The Manciple’s Tale

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

MancT 105 Whan Phebus dwelled heere in this erthe adoun,
MancT 106 As olde bookes maken mencioun,
MancT 107 He was the mooste lusty bachiler
MancT 108 In al this world, and eek the beste archer.
MancT 109 He slow Phitoun, the serpent, as he lay
MancT 110 Slepynge agayn the sonne upon a day;
MancT 111 And many another noble worthy dede
MancT 112 He with his bowe wroghte, as men may rede.
MancT 113 Pleyen he koude on every mynstralcie,
MancT 114 And syngen that it was a melodie
MancT 115 To heeren of his cleere voys the soun.
MancT 116 Certes the kyng of Thebes, Amphioun,
MancT 117 That with his syngyng walled that citee,
MancT 118 Koude nevere syngen half so wel as hee.
MancT 119 Therto he was the semelieste man
MancT 120 That is or was sith that the world bigan.
MancT 121 What nedeth it his fetures to discryve?
MancT 122 For in this world was noon so faire on-lyve.
MancT 123 He was therwith fulfild of gentillesse,
MancT 124 Of honour, and of parfit worthynesse.
MancT 125 This Phebus, that was flour of bachilrie,
MancT 126 As wel in fredom as in chivalrie,
MancT 127 For his desport, in signe eek of victorie
MancT 128 Of Phitoun, so as telleth us the storie,
MancT 129 Was wont to beren in his hand a bowe.
MancT 130 Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a crowe
MancT 131 Which in a cage he fostred many a day,
MancT 132 And taughte it speken, as men teche a jay.
MancT 133 Whit was this crowe as is a snow-whit swan,
MancT 134 And countrefete the speche of every man
MancT 135 He koude, whan he sholde telle a tale.
MancT 136 Therwith in al this world no nyghtyngale
MancT 137 Ne koude, by an hondred thousand deel,
MancT 138 Syngen so wonder myrily and weel.
MancT 139 Now hadde this Phebus in his hous a wyf
MancT 140 Which that he lovede moore than his lyf,
MancT 141 And nyght and day dide evere his diligence
MancT 142 Hir for to plese and doon hire reverence,
MancT 143 Save oonly, if the sothe that I shal sayn,
MancT 144 Jalous he was, and wolde have kept hire fayn.
MancT 145 For hym were looth byjaped for to be,
MancT 146 And so is every wight in swich degree;
MancT 147 But al in ydel, for it availleth noght.
MancT 148 A good wyf, that is clene of werk and thoght,
MancT 149 Sholde nat been kept in noon awayt, certayn;
MancT 150 And trewely the labour is in vayn
MancT 151 To kepe a shrewe, for it wol nat bee.
MancT 152 This holde I for a verray nycetee,
MancT 153 To spille labour for to kepe wyves:
MancT 154 Thus writen olde clerkes in hir lyves.
MancT 155 But now to purpos, as I first bigan:
MancT 156 This worthy Phebus dooth al that he kan
MancT 157 To plesen hire, wenynge for swich plesaunce,
MancT 158 And for his manhede and his governaunce,
MancT 159 That no man sholde han put hym from hir grace.
MancT 160 But God it woot, ther may no man embrace
MancT 161 As to destreyne a thyng which that nature
MancT 162 Hath natureelly set in a creature.
MancT 163 Taak any bryd, and put it in a cage,
MancT 164 And do al thyn entente and thy corage
MancT 165 To fostre it tendrely with mete and drynke
MancT 166 Of alle deyntees that thou kanst bithynke,
MancT 167 And keep it al so clenly as thou may,
MancT 168 Although his cage of gold be never so gay,
MancT 169 Yet hath this brid, by twenty thousand foold,
MancT 170 Levere in a forest that is rude and coold
MancT 171 Goon ete wormes and swich wrecchednesse.
MancT 172 For evere this brid wol doon his bisynesse
MancT 173 To escape out of his cage, yif he may.
MancT 174 His libertee this brid desireth ay.
MancT 175 Lat take a cat, and fostre hym wel with milk
MancT 176 And tendre flessh, and make his couche of silk,
MancT 177 And lat hym seen a mous go by the wal,
MancT 178 Anon he weyveth milk and flessh and al,
MancT 179 And every deyntee that is in that hous,
MancT 180 Swich appetit hath he to ete a mous.
MancT 181 Lo, heere hath lust his dominacioun,
MancT 182 And appetit fleemeth discrecioun.
MancT 183 A she-wolf hath also a vileyns kynde.
MancT 184 The lewedeste wolf that she may fynde,
MancT 185 Or leest of reputacioun, wol she take,
MancT 186 In tyme whan hir lust to han a make.
MancT 187 Alle thise ensamples speke I by thise men
MancT 188 That been untrewe, and nothyng by wommen.
MancT 189 For men han evere a likerous appetit
MancT 190 On lower thyng to parfourne hire delit
MancT 191 Than on hire wyves, be they never so faire,
MancT 192 Ne never so trewe, ne so debonaire.
MancT 193 Flessh is so newefangel, with meschaunce,
MancT 194 That we ne konne in nothyng han plesaunce
MancT 195 That sowneth into vertu any while.
MancT 196 This Phebus, which that thoghte upon no gile,
MancT 197 Deceyved was, for al his jolitee.
MancT 198 For under hym another hadde shee,
MancT 199 A man of litel reputacioun,
MancT 200 Nat worth to Phebus in comparisoun.
MancT 201 The moore harm is, it happeth ofte so,
MancT 202 Of which ther cometh muchel harm and wo.
MancT 203 And so bifel, whan Phebus was absent,
MancT 204 His wyf anon hath for hir lemman sent.
MancT 205 Hir lemman? Certes, this is a knavyssh speche!
MancT 206 Foryeveth it me, and that I yow biseche.
MancT 207 The wise Plato seith, as ye may rede,
MancT 208 The word moot nede accorde with the dede.
MancT 209 If men shal telle proprely a thyng,
MancT 210 The word moot cosyn be to the werkyng.
MancT 211 I am a boystous man, right thus seye I:
MancT 212 Ther nys no difference, trewely,
MancT 213 Bitwixe a wyf that is of heigh degree,
MancT 214 If of hir body dishonest she bee,
MancT 215 And a povre wenche, oother than this —
MancT 216 If it so be they werke bothe amys —
MancT 217 But that the gentile, in estaat above,
MancT 218 She shal be cleped his lady, as in love;
MancT 219 And for that oother is a povre womman,
MancT 220 She shal be cleped his wenche or his lemman.
MancT 221 And, God it woot, myn owene deere brother,
MancT 222 Men leyn that oon as lowe as lith that oother.
MancT 223 Right so bitwixe a titlelees tiraunt
MancT 224 And an outlawe or a theef erraunt,
MancT 225 The same I seye: ther is no difference.
MancT 226 To Alisaundre was toold this sentence,
MancT 227 That, for the tirant is of gretter myght
MancT 228 By force of meynee for to sleen dounright,
MancT 229 And brennen hous and hoom, and make al playn,
MancT 230 Lo, therfore is he cleped a capitayn;
MancT 231 And for the outlawe hath but smal meynee,
MancT 232 And may nat doon so greet an harm as he,
MancT 233 Ne brynge a contree to so greet mescheef,
MancT 234 Men clepen hym an outlawe or a theef.
MancT 235 But for I am a man noght textueel,
MancT 236 I wol noght telle of textes never a deel;
MancT 237 I wol go to my tale, as I bigan.
MancT 238 Whan Phebus wyf had sent for hir lemman,
MancT 239 Anon they wroghten al hire lust volage.
MancT 240 The white crowe, that heeng ay in the cage,
MancT 241 Biheeld hire werk, and seyde never a word.
MancT 242 And whan that hoom was come Phebus, the lord,
MancT 243 This crowe sang “Cokkow! Cokkow! Cokkow!”
MancT 244 “What, bryd?” quod Phebus. “What song syngestow?
MancT 245 Ne were thow wont so myrily to synge
MancT 246 That to myn herte it was a rejoysynge
MancT 247 To heere thy voys? Allas, what song is this?”
MancT 248 “By God,” quod he, “I synge nat amys.
MancT 249 Phebus,” quod he, “for al thy worthynesse,
MancT 250 For al thy beautee and thy gentilesse,
MancT 251 For al thy song and al thy mynstralcye,
MancT 252 For al thy waityng, blered is thyn ye
MancT 253 With oon of litel reputacioun,
MancT 254 Noght worth to thee, as in comparisoun,
MancT 255 The montance of a gnat, so moote I thryve!
MancT 256 For on thy bed thy wyf I saugh hym swyve.”
MancT 257 What wol ye moore? The crowe anon hym tolde,
MancT 258 By sadde tokenes and by wordes bolde,
MancT 259 How that his wyf had doon hire lecherye,
MancT 260 Hym to greet shame and to greet vileynye,
MancT 261 And tolde hym ofte he saugh it with his yen.
MancT 262 This Phebus gan aweyward for to wryen,
MancT 263 And thoughte his sorweful herte brast atwo.
MancT 264 His bowe he bente, and sette therinne a flo,
MancT 265 And in his ire his wyf thanne hath he slayn.
MancT 266 This is th’ effect; ther is namoore to sayn;
MancT 267 For sorwe of which he brak his mynstralcie,
MancT 268 Bothe harpe, and lute, and gyterne, and sautrie;
MancT 269 And eek he brak his arwes and his bowe,
MancT 270 And after that thus spak he to the crowe:
MancT 271 “Traitour,” quod he, “with tonge of scorpioun,
MancT 272 Thou hast me broght to my confusioun;
MancT 273 Allas, that I was wroght! Why nere I deed?
MancT 274 O deere wyf! O gemme of lustiheed!
MancT 275 That were to me so sad and eek so trewe,
MancT 276 Now listow deed, with face pale of hewe,
MancT 277 Ful giltelees, that dorste I swere, ywys!
MancT 278 O rakel hand, to doon so foule amys!
MancT 279 O trouble wit, O ire recchelees,
MancT 280 That unavysed smyteth gilteles!
MancT 281 O wantrust, ful of fals suspecion,
MancT 282 Where was thy wit and thy discrecion?
MancT 283 O every man, be war of rakelnesse!
MancT 284 Ne trowe no thyng withouten strong witnesse.
MancT 285 Smyt nat to soone, er that ye witen why,
MancT 286 And beeth avysed wel and sobrely
MancT 287 Er ye doon any execucion
MancT 288 Upon youre ire for suspecion.
MancT 289 Allas, a thousand folk hath rakel ire
MancT 290 Fully fordoon, and broght hem in the mire.
MancT 291 Allas! For sorwe I wol myselven slee!”
MancT 292 And to the crowe, “O false theef!” seyde he,
MancT 293 “I wol thee quite anon thy false tale.
MancT 294 Thou songe whilom lyk a nyghtyngale;
MancT 295 Now shaltow, false theef, thy song forgon,
MancT 296 And eek thy white fetheres everichon,
MancT 297 Ne nevere in al thy lif ne shaltou speke.
MancT 298 Thus shal men on a traytour been awreke;
MancT 299 Thou and thyn ofspryng evere shul be blake,
MancT 300 Ne nevere sweete noyse shul ye make,
MancT 301 But evere crie agayn tempest and rayn,
MancT 302 In tokenynge that thurgh thee my wyf is slayn.”
MancT 303 And to the crowe he stirte, and that anon,
MancT 304 And pulled his white fetheres everychon,
MancT 305 And made hym blak, and refte hym al his song,
MancT 306 And eek his speche, and out at dore hym slong
MancT 307 Unto the devel, which I hym bitake;
MancT 308 And for this caas been alle crowes blake.
MancT 309 Lordynges, by this ensample I yow preye,
MancT 310 Beth war, and taketh kep what that ye seye:
MancT 311 Ne telleth nevere no man in youre lyf
MancT 312 How that another man hath dight his wyf;
MancT 313 He wol yow haten mortally, certeyn.
MancT 314 Daun Salomon, as wise clerkes seyn,
MancT 315 Techeth a man to kepen his tonge weel.
MancT 316 But, as I seyde, I am noght textueel.
MancT 317 But nathelees, thus taughte me my dame:
MancT 318 “My sone, thenk on the crowe, a Goddes name!
MancT 319 My sone, keep wel thy tonge, and keep thy freend.
MancT 320 A wikked tonge is worse than a feend;
MancT 321 My sone, from a feend men may hem blesse.
MancT 322 My sone, God of his endelees goodnesse
MancT 323 Walled a tonge with teeth and lippes eke,
MancT 324 For man sholde hym avyse what he speeke.
MancT 325 My sone, ful ofte, for to muche speche
MancT 326 Hath many a man been spilt, as clerkes teche,
MancT 327 But for litel speche avysely
MancT 328 Is no man shent, to speke generally.
MancT 329 My sone, thy tonge sholdestow restreyne
MancT 330 At alle tymes, but whan thou doost thy peyne
MancT 331 To speke of God, in honour and preyere.
MancT 332 The firste vertu, sone, if thou wolt leere,
MancT 333 Is to restreyne and kepe wel thy tonge;
MancT 334 Thus lerne children whan that they been yonge.
MancT 335 My sone, of muchel spekyng yvele avysed,
MancT 336 Ther lasse spekyng hadde ynough suffised,
MancT 337 Comth muchel harm; thus was me toold and taught.
MancT 338 In muchel speche synne wanteth naught.
MancT 339 Wostow wherof a rakel tonge serveth?
MancT 340 Right as a swerd forkutteth and forkerveth
MancT 341 An arm a-two, my deere sone, right so
MancT 342 A tonge kutteth freendshipe al a-two.
MancT 343 A jangler is to God abhomynable.
MancT 344 Reed Salomon, so wys and honurable;
MancT 345 Reed David in his psalmes; reed Senekke.
MancT 346 My sone, spek nat, but with thyn heed thou bekke.
MancT 347 Dissimule as thou were deef, if that thou heere
MancT 348 A janglere speke of perilous mateere.
MancT 349 The Flemyng seith, and lerne it if thee leste,
MancT 350 That litel janglyng causeth muchel reste.
MancT 351 My sone, if thou no wikked word hast seyd,
MancT 352 Thee thar nat drede for to be biwreyd;
MancT 353 But he that hath mysseyd, I dar wel sayn,
MancT 354 He may by no wey clepe his word agayn.
MancT 355 Thyng that is seyd is seyd, and forth it gooth,
MancT 356 Though hym repente, or be hym nevere so looth.
MancT 357 He is his thral to whom that he hath sayd
MancT 358 A tale of which he is now yvele apayd.
MancT 359 My sone, be war, and be noon auctour newe
MancT 360 Of tidynges, wheither they been false or trewe.
MancT 361 Whereso thou come, amonges hye or lowe,
MancT 362 Kepe wel thy tonge and thenk upon the crowe.”