Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Friar and the Clerk

Index to this series

In this reading:

  • The Friar tells a tale about a summoner, who becomes sworn brother to another man. The man turns out to be a devil, but it hardly matters to the summoner, he being more lawless than the devil, who himself takes only what is rightfully his, including the summoner.

  • We are skipping the Summoner’s own tale.

  • The Clerk tells a tale of a common woman with a preternatural patience for the abuse of her noble husband, who (she thinks) has her children put to death and will take another wife. Chaucer makes disclaimers, both as the Clerk and as himself. The Clerk refers explicitly to the Epistle of James, who writes in Chapter 1,

    2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
    3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
    4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

    Griselda follows, as it were, the teachings of Epictetus, here in Chapter XI of the Encheiridion (translation of George Long):

    Never say about any thing, I have lost it, but say I have restored it. Is your child dead ? It has been restored. Is your wife dead ? She has been restored. Has your estate been taken from you ? Has not then this also been restored? But he who has taken it from me is a bad man. But what is it to you, by whose hands the giver demanded it back ? So long as he may allow you, take care of it as a thing which belongs to another, as travellers do with their inn.

    Likewise would Griselda seem to follow the example of the Zen master in “Is That So?” the third of the 101 Zen Stories:

    The Zen master Hakuin was praised by his neighbors as one living a pure life.

    A beautiful Japanese girl whose parents owned a food store lived near him. Suddenly, without any warning, her parents discovered she was with child.

    This made her parents very angry. She would not confess who the man was but after much harassment at last named Hakuin.

    In great anger, the parents went to the master. “Is that so?” was all he would say.

    After the child was born it was brought to Hakuin. By this time he had lost his reputation, which did not trouble him, but he took very good care of the child. He obtained milk from his neighbors and everything else the little one needed.

    A year later the girl-mother could stand it no longer. She told her parents the truth – that the real father of the child was a young man who worked in the fishmarket.

    The mother and father of the girl at once went to Hakuin to ask his forgiveness, to apologize at length, and to get the child back again.

    Hakuin was willing. In yielding the child, all he said was: “Is that so?”

    However, Griselda is overwhelmed with joy when she gets her children and husband back.

In the Friar’s Tale, a summoner who is mad as a hare is out to get what he can, however he can. For example, he has prostitutes who will tell him whom their clients are, so that he can take fines from them.

Out riding, he meets a yeoman who says he is a baillif from up north. Ashamed of his true calling, the summoner says he is a baillif too. The real one offers riches in his homeland. The two men swear themselves brothers.

The summoner asks the baillif his tricks. The baillif says he takes what he can, by sleight or violence.

“So do I,” says the summoner; “and by the way, what’s your name?”

“I am a fiend from hell,” says the baillif.

The summoner does not flinch, but asks about the taking of human form.

The baillif says he has won nothing yet today, but intends to. Apparently the summoner does not consider the implication. Or he does implicitly, when he plighting his troth again; but then he expects his brother devil to share all, even-Stephen.

A carter curses his three horses for being stuck; but the devil knows he doesn’t mean it, and indeed the carter blesses the horses when they pull the cart free.

When the summoner tries to extort twelvepence from an old woman, despite her plea for mercy, he bids the devil take him if he relents. She damns him too, and the devil knows it is in earnest, and thus he wins a soul.

The Clerk’s Tale would seem to be a translation of the last of the hundred stories in the Decameron (or of Petrarch’s version of this); but the ending is a bit different. The old woman in the Tale of the Wife of Bath gave us pretty nearly the conclusion of Boccaccio,

that even into the cots of the poor the heavens let fall at times spirits divine, as into the palaces of kings souls that are fitter to tend hogs than to exercise lordship over men.

For Chaucer,

This storie is seyd, nat for that wyves sholde
Folwen Grisilde as in humilitee,
For it were importable, though they wolde;
But for that every wight, in his degree,
Sholde be constant in adversitee
As was Grisilde; therfor Petrark wryteth
This storie, which with heigh style he endyteth.

The story is this. A marquis called Walter is goaded by his people into marrying. He chooses Griselda, the daughter of a poor man. Walter formally asks the father for the daughter and the daughter for herself, but there is no suggestion of refusal. Walter has Griselda stripped and dressed in new fine clothes.

Griselda gives birth to a daughter, but Walter has the baby taken away, as if to death. Griselda asks only that the girl not be exposed to birds.

Griselda gives birth to a son, and the same thing happens.

Walter tells Griselda to get the palace ready to receive a new wife for the marquis before going back to her father. Griselda welcomes the girl, only warning Walter not to treat the new wife as he did the old, since the new one does not have an impoverished background.

Walter reveals that the new wife, twelve years old, and her seven-year-old brother are his and Griselda’s children. We readers had known this all along. Griselda swoons and rejoices.


The Prologe of the Freres tale.

THIS worthy limitour, this noble Frere,  1265
He made alwey a maner louring chere
Upon the Somnour, but for honestee
No vileyns word as yet to him spak he.
But atte laste he seyde un-to the Wyf,
‘Dame,’ quod he, ‘god yeve yow right good lyf  1270
Ye han heer touched, al-so moot I thee,
In scole-matere greet difficultee;
Ye han seyd muchel thing right wel, I seye;
But dame, here as we ryden by the weye,  (10)
Us nedeth nat to speken but of game,
And lete auctoritees, on goddes name,
To preching and to scole eek of clergye.
But if it lyke to this companye,
I wol yow of a somnour telle a game.
Pardee, ye may wel knowe by the name,  1280
That of a somnour may no good be sayd;
I praye that noon of you be yvel apayd.
A somnour is a renner up and doun
With mandements for fornicacioun,  (20)
 1285And is y-bet at every tounes ende.’


Our host tho spak, ‘a! sire, ye sholde be hende
And curteys, as a man of your estaat;
In companye we wol have no debaat.
Telleth your tale, and lat the Somnour be.’


‘Nay,’ quod the Somnour, ‘lat him seye to me  1290
What so him list; whan it comth to my lot,
By god, I shal him quyten every grot.
I shal him tellen which a greet honour  (29)
It is to be a flateringe limitour; [T. 6876
And his offyce I shal him telle, y-wis.’ [T. 6879


Our host answerde, ‘pees, na-more of this.’  1296
And after this he seyde un-to the Frere,
‘Tel forth your tale, leve maister deere.’

Here endeth the Prologe of the Frere.


Here biginneth the Freres tale.

WHILOM ther was dwellinge in my contree
An erchedeken,
a man of heigh degree,  1300
That boldely dide execucioun
In punisshinge
of fornicacioun,
Of wicchecraft, and eek of bauderye,
Of diffamacioun, and avoutrye,
Of chirche-reves, and of testaments,  1305
Of contractes, and of lakke of sacraments,
And eek of many another maner cryme [T. om.
Which nedeth nat rehercen at this tyme; [T. om.
Of usure, and of symonye also.  (11)
But certes, lechours dide he grettest wo;  1310
They sholde singen, if that they were hent;
And smale tytheres weren foule y-shent.
If any persone wolde up-on hem pleyne,
Ther mighte asterte him no pecunial peyne.
For smale tythes and for smal offringe,  1315
He made the peple pitously to singe.
For er the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,
They weren in the erchedeknes book.  (20)
Thanne hadde he, thurgh his Iurisdiccioun,
Power to doon on hem correccioun.  1320
He hadde a Somnour redy to his hond,
A slyer boy was noon in Engelond;
For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
That taughte him, wher that him mighte availle.
He coude spare of lechours oon or two,  1325
To techen him to foure and twenty mo.
For thogh this Somnour wood were as an hare,
To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;  (30)
For we been out of his correccioun;

They han of us no Iurisdiccioun,  1330
Ne never shullen, terme of alle hir lyves.


‘Peter! so been the wommen of the styves,’
Quod the Somnour, ‘y-put out of my cure!’


‘Pees, with mischance and with misaventure,’
Thus seyde our host, ‘and lat him telle his tale.  1335
Now telleth forth, thogh that the Somnour gale,
Ne spareth nat, myn owene maister dere.’


This false theef, this Somnour, quod the Frere,  (40)
Hadde alwey baudes redy to his hond,

As any hauk to lure in Engelond,  1340
That tolde him al the secree that they knewe;
For hir acqueyntance was nat come of-newe.
They weren hise approwours prively;
He took him-self a greet profit therby;
His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.  1345
With-outen mandement, a lewed man
He coude somne,
on peyne of Cristes curs,
And they were gladde for to fille his purs,  (50)
And make him grete festes atte nale.
And right as Iudas hadde purses smale,  1350
And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
His maister hadde but half his duëtee.
He was, if I shal yeven him his laude,
A theef, and eek a Somnour, and a baude.
He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,  1355
That, whether
that sir Robert or sir Huwe,
Or Iakke, or Rauf, or who-so that it were,
That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere;  (60)
Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent.
And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,  1360
And somne hem to the chapitre bothe two,
And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
Thanne wolde he seye, ‘frend, I shal for thy sake
Do stryken hir out of our lettres blake;
Thee thar na-more as in this cas travaille;  1365
I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle.’
Certeyn he knew of bryberyes mo
Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
For in this world nis dogge for the bowe,
That can an hurt deer from an hool y-knowe,  1370
Bet than this Somnour knew a sly lechour,
Or an avouter, or a paramour.
And, for that was the fruit of al his rente,
Therfore on it he sette al his entente.


And so bifel, that ones on a day  1375
This Somnour, ever waiting on his pray,
Rood for to somne a widwe, an old ribybe,
Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.  (80)
And happed that he saugh bifore him ryde
A gay yeman,
under a forest-syde.  1380
A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
He hadde up-on a courtepy of grene;
An hat up-on his heed with frenges blake.


‘Sir,’ quod this Somnour, ‘hayl! and wel a-take!’
‘Wel-come,’ quod he, ‘and every good felawe  1385
Wher rydestow under this grene shawe?’
Seyde this yeman, ‘wiltow fer to day?’


This Somnour him answerde, and seyde, ‘nay;  (90)
Heer faste by,’ quod he, ‘is myn entente
To ryden, for to reysen up a rente  1390
That longeth to my lordes duëtee.’


‘Artow thanne a bailly?’ ‘Ye!’ quod he.
He dorste nat,
for verray filthe and shame,
Seye that he was a somnour, for the name.


Depardieux,’ quod this yeman, ‘dere brother,  1395
Thou art a bailly, and I am another.
I am unknowen as in this contree;
Of thyn aqueyntance I wolde praye thee,  (100)
And eek of brotherhede, if that yow leste.
I have gold and silver in my cheste;  1400
If that thee happe to comen in our shyre,
Al shal be thyn,
right as thou wolt desyre.’


‘Grantmercy,’ quod this Somnour, ‘by my feith!’
Everich in otheres hand his trouthe leith,
For to be sworne bretheren til they deye.  1405
In daliance they ryden forth hir weye.


This Somnour, which that was as ful of Iangles,
As ful of venim been thise wariangles,  (110)
And ever enquering up-on every thing,
‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘where is now your dwelling,  1410
Another day if that I sholde yow seche?’

“Wariangle” refers to a shrike or butcherbird and seems to originate as a diminutive of “wary” felon.

This yeman him answerde in softe speche,
‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘fer in the north contree,
Wher, as I hope, som-tyme I shal thee see.
Er we departe, I shal thee so wel wisse,  1415
That of myn hous ne shaltow never misse.


‘Now, brother,’ quod this Somnour, ‘I yow preye,
Teche me, whyl that we ryden by the weye,  (120)
Sin that ye been a baillif as am I,
Som subtiltee, and tel me feithfully  1420
In myn offyce how I may most winne;
And spareth nat for conscience ne sinne,

But as my brother tel me, how do ye?’


‘Now, by my trouthe, brother dere,’ seyde he,
‘As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale,  1425
My wages been ful streite and ful smale.
My lord is hard to me and daungerous,
And myn offyce is ful laborous;  (130)
And therfore by extorcions I live.
For sothe, I take al that men wol me yive;  1430
Algate, by sleyghte or by violence,
Fro yeer to yeer I winne al my dispence.
I can no bettre telle feithfully.’


‘Now, certes,’ quod this Somnour, ‘so fare I;
I spare nat to taken, god it woot,  1435
But if it be to hevy or to hoot.
What I may gete in conseil prively,
No maner conscience of that have I;  (140)
Nere myn extorcioun, I mighte nat liven,
Ne of swiche Iapes wol I nat be shriven.  1440
Stomak ne conscience ne knowe I noon;
I shrewe thise shrifte-fadres everichoon.
Wel be we met, by god and by seint Iame!
But, leve brother, tel me than thy name,
Quod this Somnour; and in this mene-whyle,  1445
This yeman gan a litel for to smyle.


‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘wiltow that I thee telle?
I am a feend, my dwelling is in helle.  (150)
And here I ryde about my purchasing,
To wite wher men wolde yeve me any thing.  1450
My purchas is theffect of al my rente.
Loke how thou rydest for the same entente,
To winne good, thou rekkest never how;

Right so fare I, for ryde wolde I now
 1455Un-to the worldes ende for a preye.’

The Summoner is evidently not shocked to have become brothers with a fiend of hell.

‘A,’ quod this Somnour, ‘benedicite, what sey ye?
I wende ye were a yeman trewely.
Ye han a mannes shap as wel as I;  (160)
Han ye figure than determinat
In helle,
ther ye been in your estat?’  1460


Nay, certeinly,’ quod he, ‘ther have we noon;
But whan us lyketh, we can take us oon,
Or elles make yow seme we ben shape
Som-tyme lyk a man, or lyk an ape;
Or lyk an angel can I ryde or go.  1465
It is no wonder thing thogh it be so;
A lousy Iogelour can deceyve thee,
 (170)And pardee, yet can I more craft than he.

Is it odd for a devil to say “pardee,” par Dieu, “by God”? Below he will say he and his kind are God’s instruments.

‘Why,’ quod the Somnour, ‘ryde ye thanne or goon
 1470In sondry shap, and nat alwey in oon?’


‘For we,’ quod he, ‘wol us swich formes make
As most able is our preyes for to take.’


What maketh yow to han al this labour?


Ful many a cause, leve sir Somnour,
Seyde this feend, ‘but alle thing hath tyme.  1475
The day is short, and it is passed pryme,
And yet ne wan I no-thing in this day.
I wol entende to winnen, if I may,
And nat entende our wittes to declare.
For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare  1480
To understonde,
al-thogh I tolde hem thee.
But, for thou axest why labouren we;
For, som-tyme, we ben goddes instruments,
And menes to don his comandements,
Whan that him list, up-on his creatures,  1485
In divers art and in divers figures.
With-outen him we have no might, certayn,
If that him list to stonden ther-agayn.
And som-tyme, at our prayere, han we leve
Only the body and nat the soule greve;  1490
Witnesse on Iob, whom that we diden wo.
And som-tyme han we might of bothe two,
This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.
And somtyme be we suffred for to seke
Up-on a man, and doon his soule unreste,
And nat his body, and al is for the beste.
Whan he withstandeth our temptacioun,
It is a cause of his savacioun;  (200)
Al-be-it that it was nat our entente

He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde him hente.  1500
And som-tyme be we servant un-to man,
As to the erchebisshop Seint Dunstan,
And to the apostles servant eek was I.’

According to Robinson, “The allusion to St. Dunstan has not been explained.” However, there’s a story that Dunstan invested in barley for beer, then lent his soul to the devil for three nights of frost, May 19–21, to kill the blossoms that would otherwise become apples for cider. His feast is May 19.

We are given the example that God allowed the devil to attack Job’s body. Who was attacked in both body and soul? And who in soul alone – Jesus Christ himself?

‘Yet tel me,’ quod the Somnour, ‘feithfully,
Make ye yow newe bodies thus alway  1505
Of elements?
’ the feend answerde, ‘nay;
Som-tyme we feyne, and som-tyme we aryse
With dede bodies in ful sondry wyse,
And speke as renably and faire and wel
As to the Phitonissa dide Samuel.  1510
And yet wol som men seye it was nat he;
I do no fors of your divinitee.
But o thing warne I thee, I wol nat Iape,
Thou wolt algates wite how we ben shape;

Thou shalt her-afterward, my brother dere,  1515
Com ther thee nedeth nat of me to lere.
For thou shalt by thyn owene experience
Conne in a chayer rede of this sentence  (220)
Bet than Virgyle, whyl he was on lyve,
Or Dant also; now lat us ryde blyve.  1520
For I wol holde companye with thee
Til it be so, that thou forsake me.


‘Nay,’ quod this Somnour, ‘that shal nat bityde;
I am a yeman, knowen is ful wyde;
My trouthe wol I holde as in this cas.  1525
For though thou were the devel Sathanas,
My trouthe wol I holde to my brother,
As I am sworn, and ech of us til other  (230)
For to be trewe brother in this cas;
And bothe we goon abouten our purchas.  1530
Tak thou thy part, what that men wol thee yive,
And I shal myn; thus may we bothe live.
And if that any of us have more than other,
Lat him be trewe, and parte it with his brother.

We were told in in 1327 that the summoner was mad as a hare. Who else could think of being a “false thief” (line 1338), of giving his master only half his due (line 1352), and yet think a devil would keep a bargain of sharing 50-50?

But then, how could Dunstan make a bargain with the devil?

‘I graunte,’ quod the devel, ‘by my fey.’  1535
And with that word they ryden forth hir wey.
And right at the entring of the tounes ende,
To which this Somnour shoop him for to wende,  (240)
They saugh a cart, that charged was with hey,
Which that a carter droof forth in his wey.
Deep was the wey, for which the carte stood.
The carter smoot, and cryde, as he were wood,
‘Hayt, Brok! hayt, Scot! what spare ye for the stones?
The feend,’ quod he, ‘yow fecche body and bones,
As ferforthly as ever were ye foled  1545
So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!
The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey!’


This Somnour seyde, ‘heer shal we have a pley;’  (250)
And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,
Ful prively, and rouned in his ere:  1550
‘Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith;
Herestow nat how that the carter seith?
Hent it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,
Bothe hey and cart, and eek hise caples three.’


‘Nay,’ quod the devel, ‘god wot, never a deel;  1555
It is nat his entente, trust me weel.
Axe him thy-self, if thou nat trowest me,
 (260)Or elles stint a while, and thou shalt see.’


This carter thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
And they bigonne drawen and to-stoupe;  1560
‘Heyt, now!’ quod he, ‘ther Iesu Crist yow blesse,
And al his handwerk, bothe more and lesse!
That was wel twight, myn owene lyard boy!
I pray god save thee and seynt Loy!
 1565Now is my cart out of the slow, pardee!’


‘Lo! brother,’ quod the feend, ‘what tolde I thee?
Heer may ye see, myn owene dere brother,
The carl spak oo thing, but he thoghte another.  (270)
Lat us go forth abouten our viage;
 1570Heer winne I no-thing up-on cariage.’


Whan that they comen som-what out of toune,
This Somnour to his brother gan to roune,
‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘heer woneth an old rebekke,
That hadde almost as lief to lese hir nekke
As for to yeve a peny of hir good.  1575
I wol han twelf pens, though that she be wood,
Or I wol sompne hir un-to our offyce;
And yet, god woot, of hir knowe I no vyce.  (280)
But for thou canst nat, as in this contree,
 1580Winne thy cost, tak heer ensample of me.


This Somnour clappeth at the widwes gate.
‘Com out,’ quod he, ‘thou olde viritrate!
I trowe thou hast som frere or preest with thee!’


‘Who clappeth?’ seyde this widwe, ‘benedicite!
 1585God save you, sire, what is your swete wille?’


‘I have,’ quod he, ‘of somonce here a bille;
Up peyne of cursing, loke that thou be
To-morn bifore the erchedeknes knee  (290)
Tanswere to the court of certeyn thinges.’


‘Now, lord,’ quod she, ‘Crist Iesu, king of kinges,  1590
So wisly helpe me, as I ne may.
I have been syk, and that ful many a day.
I may nat go so fer,’ quod she, ‘ne ryde,
But I be deed, so priketh it in my syde.
May I nat axe a libel, sir Somnour,  1595
And answere there, by my procutour,
To swich thing as men wol opposen me?’

Libel”: written statement in which a plaintiff in certain courts sets forth the cause of action or the relief sought.

‘Yis,’ quod this Somnour, ‘pay anon, lat se,  (300)
Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquyte.

I shall no profit han ther-by but lyte;  1600
My maister hath the profit, and nat I.
Com of, and lat me ryden hastily;
Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarie.’


‘Twelf pens,’ quod she, ‘now lady Seinte Marie
So wisly help me out of care and sinne,  1605
This wyde world thogh that I sholde winne,
Ne have I nat twelf pens with-inne myn hold.
Ye knowen wel that I am povre and old;  (310)
Kythe your almesse on me povre wrecche.

“Kythe” make known (related to “[un]couth” and “can”).

‘Nay than,’ quod he, ‘the foule feend me fecche  1610
If I thexcuse,
though thou shul be spilt!’

He damns himself! The devil will focus on Mabel’s damnation of him.

‘Alas,’ quod she, ‘god woot, I have no gilt.


‘Pay me,’ quod he, ‘or by the swete seinte Anne,
As I wol bere awey thy newe panne
For dette,
which that thou owest me of old,  1615
Whan that thou madest thyn housbond cokewold,
I payde at hoom for thy correccioun.’


‘Thou lixt,’ quod she, ‘by my savacioun  (320)
Ne was I never er now, widwe ne wyf,
Somoned un-to your court in al my lyf;
Ne never I nas but of my body trewe!
Un-to the devel blak and rough of hewe
Yeve I thy body and my panne also!


And whan the devel herde hir cursen so
Up-on hir knees, he seyde in this manere,  1625
‘Now Mabely, myn owene moder dere,
Is this your wil in ernest, that ye seye?’


‘The devel,’ quod she, ‘so fecche him er he deye,  (330)
And panne and al, but he wol him repente!


Nay, olde stot, that is nat myn entente, 1630
Quod this Somnour, ‘for to repente me,
For any thing that I have had of thee;
I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth!’


‘Now, brother,’ quod the devel, ‘be nat wrooth;
Thy body and this panne ben myne by right.  1635
Thou shalt with me to helle yet to-night,
Where thou shalt knowen of our privetee
More than a maister of divinitee:’  (340)
And with that word this foule feend him hente;
Body and soule, he with the devel wente  1640
Wher-as that somnours han hir heritage.
And god, that maked after his image
Mankinde, save and gyde us alle and some;
And leve this Somnour good man to bicome!


Lordinges, I coude han told yow, quod this Frere,  1645
Hadde I had leyser for this Somnour here,
After the text of Crist [and] Poul and Iohn,
And of our othere doctours many oon,  (350)
Swiche peynes, that your hertes mighte agryse,
Al-be-it so, no tonge may devyse,  1650
Thogh that I mighte a thousand winter telle,
The peyne of thilke cursed hous of helle.
But, for to kepe us fro that cursed place,
Waketh, and preyeth Iesu for his grace
So kepe us fro the temptour Sathanas.
Herketh this word, beth war as in this cas;
The leoun sit in his await alway
To slee the innocent, if that he may.  (360)
Disposeth ay your hertes to withstonde
The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.  1660
He may nat tempten yow over your might;
For Crist wol be your champion and knight.
And prayeth that thise Somnours hem repente
Of hir misdedes, er that the feend hem hente.

Here endeth the Freres tale.


Here folweth the Prologe of the Clerkes Tale of Oxenford.

‘SIR clerk of Oxenford,’ our hoste sayde,
‘Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde,
Were newe spoused, sitting at the bord;
This day ne herde I of your tonge a word.
I trowe ye studie aboute som sophyme,  5
But Salomon seith, “every thing hath tyme.”


‘For goddes sake, as beth of bettre chere,
It is no tyme for to studien here.
Telle us som mery tale, by your fey;

For what man that is entred in a pley,  10
He nedes moot unto the pley assente.
But precheth nat, as freres doon in Lente,
To make us for our olde sinnes wepe,
Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.’


‘Telle us som mery thing of aventures;—  15
Your termes, your colours, and your figures,
Kepe hem in stoor til so be ye endyte
Heigh style, as whan that men to kinges wryte.
Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, I yow preye,
That we may understonde what ye seye.


This worthy clerk benignely answerde,
‘Hoste,’ quod he, ’I am under your yerde;
Ye han of us as now the governaunce,
And therfor wol I do yow obeisaunce,
As fer as reson axeth, hardily.  25
I wol yow telle a tale which that I
Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk,

As preved by his wordes and his werk.
He is now deed and nayled in his cheste,
I prey to god so yeve his soule reste.  30


Fraunceys Petrark, the laureat poete,
Highte this clerk, whos rethoryke sweete
Enlumined al Itaille of poetrye,
As Linian dide of philosophye
Or lawe, or other art particuler;  35
But deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer
But as it were a twinkling of an yë,
Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dyë.


But forth to tellen of this worthy man,
That taughte me this tale, as I bigan,  40
I seye that first with heigh style he endyteth,
Er he the body of his tale wryteth,
A proheme, in the which discryveth he
Pemond, and of Saluces the contree,
And speketh of Apennyn, the hilles hye,  45
That been the boundes of West Lumbardye,
And of Mount Vesulus in special,
Where as the Poo, out of a welle smal,
Taketh his firste springing and his sours,
That estward ay encresseth in his cours  50
To Emelward, to Ferrare, and Venyse:
The which a long thing were to devyse.
And trewely, as to my Iugement,
Me thinketh it a thing impertinent,
Save that he wol conveyen his matere:  55
But this his tale, which that ye may here.’



Here biginneth the Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.

THER is, at the west syde of Itaille,
Doun at the rote of Vesulus the colde,
A lusty playne, habundant of vitaille,
Wher many a tour and toun thou mayst biholde,  60
That founded were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many another delitable sighte,
And Saluces this noble contree highte.


A markis whylom lord was of that londe,
As were his worthy eldres him bifore;  65
And obeisant and redy to his honde  (10)
Were alle his liges, bothe lasse and more.
Thus in delyt he liveth, and hath don yore,
Biloved and drad, thurgh favour of fortune,
 70Bothe of his lordes and of his commune.


Therwith he was, to speke as of linage,
The gentilleste y-born of Lumbardye,
A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curteisye;
Discreet y-nogh his contree for to gye,  75
Save in somme thinges that he was to blame,  (20)
And Walter was this yonge lordes name.

Shall we review what the old woman said about gentility in the Tale of the Wife of Bath?

I blame him thus, that he considereth noght
In tyme cominge what mighte him bityde,

But on his lust present was al his thoght,  80
As for to hauke and hunte on every syde;
Wel ny alle othere cures leet he slyde,
And eek he nolde, and that was worst of alle,
Wedde no wyf,
for noght that may bifalle.


Only that point his peple bar so sore,  85
That flokmele on a day they to him wente,
And oon of hem, that wysest was of lore,
Or elles that the lord best wolde assente
That he sholde telle him what his peple mente,
Or elles coude he shewe wel swich matere,  90
He to the markis seyde as ye shul here.

There are “flockmeal, stoundmeal, piecemeal,” the second element meaning something like by measure of (a stound is a time).

‘O noble markis, your humanitee
Assureth us and yeveth us hardinesse,
As ofte as tyme is of necessitee
That we to yow mowe telle our hevinesse;  95
Accepteth, lord, now for your gentillesse,  (40)
That we with pitous herte un-to yow pleyne,
And lete your eres nat my voys disdeyne.’


‘Al have I noght to done in this matere
More than another man hath in this place,  100
Yet for as muche as ye, my lord so dere,
Han alwey shewed me favour and grace,
I dar the better aske of yow a space
Of audience, to shewen our requeste,
 105And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow leste.’


‘For certes, lord, so wel us lyketh yow  (50)
And al your werk and ever han doon, that we
Ne coude nat us self devysen how
We mighte liven in more felicitee,
Save o thing, lord, if it your wille be,  110
That for to been a wedded man yow leste,

Than were your peple in sovereyn hertes reste.’


‘Boweth your nekke under that blisful yok
Of soveraynetee, noght of servyse,
Which that men clepeth spousaille or wedlok;  115
And thenketh, lord, among your thoghtes wyse,  (60)
How that our dayes passe in sondry wyse;
For though we slepe or wake, or rome, or ryde,
Ay fleeth the tyme, it nil no man abyde.


‘And though your grene youthe floure as yit,  120
In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon,
And deeth manaceth every age, and smit
In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon:
And al so certein as we knowe echoon
That we shul deye, as uncerteyn we alle  125
 (70)Been of that day whan deeth shal on us falle.


‘Accepteth than of us the trewe entente,
That never yet refuseden your heste,
And we wol, lord, if that ye wol assente,
Chese yow a wyf
in short tyme, atte leste,  130
Born of the gentilleste and of the meste
Of al this lond, so that it oghte seme
Honour to god and yow, as we can deme.’


‘Deliver us out of al this bisy drede,
And tak a wyf, for hye goddes sake;  135
For if it so bifelle, as god forbede,  (80)
That thurgh your deeth your linage sholde slake,

And that a straunge successour sholde take
Your heritage, o! wo were us alyve!
 140Wherfor we pray you hastily to wyve.’


Hir meke preyere and hir pitous chere
Made the markis herte han pitee.
‘Ye wol,’ quod he, ‘myn owene peple dere,
To that I never erst thoghte streyne me.
I me reioysed of my libertee,  145
That selde tyme is founde in mariage;  (90)
Ther I was free, I moot been in servage.’


‘But nathelees I see your trewe entente,
And truste upon your wit, and have don ay;
Wherfor of my free wil I wol assente  150
To wedde me,
as sone as ever I may.
But ther-as ye han profred me to-day
To chese me a wyf, I yow relesse
That choys, and prey yow of that profre cesse.’


‘For god it woot, that children ofte been  155
Unlyk her worthy eldres hem bifore;
Bountee comth al of god, nat of the streen
Of which they been engendred and y-bore;
I truste in goddes bountee, and therfore
My mariage and myn estaat and reste  160
I him bitake;
he may don as him leste.’

A theme in the Tale of the Wife of Bath.

‘Lat me alone in chesinge of my wyf,
That charge up-on my bak I wol endure;
But I yow preye, and charge up-on your lyf,
That what wyf that I take, ye me assure  165
To worshipe hir, whyl that hir lyf may dure,  (110)
In word and werk, bothe here and everywhere,
As she an emperoures doghter were.’


‘And forthermore, this shal ye swere, that ye
Agayn my choys shul neither grucche ne stryve;
For sith I shal forgoon my libertee
At your requeste, as ever moot I thryve,
Ther as myn herte is set, ther wol I wyve;
And but ye wole assente in swich manere,
 175I prey yow, speketh na-more of this matere.’


With hertly wil they sworen, and assenten  (120)
To al this thing, ther seyde no wight nay;
Bisekinge him of grace, er that they wenten,
That he wolde graunten hem a certein day
Of his spousaille,
as sone as ever he may;  180
For yet alwey the peple som-what dredde
Lest that this markis no wyf wolde wedde.


He graunted hem a day, swich as him leste,
On which he wolde be wedded sikerly,
And seyde, he dide al this at hir requeste;  185
And they, with humble entente, buxomly,  (130)
Knelinge up-on her knees ful reverently
Him thanken alle, and thus they han an ende
Of hir entente, and hoom agayn they wende.


And heer-up-on he to his officeres  190
Comaundeth for the feste to purveye,
And to his privee knightes and squyeres
Swich charge yaf, as him liste on hem leye;
And they to his comandement obeye,
And ech of hem doth al his diligence  195
 (140)To doon un-to the feste reverence.


Explicit prima pars. Incipit secunda pars.

Noght fer fro thilke paleys honurable
Ther-as this markis shoop his mariage,
Ther stood a throp, of site delitable,
In which that povre folk of that village  200
Hadden hir bestes and hir herbergage,
And of hir labour took hir sustenance
After that the erthe yaf hem habundance.


Amonges thise povre folk ther dwelte a man
Which that was holden povrest of hem alle;
But hye god som tyme senden can  (150)
His grace in-to a litel oxes stalle:
Ianicula men of that throp him calle.
A doghter hadde he,
fair y-nogh to sighte,
 210And Grisildis this yonge mayden highte.


But for to speke of vertuous beautee,
Than was she oon the faireste under sonne;
For povreliche y-fostred up was she,
No likerous lust was thurgh hir herte y-ronne;
Wel ofter of the welle than of the tonne  215
She drank, and for she wolde vertu plese,  (160)
She knew wel labour, but non ydel ese.


But thogh this mayde tendre were of age,
Yet in the brest of hir virginitee
Ther was enclosed rype and sad corage;  220
And in greet reverence and charitee
Hir olde povre fader fostred she;
A fewe sheep spinning on feeld she kepte,
She wolde noght been ydel til she slepte.


And whan she hoomward cam, she wolde bringe  225
Wortes or othere herbes tymes ofte,  (170)
The whiche she shredde and seeth for hir livinge,
And made hir bed ful harde and no-thing softe;

And ay she kepte hir fadres lyf on-lofte
With everich obeisaunce and diligence  230
That child may doon to fadres reverence.


Up-on Grisilde, this povre creature,
Ful ofte sythe this markis sette his yë
As he on hunting rood paraventure;
And whan it fil that he mighte hir espye,  235
He noght with wantoun loking of folye  (180)
His yen caste on hir, but in sad wyse
Up-on hir chere he wolde him ofte avyse,


Commending in his herte hir wommanhede,
And eek hir vertu, passing any wight  240
Of so yong age, as wel in chere as dede.
For thogh the peple have no greet insight
In vertu, he considered ful right
Hir bountee, and disposed that he wolde
 245Wedde hir only,
if ever he wedde sholde.


The day of wedding cam, but no wight can  (190)
Telle what womman that it sholde be;

For which merveille wondred many a man,
And seyden, whan they were in privetee,
‘Wol nat our lord yet leve his vanitee?  250
Wol he nat wedde? allas, allas the whyle!
Why wol he thus him-self and us bigyle?’


But natheles this markis hath don make
Of gemmes, set in gold and in asure,
Broches and ringes, for Grisildis sake,  255
And of hir clothing took he the mesure  (200)
By a mayde, lyk to hir stature,
And eek of othere ornamentes alle
That un-to swich a wedding sholde falle.


The tyme of undern of the same day  260
Approcheth, that this wedding sholde be;
And al the paleys put was in array,
Bothe halle and chambres, ech in his degree;
Houses of office stuffed with plentee
Ther maystow seen of deyntevous vitaille,  265
 (210)That may be founde, as fer as last Itaille.


This royal markis, richely arrayed,
Lordes and ladyes in his companye,
The whiche unto the feste were y-prayed,
And of his retenue the bachelrye,  270
With many a soun of sondry melodye,
Un-to the village, of the which I tolde,
In this array the righte wey han holde.


Grisilde of this, god woot, ful innocent,
That for hir shapen was al this array,  275
To fecchen water at a welle is went,  (220)
And cometh hoom as sone as ever she may.
For wel she hadde herd seyd, that thilke day
The markis sholde wedde, and, if she mighte,
 280She wolde fayn han seyn som of that sighte.


She thoughte, ‘I wol with othere maydens stonde,
That been my felawes, in our dore, and see
The markisesse, and therfor wol I fonde
To doon at hoom, as sone as it may be,
The labour which that longeth un-to me;  285
And than I may at leyser hir biholde,  (230)
If she this wey un-to the castel holde.’


And as she wolde over hir threshfold goon,
The markis cam and gan hir for to calle;
And she sette doun hir water-pot anoon  290
Bisyde the threshfold, in an oxes stalle,
And doun up-on hir knees she gan to falle,
And with sad contenance kneleth stille
Til she had herd what was the lordes wille.


This thoughtful markis spak un-to this mayde  295
Ful sobrely, and seyde in this manere,  (240)
Wher is your fader, Grisildis?’ he sayde,
And she with reverence, in humble chere,
Answerde, ‘lord, he is al redy here.’
And in she gooth with-outen lenger lette,  300
And to the markis she hir fader fette.


He by the hond than took this olde man,
And seyde thus, whan he him hadde asyde,
‘Ianicula, I neither may ne can
Lenger the plesance of myn herte hyde.  305
If that thou vouche-sauf, what-so bityde,  (250)
Thy doghter wol I take, er that I wende,
As for my wyf, un-to hir lyves ende.’


‘Thou lovest me, I woot it wel, certeyn,
And art my feithful lige man y-bore;  310
And al that lyketh me, I dar wel seyn
It lyketh thee, and specially therfore
Tel me that poynt that I have seyd bifore,
If that thou wolt un-to that purpos drawe,
 315To take me as for thy sone-in-lawe?


This sodeyn cas this man astoned so,  (260)
That reed he wex, abayst, and al quaking
He stood; unnethes seyde he wordes mo,
But only thus: ‘lord,’ quod he, ‘my willing
Is as ye wole,
ne ayeines your lyking  320
I wol no-thing; ye be my lord so dere;
Right as yow lust governeth this matere.’

Walter then is an absolute dictator? Has her father no notion that Griselda has a say in whom she marries?

‘Yet wol I,’ quod this markis softely,
‘That in thy chambre I and thou and she
Have a collacion, and wostow why?  325
For I wol axe if it hir wille be  (270)
To be my wyf,
and reule hir after me;
And al this shal be doon in thy presence,
I wol noght speke out of thyn audience.’

Walter himself has such a notion.

And in the chambre whyl they were aboute  330
Hir tretis, which as ye shal after here,
The peple cam un-to the hous with-oute,
And wondred hem in how honest manere
And tentifly she kepte hir fader dere.
But outerly Grisildis wondre mighte,  335
 (280)For never erst ne saugh she swich a sighte.


No wonder is thogh that she were astoned
To seen so greet a gest come in that place;
She never was to swiche gestes woned,
For which she loked with ful pale face.  340
But shortly forth this tale for to chace,
Thise arn the wordes that the markis sayde
To this benigne verray feithful mayde.


‘Grisilde,’ he seyde, ‘ye shul wel understonde
It lyketh to your fader and to me  345
That I yow wedde, and eek it may so stonde,  (290)
As I suppose, ye wol that it so be.
But thise demandes axe I first,’ quod he,
‘That, sith it shal be doon in hastif wyse,
Wol ye assente, or elles yow avyse? 350

He gives her a choice …

‘I seye this, be ye redy with good herte
To al my lust, and that I frely may,
As me best thinketh,
do yow laughe or smerte,
And never ye to grucche it, night ne day?
And eek whan I sey “ye,” ne sey nat “nay,”  355
Neither by word ne frowning contenance;  (300)
Swer this, and here I swere our alliance.’

… but the choice is whether to be his slave.

Wondring upon this word, quaking for drede,
She seyde,
‘lord, undigne and unworthy
Am I to thilke honour that ye me bede;  360
But as ye wol your-self, right so wol I.
And heer I swere that never willingly
In werk ne thoght I nil yow disobeye,

For to be deed, though me were looth to deye.’


‘This is y-nogh, Grisilde myn!’ quod he.  365
And forth he gooth with a ful sobre chere  (310)
Out at the dore, and after that cam she,
And to the peple he seyde in this manere,
This is my wyf,’ quod he, ‘that standeth here.
Honoureth hir, and loveth hir, I preye,  370
Who-so me loveth;
ther is na-more to seye.’

The first line of this stanza will be repeated as line 1051, the first of its stanza, when Griselda will have passed the more thorough test.

And for that no-thing of hir olde gere
She sholde bringe in-to his hous, he bad
That wommen sholde dispoilen hir right there;
Of which thise ladyes were nat right glad  375
To handle hir clothes wher-in she was clad.
But natheles this mayde bright of hewe
Fro foot to heed they clothed han al newe.

Chaucer is not so explicit as Boccaccio, who says,

He then asked her, whether, if he took her to wife, she would study to comply with his wishes, and be not wroth, no matter what he might say or do, and be obedient, with not a few other questions of a like sort: to all which she answered, ay. Whereupon Gualtieri took her by the hand, led her forth, and before the eyes of all his company, and as many other folk as were there, caused her to strip naked, and let bring the garments that he had had fashioned for her, and had her forthwith arrayed therein, and upon her unkempt head let set a crown …

Hir heres han they kembd, that lay untressed
Ful rudely, and with hir fingres smale  380
A corone on hir heed they han y-dressed,
And sette hir ful of nowches grete and smale;
Of hir array what sholde I make a tale?
Unnethe the peple hir knew for hir fairnesse,
 385Whan she translated was in swich richesse.


This markis hath hir spoused with a ring  (330)
Broght for the same cause, and than hir sette
Up-on an hors, snow-whyt and wel ambling,
And to his paleys, er he lenger lette,
With Ioyful peple that hir ladde and mette,  390
Conveyed hir, and thus the day they spende
In revel, til the sonne gan descende.


And shortly forth this tale for to chace,
I seye that to this newe markisesse
God hath swich favour sent hir of his grace,  395
That it ne semed nat by lyklinesse  (340)
That she was born and fed in rudenesse,

As in a cote or in an oxe-stalle,
But norished in an emperoures halle.


To every wight she woxen is so dere  400
And worshipful, that folk ther she was bore
And from hir birthe knewe hir yeer by yere,
Unnethe trowed they, but dorste han swore
That to Ianicle, of which I spak bifore,
She doghter nas, for, as by coniecture,  405
 (350)Hem thoughte she was another creature.


For thogh that ever vertuous was she,
She was encressed in swich excellence
Of thewes gode, y-set in heigh bountee,
And so discreet and fair of eloquence,  410
So benigne and so digne of reverence,
And coude so the peples herte embrace,
That ech hir lovede that loked on hir face.


Noght only of Saluces in the toun
Publiced was the bountee of hir name,  415
But eek bisyde in many a regioun,  (360)
If oon seyde wel, another seyde the same;
So spradde of hir heigh bountee the fame,
That men and wommen, as wel yonge as olde,
 420Gon to Saluce, upon hir to biholde.


Thus Walter lowly, nay but royally,
Wedded with fortunat honestetee,
In goddes pees liveth ful esily
At hoom, and outward grace y-nogh had he;
And for he saugh that under low degree  425
Was ofte vertu hid,
the peple him helde  (370)
A prudent man, and that is seyn ful selde.


Nat only this Grisildis thurgh hir wit
Coude al the feet of wyfly hoomlinesse,
But eek, whan that the cas requyred it,  430
The commune profit coude she redresse.

Ther nas discord, rancour, ne hevinesse
In al that lond, that she ne coude apese,
And wysly bringe hem alle in reste and ese.


Though that hir housbonde absent were anoon,  435
If gentil men, or othere of hir contree  (380)
Were wrothe, she wolde bringen hem atoon;

So wyse and rype wordes hadde she,
And Iugements of so greet equitee,
That she from heven sent was, as men wende,  440
Peple to save and every wrong tamende.


Nat longe tyme after that this Grisild
Was wedded, she a doughter hath y-bore,
Al had hir lever have born a knave child.
Glad was this markis and the folk therfore;  445
For though a mayde child come al bifore,  (390)
She may unto a knave child atteyne
By lyklihed, sin she nis nat bareyne.


Explicit secunda pars. Incipit tercia pars.

Ther fil, as it bifalleth tymes mo,
Whan that this child had souked but a throwe,  450
This markis in his herte longeth so
To tempte his wyf, hir sadnesse for to knowe,

That he ne mighte out of his herte throwe
This merveillous desyr, his wyf tassaye,
 455Needless, god woot, he thoughte hir for taffraye.

Sadness is something like firmness or trueness here.

He hadde assayed hir y-nogh bifore,  (400)
And fond hir ever good; what neded it
Hir for to tempte and alwey more and more?
Though som men preise it for a subtil wit,
But as for me, I seye that yvel it sit  460
Tassaye a wyf whan that it is no nede,

And putten her in anguish and in drede.


For which this markis wroghte in this manere;
He cam alone a-night, ther as she lay,
With sterne face and with ful trouble chere,  465
And seyde thus, ‘Grisild,’ quod he, ‘that day  (410)
That I yow took out of your povre array,
And putte yow in estaat of heigh noblesse,
Ye have nat that forgeten, as I gesse.’


‘I seye, Grisild, this present dignitee,  470
In which that I have put yow, as I trowe,
Maketh yow nat foryetful for to be
That I yow took in povre estaat ful lowe
For any wele ye moot your-selven knowe.

Tak hede of every word that I yow seye,  475
 (420)Ther is no wight that hereth it but we tweye.’

Would we not today disapprove of a husband’s saying such things? Jane Austen would seem to show such disapproval in Pride and Prejudice.

‘Ye woot your-self wel, how that ye cam here
In-to this hous, it is nat longe ago,
And though to me that ye be lief and dere,
Un-to my gentils ye be no-thing so;  480
They seyn, to hem it is greet shame and wo
For to be subgets and ben in servage
To thee, that born art of a smal village.

And namely, sith thy doghter was y-bore,
Thise wordes han they spoken doutelees;  485
But I desyre, as I have doon bifore,  (430)
To live my lyf with hem in reste and pees;
I may nat in this caas be recchelees.
I moot don with thy doghter for the beste,
 490Nat as I wolde, but as my peple leste.


‘And yet, god wot, this is ful looth to me;
But nathelees with-oute your witing
I wol nat doon, but this wol I,’ quod he,
‘That ye to me assente as in this thing.
Shewe now your pacience in your werking  495
That ye me highte and swore in your village  (440)
That day that maked was our mariage.’


Whan she had herd al this, she noght ameved
Neither in word, or chere, or countenaunce;
For, as it semed, she was nat agreved:  500
She seyde, ‘lord, al lyth in your plesaunce,
My child and I with hertly obeisaunce
Ben youres al,
and ye mowe save or spille
Your owene thing; werketh after your wille.’


‘Ther may no-thing, god so my soule save,  505
Lyken to yow that may displese me;  (450)
Ne I desyre no-thing for to have,
Ne drede for to lese, save only ye;
This wil is in myn herte and ay shal be.
No lengthe of tyme or deeth may this deface,  510
Ne chaunge my corage to another place.’


Glad was this markis of hir answering,
But yet he feyned as he were nat so;

Al drery was his chere and his loking
Whan that he sholde out of the chambre go.  515
Sone after this, a furlong wey or two,  (460)
He prively hath told al his entente
Un-to a man, and to his wyf him sente.
A maner sergeant was this privee man,

The which that feithful ofte he founden hadde  520
In thinges grete, and eek swich folk wel can
Don execucioun on thinges badde.
The lord knew wel that he him loved and dradde;
And whan this sergeant wiste his lordes wille,
 525In-to the chambre he stalked him ful stille.


‘Madame,’ he seyde, ‘ye mote foryeve it me,  (470)
Thogh I do thing to which I am constreyned;

Ye ben so wys that ful wel knowe ye
That lordes hestes mowe nat been y-feyned;
They mowe wel been biwailled or compleyned,  530
But men mot nede un-to her lust obeye,
And so wol I; ther is na-more to seye.’


This child I am comanded for to take’—
And spak na-more, but out the child he hente
Despitously, and gan a chere make  535
As though he wolde han slayn it er he wente.  (480)
Grisildis mot al suffren and consente;
And as a lamb she sitteth meke and stille,
And leet this cruel sergeant doon his wille.

How does Griselda know the sergeant has authority?

Suspecious was the diffame of this man,  540
Suspect his face, suspect his word also;
Suspect the tyme in which he this bigan.
Allas! hir doghter that she lovede so
She wende he wolde han slawen it right tho.

But natheles she neither weep ne syked,  545
 (490)Consenting hir to that the markis lyked.

Griselda then is an Abraham.

But atte laste speken she bigan,
And mekely she to the sergeant preyde,
So as he was a worthy gentil man,
That she moste kisse hir child er that it deyde;  550
And in her barm this litel child she leyde
With ful sad face, and gan the child to kisse
And lulled it, and after gan it blisse.
And thus she seyde in hir benigne voys,
‘Far weel, my child; I shal thee never see;  555
But, sith I thee have marked with the croys,  (500)
Of thilke fader blessed mote thou be,
That for us deyde up-on a croys of tree.

Thy soule, litel child, I him bitake,
 560For this night shaltow dyen for my sake.’


I trowe that to a norice in this cas
It had ben hard this rewthe for to se;
Wel mighte a mooder than han cryed ‘allas!’
But nathelees so sad stedfast was she,
That she endured all adversitee,  565
And to the sergeant mekely she sayde,  (510)
‘Have heer agayn your litel yonge mayde.’


‘Goth now,’ quod she, ‘and dooth my lordes heste,
But o thing wol I preye yow of your grace,
That, but my lord forbad yow, atte leste  570
Burieth this litel body in som place
That bestes ne no briddes it to-race.

But he no word wol to that purpos seye,
But took the child and wente upon his weye.

Let no birds tear it up.

This sergeant cam un-to his lord ageyn,  575
And of Grisildis wordes and hir chere  (520)
He tolde him point for point, in short and playn,
And him presenteth with his doghter dere.
Somwhat this lord hath rewthe in his manere;
But nathelees his purpos heeld he stille,
As lordes doon, whan they wol han hir wille;


And bad his sergeant that he prively
Sholde this child ful softe winde and wrappe
With alle circumstances tendrely,
And carie it in a cofre or in a lappe;  585
But, up-on peyne his heed of for to swappe,  (530)
That no man sholde knowe of his entente,
Ne whenne he cam, ne whider that he wente;


But at Boloigne to his suster dere,
That thilke tyme of Panik was countesse,  590
He sholde it take,
and shewe hir this matere,
Bisekinge hir to don hir bisinesse
This child to fostre in alle gentilesse;
And whos child that it was he bad hir hyde
 595From every wight, for oght that may bityde.

“Panik: name of an unidentified district in Italy.”

The sergeant gooth, and hath fulfild this thing;  (540)
But to this markis now retourne we;
For now goth he ful faste imagining
If by his wyves chere he mighte see,
Or by hir word aperceyve that she  600
Were chaunged; but he never hir coude finde
But ever in oon y-lyke sad and kinde.


As glad, as humble, as bisy in servyse,
And eek in love as she was wont to be,
Was she to him in every maner wyse;  605
Ne of hir doghter noght a word spak she.  (550)
Non accident for noon adversitee
Was seyn in hir,
ne never hir doghter name
Ne nempned she, in ernest nor in game.


Explicit tercia pars. Sequitur pars quarta.

In this estaat ther passed been foure yeer  610
Er she with childe was; but, as god wolde,
A knave child she bar by this Walter,
Ful gracious and fair for to biholde.
And whan that folk it to his fader tolde,
Nat only he, but al his contree, merie  615
 (560)Was for this child, and god they thanke and herie.


Whan it was two yeer old, and fro the brest
Departed of his norice, on a day
This markis caughte yet another lest
To tempte his wyf
yet ofter, if he may.  620
O needles was she tempted in assay!
But wedded men ne knowe no mesure,
Whan that they finde a pacient creature.


‘Wyf,’ quod this markis, ‘ye han herd er this,
My peple sikly berth our mariage,  625
And namely, sith my sone y-boren is,  (570)
Now is it worse than ever in al our age.
The murmur sleeth myn herte and my corage;
For to myne eres comth the voys so smerte,
 630That it wel ny destroyed hath myn herte.’


Now sey they thus, “whan Walter is agoon,
Then shal the blood of Ianicle succede
And been our lord, for other have we noon;”

Swiche wordes seith my peple, out of drede.
Wel oughte I of swich murmur taken hede;  635
For certeinly I drede swich sentence,  (580)
Though they nat pleyn speke in myn audience.’


I wolde live in pees, if that I mighte;
Wherfor I am disposed outerly,
As I his suster servede by nighte,  640
Right so thenke I to serve him prively;
This warne I yow, that ye nat sodeynly
Out of your-self for no wo sholde outraye;
Beth pacient, and ther-of I yow preye.’


‘I have,’ quod she, ‘seyd thus, and ever shal,  645
I wol no thing, ne nil no thing, certayn,  (590)
But as yow list; noght greveth me at al,
Thogh that my doghter and my sone by slayn,
At your comandement, this is to sayn.
I have noght had no part of children tweyne  650
But first siknesse, and after wo and peyne.


‘Ye been our lord, doth with your owene thing
Right as yow list; axeth no reed at me.
For, as I lefte at hoom al my clothing,
Whan I first cam to yow, right so,’ quod she,  655
Left I my wil and al my libertee,  (600)
And took your clothing; wherfor I yow preye,
Doth your plesaunce, I wol your lust obeye.’


‘And certes, if I hadde prescience
Your wil to knowe er ye your lust me tolde,  660
I wolde it doon with-outen necligence;

But now I woot your lust and what ye wolde,
Al your plesaunce ferme and stable I holde;
For wiste I that my deeth wolde do yow ese,
 665Right gladly wolde I dyen, yow to plese.’


‘Deth may noght make no comparisoun  (610)
Un-to your love:’ and, whan this markis sey
The constance of his wyf, he caste adoun
His yen two, and wondreth that she may
In pacience suffre al this array.  670
And forth he gooth with drery contenaunce,
But to his herte it was ful greet plesaunce.


This ugly sergeant, in the same wyse
That he hir doghter caughte, right so he,

Or worse, if men worse can devyse,  675
Hath hent hir sone, that ful was of beautee.  (620)
And ever in oon so pacient was she,
That she no chere made of hevinesse,
But kiste hir sone, and after gan it blesse;


Save this; she preyed him that, if he mighte,  680
Hir litel sone he wolde in erthe grave,
His tendre limes, delicat to sighte,
Fro foules and fro bestes for to save.
But she non answer of him mighte have.

He wente his wey, as him no-thing ne roghte;  685
But to Boloigne he tendrely it broghte.  (630)


This markis wondreth ever lenger the more
Up-on hir pacience,
and if that he
Ne hadde soothly knowen ther-bifore,
That parfitly hir children lovede she,  690
He wolde have wend that of som subtiltee,
And of malice or for cruel corage,
That she had suffred this with sad visage.


But wel he knew that next him-self, certayn,
She loved hir children best in every wyse.  695
But now of wommen wolde I axen fayn,  (640)
If thise assayes mighte nat suffyse?

What coude a sturdy housbond more devyse
To preve hir wyfhod and hir stedfastnesse,
 700And he continuing ever in sturdinesse?


But ther ben folk of swich condicioun,
That, whan they have a certein purpos take,
They can nat stinte of hir entencioun,

But, right as they were bounden to a stake,
They wol nat of that firste purpos slake.  705
Right so this markis fulliche hath purposed  (650)
To tempte his wyf, as he was first disposed.


He waiteth, if by word or contenance
That she to him was changed of corage;
But never coude he finde variance;  710
She was ay oon in herte and in visage;
And ay the forther that she was in age,
The more trewe,
if that it were possible,
She was to him in love, and more penible.


For which it semed thus, that of hem two  715
Ther nas but o wil;
for, as Walter leste,  (660)
The same lust was hir plesance also,
And, god be thanked, al fil for the beste.
She shewed wel, for no worldly unreste
A wyf, as of hir-self, no-thing ne sholde  720
Wille in effect, but as hir housbond wolde.


The sclaundre of Walter ofte and wyde spradde,
That of a cruel herte he wikkedly,
For he a povre womman wedded hadde,
Hath mordred bothe his children prively.
Swich murmur was among hem comunly.  (670)
No wonder is, for to the peples ere
Ther cam no word but that they mordred were.


For which, wher-as his peple ther-bifore
Had loved him wel, the sclaundre of his diffame  730
Made hem that they him hatede therfore;
To been a mordrer is an hateful name.
But natheles, for ernest ne for game
He of his cruel purpos nolde stente;
 735To tempte his wyf was set al his entente.


Whan that his doghter twelf yeer was of age,  (680)
He to the court of Rome, in subtil wyse
Enformed of his wil, sente his message,
Comaunding hem swiche bulles to devyse
As to his cruel purpos may suffyse,  740
How that the pope, as for his peples reste,
Bad him to wedde another, if him leste.


I seye, he bad they sholde countrefete
The popes bulles, making mencioun
That he hath leve his firste wyf to lete,
As by the popes dispensacioun,  (690)
To stinte rancour and dissencioun
Bitwixe his peple and him; thus seyde the bulle,
The which they han publiced atte fulle.


The rude peple, as it no wonder is,  750
Wenden ful wel that it had been right so;
But whan thise tydinges cam to Grisildis,
I deme that hir herte was ful wo.
But she, y-lyke sad for evermo,
Disposed was, this humble creature,  755
 (700)Thadversitee of fortune al tendure.


Abyding ever his lust and his plesaunce,
To whom that she was yeven, herte and al,
As to hir verray worldly suffisaunce;
But shortly if this storie I tellen shal,  760
This markis writen hath in special
A lettre in which he sheweth his entente,
And secrely he to Boloigne it sente.


To the erl of Panik, which that hadde tho
Wedded his suster, preyde he specially  765
To bringen hoom agayn his children two
In honurable estaat al openly.
But o thing he him preyede outerly,
That he to no wight, though men wolde enquere,
 770Sholde nat telle, whos children that they were,


But seye, the mayden sholde y-wedded be
Un-to the markis of Saluce anon.

And as this erl was preyed, so dide he;
For at day set he on his wey is goon
Toward Saluce, and lordes many oon,  775
In riche array, this mayden for to gyde;  (720)
Hir yonge brother ryding hir bisyde.


Arrayed was toward hir mariage
This fresshe mayde, ful of gemmes clere;
Hir brother, which that seven yeer was of age,  780
Arrayed eek ful fresh in his manere.
And thus in greet noblesse and with glad chere,
Toward Saluces shaping hir Iourney,
Fro day to day they ryden in hir wey.


Explicit quarta pars. Sequitur quinta pars.

Among al this, after his wikke usage,  785
This markis, yet his wyf to tempte more  (730)
To the uttereste preve of hir corage,
Fully to han experience and lore
If that she were as stedfast as bifore,
He on a day in open audience  790
Ful boistously hath seyd hir this sentence:


‘Certes, Grisilde, I hadde y-nough plesaunce
To han yow to my wyf for your goodnesse,
As for your trouthe and for your obeisaunce,
Nought for your linage ne for your richesse;  795
But now knowe I in verray soothfastnesse  (740)
That in gret lordshipe, if I wel avyse,
Ther is gret servitute in sondry wyse.’


‘I may nat don as every plowman may;
My peple me constreyneth for to take  800
Another wyf,
and cryen day by day;
And eek the pope, rancour for to slake,
Consenteth it, that dar I undertake;
And treweliche thus muche I wol yow seye,
 805My newe wyf is coming by the weye.’


‘Be strong of herte, and voyde anon hir place,  (750)
And thilke dower that ye broghten me
Tak it agayn,
I graunte it of my grace;
Retourneth to your fadres hous,’ quod he;
‘No man may alwey han prosperitee;  810
With evene herte I rede yow tendure
The strook of fortune or of aventure.’


And she answerde agayn in pacience,
‘My lord,’ quod she, ‘I woot, and wiste alway
How that bitwixen your magnificence  815
And my poverte no wight can ne may  (760)
Maken comparison; it is no nay.
I ne heeld me never digne in no manere
To be your wyf, no, ne your chamberere.


‘And in this hous, ther ye me lady made—  820
The heighe god take I for my witnesse,
And also wisly he my soule glade—
I never heeld me lady ne maistresse,
But humble servant to your worthinesse,
And ever shal, whyl that my lyf may dure,  825
 (770)Aboven every worldly creature.’


‘That ye so longe of your benignitee
Han holden me in honour and nobleye,
Wher-as I was noght worthy for to be,
That thonke I god and yow, to whom I preye  830
Foryelde it yow; there is na-more to seye.
Un-to my fader gladly wol I wende,
And with him dwelle un-to my lyves ende.’


‘Ther I was fostred of a child ful smal,
Til I be deed, my lyf ther wol I lede  835
A widwe clene, in body, herte, and al.  (780)
For sith I yaf to yow my maydenhede,
And am your trewe wyf, it is no drede,
God shilde swich a lordes wyf to take
 840Another man to housbonde or to make.


‘And of your newe wyf, god of his grace
So graunte yow wele and prosperitee:
For I wol gladly yelden hir my place,
In which that I was blisful wont to be,
For sith it lyketh yow, my lord,’ quod she,  845
‘That whylom weren al myn hertes reste,  (790)
That I shal goon, I wol gon whan yow leste.’


‘But ther-as ye me profre swich dowaire
As I first broghte, it is wel in my minde
It were my wrecched clothes,
no-thing faire,  850
The which to me were hard now for to finde.
O gode god! how gentil and how kinde
Ye semed by your speche and your visage
The day that maked was our mariage!’


‘But sooth is seyd, algate I finde it trewe—  855
For in effect it preved is on me—  (800)
Love is noght old as whan that it is newe.
But certes, lord, for noon adversitee,
To dyen in the cas, it shal nat be
That ever in word or werk I shal repente  860
That I yow yaf myn herte in hool entente.


‘My lord, ye woot that, in my fadres place,
Ye dede me strepe out of my povre wede,
And richely me cladden, of your grace.
To yow broghte I noght elles, out of drede,  865
But feyth and nakednesse and maydenhede.  (810)
And here agayn my clothing I restore,
And eek my wedding-ring, for evermore.’


‘The remenant of your Iewels redy be
In-with your chambre, dar I saufly sayn;  870
Naked out of my fadres hous,’ quod she,
I cam, and naked moot I turne agayn.
Al your plesaunce wol I folwen fayn;
But yet I hope it be nat your entente
 875That I smoklees out of your paleys wente.


‘Ye coude nat doon so dishoneste a thing,  (820)
That thilke wombe in which your children leye
Sholde, biforn the peple, in my walking,
Be seyn al bare; wherfor I yow preye,
Lat me nat lyk a worm go by the weye.  880
Remembre yow, myn owene lord so dere,
I was your wyf, thogh I unworthy were.’


‘Wherfor, in guerdon of my maydenhede,
Which that I broghte, and noght agayn I bere,
As voucheth sauf to yeve me, to my mede,  885
But swich a smok as I was wont to were,  (830)
That I therwith may wrye the wombe of here
That was your wyf; and heer take I my leve
Of yow, myn owene lord, lest I yow greve.’


The smok,’ quod he, ‘that thou hast on thy bak,  890
Lat it be stille, and ber it forth with thee.

But wel unnethes thilke word he spak,
But wente his wey for rewthe and for pitee.
Biforn the folk hir-selven strepeth she,
And in hir smok, with heed and foot al bare,  895
 (840)Toward hir fader hous forth is she fare.


The folk hir folwe wepinge in hir weye,
And fortune ay they cursen as they goon;
But she fro weping kepte hir yën dreye,
Ne in this tyme word ne spak she noon.  900
Hir fader, that this tyding herde anoon,
Curseth the day and tyme that nature
Shoop him to been a lyves creature.


For out of doute this olde povre man
Was ever in suspect of hir mariage;
For ever he demed, sith that it bigan,  (850)
That whan the lord fulfild had his corage,
Him wolde thinke it were a disparage
To his estaat so lowe for talighte,
 910And voyden hir as sone as ever he mighte.


Agayns his doghter hastilich goth he,
For he by noyse of folk knew hir cominge,
And with hir olde cote, as it mighte be,
He covered hir,
ful sorwefully wepinge;
But on hir body mighte he it nat bringe.  915
For rude was the cloth, and more of age  (860)
By dayes fele than at hir mariage.


Thus with hir fader, for a certeyn space,
Dwelleth this flour of wyfly pacience,
That neither by hir wordes ne hir face  920
Biforn the folk, ne eek in hir absence,
Ne shewed she that hir was doon offence;
Ne of hir heigh estaat no remembraunce
Ne hadde she, as by hir countenaunce.

She is as a Zen monk.

No wonder is, for in hir grete estaat  925
Hir goost was ever in pleyn humylitee;  (870)
No tendre mouth, non herte delicaat,
No pompe, no semblant of royaltee,
But ful of pacient benignitee,
Discreet and prydeles, ay honurable,  930
And to hir housbonde ever meke and stable.


Men speke of Iob and most for his humblesse,
As clerkes, whan hem list, can wel endyte,

Namely of men, but as in soothfastnesse,
Thogh clerkes preyse wommen but a lyte,  935
Ther can no man in humblesse him acquyte  (880)
As womman can,
ne can ben half so trewe
As wommen been, but it be falle of-newe.


[Pars Sexta.]

Fro Boloigne is this erl of Panik come,
Of which the fame up-sprang to more and lesse,  940
And in the peples eres alle and some
Was couth eek, that a newe markisesse
He with him broghte, in swich pompe and richesse,
That never was ther seyn with mannes ye
 945So noble array in al West Lumbardye.


The markis, which that shoop and knew al this,  (890)
Er that this erl was come, sente his message
For thilke sely povre Grisildis;

And she with humble herte and glad visage,
Nat with no swollen thoght in hir corage,  950
Cam at his heste, and on hir knees hir sette,
And reverently and wysly she him grette.


‘Grisild,’ quod he, ‘my wille is outerly,
This mayden, that shal wedded been to me,
Receyved be to-morwe as royally  955
As it possible is in myn hous to be.  (900)
And eek that every wight in his degree
Have his estaat in sitting and servyse
And heigh plesaunce, as I can best devyse.’


I have no wommen suffisaunt certayn  960
The chambres for tarraye in ordinaunce
After my lust, and therfor wolde I fayn
That thyn were al swich maner governaunce;

Thou knowest eek of old al my plesaunce;
Though thyn array be badde and yvel biseye,  965
 (910)Do thou thy devoir at the leeste weye.’


‘Nat only, lord, that I am glad,’ quod she,
‘To doon your lust, but I desyre also
Yow for to serve and plese in my degree
With-outen feynting, and shal evermo.  970
Ne never, for no wele ne no wo,
Ne shal the gost with-in myn herte stente
To love yow best with al my trewe entente.’


And with that word she gan the hous to dighte,
And tables for to sette and beddes make;  975
And peyned hir to doon al that she mighte,  (920)
Preying the chambereres, for goddes sake,
To hasten hem, and faste swepe and shake;
And she, the moste servisable of alle,
 980Hath every chambre arrayed and his halle.


Abouten undern gan this erl alighte,
That with him broghte thise noble children tweye,
For which the peple ran to seen the sighte
Of hir array, so richely biseye;
And than at erst amonges hem they seye,  985
That Walter was no fool, thogh that him leste  (930)
To chaunge his wyf, for it was for the beste.


For she is fairer, as they demen alle,
Than is Grisild, and more tendre of age,

And fairer fruit bitwene hem sholde falle,  990
And more plesant, for hir heigh linage;
Hir brother eek so fair was of visage,
That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesaunce,
Commending now the markis gouernaunce.—


Auctor.O stormy peple! unsad and ever untrewe  995
Ay undiscreet and chaunging as a vane,  (940)
Delyting ever in rumbel that is newe,
For lyk the mone ay wexe ye and wane;
Ay ful of clapping, dere y-nogh a Iane;
Your doom is fals, your constance yvel preveth,  1000
A ful greet fool is he that on yow leveth!’


Thus seyden sadde folk in that citee,
Whan that the peple gazed up and doun,
For they were glad, right for the noveltee,
To han a newe lady of hir toun.  1005
Na-more of this make I now mencioun;  (950)
But to Grisilde agayn wol I me dresse,
And telle hir constance and hir bisinesse.—


Ful bisy was Grisilde in every thing
That to the feste was apertinent;  1010
Right noght was she abayst of hir clothing,
Though it were rude and somdel eek to-rent.
But with glad chere to the yate is went,
With other folk, to grete the markisesse,
 1015And after that doth forth hir bisinesse.


With so glad chere his gestes she receyveth,  (960)
And conningly, everich in his degree,
That no defaute no man aperceyveth;
But ay they wondren what she mighte be
That in so povre array was for to see,
And coude swich honour and reverence;
And worthily they preisen hir prudence.


In al this mene whyle she ne stente
This mayde and eek hir brother to commende
With al hir herte, in ful benigne entente,  1025
So wel, that no man coude hir prys amende.  (970)
But atte laste, whan that thise lordes wende
To sitten doun to mete, he gan to calle
Grisilde, as she was bisy in his halle.


Grisilde,’ quod he, as it were in his pley,  1030
How lyketh thee my wyf and hir beautee?
‘Right wel,’ quod she, ‘my lord; for, in good fey,
A fairer say I never noon than she.
I prey to god yeve hir prosperitee;
And so hope I that he wol to yow sende  1035
 (980)Plesance y-nogh un-to your lyves ende.’


O thing biseke I yow and warne also,
That ye ne prikke with no tormentinge
This tendre mayden, as ye han don mo;

For she is fostred in hir norishinge  1040
More tendrely, and, to my supposinge,
She coude nat adversitee endure
As coude a povre fostred creature.


And whan this Walter say hir pacience,
Hir glade chere and no malice at al,  1045
And he so ofte had doon to hir offence,  (990)
And she ay sad and constant as a wal,
Continuing ever hir innocence overal,
This sturdy markis gan his herte dresse
 1050To rewen up-on hir wyfly stedfastnesse.


‘This is y-nogh, Grisilde myn,’ quod he,
‘Be now na-more agast ne yvel apayed;
I have thy feith and thy benignitee,
As wel as ever womman was, assayed,
In greet estaat, and povreliche arrayed.  1055
Now knowe I, dere wyf, thy stedfastnesse,’—  (1000)
And hir in armes took and gan hir kesse.

Again, the first line repeats line 365, where Griselda has promised, on pain of death, not willingly to disobey her husband in deed or thought.

And she for wonder took of it no keep;
She herde nat what thing he to hir seyde;
She ferde as she had stert out of a sleep,  1060
Til she out of hir masednesse abreyde.
‘Grisilde,’ quod he, ‘by god that for us deyde,
Thou art my wyf, ne noon other I have,
Ne never hadde, as god my soule save!’


‘This is thy doghter which thou hast supposed  1065
To be my wyf; that other feithfully  (1010)
Shal be myn heir, as I have ay purposed;
Thou bare him in thy body trewely.
At Boloigne have I kept hem prively;
Tak hem agayn, for now maystow nat seye  1070
That thou hast lorn non of thy children tweye.’


‘And folk that otherweyes han seyd of me,
I warne hem wel that I have doon this dede
For no malice ne for no crueltee,
But for tassaye in thee thy wommanhede,  1075
And nat to sleen my children, god forbede  (1020)
But for to kepe hem prively and stille,
Til I thy purpos knewe and al thy wille.’


Whan she this herde, aswowne doun she falleth
For pitous Ioye,
and after hir swowninge  1080
She bothe hir yonge children un-to hir calleth,
And in hir armes, pitously wepinge,
Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissinge
Ful lyk a mooder, with hir salte teres
 1085She batheth bothe hir visage and hir heres.


O, which a pitous thing it was to see  (1030)
Hir swowning, and hir humble voys to here!
‘Grauntmercy, lord, that thanke I yow,’ quod she,
‘That ye han saved me my children dere!
Now rekke I never to ben deed right here;  1090
Sith I stonde in your love and in your grace,
No fors of deeth, ne whan my spirit pace!’


‘O tendre, o dere, o yonge children myne,
Your woful mooder wende stedfastly
That cruel houndes or som foul vermyne  1095
Hadde eten yow; but god, of his mercy,  (1040)
And your benigne fader tendrely
Hath doon yow kept;’ and in that same stounde
Al sodeynly she swapte adoun to grounde.


And in her swough so sadly holdeth she  1100
Hir children two, whan she gan hem tembrace,
That with greet sleighte and greet difficultee
The children from hir arm they gonne arace.
O many a teer on many a pitous face
Doun ran of hem that stoden hir bisyde;  1105
 (1050)Unnethe abouten hir mighte they abyde.


Walter hir gladeth, and hir sorwe slaketh;
She ryseth up, abaysed, from hir traunce,
And every wight hir Ioye and feste maketh,
Til she hath caught agayn hir contenaunce.  1110
Walter hir dooth so feithfully plesaunce,
That it was deyntee for to seen the chere
Bitwixe hem two, now they ben met y-fere.


Thise ladyes, whan that they hir tyme say,
Han taken hir, and in-to chambre goon,  1115
And strepen hir out of hir rude array,  (1060)
And in a cloth of gold that brighte shoon,
With a coroune of many a riche stoon
Up-on hir heed, they in-to halle hir broghte,
 1120And ther she was honoured as hir oghte.


Thus hath this pitous day a blisful ende,
For every man and womman dooth his might
This day in murthe and revel to dispende
Til on the welkne shoon the sterres light.
For more solempne in every mannes sight  1125
This feste was, and gretter of costage,  (1070)
Than was the revel of hir mariage.


Ful many a yeer in heigh prosperitee
Liven thise two in concord and in reste,
And richely his doghter maried he  1130
Un-to a lord, oon of the worthieste
Of al Itaille; and than in pees and reste
His wyves fader in his court he kepeth,
Til that the soule out of his body crepeth.


His sone succedeth in his heritage  1135
In reste and pees, after his fader day;  (1080)
And fortunat was eek in mariage,
Al putte he nat his wyf in greet assay.
This world is nat so strong, it is no nay,
As it hath been in olde tymes yore,
And herkneth what this auctour seith therfore.


This storie is seyd, nat for that wyves sholde
Folwen Grisilde as in humilitee,

For it were importable, though they wolde;
But for that every wight, in his degree,  1145
Sholde be constant in adversitee
As was Grisilde; therfor Petrark wryteth
This storie, which with heigh style he endyteth.


For, sith a womman was so pacient
Un-to a mortal man, wel more us oghte  1150
Receyven al in gree that god us sent;

For greet skile is, he preve that he wroghte.
But he ne tempteth no man that he boghte,
As seith seint Iame, if ye his pistel rede;
He preveth folk al day, it is no drede,  1155

And suffreth us, as for our excercyse,  (1100)
With sharpe scourges of adversitee
Ful ofte to be bete in sondry wyse;
Nat for to knowe our wil, for certes he,
Er we were born, knew al our freletee;
And for our beste is al his governaunce;
Lat us than live in vertuous suffraunce.

James 1:

12 Blessid is the man, that suffrith temptacioun; for whanne he schal be preued, he schal resseyue the coroun of lijf, which God biheyte to men that louen hym.
13 No man whanne he is temptid, seie, that he is temptid of God; for whi God is not a temptere of yuele thingis, for he temptith no man.
14 But ech man is temptid, drawun and stirid of his owne coueiting.
15 Aftirward coueityng, whanne it hath conseyued, bringith forth synne; but synne, whanne it is fillid, gendrith deth.

But o word, lordinges, herkneth er I go:—
It were ful hard to finde now a dayes
In al a toun Grisildes three or two;  1165
For, if that they were put to swiche assayes,  (1110)
The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes
With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at ye,
It wolde rather breste a-two than plye.


For which heer, for the wyves love of Bathe,  1170
Whos lyf and al hir secte god mayntene
In heigh maistrye, and elles were it scathe,
I wol with lusty herte fresshe and grene
Seyn yow a song to glade yow, I wene,
And lat us stinte of ernestful matere:—  1175
 (1120)Herkneth my song, that seith in this manere.

Lenvoy de Chaucer.

Grisilde is deed, and eek hir pacience,
And bothe atones buried in Itaille;
For which I crye in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be tassaille  1180
His wyves pacience,
in hope to finde
Grisildes, for in certein he shall faille!


O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
Lat noon humilitee your tonge naille,
Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence  1185
To wryte of yow a storie of swich mervaille
As of Grisildis pacient and kinde;
Lest Chichevache yow swelwe in hir entraille!

Chichevache, the Lean Cow, fed on patient wives.

Folweth Ekko, that holdeth no silence,
But evere answereth at the countretaille;  1190
Beth nat bidaffed for your innocence,
But sharply tak on yow the governaille.
Emprinteth wel this lesson in your minde
For commune profit, sith it may availle.


Ye archewyves, stondeth at defence,  1195
Sin ye be stronge as is a greet camaille;  (1140)
Ne suffreth nat that men yow doon offence.
And sclendre wyves,
feble as in bataille,
Beth egre as is a tygre yond in Inde;
 1200Ay clappeth as a mille, I yow consaille.


Ne dreed hem nat, do hem no reverence;
For though thyn housbonde armed be in maille,
The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence
Shal perce his brest, and eek his aventaille;
In Ialousye I rede eek thou him binde,  1205
And thou shalt make him couche as dooth a quaille.


If thou be fair, ther folk ben in presence  (1151)
Shew thou thy visage and thyn apparaille;
If thou be foul, be free of thy dispence,
To gete thee freendes ay do thy travaille;  1210
Be ay of chere as light as leef on linde,
And lat him care, and wepe, and wringe, and waille!


Here endeth the Clerk of Oxonford his Tale.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Chaucer, CT, Prologue « Polytropy on August 10, 2021 at 7:51 am

    […] Friar’s Prologue + Tale; Clerk’s Prologue and Tale […]

  2. By Chaucer, CT, Franklin’s Tale « Polytropy on August 17, 2021 at 4:30 pm

    […] we saw the theme of patience also in the Clerk’s Tale, where Griselda showed an incredible degree of it, even though Jesus may have shown greater in the […]

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