The Man of Law’s Introduction and Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

MLT 1 Oure Hooste saugh wel that the brighte sonne
MLT 2 The ark of his artificial day hath ronne
MLT 3 The ferthe part, and half an houre and moore,
MLT 4 And though he were not depe ystert in loore,
MLT 5 He wiste it was the eightetethe day
MLT 6 Of Aprill, that is messager to May;
MLT 7 And saugh wel that the shadwe of every tree
MLT 8 Was in lengthe the same quantitee
MLT 9 That was the body erect that caused it.
MLT 10 And therefore by the shadwe he took his wit
MLT 11 That Phebus, which that shoon so clere and brighte,
MLT 12 Degrees was fyve and fourty clombe on highte,
MLT 13 And for that day, as in that latitude,
MLT 14 It was ten of the clokke, he gan conclude,
MLT 15 And sodeynly he plighte his horse aboute.
MLT 16 “Lordynges,” quod he, “I warne yow, al this route,
MLT 17 The fourthe party of this day is gon.
MLT 18 Now for the love of God and of Seint John,
MLT 19 Leseth no tyme, as ferforth as ye may.
MLT 20 Lordynges, the tyme wasteth nyght and day,
MLT 21 And steleth from us, what pryvely slepynge,
MLT 22 And what thurgh necligence in oure wakynge,
MLT 23 As dooth the streem that turneth nevere agayn,
MLT 24 Descendynge from the mountaigne into playn.
MLT 25 Wel kan Senec and many a philosophre
MLT 26 Biwaillen tyme moore than gold in cofre;
MLT 27 For `Los of catel may recovered be,
MLT 28 But los of tyme shendeth us,’ quod he.
MLT 29 It wol nat come agayn, withouten drede,
MLT 30 Nomoore than wole Malkynes maydenhede,
MLT 31 Whan she hath lost it in hir wantownesse.
MLT 32 Lat us nat mowlen thus in ydelnesse.
MLT 33 “Sire Man of Lawe,” quod he, “so have ye blis,
MLT 34 Telle us a tale anon, as forward is.
MLT 35 Ye been submytted, thurgh youre free assent,
MLT 36 To stonden in this cas at my juggement.
MLT 37 Acquiteth yow now of youre biheeste;
MLT 38 Thanne have ye do youre devoir atte leeste.”
MLT 39 “Hooste,” quod he, “depardieux, ich assente;
MLT 40 To breke forward is nat myn entente.
MLT 41 Biheste is dette, and I wole holde fayn
MLT 42 Al my biheste, I kan no bettre sayn.
MLT 43 For swich lawe as a man yeveth another wight,
MLT 44 He sholde hymselven usen it, by right;
MLT 45 Thus wole oure text. But nathelees, certeyn,
MLT 46 I kan right now no thrifty tale seyn
MLT 47 That Chaucer, thogh he kan but lewedly
MLT 48 On metres and on rymyng craftily,
MLT 49 Hath seyd hem in swich Englissh as he kan
MLT 50 Of olde tyme, as knoweth many a man;
MLT 51 And if he have noght seyd hem, leve brother,
MLT 52 In o book, he hath seyd hem in another.
MLT 53 For he hath toold of loveris up and doun
MLT 54 Mo than Ovide made of mencioun
MLT 55 In his Episteles, that been ful olde.
MLT 56 What sholde I tellen hem, syn they been tolde?
MLT 57 “In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcione,
MLT 58 And sitthen hath he spoken of everichone,
MLT 59 Thise noble wyves and thise loveris eke.
MLT 60 Whoso that wole his large volume seke,
MLT 61 Cleped the Seintes Legende of Cupide,
MLT 62 Ther may he seen the large woundes wyde
MLT 63 Of Lucresse, and of Babilan Tesbee;
MLT 64 The swerd of Dido for the false Enee;
MLT 65 The tree of Phillis for hire Demophon;
MLT 66 The pleinte of Dianire and of Hermyon,
MLT 67 Of Adriane, and of Isiphilee —
MLT 68 The bareyne yle stondynge in the see —
MLT 69 The dreynte Leandre for his Erro;
MLT 70 The teeris of Eleyne, and eek the wo
MLT 71 Of Brixseyde, and of the, Ladomya;
MLT 72 The crueltee of the, queene Medea,
MLT 73 Thy litel children hangynge by the hals,
MLT 74 For thy Jason, that was of love so fals!
MLT 75 O Ypermystra, Penelopee, Alceste,
MLT 76 Youre wifhod he comendeth with the beste!
MLT 77 “But certeinly no word ne writeth he
MLT 78 Of thilke wikke ensample of Canacee,
MLT 79 That loved hir owene brother synfully —
MLT 80 Of swiche cursed stories I sey fy! —
MLT 81 Or ellis of Tyro Appollonius,
MLT 82 How that the cursed kyng Antiochus
MLT 83 Birafte his doghter of hir maydenhede,
MLT 84 That is so horrible a tale for to rede,
MLT 85 Whan he hir threw upon the pavement.
MLT 86 And therfore he, of ful avysement,
MLT 87 Nolde nevere write in none of his sermons
MLT 88 Of swiche unkynde abhomynacions,
MLT 89 Ne I wol noon reherce, if that I may.
MLT 90 “But of my tale how shal I doon this day?
MLT 91 Me were looth be likned, doutelees,
MLT 92 To Muses that men clepe Pierides —
MLT 93 Methamorphosios woot what I mene;
MLT 94 But nathelees, I recche noght a bene
MLT 95 Though I come after hym with hawebake.
MLT 96 I speke in prose, and lat him rymes make.”
MLT 97 And with that word he, with a sobre cheere,
MLT 98 Bigan his tale, as ye shal after heere.
MLT 99 O hateful harm, condicion of poverte!
MLT 100 With thurst, with coold, with hunger so confoundid!
MLT 101 To asken help thee shameth in thyn herte;
MLT 102 If thou noon aske, with nede artow so woundid
MLT 103 That verray nede unwrappeth al thy wounde hid!
MLT 104 Maugree thyn heed, thou most for indigence
MLT 105 Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy despence!
MLT 106 Thow blamest Crist and seist ful bitterly
MLT 107 He mysdeparteth richesse temporal;
MLT 108 Thy neighebor thou wytest synfully,
MLT 109 And seist thou hast to lite and he hath al.
MLT 110 “Parfay,” seistow, “somtyme he rekene shal,
MLT 111 Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the gleede,
MLT 112 For he noght helpeth needfulle in hir neede.”
MLT 113 Herkne what is the sentence of the wise:
MLT 114 “Bet is to dyen than have indigence”;
MLT 115 “Thy selve neighebor wol thee despise.”
MLT 116 If thou be povre, farwel thy reverence!
MLT 117 Yet of the wise man take this sentence:
MLT 118 “Alle the dayes of povre men been wikke.”
MLT 119 Be war, therfore, er thou come to that prikke!
MLT 120 If thou be povre, thy brother hateth thee,
MLT 121 And alle thy freendes fleen from thee, allas!
MLT 122 O riche marchauntz, ful of wele been yee,
MLT 123 O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas!
MLT 124 Youre bagges been nat fild with ambes as,
MLT 125 But with sys cynk, that renneth for youre chaunce;
MLT 126 At Cristemasse myrie may ye daunce!
MLT 127 Ye seken lond and see for yowre wynnynges;
MLT 128 As wise folk ye knowen al th’ estaat
MLT 129 Of regnes; ye been fadres of tidynges
MLT 130 And tales, bothe of pees and of debaat.
MLT 131 I were right now of tales desolaat,
MLT 132 Nere that a marchant, goon is many a yeere,
MLT 133 Me taughte a tale, which that ye shal heere.