Whan she hath lost it in hire wantonnesse.
Let us not moulen thus in idlenesse.
Sire man of Lawe, quod he, so have


Tell us a tale anon, as forword is.
Ye ben submitted thurgh your free assent
To stonde in this cas at my jugement.
Acquiteth you now, and holdeth your behest;
Than have


devoir at the lest. Hoste, quod he, de par dieux jeo assente, To breken forword is not min entente. Behest is dette, and I wold hold it fayn All my

behest, I can no better sayn. For swiche lawe as man yeveth another wight, He shuld himselven usen it by right. Thus wol our text: but natheles certain I can right now no thrifty tale sain, But Chaucer (though he can but lewedly On metres and on riming craftily) Hath sayd hem, in swiche English as he can, Of olde time, as knoweth many a man. And if he have not sayd hem, leve brother, In o book, he hath sayd hem in another. For he hath told of lovers up and doun, Mo than Ovide made of mentioun In his Epistolis, that ben ful olde. What shuld I tellen hem, sin they ben tolde? In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcyon, And sithen hath he spoke of everich on Thise noble wives, and thise lovers eke. Who so that wol his large volume seke Cleped the seintes legende of Cupide: Ther may

he se the large woundes wide Of Lucrece, and of Babylon Thisbe; The swerd of Dido for the false Enee;

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The tree of Phillis for hire Demophon;
The plaint of Deianire, and Hermion,
Of Adriane, and Y siphilee;
The barreine ile stonding in the see;
The dreint Leandre for his fayre Hero;
The teres of Heleine, and eke the wo
Of Briseide, and of Ladomia;
The crueltee of thee, quene Medea,
Thy litel children hanging by the hals,
For thy Jason, that was of love so fals.
O Hipermestra, Penelope, Alceste,
Your wifhood he commendeth with the beste.

But certainly no word ne writeth he
Of thilke wicke ensample of Canace,
That loved hire owen brother sinfully;
(Of all swiche cursed stories I say fy)
Or elles of Tyrius Appolonius,
How that the cursed king Antiochus
Beraft his doughter of hire maidenhede,
That is so horrible a tale for to rede,
Whan he hire threw upon the pavement,
And therfore he of ful avisement
N'old never write in non of his sermons
Of swiche unkinde abhominations;
Ne I wol non reherse, if that I may.
But of my tale how shal I don this day?
Me were loth to be likened douteles
To Muses, that men clepe Pierides,
(Metamorphoseos wote what I mene)
But natheles I recche not a bene,
Though I come after him with hawebake,
I speke in prose, and let him rimes make.
And with that word, he with a sobre chere
Began his tale, and sayde, as ye shull here.



O SCATHFUL harm, condition of poverte,
With thirst, with cold, with hunger so con-

To asken helpe thee shameth in thin herte,
If thou non ask, so sore art thou ywounded,
That veray nede unwrappeth al thy wound hid.
Maugre thin hed thou must for indigence
Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy dispence.

Thou blamest Crist, and sayst ful bitterly,
He misdeparteth richesse temporal;
Thy neighebour thou witest sinfully,
And sayst, thou hast a litel, and he hath all:
Parfay (sayst thou) somtime he reken shall,
Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the glede,
For he nought helpeth needful in hir nede.

Herken what is the sentence of the wise,
Bet is to dien than have indigence.
Thy selve neighebour wol thee despise,
If thou be poure, farewel thy reverence.
Yet of the wise man take this sentence,
Alle the dayes of poure men ben wicke,
Beware therfore or thou come to that pricke.

If thou be poure, thy brother hateth thee,
And all thy frendes fleen fro thee, alas !
O riche marchants, ful of wele ben ye,
O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas,
Your bagges ben not filled with ambes as,
But with sis cink, that renneth for your chance;
At Cristenmasse mery may ye



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Ye seken lond and see for your winninges, As wise folk ye knowen all th’estat Of regnes, ye ben fathers of tidinges, And tales, both of pees and of debat: I were right now of tales desolat, N'ere that a marchant, gon in many a yere, Me taught a tale, which that ye shull here.

IN SURRIE whilom dwelt a compagnie Of chapmen rich, and therto sad and trewe, That wide where senten hir spicerie, Clothes of gold, and satins riche of hewe. Hir chaffare was so thriftly and so newe, That every wight hath deintee to chaffare With hem, and eke to sellen hem hir ware.

Now fell it, that the maisters of that sort Han shapen hem to Rome for to wende, Were it for chapmanhood or for disport, Non other message wold they thider sende, But comen hemself to Rome, this is the ende: And in swiche place as thought hem avantage For hir entente, they taken hir herbergage.

Sojourned han these marchants in that toun A certain time, as fell to hir plesance: And so befell, that the excellent renoun Of the emperoures doughter dame Custance Reported was, with every circumstance, Unto these Surrien marchants, in swiche wise Fro day to day, as I shal you devise,

This was the commun vois of every man: Our emperour of Rome, God him se, A doughter hath, that sin the world began, To reken as wel hire goodnesse as beaute,

N'as never swiche another as is she :
I pray to God in honour hire sustene,
And wold she were of all Europe the quene.

In hire is high beaute withouten pride,
Youthe, withouten grenehed or folie:
To all hire werkes vertue is hire guide;
Humblesse hath slaien in hire tyrannie:
She is mirrour of alle curtesie,
Hire herte is veray chambre of holinesse,
Hire hond ministre of fredom for almesse.

And al this vois was soth, as God is trewe,
But now to purpos let us turne agein.
These marchants han don fraught hir shippes newe,
And whan they han this blisful maiden sein,
Home to Surrie ben they went ful fayn,
And don hir nedes, they han don yore,
And liven in wele, I can say you no more.

Now fell it, that these marchants stood in grace Of him that was the Soudan of Surrie: For whan they came from any strange place He wold of his benigne curtesie Make hem good chere, and besily espie Tidings of sundry regnes, for to lere The wonders that they mighte seen or here.

Amonges other thinges specially These marchants han him told of dame Custance So gret noblesse, in ernest seriously, That this Soudan hath caught so gret plesance To han hire figure in his remembrance, That all his lust, and all his besy cure Was for to love hire, while his lif may

dure. Paraventure in thilke large book, Which that men clepe the heven, ywriten was

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