by Geoffrey Chaucer
PROLOGUE TO THE FRANKELEYNS TALE
Heere folwen the wordes of the Frankelyn to the Squier,
and the wordes of the hoost to the Frankelyn.
"In feith, Squier, thow hast thee wel yquit,
And gentilly I preise wel thy wit,"
Quod the Frankeleyn, "considerynge thy yowthe,
So feelyngly thou spekest, sire, I allow the;
As to my doom, ther is noon that is heere
Of eloquence that shal be thy peere,
If that thou lyve-God yeve thee good chaunce,
And in vertu sende thee continuance!
For of thy speche I hace greet deyntee;
I have a sone, and, by the Trinitee,
I hadde levere than twenty pound worth lond,
Though it right now were fallen in myn hond,
He were a man of swich discrecioun
As that ye been; fy on possessioun
But if a man be vertuous withal!
I have my sone snybbed, and yet shal,
For he to vertu listneth nat entende,
But for to pleye at dees, and to despende
And lese al that he hath, is his usage.
And he hath levere talken with a page
Than to comune with any gentil wight
There he myghte lerne gentillesse aright."
"Straw for youre gentillesse," quod our Hoost,
"What, Frankeleyn, pardee! sire, wel thou woost
That ech of yow moot tellen atte leste
A tale or two, or breken his biheste."
"That knowe I wel, sire," quod the Frankeleyn,
"I prey yow, haveth me nat in desdeyn
Though to this man I speke a word or two."
"Telle on thy tale, withouten wordes mo."
"Gladly, sire Hoost," quod he, "I wole obeye
Unto your wyl; now herkneth what I seye.
I wol yow nat contrarien in no wyse
As fer as that my wittes wol suffyse;
I prey to God that it may plesen yow,
Thanne woot I wel that it is good ynow."
THE FRANKELEYNS TALE
The prologe of the Frankeleyns tale.
Thise olde gentil Britouns in hir dayes
Of diverse aventures maden layes,
Rymeyed in hir firste Briton tonge;
Whiche layes with hir instrumentz they songe,
Or elles redden hem, for hir plesaunce.
And oon of hem have I in remembraunce,
Which I shal seyn, with good-wyl, as I kan.
But sires, by cause I am a burel man,
At my bigynnyng first I yow biseche,
Have me excused of my rude speche.
I lerned nevere rethorik, certeyn;
Thyng that I speke, it moot be bare and pleyn.
I sleep nevere on the Mount of Parnaso,
Ne lerned Marcus Tullius Scithero.
Colours ne knowe I none, withouten drede,
But swiche colours as growen in the mede,
Or elles swiche, as men dye or peynte.
Colours of rethoryk been me to queynte,
My spirit feeleth noght of swich mateere;
But if yow list, my tale shul ye heere.
Heere bigynneth the Frankeleyns tale.
In Armorik, that called is Britayne,
Ther was a knyght that loved and dide his payne
To serve a lady in his beste wise;
And many a labour, many a greet emprise,
He for his lady wroghte, er she were wonne.
For she was oon the faireste under sonne,
And eek therto comen of so heigh kynrede
That wel unnethes dorste this knyght for drede
Telle hir his wo, his peyne, and his distresse.
But atte laste, she for his worthynesse,
And namely for his meke obeysaunce,
Hath swiche a pitee caught of his penaunce,
That pryvely she fil of his accord
To take hym for hir housbonde and hir lord-
Of swich lordshipe as men han over hir wyves-
And for to lede the moore in blisse hir lyves,
Of his free wyl he swoor hir as a knyght,
That nevere in al his lyf he, day ne nyght,
Ne sholde upon hym take no maistrie
Agayn hir wyl, ne kithe hir jalousie,
But hir obeye and folwe hir wyl in al
As any lovere to his lady shal;
Save that the name of soveraynetee,
That wolde he have, for shame of his degree.
She thanked hym, and with ful greet humblesse
She seyde, "Sire, sith of youre gentillesse
Ye profre me to have so large a reyne,
Ne wolde nevere God bitwixe us tweyne,
As in my gilt, were outher werre or stryf.
Sir, I wol be youre humble trewe wyf,
Have heer my trouthe til that myn herte breste."
Thus been they bothe in quiete and in reste.
For o thyng, sires, saufly dar I seye,
That freendes everych oother moot obeye,
If they wol longe holden compaignye.
Love wol nat been constreyned by maistrye;
Whan maistrie comth, the God of Love anon
Beteth hise wynges, and farewel, he is gon!
Love is a thyng as any spirit free.
Wommen of kynde desiren libertee,
And nat to been constreyned as a thral-
And so doon men, if I sooth seyen shal.
Looke who that is moost pacient in love,
He is at his avantage al above.
Pacience is an heigh vertu, certeyn,
For it venquysseth, as thise clerkes seyn,
Thynges that rigour sholde nevere atteyne.
For every word men may nat chide or pleyne,
Lerneth to suffre, or elles, so moot I goon,
Ye shul it lerne, wherso ye wole or noon.
For in this world, certein, ther no wight is
That he ne dooth or seith som tyme amys.
Ire, siknesse, or constellacioun
Wyn, wo, or chaungynge of complexioun
Causeth ful ofte to doon amys or speken.
On every wrong a man may nat be wreken;
After the tyme moste be temperaunce
To every wight that kan on governaunce.
And therfore hath this wise worthy knyght,
To lyve in ese, suffrance hir bihight,
And she to hym ful wisly gan to swere
That nevere sholde ther be defaute in here.
Heere may men seen an humble wys accord!
Thus hath she take hir servant and hir lord,
Servant in love, and lord in mariage;
Thanne was he bothe in lordship and servage-
Servage? nay but in lordshipe above,
Sith he hath bothe his lady and his love-
His lady, certes, and his wyf also,
The which that lawe of love acordeth to.
And whan he was in this prosperitee,
Hoom with his wyf he gooth to his contree,
Nat fer fro Pedmark, ther his dwellyng was,
Where as he lyveth in blisse and in solas.
Who koude telle, but he hadde wedded be,
The joye, the ese, and the prosperitee
That is bitwixe an housbonde and his wyf?
A yeer and moore lasted this blisful lyg,
Til that the knyght of which I speke of thus,
That of Kayrrud was cleped Arveragus,
Shoop hym to goon, and dwelle a yeer or tweyne,
In Engelond, that cleped was eek Briteyne,
To seke in armes worship and honour-
For al his lust he sette in swich labour-
And dwelled there two yeer, the book seith thus.
Now wol I stynten of this Arveragus
And speken I wole of Dorigene his wyf,
That loveth hir housbonde as hir hertes lyf.
For his absence wepeth she and siketh,
As doon thise noble wyves whan hem liketh.
She moorneth, waketh, wayleth, fasteth, pleyneth,
Desir of his presence hir so destreyneth,
That al this wyde world she sette at noght,
Hir freendes whiche that knewe hir hevy thoght,
Conforten hir in al that ever they may.
They prechen hir, they telle hir nyght and day
That causelees she sleeth hirself, allas!
And every confort possible in this cas
They doon to hir, with all hir bisynesse,
Al for to make hir leve hir hevynesse.
By proces, as ye knowen everichoon,
Men may so longe graven in a stoon,
Til som figure therinne emprented be.
So longe han they conforted hir, til she
Receyved hath by hope and by resoun
The emprentyng of hir consolacioun,
Thurgh which hir grete sorwe gan aswage;
She may nat alwey duren in swich rage.
And eek Arveragus, in al this care,
Hath sent hir lettres hoom of his welfare,
And that he wol com hastily agayn,
Or elles hadde this sorwe hir herte slayn.
Hir freendes sawe hir sorwe gan to slake,
And preyden hir on knees, for Goddes sake,
To com and romen hir in compaignye,
Awey to dryve hir derke fantasye.
And finally she graunted that requeste,
For wel she saugh that it was for the beste.
Now stood hir castel faste by the see;
And often with hir freendes walketh she
Hir to disporte, upon the bank an heigh,
Where as she many a ship and barge seigh
Seillynge hir cours, where as hem liste go.
But thanne was that a parcel of hir wo,
For to hirself ful ofte "allas," seith she,
"Is ther no ship of so many as I se
Wol bryngen hoom my lord? thanne were myn herte
Al warisshed of hisse bittre peynes smerte."
Another tyme ther wolde she sitte and thynke
And caste hir eyen dounward fro the brynke;
But whan she saugh the reisly rokkes blake,
For verray feere, so wolde hir herte quake
That on hir feet she myghte hir noght sustene.
Thanne wolde she sitte adoun upon the grene,
And pitously into the see biholde,
And seyn right thus, with sorweful sikes colde:
"Eterne God, that thurgh thy purveiaunce
Ledest the world by certein governaunce,
In ydel, as men seyn, ye no thyng make.
But, lord, thise grisly feendly rokkes blake,
That semen rather a foul confusioun
Of werk, than any fair creacioun
Of swich a parfit wys God and a stable,
Why han ye wroght this werk unresonable?
For by this werk, south, north, ne west ne eest
Ther nys yfostred man, ne bryd, ne beest.
It dooth no good, to my wit, but anoyeth,
Se ye nat, lord, how mankynde it destroyeth?
An hundred thousand bodyes of mankynde
Han rokkes slayn, al be they nat in mynde;
Which mankynde is so fair part of thy werk
That thou it madest lyk to thyn owene merk.
Thanne semed it ye hadde a greet chiertee
Toward mankynde; but how thanne may it bee
That ye swiche meenes make it to destroyen,
Whiche meenes do no good, but evere anoyen?
I woot wel clerkes wol seyn, as hem leste,
By argumentz, that al is for the beste,
Though I ne kan the causes nat yknowe,
But thilke God, that made wynd to blowe,
As kepe my lord; this my conclusioun.
To clerkes lete I al this disputisoun-
But wolde God, that alle thise rokkes blake,
Were sonken into helle for his sake!
Thise rokkes sleen myn herte for the feere!"
Thus wolde she seyn, with many a pitous teere.
Hir freendes sawe that ti was no disport
To romen by the see, but disconfort,
And shopen for to pleyen somwher elles;
They leden hir by ryveres and by welles,
And eek in othere places delitables,
They dauncen, and they pleyen at ches and tables.
So on a day, right in the morwe tyde,
Unto a gardyn that was ther bisyde,
In which that they hadde maad hir ordinaunce
Of vitaille and of oother purveiaunce,
They goon and pleye hem al the longe day.
And this was in the sixte morwe of May,
Which May hadde peynted with his softe shoures
This gardyn ful of leves and of floures,
And craft of mannes hand so curiously
Arrayed hadde this gardyn trewely,
That nevere was ther gardyn of swich prys
But if it were the verray Paradys.
The odour of floures and the fresshe sighte
Wolde han maked any herte lighte
That evere was born, but if to greet siknesse
Or to greet sorwe helde it in distresse;
So ful it was of beautee with plesaunce.
At after dyner gonne they to daunce
And synge also, save Dorigen allone,
Which made alwey hir compleint and hir moone
For she ne saugh hym on the daunce go
That was hir housbonde, and hir love also.
But nathelees she moste a tyme abyde,
And with good hope lete hir sorwe slyde.
Upon this daunce, amonges othere men,
Daunced a squier biforn Dorigen
That fressher was, and jolyer of array,
As to my doom, than is the monthe of May.
He syngeth, daunceth, passynge any man
That is or was, sith that the world bigan.
Therwith he was, if men sholde hym discryve,
Oon of the beste farynge man of lyve;
Yong, strong, right vertuous, and riche, and wys,
And wel biloved, and holden in greet prys.
And shortly, if the sothe I tellen shal,
Unwityng of this Dorigen at al,
This lusty squier, servant to Venus,
Which that ycleped was Aurelius,
Hadde loved hir best of any creature
Two yeer and moore, as was his aventure;
But nevere dorste he tellen hir his grevaunce,
Withouten coppe he drank al his penaunce.
He was despeyred, no thyng dorste he seye
Save in his songes somwhat wolde he wreye
His wo, as in a general compleynyng.
He seyde he lovede, and was biloved no thyng,
Of swich matere made he manye layes,
Songes, compleintes, roundels, virelayes,
How that he dorste nat his sorwe telle,
But langwissheth, as a furye dooth in helle,
And dye he moste, he seyde, as dide Ekko
For Narcisus, that dorste nat telle hir wo,
In oother manere than ye heere me seye,
Ne dorste he nat to hir his wo biwreye,
Save that paraventure som tyme at daunces,
Ther yonge folk kepen hir observaunces,
It may wel be he looked on hir face,
In swich a wise as man that asketh grace;
But no thyng wiste she of his entente.
Nathelees it happed, er they thennes wente,
By cause that he was hir neighebour,
And was a man of worship and honour,
And hadde yknowen hym of tyme yoore,
They fille in speche, and forthe moore and moore
Unto this purpos drough Aurelius.
And whan he saugh his tyme, he seyde thus:
"Madame," quod he, "by God that this world made,
So that I wiste it myghte your herte glade,
I wolde that day that youre Arveragus
Wente over the see, that I, Aurelius,
Hadde went ther nevere I sholde have come agayn.
For wel I woot my servyce is in vayn,
My gerdoun is but brestyng of myn herte.
Madame, reweth upon my peynes smerte,
For with a word ye may me sleen or save.
Heere at your feet, God wolde that I were grave,
I ne have as now no leyser moore to seye,
Have mercy, sweete, or ye wol do me deye."
She gan to looke upon Aurelius:
"Is this youre wyl!" quod she, "and sey ye thus?
"Nevere erst," quod she, "ne wiste I what ye mente.
But now, Aurelie, I knowe youre entente.
By thilke God, that yaf me soule and lyf,
Ne shal I nevere been untrewe wyf,
In word ne werk, as fer as I have wit.
I wol been his to whom that I am knyt.
Taak this for fynal answere as of me."
But after that, in pley thus seyde she,
"Aurelie," quod she, "by heighe God above,
Yet wolde I graunte yow to been youre love,
Syn I yow se so pitously complayne.
Looke, what day that endelong Britayne
Ye remoeve alle the rokkes, stoon by stoon,
That they ne lette shipe ne boot to goon,
I seye, whan ye han maad the coost so clene
Of rokkes that ther nys no stoon ysene,
Thanne wol I love yow best of any man!
Have heer my trouthe in al that evere I kan."
"Is ther noon oother grace in yow?" quod he.
"No, by that lord," quod she, "that maked me;
For wel I woot that it shal nevere bityde;
Lat swiche folies out of your herte slyde.
What deyntee sholde a man han in his lyf
For to go love another mannes wyf,
That hath hir body whan so that hym liketh?"
Aurelius ful ofte soore siketh,
Wo was Aurelie, whan that he this herde,
And with a sorweful herte he thus answered.
"Madame," quod he, "this were an inpossible;
Thanne moot I dye of sodeyn deth horrible."
And with that word he turned hym anon.
Tho coome hir othere freendes many oon,
And in the aleyes romeden up and doun,
And no thyng wiste of this conclusioun,
But sodeynly bigonne revel newe,
Til that the brighte sonne loste his hewe,
For thorisonte hath reft the sonne his lyght-
This is as muche to seye as, ti was nyght-
And hoom they goon in joye and in solas,
Save oonly wrecche Aurelius, allas!
He to his hous is goon with sorweful herte;
He seeth he may nat fro his deeth asterte;
Hym semed that he felte his herte colde;
Up to the hevene hise handes he gan holde,
And on hise knowes bare he sette hym doun,
And in his ravyng seyde his orisoun.
For verray wo out of his wit he breyde;
He nyste what he spak, but thus he seyde:
With pitous herte his pleynt hath he bigonne
Unto the goddes, and first unto the sonne
He seyde, "Appollo, God and governour
Of every plaunte, herbe, tree, and flour
That yevest after thy declinacioun
To ech of hem his tyme and his sesoun,
As thyn herberwe chaungeth lowe or heighe,
Lord Phebus, cast thy mericiable eighe
On wrecche Aurelie, which that am but lorn.
Lo, lord, my lady hath my deeth ysworn
Withoute gilt, but thy benignytee
Upon my dedly herte have som pitee.
For wel I woot, lord Phebus, if yow lest,
Ye may me helpen, save my lady, best.
Now voucheth sauf that I may yow devyse
How that I may been holpen and in what wyse.
Your blisful suster, Lucina the sheene,
That of the see is chief goddesse and queene,
(Though Neptunus have deitee in the see,
Yet emperisse aboven hym is she)
Ye knowen wel, lord, that right as hir desir
Is to be quyked and lightned of youre fir,
For which she folweth yow ful bisily,
Right so the see desireth naturelly
To folwen hir, as she that is goddesse
Bothe in the see and ryveres moore and lesse.
Wherfore, lord Phebus, this is my requeste;
Do this miracle, or do myn herte breste,
That now next at this opposicioun
Which in the signe shal be of the Leoun,
As preieth hir, so greet a flood to brynge
That fyve fadme at the leeste it oversprynge
The hyeste rokke in Armorik Briteyne,
And lat this flood endure yeres tweyne.
Thanne, certes, to my lady may I seye
`Holdeth youre heste, the rokkes been aweye.'
Lord Phebus, dooth this miracle for me,
Preye hir she go no faster cours than ye.
I seye, preyeth your suster that she go
No faster cours than ye thise yeres two.
Thanne shal she been evene atte fulle alway;
And spryng flood laste bothe nyght and day;
And but she vouche sauf in swich manere
To graunte me my sovereyn lady deere,
Prey hir to synken every rok adoun
Into hir owene dirke regioun
Under the ground ther Pluto dwelleth inne,
Or nevere mo shal I my lady wynne.
Thy temple in Delphos wol I barefoot seke,
Lord Phebus; se the teeris on my cheke,
And of my peyne have som compassioun!"
And with that word in swowne he fil adoun,
And longe tyme he lay forth in a traunce.
His brother, which that knew of his penaunce,
Up caughte hym, and to bedde he hath hym broght.
Dispeyred in this torment and this thoght
Lete I this woful creature lye;
Chese he for me wheither he wol lyve or dye.
Arveragus with heele and greet honour,
As he that was of chivalrie the flour,
Is comen hoom, and othere worthy men.
O blisful artow now, thou Dorigen!
That hast thy lusty housbonde in thyne armes,
The fresshe knyght, the worthy man or armes,
That loveth thee, as his owene hertes lyf.
No thyng list hym to been ymaginatyf
If any wight hadde spoke, whil he was oute,
To hire of love; he hadde of it no doute,
He noght entendeth to no swich mateere,
But daunceth, justeth, maketh hir good cheere,
And thus in joye and blisse I lete hem dwelle,
And of the sike Aurelius I wol telle.
In langour and in torment furyes
Two yeer and moore lay wrecche Aurelyus,
Eer any foot he myghte on erthe gon;
Ne confort in this tyme hadde he noon,
Save of his brother, which that was a clerk.
He knew of al this wo and al this werk;
For to noon oother creature, certeyn,
Of this matere he dorste no word seyn.
Under his brest he baar it moore secree
Than evere dide Pamphilus for Galathee.
His brest was hool withoute for to sene,
But in his herte ay was the arwe kene.
And wel ye knowe that of a sursanure
In surgerye is perilous the cure,
But men myghte touche the arwe, or come therby.
His brother weep and wayled pryvely,
Til atte laste hym fil in remembraunce
That whiles he was at Orliens in Fraunce,
As yonge clerkes, that been lykerous
To reden artes that been curious,
Seken in every halke and every herne
Particular sciences for to lerne,
He hym remembred, that upon a day
At Orliens in studie a book he say
Of magyk natureel, which his felawe,
That was that tyme a bacheler of lawe-
Al were he ther to lerne another craft-
Hadde prively upon his desk ylaft;
Which book spak muchel of the operaciouns,
Touchynge the eighte and twenty mansiouns
That longen to the moone, and swich folye
As in oure dayes is nat worth a flye.
For hooly chirches feith in oure bileve
Ne suffreth noon illusioun us to greve.
And whan this book was in his remembraunce,
Anon for joye his herte gan to daunce,
And to hymself he seyde pryvely,
"My brother shal be warisshed hastily;
For I am siker that ther be sciences
By whiche men make diverse apparences
Swiche as thise subtile tregetoures pleye;
For ofte at feestes have I wel herd seye
That tregetours withinne an halle large
Have maad come in a water and a barge,
And in the halle rowen up and doun.
Somtyme hath semed come a grym leoun;
And somtyme floures sprynge as in a mede,
Somtyme a vyne, and grapes white and rede,
Somtyme a castel al of lym and stoon;
And whan hem lyked, voyded it anoon,
Thus semed it to every mannes sighte.
Now thanne conclude I thus, that if I myghte
At Orliens som oold felawe yfynde
That hadde this moones mansions in mynde,
Or oother magyk natureel above,
He sholde wel make my brother han his love;
For with an apparence a clerk may make
To mannes sighte, that alle the rokkes blake
Of Britaigne weren yvoyded everichon,
But looketh now for no necligence or slouthe
Ye tarie us heere, no lenger than to-morwe."
"Nay," quod this clerk, "have heer my feith to borwe."
To bedde is goon Aurelius whan hym leste,
And wel ny al that nyght he hadde his reste;
What for his labour and his hope of blisse,
His woful hrete of penaunce hadde a lisse.
Upon the morwe, whan that it was day,
To Britaigne tooke they the righte way,
Aurelie and this magicien bisyde,
And been descended ther they wolde abyde.
And this was, as thise bookes me remembre,
The colde frosty sesoun of Decembre.
Phebus wax old, and hewed lyk latoun,
That in this hoote declynacioun
Shoon as the burned gold, and stremes brighte;
But now in Capricorn adoun he lighte,
Where as he shoon ful pale, I dar wel seyn.
The bittre frostes, with the sleet and reyn,
Destroyed hath the grene in every yerd;
Janus sit by the fyr, with double berd,
And drynketh of his bugle horn the wyn.
Biforn hym stant brawen of the tusked swyn,
And `Nowel' crieth every lusty man.
Aurelius, in al that evere he kan,
Dooth to his master chiere and reverence,
And preyeth hym to doon his diligence
To bryngen hym out of his peynes smerte,
Or with a swerd that he wolde slitte his herte.
This subtil clerk swich routhe had of this man,
That nyght and day he spedde hym that he kan
To wayten a tyme of his conclusioun,
This is to seye, to maken illusioun
By swich an apparence or jogelrye-
I ne kan no termes of astrologye-
That she and every wight sholde wene and seye
That of Britaigne the rokkes were aweye,
Or ellis they were sonken under grounde.
So atte laste he hath his tyme yfounde
To maken hise japes and his wrecchednesse
Of swich a supersticious cursednesse.
Hise tables Tolletanes forth he brought,
Ful wel corrected, ne ther lakked nought,
Neither his collect ne hise expans yeeris,
Ne hise rootes, ne hise othere geeris,
As been his centris and hise argumentz,
And hise proporcioneles convenientz
For hise equacions in every thyng.
And by his eighte speere in his wirkyng
He knew ful wel how fer Alnath was shove
Fro the heed of thilke fixe Aries above
That in the ninthe speere considered is.
Ful subtilly he kalkuled al this.
Whan he hadde founde his firste mansioun,
He knew the remenaunt by proporcioun,
And knew the arisyng of his moone weel,
And in whos face and terme, and everydeel;
And knew ful weel the moones mansioun
Acordaunt to his operacioun,
And knew also hise othere observaunces
For swiche illusiouns and swiche meschaunces
As hethen folk useden in thilke dayes;-
For which no lenger maked he delayes,
But thurgh his magik, for a wyke or tweye,
It semed that alle the rokkes were aweye.
Aurelius, which that yet despeired is,
Wher he shal han his love, or fare amys,
Awaiteth nyght and day on this myracle.
And whan he knew that ther was noon obstacle,
That voyded were thise rokkes everychon,
Doun to hise maistres feet he fil anon,
And seyde, "I woful wrecche, Aurelius,
Thanke yow, lord, and lady myn, Venus,
That me han holpen fro my cares colde."
And to the temple his wey forth hath he holde
Where as he knew he sholde his lady see,
And whan he saugh his tyme, anon right hee
With dredful herte and with ful humble cheere
Salewed hath his sovereyn lady deere.
"My righte lady," quod this woful man,
"Whom I moost drede and love as I best kan,
And lothest were of al this world displese,
Nere it that I for yow have swich disese
That I moste dyen heere at youre foot anon,
Noght wolde I telle how me is wo bigon;
But, certes, outher moste I dye or pleyne,
Ye sle me giltelees for verray peyne.
But of my deeth thogh that ye have no routhe,
Avyseth yow er that ye breke youre trouthe.
Repenteth yow for thilke God above,
Er ye me sleen by cause that I yow love.
For madame, wel ye woot what ye han hight;
Nat that I chalange any thyng of right
Of yow, my sovereyn lady, but youre grace;
But in a gardyn yond at swich a place
Ye woot right wel what ye bihighten me,
And in myn hand youre trouthe plighten ye
To love me best, God woot ye seyde so,
Al be that I unworthy be therto.
Madame, I speke it for the honour of yow,
Moore than to save myn hertes lyf right now.
I have do so as ye comanded me,
And if ye vouchesauf, ye may go see.
Dooth as yow list, have youre biheste in mynde,
For, quyk or deed, right there ye shal me fynde.
In yow lith al, to do me lyve of deye,
But wel I woot the rokkes been aweye!"
He taketh his leve, and she astonied stood,
In al hir face nas a drope of blood.
She wende nevere han come in swich a trappe.
"Allas," quod she, "that evere this sholde happe.
For wende I nevere, by possibilitee,
That swich a monstre or merveille myghte be.
It is agayns the proces of nature."
And hoom she goth a sorweful creature,
For verray feere unnethe may she go.
She wepeth, wailleth, al a day or two,
And swowneth that it routhe was to see;
But why it was, to no wight tolde shee,
For out of towne was goon Arveragus.
But to hirself she spak, and seyde thus,
With face pale and with ful sorweful cheere,
In hire compleynt, as ye shal after heere.
"Allas!" quod she, "on thee, Fortune, I pleyne,
That unwar wrapped hast me in thy cheyne;
For which tescape woot I no socour
Save oonly deeth or elles dishonour;
Oon of thise two bihoveth me to chese.
But nathelees, yet have I levere to lese
My lyf, thanne of my body have a shame,
Or knowe myselven fals or lese my name,
And with my deth I may be quyt, ywis;
Hath ther nat many a noble wyf er this
And many a mayde yslayn hirself, allas,
Rather than with hir body doon trespas?
Yis, certes, lo, thise stories beren witnesse,
Whan thritty tirauntz, ful of cursednesse,
Hadde slayn Phidoun in Atthenes, at feste,
They comanded hise doghtres for tareste,
And bryngen hem biforn hem in despit,
Al naked, to fulfille hir foul delit,
And in hir fadres blood they made hem daunce
Upon the pavement, God yeve hem myschaunce;
For which thise woful maydens ful of drede,
Rather than they wolde lese hir maydenhede,
They prively been stirt into a welle
And dreynte hemselven, as the bookes telle.
They of Mecene leete enquere and seke
Of Lacedomye fifty maydens eke,
On whiche they wolden doon hir lecherye;
But was ther noon of al that compaignye
That she nas slayn, and with a good entente
Chees rather for to dye than assente
To been oppressed of hir maydenhede.
Why sholde I thanne to dye been in drede?
Lo, eek the tiraunt Aristoclides,
That loved a mayden heet Stymphalides,
Whan that hir fader slayn was on a nyght,
Unto Dianes temple goth she right,
And hente the ymage in hir handes two;
Fro which ymage wolde she nevere go,
No wight ne myghte hir handes of it arace,
Til she was slayn right in the selve place.
Now sith that maydens hadden swich despit,
To been defouled with mannes foul delit,
Wel oghte a wyf rather hirselven slee,
Than be defouled, as it thynketh me.
What shal I seyn of Hasdrubales wyf
That at Cartage birafte hirself hir lyf?
For whan she saugh that Romayns wan the toun,
She took hir children alle and skipte adoun
Into the fyr, and chees rather to dye
Than any Romayn dide hir vileynye.
Hath nat Lucresse yslayn hirself, allas,
At Rome whan that she oppressed was
Of Tarquyn, for hir thoughte it was a shame
To lyven whan she hadde lost hir name?
The sevene maydens of Melesie also
Han slayn hemself, for verray drede and wo
Rather than folk of Gawle hem sholde oppresse.
Mo than a thousand stories, as I gesse,
Koude I now telle as touchynge this mateere.
Whan Habradate was slayn, his wyf so deere
Hirselven slow, and leet hir blood to glyde
In Habradates woundes depe and wyde;
And seyde, "My body at the leeste way
Ther shal no wight defoulen, if I may."
What sholde I mo ensamples heer of sayn?
Sith that so manye han hemselven slayn,
Wel rather than they wolde defouled be,
I wol conclude that it is bet for me
To sleen myself, than been defouled thus.
I wol be trewe unto Arveragus,
Or rather sleen myself in som manere,
As dide Demociones doghter deere,
By cause that she wolde nat defouled be.
O Cedasus, it is ful greet pitee
To reden how thy doghtren deyde, allas,
That slowe hemself, for swich manere cas!
As greet a pitee was it, or wel moore,
The Theban mayden, that for Nichanore
Hirselven slow right for swich manere wo.
Another Theban mayden dide right so;
For oon of Macidonye hadde hire oppressed,
She with hire deeth hir maydenhede redressed.
What shal I seye of Nicerates wyf,
That for swich cas birafte hirself hir lyf?
How trewe eek was to Alcebiades
His love that rather for to dyen chees
Than for to suffre his body unburyed be.
"Lo, which a wyf was Alceste," quod she,
"What seith Omer of goode Penalopee?
Al Grece knoweth of hire chastitee.
Pardee of Lacedomya is writen thus,
That whan at Troie was slayn Protheselaus,
No lenger wolde she lyve after his day.
The same of noble Porcia telle I may,
Withoute Brutus koude she nat lyve,
To whom she hadde al hool hir herte yeve.
The parfit wyfhod of Arthemesie
Honured is thurgh al the Barbarie.
O Teuta queene, thy wyfly chastitee
To alle wyves may a mirrour bee!
The same thyng I seye of Bilyea,
Of Rodogone, and eek Valeria."
Thus pleyned Dorigene a day or tweye,
Purposynge evere that she wolde deye.
But nathelees, upon the thridde nyght
Hoom cam Arveragus, this worthy knyght,
And asked hir why that she weep so soore.
And she gan wepen ever lenger the moore.
"Allas!" quod she, "that evere I was born.
Thus have I seyd," quod she, "thus have I sworn;"
And toold hym al as ye han herd bifore,
It nedeth nat reherce it yow namoore.
This housbonde with glad chiere in freendly wyse
Answerde and seyde, as I shal yow devyse,
"Is ther oght elles, Dorigen, but this?"
"Nay, nay," quod she, "God helpe me so, as wys,
This is to muche, and it were Goddes wille."
"Ye, wyf," quod he, "lat slepen that is stille.
It may be wel paraventure yet to-day.
Ye shul youre trouthe holden, by my fay.
For God so wisly have mercy upon me,
I hadde wel levere ystiked for to be
For verray love which that I to yow have,
But if ye sholde your trouthe kepe and save.
Trouthe is the hyeste thyng that man may kepe."
But with that word he brast anon to wepe
And seyde, "I yow forbede, up peyne of deeth,
That nevere whil thee lasteth lyf ne breeth,
To no wight telle thou of this aventure;
As I may best, I wol my wo endure.
Ne make no contenance of hevynesse,
That folk of yow may demen harm or gesse."
And forth he cleped a squier and a mayde;
"Gooth forth anon with Dorigen," he sayde,
"And bryngeth hir to swich a place anon,"
They take hir leve, and on hir wey they gon,
But they ne weste why she thider wente,
He nolde no wight tellen his entente.
Paraventure, an heep of yow, ywis,
Wol holden hym a lewed man in this,
That he wol putte his wyf in jupartie.
Herkneth the tale er ye upon hire crie;
She may have bettre fortune than yow semeth,
And whan that ye han herd the tale, demeth.
This squier, which that highte Aurelius,
On Dorigen that was so amorus,
Of aventure happed hir to meete
Amydde the toun, right in the quykkest strete,
As she was bown to goon the wey forth-right
Toward the gardyn, ther as she had hight.
And he was to the gardynward also,
For wel he spyed whan she wolde go
Out of hir hous to any maner place.
But thus they mette, of aventure or grace
And he saleweth hir with glad entente,
And asked of hir whiderward she wente.
And she answerde, half as she were mad,
"Unto the gardyn as myn housbonde bad,
My trouthe for to holde, allas! allas!"
Aurelius gan wondren on this cas,
And in his herte hadde greet compassioun
Of hir and of hir lamentacioun,
And of Arveragus, the worthy knyght,
That bad hire holden al that she had hight,
So looth hym was his wyf sholde breke hir trouthe;
And in his herte he caughte of this greet routhe,
Considerynge the beste on every syde
That fro his lust yet were hym levere abyde
Than doon so heigh a cherlyssh wrecchednesse
Agayns franchise and alle gentillesse.-
For which in fewe wordes seyde he thus:
"Madame, seyeth to your lord Arveragus,
That sith I se his grete gentillesse
To yow, and eek I se wel youre distresse,
That him were levere han shame-and that were routhe-
Than ye to me sholde breke thus youre trouthe,
I have wel levere evere to suffre wo
Than I departe the love bitwix yow two.
I yow relesse, madame, into youre hond
Quyt every surement and every bond,
That ye han maad to me as heer biforn,
Sith thilke tyme which that ye were born.
My trouthe I plighte, I shal yow never repreve
Of no biheste, and heere I take my leve,
As of the treweste and the beste wyf
That evere yet I knew in al my lyf.
But every wyf be war of hir biheeste,
On Dorigene remembreth atte leeste!
Thus kan a squier doon a gentil dede
As wel as kan a knyght, with outen drede."
She thonketh hym upon hir knees al bare,
And hoom unto hir housbonde is she fare,
And tolde hym al, as ye han herd me sayd;
And be ye siker, he was so weel apayd
That it were inpossible me to wryte.
What sholde I lenger of this cas endyte?
Arveragus and Dorigene his wyf
In sovereyn blisse leden forth hir lyf,
Nevere eft ne was ther angre hem bitwene.
He cherisseth hir as though she were a queene,
And she was to hym trewe for everemoore.-
Of thise two folk ye gete of me namoore.
Aurelius, that his cost hath al forlorn
Curseth the tyme that evere he was born.
"Allas," quod he, "allas, that I bihighte
Of pured gold a thousand pound of wighte
Unto this philosophre! how shal I do?
I se namoore but that I am fordo;
Myn heritage moot I nedes selle
And been a beggere; heere may I nat dwelle,
And shamen al my kynrede in this place,
But I of hym may gete bettre grace.
But nathelees I wole of hym assaye
At certeyn dayes yeer by yeer to paye,
And thanke hym of his grete curteisye;
My trouthe wol I kepe, I wol nat lye."
With herte soor he gooth unto his cofre,
And broghte gold unto this philosophre
The value of fyve hundred pound, I gesse,
And hym bisecheth of his gentillesse
To graunte hym dayes of the remenaunte,
And seyde, "Maister, I dar wel make avaunt,
I failled nevere of my trouthe as yit.
For sikerly my dette shal be quyt
Towareds yow, how evere that I fare,
To goon a begged in my kirtle bare!
But wolde ye vouche sauf upon seuretee
Two yeer or thre, for to respiten me,
Thanne were I wel, for elles moot I selle
Myn heritage, ther is namoore to telle."
This philosophre sobrely answerde,
And seyde thus, whan he thise wordes herde,
"Have I nat holden covenant unto thee?"
"Yes, certes, wel and trewely," quod he.
"Hastow nat had thy lady, as thee liketh?"
"No, no," quod he, and sorwefully he siketh.
"What was the cause, tel me if thou kan?"
Aurelius his tale anon bigan,
And tolde hym al, as ye han herd bifoore,
It nedeth nat to yow reherce it moore.
He seide, Arveragus of gentillesse
Hadde levere dye in sorwe and in distresse
Than that his wyf were of hir trouthe fals;
The sorwe of Dorigen he tolde hym als,
How looth hir was to been a wikked wyf,
And that she levere had lost that day hir lyf,
And that hir trouthe she swoor, thurgh innocence,
She nevere erst hadde herd speke of apparence.
"That made me han of hir so greet pitee;
And right as frely as he sente hir me,
As frely sente I hir to hym ageyn.
This al and som, ther is namoore to seyn."
This philosophre answerde, "Leeve brother,
Everich of yow dide gentilly til oother.
Thou art a squier, and he is a knyght;
But God forbede, for his blisful myght,
But if a clerk koude doon a gentil dede
As wel as any of yow, it is no drede.
Sire, I releesse thee thy thousand pound,
As thou right now were cropen out of the ground,
Ne nevere er now ne haddest knowen me;
For, sire, I wol nat taken a peny of thee
For al my craft, ne noght for my travaille.
Thou hast ypayed wel for my vitaille,
It is ynogh, and farewel, have good day."
And took his hors, and forth he goth his way.
Lordynges, this questioun wolde I aske now,
Which was the mooste fre, as thynketh yow?
Now telleth me, er that ye ferther wende,
I kan namoore, my tale is at an ende.
Heere is ended the Frankeleyns tale.
Last updated January 14, 2019