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For by my trouthe, if that I shal not lie,
I saw nat this yere swiche a compagnie
At ones in this herberwe, as is now.
Fayn wolde I do you mirthe, and I wiste how.
And of a mirthe I am right now bethought,
To don you ese, and it shall coste you nought.
Ye gon to Canterbury; God you spede,
The blisful martyr quite you your mede;
And wel I wot, as ye gon by the way,
Ye shapen you to talken and to play:
For trewely comfort ne mirthe is non,
To riden by the way dombe as the ston:
And therfore wold I maken you disport,
As I said erst, and don you some comfort.
And if you liketh alle by on assent
Now for to stonden at my jugement:
And for to werchen as I shal you say
To-morwe, whan ye riden on the way,
Now by my faders soule that is ded,
mery, smiteth of
hed. Hold up your hondes withouten more speche.
Our conseil was not longe for to seche: Us thought it was not worth to make it wise, And granted him withouten more avise, And bad him say his verdit, as him leste.
Lordinges, (quod he) now herkeneth for the But take it nat, I pray you, in disdain; [beste; This is the point, to speke it plat and plain, That eche of you to shorten with youre way, In this viage, shal tellen tales tway, To Canterbury ward, I mene it so, And homeward he shall tellen other two, Of aventures that wbilom han befalle. And which of you that bereth him best of alle,
That is to sayn, that telleth in this cas
Tales of best sentence and most solas,
Shal have a souper at youre aller cost
Here in this place sitting by this post,
Whan that ye comen agen
from Canterbury. And for to maken
the more mery,
I wol myselven gladly with you ride,
Right at min owen cost, and be your gide.
And who that wol my jugement withsay,
for alle we spenden by the way.
And if vouchesauf that it be so,
Telle me anon withouten wordes mo,
And I wol erly shapen me therfore.
This thing was granted, and our othes swore
With ful glad herte, and praiden him also,
That he wold vouchesauf for to don so,
And that he wolde ben our governour,
And of our tales juge and reportour,
And sette a souper at a certain pris;
And we wol reuled ben at his devise,
In highe and lowe: and thus by on assent,
We ben accorded to his jugement.
And therupon the win was fette anon.
We dronken, and to reste wenten eche on,
Withouten any lenger tarying.
A-morwe whan the day began to spring,
Up rose our hoste, and was our aller cok,
And gaderd us togeder in a flok,
And forth we riden a litel more than pas,
Unto the watering of Seint Thomas:
And ther our hoste began his hors arest,
And saide; lordes, herkeneth if you lest.
Ye wete your forword, and I it record.
If even-song and morwe-song accord,
Let se now who shal telle the first tale.
As ever mote I drinken win or ale,
Who so is rebel to my jugement,
pay for alle that by the way Now draweth cutte, or that ye forther twinne. He which that hath the shortest shal beginne.
Sire Knight, (quod he) my maister and my lord, Now draweth cutte, for that is min accord. Cometh nere, (quod he) my lady prioresse, And ye, sire clerk, let be your shamefastnesse, Ne studieth nought; lay hand to, every man.
Anon to drawen every wight began, And shortly for to tellen as it was, Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas, The sothe is this, the cutte felle on the knight, Of which ful blith and glad was every wight; And tell he must his tale as was reson, But forword, and by composition, As ye
han herd; what nedeth wordes mo? And whan this good man saw that it was so, As he that wise was and obedient To kepe his forword by his free assent, He saide; sithen I shal begin this game, What? welcome be the cutte a goddes name. Now let us ride, and herkeneth what I say.
And with that word we riden forth our way; And he began with right a mery chere His tale anon, and saide as ye shul here.
WHILOM, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duk that highte Theseus.
Of Athenes he was lord and governour,
And in his time swiche a conquerour,
That greter was ther non under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree had he wonne.
What with his wisdom and his chevalrie,
He conquerd all the regne of Feminie,
That whilom was ycleped Scythia;
And wedded the fresshe quene Ipolita,
And brought hire home with him to his contree
With mochel glorie and gret solempnitee,
And eke hire yonge suster Emelie.
And thus with victorie and with melodie
Let I this worthy duk to Athenes ride,
And all his host, in armes him beside.
And certes, if it n'ere to long to here,
I wolde have told you fully the manere,
How wonnen was the regne of Feminie,
By Theseus, and by his chevalrie;
And of the grete bataille for the nones
Betwix Athenes and the Amasones;
And how asseged was Ipolita
The faire hardy quene of Scythia;
And of the feste, that was at hire wedding,
And of the temple at hire home coming.
But all this thing I moste as now forbere.
I have, God wot, a large feld to ere;
And weke ben the oxen in my plow.
The remenant of my tale is long ynow.
I wil not letten eke non of this route.
Let every felaw telle his tale aboute,
And let se now who shal the souper winne.
Ther as I left, I wil agen beginne.
This duk, of whom I made mentioun,
Whan he was comen almost to the toun,
In all his wele and in his moste pride,
He was ware, as he cast his eye aside,
Wher that ther kneled in the highe wey
A compagnie of ladies, twey and twey,
Eche after other, clad in clothes blake:
But swiche a crie and swiche a wo they make,
That in this world n'is creature living,
That ever herd swiche another waimenting.
And of this crie ne wolde they never stenten,
Till they the reines of his bridel henten.
What folk be ye that at min home coming Perturben so my feste with crying? Quod Theseus; have ye so grete envie Of min honour, that thus complaine and crie? Or who hath you misboden, or offended ? Do telle me, if that it may be amended; And why ye be thus clothed alle in blake?
The oldest lady of hem all than spake, Whan she had swouned, with a dedly chere, That it was reuthe for to seen and here. She sayde; lord, to whom fortune hath yeven Victorie, and as a conquerour to liven, Nought greveth us your glorie and your honour; But we beseke
of mercie and socour. Have mercie on our woe and our distresse. Som drope of pitee, thurgh thy gentillesse, Upon us wretched wimmen let now falle. For certes, lord, ther n'is non of us alle,