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I am your doughter, your Custance, quod she,
That whilom ye han sent into Surrie;
It am I, fader, that in the salte see
Was put alone, and dampned for to die.'
Now, goode fader, I you mercy crie,
Send me no more into non hethenesse,
But thanketh my lord here of his kindenesse.
Who can the pitous joye tellen all
Betwix hem thre, sin they ben thus ymette?
But of my tale make an ende I shal,
The day goth fast, I wol no longer lette.
Thise glade folk to dinner ben ysette,
In joy and blisse at mete I let hem dwell,
A thousand fold wel more than I can tell.
This child Maurice was sithen emperour
Made by the pope, and lived cristenly,
To Cristes chirche did he gret honour:
But I let all his storie passen by,
Of Custance is my tale specially,
In the olde Romane gestes men may find
Maurices lif, I bere it not in mind.
This king Alla, whan he his time
With his Custance, his holy wif so swete,
To Englond ben they come the righte wey,
Ther as they live in joye and in quiete.
But litel while it lasteth I you hete,
Joye of this world for time wol not abide,
Fro day to night it changeth as the tide.
Who lived ever in swiche delite o day,
That him ne meved other conscience,
Or ire, or talent, or som kin affray,
Envie, or pride, or passion, or offence?
I ne say but for this end this sentence,
That litel while in jóye or in plesance
Lasteth the blisse of Alla with Custance.
For deth, that taketh of hie and low his rente, Whan passed was a yere, even as I gesse, Out of this world this king Alla he hente, For whom Custance hath ful gret hevinesse. Now let us praien God his soule blesse: And dame Custance, finally to say, Toward the toun of Rome goth hire way.
To Rome is come this holy creature,
And findeth ther hire frendes hole and sound:
Now is she scaped all hire aventure:
And whan that she hire fader hath yfound,
Doun on hire knees falleth she to ground,
Weping for tendernesse in herte blithe
She herieth God an hundred thousand sithe.
In vertue and in holy almesse dede
They liven alle, and never asonder wende;
Till deth departeth hem, this lif they lede:
And fareth now wel, my tale is at an ende.
Now Jesu Crist, that of his might may sende
Joye after wo, governe us in his grace,
And kepe us alle that ben in this place.
THE WIF OF BATHES PROLOGUE.
EXPERIENCE, though non auctoritee
Were in this world, is right ynough for me
To speke of wo that is in mariage:
For, lordings, sin I twelf yere was of age,
(Thanked be God that is eterne on live)
Husbondes at chirche dore have I had five,
(If I so often might han wedded be)
And all were worthy men in hir degree.
But me was told, not longe time agon is,
That sithen Crist ne went never but onis
To wedding, in the Cane of Galilee,
That by that ilke ensample taught he me,
That I ne shulde wedded be but ones.
Lo, herke eke, which a sharpe word for the nones,
Beside a welle Jesu, God and man,
Spake in reprefe of the Samaritan:
Thou hast yhadde five husbonds, sayde he:
And thilke man, that now hath wedded thee,
Is not thyn husbond: thus said he certain;
What that he ment therby, I can not sain,
But that I aske, why that the fifthe man
Was non husbond to the Samaritan?
How many might she have in mariage?
Yet herd I never tellen in min age
Upon this noumbre diffinitioun;
Men may devine, and glosen up and doun.
But wel I wot, expresse withouten lie
God bad us for to wex and multiplie;
That gentil text can I wel understond.
Eke wel I wot, he sayd, that min husbond
Shuld leve fader and moder, and take to me;
But of no noumbre mention made he,
Of bigamie or of octogamie;
Why shuld men than speke of it vilanie?
Lo here the wise king Dan Salomon,
I trow he hadde wives mo than on,
(As wolde God it leful were to me
To be refreshed half so oft as he)
Which a gift of God had he for alle his wives?
No man hath swiche, that in this world on live is.
God wot, this noble king, as to my witte,
The firste night had many a mery fitte
With eche of hem, so wel was him on live.
Blessed be God that I have wedded five,
Welcome the sixthe whan that ever he shall.
For sith I wol not kepe me chaste in all,
Whan min husbond is fro the world ygon,
Som cristen man shal wedden me anon.
For than the apostle saith, that I am fre
To wedde, a' goddes half, wher it liketh me.
He saith, that to be wedded is no sinne;
Better is to be wedded than to brinne.
What rekketh me though folk say vilanie
Of shrewed Lamech, and his bigamie?
I wot wel Abraham was an holy man,
And Jacob eke, as fer as ever I can,
And eche of hem had wives mo than two,
And many another holy man also.
Wher can ye seen in any maner age
That highe God defended mariage
By expresse word? I pray you telleth me,
Or wher commanded he virginitee?
I wot as wel as ye, it is no drede,
The apostle, whan he spake of maidenhede,
He said, that precept therof had he non:
Men may conseille a woman to ben on,
But conseilling is no commandement;
He put it in our owen jugement.
For hadde God commanded maidenhede,
Than had he dampned wedding out of drede;
And certes, if ther were no sede ysowe,
Virginitee than wherof shuld it growe?
Poule dorste not commanden at the lest
A thing, of which his maister yaf non hest.
The dart is sette up for virginitee,
Catch who so may, who renneth best let see.
But this word is not take of every wight,
But ther as God wol yeve it of his might.
I wot wel that the apostle was a maid,
But natheles, though that he wrote and said,
He wold that every wight were swiche as he,
All n'is but conseil to virginitee.
And for to ben a wif he yaf me leve,
Of indulgence, so n'is it non repreve
To wedden me, if that my make die,
Withoute exception of bigamie;
All were it good no woman for to touche,
(He ment as in his bed or in his couche)
For peril is both fire and tow to assemble;
Ye know what this ensample may resemble.
This is all and som, he held virginitee
More parfit than wedding in freeltee:
(Freeltee clepe I, but if that he and she
Wold lede hir lives all in chastitee)
I graunt it wel, I have of non envie,
Who maidenhed preferre to bigamie;
It liketh hem to be clene in body and gost;
Of min estat I wol not maken bost.
For wel ye know, a lord in his houshold
Ne hath nat every vessell all of gold:
Som ben of tree; and don hir lord service.
God clepeth folk to him in sondry wise,
And everich hath of God a propre gift,
Som this, som that, as that him liketh shift.
Virginitee gret perfection,
And continence eke with devotion;