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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.
The late 19th century Skeat edition with copious scholarly notes and a good introduction to the text. The Tales are in their original Middle English.
The text is in the public domain.
Oxford University Press, Amen House, London E.C.4
glasgow new york toronto melbourne wellington bombay calcutta madras karachi lahore dacca cape town salisbury nairobi ibadan accra kuala lumpur hong kong
The text of the ‘Canterbury Tales,’ as printed in the present volume, is an entirely new one, owing nothing to the numerous printed editions which have preceded it. The only exceptions to this statement are to be found in the case of such portions as have been formerly edited, for the Clarendon Press, by Dr. Morris and myself. The reasons for the necessity of a formation of an absolutely new text will appear on a perusal of the text itself, as compared with any of its predecessors.
On the other hand, it owes everything to the labours of Dr. Furnivall for the Chaucer Society, but for which no satisfactory results could have been obtained, except at the cost of more time and toil than I could well devote to the subject. In other words, my work is entirely founded upon the splendid ‘Six-text’ Edition published by that Society, supplemented by the very valuable reprint of the celebrated ‘Harleian’ manuscript in the same series. These Seven Texts are all exact reproductions of seven important MSS., and are, in two respects, more important to the student than the MSS. themselves; that is to say, they can be studied simultaneously instead of separately, and they can be consulted and re-consulted at any moment, being always accessible. The importance of such opportunities is obvious.
The following list contains all the MSS. of the existence of which I am aware. As to their types, see § 7.
These include some of the very best.
In the first five editions, the Canterbury Tales were published separately.
After this the Canterbury Tales were invariably issued with the rest of Chaucer’s Works, until after 1721. Some account of these editions is given in the Preface to the Minor Poems, in vol. i.; which see. They are: Thynne’s three editions, in 1532, 1542, and 1550 (the last is undated); Stowe’s edition, 1561; Speght’s editions, in 1598, 1602, and 1687; Urry’s edition, in 1721.
Two modernised editions of the Canterbury Tales were published in London in 1737 or 1740, and in 1741.
Next came: ‘Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, to which is added, an Essay on his Language and Versification; an introductory discourse; notes, and a glossary. By Thomas Tyrwhitt, London, 1775-8, 8vo, 5 vols.’ A work of high literary value, to which I am greatly indebted for many necessary notes. Reprinted in 1798 in 4to, 2 vols., by the University of Oxford; and again, at London, in 1822, in post 8vo, 5 vols.; (by Pickering) in 1830, 8vo, 5 vols.; and (by Moxon) in 1845, in 1 vol. imp. 8vo. The last of these adds poor texts of the rest of Chaucer’s Works, from old black-letter editions, with which Tyrwhitt had nothing to do. In Tyrwhitt’s text, the number of grammatical errors is very large, and he frequently introduces words into the text without authority. For some account of the later editions of Chaucer’s Works, see the Introduction to the Legend of Good Women, in vol. iii. I may note, by the way, that the editions by Wright, Bell, and Morris are all founded on MS. Harl. 7334, a very unsafe MS. in some respects; see p. viii (above).
It is necessary to add here a few words of warning. Wright’s edition, though it has many merits, turns out, in practice, to be dangerously untrustworthy. He frequently inserts words, borrowed from Tyrwhitt’s edition (which he heartily condemns as being full of errors in grammar), without the least indication that they are not in the MS. This becomes the more serious when we find, upon examination, that Tyrwhitt had likewise no authority for some of such insertions, but simply introduced them, by guess, to fill up a line in a way that pleased him. For example, A 628 runs thus, in all the seven MSS:—
‘Of his visage children were aferd.’ It is quite correct; for ‘viság-e’ is trisyllabic. Tyrwhitt did not know this, and counted the syllables as two only, neglecting the final e The line seemed then too short; so he inserted sore before aferd, thus ruining the scansion. Wright follows suit, and inserts sore, though it is not in his MS.; giving no notice at all of what he has done. Bell follows suit, and the word is even preserved in Morris; but the latter prints the word in italics, to shew that it is not in the MS. Nor is it in the Six-text.
I shall not adduce more instances, but shall content myself with saying that, until the publications of the Chaucer Society appeared, no reader had the means of knowing what the best MS. texts were really like. All who have been accustomed to former (complete) editions have necessarily imbibed hundreds of false impressions, and have necessarily accepted numberless theories as to the scansion of lines which they will, in course of due time, be prepared to abandon. In the course of my work, it has been made clear to me that Chaucer’s text has been manipulated and sophisticated, frequently in most cunning and plausible ways, to a far greater extent than I could have believed to be possible. This is not a pleasant subject, and I only mention it for the use of scholars. Such variations fortunately seldom affect the sense; but they vitiate the scansion, the grammar, and the etymology in many cases. Of course it will be understood that I am saying no more than I can fully substantiate.
It is absolutely appalling to read such a statement as the following in Bell’s edition, vol i. p. 60. ‘All deviations, either from Mr. Wright’s edition, or from the original MS., are pointed out in the footnotes for the ultimate satisfaction of the reader.’ For the instances in which this is really done are very rare indeed, in spite of the large number of such deviations.
Of Tyrwhitt’s text, it is sufficient to remark that it was hardly possible, at that date, for a better text to have been produced. The rules of Middle English grammar had not been formulated, so that we are not surprised to find that he constantly makes the past tense of a weak verb monosyllabic, when it should be dissyllabic, and treats the past participle as dissyllabic, when it should be monosyllabic which makes wild work with the scansion. It is also to be regretted that he based his text upon the faulty black-letter editions, though he took a great deal of pains in collating them with various MSS.
On the other hand, his literary notes are full of learning and research; and the number of admirable illustrations by which he has efficiently elucidated the text is very great. His reputation as one of the foremost of our literary critics is thoroughly established, and needs no comment.
Mr. Wright’s notes are likewise excellent, and resulted from a wide reading. I have also found some most useful hints in the notes to Bell’s edition. Of all such sources of information I have been only too glad to avail myself, as is more fully shewn in the succeeding volume.
The text of the present edition of the Canterbury Tales is founded upon that of the Ellesmere MS. (E.) It has been collated throughout with that of the other six MSS. published by the Chaucer Society. Of these seven MSS., the Harleian MS. 7334 (Hl.) was printed separately. The other six were printed in the valuable ‘Six-text’ edition, to which I constantly have occasion to refer, in parallel columns. The six MSS. are: E. (Ellesmere), Hn. (Hengwrt), Cm. (Cambridge, Gg, 4. 27), Cp. (Corpus Coll., Oxford), Pt. (Petworth), and Ln. (Lansdowne). MSS. E. Hn. Cm. represent the earliest type (A) of the text; Hl., a transitional type (B); Cp. and Ln., a still later type (C); and Pt., the latest of all (D), but hardly differing from C.
In using these terms, ‘earliest,’ &c., I do not refer to the age of the MSS., but to the type of text which they exhibit.
In the list of MSS. given above, Hl. is no. 1; E., Hn., Cm., are nos. 40, 41, and 28; and Cp., Pt., Ln., are nos. 24, 42, and 10 respectively.
Of all the MSS., E. is the best in nearly every respect. It not only gives good lines and good sense, but is also (usually) grammatically accurate and thoroughly well spelt. The publication of it has been a very great boon to all Chaucer students, for which Dr. Furnivall will be ever gratefully remembered. We must not omit, at the same time, to recognise the liberality and generosity of the owner of the MS., who so freely permitted such full use of it to be made; the same remark applies, equally, to the owners of the Hengwrt and the Petworth MSS. The names of the Earl of Ellesmere, Mr. Wm. W. E. Wynne of Peniarth, and Lord Leconfield have deservedly become as ‘familiar as household words’ to many a student of Chaucer.
This splendid MS. has also the great merit of being complete, requiring no supplement from any other source, except in the few cases where a line or two has been missed. For example, it does not contain A 252 b-c (found in Hn. only); nor A 2681-2 (also not in Hn. or Cm.); nor B 1163-1190 (also not in Hn or Cm.); nor B 1995 (very rare indeed).
It is slightly imperfect in B 2510, 2514, 2525, 2526, 2623-4, 2746, 2967. It drops B 3147-8, C 103-4, C 297-8 (not in Hn. Cm. Pt.), E 1358-61, G 564-5; and has a few defects in the Parson’s Tale in I 190, 273, &c. In the Tale of Melibeus, the French original shews that all the MSS. have lost B 2252-3, 2623-4, which have to be supplied by translation.
None of the seven MSS. have B 4637-4652; these lines are genuine, but were probably meant to be cancelled. They only occur, to my knowledge, in four MSS., nos. 7, 11, 25, and 29; though found also in the old black-letter editions.
On the other hand, E. preserves lines rarely found elsewhere. Such are A 3155-6, 3721-2, F 1455-6, 1493-9; twelve genuine lines, none of which are in Tyrwhitt, and only the first two are in Wright. Observe also the stanza in the footnote to p. 424; with which compare B 3083, on p. 241.
The text of the Ellesmere MS. has only been corrected in cases where careful collation suggests a desirable improvement. Every instance of this character is invariably recorded in the footnotes. Thus, in A 8, the grammar and scansion require half-e, not half; though, curiously enough, this correct form appears in Hl. only, among all the seven MSS. In very difficult cases, other MSS. (besides the seven) have been collated, but I have seldom gained much by it. The chief additional MSS. thus used are Dd. = Cambridge, Dd. 4. 24 (no. 29 above); Slo. or Sl. = Sloane 1685 (no. 8); Roy. or Rl. = Royal 18 C 2 (no. 6); Harl. = Harleian 1758 (see p. 645); Li. or Lich. = Lichfield MS. (no. 35), for the Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale; and others that are sufficiently indicated.
I have paid especial attention to the suffixes required by Middle-English grammar, to the scansion, and to the pronunciation; and I suppose that this is the first complete edition in which the spelling has been tested by phonetic considerations. With a view to making the spelling a little clearer and more consistent, I have ventured to adopt certain methods which I here explain.
In certain words of variable spelling in E., such as whan or whanne, than or thanne, I have adopted that form which the scansion requires; but the MS. is usually right.
E. usually has hise for his with a plural sb., as in l. 1; I use his always, except in prose. E. has hir, here, for her, their; I use hir only, except at the end of a line.
E. uses the endings -ight or -yght, -inde or -ynde; I use -ight, -inde only; and, in general, I use i to represent short i, and y to represent long i, as in king, wyf. Such is the usual habit of the scribe, but he often changes i into y before m and n, to make his writing clearer; such a precaution is needless in modern printing. Thus, in l. 42, I replace the scribe’s bigynne by biginne; and in l. 78, I replace his pilgrymage by pilgrimage. This makes the text easier to read.
For a like reason, where equivalent spellings occur, I select the simpler; writing couthe (as in Pt.) for kowthe, sote for soote, sege for seege, and so on. In words such as our or oure, your or youre, hir or hire, neuer or neuere, I usually give the simpler forms, without the final -e, when the -e is obviously silent.
For consonantal u, as in neuer, I write v, as in never. This is usual in all editions. But I could not bring myself to use j for i consonant; the anachronism is too great Never for neuer is common in the fifteenth century, but j does not occur even in the first folio of Shakespeare. I therefore usually keep the capital i of the MSS. and of the Elizabethan printers, as in Ioye ( = joye) where initial, and the small i, as in enioinen = enjoinen) elsewhere. Those who dislike such conservatism may be comforted by the reflection that the sound rarely occurs.
The word eye has to be altered to ye at the end of a line, to preserve the rimes. The scribes usually write eye in the middle of a line, but when they come to it at the end of one, they are fairly puzzled. In l. 10, the scribe of Hn. writes Iye, and that of Ln. writes yhe; and the variations on this theme are most curious. The spelling ye ( = ye) is, however, common; as in A 1096 (Cm., Pt.). I print it ‘yë’ to distinguish it from ye, the pl. pronoun.
These minute variations are, I trust, legitimate, and I have not recorded them. They cause trouble to the editor, but afford ease to the reader, which seems a sufficient justification for adopting them. But the scrupulous critic need not fear that the MS. has been departed from in any case, where it could make any phonetic difference, without due notice. Thus, in l. 9, where I have changed foweles into fowles as being a more usual form, the fact that foweles is the Ellesmere spelling is duly recorded in the footnotes. And so in other cases.
The footnotes do not record various readings where E. is correct as it stands; they have purposely been made as concise as possible. It would have been easy to multiply them fourfold without giving much information of value; this is not unfrequently done, but the gain is slight. With so good a MS. as the basis of the text, it did not seem desirable.
The following methods for shortening the footnotes have been adopted.
With these hints, the footnotes present no difficulty.
As a rule, I have refrained from all emendation; but, in B 1189, I have ventured to suggest physices , for reasons explained in the Notes. Those who prefer the reading Phislyas can adopt it.
For further details regarding particular passages, I beg leave to refer the reader to the Notes in vol. v.
Cm.—Cambridge Univ. Lib. Gg. 4. 27 (Ellesmere type). No. 28 in list.
Cp.—Corpus Chr. Coll., Oxford, no. 198. No. 24.
Dd.—Cambridge Univ. Lib. Dd. 4. 24 (Ellesmere type). No. 29.
E.—Ellesmere MS. (basis of the text). No. 40.
Harl.—Harl. 1758; Brit. Mus.; see p. 645. No. 4.
Hl.—Harl. 7334; British Museum. No. 1.
Hn.—Hengwrt MS. no. 154. No. 41.
Li. or Lich.—Lichfield MS.; see pp. 533-553. No. 35.
Ln.—Lansdowne 851; Brit. Mus. (Corpus type). No. 10.
Pt.—Petworth MS. No. 42.
Rl. or Roy.—Royal 18 C. II; Brit. Mus.; see p. 645. No. 6.
Seld.—Arch. Selden, B. 14; Bodleian Library. No. 18.
Sl. or Slo.—Sloane 1685: Brit. Mus.; see p. 645. No. 8.
|Six-text (as here)||Tyrwhitt.||Wright.|
|Tyrwhitt counts 252 b and 252 c as 253 and 254; but omits 3155, 3156; hence, in 3157-3720, the numbering is alike in the Six-text and T. He then omits 3721, 3722, making a difference of two lines. Wright follows Tyrwhitt’s numbering in Group A, and in B 1-1162||Tyrwhitt counts 252 b and 252 c as 253 and 254; but omits 3155, 3156; hence, in 3157-3720, the numbering is alike in the Six-text and T. He then omits 3721, 3722, making a difference of two lines. Wright follows Tyrwhitt’s numbering in Group A, and in B 1-1162||T. counts B 1982, 1983 as one line; so also B 2002, 2003, and B 2012, 2013, and B 2076, 2077, making a difference of four lines; but, on the other hand, he expands B 1993 into three lines; hence, on the whole, a difference of two lines in this portion. See pp. 192, 193, and note to B 1993 in vol. v||Wright counts the lines as I do, but his numbering is in one place incorrect; after the line which he calls 15260, he counts the next thirteen lines as ten.||As in the Six-text, I call each clause of Melibeus between the sloping marks a line, and so number it. So also in the Parson’s Tale||T. cuts up the Tale into paragraphs. So also in the Parson’s Tale (Group I). I have numbered these, for convenience; see head-lines, pp 199-240.||Sixteen lines short in Wright, because the Epilogue to the Nonne Prestes Tale see p. 289) is relegated to a footnote.||Twelve lines short; T. omits E 1305-6, F 671-2, 1455-6, 1493-8. Wright keeps E 1305-6, but does not count them, and omits the other ten.|
|B—2157-3078||Prose; not counted.||Prose; not counted.|
|Spurious; see p. 289, note.||11929-11934||13410-13415|
|D (2294 lines); E (2440); F (1624)||5583-11928||5583-11928|
|H—(362); I 1-74||16950-17385||16933-17368|
Hence, to obtain the order of the lines in Tyrwhitt, see A-B 1162; D, E, F; p. 289, footnote; C; B 1163-2156, 3079-3564, 3653-3956, 3565-3652, 3957-4652; G, H, I.
Or (by pages), see pp. 1-164, 320-508, 289 (footnote), 290-319, 165-256 (which includes Melibeus), 259-268, 256-258, 269-289, 509-end.
To facilitate reference, the numbering of the lines in Tyrwhitt’s text is marked at the top of every page, preceded by the letter ‘T.’; lines which Tyrwhitt omits are marked ‘[T. om.’, as on p. 90; and his paragraphs (all numbered in this edition) are carefully preserved in Melibeus and the Parson’s Tale, which are in prose. In the Prologue, after l. 250, his numbering is given within marks of parenthesis.
The lines in every piece are also numbered separately, within marks of parenthesis, as (10), (20), on p. 26. This numbering (borrowed from Dr. Murray) agrees with the references given in the New English Dictionary. It also gives, in most cases, either exactly or approximately, the references to Dr. Morris’s edition, who adopts a similar method, with a few variations of detail. The lines in Bell’s edition are not numbered at all.
To obtain the order in Wright’s edition, see pp. 1-164, 320-554, 289 (footnote), 290-319, 165-289, 555-end. The variations are fewer.
Some may find it more convenient to observe the names of the Tales.
Tyrwhitt’s order of the Tales is as follows :—Prologue, Knight, Miller, Reeve, Cook—Man of Lawe—Wife, Friar, Somnour—Clerk, Merchant—Squire, Franklin—Doctor (Physician), Pardoner—Shipman, Prioress, Sir Thopas, Melibeus, Monk , Nun’s Priest—Second Nun, Canon’s Yeoman—Manciple—Parson.
The four leading types of MSS. usually exhibit a variation in the order of the Tales, as well as many minor differences. I only note here the former (omitting Gamelyn, which is absent from MSS. of the A-type, and from some of the D-type).
A.—1. Prologue, Knight, Miller, Reeve, Cook.
2. Man of Lawe.
3. Wife of Bath, Friar, Sompnour.
4. Clerk, Merchant.
5. Squire, Franklin.
6. Doctor, Pardoner.
7. Shipman, Prioress, Sir Thopas, Melibeus, Monk, Nun’s Priest.
8. Second Nun, Canon’s Yeoman.
9. Manciple, (slightly linked to) Parson.
B.—Places 8 before 6. Order: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 6, 7, 9.
C.—Not only places 8 before 6 (as B), but splits 5 into 5 a (Squire) and 5 b (Franklin), and places 5 a before 3. Order 1, 2, 5 a, 3, 4, 5 b, 8, 6, 7, 9.
D.—As C, but further splits 4 into 4 a (Clerk), and 4 b (Merchant), and places 4 b after 5 a. Order: 1, 2, 5 a, 4 b, 3, 4 a, 5 b, 8, 6, 7, 9. (D. is really a mere variety of C., with an external difference.)
Observe the position of the Franklin. Thus: A. Squire, Franklin, Doctor. B. Squire, Franklin, Second Nun. C. Merchant, Franklin, Second Nun. D. Clerk, Franklin, Second Nun.
For further remarks on this subject, see vol. v.
P 14. A 467. Perhaps the full stop at the end of the line should be a colon.
P. 15. Footnote to A 503 For ‘Hl. alone’ read ‘Tyrwhitt.’
P 85. A 3016. For eye read ye
P. 133. B 115. Insert marks of quotation at the beginning and end of the line
P. 133. B 120, 121. Insert marks of quotation at the beginning of l. 120 and at the end of l. 121.
P. 134. In the headline; for T. 4454 read T. 4554.
P. 146. B 540, 541, 547. For cristen read Cristen
P. 146. B 544 For cristianitee read Cristianitee. So also at p. 525; G 535.
P. 194. B 2043. Dele; after spicerye
P 202 B 2222. For yevynge read yevinge
P 205. B 2253 For owe read ow
P 207. B 2303. For se read see
P. 219. footnotes. For 2251 and 2252 read 2551 and 2552
P. 232, ll 9, 10. Dele the quotation-mark after certeyne, and insert it after another.
P. 271. B 4011. For stope a better reading is stape
P. 285. B 4510. For charitee perhaps read Charitee
P. 285. B 4541. For chide read chyde
P. 299. C 291. Either read advocas, or note that the t in advocats is silent.
P. 318. C 955. For Thay read They
P. 338. In the headline; for 6225 read 6235.
P. 339. In the headline; for 6226 read 6236.
P. 344. D 846 For But if read But-if
P. 345. D 859. For All read Al
P. 354. Footnotes; last line. For 1205 read 1204
P. 355. D 1219, 1227. For Chese and chese read Chees and chees.
P. 363. D 1436. For But if read But-if
P. 387. D 2242. Perhaps insert a comma after himself
P. 419. E 994. For gouernance read governance
P. 428. E 1304, 1306. Insert quotation-mark at the end of l. 1304, instead of the end of l. 1306.
P. 438 E 1635. For Saue read Save
P. 444 E 1866. Insert Auctor opposite this line.
P. 449. E 2058. For scorpion read scorpioun; as the last syllable is accented.
P. 459. E 2418. For bless read blesse
P. 461. F 20. After all, the right reading probably is that given by E Cp. Pt. Ln. Hl., but with the form pietous for pitous, as in Troilus, iii. 1444, and v. 451. Read—And piëtous and Iust, alwey y-liche.
P. 468. F 266. For Cambynskan read Cambinskan. So also at p. 480, first line.
P. 474. F 462. For sle read slee
P. 505, footnotes. For 1527 read 1526
P. 527. G 558, footnote. The real reading of E is—
And vndernethe he wered a surplys
P. 543. G 1107. For shall read shal
P. 626. Footnotes; last line. For E Seld. Ln. beauteis; read E. Seld. Ln. beautees;
P. 634. I 955. For Daniel, read David. [N. B. MSS. E. Cm. Danyel; the rest, Dauid. Probably Chaucer wrote ‘Daniel’ at first, and afterwards corrected it (by the original) to ‘David.’ Nevertheless, ‘Daniel’ is a good reading.]
[Further researches have brought to light some more of Chaucer’s Minor Poems. I first met with the excellent Balade on ‘Womanly Noblesse’ in MS. Phillipps 9030 (now MS. Addit. 34360) on June 1, 1894; and on the following day I noticed in MS. Harl. 7578 (partly described in vol. i. p. 58) two Complaints that may perhaps be attributed to our author. As, from the nature of the case, they could not be included in Vol. i, they are inserted here.]
—I take the title from l. 25; cf. Troil. i. 287.
The metre exhibits the nine-line stanza, as in Anelida, 211-9; but the same rimes recur in all three stanzas. The six-line Envoy, with the rime-formu a a b a b a a, is unique in Chaucer. There are nineteen lines ending in -aunce, twelve in -esse, and two in -ede.
1. Note how ll. 1 and 2 are re-echoed in ll. 32, 33. For a similar effect, see Anelida, 211, 350.
8. ful chose, fully chosen; parallel to ful drive in C. T., F 1230.
14. souvenance, remembrance; not found elswhere in Chaucer.
16. humblely is trisyllabic; see Leg. 156, Troil. ii. 1719, v. 1354.
20. lo emphasises swich; cf. lo, this, T. v. 54; lo, which, T. iv. 1231.
22. allegeaunce, alleviation; the verb allegge is in the Glossary.
26. outrance, extreme violence, great hurt; see Godefroy.
27. unbuxumnesse, unsubmissiveness; cf. buxumnesse, Truth, 15.
—I take the title from l. 26; cf. Compl. to his Lady, 41, 64.
1. Cf. Amorous Complaint, 87; Troil. v. 1318, i. 960.
3. ‘Love hath me taught no more of his art,’ &c.; Compl. to his Lady, 42-3.
9. Cf. Compl. of Mars, 13, 14; p. xxx above, l. 43; Parl. Foules, 386-9; Amorous Complaint, 85-6.
19. eche, augment; ‘hir sorwes eche,’ T. i. 705.
27. ‘And to your trouthe ay I me recomaunde;’ T. v. 1414. ‘I am a boistous man;’ C. T., H 211.
—I take the title from l. 12; see T. v. 232, 638, 1392.
7. sounde, heal, cure; as in Anelida, 242.
8. Perhaps read hertes sorwes leche; see T. ii. 1066.
10. Cf. ‘as in his speche;’ T. ii. 1069.
26. impresse; cf. T. ii. 1371.
28. spille; cf. Compl. to his Lady, 121.
32. reyne, bridle. For this image, cf. Anelida, 184.
39. MS. deth the kerue. As e and o are constantly confused, the prefix to (written apart) may have looked like te, and would easily be altered to the. Cf. forkerveth in the Manc. Tale, H 340.
47. Here spac-e rimes with embrac-e, but in l. 5 it rimes with allas. This variation is no worse than the riming of embrace with compas in Proverbs, 8 (vol. i. p. 407). Cf. plac-e in C. T., B 1910, with its variant plas, B 1971.
N. B. The Complaints numbered XXV and XXVI are obviously by the same author; compare XXV. 26 with XXVI. 15; XXV. 9 with XXVI. 43; and XXV. 29-31 with XXVI. 39, 40. They were probably written nearly at the same time.
Here biginneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury.
Man of Lawe.
Wyf of Bathe.
Here endeth the prolog of this book; and here biginneth the first tale, which is the Knightes Tale.
Iamque domos patrias, Scithice post aspera gentis Prelia, laurigero, &c.
[Statius, Theb. xii. 519.]
Explicit prima Pars. Sequitur pars secunda.
Explicit secunda pars. Sequitur pars tercia.
Explicit tercia pars. Sequitur pars quarta.
Here is ended the Knightes Tale.
Here folwen the wordes bitwene the Host and the Millere.
Here endeth the prologe.
Here biginneth the Millere his tale.
Here endeth the Millere his tale.
The prologe of the Reves tale.
Here biginneth the Reves tale.
Here is ended the Reves tale.
The prologe of the Cokes Tale.
Thus endeth the Prologe of the Cokes tale.
Heer bigynneth the Cokes tale.
Of this Cokes tale maked Chaucer na more.
[For The Tale of Gamelin, see the Appendix.]
The wordes of the Hoost to the companye.
The Prologe of the Mannes Tale of Lawe.
Here beginneth the Man of Lawe his Tale.
Explicit prima pars. Sequitur pars secunda.
Explicit secunda pars. Sequitur pars tercia.
Here endeth the Tale of the Man of Lawe; and next folweth the Shipmannes Prolog.
Here biginneth the Shipmannes Prolog.
In Tyrwhitt’s text, ll. 12903-12924.
Here endeth the Shipman his Prolog.
Here biginneth the Shipmannes Tale.
Here endeth the Shipmannes Tale.
Bihold the mery wordes of the Host to the Shipman and to the lady Prioresse.
The Prologe of the Prioresses Tale.
Here biginneth the Prioresses Tale.
Here is ended the Prioresses Tale.
Bihold the murye wordes of the Host to Chaucer.
Here biginneth Chaucers Tale of Thopas.
Here the Host stinteth Chaucer of his Tale of Thopas.
Here biginneth Chaucers Tale of Melibee.
§ 1. A yong man called Melibeus, mighty and riche, bigat up-on his wyf that called was Prudence, a doghter which that called was Sophie./
§ 2. Upon a day bifel, that he for his desport is went in-to the feeldes him to pleye. / His wyf and eek his doghter hath he left inwith his hous, of which the dores weren fast y-shette. / Thre of his olde foos han it espyed, and setten laddres to the walles of his hous, and by the windowes been entred, / and betten his wyf,2160 and wounded his doghter with fyve mortal woundes in fyve sondry places; / this is to seyn, in hir feet, in hir handes, in hir eres, in hir nose, and in hir mouth; and leften hir for deed, and wenten awey. /
§ 4. Prudence his wyf, as ferforth as she dorste, bisoghte him of his weping for to stinte;/ but nat for-thy he gan to crye and wepen ever lenger the more. /2165
§ 5. This noble wyf Prudence remembered hir upon the sentence of Ovide, in his book that cleped is The Remedie of Love, wher-as he seith;/ ‘he is a fool that destourbeth the moder to wepen in the deeth of hir child, til she have wept hir fille, as for a certein tyme;/ and thanne shal man doon his diligence with amiable wordes hir to reconforte, and preyen hir of hir weping for to stinte.’/ For which resoun this noble wyf Prudence suffred hir housbond for to wepe and crye as for a certein space; / and whan she saugh hir tyme, she seyde him in this wyse. ‘Allas, my lord,’ quod she, ‘why make ye your-self for to be lyk a fool?/ For2170 sothe, it aperteneth nat to a wys man, to maken swiche a sorwe./ Your doghter, with the grace of god, shal warisshe and escape. / And al were it so that she right now were deed, ye ne oghte nat as for hir deeth your-self to destroye. / Senek seith: “the wise man shal nat take to greet disconfort for the deeth of his children, / but certes he sholde suffren it in pacience, as wel as he2175 abydeth the deeth of his owene propre persone.” ’/
§ 6. This Melibeus answerde anon and seyde, ‘What man,’ quod he, ‘sholde of his weping stinte, that hath so greet a cause for to wepe? / Iesu Crist, our lord, him-self wepte for the deeth of Lazarus his freend.’/ Prudence answerde, ‘Certes, wel I woot, attempree weping is no-thing defended to him that sorweful is, amonges folk in sorwe, but it is rather graunted him to wepe. / The Apostle Paul un-to the Romayns wryteth, “man shal reioyse with hem that maken Ioye, and wepen with swich folk as wepen.”/ But thogh attempree weping be y-graunted, outrageous weping2180 certes is defended. / Mesure of weping sholde be considered, after the lore that techeth us Senek./ “Whan that thy freend is deed,” quod he, “lat nat thyne eyen to moyste been of teres, ne to muche drye; althogh the teres come to thyne eyen, lat hem nat falle.” / And whan thou hast for-goon thy freend, do diligence to gete another freend; and this is more wysdom than for to wepe for thy freend which that thou hast lorn; for ther-inne is no bote./ And therfore, if ye governe yow by sapience, put awey sorwe out of your herte./ Remembre yow that Iesus Syrak seith: “a man that is Ioyous and glad in herte, it him conserveth florisshing in2185 his age; but soothly sorweful herte maketh his bones drye.” / He seith eek thus: “that sorwe in herte sleeth ful many a man.”/ Salomon seith: “that, right as motthes in the shepes flees anoyeth to the clothes, and the smale wormes to the tree, right so anoyeth sorwe to the herte.” / Wherfore us oghte, as wel in the deeth of our children as in the losse of our goodes temporels, have pacience. /
§ 7. Remembre yow up-on the pacient Iob, whan he hadde lost his children and his temporel substance, and in his body endured and receyved ful many a grevous tribulacioun; yet seyde he thus: / “our lord hath yeven it me, our lord hath biraft it me; right as our lord hath wold, right so it is doon; blessed be the name of our lord.” ’ / To thise foreseide thinges answerde2190 Melibeus un-to his wyf Prudence: ‘Alle thy wordes,’ quod he, ‘been sothe, and ther-to profitable; but trewely myn herte is troubled with this sorwe so grevously, that I noot what to done.’ / ‘Lat calle,’ quod Prudence, ‘thy trewe freendes alle, and thy linage whiche that been wyse; telleth your cas, and herkneth what they seye in conseiling, and yow governe after hir sentence./ Salomon seith: “werk alle thy thinges by conseil, and thou shalt never repente.” ’/
§ 8. Thanne, by the conseil of his wyf Prudence, this Melibeus leet callen a greet congregacioun of folk; / as surgiens, phisiciens, olde folk and yonge, and somme of hise olde enemys reconsiled as by hir semblaunt to his love and in-to his grace; / and therwith-al2195 ther comen somme of hise neighebores that diden him reverence more for drede than for love, as it happeth ofte. / Ther comen also ful many subtile flatereres, and wyse advocats lerned in the lawe. /
§ 9. And whan this folk togidre assembled weren, this Melibeus in sorweful wyse shewed hem his cas; / and by the manere of his speche it semed that in herte he bar a cruel ire, redy to doon vengeaunce up-on hise foos, and sodeynly desired that the werre sholde biginne; / but nathelees yet axed he hir conseil upon this matere. / A surgien, by licence and assent of swiche as2200 weren wyse, up roos and un-to Melibeus seyde as ye may here. /
§ 10. ‘Sir,’ quod he, ‘as to us surgiens aperteneth, that we do to every wight the beste that we can, wher-as we been with-holde, and to our pacients that we do no damage; / wherfore it happeth, many tyme and ofte, that whan twey men han everich wounded other, oon same surgien heleth hem bothe; / wherefore un-to our art it is nat pertinent to norice werre, ne parties to supporte./ But certes, as to the warisshinge of your doghter, al-be-it so that she perilously be wounded, we shullen do so ententif bisinesse fro day to night, that with the grace of god she shal be hool and 2205 sound as sone as is possible.’/ Almost right in the same wyse the phisiciens answerden, save that they seyden a fewe wordes more:/ ‘That, right as maladyes been cured by hir contraries, right so shul men warisshe werre by vengeaunce.’/ His neighebores, ful of envye, his feyned freendes that semeden reconsiled, and his flatereres, / maden semblant of weping, and empeireden and agreggeden muchel of this matere, in preising greetly Melibee of might, of power, of richesse, and of freendes, despysinge the power of his adversaries, / and seiden outrely that he anon sholde wreken2210 him on his foos and biginne werre./
§ 11. Up roos thanne an advocat that was wys, by leve and by conseil of othere that were wyse, and seyde: / ‘Lordinges, the nede for which we been assembled in this place is a ful hevy thing and an heigh matere, / by-cause of the wrong and of the wikkednesse that hath be doon, and eek by resoun of the grete damages that in tyme cominge been possible to fallen for this same cause; / and eek by resoun of the grete richesse and power of the parties bothe;/ for the whiche resouns it were a ful greet peril to erren in this2215 matere. / Wherfore, Melibeus, this is our sentence: we conseille yow aboven alle thing, that right anon thou do thy diligence in kepinge of thy propre persone, in swich a wyse that thou ne wante noon espye ne wacche, thy body for to save. / And after that we conseille, that in thyn hous thou sette suffisant garnisoun, so that they may as wel thy body as thyn hous defende. / But certes, for to moeve werre, or sodeynly for to doon vengeaunce, we may nat demen in so litel tyme that it were profitable. / Wherfore we axen leyser and espace to have deliberacioun in this cas to deme./ For the commune proverbe seith thus: “he that sone demeth,2220 sone shal repente.”/ And eek men seyn that thilke Iuge is wys, that sone understondeth a matere and Iuggeth by leyser. / For al-be-it so that alle tarying be anoyful, algates it is nat to repreve in yevynge of Iugement, ne in vengeance-taking, whan it is suffisant and resonable. / And that shewed our lord Iesu Crist by ensample; for whan that the womman that was taken in avoutrie was broght in his presence, to knowen what sholde be doon with hir persone, al-be-it so that he wiste wel him-self what that he wolde answere, yet ne wolde he nat answere sodeynly, but he wolde have deliberacioun, and in the ground he wroot twyes. / And by thise causes we axen deliberacioun, and we shal thanne, by the grace of god, conseille thee thing that shal be profitable.’/
§ 12. Up stirten thanne the yonge folk at-ones, and the moste partie of that companye han scorned the olde wyse men, and bigonnen to make noyse, and seyden: that, / right so as whyl that2225 iren is hoot, men sholden smyte, right so, men sholde wreken hir wronges whyle that they been fresshe and newe; and with loud voys they cryden, ‘werre! werre!’/
Up roos tho oon of thise olde wyse, and with his hand made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven him audience./ ‘Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘ther is ful many a man that cryeth “werre! werre!” that woot ful litel what werre amounteth./ Werre at his beginning hath so greet an entree and so large, that every wight may entre whan him lyketh, and lightly finde werre. / But, certes, what ende that shal ther-of bifalle, it is nat light to knowe./ For sothly, whan that werre is2230 ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his moder, that shal sterve yong by-cause of that ilke werre, or elles live in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse./ And ther-fore, er that any werre biginne, men moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacioun.’/ And whan this olde man wende to enforcen his tale by resons, wel ny alle at-ones bigonne they to ryse for to breken his tale, and beden him ful ofte his wordes for to abregge./ For soothly, he that precheth to hem that listen nat heren his wordes, his sermon hem anoyeth./ For Iesus Syrak seith: that “musik in wepinge is anoyous thing;” this is to seyn: as muche availleth to speken bifore folk to whiche his speche anoyeth, as dooth to singe biforn him that wepeth. / And whan this wyse man saugh that him2235 wanted audience, al shamefast he sette him doun agayn. / For Salomon seith: “ther-as thou ne mayst have noon audience, enforce thee nat to speke.”/ ‘I see wel,’ quod this wyse man, ‘that the commune proverbe is sooth; that “good conseil wanteth whan it is most nede.” ’ /
§ 13. Yet hadde this Melibeus in his conseil many folk, that prively in his ere conseilled him certeyn thing, and conseilled him the contrarie in general audience./
Whan Melibeus hadde herd that the gretteste partie of his conseil weren accorded that he sholde maken werre, anoon he2240 consented to hir conseilling, and fully affermed hir sentence./ Thanne dame Prudence, whan that she saugh how that hir housbonde shoop him for to wreken him on his foos, and to biginne werre, she in ful humble wyse, when she saugh hir tyme, seide him thise wordes: / ‘My lord,’ quod she, ‘I yow biseche as hertely as I dar and can, ne haste yow nat to faste, and for alle guerdons as yeveth me audience. / For Piers Alfonce seith: “who-so that dooth to that other good or harm, haste thee nat to quyten it; for in this wyse thy freend wol abyde, and thyn enemy shal the lenger live in drede.”/ The proverbe seith: “he hasteth wel that wysely can abyde;” and in wikked haste is no profit.’/
§ 14. This Melibee answerde un-to his wyf Prudence: ‘I purpose nat,’ quod he, ‘to werke by thy conseil, for many causes and resouns. For certes every wight wolde holde me thanne a2245 fool; / this is to seyn, if I, for thy conseilling, wolde chaungen thinges that been ordeyned and affermed by so manye wyse./ Secoundly I seye, that alle wommen been wikke and noon good of hem alle. For “of a thousand men,” seith Salomon, “I fond a good man: but certes, of alle wommen, good womman fond I never.” / And also certes, if I governed me by thy conseil, it sholde seme that I hadde yeve to thee over me the maistrie; and god forbede that it so were. / For Iesus Syrak seith; “that if the wyf have maistrie, she is contrarious to hir housbonde.”/ And Salomon seith: “never in thy lyf, to thy wyf, ne to thy child, ne to thy freend, ne yeve no power over thy-self. For bettre it were that thy children aske of thy persone thinges that hem nedeth,2250 than thou see thy-self in the handes of thy children.” / And also, if I wolde werke by thy conseilling, certes my conseilling moste som tyme be secree, til it were tyme that it moste be knowe; and this ne may noght be. / [For it is writen, that “the Ianglerie of wommen can hyden thinges that they witen noght.” / Furthermore, the philosophre seith, “in wikked conseil wommen venquisshe men;” and for thise resouns I ne owe nat usen thy conseil.’] /
§ 15. Whanne dame Prudence, ful debonairly and with greet pacience, hadde herd al that hir housbonde lyked for to seye, thanne axed she of him licence for to speke, and seyde in this wyse./ ‘My lord,’ quod she, ‘as to your firste resoun, certes it may lightly been answered. For I seye, that it is no folie to chaunge conseil whan the thing is chaunged; or elles whan the thing semeth otherweyes than it was biforn./ And more-over I2255 seye, that though ye han sworn and bihight to perfourne your emprise, and nathelees ye weyve to perfourne thilke same emprise by Iuste cause, men sholde nat seyn therefore that ye were a lyer ne forsworn./ For the book seith, that “the wyse man maketh no lesing whan he turneth his corage to the bettre.”/ And al-be-it so that your emprise be establissed and ordeyned by greet multitude of folk, yet thar ye nat accomplice thilke same ordinaunce but yow lyke. / For the trouthe of thinges and the profit been rather founden in fewe folk that been wyse and ful of resoun, than by greet multitude of folk, ther every man cryeth and clatereth what that him lyketh. Soothly swich multitude is nat honeste./ As to the seconde resoun, where-as ye seyn that “alle wommen been wikke,” save your grace, certes ye despysen alle wommen in this wyse; and “he that alle despyseth alle displeseth,” as seith the book. / And Senek seith that “who-so wole have sapience, shal2260 no man dispreise; but he shal gladly techen the science that he can, with-outen presumpcioun or pryde. / And swiche thinges as he nought ne can, he shal nat been ashamed to lerne hem and enquere of lasse folk than him-self.”/ And sir, that ther hath been many a good womman, may lightly be preved./ For certes, sir, our lord Iesu Crist wolde never have descended to be born of a womman, if alle wommen hadden ben wikke./ And after that, for the grete bountee that is in wommen, our lord Iesu Crist, whan he was risen fro deeth to lyve, appeered rather to a womman than to his apostles./ And though that Salomon seith, that “he2265 ne fond never womman good,” it folweth nat therfore that alle wommen ben wikke. / For though that he ne fond no good womman, certes, ful many another man hath founden many a womman ful good and trewe. / Or elles per-aventure the entente of Salomon was this; that, as in sovereyn bountee, he fond no womman;/ this is to seyn, that ther is no wight that hath sovereyn bountee save god allone; as he him-self recordeth in his Evaungelie./ For ther nis no creature so good that him ne2270 wanteth somwhat of the perfeccioun of god, that is his maker./ Your thridde resoun is this: ye seyn that “if ye governe yow by my conseil, it sholde seme that ye hadde yeve me the maistrie and the lordshipe over your persone.” / Sir, save your grace, it is nat so. For if it were so, that no man sholde be conseilled but only of hem that hadden lordshipe and maistrie of his persone, men wolden nat be conseilled so ofte./ For soothly, thilke man that asketh conseil of a purpos, yet hath he free chois, wheither he wole werke by that conseil or noon. / And as to your fourthe resoun, ther ye seyn that “the Ianglerie of wommen hath hid thinges that they woot noght,” as who seith, that “a womman can nat hyde that she woot;”/ sir, thise wordes been understonde of2275 wommen that been Iangleresses and wikked;/ of whiche wommen, men seyn that “three thinges dryven a man out of his hous; that is to seyn, smoke, dropping of reyn, and wikked wyves;” / and of swiche wommen seith Salomon, that “it were bettre dwelle in desert, than with a womman that is riotous.”/ And sir, by your leve, that am nat I;/ for ye han ful ofte assayed my grete silence and my gret pacience; and eek how wel that I can hyde and hele thinges that men oghte secreely to hyde./ And soothly, as to your fifthe resoun, wher-as ye seyn, that “in wikked conseil wommen venquisshe men;” god woot, thilke resoun stant here2280 in no stede. / For understond now, ye asken conseil to do wikkednesse;/ and if ye wole werken wikkednesse, and your wyf restreyneth thilke wikked purpos, and overcometh yow by resoun and by good conseil;/ certes, your wyf oghte rather to be preised than y-blamed./ Thus sholde ye understonde the philosophre that seith, “in wikked conseil wommen venquisshen hir housbondes.”/ And ther-as ye blamen alle wommen and hir resouns, I shal shewe yow by manye ensamples that many a womman hath ben ful good, and yet been; and hir conseils ful2285 hoolsome and profitable./ Eek som men han seyd, that “the conseillinge of wommen is outher to dere, or elles to litel of prys.”/ But al-be-it so, that ful many a womman is badde, and hir conseil vile and noght worth, yet han men founde ful many a good womman, and ful discrete and wise in conseillinge./ Lo, Iacob, by good conseil of his moder Rebekka, wan the benisoun of Ysaak his fader, and the lordshipe over alle his bretheren./ Iudith, by hir good conseil, delivered the citee of Bethulie, in which she dwelled, out of the handes of Olofernus, that hadde it biseged and wolde have al destroyed it./ Abigail delivered Nabal hir housbonde fro David the king, that wolde have slayn him, and apaysed the ire of the king by hir wit and by hir good conseilling./ Hester by hir good conseil enhaunced greetly the2290 peple of god in the regne of Assuerus the king. / And the same bountee in good conseilling of many a good womman may men telle./ And moreover, whan our lord hadde creat Adam our forme-fader, he seyde in this wyse:/ “it is nat good to been a man allone; make we to him an help semblable to himself.”/ Here may ye se that, if that wommen were nat goode, and hir conseils goode and profitable,/ our lord god of hevene wolde2295 never han wroght hem, ne called hem help of man, but rather confusioun of man./ And ther seyde ones a clerk in two vers: “what is bettre than gold? Iaspre. What is bettre than Iaspre? Wisdom. / And what is bettre than wisdom? Womman. And what is bettre than a good womman? No-thing.” / And sir, by manye of othre resons may ye seen, that manye wommen been goode, and hir conseils goode and profitable./ And therfore sir, if ye wol triste to my conseil, I shal restore yow your doghter hool and sound./ And eek I wol do to yow so muche, that ye2300 shul have honour in this cause.’/
§ 16. Whan Melibee hadde herd the wordes of his wyf Prudence, he seyde thus:/ ‘I se wel that the word of Salomon is sooth; he seith, that “wordes that been spoken discreetly by ordinaunce, been honycombes; for they yeven swetnesse to the soule, and hoolsomnesse to the body.”/ And wyf, by-cause of thy swete wordes, and eek for I have assayed and preved thy grete sapience and thy grete trouthe, I wol governe me by thy conseil in alle thing.’/
§ 17. ‘Now sir,’ quod dame Prudence, ‘and sin ye vouche-sauf to been governed by my conseil, I wol enforme yow how ye2305 shul governe your-self in chesinge of your conseillours./ Ye shul first, in alle your werkes, mekely biseken to the heighe god that he wol be your conseillour;/ and shapeth yow to swich entente, that he yeve yow conseil and confort, as taughte Thobie his sone./ “At alle tymes thou shalt blesse god, and praye him to dresse thy weyes”; and looke that alle thy conseils been in him for evermore./ Seint Iame eek seith: “if any of yow have nede of sapience, axe it of god.”/ And afterward thanne shul ye taken conseil in your-self, and examine wel your thoghtes, of swich thing as yow2310 thinketh that is best for your profit. / And thanne shul ye dryve fro your herte three thinges that been contrariouse to good conseil, / that is to seyn, ire, coveitise, and hastifnesse./
§ 18. First, he that axeth conseil of him-self, certes he moste been with-outen ire, for manye causes./ The firste is this: he that hath greet ire and wratthe in him-self, he weneth alwey that he may do thing that he may nat do./ And secoundely, he that is irous2315 and wroth, he ne may nat wel deme; / and he that may nat wel deme, may nat wel conseille./ The thridde is this; that “he that is irous and wrooth,” as seith Senek, “ne may nat speke but he blame thinges;” / and with his viciouse wordes he stireth other folk to angre and to ire./ And eek sir, ye moste dryve coveitise out of your herte./ For the apostle seith, that “coveitise is rote2320 of alle harmes.”/ And trust wel that a coveitous man ne can noght deme ne thinke, but only to fulfille the ende of his coveitise;/ and certes, that ne may never been accompliced; for ever the more habundaunce that he hath of richesse, the more he desyreth./ And sir, ye moste also dryve out of your herte hastifnesse; for certes, / ye ne may nat deme for the beste a sodeyn thought that falleth in youre herte, but ye moste avyse yow on it ful ofte./ For as ye herde biforn, the commune proverbe is this, that “he that2325 sone demeth, sone repenteth.”/
§ 19. Sir, ye ne be nat alwey in lyke disposicioun; / for certes, som thing that somtyme semeth to yow that it is good for to do, another tyme it semeth to yow the contrarie./
§ 20. Whan ye han taken conseil in your-self, and han demed by good deliberacion swich thing as you semeth best, / thanne rede I yow, that ye kepe it secree./ Biwrey nat your conseil to no persone, but-if so be that ye wenen sikerly that, thurgh your biwreying, your condicioun shal be to yow the more profitable./ For Iesus2330 Syrak seith: “neither to thy foo ne to thy freend discovere nat thy secree ne thy folie;/ for they wol yeve yow audience and loking and supportacioun in thy presence, and scorne thee in thyn absence.” / Another clerk seith, that “scarsly shaltou finden any persone that may kepe conseil secreely.” / The book seith: “whyl that thou kepest thy conseil in thyn herte, thou kepest it in thy prisoun:/ and whan thou biwreyest thy conseil to any wight, he holdeth thee in his snare.”/ And therefore yow is bettre to hyde2335 your conseil in your herte, than praye him, to whom ye han biwreyed your conseil, that he wole kepen it cloos and stille. / For Seneca seith: “if so be that thou ne mayst nat thyn owene conseil hyde, how darstou prayen any other wight thy conseil secreely to kepe?” / But nathelees, if thou wene sikerly that the biwreying of thy conseil to a persone wol make thy condicioun to stonden in the bettre plyt, thanne shaltou tellen him thy conseil in this wyse./ First, thou shalt make no semblant whether thee were lever pees or werre, or this or that, ne shewe him nat thy wille and thyn entente; / for trust wel, that comunly thise conseillours been flatereres, / namely the conseillours of grete lordes; / for they enforcen2340 hem alwey rather to speken plesante wordes, enclyninge to the lordes lust, than wordes that been trewe or profitable./ And therfore men seyn, that “the riche man hath seld good conseil but-if he have it of him-self.” / And after that, thou shalt considere thy freendes and thyne enemys./ And as touchinge thy freendes, thou shalt considere whiche of hem been most feithful and most wyse, and eldest and most approved in conseilling. / And2345 of hem shalt thou aske thy conseil, as the caas requireth./
§ 21. I seye that first ye shul clepe to your conseil your freendes that been trewe./ For Salomon seith: that “right as the herte of a man delyteth in savour that is sote, right so the conseil of trewe freendes yeveth swetenesse to the soule.”/ He seith also: “ther may no-thing be lykned to the trewe freend.”/ For certes, gold ne silver beth nat so muche worth as the gode wil of a trewe freend./2350 And eek he seith, that “a trewe freend is a strong deffense; who-so that it findeth, certes he findeth a greet tresour.”/ Thanne shul ye eek considere, if that your trewe freendes been discrete and wyse. For the book seith: “axe alwey thy conseil of hem that been wyse.”/ And by this same resoun shul ye clepen to your conseil, of your freendes that been of age, swiche as han seyn and been expert in manye thinges, and been approved in conseillinges./ For the book seith, that “in olde men is the sapience and in longe tyme the prudence.”/ And Tullius seith: that “grete thinges ne been nat ay accompliced by strengthe, ne by delivernesse of body, but by good conseil, by auctoritee of persones, and by science; the whiche three thinges ne been nat feble by age, but2355 certes they enforcen and encreesen day by day.” / And thanne shul ye kepe this for a general reule. First shul ye clepen to your conseil a fewe of your freendes that been especiale;/ for Salomon seith: “manye freendes have thou; but among a thousand chese thee oon to be thy conseillour.”/ For al-be-it so that thou first ne telle thy conseil but to a fewe, thou mayst afterward telle it to mo folk, if it be nede./ But loke alwey that thy conseillours have thilke three condiciouns that I have seyd bifore; that is to seyn, that they be trewe, wyse, and of old experience./ And werke nat alwey in every nede by oon counseillour allone; for somtyme bihoveth it2360 to been conseilled by manye./ For Salomon seith: “salvacioun of thinges is wher-as ther been manye conseillours.”/
§ 22. Now sith that I have told yow of which folk ye sholde been counseilled, now wol I teche yow which conseil ye oghte to eschewe. / First ye shul eschewe the conseilling of foles; for Salomon seith: “taak no conseil of a fool, for he ne can noght conseille but after his owene lust and his affeccioun.”/ The book seith: that “the propretee of a fool is this; he troweth lightly harm of every wight, and lightly troweth alle bountee in him-self.”/ Thou shalt eek eschewe the conseilling of alle flatereres, swiche as enforcen hem rather to preise your persone2365 by flaterye than for to telle yow the sothfastnesse of thinges. /
§ 23. ‘Wherfore Tullius seith: “amonges alle the pestilences that been in freendshipe, the gretteste is flaterye.” And therfore is it more nede that thou eschewe and drede flatereres than any other peple./ The book seith: “thou shalt rather drede and flee fro the swete wordes of flateringe preiseres, than fro the egre wordes of thy freend that seith thee thy sothes.”/ Salomon seith, that “the wordes of a flaterere is a snare to cacche with innocents.” / He seith also, that “he that speketh to his freend wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce, setteth a net biforn his feet to cacche him.”/ And therfore seith Tullius: “enclyne nat thyne eres to flatereres, ne taketh no conseil of wordes of flaterye.” / And2370 Caton seith: “avyse thee wel, and eschewe the wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce.”/ And eek thou shalt eschewe the conseilling of thyne olde enemys that been reconsiled./ The book seith: that “no wight retourneth saufly in-to the grace of his olde enemy.”/ And Isope seith: “ne trust nat to hem to whiche thou hast had som-tyme werre or enmitee, ne telle hem nat thy conseil.” / And Seneca telleth the cause why. “It may nat be,” seith he, “that, where greet fyr hath longe tyme endured, that ther ne dwelleth som vapour of warmnesse.”/ And therfore seith2375 Salomon: “in thyn olde foo trust never.”/ For sikerly, though thyn enemy be reconsiled and maketh thee chere of humilitee, and louteth to thee with his heed, ne trust him never. / For certes, he maketh thilke feyned humilitee more for his profit than for any love of thy persone; by-cause that he demeth to have victorie over thy persone by swich feyned contenance, the which victorie he mighte nat have by stryf or werre. / And Peter Alfonce seith: “make no felawshipe with thyne olde enemys; for if thou do hem bountee, they wol perverten it in-to wikkednesse.”/ And eek thou most eschewe the conseilling of hem that been thy servants, and beren thee greet reverence; for peraventure they seyn it more for drede than for love. / And2380 therfore seith a philosophre in this wyse: “ther is no wight parfitly trewe to him that he to sore dredeth.”/ And Tullius seith: “ther nis no might so greet of any emperour, that longe may endure, but-if he have more love of the peple than drede.” / Thou shalt also eschewe the conseiling of folk that been dronkelewe; for they ne can no conseil hyde. / For Salomon seith: “ther is no privetee ther-as regneth dronkenesse.”/ Ye shul also han in suspect the conseilling of swich folk as conseille yow a thing prively, and conseille yow the contrarie openly./ For2385 Cassidorie seith: that “it is a maner sleighte to hindre, whan he sheweth to doon a thing openly and werketh prively the contrarie.”/ Thou shalt also have in suspect the conseilling of wikked folk. For the book seith: “the conseilling of wikked folk is alwey ful of fraude:”/ And David seith: “blisful is that man that hath nat folwed the conseilling of shrewes.” / Thou shalt also eschewe the conseilling of yong folk; for hir conseil is nat rype./
§ 24. Now sir, sith I have shewed yow of which folk ye shul2390 take your conseil, and of which folk ye shul folwe the conseil,/ now wol I teche yow how ye shal examine your conseil, after the doctrine of Tullius./ In the examininge thanne of your conseillour, ye shul considere manye thinges./ Alderfirst thou shalt considere, that in thilke thing that thou purposest, and upon what thing thou wolt have conseil, that verray trouthe be seyd and conserved; this is to seyn, telle trewely thy tale./ For he that seith fals may nat wel be conseilled, in that cas of which he lyeth./ And after this, thou shalt considere the thinges that acorden to that thou purposest for to do by thy conseillours, if resoun2395 accorde therto;/ and eek, if thy might may atteine ther-to; and if the more part and the bettre part of thy conseillours acorde ther-to, or no. / Thanne shaltou considere what thing shal folwe of that conseilling; as hate, pees, werre, grace, profit, or damage; and manye othere thinges. / And in alle thise thinges thou shalt chese the beste, and weyve alle othere thinges. / Thanne shaltow considere of what rote is engendred the matere of thy conseil, and what fruit it may conceyve and engendre. / Thou shalt eek considere alle thise causes, fro whennes they2400 been sprongen./ And whan ye han examined your conseil as I have seyd, and which partie is the bettre and more profitable, and hast approved it by manye wyse folk and olde;/ thanne shaltou considere, if thou mayst parfourne it and maken of it a good ende./ For certes, resoun wol nat that any man sholde biginne a thing, but-if he mighte parfourne it as him oghte./ Ne no wight sholde take up-on hym so hevy a charge that he mighte nat bere it./ For the proverbe seith: “he that to muche2405 embraceth, distreyneth litel.”/ And Catoun seith: “assay to do swich thing as thou hast power to doon, lest that the charge oppresse thee so sore, that thee bihoveth to weyve thing that thou hast bigonne.” / And if so be that thou be in doute, whether thou mayst parfourne a thing or noon, chese rather to suffre than biginne./ And Piers Alphonce seith: “if thou hast might to doon a thing of which thou most repente thee, it is bettre ‘nay’ than ‘ye’;”/ this is to seyn, that thee is bettre holde thy tonge stille, than for to speke./ Thanne may ye understonde by strenger resons, that if thou hast power to parfourne a werk of which thou shalt repente, thanne is it bettre that thou suffre than biginne. / Wel seyn they, that defenden every wight to assaye2410 any thing of which he is in doute, whether he may parfourne it or no./ And after, whan ye han examined your conseil as I have seyd biforn, and knowen wel that ye may parfourne youre emprise, conferme it thanne sadly til it be at an ende. /
§ 25. Now is it resoun and tyme that I shewe yow, whanne, and wherfore, that ye may chaunge your conseil with-outen your repreve./ Soothly, a man may chaungen his purpos and his conseil if the cause cesseth, or whan a newe caas bitydeth. / For the lawe seith: that “upon thinges that newely bityden bihoveth newe conseil.”/ And Senek seith: “if thy conseil is comen to2415 the eres of thyn enemy, chaunge thy conseil.” / Thou mayst also chaunge thy conseil if so be that thou finde that, by errour or by other cause, harm or damage may bityde. / Also, if thy conseil be dishonest, or elles cometh of dishoneste cause, chaunge thy conseil./ For the lawes seyn: that “alle bihestes that been dishoneste been of no value.”/ And eek, if it so be that it be inpossible, or may nat goodly be parfourned or kept. /2420
§ 26. And take this for a general reule, that every conseil that is affermed so strongly that it may nat be chaunged, for no condicioun that may bityde, I seye that thilke conseil is wikked.’/
§ 27. This Melibeus, whanne he hadde herd the doctrine of his wyf dame Prudence, answerde in this wyse. / ‘Dame,’ quod he, ‘as yet in-to this tyme ye han wel and covenably taught me as in general, how I shal governe me in the chesinge and in the withholdinge of my conseillours./ But now wolde I fayn that ye wolde condescende in especial,/ and telle me how lyketh yow, or what semeth yow, by our conseillours that we han chosen in2425 our present nede.’/
§ 28. ‘My lord,’ quod she, ‘I biseke yow in al humblesse, that ye wol nat wilfully replye agayn my resouns, ne distempre your herte thogh I speke thing that yow displese./ For god wot that, as in myn entente, I speke it for your beste, for your honour and for your profite eke./ And soothly, I hope that your benignitee wol taken it in pacience. / Trusteth me wel,’ quod she, ‘that your conseil as in this caas ne sholde nat, as to speke properly, be called a conseilling, but a mocioun or a moevyng of folye;/2430 in which conseil ye han erred in many a sondry wyse./
§ 29. First and forward, ye han erred in thassemblinge of your conseillours./ For ye sholde first have cleped a fewe folk to your conseil, and after ye mighte han shewed it to mo folk, if it hadde been nede./ But certes, ye han sodeynly cleped to your conseil a greet multitude of peple, ful chargeant and ful anoyous for to here./ Also ye han erred, for there-as ye sholden only have cleped to your conseil your trewe freendes olde and wyse,/ ye han y-cleped straunge folk, and yong folk, false flatereres, and enemys reconsiled, and folk that doon yow reverence withouten2435 love./ And eek also ye have erred, for ye han broght with yow to your conseil ire, covetise, and hastifnesse;/ the whiche three thinges been contrariouse to every conseil honeste and profitable;/ the whiche three thinges ye han nat anientissed or destroyed hem, neither in your-self ne in your conseillours, as yow oghte. / Ye han erred also, for ye han shewed to your conseillours your talent, and your affeccioun to make werre anon and for to do vengeance;/ they han espyed by your wordes to what thing ye2440 been enclyned./ And therfore han they rather conseilled yow to your talent than to your profit./ Ye han erred also, for it semeth that yow suffyseth to han been conseilled by thise conseillours only, and with litel avys; / wher-as, in so greet and so heigh a nede, it hadde been necessarie mo conseillours, and more deliberacioun to parfourne your emprise./ Ye han erred also, for ye han nat examined your conseil in the forseyde manere, ne in due manere as the caas requireth./ Ye han erred also, for ye han maked no divisioun bitwixe your conseillours; this is to seyn, bitwixen your trewe freendes and your feyned conseillours; /2445 ne ye han nat knowe the wil of your trewe freendes olde and wyse;/ but ye han cast alle hir wordes in an hochepot, and enclyned your herte to the more part and to the gretter nombre; and ther been ye condescended. / And sith ye wot wel that men shal alwey finde a gretter nombre of foles than of wyse men,/ and therfore the conseils that been at congregaciouns and multitudes of folk, ther-as men take more reward to the nombre than to the sapience of persones,/ ye see wel that in swiche conseillinges foles han the maistrie.’/ Melibeus answerde agayn, and seyde:2450 ‘I graunte wel that I have erred;/ but ther-as thou hast told me heer-biforn, that he nis nat to blame that chaungeth hise conseillours in certein caas, and for certeine Iuste causes,/ I am al redy to chaunge my conseillours, right as thow wolt devyse./ The proverbe seith: that “for to do sinne is mannish, but certes for to persevere longe in sinne is werk of the devel.” ’/
§ 30. To this sentence answerde anon dame Prudence, and seyde: / ‘Examineth,’ quod she, ‘your conseil, and lat us see2455 the whiche of hem han spoken most resonably, and taught yow best conseil. / And for-as-muche as that the examinacioun is necessarie, lat us biginne at the surgiens and at the phisiciens, that first speken in this matere. / I sey yow, that the surgiens and phisiciens han seyd yow in your conseil discreetly, as hem oughte;/ and in hir speche seyden ful wysly, that to the office of hem aperteneth to doon to every wight honour and profit, and no wight for to anoye; / and, after hir craft, to doon greet diligence un-to the cure of hem whiche that they han in hir governaunce. /2460 And sir, right as they han answered wysly and discreetly,/ right so rede I that they been heighly and sovereynly guerdoned for hir noble speche; / and eek for they sholde do the more ententif bisinesse in the curacioun of your doghter dere./ For al-be-it so that they been your freendes, therfore shal ye nat suffren that they serve yow for noght;/ but ye oghte the rather guerdone hem and shewe hem your largesse. / And as touchinge the proposicioun2465 which that the phisiciens entreteden in this caas, this is to seyn, / that, in maladyes, that oon contrarie is warisshed by another contrarie, / I wolde fayn knowe how ye understonde thilke text, and what is your sentence.’ / ‘Certes,’ quod Melibeus, ‘I understonde it in this wyse:/ that, right as they han doon me a2470 contrarie, right so sholde I doon hem another./ For right as they han venged hem on me and doon me wrong, right so shal I venge me upon hem and doon hem wrong;/ and thanne have I cured oon contrarie by another.’/
§ 31. ‘Lo, lo!’ quod dame Prudence, ‘how lightly is every man enclyned to his owene desyr and to his owene plesaunce!/ Certes,’ quod she, ‘the wordes of the phisiciens ne sholde nat han been understonden in this wyse./ For certes, wikkednesse is nat contrarie to wikkednesse, ne vengeaunce to vengeaunce, ne2475 wrong to wrong; but they been semblable./ And therfore, o vengeaunce is nat warisshed by another vengeaunce, ne o wrong by another wrong;/ but everich of hem encreesceth and aggreggeth other./ But certes, the wordes of the phisiciens sholde been understonden in this wyse:/ for good and wikkednesse been two contraries, and pees and werre, vengeaunce and suffraunce, discord and accord, and manye othere thinges./ But certes, wikkednesse shal be warisshed by goodnesse, discord by2480 accord, werre by pees, and so forth of othere thinges./ And heer-to accordeth Seint Paul the apostle in manye places./ He seith: “ne yeldeth nat harm for harm, ne wikked speche for wikked speche;/ but do wel to him that dooth thee harm, and blesse him that seith to thee harm.”/ And in manye othere places he amonesteth pees and accord./ But now wol I speke to yow of the conseil which that was yeven to yow by the men of2485 lawe and the wyse folk,/ that seyden alle by oon accord as ye han herd bifore;/ that, over alle thynges, ye sholde doon your diligence to kepen your persone and to warnestore your hous. / And seyden also, that in this caas ye oghten for to werken ful avysely and with greet deliberacioun./ And sir, as to the firste point, that toucheth to the keping of your persone;/ ye shul understonde that he that hath werre shal evermore mekely and2490 devoutly preyen biforn alle thinges, / that Iesus Crist of his grete mercy wol han him in his proteccioun, and been his sovereyn helping at his nede. / For certes, in this world ther is no wight that may be conseilled ne kept suffisantly withouten the keping of our lord Iesu Crist. / To this sentence accordeth the prophete David, that seith:/ “if god ne kepe the citee, in ydel waketh he that it kepeth.”/ Now sir, thanne shul ye committe the keping of your persone to your trewe freendes that been approved and y-knowe; / and of hem shul ye axen help your persone for to kepe.2495 For Catoun seith: “if thou hast nede of help, axe it of thy freendes;/ for ther nis noon so good a phisicien as thy trewe freend.”/ And after this, thanne shul ye kepe yow fro alle straunge folk, and fro lyeres, and have alwey in suspect hir companye./ For Piers Alfonce seith: “ne tak no companye by the weye of a straunge man, but-if so be that thou have knowe him of a lenger tyme. / And if so be that he falle in-to thy companye paraventure withouten thyn assent, / enquere thanne, as subtilly as2500 thou mayst, of his conversacioun and of his lyf bifore, and feyne thy wey; seye that thou goost thider as thou wolt nat go;/ and if he bereth a spere, hold thee on the right syde, and if he bere a swerd, hold thee on the lift syde.” / And after this, thanne shul ye kepe yow wysely from alle swich manere peple as I have seyd bifore, and hem and hir conseil eschewe./ And after this, thanne shul ye kepe yow in swich manere,/ that for any presumpcioun of your strengthe, that ye ne dispyse nat ne acounte nat the might of your adversarie so litel, that ye lete the keping of your persone for your presumpcioun;/ for every wys man dredeth2505 his enemy./ And Salomon seith: “weleful is he that of alle hath drede;/ for certes, he that thurgh the hardinesse of his herte and thurgh the hardinesse of him-self hath to greet presumpcioun, him shal yvel bityde.”/ Thanne shul ye evermore countrewayte embusshements and alle espiaille./ For Senek seith: that “the wyse man that dredeth harmes escheweth harmes; / ne he ne falleth in-to perils, that perils escheweth.”/2510 And al-be-it so that it seme that thou art in siker place, yet shaltow alwey do thy diligence in kepinge of thy persone;/ this is to seyn, ne be nat necligent to kepe thy persone, nat only fro thy gretteste enemys but fro thy leeste enemy. / Senek seith: “a man that is wel avysed, he dredeth his leste enemy.” / Ovide seith: that “the litel wesele wol slee the grete bole and the wilde2515 hert.”/ And the book seith: “a litel thorn may prikke a greet king ful sore; and an hound wol holde the wilde boor.” / But nathelees, I sey nat thou shalt be so coward that thou doute ther wher-as is no drede./ The book seith: that “somme folk han greet lust to deceyve, but yet they dreden hem to be deceyved.”/ Yet shaltou drede to been empoisoned, and kepe yow from the companye of scorneres./ For the book seith: “with scorneres2520 make no companye, but flee hir wordes as venim.”/
§ 32. Now as to the seconde point, wher-as your wyse conseillours conseilled yow to warnestore your hous with gret diligence,/ I wolde fayn knowe, how that ye understonde thilke wordes, and what is your sentence.’/
§ 33. Melibeus answerde and seyde, ‘Certes I understande it in this wise; that I shal warnestore myn hous with toures, swiche as han castelles and othere manere edifices, and armure and artelleries, / by whiche thinges I may my persone and myn hous so kepen and defenden, that myne enemys shul been in drede myn hous for to approche.’/
§ 34. To this sentence answerde anon Prudence; ‘warnestoring,’ quod she, ‘of heighe toures and of grete edifices apperteneth2525 som-tyme to pryde; / and eek men make heighe toures and grete edifices with grete costages and with greet travaille; and whan that they been accompliced, yet be they nat worth a stree, but-if they be defended by trewe freendes that been olde and wyse. / And understond wel, that the gretteste and strongeste garnison that a riche man may have, as wel to kepen his persone as hise goodes, is/ that he be biloved amonges his subgets and with hise neighebores./ For thus seith Tullius: that “ther is a maner garnison that no man may venquisse ne disconfite, and that is,/2530 a lord to be biloved of hise citezeins and of his peple.”/
§ 35. Now sir, as to the thridde point; wher-as your olde and wise conseillours seyden, that yow ne oghte nat sodeynly ne hastily proceden in this nede,/ but that yow oghte purveyen and apparaillen yow in this caas with greet diligence and greet deliberacioun;/ trewely, I trowe that they seyden right wysly and right sooth./ For Tullius seith, “in every nede, er thou biginne it, apparaille thee with greet diligence.”/ Thanne seye I, that in vengeance-taking, in werre, in bataille, and in warnestoring,/ er2535 thow biginne, I rede that thou apparaille thee ther-to, and do it with greet deliberacioun./ For Tullius seith: that “long apparailling biforn the bataille maketh short victorie.” / And Cassidorus seith: “the garnison is stronger whan it is longe tyme avysed.”/
§ 36. But now lat us speken of the conseil that was accorded by your neighebores, swiche as doon yow reverence withouten love,/ your olde enemys reconsiled, your flatereres/ that conseilled2540 yow certeyne thinges prively, and openly conseilleden yow the contrarie;/ the yonge folk also, that conseilleden yow to venge yow and make werre anon./ And certes, sir, as I have seyd biforn, ye han greetly erred to han cleped swich maner folk to your conseil;/ which conseillours been y-nogh repreved by the resouns afore-seyd./ But nathelees, lat us now descende to the special. Ye shuln first procede after the doctrine of Tullius./2545 Certes, the trouthe of this matere or of this conseil nedeth nat diligently enquere;/ for it is wel wist whiche they been that han doon to yow this trespas and vileinye,/ and how manye trespassours, and in what manere they han to yow doon al this wrong and al this vileinye./ And after this, thanne shul ye examine the seconde condicioun, which that the same Tullius addeth in this matere./ For Tullius put a thing, which that he clepeth “consentinge,” this is to seyn;/ who been they and how manye, and2550 whiche been they, that consenteden to thy conseil, in thy wilfulnesse to doon hastif vengeance. / And lat us considere also who been they, and how manye been they, and whiche been they, that consenteden to your adversaries./ And certes, as to the firste poynt, it is wel knowen whiche folk been they that consenteden to your hastif wilfulnesse;/ for trewely, alle tho that conseilleden yow to maken sodeyn werre ne been nat your freendes./ Lat us now considere whiche been they, that ye holde so greetly your freendes as to your persone./ For al-be-it so that ye be mighty2555 and riche, certes ye ne been nat but allone./ For certes, ye ne han no child but a doghter;/ ne ye ne han bretheren ne cosins germayns, ne noon other neigh kinrede,/ wherfore that your enemys, for drede, sholde stinte to plede with yow or to destroye your persone./ Ye knowen also, that your richesses moten been2560 dispended in diverse parties;/ and whan that every wight hath his part, they ne wollen taken but litel reward to venge thy deeth./ But thyne enemys been three, and they han manie children, bretheren, cosins, and other ny kinrede;/ and, though so were that thou haddest slayn of hem two or three, yet dwellen ther y-nowe to wreken hir deeth and to slee thy persone./ And though so be that your kinrede be more siker and stedefast than the kin of your adversarie,/ yet nathelees your kinrede nis but a fer2565 kinrede; they been but litel sib to yow, / and the kin of your enemys been ny sib to hem. And certes, as in that, hir condicioun is bet than youres./ Thanne lat us considere also if the conseilling of hem that conseilleden yow to taken sodeyn vengeaunce, whether it accorde to resoun?/ And certes, ye knowe wel “nay.”/ For as by right and resoun, ther may no man taken vengeance on no wight, but the Iuge that hath the Iurisdiccioun of it,/ whan it is graunted him to take thilke vengeance, hastily or attemprely,2570 as the lawe requireth./ And yet more-over, of thilke word that Tullius clepeth “consentinge,”/ thou shalt considere if thy might and thy power may consenten and suffyse to thy wilfulnesse and to thy conseillours./ And certes, thou mayst wel seyn that “nay.”/ For sikerly, as for to speke proprely, we may do no-thing but only swich thing as we may doon rightfully./ And certes, rightfully2575 ne mowe ye take no vengeance as of your propre auctoritee./ Thanne mowe ye seen, that your power ne consenteth nat ne accordeth nat with your wilfulnesse./ Lat us now examine the thridde point that Tullius clepeth “consequent.”/ Thou shalt understonde that the vengeance that thou purposest for to take is the consequent./ And ther-of folweth another vengeaunce, peril, and werre; and othere damages with-oute nombre, of whiche we be nat war as at this tyme./ And as touchinge the2580 fourthe point, that Tullius clepeth “engendringe,”/ thou shalt considere, that this wrong which that is doon to thee is engendred of the hate of thyne enemys;/ and of the vengeance-takinge upon that wolde engendre another vengeance, and muchel sorwe and wastinge of richesses, as I seyde./
§ 37. Now sir, as to the point that Tullius clepeth “causes,” which that is the laste point, / thou shalt understonde that the wrong that thou hast receyved hath certeine causes, / whiche that clerkes clepen Oriens and Efficiens, and Causa longinqua and Causa propinqua; this is to seyn, the fer cause and the ny cause./2585 The fer cause is almighty god, that is cause of alle thinges./ The neer cause is thy three enemys./ The cause accidental was hate./ The cause material been the fyve woundes of thy doghter./ The cause formal is the manere of hir werkinge, that broghten laddres and cloumben in at thy windowes./ The cause final was2590 for to slee thy doghter; it letted nat in as muche as in hem was./ But for to speken of the fer cause, as to what ende they shul come, or what shal finally bityde of hem in this caas, ne can I nat deme but by coniectinge and by supposinge./ For we shul suppose that they shul come to a wikked ende,/ by-cause that the Book of Decrees seith: “selden or with greet peyne been causes y-broght to good ende whanne they been baddely bigonne.” /
§ 38. Now sir, if men wolde axe me, why that god suffred men to do yow this vileinye, certes, I can nat wel answere as for no sothfastnesse./ For thapostle seith, that “the sciences and2595 the Iuggementz of our lord god almighty been ful depe;/ ther may no man comprehende ne serchen hem suffisantly.”/ Nathelees, by certeyne presumpcions and coniectinges, I holde and bileve/ that god, which that is ful of Iustice and of rightwisnesse, hath suffred this bityde by Iuste cause resonable./
§ 39. Thy name is Melibee, this is to seyn, “a man that drinketh hony.”/ Thou hast y-dronke so muchel hony of swete2600 temporel richesses and delices and honours of this world, / that thou art dronken; and hast forgeten Iesu Crist thy creatour;/ thou ne hast nat doon to him swich honour and reverence as thee oughte./ Ne thou ne hast nat wel y-taken kepe to the wordes of Ovide, that seith:/ “under the hony of the godes of the body is hid the venim that sleeth the soule.”/ And Salomon seith, “if2605 thou hast founden hony, ete of it that suffyseth;/ for if thou ete of it out of mesure, thou shalt spewe,” and be nedy and povre./ And peraventure Crist hath thee in despit, and hath turned awey fro thee his face and hise eres of misericorde; / and also he hath suffred that thou hast been punisshed in the manere that thow 2610 hast y-trespassed./ Thou hast doon sinne agayn our lord Crist;/ for certes, the three enemys of mankinde, that is to seyn, the flessh, the feend, and the world, / thou hast suffred hem entre in-to thyn herte wilfully by the windowes of thy body, / and hast nat defended thy-self suffisantly agayns hir assautes and hir temptaciouns, so that they han wounded thy soule in fyve places;/ this is to seyn, the deedly sinnes that been entred in-to thyn herte by thy fyve wittes./ And in the same manere our lord Crist hath wold and suffred, that thy three enemys been entred2615 in-to thyn hous by the windowes,/ and han y-wounded thy doghter in the fore-seyde manere.’/
§ 40. ‘Certes,’ quod Melibee, ‘I see wel that ye enforce yow muchel by wordes to overcome me in swich manere, that I shal nat venge me of myne enemys;/ shewinge me the perils and the yveles that mighten falle of this vengeance./ But who-so wolde considere in alle vengeances the perils and yveles that mighte sewe of vengeance-takinge,/ a man wolde never take vengeance,2620 and that were harm;/ for by the vengeance-takinge been the wikked men dissevered fro the gode men./ And they that han wil to do wikkednesse restreyne hir wikked purpos, whan they seen the punissinge and chastysinge of the trespassours.’/ [And to this answerde dame Prudence: ‘Certes,’ seyde she, ‘I graunte wel that of vengeaunce cometh muchel yvel and muchel good; / but vengeaunce-taking aperteneth nat unto everichoon, but only unto Iuges and unto hem that han Iurisdiccioun upon the trespassours.] / And yet seye I more, that right as a singuler2625 persone sinneth in takinge vengeance of another man,/ right so sinneth the Iuge if he do no vengeance of hem that it han deserved. / For Senek seith thus: “that maister,” he seith, “is good that proveth shrewes.”/ And as Cassidore seith: “A man dredeth to do outrages, whan he woot and knoweth that it displeseth to the Iuges and sovereyns.”/ And another seith: “the Iuge that dredeth to do right, maketh men shrewes.” / And Seint Paule the apostle seith in his epistle, whan he wryteth un-to the2630 Romayns: that “the Iuges beren nat the spere with-outen cause;”/ but they beren it to punisse the shrewes and misdoeres, and for to defende the gode men. / If ye wol thanne take vengeance of your enemys, ye shul retourne or have your recours to the Iuge that hath the Iurisdiccion up-on hem;/ and he shal punisse hem as the lawe axeth and requyreth.’/
§ 41. ‘A!’ quod Melibee, ‘this vengeance lyketh me no-thing./ I bithenke me now and take hede, how fortune hath norissed me fro my childhede, and hath holpen me to passe many a strong pas./ Now wol I assayen hir, trowinge, with goddes help, that she2635 shal helpe me my shame for to venge.’/
§ 42. ‘Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘if ye wol werke by my conseil, ye shul nat assaye fortune by no wey;/ ne ye shul nat lene or bowe unto hir, after the word of Senek:/ for “thinges that been folily doon, and that been in hope of fortune, shullen never come to good ende.”/ And as the same Senek seith: “the more cleer and the more shyning that fortune is, the more brotil and the sonner broken she is.”/ Trusteth nat in hir, for she nis nat2640 stidefast ne stable;/ for whan thow trowest to be most seur or siker of hir help, she wol faille thee and deceyve thee. / And wheras ye seyn that fortune hath norissed yow fro your childhede,/ I seye, that in so muchel shul ye the lasse truste in hir and in hir wit./ For Senek seith: “what man that is norissed by fortune, she maketh him a greet fool.”/ Now thanne, sin ye desyre and2645 axe vengeance, and the vengeance that is doon after the lawe and bifore the Iuge ne lyketh yow nat, / and the vengeance that is doon in hope of fortune is perilous and uncertein, / thanne have ye noon other remedie but for to have your recours unto the sovereyn Iuge that vengeth alle vileinyes and wronges;/ and he shal venge yow after that him-self witnesseth, wher-as he seith:/ “leveth the vengeance to me, and I shal do it.” ’/2650
§ 43. Melibee answerde, ‘if I ne venge me nat of the vileinye that men han doon to me, / I sompne or warne hem that han doon to me that vileinye and alle othere, to do me another vileinye./ For it is writen: “if thou take no vengeance of an old vileinye, thou sompnest thyne adversaries to do thee a newe vileinye.”/ And also, for my suffrance, men wolden do to me so muchel vileinye, that I mighte neither bere it ne sustene;/ and so sholde I been put and holden over lowe./ For men seyn: “in muchel2655 suffringe shul manye thinges falle un-to thee whiche thou shalt nat mowe suffre.” ’/
§ 44. ‘Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘I graunte yow that over muchel suffraunce nis nat good;/ but yet ne folweth it nat ther-of, that every persone to whom men doon vileinye take of it vengeance;/ for that aperteneth and longeth al only to the Iuges, for they shul venge the vileinyes and iniuries./ And ther-fore tho two auctoritees that ye han seyd above, been only understonden2660 in the Iuges;/ for whan they suffren over muchel the wronges and the vileinyes to be doon withouten punisshinge, / they sompne nat a man al only for to do newe wronges, but they comanden it./ Also a wys man seith: that “the Iuge that correcteth nat the sinnere comandeth and biddeth him do sinne.”/ And the Iuges and sovereyns mighten in hir land so muchel suffre of the shrewes and misdoeres, / that they sholden by swich suffrance, by proces of tyme, wexen of swich power and might, that they sholden putte2665 out the Iuges and the sovereyns from hir places, / and atte laste maken hem lesen hir lordshipes./
§ 45. But lat us now putte, that ye have leve to venge yow./ I seye ye been nat of might and power as now to venge yow./ For if ye wole maken comparisoun un-to the might of your adversaries, ye shul finde in manye thinges, that I have shewed yow er this, that hir condicioun is bettre than youres./ And therefore2670 seye I, that it is good as now that ye suffre and be pacient./
§ 46. Forther-more, ye knowen wel that, after the comune sawe, “it is a woodnesse a man to stryve with a strenger or a more mighty man than he is him-self;/ and for to stryve with a man of evene strengthe, that is to seyn, with as strong a man as he, it is peril;/ and for to stryve with a weyker man, it is folie.”/ And therfore sholde a man flee stryvinge as muchel as he mighte./ For Salomon seith: “it is a greet worship to a man to kepen2675 him fro noyse and stryf.”/ And if it so bifalle or happe that a man of gretter might and strengthe than thou art do thee grevaunce, / studie and bisie thee rather to stille the same grevaunce, than for to venge thee./ For Senek seith: that “he putteth him in greet peril that stryveth with a gretter man than he is him-self.”/ And Catoun seith: “if a man of hyer estaat or degree, or more mighty than thou, do thee anoy or grevaunce, suffre him;/ for he that ones hath greved thee may another tyme releve thee and2680 helpe.” / Yet sette I caas, ye have bothe might and licence for to venge yow./ I seye, that ther be ful manye thinges that shul restreyne yow of vengeance-takinge, / and make yow for to enclyne to suffre, and for to han pacience in the thinges that han been doon to yow./ First and foreward, if ye wole considere the defautes that been in your owene persone, / for whiche defautes god hath suffred yow have this tribulacioun, as I have seyd yow heer-biforn./ For the poete seith, that “we oghte paciently taken2685 the tribulacions that comen to us, whan we thinken and consideren that we han deserved to have hem.” / And Seint Gregorie seith: that “whan a man considereth wel the nombre of hise defautes and of his sinnes,/ the peynes and the tribulaciouns that he suffreth semen the lesse un-to hym;/ and in-as-muche as him thinketh hise sinnes more hevy and grevous, / in-so-muche semeth his peyne the lighter and the esier un-to him.”/ Also ye owen2690 to enclyne and bowe your herte to take the pacience of our lord Iesu Crist, as seith seint Peter in hise epistles:/ “Iesu Crist,” he seith, “hath suffred for us, and yeven ensample to every man to folwe and sewe him;/ for he dide never sinne, ne never cam ther a vileinous word out of his mouth: / whan men cursed him, he cursed hem noght; and whan men betten him, he manaced hem noght.”/ Also the grete pacience, which the seintes that been in paradys han had in tribulaciouns that they han y-suffred, with-outen hir desert or gilt,/ oghte muchel stiren yow to pacience./2695 Forthermore, ye sholde enforce yow to have pacience, / consideringe that the tribulaciouns of this world but litel whyle endure, and sone passed been and goon. / And the Ioye that a man seketh to have by pacience in tribulaciouns is perdurable, after that the apostle seith in his epistle:/ “the Ioye of god,” he seith, “is perdurable,” that is to seyn, everlastinge./ Also troweth and2700 bileveth stedefastly, that he nis nat wel y-norissed ne wel y-taught, that can nat have pacience or wol nat receyve pacience./ For Salomon seith: that “the doctrine and the wit of a man is knowen by pacience.”/ And in another place he seith: that “he that is pacient governeth him by greet prudence.”/ And the same Salomon seith: “the angry and wrathful man maketh noyses, and the pacient man atempreth hem and stilleth.”/ He seith also: “it is more worth to be pacient than for to be right strong;/ and he that2705 may have the lordshipe of his owene herte is more to preyse, than he that by his force or strengthe taketh grete citees.”/ And therfore seith seint Iame in his epistle: that “pacience is a greet vertu of perfeccioun.” ’/
§ 47. ‘Certes,’ quod Melibee, ‘I graunte yow, dame Prudence, that pacience is a greet vertu of perfeccioun;/ but every man may nat have the perfeccioun that ye seken;/ ne I nam nat of2710 the nombre of right parfite men, / for myn herte may never been in pees un-to the tyme it be venged./ And al-be-it so that it was greet peril to myne enemys, to do me a vileinye in takinge vengeance up-on me, / yet token they noon hede of the peril, but fulfilleden hir wikked wil and hir corage./ And therfore, me thinketh men oghten nat repreve me, though I putte me in a litel peril for to venge me, / and though I do a greet excesse, that is to seyn,2715 that I venge oon outrage by another.’/
§ 48. ‘A!’ quod dame Prudence, ‘ye seyn your wil and as yow lyketh; / but in no caas of the world a man sholde nat doon outrage ne excesse for to vengen him./ For Cassidore seith: that “as yvel doth he that vengeth him by outrage, as he that doth the outrage.”/ And therfore ye shul venge yow after the ordre of right, that is to seyn by the lawe, and noght by excesse ne by outrage./ And also, if ye wol venge yow of the outrage of your2720 adversaries in other maner than right comandeth, ye sinnen;/ and therfore seith Senek: that “a man shal never vengen shrewednesse by shrewednesse.”/ And if ye seye, that right axeth a man to defenden violence by violence, and fighting by fighting,/ certes ye seye sooth, whan the defense is doon anon with-outen intervalle or with-outen tarying or delay, / for to defenden him and nat for to vengen him. / And it bihoveth that a man putte swich2725 attemperance in his defence, / that men have no cause ne matere to repreven him that defendeth him of excesse and outrage; for elles were it agayn resoun. / Pardee, ye knowen wel, that ye maken no defence as now for to defende yow, but for to venge yow; / and so seweth it that ye han no wil to do your dede attemprely. / And therfore, me thinketh that pacience is good. For Salomon seith: that “he that is nat pacient shal have greet harm.” ’/
§ 49. ‘Certes,’ quod Melibee, ‘I graunte yow, that whan a man is inpacient and wroth, of that that toucheth him noght and that aperteneth nat un-to him, though it harme him, it is no wonder./ For the lawe seith: that “he is coupable that entremetteth2730 or medleth with swich thyng as aperteneth nat un-to him.”/ And Salomon seith: that “he that entremetteth him of the noyse or stryf of another man, is lyk to him that taketh an hound by the eres.”/ For right as he that taketh a straunge hound by the eres is outherwhyle biten with the hound, / right in the same wyse is it resoun that he have harm, that by his inpacience medleth him of the noyse of another man, wher-as it aperteneth nat un-to him./ But ye knowen wel that this dede, that is to seyn, my grief and my disese, toucheth me right ny./ And therfore, though2735 I be wroth and inpacient, it is no merveille./ And savinge your grace, I can nat seen that it mighte greetly harme me though I toke vengeaunce; / for I am richer and more mighty than myne enemys been./ And wel knowen ye, that by moneye and by havinge grete possessions been all the thinges of this world governed./ And Salomon seith: that “alle thinges obeyen to moneye.” ’/2740
§ 50. Whan Prudence hadde herd hir housbonde avanten him of his richesse and of his moneye, dispreisinge the power of hise adversaries, she spak, and seyde in this wyse:/ ‘certes, dere sir, I graunte yow that ye been rich and mighty, / and that the richesses been goode to hem that han wel y-geten hem and wel conne usen hem./ For right as the body of a man may nat liven with-oute the soule, namore may it live with-outen temporel goodes. / And by richesses may a man gete him grete freendes. /2745 And therfore seith Pamphilles: “if a net-herdes doghter,” seith he, “be riche, she may chesen of a thousand men which she wol take to hir housbonde; / for, of a thousand men, oon wol nat forsaken hir ne refusen hir.”/ And this Pamphilles seith also: “if thou be right happy, that is to seyn, if thou be right riche, thou shalt find a greet nombre of felawes and freendes./ And if thy fortune change that thou wexe povre, farewel freendshipe and felaweshipe;/ for thou shalt be allone with-outen any companye, but-if it be the companye of povre folk.” / And yet seith this2750 Pamphilles moreover: that “they that been thralle and bonde of linage shullen been maad worthy and noble by the richesses.”/ And right so as by richesses ther comen manye goodes, right so by poverte come ther manye harmes and yveles./ For greet poverte constreyneth a man to do manye yveles./ And therfore clepeth Cassidore poverte “the moder of ruine,” / that is to seyn,2755 the moder of overthrowinge or fallinge doun./ And therfore seith Piers Alfonce: “oon of the gretteste adversitees of this world is / whan a free man, by kinde or by burthe, is constreyned by poverte to eten the almesse of his enemy.”/ And the same seith Innocent in oon of hise bokes; he seith: that “sorweful and mishappy is the condicioun of a povre begger;/ for if he axe nat his mete, he dyeth for hunger;/ and if he axe, he dyeth2760 for shame; and algates necessitee constreyneth him to axe.”/ And therfore seith Salomon: that “bet it is to dye than for to have swich poverte.”/ And as the same Salomon seith: “bettre it is to dye of bitter deeth than for to liven in swich wyse.”/ By thise resons that I have seid un-to yow, and by manye othere resons that I coude seye, / I graunte yow that richesses been goode to hem that geten hem wel, and to hem that wel usen tho richesses./ And therfore wol I shewe yow how ye shul have yow, and how ye shul bere yow in gaderinge of richesses, and in2765 what manere ye shul usen hem./
§ 51. First, ye shul geten hem with-outen greet desyr, by good leyser sokingly, and nat over hastily. / For a man that is to desyringe to gete richesses abaundoneth him first to thefte and to alle other yveles./ And therfore seith Salomon: “he that hasteth him to bisily to wexe riche shal be noon innocent.”/ He seith also: that “the richesse that hastily cometh to a man, sone and lightly gooth and passeth fro a man;/ but that richesse that2770 cometh litel and litel wexeth alwey and multiplyeth.”/ And sir, ye shul geten richesses by your wit and by your travaille un-to your profit;/ and that with-outen wrong or harm-doinge to any other persone./ For the lawe seith: that “ther maketh no man himselven riche, if he do harm to another wight;”/ this is to seyn, that nature defendeth and forbedeth by right, that no man make him-self riche un-to the harm of another persone./ And Tullius seith: that “no sorwe ne no drede of deeth, ne no-thing2775 that may falle un-to a man / is so muchel agayns nature, as a man to encressen his owene profit to the harm of another man./ And though the grete men and the mighty men geten richesses more lightly than thou, / yet shaltou nat been ydel ne slow to do thy profit; for thou shalt in alle wyse flee ydelnesse.”/ For Salomon seith: that “ydelnesse techeth a man to do manye yveles.”/ And the same Salomon seith: that “he that travailleth and bisieth him to tilien his land, shal eten breed;/ but he that is2780 ydel and casteth him to no bisinesse ne occupacioun, shal falle in-to poverte, and dye for hunger.”/ And he that is ydel and slow can never finde covenable tyme for to doon his profit / For ther is a versifiour seith: that “the ydel man excuseth hym in winter, by cause of the grete cold; and in somer, by enchesoun of the hete.”/ For thise causes seith Caton: “waketh and enclyneth nat yow over muchel for to slepe; for over muchel reste norisseth and causeth manye vices.”/ And therfore seith seint Ierome: “doth somme gode dedes, that the devel which is our enemy ne finde yow nat unoccupied.” / For the devel ne taketh2785 nat lightly un-to his werkinge swiche as he findeth occupied in gode werkes.”/
§ 52. Thanne thus, in getinge richesses, ye mosten flee ydelnesse./ And afterward, ye shul use the richesses, whiche ye have geten by your wit and by your travaille, / in swich a manere, that men holde nat yow to scars, ne to sparinge, ne to fool-large, that is to seyn, over-large a spender./ For right as men blamen an avaricious man by-cause of his scarsetee and chincherye, / in the2790 same wyse is he to blame that spendeth over largely./ And therfore seith Caton: “use,” he seith, “thy richesses that thou hast geten / in swich a manere, that men have no matere ne cause to calle thee neither wrecche ne chinche;/ for it is a greet shame to a man to have a povere herte and a riche purs.”/ He seith also: “the goodes that thou hast y-geten, use hem by mesure,” that is to seyn, spende hem mesurably;/ for they that2795 folily wasten and despenden the goodes that they han,/ whan they han namore propre of hir owene, they shapen hem to take the goodes of another man./ I seye thanne, that ye shul fleen avarice;/ usinge your richesses in swich manere, that men seye nat that your richesses been y-buried, / but that ye have hem in 2800 your might and in your weeldinge./ For a wys man repreveth the avaricious man, and seith thus, in two vers:/ “wherto and why burieth a man hise goodes by his grete avarice, and knoweth wel that nedes moste he dye;/ for deeth is the ende of every man as in this present lyf.”/ And for what cause or enchesoun Ioyneth he him or knitteth he him so faste un-to hise goodes,/ that alle his wittes mowen nat disseveren him or departen him2805 from hise goodes;/ and knoweth wel, or oghte knowe, that whan he is deed, he shal no-thing bere with him out of this world./ And ther-fore seith seint Augustin: that “the avaricious man is likned un-to helle;/ that the more it swelweth, the more desyr it hath to swelwe and devoure.”/ And as wel as ye wolde eschewe to be called an avaricious man or chinche,/ as wel sholde ye kepe yow and governe yow in swich a wyse that men2810 calle yow nat fool-large./ Therfore seith Tullius: “the goodes,” he seith, “of thyn hous ne sholde nat been hid, ne kept so cloos but that they mighte been opened by pitee and debonairetee;”/ that is to seyn, to yeven part to hem that han greet nede;/ “ne thy goodes shullen nat been so opene, to been every mannes goodes.”/ Afterward, in getinge of your richesses and in usinge hem, ye shul alwey have three thinges in your herte;/ that is to2815 seyn, our lord god, conscience, and good name./ First, ye shul have god in your herte;/ and for no richesse ye shullen do nothing, which may in any manere displese god, that is your creatour and maker./ For after the word of Salomon: “it is bettre to have a litel good with the love of god, / than to have muchel good and tresour, and lese the love of his lord god.”/ And the prophete seith: that “bettre it is to been a good man and have2820 litel good and tresour,/ than to been holden a shrewe and have grete richesses.”/ And yet seye I ferthermore, that ye sholde alwey doon your bisinesse to gete yow richesses,/ so that ye gete hem with good conscience./ And thapostle seith: that “ther nis thing in this world, of which we sholden have so greet Ioye as whan our conscience bereth us good witnesse.”/ And the wyse man seith: “the substance of a man is ful good, whan sinne is2825 nat in mannes conscience.”/ Afterward, in getinge of your richesses, and in usinge of hem,/ yow moste have greet bisinesse and greet diligence, that your goode name be alwey kept and conserved./ For Salomon seith: that “bettre it is and more it availleth a man to have a good name, than for to have grete richesses.”/ And therfore he seith in another place: “do greet diligence,” seith Salomon, “in keping of thy freend and of thy gode name;/ for it shal lenger abide with thee than any tresour, be it never so precious.”/ And certes he sholde nat be called a gentil man,2830 that after god and good conscience, alle thinges left, ne dooth his diligence and bisinesse to kepen his good name./ And Cassidore seith: that “it is signe of a gentil herte, whan a man loveth and desyreth to han a good name.”/ And therfore seith seint Augustin: that “ther been two thinges that arn necessarie and nedefulle,/ and that is good conscience and good loos;/ that is to seyn, good conscience to thyn owene persone inward, and good loos for thy neighebore outward.”/ And he that trusteth him so2835 muchel in his gode conscience,/ that he displeseth and setteth at noght his gode name or loos, and rekketh noght though he kepe nat his gode name, nis but a cruel cherl. /
§ 53. Sire, now have I shewed yow how ye shul do in getinge richesses, and how ye shullen usen hem;/ and I se wel, that for the trust that ye han in youre richesses, ye wole moeve werre and bataille./ I conseille yow, that ye biginne no werre in trust of your richesses; for they ne suffysen noght werres to mayntene./2840 And therfore seith a philosophre: “that man that desyreth and wole algates han werre, shal never have suffisaunce;/ for the richer that he is, the gretter despenses moste he make, if he wole have worship and victorie.”/ And Salomon seith: that “the gretter richesses that a man hath, the mo despendours he hath.”/ And dere sire, al-be-it so that for your richesses ye mowe have muchel folk,/ yet bihoveth it nat, ne it is nat good, to biginne werre, where-as ye mowe in other manere have pees, un-to your worship and profit./ For the victories of batailles that been in2845 this world, lyen nat in greet nombre or multitude of the peple ne in the vertu of man;/ but it lyth in the wil and in the hand of our lord god almighty./ And therfore Iudas Machabeus, which was goddes knight, / whan he sholde fighte agayn his adversarie that hadde a greet nombre, and a gretter multitude of folk and strenger than was this peple of Machabee, / yet he reconforted his litel companye, and seyde right in this wyse:/ “als lightly,” quod2850 he, “may our lord god almighty yeve victorie to a fewe folk as to many folk;/ for the victorie of bataile cometh nat by the grete nombre of peple, / but it cometh from our lord god of hevene.” / And dere sir, for as muchel as there is no man certein, if he be worthy that god yeve him victorie, [namore than he is certein whether he be worthy of the love of god] or naught, after that Salomon seith, / therfore every man sholde greetly drede werres to2855 biginne./ And by-cause that in batailles fallen manye perils, / and happeth outher-while, that as sone is the grete man sleyn as the litel man;/ and, as it is written in the seconde book of Kinges, “the dedes of batailles been aventurouse and nothing certeyne;”/ for as lightly is oon hurt with a spere as another./ And for ther is gret peril in werre, therfore sholde a man flee and eschewe2860 werre, in as muchel as a man may goodly./ For Salomon seith: “he that loveth peril shal falle in peril.” ’/
§ 54. After that Dame Prudence hadde spoken in this manere, Melibee answerde and seyde, / ‘I see wel, dame Prudence, that by your faire wordes and by your resons that ye han shewed me, that the werre lyketh yow no-thing;/ but I have nat yet herd your conseil, how I shal do in this nede.’/
§ 55. ‘Certes,’ quod she, ‘I conseille yow that ye accorde2865 with youre adversaries, and that ye haue pees with hem./ For seint Iame seith in hise epistles: that “by concord and pees the smale richesses wexen grete, / and by debaat and discord the grete richesses fallen doun.”/ And ye knowen wel that oon of the gretteste and most sovereyn thing, that is in this world, is unitee and pees./ And therfore seyde oure lord Iesu Crist to hise apostles in this wyse:/ “wel happy and blessed been they that2870 loven and purchacen pees; for they been called children of god.” ’/ ‘A!’ quod Melibee, ‘now se I wel that ye loven nat myn honour ne my worshipe. / Ye knowen wel that myne adversaries han bigonnen this debaat and brige by hir outrage;/ and ye see wel that they ne requeren ne preyen me nat of pees, ne they asken nat to be reconsiled./ Wol ye thanne that I go and meke me and obeye me to hem, and crye hem mercy?/ For sothe, that were2875 nat my worship./ For right as men seyn, that “over-greet homlinesse engendreth dispreysinge,” so fareth it by to greet humylitee or mekenesse.’/
§ 56. Thanne bigan dame Prudence to maken semblant of wratthe, and seyde,/ ‘certes, sir, sauf your grace, I love your honour and your profit as I do myn owene, and ever have doon;/ ne ye ne noon other syen never the contrarie./ And yit, if I hadde seyd that ye sholde han purchaced the pees and the reconsiliacioun, I ne hadde nat muchel mistaken me, ne seyd amis./2880 For the wyse man seith: “the dissensioun biginneth by another man, and the reconsiling bi-ginneth by thy-self.”/ And the prophete seith: “flee shrewednesse and do goodnesse;/ seke pees and folwe it, as muchel as in thee is.”/ Yet seye I nat that ye shul rather pursue to your adversaries for pees than they shuln to yow;/ for I knowe wel that ye been so hard-herted, that ye wol do no-thing for me./ And Salomon seith: “he that hath overhard2885 an herte, atte laste he shal mishappe and mistyde.” ’/
§ 57. Whanne Melibee hadde herd dame Prudence maken semblant of wratthe, he seyde in this wyse, / ‘dame, I prey yow that ye be nat displesed of thinges that I seye;/ for ye knowe wel that I am angry and wrooth, and that is no wonder;/ and they that been wrothe witen nat wel what they doon, ne what they seyn./2890 Therfore the prophete seith: that “troubled eyen han no cleer sighte.”/ But seyeth and conseileth me as yow lyketh; for I am redy to do right as ye wol desyre;/ and if ye repreve me of my folye, I am the more holden to love yow and to preyse yow. / For Salomon seith: that “he that repreveth him that doth folye, / he shal finde gretter grace than he that deceyveth him by swete wordes.” ’/2895
§ 58. Thanne seide dame Prudence, ‘I make no semblant of wratthe ne anger but for your grete profit./ For Salomon seith: “he is more worth, that repreveth or chydeth a fool for his folye, shewinge him semblant of wratthe, / than he that supporteth him and preyseth him in his misdoinge, and laugheth at his folye.” / And this same Salomon seith afterward: that “by the sorweful visage of a man,” that is to seyn, by the sory and hevy countenaunce of a man, / “the fool correcteth and amendeth him-self.” ’/2900
§ 59. Thanne seyde Melibee, ‘I shal nat conne answere to so manye faire resouns as ye putten to me and shewen./ Seyeth shortly your wil and your conseil, and I am al ready to fulfille and parfourne it.’/
§ 60. Thanne dame Prudence discovered al hir wil to him, and seyde, / ‘I conseille yow,’ quod she, ‘aboven alle thinges, that ye make pees bitwene god and yow;/ and beth reconsiled un-to him2905 and to his grace./ For as I have seyd yow heer-biforn, god hath suffred yow to have this tribulacioun and disese for your sinnes./ And if ye do as I sey yow, god wol sende your adversaries un-to yow, / and maken hem fallen at your feet, redy to do your wil and your comandements./ For Salomon seith: “whan the condicioun of man is plesaunt and likinge to god, / he chaungeth the hertes of the mannes adversaries, and constreyneth hem to biseken him2910 of pees and of grace.”/ And I prey yow, lat me speke with your adversaries in privee place;/ for they shul nat knowe that it be of your wil or your assent./ And thanne, whan I knowe hir wil and hir entente, I may conseille yow the more seurly.’ /
§ 61. ‘Dame,’ quod Melibee, ‘dooth your wil and your lykinge, /2915 for I putte me hoolly in your disposicioun and ordinaunce.’/
§ 62. Thanne Dame Prudence, whan she saugh the gode wil of her housbonde, delibered and took avys in hir-self, / thinkinge how she mighte bringe this nede un-to a good conclusioun and to a good ende./ And whan she saugh hir tyme, she sente for thise adversaries to come un-to hir in-to a privee place, / and shewed wysly un-to hem the grete goodes that comen of pees, / and the2920 grete harmes and perils that been in werre;/ and seyde to hem in a goodly manere, how that hem oughte have greet repentaunce of the iniurie and wrong that they hadden doon to Melibee hir lord, and to hir, and to hir doghter. /
§ 63. And whan they herden the goodliche wordes of dame Prudence, / they weren so surprised and ravisshed, and hadden so greet Ioye of hir, that wonder was to telle. / ‘A! lady!’ quod they, ‘ye han shewed un-to us “the blessinge of swetnesse,” after the2925 sawe of David the prophete;/ for the reconsilinge which we been nat worthy to have in no manere, / but we oghte requeren it with greet contricioun and humilitee, / ye of your grete goodnesse have presented unto us./ Now see we wel that the science and the conninge of Salomon is ful trewe;/ for he seith: that “swete wordes multiplyen and encresen freendes, and maken shrewes to2930 be debonaire and meke.”/
§ 64. ‘Certes,’ quod they, ‘we putten our dede and al our matere and cause al hoolly in your goode wil;/ and been redy to obeye to the speche and comandement of my lord Melibee./ And therfore, dere and benigne lady, we preyen yow and biseke yow as mekely as we conne and mowen, / that it lyke un-to your grete goodnesse to fulfillen in dede your goodliche wordes;/ for we consideren and knowlichen that we han offended and greved my lord Melibee out of mesure;/ so ferforth, that we be nat of power2935 to maken hise amendes./ And therfore we oblige and binden us and our freendes to doon al his wil and hise comandements./ But peraventure he hath swich hevinesse and swich wratthe to us-ward, by-cause of our offence,/ that he wole enioyne us swich a peyne as we mowe nat bere ne sustene./ And therfore, noble lady, we biseke to your wommanly pitee, / to taken swich avysement2940 in this nede, that we, ne our freendes, be nat desherited ne destroyed thurgh our folye.’/
§ 65. ‘Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘it is an hard thing and right perilous, / that a man putte him al outrely in the arbitracioun and Iuggement, and in the might and power of hise enemys./ For Salomon seith: “leveth me, and yeveth credence to that I shal seyn; I seye,” quod he, “ye peple, folk, and governours of holy chirche,/ to thy sone, to thy wyf, to thy freend, ne to thy brother/2945 ne yeve thou never might ne maistrie of thy body, whyl thou livest.”/ Now sithen he defendeth, that man shal nat yeven to his brother ne to his freend the might of his body, / by a strenger resoun he defendeth and forbedeth a man to yeven him-self to his enemy./ And nathelees I conseille you, that ye mistruste nat my lord./ For I woot wel and knowe verraily, that he is debonaire and meke, large, curteys, / and nothing desyrous ne coveitous of2950 good ne richesse./ For ther nis no-thing in this world that he desyreth, save only worship and honour./ Forther-more I knowe wel, and am right seur, that he shal no-thing doon in this nede with-outen my conseil./ And I shal so werken in this cause, that, by grace of our lord god, ye shul been reconsiled un-to us.’/
§ 66. Thanne seyden they with o vois, ‘worshipful lady, we putten us and our goodes al fully in your wil and disposicioun;/2955 and been redy to comen, what day that it lyke un-to your noblesse to limite us or assigne us, / for to maken our obligacioun and bond as strong as it lyketh un-to your goodnesse;/ that we mowe fulfille the wille of yow and of my lord Melibee.’/
§ 67. Whan dame Prudence hadde herd the answeres of thise men, she bad hem goon agayn prively;/ and she retourned to hir lord Melibee, and tolde him how she fond hise adversaries2960 ful repentant,/ knowlechinge ful lowely hir sinnes and trespas, and how they were redy to suffren al peyne,/ requiringe and preyinge him of mercy and pitee./
§ 68. Thanne seyde Melibee, ‘he is wel worthy to have pardoun and foryifnesse of his sinne, that excuseth nat his sinne,/ but knowlecheth it and repenteth him, axinge indulgence./ For Senek seith: “ther is the remissioun and foryifnesse, whereas2965 confessioun is;” / for confession is neighebore to innocence./ And he seith in another place: “he that hath shame for his sinne and knowlecheth it, is worthy remissioun.” And therfore I assente and conferme me to have pees;/ but it is good that we do it nat with-outen the assent and wil of our freendes.’ /
§ 69. Thanne was Prudence right glad and Ioyeful, and seyde,/2970 ‘Certes, sir,’ quod she, ‘ye han wel and goodly answered./ For right as by the conseil, assent, and help of your freendes, ye han been stired to venge yow and maken werre,/ right so with-outen hir conseil shul ye nat accorden yow, ne have pees with your adversaries./ For the lawe seith: “ther nis no-thing so good by wey of kinde, as a thing to been unbounde by him that it was y-bounde.” ’/
§ 70. And thanne dame Prudence, with-outen delay or taryinge, sente anon hir messages for hir kin, and for hir olde freendes whiche that were trewe and wyse, / and tolde hem by ordre, in the presence of Melibee, al this matere as it is aboven expressed and2975 declared;/ and preyden hem that they wolde yeven hir avys and conseil, what best were to doon in this nede. / And whan Melibees freendes hadde taken hir avys and deliberacioun of the forseide matere, / and hadden examined it by greet bisinesse and greet diligence, / they yave ful conseil for to have pees and reste;/ and that Melibee sholde receyve with good herte hise adversaries2980 to foryifnesse and mercy./
§ 71. And whan dame Prudence hadde herd the assent of hir lord Melibee, and the conseil of hise freendes, / accorde with hir wille and hir entencioun, / she was wonderly glad in hir herte, and seyde:/ ‘ther is an old proverbe,’ quod she, ‘seith: that “the goodnesse that thou mayst do this day, do it;/ and abyde nat ne delaye it nat til to-morwe.”/ And therfore I conseille that ye2985 sende your messages, swiche as been discrete and wyse,/ un-to your adversaries; tellinge hem, on your bihalve,/ that if they wole trete of pees and of accord, / that they shape hem, with-outen delay or tarying, to comen un-to us.’/ Which thing parfourned was in dede./ And whanne thise trespassours and repentinge2990 folk of hir folies, that is to seyn, the adversaries of Melibee,/ hadden herd what thise messagers seyden un-to hem,/ they weren right glad and Ioyeful, and answereden ful mekely and benignely,/ yeldinge graces and thankinges to hir lord Melibee and to al his companye;/ and shopen hem, with-outen delay, to go with the messagers, and obeye to the comandement of hir lord Melibee./2995
§ 72. And right anon they token hir wey to the court of Melibee,/ and token with hem somme of hir trewe freendes, to maken feith for hem and for to been hir borwes./ And whan they were comen to the presence of Melibee, he seyde hem thise wordes:/ ‘it standeth thus,’ quod Melibee, ‘and sooth it is, that ye,/ causeless, and with-outen skile and resoun,/3000 han doon grete iniuries and wronges to me and to my wyf Prudence, and to my doghter also./ For ye han entred in-to myn hous by violence, / and have doon swich outrage, that alle men knowen wel that ye have deserved the deeth; / and therfore wol I knowe and wite of yow, / whether ye wol putte the punissement and the chastysinge and the vengeance of this outrage in the wil of me and of my wyf Prudence; or ye wol nat?’ /3005
§ 73. Thanne the wyseste of hem three answerde for hem alle, and seyde:/ ‘sire,’ quod he, ‘we knowen wel, that we been unworthy to comen un-to the court of so greet a lord and so worthy as ye been./ For we han so greetly mistaken us, and han offended and agilt in swich a wyse agayn your heigh lordshipe,/ that trewely we han deserved the deeth. / But yet, for the grete goodnesse and debonairetee that all the world witnesseth of your persone, / we submitten us to the excellence and benignitee of your3010 gracious lordshipe, / and been redy to obeie to alle your comandements;/ bisekinge yow, that of your merciable pitee ye wol considere our grete repentaunce and lowe submissioun, / and graunten us foryevenesse of our outrageous trespas and offence./ For wel we knowe, that your liberal grace and mercy strecchen hem ferther in-to goodnesse, than doon our outrageouse giltes and3015 trespas in-to wikkednesse;/ al-be-it that cursedly and dampnably we han agilt agayn your heigh lordshipe.’ /
§ 74. Thanne Melibee took hem up fro the ground ful benignely, / and receyved hir obligaciouns and hir bondes by hir othes up-on hir plegges and borwes, / and assigned hem a certeyn day to retourne un-to his court, / for to accepte and receyve the sentence and Iugement that Melibee wolde comande to be doon3020 on hem by the causes afore-seyd;/ whiche thinges ordeyned, every man retourned to his hous./
§ 75. And whan that dame Prudence saugh hir tyme, she freyned and axed hir lord Melibee, / what vengeance he thoughte to taken of hise adversaries?/
§ 76. To which Melibee answerde and seyde, ‘certes,’ quod he, ‘I thinke and purpose me fully / to desherite hem of al that ever3025 they han, and for to putte hem in exil for ever.’/
§ 77. ‘Certes,’ quod dame Prudence, ‘this were a cruel sentence, and muchel agayn resoun. / For ye been riche y-nough, and han no nede of other mennes good;/ and ye mighte lightly in this wyse gete yow a coveitous name, / which is a vicious thing, and oghte been eschewed of every good man./ For after the3030 sawe of the word of the apostle: “coveitise is rote of alle harmes.”/ And therfore, it were bettre for yow to lese so muchel good of your owene, than for to taken of hir good in this manere./ For bettre it is to lesen good with worshipe, than it is to winne good with vileinye and shame. / And every man oghte to doon his diligence and his bisinesse to geten him a good name./ And yet shal he nat only bisie him in kepinge of his good name, / but he shal also enforcen him alwey to do som-thing by which he may3035 renovelle his good name;/ for it is writen, that “the olde good loos or good name of a man is sone goon and passed, whan it is nat newed ne renovelled.” / And as touchinge that ye seyn, ye wole exile your adversaries,/ that thinketh me muchel agayn resoun and out of mesure, / considered the power that they han yeve yow up-on hem-self./ And it is writen, that “he is worthy to lesen his privilege that misuseth the might and the power that is yeven him.”/ And I sette cas ye mighte enioyne hem that peyne by3040 right and by lawe,/ which I trowe ye mowe nat do,/ I seye, ye mighte nat putten it to execucioun per-aventure,/ and thanne were it lykly to retourne to the werre as it was biforn./ And therfore, if ye wole that men do yow obeisance, ye moste demen more curteisly;/ this is to seyn, ye moste yeven more esy3045 sentences and Iugements./ For it is writen, that “he that most curteisly comandeth, to him men most obeyen.”/ And therfore, I prey yow that in this necessitee and in this nede, ye caste yow to overcome your herte./ For Senek seith: that “he that overcometh his herte, overcometh twyes.”/ And Tullius seith: “ther is nothing so comendable in a greet lord / as whan he is debonaire and3050 meke, and appeseth him lightly.” / And I prey yow that ye wole forbere now to do vengeance,/ in swich a manere, that your goode name may be kept and conserved;/ and that men mowe have cause and matere to preyse yow of pitee and of mercy;/ and that ye have no cause to repente yow of thing that ye doon./ For3055 Senek seith: “he overcometh in an yvel manere, that repenteth him of his victorie.”/ Wherfore I pray yow, lat mercy been in your minde and in your herte, / to theffect and entente that god almighty have mercy on yow in his laste Iugement./ For seint Iame seith in his epistle: “Iugement withouten mercy shal be doon to him, that hath no mercy of another wight.” ’/
§ 78. Whanne Melibee hadde herd the grete skiles and resouns of dame Prudence, and hir wise informaciouns and techinges,/3060 his herte gan enclyne to the wil of his wyf, consideringe hir trewe entente;/ and conformed him anon, and assented fully to werken after hir conseil;/ and thonked god, of whom procedeth al vertu and alle goodnesse, that him sente a wyf of so greet discrecioun./ And whan the day cam that hise adversaries sholde apperen in his presence, / he spak unto hem ful goodly, and seyde in this wyse:/ ‘al-be-it so that of your pryde and presumpcioun3065 and folie, and of your necligence and unconninge,/ ye have misborn yow and trespassed un-to me;/ yet, for as much as I see and biholde your grete humilitee,/ and that ye been sory and repentant of your giltes,/ it constreyneth me to3070 doon yow grace and mercy./ Therfore I receyve yow to my grace,/ and foryeve yow outrely alle the offences, iniuries, and wronges, that ye have doon agayn me and myne;/ to this effect and to this ende, that god of his endelees mercy / wole at the tyme of our dyinge foryeven us our giltes that we han trespassed to him in this wrecched world./ For doutelees, if we be sory and repentant of the sinnes and giltes whiche we han trespassed3075 in the sighte of our lord god, / he is so free and so merciable,/ that he wole foryeven us our giltes, / and bringen us to his blisse3078 that never hath ende. Amen.’ /
Here is ended Chaucers Tale of Melibee and of Dame Prudence.
The mery wordes of the Host to the Monk.
Here biginneth the Monkes Tale, de Casibus Virorum Illustrium.
(Nerofollows in T.; see p 259.)
(For T. 14773, see p. 269; for T. 14380, see p. 256.)
[See p. 256.
Here stinteth the Knight the Monk of his Tale.
The prologue of the Nonne Preestes Tale.
Here biginneth the Nonne Preestes Tale of the Cok and Hen, Chauntecleer and Pertelote.
Here is ended the Nonne Preestes Tale.
*∗* For a spurious Prologue, see p. 289.
Here folweth the Phisiciens Tale.
Here endeth the Phisiciens tale.
The wordes of the Host to the Phisicien and the Pardoner.
Here folweth the Prologe of the Pardoners Tale.
Radix malorum est Cupiditas: Ad Thimotheum, sexto.
Here biginneth the Pardoners Tale.
Here is ended the Pardoners Tale.
(For T. 12903, see p. 165).
The Prologe of the Wyves Tale of Bathe.