedde,

He in the gardin parfourned hem and spedde.

And in this wyse, many a mery day,


Lived this Ianuarie and fresshe May.


But worldly Ioye may nat alwey dure

To Ianuarie, ne to no creature.

2046. E. baar.   Hl. smal; rest om.   2053. E. Hn. murye.


 O sodeyn hap, o thou fortune instable,

Lyk to the scorpion so deceivable,

That flaterest with thyn heed when thou wolt stinge;


Thy tayl is deeth, thurgh thyn enveniminge.

O brotil Ioye! o swete venim queynte!

O monstre, that so subtilly canst peynte

Thy yiftes, under hewe of stedfastnesse,


That thou deceyvest bothe more and lesse!


Why hastow Ianuarie thus deceyved,

That haddest him for thy ful frend receyved?

And now thou hast biraft him bothe hise yën,

For sorwe of which desyreth he to dyen.

2059. E. synge; rest stinge.   2061. venim] Cp. Pt. Ln. poyson.   2063. E. stidefastnesse.   2067. Hl. yen; Cm. Iyen; rest eyen.

 Allas! this noble Ianuarie free,


Amidde his lust and his prosperitee,

Is woxen blind, and that al sodeynly.

He wepeth and he wayleth pitously;

And ther-with-al the fyr of Ialousye,


Lest that his wyf sholde falle in som folye,


So brente his herte, that he wolde fayn

That som man bothe him and hir had slayn.

For neither after his deeth, nor in his lyf,

Ne wolde he that she were love ne wyf,

But ever live as widwe in clothes blake,


Soul as the turtle that lost hath hir make.

But atte laste, after a monthe or tweye,

His sorwe gan aswage, sooth to seye;

For whan he wiste it may noon other be,


He paciently took his adversitee;


Save, out of doute, he may nat forgoon

That he nas Ialous evermore in oon;

Which Ialousye it was so outrageous,

That neither in halle, nin noon other hous,

Ne in noon other place, never-the-mo,


He nolde suffre hir for to ryde or go,

But-if that he had hand on hir alway;

For which ful ofte wepeth fresshe May,

That loveth Damian so benignely,


That she mot outher dyen sodeynly,


Or elles she mot han him as hir leste;

She wayteth whan hir herte wolde breste.

2074. E. swich; rest som (sum).   2080. Cp. Ln. Soule; Pt. Sool; rest Soul.   2089. E. Nyn; rest Ne in.   2091. E. hond (but hand in l. 2103).   2093. E. benyngnely.

 Up-on that other syde Damian

Bicomen is the sorwefulleste man

That ever was; for neither night ne day


Ne mighte he speke a word to fresshe May,

As to his purpos, of no swich matere,

But-if that Ianuarie moste it here,

That hadde an hand up-on hir evermo.


But nathelees, by wryting to and fro


And privee signes, wiste he what she mente;

And she knew eek the fyn of his entente.


 O Ianuarie, what mighte it thee availle,

Thou mightest see as fer as shippes saille?

For also good is blind deceyved be,


As be deceyved whan a man may se.

Lo, Argus, which that hadde an hondred yën,

For al that ever he coude poure or pryen,

Yet was he blent; and, god wot, so ben mo,


That wenen wisly that it be nat so.


Passe over is an ese, I sey na-more.

2108. E. Ln. Thogh thou; Hl. If thou; rest Thou.   2109. Cm. Ln. also; rest as.   2110. All As to be.   2111. Ln. yene; rest eyen.

 This fresshe May, that I spak of so yore,

In warme wex hath emprented the cliket,

That Ianuarie bar of the smale wiket,

By which in-to his gardin ofte he wente.


And Damian, that knew al hir entente,

The cliket countrefeted prively;

Ther nis na-more to seye, but hastily

Som wonder by this cliket shal bityde,


Which ye shul heren, if ye wole abyde.

2117. Pt. Ln. warme; rest warm.   Perhaps read emprented hath.   2118. Pt. smal; rest smale.


 O noble Ovyde, ful sooth seystou, god woot!


What sleighte is it, thogh it be long and hoot,

That he nil finde it out in som manere?

By Piramus and Tesbee may men lere;

Thogh they were kept ful longe streite overal,


They been accorded, rouninge thurgh a wal,

Ther no wight coude han founde out swich a sleighte.

 But now to purpos; er that dayes eighte

Were passed, er the monthe of Iuil, bifil


That Ianuarie hath caught so greet a wil,


Thurgh egging of his wyf, him for to pleye

In his gardin, and no wight but they tweye,

That in a morwe un-to this May seith he:

‘Rys up, my wyf, my love, my lady free;

The turtles vois is herd, my douve swete;


The winter is goon, with alle his reynes wete;

Com forth now, with thyn eyën columbyn!

How fairer been thy brestes than is wyn!

The gardin is enclosed al aboute;


Com forth, my whyte spouse; out of doute,


Thou hast me wounded in myn herte, o wyf!

No spot of thee ne knew I al my lyf.

Com forth, and lat us taken our disport;

I chees thee for my wyf and my confort.’

2133, 4. Cm. befel, wyl; rest bifille, wille; see note.   2139. E. turtle.   2140. Cp. Pt. Ln. alle (al); rest om.   2146. Cp. Pt. Ln. in (for of).   2147. E. som; rest our (oure).

 Swiche olde lewed wordes used he;


On Damian a signe made she,

That he sholde go biforen with his cliket:

This Damian thanne hath opened the wiket,

And in he stirte, and that in swich manere,


That no wight mighte it see neither y-here;


And stille he sit under a bush anoon.

2151. Ln. beforne; rest biforn; read biforen.

 This Ianuarie, as blind as is a stoon,

With Maius in his hand, and no wight mo,

In-to his fresshe gardin is ago,

And clapte to the wiket sodeynly.


 ‘Now, wyf,’ quod he, ‘heer nis but thou and I,

That art the creature that I best love.

For, by that lord that sit in heven above,

Lever ich hadde dyen on a knyf,


Than thee offende, trewe dere wyf!


For goddes sake, thenk how I thee chees,

Noght for no coveityse, doutelees,

But only for the love I had to thee.

And though that I be old, and may nat see,

Beth to me trewe, and I shal telle yow why.


Three thinges, certes, shul ye winne ther-by;

First, love of Crist, and to your-self honour,

And al myn heritage, toun and tour;

I yeve it yow, maketh chartres as yow leste;


This shal be doon to-morwe er sonne reste.


So wisly god my soule bringe in blisse,

I prey yow first, in covenant ye me kisse.

And thogh that I be Ialous, wyte me noght.

Ye been so depe enprented in my thoght,

That, whan that I considere your beautee,


And ther-with-al the unlykly elde of me,

I may nat, certes, thogh I sholde dye,

Forbere to been out of your companye

For verray love; this is with-outen doute.


Now kis me, wyf, and lat us rome aboute.’

2163. E. Hn. Cm. Hl. to dyen; Cp. Pt. Ln. om. to.   2170. E. Hn. shal; Pt. Cm. Hl. shul.   2177, 2181. E. though.   2179. E. Pt. om. that.


 This fresshe May, whan she thise wordes herde,

Benignely to Ianuarie answerde,

But first and forward she bigan to wepe,

‘I have,’ quod she, ‘a soule for to kepe

As wel as ye, and also myn honour,


And of my wyfhod thilke tendre flour,

Which that I have assured in your hond,

Whan that the preest to yow my body bond;

Wherfore I wole answere in this manere


By the leve of yow, my lord so dere:


I prey to god, that never dawe the day

That I ne sterve, as foule as womman may,

If ever I do un-to my kin that shame,

Or elles I empeyre so my name,

That I be fals; and if I do that lakke,


Do strepe me and put me in a sakke,

And in the nexte river do me drenche.

I am a gentil womman and no wenche.

Why speke ye thus? but men ben ever untrewe,


And wommen have repreve of yow ay newe.


Ye han non other contenance, I leve,

But speke to us of untrust and repreve.’

2186. E. Benyngnely.   2194. Cp. Pt. Ln. With (for By).   2205. Cm. Cp. Pt. Ln. can (for han).

 And with that word she saugh wher Damian

Sat in the bush, and coughen she bigan,

And with hir finger signes made she,


That Damian sholde climbe up-on a tree,

That charged was with fruit, and up he wente;

For verraily he knew al hir entente,

And every signe that she coude make


Wel bet than Ianuarie, hir owene make.


For in a lettre she had told him al

Of this matere, how he werchen shal.

And thus I lete him sitte up-on the pyrie,

And Ianuarie and May rominge myrie.

2208. E. Hl. coughen; Hn. coghen; Cm. coghe.   2215. E. hadde toold.   2217. Pt. pirry; Hn. purye; rest pyrie (pirie, pyry).   2218. Hn. murye; Cp. myry; Hl. mirye; Cm. Pt. Ln. merie (mery).

 Bright was the day, and blew the firmament,


Phebus of gold his stremes doun hath sent,

To gladen every flour with his warmnesse.

He was that tyme in Geminis, as I gesse,

But litel fro his declinacioun


Of Cancer, Iovis exaltacioun.


And so bifel, that brighte morwe-tyde,

That in that gardin, in the ferther syde,

Pluto, that is the king of fayërye,

And many a lady in his companye,

Folwinge his wyf, the quene Proserpyne,


Ech after other, right as any lyne —

Whil that she gadered floures in the mede,

In Claudian ye may the story rede,

How in his grisly carte he hir fette:—


This king of fairye thanne adoun him sette


Up-on a bench of turves, fresh and grene,

And right anon thus seyde he to his quene.

2220. E. Hn. Cm. Hl. put hath before of gold; Cp. Pt. Ln. doun hath his stremes sent.   E. Hn. Hl. ysent; rest sent.   2227. Cp. Pt. Ln. the; rest on. Cp. Hl. fayerye; rest fairye.   2230. Cm. ony; E. Hl. a (for any). Cp. Pt. Ln. have Which that he rauysshed out of Proserpyna(!).   2232. Hl. story; rest stories.   2233. E. And; rest How.   E. grisely.   E. Hn. Cm. sette; rest fette.   2234. Cp. Pt. Ln. om. thanne.

 ‘My wyf,’ quod he, ‘ther may no wight sey nay;

Thexperience so preveth every day

The treson whiche that wommen doon to man.


Ten hondred thousand [stories] telle I can

Notable of your untrouthe and brotilnesse.

O Salomon, wys, richest of richesse,

Fulfild of sapience and of worldly glorie,


Ful worthy been thy wordes to memorie


To every wight that wit and reson can.

Thus preiseth he yet the bountee of man:

“Amonges a thousand men yet fond I oon,

But of wommen alle fond I noon.”

2237. E. seye.   2239. E. tresons.   2240. I supply stories.   Pt. Ln. telle; rest tellen.   2242. E. Hn. Cm. Hl. wys and; Cp. Pt. Ln. om. both wys and and.   2247, 8. E. foond.

 Thus seith the king that knoweth your wikkednesse;


And Iesus filius Syrak, as I gesse,

Ne speketh of yow but selde reverence.

A wilde fyr and corrupt pestilence

So falle up-on your bodies yet to-night!


Ne see ye nat this honurable knight,


By-cause, allas! that he is blind and old,

His owene man shal make him cokewold;

Lo heer he sit, the lechour, in the tree.

Now wol I graunten, of my magestee,

Un-to this olde blinde worthy knight


That he shal have ayeyn his eyen sight,

Whan that his wyf wold doon him vileinye;

Than shal he knowen al hir harlotrye

Both in repreve of hir and othere mo.’

2262. E. Thanne.


 ‘Ye shal,’ quod Proserpyne, ‘wol ye so;


Now, by my modres sires soule I swere,

That I shal yeven hir suffisant answere,

And alle wommen after, for hir sake;

That, though they be in any gilt y-take,

With face bold they shulle hem-self excuse,


And bere hem doun that wolden hem accuse.

For lakke of answer, noon of hem shal dyen.

Al hadde man seyn a thing with bothe his yën,

Yit shul we wommen visage it hardily,


And wepe, and swere, and chyde subtilly,

So that ye men shul been as lewed as gees.

What rekketh me of your auctoritees?

2264. Cp. Pt. Ln. Hl. and wol (for wol).   2272. Pt. Hl. yen; rest eyen (eyȝen).   2273. Cp. Pt. Ln. so (for wommen).   2274. E. visage it (for chyde, by mistake).

 I woot wel that this Iew, this Salomon,

Fond of us wommen foles many oon.

But though that he ne fond no good womman,


Yet hath ther founde many another man

Wommen ful trewe, ful gode, and vertuous.

Witnesse on hem that dwelle in Cristes hous,

With martirdom they preved hir constance.


The Romayn gestes maken remembrance


Of many a verray trewe wyf also.

But sire, ne be nat wrooth, al-be-it so,

Though that he seyde he fond no good womman,

I prey yow take the sentence of the man;

He mente thus, that in sovereyn bontee


Nis noon but god, that sit in Trinitee.

2278. E. Foond; fooles.   2279. E. foond.   2284. E. Hn. Cm. Hl. eek maken; rest om. eek.   2287. E. foond.   2290. Hn. Cp. Pt. Ln. but neither he ne she (for that . . . Trinitee).

 Ey! for verray god, that nis but oon,

What make ye so muche of Salomon?

What though he made a temple, goddes hous?


What though he were riche and glorious?


So made he eek a temple of false goddis,

How mighte he do a thing that more forbode is?

Pardee, as faire as ye his name emplastre,

He was a lechour and an ydolastre;

And in his elde he verray god forsook.


And if that god ne hadde, as seith the book,

Y-spared him for his fadres sake, he sholde

Have lost his regne rather than he wolde.

I sette noght of al the vileinye,


That ye of wommen wryte, a boterflye.


I am a womman, nedes moot I speke,

Or elles swelle til myn herte breke.

For sithen he seyde that we ben Iangleresses,

As ever hool I mote brouke my tresses,

I shal nat spare, for no curteisye,


To speke him harm that wolde us vileinye.’

'Dame,' quod this Pluto, 'be no lenger wrooth;

I yeve it up; but sith I swoor myn ooth

That I wolde graunten him his sighte ageyn,


My word shal stonde, I warne yow, certeyn.


I am a king, it sit me noght to lye.’

2291. So all.   2298. E. lecchour.   2300. E. Hn. Cm. Hl. om. that.   2301. E. Cm. om. him.   2303. E. Hn. Cm. Hl. sette right noght.

 ‘And I,’ quod she, ‘a queene of fayërye.

Hir answere shal she have, I undertake;

Lat us na-more wordes heer-of make.

For sothe, I wol no lenger yow contrarie.’

2316. Cp. Hl. fayerye; rest fairye (fayre).


 Now lat us turne agayn to Ianuarie,

That in the gardin with his faire May

Singeth, ful merier than the papeiay,

‘Yow love I best, and shal, and other noon.’


So longe aboute the aleyes is he goon,


Til he was come agaynes thilke pyrie,

Wher-as this Damian sitteth fill myrie

An heigh, among the fresshe leves grene.

2322. E. Hn. Cm. murier.   2325. Hl. agaynes; rest agayns.   2327. Pt. Ln. Hl. On (for An).

 This fresshe May, that is so bright and shene,

Gan for to syke, and seyde, ‘allas, my syde!


Now sir,’ quod she, ‘for aught that may bityde,

I moste han of the peres that I see,

Or I mot dye, so sore longeth me

To eten of the smale peres grene.


Help, for hir love that is of hevene quene!


I telle yow wel, a womman in my plyt

May han to fruit so greet an appetyt,

That she may dyen, but she of it have.’

 ‘Allas!’ quod he, ‘that I ne had heer a knave

That coude climbe; allas! allas!’ quod he,


‘That I am blind.’ ‘Ye, sir, no fors,’ quod she:

‘But wolde ye vouche-sauf, for goddes sake,

The pyrie inwith your armes for to take,

(For wel I woot that ye mistruste me)


Thanne sholde I climbe wel y-nogh,’ quod she,


‘So I my foot mighte sette upon your bak.’

 ‘Certes,’ quod he, ‘ther-on shal be no lak,

Mighte I yow helpen with myn herte blood.’

He stoupeth doun, and on his bak she stood,

And caughte hir by a twiste, and up she gooth.


Ladies, I prey yow that ye be nat wrooth;

I can nat glose, I am a rude man.

And sodeynly anon this Damian

Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng.


 And whan that Pluto saugh this grete wrong,


To Ianuarie he gaf agayn his sighte,

And made him see, as wel as ever he mighte.

And whan that he hadde caught his sighte agayn,

Ne was ther never man of thing so fayn.

But on his wyf his thoght was evermo;


Up to the tree he caste his eyen two,

And saugh that Damian his wyf had dressed

In swich manere, it may nat ben expressed

But if I wolde speke uncurteisly:


And up he yaf a roring and a cry


As doth the moder whan the child shal dye:

‘Out! help! allas! harrow!’ he gan to crye,

‘O stronge lady store, what dostow?’

2355. Pt. Ln. Hl. his sight ageyn (and miss ll. 2356, 2357, by confusion with agayn in 2357).   2367. E. Hn. Cm. stoore; Pt. stoor; Cp. Ln. Hl. stoure.

 And she answerde, ‘sir, what eyleth yow?

Have pacience, and reson in your minde,


I have yow holpe on bothe your eyen blinde.

Up peril of my soule, I shal nat lyen,

As me was taught, to hele with your yën,

Was no-thing bet to make yow to see


Than strugle with a man up-on a tree.


God woot, I dide it in ful good entente.’

2372. Ln. Hl. yen; rest eyen (eyȝen).

 ‘Strugle!’ quod he, ‘ye, algate in it wente!

God yeve yow bothe on shames deeth to dyen!

He swyved thee, I saugh it with myne yën,

And elles be I hanged by the hals!’

2378. Ln. Hl. yen; rest eyen (eyȝen).


 ‘Thanne is,’ quod she, ‘my medicyne al fals;

For certeinly, if that ye mighte see,

Ye wolde nat seyn thise wordes un-to me;

Ye han som glimsing and no parfit sighte.’

2380. E. Pt. Ln. Hl. om. al.


 ‘I see,’ quod he, ‘as wel as ever I mighte,


Thonked be god! with bothe myne eyen two,

And by my trouthe, me thoughte he dide thee so.’

 ‘Ye maze, maze, gode sire,’ quod she,

‘This thank have I for I have maad yow see;

Allas!’ quod she, ‘that ever I was so kinde!’


 ‘Now, dame,’ quod he, ‘lat al passe out of minde.

Com doun, my lief, and if I have missayd,

God help me so, as I am yvel apayd.

But, by my fader soule, I wende han seyn,


How that this Damian had by thee leyn,


And that thy smok had leyn up-on his brest.’

2394, 5. E. hadde.

 ‘Ye, sire,’ quod she, ‘ye may wene as yow lest;

But, sire, a man that waketh out of his sleep,

He may nat sodeynly wel taken keep

Up-on a thing, ne seen it parfitly,


Til that he be adawed verraily;

Right so a man, that longe hath blind y-be,

Ne may nat sodeynly so wel y-see,

First whan his sighte is newe come ageyn,


As he that hath a day or two y-seyn.


Til that your sighte y-satled be a whyle,

Ther may ful many a sighte yow bigyle.

Beth war, I prey yow; for, by hevene king,

Ful many a man weneth to seen a thing,

And it is al another than it semeth.


He that misconceyveth, he misdemeth.’

And with that word she leep doun fro the tree.

2397. Cm. Pt. om. his.   2405. Cp. Pt. Hl. I-stabled; Ln. stablid.

 This Ianuarie, who is glad but he?

He kisseth hir, and clippeth hir ful ofte,


And on hir wombe he stroketh hir ful softe,


And to his palays hoom he hath hir lad.

Now, gode men, I pray yow to be glad.

Thus endeth heer my tale of Ianuarie;

God bless us and his moder Seinte Marie!

Here is ended the Marchantes Tale of Ianuarie.

2416. E. om. to.   2418. Hn. Hl. add Amen.   Colophon. So E. Hn.; Hl. Here endith the marchauntes tale.

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