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For about two centuries after the Norman con- 
quest, Anglo-Norman was almost exclusively the 
language of literature in this country. The few 
exceptions belong to the last expiring remains 
of an older and totally different Anglo-Saxon 
style, or to the first attempts of a new English 
one, formed upon a Norman model. Of the two 
grand monuments of the poetry of this period, 
Layamon belongs to the former of these classes, 
and the singular poem entitled the Ormulum to the 
latter. After the middle of the thirteenth century, 
the attempts at poetical composition in English 
became more frequent and more successful, and 
previous to the age of Chaucer we have several 
poems of a very remarkable character, and some 
good imitations of the harmony and spirit of the 
French versification of the time. 

During this latter period, there had been a great 
movement in intelligence and art throughout 



Europe, which was shewing itself sometimes in one 
place and sometimes in another, and Avhich was 
giving great promises of a splendid future. By 
the end of the thirteenth century it broke out in 
Italy in Dante, and a little later in Petrarch. In 
France it shewed itself in a multitude of poetical 
compositions, remarkable for their spirit and har- 
mony of versification. In England it became 
magnificently embodied in Chaucer, almost to rise 
and die with him ; for two centuries passed away 
before another poet was produced who could lay 
any claim to rivalry with his great predecessor. 

According to the best information that can be 
collected, Geoffrey Chaucer was born somewhere 
near the year 1328,* his family being apparently 
citizens of London. The accounts of his earlier 

* The following brief notice of the personal history of the 
poet is little more than an abridgment of the Life of Chaucer 
by Sir Harris Nicolas, who has gathered together a mass of 
curious facts from the public records, many of them not 
known before. To that biographical sketch, which is pre- 
fixed to Mr. Pickering's last edition of Tyrwhitt's text, I 
refer those who are desirous of learning everything that is 
really known of Chaucer's life, which had been disfigured 
by previous biographers with a mass of details founded only 
on mistakes, or drawn from the imaginations of the writers. 
I have no wish to rewrite what Sir Harris Nicolas has already 
done with so much judgment, but it will probably be ex- 
pected that I should give here the outlines of the life of the 
author I am editing. 

years and of his education are vague and unsatis- 
factory, but he was certainly a man of extensive 
learning, and he had the education of a gentleman : 
he is generally believed to have been bred to the 
law. We learn from Chaucer's own testimony, 
given at a later period, in the case of the Grosvenor 
peerage, that in the autumn of 1359 he was in the 
army with which Edward III invaded France, 
which was his first military service, and that he was 
made prisoner by the French during the expedition 
which terminated with the peace of Chartres, in 
May 1360. 

We know nothing further of Chaucer's history 
until 1367, when a pension of twenty marks yearly 
for life was granted by the king to the poet, as one 
of the valets of the king's chamber, in considera- 
tion of his services. About the same time, he 
married Philippa, one of the ladies in attendance 
on the queen, who is said to have been the eldest 
daughter of Sir Payne Roet, king-of-arms of 
Guienne, and sister of Katherine, widow of Sir 
Hugh Swynford, and subsequently wife of John 
of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. In 1370, as we find 
from the records, Chaucer was employed in the 
king's service abroad. Two years after this, on 
the 12th November 1372, the poet was sent on a 
mission to Genoa, to treat on the choice of a port 
in England where the Genoese might form a com- 

b 2 

mercial establishment; he appears to have remained 
in Italy nearly a year, as we do not trace him in 
England until the latter part of November 1373, 
and we then find by the allowance of his expenses 
that he had been on the king's service to Florence 
as well as to Genoa. We are, unfortunately, in per- 
fect ignorance of Chaucer's movements in Italy ; 
and the statement of the old biographers that he 
visited Petrarch at Padua, is founded on mere 
suppositions totally unsupported by any known 
evidence. It can hardly be believed, however, 
that Chaucer did not profit by the opportunity 
thus afforded him of improving his acquaintance 
with the poetry, if not with the poets, of the 
country he thus visited, whose influence was now 
being felt on the literature of most countries of 
Western Europe. He was evidently well ac- 
quainted with the writings of Dante, and probably 
with those of Petrarch, if not with those of Boc- 
caccio. He distinctly quotes the former poet more 
than once, thus : — 

" Wei can the wyse poet of Florence, 
That hatte Daunt, speke of this sentence." 

C. T. 6707. 

The " sentence," as Chaucer gives it, is almost 
a literal translation from the Purgatorio. It may 
be observed, also, that the inference from this and 
other circumstances is strongly in favour of the 

belief that Chaucer was well acquainted with the 
Italian language, which Sir Harris Nicolas doubts, 
I think without sufficient reason. 

That Chaucer acquitted himself well as an am- 
bassador, and that the king was satisfied with his 
services, we can have no doubt ; for on the 23rd 
of April following, the monarch made him a grant 
for life of a pitcher of wine daily, an appropriate 
gift for a poet, but which nevertheless seems to 
have been soon commuted for the payment of its 
value in money. About six weeks after this, on 
the 8th of June 1374, Chaucer was aj)pointed 
comptroller of the customs and subsidy of wools, 
skins, and tanned hides in the port of London ; 
and it was stipulated that he should write the rolls 
of his office with his own hand, and perform his 
duties personally and not by deputy. This might 
be supposed to shew that Chaucer's poetical talents 
were not very generously appreciated ; but it ap- 
pears in reality that it was a mere formula of the 
grant of the office. From this time to the end of the 
reign of Edward III, the poet continued to enjoy 
the royal favour; and he not only received several 
marks of his sovereign's generosity, but he was 
employed frequently in public service of impor- 
tance. During the last year of Edward's reign' 
a. d. 1377, he was sent successively to Flanders 
and to France, being in the first mission associated 

with Sir Thomas Percy (afterwards earl of Wor- 
cester), and in the second, attached to an embassy 
to treat of peace with Charles V. 

It is probable that Chaucer was re-appointed 
one of the king's esquires on the accession of 
Richard II, and he certainly did not decline in 
court favour. In the middle of January 1378, 
he was again sent to France, attached to an 
embassy, the object of which was to negotiate 
king Richard's marriage with a daughter of the 
French monarch. His stay in France was not long, 
for in the May of the same year he was employed 
on a new mission, being sent with Sir Edward 
Berkeley to Lombardy, to treat with Bernardo 
Visconti, lord of Milan, and the celebrated Sir 
John Hawkwood, apparently to persuade them to 
assist in some warlike expedition contemplated by 
the English government; and from this mission 
he appears not to have returned until the end of 
the year. It was on this occasion that Chaucer 
nominated as one of his representatives, in case of 
any legal proceedings during his absence (to which 
people in those days were liable), John Gower, 
a circumstance that establishes the fact of the 
intimate friendship between the two poets. We 
know that Chaucer dedicated his Troilus and Cre- 
seide, written in the sixteenth year of the reign 
of Richard II (1392-3), to Gower; and the latter 

poet, in the Confessio Amantis, makes Venus say 
of Chaucer : — 

" And grete well Chaucer, when ye mete. 
As my disciple and my poete ; 
For in the floures of his youthe, 
In sondry wyse, as he wel couthe, 
Of dytees and of songes glade, 
The whiche he for my sake made, 
The lande fulfylled is over alle, 
Whereof to him in specyalle, 
Above all other, I am most holde : 
Forthy nowe in his dayes olde 
Thou shalle him telle this message, 
That he uppon his latter age, 
To sette an ende of al his werke, 
As he whiche is myn owne clerke, 
Do make his Testament of Love, 
As thou hast done thy shrift above, 
So that my courte yt may recorde. 

It has been supposed, on very slight grounds, that 
Chaucer's friendship for Gower met with some 
interruption towards the end of his life* 

Soon after his return from Italy, Chaucer ap- 
pears to have been again employed on foreign 
service, for the records shew that he was absent 
from May to December 1379. In 1382, he re- 
ceived the appointment of comptroller of the petty 
customs of the port of London, in addition to his 

* See page 204 of the present volume, and Sir II. Nico- 
las's Life of Chaucer, p. 39. 


previous office of comptroller of the customs and 
subsidies ; and in February 1385, he obtained the 
still greater favour of being allowed to nominate 
a permanent deputy, by which the poet must have 
been partially released from duties which can never 
have been agreeable to his tastes. 

Several circumstances shew that Chaucer had 
some intimate connexion with the county of Kent, 
where he probably held property ; and he was 
elected a knight of the shire for that county in 
the parliament which met at Westminster on the 
1st of October 1386, and which closed its session 
on the 1st of November following; shortly after 
which (before the 4th of December 1386), Chaucer 
was dismissed from his employments, but for what 
reason we have not the slightest intimation, though 
it was doubtless connected with some of the petty 
intrigues of this intriguing reign. Probably, as 
Sir Harris Nicolas supposes, he had become ob- 
noxious to the duke of Gloucester and the other 
ministers who had succeeded his patron, the duke 
of Lancaster, in the government, and it is well 
known that the proceedings of the parliament just 
alluded to were directed against the duke of Lan- 
caster's party, 

We know nothing further of Chaucer's history 
until the year 1388, except that he continued re- 
gularly to receive his two pensions of twenty 

marks each ; but on the 1 st of May in the latter 
year, the grants of these pensions were, at his re- 
quest, cancelled, and the annuities assigned to 
John Scalby, which has been considered as a proof 
that the poet was at that time in distress, and 
obliged to sell his pensions. Exactly a year after 
this, in May 1389, on the young king's assumption 
of the reins of government, the duke of Lancas- 
ter's party were restored to power, and Chaucer 
again appeared at court. On the 12 th of July, the 
poet was appointed to the valuable office of clerk 
of the king's works at the palace of Westminster, 
the Tower of London, the castle of Berkhemstead, 
and the royal manors of Kennington, Eltham, 
Clarendon, Sheen, By fleet, Childern Langley, and 
Feckenham, at the royal lodge of Hathenbergh in 
the New Forest, at the lodges in the parks of Cla- 
rendon, Childern Langley, and Feckenham, and at 
the mews for the king's falcons at Charing Cross. 
He was expressly permitted to perform his duties 
by deputy, and his salary was fixed at two shillings 
a day. Chaucer held this office, however, only two 
years, having been dismissed from it before the 
16th of September 1391, but the cause of his re- 
moval is unknown. 

During the latter years of Richard's reign, 
Chaucer was evidently suffering from poverty, for 
instead of receiving as formerly his pension in 


half-yearly payments when due, we find him con- 
stantly taking sums in advance ; and, as these were 
not always paid into his own hands, we are led to 
suppose that he was suffering from sickness, as 
well as from want. He was now aged, as well as 
poor and needy; but the accession of Henry IV 
came suddenly to cast a gleam of brightness on his 
declining days. Within four days after he came 
to the throne, Henry granted him, on the 3rd of 
October 1399, a yearly pension of forty marks, in 
addition to the annuity of twenty pounds which had 
been given him bv king Richard. On Christmas 
eve, 1399, the poet obtained the lease of a house 
near Westminster Abbey, where it is probable 
that he closed his days. His name appears in the 
issue rolls, as continuing to receive his pension, 
until the 1st of March 1400, when it was received 
for him by Henry Somere, the clerk of the receipt 
of the exchequer, who is supposed to have been 
a relation of the " frere John Somere," whose 
calendar is mentioned in Chaucer's treatise on the 
Astrolabe. Chaucer is stated, and with probable 
correctness, in an epitaph placed in 1550 near his 
grave in Westminster Abbey by Nicholas Brigham 
(a poet of that time), to have died on the 25th of 
October 1400, at which time, according to the 
supposed date of his birth, he would have reached 
the age of seventy- two. 


The above are all the circumstances of import- 
ance connected with the life of Chaucer that are 
known to be true. Although, in the document 
in which they are found, he is looked upon only 
as an actor in the eventful politics of the day, we 
have other evidence that his poetical talents were 
highly appreciated by his contemporaries, as well 
as in the age which followed his death. By the 
English poets of his time, Gower and Occleve, he is 
spoken of in the warmest terms of praise ; and that 
his reputation was high on the continent, we have 
a remarkable proof in a ballad addressed to him by 
the French poet Eustace Deschamps, which has 
been printed in Sir Harris Nicolas 1 s Life, and in 
my Anecdota Literaria. This latter document 
shews us, also, that Chaucer was on terms of 
friendship at least with the French poets of his 
day. Occleve not only paid a tribute of affection 
to his " maister" in his poetry, but he painted his 
portrait in the margin of the manuscript, and this 
portrait, evidently a good one, was copied at differ- 
ent times and in different forms, and was no doubt 
the original of all the portraits of Chaucer we 
now have. The best copy appears to be that in 
the Harleian MS., No. 4866. 


Chaucer's capital work is doubtless the Canter- 

bury Tales. The idea of thus joining together a 
number of stories by means of a connecting nar- 
rative, or frame, appears to have originated in the 
East ; but long before the time of Chaucer it had 
been made popular in Europe by the Disciplina 
Clericalis of Peter Alfonsi, and its translations, 
and by the still more widely spread romance of the 
Seven Sages. It is probable that the latter, of 
which an edition has been published by the Percy 
Society, gave Chaucer the hint of his plot, rather 
than the Decameron, with which I think it doubt- 
ful if Chaucer were acquainted. But Chaucer's 
plan was far superior to that of any of the similar 
collections which had preceded it, not only for the 
opportunity it afforded for diversity of style in the 
stories, but for the variety of character it admitted 
in the personages to be introduced. The general 
introduction to the Canterbury Tales is one of the 
most perfect compositions in the English language. 
The Canterbury Tales appear to have been the 
compilation of Chaucer's latter years ; for they 
contain allusions to events so late as the year 1386, 
and if (as there appears little room for doubt) 
there are allusions in the Man of Laives Tale to 
the Confessio Amantis of Gower, this part of the 
work must have been written at a still later period, 
as that poem is stated by its author to have been 
written in the sixteenth year of the reign of 

XV 11 

Richard II, i: e. 1392-3. I have used the word 
compilation, because it appears to rne not only 
evident that Chaucer composed the Canterbury 
Tales not continuously, but in different portions 
which were afterwards to be joined together; but 
it is more than probable that he worked up into 
it tales which had originally been written and 
perhaps published as separate poems. Chaucer 
tells us, in the Legend of Good Women, that he had 
thus published the Knightes Tale, — 

" al the love of Palamon and Arcite, 

Of Thebes, though the storie is knowen lite ;" 

as well as the life of St. Cecilia, or the Second 
Nonnes Tale, — 

" And made the life also of Saint Cecile." 

It is quite clear that we possess the Canterbury 
Tales in an unfinished form. Tyrwhitt makes the 
following general observations on this subject : — 

" The general plan of the Canterbury Tales may 
be learned in a great measure from the prologue, 
which Chaucer himself has prefixed to them. He 
supposes there, that a company of pilgrims going 
to Canterbury assemble at an inn in South wark, 
and agree, that, for their common amusement on 
the road, each of them shall tell at least one tale 
in going to Canterbury, and another in coming 
back from thence ; and that he who shall tell the 


best tales, shall be treated by the rest with a sup- 
per upon their return to the same inn. This is 
shortly the fable. The characters of the pilgrims 
are as various as, at that time, could be found in 
the several departments of middle life ; that is, in 
fact, as various as could, with any probability, be 
brought together, so as to form one company ; the 
highest and the lowest ranks of society being ne- 
cessarily excluded. It appears further, that the 
design of Chaucer was not barely to recite the tales 
told by the pilgrims, but also to describe their 
journey, And all the remnant of their pilgrimage 
[ver. 726]; including, probably, their adventures 
at Canterbury as well as upon the road. If we add, 
that the tales, besides being nicely adapted to the 
characters of their respective relators, were in- 
tended to be connected together by suitable intro- 
ductions, and interspersed with diverting episodes ; 
and that the greatest part of them was to have been 
executed in verse ; we shall have a tolerable idea 
of the extent and difficulty of the whole under- 
taking : and admiring, as we must, the vigour of 
that genius, which in an advanced age could begin 
so vast a work, we shall rather lament than be sur- 
prised that it has been left imperfect. In truth, 
if we compare those parts of the Canterbury Tales, 
of which we are in possession, with the sketch 
which has been just given of the intended whole, 


it will be found that more than one half is want- 
ing. The prologue we have, perhaps, nearly 
complete, and the greatest part of the journey to 
Canterbury ; but not a word of the transactions 
at Canterbury, or of the journey homeward, or of 
the epilogue, which, we may suppose, was to have 
concluded the work, with an account of the prize- 
supper and the separation of the company. Even 
in that part which we have of the journey to 
Canterbury, it will be necessary to take notice of 
certain defects and inconsistencies, which can only 
be accounted for upon the supposition, that the 
work was never finished by the author." 

After a careful consideration of this question, 
I am inclined to believe that Chaucer not only left 
his grand poem in an unfinished state, but that he 
left it in detached portions only partially arranged, 
and that it was reduced to its present form after 
his death. This would explain satisfactorily the 
great variations of the manuscripts in the order of 
the tales, and the evident want of the connecting 
prologue in more than one instance. All the manu- 
scripts agree in the order of the tales of the knight, 
miller, reve, and cook, and in placing them im- 
mediately after the general prologue, and it is 
therefore probable that they were left in that state 
by Chaucer. The Cookes Tale was evidently left 
unfinished by the author, and it was probably the 

person who reduced the whole to its present form 
that first introduced the tale of Gamelyn to fill 
up what he supposed a lacuna, but whence he 
obtained this tale it is difficult to conjecture. 
Tyrwhitt is so entirely wrong in saying that 
this tale is not found in any manuscript of the 
first authority, that it occurs in the Harleian 
MS., from which the present text is taken, and 
which I have no hesitation in stating to be the 
best and oldest manuscript of Chaucer I have yet 
met with. The style of Gamelyn would lead us 
to judge that it is not Chaucer's, but we can only 
reconcile this judgment with its being found so 
universally in the manuscripts, by means of the 
supposition of the posthumous arrangement of the 
Canterbury Tales, and its insertion by the arran- 
ger. I have printed the tale of Gamelyn from the 
same Harleian MS. which has been the base of 
my text of the remainder of the poem ; but I have 
distinguished it from the rest by printing it in 
smaller type, both on account of the apparently 
well-founded doubts of its being a genuine work 
of Chaucer, and in order not to interfere with the 
numbering of the lines in Tyrwhitt's edition, 
which I have thought it advisable to preserve. 

After the CooJccs Tale, the order of the tales 
differs very much in different manuscripts, until 
we arrive at the tale of the Maniciple, with which, 


and the Parson s Tale, they all conclude. In the 
present text, I have strictly followed the Harleian 
manuscript, which agrees nearly with the order 
adopted by Tyrwhitt. The Man of Lawes Tale is 
not connected by its prologue with the tale which 
precedes it; and the Wyf of Bathes Tale evidently 
wants a few introductory lines, which Chaucer 
would have added had he lived to complete the 
poem. It is not improbable that in the state in 
which he left it, the Wife of Bath's prologue was 
the beginning of a portion of manuscript which 
contained the tales of the Wife of Bath, the Friar, 
and the Sompnour; and perhaps those of the Clerk, 
the Merchant, and the Squier, formed another por- 
tion. This latter portion appears to have been 
left unfinished, for the Squieres Tale breaks off 
abruptly in the middle, which is the more to be 
regretted, as it is one of Chaucer's best stories, 
and it is a story not found elsewhere. It appears 
by its prologue, that the Frankeleynes Tale was 
intended to follow the Squieres Tale. The Second 
Nonnes Tale, or the life of St. Cecilia, has no 
prologue, and appears to be in the same form in 
which it was originally written for separate pub- 
lication. The prologue to the Chanones Yemannes 
Tale shews that this latter was intended to 
follow the life of St. Cecilia. These two tales arc 
placed, in Tyrwhittfs edition, after the tale of 


the Nun's Priest. Of the tales of the Doctour 
and the Pardoner we can only say that they were 
clearly intended to come together, though they 
are differently placed in manuscripts with res- 
pect to those which precede and follow. The 
tales of the Shipman, the Prioress, Chaucer's two 
tales of Sir Thopas and Melibeus, the Monk's 
tale, and the tale of the Nun's Priest, are all 
connected together by their prologues, and appear 
to have occupied another portion of Chaucer's 
manuscript, which also was apparently defective 
at the end, the prologue which was to have con- 
nected it with the next tale being unfinished. The 
prologue to the tale of the Manciple contains no 
reference to a preceding tale, but from the way in 
which the Cook is introduced in it, it would seem 
to have been composed at a time when Chaucer 
did not intend to introduce the Cook's tale after 
that of the Reve. The Parson's tale is connected 
by its prologue with that of the Manciple, and 
follows it in all the manuscripts. The old printed 
editions after 1542, inserted between these a poem, 
which was evidently misplaced, under the title of 
the Plowman's Tale, but on what authority it was 
placed there we are totally ignorant. The " re- 
tractation," at the end of the Parsones Tale, was 
perhaps introduced by the person who arranged 
the text after Chaucer's death. 


With the tale, or rather discourse, of the Par- 
son, Chaucer brings his pilgrims to Canterbury ; 
but his original plan evidently included the journey 
back to London. Some writer, within a few years 
after Chaucer's death, undertook to continue the 
work, and produced a ludicrous account of the 
proceedings of the pilgrims at Canterbury, and the 
story of Beryn, which was to be the first of the 
stories told on their return. These are printed by 
Urry from a manuscript of which I have not been 
able to trace the subsequent history, and, if it 
should not previously be found, I shall reprint 
them from Urry's edition, correcting the more 
apparent errors, for Urry's faithlessness to his 
manuscript is quite extraordinary. 

The immense popularity of Chaucer's Canter- 
bury Tales is proved by the number of manuscript 
copies still remaining. It was one of the first 
books printed in England, and went through a 
considerable number of editions before the seven- 
teenth century. For the information of those who 
are interested in the biographical portion of a 
subject like this, I give Tyrwhitt's history of the 
printed editions of the Canterbury Tales, omitting 
some of the notes. 

" The art of printing had been invented and ex- 
ercised for a considerable time, in most countries 
of Europe, before the art of criticism was called 

c 2 

in to superintend and direct its operations. It is 
therefore much more to the honour of our meri- 
torious countryman, William Caxton, that he chose 
to make the Canterbury Tales one of the earliest 
productions of his press, than it can be to his 
discredit that he printed them very incorrectly. 
He probably took the first MS. that he could pro- 
cure to print from, and it happened unluckily to 
be one of the worst in all respects that he could 
possibly have met with. The very few copies of 
this edition which are now remaining,* have no 
date, but Mr. Ames supposes it to have been 
printed in 1475 or 6. 

" It is still more to the honour of Caxton, that 
when he was informed of the imperfections of his 
edition, he very readily undertook a second, ' for to 
satisfy the author, 1 (as he says himself,) ' whereas 
tofore by ignorance he had erred in hurting and 
difFaming his book.' His whole account of this 
matter, in the preface to this second edition, is so 
clear and ingenuous, that I shall insert it below 

* " The late Mr. West was so obliging as to lend me a 
complete copy of this edition, which is now, as I have heard, 
in the King's Library. There is another complete copy in 
the library of Merton College, which is illuminated, and has 
a ruled line under every printed one, to give it the appear- 
ance, I suppose, of a MS. Neither of these books, though 
seemingly complete, has any preface or advertisement." 


in his own words.* This edition is also without 
date, except that the preface informs us, that it 
was printed six years after the first. 

* " Preface to Caxton's second edition from a copy in the 
Library of St. John's College Oxford. Ames, p. 55. — Whiche 
book I have dylygently oversen, and duly examyned to the 
ende that it be made accordyng unto his owen makyng ; for 
I fynde many of the sayd bookes, whiche wryters have 
abrydgyd it, and many thynges left out, and in some places 
have sette certayn versys that he never made ne sette in hys 
booke ; of whyche bookes so incorrecte was one broughte to 
me vi. yere passyd, whiche I supposed had ben veray true 
and correcte, and accordyng to the same I dyde do emprynte 
a certayn nomber of them, whyche anon were solde to many 
and dy verse gentylmen, of whom one gentylman cam to me, 
and sayd that this book was not according in many places 
unto the book that Gefferey Chaucer had made. To whom 
I answered, that I had made it accordyng to my copye, and 
by me was nothyng added ne mynusshyd. Thenne he sayd, 
he knewe a book whyche hys fader had much lovyd, that 
was very trewe, and accordyng unto his owen first book by 
hym made ; and sayd more, yf I wold emprynte it agayn, 
he wold gete me the same book for a copye How be it he 
wyst well that hys fader wold not gladly departc fro it. To 
whom I said, in caas that he coude gete me suche a booke, 
trewe and correcte, yet I wold ones endevoyrc me to em- 
prynte it agayn, for to satisfy the auctour, where as tofore 
by ygnoraunce I erryd in hurtyng and dyftamyng his book 
in dyverce places, in setting in somme thynges that he never 
sayd ne made, and leving out many thynges that he made, 
whyche ben recpiysite to be sette in it. And thus we fyll 
at accord, and he full gentylly gate of hys fader the said 
book, and delyvered it to me, by whiche I have corrected 
my book, as heere after alle alonge by the ayde of almighty 
God shal folowe, whom I humbly bescehe, (fcc. 

"Mr. Lewis, in his Life of Caxton, p. 104, has published 


" Ames mentions an edition of Chaucer's Can- 
terbury Tales, ' Collected by William Caxton, and 
printed by Wynken de Worde at Westmestre, in 
1495. Folio.' He does not appear to have seen it 
himself, nor have I ever met with any other au- 
thority for its existence ; which however I do not 
mean to dispute. If there was such an edition, 
we may be tolerably sure, that it was only a copy 
of Caxton's. 

" This was certainly the case of both Pynson's 
editions. He has prefixed to both the introductory 
part of Caxton's Prohemye to his second edition, 
without the least alteration. In what follows, he 
says that he purposes to imprint his book [in the 
first edition] by a copy of the said Master Caxton 
and [in the second] by a copy of William Caxtorfs 
imprinting* That the copy, mentioned in both 
these passages, by which Pynson purposed to im- 
print, was really Caxton's second edition, is evident 

a minute account of the contents of this edition from a copy 
in the Library of Magdalen College, Cambridge, but with- 
out deciding whether it is the first or the second edition. 

" It is undoubtedly the second ; but the preface is lost. 
There is an imperfect copy of this edition in the Museum, 
and another in the library of the Royal Society. Both to- 
gether would not make a complete one. 

* " See the Prohemies to Pynson's first and second editions 
in the preface to Urry's Chaucer. There is a complete copy 
of Pyuson's first edition in the library of the Royal Society. 


from the slightest comparison of the three books, 
Pynson's first edition has no date, but is supposed 
(upon good grounds, I think) to have been printed 
not long after 1491, the year of Caxtons death. 
His second edition* is dated in 152G, and was the 
first in which a collection of some other pieces of 
Chaucer was added to the Canterbury Tales. 

" The next edition, which I have been able to 
meet with, was printed by Thomas Godfray in 
1532. If this be not the very edition which Leland 
speaks of as printed by Berthelette, with the as- 
sistance of Mr. William Thynne, (as I rather sus- 
pect it is,) we may be assured that it was copied 
from that. Mr. Thynne's dedication to Henry 
VIII stands at the head of it ; and the great num- 
ber of Chaucer's works, never before published, 

* " I venture to call this Pynson's second edition, though 
Ames (from some notes of Bagford) speaks of editions in 
1520 and 1522. lie docs not appear to have seen them 
himself. Mr. West had a copy of the edition of 1526, in 
which the name of the printer and the date of the impres- 
sion are regularly set down at the end of the Canterbury 
Tales. After that follow ' Troilus and Creseide' and 'the 
Boke of Fame,'' at the end of which last is a note, copied 
from Caxton's edition of the same book, with this addition, 
And here foloweth another of his ivorkes. But in Mr. West's 
copy nothing followed. The writer of the preface to Ed. 
Urr. seems to have had the use of a copy of this edition in 
1526, which contained some other pieces of Chaucer's, and 
several by other hands. See the preface to Ed. Urr. 


which appear in it, fully entitles it to the com- 
mendations, which have always been given to Mr. 
Thynne's edition on that account. Accordingly, 
it was several times reprinted as the standard 
edition of Chaucer's works, without any material 
alteration, except the insertion of the Plowman's 
tale in 1542. 

"As my business here is solely with the Canter- 
bury Tales, I shall take no notice of the several 
miscellaneous pieces, by Chaucer and others, which 
were added to them by Mr. Thynne in his edition, 
and afterwards by Stowe and Speght in the edi- 
tions of 1561, 1597, and 1602. With respect to 
the Canterbury Tales, I am under a necessity of 
observing, that, upon the whole, they received no 
advantage from the edition of 1532. Its material 
variations from Caxton's second edition are all, I 
think, for the worse. It confounds the order of the 
Squier's and the Frankelein's tales, which Caxton, 
in his second edition, had set right. It gives the 
FranJceleiii's prologue to the Merchant, in addition 
to his own proper prologue. It produces for the 
first time two prologues, the one to the Doctours, 
and the other to the Shiftman's tale, which are both 
evidently spurious ; and it brings back the lines of 
ribaldry in the Merchant's tale, which Caxton, in 
his second edition, had rejected upon the authority 
of his jrood MS. 


" However, this edition of 1532, with all its 
imperfections, had the luck, as I have said, to be 
considered as the standard edition, and to be copied, 
not only by the booksellers, in their several edi- 
tions* of 1542, 1546, 1555, and 1561, but also by 
Mr. Speght, (the first editor in form, after Mr. 
Thynne, who set his name to his work,) in 1597 
and 1602. In the dedication to Sir Robert Cecil, 
prefixed to this last edition, he speaks indeed of 
having ' reformed the whole work, both by old 
written copies and by Ma. William Thynnes praise- 
worthy labours,' but I cannot find that he has de- 
parted in any material point from those editions, 
which I have supposed to be derived from Mr. 
Thynne's. In the very material points above- 
mentioned, in which those editions vary from Cax- 
ton's second, he has followed them. Nor have I 
observed any such verbal varieties, as would in- 
duce one to believe that he had consulted any good 
MS. They who have read his preface, will pro- 

* " There are some other editions mentioned by Ames, 
without date, but it is probable that, upon inspection, they 
would appear to be one or other of the editions, whose dates 
are here given. It seems to have been usual to print books 
in partnership, and for each partner to print his own name 
to his share of the impression. See Ames, p. 252. A Bible 
is said to be printed in 1551, by Nicholas Hill — ' at the cost 
and charges of certaync honest menne of the occupacyon, 
whose names be upon their bokes.' " 


bably not regret, that he did not do more towards 
correcting the text of Chaucer. 

" In this state the Canterbury Tales remained* 
till the edition undertaken by Mr. Urry, which was 
published, some years after his death, in 1721. I 
shall say but little of that edition, as a very fair and 
full account of it is to be seen in the modest and 
sensible preface prefixed to it by Mr. Timothy 
Thomas, upon whom the charge of publishing 
Chaucer devolved, or rather was imposed, after 
Mr. Urry's death. The strange license, in which 
Mr. Urry appears to have indulged himself, of 
lengthening and shortening Chaucer's words ac- 
cording to his own fancy, and of even adding 

* " It may be proper just to take notice, that Mr. 
Speght's edition was reprinted in 1687, with an advertise- 
ment at the end, in which the editor pretended to publish 
from a MS. the conclusion of the Coke's Tale, and also of the 
Squires Tale, which in the printed books are said to be lost or 
never finished by the author. These conclusions may be seen 
in the Preface to Ed. Urr. Whoever the editor was, I must 
do him the justice to say, that they are both really to be 
found in MS. The first is to be found in MS. B«. and the 
other in MS. B. 6. from which Hearne has also printed it, 
as a choice discovery, in his letter to Bagford. App. to 
R. G. p. 601. If I thought the reader had any relish for 
such supplements to Chaucer, I could treat him from MS. 
B. a. with at least thirty more lines, which have been in- 
serted in different parts of the Cook's Tale, by the same 
hand that wrote this Conclusion. 


words of his own, without giving his readers the 
least notice, has made the text of Chaucer in his 
edition by far the worst that was ever published." 


During the latter half of the twelfth century 
and the earlier part of the thirteenth, the language 
spoken by our Saxon forefathers was rapidly break- 
ing up, and losing its original grammatical inflec- 
tions, and much of its characteristic phraseology. 
Books or songs written in English during this 
period were intended for the edification of the 
lower classes, or for the bourgeoisie, which still re- 
tained its Saxon habits. Great changes in language 
are generally coeval with political movements 
and convulsions, and the character of our language 
was completely changed by the baronial wars of 
the thirteenth century, which brought into pro- 
minence the Anglo-Saxon portion of the popula- 
tion, and made its language fashionable in high 
society. The consequence was, that it went 
through further changes in form, and became 
largely mixed with words having a French (or 
Anglo-Norman) origin. About the end of the 
reign of Edward T, the English language took a 
definite shape, which continued during the four- 
teenth century with very little alteration in its 
grammatical forms, and the only alterations in other 


respects arising from words becoming obsolete, 
and from the facility with which French or Anglo- 
Norman words were adopted or received at the will 
of the author, and according to the class of society 
in which he moved and for which he wrote. This 
arose from the circumstance that English and the 
form of French spoken here were co-existent in 
our island as the languages of common life. This 
form of the English language was that of the 
author of Piers Ploughman, and of Geoffrey Chau- 
cer, the former representing the popular feelings 
and containing fewest French words, while Chau- 
cer, as the poet of the higher society, uses French 
words in much greater abundance. In our lan- 
guage of the present day, we have lost as much 
of the English of Piers Ploughman, as we have 
of the French of the Canterbury Tales. 

The general character, and the grammatical 
constructions, of the English of the fourteenth 
century, were preserved during the opening years 
of the fifteenth, but they soon began to break up 
more rapidly even than in the thirteenth century, 
until, at the time of the Reformation, our language 
took nearly its modern form, the orthography ex- 

The language in which any man wrote could 
only be preserved correctly in manuscripts written 
in his own time, or very near it ; for we find by 

experience that copyists invariably altered what 
they copied to the form of the language at the 
time in which they wrote, and, which is still more 
embarrassing, to the local dialect of the county in 
which they lived. It is evident, therefore, that 
the plan of forming the text of any work of the 
periods of which we are speaking, from a number 
of different manuscripts, written at different times 
and different places, is the most absurd plan which 
it is possible to conceive. Yet this was the method 
professedly followed by Tyrwhitt, in forming a 
text of the Canterbury Tales of Chaucer. He even 
did worse: for he seems to have taken for his 
foundation merely one of the old editions, printed 
at a time when all the grammatical forms were 
lost, changing words or lines for others which 
pleased him better, from any manuscript which 
happened to contain them. It is true that he has 
given a list of manuscripts, in which he points out 
those which he considers the best, and which he 
followed in preference to others ; but Tyrwhitt was 
so entirely unacquainted with the pakeographical 
and philological knowledge necessary for the ap- 
preciation of them, that he places among his manu- 
scripts of " highest authority," copies on paper 
of the latter part of the fifteenth century, while 
excellent manuscripts of an earlier date are looked 
upon with indifference. The more caution is 


necessary in this respect with the text of Chaucer, 
because the greater number of the manuscripts 
are of the latter part or middle of the fifteenth 
century, when the language was very much changed 
from that of Chaucer's time. 

Tyrwhitt's entire ignorance of the grammar of 
the lan£ua":e of Chaucer is exhibited in almost 
every line, few of which could possibly have been 
written by the poet as he has printed them. It 
need only be stated, as an instance of this, that in 
the preterites of what the modern Teutonic philo- 
logists term the strong verbs (which our common 
grammarians distinguish by the unfortunate title 
of irregular verbs), Tyrwhitt has invariably placed 
a verb in the plural with a noun in the singular. 
This is explained by the circumstance that, in our 
modern form of the language, the ancient plural of 
the preterite has been adopted for singular as well 
as plural. Examples of this (in the verbs to bear, 
of which the correct forms were, sing, bar, pi. bare; 
to come, s. cam, pi. come ; to swear, s. swor, pi. swore ; 
to give, s. gaf, pi. gave ; to speak, s. spak, pi. spake; 
to rise, s. ros, roos, pi. rose ; to toJce, s. took, pi. toke ; 
&c.) occur almost in every sentence. In the verb 
to sit, of which the pret. s. and pi. was sette, Tyr- 
whitt has substituted set, a form which did not 
exist; and in the same manner, in the verb to creep, 
he has given pret. s. crept, when the forms were 


s. creep, crope, pi. crope. In the same manner, 
Tyrwhitt has in most instances substituted the 
plural of adjectives for the singular, and the in- 
flected cases of nouns for the nominative, besides 
an infinity of errors in the orthographical forms 
of the language. 

Under these circumstances it is clear that, to 
form a satisfactory text of Chaucer, we must give 
up the printed editions, and fall back upon the 
manuscripts ; and that, instead of bundling them 
all together, we must pick out one best manuscript 
which at the same time is one of those nearest to 
Chaucer's time. The latter circumstance is abso- 
lutely necessary, if we would reproduce the lan- 
guage and versification of the author. At the 
same time, it cannot but be acknowledged, that 
the earliest manuscript might possibly be very 
incorrect and incomplete, from the ignorance or 
negligence of the scribe who copied it. This, 
however, is fortunately not the case with regard 
to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. 

The Harleian manuscript, No. 7334, is by far 
the best manuscript of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales 
that I have yet examined, in regard both to an- 
tiquity and correctness. The hand-writing is one 
which would at first sight be taken by an expe- 
rienced scholar for that of the latter part of the 
fourteenth century, and it must have been written 

within a few years after 1400, and therefore soon 
after Chaucer's death and the publication of the 
Canterbury Tales. Its language has very little, if 
any, appearance of local dialect ; and the text is 
in general extremely good, the variations from 
Tyrwhitt being usually for the better. Tyrwhitt 
appears not to have made much use of this manu- 
script, and he has not even classed it among those 
to which most credit is due. 

This manuscript I have adopted as the text of 
the present edition ; the alterations I have ven- 
tured to make in it being comparatively few, and 
only such as appeared absolutely necessary. It 
is hardly necessary to inform those who are in 
the habit of consulting medieval manuscripts, in 
whatever language they may be written, that 
none of them are clerically accurate. Some of 
them are literally filled with errors, which it re- 
quires very little knowledge to perceive and 
correct. Many errors of this kind are found in 
the Harleian manuscript of the Canterbury Tales 
of which I am speaking, and I have not felt the 
least hesitation in correcting them by comparison 
with another manuscript. As an example of the 
kind of error to which I allude, it may be stated 
that 11. 3779, 3780, stand thus in the MS. :— 

Of storial thing that toucheth gentilesse, 
And eek more ryalte, and holynesse. 


I have, without hesitation, followed another MS. 
in correcting the two words in italics to moralite ; 
and in cases like this I have not thought it neces- 
sary to load the book with notes pointing out the 
alterations. In other instances, where a reading 
in the Harl. MS., although affording a tolerable 
meaning, has appeared to me a decided bad one, 
I have changed it for a better, always (when there 
is room for the least doubt) giving the original 
reading of the manuscript in a foot-note. For 
this purpose, I have collated the text throughout 
with the Lansdowne MS., No. 851, which appears 
to be, of those in the British Museum, next in 
antiquity and value to the MS. Harl. ; and I have 
also collated it, as far as the Wyf of Bathes Tale, 
with two manuscripts in the public library of the 
University of Cambridge, bearing the shelf-marks 
Mm. 2. 5. (which I have quoted as C. 1), and 
Ii. 3, 26 (C. 2), but I found so little real use from 
these latter manuscripts, that I thought it unne- 
cessary to collate them further. In general, I have 
reaped little advantage from collating a number of 

Tyrwhitfs want of philological knowledge has 
rendered his text unharmonious as well as un- 
grammatical. The final e, most distinctly pro- 
nounced, and which was most necessary to the 
metrical completeness of the line, was the one 



which marked grammatical inflections and ad- 
verbial forms, and this he has constantly dropped, 
and he has therefore printed an imperfect line, or 
given it supposed perfection by adding a word or 
placing a final e to a word which ought not to have it. 
I may observe, that it was a constant rule to elide 
the final e in pronunciation, when it preceded a 
word beginning with a vowel or with the letter h, 
and that this was the source of frequent errors of 
the scribes, who, pronouncing the lines as they 
copied them, omitted sometimes to write the letter 
which they did not pronounce, and thus made a 
grammatical error, which, however, every reader 
at the time could see and correct. Instances of 
this kind of error are not of unfrequent occurrence 
in the Harl. MS. of the Canterbury Tales, but I have 
resisted the temptation to correct them, because it 
appeared to me dangerous, in our present know- 
ledge of medieval English, to presume too far on 
our acquaintance with every nicety of the gram- 
mar of the fourteenth century. In many cases, 
however, these are certainly errors. Thus in 
1. 5911 :— 

" Have thou ynough, what thar the recch or care." 

We ought to read recche, which is the infinitive of 
the verb. For the same reason, in 1. 6128, — 

" And for to walk in March, Averil, and May," 

we should read walke. In both these instances 


the final e has been lost before a word begin- 
ning with a vowel. The older termination of 
the infinitive was in en, but the n was subse- 
quently dropped, and during the fourteenth cen- 
tury, and earlier part of the fifteenth, the two 
terminations of the infinitive in en and e were used 
indiscriminately, at the will or caprice of the writer. 
In poetry, before a word beginning with a con- 
sonant, it was immaterial which form was used, 
but before a word beginning with a vowel, or with 
k, the 11 might be dropt or retained accordingly as 
the final syllable of the word was required or not 
for the metre. In these cases the scribe has not 
unfrequently omitted the n when it ought to have 
been retained; but probably the thing was so well 
understood, that it mattered little how it was 
written, the reader using the n or not as the verse 
required it, whether he saw it in the manuscript 
or not. 

With the exception of the cases above-men- 
tioned, I have reproduced the text of the Harleian 
MS. with literal accuracy. My object has been 
to give Chaucer, as far as can be done, in his 
own language, which certainly has not yet been 
done in print. I doubt much if the different 
attempts at half or wholly modernizing his lan- 
guage, which have been made in latter years, 
will ever render him popular ; and his poetry is 


entirely lost in translations. Surely, when we 
remember the oft-repeated saying, that the trouble 
of learning Spanish is well repaid by the simple 
pleasure of reading Don Quixote in the original, we 
may well be allowed to wonder that any English- 
man of taste should refuse the comparatively 
trifling labour of making himself acquainted with 
his own language of little more than four centuries 
ago, for the satisfaction of reading and under- 
standing the poetry of his glorious countryman 
Geoffrey Chaucer. Changing and mutilating is 
not, in my opinion, the right way to make anything 
popular ; and in the present work my object is not 
the mere production of a correct (or, at least, as 
correct as under all the circumstances can be ex- 
pected) edition of the father of our poetry ; I 
would try the experiment of making his writings 
popular by the very fact of their being correctly 
printed, and by the addition of popular (and not 
scholastic) notes — notes the aim of which is to ex- 
plain and illustrate, in a simple and unpretending 
manner, allusions and expressions which may not 
be generally known to those who are not in the 
habit of studying the documents and the antiqui- 
ties of Chaucer's age. For this purpose, I avail 
myself of everything within my reach. Although 
I have felt it necessary to speak unreservedly of 
the defects of Tyrwhitt's text, — for which we must 


of course make some allowance in consideration of 
the low state of philological science, as far as it 
regarded the middle ages, in his time, — yet it must 
be allowed to his credit that he entered upon his 
labours in editing Chaucer with zeal, and executed 
them with no small share of labour and research. 
His notes on the Canterbury Tales contain much 
that is useful and valuable, and this I have un- 
scrupulously transferred to my own edition, either 
in his own words or in an abridged form. 

Tyrvvhitt's Chaucer, with all its defects, has now 
for many years been the only edition commonly 
quoted both at home and abroad, and to the num- 
bering of the lines in that edition references have 
been made in so many publications of differ- 
ent descriptions, that to change this numbering 
in a new edition would cause almost as much 
confusion as the substitution of duodecimal for 
decimal numeration among mathematicians; yet 
there are not only spurious lines and passages in 
Tyrwhitt's edition to be rejected, but there are 
passages here and there to be added from the Har- 
leian MS., which he, following other manuscripts 
or the printed editions, had omitted, and which 
nevertheless I believe to be perfectly genuine. To 
obviate as much as possible the inconvenience which 
might thus arise, I have retained between [ ] the 
lines printed by Tyrwhitt which are not in the 


Harleian MS., and I have inserted without num- 
bering them the lines of the Harleian MS. which 
are not found in Tyrwhitt, adding in every in- 
stance a note to explain the apparent irregularity. 
In this manner, the , references to Tyrwhitfs 
Chaucer will suit equally with the present edition. 



/ !u^ ,(l 

The Canterbury FiUrims, from an illuminate i 

Whan that Aprille with his schowres swoote 
The drought of Marche hath perced to the roote, 
And bathud every veyne in swich licour, 
Of which vertue engendred is the flour; — 
Whan Zephirus eek with liis swete breeth 



Enspirud hath in every holte and heeth c 

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne ^y 

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours i-ronne, 

And smale fowles maken melodie, 

That slepen al the night with open yhe, 

So priketh hem nature in here corages : — 

Thanne longen folk to gon on pilgrimages, 

And palmers for to seeken straunge strondes, 

To feme halwes, kouthe in sondry londes ; 14 

And specially, from every schires ende 

Of Engelond, to Canturbury they wende, 

The holy hlisful martir for to seeke, 

That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke. 

Byfel that, in that sesoun on a day, 
In Southwerk at the Tahbard as I lay, 
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage 
To Canturbury with ful devout corage, 
At night was come into that hostelrie 
Wei nyne and twenty in a companye, 
Of sondry folk, by aventure i-falle 
In felaschipe, and pilgryms were thei alle, 
That toward Canturbury wolden ryde. 
The chambres and the stables weren wyde, 
And wcl we weren esud atte beste. 29 

S. — the Ram. Tyrwhitt thinks Chaucer has made a mistake, ami that 
it ought to he the Bull, because, the showers of April having pierced the 
drouth of March to the root, the sun must have passed through the sign 
of the Ram and entered that of the Bull. 

]'t. — feme. Nearly all the MSS. I have examined, and certainly the 
best, agree in this reading. Tyrwhitt has adopted the reading serv<:, 
which probably originated in mistaking "feme" for "feme," — ferne 
Italwes means distant saints. 


And schortly, whan the sonne was to reste, 3° 

So hadde I spoken with hem everychon, 

That I was of here felawschipe anon, 

And made forward erly to aryse, 

To take oure weye ther as I yow devyse. 

But natheles, whiles I have tyrne and space 

Or that I ferthere in this tale pace, 

Me thinketh it acordant to resoun, 

To telle yow alle the condicioun 38 

Of echo of hem, so as it semed me, 

And which they weren, and of what degre ; 

And eek in what array that they were inne : 

And at a knight than w r ol I first hygynne. 

A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man 
That from the tyme that he ferst bigan 
To ryden out, he lovede chyvalrye, 
Trouthe and honour, fredom and eurtesie 46 

Ful worthi was he in his lordes werre, 
And therto hadde he riden, noman ferre, 
As wel in Cristendom as in hethenesse, 
And evere honoured for his worthinesse. 
At Alisandrc he was whan it was wonne. 
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bygonne 52 

43. — A knight. It was a common thing, in this age, for knights to 
sock employment in foreign countries which were at war. Tyrwhitt cites 
from Lelaml the epitaph of a knight of (his period, Matthew de Gour- 
nay, who "en sa vie fu a la bataille de Benamarin, et ala apr&s d la siege 
d'Algezire sur les Sarazine$,et outsit) lex halaillex de L' Ese\uxi\de ( 'rexxi/, 
de Deyngenesse, de Pey teres, de Nazare, cCOzrey, d a puhows autres 
baiailles et asseges." 

51. — Alisaudie. Alexandria, iii Egypt, was taken l>v Pierre de Lu- 
signau, king of Cyprus, in 136;), hut immediately afterwards abandoned. 



Aboven alle naciouns in Pruce. 53 

In Lettowe hadcle reyced and in Ruce, 

No cristen man so ofte of his degre. 

In Gemade atte siege hadde he be 

Of Algesir, and riden in Belinarie. 

At Lieys was he. and at Satalie, 

Whan they were wonne ; and in the Greete see 

At many a noble arive hadde he be. 

At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene, 61 

And foughten for oure feith at Tramassene 

In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo. 

This ilke worthi knight hadde ben also 

Somtyme with the lord of Palatye, 

Ageyn another hethene in Turkye : 

And everemore he hadde a sovereyn prys. 

And though that he was worthy he was wys, • 68 

And of his port as meke as is a mayde. 

He never yit no vilonye ne sayde 

In al his lyf, unto no maner wight. 

He was a verray perfight gentil knight. 

But for to telle you of his aray : 

His hors was good, but he ne was nought gay. 74 

53. — Pruce. The knights of the Teutonic order, in Prussia, were 
engaged in continual warfare with their pagan neighbours in Lithuania 
(Lettowe), Russia, &c. 

56. — Gemade. The city of Algezir was taken from the Moorish king 
of Granada, in 1311. Belinarie appears to have been one of the Moorish 
states in Africa. Layas {Lieys) in Armenia, was taken from the Turks 
by Pierre de Lusignan, about 13G7. Satalie was taken by the same prince 
soon alter 1352. Tremessen was one of the Moorish states in Africa. 
Palathia, in Anatolia, was one of the lordships held by Christian knights 
after the Turkish conquests. 


Of fustyan he wered a gepoun 75 

Al bysmoterud with his haburgeoun, 
For he was late conien from his viage, 
And wente for to doon his pilgrimage. 

With him ther was his soue, a yong Squyer, 
A lovyer, and a lusty bacheler, 
With lokkes crulle as they were layde in presse. 
Of twenty yeer he was of age I gesse. 
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe, 83 

And wondurly delyver, and gret of strengthe. 
And he hadde ben somtyme in chivachie, 
In Flaundres, in Artoys, and in Picardie, 
And burn him wel, as in so litel space, 
In hope to stonden in his lady grace. 
Embrowdid was he, as it were a mede 
Al ful of fresshe floures, white and reede. 
Syngynge he was, or flowtynge, al the day, 9 1 

He was as fressh as is the moneth of May. 
Schort was his goune, with sleeves long and wyde. 
Wel cowde he sitte on hors, and faire ryde. 
He cowde songes wel make and endite, 
Justne and eek daunce, and wel purtray and write. 
So bote he lovcde, that by nightertale 
He sleep nomore than doth a nightyngale. 
Curteys he was, lowly, and servysable, 99 

85 — chivachie. Every reader of the contemporary histories of Edward 
the Third's wars in France, knows the pride which the knights took in 
shewing their courage in the continual chcvachies, or little excursions, into 
the enemy's country. 

94. — faire. I have substituted this reading from other MSS.,in place 
of wel coivde fee, given by the Harl. MS., which appears to be u mere 
blundering repetition. 


And carf byforn his fadur at the table. 100 

A Yeman had he, and servantes nomoo 

At that tyme, for him lust ryde soo ; 

And he was clad in coote and hood of grenc. 

A shef of pocok arwes bright and kene 

Under his belte he bar full thriftily. 

Wei cowde he dresse his takel yomanly : 

His arwes drowpud nought with fetheres lowe. 

And in his bond he bar a mighty bowe. 108 

A not-heed hadde he, with a broun visage. 

Of woode-craft cowde he wel al the usage. 

Upon his arme he bar a gay bracer, 

And by his side a swerd and a bokeler, 

And on that other side a gay daggere, 

Harneysed wel, and scharp as poynt of spere : 

A Cristofre on his brest of silver schene. 

An horn he bar, the bawdrik was of grene; H6 

A forster was he sothely, as I gesse. 
Ther was also a Nonne, a Pkioeesse, 

That of hire smylyng was ful syniple and coy ; 

Hire grettest ooth nas but by seynt Loy ; 

And sche was clept madame Englentyne. 

104. — pocok arwes. Arrows fledged with peacock's feathers. They 
appear to have been larger than tin' common arrows. In a compotus 
of the Bishop of Winchester, in 1171 (cited by Warton, Hist. E. P. ii. 
p. 211), wo have one head: — "Sagittce magna. Et de c.vliv. sagiltis 
magnis barbatis cum permit pavonum." 

11-5. — A Cristofre. A figure of St. Christopher used as a brooch. 
On the use of these brooches, or signs, see an interesting paper, by Mr. 
C. Roach Smith, in the Journal of the British Archaeological Associa- 
tion, vol. i. p. 200. The figure of St. Christopher was looked upon with 
particular reverence among the middle and lower classes; and was sup 
posed to possess the power of shielding the person who looked on it from 
hidden dangers. 


Ful wel sche sang the servise devyne, 122 

Entuned in hire nose ful senryly ; 

And Frensch sche spak ful faire and fetysly, 

Aftur the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, 

For Frensch of Parys was to hire unknowe. 

At rnete wel i-taught was sche withalle ; 

Sche leet no morsel from hire lippes falle, 

Ne wette hire fyngres in hire sauce deepe. 

Wel cowde sche carie a morsel, and wel keepe, 130 

That no drope fil uppon hire brest. 

In curtesie was sett al hire lest. 

Hire overlippe wypud sche so clene, 

That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene 

Of grees, whan sche dronken hadde hire draught, 

Ful semely aftur hire mete sche raught. 

And sikurly sche was of gret disport, 

And ful plesant, and amyable of port, 138 

And peyned hire to counterfete cheere 

Of court, and ben estatlich of manere, 

And to ben holden digne of reverence. 

But for to speken of hire conscience, 

Sche was so charitable and so pitous, 

120. — Hi. hoy. Probably a corruption of St. Eloy, or St. Eligius. It 
is the reading of all the MSS., and Tyrwhitt ought not to have changed 
it. The same oath occurs in the Freres Tale, 1. 7143. 

124. — Frensch. The French taught in England was the debased 
form of the old Anglo-Norman, somewhat similar to that used at a 
later period in the courts of law; and it was this at which Chaucer, 
and some of his contemporaries, sneered. The writer of the Visions of 
Piers Ploughman speaks of French of Norfolk, 1. 291!) 

127. — At mete. These remarks agree, almost literally, with the direc- 
tions e<iiit. lined in the different medieval tracts written fOr the purpose of 
teaching manners at table. 



Sche wolde weepe if that sche sawe a inous H-t 

Caught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde. 

Of smale houndes hadde sche, that sche fedde 

With rostud ileissh aud mylk and wastel breed. 

But sore wepte sche if oon of hem were deed, 

Or if men smot it with a yerde smerte : 

And al was conscience and tendre herte. 

Ful semely hire wymple i-pynched was ; 

Hire nose streight ; hire eyen grey as glas ; 1 52 

Hire mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed ; 

But sikurly sche hadde a fail forheed. 

It was almost a spanne brood, I trowe ; 

For hardily sche was not undurgrowe. 

Ful fetys was hire cloke, as I was waar. 

Of smal coral aboute hire arme sche baar 

A peire of bedes gaudid al with grene ; 

And theron heng a broch of gold ful schene, 160 

149 — men smot. The word men, used in this phrase, appears here 
construed with a singular verb, as though it had been man (on frappa). 
So again below, 1. 169, men might. So in a poem in my Political Songs, 
p. 330, " Where sited men nu finde." 

152. — eyen grey. This appears to have been the favourite colour of 
ladies' eyes in the time of Chaucer. The young girl, in the Reves 
Tale, is described — 

" With camoys nose, and eyghen gray as glas." 

160.— a broch. In 1S15 a 
brooch, of the form of an A, 
represented in the accompany- 
ing cut, was found in a field in 
Dorsetshire. It appears to be of 
the fourteenth century, and af- 
fords a curious illustration of 
this passage of Chaucer. The 
inscription on one side seems to be, — 



On which was first i-writen a crowned A, 161 

And after that, Amor viuclt omnia. 
Anothur Nonne also with hire hadde sche, 
That was hire ehapelleyn, and Prestes thre. 
A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie, 
An out-rydere, that loved venerye ; 
A manly man, to ben an abbot able. 
Ful many a deynte hors hadde he in stable : 
And whan he rood, men might his bridel heere 169 
Gyngle in a whistlyng wynd so cleere, 
And eek as lowde as doth the chapel belle, 
Ther as the lord was keper of the selle. 
The reule of seynt Maine or of seint Beneyt, 
Bycause that it was old and somdel streyt, 
This ilke monk leet olde thinges pace, 175 

166. — loved venerye. The monks of the middle ages were extremely 
attached to hunting and field-sports, and this was a frequent subject of 
complaint with the more austere ecclesiastics, and of satire with the laity. 
170. — gyngle. It was a universal practice among riders who wished 
to be thought fashionable, to have their horses' bridles hung with bells. 
The Templars were blamed for this vanity, in the thirteenth century. In 
the romance of Richard Caeur de Lion, the sultan of Damas has a trusty 
mare, of which we are told, — 

" Hys crouper heeng al ful of belles, 
And his peytrel, and his arsoun, 
Three myle myghte men bear the sown." 
Wycliffe, in his Triloge, inveighs against the priests of his time for 
their " fair hors, and joly and gay sadeles, and bridles ringing by the 
way." At a much later period, Spencer describes a lady's steed,— 
" Her wanton palfrey all was overspread 
With tinsel trappings, woven like a wave, 
Whose bridle rung with golden bells and bosses brave." 
173. — The reule. The rules of St. Maure and St. Benet were the 
oldest forms of monastic discipline in the Romish church. 

175. — oldc thinges. This is the reading of most of the MSS., and I 
have adopted it instead of that of the MS. Harl., forby hem, which appears 
to give no clear sense. 


And hekle aftur the newe world the space. 176 

He gaf nat of that text a pulled hen, 

That seith, that hunters heen noon holy men ; 

Ne that a monk, whan he is cloysterles, 

Is likned to a fissche that is watirles ; 

This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre. 

But thilke text hild he not worth an oystre. 

And I seide his opinioun was good. 

What schulde he studie, and make himselven wood, 

nppon a book in cloystre alway to powre, 185 

Or swynke with his handes, and laboure, 

As Austyn byt ? How schal the world be served ? 

Lat Austyn have his swynk to him reserved. 

Therfore he was a pricasour aright : 

Greyhoundes he hadde as swifte as fowel in flight : 

Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare 

Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare. 192 

I saugh his sieves purfiled atte hond 

With grys, and that the fynest of a lond. 

And for to festne his hood undur his chyn 

He hadde of gold y- wrought a curious pyn : 

A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was. 

His heed was ballid, and schon as eny glas, 

And eek his face, as he hadde be anoynt. 

He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt. 200 

179. — cloysterles. This is also the reading of a Cambridge MS. The 
passage is a literal translation of one from the Decretal of Gratian, as 
cited by Tyrwhitt, — " Sicut piscis sine aqua caret vita, ita sine monasterio 
monachus." The other readings, rekkeles, recheles, &c, found in most of 
the MSS., present considerable difficulties ; and Tyrwhitt's explanation 
seenu hardly admissible. 


His eycn steep, and rollyng in his heed, 201 

That stemed as a forneys of a leed. 

His bootcs souple, his hors in gret estat, 

Now certeinly he was a fair prelat. 

He was not pale as a for-pyned goost. 

A fat swan loved he best of eny roost. 

His palfray was as broun as eny berye. 

A Fkere ther was, a wantoun and a merye, 
A lymytour, a ful solempne man. 209 

In alle the ordres foure is noon that can 
So moche of daliaunee and fair langage. 
He hadde i-made many a fair manage 
Of yonge wymmen, at his owne cost. 
Unto his ordre he was a noble post. 
Ful wel biloved, and famulier was he, 
With frankeleyns over al in his cuntre, 
And eek with worthi wommen of the toun : 217 

For he hadde power of confessioun, 
As seyde himself, more than a curat, 
For of his ordre he was licenciat. 
Ful sweetly herde he confessioun, 
And plcsaunt was his absolucioun ; 
He was an esy man to geve penance, 
Ther as he wiste to han a good pitance : 
For unto a povre ordre for to geve 225 

203. — souple. "This is part of the description ol a smart abbot, by 
an anonymous writer of the thirteenth century: — 'Ocreas habebat in 
cruribus, quasi innate essenl, sine plica porreclas.' — MS. Bodl., James, 
n. 0. p. Iltl."—Tyrwhitt. 


Is signe that a man is wel i-schreve. 226 

For if he gaf, he dorste make avaimt, 

He wiste that a man was repentaunt. 

For many a man so hard is of his herte, 

He may not wepe though him sore smerte. 

Therfore in stede of wepyng and prayeres, 

Men mooten given silver to the pore freres. 

His typet was ay farsud ful of knyfes 

And pynnes, for to give faire wyfes. 234 

And certayn he hadde a mery noote. 

Wel couthe he synge and pleye on a rote. 

Of yeddynges he har utturly the prys. 

His nekke whit was as the flour-dedys. 

Therto he strong was as a champiomi, 

He knew wel the tavemes in every toun, 

And every ostiller or gay tapstere, 

Bet than a lazer, or a heggere, 242 

For unto such a worthi man as he 

Acorded not, as by his faculte, 

To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce. 

It is not honest, it may not avaunce, 

For to delen with such poraile, 

But al with riche and sellers of vitaille. 

And over al, ther eny profyt schulde arise, 

Curteys he was, and lowe of servyse. 

Ther was no man nowher so vertuous. 

He was the beste beggcr in al his hous : 252 

237. — yeddynges. MS. C. 2, reads weddinges. 


[And gave a certaine ferme for the grant, 253 

Non of his bretheren came in his haunt]. 
For though a widewe hadde but oo schoo, 
So plesaunt was his In principio, 
Yet wolde he have a ferthing or he wente. 
His purchace was bettur than his rente. 
And rage he couthe and pleye as a whelpe, 
In love-dayes ther couthe he mochil helpe. 
For ther was he not like a eloysterer, 261 

With a thredbare cope, as a pore scoler, 
But'he was like a maister or a pope. 
Of double worstede was his semy-cope, 
That rounded was as a belle out of presse. 
Somwhat he lipsede, for wantounesse, 
To make his Englissch swete upon his tunge ; 
And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde sunge, 
His eyghen twynkeled in his heed aright, 269 

As don the sterres in the frosty night. 
This worthi lymytour was called Huberd. 
A Marchaunt was ther with a forked berd, 

253, 251 — These two lines are wanting in all the MSS. I have con- 
sulted, a circumstance of which Tyrwhitt takes no notice, though they are 
an evident interpolation. He seems to have taken them from the old 
printed editions. 

258. — purchace. This sentiment, or proverh, is taken literally from a 
line in the Romance of the Rose, — 

" Mieux vault mon pourchas que ma rente." 

272. — forked berd. In Shotteshrooke church, 
Berks, there is a hrass of a Franklin, of the time of 
Edward III, in which he is represented with a forked 
heard, as in the accompanying out, which seems to 
have been the fashionable mode of dressing the heard 
among tho bourgeoisie. The Anglo-Saxons wore 
forked beards. 


In motteleye, and high on horse he sat, 273 

Uppon his heed a Flaundrisch bever hat. 

His botus clapsud faire and fetously. 

His resons he spak ful solempnely, 

Sownynge alway the encres of his wynnyng 

He wolde the see were kepud for eny thing 

Betwixe Middulburgh and Orewelle. 

Wei couthe he in eschange schceldes selle. 

This worthi man ful wel his witte bisette ; 281 

Ther wiste no man that he was in dette, 

So estately was he of governaunce, 

With his bargayns, and with his chevysaunce. 

For sothe he was a worthi man withalle, 

But soth to say, I not what men him calle. 

A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also, 
That unto logik hadde longe i-go. 
Al so lene was his hors as is a rake, 289 

And he was not right fat, I undertake ; 
But lokecle holwe, and therto soburly. 
Ful thredbare was his overest courtepy, 
For he hadde nought geten him yit a benefice, 
Ne was not worthy to haven an office. 
For him was lever have at his beddes heed 
Twenty bookes, clothed in blak and reed, 
Of Aristotil, and of his philosophic, 297 

Then robus riche, or fithul, or sawtrie. 
But al though he were a philosophre, 
Yet hadde he but litul gold in cofre, 
But al that he might of his frendes hente, 


On bookes and his lernyng he it spente, 302 

And busily gan for tho soules pray 

Of hem that gaf him wherwith to scolay. 

Of studie tooke he most cure and heede. 

Not oo word spak he more than was neede ; 

Al that he spak it was of heye prudence, 

And schort and quyk, and fill of gret sentence 

Sownynge in moral manere was his speche, 

And gladly wolde he leme, and gladly teche. 310 

A Sergeant of Lawe, war and wys, 
That often hadde ben atte parvys, 
Ther was also, ful riche of excellence. 
Discret he was, and of gret reverence : 
He semed such, his wordes were so wise, 
Justice he was ful often in assise, 
By patent, and by pleyn commissioun ; 
For his science, and for his heih renoun, 318 

Of fees and robes had he many oon. 
So gret a purchasour was ther nowher noon. 
Al was fee symple to him in effecte, 

801. — might of his frendes hente. — This is the reading of most of the 
MSS., and appears to he the right one. The MS. Harl. reads, might 
,/' lr and liis frendes sende. 

301. — gaf him. An allusion to the common practice, at this period, of 
poor scholars in the universities, who wandered about the country, beg- 
ging, to raise money to support them in their studies. See Piers riough- 
man, 1. 4525, and note. 

312. — parvys. This is generally explained as a portico before a church. 
Tho parvis at London, supposed to be that of St. Paul's, was anciently 
frequented by sergeants at-law, as we learn from Fortcscuc, deLaud. leg. 
Angl. c. 51, — " Post meridiem curia mm tenentur; sed placitanles turn 
se divert a al ml pervisum et alibi, consulentes cum servientibus ml legem, et 
.iliix consiliariU suis." See also Warton's llisi. of Eng. Poetry, edit, of 
1810, vol. ii. p. 212. 


His purchasyng might nought ben to him suspecte. 

Nowher so besy a man as he ther nas, 323 

And yit he semecl besier than he was. 

In termes haclcle caas and domes alle, 

That fro the tyme of kyng Will, were falle. 

Therto he couthe endite, and make a thing, 

Ther couthe no man pynche at his writyng. 

And every statute couthe he pleyn by roote. 

He rood but hoomly in a medled coote, 

Gird with a seynt of silk, with barres smale ; 331 

Of his array telle I no lenger tale. 

A Frankeleyn ther was in his companye ; 
Whit was his berde, as the dayesye. 
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn. 
Wei loved he in the mom a sop of wyn. 
To lyve in delite was al his wone, 

For he was Epicurius owne sone, 

That heeld opynyoun that pleyn delyt 339 

Was verraily felicite perfyt. 

An househaldere, and that a gret, was he ; 

Seynt Julian he was in his countre. 

His breed, his ale, was alway after oon ; 

A bettre envyned man was nowher noon. 

Withoute bake mete was never his hous, 

Of fleissch and fissch, and that so plentyvous, 

It snewed in his hous of mete and drynk, 347 

Of alle deyntees that men cowde thynke, 

Aftur the sondry sesouns of the yeer, 

" 12. St. Julian was tin 1 patron of hospitality. 


He chaunged hem at mete and at soper. 350 

Ful many a fat partricli had he in mewe, 

And many a brem and many a luce in stewe. 

Woo was his cook, but if his sauce were 

Poynant and scharp, and redy al his gere. 

His table dormant in his halle alway 

Stood redy covered al the longe day. 

At sessions ther was he lord and sire. 

Ful ofte tyme he was knight of tho schiro. 

An anlas and a gipser al of silk 

Heng at his gerdul, whit as mome mylk. 360 

A schirreve hadde he ben, and a counter ; 

Was nowher such a worthi vavaser. 

An Habtjrdassher and a Carpenter, 
A Webbe, a Deter, and a Tapicer, 
Weren with us eeke, clothed in oo lyvere, 
Of a solempne and gret fraternite. 
Ful freissh and newe here gere piked was ; 
Here knyfes were i-chapud nat with bras, 
But al with silver wrought ful clone and wel, 
Here gurdles and here pouches every del. 370 

Wel semed echo of hem a fair burgcys, 
To sitten in a geldehalle, on the deys. 
Every man for the wisdom that he can, 
Was schaply for to ben an aldurman. 

352. — in stewe ; i. e., in a fish-pond. The great consumption of fish 
under the Romish regime rendered a fish-pond a necessary accessor; to 
every gentleman's house. 

OUr,.— tabic dormant. Probably the fixed table al the end of the hall. 


For catel hadde they inough and rente, 

And eek here wyfes Avolde it wel assente : 

And elles certeyn hadde thei ben to blame. 

It is right fair for to be clept madame, 

And for to go to vigilies al byfore, 

And ban a mantel rially i-bore. 380 

A Cook thei hadde with hem for the nones, 
To boyle chiknes and the mary bones, 
And poudre marchant, tart, and galyngale. 
Wel cowde he knowe a draught of Londone ale. 
He cowde roste, sethe, broille, and frie, 
Make mortreux, and wel bake a pye. 
But gret harm was it, as it semede me, 
That on his schyne a mormal hadde he ; 
For blankmanger he made with the beste. 

A Schipman was ther, wonyng fer by weste : 390 
For ought I woot, he was of Dertemouthe. 
He rood upon a rouncy, as he couthe, 
In a gowne of faldyng to the kne. 
A dagger hangyng on a laas hadde he 
Aboute his nekke under his arm adoun. 
The hoote somer had maad his hew al broun ; 
And certeinly he was a good felawe. 
Ful many a draught of wyn had he drawe 

3S1 — London ale. Tyrwhitt has cited a passage of an old writer, 
which shews that London ale was prized ahove that of other parts of the 

396. — the hoote somer. Perhaps this is a reference to the summer of 
the year 1351, which was long remembered as the dry and hot summer. 
Other allusions in this general prologue seem to shew that Chaucer in- 
tended to lay the plot of his Canterbury pilgrimage soon after this date. 


From Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman sleep. 

Of nyce conscience took he no keep. 400 

If that he foughte, and hadde the heigher hand, 

By water he sente hem hoom to every land. 

But of his craft to rikne wel the tydes, 

His stremes and his dangers him hisides, 

His herbergh and his mone, his lodemenage, 

Ther was non such from Hulle to Cartage. 

Hardy he was, and wys to undertake : 

With many a tempest hadde his herd hen schake. 

He knew wel alle the havenes, as thei were, 

From Scotlond to the cape of Fynestere, 410 

And every cryk in Bretayne and in Spayne : 

His barge y-clepud was the Magdelayne. 

Ther was also a Doctour of Phisik, 
In al this world ne was ther non him lyk 
To speke of phisik and of surgerye : 
For he was groundud in astronomye. 
He kepte his pacient a ful gret del 
In houres by his magik naturel. 
Wel cowde he fortune the ascendent 
Of his ymages for his pacient. 420 

He knew the cause of every maladye, 
Were it of cold, or hete, or moyst, or drye, 

410. — Scotland. Most of the MSS. have Gotland, the reading adopted 
by Tynvhitt, and perhaps the correct one. 

416. — Astronomye. A great portion of the medical science of the 
middle ages depended on astrological and other superstitions observ- 

417. — (i Jul gret del. This is the reading of most of the MSS. ; the 
MS. Harl. has wondurly wel. 



And where thei engendrid, and of what humour ; 

He was a verrey parfight practisour. 

The cause i-knowe, and of his harm the roote, 

Anon he gaf the syke man his boote. 

Ful redy hadde he his apotecaries, 

To sende him dragges, and his letuaries, 

For eche of hem made othur for to wynne : 

Here friendschipe nas not newe to begynne. 430 

Wei knew he the olde Esculapius, 

And Deiscorides, and eeke Rufus ; 

Old Ypocras, Haly, and Galien ; 

Serapyon, Razis, and Avycen ; 

Averrois, Damascen, and Constantyn ; 

Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertyn. 

Of his diete mesm'able was he, 

For it was of no superfluite, 

But of gret norisching and digestible. 

His studie was but litel on the Bible. 440 

431. — Wei knew he. The authors mentioned here were the chief 
medical text-books of the middle ages. Rufus was a Greek physician, of 
Ephesus, of the age of Trajan ; Haly, Serapion, and Avicen, were Ara- 
bian physicians and astronomers of the eleventh century ; Rhasis was a 
Spanish Arab, of the tenth century ; and Averroes was a Moorish scholar, 
who flourished in Morocco iu the twelfth century; Johannes Damasce- 
nus was also an Arabian physician, but of a much earlier date; Constan- 
tius Afer, a native of Cartilage, and afterwards a monk of Monte Cassino, 
was one of the founders of the school of Salerno, — he lived at the end of 
the eleventh century ; Bernardus Gordonius, professor of medicine at 
Montpellier, appears to have been Chaucer's contemporary ; John Gatds- 
den was a distinguished physician of Oxford, in the earlier half of the 
fourteenth century; Gilbertyn is supposed by Warton to be the cele- 
brated Gilbert us Anglicus. The other names mentioned here are too 
well known to need further observation. The names of Hippocrates and 
Galen were, in the middle ages, always (or nearly always) spelt Ypocras 
and Galienus. 


Iii sangwin and in pers he clad was al, 
Lyned with taffata, and with sendal. 
And yit he was hut esy in dispence : 
He kepte that he wan in pestilence. 
For gold in phisik is a cordial ; 
Therfore he lovede gold in special. 

A good Wif was ther of hyside Bathe, 
But sche was somdel deef, and that was skathe. 
Of cloth-makyng sche hadde such an haunt, 
Sche passed hem of Ypris and of Gaunt. 450 

In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon, 
That to the offryng byfoni hire schulde goon, 
And if ther dide, certeyn so wroth was sche, 
That sche was thanne out of alle eharite. 
Hire keverchefs weren ful fyne of grounde ; 
I durste swere, they weyghede ten pounde, 
That on the Sonday were upon hire heed. 
Hire hosen were of fyn scarlett reed, 
Fid streyte y-teyed, and schoos ful rnoyste and newc. 

444. — pestilence. An allusion, probably, to the great pestilences which 
devastated Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century, and to which 
we owe the two celebrated works, the Decameron of Boccacio, and the 
Visions of Piers Ploughman. 

449. — cloth makyng. The west of England, and especially the neigh- 
bourhood of Bath, from which the " good wif" came, was celebrated, till 
a comparatively recent period, as the district of cloth-making. Ipres and 
Ghent were the great clothing marts on the Continent 

456. — ten pounde, This is the reading of all the best MSS. I have 
consulted. Tyrwhitt has a pound. It is a satire on the fashionable 
head dresses of the ladies at this time, which appear in the illuminations 
to be composed of large quantities of heavy wadding, and the satirist takes 
the liberty of exaggerating a little. 

459. — rnoyste. One of tbe Cambridge MSS. reads softe, which was, 
perhaps, originally a gloss to moyde. 


Bold was liir face, and fair, and reed of hewe. 460 

Sche was a worthy womman al hire lyfe, 

Housbondes atte chirche dore hadde sche fyfe, 

Withouten othur companye in youthe. 

But therof needeth nought to speke as nouthe. 

And thries hadde sche ben at Jerusalem ; 

Sche hadde passud many a straunge streem ; 

At Rome sche hadde ben, and at Boloyne, 

In Galice at sejTit Jame, and at Coloyne. 

Sche cowde nioche of wandryng by the weye. 

Gattothud was sche, sothly for to seye. 470 

Uppon an amblere esely sche sat, 

Wymplid ful wel, and on hire heed an hat 

As brood as is a bocler, or a targe ; 

A foot-mantel aboute hire hupes large, 

And on hire feet a paire of spores scharpe. 

In felawschipe wel cowde lawghe and carpe. 

Of remedyes of love sche knew parchaunce, 

For of that art sche knew the olde daunce. 

A good man was ther of religioun, 
And was a pore Persoun of a touii : 480 

462. — atle chirche dore. The priest formerly joined the hands of 
the couple, and performed a great part of the marriage service, in the 
church porch. See Warton's History of English Poetry, ii. 201 (ed. of 

468. — Coloyne. At Cologne the bones of the three kings of the 
East were believed to be preserved. 

477. — remedyes. An allusion to the title and subject of Ovid's boot, 
De Remedio Amoris, 

480. Chaucer, in his beautiful character of the parson, sets up the 
industrious secular clergy against the lazy, wicked uionks. 


But riche he was of holy thought and work. 

He was also a lemecl man, a clerk, 

That Cristes gospel truly wolde preche. 

His parischens devoutly wold he teche. 

Benigne he was, and wondur diligent, 

And in adversite ful pacient : 

And such he was i-proved ofte sithes. 

Ful loth were him to curse for his tythes ; 

But rather wolde he geven out of dowte, 

Unto his pore parisschens ahoute, 490 

Of his offrynge, and eek of his substaunce. 

He cowde in litel thing han sumsance. 

Wyd was his parisch, and houses fer asondur, 

But he ne lafte not for reyn ne thondur, 

In siknesse ne in meschief to visite 

The ferrest in his parissche, moche and lite, 

Uppon his feet, and in his hond a staf. 

This noble ensample unto his scheep he gaf, 

That ferst he wroughte, and after that he taughte 

Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte, 500 

And this figure he addid yit therto, 

That if gold ruste, what schulde yren doo? 

For if a prest be foul, on whom we truste, 

No wondur is a lewid man to ruste : 

And schame it is, if that a prest take kepe, 

A schiten schepperd and a clene schepc ; 

483. — truly. I have substituted this word, which is found iu most of 
the other MSS.,t'or gladly, the reading of the MS. Marl. 


Wei oughte a prest ensample for to give, 
By his clennesse, how that his scheep schulde lyve. 
He sette not his benefice to huyre, 
And lefte his scheep enconibred in the myre, 510 
And ran to Londone, unto seynte Poules, 
To seeken him a chaunterie for soules, 
Or with a brethurhede be withholde : 
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde r 
So that the wolf ne made it not myscarye. 
He was a schepperde and no mercenarie ; 
And though he holy were, and vertuous, 
He was to senful man nought dispitous, 
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne, 
' But in his teching discret and beuigne. 520 

To drawe folk to heven by fairnesse, 
By good ensample, was his busynesse : 
But it were eny persone obstinat, 
What so he were of high or lowe estat, 
Him wolde he snybbe scharply for the nones. 
A bettre preest I trowe ther nowher non is. 
He waytud after no pompe ne reverence, 
Ne maked him a spiced conscience, 
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve, 
He taught, and ferst he folwed it himselve. 530 

With him ther was a Ploughman, his brothur, 
That hadde i-lad of dong ful many a fothur. 

521. — fairnesse. This is tlio reading of most of the MSS- The MS. 
Harl. lias clennesse, which seems not to give so good a seuse. 


A trewe swynker, and a good was hee, 
Lyvynge in pees, and parfight cliaritee. 
God loved he best with al his trewe herte 
At alle tynies, though liim gained or smerte, 
And thanne his neighebour right as himselve. 
He wolde threisshe, and therto dyke, and delve, 
For Cristes sake, with every pore wight, 
Withouten huyre, if it laye in his might. 540 

His tythes payede he ful faire and wel, 
Bathe of his owne swynk, and his catel. 
In a tabbard he rood upon a mere. 

Ther was also a reeve and a mellere, 
A sompnour and a pardoner also, 
A maunciple, and my self, ther was no mo. 

The Mellere was a stout carl for the nones, 
Ful big he was of braun, and eek of boones ; 
That prevede wel, for over al ther he cam, 
At wrastlynge he wolde bere awey the ram. 550 

He was schort schuldred, broode, a thikke knarre, 
Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre, 
Or breke it with a rennyng with his heed. 
His herd as ony sowe or fox was reed, 
And therto brood, as though it were a spade. 

550. — the ram. " This was the usual prize at wrestling-matches. See 
below, ver.'l 3,671 ; and Gamely n, ver. 343 and 555. M.Paris mentions a 
wrestling-match at Westminster, in the year 1222, at which a ram was 
the prize." — Tyrwhitt. 

552. — harre. This is the reading of all the oldest and best MSS. ; 
harre, a later reading, adopted by Tyrwhitt, appears In have originated 
with sonic one who did not Know the meaning of the other word. 


Upon the cop right of his nose he hade 

A werte, and theron stood a tuft of heres, 

Eeede as the berstles of a souwes eeres. 

His nose-thurles blake were and wyde. 

A swerd and a bocler baar he by his side. 56 ° 

His mouth as wyde was as a gret fomeys. 

He was a jangler, and a golyardeys, 

And that was most of synne and harlotries. 

Wei cowde he stele corn, and tollen thries ; 

And yet he hadde a thombe of gold parde. 

A whight cote and blewe hood wered he. 

A baggepipe cowde he blowe and sowne, 

And therwithal he brought us out of towne. 

A gentil Maunciple was ther of a temple, 
Of which achatours mighten take exemple 570 

For to be wys in beyyng of vitaille. 
For whethur that he payde, or took by taille, 
Algate he wayted so in his acate, 
That he was ay bifora and in good state. 

564. — stele corn. During tbe middle ages, millers enjoyed, above all 
other tradesmen, the reputation of being thieves ; and their depredations 
were the more generally felt, as people in all classes of society carried 
their own corn to the mill to be ground, often in very small quantities. 

565. — a thombe of gold. " If tbe allusion be, as is most probable, to 
the old proverb, — every honest miller has a thumb of gold, this passage 
may mean, that our miller, notwithstanding his thefts, was an honest 
miller, — i. e., as honest as his brethren." — Tyrwhitt. 

567. — a baggepipe. The bagpipe was a very popular instrument of 
music in the middle ages, and ligures in the illuminated manuscripts of 
various countries. In modern times its use has been restricted to Scot- 
land (probably because minstrelsy was longer preserved there) until it 
was looked upon as the national music 


Now is not that of God a ful fair grace, 

That such a lewed marines wit schal pace 

The wisdom of an heep of lernecle men ? 

Of maystres hadde moo than thries ten, 

That were of lawe expert and curious : 

Of which ther were a doseyn in an hous, 580 

Worthi to be stiwardes of rente and lond 

Of any lord that is in Engelond, 

To make him lyve by his propre good, 

In honour detteles, but if he were wood, 

Or lyve as scarsly as he can desire ; 

And able for to helpen al a schire 

In many caas that niighte falle or happe ; 

And yit this maunciple sette here aller cappe. 

The Reeve was a sklendre colerik man, 
His herd was schave as neigh as ever he can. 590 
His heer was by his eres rounde i-schom. 
His top was dockud lyk a preest biforn. 
Ful longe wern his leggus, and ful lene, 
Al like a staff, ther was no calf y-sene. 
Wei cowde he kepe a gerner and a bynne : 
Ther was non auditour cowde on him wynne. 
Wei wiste he by the drought, and by the reyn, 
The yeeldyng of liis seed, and of his greyn. 
His lordes scheep, liis meet, and his dayerie, 

588. — sette here aller cappe ; i. e., outwitted tliem all. Conf. v. :il 15. 

591 rounde. The MS. Harl. lias neighe, but all the other MSS I 

have consulted agree in the reading I have adopted in the text Tins des- 
cription is illustrated by the cut given on ]>. 13. 


His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrie, 600 
Was holly in this reeves governynge, 
And by his covenaunt gaf the rekenynge, 
Syn that his lord was twenti yeer of age ; 
Ther couthe noman bringe him in arrerage. 
Ther nas ballif, ne herde, ne other hyne, 
That they ne knewe his sleight and his covyne : 
They were adrad of him, as of the deth. 
His wonyng was ful fair upon an heth, 
With grene trees i-schadewed was his place. 
He cowde bettre than his lord purchace. cio 

Ful riche he was i-stored prively, 
His lord wel couthe he plese subtilly, 
To geve and lene him of his owne good, 
And have a thank, a cote, and eek an hood. 
In youthe he lemed hadde a good mester : 
He was a wel good wright, a carpenter. 
This reeve sat upon a wel good stot, 
That was a pomely gray, and highte Scot. 
A long surcote of pers uppon he hadde, 
And by his side he bar a rusty bladde. 620 

Of Northfolk was this reeve of which I telle, 
Byside a toun men callen Baldeswelle. 
Tukkud he was, as is a frere, aboute, 
And ever he rood the hynderest of the route. 
A Sompnour was ther with us in that place, 

019. — pers. The MS. Harl. alone reads blew ; perse was a sky blue 

622. — Baldc&wellc . A parish in Eynford hundred, Norfolk. 


That hackle a fyr-reed cherubyns face, 

For sawceflem he was, with eyghen narwe. 

As hoot he was, and leccherous, as a sparwe, 

With skalled browes blak, aud piled herd : 

Of his visage children weren sore aferd. 630 

Ther nas quyksilver, litarge, ne brimstone, 

Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon, 

Ne oynement that wolde dense and byte, 

That him might helpen of his whelkes white, 

Ne of the knobbes sittyng on his cheekes, 

Wei loved he garleek, oynouns, and ek leekes, 

And for to drinke strong wyn reed as blood. 

Thanne wolde he speke, and crye as he were wood. 

And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn, 

Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn. 640 

A fewe termes hadde he, tuo or thre, 

That he hadde lemed out of som decree ; 

No wondur is, he herde it al the day, 

And eek ye knowe wel, how that a jay 

Can clepe Watte, as wel as can the pope. 

But who so wolde in othur thing him grope, 

Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophic 

Ay, Questio quid juris, wolde he crye. 

626. — cherubyns fare. H. Stephens, Apol. Herod., i. 30, quotes the 
same thought from a French epigram, — 

" Nos grands docteurs dit cherubin visage." 

618. — Questiu quid juris. " This kind of question occurs frequently 
in Ralph do Hengham. After having stated a case, he adds, quid juris ! 
and then proceeds to give the answer to it. SeoHeng. Mag., c. xi. Esto 
autem quod reus nullo modo vencrit ad hunc diem, quid juris? &c. See 
also c. xii." — Tyrwhilt. 


He was a gentil harlot and a kynde ; 

A bettre felaw schulde men nowher fynde. 650 

He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn, 

A good felawe to han his concubyn 

A twelve moneth, and excuse him atte fulle. 

And prively a fynch eek cowde he pulle. 

And if he fond owher a good felawe, 

He wolde teche him to have non awe 

In such a caas of the archedeknes curs ; 

But if a mannes soule were in his purs ; 

For in his purs he scholde punyssched be. 

" Purs is the ercedeknes helle," quod he. 660 

But wel I woot he lyeth right in dede : 

Of cursyng oweth ech gulty man to drede. 

For curs wol slee right as assoillyng saveth, 

And also ware him of a significavit. 

In daunger he hadde at his owne assise 

The yonge gurles of the diocise, 

And knew here counseil, and was al here red. 

A garland had he set upon his heed, 

As gret as it were for an ale-stake : 

649. — harlot. Chaucer gives us here an excellent picture of the class 
of society to which this name was applied in the middle ages. See the 

661. — significavit. " The writ de excommunicato capiendo, commonly 
called a significavit, from the beginning of the writ, which is as follows : 
Rex vicecomili L. salutem. Significavit nobis venerabilis pater H. L., 
episcopus, &c. Cod. Jur. Ecc , p. 1054." — Tyrwhitt. 

665. — in daunger. The old meaning of the word danger was jurisdic- 
tion, or dominion whereby persons were liable to fine for certain offences 
to him in whose danger they were. Most of the MSS. have gise instead 
of assise. 


A bokeler had he maad him of a cake. 670 

With him ther rood a gentil Pardoner 
Of Rouncival, his frend and his comper, 
That streyt was comen from the court ef Rome. 
Ful lowde he sang, Come hider, love, to me. 
This sompnour bar to him a stif burdoun, 
Was neve re trompe of half so gret a soun. 
This pardoner hadde heer as yelwe as wex, 
But smothe it heng, as cloth a strike of flex : 
By iinces hynge his lokkes that he hadde, 
And therwith he his schuldres overspradde. 680 

Ful thenne it lay, by culpons on and oon, 
But hood, for jolitee, ne wered he noon, 
For it was trussud up in his walet. 
Him thought he rood al of the newe get, 
Dischevele, sauf his cappe, he rood al bare. 
Suche glaryng eyghen hadde he, as an hare. 
A vernicle hadde he sowed on his cappe. 
His walet lay byfom him in his lappe, 
Bret fid of pardoun come from Rome al hoot. 
A voys he hadde, as smale as eny goot. 690 

No berd ne hadde he, ne never scholde have, 

074. — dime hider, love, to me. Probably tlie burden of a popular 

675. — bar... a stif burdoun. "Sang the bass. See ver. 4163, and 
Ducange in v. Burdo." — Tyrwhilt. 

(584. — newe get. New fashion. Tyrwhitt has illustrated this phrase 
bj a passage from Occleve's poem, De regimine principis, — 

" Also ther is another newe gette, 
Al foule waste of cloth and cxcessif." 


As smothe it was as it ware late i-schave ; 

I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare. 

But of his craft, fro Berwyk unto Ware, 

Ne was ther such another pardoner. 

For in his male he hadde a pilwebeer, 

Which, that he saide, was oure lady veyl : 

He seide, he hadde a gobet of the seyl 

That seynt Petur hadde, whan that he wente 

Uppon the see, till Jhesu Crist him hente. 7°° 

He hadde a cros of latoun ful of stones, 

And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. 

But with thise reliques, whanne that he fand 

A pore persoun dwellyng uppon land, 

Upon a day he gat him more moneye 

Than that the persoun gat in monthes tweye. 

And thus with feyned flaterie and japes, 

He made the persoun, and the poeple, his apes. 

But trewely to tellen atte laste, 

He was in churche a noble ecclesiaste. 7l<> 

Wei cowde he rede a lessoun or a storye, 

But altherbest he sang an offertorie : 

For wel wyst he, whan that song was songe, 

He moste preche, and wel affyle his tunge, 

To wynne silver, as he right wel cowde : 

Therfore he sang ful meriely and lowcle. 

Now have I told you schortly in a clause, 
Thestat, tharray^the nombre, and eek the cause 
Why that assembled was this companye 
In Southwerk at this gentil ostelrie, 720 


That highte the Tabbard, faste by the Belle. 

But now is tyme to yow for to telle 

How that we bare us in that ilke night, 

AVI um we were in that ostelrie alight; 

And aftur wol I telle of oure viage, 

And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.. 

But ferst I pray you of your curtesie, 
That ye ne rette it nat my vilanye, 
Though that I speke al pleyn in this matere, 
To telle you here wordes and here cheere; ~ ;! " 

Ne though I speke here wordes propurly. 
For this ye knowen al so wel as I, 
Who so schal telle a tale aftur a man, 
He moste reherce, as neigh as ever he can, 
Every word, if it he in his charge, 
Al speke he never so rudely ne large; 
Or elles he moot telle his tale untrewe, 
Or feyne thing, or fynde wordes newe. 
He may not spare, though he were his brothur; 
He moste as wel sey oo word, as anothur. 740 

Crist spak himself fu] broode inholy writ, 
And wel ye woot no vilanye is it. 
Eke Plato seith, who so that can him rede, 
The wordes mot be cosyn to the dede. 
Also I pray you to forgeve it me, 

721. — the Belle. Slowe mentions an in imed the Bull as being 

mar the Tabard, but I have found no mi ntion of the Bell 

7 13. — Plato. Tyrwbitt thinks that Chaucer took this saying of Plato 
from Boethius, iii. ///•. 12. 



Al have I folk nat set in here degre 
Here in this tale, as that tliei schulde stonde : 
My witt is schorte, ye may wel undurstonde. 
Greet cheere made oure ost ns everichon, 
And to the souper sette he ns anon: ? 50 

And served us with vitaille atte beste. 
Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us leste. 
A semely man oure ooste was withalle 
For to ban been a marchal in an halle ; 
A large man was he with eyghen stepe, 
A fairere burgeys is tber noon in Chepe : 
Bold of his speche, and wys and well i-taught, 
And of manhede lakkede he right naught. 
Eke therto he was right a mery man, 
And after soper playen he bygan, 760 

And spak of myrthe among othur thinges, 
Whan that we hadde maad oure rekenynges; 
And sayde thus; " Lo, lordynges, trewely 
Ye ben to me right welcome hertily: 
For by my trouthe, if that I schal not lye, 
I ne saugh this yeer so mery a companye 
At oones in this herbergh, as is now. 
Fayn wold I do yow merthe, wiste I how. 
And of a merthe I am right now bythought, 
To doon you eese, and it schal coste nought. "*o 

7 18. — H-hortc. This is the reading in which the MSS generally agree, 
ami it seems the best ; the MS. Harl. reads ihi/rine. 

756. — Chepe. Cheapside was, in the middle ages, occupied by the 
wealthiest and most substantial citizens of London. 


Ye goon to Caunturbury; God you speede, 
The blisful martir quyte you youre meede ! 
And wel I woot, as ye gon by th.e weye, 
Ye scbapen yow to talken and to \ leye : 
For trewely comfort. ne merthe is noon, 
To ryde by the weye domb as a stoon : 
And therfore wol I make you disport, 
As I seyde erst, and do you som confort. 
And if yow liketh alle by oon assent 
Now for to standen at my juggement: " 80 

And for to werken as I schal you seye, 
To morwe, whan ye riden by the weye, 
Now by my fadres soule that is deed, 
But ye be merye, smyteth of myn heed. 
Hold up youre bond withoute more speche." 
Oure counseil was not longe for to seche: 
Us thoughte it uas nat worth to make it wys, 
And grauuted him withoute more avys, 
And bad him seie his verdite, as him leste. 
' Lordynges," quoth he, " now herkenetli for tbe beste; 
But taketh not, I pray you, in disdayn; 
This is the poynt, to speken schort and playn, 
That ech of yow to schorte with youre weie, 
In this viage, schal telle tales tweye, 
To Caunturburi-ward, 1 mene it so, 
And hom-ward he schal tellen othur tuo, 
Of aventures thai ther ban bifalle. 
And which of yow that bereth him best of alle, 
That is to seye, that telletb in this caas 



Tales of best sentence and of solas, 800 

Schal ban a soper at your altber cost 

Here in tliis place sittynge by this post, 

Wban that we comen ageyn from Canturbery. 

And for to make you the more mery, 

I wol myselven gladly with you ryde, 

Right at myn owen cost, and be youre gyde. 

And who so wole my juggement withseie, 

Schal paye for al we spenden by the weye. 

And if ye vouchesauf that it be so, 

Telle me anoon, withouten wordes moo, 810 

And I wole erely schappe me therfore." 

Tbis thing was graunted, and oure othus swore 

With ful glad herte, and prayden him also, 

That he wolde vouchesauf for to doon so, 

And that he wolde ben oure governour, 

And of oure tales jugge and reportour, 

And sette a souper at a certeyn prys ; 

And we wolde rewled be at his devys, 

In heygh and lowe : and thus by oon assent, 

We been acorded to his juggement. 820 

And therapon the wyn was fet anoon ; 

We dronken, and to reste wente echoon, 

Withouten eny lengere taryinge. 

A morwe whan that the day bigan to sprynge, 

Up roos oure ost, and was oure althur cok, 

And gaderud us togider alle in a flok, 

And forth we riden a litel more than paas, 

Unto the waterynge of seint Thomas; 


And there oure ost bigan his hors areste, 
And seyde ; " Lordus, herkeneth if yow leste. 830 
Ye woot youre forward, and I it you recorde. 
If eve-song and morwe-song acorde, 
Let se now who schal telle ferst a tale. 
As evere I moote drinke wyn or ale, 
Who so be rebel to my juggement, 
Schal paye for al that by the weye is spent. 
Now draweth cut, er that we forther twynne ; 
Which that hath the schortest schal bygynne." 
" Sire knight," quoth he, " maister and my lord, 
Now draweth cut, for that is myn acord. 840 

Cometh ner, quoth he, my lady prioresse ; 
And ye, sir clerk, lat be your schamfastnesse, 
Ne studieth nat; ley hand to, every man." 

Anon to drawen every wight bigan, 
And schortly for to tellen as it was, 
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas, 
The soth is this, the fil to the knight, 
Of which ful glad and blithe was every wight ; 
And telle he moste his tale as was resoun, 
By forward and by composicioun, 850 

As ye han herd ; what needeth worcles moo ? 
And whan this goode man seigh that it was so, 
As he that wys was and obedient 

828. — waterynge of seint Thomas. The watering of St. Thomas was 
at the second milestone on the old Canterbury road. It is mentioned 
not (infrequently in the early dramatists. 

837. — draweth cut. Froissart terms this method of drawing lot3 lirer 
a la tongue paille. 


To kepe his forward by his fre assent, 
He seycle ; " Syn I schal bygynne the game, 
What, welcome be thou cut, a Goddus name ! 
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye." 

And with that word we riden forth oure weye ; 
And he bigan with light a merie chere, 
His tale, and seide right in this manere. 860 


Whilom, as olde stories tellen us, 
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus. 
Of Athenes he was lord and governour, 
And hi his tyme swich a conquerour, 
That gretter was ther non under the sonne. 
Ful many a riche contre hadde he wonne : 
That with his wisdam and his chivalrie 
He conquered al the regne of Femynye, 
That whilom was i-cleped Cithea ; 
And weddede the queen Ipolita, 870 

860. — right in this manere. Tyrwhitt reads as ye shut here, and 
inserts anon after tale. 

The Knightes Tale. This story is taken from the Theseida of Boc- 
cacio, which was translated also into French verse ; hut whether Chaucer 
used the Italian or the French is not certain, as I have not been able to 
compare Chaucer with the French, The English story differs in some 
parts considerably, and is very much abbreviated, from the poem of Boc- 
cacio. The extracts given in the following notes are repeated from 
Tyrwhitt. See Tyrwhitt's Introd. and Warton's His. of Eng. Poet. 

868. — Femynye, A medieval name for the kingdom of the Amazons. 
Gower (Conf Amant.) terms Penthesilea queen of Feminee. Cithea is of 
course a corruption of Scythia. 


And brought hire hoom with him in his contre 
With moche glorie and gret solempnite, 
And eek hire yonge suster Eruelye. 
And thus with victorie and with melodye 
Lete I this noble duk to Athenes ryde, 
And al his ost, in armes him biside. 
And certes, if it nere to long to heere, 
I wolde ban told yow fully the manere, 
How wonnen was the regne of Femenye, 
By Theseus, and by his chivalrye ; 88 ° 

And of the grete bataille for the nones 
Bytwix Athenes and the Amazones ; 
And how asegid was Ypolita 
The faire hardy quyen of Cithea ; 
And of the feste that was at lure weddynge, 
And of the tempest at hire boom comynge, 
But al that thing I most as now forbere. 
I have, God wot, a large feeld to ere ; 
And wayke ben the oxen in my plough. 
The remenaunt of the tale is long inoughj 89° 

I wol not lette eek non of at this rowte. 
L;it every felawe telle his tale aboute, 
And lat see now who schal the soper wynne. 
And titer I lafte, I wolde agayn begynne. 
This duk, of whom I make mencioun, 
Whan he was comen almost unto the toun, 

ssa.— Tyruhitt has temple, 1 >n( I think his reasons for tliis 
reading are not sufficiently weighty to authorize a departure from the 
text of the .MS. Hart, supported, as it is, by most of the good MSS. 


In al his wele and in his moste pryde, 
He was war, as he cast his eyghe aside, « 
Wher that ther kneled in the hye weye 
A companye of ladies, tweye and tweye, 900 

Ech after other, clad in clothes blake : 
But such a cry and such a woo they make, 
That in this world nys creature lyvynge, 
That herde such another waymentynge. 
And of that cry ne wolde they never stenten, 
Til they the reynes of his hridel henten. 
" What folk be ye that at myn horn comynge 
Pertourben so my feste with cryenge ? " 
Quod Theseus, " have ye so gret envye 
Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crie? 910 
Or who hath yow misboden, or offendid? 
And telleth me if it may ben amendid ; 
And why that ye ben clad thus al in blak ? " 

The oldest lady of hem alle spak, 
Whan sche had swowned with a dedly chere, 
That it was routhe for to seen or heere ; 
And seyde ; " Lord, to whom fortune hath geven 
Victorie, and as a conquerour lyven, 
Nought greveth us youre glorie and honour ; 
But we beseken mercy and socour. 920 

Have mercy on oure woo and oure distresse. 
Som drope of pitee, thurgli youre gentilnesse, 
Uppon us wrecchede wommen lat thou falle. 
For certus, lord, ther nys noon of us alle, 
That sche nath ben a duchesse or a queene ; 


Now be we caytifs, as it is well seene : 
Thanked be fortune, and hire false wheel, 
That noon estat asaureth to ben weel 
And certus, lord, to abiden youre presence 
Here in the temple of the gocldesse Clemence ^30 
We ban ben waytynge al this fourtenight : 
Now helpe us, lord, syn it is in thy might. 
I wrecehe, which that wepe and way lie thus, 
Was whilom wyf to kyng Capaneus, 
That starf at Thebes, cursed be that day : 
And alle we that ben in this array, 
And maken alle this lamentacioun, 
We leften alle oure housbondes at the toun, 
Whil that the sege ther aboute lay. 94 ° 

And yet the olde Creon, welaway ! 
That lord is now of Thebes the citee, 
Fulfilde of ire and of inkpiite, 
He for despyt, and for his tyrannye, 
To do the deede bodyes vilonye, 
< >f alle oure lordes, which that ben i-slawe, 
Bath alle the bodies on an heep y-drawe, 
And wol not suftren liem by noon assent 
Nother to ben y-buried nor i-brent, 
But maketh houndes ete hem in despite. ' 
And with that word, withoute more respite, 950 

They fillen gruf, and criden pitously, 
• Eave on as wrecched wommen som mercy, 
And Lai oure sorwe sj aken in thyn herte. 
This gentil duke doun from his courser sterfo 


With herte pitous, whan he herde hem speke. 

Hhn thoughte that his herte wohle breke, 

Whan he seyk hem so piteous and so roaat, 

That whilom weren of so gret estat. 

And in his armes he hem alle up hente, 

And hem conforteth in ful good entente ; 960 

And swor his oth, as he was trewe knight, 

He wolde do so ferforthly his might 

Upon the tyraunt Creon hem to wreke, 

That all the poeple of Grece seholde speke 

How Creon was of Theseus y-served, 

As he that hath bis deth right wel deserved. 

And right anoon, withoute eny aboocl, 

His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood 

To Thebes-ward, and al his oost bysyde ; 

No ner Athenes wolde he go ne ryde, 970 

Ne take his eese fully half a day, 

But onward on his way that nyght he lay ; 

And sente anoon Ypolita the queene, 

And Emelye hir yonge suster schene, 

Unto the toun of Athenes to dwelle : 

And forth he ryt ; ther is no more to telle. 

The reede statue of Mars with spere and targe 
So schyneth in his white baner large, 
That alle the feeldes gliteren up and douu : 
And by his baner was bom his pynoun 980 

Of gold ful riche, in which ther was i-bete 
The Minatour which that he slough in Crete. 
Thus ryt this duk, thus ryt this conquerour, 
\nd in his oost of chevalrie the flour, 


Til that he cam to Thebes, and alighte 

Fayre in a feeld wher as he thoughte to fighte. 

But schortly for to speken of this thing, 

With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng, 

He faught, and slough him manly as a knight 

In pleyn bataille, and putte his folk to flight ; 9()0 

And by assaut he wan the cite aftur, 

And rente doun bothe wal, and sparre, and raftur : 

And to the ladies he restored agayn 

The bones of here housbondes that were slayn, 

To do exequies, as was tho the gyse. 

But it were al to long for to devyse 

The grete clamour, and the waymentynge, 

Which that the laches made at the brennynge 

Of the bodyes, and the grete honour, 

That Theseus the noble conquerour 100 ° 

Doth to the ladyes, whan they from him wente : 

But schortly for to telle is myn entente. 

Whan that this worthy duk, this Theseus, 

Hath Creon slayn, and Thebes wonne thus, 

Stille in the feelde he took al night his reste, 

And dide with al the contre as him leste. 

To ransake in the cas of bodyes dede 
Hem for to streepe of herneys and of wede, 
The pilours diden businesse and cure, 
After the bataile and discomfiture. 101 ° 

And so byfil, that in the cas thei founde, 

1007. — cas. So the other best MSS. Tyrwhitt has substituted tax, a 


Thurgh girt with many a grevous Itlocly wounde; 

Two yonge knightes liggyng by and by, 

Bothe in oon armes clad ful richely : 

Of wbiche two, Avcite Light that oon, 

And that othur knight hight Palamon. 

Nat fully quyk, we fully deed they were, 

But by here coote armure, and by here gere, 

Heraudes knewe hem wel in special, 

As they that weren of the blood real 10 ' 20 

Of Thebes, and of sistren tuo i-born. 

Out of the chaas the pilours han hem torn, 

And han hem caried softe unto the tente 

Of Theseus, and ful sone he hem sente 

Tathenes, for to dwellen in prisoun 

Perpetuelly, he wolde no raunceoun. 

And this duk whan he hadde thus i-doon, 

He took his host, and hom he ryt anoon 

With laurer crowned as a conquerour ; 

And there he lyveth in joye and in honour 1030 

Terme of his lyf ; what wolle ye wordes moo ? 

And in a tour, in angwische and in woo, 

This Palamon, and his felawe Arcite, 

For evermo, ther may no gold hem quyte. 

This passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day, 

Till it fel oones in a morwe of May 

That Emelie, that fairer was to seene 

Than is the lilie on hire stalkes grene, 

And fresscher than the May with floures newe ; 

For with the rose colour strof hire hewe, 104C 


I not which was the fyner of hem two. 

Er it was clay, as sche was wont to do, 

Sche was arisen, and al redy dight. 

For May w T ole have no sloggardye a night, 

The sesoun priketh every gentil herte, 

And maketh him out of his sleepe sterte, 

And seith, " Arys, and do thin observance." 

This maked Emerye han remembrance 

To do honour to May, and for to ryse. 

I-clothed was sche fressh for to devyse. 1050 

Hire yolwe heer was browdid in a tresse, 

Byhynde liire bak, a yerde long I gesse. 

And in the gardyn at the sonne upriste 

Sche walketh up and doun wher as hire liste. 

Sche gadereth floures, partye whyte and reede, 

To make a certeyn gerland for hire heede, 

And as an aungel hevenly sche song. 

The grete tour, that was so thikke and strong, 

Which of the castel was the cheef dongeoun, 

(Ther as this knightes weren in prisoun, 1060 

10-19. — to do honour to May. The curly English poets are full of 
allusions to the popular reverence paid to (lie month of May, derived from 
the pagan ages of our forefathers. Traces of these superstitions still 
remain in the popular custom in different parts of the country of going a 
Maying on the morning of the first day of the month. Such customs are 
repeatedly alluded to in Chaucer. 

1059. — dongeoun. The dongeon was the grand tower of the earlier 
castles, and hcneath it, under ground, was the prison. As the castles 
were enlarged, the dongeon or keep tower, being the strongest part of 
the fortress, was frequently made the residence of prisoners of higher 
rank, who were not thrown into the subterranean vaults. Hence the 
modern use of the word dungeon, 


Of which I tolde yow, and telle schal) 

Was evene joynyng to the gardeyn wal, 

Ther as this Emely hadde hire pleyyng. 

Bright was the sonue, and cleer that morwenynge, 

And Palamon, this woful prisoner, 

As was his wone, by leve of his gayler 

Was risen, and romed in a chambre on heigh, 

In which he al the noble cite seigb, 

And eek the gardeyn, ful of braunches grene, 

Ther as the fresshe Emelye the scheene 1070 

Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun. 

This sorweful prisoner, this Palamon, 

Gooth in the chambre romyng to and fro, 

And to himself compleynyng of his woo : 

That he was bom, ful ofte he seyd, alas ! 

And so byfel, by aventure or cas, 

That thurgh a wyndow thikke and many a barre 

Of iren greet, and squar as eny sparre, 

He cast his eyen upon Emelya, 

And therwithal he bleynte and cryed, a ! 1030 

As that he stongen were unto the herte. 

And with that crye Arcite anon up sterte, 

And seyde, " Cosyn myn, what eyleth the, 

That art so pale and deedly for to see ? 

Why crydestow ? who hath the doon offence ? 

For Goddes love, tak al in pacience 

Oure prisoun, for it may non othir be. 

Fortune hath geven us this adversite. 

Som wikke aspect or disposicioun 


Of Saturne, by sum constellacioun, 1090 

Hath geven us this, although we hadde it sworn ; 
So stood the heven whan that we were born, 
We moste endure it : this is the schort and pleyn." 
This Palanion answered, and seyde ageyn ; 
" Cosyn, for sothe of this opynyoun 
Tliou hast a veyn ymaginacioun. 
This prisoun caused me not for to crye. 
But I was hurt right now thurgh myn yhe 
Into myn herte, that wol my bane be. 
The fairnesse of the lady that I see 11 00 

Yonde in the gardyn rome to and fro, 
Is cause of my cryyng and my wo. 
I not whethur sche be womman or goddesse ; 
But Venus is it, sothly, as I gesse." 
And therwithal on knees adoun he fil, 
And seyde : " Venus, if it be youre wil 
Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure, 
Bifom me sorwful wrecched creature, 
Out of this prisoun help that we may scape. 
And if so be oure destine be schape mo 

By eteme word to deyen in prisoun, 
Of oure lynage haveth sum compassioun, 
That is so lowe y-brought by tyrannye." 
And with that word Arcite gan espye 

1090. — Saturne. According to tl>" <>1<1 astrological Bysti m, iliis wns a 
very uupropitious star to be born under. It may be observed, lli;il in 
the presi nt story there is ;> constant allusion t<> medieval astrology, which 
could not be fnllv illustrated without lone iioIpn. 

48 mi: Canterbury tales. 

Wher as this lady romed to and fro. 
And with that sight hire beaute hurt him so, 
That if that Palamon was wounded sore, 
Arcite is hurt as moche as he, or more. 
And with a sigh he seyde pitously : 

" The freissche beaute sleeth me sodeynly U20 

Of hir that rometh yonder in the place ; 
And but I have hir mercy and hir grace, 
That I may see hir atte leste weye, 
I nam but deed; ther nys no more to seye. 
This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde, 
Dispitously he loked, and answerde : 

" Whether seistow in ernest or in pley ? " 

" Nay," quoth Arcite, "in ernest, in good fey. 
God helpe me so, me lust ful evele pleye." 
This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye: H30 

" It nere," quod he, " to the no gret honour, 
For to be fals, ne for to be traytour 
To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother 
I-swore ful deepe, and ech of us to other, 
That never for to deyen hi the payne, 
Til that deeth departe schal us twayne, 

11:11 — I-twore. It was a common practice in the middle ages for 
persons to take formal oaths of fraternity and friendship, and a breach 
of the oath was considered something worse than perjury. This in- 
cident enters into the plots of some of the medieval romances. A curious 
example will he found in the Romance of Athelston, Reliq. Antiq. ii, 
p. 85. 

1135. — deyen in the payne. This appears to have been a proverbial 
expression, taken from the French. In Froissart, as cited by Tyrwhitt, 
Edward III is made to declare, that he would bring the war to a suc- 
cessful issue, or il moufroit en la peine. 


Neyther of us in love to hynder other, 
Ne in non other cas, my leeve brother ; 
But that thou schuldest trewly forther me 
In eveiy caas, and I schal forther the. II 40 

This was thyn othe, and myn eek certayn ; 
I wot right wel, thou darst it nat withsayn. 
Thus art thou of my counseil out of doute. 
And now thou woldest falsly ben aboute 
To love my lady, whom I love and serve, 
And evere schal, unto myn herte sterve. 
Now certes, fals Arcite, thou schal not so. 
I loved hir first, and tolde the my woo 
As to my counseil, and to brother sworn 
To forther me, as I have told biforn. H 50 

For which thou art i-bounden as a knight 
To helpe me, if it lay in thi might, 
Or elles art thou fals, I dar wel sayn." 
This Arcite ful proudly spak agayn. 
" Thou schalt," quoth he, " be rather fals than I. 
But thou art fals, I telle the uttirly. 
For far amour I loved hir first then thow. 
What wolt thou sayn ? thou wost not yit now 
Whether sche be a womman or goddesse. 
Thyn is affeccioun of holynesse, ll6 ° 

And myn is love, as of a creature ; 
For which I tolde the myn aventure 
As to my cosyn, and my brother sworn. 
I pose, that thou lovedest hire biforn : 

1187. — love. TheHarl. MS. has lande. 



Wost thou nat wel the olde clerkes sawe, 

That who schal geve a lover eny lawe, 

Love is a grettere lawe, by my pan, 

Then may be geve to eny erthly man ? 

Therfore posityf lawe, and such decre, 

Is broke alway for love in ech degree. 1 1 70 

A man moot needes love maugre his heed. 

He may nought fie it, though he schulde be deed, 

Al be sche mayde, or be sche widewe or wyf. 

And that it is nat likly al thy lyf 

To stonden in hire grace, no more schal I : 

For wel thou wost thyselven verrily, 

That thou and I been dampned to prisoun 

Perpetuelly, us gayneth no raunsoun. 

We stryve, as doth the houndes for the boon, 

They foughte al day, andyit here part was noon. 1180 

Ther com a kyte, whil that they were wrothe, 

And bar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe. 

And therfore at the kynges court, my brother, 

Eche man for himself, ther is non other. 

Love if the list ; for I love and ay schal : 

And sothly, leeve brother, this is al. 

Eke in this prisoun moote we endure, 

And every of us take his aventure." 

1165. — the oleic clerkes sawe. Boethius, who says, ill his treatise De 
Consolot. Philos. lib. iii, met. 12, — 

Quis legem det amantitms? 
Major lex amor est sibi. 
1179. — houndes. This is a medieval fable which I have not met with 
elsewhere, though it may probably be found in some of the inedited col- 


Gret was the stryf and long bytwixe hem tweye, 

If that I hackle leysir for to seye : 119 ° 

But to the effect, it happed on a day, 

(To telle it yow as schortly as I may) 

A worthy duk that highte Perotheus, 

That felaw was to the duk Theseus 

Syn thilke day that they were children lyte, 

Was come to Athenes, his felawe to visite, 

And for to pley, as he was wont to do, 

For in this world he loved noman so : 

And he loved him. as tendurly agayn. 

So wel they loved, as olde bookes sayn, 1200 

That whan that oon was deed, sotlily to telle, 

His felawe wente and sought him doun in helle : 

But of that story lyst me nought to write. 

Duk Perotheus loved wel Arcite, 

And hadde him knowe at Thebes yeer by yeer : 

And fynally at requeste and prayer 

Of Perotheus, withoute any raunsoun 

Duk Theseus him leet out of prisoun, 

Frely to go, wher him lust over al, 

In such a gyse, as I you telle schal. 1210 

This was the forward, playnly to endite, 

Betwixe Theseus and him Arcite: 

That if so were, that Arcite were founde 

Evere in his lyf, by daye or night, stound 

In eny contre of this Theseus, 

1202. — in hclle. An allusion to the classic story of Theseus and 

E '2 


And he were caught, it was acorded thus, 

That with a swerd he scholde lese his heed ; 

Ther nas noon other remedy ne reed, 

But took his leeve, and homward he him spedde ; 

Let him be war, his nekke lith to wedde. 1220 

How gret a sorwe suffreth now Arcite ! 
The deth he feleth thorugh his herte smyte ; 
He weepeth, weyleth, cryeth pitously ; 
To slen himself he wayteth pryvyly. 
He seyde, " Alias the day that I was born ! 
Now is my prisoun werse than was biforne : 
Now is me schape eternally to dwelle 
Nought in purgatorie, but in helle. 
Alias ! that ever knewe I Perotheus ! 
For elles had I dweld with Theseus 1230 

I-fetered in his prisoun for evere moo. 
Than had I ben in blis, and nat in woo. 
Oonly the sight of hir, whom that I serve, 
Though that I hir grace may nat deserve, 
Wold han sufficed right ynough for me. 
O dere cosyn Palamon," quod he, 
" Thyn is the victoire of this aventure, 
Ful blisfully in prisoun to endure ; 
In prisoun ? nay, certes but in paradys ! 
Wei hath fortune y-torned the the dys, 1240 

That hath the sight of hir, and I the absence. 
For possible is, syn thou hast hir presence, 
And art a knight, a worthi and an able, 
That by som cas, syn fortune is chaungable, 


Thou maist to thy desir somtyme atteyne. 

But I that am exiled, and bareyne 

Of alle grace, and in so gret despeir, 

That ther nys water, erthe, fyr, ne eyr, 

Ne creature, that of hern maked is, 

That may me helpe ne comfort in this. 1250 

Wei ought I sterve in wanhope and distresse ; 

Farwel my lyf and al my jolynesse. 

Alias, why playnen folk so in comune 

Of purveance of God, or of fortune, 

That geveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse 

Wei better than thei can hemself devyse? 

Som man desireth for to have richesse, 

That cause is of his morthre or gret seeknesse. 

And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn, 

That in his hous is of his mayne slayn. 1260 

Infinite harmes ben in this mateere ; 

We wote nevere what thing we prayen heere. 

We faren as he that dronke is as a mows. 

A dronke man wot wel he hath an hous, 

But he not nat which the righte wey is thider, 

And to a dronke man the wey is slider, 

And certes in this world so faren we. 

We seeken faste after felicite, 

But we gon wrong ful ofte trewely. 

Thus may we seyen alle, namely I, 12 ?° 

That wende have had a gret opinioun, 

1264.— a dronke man. From Boethias De Consul, lib. iii. pr. 2. sed 
velut ebrius, (lumniu ijno tramitc revertatur ignorat. 


That gif I raighte skape fro prisoun, 
Than had I he in joye and parfyt hele, 
Ther now I am exiled fro my wele. 
Syn that I may not se yow, Emelye, 
I nam hut deed ; ther nys no remedy e." 

Uppon that other syde Palamon, 
Whan he wiste that Arcite was agoon, 
Such sorwe maketh, that the grete tour 
Resowneth of his yollyng and clamour. 1280 

The pure feteres of his schynes grete 
Weren of his hitter salte teres wete. 
"Alias!" quod he, "Arcita, cosyn nryn, 
Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thin. 
Thow walkest now in Thehes at thi large, 
And of my woo thou gevest litel charge. 
Thou maiste, syn thou hast wysdom and manhede, 
Assemble al the folk of oure kynrede, 
And make a werre so scharpe in this cite, 
That hy som aventure, or by som trete, 1290 

Thou mayst hire wynne to lady and to wyf, 
For whom that I most needes leese my lyf. 
For as by wey of possibilite, 
Syn thou art at thi large of prisoun free, 
And art a lord, gret is thin avantage, 
More than is myn, that sterve here in a kage. 
For I moot weepe and weyle, whil I lyve, 
With al the woo that prisoun may me gyve, 
And eek with peyne that love me geveth also, 
That doubleth al my torment and my wo." 1300 


Therwith the fayr of jelousye upsterte 

Withinne his brest, and hent him by the herte 

So wodly, that lik was he to byholde 

The box-tree, or the asschen deed and colde. 

Tho seyde he ; "0 goddes cruel, that governe 

This world with byndyng of youre word eterne, 

And writen in the table of athamaunte 

Youre parlement and youre eterne graunte, 

What is mankynde more to yow holde 

Than is a scheep, that rouketh in the folde ? 1310 

For slayn is man right as another beste, 

And dwelleth eek in prisoun and arreste, 

And hath seknesse, and greet adversite, 

And ofte tymes gilteles, parde. 

What governaunce is in youre prescience, 

That gilteles tormenteth innocence ? 

And yet encreceth this al my penaunce, 

That man is bounden to his observaunce 

For Goddes sake to letten of his wille, 

Ther as a beste may al his lust fulfille. 1320 

And whan a beste is deed, he ne hath no peyne ; 

But man after his deth moot wepe and pleyne, 

Though in this world he have care and woo : 

Withouten doute it may stonde so. 

The answer of this I lete to divinis, 

But wel I woot, that in tins world gret pyne is. 

Alias ! I se a serpent or a theef, 

That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef, 

Goe al his large, and wher him lust may tunic. 


But I irioste be in prisoun thurgh Saturne, 1330 

And eek thorugh Juno, jalous and eke wood, 
That hath destroyed wel neyh al the blood 
Of Thebes, with his waste walles wyde. 
And Venus sleeth me on that other syde 
For jelousye, and fere of him Arcyte." 
Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite, 
And lete him stille in his prisoun dwelle, 
And of Arcita forth than wol I telle. 
The somer passeth, and the nightes longe 
Encrescen double wise the peynes stronge 1340 

Bothe of the lover and the prisoner. 
I noot which hath the wofullere cheer. 
For schortly for to sey, this Palamon 
Perpetually is dampned to prisoun, 
In cheynes and in fete res to be deed ; 
And Arcite is exiled upon his heed 
For evere mo as out- of that contre, 
Ne nevere mo he schal his lady see. 
Now lovyeres axe I this question, 
Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamon ?■ 1350 

That on may se his lady clay by day, 
But in prisoun he moot dwelle alway. 
That other may wher him lust ryde or go, 
But seen his lady schal he never mo. 
Now deemeth as you luste, ye that can, 
For I wol telle forth as I bigan. 

1349. — this question. An implied allusion to the medieval courts of 
love, in which questions of this kind were seriously discussed. 


Whan that Arcite to Thebes come was, 
Ful ofte a day he swelde and seyde alas, 
For seen his lady schal he never mo. 
And schortly to concluden al his wo, 1360 

So moche sorwe had never creature, 
That is or schal whil that the world wol dure. 
His sleep, his mete, his drynk is him byraft, 
That lene he wexe, and drye as eny schaft. 
His eyen holwe, grisly to biholde ; 
His hewe falwe, and pale as asschen colde, 
And solitary he was, and ever alone, 
And dwellyng all the night, making his moone. 
And if he herde song or instrument, 
Then wolde he wepe, he mighte nought be stent. 1370 
So feble were his spirites, and so lowe, 
And chaunged so, that no man couthe knowe 
His speche nother his vois, though men it herde. 
And in his gir, for all the world he ferde 
Nought oorily lyke the lovers malady e 
Of Hercos, but rather lik manye, 
Engendrud of humour malencolyk, 
Byfume in his selle fantastyk. 

1378. — in his selle fanlastyk. Tyrwhitt reads, Befome Ids hed in his 
celle fanlastike. The division of the brain into cells, according to the 
different sensitive faculties, is very ancient and is found depicted in 
medieval manuscripts. It was a rude fore runner of the science of 
phrenology. The ' fantastic cell ' (fantasia) was in front of the head. In 
MS. Hail No. 1025. is a treatise entitled Liber Thesauri Occulti, in which 
(fid. 5, r°-), we are informed, " Et est in oerehro rationativa, in corde 

iras>cibilis vel inspirativa, in epate voluntaria vel eoncupiscibilis 

Verumptamen certum est in prora cerebri esso fantasiam, in medio 
rationein discretion^, in puppi memoriam ; quorum si aliqua naturali 


And schortly turned was al up-so-doun 
Bothe abyt and eek disposicioun 1380 

Of him, this woful lovere daun Arcite. 
What schulde I alway of his wo endite '? 
Whan he endured hadde a yeer or tuoo 
This cruel torment, and this peyne and woo, 
At Thebes, in his contre, as I seyde, 
Upon a night in sleep as he him leyde, 
Him thought that how the venged god Mercurie 
Byforn him stood, and bad him to be murye. 
His slepy yerd in hond he bar upright ; 
An hat he wered upon his heres bright. 1390 

Arrayed was this god (as he took keepe) 
As he was whan that Argous took his sleep ; 
And seyde him thus : "To Athenes schalt thou wende ; 
Ther is the schapen of thy wo an ende." 
And with that word Arcite wook and sterte. 
" Now trewely how sore that me smerte," 
Quod he, " to Athenes right now wol I fare ; 
Ne for the drede of deth schal I not spare 
To see my lady, that I love and serve ; 
In hire presence I recche nat to sterve." 1400 

And with that word he caught a gret myrour, 

infinnitate vel percussione desipuerit et maxime memoria, prorsus et 
sompnia perempta sunt, si ratio Tel fantasia vero destructa, sompnia 
quoquo modo ex memoria remanserunt. Si itaque homo multa per somp- 
nium saipe viderit et oblitus fuerit ea qua) vidit, scito memorialem partem 
cerebri ejus tenebrositate et obscuritate detentam esse. Similiter de 
ratione vel judicio et fantasia prajudicandum est, et infirmitati futuroe 

1384. — I retain Tyrwhitt's reading of this line, which in the Harl. MS. 
runs, In this cruel torment, peyne, and woo. 


And saugh that chauuged was al his colour, 

And saugh his visage was in another kynde. 

And right anoon it ran him into mynde, 

That seththen his face was so disfigured 

Of maladie the which he hath endured, 

He mighte wel, if that he har him lowe, 

Lyve in Athenes evere more unknowe, 

And see his lady wel neih clay by day. 

And right anon he chauuged his aray, 1410 

And clothed him as a pore laborer. 

And al alone, save oonly a squyer, 

That knew his pryvyte and al his cas, 

Which was disgysed povrely as he was, 

To Athenes is he go the nexte way. 

And to the court he went upon a day, 

And at the gate he profred his servyse, 

To drugge and drawe, what so men wolde devyse. 

And schortly of this matier for to seyn, 

He fel in office with a chambirleyn, 1420 

The which that dwellyng was with Emelye. 

For he was wys, and couthe sone aspye 

Of every servaunt, which that served here. 

Wel couthe he hewe woode, and water here, 

For he was yonge and mighty for the nones, 

And therto he was strong and bygge of bones 

To doon that eny wight can him devyse. 

A yeer or two he was in this servisc, 

Page of the chambre of Emelye the bright ; 

And Philostratc he soide that he hight. 1430 


But half so wel beloved a man as he, 

Ne was ther never in court of his degree. 

He was so gentil of his condicioun, 

That thorughout al the court was his renoun. 

They seyde that it were a charite 

That Theseus wolde enhaunsen his degree, 

And putten him in worschipful servyse, 

Ther as he might his vertu excersise. 

And thus within a while his name spronge 

Bothe of his decles, and of goode tonge, 1440 

That Theseus hath taken him so neer 

That of his chambre he made him squyer, 

And gaf him gold to mayntene his degree ; 

And eek men brought him out of his countre 

Fro yeer to yer ful pryvyly his rente, 

But honestly and sleighly he it spente, 

That no man wondred how that he it hadde. 

And thre yeer in this wise his lyf he ladde, 

And bar him so in pees and eek in werre, 

Ther nas no man that Theseus hath so derre. 1450 

And in this blisse lete I now Arcite, 

Aiid speke I wole of Palamon a lyte. 

In derknes and orrible and strong prisoun 
This seven yeer hath seten Palamon, 
Forpyned, what for woo and for destresse. 
Who feleth double sorwe and hevynesse 
But Palamon? that love destreyneth so, 
That wood out of his witt he goth for wo, 

1439.— within. The MS. Harl reads incorrectly withinne, which is 
the adverbial form of the preposition. 


And eek therto he is a prisoner 

Perpetuelly, nat oonly for a yeer. ,4fi0 

Who couthe ryme in Englissch propurly 

His martirdani ? for sothe it am nat I ; 

Therfore I passe as lightly as I may. 

It fel that in the seventhe yeer in May 

The thridde night, (as olde hookes seyn, 

That al this storie tellen more pleyn) 

Were it hy aventure or destene, 

(As, whan a thing is schapen, it schal be,) 

That soone aftur the mydnyght, Palamon 

By helpyng of a freend brak his prisoun, 1470 

And fleeth the cite fast as he may goo, 

For he had give drinke his gayler soo 

Of a clarre, maad of a certayn wyn, 

With nercotykes and opye of Thebes fyn, 

That al that night though that men wolde him schake, 

The gayler sleep, he mighte nought awake. 

And thus he fleeth as fast as ever he may. 

The night was schort, and faste by the day, 

That needes cost he moste himselven hyde. 

And til a grove ther faste besyde 1480 

With dredful foot than stalketh Palamon. . 

For schortly this was his opynyoun, 

That in that grove he wolde him hyde al day, 

And in the night then wolde he take his way 

To Thebes-ward, his frendes for to preye 

On Theseus to helpe him to werreye. 

And schortelich, or lie wolde lese liis lvf. 


Or wynnen Ernclye unto his wyf. 

This is theffect of his entente playn. 

Now wol I tome unto Arcite agayn, 1490 

That litel wiste how nyh that was his care, 

Til that fortune hath brought him in the snare. 

The busy larke, messager of daye, 
Salueth in hire song the niorwe gray; 
And fyry Phebus ryseth up so bright, 
That al the orient laugheth of the light, 
And with his stremes dryeth in the greves 
The silver dropes, hongyng on the leeves. 
And Arcite, that is in the court ryal 
With Theseus, his squyer principal, l- r >oo 

Is risen, and loketh on the mery day. 
And for to doon his observance to May, 
Remembryng of the poynt of his desire, 
He on his courser, stertyng as the fire, 
Is riden into feeldes him to pleye, 
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye. 
And to the grove, of which that I yow tolde, 
By aventure his wey he gan to holde, 
To make him a garland of the greves, 
Were it of woodewynde or hawthorn leves, 1510 

And lowde he song agens the sonne scheene : 
" May, with al thyn floures and thy greene, 
Welcome be thou, wel faire freissche May, 
I hope that I som grene gete may." 

1493 — messager of day. The Hail. MS. reads of May. Three lines 
below, Twvrhitt rends sight for light, very unpoetically. 


And fro his courser, with a lusty hertc, 

Into the grove ful lustily he sterte, 

And in a pathe he romed up and doun, 

Ther by aventure this Palamoun 

Was in a busche, that no man might him see, 

Ful sore afered of his deth was he. 1520 

Nothing ne knew he that it was Arcite. 

God wot he wolde have trowed it ful lite. 

For soth is seyde, goon ful many yeres, 

That feld hath eyen, and the woode hath eeres. 

It is ful fair a man to bere him evene, 

For al day meteth men atte unset stevene. 

Ful litel woot Arcite of his felawe, 

That was so neih to herken of his sawe, 

For in the busche he stynteth now ful stillc. 

Whan that Arcite had romed al his fille, 1530 

And songen al the roundel lustily, 

Into a studie he fel sodeynly, 

As doth thes lovers in here queynte geeres, 

Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres, 

Now up, now doun, as boket in a weUe. 

Right as the Friday, sothly for to telle, 

Now it schyneth, now it reyneth faste, 

1521. — feld hath eyen. This was a very popular old proverb. See 
my Essays on subjects connected with the Literature, &c of the Middle 
Ages, i, p. 108. A Latin rhymer has given the following version of it, 
not uncommon in MSS. 

Campus habet lumen, et habet minus auris acumen. 

1537. — now it schyneth. Tyrwliitt reads mow schineth it, ami proposes 
on bad MS. authority now itte sliintih ; but be was wrong in supposing 
that " itte may have been a dissyllable formerly, as well as atte" 


Eight so gan gery Venus overcaste 
The hertes of hire folk, right as hir day 
Is grisful, right so chaungeth hire aray. 1540 

Selde is the Fryday al the wyke i-like. 
Whan that Arcite hadde songe, he gan to sike, 
And sette him doun withouten eny more : 
" Alas ! " quod he, "that day that I was hore ! 
How longe, Juno, thurgh thy cruelte 
Wiltow werreyen Thehes the citee ? 
Alias ! i-hrought is to confusioun 
The hlood royal of Cadme and Amphionn : 
Of Cadynus, the which was the furst man 
That Thehes hulde, or first the toun by gan, 1550 

And of that cite first was crowned kyng, 
Of his lynage am I, and his ofspring 
By verray lyne, and of his stok ryal : 
And now I am so caytyf and so thral, 
That he that is my mortal enemy, 
I serve him as his squyer povrely. 
And yet doth Juno me wel more schame, 
For I dar nought hyknowe myn owne name, 
But ther as I was wont to hote Arcite, 
Now hoote I Philostrate, nought worth a mytc. 1560 
Alias ! thou felle Mars, alias ! Juno, 
Thus hath youre ire owre lynage fordo, 
Save oonly me, and wrecchid Palamon, 
That Theseus martyreth in prisoun. 
And over all this, to slee me utterly, 

1540.— grisful. The two Cambridge MSS. have gerful and geryful, 
which is perhaps right. 


Love hath liis fyry dart so brennyngly 

I-stykid thorugh my trewe careful herte, 

That schapen was my deth erst than my scherte. 

Ye si en me with youre eyhen, Emelye ; 

Ye ben the cause wherfore that I dye. ' r ' 7 " 

Of al the remenant of al myn other care 

Ne sette I nought the mountaunce of a tare, 

So that I couthe do ought to youre plesaunce." 

And with that word he fel doun in a traunce 

A longe tyme ; and aftirward upsterte 

This Palamon, that thoughte thurgh bis herte 

He felt a cold swerd sodeynliche glyde, 

For ire he quook, he nolde no lenger abyde. 

And whan that he hath herd Arcites tale, 

As he were wood, with face deed and pale, 1580 

He sterte him up out of the bussches thikke, 

And seyd : "Arcyte, false traitour wikke, 

Now art thou bent, that lovest my lady so, 

For whom that I have al this peyne and wo, 

And art my blood, and to my counseil sworn, 

As I ful ofte have told the heere byfom, 

And hast byjaped here the duke Theseus, 

And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus ; 

1568. — than my scherte. This appears to have been a proverbial 
phrase, and is explained by two passages from other poems of Chaucer 
I j) the Legendc of good women, 1. 2C18, — 

Sens first that day, that shapen was my sherte, 
Or by the fatal snster had my dome, 
and in the third hook of Troilus and Cieseide, 1. 731, — 
O fatal sustren, whiche, or any clothe 
Me shapen was, my destinee me spoune, 



I wol be deed, or elles thou schalt dye. 

Thou schalt not love my lady Emelye, 1590 

But I wil love hire oonly and no mo ; 

For I am Palamon thy mortal fo. 

And though that I no wepen have in this place, 

But out of prisoun am y-stert by grace, 

I drede not, that other thou schalt dye, 

Or thou ne schalt not love Emelye. 

Chese which thou wilt, for thou schalt not asterte." 

This Arcite, with ful despitous herte, 

Whan he him knew, and had his tale herde, 

As fers as a lyoun, pulleth out a swerde, I600 

And seide thus : "By God that sitteth above, 

Nere it that thou art sike and wood for love, 

And eek that thou no wepne hast in this place, 

Thou schuldest never out of this grove pace, 

That thou ne schuldest deyen of myn hond. 

For I defye the seurte and the bond 

Which that thou seyst I have maad to the. 

For, verray fool, thenk that love is fre, 

And I wol love hire mawgre al thy might. 

But, for thou art a gentil perfight knight, 1610 

And wenest to dereyne hire by batayle, 

Have heere my trouthe, to niorwe I nyl not fayle, 

Withouten wityng of eny other wight, 

That heer I wol be founden as a knight, 

1604. — The MS. Harl. reads, Hut out of prisoun art y-stert '<;/ grace, 
which probably arose from a mistake of the scribe, who seeing that line 
1603 was a repetition of 1593, thought that the next line (1591) was 
to he repeated also. 


And bryngen barneys right inougb for the ; 

And ches the best, and lef the worst for me. 

And mete and drynke this night wil I bryng 

Inough for the, and cloth for thy beddyng. 

And if so be that thou my lady wynne, 

And sle me in this wood that I am inne, 1620 

Thou maist wel have thy lady as for me." 

This Palamon answereth, "I graunt it the." 

And thus they ben departed til a-morwe, 

Whan ech of hem had leyd his feith to borwe. 

O Cupide, out of al charite ! 
O regne, that wolt no felaw have with the ! 
Ful soth is seyde, that love ne lordschipe 
Wol not, his thonkes, have no felaschipe. 
Wel fynden that Arcite and Palamoun. 
Arcite is riden anon to the toun, 1630 

And on the morwe, or it were day light. 
Ful prively two barneys hath he dight, 
Bothe suffieaunt and mete to darreyne 
The batayl in the feeld betwix hem tweyne. 
And on his bors, alone as he was born, 
He caryed al this hameys him byforn ; 
And in the grove, at tyme and place i-sette, 
This Arcite and this Palamon ben mette. 
Tho chaungen gan here colour in here face. 
Right as the honter in the regne of Trace 1640 

That stondeth in the gappe with a spere, 
Whan honted is the lyoun or the here, 
And hereto him come russhyng in the groves, 

i \> 


And breketh bothe the bowes and the leves, 

And thenketh, " Here cometh my mortel enemy, 

Withoute faile, he mot be deed or I ; 

For eyther I mot slen him at the gappe, 

Or he moot slee me, if it me myshappe : " 

So ferden they, in chaungyng of here hew, 

As fer as eyther of hem other knewe. 165 ° 

Ther nas no good day, ne so saluyng ; 

But streyt withouten wordes rehersyng, 

Every of hem helpeth to armen other, 

As frendly as he were his owen brother ; 

And thanne with here scharpe speres stronge 

They foyneden ech at other wonder longe. 

Tho it semed that this Palamon 

In his fightyng were as a wood lyoun, 

And as a cruel tygre was Arcite: 

As wilde boores gonne they togeder smyte, 166 ° 

That frothen white as fome for ire wood. 

Up to the ancle they faught in here blood. 

And in this wise I lete hem fightyng welle ; 

And forthere I wol of Theseus telle. 

The destine, mynistre general, 
That executeth in the world over al 
The purveans, that God hath seye byforn ; 
So strong it is, that they the world had sworn 
The contrary of a thing by ye or nay, 
Yet som tyme it schal falle upon a day 1670 

1066. — executeth. The MS Harl. reads, excused. 
1670. — The sentiment expressed in this and the following line is taken 
direct from the Teseide, — 


That falleth nought eft in a thousend yeere. 

For certeynly oure appetites heere, 

Be it of werre, of pees, other hate, or love, 

Al is it reuled hy the sight ahove. 

This mene I now hy mighty Theseus, 

That for to honte is so desirous, 

And namely the grete hert in May, 

That in his hed ther daweth him no day, 

That he nys clad, and redy for to ryde 

With hont and horn, and houndes him hyside. 1680 

For in his hontyng hath he such clelyt, 

That is his joye and his appetyt 

To heen himself the grete herts hane, 

For after Mars he serveth now Diane. 

Cleer was the day, as I have told or this, 
And Theseus, with alle joye and hlys, 
With his Ypolita, the fayre queene, 
And Emelye, clothed al in greene, 
On hontyng he thay riden ryally. 
And to the grove, that stood ther faste hy, 1690 

In which ther was an hert as men him tolde, 
Duk Theseus the streyte wey hath holde. 
And to the launde he rydeth him ful right, 
Ther was the hert y-wont to have his flight, 
And over a brook, and so forth in his weye. 
This duk wol have of him a cours or tweye 
With houndes, which as him lust to comaunde. 

Ma come ntii vegioii venir in hora 
Cossa che in mille anni nun aviene 


And whan this duk was come into the launde, 

Under the sonne he loketh, right anon 

He was war of Arcite and Palamon, 1700 

That foughten breeme, as it were boores tuo ; 

The brighte swerdes wente to and fro 

So hidously, that with the leste strook 

It seemeth as it wolde felle an ook ; 

But what they were, nothing yit he woot. 

This duk with spores his courser he smoot, 

And at a stert he was betwix hem tuoo, 

And pullid out a swerd and cride, " Hoo! 

Nomore, up peyne of leesyng of your heed. 

By mighty Mars, anon he schal be deed, i?io 

That smyteth eny strook, that I may seen ! 

But telleth me what mestir men ye been, 

That ben so hardy for to fighten heere 

Withoute jugge or other officere, 

As it were in a lyste really." 

This Palamon answerde hastily, 

And seyde: " Sire, what nedeth wordes mo? 

We ban the deth deserved bothe tuo. 

Tuo woful wrecches been we, and kaytyves, 

That ben encombred of oure owne lyves ; 1720 

And as thou art a rightful lord and juge, 

Ne geve us neyther mercy no refuge. 

And sle me first, for seynte charite ; 

But sle my felaw eek as wel as me. 

Or sle him first; for, though thou knowe him lyte, 

1701. — boores tuo. Tyrwhitt, with most of the MSS., reads bulks [balls). 


This is thy mortal fo, this is Arcite, 

That fro thy loud is banyscht on Iris heed, 

For which he hath i-served to be deed. 

For this is he that coine to thi gate 

And seyde, that he highte Philostrate. 1730 

Thus hath he japed the many a yer, 

And thou hast maad of him thy cheef squyer. 

And this is he that loveth Emelye. 

For sith the day is come that I schal dye, 

I make pleynly my confessioun, 

That I am the woful Palamoun, 

That hath thy prisoun broke wikkedly. 

I am thy mortal foo, and it am I 

That loveth so hoote Emely the bright, 

That I wol dye present in hire sight. 1740 

Therfore I aske deeth and my juwyse ; 

But slee my felaw in the same wyse, 

For bothe we have served to be slayn." 

This worthy duk answerde anon agayn, 
And seide, " This is a schort conclusioun : 
Your owne mouth, by your owne confessioun, 
Hath dampned you bothe, and I wil it recorde. 
It nedeth nought to pyne yow with the corde. 
Ye schul be deed by mighty Mars the reede!" 
The queen anon for verray wommanhede 1750 

1749.— Mars the rccde. Tyrwhitt lias quoted Boccacio for the same 
epithet, used at tho opening of his Teseide — " O rubieondo Marte" — 
it refers, of course, to the colour of the planet. The medieval writers 
constantly mixed up their astrological notions of tin' planets in their 
manner of looking at the poetical deities of the ancients. 


Gan for to wepe, and so dede Emelye, 
And alle the ladies in the companye. 
Gret pite was it, as it thought hem alle, 
That evere such a chaunce schulde falle ; 
For gentil men thi were and of gret estate, 
And nothing hut for love was this debate. 
And saw here bloody woundes wyde and sore ; 
And alle they cryde lesse and the more, 
" Have mercy, Lord, upon us wommen alle!" 
And on here bare knees anoon they falle, 1760 

And wolde have kissed his feet right as he stood, 
Til atte laste aslaked was his mood ; 
For pite renneth sone in gentil herte. 
And though he first for ire quok and sterte, 
He hath it al considered in a clause, 
The trespas of hem bothe, and here cause : 
And although his ire here gylt accused, 
Yet in his resoun he hem bothe excused; 
And thus he thought that every maner man 
Wol help himself in love if that he can, 1770 

And eek delyver himself out of prisoun. 
And eek in his hert had compassioun 
Of wommen, for they wepen ever in oon : 
And in his gentil hert he thought anoon, 
And sothly he to himself seyde: " Fy 
Upon a lord that wol have no mercy, 
But be a lyoun bothe in word and dede, 
To hem that ben in repentaunce and drede, 

1761. — The MS. Hail, reads hare feet, which makes the line too long. 


As wel as to a proud dispitious man, 

That wol niaynteyne that he first bigan. 1780 

That lord hath litel of discrecioun, 

That in such caas can no divisioun: 

But wayeth pride and humblenesse after oon. 

And schortly, whan his ire is over gon, 

He gan to loke on hem with eyen light, 

And spak these same wordes al in hight. 

The god of love, a ! benedlcite, 

How mighty and how gret a lord is he ! 

Agayne his might ther gayneth non obstacle, 

He may be cleped a god of his miracle ; 1790 

For he can maken at his owen gyse 

Of ever herte, as him lust devyse. 

Lo her is Arcite and Palamon, 

That quytely were out of my prisoun, 

And might have lyved in Thebes ryally, 

And witen I am here mortal enemy, 

And that here deth lith in my might also, 

And yet hath love, maugre here eyghen tuo, 

I-brought hem hider bothe for to dye. 

Now loketh, is nat that an heih folye? isoo 

Who may be a fole, if that he love? 

Byholde for Goddes sake that sitteth above, 

Se how they blede! be they nought wel arrayed ? 

Thus hath here lord, the god of love, hem payed 

Hero wages and here fees for here servise. 

1785. — eyen light. The Harl. MS. 1ms black and light, which makes 
the line: too louf-c, and the epithet hl,i,k is evidently redundant. 


And yet weneu they to ben ful wise, 

That serven love, for ought that may bifalle. 

But this is yette the beste game of alle, 

That sche, for whom they have this jelousye, 

Can hem therfore as moche thank as me. 1810 

Sche woot no more of al this hoote fare 

By God, than wot a cuckow or an hare. 

But all moot ben assayed hoot or colde ; 

A man moot ben a fool other yong or olde ; 

I woot it by myself ful yore agon : 

For in my tyme a servant was I on. 

And sythen that I knewe of loves peyne, 

And wot how sore it can a man destreyne, 

As he that hath often ben caught in his lace, 

I you forgeve holly this trespace, 1820 

At the request of the queen that kneleth heere, 

And eek of Emely, my suster deere. 

And ye schullen bothe anon unto me swere, 

That never ye schullen my corowne dere, 

Ne make werre on me night ne day, 

But be my freendes in alle that ye may. 

I you forgeve this trespas every dele." 

And they him swore his axyng fayre and wele, 

And him of lordschip and of mercy prayde, 

1S17. — And sythen that. Taken literally from the Teseide, — 
Ma pero chc gia inamorato fui, 
E per amor sovente folegiai, 
M'e caro molto il perdonare altrui. 
1828. — fayrc and wcle. The MS. Harl. reads every dele, evidently a 
mere blundering repetition by the scribe of the conclusion of the preced- 
ing line. 


And he hem graunted mercy, and thus he sayde: 1830 
; To speke of real lynage and riches, 
Though that sche were a queen or a prynces, 
Ilk of yow bothe is worthy douteles 
To wedde when tyme is, but natheles 
I speke as for my suster Emelye, 
For whom ye have this stryf and jelousye, 
Ye woot youreself sche may not wedde two 
At oones, though ye faughten ever mo : 
That oon of yow, or be him loth or leef, 
He may go pypen in an ivy leef: !840 

This is to say, sche may nought have bothe, 
Al be ye never so jelous, ne so lothe. 
For-thy I put you bothe in this degre, 
That ilk of you schal have his destyne, 
As him is schape, and herken in what wyse ; 
Lo here your ende of that I schal devyse. 
My wil is this, for playn conclusioun, 
Withouten eny repplicacioun, 
If that you liketh, tak it for the best, 
That every of you schal go wher him lest 1850 

Frely withouten raunsoun or daungeer; 
And this day fyfty wykes, fer ne neer, 
Everich of you schal bryng an hundred knightes, 
Armed for lystes up at alle rightes 
Al redy to derayne hir by batayle. 
And thus byhote I you withouten I'm \ !<• 
Upon my trouthe, and as I am a knight. 
That whethir of yow bothe that hath might, 


This is to seyn, that whethir he or thou 
May with his hundred, as I spak of now, I860 

Sle his contrary, or out of lystes dryve, 
Him schal I geve Emelye to wyve, • 
To whom that fortune geveth so fair a grace. 
The lyste schal I make in this place, 
And God so wisly on my sowle rewe, 
As I schal even juge ben and trewe. 
Ye schul non othir ende with me make, 
That oon of yow schal be deed or take. 
And if you thinketh this is wel i-sayde, 
Say youre avys, and holdeth yow apayde. 1870 

This is youre ende, and youre conclusioun/' 
Who loketh lightly now but Palamoun ? 
Who spryngeth up for joye but Arcite? 
Who couthe telle, or who couthe endite, 
The joye that is made in this place 
Whan Theseus hath don so fair a grace? 
But clown on knees wente every wight, 
And thanked him with al here hertes might, 
And namely the Thebanes ofte sithe. 
And thus with good hope and herte blithe 1880 

They taken here leve, and hom-ward they rydo 
To Thebes-ward, with olde walles wyde. 
I trow men wolde it deme necligence, 
If I forgete to telle the dispence 
Of Theseus, that goth so busily 

1882. — I have added ward (which has evidently been omitted by t In- 
scribe of the MS. Hail.) from one of the Cambridge MSS. 


To maken up the lystes rially. 

And such a noble theatre as it was, 

I dar wel say that in this world ther nas. 

The circuite ther was a myle aboute, 

Walled of stoon, and dyched al withoute. 1890 

Round was the schap, in maner of conipaas, 

Ful of degre, the height of sixty paas, 

That whan a man was set in o degre 

He letted nought his felaw for to se. 

Est-ward ther stood a gate of marbul whit, 
West-ward such another in oviposit. 
And schortly to conclude, such a place 
Was non in erthe, in so litel space. 
In al the lond ther nas no craftys man, 
That geometry or arsmetrike can, 1900 

Ne portreyour, ne kerver of ymages, 
That Theseus ne gaf hem mete and wages 
The theatre for to maken and devyse. 
And for to don his right and sacrifise, 
He est-ward hath upon the gate above, 
In worschip of Venus goddes of love, 
Don make an auter and an oratory ; 
And west-ward in the mynde and in memory 
Of Mars, he hath i-maked such another, 
That coste largely of gold a fother. 1910 

And north-ward, in a toret on the walle, 
Of alabaster whit, and reed coralle 

1903. — In all this description of the arena, there is a singular nindifi 
cation of the idea of an ancient amphitheatre, by clothing it in the de- 
scription of a medieval tournament scene. 


An oratory riche for to see, 

In worschip of Dyane, goddes of chastite, 

Hath Theseus i-wrought in noble wise. 

But yit had I forgeten to devyse 

The nobil kervyng, and the purtretures, 

The schap, the contynaunce of the figures, 

That weren in these oratories thre. 

Furst in the temple of Venus thou may se 1920 
Wrought in the wal, ful pitous to byholde, 
The broken slepes, and the sykes colde ; 
The sacred teeres, and the waymentyng; 
The fuyry strokes of the desiryng, 
That loves servauntz in thy lyf enduren ; 
The othes, that by her covenantz assuren. 
Plesance and hope, desyr, fool-hardynesse, 
Beaute and youthe, baudery and richesse, 
Charmes and sorcery, lesynges and flatery, 
Dispense, busynes, and jelousy, 1930 

That werud of yolo guides a gerland, 
And a cukkow sittyng on hire hand ; 
Festes, instrumentz, carols, and daunces, 
Lust and array, and al the circumstaunces 
Of love, which I rekned and reken schal, 
Ech by other were peynted on the wal, 
And mo than I can make of mencioun. 
For sothly al the mount of Setheroun, 

J 929. — sorcery. This reading, supporter! by several MSS., is certainly 
superior to Tyrwhitt's force, which perhaps only arose from misreading 
the abbreviation, force. Sorcery was considered one of the most effective 
modes of procuring love. 

1938. — Setheroun. Cytheron. 


Ther Venus hath hir principal dwellyng, 

Was schewed on the wal here portrayng, 1940 

With alle the gardyn, and al the lustynes. 

Nought was forgete the porter Ydelnes, 

Ne Narcisus the fayr of yore agon, 

Ne yet the foly of kyng Salamon, 

Ne eek the grete strengthe of Hercules, 

Thenchauntementz of Medea and Cerces, 

Ne of Turnus the hard fuyry corage, 

The riche Cresus caytif in servage. 

Thus may we see, that wisdom and riches, 

Beaute ne sleight, strengthe ne hardynes, 19/50 

Ne may with Venus holde champartye, 

For as sche luste the world than may sche gye. 

Lo, all this folk i-caught were in hire trace, 

Til thay for wo ful often sayde alias. 

Sufficeth this ensample oon or tuo, 

And though I couthe reken a thousend mo. 

The statu of Venus glorious for to see 

Was naked fletyng in the large sec, 

And fro the navel doun all covered was 

With wawes grene, and bright as eny glas. I960 

A citole in hire right hond hadde sche, 

And on hir heed, ful semely on to see, 

A rose garland ful swete, and wel smellyng, 

And aboven hire heed dowves fleyng. 

Bifom hir stood hir sone Cupido, 

Upon his schuldres were wynges two; 

And blynd he was, as it is often scene; 


A bowe he bar and arwes fair and greene. 

Why schuld I nought as wel telle you alle 
The portraiture, that was upon the walle 1970 

Within the temple of mighty Mars the reede ? 
Al peynted was the wal in length and breede 
Like to the estres of the grisly place, 
That bight the gret tempul of Mars in Trace, 
In that colde and frosty regioun, 
Ther as Mars hath his sovereyn mancioun. 
First on the wal was peynted a foreste, 
In which ther dwelled neyther man ne beste, 
With knotty knarry bareyn trees olde 
Of stubbes scharpe and hidous to byholde ; 1980 

In which ther ran a swymbul in a swough, 
As it were a storme schuld berst every bough: 
And downward on an hil under a bent, 
Ther stood the tempul of Marz armypotent, 
Wrought al of burned steel, of which thentre 
Was long and streyt, and gastly for to see. 
And therout cam a rage and suche a prise, 
That it maad al the gates for to rise. 
The northen light in at the dore schon, 

1968. — greene. So the Harl. MS. Others read schene, and Jeene-, the 
latter of which is perhaps the hest. 

1977. — "1 shall throw together a few lines of the Teseide, which 
Chaucer has plainly copied in this description" (Tyrivhitl) — ' .^ 

Ne v'era hestia ancora ne pastore... 
Cerri...nodosi, aspri, rigidi, e vetusli... 
E le porte eran de eterno adamante 
Ferrato d'ogni parte tutte quante. 
1981. — a swymbul. This reading of IMS Harl., is supported by other 
MSS. Tvnvhitt, with some MSS., has a rumble and a swough. 


For wyndow on the walle no was ther noon, *99° 

Thorugh the which men might no light discerne. 

The dores wer alle ademauntz eteme, 

I-clenched overthward and endelong 

With iren tough ; and, for to make it strong, 

Every piler the tempul to susteene 

Was tonne greet, of iren bright and schene. 

Ther saugh I furst the derk ymaginyng 

Of felony, and al the compassyng ; 

The cruel ire, as reed as eny gleede ; 

The pikepurs, and eek the pale drede ; 2000 

The smyler with the knyf under his cloke ; 

The schipne brennyng with the blake smoke 1 ; 

The tresoun of the murtheryng in the bed ; 

The open werres, with woundes al bi-bled ; 

Contek with bloody knyf, and scharp manacc. 

Al ful of chirkyng was that sory place. 

The sleer of himself yet saugh I there, 

His herte-blood hath bathed al his here ; 

The nayl y-dryve in the schodo a-nyght ; 

The colde deth, with mouth gapyng upright. 2010 

Amyddes of the tempul set mischaunce, 

With sory comfort and evel contynaunce. 

I saugh woodnes laughyng in his rage ; 

2000. — pikepurs. The pikepursea were, I believe, the plunderers who 
followed the army, and their introduction here is not so inappropriate as 
Tyrwhitt seemed to think. 

2005. — contek. I have kept Tyrwhitt's reading, supported by most of 
the MSS. The Hail. MS. reads huttud, evidently by error. 

2013. — Tyrwhitt, with most of the MSS., has Yet saw I woodnesse 
laughing in hit rage, which is perhaps the correct reading. The Ms. 
Harl. reads woundes for wodnes, and here rage, 



The hunt strangled with wikle bores corage ; 
[The caroigne in the busshe, with throte y-corve ; 
A thousand slaine, and not of qualme y-storve ; 
The tiraunte, with the preye by force y-raft ; 
The toun destroied, ther was no thynge laft. 
Yet sawgb I brente the schippes hoppesteres ; 
The hunte strangled with the wilde beres:] 2020 

The sowe freten the child right in the cradel ; 
The cook i-skalded, for al his longe ladel. 
Nought beth forgeten the infortune of Mart ; 
The carter over-ryden with his cart, 
Under the whel ful lowe he lay adoun. 

2015 — 2020. — These lines, given here from Tyrwhitt, are omitted in 
MS. Harl., and in some of the other MSS. I have corrected Tyrwhitt's 
orthography by the best of the two Cambridge MSS. 

2023. — infortune of Mart. Tyrwhitt thinks that Chancer might in- 
tend to be satirical in these lines, but the introduction of such apparently 
undignified incidents arose from the confusion already mentioned of the 
god of war with the planet to which his name was given, and the in- 
fluence of which was supposed to produce all the disasters here men- 
tioned. The following extract from the " Compost of Ptholomeus," 
already quoted, gives some of the supposed effects of Mars. " Under 
Mars is borne theves and robbers that kepe hye wayes, and do hurte to 
true men, and nyght walkers, and quarell pykers, bosters, mockers, and 
skoflers, and these men of Mars causeth warre and murther, and batayle, 
they wyll be gladly smythcs or workers of yron, lyght fyngred, and lyers, 
gret swerers of othes in vengeable wyse, and a great surmyler and crafty. 
He is red and angry, with blacke heer, and lytell iyen, he shall be a 
great walker, and a maker of swordes and knyves, and a sheder of 
mannes blode, and a fornycatour, and a speker of rybawdry . . . .and good 
to be a barboure and a blode letter, and to drawe tethe, and is peryllous 
of his handes." The following extract is from an old astrological book 
of the sixteenth century : — " Mars denoteth men with red faces and the 
skinne redde, the face round, the eyes yellow, horrible to behold, furious 
men, cruell, desperate, proude, sedicious, souldiers, captaines, smythcs, 
colliers, bakers, alcumistes, armourers, furnishers, butchers, chirurgions, 
barbers, sargiants, and hangmen, according as they shal be well or evill 


Ther were also of Martz divisioun, 

The barbour, and the bowcher, and the smyth, 

Tliat forgeth scharpe swerdes on his stith. 

And al above depeynted in a tour 

Saw I conquest, sittyng in gret honour, 2030 

With the scharpe swerd over his heed 

Hangynge by a sotil twyne threed. 

Depeynted was ther the slaught of Julius, 

Of grete Nero, and of Anthonius : 

Al be that ilke tyme they were unborn, 

Yet was here deth depeynted ther byforn, 

By manasyng of Martz, right by figure. 

So was it schewed right in the purtreture 

As is depeynted in sterres above, 

Who schal be slayn or elles deed for love. 204 ° 

Sufficeth oon ensample in stories olde, 

I may not reken hem alle, though I wolde. 

The statue of Mars upon a carte stood, 
Armed, and loked grym as he were wood ; 
And over his heed ther schyneth two figures 
Of sterres, that been cleped in scriptures, 
That oon Puella, that othur Rubius. 
This god of armes was arayed thus : 
A wolf ther stood byforn him at his feet 

2027. — Tyrwhitt has altered this line to Th armcrcr, and the powyer, 
and the smith. The barber and butcher, as well as the smith, were under 
the iniluence of Mars. See the extracts in the last note. 

2039. — in sterres. It was supposed by astrologers that every man's 
fortunes were depicted in the stars from the beginning of the world. 
Other MSS., with Tyrwhitt, read circles. 

2042.— This line is left blank in MS. Hail. 



With eyen reed, and of a man he eet: 2050 

With sotyl pencel depeynted was this storie, 
In redoutyng of Mars and of his glorie. 

Now to the temple of Dyane the chaste 
As schortly as I can I wol me haste, 
To telle you al the descripcioun. 
Depeynted hen the walles up and doun, 
Of himtyng and of schamefast chastite. 
Ther saugh I how woful Calystope, 
Whan that Dyane was agreved with here, 
Was turned from a womman to a here, 2060 

And after was sche maad the loode-sterre : 
Thus was it peynted, I can say no ferre ; 
Hire son is eek a sterre, as men may see. 
Ther sawgh I Dyane turned intil a tree, 
I mene nought the goddes Dyane, 
But Peneus doughter, the whiche hight Dane. 
Ther saugh I Atheon an hei*t i-maked, 
For vengance that he saugh Dyane al naked : 
I saugh how that his houndes han him caught, 
And freten him, for that they knew him naught. 2070 
Yit i-peynted was a litel forthermore, 
How Atthalaunce huntyd the wilde hore, 
And Melyagre, and many another mo, 
For which Dyane wrought hem care and woo. 
Ther saugh I eek many another story, 
The which me list not drawe to memory. 

2003. — a sterre. The Had MS. reads, by an evident mistake, is eek 

aftir an men viiii/ sir. 


This goddes on an hert ful hye seet, 

With smale houndes al aboute liire feet, 

And underuethe hir feet sche had the moone, 

Wexyng it was, and schulde wane soone. 2080 

In gaude greene hire statue clothed was, 

With bowe in hande, and arwes in a cas. 

Hir eyghen caste sche ful lowe adoun, 

Ther Pluto hath his derke regioun. 

A womman travailyng was hire biforn, 

But for hire child so longe was unborn 

Ful pitously Lucyna gan sche calle, 

And seyde; " Help, for thou mayst best of alle." 

Wei couthe he peynte lyfly that it wrought, 

With many a floren he the hewes bought. 2090 

Now been thise listes maad, and Theseus 
That at his grete cost arayed thus 
The temples and the theatres every del, 
Whan it was don, it liked him right wel. 
But stynt I wil of Theseus a lite, 
And speke of Palamon and of Arcite. 

The day approcheth of her attournyng, 
That every schuld an hundred knightes bryng, 
The batail to derreyne, as I you tolde ; 
And til Athenes, her covenant to holde, 2100 

Hath every of hem brought an hundred knightes, 
Wel armed for the werre at alle rightes. 
And sikerly ther trowed many a man. 
That never, siththen that this world lii<^;in 
For to speke of knighthod of her bond, 


As fer as God hath maked see or lond, 

Nas, of so fewe, so good a company. 

For eveiy wight that loveth chyvalry, 

And wold, his thankes, have a passant name, 

Hath preyed that he might be of that game ; 2110 

And wel was him, that therto chosen was. 

For if ther felle to rnorwe such a caas, 

I knowe wel, that every lusty knight, 

That loveth paramours, and hath his might, 

Were it in Engelond, or elleswhere, 

They wold, here thankes, wilne to be there. 

To fighte for a lady ; henedicite ! 

It were a lusty sighte for to see. 

And right so ferden they with Palamon. 

With him ther wente knyghtes many oon : 2120 

Some wol ben armed in an haburgoun, 

In a bright brest plat and a gypoun; 

And som wold have a peyre plates large ; 

And som wold have a Pruce scheld, or a targe ; 

Som wol been armed on here legges weel, 

And have an ax, and eek a mace of steel. 

Ther nys no newe gyse, that it nas old. 

Armed were they, as I have you told, 

Everich after his owen opinioun. 

Ther maistow se comyng with Palamoun 2130 

Ligurge himself, the grete kyng of Trace : 
Blak was his berd, and manly was his face. 

2124.— Pruce. This is the reading of most of the MSS. The MS. 
Harl. has prys. 


The cercles of his eyen in his heed 

They gloweden bytwixe yolw and reed, 

And lit a griffoun loked he aboute, 

With kempe heres on his browes stowte; 

His lymes greet, his brawnes hard and stronge, 

His schuldres brood, his amies rounde and longe. 

And as the gyse was in his contre, 

Ful heye upon a chare of gold stood he, 2140 

With foure white boles in a trays. 

In stede of cote armour in his hamays, 

With nayles yolwe, and bright as eny gold, 

He had a here skyn, cole-blak for old. 

His lange heer y-kempt byhynd his bak, 

As eny raven fether it schon for blak. 

A wrethe of gold arm-gret, and huge of wight, 

Upon his heed, set ful of stoones bright, 

Of fyne rubeus and of fyn dyamauutz. 

Aboute his chare wente white alaunz, 2150 

Twenty and mo, as grete as eny stere, 

To hunte at the lyoun or at the bere, 

And folwed him, with mosel fast i-bounde, 

Colerd with golde, and torettes fyled rounde. 

An hundred lordes had he in his route 

Armed ful wel, with hertes stern and stoute. 

With Arcita, in stories as men fynde, 
The gret Emetreus, the kyng of Ynde, 
Uppon a steede bay, trapped in steel, 
Covered witli cloth and of gold dyapred wel, 2160 
Cam rydyng lyk the god of amies Mars. 


His coote armour was of a cloth of Tars, 

Cowched of perlys whyte, round and grete. 

His sadil was of brend gold newe bete ; 

A mantelet upon bis scbuldre bangyng 

Bret-ful of rubies reed, as fir sparclyng. 

His crispe her lik rynges was i-ronne, 

And that was yalwe, and gliteryng as the sonne. 

His nose was heigh, his eyen were cytryne, 

His lippes rounde, his colour was sangwyn, 2170 

A fewe freknes in his face y-spreynd, 

Betwixe yolwe and somdel blak y-meynd, 

And as a lyoun he his lokyng caste. 

Of fyve and twenty veer his age I caste. 

His herd was wel bygonne for to sprynge ; 

His voys was as a trumpe thunderynge. 

Upon his heed he wered of laurer grene 

A garlond freisch and lusty for to sene. 

Upon his bond he bar for his delyt 

An cgle tame, as eny lylie whyt. 2 1 80 

An hundred lordes had he with him ther, 

Al armed sauf here hedes in here ger, 

Ful richely in alle maner thinges. 

For trusteth wel, that dukes, erles, kynges 

Were gadred in this noble companye, 

For love, and for encres of chivalrve. 

Aboute the kyng ther ran on every part 

Ful many a tame lyoun and lepart. 

2162. — cloth of Tom. A kind of silk, said to be the same as in other 
places is called Tartarine (lartarinwm), but the exact derivation ol which 
appears to tie somewhat uncertain. 


And in this wise, thes lordes alle and some 

Been on the Sonday to the cite come 2190 

Ahoute prime, and in the toun alight. 

This Theseus, this duk, this worthy knight, 

Whan he had brought hem into Ins cite, 

And ynned hem, everich at his degre, 

He festeth hem, and doth so gret labour 

To esen hem, and do hem al honour, 

That yit men wene that no mannes wyt 

Of non estat that cowde amenden it. 

The mynstralcye, the servyce at the feste, 

The grete giftes to the most and leste, 2200 

The riche aray of Theseus paleys, 

Ne who sat first ne last upon the deys, 

What ladies fayrest ben or best daunsyng, 

Or which of hem can daunce best or sing, 

Ne who most felyngly speketh of love ; 

What haukes sitten on the perche above, 

What houndes lyen in the floor adoun, 

Of al this make I now no mencioun ; 

But of theffect ; that thinketh me the beste ; 

Now comth the poynt, and herkneth if you leste. 2210 

The Sonday night, or day bigan to springe, 
When Palamon the larke herde synge, 
Although it were nought day by hourcs tuo, 
Yit sang the larke, and Palamon also 
With holy hertc, and with an heih corage 
He roos, to wenden on his pilgrymage 

Q'20\.— Theseus palei/s. The IMS. Hail, reads oj Thelns his paleys. 


Unto the blisful Cithera benigne, 

I inene Venus, honorable and cligne. 

And in hire hour, he walketh forth a paas 

Unto the lystes, ther hir temple was, 2220 

And doun he kneleth, and with humble cheer 

And herte sore, he seide as ye schal heer. 

" Fairest of faire, lady myn Venus, 
Doughter of Jove, and spouse to Vulcanus, 
Thou glacier of the mount of Citheroun, 
For thilke love thou haddest to Adeoun 
Have pite on my bitter teeres smerte, 

2219. — And in hire hour. " I cannot better illustrate Chaucer's astro 
logy than by a quotation from the old Kalendrier de Bergiers, Edit. 
1500, sign. K. ii. b. Qui veult savoir comme bergiers scevent quel 
planete regne chascune heure du jour et de la nuit, doit savoir la planete 
du jour qui veult s'enquerir ; et la premiere heure temporelle du soleil 
levant ce jour est pour celluy planete, la seconde heure est pour la planete 
ensuivant, etla tierce pour V autre, &c. in the following order, viz. Saturn, 
Jupiter, Mars, Sol, Venus, Mercury, Luna. To apply this doctrine to 
the present case. The first hour of the Sunday, reckoning from sun-rise, 
belonged to the Sun, the planet of the day ; the second to Venus, the 
third to Mercury, &c. and continuing this method of allotment, we shall 
find that the twenty-second hour also belonged to the Sun, and tho 
twenty-third to Venus ; so that the hour of Venus, really was, as Chaucer 
says, two hours before sun-rise of the following day. Accordingly we are 
told in ver. 2273, that the third hour after Palamon set out for the temple 
of Venus, the Sun rose, and Emelie began to go to the temple of Diane. 
It is not said, that this was the hour of Diane, or the Moon, but it really 
was, for, as we have just seen, the twenty-third hour of Sunday belonging 
to Venus, the twenty-fourth must be given to Mercury, and the first hour 
of Monday falls in course to the Moon, the presiding planet of that day. 
After this Arcite is described as walking to the temple of Mars, ver. 
2369, in the nexte houre of Mars, that is, the fourth hour of the day. 
It is necessary to take these words together, for the nexte houre, singly, 
would signify the second hour of the day ; but that, according to the 
rule of rotation mentioned above, belonged to Saturn, as the third did to 
Jupiter. The fourth was the nexte houre of Mars, that occurred after 
the hour last named." — Tyrwhitl. 

2223. — Fairest of faire. The MS. Harl. reads fairest, O fairest. 


And tak myn humble prayer to thin herte. 

Alias ! I ne have no langage for to telle 

Theffectes ne the tormentz of myn helle ; 2230 

Myn herte may myn harmes nat bewreye ; 

I am so confus, that I may not seye. 

But mercy, lady bright, that knowest wel 

My thought, and felest what harm that I fel, 

Consider al this, and rew upon my sore, 

As wisly as I schal for evermore 

Enforce my might tlii trewe servant to be, 

And holde werre alday with chastite : 

That make I myn avow, so ye me helpe. 

I kepe nat of amies for to yelpe, 2240 

Ne nat I aske to morn to have victorie, 

Ne renoun in this caas, ne veyne glorie 

Of pris of armes, blowyng up and doun, 

But I wolde have ful possessioun 

Of Emelye, and dye in thi servise ; 

Fynd thou the maner how, and in what wyse. 

I recche nat, but it may better be, 

To have victorie of him, or he of me, 

So that I have my lady in myn armes. 

For though so be that Mars be god of armes, 2250 

And ye be Venus, the goddes of love, 

Youre vertu is so gret in heven above, 

Thy temple wol I worschipe evermo, 

And on thin auter, wher I ryde or go, 

I wol do sacrifice, and Ivies bcete. 

And if ye wol nat so, my lady swcete, 


Than pray I the, to morwe with a spere 

That Arcita me thurgh the herte here. 

Thanne rekke I nat, whan I have lost my lyf, 

Though that Arcite have hir to his wyf. 2260 

This is theffect and ende of my prayere ; 

Gif me my love, thou blisful lady deere." 

Whan thorisoun was doon of Palamon, 

His sacrifice he dede, and that anoon 

Ful pitously, with alle circumstances, 

Al telle I nat as now his observances. 

But at the last the statu of Venus schook, 

And made a sigue, wherby that he took 

That his prayer accepted was that day. 

For though the signe schewed a delay, 2270 

Yet wist he wel that graunted was his boone ; 

And with glad herte he went him horn ful soone. 

The thrid hour inequal that Palamon 
Bigan to Venus temple for to goon, 
Up roos the sonne, and up roos Emelye, 
And to the temple of Dian gan sche hye. 
Hir maydens, that sche with hir thider ladde, 
Ful redily with hem the fyr they hadde, 
Thencens, the clothes, and the remenant al 
That to the sacrifice longen schal. 22 80 

The homes ful of meth, as is the gyse, 

2273. — The thrid hour inequal. " In the astrological system, the 
day, from sun-rise to sun-set, and the night, from sun-set to sun rise, being 
each divided into xn hours, it is plain, that the hours of the day and 
night were never equal, except just at the equinoxes. The hours attri- 
buted to the planets were of this unequal sort. See Kalendrier de Berg, 
loc. fit. and our author's treatise on the Astrolabe." — Tyrwhitl. 


Ther lakketh nought to do here sacrifise. 

Smokyng the temple, ful of clothes faire, 

This Ernelye with herte clehonaire 

Hir body wessch with watir of a welle ; 

But how sche dide I ne dar nat telle, 

But it be eny thing in general ; 

And yet it were a game to here it al ; 

To him that meneth wel it were no charge : 

But it is good a man be at his large. 2290 

Hir brighte her was kempt, untressed al ; 

A corone of a grene ok cerial 

Upon hir heed was set ful fair and meete. 

Tuo fyres on the auter gan sche beete, 

And did hir thinges, as men may biholde 

In Stace of Thebes and the bokes olde. 

Whan kynled was the fyre, with pitous cheere 

Unto Dyan sche spak, as ye may heere. 

" O chaste goddes of the woodes greene, 
To whom bothe heven and erthe and see is seene, 2300 
Queen of the regne of Pluto, derk and lowe, 
Goddes of maydenes, that myn hert has knowe 
Ful many a yeer, ye woot what I desire, 
As keep me fro the vengans of thilk yre, 
That Atheon aboughte trewely : 
Chaste goddesse, wel wost thou that I 

2291. — brighte her. So in the Teseide, Emily is described as — 

Diclio cbe i suo crin parevan d'oro, 

Non con trezza rcstretti, uiu soluti 

E pctiuati. 
2202. — a corone. Corona di querzia cereale — Teseide. 
2296.— In Stace of Thebes. In the Thebaid of Statins. 


Desire to ben a mayden al my lyf, 
Ne never wol I be no love ne wyf. 
I am, thou wost, yit of thi company, 
A mayden, and love huntyng and venery, 2310 

And for to walken in the woodes wylde, 
And nought to ben a wyf, and be with chylde. 
Nought wol I knowe the company of man. 
Now helpe me lady, sy times ye may and kan, 
For the thre formes that thou hast in the. 
And Palamon, that hath such love to me, 
And eek Arcite, that loveth me so sore, 
This grace I praye the withouten more, 
As sende love and pees betwix hem two : 
And fro me torne awey here hertes so, 2320 

That al here hoote love, and here desire, 
Al here besy torment, and al here fyre 
Be queynt, or turned in another place. 
And if so be thou wol do me no grace, 
Or if my destyne be schapid so, 
That I schal needes have on of hem two, 
So send me him that most desireth me. 
Biholde, goddes of clene chastite, 
The bitter teeres, that on my cheekes falle. 
Syn thou art mayde, and keper of us alle, 2330 

My maydenhode thou kepe and wel conserve, 
And whil I lyve a mayde I wil the serve." 
The fyres bren upon the auter cleer, 

2315. — thre formes. The MS. Harl., probably by a mistake of the 
scribe, omits the wonl litre. 


Whil Ernelye was in hire preyer : 

But socleinly sche saugh a sighte queynt, 

For right anon on of the fyres queynt, 

And quyked agayn, and after that anon 

That other fyr was queynt, and al agon : 

And as it queynt, it made a whistelyug, 

As doth a wete brond in his brennyng. 2340 

And at the brondes end out ran anoon 

As it were bloody dropes many oon : 

For which so sore agast was Emelye, 

That sche was wel neih mad, and gan to crie, 

For sche ne wiste what it signifyed ; 

But oonely for feere thus sche cryed, 

And wepte, that it was pite to heere. 

And therwithal Dyane gan appeere, 

With bow in hond, right as a hunteresse, 

And seyd; "A! doughter, stynt thyn hevynesse. 2350 

Among the goddes hye it is affermed, 

And by eterne word write and confermed, 

Thou schalt be wedded unto oon of tho, 

That have for the so moche care and wo : 

But unto which of hem may I nat telle. 

Farwel, for I may her no lenger dwelle. 

The fyres which that on myn auter bren, 

Schuln the declare, or that thou go hen, 

Thyn adventure of love, and in this caas." 

And with that word, the arwes in the caas 2360 

Of the goddesse clatren faste and rynge, 

And forth sche went, and made a vanysschynge, 


For which this Eraelye astoneyd was, 
And seicle, "What amounteth this, alias ! 
I put me under thy proteccioun, 
Dyane, and in thi disposicioun." 
And hoom sche goth anon the nexte way. 
This is theffect, ther nys no mor to say. 

The nexte hour of Mars folwynge this, 
Arcite to the temple walkyd is, 23 " u 

To fyiy Mars to doon his sacrifise, 
With al the rightes of his payen wise. 
With pitous herte and heih devociouu, 
Right thus to Mars he sayd his orisoun : 
" stronge god. that in the reynes cold 
Of Trace honoured and lord art y-hold, 
And hast in every regne and every land 
Of armes al the bridel in thy hand, 
And hem fortunest as the lust devyse, 
Accept of me my pitous sacrifise. 2380 

If so he that my youthe may deserve, 
And that my might be worthi for to serve 
Thy godhed, that I may ben on of thine, 
Then pray I the to re we on my pyne, 
For thilke peyne, and that hoote fuyre, 
In which whilom thou brendest for desyre, 
Whan that thou usedest the gret bewte 
Of faire freissche Venus, that is so free, 
And haddest hir in armes at thy wille : 

2375. — The greater part of this prayer is taken almost literally from 
the Teseide. 


And though the ones on a tyme mysfille, 239 ° 

When Vuleanus had caught the in his laas, 

And fand the liggyng by his wyf, allaas ! 

For thilke sorwe that was in thin herte, 

Have reuthe as wel upon my peynes smerte. 

I am yong and unkonnyng, as thou wost, 

And, as I trowe, with love offendid most, 

That ever was eny lyves creature : 

For sche, that doth me al tins wo endure, 

Ne rekketh never, whether I synke or flete. 

And wel I woot, or sche me mercy heete, 240 ° 

I moot with strengthe wyn hir in the place : 

And wel I wot, withouten help or grace 

Of the, ne may my strengthe nought avayle. 

Then help me, lord, to morn in my hatayle, 

For thilke fyr that whilom brende the, 

As wel as this fire now brenneth me ; 

And do to morn that I have the victorie. 

Myn be the travail, al thin be the glorie. 

Thy soverein tempul wol I most honouren 

Of any place, and alway most labouren 241 ° 

In thy plesaunce and in thy craftes strong. 

And in thy tempul I wol my baner hong, 

And alle the amies of my companye, 

And ever more, unto that day I dye, 

Eterae fyr I wol bifore the fynde. 

And eek to this avow I wol me bynde : 

My herd, myn heer that hangclh longe adoun, 

That never yit ne felt offensiomi 



Of rasour ne of scliere, I wol thee give, 

And be thy trewe servaunt whiles I lyve. 2420 

Lord, have rowthe uppon my sorwes sore, 

Gif me the victorie, I aske no more." 

The preyer stynt of Arcita the strange, 
The rynges on the tempul dore that hange, 
And eek the dores, clatereden ful fast, 
Of which Arcita somwhat was agast. 
The fyres brenden on the auter bright, 
That it gan al the tempul for to light ; 
A swote smel anon the ground up gaf, 
And Arcita anon his hand up haf, 2430 

And more encens into the fyr yet cast, 
With othir rightes, and than atte last 
The statu of Mars bigan his hauberk ryng. 
And with that soun he herd a murmuryng 
Ful lowe and dym, and sayde this, "Victorie." 
For which he gaf to Mars honour and glorie. 
And thus with joye, and hope wel to fare, 
Arcite anoon unto his inne is fare, 
As fayn as foul is of the brighte sonne. 
And right anon such stryf is bygonne 2440 

For that grauntyng, in the heven above, 
Bitwix Venus the goddes of love, 
And Martz the sterne god armypotent, 
That Jupiter was busy it to stent : 
Til that the pale Saturates the colde, 
Tbat knew so many of aventures olde, 
Fond in bis olde experiens an art, 


That he ful sone hath plesyd every part. 

As soth is sayd, eelde hath gret avantage, 

In eelde is bothe wisdom and usage : 2450 

Men may the eelde at-ren, but nat at-rede. 

Saturne anon, to stynte stryf and drede, 

Al be it that it be agayns his kynde, 

Of al this stryf he can a remedy fynde. 
"My deere doughter Venus," quod Satourne, 
" My cours, that hath so wyde for to toume, 

Hath more power than woot eny man. 

Myn is the drenchyng in the see so wan ; 

Myn is the prisoun in the derke cote ; 

Myn is the stranglyng and hangyng by the throte ; 2460 

The murmur, and the cherles rebellyng ; 

The groyning, and the pryve enpoysonyng. 

I do vengance and pleyn correctioun, 

Whiles I dwelle in the signe of the lyoun. 

Myn is the men of the hihe halles, 

The fallyng of the toures and the walles 

Upon the mynour or the carpenter : 

I slowh Sampsoun in schakyng the piler. 

And myne ben the maladies colde, 

2453. — agayns his kynde. According to the " Compost of Ptholomeus," 
Saturn was influential in producing strife: " And the children of the 
sayd Saturne shall be great jangeleres and chyders. . . . and they will 
never forgyve tyll they he revenged of theyr quarell." 

2150. —My cours. The course of the planet Saturn See the next 

2457. — more power. The " Compost of Ptholomeus," quoted above, 
says of Saturn ; " he is mighty of hymself. . . It is more than xxx yere or 
In- may ronne his course. . . . Whan he doth reygne, there is moche 


The derke tresoun, and the castes olde : 2470 

Myn lokyng is the fadir of pestilens. 

Now wepe noniore, I schal do my diligence, 

That Palamon, that is myn owen knight, 

Schal have his lady, as thou him hihight. 

Thow Martz schal kepe his knight, yet nevertheles 

Bitwixe you ther moot som tyme be pees : 

Al be ye nought of oo complexioun, 

That ilke day causeth such divisioun. 

I am thi ayel, redy at thy wille ; 

Wepe thou nomore, I wol thi lust fulfille." 2480 

Now wol I stynt of the goddes above, 

Of Mars, and of Venus goddes of love, 

And telle you, as pleinly as I can, 

The grete effecte for that I bigan. 

Gret was the fest in Athenus that day, 
And eek that lusty sesoun of that May 
Made eveiy wight to ben in such plesaunce, 
That al the Monday jousten they and daunce, 
And spende it in Venus heigh servise. 
But by the cause that they schuln arise 2490 

Erly a-morwe for to see that fight, 
Unto their rest wente they at nyght. 
And on the morwe whan the day gan spryng, 
Of hors and hernoys noyse and clateryng 
Ther was in the oostes al aboute : 
And to the paleys rood ther many a route 
Of lordes, upon steede and palfreys. 
Ther mayst thou see devysyng of herneys 


So uncowth and so riche wrought and wel 

Of goldsmithry, of browdyng, and of steel ; 2500 

The scheldes bright, testers, and trappures; 

Gold-beten helnies, hauberks, and cote armures ; 

Lordes in paramentes on her coursers, 

Knightes of retenu, and eek squyers ; 

Rayhyng the speres, and helnies bokelyng, 

Girdyng of scheeldes, with layneres lasyng ; 

Ther as need is, they were nothing ydel : 

Ther fornen steedes, on the golden bridel 

Gnawyng, and faste armurers also 

With fyle and hamer prikyng to and fro ; 2510 

Yemen on foote, and knaves many oon 

With schorte staves, as thikke as they may goon ; 

Pypes, trompes, nakers, and clariounes, 

That in the batail blewe bloody sownes ; 

The paleys ful of pepul up and doun, 

Heer thre, ther ten, haldyng her questioun, 

Dyvynyng of this Thebans knightes two. 

Som seyden thus, som seyd it schal be so ; 

Som heelde with him with the blake berd, 

Som with the ballyd, som with thikke hered; 2520 

Som sayd he loked grym as he wold light : 

He hath a sparth of twenti pound of wight. 

Thus was the halle ful of devynyng, 

Lang after that the sonne gau to spring. 

2516. — /iter thre. So in the Teseide, — 

Qui tic, lit quatro, v qui sei adunati, 
Tra lor uiostrando diverbe ragione 


The gret Theseus that of his sleep is awaked 
With menstralcy and noyse that was maked, 
Held yit the chainbre of his paleys riche, 
Til that the Thebanes knyghtes bothe i-liche 
Honoured weren, and into paleys let. 
Duk Theseus was at a wyndow set, 2530 

Arayed right as he were god in trone : 
The pepul preseth thider-ward ful sone 
Hirn for to seen, and doon him reverence, 
And eek herken his hest and his sentence. 
An herowd on a skaffold made a hoo, 
Til al the noyse of the pepul was i-doo : 
And whan he sawh the pepul of noyse al stille, 
Thus schewed he the mighty dukes wille. 
" The lord hath of his heih discrecioun 
Considered, that it were destruccioun 2540 

To gentil blood, to tighten in this wise 
Of mortal batail now in this emprise ; 
Wherfore to schapen that they schuld not dye, 
He wol his firste purpos modifye. 
No man therfore, up peyne of los of lyf, 
No manor schot, ne pollax, ne schort knyf 
Into the lystes sende, or thider brvng; 
Ne schorte swerd for to stoke the point bytyng 
No man ne draw, ne here by his side. 
Ne noman schal unto his felawe ryde 2550 

2527. — held yit ihi chambre. So tin' Teseide, — 
Anchor le riche eamere t> nea 
Del Mid palaziq, 


But oou cours, with a scharpe spere ; 

Feyne if him lust on foote, himself to were. 

And he that is at meschief, schal he take, 

And nat slayn, but be brought to the stake, 

That schal be ordeyned on eyther syde ; 

But thider he schal by force, and ther abyde. 

And if so falle, a cheventen be take 

On eyther side, or elles sle his make, 

No lenger schal the turneynge laste. 

God spede you ; goth forth and ley on faste. 2560 

With long swerd and with mace fight your fille. 

Goth now your way ; this is the lordes wille." 

The voice of the poepul toucbith heven, 
So lowde cried thei with mery steven : 
" God save such a lord that is so good, 
He wilneth no destruccioun of blood !" 
Up goth the trompes and the melodye, 
And to the lystes ryde the companye 
By ordynaunce, thurgh the cite large, 
Hangyng with cloth of gold, and not with sarge. 2570 
Ful lik a lord this nobul duk cam ryde, 
These tuo Thebans on eyther side : 
And after rood the queen, and Emelye, 

2503. — The voice of the poepul. So the Teseide, — 
Di ni/bili e del populo il romore 
Toclio lc Btelle, se fu alto e forte, 
Li dei, dicendo, servi tal signore 
Che de gli amici suoi fugie la morte. 

2564.- — mery. The MS. Hail, reads mylde. 


And after hem another cornpanye 
Of one and other, after here degre. 
And thus they passeden thurgh that cite, 
And to the lystes come thei by tyme : 
It nas not of the day yet fully pryme. 
Whan sette was Theseus riche and hye, 
Ypolita the queen and Emelye, 2580 

And other ladyes in here degrees aboute, 
Unto the settes passeth al the route. 
And west-ward, thorugh the gates of Mart, 
Arcite, and eek the hundred of his part, 
With baners red ys entred right anoon ; 
And in that selve moment Palamon 
Is, under Venus, est-ward in that place, 
With baner whyt, and hardy cheer of face. 
In al the world, to seeke up and doun, 
So even withoute variacioun 2590 

Ther nere suche companyes tweye. 
For ther nas noon so wys that cowthe seye, 
That any had of other avauntage 
Of worthines, ne staat, ne of visage, 
So evene were they chosen for to gesse. 
And in two renges faire they hem dresse. 
And whan here names i-rad were eveiychon, 

2574. — And after hem. The MS Harl. reads these two lines thus, — 
And after hem of ladyes another cornpanye, 
And after hem of comunes after here degre. 
Of ladies in the first line seems redundant, and the second line appears 
to have been blundered by a careless or ignorant scribe. 


That in here noinbre gile were ther noon, 

Tho were the gates schitt, and cried lowde ; 

Doth now your devoir, yonge knightes proude !" 2600 

The heraldz laften here prikyng up and doun ; 

Now ryngede the tronip and clarioun. 

Ther is noniore to say, but est and west 

In goth the speres into the rest ; 

Ther seen men who can juste, and who can ryde. 

In goth the scharpe spere into the side. 

Ther schyveren schaftes upon schuldres thyk ; 

He feeleth thurgh the herte-spon the prik. 

Up sprengen speres on twenty foot on hight ; 

Out goon the swerdes as the silver bright. 2610 

The helmes ther to-hewen and to-schrede ; 

Out brast the blood, with stoute strenies reede. 

With mighty maces the bones thay to-breste. 

He thurgh the thikkest of the throng gan threste. 

Ther stomblen steedes strong, and doun can falle. 

He rolleth under foot as cloth a balle. 

He feyneth on his foot with a tronchoun, 

And him hurteleth with his hors adoun. 

He thurgh the body hurt is, and siththen take 

Maugre his heed, and brought unto the stake, 2620 

As forward was, right ther he most abyde. 

Another lad is on that other syde. 

And som tyme doth Theseus hem to rest, 

Hem to refreissche, and drinke if hem lest. 

"2617. — on his fool. Conf. 1. 2552. 


Ful ofte a-day have this Thebans twoo 

Togider y-met, and wrought his felaw woo : 

Unhorsed hath ech other of hem tweye. 

Ther nas no tygyr in the vale of Galgopleye, 

Whan that hir whelp is stole, whan it is lite, 

So cruel on the hunt, as is Arcite 263 ° 

For jelous hert upon tliis Palamon : 

Ne in Beluiary ther is no fel lyoun, 

That hunted is, or is for hunger wood, 

Ne of his prey desireth so the blood, 

As Palamon to sle his foo Arcite. 

The jelous strokes on here helmes byte : 

Out renneth blood on bothe here sides reede. 

Som tyme an ende ther is on every dede. 

For er the sonne unto the reste went, 

The strange kyng Emetreus gan hent 2640 

This Palamon, as he faught with Arcite, 

And his swerd in his fleissch he did byte. 

And by the force of twenti he is take 

Unyolden, and i-drawe unto the stake. 

And in the rescous of this Palamon 

The stronge kyng Ligurgius is born adoun : 

And kyng Emetreus for al his strengthe 

Is born out of his sadel his swerdes lengthe, 

So hit him Palamon er he were take : 

But al for nought, he was brought to the stake : 2650 

2628. — Galgopleye. Tyrwliitt reads Golaphci/, and conjectures tliat 
Chaucer meant Galapha in Mauritania Tingitana, Belmarie lias been 
noticed before, /. 57. 


His hardy herte might him helpe nought, 

He most abyde whan that he was caught, 

By force, and eek by composicioun. 

Who sorweth now but woful Palamoun, 

That moot nomore gon agayn to fight ? 

And whan that Theseus had seen that sight, 

He cryed, " Hoo ! nomore, for it is doon ! 

Ne noon schal lenger unto his felaw goon. 

I wol be trewe juge, and nought partye. 

Arcyte of Thebes schal have Emelye, 2660 

That hath by his fortune hire i-wonne." 

Anoon ther is noyse bygonne 

For joye of this, so lowde and hey withalle, 

It semed that the listes wolde falle. 

What can now fayre Venus doon above ? 

What seith sche now ? what doth this queen of love ? 

But wepeth so, for wantyng of hir wille, 

Til that hire teeres in the lystes fille : 

Sche seyde : " I am aschamed douteles." 

Satoumus seyde : " Doughter, hold thy pees. 2670 

Mars hath his wille, his knight hath his boone, 

And by myn heed thou schal t be esed soone." 

The trompes with the lowde mynstralcy, 

The herawdes, that ful lowde yolle and cry, 

Been in here joye for daun Arcyte. 

But herkneth me, and stynteth but a lite, 

Which a miracle bifel anoon. 

This Arcyte fersly hath don his helm adoun, 

And on his courser for to schewe his face 


He priked endlange in the large place, 2G8 ° 

Lokyng upward upon this Emelye ; 

And sche agayn him cast a frendly yghe, 

(For wommen, as for to speke in comune, 

Thay folwe alle the favour of fortune) 

And was alle his in cheer, and in Ms hert. 

Out of the ground a fyr infernal stert, 

From Pluto send, at the request of Saturne, 

For which his hors for feere gan to turne, 

And leep asyde, and foundred as he leep : 

And or that Arcyte may take keep, 2690 

He pight him on the pomel of his heed, 

That in that place he lay as he were deed, 

His brest to-broken with his sadil bowe. 

As blak he lay as eny col or crowe, 

So was the blood y-ronne in his face. 

Anon he was j-born out of the place 

With herte sore, to Theseus paleys. 

Tho was he corven out of his barneys, 

And in a bed y-brought ful fair and blyve, 

For yit he was in memory and on lyve, 2700 

And alway cryeng after Emelye. 

Duk Theseus, and al his companye, 

Is comen horn to Athenes his cite, 

With alle blys and gret solempnite. 

Al be it that this aventure was falle, 

He nolde nought discomforten hem alle. 

Men seyde eek, that Arcita schuld nought dye, 

He schal be helvd of his maladye. 


And of another thing they were as fayn, 
That of hem alle ther was noon y-slayn, 2710 

Al were they sore hurt, and namely oon, 
That with a spere was thirled his brest boon. 
To other woundes, and to broken armes, 
Some hadde salve, and some hadde eharmes, 
Fermacyes of herbes, and eek save 
They dronken, for they wolde here lyves have. 
For which this noble duk, as he wel can, 
Comforteth and honoureth eveiy man, 
And made revel al the lange night, 
Unto the straunge lordes, as was right. 2720 

Ne ther was holden no discomfytyng, 
But as a justes or as a turneying ; 
For sothly ther was no discomfiture, 
For fallynge is but an adventure. 
Ne to be lad with fors unto the stake 
Unyolden, and with twenty knightes take, 
A person allone, withouten moo, 
And rent forth by arme, foot, and too, 
And eke his steede dryven forth with staves, 
With footemen, bothe yemen and eke knaves, 2730 
It was aretted him no vylonye : 
Ne no maner man heldn it no cowardye. 
For which Theseus lowd anon leet crie, 

2714, 2715. — eharmes — save. It may be observed that tbe salves 
charms, and pliannacies of herbs, were the principal remedies of the 
physican in the age of Cbaucer. Save (salvia, tbe hcib sage), was con- 
sidered one of the most universally efficient of tbe medieval remedies. 


To stynten al rancour and al envye, 

The gree as wel on o syde as on other, 

And every side lik, as otheres brother : 

And gaf hem giftes after here degre, 

And fully heeld a feste dayes thre : 

And conveyed the knightes worthily 

Out of his toun a journee largely. 2740 

And horn went every man the righte way, 

Ther was no more, but " Farwel, have good day!" 

Of this batayl I wol no more endite, 

But speke of Palamon and of Arcyte. 

Swelleth the brest of Arcyte, and the sore 
Encresceth at his herte more and more. 
The clothred blood, for eny leche-craft, 
Corrumpith, and is in his bouk i-laft, 
That nother veyne blood, ne ventusyng, 
Ne drynk of herbes may ben his helpyng. 2750 

The vertu expulsif, or animal, 
Fro thilke vertu cleped natural, 
Ne may the venym voyde, ne expelle. 
The pypes of his lounges gan to swelle, 
And every lacerte in his brest adoun 
Is schent with venym and corrupcioun. 
Him gayneth nother, for to get his lyf, 

2738. — dayes thre. Three days were the usual duration of a feast 
among our early forefathers. As far back as the seventh century, when 
Wilfred consecrated his church at Ripon, he held — magnum convivium 
trium dierum et noctium reges cum omni populo laetificantes. Eddius, 
Vit. S Wilf. c. 17. I am told that in Scotland these feasts of three d ays 
and three nights, have been preserved traditionally to a comparatively 
recent period. 


Vomyt up- ward, ne doun-ward laxatif ; 

Al is to-broken thilke regioun ; 

Nature hath now no dominacioun. 2760 

And certeynly wher nature wil not wirche, 

Farwel phisik ; go here the man to chirche. 

This al and som, that Arcyte moste dye. 

For which he sendeth after Emelye, 

And Palamon, that was his cosyn deere. 

Than seyd he thus, as ye schul after heere. 

"Naught may the woful spirit in myn herte 
Declare a poynt of my sorwes smerte 
To you, my lady, that I love most ; 
But I byquethe the seiwice of my gost 2770 

To you aboven every creature, 
Syn that my lyf may no lenger dure. 
Alias, the woo ! alias, the peynes stronge, 
That I for you have suffred, and so longe ! 
Alias, the deth ! alias, myn Emelye ! 
Alias, departyng of our companye ! 
Alias, myn hertes queen ! alias, my wyf ! 
Myn hertes lady, ender of my lyf! 
What is this world? what asken men to have? 
Now with his love, now in his colde grave 2780 

Allone withouten eny companye. 
Farwel, my swete, farwel, myn Emelye ! 
And softe take me in your armes tweye, 
For love of God, and herkneth what I seye. 
I have heer with my cosyn Palamon 
Had strvf and rancour many a day i-gon, 


For love of yow, and eek for jelousie. 

And Jupiter so wis my sowle gye, 

To speken of a servaunt proprely, 

With alle circurnstaunces trewely, 2790 

That is to seyn, trouthe, honour, and knighthede, 

Wysdom, humblesse, astaat, and by kynrcde, 

Fredam, and al that longeth to that art, 

So Jupiter have of my soule part, 

As in this world right now ne know I non 

So worthy to be loved as Palamon, 

That serveth you, and wol do al his lyf. 

And if that ye schul ever be a wyf, 

Forget not Palamon, that gentil man." 

And with that word his speehe faile gan ; 2S00 

For fro his herte up to his brest was come 

The cold of deth, that him had overcome. 

And yet moreover in his armes twoo 

The vital strength is lost, and al agoo. 

Only the intellect, withouten more, 

That dwelled in his herte sik and sore, 

Gan fayle, whan the herte felte deth ; 

Duskyng his eyghen two, and fayled breth. 

But on his lady yit he cast his ye ; 

His laste word was, " Mercy, Emelye !" 2810 

His spiryt diaunged was, and wente ther, 

As I cam never, I can nat tellen wher. 

Therfore I stynte, I nam no dyvynistre ; 

2813. — Therfore I stynic. Up to this point, the description of Arcite's 
dying moments is taken literally from the Teseide. " This," Tyrwhitt 
observes, " is apparently a fling at Boecace's pompous description of the 
passage of Arcite's soul to heaven." 


Of soules fyncle I not in this registre. 

Ne me list nat thopynyouns to telle 

Of hem, though that thei wyten wher they dwelle. 

Arcyte is cold, ther Mars his soule gye : 

Now wol I speke forth of Emelye. 

Shright Emely, and howled Palamon, 
And Theseus Iris sustir took anon 2820 

Swownyng, and bar hir fro the corps away. 
What helpeth it to tarye forth the day, 
To telle how sche weep bothe eve and morwe ? 
For in swich caas wommen can have such sorwe, 
Whan that here housbonds ben from hem ago, 
That for the more part they sorwen so, 
Or elles fallen in such maladye, 
That atte laste certeynly they dye. 
Infynyt been the sorwes and the teeres 
Of olde folk, and folk of tendre yeeres ; 2S30 

So gret a wepyng was ther noon certayn, 
Whan Ector was i-brought, al freissh i-slayn, 
As that ther was for deth of this Theban ; 
For sorwe of him ther weepeth bothe child and man 
At Troye, alias ! the pite that was there, 
Cracchyng of cheekes, rendyng eek of here. 

2^0.— folk, and folk. The MS. Harl. reads olde folk that ben of 
tendre. The lines which follow, are read by Tyrwhitt, on the authority 
of some of the MSS. (perhaps correctly) thus, — 

In all the toun for deth of this Theban: 
For him ther wepetb bothe childe and man. 
So gret a weping was ther non certain, 
Whan Hector was y-bronght, all fresh y slain, 
To Troy, &c. 



" Why woldist thou he deed," this wommen crye, 

" And haddest gold ynowgh, and Emelye ?" 
No man mighte glade Theseus, 

Savyng his olde fader Egeus, 2840 

That laiew this worldes transmutacioun, 
As he hadde seen it tome up and doun, 
Joye after woo, and woo aftir gladnesse ; 
And schewed him ensample and likenesse. 
" Eight as ther deyde never man," quod he, 

" That he ne lyved in erthe in som degree, 
Yit ther ne lyvede never man," he seyde, 

" In al this world, that som tyme he ne deyde. 
This world nys hut a thurghfare ful of woo, 
And we hen pilgrvms, passyng to and froo : 2850 

Deth is an ende of every worldly sore," 
And over al this yit seide he mochil more 
To this effect, ful wysly to enhorte 
The peple, that they schulde him recomforte. 

Duk Theseus with al his husy cure 
Cast husyly wher that the sepulture 
Of good Arcyte may hest y-maked he, 
And eek most honurahle in his degre. 
And atte last he took conclusioun, 
That ther as first Arcite and Palamon 2860 

Hadden for love the hatail hem hytwene, 
That in the selve grove, soote and greene, 
Ther as he hadde his amorous desires, 
His compleynt, and for love his hoote fyres, 
He wolde make a fyr, in which thoffice 


Of funeral he might al accomplice ; 
And leet comaunde anon to hakke and hew 
The okes olde, and ley hem on a rewe 
In culpouns wel arrayed for to hrenne. 
His officers with swifte foot they renne, 2870 

And ryde anon at his comaundement. 
And after this, Theseus hath i-sent 
After a beer, and it al overspradde 
With cloth of golde, the richest that he hadde. 
And of the same sute, he clad Arcyte ; 
Upon his hondes were his gloves white ; 
Eke on his heed a croune of laurer grene ; 
And in his bond a swerd ful bright and kene. 
He leyde him bare the visage on the beere, 
Therwith he weep that pite was to heere. 288 ° 

And for the poeple schulde see him alle, 
Whan it was day he brought hem to the halle. 
That roreth of the cry and of the soun. 
Tho cam this woful Theban Palamoun, 
With flotery herd, and ruggy asshy heeres, 
In clothis blak, y-dropped al with teeres, 
And, passyng other, of wepyng Emelye, 
The rewfullest of al the companye. 
And in as moche as the service schulde be 
The more nobul and riche in bis degre, 28 9° 

Duk Theseus leet forth tine steedes bryng, 
That trapped were in steel al gliteryng, 
And covered with amies of dan Aivvte. 
Upon the steedes, that wen n grete and white, 

j 2 


Ther seeten folk, of which oon bar his scheeld, 

Another his spere up in his hondes heeld ; 

The thridde bar with him his bowe Turkeys, 

Of brend gold was the caas and eek the herneys : 

And riden forth a paas with sorwful chere 

Toward the grove, as ye schul after heere. 2900 

The noblest of the Grekes that ther were 

Upon here schuldres carieden the beere, 

With slak paas, and eyhen reed and wete, 

Thurghout the cite, by the maister streete, 

That sprad was al with blak, and wonder hye 

Right of the same is al the stret i-wrye. 

Upon the right bond went olde Egeus, 

And on that other syde duk Theseus, 

With vessels in here hand of gold wel fyn, 

As ful of hony, mylk, and blood, and wyn; 2910 

Eke Palamon, with a gret eompanye : 

And after that com woful Emelye, 

With fyr in bond, as was at that tyme the gyse, 

To do thoffice of funeral servise. 

Heygh labour, and ful gret apparailyng 
Was at the service and at the fyr makyng, 
That with his grene top the heven raughte, 
And twenty fadme of brede tharme straughte : 
This is to seyn, the boowes were so brode. 
Of stree first was ther leyd ful many a loode. 2920 

2897. — his bowe Turkeys. In the Roinau de la, I. 913. Love is 
described as bearing deux ars Turquois. 


But how the fyr was makyd up on highte, 

And eek the names how the trees highte, 

As ook, fyr, birch, asp, aklir, holm, popler, 

Wilw, elm, plane, assch, box, chesteyn, lynde, laurer, 

Mapul, thorn, beech, basil, ew, wyppyltre, 

How they weren felde, schal nought be told for me ; 

Ne how the goddes ronnen up and doun 

Disheryt of here habitacioun, 

In which they whilom woned in rest and pees, 

Nympbes, Faunes, and Amadiyes ; 293 ° 

Ne how the beestes and the briddes alle 

Fledden for feere, whan the woode was falle ; 

Ne how the ground agast was of the light, 

That was nought wont to see no sonne bright ; 

Ne how the fyr was couchid first with stree, 

And thanne with drye stykkes cloven in three, 

And thanne with grene woode and spicerie, 

And thanne with cloth of gold and with perrye, 

And gerlandes hangyng with ful many a flour, 

The myrre, thensens with al so gret odour; 2940 

Ne how Arcyte lay among al this, 

Ne what richesse aboute his body is ; 

Ne bow that Emely, as was the gyse, 

Putt in the fyr of funeral servise ; 

Ne how sche Bwowned whan sche ma le the fyre, 

2921. — Bnt how the fyr. The description of the funeral, and several 
other parts of this poem, axe taken originally from the Thebaid of Statins, 
to which Chaucer has already made a direct reference, /. 2296. 

2930. — Amadryes. This is the reading of all the MSS. I have con- 
sulted. It is of course a corruption of Hainadrvades. 


Ne what sche spak, ne what was hire desire ; 

Ne what jewels men in the fyr tho cast, 

Whan that the fyr was gret and brente fast ; 

Ne how sum caste her scheeld, and summe her spere, 

And of here vestimentz, which that they were, 2950 

And cuppes ful of wyn, and mylk, and blood, 

Unto the fyr, that brent as it were wood ; 

Ne how the Grekes with an huge route 

Thre tymes ryden al the fyr aboute 

Upon the lefte bond, with an heih schoutyng, 

And thries with here speres clateiyng ; 

And thries how the ladyes gan to crye ; 

Ne how that lad was home-ward Emelye ; 

Ne how Arcyte is brent to aschen colde ; 

Ne how the liche-wake was y-holde 2960 

Al thilke night, ne how the Grekes pleye 

The wake-pleyes, kepe I nat to seye : 

Who wrastleth best naked, with oyle enoynt, 

Ne who that bar him best in no disjoynt. 

I wol not telle eek how they ben goon 

Horn til Athenes whan the pley is cloon ; 

But schortly to the poynt now wol I wende, 

And maken of my longe tale an ende. 

2953. — Grekes. The scribe of the MS. Harl. has by inadvertence (as 
it is only in this instance), substituted the more legitimate old English 
form of the word Gregoyt. Chaucer, following the Italian and acquainted 
with the classic writers, uses the form Grekes throughout the Knightes 

2960. — This line is omitted in MS Harl., by an oversight of the 

2964. — The description of the funeral, like that of the tournament, 
presents a curious mixture of classic and medieval ideas, such as is found 
in other works of the same age. 


By proces and by lengthe of certeyn yen b 
Al styntyd is the niomyng aud the teeres 29 ? 

Of alle Grekys, by oon general assent. 
Than semed ine ther was a parlement 
At Athenes, on a certeyn poynt and cas : 
Among the whiche poyntes spoken was 
To ban with certeyn contrees alliaunce, 
And have fully of Thebans obeissance. 
For which this noble Theseus anon 
Let senden after gentil Palamon, 
Unwist of him what was the cause and why : 
But in his blake clothes sorwfully 298 ° 

He cam at his comaundement on hye. 
Tho sente Theseus for Emelye. 
Whan they were sette, and hussht was al the place, 
And Theseus abyden hadde a space 
Or eny word cam fro his wyse brest, 
His eyen set he ther as was his lest, 
And with a sad visage he syked stillc, 
And after that right thus he seide his wille. 

" The firste moevere of the cause above, 
Whan he first made the fayre cheyne of love, 2990 
Gret was theffect, and heigh was lii^ entente ; 
Wei wist he why, and what therof he mente; 
For with that faire cheyne of love he bund 

3993. — cheyne of love. This sentiment is taken from Boethius, De 
Consolat. Phil. lib. ii, met. 8, — 

Hanc rcrum sen em ligat, 

Terras uc pelagus regens, 

Et coelo imperitans, amor. 
What follows is taken from the same writer, lib. iv, pr, ti. 


The fyr, the watir, the eyr, and eek the loud 
In certeyn boundes, that they may not flee : 
That same prynce and moevere eek," quod he, 
" Hath stabled, in this wrecched world adoun, 
Certeyn dayes and duracioun 
To alle that er engendrid in this place, 
Over the which day they may nat pace, 3000 

Al mowe they yit wel here dayes abregge ; 
Ther needeth non auctorite tallegge ; 
For it is preved by experience, 
But that me lust declare my sentence. 
Than jnay men wel by this ordre discerne, 
That thilke moevere stabul is and eterne. 
Wel may men knowe, but it be a fool, 
That every partye dyryveth from his hool. 
For nature hath nat take his bygynnyng 
Of no partye ne cantel of a thing, 3010 

But of a thing that parfyt is and stable, 
Descendyng so, til it be comrnpable. 
And therfore of his wyse purveaunce 
He hath so wel biset his ordenaunce, 
That sjuces of thinges and progressiouns 
Schullen endure by successiouns, 
And nat eteme be withoute lye : 
This maistow understand and se at ye. 

"Lo the ook, that hath so long norisschyng 

3019. — Lo the ook. From the Teseide, — 

Li ijuerci, clie anno si lungo nutrimento 
E tanta vita quanta noi vedemo, 
Anno pur alcun tempo tinimento. 
Lp dure pietre alitor, etc. 


Fro tyme that it gynneth first to spring, 3020 

And hath so long a lyf, as we may see, 
Yet atte laste wasted is the tree. 

" Considereth eek, how that the harde stoon 
Under oure foot, on which we trede and goon, 
Yit wasteth it, as it lith by the weye. 
The brode ryver som tyme wexeth dreye. 
The grete townes see we wane and wende. 
Than may I see that al thing hath an ende. 

" Of man and womman se we wel also, 
That wendeth in oon of this termes two, 3030 

That is to seyn, in youthe or elles in age, 
He moot ben deed, the kyng as schal a page ; 
Sum in his bed, som in the deepe see, 
Som in the large feeld, as men may se. 
Ther helpeth naught, al goth thilke weye : 
Thanne may I see wel that al thing schal deye. 
What maketh this but Jubiter the kyng ? 
The which is prynce and cause of alle thing, 
Convertyng al unto his propre wille, 
From which he is dereyned, soth to telle. 3040 

And here agayn no creature on lyre 
Of no degre avayleth for to stryve. 

" Than is it wisdom, as thenketh me, 
To maken vertu of necessite, 
And take it wel, that we may nat eschewe, 
And namely that that to us alle is dewe. 
Ami who so gruccheth aught, he doth folye, 
And rebel is to him that al may gye. 


And certeynly a man hath most honour 

To deyen in his excellence and flour, 3050 

Whan he is siker of his goode name. 

Than hath he doon his freend, ne him, no schame. 

And glader ought his freend ben of his deth, 

"Whan with honour is yolden up the breth, 

Thanne whan his name appelled is for age ; 

For al forgeten is his vasselage. 

Thanne is it best, as for a worthi fame, 

To dye whan a man is best of name. 

The contrary of al this is wilfulnesse. 

Why grucchen we ? why have we hevynesse, 3060 

That good Arcyte, of chyvalry the flour, 

Departed is, with worschip and honour, 

Out of this foide prisoun of this lyf ? 
Why gruccheth beer his cosyn and his wyf 

Of his welfare, that loven him so wel ? 

Can he hem thank ? nay, God woot, never a del, 

That bothe his soule and eek hemself offeude, 

And yet they may here lustes nat amende. 
" What may I conclude of this longe serye, 

But aftir wo I rede us to be merye, 3070 

And thanke Jubiter of al his grace. 

And or that we departe fro this place, 

I rede that we make, of sorwes two, 

O parfyt joye lastyng ever mo : 

And loketh now wher most sorwe is her-inne, 

Ther wol we first amenden and bygynne. 
" Sustyr," quod he, " tliis is my ful assent, 


With al thavys beer of my parlement, 
That geutil Palamon, your owne knight, 
That sevveth yow with herte, will, and might, 3080 
And ever hath doon, syn fyrst tyme ye him knewe. 
That ye schul of your grace upon him re we, 
And take him for your housbond and for lord : 
Lene me youre hand, for this is oure acord. 
Let see now of your wommanly pite. 
He is a kynges brotbir sone, pardee ; 
And though he were a pore bachiller, 
Syn he hath served you so many a yeer, 
And had for you so gret adversite, 
It moste be considered, trusteth me. 3090 

For geutil mercy aughte passe right." 
Than seyde he thus to Palamon fid right ; 
' I trowe ther needeth litel sermonyng 
To make you assente to this tiling. 
Com neer, and tak your lady by the bond." 
Bitwix hem was i-maad anon the bond, 
That highte matriinovn or mariage, 
By alle the counseil of the baronage. 
And thus with blys and eek with melodye 
Hath Palamon i-wedded Emelye. 3ioo 

And God that al this wyde world hath wrought, 
Send him his love, that hath it deere i-bought. 
For now is Palamon in al his wele, 
Lyvynge in blisse, riehesse, and in hole, 
And Emelye him loveth so tendirly, 
And he hir serveth al so gentilly, 


That never was ther wordes hem bitweene 

Of jelousy, ne of non othir tene. 

Thus endeth Palauion and Emelye ; 

And God save al this fayre companye ! 3110 


Whan that the Knight had thus his tale i-told, 
In al the route nas ther yong ne old, 
That he ne seyde it was a noble story, 
And worthi to be drawen to memory ; 
And namely the gentils everichoon. 
Our Host tho lowh and swoor, " So moot I goon, 
This goth right wel ; unbokeled is the male ; 
Let se now who schal telle another tale : 
For trewely this game is wel bygonne. 
Now telleth ye, sir Monk, if that ye konne 3120 

Som what, to quyte with the knightes tale." 
The Myller that for-drunken was al pale, 
So that unnethe upon his hors he sat, 
He wold avale nowther hood ne hat, 
Ne abyde no man for his curtesye, 
But in Pilates voys he gan to crye, 
And swor by armes and by blood and bones, 
" I can a noble tale for the noones, 
With which I wol now quyte the knightes tale." 
Oure Hoost saugh wel how dronke he was of ale, 3130 
And seyde, " Robyn, abyde, my leve brother, 

3126. — Pilates voys. Pilate was probably represented in tbe popular 
Mysteries speaking in a gruff loud voice, as one in power and authority. 


Som bettre man scbal telle first another : 
Abycl, and let us worken thriftily." 
" By Goddes soule !" quod he, " that wol nat I, 
For I wol speke, or elles go my way." 
Oure Host answerd, " Tel on, a devel way ! 
Thou art a fool ; thy witt is overcome." 

" Now herkneth," quod this Myller, "al and some 
But first I make a protestacioun, 
That I am dronke, I knowe wel by my soun : 3140 
And therfore if that I mys-speke or seye, 
Wyte it the ale of Southwerk, I you preye : 
For I wol telle a legende and a lyf 
Bothe of a carpenter and of his wyf, 
How that the clerk hath set the wrightes cappe." 

The Reve answered and seyde, " Stynt thi clappe. 
Let be thy lewed drunken harlottrye. 
It is a synne, and eek a greet folye 
To apeyren eny man, or liim defame, 
And eek to brynge wyves in ylle name. 3150 

Thou mayst ynowgh of other thinges seyn." 
This dronken Miller spak ful sone ageyn, 
And seyde, " Leeve brother Osewold, 
Who hath no wyf, he is no cokewold. 
But I seye not therfore that thou art oon, 
Ther been ful goocle wyves many oon. 
And ever a thousand goode agayns oon badde ; 

3156. — The two next lines are omitted in Tvrwhitt's text. I bare not 
reckoned them in the numbering, from the wish to preserve the number- 
ing of the lines as in Tyrwhitt's Chaucer. 


That knowest thou wel thyself, but if thou madde. 

Why art thou angry with my tale now ? 

I have a wyf, parde ! as wel as thow, 

Yet nolde I, for the oxen in my plough, 

Take upon me more than ynough : 3160 

Though that thou deme thiself that thou be oon, 

I wol bileeve wel that I am noon. 

An housbond schal not be inquisityf 

Of Goddes pryvete, ne of his wyf. 

So that he may fynde Goddes foysoun there, 

Of the remenaunt needeth nought enquere." 

What schuld I seye, but that this proud Myllere 

He nolde his wordes for no man forbere, 

But tolde his cherlisch tale in his manere, 

Me athinketh, that I schal reherce it heere. 3170 

And therfor every gentil wight I preye, 

For Goddes love, as deme nat that I seye, 

Of yvel entent, but for I moot reherse 

Here wordes alle, al be they better or werse, 

Or elles falsen som of my mateere. 

And therfor who so list it nat to heere, 

Turne over the leef, and cheese another tale ; 

For he schal fynde ynowe bothe gret and smale, 

Of storial thing that toucheth gentilesse, 

And eek moralite, and holynesse. 3180 

Blameth nat me, if that ye cheese amys. 

The Miller is a cherl, ye know wel this ; 

So was the Reeve, and othir many mo, 

And harlotry they tolden bothe two. 


Avyseth you, and put rue out of blame ; 
And men schulde nat make emest of game. 


Whilom ther was dwellyng at Oxenford 
A riche gnof, that gestes heeld to boorde, 
And of his craft he was a carpenter. 
With him ther was dwellyng a pore scoler, 3190 

Had lerned art, but al his fantasye 
Was torned for to lerne astrologye, 
And cowde a certeyn of conclusiouns 
To deme by interrogaciouns, 
If that men axed him in certeyn houres, 
Whan that men schuld han drought or ellys schoures : 
Or if men axed him what schulde bifalle 
Of every thing, I may nought reken hem alle. 
This clerk was cleped heende Nicholas ; 
Of derne love he cowcle and of solas ; 3200 

And therwith he was sleigh and ful prive, 
And lik a mayden meke for to se. 
A chambir had he in that hostillerye 
Alone, withouten eny compaignye, 
Ful fetisly i-dight with herbes soote, 

The Milleres Tale. — 1 have not met with this story elsewhere than in 
Chaucer, though it is more than probable that he took it from an older 
French fabliau, which is now lost or only preserved in some inedited and 
little known MS. 

3203. — that. The MS. Harl. reads in his hottillerye. It may be ob- 

gerved that it was usual in the university iny tu ■ mere students to 

have one room. 


And he himself as swete as is the roote 

Of lokorys, or eny cetewale. 

His alrnagest, and hookes gret and smale, 

His astrylabe, longyng for his art, 

His augryni stoones, leyen faire apart 3210 

On schelves couched at his beddes heed, 

His presse i-covered with a faldyng reed. 

And al above ther lay a gay sawtrye, 

On which he made a-nightes melodye, 

So swetely, that al the chambur rang : 

And Angelus ad virginem he sang. 

And after that he sang the kynges note ; 

Ful often blissed was his mery throte. 

And thus this sweete clerk his tyme spente, 

After his frendes fyndyng and his rente. 3220 

This carpenter had weddid newe a wyf, 
Which that he loved more than his lyf : 
Of eyghteteene yeer sche was of age. 
Gelous he was, and heeld hir narwe in cage, 
For sche was wild and yong, and he was old, 
And denied himself belik a cokewold, 

3208 — alrnagest. This book, the work of Ptolemy, derived through 
the Arabs, was the cauon of astrological science among our forefathers in 
the middle ages. 

3209. — astrylabe. The astrolabe was the chief instrument for making 
astronomical calculations. 

3210. — augrym stoones. Augrim signifies arithmetic, — it is not very 
certain what augrim stones were, but they were probably counters marked 
with numerals, and used for calculating on a sort of abacus. Counters for 
reckoning with, are mentioned in Shakespeare. 

3216. Angelus ad virginem. One of the hymns of the church service. 
It is more difficult to say what was the kynges note, in the next line. 


He knew nat Catoun, for his wit was rude, 

That had man schulde wedde his similitude. 

Men schulde wedde aftir here astaat, 

For eelde and youthe hen often at debaat. 3230 

But syn that he was brought into the snare, 

He- moste endure, as othere doon, his care. 

Fair was the yonge wyf, and therwithal 
As eny wesil hir body gent and smal. 
A seynt sche wered, barred al of silk ; 
A barm-cloth eek as whit as morne my Ik 
Upon hir lendes, ful of many a gore. 
Whit was hir smok, and browdid al byfore 
And eek byhynde on hir color aboute 
Of cole-blak silk, withinne and eek withoute. 3240 
The tapes of hir white voluper 
Weren of tlie same sute of hire coler ; 
Hir filet brood of silk y-set ful heye. 
And certeynly sche hadd a licorous eyghe : 
Ful smal y-pulled weren hir browes two, 
And tho were bent, as blak as a slo. 
Sche was wel more blisful on to see 
Than is the newo perjonette tree ; 
And softer than the wol is of a wethir. 
And by hir gurdil hyng a purs of lethir, 3250 

:J227. — Catoun. Chaucer alludes to the tn alive or ( lato </. Moribtu ;but 
tlie sentiment is not taken from that, book, but from a medieval poem of 

a similar character entitled FaceluS, which contain.-, the following lines: 

Due tilii nrolc parent sponsam moresque venustam, 
Si cum pace vclis vitani deducere jastam. 


Tassid with silk, and perled with latoun. 

In al this world to seken up and doun 

Ther nys no man so wys, that couthe thenche 

So gay a popillot, or such a wenche. 

For brighter was the schynyng of hir hewe, 

Than in the Tour the noble i-forged newe. 

But of hir song, it was as lowde and yeme 

As eny swalwe chiteryng on a berne. 

Therto sche cowcle skippe, and make game, 

As eny kyde or calf folwyng his dame. 32G0 

Hir mouth was sweete as bragat is or meth, 

Or hoord of apples, layd in hay or heth. 

Wynsyng sche was, as is a joly colt, 

Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt. 

A broch sche bar upon hir loue coleer, 

As brod as is the bos of a bocleer. 

Hir schos were laced on hir legges heyghe ; 

Sche was a primerole, a piggesneyghe, 

For eny lord have liggyng in his bedde, 

Or yet for eny good yeman to wedde. 3270 

Now sir, and eft sir, so bifel the cas, 
That on a day this heende Nicholas 
Fil with this yonge wyf to rage and pleye, 

3255. — schynyng. The MS. Harl. reads smylyng, contrary to the 
other MSS. that I have examined. 

3250. — noble. The gold nohle of this period was a ver}' beautiful coin. 
Specimens are engraved in Ruding's Annals of the Coinage. It was 
coined in the Tower of London, the place of the principal London 


Whil that hir housbond was at Oseneye, 
As clerkes ben ful sotil and ful queynte. 
And pryvely he caught hir by the queynte, 
And seyde ; " I-wis, but if I have my wille, 
For deme love of the, lemman, I spille." 
And heeld hir harde by the haunche boones, 
And seyde, " Lemman, love me al at ones, 
Or I wol dye, as wisly God me save." 

And sehe sprang out as doth a colt in trave : 
And with hir heed sche wried fast awey, 
And seyde, " I wol nat kisse the, by my fey ! 
Why let be," quod sche, "lat be thou, Nicholas, 
Or I wol crye out harrow and alias ! 
Do wey your handes for your curtesye!" 
This Nicholas gan mercy for to crye, 
And spak so faire, and profred him so faste, 
That sche hir love him graunted atte laste, 3290 

And swor hir oth by seynt Thomas of Kent, 
That sche wol be at his comaundement, 
Whan that sche may hir leysir wel aspyc. 
1 Myn housbond is so ful of jelousic, 
That but ye wayten wel, and be pryve, 
I woot right wel I am but deed," quod sche 
' Ye mosten be ful derno as in this caas." 
' Therof ne care the nought," quod Nicholas : 
1 A clerk hath lithcrly byset his while, 

.".■27 1. — Oseneye. The somewhat celebrated abbey <>l Oseney stood in 
(he suburbs of Oxford. 



But if he cowde a carpenter bygyle." 
And thus they ben acorded and i-sworn 
To wayte a tyme, as I have told biforn. 

Whan Nicholas had doon thus every del, 
And thakked hire aboute the lendys wel, 
He last hir sweet, and taketh his sawtrye, 
And pleyeth fast,, and maketh melodye. 
Than fyl it thus, that to the parisch chirche 
Cristes owen werkes for to wirche, 
This goode wyf went on an haly day : 
Hir forheed schon as bright as eny day, 
So was it waisschen, whan sche leet hir werk. 

Now ther was of that chirche a parisch clerk, 
The which that was i-cleped Absolon. 
Crulle was his heer, and as the gold it schon, 
And strowted as a fan right large and brood ; 
Ful streyt and evene lay his jolly schood. 
His rode was reed, his eyghen gray as goos, 
With Powles wyndowes corven on his schoos. 



3318. — Powles wyndowes. The three accompanying figures, taken 
from the paintings formerly 
existing on the walls of St. 
Stephen's Chapel, Westmin- 
ster, represent shoes of 
Chaucer's time, which aro 
cut in patterns not unlike 
the tracery of church win- 
dows. Mr. C. Roach Smith 
has in his interesting museum 
some beautiful samples of shoes cut in this manner, more elaborate even 
than these cuts. It has been conjectured that the phrase Powles wi/n- 
dowes, refers more especially to the rose window of old St. Paul's (a- 


In hosen reed he went ful fetusly. 

I-clad he was ful smal and propurly, 3320 

Al in a kirtel of a fyn wachet ; 

Schapen with goores in the newe get. 

And therupon he had a gay surplys, 

Ad wliyt as is the blosme upon the rys. 

A mery child he was, so God me save ; 

Wei couthe he lete blood, and clippe and schave, 

And make a chartre of lond and acqitaunce. 

In twenty maners he coude skip and daunee, 

After the scole of Oxenforde tho, 

And with his legges casten to and fro ; 3330 

And pleyen songes on a small rubible ; 

Ther-to he sang som tyme a lowde quynyble 

And as wel coude he pleye on a giterne. 

In al the toun nas brewhous no tavcrne, 

That he ne visited with his solas, 

Ther as that any gaylard tapster was. 

But soth to say he was somdel squaymous 

Of fartyng, and of speche daungerous. 

This Absolon, that joly was and gay, 

thedral, which resembled the ornament in tho cut to the right. Warton, 
Hist. E. P, ii, 194, says that calcei feneslrati occur iu ancient injunc- 
tions to the clergy. Chaucer, in tho Roman nt of the Rose, speaks of 
Mirth as, — 

Shod, with grete maistrie, 

■\Vith shone decopid and with lace. 
It may be observed, however, that this is a literal translation from the 
French original, decoupi. 

3322. — Instead of this line, Tvruhrtt reads, — 

Ful /aire and thicke ben ihi pointes set. 


Goth with a senser on the haly day, ' 5;54,) 

Sensing the wyves of the parisch fast ; 

And many a lovely look on hem he c;ist, 

And namely on this carpenteres wyf : 

To loke on hire him thought a mcry lyf, 

Sche was so propre, sweete, and licorous. 

1 dar wel sayn, if sche had ben a mous, 

Ami ho a cat, he wold hir hent anoon. 

Tliis parisch clerk, this joly Absolon, 
Hath in his herte such a love longyng, 
That of no wyf ne took he noon offryng ; ■"■ ; ■' 

For curtesy, he seydo, he wolde noon. 
The moono at night ful cleer and brighte sohoon, 
And Absolon his giterne hath i-take, 
For paramours he seyde he wold awake. 
And forth he goth, jolyf and amerous, 
Til he cam to the carpenteres hous, 
A litel after the cok had y-crowe, 
And dressed him up by a schot wyndowe, 
That was under the carpenteres wal. 
He syngeth in his voys gentil and smal ; 3360 

" Now deere lady, if thi wille be, 
I pi aye yow that yc wol rcwe on me," 

3358. — schot wyndowe. I am not satisfied with the explanations of 
tliis term hitherto given. It would seem rather to mean a window pro- 
jecting from the wall, from which the inmates might shoot upon any one 
who attempted to force an entry into the house hy the door, and from 
which therefore it would be easy for a person within to expose any part 
of his body in the manner expressed in the sequel of the story. 

3361. — Tyrwbitt observes that this and the following line, comprising 
A.bsolon's song, appear to consist of four short lines, all rhyming 


Ful wel acordyng to his gyternyng. 

This carpenter awoot, and herde him syng, 
And spak unto his wyf, and sayde anoon, 
; What, Alisoun, herestow not Absolon, 
That chaunteth thus under oure boure smal ?" 
And sche answerd hir housbond therwithal ; 
'■ Yis, God woot, Johan, I heere it every del." 

This passeth forth ; what wil ye bet than wel? 3370 
Fro day to day this joly Absolon 
So woweth hire, that him is wo-bigon. 
He waketh al the night, and al the day, 
To kembe his lokkes brode, and made him gay. 
He woweth hire by mene, and by brocage, 
And swor he wolde ben hir owne page. 
He syngeth crowyng as a nightyngale ; 
And sent hire pyment, meth, and spiced ale, 
And wafres pypyng hoot out of the gleede : 
And for sche was of toune, he profred meede. 3380 
For som folk wol be wonne for richesse, 
And som for strokes, som for gentillesse. 
Som tyme, to schewe his lightnes and maistrye, 
He plcyeth Herod on a scaffold bye. 

3367. — smal. Tyrwbitt, with some MS8., reads bourcs ival. 

3377. — crowyng. Some MSS.,with Tyrwbitt, have brokking. 

3378. — pyment. Piment was a kind of spiced wine. Tyi whitt's read- 
ing, pimics, is certainly much inferior to the one in the text 

3381. — pleyeth Herod,. Herod was a favourite part in the religious 
plays, and was perhaps an object of competition among the performers, 
and a part in which the actor endeavoured to shew himself off with ad- 
vantage. Every reader knows Shakespeare's phrase of outht roding 


But what avaylcth him as in this caas? 

Sche so loveth this heende Nicholas, 

That Absolon may blowe the bukkes horn : 

He ne had for al his labour but a shorn. 

And thus sche maketh Absolon hir ape, 

And al his ernest tornoth to a jape. 3390 

Ful soth is this proverbe, it is no lye ; 
Men seyn right thus alway, the ney slye 
Maketh the ferre leef to be loth. 
For though that Absolon be wood or wroth, 
Bycause that he fer was from here sight, 
Tliis Nicholas hath stonden in his light. 
Now here the wel, thou heende Nicholas, 
For Absolon may wayle and synge alias. 

And so bifelle it on a Satyrday, 
This carpenter was gon to Osenay, 3400 

And heende Nicholas and Alisoun 
Acordid ben to this conclusioun, 
That Nicholas schal schapen hem a wylc 
This sely jelous housbond to begyle ; 
And if so were this game wente aright, 
Sche schulde slepe in his arm al night, 
For this was hire desir and his also. 

3387. — blowe the bukkes horn. I presume this was a service that 
generally went unrewarded. 

3391. — this proverbe. The same proverb is found in Gower (Couf. 
Amant. lib. iii, f. 58), — 

An olile sawe is : who that is slygh 
In place wher he may he nyghe, 
He maketh the ferre leef loth. 


And right anoon, withouten wordes mo, 

This Nicholas no lengcr wold he tarye, 

But doth fid softe into his chambur carye 34io 

Bothe mete and drynke for a day or tweyc. 

And to hir housbond bad hir for to seye, 

If that he axed after Nicholas, 

Sche schulde seye, sche wiste nat wher he was ; 

Of al that day sche saw him nat with eye ; 

Sche trowed he were falle in som maladye, 

For no cry that hir mayden cowde him calle 

He nolde answere, for nought that may bifalle. 

Thus passeth forth al that ilke Satyrday, 
That Nicholas stille in his chambre lay, 342<> 

And eet, and drank, and dede what him leste 
Til Soneday the sonne was gon to reste. 

This sely carpenter hath gret mervaile 
Of Nicholas, or what thing may him ayle, 
And seyde, " I am adrad, by seynt Thomas ! 
It stondeth nat aright with Nicholas : 
God schilde that he deyde sodeinly. 
This world is now ful tykel sikerly ; 
I saugh to day a corps y-born to chirche, 
That now on Monday last I saugh him wirche. 3430 
Go up," quod he unto his knave, " anoon ; 
Clepe at his dore, or knokke with a stoon : 
Lokc how it is, and telle me boldely." 
This knave goth him up ful sturdily, 
And al the chambir dore whil he stood, 
lie cryed and knokked us that he were wood : 


" What how '? what do ye, mayster Nicholay ? 
How may ye slepen al this longe clay ?" 
But al for nought, he herde nat o word. 
An hole he fond right lowe upon the boord, 3440 

Ther as the cat was wont in for to creepe, 
And at that hole he loked in ful deepe, 
And atte laste he hadde of him a sight. 
This Nicholas sat ever gapyng upright. 
As he had loked on the newe moone. 
Adoun he goth, and tolde his mayster soone, 
In what aray he sawh this ilke man. 
This carpenter to blessen hini bygan, 
And seyde, " Now help us, seynte Frideswyde. 
A man woot litel what him schal betyde. ; >' ■" 

This man is falle with his astronomye 
In som woodnesse, or in som agonye. 
I thought ay wel how that it schulde be. 
Men schulde nought knowe of Goddes pryvyte. 
Ye, blessed be alwey a lewed man, 
That nat but oonly his bileeve can. 
So ferde another clerk with astronomye ; 
He walked in the feeldes for to prye 
Upon the sterres, what ther schulde bifalle, 
Til he was in a marie pit i- falle. 34 go 

He saugh nat that. But yet, by seint Thomas ! 

3449. — seynte Frideswyde. This saint was appropriately invoked by 
the carpenter, as she was the patron of a rich monastic house at Oxford. 

3 160. — in a marie pit. This tale, told of Thales by Plato, was very 
popular in the middle ages, and is found under different forms in a 
variety of collections of stories. 


Me reweth sore for heende Nicholas : 
He schal be ratyd of his studyyng, 
If that I may, by Jhesu heveu kyng ! 
Gete me a staf, that I may undersporc, 
Whil that thou, Robyn, hevest up the dore : 
He schal out of his studyyng, as I gesse." 
And to the chambir dore he gan him dresse. 
His knave was a strong karl for the noones, 
And by the hasp he haf it up at oones ; ■"• • i ■' 

And in the floor the dore fil doun anoon. 
This Nicholas sat stille as eny stoon, 
And ever he gapyd up-ward to the eyr. 
This carpenter wende he were in despeir, 
And hent him by the schuldres mightily, 
And schook him harde, and cryed spitously ; 
" What, Nicholas? what how man? loke adoun : 
Awake, and thynk on Cristes passioun. 
I crowche the from elves, and from wightes. 
Therwith the night-spel seycle he anon rightes, 3480 
On the foure halves of the hous aboute, 
And on the threisshfold of the dore withoute. 
Lord Jhesu Crist, and seynte Benedight, 
Blcsse this hous from every wikkede wight, 
Fro nyghtes verray, the white Pater-noster ; 
Whcr wonestow now, seynte Pctres soster ?" 
And atte lastc, heende Nicholas 
Gan for to syke sore, and seyde ; "Alias ! 

3485. verray. This is the reading of the MSS. I have consulted 
Tyiwhitt reads mare, which is perhaps right. 


Schal al the world be lost eftsones now ?" 
This carpenter answerde, " What seystow ? 3490 

What? thenk on God, as we doom men that swinkc" 
This Nicholas answerde, " Fette me drynke ; 
And after wol I speke in pryvyte 
Of certeyn thing that toucheth the and me : 
I wol telle it non other man certayn." 
This carpenter goth forth, and comth agayn, 
And brought of mighty ale a large quart. 
Whan ech of hem y-dronken had his part, 
This Nicholas his dore gan to schitte, 
And dede this carpenter doun by him sitte, 3500 

And seide, " Johan, myn host ful leve and deere, 
Thou schalt upon thy trouthe swere me heere, 
That to no wight thou schalt this counsel wreye : 
For it is Cristes counsel that I seye, 
And if thou telle it man, thou art forlore : 
For this vengaunce thou schalt ban therfore, 
That if thou wreye me, thou schalt be wood." 
" Nay, Crist forbede it for his holy blood !" 
Quod tho this sely man, " I am no labbe. 
Though I it say, I am nought leef to gabbe. 3510 
Say what thou wolt, I schal it never telle 
To cliild ne wyf, by him that harwed belle !" 

"Now, Johan," quod Nicholas, " I wol not lye, 
I have i-foimde in myn astrologye, 
As I have loked in the moone bright, 

3512. — him that harwed helk. Our Saviour. The harrowing of hell 
was a very popular legend among our forefathers, and found a place in 
most of the collections of mysteries, from which representations the lower 

orders obtained their notions of scripture history and theology. 


That now on Monday next, at quarter night, 
Schal falle a reyn, and that so wilde and wood, 
That half so gret was never Noes flood. 
This world," he seyde, "more than an hour 
Schal ben i-dreynt, so hidous is the schourr 3520 
Thus schal mankynde drenche, and leese his lyf." 
This carpenter answered, "Alias, my wyf! 
And schal sche drenche? alias, myn Alisoun !" 
For sorwe of this he fel almost adoun, 
And seyde, " Is ther no remedy in this caas?' ! 
" Why yis, for Gode," quod heende Nicholas : 
"If thou wolt werken aftir lore and reed ; 
Thou maist nought worke after thin owen heed 
For thus seith Salomon, that was ful trewe, 
Werke by counseil, and thou schalt nat rewe. 3530 
And if thou worken wolt by good counsail, 
I undertake, withouten mast and sail, 
Yet schal I saven hir, and the and me. 
Hastow nat herd how saved was Noe, 
Whan that our Lord had warned him biforn, 
Thatal the world with watir schulde be lorn?'' 
"Yis," quod this carpenter, "ful yore ago." 
" Hastow nought herd," quod Nicholas, "also 
The sorwe of Noe with his felaschipe, 
That he hadde or he gat his wyf to schipc ? 3.540 

3540 — his wyf. According to a medieval legend, Noah's wife was un- 
willing to go into the ark, and the quarrel between her ami her husband 
makes a prominent part of the play of" Noahs flood, in the Chester ami 
Towneley Mysteries. 


Him hadde wel lever, I dar wel undertake, 

At thilke tyme, than alle his wetheres blake, 

That sche hadde had a schip hirself allone. 

And therfore wostow what is best to doone ? 

This axeth hast, and of an hasty thing 

Men may nought preche or make tarvyng. 

Anon go gete us fast into this in 

A knedyng trowh or elles a kemelvn, 

For ech of us ; but loke that they be large, 

In which that we may rowe as in a barge : 3550 

And have therin vitaillc suffisant 

But for o day ; fy on the remenant ; 

The water schal aslake and gon away 

Aboute prime uppon the nexte day. 

But Robyn may not wite of this, thy knave, 

Ne ek thy mayde Gille I may not save : 

Aske nought why : for though thou aske me, 

I wol nat tellen Goddes pryvete. 

Sufficeth the, but if that thy witt madde, 

To have as gret a grace as Noe hadde. 3 560 

Thy wyf schal I wel saven out of doute. 

Go now thy wey, and speed the heer aboute 

And whan thou hast for hir, and the, and me, 

I-goten us this knedyng tubbes thre, 

Than schalt thou hange hem in the roof ful hie, 

That no man of oure purveaunce aspye : 

And whan thou thus hast doon as I have seyd, 

And hast oure vitaillc faire in hem y-leyd, 

And eek ;m ax to smyte the corde a-two 


Whan that the water cometh, that we may goo, 3570 

And breke an hole an hye upon the gable 

Into the gardyn-ward, over the stable, 

That we may frely passen forth oure way, 

Whan that the grete schour is gon away ; 

Than schaltow swymme as mery, I undertake, 

As doth the white doke aftir hir drake : 

Than wol I clepe, How Alisoim, how Jon, 

Beoth merye : for the flood passeth anon. 

And thou wolt seye, Heyl, maister Nicholay, 

Good morn, I see the wel, for it is day. 3580 

And than schul we be lordes al oure lyf 

Of al the world, as Noe and his wyf. 

But of oo thing I wame the ful right, 

Be wel avysed of that ilke nyght, 

That we ben entred into schippes boord, 

That non of us ne speke not a word, 

Ne clepe ne ciye, but be in his preyere, 

For it is Goddes owne heste deere. 

Thy wyf and thou most hangen fer a-twynne, 

For (hat bitwixc you schal be no synnc, 3590 

No more in lokyng than ther schul in dede. 

This ordynaunce is scyd ; so God me speede. 

To morwe at night, whan men ben aslepc, 

Into our knedyng tubbes wol we crepe, 

And sitte ther, abydyng Goddes grace. 

Go now thy way, I have no longer span 

3)77. — Jon. See, furilicr on, the note on 1. Hill. 


To make of this no longer sermonyng ; 

Men seyn thus : send the wyse, and sey no thing : 

Thou art so wys, it needeth nat the teche. 

Go, save oure lyf, and that I the byseche." 3600 

This seely carpenter goth forth his way, 
Ful ofte he seyd, "alias, and weylaway!" 
And to his wyf he told his pryvete, 
And sche was war, and knew it bet than he, 
What al this queinte cast was for to seye. 
But natheles sche ferd as sche schuld deyc, 
And seyde, "Alias! go forth thy way anoon, 
Help us to skape, or we be ded echon. 
I am thy verray trewe wedded wyf; 
Go, deere spouse, and help to save oure lyf." 3610 
Lo, which a gret thing is affeccioun ! 
A man may dye for ymaginacioui), 
So deepe may impressioun be take. 
This seely carpenter bygynneth quake : 
Him thenketh verrayly that he may sc 
Noes flood come walking as the see 
To drenchen Alisoun, his hony deere. 
He weepeth, wayleth, maketh sory cheere : 
He siketh, with ful many a sory swough, 
And goth, and geteth him a knedyng trougli, 3620 
And after that a tubbe, and a kymelyn, 
And pryvely he sent hem to his in : 
And heng hem in the roof in pryvete. 
His owne hond than made laddres thre, 
To clymben by the rouges and the stalkes 


Unto the tubbes hangyng in the balkos ; 
And hem vitayled, bothe trough and tubbe, 

With breed and cheese, with good ale in a jubbe, 
Sufhsyng right ynough as for a day. 
But or that he had maad al this array, 3630 

He sent his knave and eek his wenche also 
Upon his neede to Londone for to go. 
And on the Monday, whan it drew to nyght, 
He schette his dore, withouten candel light, 
And dressed al this thing as it schuld be. 
And schortly up they clumben alle thre. 
They seten stille wel a forlong way : 
; Now, Pater Noster, clum," quod Nicholay, 
And " clum," quod Jon, and " clum," quod Alisoun. 
This carpenter seyd his devocioun, 3640 

And stille he sitt, and byddeth his prayere, 
Ay waytyng on the reyn, if he it heere. 
The deede sleep, for verray busynesse, 
Fil on this carpenter, right as I gesse, 
Abowten courfew tyme, or litel more. 
For travail of his goost he groneth sore. 
And eft he routeth, for his heed myslay. 
Doun of the laddir stalketh Nicholay, 
And Alisoun ful softe adoun hir spedde. 
Withouten wordes mo they goon to bedde, 3650 

Ther as the carpenter was wont to lye ; 
Ther was the revel, and the melodye. 
And thus litli Alisoun and Nicholas, 
In busynesse of myrthe and of solas. 


Til that the belles of laudes gan to rynge, 
And freres in the chauncel gan to synge. 

This parissch clerk, this amerous Absolon, 
That is for love so harde and woo bygon, 
Upon the Monday was at Osenay 
With company, him to desporte and play ; 3660 

And axed upon caas a cloysterer 
Ful pryvely after the carpenter ; 
And he drough him apart out of the chirche, 
And sayde, " Nay, I say him nat here wirche 
Syn Satirclay ; I trow that he he went 
For tymber, ther our abbot hath him sent. 
For he is wont for tymber for to goo, 
And dwellen at the Graunge a day or tuo. 
Or elles he is at his hous certayn. 
Wher that he be, I can nat sothly sayn." 3670 

This Absolon ful joly was and light, 
And thoughte, " Now is tyme wake al niglit, 
For sikerly I sawh him nought styryng 
Aboute his dore, syn day bigan to spryng. 
So mote I thryve, I schal at cokkes crowe 
Ful pryvely go knokke at his wyndowe, 

3655. — belles of laudes. The service of Laudes or Matins began at 
three o'clock in the morning. The bell was naturally rung a little before, 
and perhaps began at half-past two. 

3668. — the Graunge. The abbeys had generally large granges attached 
to their more considerable estates, erected with so much strength that 
many of them have outlived the monasteries themselves. The distance 
of some of the estates from the abbey would naturally oblige those who 
went on business to stay a day or two away. 


That stunt fill lowe upon his bowres wal : 
To Alisoun than wol I tellen al 
My love-longyng ; for yet I sehal not mysse 
That atte leste wey I schal hir kisse. 3680 

Som maner comfort schal I have, parfay ! 
My mouth hath icched al this longe day : 
That is a signe of kissyng atte leste. 
Al nyght I mette eek I was at a feste. 
Therfore I wol go slepe an hour or tweye, 
And al the night than wol I wake and pleye." 
Whan that the firste cok hath crowe, anoon 
Up ryst this jolyf lover Absolon, 
And him arrayeth gay, at poynt devys. 
But first he cheweth greyn and lycoris, 3690 

To smellen swete, or he hadde kempt his heere. 
Under his tunge a trewe love he beere, 
For therby wencle he to be gracious. 
He rometh to the carpenteres hous, 
And stille he stant under the schot wyndowe ; 
Unto his brest it raught, it was so lowe ; 
And softe he cowhith with a semysoun : 
' What do ye, honycomb, swete Alisoun ? 
My fayre bryd, my swete cynamome, 
Awake, lemman myn, and speketh to me. 3700 

Ful litel thynkc ye upon my wo, 
That for youre love I swelte ther I go. 

3000. — greyn. Grains of Paris, or Paradise, a favourite spice at this 

l. 2 


No wonder is if that I swelte and swete, 
I morne as doth a lamb after the tete. 
I-wis, lemman, I have such love-longyng, 
That like a turtil trewe is my moomyng. 
I may not ete more than a mayde." 

" Go fro the wyndow, jakke fool," sche sayde : 

" As help me God, it wol not be, compame. 
I love another, andelles were I to blame, 3710 

Wei bet than the, by Jhesu, Absolon. 
Go forth thy wey, or I wol cast a stoon ; 
And lete me slepe, a twenty devel way !" 

" Alias !" quod Absolon, " and weylaway ! 
That trewe love was ever so ylle bysett : 
Thanne kisseth me, syn it may be no bett, 
For Jesus love, and for the love of me." 

" Wilt thou than go thy wey therwith ?" quod sche. 

"Ye, certes, lemman," quod this Absolon. 

" Than mak the redy," quod sche, " I come anon." 3720 
This Absolon doun sette him on his knees, 
And seide, " I am a lord at alle degrees: 
For after this I hope ther cometh more ; 
Lemman, thy grace, and, swete bryd, thyn ore." 
The wyndow sche undyd, and that in hast : 

" Have doon," quod sche, " com of, and speed the fast, 
Lest that our neygheboures the aspye." 
This Absolon gan wipe his mouth ful drye. 
Derk was the night, as picche or as a cole, 
Out atte wyndow putte sche hir hole ; 3730 

And Absolon him fel no bet ne wers, 

Till: M1LLERES TALE. 1 i9 

But with his mouth he kist hir naked ers 
Ful savorly. Whan he was war of this, 
Ahak he sterte, and thought it was amys, 
For wel he wist a womman hath no herd. 
He felt a thing al rough and long i-herd, 
And seyde, "Fy, alias ! what have I do?" 

" Te-hee!" quod sche, and clapt the wyndow to ; 
And Ahsolon goth forth a sory paas. 

" A berd, a herd !" quod heende Nicholas ; 3740 

" By goddes corps, this game goth fair and wel." 
This seely Absolon herd every del, 
And on his lippe he gan for angir byte ; 
And to himself he seyde, " I schal the quyte." 

Who rubbith now, who froteth now his lippes 
With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with 
But Absolon? that seith ful ofte, " alias ; [chippes, 
My soule bytake I unto Sathanas ! 
But me were lever than alle this toun," quod he, 

" Of this dispit awroken for to be. 3750 

Alias!" quod he, "alias ! I nadde bleynt!" 
His hoote love was cold, and al i-queint. 
For fro that tyme that he had lust her ers, 
Of paramours no sette he nat a kers, 
For he was helyd of his maledye ; 
Ful ofte paramours he gan deffye, 
And wept as doth a child that is i-bete. 
A softe paas went he over the strete 
Unto a sinvtli, men elepith daun Gerveys, 
Thai in bis forge smythed plowh-harneys ; 3760 


He scharpeth schar and cultre bysily. 
This Absolon knokketh al esily, 
And seyde, "Undo, Gervays, and that anoon." 
" What, who art thou?" " It am I Absolon." 
" What? Absolon, what? Cristes swete tree ! 
Why ryse ye so rathe ? benedicite, 
What eyleth you ? some gay gurl, God it woot, 
Hath brought you thus upon the verytrot ; 
By seinte Noet! ye wot wel what I mene." 
This Absolon ne rough te nat a bene 377 ° 

Of al his pleye ; no word agayn he gaf ; 
For he hadde more tow on his distaf 
Than Gerveys knew, and seyde, — " Freend so deere, 
That hote cultre in the chymney heere 
As lene it me, I have therwith to doone : 
I wol it bring agayn to the ml soone." 
Gerveys answerde, " Certes, were it gold, 
Or in a poke nobles al untold, 
Ye schul him have, as I am trewe smyth. 
Ey, Cristes fote ! what wil ye do therwith ?" 3780 
" Therof," quod Absolon, " be as be may ; 
I schal wel telle it the to morwe day :" 

3767. — gay gurl. This appears to have been a common phrase for a 
young woman of light manners. In the time of Henry VIII, the lady 
Anne Berkeley, dissatisfied with the conduct of her danghter-in law, lady 
Catherine Howard, is reported to have said of her: " By God's blessed 
sacrament, this</«f/ girle will beggar my son Henry !" 

3769. — white Noet. St. Neot. 

3772. — tow on his distaf. This seems to have been a common proverb 
of the time. Tyrwhitt quotes from Froissart, "II aura en href temps 
antres estoupes en sa qnenille." 


And caughte the cultre by the colcle stele. 

Ful soft out at the clore he gan it stele, 

And wente unto the carpenteres wal. 

He cowheth first, and knokketh therwithal 

Upon the wyndow, right as he dede er. 

This Alisoun answerde, " Who is ther 

That knokkest so? I warant it a theef." 
" Why nay," quod he, " God woot, my sweete leef, 3790 

I am thyn Absolon, o my derlyng. 

Of gold," quod he, " I have the brought a ryng, 

My mooder gaf it me, so God me save ! 

Ful fyn it is, and therto wel i-grave : 

This wol I give the, if thou me kisse." 

This Nicholas was rise for to pysse, 

And thought he wold amenden al the jape, 

He schulde kisse his ers or that he skape : 

And up the wyndow dyde he hastily, 

And out his ers putteth he pryvely 380 ° 

Over the buttok, to the haunche bon. 

And therwith spak this clerk, this Absolon, 
" Spek, sweete bryd, I wot nat wher thou art." 

This Nicholas anon let flee a fart, 

As gret as if had ben a thundir dent, 

And with that strook he was almost i-blent : 

And ho was redy with his yren hoot, 

And Nicholas amid the ers he smoot. 

Of goth the skyn an hande-bredc aboute, 

The hoote cultre brente so his toute; 3810 

And for the smert he wende for to dye ; 


Aa he were wood, anon he gan to crye, 
" Help, watir, watir, help, for Goddes herte !" 
This carpenter out of his slumber sterte, 
And herd on crye watir, as he wer wood, 
And thought, "Alias, now corneth Noes flood!" 
He sit him up withoute wordes mo, 
And with his ax he smot the corde a-two ; 
And doun he goth ; he fond nowthir to selle 
No breed ne ale, til he com to the selle 3820 

Upon the floor, and ther aswoun he lay. 
Up styrt hir Alisoun, and Nicholay, 
And cryden, "out and harrow !" in the strete. 
The neyghebours bothe smal and grete 
In ronnen, for to gauren on this man, 
That yet aswowne lay, bothe pale and wan : 
For with the fal he brosten had his arm. 
But stond he muste to his owne harm, 
For whan he spak, he was anon born doun 
With heende Nicholas and Alisoun. 3830 

They tolden every man that he was wood; 
He was agast and feerd of Noes flood 
Thurgh fantasie, that of his vanite 
He hadde i-bought him knedyng tubbes thre, 
And hadde hem hanged in the roof above; 
And that he preyed hem for Goddes love 
To sitten in the roof par compaignye. 

3819 — to selle. So in the fabliau of Aloul, in Karbazan, 1. 591, 
Qu'ainr tant rome il mist a descendre 
Ne trova point do pain a vendrc. 


The folk gan lawhen at his fantasye ; 

Into the roof they kyken, and they gape, 
And torne al his harm into a jape. 3840 

For what so ever the carpenter answerde, 
It was for nought, no man his resoun herde, 
With othis greet he was so sworn adoun, 
That he was holden wood in al the toun. 
For every clerk anon right heeld with othir; 
They seyde, " The man was wood, my leeve brother;" 
And every man gan lawhen at his stryf. 
Thus swyved was the carpenteres wyf, 
For al his kepyng, and his gelousye ; 
And Absolon hath kist hir nethir ye ; 3850 

And Nicholas is skaldid in his towte. 
This tale is doon, and God save al the route. 


Whan folk hadde lawhen of this nyce caas 
Of Absolon and heende Nicholas, 
Dyverse folk dyversely they seyde, 
But for the moste part they lowh and pleyde: 
Ne at this tale I sawh no man him grove, 
But it were oonly Osewald the Reeve. 
Bycause he was of carpentrye craft, 
A litel ire in his herte is laft; 3860 

He gan to grucchc and blamed it a lite. 
' So theek," quod he, " ful wel coude I the quyte 
Witli bleryng of a prowd mylleres ye, 


If that me luste speke of ribaudye. 

But yk am old ; me list not pley for age ; 

Gras tyme is doon, my foddir is now forage. 

My whyte top writeth myn olde yeeres ; 

Myn hert is al so moulyd as myn lieeres ; 

But yit I fare as doth an open-ers ; 

That ilke fruyt is ever lenger the wers, 3870 

Til it be rote in mullok, or in stree. 

We olde men, I drede, so fare we, 

Til we be roten, can we nat be rype ; 

We hoppen alway, whil the world wol pype ; 

For in oure wil ther stiketh ever a nayl, 

To have an hoor heed and a greene tayl, 

As hath a leek; for though oure might be doon, 

Oure wil desireth folye ever in oon : 

For whan we may nat do, than wol we speke, 

Yet in oure aisshen old is fyr i-reke. 3880 

Foure gledys have we, which I schal devyse, 

Avanting, lyyng, augur, coveytise. 

This foure sparkys longen unto eelde. 

Oure olde lymes mowen be unweelde, 

But wil ne schal nat fayle us, that is soth. 

And yet I have alwey a coltes toth, 

As many a yeer as it is passed henne, 

Syn that my tappe of lyf bygan to renne. 

For sikirlik, whan I was born, anon 

Deth drough the tappe of lyf, and leet it goon : 3890 

And now so longe hath the tappe i-ronne. 

Til that almost al empty is the tonne 


The streem of lyf now droppeth on the chymbe. 
The sely tonge may wel rynge and chimbe 
Of wrecchednes, that passed is ful yoore : 
With olde folk, sauf dotage, is no more." 

Whan that oure Host had herd this sermonyng, 
He gan to speke as lordly as a kyng, 
And seyde, "What amounteth al this wit? 
What? schul we speke al day of holy wryt? 3900 
The devyl made a reve for to preche, 
Or of a sowter a schipman, or a leche. 
Sey forth thi tale and tarye nat the tyme : 
Lo heer is Depford, and it is passed prime: 
Lo Grenewich, ther many a schrewe is inne ; 
It were al tyme thi tale to bygynne." 

" Now, sires," quod this Osewold the Reeve, 
I pray yow alle, that noon of you him greeve, 
Though I answere, and somwhat sette his howve, 
For leeful is with force force to schowve. 39 10 

3902. Ex sutore nauclerus, and ex sutore medicus, were both popular 
proverbs, and are found in medieval Latin writers. 

390 I. — passed prime. Tyrwhitt reads half-way prime, and observes, " in 
the discourse, &c. § xiv, I have supposed that this means half past prime, 
about half an hour after seven a.m. the half way between Prime and Terce. 
In the fictitious Modus tenendi parliamentum, a book not much older 
than Chaucer, Hora media primes seems to be used in the same sense, 
c. de diebus et hnris parliaments MS. Cotton. Nero. D. vi. On common 
days Parliamentum debet inchoari hora media; prima? — in diebus festivis 
hora prima propter divinum servitium. In a contemporary French trans- 
lation of this treatise, MS. Hurl. 305, liora media prima is rendered « la 
my heure le prime ; in an old English version, MS. Harl. 930, the oure 
of myd pryme : and in another, MS. Harl. 1309, midde prime time. Our 
author uses .prime large, ver. 10074, to signify that prime was consider- 
ably past." 

3909. — sette his howve. The same as set his cap. See 1. 588. 


This dronken Myllere hath i-tolde us heer, 

How that bygiled was a carpenter, 

Peraventure in scorn, for I am oon : 

And by your leve, I schal him quyte anoon. 

Right in his cherles termes wol I speke ; 

I pray to God his nekke mot to-breke ! 

He can wel in myn eye see a stalke. 

But in his owne he can nought seen a balke." 


At Trompyngtoun, nat fer fro Cantebrigge, 
Ther goth a brook, and over that a brigge, 3920 

Upon the whiche brook ther stant a melle : 
And this is verray sothe that I you telle. 
A meller was ther dwellyng many a day, 
As eny pecok he was prowd and gay ; 
Pipen he coude, and fisshe, and nettys beete, 
And turne cuppes, wrastle wel, and scheete. 
Ay by his belt he bar a long panade, 
And of a swerd ful trenchaunt was the blade. 
A joly popper bar he in his pouche ; 
Ther was no man for perel durst him touche. 3930 
A Scheffeld thwitel bar he in his hose. 

The Eeei'es Tale. — This was a very popular story in the middle ages . 
and is found under several different forms It occurs frequently in the 
jest and story books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Boccacio 
has given it in the Decameron, evidently from a fabliau, which has been 
printed in Barbazan under the title of De Gombert ct des deux clers. 
Chaucer took the story from another fabliau, which I have printed and 
first pointed out to notice, in my Anecdota Lileraria, p. 15. 


Round was his face, and camois was his nose. 

As pyled as an ape was his skulle. 

He was a market-heter at the fulle, 

Ther durste no wight hand upon him legge, 

That he ne swor anon he schuld ahegge. 

A theef he was for soth of corn and mele, 
And that a sleigh, and usyng for to stele. 
His name was hoote deynous Symekyn. 
A wyf he hadde, come of noble kyn : 3940 

The persoun of the toun hir fader was. 
With hire he gaf ful many a panne of bras, 
For that Symkyn schuld in his blood alive 
Sche was i-fostryd in a nonnerye : 
For Symkyn wolde no wyf, as he sayde, 
But sche were wel i-norissched and a mayde, 
To saven his estaat and yornanrye : 
And sche was proud and pert as is a pye. 
A ful fair sighte was ther on hem two : 
On haly dayes bifore hir wolde he go 3950 

With his typet y-bounde aboute his heed; 
And sche cam aftir in a gyte of reed, 
And Symkyn hadde hosen of the same. 
Ther durste no wight clepe hir but madame: 
Was noon so hardy walkyng by the weye, 
That with hir dorste rage, or elles pleye, 

3954. — madame. In the description of the nun (1. 378), who also 
prided herself upon her gentility, Chaucer says, — 

It is right lair for to be clept madame, 
And for to go to vigilies al byfore, 


But if he wold be slayn of Symekyn 
With panade, or with knyf, or boydekyn ; 
For gelous folk ben perilous everemo, 
Algate they wolde here wyves wende so. 3960 

And eek for sche was somdel smoterlich, 
Sche was as deyne as water in a dich, 
As ful of hokir, and of bissernare. 
Hir thoughte ladyes oughten hir to spare, 
What for hir kynreed, and hir nortelrye, 
That sche had lerned in the nonnerye. 
. O doughter hadden they betwix hern two, 
Of twenti yeer, withouten eny mo, 
Savyng a child that was of half yer age, 
In cradil lay, and was a proper page. 39 70 

This wenche thikke and wel i-growen was, 
With camoys nose, and eyghen gray as glas ; 
And buttokkes brode, and brestes round and bye ; 
But right fair was hir heer, I wol nat lye. 
The persoun of the toun, for sche was feir, 
In purpos was to maken hir his heir, 
Bothe of his catel and his mesuage. 
And straunge made it of hir mariage. 
His purpos was to bystow hir hye 
Into som worthy blood of ancetrye ; 3980 

For holy chirche good moot be despendid 
On holy chirche blood that is descendid. 
Therfore he wolde his joly blood honoure, 
Though that he schulde holy chirche devoure. 
Gret soken hath tliis meller, mit of doute, 


With whete and malt, of al the lond ahoute ; 

And namely ther was a gret collegge, 

Men clepe it the Soler-halle of Cantebregge, 

Ther was here whete and eek here malt i-grounde. 

And on a day it happed in a stounde, 3990 

Syk lay the mauncyple on a maledye, 

Men wenden wisly that he schulde dye ; 

For which this meller stal bothe mele and corn 

A thousend part more than byforn. 

For ther biforn he stal but curteysly ; 

But now he is a theef outrageously. 

For which the wardeyn chidde and made fare, 

But therof sette the meller not a tare ; 

He crakked boost, and swor it was nat so. 

Thanne weren there poore scoleres tuo, 4000 

That dwelten in the halle of which I seye ; 

Testyf they were, and lusty for to pleye ; 

And, oonly for here mirthe and revelrye 

Uppon the wardeyn bysily they crye, 

To geve hem leve but a litel stound 

To go to melle and see here corn i-grounde ; 

Ami hardily they dursten ley here nekke, 

The meller schuld nat stel hem half a pekke 

3988. — the Soler-halle. There was a tradition in the university of 
Cambridge, at least as early as the time of Caius, and it may perhaps be 
correct, that the college alluded to by Chaucer, was Clare Hall. See 
Caius, Hist. Acad. p. 57, and Fuller's Hist, of the Univ. of Camb. p. 86, 
(ed. IS 10). The name Soler-halle, of course means the hall with the 
soler or upper story, which, as Warton observes, would be n sufficient 
mark of distinction in early limes. 


Of corn by sleighte, ne by force bom reve. 

And atte last the wardeyn gaf hem leve. 4010 

Johan bight that oon, and Alayn hight that other ; 

Of o toun were they born that highte Strothir, 

Fer in the North, I can nat telle where. 

This Aleyn maketh redy al his gere, 

And on an hors the sak he cast anoon : 

Forth goth Aleyn the clerk, and also Jon, 

With good swerd and with bocler by her side. 

Johan knew the way, that hem needith no gyde; 

And at the mylle the sak adoun he layth. 

Alayn spak first: " Al heil! Symond, in faith 4020 

How fares thy faire doughter, and thy wyf?" 
" Alayn, welcome," quod S} T mond " by my lyf ! " 

And Johan also ; how now ! what do ye here ? " 
" By God! " quod Johan, " Symond, neede has na peere. 

Him falles serve himself that has na swayn, 

Or elles he is a fon, as clerkes sayn. 

Oure mancyple, as I hope, wil be deed, 

Swa werkes ay the wanges in his heed : 

And therfore I is come, and eek Alayn, 

4011. — Johan. This is the correct form of the name, the a being 
generally indicated by a dash on the upper limb of the h. In the 
manuscript from which our text is taken, the contraction is sometimes 
written Joh*n. John, as Tyrwhitt prints it, is a much more modern 
orthography. Where the name is required to be a monosyllable, it is 
here spelt Jon, probably an abbreviation of familiarity, as Tom, and the 

4012. — Strothir. This was the valley of Laogstroth, or Langstroth- 
dale, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, as pointed out by Dr. Whitaker. 
Hist, of Craven, p. 493. I am informed that the dialect of this district may 
be recognized in the phraseology of Chaucer's " scoleres tun." 


To grynde oure com, and carie it ham ageyn. 4030 

I prey you speed us in al that ye may." 
" It schal he doon," quod Symkyn, " by my fay ! 

What wol ye do whil that it is in hande ?" 
" By God ! right by the hoper wol I stande," 

Quod Johan, " and se how that the corn gas nine. 

Yet sawh I never, by my fader kynne ! 

How that the hoper waggis to and fra." 

Aleyn answerde, " Johan, and wiltow swa? 

Than wol I be bynethe, by my croun ! 

And se how that the mele fallys doun 4040 

Into the trough, that schal be my desport ; 

For, Jon, in faith, I may be of your sort, 

I is as ille a meller as ere ye." 

This mellere smyleth for here nyeete, 

And thought, "Al this is doon but for a wyle ; 

They wenen that no man may hem bigile. 

But, by my thrift, yet schal I blere here ye, 

For al here sleight and al here philosophic ; 

The more queynte knakkes that they make, 

The more wol I stele whan I take. 4050 

In stede of mele yet wol I geve hem bren. 

The grettest clerks beth not the wisest men, 

As whilom to the wolf thus spak the mare : 

4053. — the wolf. The fable of the Wolf and the Mare is found in the 
Latin Esopean collections, and in the early Frencli poem "I' Renard le 

Contrefait, from whence it appears to have 1 n taken into the English 

Reynard the Fox. In Renard le Contrefait, the wolf ntters a similar 
sentiment (though differently expressed), to that in Chaucer, — 
Or voi-ge bien tout en apert 


Of al her art ne counte I nat a tare." 
Out at the clore he goth ful pryvyly, 
Whan that he saugh his tyme sotyly ; 
He loketh up and doun, til he hath founde 
The clerkes hors, ther as it stood i-bounde 
Behynde the mylle, under a levesel : 
And to the hors he goth him faire and wel. 4060 

He strepeth of the bridel right anoon. 
And whan the hors was loos, he gan to goon 
Toward the fen there wilde mares renne, 
Forth with "wi-he!" thurgh thikke and eek thurgh 
This meller goth agayn, and no word seyde, [thenne. 
But doth his note, and with the clerkes pleyde, 
Til that her corn was fair and wel i-grounde. 
And whan the mele was sakked and i-bounde, 
This Johan goth out, and fynt his hors away, 
And gan to crye, " harrow and weylaway ! 4070 

Oure hors is lost ! Aleyn, for Goddes banes, 
Step on thy feet, cum on, man, al at anes. 
Alias ! our wardeyn hath his palfray lorn !" 
This Aleyn al forgeteth mele and corn, 
Al was out of his nrynd his housbondrye ; 
" What wikked way is he gan ?" gan he crye. 
The wyf cam lepyng in- ward with a ren, 

Que clei-j/ie bien sa saison pert ; 
Aucunes foiz vilaiu queaignent 
Et lens oil le clerc se mehaignent. 

Ge ne fis mie grant savoir, 
Quant ge vouloie clers devenir. 


Sclie seyde, "Alias ! your hors goth to the fen 
With wylde mares, as fast as he may go : 
Unthank come on his heed that hand him so, 4080 
And he that hettir schuld han knyt the reyne !" 
" Alias !" quod Johan, " Aleyn, for Cristes peyne ! 
Leg doun thi swerd, and I sal myn alswa ; 

I is ful wight, God wat, as is a ra ; 

By Goddes hart ! he sal nat scape us bathe. 
Why uad thou put the capil in the lathe ? 

II hail, Aleyn, by God ! thou is a fon !" 
This sely clerkes speeden hem anoon 
Toward the fen, bothe Aleyn and eek Jon. 

And whan the myller sawh that they were gon, 4090 

He half a busshel of the flour hath take, 

And bad his wyf go knede it in a cake. 

He seyde, " I trowe the clerkes ben aferd ! 

Yet can a miller make a clerkes herd, 

For al his art ; ye, lat hem go here way ! 

Lo wher they goon ! ye, lat the children play ; 

They get hym nat so lightly, by my croun !" 

This seely clerkes ronnen up and doun, 

With "Keep! keep! stand! stand! jossa, warederere ! 

Ga wightly thou, and I sal keep him heere.'' 4100 

But schortly, til that it was verray night, 

They cowde nat, though they did al here might, 

Here capil cacche, it ran away so fast, 

Til in a diche they caught him atte last. 

■1001. — make a clerkes herd. A proverbial phrase taken from tin; 
French, faire /« barbe <i qucliju'ini It occurs again lurtlior on, 1. 504IV 


Wery and wete as bestys in the reyn, 

Comth sely Johan, and with him comth Aleyn. 

" Alias !" quod Johan, "that day that I was born ! 
Now are we dryve til hethyng and to scorn. 
Oure com is stole, men woln us foles calle, 
Bathe the wardeyu, and eek our felaws alle, 4110 

And namely the myller, weyloway!" 
Thus pleyneth Johan, as he goth by the way 
Toward the mylle, and Bayard in his hand. 
The myller sittyng by the fyr he fand, 
For it was night, and forther might they nought, 
But for the love of God they him bisought 
Of herberwh and of ese, as for her peny. 
The myller sayd agayn, " If ther be eny, 
Swich as it is, yit schul ye have your part. 
Myn hous is streyt, but ye han lerned art ; 4120 

Ye conne by argumentes make a place 
A myl brood, of twenty foote of space : 
Let se now if this place may suffyse, 
Or make it rom with speche, as is your gyse." 

" Now, Symond,"seyde this Johan, "by seynt Cuthberd ! 
Ay is thou mery, and that is fair answerd. 
I have herd say, men suld take of twa thinges, 
Slik as he fynt, or tak slik as he bringes. 
But specially I pray the, host ful deere, 
Get us som mete and drynk, and mak us cheere, 4130 
And we wol paye trewly at the fulle : 
With empty baud men may na hawkes tulle. 

4132. — with empty hand. Conf. 1. 5907, where tho proverb is given 
somewhat differently. 


Lo heer our silver redy for to spende." 

This rneller into toun his doughter sonde 

For ale and breed, and rosted hern a goos, 

And band her hors, he schold no more go loos : 

And in his owne chambir hern made a bed, 

With schetys and with chaloims fair i-spred, 

Nat from his owen bed ten foot or twelve ; 

His doughter had a bed al by hirselve, 4140 

Plight in the same chambre by and by : 

It mighte be no bet, and cause why, 

Ther was no rommer herberw in the place. 

They sowpen, and they speken of solace, 

And dronken ever strong ale atte beste. 

Aboute mydnyght wente they to reste. 

Wei hath the myller vemysshed his heed, 

Ful pale he was, for-dronken, and nat reed ; 

He yoxeth, and he speketh thurgh the nose, 

As he were on the quakke, or on the pose. 4150 

To bed he goth, and with him goth Iris wyf, 

As eny jay sche light was and jolyf, 

So was hir joly whistel wel y-wet ; 

The cradil at hire beddes feet is set, 

To rokken, and to give the child to souke. 

And whan that dronken was al in the crouke, 

To bedde went the doughter right anon ; 

To bedde goth Aleyn, and also Jon, 

Ther nas no more, him needeth no dwale. 

This meller hath so wysly bibbed ale, 4160 

That as an hors he snortith in his sleep, 


Ne of his tayl bihynd took he no keep. 

His wyf bar him a burdoun, a ful strong, 

Men might her rowtyng heeren a forlong. 

The wenche routeth eek par company*'. 

Aleyn the clerk, that herd this melodye, 

He pokyd Johan, and seyde, " Slepistow ? 

Herdistow ever slik a sang er now '? 

Lo, slik a conplyng is betwix hem alle, 

A wilde fyr upon thair bodyes falle! 4170 

Wha herkned ever swilk a ferly thing ? 

Ye, thei sul have the flour of ille endyng ! 

This lange night ther tydes me na rest. 

But yet na fors, al sal be for the best. 

For, Johan," sayd he, " as ever mot I thryve, 

If that I may, yone wenche sal I swyve. 

Som esement hath lawe schapen us ; 

For Johan, ther is a lawe that says thus, 

That if a man in a point be agreved, 

That in another he sal be releeved. 4180 

Oure corn is stoln, sothly, it is na nay, 

And we have had an ylle fitt to day ; 

And syn I sal have nan amendement 

Agayn my los, I wol have esement. 

By Goddes sale ! it sal nan other be." 

This Johan answerd, " Aleyn, avyse the : 

The miller is a perlous man," he sayde, 

117!». A marginal note in the MS. says, — Qui in uno gravatur, in alio 
debet relevari. 


' And if that he out of his sleep abrayde, 

He mighte do us bothe a vilonye !" 

Aleyn answerd, " I count it nat a flye !" 4190 

And up he roos, and by the wenche he crepte. 

This wenche lay upright, and faste slepte, 

Til he so neih was or sche might aspye, 

That it had ben to late for to crye. 

And schortly for to seye, they weren at oon : 

Now pley, Alein, for I wol speke of Jon. 

This Johan lith stille a forlong whyle or two, 

And to himself compleyned of his woo. 
' Alias !" quod he, " this is a wikked jape : 

Now may I say that I am but an ape. 4200 

Yet hath my felaw somwhat for his harm ; 

He hath the myllers doughter in his arm : 

He auntred him, and has his needes sped, 

And I lye as a draf-sak in my bed ; 

And when this jape is tald another day, 

I sal be bald a daf, a cokenay. 

Unhardy is unsely, as men saith. 

I wol arise, and auntre it, in good faith." 

And up he ros, and softely he wente 

Unto the cradil, and in his hand it hente, 4210 

And bar it softe unto his beddis feet. 

Soone after this the wyf liir routyng leet, 

And gan awake, and went hir forth to pisse, 

And cam agayn, and gan hir cradel mysse, 

And groped heer and ther, but sche fond noon. 
" Alias !" quod sche, " 1 had almost mysgoon ; 


I had almost goon to the clevkes bed, 
Ey, benedicite ! than had I foule i-sped!" 
And forth sche goth, til sche the cradil fand. 
Sche gropith alway forther with hir hand, 4220 

And fand the bed, and thoughte nat but good, 
Bycause that the cradil by it stood, 
Nat knowyng wher sche was, for it was derk ; 
But faire and wel sche creep in to the clerk, 
And lith ful stille, and wolde ban caught a sleep. 
Withinne a while Johan the clerk up leep, 
And on this goode wyf leyth on ful sore ; 
So mery a fytt ne hadd sche nat ful yore. 
He priketh harde and deepe, as he were mad. 
This joly lyf ban this twey clerkes had, 4230 

Til that the thridde cok bygan to synge, 
Aleyn wax wery in the dawenynge, 
For he had swonken al the longe night, 
And seyd, " Farwel, Malyn, my sweete wight ! 
The day is come, I may no lenger byde, 
But evermo, wher so I go or ryde, 
I am thin owen clerk, so have I seel !" 
" Now, deere lemman," quod sche, " go, farwel ! 
But or thou go, o thing I wol the telle : 
Whan that thou wendist bom- ward by the melle, 
Kight at the entre of the dore byhynde 
Thou schalt a cake of half a busshel fynde, 
That was i-maked of thyn owen mele, 
Which that I hilp myn owen self to stele. 
And, goode lemman, God the save and kepe!" 


And with that word almost sche gan to weepe. 
Aleyn uprist, and thought, " Er that it dawe 
I wol go crepen in by my felawe ;" 
And fand the cradil with his hand anon. 

" By God!" thought he, " al wrong I have i-goon ; 4250 
My heed is toty of my swynk to nyght, 
That makes me that I ga nought aright. 
I wot wel by the cradel I have mysgo ; 
Heer lith the myller and his wyf also." 
Forth he goth in twenty devel way 
Unto the bed, ther as the miller lay. 
He wende have crope by his felaw Jon, 
And by the myller in he creep anon, 
And caught him by the nekke, and soft he spak, 
And seyde, " Jon, thou swyneshecl, awak, 4260 

For Cristes sowle ! and here a noble game ; 
For, by that lord that cleped is seynt Jame, 
As I have thries in this schorte night 
Swvved the myllers doughter bolt upright, 
Whiles thou hast as a coward ben agast." 

" Ye, false harlot," quod this mellere, "hast? 
A! false traitour, false clerk!" quod he, 

"Thou schaltbe deed, by Goddes dignite! 
Who durste be so bold to disparage 
My doughter, that is come of hih lynage?" 4270 

And by the throte-bolle he caught Aleyn, • 
And he hent him clispitously agovn, 
And on the nose he smot him with his fest. 
Doun ran the blody streem upon his brest; 


And in the floor with nose and mouth to-broke 

They walweden as pigges in a poke ; 

And up they goon, and doun they goon anon, 

Til that the millner stumbled at a ston, 

And doun he felle bakward on his wyf, 

That wyste nothing of this nyce stryf ; 4280 

For sche was falle asleepe a litel wight 

With Jon the clerk, that waked al the night, 

And with the falle right out of slepe sche brayde. 
" Help, holy croys of Bromholme! " sche sayde, 
"In manus txias, Lord, to the I calle! 

Awake, Symond, the feend is in thin halle ! 

My hert is broken ! help ! I am but deed ! 

Ther lythe upon my wombe and on myn heed. 

Help, Symkyn ! for this false clerkes fight." 

This Johan stert up as fast as ever he might, 4290 

And grasped by the walles to and fro, 

To fynde a staf ; and sche sturt up also, 

And knewe the estres bet than dede Jon, 

And by the wal sche took a staf anon, 

And sawh a litel glymeryng of a light ; 

For at an hool in schon the moone bright, 

And by that light sche saugh hem bothe two ; 

But sikirly sche wiste nat who was who, 

4284. — holy croys of Bromholme. Portions of the real cross were said 
to compose the cross of the priory of Bromhohn, in Norfolk, brought into 
England with great ceremony in 1223, and thenceforth an extraordinarily 
popular object of pilgrimage. By the cross (or rood) of Bromholm! seems 
to have been a very common formula of swearing, and is found in Piers 
Ploughman, and elsewhere. 


But as sche saugh a whit thing in hir ye. 4300 

And whan sche gan this white thing aspye, 

Sche wend the clerk had wered a volupeer ; 

And with a staf sche drough hir neer and neer, 

And wend have hit this Aleyn atte fulle, 

And smot this meller on the piled sculle, 

That doun he goth, and cryeth, " Harrow! I dye ! " 

This clerkes beeten him wel, and leet hym lye, 

And greyth hem wel, and take her hors anon, 

And eek here mele, and hoom anon they goon : 

And at the millen dore they tok here cake, 

Of half a buisshel flour ful wel i-bake. 4310 

Thus is the prowde miller wel i-bete, 
And hath i-lost the gryndyng of the whete, 
And payed for the soper every del 
Of Aleyn and of Johan, that beten him wel ; 
His wyf is swyved, and his doughter als. 
Lo ! such it is a miller to be fals. 
And therto this proverbe is seyd ful soth. 
He thav nat weene wel that evyl doth. 
A gylour schal himself bygiled be. 
And God, that sitest in thy mageste, 4320 

Save al this compaignie, gret and smale. 
Thus have I quyt the miller in his tale. 


The Cook of Londone, whil the Reeve spak, 

4318. — lir thai- nat. The literal meaning of this proverb .seems to he. 
He need not imagine, or suppose, well, who does evil." 


For joye he thought he clawed him on the bak : 
" Ha, ha ! " quod he, " for Cristes passioun, 
This meller hath a scharp conclusioun 
Upon his argument of herburgage. 
Wei seyde Salomon in his langage, 
Ne bryng nat every man into thyn hous, 
For herburgage by night is perilous. 4330 

Wei aught a man avised for to be 
Whom that he brought into his pryvyte. 
I pray to God so gyf my body care, 
Gif ever, siththen I highte Hogge of Ware, 
Herd I a better miller set a-werke ; 
He hadde a jape of malice in the derke. 
But God forbede that we stynten heere, 
And therfore if ye vouchesauf to heere 
A tale of me that am a pover man, 
I wol yow telle as wel as I kan 4340 

A litel jape that fel in oure cite." 

Oure Host answerde and seyde, " I graunt it the : 
Now telle on, Roger, and loke it be good. 
For many a pastey hastow lete blood, 
And many a Jakk of Dover hastow sold, 
That hath be twyes hoot and twyes cold. 
Of many a pylgrym hastow Cristes curs; 
For thy persly they faren yet the wors, 
That they have eten with the stubbil goos : 

1345. — Jakk of Dover. Some article of cookery which I Lave not 
found mentioned or alluded to elsewhere, and which it would therefore be 
in vain to attempt to explain. 


For in thy schoppe is many a flye loos. 4350 

Now tell on, gentil Roger by thy name, 

But yit I pray the be nought wroth for game ; 

A man may seye ful sothe in game and pley." 

" Thow saist ful soth," quod Roger, "by my fey ! 
But soth play quad play, as the Flemyng saith : 
And therfore, Herry Baillif, by thy faith, 
Be thou nat wroth, or we cleparte her, 
Though that my tale be of an hostyler. 
But natheles, I wol not telle it yit, 
But or we departe, it schal be quyt." 4360 

And therwithal he lowh and made chcre, 
And seyde his tale, as ye schal after heere. 


A prentys dwelled whilom in oure citee, 
And of a craft of vitaillers was he : 
Gaylard he was, as goldfynch in the schawe, 
Broun as a bery, and a propre felawe, 
With lokkes blak, and kempt ful fetousl v. 
Dauncen he cowde wel and prately. 
That he was cleped Perkyn Revellour. 
lie was as ful of love and paramour, 4370 

As is the honycombe of hony swete ; 

4353.— This line, as well as 1. 1350, is omitted in MS. Hart, which 
reads hy my faith in 1. 1351, to malic it rhyme with 1355. 

4355. — soth play, Tyrwhitt, to make Fit mishof the phrase, reads sofft 
play quadespel, which after all is l>nt half Flemish, and is contrary to tlio 
general authority of the MSS. He quotes from Sir John Harrington's 
Apologie for Poelrie,a similar English proverb, toth bourde is m* bourde. 


Wei were the wenche that mighte him meete. 
[At every bridale wold he synge aud hoppe : 
He loved bet the taverne than the schoppe.] 
For whan ther eny rydyng was in Cheepe, 
Out of the schoppe thider wolde he lepe, 
And tyl he hadde al that sight i-seyn, 
And daunced wel, he nold nat come ageyn ; 
And gadred him a meyne of his sort, 
To hoppe and synge, and make such disport : 4380 
And ther they setten stevene for to meete, 
To pleyen atte dys in such a strete. 
For in the toun ne was ther no prentys, 
That fairer cowde caste a peyre dys 
Than Perkyn couthe, and therto he was free 
Of his dispence, in place of pryvyte. 
That fand his mayster wel in lhs chaffare, 
For often tyme he fond his box ful bare. 
For such a joly prentys revelour, 
That haunteth dys, revel, or paramour, 4390 

His maister schal it in his schoppe abye, 
Al have he no part of the mynstralcye. 
For thefte and ryot be convertyble, 
Al can they pley on giterne or rubible. 
Revel and trouthe, as in a lowe degre, 
They ben ful wroth al day, as ye may sec 
This joly prentys with his mayster bood, 
Til he was oute neygh of his prentyshood, 

4373. This anil the following line are omitted in MS. Harl. 
■1375. — in Cheepe. Cheapsido was the grand scene of city festivals 
and processions. 


Al were he snybbyd bothe erly and late, 

And som tyme lad with revel into Newgate. 4400 

But atte laste his mayster him bythought 

Upon a day, whan he his papyr sought, 

Of a proverbe, that saith this same word ; 

Wei bette is roten appul out of hord, 

Than that it rote al the remenaunt : 

So fareth it by a ryotous servaunt ; 

It is ful lasse harm to late him pace, 

Than he schend al the servauntes in the place. 

Therfore his mayster gaf him acquitaunce, 

And bad him go, with sorwe and with meschaunce: 441 ° 

And thus the joly prentys had his leve. 

Now let hym ryot al the night or leve. 

And for ther is no thef withowten a lowke, 

That helpeth him to wasten and to sowke 

Of that he bribe can, or borwe may, 

Anon he sent his bedde and his aray 

Unto a compere of his owen sort, 

That loved dis, and revel, and disport ; 

And had a wyf, that held for contenaunce 

A schoppe, and swyved for hire sustenaunce. 4420 

[Fye thcron, it is so foule, I wil nowe telle no forther, 
For schame of the harlotrie that seweth after ; 
• A velany it were thare of more to spelle, 

Bot of a knyht and his sonnes my tale I wil forthe telle.] 

4409. — acquitaunce. The MS. Harl. reads acqueyntaunce. 
4413. — The lines from 4413 to 4430 are omitted in MS. Harl., but 
they are evidently genuine, 



Litheth, and lestneth, and herkncth aright, 
And ye schul hoerc a talkyng of a doughty knight ; 
Sire Johan of Boundys was his right name, 
He cowde of norture ynough and mochil of game. 
Thre sones the knight had, that with his body he wan, 
The eldest was a moche schrewe, and sone he bygan. 
His bretheren loved wel here fader, and of him were agast, 
The eldest deserved his fadres curs, and had it at the last. 
The goode knight his fader lyvede so yore, 
That deth was comen him to, and handled him ful sore. 10 
The goode knight cared sore, sik ther he lay, 
How his children scholde lyven after his day. 
He hadde ben wyde wher, but non housbond he was, 
Al the lond that he had, it was verrey purchas. 
Fayn he wold it were dressed amonges hem alle, 
That ech of hem had his part, as it mighte falle. 
Tho sent he into cuntre after wise knightes, 
To helpe delen his londes and dressen hem to rightes. 
He sent hem word by lettres they schuklen hye blyve, 
Yf they wolde speke with him whil he was on lyve. 20 
Tho the knyghtes herden sik ther he lay, 
Hadde they no reste nother night ne day, 

The Cokes Tale of Gamelyn. Tyrwhitt omits this tale as being cer- 
tainly not Chaucer's, in which judgment lie is perhaps right. It is how- - 
ever found in the MS. Harl. and all the MSS. I have collated. Tyrwhitt 
ends abruptly with 1. 4120. In MS. Hail, the tale of Gamelyn begins 
without any introduction ; I have added the introductory lines from the 
Lansdowne MS. Other MSS., instead of them, have only two, — 
But herof I wille passe as nowe, 
And of yonge Gamelyn I wille telle yowe. 

The tale of Gamelyn belongs to the Robin Hood cycle, and is curious 
as a picture of the times. It will be at once recognized as the foundation 
of Shakespeare's As you like it, though the dramatist appears to have 
taken it through the intermediaries of Lodge's Euphues Golden Legacy, 
which is clearly built on the poem of Gamelyn, even the name of Adam 
Spencer being retained. In some MSS. Gamelyn's father is called Johan 
of Bur deux, an additional link with Lodge's novel. 


Til they comen to him ther he lay stille 
On his deth heckle, to abyde Goddes wille. 
Than seyde the goode knight, syk ther he lay, 

" Lordes, I you warne for soth, withoute nay, 
I may no lengere lyven heer in this stounde ; 
For thurgh Goddes wille deth draweth me to grounde." 
Ther nas non of hem alle that herd him aright, 
That they hadden reuthe of that ilke knight, 30 

And seyde, " Sir, for Goddes love, ne dismay you nought ; 
God may do bote of bale that is now i-wrought." 
Than spak the goode knight, sik ther he lay, 

" Boote of bale God may sende, I wot it is no nay ; 
But I byseke you, knightes, for the love of me, 
Goth and dresseth my lond among my sones thre. 
And, sires, for the love of God, deleth hem nat amys, 
And forgetith nat Gamelyn, my yonge sone that is. 
Taketh heed to that on, as wel as to that other ; 
Selde ye see ony eyr helpen his brother." 40 

Tho leete they the knight lyen that was nought in hele, 
And wenten in to counseil his londes for to dele ; 
For to delen hem alle to oon, that was her thought, 
And for Gamelyn was yongest, he schuld have nought. 
Al the lond that ther was they dalten it in two, 
And leeten Gamelyn the yonge withoute loud go, 
And ech of hem seyde to other ful lowde, 
His bretheren might geve him lond whan he good cowde. 
•Whan they hadde deled the lond at here wille, 
They come agein to the knight ther he lay ful stille, 50 
And tohlen him anon right how they haddeu wrought ; 
And the knight there he lay liked it right nought. 
Than seyde the knight, " I sware by seynt Martyn, 
For al that ye have y-doon yit is the lond myn ; 
For Goddes love, neyhebours, stondcth alle stille, 
Ami I wil dele my lond after my wille. 
Johan, myn cldeste sone, schal have plowcs fyve, 

57. — pfowet fyve. A plough of land was as much as could !>'■ ploughed 


That was my fadres heritage whil he was on lyve ; 

And my mycldeleste sone fyf plowes of lond, 

That I halp for to gete with my right hond ; 60 

And al myn other pivrchas of londes and leedes 

That I byquethe Gamelyn, and alle my goode steedes. 

And I byseke yow, goode men, that lawe conne of londe, 

For Gamelynes love, that my queste stonde." 

Thus dalte the knight his lond by his day, 

Right on his deth bed sik ther he lay ; 

And sone aftirward he lay stoon stille, 

And deyde whan tyme com, as it was Cristes wille. 

And anon as he was deed, and under gras i-grave, 

Sone the elder brother gyled the yonge knave ; 70 

He took into his hond his lond and his leede, 

And Gamelyn himselfe to clothen and to feede. 

He clothed him and fed him yvel and eek wrothe, 

And leet his londes for-fare, and his houses bothe, 

His parkes, and his woodes, and dede nothing wel, 

And seththen he it abought on his faire fel. 

So longe was Gamelyn in his brotheres halle, 

For the strengest of good wil they dontiden him alle ; 

Ther was non therinne nowther yong ne olde, 

That wolde wraththe Gamelyn, were he never so bolde. 80 

Gamelyn stood on a day in his brotheres yerde, 

And bygan with his hond to handlen his berde ; 

He thought on his londes that layen unsawe, 

And his faire okes that doun were i-drawe ; 

His parkes were i-broken, and his deer byreeved ; 

Of alle his goode steedes noon was him byleved ; 

His howses were unhilid and ful yvel dight. 

Tho thoughte Gamelyn it wente nought aright. 

Afterward cam his brother walkynge thare, 

with one plough. It was in the middle ages a common mode ol' estimating 
landed property. 

61. — and leedes. i.e. and bondmen, the portion of the population 
whicli was bought and sold with the land. 


And seyde to Gamelyn, " Is our mete yare ?" 90 

Tho wraththed him Gamelyn, and swor by Goddes book, 

" Thou schalt go bake thiself, I wil nought be thy cook." 

" How 1 brother Gamelyn, how answerest thou now 1 
Thou spake never such a word as thou dost now." 

" By my faith," seyde Gamelyn, " now me thinketh neede, 
Of alle the harmes that I have I tok never ar heede. 
My parkes ben to-broken, and my deer byreved, 
Of myn amiure and my steedes nought is me bileved ; 
Al that my fader me byquath al goth to schame, 
And therfor have thou Goddes curs, brother, by thy name." 
Than byspak his brother, that rape was of rees, 101 

" Stond stille, gadelyng, and hold right thy pees ; 
Thow schalt be fayn for to have thy mete and thy wede, 
What spekest thou, Gamelyn, of lond other of leede?" 
Thanne seyde Gamelyn, the child that was ying, 

" Cristes curs mot he have that clepeth me gadelyng ! 
I am no worse gadelyng, ne no worse wight, 
But born of a lady, and geten of a knight." 
Ne durst he nat to Gamelyn ner a foote go, 
But clepide to him his men, and seyde to hem tho, 1 1 ° 

" Goth and beteth this boy, and reveth him his wyt, 
And lat him leren another tyme to answere me bet. ' 
Thanne seyde the child, yonge Gamelyn, 

" Cristes curs mot thou have, brother art thou im n ; 
And if I schal algate be beten anon, 
Cristes curs mot thou have, but thou be that oon." 
And anon his brother in that grete hete 
Made his men to fette staves Gamelyn to bete. 
Whan that everich of hem a staf had i-nome, 
Gamelyn was war anon tho he seigh hem come; l* 2f) 

Tho Gamelyn seyh hem come, he loked over al, 
And was war of a pestel stood under a wal ; 
Gamelyn was light of foot and thider gan he lepe, 
And drof alle his brotheres men right on an hepe. 
He loked as a wilde lyoun, and leyde on good woon, 
Tho his brother say that, he bigan to goon ; 


He fley up intil ;i loft, and schette the dore fast. 
Thus Ganielyn with the pestel made hem alle agast. 
Some for Garnelynes love and some for his eyghe. 
Alle they drowe by halves, tho he gan to pleyghe. 130 

" What ! how now ? " seyde Gamelyn, " evel mot ye thee ! 
Wil ye bygynne contek, and so sone flee ? " 
Gamelyn sought his brother, whider he was flowe, 
And saugh wher he loked out at a wyndowe. 

" Brother," sayde Gamelyn, " com a litel ner, 
And I wil teche the a play atte bokeler." 
His brother him answerde, and swor by seynt Rycher, 

" Whil the pestel is in thin hond, I wil come no neer ; 
Brother, I wil make thy pees, I swere by Cristes ore, 
Cast away the pestel, and wraththe the nomore." I-* 

" I mot neede," sayde Gamelyn, " wraththe me at oones, 
For thou wolde make thy men to breke myne boones, 
Ne had I hadde mayn and might in myn amies, 
To have i-put hem fro me, he wolde have do me harrnes.'' 

" Gamelyn," sayde his brother, " be thou nought Avroth, 
For to seen the have harm it were me right loth ; 
I ne dide it nought, brother, but for a fondyng, 
For to loken or thou were strong and art so ying." 

" Com adoun than to me, and graunte me my bone, 
Of thing I wil the aske, and we schul saught sone." 1 ">" 
Doun than cam his brother, that fykil was and felle, 
And was swithe sore agast of the pestelle. 
He seyde, " Brother Gamelyn, aske me thy boone, 
And loke thou me blame but I graunte sone." 
Thanne seyde Gamelyn, " Brother, i-wys, 
And we schulle ben at oon, thou most me graunte this, 
Al that my fader me byquath whil he was on lyve, 
Thou most do me it have, gif we schul nat stryve." 159 

" That schalt thou have, Gamelyn, I swere by Cristes ore ! 
Al that thi fader the byquath, though thou woldest have 
Thy lond, that lyth laye, ful wel it schal be sowe, [more ; 
And thyn bowses reysed up, that ben leyd so low." 
Thus seyde the knight to Gamelyn with mowthe, 


And thought eek of falsnes, as he wel couthe. 
The knight thought on tresoun, and Ganielyn on noon, 
And went and kist his brother, and than they were at oon. 
Alias ! yonge Gamelyn, nothing he ne wiste 
With which a false tresoun his brother him kiste. 
Litheth, and lestneth, and holdeth your tonge, 
And ye schul heere talkyng of Ganielyn the yonge. 170 
Ther was ther bysiden cryed a wrastlyng, 
And therfor ther was sette up a ram and a ryng ; 
And Gamelyn was in good wil to wende therto, 
For to preven his might what he cowthe do. 

" Brother," seyde Gamelyn, " by seynt Richer, 
Thou most lene me to nyght a litel courser 
That is freisch to the spore, on for to ryde, 
I most on an erande, a litel her byside." 

" By God ! " seyd his brother, " of steedes in my stalle 
Go and chese the the best, and spare non of alle, 180 

Of steedes or of coursers that stonden hem bisyde, 
And tel me, goode brother, whider thou wolt ryde.'' 

" Her byside, brother, is cryed a wrastlyng, 
And therfor schal be set up a ram and a ryng ; 
Moche worschip it were, brother, to us alle, 
Might I the ram and the ryng bryng home to this halle." 
A steede ther was sadeled smertely and skeet, 
Gamelyn did a paire spores fast on his feet, 
He set his foot in the styrop, the steede he bystrood, 
And toward the wrastelyng the yonge child rood. 190 

Tho Gamelyn the yonge was ride out at the gate, 
The fals knight his brother lokked it after thate, 
And bysoughte Jhesu Crist that is heven kyng 
He mighte broke his nekke in that wrastlyng. 
As sone as Gamelyn com ther the place was, 
He lighte doun of his steede, and stood on the gras, 
And ther he herd a frankcleyn wayloway syng, 
And bigan bitterly his hondes for bo wryng. 

172. — a mm. See before, tli<> general prologue, !. 550, 


" Goode man," seyde Gamelyn, " why niakestow this fare >. 
Is ther no man that may you helpe out of this care 1 " 200 

" Alias !" seyde this frankeleyn, " that ever was I bore ! 
For tweye stalworthe sones I wene that I have lore : 
A champioun is in the place, that hath i-wrought me sorwe, 
For he hath slayn my two sones, but if God hem borwe. 
I wold geve ten pound, by Jhesu Crist ! and more, 
With the nones I fand a man to handil him sore." 

" Goode man," sayde Gamelyn, " wilt thou wel doon, 
Hold myn hors, whil my man draweth of my schoon, 
And help my man to kepe my clothes and my steede, 
And I wil into place go, to loke if I may speede." 210 

" By God ! " sayde the frankeleyn, " anon it schal be doon, 
I wil myself be thy man, to drawen of thy schoon, 
And wende thou into the place, Jhesu Crist the speede ! 
And drede not of thy clothes, nor of thy goode steede." 

Barfoot and ungert Gamelyn in cam, 
Alle that weren in the place heede of him they nam, 
How he durst auntre him of him to doon his might 
That was so doughty champioun in wrastlyng and in fight. 
Up sterte the champioun raply and anoon, 
Toward yonge Gamelyn he bigan to goon, 220 

And sayde, " Who is thy fader and who is thy sire 1 
For sothe thou art a gret fool, that thou come hire." 
Gamelyn answerde the champioun tho, 

" Thou knewe wel my fader whil he couthe go, 
Whiles he was on lyve, by seint Martyn ! 
Sir Johan of Boundys was his name, and I Gamelyn." 

" Felaw," seyde the champioun, "al so mot I thryve, 
I knew wel thy fader, whil he was on lyve, 
And thiself, Gamelyn, I wil that thou it heere, 
Whil thou were a yong boy a moche schrewe thou were." 
Than seyde Gamelyn, and swor by Cristes ore, 231 

" Now I am older woxe, thou schalt me fynd a more." 

"Be God!" sayde the champioun, " welcome mote thou be! 
Come thou ones in myn hond, schalt thou never the." 
It was wel withinne the night, and the moone schon, 


Whan Gainelyn and the champioun togider gon to goon. 
The champioun caste tornes to Gamelyn that was prest, 
And Gamelyn stood stille, and bad him doon his best. 
Thanne seyde Gamelyn to the champioun, 
" Thou art fast aboute to brynge me adoun ; 
Now I have i-proved many tornes of thyne, 240 

Thow most," he seyde, " proven on or tuo of myne." 
Gamelyn to the champioun yede smartly anon, 
Of alle the tornes that he cowthe he schewed him but oon, 
And kast him on the left syde, that thre ribbes to-brak, 
And therto his oon arm, that gaf a gret crak. 
Thanne seyde Gamelyn smertly anoon, 
" Schal it be holde for a cast, or elles for noon?" 
"By God," seyd the champioun, "whether that it bee, 
He that comes ones in thin hand schal he never thee ! " 
Than seyde the frankeleyn, that had his sones there, 250 
" Blessed be thou, Gamelyn, that ever thou bore were ! " 

Thefrankleyn seyd to the champioun, of him stood him noon 
" This is yonge Gamelyn that taughte the this pleye." [eye, 

Agein answerd the champioun, that liked nothing welle, 
" He is a lither mayster, and his pley is right felle ; 
Sith I wrastled first, it is i-go ful yore, 
But I was nevere my lyf handled so sore." 
Gamelyn stood in the place allone withoute serk, 
And seyd, " If ther be eny mo, lat hem come to werk, 
The champioun that peyned him to werke so sore, 200 
It semeth by his continauuce that he wil nomore." 
Gamelyn in the place stood as stille as stoon, 
For to abyde wrastelyng, but ther com noon ; 
Ther was noon with Gamelyn wolde wrastle more, 
For he handled the champioun so wonderly sore. 
Two gentilmen ther were yenietlc the place, 
('omen to Gamelyn, God geve him goode grace ! 
And sayde to hem, "Do on thyn hosen and thy schoon, 
For sothe at this tyme this i'eire is i-doon." 
Ami than seyde Gamelyn, '• S.> mot I we] 6 i 
1 have nought yet hahemlel sold up m_\ ware." 270 


Tho seyde the champioun. " So brouk I my sweere, 
He is a fool that therof beyeth, thou sellest it so deere." 
Tho sayde the frankeleyn that was in moche care, 

" Felaw," he seyde, " why lakkest thou his ware I 
By seynt Janie in Galys, that many man hath sought, 
Yet it is to good cheep that thou hast i-bought." 
Tho that wardeynes were of that wrastlyng, 
Come and broughte Gamelyn the ram and the ryng, 
And seyden, " Have, Gamelyn, the ryng and the ram, 
For the best wrasteler that ever here cam." 
Thus wan Gamelyn the ram and the ryng, 280 

And wente with moche joye home in themornyng. 
His brother seih wher he cam with the grete rowte, 
And bad schitte the gate, and holde him withoute. 
The porter of his lord was ful sore agast, 
And stert anon to the gate, and lokked it fast. 

Now litheth, and lestneth, bothe yong and olde, 
And ye schul heere gamen of Gamelyn the bolde. 
Gamelyn come therto for to have comen in, 
And thanne was it i-schet faste with a pyn ; 
Than seyde Gamelyn, " Porter, undo the yate, 
For many good mannes sone stondeth therate." 290 

Than answerd the porter, and swor by Goddes berde, 

" Thow ne schalt, Gamelyn, come into this yerde." 

" Thow lixt," sayde Gamelyn, "so browke I my chyn!" 
He smot the wyket with his foot, and brak awey the pyn. 
The porter seyh tho it might no better be, 
He sette foot on erthe, and fast bigan to flee. 

" By my faith," seyde Gamelyn, " that travail is i-lore, 
For I am of foot as lighte as thou, though thow haddest 
Gamelyn overtook the porter, and his teene wrak, [swore." 
And gert him in the nekke, that the bon to-brak, 300 

And took him by that oon arm, and threw him in a welle, 
Seven fadmen it was deep, as I have herd telle. 
Whan Gamelyn the yonge thus hadde pleyd his play, 
Alle that in the yerde were, drewen hem away ; 
They drcdden him ful sore, for werkes that he wroughtc, 


And for the faire company that he thider broughte. 
Gamelyn yede to the gate, and leet it up wyde ; 
He leet in alle maner men that gon in wold or ryde, 
And seyde, " Ye be welcome withouten eny greeve, 
For we wiln be maistres heer, and aske no man leve. 31 
Yestirday I lefte," seyde yonge Gamelyn, 

" In my brother seller fyve tonne of wyn ; 
I wil not that this compaignye parten a-twynne, 
And ye wil doon after me, whil eny sope is thrynne ; 
And if my brother grucche, or make foul cheere, 
Other for spense of mete or drynk that we spenden heere, 
I am oure catour, and here oure aller purs, 
He schal have for his grucchyng seint Maries curs. 
My brother is a nyggoun, I swer by Cristes ore, 
And we wil spende largely that he hath spared yore, 320 
And who that maketh grucchyng that we here dwelle, 
He schal to the porter into the draw-welle." 
Seven dayes and seven nyght Gamelyn held his feste, 
With moche myrth and solas that was ther and no cheste; 
In a litel toret his brother lay i-steke, 
And sey hem wasten his good, but durst he not speke. 
Erly on a mornyng on the eighte day 
The gestes come to Gamelyn and wolde gon here way. 

" Lordes," seyde Gamelyn, " will ye so hye 1 
Al the wyn is not yet ydronke, so brouk I myn ye." 330 
Gamelyn in his herte was he ful wo, 
Whan his gestes took her lcvc from him for to go ; 
He wold they had lenger abide, and they seyde nay, 
But bitaughte Gamelyn God, and good day. 
Thus made Gamelyn his fest, and brought it wel to ende, 
And after his gestys took leve to wende. 

Litheth, and lestneth, and holdeth youre tonge, 
And ye schul heere gamen of Gamelyn the yonge ; 
Ilerkneth, lordyngcs, and lesteneth aright, 
Whan alle the gestes were goon howGamelyn was dight. 3 lo 
Al the whil that Gamelyn hceld his mangerye, 
His brother thought on him be wrekc with his treccherie. 


Tho Gamelyns gestes were riden and i-goon, 

Gainelyn stood alloue, frendes had he noon ; 

Tho after ful soone withinne a litel stounde, 

Gamelyn was i-take and ful hard i-bounde. 

Forth com the fals knight out of the selleer, 

To Gamelyn his brother he yede ful neer, 

And sayde to Gamelyn, " Who made the so bold 

For to stroye my stoor of myn houshold V 350 

" Brother," seyde Gamelyn, " wraththe the right nought, 
For it is many day i-gon siththcn it was bought ; 
For, brother, thou hast i-had, by seynt Richer, 
Of fiftene plowes of loud this sixtene yer, 
And of alle the beestes thou hast forth bred, 
That my fader me biquath on his deth bed, 
Of al this sixtene yeer I geve the the prow, 
For the mete and the drynk that we have spended now." 
Thanne seyde the fals knyght, evel mot he the, 

" Herkne, brother Gamelyn, what I wol geve the ; 360 

For of my body, brother, geten heir have I noon, 
I wil make the myn heir, I swere by seint Johan." 

" Par ma foyV sayd Gamelyn, " and if it so be, 
And thou thenke as thou seyst, God yelde it the !" 
Nothing wiste Gamelyn of his brotheres gyle ; 
Therfore he him bigyled in a litel while. 

" Gamelyn," seyde he, " o thing I the telle, 
Tho thou threwe my porter in the draw-welle, 
I swor in that wraththe, and in that grete moot, 
That thou schuldest be bounde bothe hand and foot ; 370 
Therfore I the biseche, brother Gamelyn, 
Lat me nought be for-sworn, as brother art thou myn, 
Lat me bynde the now bothe hand and feet, 
For to holde myn avow, as I the biheet." 

" Brother," sayde Gamelyn, " al so mot I the ! 
Thou schalt not be for-sworen for the love of me." 
Tho made they Gamelyn to sitte, might he nat stonde, 
Tyl they had him bounde bothe foot and honJe. 
The fals knight his brother of Gamelyn was agast, 


And scut aftir feteres to fetereu him fast. 380 

His brother made losyuges ou him ther he stood, 

And told hem that comen in that Gamely n was wood. 

Gamelyn stood to a post bounden in the halle, 

Tho that comen in ther loked on him alle. 

Ever stood Gamelyn even upright ; 

But mete ne drynk had he non neither day ne night. 

Than seyde Gamelyn, " Brother, by myn hals, 

Now I have aspied thou art a party fals ; 

Had I wist that tresoun that thou haddest y-founde, 

I wolde have geve the strokes or I had be bounde !" 390 

Gamelyn stood bounden stille as eny stoon, 

Two dayes and two nightes mete had he noon. 

Tbanne seyde Gamelyn, that stood y-bounde stronge, 
" Adam spenser, me thinkth I faste to longe : 

Adam spenser, now I bysech the, 

For the mochel love my fader loved the, 

Yf thou may come to the keyes, lese me out of bond, 

And I wil parte with the of my free lond." 

Thanne seyde Adam, that was the spencer, 
" I have served thy brother this sixtene yeer, ln;) 

If I leete the goon out of his bour, 

He wolde say after-ward I were a traytour." 
" Adam," sayde Gamelyn, " so brouk I myn hals ! 

Thou schalt fyude my brother atte lastc fals ; 

Therfor, brother Adam, louse me out of bond, 

And I wil parte with the of my free lond." 
" Up swich a forward," seyd Adam, " i-wys, 

I wil do therto al that in me is." 
•• Adam," seyde Gamelyn, " al so mot I the, 

I wol hold the covenant, and thou wil me." > !" 

Anon as Adames lord to bedde was i-goon, 

Adam took the keyes, and lect Gamelyn out anoOD ; 

He unlokked Gamelyn bothe hand and feet, 

In hope of avauncement that he him byheet. 

Than seyde Gamelyn, "Thanked be Goddes sonde ! 

X<>w I am loosed bothe foot and honde, 


Had I now eten and dronken aright, 

Ther is noon in this hous schulde bynde me this night." 

Adam took Gamelyn, as stille as ony stoon, 

And ladde him into spence rapely and anon, 

And sette him to soper right in a prive stede, 

And bad him do gladly, and Gamelyn so dede. 

Anon as Gamelyn hadde eten wel and fyn, 

And therto y-dronke wel of the rede wyn, 

" Adam," seyde Gamelyn, " what is now thy reed ? 
Wher I go to my brother and girde of his heed '." 

" Gamelyn," seyd Adam, " it schal not be so, 
I can teche the a reed that is worth the two : 
I wot wel for sothe that this is no nay, 
We schul have a mangery right on Sonday, 430 

Abbotes and priours many heer schal be, 
And other men of holy chirche, as I telle the ; 
Thow schalt stonde up by the post as thou were hond-fast, 
And I schal leve hem unloke, awey thou may hem cast. 
Whan that they have eten and waisschen here hondes, 
Thou schalt biseke hem alle to bryng the out of bondes, 
And if they wille borwe the, that were good game, 
Then were thou out of prisoun, and I out of blame ; 
And if everich of hem say unto us nay, 
I schal do another thing, I swere by this day ! 4 10 

Thou schalt have a good staf and I wil have another, 
And Cristes curs have that oon that faileth that other !" 

" Ye, for Gode !" sayde Gamelyn, " I say it for me, 
If I fayle on my syde, yvel mot I the ! 
If we schul algate assoile hem of here synne, 
Warne me, brother Adam, whan I schal bygynne.'' 

" Gamelyn," seyde Adam, " by seynte Charite, 

420. — spence. The spence, or, according to the original French 
form of the word, despence, was the closet or room in convents and large 
houses, where the victuals, wine, and plate were locked np, and the per- 
son who had the charge of it was called the spencer, or the despenccr 
Hence originated two common family names. 


I wil warne the bjforn whan that it schal be ; 

Whan I twynk on the, loke for to goon, 

And cast awey the feteres, and come to me anoon." 450 

" Adam,'' seide Gamelyn, " blessed be thy bones ! 
That is a good counseil gevyng for the nones ; 
If they werne me thanne to brynge me out of bendes, 
I wol sette goode strokes right on here lendes." 
Tho the Sonday was i-come, and folk to the feste, 
Faire they were welcomed bothe lest and meste ; 
And ever as they atte halle dore comen in, 
They caste their eye on yonge Gamelyn. 
The fals knight his brother, ful of trechery, 
Alle the gestes that ther were atte mangery, 460 

Of Gamelyn his brother he tolde hem with mouthe, 
Al the harm and the schame that he telle couthe. 
Tho they were served of messes tuo or thre, 
Than seyde Gamelyn, " IIow serve ye me '. 
It is nought wel served, by God that al made ! 
That I sytte fastyng, and other men make glade." 
The fals knight his brother, ther that he stood, 
Tolde alle his gestes that Gamelyn was wood ; 
And Gamelyn stood stille, and answerde nought, 
But Adames wordes he held in his thought. 1 ' l) 

Tho Gamelyn gan speke dolfully withalle 
To the gret lordes that saten in the halle : 

" Lordes," he seyde, " for Cristes passioun, 
Helpeth brynge Gamelyn out of prisoun." 
Than seyde an abbot, sorwe on his cheeke ! 

" He schal have Cristes curs and seynte Maries eeke, 
That the out of prisoun beggcth other borwe, 
But ever worthe hem wel that doth the moche sorwe." 
After that abbot than spak another, 

" I wold thin heed were of, though thou were my brother ! 480 
Alle that the borwc, foulemot hem falle !" 
Thus they seyde alle that were in the halle. 
Than seyde a priour, yvel mot he thryve ! 

" It is moche skathe, l>oy, that thou art on lyve'' 


" Ow," seyde Gamelyn, " so brouk I my bon ! 
Now I have aspyed that freendes have I non. 
Cursed mot he worthe bothe fleisch and blood, 
That ever do priour or abbot ony good !" 
Adam the spencer took up the cloth, 

And loked on Gamelyn, and say that he was wroth ; 400 
Adam on the pantrye litel he thought, 
But tuo goode staves to halle dore he brought. 
Adam loked on Gamelyn, and he was war anoon, 
And cast awey the feteres, and he bigan to goon : 
Tho he com to Adam, he took that oo staf, 
And bygan to worche, and goode strokes gaf. 
Gamelyn cam into the halle, and the spencer bothe, 
And loked hem aboute, as they had be wrothe ; 
Gamelyn sprengeth holy-water with an oken spire, 
That some that stoode upright fel in the fire. 500 

Ther was no lewede man that in the halle stood, 
That wolde do Gamelyn eny thing but good, 
But stoode besyde, and leet hem bothe werche, 
For they hadde no rewthe of men of holy cherche ; 
Abbot or priour, monk or chanoun, 
That Gamelyn overtok, anon they yeeden doun. 
Ther was non of hem alle that with his staf mette, 
That he made him overthrowe and quyt him his dette. 

" Gamelyn," seyde Adam, " for seynte Charite, 
Pay large lyverey, for the love of me, 510 

And I wil kepe the dore, so ever here I masse ! 
Er they ben assoyled there shan noon passe. 

" Dowt the nought," seyde Gamelyn, " whil we ben in feere 
Kep thou wel the dore, and I wol werche heere, 
Stere the, good Adam, and lat ther noon flee, 
And we schul telle largely how many ther be." 

" Gamelyn," seyde Adam, " do hem but good : 
They ben men of holy chirche, draw of hem no blood, 
Save wel the croune, and do hem non harmes, 
But hrek bothe her legges and siththen here amies." 520 
Thus Gamelyn and Adam wroughte right fast. 


And pleyden with the uionkes, and made hem agast. 
Thider they come rydjng jolily with swaynes, 
But horn agen they were i-lad in cartes and in waynes. 
Tho they hadden al y-don, than seyde a gray frere, 

" Alias ! sire abbot, what did we now heere ? 
Tho that comen hider, it was a colde reed, 
Us hadde ben better at home with water and breed." 
Whil Gamelyn made ordres of nionkes and frere, 
Ever stood his brother, and made foul chere ; 530 

Gamelyn up with his staff, that he wel knew, 
And gert him in the nekke, that he overthrew ; 
A litel above the girdel the rigge-bon to-barst ; 
And sette him in the feteres ther he sat arst. 

" Sitte ther, brother," sayde Gamelyn, 

" For to colyn thy blood, as I dide myn." 
As swithe as they hadde i-wroken hem on here foon, 
They askeden watir and wisschen anoon, 
What some for here love and some for awe, 
Alle the servantz served hem of the beste lawe. 540 

The scherreve was thennes but a fyve myle, 
And al was y-told him in a litel while, 
How Gamelyn and Adam had doon a sory rees, 
Bounden and i-wounded men agein the kinges pees ; 
Tho bigan sone strif for to wake, 
And the scherref aboute cast Gamelyn for to take. 

Now lytheth and lestneth, so God gif you goode fyn ! 
And ye schul heere good game of yonge Gamelyn. 
Four and twenty yonge men, that heelden hem ful boldej 
Come to the schirref and seyde that they wolde 550 

Gamelyn and Adam fetten away. 
The scherref gaf hem leve, soth as I you say ; 
They hyeden faste, wold they nought bylynnc, 
Til they come to the gate, ther Gamelyn was inne. 
They knokked on the gate, the porter was ny, 
And loked out at an hoi, as man that was sly. 
The porter hadde byholde hem a litel while, 
He loved wel Gamelyn, and was adrad of gyle, 


And asked hem withoute what was here wille. 500 

For al the grete company thanne spak but oon, 

" Undo the gate, porter, and lat us in goon." 
Than seyde the porter, " So brouke I my chyn, 
Ye schul sey your erand er ye comen in." 

" Sey to Gamelyn and Adam, if here wille be, 
We wil speke with hem wordes two or thre." 

" Felaw," seyde the porter, " stond there stille, 
And I wil wende to Gamelyn to witen his wille." 
In went the porter to Gamelyn anoon, 
And seyde, " Sir, I warne you her ben come your foon, 570 
The scherreves meyne ben atte gate, 
For to take you bothe, schul ye nat skape." 

" Porter,'' seyde Gamelyn, " so moot I wel the ! 
I wil allowe the thy wordes whan I my tyme se ; 
Go agayn to the gate, and dwel with hem a while, 
And thou schalt se right sone, porter, a gyle." 

" Adam," sayde Gamelyn, " looke the to goon, 
We have foomen atte gate, and frendes never oon ; 
It ben the schirrefes men, that hider ben i-come, 
They ben swore to-gidere that we schul be nome." 580 

" Gamelyn," seyde Adam, " hye the right blyve, 
And if I faile the this day, evel mot I thry ve ! 
And we schul so welcome the scherreves men, 
That some of hem schul make here beddes in the den." 
Atte posterne gate Gamelyn out went, 
And a good cart staf in his hand he hente ; 
Adam hente sone another gret staf, 
For to helpe Gamelyn, and goode strokes gaf. 
Adam felde tweyne, and Gamelyn felde thre, 
The other setten feet on erthe, and bygonne fie. 690 

" What?" seyde Adam, " so ever here I masse! 
I have a draught of good wyn, drynk er ye passe.'' 

" Nay, by God !" sayde they, " thy drynk is not good, 
It wolde make mannes brayne to lien in his hood." 
Gamelyn stood stille, and loked him aboute, 
And seih the scherreve come with a gret route. 


" Adam," sayde Gamelyn, " my reed is now this, 

Abide we no lenger, lest we fare amys : 

I rede that we to wode goon ar that we be founde, 

Better is us ther loose than in town y-bounde." 

Adam took by the hond yonge Garnelyn. 

And everich of hem tuo drank a draught of wyn, 

And after took her coursers and wenten her way. 

Tho fond the scherreve nest, but non ay. 

The scherreve lighte adoun, and went into the halle, 

And fond the lord y-fetered faste withalle. 

The scherreve unfetered him sone, and that anoon, 

And sent after a leche to hele his rigge-boon. 
Lete we now this fals knight lyen in his care, 

And talke we of Gamelyn, and loke how he fare. 6I ° 

Gamelyn into the woode stalkede stille, 

And Adam the spenser liked ful ylle ; 

Adam swor to Gamelyn, by seynt Richer, 
" Now I see it is mery to be a spencer, 

That lever me were keyes for to here, 

Than walken in this wilde woode my clothes to tere." 
" Adam," seyde Gamelyn, " dismaye the right nought ; 

Many good mannes child in care is i-brought.'' 

And as they stoode talkyng bothen in feere, 

Adam herd talkyng of men, and neyhhim thought thei were. 

Tho Gamelyn under the woode loked aright, 621 

Sevene score of yonge men he saugh wel adight ; 

Alle satte atte mete in compas aboute. 

" Adam," seyde Gamelyn, " now have we no doute, 

After bale cometh boote, thurgh grace of God almight ; 

Me thynketh of mete and of drynk that I have a sight." 

Adam lokede tho under woode bowgh, 

And whan he seyh mete he was glad ynough ; 

For he hopede to God for to have his deel, 

And he was sore alonged after a good meel. 630 

As he seyde that word, the mayster outlawe 

Saugh Gamelyn and Adam under woode schawe : 
" Yonge men," seyde the maister, " by the goode roode, 


I am war of gestes, God send us non but goode ; 

Yonder ben tuo yonge men, wonder wel adight, 

And paraventure ther ben mo, who so loked aright : 

Ariseth up, ye yonge men, and fetteth hem to me, 

It is good that we witen what men they bee." 

Up ther sterten sevene fro the dyner, 

And metten with Gamelyn and Adam spenser. 640 

Whan they were neyh hem, than seyde that oon, 

" Yeldeth up, yonge men, your bowes and your floon." 
Thanne seyde Gamelyn, that yong was of elde, 

" Moche sorwe mot he have that to you hem yelde ! 
I curse non other, but right myselve, 
They ye fette to yow fyve, thanne ye be twelve." 
Tho they herde by his word that might was in his arm, 
Ther was none of hem alle that wolde do him harm, 
But sayd unto Gamelyn, myldely and stille, 

" Com afore our maister, and sey to him thy wille." " 50 

" Yonge men," sayde Gamelyn, " by your lewte, 
What man is your maister that ye with be V 
Alle they answerde withoute lesyng, 

" Oure maister is i-crouned of outlawes kyng." 

" Adam," seyde Gamelyn, "go we in Cristes name, 
He may neyther mete nor drynk werne us for schame. 
If that he be heende, and come of gentil blood, 
He wol geve us mete and drynk, and doon us som good." 

" By seynt Jame !" seyd Adam, " what harm that I gete, 
I wil auntre to the dore that I hadde mete." 660 

Gamelyn and Adam wente forth in feere, 
And they grette the maister that they founde there. 
Than seide the maister, kyng of outlawes, 

" What seeke ye, yonge men, under woode schawes '?" 
Gamelyn answerde the kyng with his croune, 

" He moste needes walke in woode, that may not walke in 
Sire, we walke not heer noon harm for to do, [towne. 

But if we meete with a deer, to scheete therto, 
As men that ben hungry, and mow no mete fynde, 
And ben harde bystad under woode lynde." 670 

Of Gamelynes wordes the maister hadde routhe, 


And seyde, " Ye schal have ynough, have God my trouthe." 
He bad hem sitte ther adoun, for to take reste ; 
And bad hem ete and drynke and that of the beste. 
As they sete and eeten and dronke wel and fyn, 
Than seyd that oon to that other, " This is Gamelyn." 
Tho was the maister outlawe into counseil nome, 
And told how it was Gamelyn that thider was i-come. 
Anon as he herde how it was bifalle, 

lie made him maister under him over hem alle. 680 

Within the thridde wyke him com tydyng, 
To the maister outlawe that tho was her kyng, 
That he schulde come horn, his pecs was i-made ; 
And of that goode tydyng he was tho ful glad. 
Tho seyde he to his yonge men, soth for to telle, 
' Me ben comen tydynges I may no lenger dwelle." 
Tho was Gamelyn anon, withoute taryyng, 
Made maister outlawe, and crouned her kyng. 

Tho was Gamelyn crouned kyng of outlawes, 
And walked a while under woode schawes. 690 

The fals knight his brother was scherreve and sire, 
And leet his brother endite for hate and for ire. 
Tho were his bonde-men sory and nothing glade, 
Whan Gamelyn her lord wolves-heed was cryed and made ; 
And sente out of his men wher they might him fynde, 
For to seke Gamelyn under woode lynde, 
To telle him tydynges how the wynd was went, 
And al his good reved, and his men schent. 

694. wolvcs-hecd. This was the ancient Saxon formula of outlawry 
and seems to have heen literally equivalent to setting the man's head 
at the same estimate as a wolfs head. In the laws of Edward the 
Confessor, it is said of a person who has lied justice, " Si vero postea 
repertus fuerit, et retineri possit, vivus regi reddatur, vel caput ejus, si se 
defenderit. Lupinum enim gerit caput, quod angliee wnlfrs-heofod dicitur. 
Et ha;c est lex communis et generalis de omnibus utlagatis." 

698 — his men schent. When a man's lands were seized by force or 
unjustly, the peasantry on the estates were exposed to be plundered and 
ill treated by the followers of the intruder. 

o 2 


Whan they had him founde, on knees they hem sette, 
And adoun with here hood, and here lord grette : 70 ° 
" Sire, wraththe you nought, for the goode roode, 
For we have brought you tydynges, but they be nat goode. 
Now is thy brother scherreve, and hath the baillye, 
And he hath endited the, and wolves-heed doth the crie." 
Alias ! " seyde Gamelyn, " that ever I was so slak, 
That I ne hadde broke his nekke, tho his rigge brak ! 
Goth, greteth hem wel, myn housbondes and wyf, 
I wol ben atte nexte schire, have God my lyf." 
Gamelyn cam wel redy to the nexte schire, 
And ther was his brother bothe lord and sire. 710 

Gamelyn com boldelych into the moot halle, 
And put adoun his hood among the lordes alle : 

" God save you alle, lordynges, that now here be ! 
But broke-bak scherreve, evel mot thou the ! 
Why hast thou do me that schame and vilonye, 
For to late endite me, and wolves-heed me crye 1 " 
Tho thought the fals knight for to ben awreke, 
And leet take Gamelyn, most he nomore speke ; 
Might ther be nomore grace, but Gamelyn atte last 
Was cast into prisoun and fetered ful fast. 720 

Gamelyn hath a brother that highte sir Ote, 
As good a knight and heende as mighte gon on foote. 
Anon ther yede a messager to that goode knight, 
And told him altogidere how Gamelyn was dight. 
Anon as sire Ote herde how Gamelyn was adight, 
He was wonder sory, was he nothing light, 
And leet sadle a steede, and the way he nam, 
And to his tweyne bretheren anon right he cam. 

" Sire," seyde sire Ote to the scherreve tho, 

" We ben but thre bretheren, schul we never be mo, 730 

701. — wraththe you nought. The messengers of ill tidings, however 
innocent themselves, often experienced all the first anger of the person to 
whom they carried them, in the ages of feudal power. Hence the bearer 
of ill news generally began by deprecating the wrath of the person 


And thou hast y-prisoned the best of us alle ; 
Swich another brother yvel mot him bifalle ! " 

" Sire Ote," seide the fals knight, " lat be thi curs, 
By God, for thy wordes he schal fare the wurs ; 
To the kynges prisoun anon he is y-nome, 
And ther he schal abyde til the justice come." 

" Parde ! " seyde sir Ote, " better it schal be, 
I bidde him to maympris, that thou graunt him me, 
Til the nexte sittyng of delyveraunce, 
And thanne lat Gamelyn stande to his chaunce." 740 

" Brother, in swich a forthward take him to the, 
And by thi fader soule, that the bygat and me, 
But if he be redy whan the justice sitte 
Thou schalt bere the juggement for al thi grete witte." 

" I graunte wel," seide sir Ote, " that it so be : 
Let delyver him anon, and tak him to me." 
Tho was Gamelyn delyvered to sire Ote his brother ; 
And that night dwelleden that on with that other. 
On the morn seyde Gamelyn to sire Ote the heende, 

" Brother," he seide, " I moot for sothe from the wende, 750 
To loke how my yonge men leden here lyf, 
Whether they lyven in joie or elles in stryf." 

" Be God ! " seyde sire Ote, " that is a cold reed, 
Now I see that al the cark schal fallen on myn heed; 
For whan the justice sitte, and thou be nought y-founde, 
I schal anon be take, and in thy stede i-bounde." 

" Brother," sayde Gamelyn, " dismaye the nought, 
For by seint Jame in Gales, that many man hath sought. 
If that God almighty hold my lyf and witt, 
I wil be ther redy whan the justice sitt." 760 

Than seide sir Ote to Gamelyn, " God schilde the fro schame, 
Com whan thou seest tyme, and bring us out of blame." 

Litheth and lestneth and holdeth you stille, 
And ye schul here how Gamelyn had al his wille. 
Gamelyn wente ageiu under woode rys, 
And fond there pleying yonge men of prys ; 
Tho was yonge Gamelyn glad and blithe ynough, 


.Whan he fond his raery men under woode bough. 
Gamelyn and his men talked in feere, 
And they hadde good game here maister to heere, 770 
They tolden him of aventures that they hadde founde, 
And Gamelyn hem tolde agein how he was fast i-bounde. 
Whil Gamelyn was outlawed, had he no cors ; 
There was no man that for him ferde the wors, 
But abbotes and priours, monk and chanoun, 
On hem left he nothing whan he might hem nom. 
Whil Gamelyn and his men made merthes ryve. 
The fals knight his brother, yvel mot he thryve ! 
For he was fast about bothe day and other, 
For to byre the quest, to hangen his brother. 780 

Gamelyn stood on a day, and as he biheeld 
The woodes and the schawes in the wilde feeld, 
He thought on his brother how he him beheet 
That he wokle be redy, whan the justice seet ; 
He thoughte wel that he wolde, withoute delay, 
Come afore the justice to kepen his day, 
And seide to his yonge men, " Dighteth you yare, 
For whan the justice sitt, we moote be thare, 
For I am under borwe til that I come, 
And my brother for me to prisoun schal be nome." 790 
" By seint Jame ! " seyde his yonge men, " and thou rede 
Ordeyne how it schal be, and it schal be do." [therto, 

Whil Gamelyn was comyng ther the justice sat, 
The fals knight his brother, forgat he nat that, 
To huyre the men on his quest to hangen his brother; 
Though he hadde nought that oon, he wolde have that 
Tho cam Gamelyn fro under woode rys, [other. 

And broughte with him his yonge men of prys. 
" I se wel," seyde Gamelyn, " the justice is sette, 
Go aforn, Adam, and loke how it spette." 800 

Adam went into the halle, and loked al aboute, 

775.— abbotes. Gamelyn's enmity to abbots and monks is entirely in 
character with the Robin Hood ballads — it was the feeling of the age. 


He seyh there stonde lordes gret and stoute, 

And sir Ote his brother fetered wel fast : 

Tho went Adam out of halle, as he were agast. 

Adam said to Gamelyn, and to his felaws alle, 
" Sir Ote stant i-fetered in the moot halle." 
" Yonge men," seide Gamelyn, " this ye heeren alle : 

Sire Ote stant i-fetered in the moot halle. 

If God gif us grace wel for to doo, 

He schal it abegge that broughte him thertoo." 

Thanne sayde Adam, that lokkes hadde hore, 
" Cristes curs most he have that him bond so sore! 810 

And thou wilt, Gamelyn, do after my red, 

Ther is noon in the halle schall here awey his heed." 
" Adam," seyde Gamelyn, " we wiln nought don so, 

We wil slee the giltyf, and lat the other go. 

I wil into the halle, and with the justice speke, 

On hem that ben gulyf I wil ben awreke. 

Lat non skape at the dore, take, yonge men, yeme, 

For I wil be justice this clay domes to deme. 

God spede me this day at my newe werk ! 

Adam, com on with me, for thou schalt be my clerk." 820 

His men answereden him and bad him doon his best, 
" And if thou to us have neede, thou schalt fynde us prest ; 

We wiln stande with the whil that we may dure, 

And but we werke manly, pay us non hure." 
" Yonge men," seyde Gamelyn, " so mot I wel the ! 

As trusty a maister ye schal fynde of me." 

Right there the justice sat in the halle, 

In wente Gamelyn amonges hem alle. 

Gamelyn leet unfetere his brother out of beende. 

Thanne seyde sire Ote, his brother that was heende, 830 
" Thou haddest almost, Gamelyn, dwelled to longe, 

For the cpiest is oute on me, that I schulde hongc." 
" Brother," seyde Gamelyn, " so God gif me good rest ! 

This day they schuln ben hanged that ben on thy quest ; 

And the justice bothe that is jugges man, 

And the schcrreve bothe, thurgh him it bigan." 


Than seyde Garnelyn, to the justise, 
" Now is thy power y-don, thou most nedes arise ; 
Thow hast geven domes that ben yvel dight, 
I wil sitten in thy sete, and dressen hem aright." 810 

The justice sat stille, and roos nought anoon ; 
And Gamelyn clevede his cheeke boon ; 
Gamelyn took him in his arm, and no more spak, 
But threw him over the barre, and his arm to-brak. 
Durste non to Gamelyn seye but good, 
For-fered of the company that withoute stood. 
Gamelyn sette him doun in the justices sete, 
And sire Ote his brother by him, and Adam at his feet. 
Whan Gamelyn was i-set in the justices stede, 
Herkneth of a bourde that Gamelyn dede. 850 

He leet fetre the justice and his fals brother, 
And dede hem come to the barre, that oon with that other. 
Tho Gamelyn hadde thus y-doon, had he no rest, 
Til he had enquered who was on the quest 
For to deme his brother, sir Ote, for to honge ; 
Er he wiste which they were it thoughte ful longe. 
But as sone as Gamelyn wiste wher they were, 
He dede hem everichone fetere in feere, 
And bringen hem to the barre, and sette hem in rewe ; 
" By my faith !" seyde the justice, " the scherreve is a 
Than seyde Gamelyn to the justise, [schrewe." 860 

" Thou hast y-geve domes of the wors assise, 
And the twelve sisours that weren of the queste, 
They schul ben hanged this day, so have I reste." 
Thanne seide the scherreve to yonge Gamelyn, 
" Lord, I crie the mercy, brother art thou myn." 
" Therfore," seyde Gamelyn, " have thou Cristes curs, 
For and thou were maister, yit I schulde have wors." 
But for to make short tale, and nought to tarie longe, 
He ordeyned him a queste of his men so stronge ; 870 
The justice and the scherreve bothe honged hye, 
To weyven with ropes and with the wynd drye, 
And the twelve sisours, sorwe have that rekke ! 


Alle they were hanged faste by the nekke. 

Thus ended the fals knight with his treccherie, 

That ever had i-lad his lyf in falsnes and folye ; 

He was hanged by the nek, and nought by the purs, 

That was the meede that he had for his fadres curs. 

Sire Ote was eldest, and Gamelyn was ying, 

They wenten with here freendes even to the kyng ; S 80 

They made pees with the kyng of the best assise. 

The kyng loved wel sir Ote and made him a justise. 

And after the kyng made Gamelyn, bothe in est and west, 

Chef justice of al his fre forest ; 

Alle his wighte yonge men the kyng forgaf here gilt, 

And sitthen in good office the kyng hem hath i-pilt. 

Thus wan Gamelyn his lond and his leede, 

And wrak him of his enemys, and quyt hem here meede, 

And sire Ote his brother made him his heir, 

And siththen wedded Gamelyn a wyf bothe good and feyr; 

They lyveden togidere whil that Crist wolde, 890 

And sithen was Gamelyn graven under moolde. 

And so schal we alle, may ther no man fle : 

God bryng us to the joye that ever schal be! 


Owre Hoste sawh that the brighte sonne 
The arke of his artificial day hath i-ronne 
The fourths part, of half an hour and more; 
And though lie were nat depe expert in lore, 
He wist it was the eightetene day 

4425. — eightetene. This is thr reading in which the MSS. seem 
mostly In agree. The MS. Harl. resi<K Ihretlrntlir. Tyrwhilt lia*- liijhti 
and twenty. 


Of April, that is rnessanger to May ; 

And sawe wel that the schade of every tree 

Was in the lengthe the same quantite 

That was the body erecte, that caused it; 

And therfore by the schadwe he took his wit, 4430 

That Phebus, which that schoon so fair and bright, 

Degrees was five and fourty clombe on hight ; 

And for that day, as in that latitude, 

It was ten of the clokke, he gan conclude ; 

And sodeynly he plight his hors aboute. 

" Lordynges," quod he, "I wanie you al the route, 
The fourthe party of this day is goon ; 
Now, for the love of God and of seint Jon, 
Leseth no tynie, as forthe as ye may. 
Lordynges, the tyme passeth night and day, "W 

And stelith fro us, what pryvely slepyng, 
And what thurgh necligence in oure wakyng, 
As doth the streem, that torneth never agayn, 
DescendjTig fro the mounteyn into playn. 
Wel can Senek and many philosopher 
Bywaylen tyme, more than gold in cofre. 
For losse of catel may recovered be, 
But losse of tyme schendeth us, quod he. 
It wil nat come agayn withoute drede, 
Nomore than wol Malkyns maydenhede, 4450 

Whan sche had lost it in hir wantownesse. 

1U0 — passeth. Most of the MSS. read wasteth. 

■1150. — Malkyns mai/denhcde. This appears to have been a proverbial 
saying, and occurs in Piers Ploughman. 


Let us nat mowlen thus in ydelnesse. 

" Sir Man of Lawe," quod he, " so have ye hlisse, 
Telle us a tale anon, as forward ys. 
Ye he submitted thurgh your fre assent 
To stonden in this cas at my juggement. 
Acquyteth yow, and holdeth youre byheste ; 
Than have ye doon your devour atte leste." 

"Host," quod he, " depardeux, I assent; 
To breke forward is nat myn entent. 4460 

Byheste is dette, and I wol holde fayn 
Al my byhest, I can no better sayn. 
For such lawe as a man geveth another wight. 
He schuld himselve usen it by right. 
Thus wol oure text : but natheles certeyn 
I can right now non other tale seyn, 
That Chaucer, they he can but lewedly 
On metres and on rymyng craftely, 
Hath seyd hem in such Englisch as he can, 
Of olde tyme, as knoweth many man. 4470 

And gif he have nought sayd hem, leeve brother, 
In o bok, he hath seyd hem in another. 
Fur he hath told of lovers up and doun, 
Moo than Ovido made of mencioun 
In his Epistelles, that ben so olde. 
What schuld I tellen hem, syn they be tolde ? 
In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcioun, 

4477. — Ceys and Alcioun. This story forms the introduction to the 

Boke of the Duchesee 


And siththe hath he spoke of everychon 

These nohle wyfes, and these lovers eeke, 

Who so wole his large volume seeke, 4480 

Cleped the seintes legende of Cupide : 

Ther may he see the large woundes wyde 

Of Lucresse, and of Bahiloun Tysbee ; 

The sorwe of Dido for the fals Enee ; 

The tree of Philles for liir Demephon ; 

The pleynt of Dyane and of Ermyon, 

Of Adrian, and of Ysyphilee ; 

The barreyn yle stondyng in the see ; 

The dreynt Leandere for his fayre Erro ; 

The teeres of Eleyn, and eek the woo 4-190 

Of Bryxseyde, and of Ledomia ; 

The cruelte of the queen Medea, 

The litel children hangyng by the hals, 

For thilke Jason, that was of love so fals. 

O Ypermystre, Penollope, and Alceste, 

Youre wyfhood he comendeth with the beste. 

But certeynly no worde writeth he 

Of thilke wikked ensample of Canace, 

That loved hir owen brother synfully ; 

4481. — Legende of Cupide. This is the poem more frequently entitled 
the Legende of good women. 

4486. — Dyane. The MS. Lansd. reads Dianyre, which Tyrwhitt 
adopts. The readings are very various, and not easy to be reconciled. 

4498. — Canace. This and the story of Apollonius of Tyre are told in 
Gower's Confessio Amantis, whence it has been supposed that Chaucer 
intended here to blame that writer — a notion for which there appears to 
be no good foundation. The story of Apollonius was very popular in the 
middle ages, and was published in a variety of forms 


On whiche corsed stories I seye fy ; 4500 

Or elles of Tyro Appoloneus, 

How that the cursed kyng Anteochus 

By reft his doughter of hir maydenhede, 

That is so horrible a tale for to reede, 

Whan he hir threw upon the pament. 

And therfore he of ful avysernent 

Wolde never wryte in non of his sermouns 

Of such unkynde abhominaciouns ; 

Ne I wol non reherse, if that I may. 

But of my tale how schal I do this day? 4510 

Me were loth to be lykned douteles 

To Muses, that men clepen Pyerides, 

(Methamorphoseos wot what I mene) ; 

But natheles I recche nat a bene, 

They I come after him with hawe-bake, 

I speke in prose, and let him rymes make." 

And with that word, he with a sobre cheere 

Bygan his tale, as ye schal after heere. 


O hateful harm, condicioun of povert, 4519 

With thurst, with cold, with honger so confoundyd, 

4512. — Pyerides. " He rather means, I think, the daughters of Pierus, 
who contended with the Muses, and were changed into pies. Ovid. 
Metain. 1. v." — Tynvhitt. 

The Man of Lawes Tale. This tale was prohably taken direct from a 
French llomance. All the incidents in it are of frequent occurence in 
medieval stories. The whole story is found in Gower, and a similar story 


To asken help it schameth in thin hert, 

If thou non aske, with neecle so art thou woundyd, 

That verray neede uirwrappeth al thy wounde hyd, 

Maugre thyn heed thou most for indigence 

Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy dispence. 

Thow blarnest Crist, and seyst ful bitterly, 
He rnysdeparteth riches temporal : 
And thyn neyhebour thou wytes synfully, 
And seyst thou hast to litel, and he hath al. 
Parfay, seystow, som tyme he rekne schal, 4530 

Whan that his tayl schal brennen in the gleede, 
For he nought helpeth the needful in his neede. 

Herkneth what is the sentens of the wyse, 
Bet is to dye than have indigence ; 
Thy selve neyghebour wol the despyse, 
If thou be pore, farwel thy reverence. 
Yet of the wyse man tak this sentence, 

forms the plot of the romance of Emare (printed in Ritson's Metrical 
Romances). The treachery of king Alla's mother, enters into the French 
romance of the Chevalier au eigne, and into the still more ancient Anglo- 
Saxon romance of king Offa, preserved in a Latin form by Matthew Paris. 
It is also found in the Italian collection, said to have been composed in 
1378, under the title of II Pecorone di ser Giovanni Fiorentino (an imita- 
tion of the Decameron), gior. X, No. 1 . The treason of the knight who 
murders Hermengilde is an incident in the French Roman dela Violette ; 
and in the English metrical romance of Le bone Florence of Rome 
(printed in Ritson's collection) ; and is found in the English Gesta Roma- 
norum, e. 69, (ed. Madden), joined in the latter place with Constance's 
adventure with the steward. It is also found in Vincent of Beauvais, and 
other writers. Gower's version appears to Vie taken from the French 
chronicle of Nicolas Trivet, MS. Arundel, No. 56, fol. 45, v°. 

4534. — Bet in to dye. This saying of Solomon is quoted in the Roman 
de la Rose, as cited by Tyrwhitt. 

Mieux vault mourir que pauvres estre. 


Alle the dayes of pore men be wikke, 

Be war therfore or thou come to that prikke. 

If thou be pore, thy brother hateth the, 4540 

And alle thy frendes fleeth fro the, alias ! 
O riche marchaundz, ful of wele be ye, 

noble prudent folk as in this cas, 
Youre bagges beth nat fuld with ambes aas, 

But with sys synk, that renneth on your chaunce ; 
At Crystemasse wel mery may ye daunce. 

Ye seeke land and see for youre wynnynges, 
As wyse folk as ye knowe alle thastates 
Of regnes, ye be fadres of tydynges, 
Of tales, bothe of pees and of debates : 4550 

1 were right now of tales desolat, 

Nere that a marchaunt, gon siththen many a yere, 
Me taught a tale, which ye schal after heere. 

In Surrie dwelled whilom a companye 
Of chapmen riche, and therto sad and trewe, 
That wyde where sent her spycerye, 
Clothes of gold, and satyn riche of hewe. 
Her chaffar was so thrifty and so newe, 
That every wight had deynte to chaffare 
With hem, and eek to selle hem of here ware. 45C0 

Now fel it, that the maystres of that soil 
Han schapen hem to Rome for to wende, 
Were it for chapmanhode or for disport, 
Non other message nolde they thider sonde, 
But came hemself to Rome, this is the ende: 
And in such place as thought hem avauntage 


For here entent, they tooke her herburgage. 

Sojourned have these marchauntz in the toun 
A certeyn tyrne, as fel to here plesaunce: 
But so hifell, that thexcellent renoun 4570 

Of themperoures doughter dame Custaunce 
Reported was, with every circumstaunce, 
Unto these Surrienz marchauntz, in such wyse 
Fro day to day, as I schal you devyse. 

This was the comyn voys of every man : 
" Oure emperour of Rome, God liim see! 
A doughter hath, that, sith the world bygan, 
To rekne as wel hir goodnes as hir bewte, 
Nas never such another as was sche: 
I prey to God hir save and susteene, 4580 

And wolde sche were of al Europe the queene. 

" In hire is hye bewte, withoute pryde, 
Yowthe, withoute grefhed or folye : 
To alle hire werkes vertu is hire gyde ; 
Humblesse hath slayne in hir tyrrannye : 
Sche is myrour of alle curtesye, 
Hir herte is verrey chambre of holynesse, 
Hir hond mynistre of fredom and almesse." 

And al this voys is soth, as God is trewe. 
But now to purpos let us turne agein : 4590 

These marchantz have don fraught here schippes newe, 
And whan they have this blisful mayde seyn, 
Home to Surrey be they went agein, 
And doon here needes, as they have don yore, 
And lyven in wele, I can you say no more. 


Now fel it, that these marchauntz stooden in grace 
Of him that was the sowdan of Surrye : 
For whan they come fro eny straunge place, 
He wolde of his benigne curtesye 
Make hem good chere, and busily aspye 4600 

Tydynges of sondiy regnes, for to lere 
The wordes that they rnighte seen and heere. 

Among other thinges specially 
These marchauntz him told of dame Constaunce 
So gret noblesse, in ernest so ryally, 
That this sowdan hath caught so gret plesaunce 
To have hir figure in his remembraunce, 
That al his lust, and al his besy cure, 
Was for to love hir, whiles his lyf may dure. 

Paraventure in thilke large booke, 4610 

Which that is cleped the heven, i-write was 
With sterres, whan that he his burthe took, 
That he for love schulde have his deth, alias ! 
For in the sterres, clerere then is glas, 
Is wryten, God woot, who so cowthe it rede, 
The deth of every man, withouten drede. 

In sterres many a wynter therbyfore, 

4614. — in the sterres. See before, 1. 2039. Chaucer seems to have had in 
his eye in the following stanza a passage of the Megacosmus of Bernard us 
Silvestris, a rather popular Latin poet of the twelfth century. Some of 
these lines are quoted in the margin of MS. Lansd. 

Praejacet in stellis series, quam longioi retas 

Explicet et spatiis temporis ordo suis, 
Sceptra l'horonei, fratrum discordia Thebis, 

Flamroa Phaethontis, Deucalionis aquse. 
In stellis Codri paupertas, copia Oroesi, 


Was write the deth of Ector and Achilles, 

Of Pompe, Julius, er they were i-hore ; 

The stryf of Thebes, and of Ercules, 4620 

Of Sampson, Turnus, and of Socrates 

The deth; but mennes wittes ben so dulle, 

That no wight can wel rede it at the fulle. 

This sowdan for his pryve counseil sent, 
And schortly of this rnater for to pace, 
He hath to hem declared his entent, 
And seyd hem certeyn, but he might have grace 
To have Constance withinne a litel space, 
He nas but deed, and charged hem in hyghe 
To schapen for his lyf som remedye. 4630 

Dy verse men divers thinges seyde, 
The argumentes casten up and doun ; 
Many a subtyl resoun forth they leyden ; 
They spekyn of magike, and of abusioun ; 
But fynally, as in conclusioun, 
They can nought seen in that non avauntage, 
Ne in non other wey, save in mariage. 

Than sawgh they therin such difficulte 
By wey of resoun, to speke it al playn, 

Incestus Paridis, Hippolytique piulor. 
In stellis Priami species, audacia Turni, 

Sensus Ulyxeus, Herculeusque vigor. 
In stellis pugil est Pollux, et navita Typhis, 

Et Cicero rhetor, et geometra Thales. 
In stellis lepidum dictat Maro, Milo figurat, 

Fulgurat in Latia nobilitate Nero, 
Astra notat Persis, /Egyptus parturit artes, 

Gra'cia docta legit, prselia Romagerit. 


Bycause that ther was such dyverste 4640 

Bitwen here hothe lawes, as they sayn, 

They trowe that "no cristen prince wold fayn 

Wedden his child under our lawe swete, 

That us was taught by Mahoun oure prophete." 

And he answerde : " Rather than I lese 
Constance, I wol be cristen douteles : 
I moot be heres, I may non other cheese, 
I pray you haldeth your arguments in pees, 
Saveth my lyf, and beth nat recheles. 
Goth, geteth hire that hath my lyf in cure, 4650 

For in this wo I may no lenger dure." 

What needeth gretter dilatacioun ? 
I say, by tretys and ambassatrye, 
And by the popes mediacioun, 
And al the chirche, and al the chyvalrye, 
That in destruccioun of mawmetrye, 
And in encresse of Cristes lawe deere, 
They ben acordid as ye schal after heere ; 

How that the soudan and his baronage, 
And alle his lieges schuld i-crystned be, 4660 

And he schal have Constance in mariage, 
And certeyn gold, I not what quantite, 
And therfore founden they suffisant seurte. 
This same acord was sworn on every syde ; 
Now, fair Constance, almighty God the guyde ! 

Now wolde som men wayten, as I gesse, 
That I schulde tellen al the purvyauuce, 
That themperour of his gret noblesse 

p 2 


Hath schapen for his doughter dame Constaunce. 
Wei may men knowe that so gret ordynaunce 4670 
May no man telle in so litel a clause, 
As was arrayed for so high a cause. 

Bisschops ben schapen with hir for to wende, 
Lordes, ladyes, and knightes of renoun, 
And other folk ynowe, tliis is the ende. 
And notefied is thurghout the toun, 
That every wight with gret devocioun 
Schulde preye Crist, that he this mariage 
Receyve in gree, and spede this viage. 

The day is come of hire departyng, 4G8O 

(I say the woful day that than is come) 
That ther may be no lenger taryyng, 
But forthe-ward they dresse hem alle and some. 
Constance, that with sorwe is overcome, 
Ful pale arist, and dresseth hir to wende, 
For wel sche saugh ther nas non other ende. 

Alias ! what wonder is it though sche wepte, 
That schal be sent to straunge nacioun, 
Fro freendes, that so tenderly hir kepte, 
And to be bounde undur subjeccioun 4690 

Of oon sche knew nat his condicioun ? 
Housbondes ben al goode, and ban be yore ; 
That knowen wyfes, I dar say no more. 

" Fader." sche seid, " thy wrecched child Constaunce, 
Thy yonge doughter fostred up so softe, 
And ye, my mooder, my soverayn plesaimce 
Over al thing, outaken Crist on lofte, 


Constaunce your child hir recomaundeth ofte 

Unto your grace ; for I schal into Surrye, 

Ne schal I never see you more with ye. 4700 

" Alias ! unto the Barbre nacioun 
I most anoon, sethens it is your wille : 
But Crist, that starf for our redempciouu, 
So geve me grace his hestes to fulfille, 
I, wrecched wominan, no fors they I spille ! 
Wommen hen born to thraldam and penaunce, 
And to ben under mannes governaunce." 

I trowe at Troye whan Pirrus brak the wal, 
Or Yleon that brend Thebes the citee, 
Ne at Rome for the harme thurgh Hanibal, 4710 

That Romayns hath venquysshed tymes thre, 
Nas herd such tender wepyng for pite, 
As in the chambur was for hir partyng : 
But forth sche moot, whether sche weep or syng. 

O firste mevyng cruel firmament, 
With thi diurnal swough that crowdest ay, 
And hurlest al fro est to Occident, 
That naturelly wold hold another way ; 
Tliyn crowdyng sette the heven in such array 
At the bygynnyng of this fiers viage, 4 720 

That cruel Martz hath slayn this marriage. 

4715. — firste mevyng. The following note is written in the margin of 
the Lansd. MS. " Untie Tholomcus, libro primo, capitulo 8 : l'riini 
inotus cocli duo sunt, quorum uuus est qui niovet totuin semper ab oriente 
in occidentein, uno modo super orbes, etc. Alter vero motus est qui 
niovet orbcm stellarum currentium contra motum primum, viz. ab occi- 
dente in orientein super alios duos polos, etc." 


Infortunat ascendent tortuous, 
Of which the lordes helples falle, -alias ! 
Out of his angle into the derkest hous. 
O Mariz Attezere, as in this caas ; 
O fehle nioone, unhappy been thi paas, 
Thou knettest the ther thou art nat receyved, 
Ther thou were wel fro thennes artow weyved. 

Inprudent emperour of Rome, alias ! 
Was ther no philosopher in al thy toun ? 4730 

Is no tyme bet than other in such caas ? 
Of viage is ther noon eleccioun, 
Namly to folk of heigh condicioun, 
Nought whan a roote is of a birthe i-knowe ? 
Alias ! we ben to lewed, and eek to slowe. 

To schippe is brought this woful faire mayde 
Solempnely, with every circumstaunce : 
" Now Jhesu Crist so be with you," sche sayde. 
Ther nys nomor, but farwel, fair Custaunce ; 
Sche peyneth hire to make good contienaunce. 4740 
And forth I lete hire sayle in this manere, 
And tome I wol agein to my matiere. 

4725. — O Mariz Attezere. The readings of the MSS. vary much. 
Tyrwlritt reads O Mars, O Atyzar. I have followed the Harl. MS. It 
would require a deeper knowledge of medieval astrology than I possess, 
to correct it with any certainty, or to determine if it need correction. 

4732. — eleccioun. The marginal note in the Lansd. MS quoted above, 
adds, " Omnes enim sunt concordati quod electioues sint debiles, nisi 
in divitibus; habent enim isti, licet debilitentur eorum electiones, radicem, 
i. e. nativitates eorum quae confortant omnem planetam debilem in itinere: 
ha;c philosophus." Tyrwhitt gives this from another MS. It is taken 
from the Liber electionum of Zahel, of which there is a copy in MS. Harl. 
No. 80. The above passage occurs at fol. 68, v°- 


The moder of the sowdan, ful of vices, 
Aspyed hath hir sones playn entente, 
How he wol lete his olde sacrifices : 
And right anoon sche for hir counseil sent, 
And they hen come, to knowe what sche ment ; 
And whan assembled was this folk in fere, 
Sche sette hir doun, and sayd as ye schal heere. 

" Lordes," quod sche, "ye knowen everichon, 4750 
How that my sone in poynt is for to lete 
The holy lawes of oure Alkaroun, 
Geven by Goddes messangere Makamete : 
But oon avow to grete God I hete, 
The lyf sehuld rather out of my body stert, 
Or Makametes law go out of myn hert. 

" What schal us tyden of tins newe lawe 
But thraldam to oure body and penaunce, 
And afterward in belle to be drawe, 
For we reneyed Mahound oure creaunce ? 4760 

But, lordes, wol ye maken assuraunce, 
As I schal say, assentyng to my lore? 
And I schal make us sauf for evermore." 

They sworen and assenten every man 
To lyf with hir and dye, and by hir stonde : 
And everich in the beste wise he can 
To strengthen hir schal al his frendes fondc. 

4752. — Alkaroun. The Koran was translated into Latin in die 
twelfth century, anil it, and the history of its author, Mohammed, were 
Subjects of interest in lie West 


And sche hath emperise take on honde. 

Which ye schul heere that I schal devyse, 

And to hem alle sche spak in this wyse. 4770 

" We schul first feyne ous cristendom to take ; 
Cold watir schal nat greve us hut a lite : 
And I schal such a fest and revel make, 
That, as I trow, I schal the sowdan quyte. 
For though his wyf he cristned never so white, 
Sche schal have need to waissche away the rede, 
They sche a font of watir with hir lede." 

O sowdones, root of iniquite, 
Virago thou Semyram the secounde, 
O serpent under feminite, 4780 

Lyk to the serpent deep in helle i-hounde : 
O feyned womman, alle that may confounde 
Vertu and innocence, thurgh thy malice, 
Is hred in the, as nest of every vice. 

O Satan envyous, syn thilke day 
That thou were chased fro oure heritage, 
Wei knewest thou to wommen the olde way. 
Thou madest Eve to hryng us in servage, 
Thou wolt fordoon this cristen manage : 
Thyn instrument so (weylaway the while !) 4790 

Makestow of wommen whan thou wolt bygyle. 

This sowdones, whom I thus blame and wary, 
Let prively hir counseil gon his way : 
What schuld I in this tale lenger tary ? 
Sche rideth to the soudan on a day, 
And seyd him, that sche wold reney hir lay, 


And cristendam of prestes handes fonge, 
Repentyng hir sche liethen was so longe; 

Bysechyng him to doon hir that honour, 
That sche most have the cristen men to feste : 4800 
' To plesen hem I wil do my labour." 
The sowdan seith, "I wol do at your heste," 
And knelyng, thanketh hir of that requeste ; 
So glad he was, he nyst nat what to seye. 
Sche kyst hir sone, and horn sche goth hir weye. 

Arryved ben the cristen folk to londe 
In Surry, with a gret solempne route, 
And hastily this sowdan sent his sonde, 
First to his moder, and al the regne aboute, 4810 
And seyd, his wyf was comen out of doute, 
And preyeth hir for to ride agein the queene, 
The honour of his regne to susteene. 

Gret was the prees, and riche was tharray 
Of Surriens and Romayns mette in feere. 
The mooder of the sowdan riche and gay 
Receyved hir with al so glad a cheere, 
As eny mooder might hir doughter deere : 
And to the nexte citee ther bysyde 
A softe paas solempnely thay ryde. 

Nought trow I the triumphe of Julius, 4820 

Of which that Lukan maketh moche bost, 
Was ryaller, ne more curious, 
Than was thassemble of this blisful oost : 
But this scorpioun, this wikked goost, 
The sowdones, for al hir tlateryng. 


Cast under this ful mortally to styng. 

The sowdan comth himself sone after this 
So really, that wonder is to telle : 
And welcometh hir with al joy and blys. 
And thus with mirth and joy I let hem dwelle. 4830 
The fruyt of this ma tier is that I telle. 
Whan tyme com, men thought it for the best 
That revel stynt, and men goon to her rest. 

The tyme com, the olde sowdonesse 
Ordeyned hath this fest of which I told ; 
And to the feste cristen folk hem dresse 
In general, bothe yong and old. 
Ther men may fest and realte byholde, 
And deyntes mo than I can of devyse, 
But al to deere they bought it ar they ryse. 4840 

sodeyn wo ! that ever art successour 
To worldly blis, spreynd is with bitternesse 
The ende of oure joye, of oure worldly labour: 
Wo occupieth the fyn of oure gladnesse 
Herken this counseil for thyn sikernesse : 
Upon thyn glade dayes have in tlii mynde 
The unwar woo that cometh ay bihynde. 

For schortly for to tellen at o word, 

•1817. — unwar woo. This is a good example of the manner in which 
corruptions of the text gain ground. Some one had apparently given or 
harm, as a marginal gloss to woo ; another scribe copied this into the text, 
and some MSS. (as the Lansd. MS and one of the Cambridge MSS.)have 
unwar wo or harme. This was again altered to make apparent sense, and 
Tyrwhitt has the line, — 

The unware wo of harm, I hat cometh behinde. 


The sowdan and the cristen everichone 

Ben al to-hewe and stiked atte bord, 4850 

But it were dame Constaunce allone. 

This olde sowdones, this cursed crone, 

Hath with hir frendes doon this cursed dede, 

For sche hirself wold al the contre lede. 

Ne ther was Surrien noon that was converted, 
That of the counseil of the sowdon woot, 
That he nas al to-hewe or he asterted; 
And Constaunce have they take anon foot-hoot, 
And in a schippe, stereles, God it woot, 
They have hir set, and bad hir lerne to sayle 4860 
Out of Surry agein-ward to Ytaile. 

A certein tresour that sche thider ladde, 
And, soth to sayn, vitaile gret plente, 
They have hir geven, and clothes eek sche hadde, 
And forth sche sayleth in the salte see. 
my Constaunce, ful of benignite, 
emperoures yonge doughter deere, 
He that is lord of fortun be thi steere ! 

Sche blesseth hir, and with ful pitous voys 
Unto the croys of Crist than seyde sche : 4870 

; O cler, O welful auter, holy croys, 
Red of the lambes blood, ful of pite, 
That wissh the world fro old iniquite, 
Me fro the feend and fro his clowes keepe, 
That day that 1 schal drenches in the deep* . 

" Victorious tre, proteccioun of trewe, 
Thai oonly were worthy for to bere 


The kyng of heven, with his woundes newe, 

The white lamb, that hurt was with a spere ; 

Flemer of feendes, out of him and here 4880 

On which thy lymes feithfully extenden, 

Me kepe, and gif me might my lyf to menden." 

Yeres and dayes flette this creature 
Thurghout the see of Grece, into the strayte 
Of Marrok, as it was hir adventure : 
O many a soiy mele may sche bayte, 
After hir deth ful ofte may sche wayte, 
Or that the wilde wawe wol hir dryve 
Unto the place ther as sche schal arryve. 

Men mighten aske, why sche was nought slayn ? 
Ek at the fest who might hir body save? 4891 

And I answer to that demaunde agayn, 
Who saved Daniel in thorrible cave, 
That every wight, sauf he, mayster or knave, 
Was with the lioun frete, or he asterte? 
No wigbt but God, that he bar in his herte. 

God lust to schewe his wondurful miracle 
In hir, for we schuld seen his mighty werkes : 
Crist, which that is to every harm triacle, 
By certeyn menes ofte, as knowen clerkes, 4900 

Doth thing for certeyn ende, that ful derk is 
To marines witt, that for our ignoraimce 
Ne can nought knowe his prudent purvyaunce. 

Now sith sche was nat at the fest i-slawe, 
Who kepte hir fro drenching in the see ? 
Who kepte Jonas in the fisches mawe, 


Til he was spouted up at Ninive ? 
Wei may men knowe, it was no wight but he 
That kept the pepul Ebrayk fro her drenchyng, 
With drye feet thurghout the see passyng. 4910 

Who badde foure spiritz of tempest, 
That power han to noyen land and see, 
Bothe north and south, and also west and est, 
Anoyen neyther londe, see, ne tree ? 
Sothly the comaunder of that was he 
That fro the tempest ay this womman kepte, 
As wel when sche awok as when sche slepte. 

Wher might this womman mete and drinke have? 
Thre yer and more, how lasteth hir vitaille ? 
Who fedde the Egipcien Marie in the cave, 4920 

Or in desert? no wight but Crist saunz faile. 
Fyf thousand folk it was a gret mervaile 
With loves fyf and fissches tuo to feede : 
God sent his foysoun at her grete neede. 

Sche dryveth forth into oure occean 
Thurghout oure wilde see, til atte last 
Under an holte, that nempnen I ne can, 
Fer in Northumberland, the wawe hir cast, 
And in the sand the schip styked so fast, 
That thennes wold it nought in al a tyde : 4930 

The wille of Crist was that sche schold abyde. 

The constabil of the castel doun is fare 
To se this wrak, and al the schip he sought, 

4927. — that nempnen I ne can. The MS. reuds that men nempne can. 


And fond this wery womman ful of care ; 
He fand also the tresour that sche brought ; 
In hir langage mercy sche bisought, 
The lif out of hir body for to twynne, 
Hir to delyver of woo that sche was inne. 

A maner Latyn corupt was hir spec-he, 
But algates therby sche was understonde. 4940 

The constabil, whan him lust no lenger seche, 
This woful womman broughte he to londe. 
Sche kneleth doun, and thanketh Goddes sonde ; 
But what sche was, sche wolde no man seye 
For foul ne faire, though sche scholde deye. 

Sche was, sche seyd, so mased in the see, 
That sche forgat hir mynde, by hire trowthc. 
The constable had of hir so gret pitee, 
And eek his wyf, they wepeden for routhe : 
Sche was so diligent withouten slouthe 4950 

To serve and plese ever in that place, 
That alle hir loven that loken on hir face. 

The constable and dame Hermegyld his wyf, 
To telle you playne, payenes bothe were ; 
But Hermegyld loved Constance as hirlyf; 
And Constance hath so long herberwed there 

4939. — a maner Latyn corupt. In the romance of Fulke fitz Warine, 
(p. 91), where a pretended merchant from the East comes to London, we 
are told, — " Et quanqu'il parla fust Latyn corupt ; mes le nieir le en- 
tendy bien." 

4954. — Tyrwhitt gives (from other MSS.) instead of this line, — 
Wert payenes, and that contrce every wher. 
The Harl. MS. has in peynes for payenes. 


Iu orisoun, with many a bitter teere, 

Til Jliesu hath converted thurgh his grace 

Dame Hermegyld, the constables of the place. 

In al the lond no cristen men durst route ; 4960 
Al cristen men ben fled from that contre 
Thurgh payens, that conquered al aboute 
The places of the north by land and see. 
To Wales fled the cristianite 
Of olde Britouns, dwellyng in this yle ; 
Ther was hir refut for the mene while. 

But yit nere cristen Britouns so exiled, 
That ther nere some in here pryvite 
Honoured Crist, and hethen folk bygiled; 
And neigh the castel such ther dwellid thre : 4970 
That oon of hem was blynd, and might nat se, 
But if it were with eyen of his mynde, 
With which men seen after that they ben blynde. 

Bright was the sonne, as in someres day, 
For which the constable and his wif also 
And Constaunce had take the righte way 
Toward the see, a forlong wey or two, 
To pleyen, and to romen to and fro ; 
And in that walk this blynde man they mette, 
Croked and olde, with eyen fast y-schette. 4980 

" In name of Crist," cryed this old Britoun, 
; Dame Hermegyld, gif me my sight ageyn!" 
This lady wax affrayed of the soun, 
Lest that hir houseband, schortly to sayn, 
Wold hir for .lliesu Cristes love have slayn, 


Til Constaunce made hir bold, and bad hir werche 

The wil of Crist, as doughter of holy chirche. 

The constable wax abaisshed of that sight, 
And sayde, "What amounteth al this fare?" 
Constaunce answered, " Sir, it is Cristes might, 4990 
That helpeth folk out of the feendes snare." 
And so ferforth sche gan hir lay declare, 
That sche the constable, er that it was eve, 
Converted, and on Crist made him bileve. 

This constable was not lord of the place 
Of winch I speke, ther he Constance fond, 
But kept it strongly many a wynter space 
Under Alia, kyng of Northumberlond, 
That was ful wys, and worthy of his hond, 
Agein the Scottes, as men may wel heere. 5000 

But tourne agein I wil to my mateere. 

Satan, that ever us wayteth to begile, 
Sawe of Constaunce al hir perfeccioun, 
And cast anoon how he might quyt hir while ; 
And made a yong knight, that dwelt in the toun, 
Love hir so hoot of foul affeccioun, 
That verrayly him thought he schulde spille, 
But he of hire oones had his wille. 

He wo with hir, but it avayleth nought, 
Sche wolde do no synne by no weye; 5010 

And for despyt, he compassed in his thought 
To maken hir a schamful deth to deye. 
He wayteth whan the constable was aweye, 
And pryvyly upon a nyght he crepte 


In Hermyngyldes chambre whil sche slepte. 

Weiy, for-waked in here orisoun, 
Slepeth Constaunce, and Hermyngyld also. 
Tins knight, thurgh Satanas temptacioun, 
Al softely is to the bed y-go, 

And kutte the throte of Hennegild a-two, 5020 

And leyd the bloody knyf by dame Constaunce, 
And went his way, ther God geve him meschaunce. 

Sone after comth this constable hom agayn, 
And eek Alia, that kyng was of that lond, 
And say his wyf dispitously i-slayn, 
For which ful oft he wept and wrong his hond ; 
And in the bed the blody knyf he fond 
By dame Custaunce : alias ! what might she say ? 
For verray woo hir witt was al away. 

To king Alia was told al this meschaunce, 5030 
And eek the tyme, and wher, and in what wyse 
That in a schip was founden this Constaunce, 
As here bifore ye have herd me devyse: 
The kmges hert of pite gan agrise, 
Whan he saugh so benigne a creature 
Falle in disese and in mysaventure. 

For as the lomb toward his deth is brought, 

5015. — Hermyngyldes. The orthography of the name varies in 
different MSS. MS. Lansd. has Ermenilda: the two Cambridge MSS. 
used by me have, one, Hermenchildes, the other Herme?igilde It is the 
Saxon Eormcmjild, which was the name of one of the daughters of 
Earconbehrt, king of Kent. See Florence of Worcester. Perhaps this 
romance existed in a Teutonic or even Anglo-Saxon original. 


So stant this innocent bifore the kyng: 
This false knight, that hath this tresoun wrought, 
Bereth hir an hand that sche hath don this thing : 5040 
But nevertheles ther was gret munnuryng 
Among the poeple, and seyn they can not gesse 
That sche had doon so gret a wikkednesse. 

For they han seven hir so vertuous, 
And lovyng Hermegyld right as hir lyf : 
Of this bar witnesse everich in that hous, 
Save he that Hermegyld slowgh with his knyf. 
This gentil kyng hath caught a gret motyf 
Of his witnesse, and thought he wold enquere 
Depper in this cas, a trouthe to lere. 5050 

Alias ! Constaunce, thou ne has no champioun, 
Ne fighte canstow nat, so welaway ! 
But he that for oure redempcioun 
Bonde Sathan, and yit lith ther he lay, 
So be thy stronge champioun this day : 
For but Crist upon the miracle kythe, 
Withouten gilt thou schalt be slayn as swithe. 

Sche set hir doun on knees, and than sche sayde, 
" Immortal God, that savedest Susanne 
Fro false blame ; and thou, mercyful mayde, 5060 
Mary I mene, doughter of seint Anne, 
Bifore whos child aungeles syng Osaune ; 
If I be gultles of this felonye, 
My socour be, for elles schal I dye!" 

Have ye not seye som tyme a pale face, 
Among a prees, of him that hath be lad 


Toward his deth, wher him geyneth no grace, 
And such a colour in his face hath had, 
Men mighte knowe his face was so bystad, 
Among alle the faces in that route ; 5070 

So stant Constance, and loketh hire aboute. 

queenes lyvyng in prosperity , 
Duchesses, and ye ladies every chon, 
Haveth som reuthe on hir adversite ; 
An emperoures doughter stond allon ; 
Sche nath no wight to whom to make hir moon ; 
blod ryal, that stondest in this drede, 
Ferre be thy frendes at thy grete neede ! 

This Alia kyng hath such compassioun, 
As gentil hert is fulfild of pite, 5080 

That from his eyen ran the water doun. 

" Now hastily do fech a book," quod he ; 

" And if this knight wil swere how that sche 
This womman slowgh, yet wol we us avyse, 
Whom that we wille schal be oure justise." 
A Britoun book, i- write with Evaungiles, 
Was fette, and on this book he swor anoon 
Sche gultif was ; and in the mene whiles 
An hond him smot upon the nekke boon, 
That doun he fel anon right as a stoon : 5090 

And bothe his yen brast out of his face, 
In sight of every body in that place. 

50C7. — him geyneth. Some of the MSS. Lave him geteth. Him, in 
cases like tliis, answers to the Latin dative sibil he gaineth for himself. 



A vois was herd, in general audience, 
And seid, " Thou hast disclaundred gulteles 
The doughter of holy chirche in hire presence ; 
Thus hastow doon, and yit I holde my pees." 
Of this mervaile agast -was al the prees, 
As mased folk they stooden everychon 
For drede of wreche, save Custaunce allon. 

Gret was the drede and eek the repentaunce 5ioo 
Of hem that hadden wrong suspeccioun 
Upon the sely innocent Custaunce ; 
And for this miracle, in conclusioun, 
And by Custaunces mediacioun, 
The kyng, and many other in the place, 
Converted was, thanked be Cristes grace ! 

This false knight was slayn for his imtrouthe 
By juggement of Alia hastyly ; 
And yit Custaunce hath of his deth gret routhe. 
And after this Jhesus of liis mercy 5110 

Made Alia wedde ful solempnely 
This holy mayde, that is bright and schene, 
And thus hath Crist i-maad Constance a queene. 

But who was woful, if I schal not lye, 
Of this weddyng but Domegild and no mo, 
The kynges mooder, ful of tyrannye ? 
Hir thought hir cursed herte brast a-two ; 
Sche wolde nat hir sone had i-do so ; 
Hir thought despyte, that he schulde take 
So straunge a creature unto his make. 5120 

Me lust not of the caf ne of the stree 


Make so long a tale, as of the corn. 

What schulcl I telle of the realte 

Of this manage, or which conrs goth biforn, 

Who bloweth in a trompe or in an horn ? 

The fruyt of every tale is for to seye ; 

They ete and drynk, and daunce, and synge, and pleye. 

They gon to bed, as it was skile and right ; 
For though that wyfes ben ful holy thinges, 
They nioste take in pacience a-night 5130 

Such maner necessaries, as ben plesynges 
To folk that ban i-wedded hem with rynges, 
And halvendel her holynesse ley aside 
As for the tyme, it may non other betyde. 

On hire he gat a knave child anoon, 
And to a bisschope, and to his constable eeke, 
He took his wyf to kepe, whan he is goon 
To Scotlond-ward, his foomen for to seeke. 
Now faire Custaimce, that is so humble and meeke, 
So long is goon with childe til that stille 5140 

Sche held hir chambre, abidyng Goddes wille. 

The tyme is come, a knave child sche here : 
Mauricius atte funtstone men him calle. 
This constabil doth come forth a messager, 
And wrot to his kyng that cleped was Alle, 
How that this blisful tydyng is bifalle, 
Ami other thinges spedful fur to seye. 
lie taketh the lettre, and forth he goth his weye. 

"il 13. — Mauritius. The MS. Harl. roads Mauri us, by an error of the 


This messanger, to doon his avauntage, 
Unto the kynges moder he goth ful swithe, 51'50 

And salueth hire fair in his langage. 
"Madame," quod he, "ye may be glad and blithe, 
And thanke God an hundred thousand sithe ; 
My lady queen hath child, withouten doute, 
To joye and blis of al the reame aboute. 

" Lo beer the lettres sealed of this thing, 
That I mot here with al the hast I may : 
If ye wole ought unto youre sone the kyng, 
I am youre servaunt bothe night and day." 
Doungyld answerde, "As now this tyme, nay : 51 60 
But here al nyght I wol thou take thy rest, 
To morwen I wil say the what me lest." 

This messanger drank sadly ale and wyn, 
And stolen were his lettres pryvely 
Out of his box, whil he sleep as a swyn ; 
And countrefeet they were subtily ; 
Another sche him wroot ful synfully, 
Unto the kyng direct of this matiere 
Fro his constable, as ye schul after heere. 

The lettre spak, the queen delyvered was 5170 

Of so orryble and feendly creature, 
That in the castel noon so hardy was 
That eny while dorste therin endure : 
The mooder was an elf by aventure 
Bycome by charmes or by sorcerie, 
And every man hatith liir companye. 

Wo was this kyng whan he this letter had sein, 
But to no wight he told his sorwes sore, 


But of his owen hand he wrot agayn ; 
" Welcome the sond of Crist for everemore 5180 

To me, that am now lerned in this lore : 
Lord, welcome he thy lust and thy pleasaunce ! 
My lust I putte al in thyn ordinaunce. 

" Kepeth this child, al be it foul or fair, 
And eek my wyf, unto myn horn comyng : 
Crist whan him lust may sende me an hair 
More agreahle than this to my likyng." 
This lettre he seleth, pryvyly wepyng, 
Which to the messager he took ful sone, 
And forth he goth, ther nys no more to done. 5190 

O messager, fulfild of dronkenesse, 
Strong is thy breth, thy lymes faltren ay, 
And thou hywreyest alle sykernesse ; 
Thy mynde is lorn, thou janglest as a jay ; 
Thy face is torned al in a newe array ; 
Ther drunkenesse regneth in eny route, 
Ther is no counseil hid withouten doute. 

O Domegyld, I have non Englisch digne 
Unto thy malice and thy tyrannye : 
And therfor to the feend I the resigne, 5200 

Let him endyten of thi treccherie. 
Fy, mannyssch, fy ! — o nay, by God, I lye ; 
Fy, feendly spirit, for I dar wel telle, 
Though thou here walke, thy spirit is in helle. 

This messanger comth fro the kyng agayn, 
And at the kinges modres courl he light, 
And sche was of this messenger ful fayn, 


And pleseth him in al that ever sehe might. 

He drank, and wel his gurdel underpight ; 

He slepeth, and he fareth in his gyse 5210 

Al nyght, unto the sonne gan arise. 

Eft were his lettres stolen everichon, 
And coimtrefeted lettres in this wise : 
" The kyng comaundeth liis constable anon 
Up peyne of hangyng and of heigh justise, 
That he ne schulde suffre in no maner wyse 
Constaunce in his regne for to abyde 
Thre dayes, and a quarter of a tyde ; 

" But in the same schip as he hir fond, 
Hire and hir yonge sone, and al hire gere, 5220 

He schulde putte, and crowde fro the londe, 
And charge hire, that sche never eft come there." 
O my Constaunce, wel may thy goost have fere, 
And slepyng in thy drem ben in penaunce, 
Whan Domegel cast al this ordynaimce. 

This messanger a-morwe, whan he awook, 
Unto the castel held the nexte way ; 
And to the constable he the lettre took ; 
And whan that he the pitous lettre say, 
Ful ofte he seyd alias and welaway ; 5230 

" Lord Crist," quod he, " how may this world endure '.' 
So ful of synne is many a creature! 

" mighty God, if that it be thy wille, 
Seth thou art rightful jugge, how may this be 
That thou wolt suffre innocentz to spille, 
And wikked folk regne in prosperite ? 


O good Constance, alias ! so wo is me, 
That I moot be thy tormentour, or deye 
On schamful deth, ther is non other weye." 

Wepen bothe yong and olde in al that place, 5240 
Whan that the kyng this corsed lettre sent : 
And Constance with a dedly pale face 
The fayre day toward hir schip sche weut : 
But nevertheles sche taketh in good entent 
The wil of Christ, and knelyng on the grounde 
Sche sayde, " Lord, ay welcome be thy sonde ! 

" He that me kepte fro the false blame, 
Whil I was on the lond amonges you, 
He can me kepe from harm and eek fro schame 
In the salt see, although I se nat how : 5250 

As strong as ever he was, he is right now, 
In him trust I, and in his mooder deere, 
That is to me my sayl and eek my steere." 

Hir litel child lay wepyng in hir arm, 
And knelyng pitously to him sche sayde : 
' Pees, litel sone, I wol do the noon harm." 
With that hir kerchef of hir hed sche brayde, 
And over his litel yghen sche it layde, 
And in hir arm sche lullith it wel faste, 
And unto heven hir eyghen up sche caste. 5260 

" Moder," quod sche, "and mayde bright, Marie, 
Sol 1 1 is, that thurgh wommannes eggement 
Mankynde was lorn and dampned ay to dye, 

5243. — fayre. Tyrwhitt has fourthe, perhaps correctly. 


For •which thy child was on a cros to-rent : 
Thyn blisful eyghen sawh al this torment ; 
Then nys ther noon comparisoun bitwene 
Thy wo, and any woo may man sustene. 

" Thow saugh thy child i-slaw byfor thyn yen, 
And yit now lyveth my litel child, parfay ! 
Now, lady bright, to whom alle woful cryen, 5270 

Thou glory of wommanhod, thou faire may, 
Thou heven of refute, brighte sterre of day, 
Rewe on my child, that of thyn gentilnesse 
Rewest on every synful in destresse. 

" litel child, alias ! what is thi gilt, 
That never wroughtest synne as yet, parde ? 
Why wil thyn harde fader ban the spilt '? 
O mercy, deere constable," seyde sche, 
" And let my litel child here d we lie with the : 
And if thou darst not saven him for blame, 5280 

So kys him oones in his fadres name." 

Therwith sche loketh bak-ward to the lond, 
And seyde, " Farwel, housbond rewtheles !" 
And up sche rist, and walketh doun the stronde 
Toward the schip, hir folweth al the prees : 
And ever sche preyeth hir child to hold his pees, 
And took hir leve, and with an holy entent 
Sche blesseth hire, and to the schip sche went, 

Vytailled was the schip, it is no drede, 
Abundauntly for hire a ful longe space : 5230 

And other necessaries that schulde nede 
Sche had ynowgh, heryed be Cristez grace : 


For wynd and water almighty God purchace, 
And bryng hir horn, I can no bettre say, 
But in the see sche dryveth forth hir way. 

Alia the kyng comth horn soon after this 
Unto the castel, of the which I tolde, 
And asketk wher his wyf and his child ys. 
The constable gan aboute his herte colde, 
And playnly al the maner he him tolde 5300 

As ye han herd, I can telle it no better, 
And schewed the kynges seal and his letter ; 

And seyde, " Lord, as ye comaunded me 
Up peyne of deth, so have I do certayn." 
This messager tormented was, til he 
Moste biknowe and telle it plat and playn, 
Fro nyght to night in what place he had layn : 
And thus by witt and subtil enqueryng 
Ymagined was by wham this gan to spryng. 

The hand was knowen that the lettre wroot, 5310 
And al the venym of this cursed dede ; 
But in what wyse, certeynly I noot. 
Theffect is this, that Alia, out of drede, 
His rnoder slough, as men may pleynly reede, 
For that sche traytour was to hir ligeaunce : 
Thus endeth olde Domegild with meschaunce. 

The sorwe that this Alia night and day 
Makth for his wyf and for his child also, 
Ther is no tonge that it telle may. 
But now I wol unto Custaunce go, 53:20 

That fleeteth in the see in peyne and wo 


Fyve yeer and more, as liked Cristes sonde, 
Er that hir schip approched unto londe. 

Under an kethen castel atte last, 
Of which tke name in my text nougkt I fynde, 
Constaunce and eek hir child tke see upcast. 
Almigkty God, tkat savetk al ruankynde, 
Have on Constaunce and on kir child som mynde ! 
Tkat fallen is in ketken kond eftsone, 
In poynt to spille, as I sckal telle you soone. 5330 

Doun fro tke castel cometk many a wight, 
To gawren on this schip, and on Constaunce : 
But schortly fro the castel on a night, 
The lordes sty ward, God give him meschaunce! 
A tlieef tkat had reneved oure creaunce, 
Com into schip alone, and seyd he scholde 
Hir lemnian he, whethir sche wold or nolde. 

Wo was tliis wreccked womman tho kigoon, 
Hire childe crieth and sche pytously : 
But blisful Mary kilp kir right anoon, 5340 

For with hir stroglyng wel and mightily 
The theef fel over boord al sodeinly, 
And in tke see ke drenched for vengaunce, 
And thus hath Crist unwemmed kept Constance. 

O foule lust, o luxurie, lo thin ende ! 
Nought oonly that thou feyntest mannes mynde, 
But verrayly thou wolt his body schende. 
The ende of thyn werk, or of thy lustes blynde, 

5341. — stroglyng. The MS. Harl. reads ttrengthe. 


Is compleynyng : how many may men fynde, 

That nought for werk som tyme, hut for thentent 5350 

To doon this synne, hen eyther slayn or schent ! 

How may this weyke womman han the strengthe 
Hir to clefende agein this renegat ? 
Golias, unmesurahle of lengthe, 
How mighte David make the so mate ? 
So yong, and of armure so desolate, 
How dorst he loke upon thyn dredful face ? 
Wei may men seyn, it nas but Goddes grace. 

Who gaf Judith corage or hardynesse 
To slen him Olefernes in his tent, 5360 

And to delyveren out of wrecchednes 
The peple of God ? I say in this entent, 
That right as God spiryte and vigor sent 
To hem, and saved hem out of meschaunce, 
So sent he might and vigor to Constaunce. 

Forth goth hir schip thurghout the narwe mouth 
Of Juhalter and Septe, dryvyng alway, 
Som tyme west, and som tyme north and south, 
And som tyme est, ful many a wery day : 
Til Cristes mooder, blessed be sche ay ! 5370 

Hath schapen thurgh hir endeles goodnesse 
To make an ende of hir hevynesse. 

Now let us stynt of Constance but a throwe, 
And speke we of the Romayn emperour, 
That out of Surrye hath by lettres knqwe 
The slaughter of cristen folk, and deshonour 
Doon to his doughter by a fals traytour, 


I mene the cursed wikkecl sowclenesse, 

That at the fest leet slee bothe more and lesse. 

For which this emperour hath sent anoon 5380 
His senatours, with real ordynaunce, 
And other lordes, God wot, many oon, 
On Surriens to take high vengaunce : 
They brenne, sleen, and bringen hem to meschaunce 
Ful many a day : but schortly this is thende, 
Horn-ward to Rome they schapen hem to wende. 

This senatour repayreth with victorie 
To Rome-ward, saylyng ful really, 
And mette the schip dryvyng, as seth the story, 
In which Constance sitteth ful pitously : 5390 

Nothing ne knew he what sche was, ne why 
Sche was in such aray, sche nolde seye 
Of hire astaat, although sche scholde deye. 

He bryngeth hir to Rome, and to his wyf 
He gaf hir, and hir yonge sone also : 
And with the senatour lad sche hir lyf. 
Thus can our lady bryngen out of woo 
Woful Constance, and many another moo : 
And longe tyme dwelled sche in that place, 
In holy werkes, as ever was hir grace. 5400 

The senatoures wif hir aunte was, 
But for al that sche knew hir never more : 
I wol no lenger taryen in this cas, 
But to kyng Alia, which I spak of yore, 
That for his wyf wepeth and siketh sore, 
I wol retorne, and lete I wol Constaunce 


Under the senatoures govemaunce. 

Kyng Alia, which that had his mooder slayn, 
Upon a day fel in such repentaunce, 
That if I schortly telle schal and playn, 5410 

To Rome he cometh to receyve his penaunce, 
And putte bini in the popes ordynaunce 
In heigh and lowe, and Jhesu Crist by sought, 
Forgef his wikked werkes that he wrought. 

The fame anon thurgh Rome toun is born, 
How Alia kyng schal come in pilgrymage, 
By herberjourz that wenten him bifom, 
For which the senatour, as was usage, 
Rood him agein, and many of his lynage, 
As wel to schewen his magnificence, 5420 

As to doon eny kyng a reverence. 

Gret cheere doth this noble senatour 
To kyng Alia, and he to him also ; 
Everich of hem doth other gret honour. 
And so bifel, that in a day or two 
This senatour is to kyng Alia go 
To fest, and schortly, if I schal not lye, 
Constances sone went in his companye. 

Som men wold seyn at request of Custaunce 
This senatour hath lad this child to feste : 5430 

I may not telle every circumstaunce, 
Be as be may, ther was he atte leste : 
But soth it is, right at his modres heste, 
Byfom hem alle, duryng the metes space, 
The child stood lokyng in the kynges face. 


This Alia kyng hath of this child gret wonder, 
And to the senatour he seyd anoon, 

" Whos is that faire child that stondeth yonder ?" 

" I not," quod he, " by God and by seynt Jon ! 
A moder he hath, but fader hath he non, 5440 

That I of woot :" and schortly in a stounde 
He told Alia how that this child was founde. 
" But God woot," quod this senatour also, 

" So vertuous a lyver in my lyf 
Ne saugh I never, such as sche, norno 
Of worldly wornman, mayden, or of wyf : 
I dar wel say sche hadde lever a knyf 
Thurghout hir brest, than ben a womnian wikke, 
Ther is no man can bryng hir to that prikke. 

Now was this child as lik unto Custaunce 5450 

As possible is a creature to be : 
This Alia hath the face in remembraunce 
Of dame Custance, and theron mused he, 
If that the childes mooder were ought sche 
That is his wyf, and pryvely he bight, 
And sped him fro the table that he might. 

" Parfay!" thought he, " fantom is in myn heed ; 
I ought to deme, of rightful juggement, 
That in the salte see my wyf is deed." 
And after-ward he made this argument : 5460 

" What woot I, wher Crist hath hider sent 
My wyf by see, as wel as he hir sent 
To my contre, fro thennes that sche went ?" 
And after noon home with the senatour 


Goth Alia, for to see this wonder chaunce. 

This senatour doth Alia gi-et honour, 

And hastely lie sent after Custaunce. 

But trusteth wel, hir luste nat to daunce, 

Whan that sche wiste wherfore was that sonde, 

Unnethes on hir feet sche mighte stonde. r "*7o 

Whan Alia saugh his wyf, fayre he hir grette, 
And wepte, that it was rewthe to se ; 
For at the firste look he on hir sette 
He knew wel verrely that it was sche : 
And for sorwe, as domb sche stant as tre : 
So was hire herte schett in hir distresse, 
Whan sche remembred his unkyndenesse. 

Twies sche swowned in his owen sight, 
He wept and hirn excuseth pitously ; 
Now God," quod he, "and alle his halwes bright 5480 
So wisly on my soule have mercy, 
That of youre harm as gulteles am I 
As is Maurice my sone, so lyk youre face, 
Elles the feend me fecche out of this place." 

Long was the sobbyng and the bitter peyne, 
Or that here woful herte mighte cesse ; 
Gret was the pite for to here hem pleyne, 
Thurgli whiche playntz gaii here wo encresse. 
I pray you alle my labour to relesse, 
I may not telle al here woo unto morwe, 5490 

I am so wery for to speke of the sorwe. 

But fvnallv, whan thai the soth is wist, 
Thai Alia gilteles was of hir woo, 


I trowe an hundred tymes they ben kist, 

And such a blys is ther bitwix hem tuo, 

That, save the joye that lasteth everemo, 

Ther is noon lyk, that eny creature 

Hath seyn or schal, whil that the world may dure. 

Tho prayde sche hir housbond meekely 
In the relees of hir pytous pyne, 5500 

That he wold preye hir fader specially, 
That of his majeste he wold enclyne 
To vouchesauf som tyme with him to dyne. 
Sche preyeth him eek, he schulde by no weye 
Unto hir fader no word of hir seye. 

Som men wold seye, that hir child Maurice 
Doth his message unto the emperour : 
But, as I gesse, Alia was nat so nyce, 
To him that is so soverayn of honour, 
As he that is of Cristes folk the flour, 5510 

Sent eny child ; but it is best to deeme 
He went himsilf, and so it may wel seme. 

This emperour hath grauntcd gcntilly 
To come to dyner, as he him bysought : 
And wel rede I, he loked besily 
Upon the child, and on his doughter thought. 
Alia goth to his in, and as him ought 
Arrayed for this fest in every wyse, 
As ferforth as his connyng may suffise. 

5506 — som men wold seye. Tlie version of the story liere alluded to 
is that given iii Goner's Confcssio Amantis, book ii, which appears to 
have been published before Chaucer's Canterbury Tales were compiled. 


The movwe cam, and Alia gan him dresse, •''520 
And eek his wyf, the emperour for to meete : 
And forth they ryde in joye and in gladnesse, 
And whan sche saugh hir fader in the streete, 
Sche light adoun and falleth him to feete. 
Fader," quod sche, " your yonge child Constance 
Is now ful clene out of your remembraunce. 

" I am your dough ter Custaunce," quod sche, 
• That whilom ye have sent unto Surrye : 
It am I, fader, that in the salte see 
Was put alloon, and dampned for to dye. 5530 

Now, goode fader, mercy I you crye, 
Send me no more unto noon hethenesse, 
But thanke my lord her of his kyndenesse." 

Who can the pytous joye telle al 
Bitwix hem thre, sith they he thus i-mette ? 
But of my tale make an ende I schal ; 
The day goth fast, I wol no lenger lette. 
This glade folk to dyner they ben sette : 
In joye and blys at mete I let hem dwelle, 
A thousand fold wel more than I can telle. ; ">54<> 

This child Maurice was siththen emperour 
I-maad by the pope, and lyved cristenly, 
To Cristes chirche dede he gret honour. 
But I let al his story passen by, 
Of Custaunce is my tale specially ; 
In olde Roinayn gestes men may fynd 
Maurices lyf, I bere it nought in mynde. 

This kyng Alia, whan he bis tynae saw 

i: '2 ■ 


With his Constaunce, his holy wyf so swete, 

To Engelond they com the righte way, 5550 

Wher as they lyve in joye and in quyete. 

But litel whil it last, I you biheete, 

Joy of this world for tyme wol not abyde, 

Fro day to night it chaungeth as the tyde. 

Who lyved ever in such delyt a day, 
That him ne meved eyther his conscience, 
Or ire, or talent, or som maner affray, 
Envy, or pride, or passioun, or offence '? 
I ne say but for this ende this sentence, 
That litel whil in joye or in plesaunce 5560 

Lasteth the blis of Alia with Custaunce. 

For deth, that takth of heigh and low his rent, 
Whan passed was a yeere, as I gesse, 
Out of this worlde kyng Alia he hent, 
For whom Custauns hath ful gret hevynesse. 
Now let us pray that God his soule blesse ! 
And dame Custaunce, fynally to say, 
Toward the toun of Rome goth hir way. 

To Rome is come this nobil creature, 
And fynt hir freendes ther bothe hool and sound ; 5570 
Now is sche skaped al hir aventure. 
And whanne sche hir fader had i-founde, 
Doun on hir knees falleth sche to grounde, 
Wepyng for tendirnes in herte blithe 
Sche heried God an hundred thousand sithe. 

In vertu and in holy almes-dede 
They iyven alle, and never asondre wende ; 


Til cleth departe hem, this lyf they lede : 

And far now wel, my tale is at an ende. 

Now Jhesu Crist, that of bis might may sende 5580 

Joy after wo, goveme us in his grace, 

And keep ous alle that ben in this place. 


" Experiens, though noon auctorite 
Were in this world, it were ynough for me 
To speke of wo that is in mariage : 

I'rologe of the wyf of Bathe. The Wife of Bath's prologue may be 
considered as a separate tale, and belongs to a class of which there are 
several examples among the literature of the middle ages. One of the 
latest is The twa maryit wernen and the ivedo of William Dunbar. The 
popular literature of what is commonly looked upon as the age of 
chivalry, shows us that the female character was then estimated at the 
lowest possible rate. 

The Harl. MS. erroneously places at the beginning of this prologue, 
the prologue to the Shipmau's Tale. Some of the MSS. collated by Tyr- 
whitt, in which the Merchant's Tale follows the Man of Law, have the 
following introductory lines: — 

Oure oost gaii tho to loke up anon. 
" Gode men," quod lie, " herkeneth everichone, 

As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale, 

This marchant hath i-told a mery tale, 

Howe Januarie hadde a lither jape, 

His wyf put in his hood an ape. 

But hereof I wil leve off as now. 

Dame wyf of Bathe," quod he, " I pray you, 

Telle us a tale now nexte after this." 
'• Sir oost," quod she, " so God my soule blis ! 

As I fully thereto wil C0U8ente ; 

And also it is myn hole entente 

To done vow alle disporte as that 1 can. 

But holde me excused; I am a woman, 


For, lordyngs, syns I twelf yer was of age, 

I thank it God that is eterne on lyve, 

Houshondes atte chirch dore I have had fyve, 

For I so ofte might have weddid be, 

And alle were worthy men in here degre. 5590 

But me was taught, nought longe tyme goon is, 

That synnes Crist went never but onys 

To weddyng, in the Cane of Galile, 

That by the same ensampul taught he me, 

That I ne weddid schulde be but ones : 

Lo, herken such a scharp word for the nones ! 

Biside a welle Jhesus, God and man, 

Spak in reproef of the Samaritan : 
'Thow hast y-had fyve houshondes,' quod he; 
' And that ilk man, which that now hath the, 5600 

Is nought thin housbond ; ' thus he sayd certayn : 

What that he ment therby, I can not sayn. 

But that I axe, why the fyfte man 

Was nought housbond to the Samaritan ? 

How many might sche have in manage '? 

Yit herd I never tellen in myn age 

Uppon this noumbre diffinicioun ; 

Men may divine and glosen up and doun. 

I can not reherse, as these clerkes kunne." 
And right anon she hath hir tale bygunne. 
In the MS Lansdowne, there are four introductory lines : 
Than sehortly ansewarde the wife of Bathe, 
And swore a wonder grete hathe, 
" Be Goddes bones, I wil tel next, 
I wille nouht glose, but save the text. 
Experiment, though none auctorite, etc. 


But wel I wot, withouten eny lye 

God bad us for to wax and multipHe ; 561 ° 

That gentil tixt can I wel understonde. 

Ek wel I wot, he sayd, myn househonde 

Schuld lete fader and moder, and folwe me ; 

But of no nouniher mencioun made he, 

Of by gamy e or of octogamye ; 

Why schuld men speken of that vilonye '? 

Lo hier the wise kyng daun Salamon, 

I trow he hadde wifes mo than oon, 

As wold God it were leful unto me 

To be refreisshed half so oft as he ! r,,i - u 

Which gift of God had he for alle his wyvys? 

No man hath such, that in the world on lyve is. 

God wot, this nobil king, as to my wit, 

The firste night had many a mery fit 

With ech of hem, so wel was him on lyve. 

I-blessid be God that I have wecldid fyve ! 

Welcome the sixte whan that ever he schal. 

For sothe I nyl not kepe me chast in al ; 

Whan myn housbond is fro the world i-gon, 

Sim cristne man schal wedde me anoon, 5680 

5026. The second Cambridge MS. and sonic MSS. quoted by Tyr- 
whitt, add after this verse - — 

Of whiche I have pyked out the beste 

Bothe of here nethur purs and of here cheste. 

Diverse scoles niaken ]iarfyt clerk es, 

And diverse practyk in many sondn nerkes 

Makeu the werkman parfyt sekirly: 

Of five husbondes scoleryng am I. 

Welcome the sixtbr, etc. 


For than thapostil saitli that I am fee 

To wedde, a goddis haf, wher so it be. 

He saith, that to he weddid is no synne ; 

Bet is to he weddid than to brynne. 

What recchith me what folk sayn vilonye 

Of schrewith Lameth, and of his higamye '? 

I wot wel Ahram was an holy man, 

And Jacob eek, as ferforth as I can, 

And ech of hem had wyves mo than tuo, 

And many another holy man also. 5640 

Whan sawe ye in eny maner age 

That highe God defendid mariage 

By expres word? I pray yow tellith me ; 

Or wher commaunded he virginite ? 

I wot as wel as ye, it is no drede, 

Thapostil, whan he spekth of maydeuhede, 

He sayd, that precept therof had he noon : 

Men may counseil a womman to be oon, 

But counselyng nys no comamidement ; 

He put it in our owne juggement. 565 ° 

For hadde God comaundid maydenhede, 

Than had he dampnyd weddyng with the clede ; 

And certes, if ther were no seed i-sowe, 

Virginite wheron schuld it growe ? 

Poul ne dorst not comaunde atte lest 

A tiling, of which his maister gaf non hest. 

The dart is set upon virginite, 

Cach who so may, who rennith best let se. 

But this word is not taken of every wight. 


But ther as God list give it of his might. 5660 

I wot wel that thapostil was a mayde, 

But natheles, though that he wrot or sayde, 

He wolde that every wight were such as he, 

Al nys but counseil unto virgiuite. 

And for to ben a wyf he gaf rue leve, 

Of indulgence, so nys it to repreve 

To wedde me, if that my make deye, 

Withoute excepcioun of bigamye ; 

Al were it good no womman for to touche, 

(He mente in his bed or in his couche) 607 ° 

For peril is bothe fuyr and tow to assemble ; 

Ye knowe what this ensample wold resemble. 

This is al and som, he holdith virginite 

More parfit than weddyng in frelte : 

(Frelte clepe I, but if that he and sche 

Wold leden al ther lif in chastite). 

I graunt it wel, I have noon envye, 

Though maidenhede preferre bygamye ; 

It liketh hem to be clene in body and gust : 

Of myn estate I nyl make no host. •'•'"• ' 

For wel ye wot, a lord in his houshold 

He nath not every vessel ful of gold ; 

Som ben of tre, and don her lord servise. 

God clepeth folk to him in sondry wise, 

And every hath of God a propre gifte, 

Som this, som that, as him likith to srhifte. 

5681. — a lord in his houshold, See 2 Tim. ii, 20. 


Virginite is gret perfeccioun, 

And continens eek with gret devocioun : 

But Christ, that of perfeccioun is welle, 

Bad nought every wight schuld go and selle 5690 

Al that lie had, and give it to the pore. 

And in such wise folwe him and his fore. 

He spak to hem that wolde lyve parfytly, 

And, lordyngs, by your leve, that am not 1 ; 

I wol bystowe the flour of myn age 

In the actes and in the fruytes of manage. 

Tel me also, to what conclusioun 

Were membres maad of generacioun, 

And of so parfit wise a wight y- wrought ? 

Trustith right wel, thay were nought maad for nought. 

Glose who so wol, and say bothe up and doun, 57 °1 

That thay were made for purgaciouu, 

Oure bothe uryn, and thinges smale, 

Were eek to knowe a femel fro a male : 

And for non other cause ? say ye no ? 

Thexperiens wot wel it is not so. 

So that these clerke ben not with me wrothe, 

I say this, that thay makid ben for bothe, 

This is to say, for office and for ease 

Of engendrure, ther we God nought displease. 5 ? 1(l 

Why schuld men elles in her bokes sette, 

That man schal velde to his wif his dette ? 

5609. — And of so parfit wise. The MS. llai-l reads, And in what u-isi' 
Some MSS. read and why, instead of a wight. 


Now wherwith schuld he make his payement, 

If he ne used his sely instrument ? 

Than were thay maad up a creature 

To purge uryn, and eek for engendrure. 

But I say not that eveiy wight is holde, 

That hath such hanieys as I to yow tolde, 

To gon and usen hem in engendrure ; 

Than schuld men take of chastite no cure. 5720 

Crist was a mayde, and schapen as a man, 

And many a seynt, sin that the world bygan, 

Yet lyved thay ever in parfyt chastite. 

I nyl envye no virginite. 

Let hem be bred of pured whete seed, 

And let us wyves eten barly breed. 

And yet with barly bred, men telle can, 

Oure Lord Jhesu refreisschid many a man. 

In such astaat as God hath cleped ous 

I wil persever, I am not precious ; 5730 

In wyf hode I wil use myn instrument 

Als frely as my maker hath me it sent. 

If I be daungerous, God give me sorwe, 

Myn housbond schal ban it at eve and morvve, 

Whan that him list com forth and pay his dette. 

An housbond wol I have, I wol not lette, 

Which schal be bothe my dettour and my thral, 

And have his tribulacioun withal 

Upon his fleissch, whil that \ am liis wyf. 

I have the power duryng al my lit' 5740 

Upon his propre body, and not he; 



Right thus thapostil told it unto me, 

And bad oure housbondes for to love us wel ; 

Al this sentence me likith every del." 
Up start the pardoner, and that anoon ; 
" Now, dame," quod he, " by God and by seint Jon, 

Ye ben a noble prechour in this caas. 

I was aboute. to wedde a wif, allaas ! 

What ? schal I buy it on my rleisch so deere ? 

Yit had I lever wedde no wyf to yere !" 5750 

" Abyd," quod sche, " my tale is not bygonne. 

Nay, thou schalt drink e of another tonne 

Er that I go, schal savere wors than ale. 

And whan that I have told the forth my tale 

Of tribulacioun in mariage, 

Of which I am expert in al myn age, 

This is to say, myself hath ben the whippe ; 

Than might thou chese whethir thou wilt sippe 

Of thilke tonne, that I schal abroche. 

Be war of it, er thou to neigh approche. 576( } 

For I schal telle ensamples mo than ten : 

Who so that nyl be war by other men 

By him schal other men corrected be : 

The same wordes writes Ptholome, 

Rede in his Almagest, and tak it there." 
" Dame, I wold pray you, if that youre wille were," 

5761. — Plholomg. The wife of Bath's quotations from Ptolemy, here 
and at 1. 5906, are not, it appears, to be found in (lie Almagest. She 
seems to quote Ttolemy vvhen she cannot father an opinion upon any- 
body tlse. 


Saycle this pardoner, " as ye higan, 
Tel forth youre tale, and sparith for no man, 
Teche us yonge men of youre practike." 
Gladly," quod sche, "syns it may yow like. 577 ° 

But that I pray to al this companye, 
If that I speke after my fantasie, 
As taketh nought agreef of that I say, 
For myn entente is nought hut to play. 
" Now, sires, now wol I telle forth my tale. 
As ever mote I drinke wyn or ale, 
I schal say soth of housbondes that I hadde, 
As thre of hem were goode, and tuo were badde. 
Tuo of hem were goode, riche, and olde ; 
Unnethes mighte thay the statute holde, 578 ° 

In which that thay were bounden unto me : 
Ye wot wel what I mene of this parde ! 
As help me God, I laugh whan that I thinke, 
How pitously on night I made hem swynke, 
But, by my fay ! I told of it no stoor : 
Thay had me give her lond and her tresor, 
Me nedith not no lenger doon diligence 
To wynne her love or doon hem reverence. 
Thay loved me so wel, by God above ! 
That I tolde no deynte of her love. 5790 

A wys womman wol bysi hir ever in oon 
To gete hir love, there sche hath noon. 

6779 — Tuo of htm. The more common rending of the MSS is The 
litre were, which is adopted by Tyrwhitt. 


But synnes I had hem holly in myn hoi id, 

And synnes thay had me geven al her lond, 

What sehuld I take keep hem for to please, 

But it were for my profyt, or myn ease ? 

I sette hem so on werke, by my fay ! 

That many a night thay songen weylaway. 

The bacoun was nought fet for hem, I trowe, 

That som men fecche in Essex at Donmowe. 5800 

I governed hem so wel after my lawe, 

That ech of hem ful hlisful was and fawe 

To bringe me gaye thinges fro the faire. 

Thay were ful glad whan I spak to hem faire ; 

For, God it woot, I ehidde hem spitously. 

Now herkeneth how I bar me proprely. 

Ye wise wyves, that can understonde, 

Thus scholde ye speke, and here hem wrong on honde ; 

For half so boldely can ther no man 

Swere and lye as a womman can. 5810 

5799. — the bacoun. The Dunmow bacon appears to have been in great 
reputation in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The following notice 
of this curious custom is found among some poetry of the latter period, 
printed in the Reliquuc Antiq., ii, p. 29 • — 

I can fynd no man now that wille enquere 
The parfyte wais unto Dunmow ! 
For they repent hem within a yere, 
And many within a weke, and sonner, men trow ; 
That cawsith the wais to be rough and overgrow , 
That no man may fynd path or gup, 
The world is turnyd to another shap. 
5810. — swere and lyt. A parallel passage is quoted by TyrwhiK, 
from the Roman <le la Rose : - 

Car plus hardiment que nulz horns 
Certainement jurent et mentent. 


(I say not by wyvea that ben wise, 

But if it be whan thay ben mysavise.) 

I-wis a wif, if that sche can hir good, 

Schal beren him on bond the cow is wood, 

And take witnes on hir oughne mayde 

Of hire assent : but herkenith how I sayde. 

See, olde caynard, is this thin array ? 

Why is my neghebores wif so gay ? 

Sche is honoured over al ther sche goth ; 

I sitte at horn, I have no thrifty cloth. 382t) 

What dostow at my neighebores hous ? 

Is sche so fair ? what, artow amorous '? 

What roune ye with hir maydenes ? ben edi cite, 

Sir olde lecchour, let thi japes be. 

And if I have a gossib, or a frend 

Withouten gilt, thou chidest as a fend, 

If that I walk or play unto his hous. 

Thou comest horn as dronken as a mous, 

And prechist on thy bench, with evel preef, 

5817. " In the following speech, it would he endless to produce all 
Chancer"* imitations. The beginning is from the fragment of Theo- 
phrastus, quoted by St. Jerome, c. Jovin, 1. i, and by John of Salisbury, 
Polycrat. lib. viii, c. xi. see also Rom. de la It. ver. 8967. ct suiv." Tyr- 

5828. — dronken as a mous. This was a common phrase. In the 
satirical poem of Doctour Double-ale, we have the lines. 

Then seke another house, 

This is not worth a louse ; 

As dronken as a mouse. 
Among the letters relating to the suppression of monasteries (Camd. Sue. 
Pnbl.) p. 133, there is one from a monk of IVrslmiv, who says that his 
In-other monks of that house " drynk an bowll after collacyon tell ten or 
xii. of the clock, and cum to mattens as dronck at myt." 


Thou saist to me, it is a gret meschief 5 330 

To wedde a pover womman, for costage : 

And if that sche be riche and of parage, 

Thanne saist thou, that it is a tormentrie 

To suffre hir pride and hir malencolie. 

And if that sche be fair, thou verray knave, 

Thou saist that every holour wol hir have. 

Sche may no while in chastite abyde, 

That is assayled thus on eche syde. 

Thou saist that som folk desire us for riches, 

Som for our schap, and som for our faimes, 5840 

And some, for that sche can synge and daunce, 

And some for gentilesse or daliaunce, 

Som for hir handes and hir armes smale : 

Thus goth al to the devel by thi tale. 

Thou saist, men may nought kepe a castel wal, 

It may so be biseged over al. 

And if sche be foul, thanne thou saist, that sche 

Coveitith every man that sche may se ; 

For, as a spaynel, sche wol on him lepe, 

Til that sche fyncle som man hire to chepe. 5850 

Ne noon so gray a goos goth in the lake, 

As sayest thou, wol be withouten make. 

And saist, it is an hard thing for to wolde 

Thing, that no man wol, his willes holde. 

Thus seistow, lorel, whan thou gost to bedde, 

And that no wys man nedith for to wedde, 

Ne no man that entendith unto hevene. 

With wilde thunder clynt and fuyry levene 


Mote tin wicked necke be to-broke ! 

Thou saist, that droppyng hous, and eek smoke, 6S(5 ° 

And chydyng wyves maken men to fie 

Out of here oughne hous ; a, benedicite, 

What eylith such an old man for to chyde ? 

Thou seist, we wyves woln oure vices hide, 

Til we ben weddid, and than we wil hem schewe. 

Wei may that be a proverbe of a schrewe. 

Thou saist, that assen, oxen, and houndes, 

Thay ben assayed at divers stoundes, 

Basyns, lavours eek, er men hem bye, 

Spones, stooles, and al such housbondrie, §870 

Also pottes, clothes, and array, 

But folk of wyves maken non assay, 

Til thay ben weddid, olde dotard schrewe ! 

And thanne, saistow, we woln oure vices schewe. 

Thou saist also, that it displesith me, 

But if that thou wilt praysen my beaute, 

And but thou pore alway in my face, 

And clepe me faire dame in every place ; 

And but thou make a fest on thilke day 

Tbat I was born, and make me freisch and gay; 5880 

And but thou do my nonce honoure, 

And to my chamberer withinne my boure, 

And to my fadres folk, and myn allies : 

Thus saistow, oleic barel ful of lies ! 

And yit of oure apprentys Jankyn, 

For his crisp her, schynyng as gold so fyn, 

Ami for he squiereth me uji and doun, 


Yet hastow caught a fals suspeccioun : 

I nyl him nought, though thou were deed to morwe. 

But tel me wherfor hydestow with sorwe 5890 

The keyes of thy chist away fro me ? 

It is my good as wel as thin, parde. 

" What ! wenest thou make an ycliot of oure dame ? 
Now l>y that lord that cleped is seint Jame, 
Thow schalt not hothe, though thou were wood, 
Be maister of my hody and of my good ; 
That oon thou schalt forgo maugre thin yen ! 
What helpeth it on me tenqueren or espien ? 
I trowe thou woldest lokke me in thy chest. 
Thou scholdist say, ' wif, go wher the lest ; 5900 

Take youre disport ; I nyl lieve no talis ; 
I know yow for a trewe wif, dame Alis.' 
We loveth no man, that takith keep or charge 
Wher that we goon ; we love to he at large. 

" Of alle men i-blessed most he be 
The wise astrologe daun Ptholome, 
* That saith this proverhe in his Almagest : 
Of alle men his wisedom is highest, 
That rekkith not who hath the world in honde. 
By this proverbe thou schalt understonde, 5910 

Have thou ynough, what thar the recch or care 
How merily that other folkes fare ? 
For certes, olde dotard, with your leve, 
Ye schul have queynte right ynough at eve. 
He is to gret a nygard that wol werne 
A man to light a candel at his lanterne ; 


He schal have never the lasse light, parde. 
Have tliou ynough, the thar not pleyne the. 
" Thou saist also, that if we make us gay 
With clothing and with precious array, 6920 

That it is peril of our chastite. 
And yit, with sorwe, thou most enforce the, 
And say these wordes in thapostles name : 
In abyt maad with chastite and schame 
Ye wommen schuld apparayl yow, quod he, 
And nought with tressed her, and gay perre, 
As perles, ne with golden clothis riche. 
After thy text, ne after thin rubriche, 
I wol nought wirche as moche as a gnat. 
Thow saist thus that I was lik a cat ; 5930 

For who so wolde senge the cattes skyn, 
Than wold the catte duellen in his in ; 
And if the cattes skyn be slyk and gay, 
Sche wol not duelle in house half a day, 
But forth sche wil, er eny day be dawet, 
To schewe hir skyn, and goon a caterwrawet. 
This is to say, if I be gay, sir schrewe, 
I wol renne aboute, my borel for to schewe. 
Sir olde fool, what helpith the to aspien ? 
Though thou pray dest Argus with his hundrid yen 5940 
To be my wardecorps, as he can best, 
In faith he schuld not kepe me but if me lest : 
Yit couthe I make his herd, though queynte he be. 

5923. — thapostles name. See 1 Tim. ii. 9. 

s 2 


Thou saydest eek, that ther ben thinges thre, 

The whiche thinges troublen al this erthe, 

And that no wight may endure the ferthe. 

leve sire schrewe, Jhesu schorte thy lif ! 

Yit prechestow, and saist, an hateful wif 

I-rekened is for oon of these rneschaunces. 

Ben ther noon other of thy resemblaunces 5950 

That ye may liken youre parables unto, 

But if a cely wyf be oon of tho ? 

Thow likenest wommannes love to helle, 

To bareyn lond, ther water may not duelle. 

Thou likenest it also to wilde- fuyr ; 

The more it brenneth, the more it hath desir 

To consume every thing, that brent wol be. 

Thou saist, right as wormes schenden a tre, 

Right so a wif schendith hir housebonde ; 

This knowen tho that ben to wyves bonde. 59(5 ° 

Lordynges, right thus, as ye ban understonde, 

Bar I styf myn housebondes on honde, 

That thus thay sayde in her dronkenesse ; 

And al was fals, but that I took witnesse 

On Jankyn, and upon my nece also. 

Lord, the peyne I dede hem, and the wo, 
Ful gulteles, by Goddes swete pyne ; 

For as an hors, I couthe bothe bite and whyne ; 

1 couthe pleyne, and yet I was in the gilt, 

Or elles I hadde often tyme be spilt. 6970 

Who so first cometh to the mylle, first grynt ; 

5971. — to the mylle. This proverb is found also in French, in the 
fifteenth century, Qui premier vient au moulin premier doit mouldre. 


I pleyned first, so was oure werre stynt. 

Thay were ful glad to excuse hem ful blyve 

Of thing, that thay never agilt in her lyve. 

And wenches wold I beren hem on honde, 

Whan that for seek thay might unnethes stonde, 

Yit tykeled I his herte for that he 

Wende I had of him so gret chierete : 

I swor that al my walkyng out a nyght 

Was for to aspie wenches that he dight : 5980 

Under that colour had I many a mirthe. 

For al such witte is geven us of birthe ; 

Deceipt, wepyng, spynnyng, God hath give 

To wymmen kyndely, whil thay may lyve. 

And thus of o thing I avaunte me, 

At thende I had the bet in ech degre, 

By sleight or fors, or of som maner thing, 

As by continuel murmur or chidyng, 

Namly on bedde, hadden thay meschaunce, 

Ther wold I chide, and do hem no plesaunce : 5990 

I wold no lenger in the bed abyde, 

If that I felt his arm over my syde, 

Til he had maad his raunsoun unto me, 

Than wold I suffre him doon his nycete. 

And therfor every man this tale telle, 

Wynne who so may, for al is for to sclle : 

5983. — deceipt This appears to have been a popular saying: in the 
margin of the Lansdowne MS. it is given in a Latin leonine, thus: — 
Fallere Hire, nere, dedit Deus in muliere. 
o98S — chidyng- Mo&< of the MSS have-, with Tyrwhitt, grucchyng 



With empty honcl men may noon haukea lure, 

For wynnyng wold I al his lust endure, 

And make me a feyned appetyt, 

And yit in bacoun had I never delyt : 

That made me that ever I wold hem chyde. 

For though the pope had seten hem bisyde, 

I nold not spare hem at her oughne bord, 

For, by my trouthe, I quyt hem word for word. 

Als help me verray God omnipotent, 

Though I right now schuld make my testament, 

I owe hem nought a word, that it nys quitte, 

I brought it so aboute by my witte, 

That thay most geve it up, as for the best, 

Or ellis had we never ben in rest. 6010 

For though he loked as a grym lyoun, 

Yit schuld he fayle of his conclusioun. 

Than wold I say, ' now, goode leef, tak keep, 

How mekly lokith Wilkyn our scheep ! 

Com ner, my spouse, let me ba thy cheke. 

Ye schulde be al pacient and meke, 

And have a swete spiced consciens, 

Siththen ye preche so of Jobes paciens. 

Suffreth alway, syns ye so wel can preche, 

And but ye do, certeyn we schul yow teche ,i0 -° 

That it is fair to have a wyf in pees. 

On of us tuo mot bowe douteles : 

And, siththen man is more resonable 

Than womman is, ye moste be suffrable. 

What aylith yew thus for to grucche and grone ? 


Is it for ye wold have my queynt allone ? 

Why, tak it al : lo, have it every del. 

Peter ! I schrewe yow but ye love it wel. 

For if I wolde selle my bele chose, 

I couthe walk as freisch as eny rose, 6030 

But I wol kepe it for youre owne toth. 

Ye beu to blame, by God, I say yow soth !" 

Such maner wordes hadde we on honde. 

Now wol I speke of my fourth housboude. 

My fourthe housbond was a revelour, 

This is to say, he had a paramour, 

Aud I was yong and ful of ragerie, 

Stibom and strong, and joly as a pye. 

How couthe I daunce to an harpe smale, 

And synge y-wys as eny nightyngale, 60i0 

Whan I had dronke a draught of swete wyn. 

Metillius, the foule cherl, the swyn, 

That with a staf byraft Ms wyf hir lyf 

For sche drank wyn, though I had ben his wif, 

Ne schuld nought have daunted me fro drink : 

And after wyn on Venus most I think. 

For al so siker as cold engendrith hayl, 

A likorous mouth most have a licorous tail. 

In wymmen vinolent is no defens, 

6028. — Peter! This is a very common exclamation, from St. Peter, 
as Marie ! from the Virgin. St. Peter, as the reputed head of the papacy, 
stood high among the saints in the Romish Church 

G012. — Metillius. This anecdote is taken from Valerius Maximus, 
lib. vi. c. 3, ex. 9. The same story is told by Pliny, Hist. Nat. xiv. 1:?, 
but for Egnatius Metellua he substitutes the name of Mepenius. 


This knowen lecchours by experiens. 6050 

But, lord Crist, whan that it remembrith me 

Upon my youthe, and on my jolite, 

It tikelith me about myn herte-roote. 

Unto this day it doth rnyn herte boote, 

That I have had my world as in my tyme. 

But age, alias ! that al wol envenyme, 

Hath me bireft my beaute and my pith : 

Let go, farwel, the devyl go therwith. 

The flour is goon, ther nis no more to telle, 

The bran, as I best can, now mot I selle. 6060 

But yit to be mery wol I fonde. 

Now wol I telle of my fourt housbonde. 

I say, I had in herte gret despyt, 

That be of eny other had delit ; 

But he was quit, by God and by seint Joce : 

I made him of the same woode a croce, 

Nought of my body in no foul manere, 

But certeynly I made folk such chere, 

That in his owne grees I made him frie 

For anger, and for verray jalousie. 6070 

By God, in erthe I was his purgatory, 

For which I hope his soule be in glory. 

For, God it wot, he sat ful stille and song, 

Whan that his scho ful bitterly him wrong. 

Ther was no wight, sauf God and he, that wist 

6065. — seint Joce. A French saint, known in Latin as St. Judocus. 

6074. — his scho. An allusion to the story of the Roman sage, who, 
when blamed for divorcing his wife, said that a shoe might appear out- 
wardly to fit well, but no one but the wearer knew where it pinched. 


In many wyse how sore I him twist. 

He dyed whan I cam fro Jerusalem, 

And lith i-grave under the roode-bem : 

Al is his tombe nought so curious 

As was the sepulcre of him Darius, cuso 

Which that Appellus wrought so subtily. 

It nys but wast to burie him preciously. 

Let him farwel, God give his soule rest, 

He is now in his grave and in his chest. 

" Now of my fifte housbond wol I telle : 
God let his soule never come in helle ! 
And yet was he to me the moste schrewe, 
That fele I on my ribbes alle on rewe, 
And ever schal, unto myn endyng day. 
But in oure bed he was so freisch and gay, 609O 

And therwithal so wel he couthe me glose, 
Whan that he wold have my bele chose, 
That, though he had me bete on every boon, 
He couthe wynne my love right anoon. 
I trowe, I loved him beste, for that he 
Was of his love daungerous to me. 
We wymmen han, if that I schal nought lye, 
In this matier a queynte fantasie. 
Wayte, what thyng we may not lightly have, 
Therafter wol we sonnest crie and crave. 6100 

Forbeed us thing, and that desire we ; 
Pres on us fast, and thanne wol we fle. 
With (liimigcr itiitcn idle we oure ware; 
Greet pres at market makith deer chaffare, 


And to greet chep is holclen at litel pris ; 

This knowith every womman that is wys. 

My fyfth housbond, God his soule blesse, 

Which that I took for love and no richesse, 

He som tyme was a clerk of Oxenford, 

And had left scole, and went at hoom to horde 61 10 

With my gossib, duellyng in oure toun : 

God have hir soule, hir name was Alisoun. 

Sche knew myn herte and my privete, 

Bet than oure parisch prest, so mot I the. 

To hir bywreyed I my counseil al ; 

For had myn housbond pissed on a wal, 

Or don a thing that schuld have cost his lif, 

To hir, and to another worthy wyf, 

And to my neece, which I loved wel, 

I wold have told his counseil every del. si'-* 

And so I did ful ofte, God it woot, 

That made his face ofte reed and hoot 

For verry schame, and blamyd himself, that he 

Had told to me so gret a privete. 

And so byfel that oones in a Lent, 

(So ofte tyme to my gossib I went, 

For ever yit I loved to be gay, 

And for to walk in March, Averil, and May 

From hous to hous, to here sondry talis) 

That Jankyn clerk, and my gossib dame Alis, 6130 

And I myself, into the feldes went. 

Myn housbond was at Londone al that Lent ; 

1 had the bettir leysir for to pleye, 


And for to see, and eek for to be seye 

Of lusty folk ; what wist I wher my grace 

Was schapen for to be, or in what place ? 

Therfore I made my visitaciouns 

To vigiles, and to processiouns, 

To prechings eek, and to this pilgrimages, 

To pleyes of miracles, and manages, 61 10 

And wered upon my gay scarlet gytes. 

These wormes, these moughtes, ne these mytes, 

Upon my perel fretith hem never a deel, 

And wostow why? for thay were used wel. 

Now wol I telle forth what happid me : 

I say, that in the feldes walkid we, 

Til trewely we had such daliaunce 

This clerk and I, that of my purvyaunce 

I spak to him, and sayde how that he, 

If I were wydow, schulde wedde me. 615 ° 

For certeynly, I say for no bobaunce, 

Yit was I never withouten purveyaunce 

6137. — visitaciouns.' This passage appears to be au imitation of one 
cited by Tynvliitt from the Roman de la Rose, 

Souvent voisc a la mere eglise, 

Et face visitations 

Aux nopces, aux processions, 

Aux jeux, aux festes, aux caroles. 
6110. — pleyes of miracles. The miracle plays were favourite occasions 
for people to assemble together in great numbers. In a tale among my 
Latin Stories, p. 100, we are told that some pilgrims saw, in a very large 
meadow, " maximam multitudinem hominiun congregatam, quos nunc 
silentes, nunc acclamantes, nunc cachinnantes audiebant, Admirantes 
igitur quare in loco tali tanta csset honununi adanatio, eestiniabanl ibi 
spectacula celebrare quae nos miiacula appellare consuevimus." This 
is a good description of the assemblage at a miracle play. 


Of manage, ne of no thinges eeke : 

I hold a mouses hert not worth a leek, 

That hath hut oon hole to sterte to, 

And if that faile, than is al i-do. 

[I hare him on hond he had enchanted me ; 

(My dame taughte me that suhtiltee) 

And eke I sayd, I met of him all night, 

He wold han slain me, as I lay upright, 616 ° 

And all my bed was ful of veray blood ; 

But yet I hope that ye shuln do me good : 

For blood betokeneth gold, as me was taught, 

And al was false, I dremed of him right naught, 

But as I folwecl ay my dames lore, 

As wel of that as of other thinges more.] 

But now, sir, let me se, what I schal sayn : 

A ha ! by God, I have my tale agayn. 

" Whan that my fourthe housbond was on bere, 
I wept algate and made a sory cheere, 6l 70 

As wyves mooten, for it is usage ; 
And with my kerchief covered my visage ; 

61u4. — a mouses hert. This was a very common proverb. It is found 
in French : the following example is taken from a MS. of the thirteenth 
century : — 

Dolente la souris, 

Qui ne set qu'un seul pertuis. 
It also occurs in German, — 

Dass ist wol eine arme Maus, 

Die nur weiss zu einem Loch' hinaus. 
The same proverb is said of a fox in German. There was an ancient 
Latin proverb to the same effect. 

0157. — This, and the nine following lines, are omitted in the Harl. MS. 
and others. The second Cambridge MS. has them. They are here 
printed from Tvnvhitt. 


But, for that I was purveyed of a make, 

I wept but smal, and that I undertake. 

To chirche was myn housbond brought .on morwe 

With neighebors that for him made sorwe, 

And Jankyn oure clerk was oon of tho : 

As help me God, whan that I saugh him go 

After the beere, me thought he had a paire 

Of legges and of feet, so cdene and faire, 6180 

That al myn hert I gaf unto his hold. 

He was, I trowe, twenty wynter old, 

And I was fourty, if I schal say the sothe, 

But yit I had alway a coltis tothe. 

Gattothid I was, and that bycom me wel, 

I had the prynte of seynt Venus sel. 

[As helpe me God, I was a lusty oon, 

And faire, and riche, and yonge, and wel begon : 

And trewely, as myn housbonds tolde me, 

I had the best queynt that might be. 6190 

For certes I am all venerian 

In felyng, and my herte is marcian : 

Venus me gave my lust and likerousnesse, 

And Mars gave me my sturdy hardinesse.] 

Myn ascent was Taur, and Mars therinne : 

Alias, alas, that ever love was synne ! 

I folwed ay myn inclinaeioun 

6187.— The Harl. MS. omits 11. 6187—6191, and 6201—6208. The 
second Cambridge MS. is the only one I have collated which contains 
them all. The Lansd. and first Cambridge MSS. have only 11. 6187—6190. 
I have taken them from Tyrwhitt, collated with the MSS. 


By vertu of my constillaeioun : 

That made me that I couthe nought withdrawe 

My chambre of Venus from a good felawe. 6200 

[Yet have I Martes marke uppon my face, 

And also in another prive place. 

For God so wisly be my salvacioun, 

I loved never by no discretioun, 

But ever folwed myn owne appetit, 

All were he shorte, longe, blake, or whit ; 

I toke no kepe, so that he liked me, 

How povre he was, ne eek of what degre.] 

What schuld I say ? but at the monthis ende 

This joly clerk Jankyn, that was so heende, 621 

Hath weddid me with gret solempnitee, 

And to him gaf I al the lond and fee 

That ever was me give therbifore : 

But aftirward repented me ful sore. 

He nolde suffre nothing of my list. 

By God, he smot me oones with Ins fist, 

For I rent oones out of his book a lef, 

That of that strok myn eere wax al deef. 

Styborn I was, as is a lebnes, 

And of my tonge a verray jangleres, "--" 

And walk I wold, as I had don biforn, 

Fro hous to hous, although he had it sworn : 

For which he ofte tymes wolde preche, 

And me of olde Romayn gestes teche. 

How he Simplicius Gallus left his wyf, 

022-5. — Simplicius Gallus. This story is taken from Val. Max. vi, 3. 


And hir forsok for terme of al his lyf, 

Nought hut for open heedid he hir say 

Lokyng out at his dore upon a day. 

Another Eomayn told he me hy name, 

That, for his wyf was at a somer game 6230 

Without his wit} T ng, he forsok hir eeke. 

And thanne wold he upon his hook seeke 

That ilke proverhe of Ecclesiaste, 

Wher he comaundith, and forbedith faste, 

Man schal not suffre his wyf go roule ahoute. 

Than wold he say right thus withouten doute : 

Who that huyldeth his hous al of salwes, 
And priketh his blynde hors over the falwes, 
And suffrith his wyf to go seken halwes, 
Is worthy to be honged on the galwes. 

But al for nought, I sette nought an hawe < 5 '- 10 

Of his proverhe, ne of his olde sawe ; 

Ne I wold not of him corretted be. 

I hate him that my vices tellith me, 

And so doon mo, God it wot, than I. 

This made him with me wood al outerly ; 

I nolde not forbere him in no cas. 

Now wol I say yow soth, by seint Thomas, 

Why that I rent out of the book a leef, 

For which he smot me, that I was al deef. 6250 

He had a book, that gladly night and day 

6229 — Another Romayn. SemprooiuB Sophus, of whom this story 
is told hv Val. Mux. loc. cit. Valerias Maxim its was ;i favourite among 

(lie scholars of the Middle A"CS. 


For his desport he wolde rede alway. 

He clepyd it Valerye, and Theofrast, 

At which book he lough alway ful fast. 

And eek ther was som tyme a clerk at Rome, 

A cardynal, that heet seint Jerome, 

That made a book agens Jovynyan. 

In which book eek ther was Tertulyan, 

Crisippus, Tortula, and eek Helewys, 

That was abbas not fer fro Paris ; 6 - 60 

And eek the parablis of Salamon, 

Ovydes Art, and bourdes many oon ; 

And alle these were bounde in oo volume. 

And every night and day was his custume, 

Whan he had leysir and vacacioun 

From other worldes occupacioun, 

To reden in this book of wikked wyves. 

He knew of hem mo legendes and lyves, 

Than ben of goode wyves in the Bible. 

For trustith wel, it is an inpossible, 6 ^70 

That any clerk schal speke good of wyves, 

But if it be of holy seintes lyves, 

6253. — The tract of Walter Mapes against marriage, published under 
the title of Epistola Valcrii ad Rujinum, is common in manuscripts. 
Jerome, in his book contra Jovinanum, a bitter diatribe against matri- 
mony, quotes a long extract from liber aureohts Theophrasli de nuptiis. 
"As to the rest of the contents of the 'clerkes' volume, Hieronyraus 
contra J ovinianum, and Tertullian de Pallio, are sufficiently known; and 
so are the Letters of Eloisa and Abelard, the Parables of Solomon, and 
Ovid's Art of Love. I know of no Trotula, but one, whose book Curand- 
arum (cgritudinum muliebrium ante, in, et post partum, is printed int. 
Medicos antiqnos, Yen. 1517. Who is meant by Crisippus 1 cannot 
guess." — Ti/rwh iit. 


Ne of noon other wyfes never the mo. 

Who peyntid the leoun, tel me, who ? 

By God, if wommen hackle writen stories, 

As.clerkes have withinne her oratories, 

Thay wold have write of men more wickidnes, 

Than al the mark of Adam may redres. 

These children of Mercury and of Venus 

Ben in her werkyng ful contrarious. 6280 

Mercury lovith wisdom and science, 

And Venus loveth ryot and dispense. 

And for her divers disposicioun, 

Ech fallith in otheres exaltacioun. 

And thus, God wot, Mercury is desolate 

In Pisses, wher Venus is exaltate, 

And Venus faylith wher Mercury is reysed. 

Therfor no womman of clerkes is preised. 

6279 — of Mercury and of Venus. An old astrological treatise of the 
sixteenth century informs us that " Venus, .signifiefhe white men or 
browne... joy full, laughter, liberall, pleasers, dauncers, entertayners of 
women, players, perfumers, musitions, messengers of love." Mercury, 
according to the same authority, " signifieth... subtil] men, ingenious, un- 
constant, rymers, poets, advocates, orators, philosophers, soothsayers, 
arithmeticians, and busie fcllowes." 

6284 — exaltacioun. Tyrwhitt gives the following explanation of this 
term. " In the old astrology, a planet was said to be in its exaltation, when 
it was in that sign of the Zodiac in which it was supposed to exert its 
strongest influence. The opposite sign was called its dejection, as in that 
it was supposed to be weakest. To take the instance in the text, the ex- 
altation of Venus was in Pisces (see also ver. 10587), and her dejection of 
course in Virgo. But in Virgo was the exaltation of Mercury. 
She is the wcllhe and the rysynge, 
The lust, the joy, and the lykynge, 
Unto Mercury- — 
Gower, Conf. Am. 1. vii. fol. 1 17. So in ver. 10098, Cancer i. called 
Joves exaltacioun." 


The clerk whan he is old, and may nought do 

Of Venus werkis, is not worth a scho ; c '290 

Than sit he doun, and writ in his dotage, 

That wommen can nought kepe here mariage. 

But now to purpos, why I tolde the, 

That I was beten for a leef, parde. 

Upon a night Jankyn, that was oure sire, 

Rad on his book, as he sat by the fyre, 

Of Eva first, that for hir wikkidnes 

Was al mankynde brought to wrecchednes, 

[For which that Jhesu Crist himself was slayn, 

That bought us with his herte-blood agayn. 030 ° 

Lo here expresse of wommen may ye fynde, 

That woman was the losse of al mankynde.] 

Tho rad he me how Sampson left his heris 

Slepyng, his lemman kut hem with hir scheris, 

Thurgh which tresoun lost he bothe his yen. 

Tho rad he me, if that I schal not lyen, 

Of Ercules, and of his Dejanyre, 

That caused him to sette himself on fuyre. 

No thing forgat he the care and wo 

That Socrates had with his wyves tuo ; (531 ° 

How Exautipa cast pisse upon his heed. 

(!"2!>Q. — This and the three following lines are omitted in most of the 
MSS. I have consulted. 

6303. — Tho rad he. The following examples are mostly taken from 
the E pis tola l r alerii ad Rufimim, and from the Roman de la Rose. 

0311. — Exantipa. Xautippe. In the other proper names in the follow- 
ing lines I have retained the corrupt orthography of the age, as given in 
the MS. Phasipha is, of course, Tasiphae; Clydamystra, Clitemnestra ; 
Amphiores, Amphiorax; Exiphilcm, Eriphile, etc. 


This seely man sat stille, as he were deed, 

He wyped his heed, no more durst he sayn, 

But, ' Er thunder stynte ther cometh rayn.' 

Of Phasipha, that was the queen of Creete, 

For schrewednes him thought the tale sweete. 

Fy ! spek no more, it is a grisly thing, 

Of her horribil lust and her likyng. 

Of Clydemystra for hir leccherie 

That falsly made hir housbond for to dye, 63 " 20 

He rad it with ful good devocioun 

He told me eek, for what occasioun 

Amphiores at Thebes left his lif : 

Myn housbond had a legend of his \vyf 

Exiphilem, that for an ouche of gold 

ILith prively unto the Grekes told 

Wher that hir housbond hyd him in a place, 

For which he had at Thebes sory grace. 

Of Lyma told he me, and of Lucye : 

Thay bothe made her housbondes for to dye, 6 ;:: " 

That oon for love, that other was for hate. 

Lyma hir housbond on an even late 

Empoysond hath, for that sche was bis fo : 

Lucia licorous loved hir housbond so, 

For that he schuld aJway upon hir think, 

Sche gaf him such a maner love-drink. 

63 - i9. — Lyma. In the Latin story (in the Epist. I r aler. ml T&vfin.) the name 
is I/una, which appears first to have been mistaken for Limn, ami then 
written Lyma. So the scribes in 1. 6708, have read TJamit for !><uiui, 
ami afterwards written it Damyt, which is found in one of the Cambridge 



That he was deed er it was by the monve : 

And thus algates housbondes had sorwe. 

Than told he me, how oon Latumyus 

Compleigned unto his felaw Arrius, 634 ° 

That in his gardyn growed such a tre, 

On which he sayde how that his wyves thre 

Honged heniselfe for herte despitous. 

' leve brother,' quod this Arrious, 

' Gif me a plont of thilke blessid tre, 
And in my gardyn schal it plantid be.' 
Of latter date of wyves hath he red 
That some han slayn her housbondes in her bed, 
And let her lecchour dighten al the night, 
Whil that the corps lay in the nor upright : C3 50 

And some han dryven nayles in her brawn, 
Whiles thay sleepe, and thus thay han hem slayn : 
Som have hem give poysoun in her drink : 
He spak more harm than herte may bythynk. 
And therwithal he knew mo proverbes, 
Than in this world ther growen gres or herbes, 
Better is, quod he, thyn habitacioun 
Be with a leoun, or a foul dragoun, 
Than with a womman usyng for to. chyde. 
Better is, quod he, hihe in the roof abyde, 6360 

Than with au angry womman doun in a hous : 

6355. — mo proverbes. See Prov. xxi, 9, 19, and xi, 22. Tyrwhitt 
observes that the observation in 1. C364 is found in Herodotus, lib. i,p. 5. 
It is however found in various medieval writers, from whom Chaucer 
might have taken it.. 


Thay ben so wicked and so contrarious, 
Thay haten that her housbondes loven ay. 
He sayd, a womman cast hir schame away, 
Whan sche cast of hir smok ; and forthernio, 
A fair womman, but sche be chast also, 
Is lik a gold ryng in a sowes nose. 
Who wolde wene, or who wolde suppose 
The wo that in myn herte was and pyne ? 
And whan I saugh he nolde never fyne 6370 

To reden on this cursed book al night, 
Al sodeinly thre leves have I plight 
Out of this booke that he had, and eeke 
I with my fist so took him on the cheeke, 
That in oure fuyr he fel bak-ward adoun. 
And he upstert, as doth a wood leoun, 
And with his fist he smot me on the lied, 
That in the floor I lay as I were deed. 
And whan he saugh so stille that I lay, 
He was agast, and wold have fled away. 6 ^80 

Til atte last out of my swown I brayde. 
' 0, hastow slayn me, false thef ?' I sayde, 
' And for my lond thus hastow mourdrid me? 
Er I be deed, yit wol I kisse the.' 
And ncr he cam, and knelith faire adoun, 
And sayde, ' Deere suster Alisoun, 
As help me God, I schal the never smyte : 
That I have doon it is thiself to wite, 
Forgive it me, and that 1 the biseke.' 
And vet eftsones I bvt him on the cheke, 8390 


And sayde, ' Thef, thus niekil I me wreke. 

Now wol I dye., I may no lenger speke.' 

But atte last, with mochil care and wo, 

We fyl accordid by oureselven tuo : 

He gaf me al the bridil in myn hand 

To have the governaunce of hous and land, 

And of his tonge, and of his hond also, 

And made him brenne his book anoon right tlio. 

And whan I hadde geten unto me 

By maistry al the sovereynete ; 64 °o 

And that he sayde, ' Myn owne trewe wif, 

Do as the list, the term of al thy lif, 

Kepe thyn honour, and kep eek myn estat' ; 

And after that day we never had debat. 

God help me so, I was to him as kynde 

As eny wyf fro Denmark unto Inde, 

And al so trewe was he unto me : 

I pray to God that sitte in mageste 

So blesse his soule, for his mercy deere. 

Now wol I say my tale if ye wol heere." ( ' 110 

The Frere lough whan he had herd al this : 
" Now, dame," quod he, " so have I joye and blis, 

This is a long preambel of a tale." 

And whan the Sompnour herd the Frere gale, 
" Lo !" quod this Sompnour, " for Goddes amies tuo, 

A frer wol entremet him evermo : 

Lo, goode men, a flie and eek a frere 

Woln falle in every dissche and matiere. 

What spekst thou of perambulacioun ? 


What? ambil, or trot; or pees, or go sit cloun; 0J2 ° 

Thou lettest oure disport in this matere." 
"Ye, woltow so, sir sompnour!" quod the Frere : 
" Now, by my fay, I schal, er that I go, 

Telle of a sompnour such a tale or tuo, 

That alle the folk sehuln laughen in this place." 
'• Now, ellis, frere, I byschrew thy face." 

Quod this Sompnour, " and I byschrewe me, 

But if I telle tales tuo or thre 

Of freres, er I come to Sydinghorne, 

That I schal make thin herte for to morne : G43 

For wel I wot thi paciens is goon." 

Oure hoste cride, " pees, and that anoon ;" 

And sayde, " Let the womman telle hir tale. 

Ye fare as folkes that dronken ben of ale. 

Do, dame, tel forth your tale, and that is best.' 
" Al redy, sir," quod sche, " right as you lest, 

If I have licence of this worthy frere." 
" Yis, dame," quod he, " tel forth, and I schal heere 


In olde dayes of the kyng Arthour, (ilin 

Of which that Britouns speken gret honour. 

6429. — Sydinghorne. Sittingboume, about halfway between Roches- 
ter ami Canterbury. 

The wyf of Bathe* tale. The source from which Chaucer took this 
story is somewhat uncertain, but it was very probably the subject of a 
French lay. Percy printed a ballad entitled The Marriage of Sir 
Gawaine, which is founded on the same plot. The story of Florent, in 
Gower, Conf. Amant., booh i. bears a close resi mblance to it, 


Al was this loncl fulfilled of fayrie ; 

The elf-queen, with hir July compaignye, 

Daimcecl ful oft in many a grene mecle. 

Tliis was the old oppynyoun as I rede ; 

I speke of many hundrid yer ago ; 

But now can no man see noon elves mo. 

For now the grete charite and prayeres 

Of lymytours and other holy freres, 

That sechen every lond and every streem, 

As thik as motis in the sonne-heem, 6150 

Blessynge halles, chamhres, kichenes, and boures, 

Citees and burghes, castels hihe and toures, 

Thropes and bernes, shepnes and dayeries, 

That makith that ther ben no fayeries. 

For ther as wont was to walken an elf, 

Ther walkith noon but the lymytour himself, 

In undermeles and in morwenynges, 

And saith his matyns and his holy thinges 

As he goth in lxis lymytacioun. 

Wommen may now go saufly up and doun, 6 i 60 

In every bussch, and under every tre, 

Ther is non other incubus but he, 

And he ne wol doon hem no dishonour. 

And so bifel it, that this lung Arthour 
Had in his hous a lusty bacheler, 

6163. The MS. Harl, Tends tliis line, evidently incorrectly, And ne 
wol but doon hem dishonour. In the previous line, the same manuscript 
reads erroneously incumbent instead of incubus. 


That on a day com rydyng fro ryver : 
And happed, al alone as sche was horn, 
He saugh a mayde walkyng him byforn, 
Of which mayden anoon, maugre hir heed, 
By verray fors hyraft hir maydenhed. 6470 

For which oppressioun was such clamour, 
And such pursuyte unto kyng Arthour, 
That dampned was the knight and schuld be ded 
By corn's of lawe, and schuld have lost his heed, 
(Paraventure such was the statut tho,) 
But that the queen and other ladys mo 
So longe preyeden thay the kyng of grace, 
Til he his lif hath graunted in the place, 
And gaf him to the queen, al at hir wille 
To chese wethir sche wold him save or spille. 6 ^ 8( 5 
The queen thanked the kyng with al hir might ; 
And after thus sche spak unto the knight, 
Whan that sche saugh hir tyme upon a day : 
1 Thow stondest yet," quod sche, " in such array, 
That of thy lyf hastow no sewerte ; 
I graunte thy lif, if thou canst telle me, 
What thing is it that wommen most desiren : 
Be war, and keep thy nek-hon fro the iren. 
And if thou canst not tellen it anoon, 

6106.— fro ryver. From hawking. Con/., 1. 13665. Tyrwhitt has 
given several examples of the same phrase as used in French by Frois- 
sart, — " Le Comte de Flandres estoit tousjours en riviere" (v. i, c. 140) 
....King Edward " alloit chacun jour on en chace on en riviere.'' 
(ih. c. 210). 


Yet wol I give the leve for to goon 04 °o 

A twelfmonth and a day, it for to lere 

An answar suffisaunt in this matiere. 

And seurte wol I have, er that thou pace, 

Thy hody for to yelden in this place." 

Wo was this knight, and sorwfully he siked ; 

But what ? he may not doon al as him liked. 

And atte last he ches him for to wende, 

And come agein right at the yeres endc 

With swich answer as God him wolde purveye : 

And takith his leve, and wendith forth his weye. 8500 

He sekith every hous and every place, 

Wher so he hopith for to fynde grace, 

To lerne what thing wommen loven most : 

But he ne couthe arryven in no cost, 

Wher as he mighte fynde in this matiere 

Two creatures accordyng in fere. 

Some sayclen, wommen loven best richesse, 

Some sayde honour, and some sayde jolynesse, 

Some riche array,, some sayden lust on beddc, 

And ofte tyme to be wydow and wedde. 6510 

Some sayden owre herte is most i-eased 

Whan we ben y-flaterid and y-preised : 

He goth ful neigh the soth, I wil not lye; 

A man schal wynne us best with flaterye; 

0506. — Two creatures. The Harl. MS. reads, To these thinges accordyng 
in fere. 

(5512 — y-preisid. The Harl. MS. reads, y-pleased, but the reading I 
have adopted seems to give the best sense. 


And with attendaunce, and with busynesse 

Ben we y-limed both more and lesse. 

And some sayen, that we loven best 

For to be fre, and to doon as us lest, 

And that no man repreve us of oure vice, 

But say that we ben wys, and no thing nyce. 6530 

For trewely ther is noon of us alle, 

If eny wight wold claw us on the galle, 

That we nyl like, for he saith us soth : 

Assay, and he schal fynd it, that so doth. 

For be we never so vicious withinne, 

We schuln be holde wys and clene of synne. 

And some sayen, that gret delit ban we 

For to be holden stabil and secre, 

And in oon purpos stedfastly to duelle, 

And nought bywreye thing that men us telle. *>530 

But that tale is not worth a rakes stele. 

Pardy, we wymmen can right no thing hele, 

Witnes on Mida; wil ye here the tale? 

Ovyd, among his other thinges smale, 

Sayde, Mida had under his lange heris 

Growyng upon his heed tuo asses eeris; 

The whiche vice he hid, as he best might, 

Ful subtilly fro every mannes sight, 

That, save his wyf, ther wist of that nomo; 

He loved hir most, and trusted hir also; 6540 

0523. — like. Tyrwhitt rca<l> kike; but tbe best I\ISS, I have con 
Milled agree in like, <>r lake, the former being the reading oi MS. Harl. 


He prayed hir, that to no creature 
Sche schulde tellen of his disfigure. 
Sche swor him, nay, for al this world to wynne, 
Sche nolde do that vilonye, or synne, 
To make hir houshand have so foul a name : 
Sche wold not tel it for hir oughne schame. 
But natheles hir thoughte that sche dyde, 
That sche so long a counseil scholde hyde ; 
Hir thought it swal so sore ahout hir hert, 
That needely som word hir most astert; 6 550 

And sins sche dorst not tel it unto man, 
Doun to a marreys faste by sche ran, 
Til sche cam ther, hir herte was on fuyre : 
And as a bytoure humblith in the rnyre, 
Sche layd hir mouth unto the water doun. 
' Bywrey me not, thou watir, with thi souu,' 
Quod sche, ' to the I telle it, and nomo, 
Myn housbond hath long asse eeris tuo. 
Now is myn hert al hool, now is it oute, 
I might no lenger kepe it out of doute.' 656 ° 

Her may ye se, theigh we a tyme abyde, 
Yet out it moot, we can no counseil hyde. 
The remenaunt of the tale, if ye wil here, 
Redith Ovid, and ther ye mow it leere. 

This knight, of which my tale is specially, 
Whan that he saugh he might nought come therby, 
This is to say, that wommen loven most, 
Withinne his brest ful sorwful was the gost. 
But bom he goth, he might not longer sojourne, 


The clay was come, that hom-ward most he tome. C57 ° 

And in his way, it hapnyd him to ride 

In al his care, under a forest side, 

Wher as he saugh upon a daunce go 

Of ladys four and twenty, and yit mo. 

Toward this ilke daunce he drough ful yerne, 

In hope that he som wisdom schuld iderne; 

But certeynly, er he com fully there, 

Vanysshid was this daunce, he nyste where; 

No creature saugh he that bar lif, 

Sauf on the greene he saugh sittyng a wyf, (5 ' / > 80 

A fouler wight ther may no man devyse. 

Agens the knight this olde wyf gan ryse, 

And sayd, " Sir knight, heer forth lith no way. 

Tel me what ye seekyn, by your fay. 

Paradventure it may the better be : 

Thise olde folk con mochil thing," quod sche. 

; My lieve modir," quod this knight, " certayn, 
I am but ded but if that I can sayn 
What thing is it that wommen most desire: 
Couthe ye me wisse, I wold wel quyt your huyre." csoo 

• Plight me thy trouth her in myn bond," quod sche, 

■ The nexte thing that I require the, 
Thou schalt it doo, if it be in thy might, 
And I wol telle it the, er it be night." 

■ Have her my trouthe," quod the knight, " I graunte." 
'Thanne," quod sche, " 1 dar me wel avaunte, 

Thy lif is sauf, for 1 wel stonde therby, 
Upon my lif die queen wol say as I: 


Let se, which is the proudest of hem alle, 

That werith on a coverchief or a calle, cc0 ° 

That dar say nay of tiling I schal the teche. 

Let us go forth withouten more speche." 

Tho rowned sche a pistil in his eere, 

And had him to be glad, and have no fere. 

Whan thay hen comen to the court, this knight 

Sayd, be had holde his day, that he hight, 

Al redy was his answer, as he sayde. 

Ful many a noble wyf, and many a mayde, 

And many a wydow, for that thay ben wyse, 

The queen hirself sittyng as a justise, 6610 

Assemblid ben, his answer for to hiere. 

And after- ward this knight was bode appiere : 

To every wight comaundid was silence, 

And that the knight schuld telle in audience, 

What thing that worldly wommen loven best. 

This knight ne stood not stille, as doth a best, 
But to the questioun anoon answer, 1 e, 
With manly voys, that al the court it herde : 

"My liege lady, generally," quod he, 

" Wommen desiren to have soveraynte, (i(i -° 

As wel over hir housbond as over hir love, 
And for to be in maystry him above. 
This is your most desir, though ye me kille ; 
Doth as yow list, I am heer at your wille." 
In al the court ne was ther wyf ne mayde, 
Ne wydow, that contraried that he sayde ; 
But sayclcn, he was worthy have bis lit'. 


And with that word upstart that olde wif, 

Which that the knight saugh sittyng on the grene. 

" Mercy," quod sche, " my soveraign lady queene, 663 ° 
Er that your court departe, doth me right. 
I taughte this answer unto the knight, 
For which he plighte me his trouthe there, 
The firste thing that I wold him requere, 
He wold it do, if it lay in his might. 
Before this court then pray I the, sir knight," 
Quod sche, " that thou me take unto thy wif, 
For wel thou wost, that I have kept thy lif : 
If I say fals, sey nay, upon thy fey." 
This knight answerd, " Alias and waylawey ! 664 ° 
I wot right wel that such was my byhest. 
For Goddes love, as chese a new request : 
Tak al my good, and let my body go." 

" Nay," quod sche than, " I schrew us bothc tuo. 
For though that I be foule, old, and pore, 
I nolde for al the metal ne for the ore, 
That under erthe is grave, or lith above, 
But I thy wife were and eek thy love." 

"My love?" quod lie, "nay, nay, my dampnacioun. 
Alias ! that eny of my nacioun 6650 

Schuld ever so foule disparagid be !" 
But al for nought ; the ende is this, thai he 
Constreigned was, Ik- aeedes most liir wedde, 
And takith liis wyf, and goth with hir to bedde. 

Now wolden som men say paradventurej 
Thai Ini' my necgligence F '1" qo cure 


To telle yow the joye and tharray 
That at that fest was maad that ilke day. 
To which thing schortly answeren T schal, 
And say ther nas feste ne joy at al, Cfi60 

Ther nas but hevynes and mochil sorwe : 
For prively he weddyd hir in a morwe, 
And alday hudde him as doth an oule, 
So wo was him, his wyf loked so foule. 
Gret was the wo the knight had in his thought 
Whan he was with his wyf on bedde brought, 
He walwith, and he torneth to and fro. 
His olde wyf lay smylyng ever mo, 
And sayd, " cleere housbond, benedicite, 
Fareth every knight with his wyf as ye ? 6<37 ° 

Is this the lawe of king Arthures hous ? 
Is every knight of his thus daungerous ? 
I am your oughne love, and eek your wyf, 
I am sche that hath savyd your lyf, 
And certes ne dede I yow never unright. 
Why fare ye thus with me the firste night? 
Ye fare lik a man that had left his wit, 
What is my gult ? for Godes love, tel me it, 
And it schal be amendid, if that I may." 
" Amendid !" quod this knight, " alias ! nay, nay, 
It wol nought ben amendid, never mo ; 
Thow art so lothly, and so old also, 
And therto comen of so lowh a kynde, 
That litil wonder is though I walwe and wynde ; 
So wolde God, myn herte wolde bresl !" 



" Is this,'' quod sche, " the cause of your unrest?" 

" Ye, certeynly," quod he, " no wonder is !" 

" Now sire," quod sche, " I couthe amende al this, 

If that me list, er it were dayes thre, 

So wel ye mighte here yow to me. 669 ° 

But for ye speken of such gentilesse 

As is descendit out of old richesse, 

Therfor schuld ye ben holden gentil men : 

Such arrogaunce is not worth an hen. 

Lok who that is most vertuous alway, 

Prive and pert, and most entendith ay 

To do the gentil dedes that he can, 

Tak him for the grettest gentil man. 

Crist wol we clayme of him oure gentilesse, 

Nought of oure eldres for her olde richesse. 6700 

For though thay give us al her heritage, 

For which we clayme to he of high parage, 

Yit may thay not biquethe, for no thing, 

To noon of us, so vertuous lyvyng, 

That made hem gentil men y-callid be, 

And bad us folwe hem in such degre. 

Wel can the wyse poet of Florence, 

That hatte Daunt, speke of this sentence ; 

Lo, in such maner of rym is Dauntcs talc : 

Ful seeld uprisith by his braunchis smale 67I ° 

6700. — her olde. The Harl. MS. reads, for our gret richesse. 

C709. — Dauntes talc. The words of Dante [Purg. vii, 121) are:- 
Raile volte risurge per li rami 
L'humana probitate: ct questo vuole 
Quei che la da, perche da se si eliianii. 



Prowes of man, for God of his prowesse 

Wol that we claime of him our gentilesse : 

For of our auncestres we no thing clayme 

But temporal thing, that men may hurt and mayme. 

Ek every wight wot this as wel as I, 

If gentiles were plaunted naturally 

Unto a certayn lignage doun the line, 

Prive ne apert, thay wolde never fine 

To don of gentilesce the fair office, 

Thay might nought doon no vileny or vice. 6720 

Tak fuyr and her it in the derkest hous 

Bitwixe tliis and the mount Caukasous, 

And let men shit the dores, and go thenne, 

Yit wol the fuyr as fair and lighte brenne 

As twenty thousand men might it biholde ; 

His office naturel ay wol it holde, 

Up peiil on my lif, til that it dye. 

Her may ye se wel, how that genterye 

Is nought annexid to possessioun, 

Sithins folk ne doon her operacioun 6730 

Alway, as doth the fuyr, lo, in his kynde. 

For God it wot, men may ful often fynde 

A lordes sone do schame and vilonye. 

And he that wol have pris of his gentrie, 

For he was boren of a gentil hous, 

And had his eldres noble and vertuous, 

And nyl himselve doo no gentil dedes, 

Ne folw his gentil aunceter, that deed is, 

6713. — auncestres. Other MSS , with Tynvhitt, read our elder* may 
we, which is perhaps the better reading. 


He is nought geutil, be he cluk or erl ; 
For vileyn synful cleedes maketh a cherl. 6740 

For gentilnesse nys but renome 
Of thin auncestres, for her heigh bounte, 
Wliich is a straiuige thing to thy persone : 
Thy gentilesce conieth fro God alloone. 
Than comth oure verray gentilesse of grace, 
It was no thing biquethe us with oure place. 
Thinketh how nobil, as saith Valerius, 
Was thilke Tullius Hostilius, 
That out of povert ros to high noblesse. 
Redith Senek, and redith eek Boece, <573 ° 

Ther schuln ye se expresse, that no dred is, 
That he is gentil that doth gentil dedis. 
And therfor, lieve housbond, I conclude, 
Al were it that nryn auncetres wer rude, 
Yit may the highe God, and so hope I, 
Graunte me grace to lyve vertuously : 
Than am I gentil, whan that I bygynne 
To lyve vertuously, and weyven synne. 
" And ther as ye of povert me repreve, 
The heighe God, on whom that we bilieve, ,17,i0 

In wilful povert ches to lede his lif : 
And certes, every man, mayden, or wif 
May understonde, that Jhesus, heven king, 

C741. — For gentilnesse. Tyrwhitt refers to Bocthius, de Consol. hi, 
Pr. 6, for much of the reasoning here adopted by Chaucer. 

6701. — lede. The MS. Harl. has Use, which appears to have been a 
mere error of the scribe. 


Ne wold not chese a vicious lyvyng. 

Glad povert is an honest thing certayn ; 

This wol Senek and other clerkes sayn. 

Who that holt him payd of his povert, 

I hold him riche, al had he nought a schert. 

He that coveitith is a pore wight, 

For he wold have that is not in his might. 677 ° 

But he that nought hath, ne coveyteth nought to have, 

Is riche, although ye hold him hut a knave. 

Verray povert is synne proprely. 

" Juvenal saith of povert merily : 
The pore man whan he goth by the way, 
Bifore the theves he may synge and play. 
Povert is hateful good ; and, as I gesse, 
A fid gret brynger out of busynesse ; 
A gret amender eek of sapiens 

To him, that takith it in paciens. 678 ° 

Povert is this, although it seme elenge, 
Possessioun that no wight wil chalenge. 
Povert. ful often, whan a man is lowe, 
Makith him his God and eek himself to knowe. 
Povert a spectacle is, as thinkith me, 

6774. — Juvenal saith. Sat. x, 1. 22, — 

Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator. 

6777. — Povert is hateful good. This is taken from a protended dia- 
logue between the emperor Adrian and the philosopher Secundus, which 
is given in Vincent of Beauvais, Spec. Hist., lib. x, c. 71, and is not un- 
frequently found in a separate form in old manuscripts. To the question, 
" Quid est paupertas ?" the philosopher replies, " Odibile honum ; sani- 
tatis mater; remotio curarum ; sapiential repertrix ; negotium sine 
damno ; possessio absque calumnia ; sine sollicitlldine felicitas." 


Thurgh which he may his verray frendes se, 
And therfor, sir, syth that I yow nought greve, 
Of my povert no more me repreve, 

" Now sir, of elde ye repreve me : 
And certes, sir, though noon auctorite 679 ° 

Were in no book, ye gentils of honour 
Sayn, that men schuld an old wight doon favour. 
And clepe him fader, for your gentilesse ; 
And auctours I schal fynden, as I gesse. 

" Now ther that ye sayn I am foul and old. 
Than drede yow nought to ben a cokewold. 
For filthe and elde, al so mot I the, 
Ben grete wardeyns upon chastite. 
But natheles, sith I knowe your delyt, 
I schal fulfille youre worldly appetyt. gsoo 

Chese now," quod sche, "oon of these thinges tweye, 
To have me foul and old til that I deye, 
And be to yow a trewe humble wyf, 
And never yow displease in al my lyf : 
Or elles ye wol have me yong and fair, 
And take your aventure of the repair 
That schal be to your hous bycause of me, 
Or in som other place it may wel be : 
Now chese yourselven whethir that yow liketh." 
This knight avysith him, and sore sikith, 6810 

0797. — al so, or as it is commonly written, also, is the An-!" Saxon 
eahwa, or eal swa. Tyrwbitt, apparently not aware of this, lias added 
another so, not found in any of the MSS., and reads the line, — 
For filthe, and elde also, so mol 1 the. 


But atte last he sayd in this manere : 
" My lady and my love, and wif so deere, 

I putte me in your wyse governaunce, 

Chesith yourself which may be most pleasaunce 

And most honour to yow and me also, 

I do no fors the whether of the tuo : 

For as yow likith, it suffisith me." 
" Than have I gete of yow the maystry," quod sche, 
" Sith I may govern and chese as me list?" 
" Ye certis, wyf," quod he, " I hold it best." 6820 

" Kys me," quod sche, " we ben no lenger wrothe, 

For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe, 

This is to say, ye, bothe fair and good. 

I pray to God that I mot sterve wood, 

But I be to yow al so good and trewe, 

As ever was wyf, siththen the world was newe ; 

And but I be to morow as fair to seen, 

As eny lady, emperesse, or queen, 

That is bitwise thest and eek the west, 

Doth by my lyf right even as yow lest. 683 ° 

Cast up the cortyns, and look what this is." 
And whan the knyght saugh verrayly al this, 

That sche so fair was, and so yong therto, 

For joye he bent hir in his armes tuo : 

His herte bathid in a bath of blisse, 

6831. — The second Cambridge MS. reads, instead of tins line, — 
And so the} r slept tille the monve gray ; 
And than she saide, when it was day, 
" Caste up the curteyn, loke howe it is." 


A thousand tyme on rowe he gan hir kisse : 

And sche oheyed him in every thing, 

That mighte doon him pleisauns or likyng. 

And thus thay lyve unto her lyves ende 

In parfyt joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende 6810 

Houshondes meke, yonge, and freissche on bedde, 

And grace to overbyde hem that we •wedde. 

And eek I pray to Jhesus schort her lyves, 

That wil nought be governed after her wyves. 

And old and angry nygardes of despense, 

God send hem sone verray pestilence ! ° 816 



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