Front Page Titles (by Subject) INTRODUCTION TO THE MAN OF LAW'S PROLOGUE. (T. 4421-4446.) - The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 4 (The Canterbury Tales)
INTRODUCTION TO THE MAN OF LAW’S PROLOGUE. (T. 4421-4446.) - Geoffrey Chaucer, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, vol. 4 (The Canterbury Tales) 
The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, edited from numerous manuscripts by the Rev. Walter W. Skeat (2nd ed.) (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899). 7 vols. Vol. 4.
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INTRODUCTION TO THE MAN OF LAW’S PROLOGUE.
The wordes of the Hoost to the companye.
- OUR Hoste sey wel that the brighte sonne
- The ark of his artificial day had ronne
- The fourthe part, and half an houre, and more;
- And though he were not depe expert in lore,
- He wiste it was the eightetethe day5
- Of April, that is messager to May;
- And sey wel that the shadwe of every tree
- Was as in lengthe the same quantitee
- That was the body erect that caused it.
- And therfor by the shadwe he took his wit10
- That Phebus, which that shoon so clere and brighte,
- Degrees was fyve and fourty clombe on highte;
- And for that day, as in that latitude,
- It was ten of the clokke, he gan conclude,
- And sodeynly he plighte his hors aboute.15
- ‘Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘I warne yow, al this route,
- The fourthe party of this day is goon;
- Now, for the love of god and of seint Iohn,
- Leseth no tyme, as ferforth as ye may;
- Lordinges, the tyme wasteth night and day,20
- And steleth from us, what prively slepinge,
- And what thurgh necligence in our wakinge,
- As dooth the streem, that turneth never agayn,
- Descending fro the montaigne in-to playn.
- Wel can Senek, and many a philosophre25
- Biwailen tyme, more than gold in cofre.
- “For los of catel may recovered be,
- But los of tyme shendeth us,” quod he.
- It wol nat come agayn, with-outen drede,
- Na more than wol Malkins maydenhede,30
- Whan she hath lost it in hir wantownesse;
- Lat us nat moulen thus in ydelnesse.
- Sir man of lawe,’ quod he, ‘so have ye blis,
- Tel us a tale anon, as forward is;
- Ye been submitted thurgh your free assent35
- To stonde in this cas at my Iugement.
- Acquiteth yow, and holdeth your biheste,
- Than have ye doon your devoir atte leste.’
- ‘Hoste,’ quod he, ‘depardieux ich assente,
- To breke forward is not myn entente.40
- Biheste is dette, and I wol holde fayn
- Al my biheste; I can no better seyn.
- For swich lawe as man yeveth another wight,
- He sholde him-selven usen it by right;
- Thus wol our text; but natheles certeyn45
- I can right now no thrifty tale seyn,
- But Chaucer, though he can but lewedly
- On metres and on ryming craftily,
- Hath seyd hem in swich English as he can
- Of olde tyme, as knoweth many a man.50
- And if he have not seyd hem, leve brother,
- In o book, he hath seyd hem in another.
- For he hath told of loveres up and doun
- Mo than Ovyde made of mencioun
- In his Epistelles, that been ful olde.55
- What sholde I tellen hem, sin they ben tolde?
- In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcion,
- And sithen hath he spoke of everichon,
- Thise noble wyves and thise loveres eke.
- Who-so that wol his large volume seke60
- Cleped the Seintes Legende of Cupyde,
- Ther may he seen the large woundes wyde
- Of Lucresse, and of Babilan Tisbee;
- The swerd of Dido for the false Enee;
- The tree of Phillis for hir Demophon;65
- The pleinte of Dianire and Hermion,
- Of Adriane and of Isiphilee;
- The bareyne yle stonding in the see;
- The dreynte Leander for his Erro;
- The teres of Eleyne, and eek the wo70
- Of Brixseyde, and of thee, Ladomëa;
- The crueltee of thee, queen Medëa,
- Thy litel children hanging by the hals
- For thy Iason, that was of love so fals!
- O Ypermistra, Penelopee , Alceste,75
- Your wyfhod he comendeth with the beste!
- But certeinly no word ne wryteth he
- Of thilke wikke ensample of Canacee,
- That lovede hir owne brother sinfully;
- Of swiche cursed stories I sey ‘fy’;80
- Or elles of Tyro Apollonius,
- How that the cursed king Antiochus
- Birafte his doghter of hir maydenhede,
- That is so horrible a tale for to rede,
- Whan he hir threw up-on the pavement.85
- And therfor he, of ful avysement,
- Nolde never wryte in none of his sermouns
- Of swiche unkinde abhominaciouns,
- Ne I wol noon reherse, if that I may.
- But of my tale how shal I doon this day?90
- Me were looth be lykned, doutelees,
- To Muses that men clepe Pierides—
- Metamorphoseos wot what I mene:—
- But nathelees, I recche noght a bene
- Though I come after him with hawe-bake;95
- I speke in prose, and lat him rymes make.’
- And with that word he, with a sobre chere,
- Bigan his tale, as ye shal after here.
The Prologe of the Mannes Tale of Lawe.
- O hateful harm! condicion of poverte!
- With thurst, with cold, with hunger so confounded!100
- To asken help thee shameth in thyn herte;
- If thou noon aske, with nede artow so wounded,
- That verray nede unwrappeth al thy wounde hid!
- Maugree thyn heed, thou most for indigence
- Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy despence!105
- Thou blamest Crist, and seyst ful bitterly,
- He misdeparteth richesse temporal;
- Thy neighebour thou wytest sinfully,(10)
- And seyst thou hast to lyte, and he hath al.
- ‘Parfay,’ seistow, ‘somtyme he rekne shal,110
- Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the glede,
- For he noght helpeth needfulle in hir nede.’
- Herkne what is the sentence of the wyse:—
- ‘Bet is to dyën than have indigence;’
- Thy selve neighebour wol thee despyse;115
- If thou be povre, farwel thy reverence!
- Yet of the wyse man tak this sentence:—
- ‘Alle the dayes of povre men ben wikke;’(20)
- Be war therfor, er thou come in that prikke!
- If thou be povre, thy brother hateth thee,120
- And alle thy freendes fleen fro thee, alas!
- O riche marchaunts, ful of wele ben ye,
- O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas!
- Your bagges been nat filled with ambes as,
- But with sis cink, than renneth for your chaunce;125
- At Cristemasse merie may ye daunce!
- Ye seken lond and see for your winninges,
- As wyse folk ye knowen al thestaat(30)
- Of regnes; ye ben fadres of tydinges
- And tales, bothe of pees and of debat.130
- I were right now of tales desolat,
- Nere that a marchaunt, goon is many a yere,
- Me taughte a tale, which that ye shal here.