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Is like a gold ring in a sowes nose.
Who coude wene, or who coude suppose The wo that in min herte was, and the pine? And whan I saw he n'olde never fine
To reden on this cursed book all night,
Al sodenly three leves have I plight
Out of his book, right as he redde, and eke
I with my fist so toke him on the cheke,
That in oure fire he fell bakward adoun.
And he up sterte, as doth a wood leoun,
And with his fist he smote me on the hed,
That in the flore I lay as I were ded.
And whan he saw how stille that I lay,
He was agast, and wold have fled away,
Til at the last out of my swough I brayde.
O, hast thou slain me, false theef? I sayde,
And for my lond thus hast thou mordred me?
Er I be ded, yet wol I kissen thee.
And nere he came, and kneled faire adoun,
And sayde; dere suster Alisoun,
As helpe me God I shal thee never smite:
That I have don it is thyself to wite,
Foryeve it me, and that I thee beseke.
And yet eftsones I hitte him on the cheke,
And sayde; theef, thus much am I awreke.
Now wol I die, I may no longer speke.
But at the last, with mochel care and wo
We fell accorded by ourselven two:
He yaf me all the bridel in min hond
To han the governance of hous and lond,
And of his tonge, and of his hond also,
And made him brenne his book anon right tho.
And whan that I had getten unto me
By maistrie all the soverainetee,
And that he sayd, min owen trewe wif,
Do as thee list, the terme of all thy lif,
Kepe thin honour, and kepe eke min estat;
After that day we never had debat.
God helpe me so, I was to him as kinde,
As any wif fro Denmark unto Inde,
And al so trewe, and so was he to me:
pray to God that sit in majestee
So blisse his soule, for his mercy dere.
Now wol I say my tale if ye wol here.
The frere lough whan he had herd all this: Now dame, quod he, so have I joye and blis, This is a long preamble of a tale.
And whan the Sompnour herd the frere gale,
Lo (quod this Sompnour) Goddes armes two,
A frere wol entermete him evermo:
Lo, goode men, a flie and eke a frere
Wol fall in every dish and eke matere.
What spekest thou of preambulatioun ?
What? amble or trot; or pees, or go sit doun:
Thou lettest our disport in this matere.
Ye,wolt thou so,Sire Sompnour? quod the frere;
Now by my faith I shal, er that I go,
Tell of a Sompnour swiche a tale or two,
That all the folk shal laughen in this place.
Now elles, frere, I wol beshrewe thy face,
(Quod this Sompnour) and I beshrewe me,
But if I telle tales two or three
Of freres, or I come to Sidenborne,
That I shal make thin herte for to morne:
For wel I wot thy patience is gon.
Our hoste cried; pees, and that anon;
And sayde; let the woman tell hire tale.
Ye fare as folk that dronken ben of ale.
Do, dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best.
Al redy, sire, quod she, right as you lest,
If I have licence of this worthy frere.
Yes, dame, quod he, tell forth, and I wol here.
THE WIF OF BATHES TALE.
IN olde dayes of the king Artour,
Of which that Bretons speken gret honour,
All was this lond fulfilled of faerie;
The Elf-quene, with hire joly compagnie,
Danced ful oft in many a grene mede.
This was the old opinion as I rede;
I speke of many hundred yeres ago;
But now can no man see non elves mo,
For now the grete charitee and prayeres
Of limitoures and other holy freres,
That serchen every land and every streme,
As thikke as motes in the sonne-beme,
Blissing halles, chambres, kichenes, and boures,
Citees and burghes, castles highe and toures,
Thropes and bernes, shepenes and dairies,
This maketh that ther ben no faeries:
For ther as wont to walken was an elf,
Ther walketh now the limitour himself,
In undermeles and in morweninges,
And sayth his Matines and his holy thinges,
As he goth in his limitatioun.
Women may now go safely up and doun,
In every bush and under every tree,
Ther is non other incubus but he,
And he ne will don hem no dishonour.
And so befell it, that this king Artour
Had in his hous a lusty bacheler,
That on a day came riding fro river:
And happed, that, alone as she was borne,
He saw a maiden walking him beforne,
Of which maid he anon, maugre hire hed,
By veray force beraft hire maidenhed:
For which oppression was swiche clamour,
And swiche pursuite unto the king Artour,
That damned was this knight for to be ded
By cours of lawe, and shuld have lost his hed,
(Paraventure swiche was the statute tho,)
But that the quene and other ladies mo
So longe praieden the king of grace,
Til he his lif him granted in the place,
And yaf him to the quene, all at hire will
To chese whether she wold him save or spill.
The quene thanketh the king with al hire might;
And after this thus spake she to the knight,
Whan that she saw hire time upon a day.
Thou standest yet (quod she) in swiche array,
That of thy lif yet hast thou no seuretee;
I grant thee lif, if thou canst tellen me,
What thing is it that women most desiren:
Beware, and kepe thy nekke-bone from yren.
And if thou canst not tell it me anon,
Yet wol I yeve thee leve for to gon
A twelvemonth and a day, to seke and lere
An answer suffisant in this matere.
And seuretee wol I have, or that thou pace,
Thy body for to yelden in this place.
Wo was the knight, and sorwefully he siketh;
But what? he may not don all as him liketh.
And at the last he chese him for to wende,
And come agen right at the yeres ende
With swiche answer, as God wold him purvay:
And taketh his leve, and wendeth forth his way.
He seketh every hous and every place,
Wher as he hopeth for to finden grace,
To lernen what thing women loven moste:
But he ne coude ariven in no coste,
Wher as he mighte find in this matere
Two creatures according in fere.
Som saiden, women loven best richesse,
Som saiden honour, som saiden jolinesse,
Som riche array, som saiden lust a-bedde,
And oft time to be widewe and to be wedde.
Some saiden, that we ben in herte most esed
Whan that we ben yflatered and ypreised.
He goth ful nigh the sothe, I wol not lie;
A man shal winne us best with flaterie;
And with attendance, and with besinesse
Ben we ylimed bothe more and lesse.
And som men saiden, that we loven best
For to be free, and do right as us lest,
And that no man repreve us of our vice,
But say that we ben wise, and nothing nice.
For trewely ther n'is non of us all,
If any wight wol claw us on the gall,
That we n'ill kike, for that he saith us soth:
Assay, and he shal find it, that so doth.
For be we never so vicious withinne,
We wol be holden wise and clene of sinne.
And som saiden, that gret delit han we
For to be holden stable and eke secre,
And in o purpos stedfastly to dwell,
And not bewreyen thing that men us tell.
But that tale is not worth a rake-stele.
Parde we women connen nothing hele,