The Merchant’s Tale

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

MerT 1245 Whilom ther was dwellynge in Lumbardye
MerT 1246 A worthy knyght, that born was of Pavye,
MerT 1247 In which he lyved in greet prosperitee;
MerT 1248 And sixty yeer a wyflees man was hee,
MerT 1249 And folwed ay his bodily delyt
MerT 1250 On wommen, ther as was his appetyt,
MerT 1251 As doon thise fooles that been seculeer.
MerT 1252 And whan that he was passed sixty yeer,
MerT 1253 Were it for hoolynesse or for dotage
MerT 1254 I kan nat seye, but swich a greet corage
MerT 1255 Hadde this knyght to been a wedded man
MerT 1256 That day and nyght he dooth al that he kan
MerT 1257 T’ espien where he myghte wedded be,
MerT 1258 Preyinge oure Lord to graunten him that he
MerT 1259 Mighte ones knowe of thilke blisful lyf
MerT 1260 That is bitwixe an housbonde and his wyf,
MerT 1261 And for to lyve under that hooly boond
MerT 1262 With which that first God man and womman bond.
MerT 1263 “Noon oother lyf,” seyde he, “is worth a bene,
MerT 1264 For wedlok is so esy and so clene,
MerT 1265 That in this world it is a paradys.”
MerT 1266 Thus seyde this olde knyght, that was so wys.
MerT 1267 And certeinly, as sooth as God is kyng,
MerT 1268 To take a wyf it is a glorious thyng,
MerT 1269 And namely whan a man is oold and hoor;
MerT 1270 Thanne is a wyf the fruyt of his tresor.
MerT 1271 Thanne sholde he take a yong wyf and a feir,
MerT 1272 On which he myghte engendren hym an heir,
MerT 1273 And lede his lyf in joye and in solas,
MerT 1274 Where as thise bacheleris synge “allas,”
MerT 1275 Whan that they fynden any adversitee
MerT 1276 In love, which nys but childyssh vanytee.
MerT 1277 And trewely it sit wel to be so,
MerT 1278 That bacheleris have often peyne and wo;
MerT 1279 On brotel ground they buylde, and brotelnesse
MerT 1280 They fynde whan they wene sikernesse.
MerT 1281 They lyve but as a bryd or as a beest,
MerT 1282 In libertee and under noon arreest,
MerT 1283 Ther as a wedded man in his estaat
MerT 1284 Lyveth a lyf blisful and ordinaat
MerT 1285 Under this yok of mariage ybounde.
MerT 1286 Wel may his herte in joy and blisse habounde,
MerT 1287 For who kan be so buxom as a wyf?
MerT 1288 Who is so trewe, and eek so ententyf
MerT 1289 To kepe hym, syk and hool, as is his make?
MerT 1290 For wele or wo she wole hym nat forsake;
MerT 1291 She nys nat wery hym to love and serve,
MerT 1292 Though that he lye bedrede til he sterve.
MerT 1293 And yet somme clerkes seyn it nys nat so,
MerT 1294 Of whiche he Theofraste is oon of tho.
MerT 1295 What force though Theofraste liste lye?
MerT 1296 “Ne take no wyf,” quod he, “for housbondrye,
MerT 1297 As for to spare in houshold thy dispence.
MerT 1298 A trewe servant dooth moore diligence
MerT 1299 Thy good to kepe than thyn owene wyf,
MerT 1300 For she wol clayme half part al hir lyf.
MerT 1301 And if thou be syk, so God me save,
MerT 1302 Thy verray freendes, or a trewe knave,
MerT 1303 Wol kepe thee bet than she that waiteth ay
MerT 1304 After thy good and hath doon many a day.
MerT 1305 And if thou take a wyf unto thyn hoold
MerT 1306 Ful lightly maystow been a cokewold.”
MerT 1307 This sentence, and an hundred thynges worse,
MerT 1308 Writeth this man, ther God his bones corse!
MerT 1309 But take no kep of al swich vanytee;
MerT 1310 Deffie Theofraste, and herke me.
MerT 1311 A wyf is Goddes yifte verraily;
MerT 1312 Alle othere manere yiftes hardily,
MerT 1313 As londes, rentes, pasture, or commune,
MerT 1314 Or moebles — alle been yiftes of Fortune
MerT 1315 That passen as a shadwe upon a wal.
MerT 1316 But drede nat, if pleynly speke I shal:
MerT 1317 A wyf wol laste, and in thyn hous endure,
MerT 1318 Wel lenger than thee list, paraventure.
MerT 1319 Mariage is a ful greet sacrement.
MerT 1320 He which that hath no wyf, I holde hym shent;
MerT 1321 He lyveth helplees and al desolat —
MerT 1322 I speke of folk in seculer estaat.
MerT 1323 And herke why — I sey nat this for noght —
MerT 1324 That womman is for mannes helpe ywroght.
MerT 1325 The hye God, whan he hadde Adam maked,
MerT 1326 And saugh him al allone, bely-naked,
MerT 1327 God of his grete goodnesse seyde than,
MerT 1328 “Lat us now make an helpe unto this man
MerT 1329 Lyk to hymself”; and thanne he made him Eve.
MerT 1330 Heere may ye se, and heerby may ye preve,
MerT 1331 That wyf is mannes helpe and his confort,
MerT 1332 His paradys terrestre, and his disport.
MerT 1333 So buxom and so vertuous is she,
MerT 1334 They moste nedes lyve in unitee.
MerT 1335 O flessh they been, and o fleesh, as I gesse,
MerT 1336 Hath but oon herte, in wele and in distresse.
MerT 1337 A wyf! a, Seinte Marie, benedicite!
MerT 1338 How myghte a man han any adversitee
MerT 1339 That hath a wyf? Certes, I kan nat seye.
MerT 1340 The blisse which that is bitwixe hem tweye
MerT 1341 Ther may no tonge telle, or herte thynke.
MerT 1342 If he be povre, she helpeth hym to swynke;
MerT 1343 She kepeth his good, and wasteth never a deel;
MerT 1344 Al that hire housbonde lust, hire liketh weel;
MerT 1345 She seith nat ones “nay,” whan he seith “ye.”
MerT 1346 “Do this,” seith he; “Al redy, sire,” seith she.
MerT 1347 O blisful ordre of wedlok precious,
MerT 1348 Thou art so murye, and eek so vertuous,
MerT 1349 And so commended and appreved eek
MerT 1350 That every man that halt hym worth a leek
MerT 1351 Upon his bare knees oughte al his lyf
MerT 1352 Thanken his God that hym hath sent a wyf,
MerT 1353 Or elles preye to God hym for to sende
MerT 1354 A wyf to laste unto his lyves ende.
MerT 1355 For thanne his lyf is set in sikernesse;
MerT 1356 He may nat be deceyved, as I gesse,
MerT 1357 So that he werke after his wyves reed.
MerT 1358 Thanne may he boldely beren up his heed,
MerT 1359 They been so trewe and therwithal so wyse;
MerT 1360 For which, if thou wolt werken as the wyse,
MerT 1361 Do alwey so as wommen wol thee rede.
MerT 1362 Lo, how that Jacob, as thise clerkes rede,
MerT 1363 By good conseil of his mooder Rebekke,
MerT 1364 Boond the kydes skyn aboute his nekke,
MerT 1365 For which his fadres benyson he wan.
MerT 1366 Lo Judith, as the storie eek telle kan,
MerT 1367 By wys conseil she Goddes peple kepte,
MerT 1368 And slow hym Olofernus, whil he slepte.
MerT 1369 Lo Abigayl, by good conseil how she
MerT 1370 Saved hir housbonde Nabal whan that he
MerT 1371 Sholde han be slayn; and looke, Ester also
MerT 1372 By good conseil delyvered out of wo
MerT 1373 The peple of God, and made hym Mardochee
MerT 1374 Of Assuere enhaunced for to be.
MerT 1375 Ther nys no thyng in gree superlatyf,
MerT 1376 As seith Senek, above an humble wyf.
MerT 1377 Suffre thy wyves tonge, as Catoun bit;
MerT 1378 She shal comande, and thou shalt suffren it,
MerT 1379 And yet she wole obeye of curteisye.
MerT 1380 A wyf is kepere of thyn housbondrye;
MerT 1381 Wel may the sike man biwaille and wepe,
MerT 1382 Ther as ther nys no wyf the hous to kepe.
MerT 1383 I warne thee, if wisely thou wolt wirche,
MerT 1384 Love wel thy wyf, as Crist loved his chirche.
MerT 1385 If thou lovest thyself, thou lovest thy wyf;
MerT 1386 No man hateth his flessh, but in his lyf
MerT 1387 He fostreth it, and therfore bidde I thee
MerT 1388 Cherisse thy wyf, or thou shalt nevere thee.
MerT 1389 Housbonde and wyf, what so men jape or pleye,
MerT 1390 Of worldly folk holden the siker weye;
MerT 1391 They been so knyt ther may noon harm bityde,
MerT 1392 And namely upon the wyves syde.
MerT 1393 For which this Januarie, of whom I tolde,
MerT 1394 Considered hath, inwith his dayes olde,
MerT 1395 The lusty lyf, the vertuous quyete,
MerT 1396 That is in mariage hony-sweete,
MerT 1397 And for his freendes on a day he sente,
MerT 1398 To tellen hem th’ effect of his entente.
MerT 1399 With face sad his tale he hath hem toold.
MerT 1400 He seyde, “Freendes, I am hoor and oold,
MerT 1401 And almoost, God woot, on my pittes brynke;
MerT 1402 Upon my soule somwhat moste I thynke.
MerT 1403 I have my body folily despended;
MerT 1404 Blessed be God that it shal been amended!
MerT 1405 For I wol be, certeyn, a wedded man,
MerT 1406 And that anoon in al the haste I kan.
MerT 1407 Unto som mayde fair and tendre of age,
MerT 1408 I prey yow, shapeth for my mariage
MerT 1409 Al sodeynly, for I wol nat abyde;
MerT 1410 And I wol fonde t’ espien, on my syde,
MerT 1411 To whom I may be wedded hastily.
MerT 1412 But forasmuche as ye been mo than I,
MerT 1413 Ye shullen rather swich a thyng espyen
MerT 1414 Than I, and where me best were to allyen.
MerT 1415 “But o thyng warne I yow, my freendes deere,
MerT 1416 I wol noon oold wyf han in no manere.
MerT 1417 She shal nat passe twenty yeer, certayn;
MerT 1418 Oold fissh and yong flessh wolde I have fayn.
MerT 1419 Bet is,” quod he, “a pyk than a pykerel,
MerT 1420 And bet than old boef is the tendre veel.
MerT 1421 I wol no womman thritty yeer of age;
MerT 1422 It is but bene-straw and greet forage.
MerT 1423 And eek thise olde wydwes, God it woot,
MerT 1424 They konne so muchel craft on Wades boot,
MerT 1425 So muchel broken harm, whan that hem leste,
MerT 1426 That with hem sholde I nevere lyve in reste.
MerT 1427 For sondry scoles maken sotile clerkis;
MerT 1428 Womman of manye scoles half a clerk is.
MerT 1429 But certeynly, a yong thyng may men gye,
MerT 1430 Right as men may warm wex with handes plye.
MerT 1431 Wherfore I sey yow pleynly, in a clause,
MerT 1432 I wol noon oold wyf han right for this cause.
MerT 1433 For if so were I hadde swich myschaunce
MerT 1434 That I in hire ne koude han no plesaunce,
MerT 1435 Thanne sholde I lede my lyf in avoutrye
MerT 1436 And go streight to the devel whan I dye.
MerT 1437 Ne children sholde I none upon hire geten;
MerT 1438 Yet were me levere houndes had me eten
MerT 1439 Than that myn heritage sholde falle
MerT 1440 In straunge hand, and this I telle yow alle.
MerT 1441 I dote nat; I woot the cause why
MerT 1442 Men sholde wedde, and forthermoore woot I
MerT 1443 Ther speketh many a man of mariage
MerT 1444 That woot namoore of it than woot my page
MerT 1445 For whiche causes man sholde take a wyf.
MerT 1446 If he ne may nat lyven chaast his lyf,
MerT 1447 Take hym a wyf with greet devocioun,
MerT 1448 By cause of leveful procreacioun
MerT 1449 Of children to th’ onour of God above,
MerT 1450 And nat oonly for paramour or love;
MerT 1451 And for they sholde leccherye eschue,
MerT 1452 And yelde hir dette whan that it is due;
MerT 1453 Or for that ech of hem sholde helpen oother
MerT 1454 In meschief, as a suster shal the brother,
MerT 1455 And lyve in chastitee ful holily.
MerT 1456 But sires, by youre leve, that am nat I.
MerT 1457 For — God be thanked! — I dar make avaunt
MerT 1458 I feele my lymes stark and suffisaunt
MerT 1459 To do al that a man bilongeth to;
MerT 1460 I woot myselven best what I may do.
MerT 1461 Though I be hoor, I fare as dooth a tree
MerT 1462 That blosmeth er that fruyt ywoxen bee;
MerT 1463 And blosmy tree nys neither drye ne deed.
MerT 1464 I feele me nowhere hoor but on myn heed;
MerT 1465 Myn herte and alle my lymes been as grene
MerT 1466 As laurer thurgh the yeer is for to sene.
MerT 1467 And syn that ye han herd al myn entente,
MerT 1468 I prey yow to my wyl ye wole assente.”
MerT 1469 Diverse men diversely hym tolde
MerT 1470 Of mariage manye ensamples olde.
MerT 1471 Somme blamed it, somme preysed it, certeyn,
MerT 1472 But atte laste, shortly for to seyn,
MerT 1473 As al day falleth altercacioun
MerT 1474 Bitwixen freendes in disputisoun,
MerT 1475 Ther fil a stryf bitwixe his bretheren two,
MerT 1476 Of whiche that oon was cleped Placebo;
MerT 1477 Justinus soothly called was that oother.
MerT 1478 Placebo seyde, “O Januarie, brother,
MerT 1479 Ful litel nede hadde ye, my lord so deere,
MerT 1480 Conseil to axe of any that is heere,
MerT 1481 But that ye been so ful of sapience
MerT 1482 That yow ne liketh, for youre heighe prudence,
MerT 1483 To weyven fro the word of Salomon.
MerT 1484 This word seyde he unto us everychon:
MerT 1485 ‘Wirk alle thyng by conseil,’ thus seyde he,
MerT 1486 ‘And thanne shaltow nat repente thee.’
MerT 1487 But though that Salomon spak swich a word,
MerT 1488 Myn owene deere brother and my lord,
MerT 1489 So wysly God my soule brynge at reste,
MerT 1490 I holde youre owene conseil is the beste.
MerT 1491 For, brother myn, of me taak this motyf:
MerT 1492 I have now been a court-man al my lyf,
MerT 1493 And God it woot, though I unworthy be,
MerT 1494 I have stonden in ful greet degree
MerT 1495 Abouten lordes of ful heigh estaat;
MerT 1496 Yet hadde I nevere with noon of hem debaat.
MerT 1497 I nevere hem contraried, trewely;
MerT 1498 I woot wel that my lord kan moore than I.
MerT 1499 What that he seith, I holde it ferme and stable;
MerT 1500 I seye the same, or elles thyng semblable.
MerT 1501 A ful greet fool is any conseillour
MerT 1502 That serveth any lord of heigh honour,
MerT 1503 That dar presume, or elles thenken it,
MerT 1504 That his conseil sholde passe his lordes wit.
MerT 1505 Nay, lordes been no fooles, by my fay!
MerT 1506 Ye han youreselven shewed heer to-day
MerT 1507 So heigh sentence, so holily and weel,
MerT 1508 That I consente and conferme everydeel
MerT 1509 Youre wordes alle and youre opinioun.
MerT 1510 By God, ther nys no man in al this toun,
MerT 1511 Ne in Ytaille, that koude bet han sayd!
MerT 1512 Crist halt hym of this conseil ful wel apayd.
MerT 1513 And trewely, it is an heigh corage
MerT 1514 Of any man that stapen is in age
MerT 1515 To take a yong wyf; by my fader kyn,
MerT 1516 Youre herte hangeth on a joly pyn!
MerT 1517 Dooth now in this matiere right as yow leste,
MerT 1518 For finally I holde it for the beste.”
MerT 1519 Justinus, that ay stille sat and herde,
MerT 1520 Right in this wise he to Placebo answerde:
MerT 1521 “Now, brother myn, be pacient, I preye,
MerT 1522 Syn ye han seyd, and herkneth what I seye.
MerT 1523 Senek, amonges othere wordes wyse,
MerT 1524 Seith that a man oghte hym right wel avyse
MerT 1525 To whom he yeveth his lond or his catel.
MerT 1526 And syn I oghte avyse me right wel
MerT 1527 To whom I yeve my good awey fro me,
MerT 1528 Wel muchel moore I oghte avysed be
MerT 1529 To whom I yeve my body for alwey.
MerT 1530 I warne yow wel, it is no childes pley
MerT 1531 To take a wyf withouten avysement.
MerT 1532 Men moste enquere — this is myn assent —
MerT 1533 Wher she be wys, or sobre, or dronkelewe,
MerT 1534 Or proud, or elles ootherweys a shrewe,
MerT 1535 A chidestere, or wastour of thy good,
MerT 1536 Or riche, or poore, or elles mannyssh wood.
MerT 1537 Al be it so that no man fynden shal
MerT 1538 Noon in this world that trotteth hool in al,
MerT 1539 Ne man, ne beest, swich as men koude devyse;
MerT 1540 But nathelees it oghte ynough suffise
MerT 1541 With any wyf, if so were that she hadde
MerT 1542 Mo goode thewes than hire vices badde;
MerT 1543 And al this axeth leyser for t’ enquere.
MerT 1544 For, God it woot, I have wept many a teere
MerT 1545 Ful pryvely, syn I have had a wyf.
MerT 1546 Preyse whoso wole a wedded mannes lyf,
MerT 1547 Certein I fynde in it but cost and care
MerT 1548 And observances, of alle blisses bare.
MerT 1549 And yet, God woot, my neighebores aboute,
MerT 1550 And namely of wommen many a route,
MerT 1551 Seyn that I have the mooste stedefast wyf,
MerT 1552 And eek the mekeste oon that bereth lyf;
MerT 1553 But I woot best where wryngeth me my sho.
MerT 1554 Ye mowe, for me, right as yow liketh do;
MerT 1555 Avyseth yow — ye been a man of age —
MerT 1556 How that ye entren into mariage,
MerT 1557 And namely with a yong wyf and a fair.
MerT 1558 By hym that made water, erthe, and air,
MerT 1559 The yongeste man that is in al this route
MerT 1560 Is bisy ynough to bryngen it aboute
MerT 1561 To han his wyf allone. Trusteth me,
MerT 1562 Ye shul nat plesen hire fully yeres thre —
MerT 1563 This is to seyn, to doon hire ful plesaunce.
MerT 1564 A wyf axeth ful many an observaunce.
MerT 1565 I prey yow that ye be nat yvele apayd.”
MerT 1566 “Wel,” quod this Januarie, “and hastow ysayd?
MerT 1567 Straw for thy Senek, and for thy proverbes!
MerT 1568 I counte nat a panyer ful of herbes
MerT 1569 Of scole-termes. Wyser men than thow,
MerT 1570 As thou hast herd, assenteden right now
MerT 1571 To my purpos. Placebo, what sey ye?”
MerT 1572 “I seye it is a cursed man,” quod he,
MerT 1573 “That letteth matrimoigne, sikerly.”
MerT 1574 And with that word they rysen sodeynly,
MerT 1575 And been assented fully that he sholde
MerT 1576 Be wedded whanne hym liste and where he wolde.
MerT 1577 Heigh fantasye and curious bisynesse
MerT 1578 Fro day to day gan in the soule impresse
MerT 1579 Of Januarie aboute his mariage.
MerT 1580 Many fair shap and many a fair visage
MerT 1581 Ther passeth thurgh his herte nyght by nyght,
MerT 1582 As whoso tooke a mirour, polisshed bryght,
MerT 1583 And sette it in a commune market-place,
MerT 1584 Thanne sholde he se ful many a figure pace
MerT 1585 By his mirour; and in the same wyse
MerT 1586 Gan Januarie inwith his thoght devyse
MerT 1587 Of maydens whiche that dwelten hym bisyde.
MerT 1588 He wiste nat wher that he myghte abyde.
MerT 1589 For if that oon have beaute in hir face,
MerT 1590 Another stant so in the peples grace
MerT 1591 For hire sadnesse and hire benyngnytee
MerT 1592 That of the peple grettest voys hath she;
MerT 1593 And somme were riche and hadden badde name.
MerT 1594 But nathelees, bitwixe ernest and game,
MerT 1595 He atte laste apoynted hym on oon,
MerT 1596 And leet alle othere from his herte goon,
MerT 1597 And chees hire of his owene auctoritee;
MerT 1598 For love is blynd alday, and may nat see.
MerT 1599 And whan that he was in his bed ybroght,
MerT 1600 He purtreyed in his herte and in his thoght
MerT 1601 Hir fresshe beautee and hir age tendre,
MerT 1602 Hir myddel smal, hire armes longe and sklendre,
MerT 1603 Hir wise governaunce, hir gentillesse,
MerT 1604 Hir wommanly berynge, and hire sadnesse.
MerT 1605 And whan that he on hire was condescended,
MerT 1606 Hym thoughte his choys myghte nat ben amended.
MerT 1607 For whan that he hymself concluded hadde,
MerT 1608 Hym thoughte ech oother mannes wit so badde
MerT 1609 That inpossible it were to repplye
MerT 1610 Agayn his choys; this was his fantasye.
MerT 1611 His freendes sente he to, at his instaunce,
MerT 1612 And preyed hem to doon hym that plesaunce,
MerT 1613 That hastily they wolden to hym come;
MerT 1614 He wolde abregge hir labour, alle and some.
MerT 1615 Nedeth namoore for hym to go ne ryde;
MerT 1616 He was apoynted ther he wolde abyde.
MerT 1617 Placebo cam, and eek his freendes soone,
MerT 1618 And alderfirst he bad hem alle a boone,
MerT 1619 That noon of hem none argumentes make
MerT 1620 Agayn the purpos which that he hath take,
MerT 1621 Which purpos was plesant to God, seyde he,
MerT 1622 And verray ground of his prosperitee.
MerT 1623 He seyde ther was a mayden in the toun,
MerT 1624 Which that of beautee hadde greet renoun,
MerT 1625 Al were it so she were of smal degree;
MerT 1626 Suffiseth hym hir yowthe and hir beautee.
MerT 1627 Which mayde, he seyde, he wolde han to his wyf,
MerT 1628 To lede in ese and hoolynesse his lyf;
MerT 1629 And thanked God that he myghte han hire al,
MerT 1630 That no wight his blisse parten shal.
MerT 1631 And preyed hem to laboure in this nede,
MerT 1632 And shapen that he faille nat to spede;
MerT 1633 For thanne, he seyde, his spirit was at ese.
MerT 1634 “Thanne is,” quod he, “no thyng may me displese,
MerT 1635 Save o thyng priketh in my conscience,
MerT 1636 The which I wol reherce in youre presence.
MerT 1637 “I have,” quod he, “herd seyd, ful yoore ago,
MerT 1638 Ther may no man han parfite blisses two —
MerT 1639 This is to seye, in erthe and eek in hevene.
MerT 1640 For though he kepe hym fro the synnes sevene,
MerT 1641 And eek from every branche of thilke tree,
MerT 1642 Yet is ther so parfit felicitee
MerT 1643 And so greet ese and lust in mariage
MerT 1644 That evere I am agast now in myn age
MerT 1645 That I shal lede now so myrie a lyf,
MerT 1646 So delicat, withouten wo and stryf,
MerT 1647 That I shal have myn hevene in erthe heere.
MerT 1648 For sith that verray hevene is boght so deere
MerT 1649 With tribulacion and greet penaunce,
MerT 1650 How sholde I thanne, that lyve in swich plesaunce
MerT 1651 As alle wedded men doon with hire wyvys,
MerT 1652 Come to the blisse ther Crist eterne on lyve ys?
MerT 1653 This is my drede, and ye, my bretheren tweye,
MerT 1654 Assoilleth me this question, I preye.”
MerT 1655 Justinus, which that hated his folye,
MerT 1656 Answerde anon right in his japerye;
MerT 1657 And for he wolde his longe tale abregge,
MerT 1658 He wolde noon auctoritee allegge,
MerT 1659 But seyde, “Sire, so ther be noon obstacle
MerT 1660 Oother than this, God of his hygh myracle
MerT 1661 And of his mercy may so for yow wirche
MerT 1662 That, er ye have youre right of hooly chirche,
MerT 1663 Ye may repente of wedded mannes lyf,
MerT 1664 In which ye seyn ther is no wo ne stryf.
MerT 1665 And elles, God forbede but he sente
MerT 1666 A wedded man hym grace to repente
MerT 1667 Wel ofte rather than a sengle man!
MerT 1668 And therfore, sire — the beste reed I kan —
MerT 1669 Dispeire yow noght, but have in youre memorie,
MerT 1670 Paraunter she may be youre purgatorie!
MerT 1671 She may be Goddes meene and Goddes whippe;
MerT 1672 Thanne shal youre soule up to hevene skippe
MerT 1673 Swifter than dooth an arwe out of a bowe.
MerT 1674 I hope to God, herafter shul ye knowe
MerT 1675 That ther nys no so greet felicitee
MerT 1676 In mariage, ne nevere mo shal bee,
MerT 1677 That yow shal lette of youre savacion,
MerT 1678 So that ye use, as skile is and reson,
MerT 1679 The lustes of youre wyf attemprely,
MerT 1680 And that ye plese hire nat to amorously,
MerT 1681 And that ye kepe yow eek from oother synne.
MerT 1682 My tale is doon, for my wit is thynne.
MerT 1683 Beth nat agast herof, my brother deere,
MerT 1684 But lat us waden out of this mateere.
MerT 1685 The Wyf of Bathe, if ye han understonde,
MerT 1686 Of mariage, which we have on honde,
MerT 1687 Declared hath ful wel in litel space.
MerT 1688 Fareth now wel. God have yow in his grace.”
MerT 1689 And with this word this Justyn and his brother
MerT 1690 Han take hir leve, and ech of hem of oother.
MerT 1691 For whan they saughe that it moste nedes be,
MerT 1692 They wroghten so, by sly and wys tretee,
MerT 1693 That she, this mayden which that Mayus highte,
MerT 1694 As hastily as evere that she myghte
MerT 1695 Shal wedded be unto this Januarie.
MerT 1696 I trowe it were to longe yow to tarie,
MerT 1697 If I yow tolde of every scrit and bond
MerT 1698 By which that she was feffed in his lond,
MerT 1699 Or for to herknen of hir riche array.
MerT 1700 But finally ycomen is the day
MerT 1701 That to the chirche bothe be they went
MerT 1702 For to receyve the hooly sacrement.
MerT 1703 Forth comth the preest, with stole aboute his nekke,
MerT 1704 And bad hire be lyk Sarra and Rebekke
MerT 1705 In wysdom and in trouthe of mariage;
MerT 1706 And seyde his orisons, as is usage,
MerT 1707 And croucheth hem, and bad God sholde hem blesse,
MerT 1708 And made al siker ynogh with hoolynesse.
MerT 1709 Thus been they wedded with solempnitee,
MerT 1710 And at the feeste sitteth he and she
MerT 1711 With othere worthy folk upon the deys.
MerT 1712 Al ful of joye and blisse is the paleys,
MerT 1713 And ful of instrumentz and of vitaille,
MerT 1714 The mooste deyntevous of al Ytaille.
MerT 1715 Biforn hem stoode instrumentz of swich soun
MerT 1716 That Orpheus, ne of Thebes Amphioun,
MerT 1717 Ne maden nevere swich a melodye.
MerT 1718 At every cours thanne cam loud mynstralcye
MerT 1719 That nevere tromped Joab for to heere,
MerT 1720 Nor he Theodomas, yet half so cleere
MerT 1721 At Thebes whan the citee was in doute.
MerT 1722 Bacus the wyn hem shynketh al aboute,
MerT 1723 And Venus laugheth upon every wight,
MerT 1724 For Januarie was bicome hir knyght
MerT 1725 And wolde bothe assayen his corage
MerT 1726 In libertee, and eek in mariage;
MerT 1727 And with hire fyrbrond in hire hand aboute
MerT 1728 Daunceth biforn the bryde and al the route.
MerT 1729 And certeinly, I dar right wel seyn this,
MerT 1730 Ymeneus, that god of weddyng is,
MerT 1731 Saugh nevere his lyf so myrie a wedded man.
MerT 1732 Hoold thou thy pees, thou poete Marcian,
MerT 1733 That writest us that ilke weddyng murie
MerT 1734 Of hire Philologie and hym Mercurie,
MerT 1735 And of the songes that the Muses songe!
MerT 1736 To smal is bothe thy penne, and eek thy tonge,
MerT 1737 For to descryven of this mariage.
MerT 1738 Whan tendre youthe hath wedded stoupyng age,
MerT 1739 Ther is swich myrthe that it may nat be writen.
MerT 1740 Assayeth it youreself; thanne may ye witen
MerT 1741 If that I lye or noon in this matiere.
MerT 1742 Mayus, that sit with so benyngne a chiere,
MerT 1743 Hire to biholde it semed fayerye.
MerT 1744 Queene Ester looked nevere with swich an ye
MerT 1745 On Assuer, so meke a look hath she.
MerT 1746 I may yow nat devyse al hir beautee.
MerT 1747 But thus muche of hire beautee telle I may,
MerT 1748 That she was lyk the brighte morwe of May,
MerT 1749 Fulfild of alle beautee and plesaunce.
MerT 1750 This Januarie is ravysshed in a traunce
MerT 1751 At every tyme he looked on hir face;
MerT 1752 But in his herte he gan hire to manace
MerT 1753 That he that nyght in armes wolde hire streyne
MerT 1754 Harder than evere Parys dide Eleyne.
MerT 1755 But nathelees yet hadde he greet pitee
MerT 1756 That thilke nyght offenden hire moste he,
MerT 1757 And thoughte, “Allas! O tendre creature,
MerT 1758 Now wolde God ye myghte wel endure
MerT 1759 Al my corage, it is so sharp and keene!
MerT 1760 I am agast ye shul it nat susteene.
MerT 1761 But God forbede that I dide al my myght!
MerT 1762 Now wolde God that it were woxen nyght,
MerT 1763 And that the nyght wolde lasten everemo.
MerT 1764 I wolde that al this peple were ago.”
MerT 1765 And finally he dooth al his labour,
MerT 1766 As he best myghte, savynge his honour,
MerT 1767 To haste hem fro the mete in subtil wyse.
MerT 1768 The tyme cam that resoun was to ryse;
MerT 1769 And after that men daunce and drynken faste,
MerT 1770 And spices al aboute the hous they caste,
MerT 1771 And ful of joye and blisse is every man —
MerT 1772 Al but a squyer, highte Damyan,
MerT 1773 Which carf biforn the knyght ful many a day.
MerT 1774 He was so ravysshed on his lady May
MerT 1775 That for the verray peyne he was ny wood.
MerT 1776 Almoost he swelte and swowned ther he stood,
MerT 1777 So soore hath Venus hurt hym with hire brond,
MerT 1778 As that she bar it daunsynge in hire hond;
MerT 1779 And to his bed he wente hym hastily.
MerT 1780 Namoore of hym at this tyme speke I,
MerT 1781 But there I lete hym wepe ynogh and pleyne
MerT 1782 Til fresshe May wol rewen on his peyne.
MerT 1783 O perilous fyr, that in the bedstraw bredeth!
MerT 1784 O famulier foo, that his servyce bedeth!
MerT 1785 O servant traytour, false hoomly hewe,
MerT 1786 Lyk to the naddre in bosom sly untrewe,
MerT 1787 God shilde us alle from youre aqueyntaunce!
MerT 1788 O Januarie, dronken in plesaunce
MerT 1789 In mariage, se how thy Damyan,
MerT 1790 Thyn owene squier and thy borne man,
MerT 1791 Entendeth for to do thee vileynye.
MerT 1792 God graunte thee thyn hoomly fo t’ espye!
MerT 1793 For in this world nys worse pestilence
MerT 1794 Than hoomly foo al day in thy presence.
MerT 1795 Parfourned hath the sonne his ark diurne;
MerT 1796 No lenger may the body of hym sojurne
MerT 1797 On th’ orisonte, as in that latitude.
MerT 1798 Night with his mantel, that is derk and rude,
MerT 1799 Gan oversprede the hemysperie aboute;
MerT 1800 For which departed is this lusty route
MerT 1801 Fro Januarie, with thank on every syde.
MerT 1802 Hoom to hir houses lustily they ryde,
MerT 1803 Where as they doon hir thynges as hem leste,
MerT 1804 And whan they sye hir tyme, goon to reste.
MerT 1805 Soone after that, this hastif Januarie
MerT 1806 Wolde go to bedde; he wolde no lenger tarye.
MerT 1807 He drynketh ypocras, clarree, and vernage
MerT 1808 Of spices hoote t’ encreessen his corage;
MerT 1809 And many a letuarie hath he ful fyn,
MerT 1810 Swiche as the cursed monk, daun Constantyn,
MerT 1811 Hath writen in his book De Coitu;
MerT 1812 To eten hem alle he nas no thyng eschu.
MerT 1813 And to his privee freendes thus seyde he:
MerT 1814 “For Goddes love, as soone as it may be,
MerT 1815 Lat voyden al this hous in curteys wyse.”
MerT 1816 And they han doon right as he wol devyse.
MerT 1817 Men drynken and the travers drawe anon.
MerT 1818 The bryde was broght abedde as stille as stoon;
MerT 1819 And whan the bed was with the preest yblessed,
MerT 1820 Out of the chambre hath every wight hym dressed,
MerT 1821 And Januarie hath faste in armes take
MerT 1822 His fresshe May, his paradys, his make.
MerT 1823 He lulleth hire; he kisseth hire ful ofte;
MerT 1824 With thikke brustles of his berd unsofte,
MerT 1825 Lyk to the skyn of houndfyssh, sharp as brere —
MerT 1826 For he was shave al newe in his manere —
MerT 1827 He rubbeth hire aboute hir tendre face,
MerT 1828 And seyde thus, “Allas! I moot trespace
MerT 1829 To yow, my spouse, and yow greetly offende
MerT 1830 Er tyme come that I wil doun descende.
MerT 1831 But nathelees, considereth this,” quod he,
MerT 1832 “Ther nys no werkman, whatsoevere he be,
MerT 1833 That may bothe werke wel and hastily;
MerT 1834 This wol be doon at leyser parfitly.
MerT 1835 It is no fors how longe that we pleye;
MerT 1836 In trewe wedlok coupled be we tweye,
MerT 1837 And blessed be the yok that we been inne,
MerT 1838 For in oure actes we mowe do no synne.
MerT 1839 A man may do no synne with his wyf,
MerT 1840 Ne hurte hymselven with his owene knyf,
MerT 1841 For we han leve to pleye us by the lawe.”
MerT 1842 Thus laboureth he til that the day gan dawe;
MerT 1843 And thanne he taketh a sop in fyn clarree,
MerT 1844 And upright in his bed thanne sitteth he,
MerT 1845 And after that he sang ful loude and cleere,
MerT 1846 And kiste his wyf, and made wantown cheere.
MerT 1847 He was al coltissh, ful of ragerye,
MerT 1848 And ful of jargon as a flekked pye.
MerT 1849 The slakke skyn aboute his nekke shaketh
MerT 1850 Whil that he sang, so chaunteth he and craketh.
MerT 1851 But God woot what that May thoughte in hir herte,
MerT 1852 Whan she hym saugh up sittynge in his sherte,
MerT 1853 In his nyght-cappe, and with his nekke lene;
MerT 1854 She preyseth nat his pleyyng worth a bene.
MerT 1855 Thanne seide he thus, “My reste wol I take;
MerT 1856 Now day is come, I may no lenger wake.”
MerT 1857 And doun he leyde his heed and sleep til pryme.
MerT 1858 And afterward, whan that he saugh his tyme,
MerT 1859 Up ryseth Januarie; but fresshe May
MerT 1860 Heeld hire chambre unto the fourthe day,
MerT 1861 As usage is of wyves for the beste.
MerT 1862 For every labour somtyme moot han reste,
MerT 1863 Or elles longe may he nat endure;
MerT 1864 This is to seyn, no lyves creature,
MerT 1865 Be it of fyssh, or bryd, or beest, or man.
MerT 1866 Now wol I speke of woful Damyan,
MerT 1867 That langwissheth for love, as ye shul heere;
MerT 1868 Therfore I speke to hym in this manere:
MerT 1869 I seye, “O sely Damyan, allas!
MerT 1870 Andswere to my demaunde, as in this cas.
MerT 1871 How shaltow to thy lady, fresshe May,
MerT 1872 Telle thy wo? She wole alwey seye nay.
MerT 1873 Eek if thou speke, she wol thy wo biwreye.
MerT 1874 God be thyn helpe! I kan no bettre seye.”
MerT 1875 This sike Damyan in Venus fyr
MerT 1876 So brenneth that he dyeth for desyr,
MerT 1877 For which he putte his lyf in aventure.
MerT 1878 No lenger myghte he in this wise endure,
MerT 1879 But prively a penner gan he borwe,
MerT 1880 And in a lettre wroot he al his sorwe,
MerT 1881 In manere of a compleynt or a lay,
MerT 1882 Unto his faire, fresshe lady May;
MerT 1883 And in a purs of sylk heng on his sherte
MerT 1884 He hath it put, and leyde it at his herte.
MerT 1885 The moone, that at noon was thilke day
MerT 1886 That Januarie hath wedded fresshe May
MerT 1887 In two of Tawr, was into Cancre glyden;
MerT 1888 So longe hath Mayus in hir chambre abyden,
MerT 1889 As custume is unto thise nobles alle.
MerT 1890 A bryde shal nat eten in the halle
MerT 1891 Til dayes foure, or thre dayes atte leeste,
MerT 1892 Ypassed been; thanne lat hire go to feeste.
MerT 1893 The fourthe day compleet fro noon to noon,
MerT 1894 Whan that the heighe masse was ydoon,
MerT 1895 In halle sit this Januarie and May,
MerT 1896 As fressh as is the brighte someres day.
MerT 1897 And so bifel how that this goode man
MerT 1898 Remembred hym upon this Damyan,
MerT 1899 And seyde, “Seynte Marie! how may this be,
MerT 1900 That Damyan entendeth nat to me?
MerT 1901 Is he ay syk, or how may this bityde?”
MerT 1902 His squieres, whiche that stooden ther bisyde,
MerT 1903 Excused hym by cause of his siknesse,
MerT 1904 Which letted hym to doon his bisynesse;
MerT 1905 Noon oother cause myghte make hym tarye.
MerT 1906 “That me forthynketh,” quod this Januarie,
MerT 1907 “He is a gentil squier, by my trouthe!
MerT 1908 If that he deyde, it were harm and routhe.
MerT 1909 He is as wys, discreet, and as secree
MerT 1910 As any man I woot of his degree,
MerT 1911 And therto manly, and eek servysable,
MerT 1912 And for to been a thrifty man right able.
MerT 1913 But after mete, as soone as evere I may,
MerT 1914 I wol myself visite hym, and eek May,
MerT 1915 To doon hym al the confort that I kan.”
MerT 1916 And for that word hym blessed every man,
MerT 1917 That of his bountee and his gentillesse
MerT 1918 He wolde so conforten in siknesse
MerT 1919 His squier, for it was a gentil dede.
MerT 1920 “Dame,” quod this Januarie, “taak good hede,
MerT 1921 At after-mete ye with youre wommen alle,
MerT 1922 Whan ye han been in chambre out of this halle,
MerT 1923 That alle ye go se this Damyan.
MerT 1924 Dooth hym disport — he is a gentil man;
MerT 1925 And telleth hym that I wol hym visite,
MerT 1926 Have I no thyng but rested me a lite;
MerT 1927 And spede yow faste, for I wole abyde
MerT 1928 Til that ye slepe faste by my syde.”
MerT 1929 And with that word he gan to hym to calle
MerT 1930 A squier, that was marchal of his halle,
MerT 1931 And tolde hym certeyn thynges, what he wolde.
MerT 1932 This fresshe May hath streight hir wey yholde
MerT 1933 With alle hir wommen unto Damyan.
MerT 1934 Doun by his beddes syde sit she than,
MerT 1935 Confortynge hym as goodly as she may.
MerT 1936 This Damyan, whan that his tyme he say,
MerT 1937 In secree wise his purs and eek his bille,
MerT 1938 In which that he ywriten hadde his wille,
MerT 1939 Hath put into hire hand, withouten moore,
MerT 1940 Save that he siketh wonder depe and soore,
MerT 1941 And softely to hire right thus seyde he:
MerT 1942 “Mercy! And that ye nat discovere me,
MerT 1943 For I am deed if that this thyng be kyd.”
MerT 1944 This purs hath she inwith hir bosom hyd
MerT 1945 And wente hire wey; ye gete namoore of me.
MerT 1946 But unto Januarie ycomen is she,
MerT 1947 That on his beddes syde sit ful softe.
MerT 1948 He taketh hire, and kisseth hire ful ofte,
MerT 1949 And leyde hym doun to slepe, and that anon.
MerT 1950 She feyned hire as that she moste gon
MerT 1951 Ther as ye woot that every wight moot neede;
MerT 1952 And whan she of this bille hath taken heede,
MerT 1953 She rente it al to cloutes atte laste,
MerT 1954 And in the pryvee softely it caste.
MerT 1955 Who studieth now but faire fresshe May?
MerT 1956 Adoun by olde Januarie she lay,
MerT 1957 That sleep til that the coughe hath hym awaked.
MerT 1958 Anon he preyde hire strepen hire al naked;
MerT 1959 He wolde of hire, he seyde, han som plesaunce;
MerT 1960 He seyde hir clothes dide hym encombraunce,
MerT 1961 And she obeyeth, be hire lief or looth.
MerT 1962 But lest that precious folk be with me wrooth,
MerT 1963 How that he wroghte, I dar nat to yow telle,
MerT 1964 Or wheither hire thoughte it paradys or helle.
MerT 1965 But heere I lete hem werken in hir wyse
MerT 1966 Til evensong rong and that they moste aryse.
MerT 1967 Were it by destynee or by aventure,
MerT 1968 Were it by influence or by nature,
MerT 1969 Or constellacion, that in swich estaat
MerT 1970 The hevene stood that tyme fortunaat
MerT 1971 Was for to putte a bille of Venus werkes —
MerT 1972 For alle thyng hath tyme, as seyn thise clerkes —
MerT 1973 To any womman for to gete hire love,
MerT 1974 I kan nat seye; but grete God above,
MerT 1975 That knoweth that noon act is causelees,
MerT 1976 He deme of al, for I wole holde my pees.
MerT 1977 But sooth is this, how that this fresshe May
MerT 1978 Hath take swich impression that day
MerT 1979 Of pitee of this sike Damyan
MerT 1980 That from hire herte she ne dryve kan
MerT 1981 The remembrance for to doon hym ese.
MerT 1982 “Certeyn,” thoghte she, “whom that this thyng displese
MerT 1983 I rekke noght, for heere I hym assure
MerT 1984 To love hym best of any creature,
MerT 1985 Though he namoore hadde than his sherte.”
MerT 1986 Lo, pitee renneth soone in gentil herte!
MerT 1987 Heere may ye se how excellent franchise
MerT 1988 In wommen is, whan they hem narwe avyse.
MerT 1989 Som tyrant is, as ther be many oon
MerT 1990 That hath an herte as hard as any stoon,
MerT 1991 Which wolde han lat hym sterven in the place
MerT 1992 Wel rather than han graunted hym hire grace,
MerT 1993 And hem rejoysen in hire crueel pryde,
MerT 1994 And rekke nat to been an homycide.
MerT 1995 This gentil May, fulfilled of pitee,
MerT 1996 Right of hire hand a lettre made she,
MerT 1997 In which she graunteth hym hire verray grace.
MerT 1998 Ther lakketh noght oonly but day and place
MerT 1999 Wher that she myghte unto his lust suffise,
MerT 2000 For it shal be right as he wole devyse.
MerT 2001 And whan she saugh hir tyme, upon a day
MerT 2002 To visite this Damyan gooth May,
MerT 2003 And sotilly this lettre doun she threste
MerT 2004 Under his pilwe; rede it if hym leste.
MerT 2005 She taketh hym by the hand and harde hym twiste
MerT 2006 So secrely that no wight of it wiste,
MerT 2007 And bad hym been al hool, and forth she wente
MerT 2008 To Januarie, whan that he for hire sente.
MerT 2009 Up riseth Damyan the nexte morwe;
MerT 2010 Al passed was his siknesse and his sorwe.
MerT 2011 He kembeth hym, he preyneth hym and pyketh,
MerT 2012 He dooth al that his lady lust and lyketh,
MerT 2013 And eek to Januarie he gooth as lowe
MerT 2014 As evere dide a dogge for the bowe.
MerT 2015 He is so plesant unto every man
MerT 2016 (For craft is al, whoso that do it kan)
MerT 2017 That every wight is fayn to speke hym good,
MerT 2018 And fully in his lady grace he stood.
MerT 2019 Thus lete I Damyan aboute his nede,
MerT 2020 And in my tale forth I wol procede.
MerT 2021 Somme clerkes holden that felicitee
MerT 2022 Stant in delit, and therfore certeyn he,
MerT 2023 This noble Januarie, with al his myght,
MerT 2024 In honest wyse, as longeth to a knyght,
MerT 2025 Shoop hym to lyve ful deliciously.
MerT 2026 His housynge, his array, as honestly
MerT 2027 To his degree was maked as a kynges.
MerT 2028 Amonges othere of his honeste thynges,
MerT 2029 He made a gardyn, walled al with stoon;
MerT 2030 So fair a gardyn woot I nowher noon.
MerT 2031 For, out of doute, I verraily suppose
MerT 2032 That he that wroot the Romance of the Rose
MerT 2033 Ne koude of it the beautee wel devyse;
MerT 2034 Ne Priapus ne myghte nat suffise,
MerT 2035 Though he be god of gardyns, for to telle
MerT 2036 The beautee of the gardyn and the welle
MerT 2037 That stood under a laurer alwey grene.
MerT 2038 Ful ofte tyme he Pluto and his queene,
MerT 2039 Proserpina, and al hire fayerye,
MerT 2040 Disporten hem and maken melodye
MerT 2041 Aboute that welle, and daunced, as men tolde.
MerT 2042 This noble knyght, this Januarie the olde,
MerT 2043 Swich deyntee hath in it to walke and pleye,
MerT 2044 That he wol no wight suffren bere the keye
MerT 2045 Save he hymself; for of the smale wyket
MerT 2046 He baar alwey of silver a clyket,
MerT 2047 With which, whan that hym leste, he it unshette.
MerT 2048 And whan he wolde paye his wyf hir dette
MerT 2049 In somer seson, thider wolde he go,
MerT 2050 And May his wyf, and no wight but they two;
MerT 2051 And thynges whiche that were nat doon abedde,
MerT 2052 He in the gardyn parfourned hem and spedde.
MerT 2053 And in this wyse, many a murye day,
MerT 2054 Lyved this Januarie and fresshe May.
MerT 2055 But worldly joye may nat alwey dure
MerT 2056 To Januarie, ne to no creature.
MerT 2057 O sodeyn hap! O thou Fortune unstable!
MerT 2058 Lyk to the scorpion so deceyvable,
MerT 2059 That flaterest with thyn heed whan thou wolt stynge;
MerT 2060 Thy tayl is deeth, thurgh thyn envenymynge.
MerT 2061 O brotil joye! O sweete venym queynte!
MerT 2062 O monstre, that so subtilly kanst peynte
MerT 2063 Thy yiftes under hewe of stidefastnesse,
MerT 2064 That thou deceyvest bothe moore and lesse!
MerT 2065 Why hastow Januarie thus deceyved,
MerT 2066 That haddest hym for thy fulle freend receyved?
MerT 2067 And now thou hast biraft hym bothe his yen,
MerT 2068 For sorwe of which desireth he to dyen.
MerT 2069 Allas, this noble Januarie free,
MerT 2070 Amydde his lust and his prosperitee,
MerT 2071 Is woxen blynd, and that al sodeynly.
MerT 2072 He wepeth and he wayleth pitously;
MerT 2073 And therwithal the fyr of jalousie,
MerT 2074 Lest that his wyf sholde falle in som folye,
MerT 2075 So brente his herte that he wolde fayn
MerT 2076 That som man bothe hire and hym had slayn.
MerT 2077 For neither after his deeth nor in his lyf
MerT 2078 Ne wolde he that she were love ne wyf,
MerT 2079 But evere lyve as wydwe in clothes blake,
MerT 2080 Soul as the turtle that lost hath hire make.
MerT 2081 But atte laste, after a month or tweye,
MerT 2082 His sorwe gan aswage, sooth to seye;
MerT 2083 For whan he wiste it may noon oother be,
MerT 2084 He paciently took his adversitee,
MerT 2085 Save, out of doute, he may nat forgoon
MerT 2086 That he nas jalous everemoore in oon;
MerT 2087 Which jalousye it was so outrageous
MerT 2088 That neither in halle, n’ yn noon oother hous,
MerT 2089 Ne in noon oother place, neverthemo,
MerT 2090 He nolde suffre hire for to ryde or go,
MerT 2091 But if that he had hond on hire alway;
MerT 2092 For which ful ofte wepeth fresshe May,
MerT 2093 That loveth Damyan so benyngnely
MerT 2094 That she moot outher dyen sodeynly
MerT 2095 Or elles she moot han hym as hir leste.
MerT 2096 She wayteth whan hir herte wolde breste.
MerT 2097 Upon that oother syde Damyan
MerT 2098 Bicomen is the sorwefulleste man
MerT 2099 That evere was, for neither nyght ne day
MerT 2100 Ne myghte he speke a word to fresshe May,
MerT 2101 As to his purpos, of no swich mateere,
MerT 2102 But if that Januarie moste it heere,
MerT 2103 That hadde an hand upon hire everemo.
MerT 2104 But nathelees, by writyng to and fro
MerT 2105 And privee signes wiste he what she mente,
MerT 2106 And she knew eek the fyn of his entente.
MerT 2107 O Januarie, what myghte it thee availle,
MerT 2108 Thogh thou myghtest se as fer as shippes saille?
MerT 2109 For as good is blynd deceyved be
MerT 2110 As to be deceyved whan a man may se.
MerT 2111 Lo, Argus, which that hadde an hondred yen,
MerT 2112 For al that evere he koude poure or pryen,
MerT 2113 Yet was he blent, and, God woot, so been mo
MerT 2114 That wenen wisly that it be nat so.
MerT 2115 Passe over is an ese, I sey namoore.
MerT 2116 This fresshe May, that I spak of so yoore,
MerT 2117 In warm wex hath emprented the clyket
MerT 2118 That Januarie bar of the smale wyket,
MerT 2119 By which into his gardyn ofte he wente;
MerT 2120 And Damyan, that knew al hire entente,
MerT 2121 The cliket countrefeted pryvely.
MerT 2122 Ther nys namoore to seye, but hastily
MerT 2123 Som wonder by this clyket shal bityde,
MerT 2124 Which ye shul heeren, if ye wole abyde.
MerT 2125 O noble Ovyde, ful sooth seystou, God woot,
MerT 2126 What sleighte is it, thogh it be long and hoot,
MerT 2127 That Love nyl fynde it out in som manere?
MerT 2128 By Piramus and Tesbee may men leere;
MerT 2129 Thogh they were kept ful longe streite overal,
MerT 2130 They been accorded, rownynge thurgh a wal,
MerT 2131 Ther no wight koude han founde out swich a sleighte.
MerT 2132 But now to purpos: er that dayes eighte
MerT 2133 Were passed [of] the month of [Juyn], bifil
MerT 2134 That Januarie hath caught so greet a wil,
MerT 2135 Thurgh eggyng of his wyf, hym for to pleye
MerT 2136 In his gardyn, and no wight but they tweye,
MerT 2137 That in a morwe unto his May seith he:
MerT 2138 “Rys up, my wyf, my love, my lady free!
MerT 2139 The turtles voys is herd, my dowve sweete;
MerT 2140 The wynter is goon with alle his reynes weete.
MerT 2141 Com forth now, with thyne eyen columbyn!
MerT 2142 How fairer been thy brestes than is wyn!
MerT 2143 The gardyn is enclosed al aboute;
MerT 2144 Com forth, my white spouse! Out of doute
MerT 2145 Thou hast me wounded in myn herte, O wyf!
MerT 2146 No spot of thee ne knew I al my lyf.
MerT 2147 Com forth, and lat us taken oure disport;
MerT 2148 I chees thee for my wyf and my confort.”
MerT 2149 Swiche olde lewed wordes used he.
MerT 2150 On Damyan a signe made she,
MerT 2151 That he sholde go biforn with his cliket.
MerT 2152 This Damyan thanne hath opened the wyket,
MerT 2153 And in he stirte, and that in swich manere
MerT 2154 That no wight myghte it se neither yheere,
MerT 2155 And stille he sit under a bussh anon.
MerT 2156 This Januarie, as blynd as is a stoon,
MerT 2157 With Mayus in his hand, and no wight mo,
MerT 2158 Into his fresshe gardyn is ago,
MerT 2159 And clapte to the wyket sodeynly.
MerT 2160 “Now wyf,” quod he, “heere nys but thou and I,
MerT 2161 That art the creature that I best love.
MerT 2162 For by that Lord that sit in hevene above,
MerT 2163 Levere ich hadde to dyen on a knyf
MerT 2164 Than thee offende, trewe deere wyf!
MerT 2165 For Goddes sake, thenk how I thee chees,
MerT 2166 Noght for no coveitise, doutelees,
MerT 2167 But oonly for the love I had to thee.
MerT 2168 And though that I be oold and may nat see,
MerT 2169 Beth to me trewe, and I wol telle yow why.
MerT 2170 Thre thynges, certes, shal ye wynne therby:
MerT 2171 First, love of Crist, and to youreself honour,
MerT 2172 And al myn heritage, toun and tour;
MerT 2173 I yeve it yow, maketh chartres as yow leste;
MerT 2174 This shal be doon to-morwe er sonne reste,
MerT 2175 So wisly God my soule brynge in blisse.
MerT 2176 I prey yow first, in covenant ye me kisse;
MerT 2177 And though that I be jalous, wyte me noght.
MerT 2178 Ye been so depe enprented in my thoght
MerT 2179 That, whan that I considere youre beautee
MerT 2180 And therwithal the unlikly elde of me,
MerT 2181 I may nat, certes, though I sholde dye,
MerT 2182 Forbere to been out of youre compaignye
MerT 2183 For verray love; this is withouten doute.
MerT 2184 Now kys me, wyf, and lat us rome aboute.”
MerT 2185 This fresshe May, whan she thise wordes herde,
MerT 2186 Benyngnely to Januarie answerde,
MerT 2187 But first and forward she bigan to wepe.
MerT 2188 “I have,” quod she, “a soule for to kepe
MerT 2189 As wel as ye, and also myn honour,
MerT 2190 And of my wyfhod thilke tendre flour,
MerT 2191 Which that I have assured in youre hond,
MerT 2192 Whan that the preest to yow my body bond;
MerT 2193 Wherfore I wole answere in this manere,
MerT 2194 By the leve of yow, my lord so deere:
MerT 2195 I prey to God that nevere dawe the day
MerT 2196 That I ne sterve, as foule as womman may,
MerT 2197 If evere I do unto my kyn that shame,
MerT 2198 Or elles I empeyre so my name,
MerT 2199 That I be fals; and if I do that lak,
MerT 2200 Do strepe me and put me in a sak,
MerT 2201 And in the nexte ryver do me drenche.
MerT 2202 I am a gentil womman and no wenche.
MerT 2203 Why speke ye thus? But men been evere untrewe,
MerT 2204 And wommen have repreve of yow ay newe.
MerT 2205 Ye han noon oother contenance, I leeve,
MerT 2206 But speke to us of untrust and repreeve.”
MerT 2207 And with that word she saugh wher Damyan
MerT 2208 Sat in the bussh, and coughen she bigan,
MerT 2209 And with hir fynger signes made she
MerT 2210 That Damyan sholde clymbe upon a tree
MerT 2211 That charged was with fruyt, and up he wente.
MerT 2212 For verraily he knew al hire entente,
MerT 2213 And every signe that she koude make,
MerT 2214 Wel bet than Januarie, hir owene make,
MerT 2215 For in a lettre she hadde toold hym al
MerT 2216 Of this matere, how he werchen shal.
MerT 2217 And thus I lete hym sitte upon the pyrie,
MerT 2218 And Januarie and May romynge myrie.
MerT 2219 Bright was the day, and blew the firmament;
MerT 2220 Phebus hath of gold his stremes doun ysent
MerT 2221 To gladen every flour with his warmnesse.
MerT 2222 He was that tyme in Geminis, as I gesse,
MerT 2223 But litel fro his declynacion
MerT 2224 Of Cancer, Jovis exaltacion.
MerT 2225 And so bifel, that brighte morwe-tyde
MerT 2226 That in that gardyn, in the ferther syde,
MerT 2227 Pluto, that is kyng of Fayerye,
MerT 2228 And many a lady in his compaignye,
MerT 2229 Folwynge his wyf, the queene Proserpyna,
MerT 2230 Which that he ravysshed out of [Ethna]
MerT 2231 Whil that she gadered floures in the mede —
MerT 2232 In Claudyan ye may the stories rede,
MerT 2233 How in his grisely carte he hire fette —
MerT 2234 This kyng of Fairye thanne adoun hym sette
MerT 2235 Upon a bench of turves, fressh and grene,
MerT 2236 And right anon thus seyde he to his queene:
MerT 2237 “My wyf,” quod he, “ther may no wight seye nay;
MerT 2238 Th’ experience so preveth every day
MerT 2239 The tresons whiche that wommen doon to man.
MerT 2240 Ten hondred thousand [tales] tellen I kan
MerT 2241 Notable of youre untrouthe and brotilnesse.
MerT 2242 O Salomon, wys, and richest of richesse,
MerT 2243 Fulfild of sapience and of worldly glorie,
MerT 2244 Ful worthy been thy wordes to memorie
MerT 2245 To every wight that wit and reson kan.
MerT 2246 Thus preiseth he yet the bountee of man:
MerT 2247 ‘Amonges a thousand men yet foond I oon,
MerT 2248 But of wommen alle foond I noon.’
MerT 2249 “Thus seith the kyng that knoweth youre wikkednesse.
MerT 2250 And Jhesus, filius Syrak, as I gesse,
MerT 2251 Ne speketh of yow but seelde reverence.
MerT 2252 A wylde fyr and corrupt pestilence
MerT 2253 So falle upon youre bodyes yet to-nyght!
MerT 2254 Ne se ye nat this honurable knyght,
MerT 2255 By cause, allas, that he is blynd and old,
MerT 2256 His owene man shal make hym cokewold.
MerT 2257 Lo, where he sit, the lechour, in the tree!
MerT 2258 Now wol I graunten, of my magestee,
MerT 2259 Unto this olde, blynde, worthy knyght
MerT 2260 That he shal have ayen his eyen syght,
MerT 2261 Whan that his wyf wold doon hym vileynye.
MerT 2262 Thanne shal he knowen al hire harlotrye,
MerT 2263 Bothe in repreve of hire and othere mo.”
MerT 2264 “Ye shal?” quod Proserpyne, “wol ye so?
MerT 2265 Now by my moodres sires soule I swere
MerT 2266 That I shal yeven hire suffisant answere,
MerT 2267 And alle wommen after, for hir sake,
MerT 2268 That, though they be in any gilt ytake,
MerT 2269 With face boold they shulle hemself excuse,
MerT 2270 And bere hem doun that wolden hem accuse.
MerT 2271 For lak of answere noon of hem shal dyen.
MerT 2272 Al hadde man seyn a thyng with bothe his yen,
MerT 2273 Yit shul we wommen visage it hardily,
MerT 2274 And wepe, and swere, and chyde subtilly,
MerT 2275 So that ye men shul been as lewed as gees.
MerT 2276 “What rekketh me of youre auctoritees?
MerT 2277 I woot wel that this Jew, this Salomon,
MerT 2278 Foond of us wommen fooles many oon.
MerT 2279 But though that he ne foond no good womman,
MerT 2280 Yet hath ther founde many another man
MerT 2281 Wommen ful trewe, ful goode, and vertuous.
MerT 2282 Witnesse on hem that dwelle in Cristes hous;
MerT 2283 With martirdom they preved hire constance.
MerT 2284 The Romayn geestes eek make remembrance
MerT 2285 Of many a verray, trewe wyf also.
MerT 2286 But, sire, ne be nat wrooth, al be it so,
MerT 2287 Though that he seyde he foond no good womman,
MerT 2288 I prey yow take the sentence of the man;
MerT 2289 He mente thus, that in sovereyn bontee
MerT 2290 Nis noon but God, but neither he ne she.
MerT 2291 “Ey! for verray God that nys but oon,
MerT 2292 What make ye so muche of Salomon?
MerT 2293 What though he made a temple, Goddes hous?
MerT 2294 What though he were riche and glorious?
MerT 2295 So made he eek a temple of false goddis.
MerT 2296 How myghte he do a thyng that moore forbode is?
MerT 2297 Pardee, as faire as ye his name emplastre,
MerT 2298 He was a lecchour and an ydolastre,
MerT 2299 And in his elde he verray God forsook;
MerT 2300 And if God ne hadde, as seith the book,
MerT 2301 Yspared him for his fadres sake, he sholde
MerT 2302 Have lost his regne rather than he wolde.
MerT 2303 I sette right noght, of al the vileynye
MerT 2304 That ye of wommen write, a boterflye!
MerT 2305 I am a womman, nedes moot I speke,
MerT 2306 Or elles swelle til myn herte breke.
MerT 2307 For sithen he seyde that we been jangleresses,
MerT 2308 As evere hool I moote brouke my tresses,
MerT 2309 I shal nat spare, for no curteisye,
MerT 2310 To speke hym harm that wolde us vileynye.”
MerT 2311 “Dame,” quod this Pluto, “be no lenger wrooth;
MerT 2312 I yeve it up! But sith I swoor myn ooth
MerT 2313 That I wolde graunten hym his sighte ageyn,
MerT 2314 My word shal stonde, I warne yow certeyn.
MerT 2315 I am a kyng; it sit me noght to lye.”
MerT 2316 “And I,” quod she, “a queene of Fayerye!
MerT 2317 Hir answere shal she have, I undertake.
MerT 2318 Lat us namoore wordes heerof make;
MerT 2319 For sothe, I wol no lenger yow contrarie.”
MerT 2320 Now lat us turne agayn to Januarie,
MerT 2321 That in the gardyn with his faire May
MerT 2322 Syngeth ful murier than the papejay,
MerT 2323 “Yow love I best, and shal, and oother noon.”
MerT 2324 So longe aboute the aleyes is he goon,
MerT 2325 Til he was come agaynes thilke pyrie
MerT 2326 Where as this Damyan sitteth ful myrie
MerT 2327 An heigh among the fresshe leves grene.
MerT 2328 This fresshe May, that is so bright and sheene,
MerT 2329 Gan for to syke, and seyde, “Allas, my syde!
MerT 2330 Now sire,” quod she, “for aught that may bityde,
MerT 2331 I moste han of the peres that I see,
MerT 2332 Or I moot dye, so soore longeth me
MerT 2333 To eten of the smale peres grene.
MerT 2334 Help, for hir love that is of hevene queene!
MerT 2335 I telle yow wel, a womman in my plit
MerT 2336 May han to fruyt so greet an appetit
MerT 2337 That she may dyen but she of it have.”
MerT 2338 “Allas,” quod he, “that I ne had heer a knave
MerT 2339 That koude clymbe! Allas, allas,” quod he,
MerT 2340 “For I am blynd!” “Ye, sire, no fors,” quod she;
MerT 2341 “But wolde ye vouche sauf, for Goddes sake,
MerT 2342 The pyrie inwith youre armes for to take,
MerT 2343 For wel I woot that ye mystruste me,
MerT 2344 Thanne sholde I clymbe wel ynogh,” quod she,
MerT 2345 “So I my foot myghte sette upon youre bak.”
MerT 2346 “Certes,” quod he, “theron shal be no lak,
MerT 2347 Mighte I yow helpen with myn herte blood.”
MerT 2348 He stoupeth doun, and on his bak she stood,
MerT 2349 And caughte hire by a twiste, and up she gooth —
MerT 2350 Ladyes, I prey yow that ye be nat wrooth;
MerT 2351 I kan nat glose, I am a rude man —
MerT 2352 And sodeynly anon this Damyan
MerT 2353 Gan pullen up the smok, and in he throng.
MerT 2354 And whan that Pluto saugh this grete wrong,
MerT 2355 To Januarie he gaf agayn his sighte,
MerT 2356 And made hym se as wel as evere he myghte.
MerT 2357 And whan that he hadde caught his sighte agayn,
MerT 2358 Ne was ther nevere man of thyng so fayn,
MerT 2359 But on his wyf his thoght was everemo.
MerT 2360 Up to the tree he caste his eyen two,
MerT 2361 And saugh that Damyan his wyf had dressed
MerT 2362 In swich manere it may nat been expressed,
MerT 2363 But if I wolde speke uncurteisly;
MerT 2364 And up he yaf a roryng and a cry,
MerT 2365 As dooth the mooder whan the child shal dye:
MerT 2366 “Out! Help! Allas! Harrow!” he gan to crye,
MerT 2367 “O stronge lady stoore, what dostow?”
MerT 2368 And she answerde, “Sire, what eyleth yow?
MerT 2369 Have pacience and resoun in youre mynde.
MerT 2370 I have yow holpe on bothe youre eyen blynde.
MerT 2371 Up peril of my soule, I shal nat lyen,
MerT 2372 As me was taught, to heele with youre eyen,
MerT 2373 Was no thyng bet, to make yow to see,
MerT 2374 Than strugle with a man upon a tree.
MerT 2375 God woot, I dide it in ful good entente.”
MerT 2376 “Strugle?” quod he, “Ye, algate in it wente!
MerT 2377 God yeve yow bothe on shames deth to dyen!
MerT 2378 He swyved thee; I saugh it with myne yen,
MerT 2379 And elles be I hanged by the hals!”
MerT 2380 “Thanne is,” quod she, “my medicyne fals;
MerT 2381 For certeinly, if that ye myghte se,
MerT 2382 Ye wolde nat seyn thise wordes unto me.
MerT 2383 Ye han som glymsyng, and no parfit sighte.”
MerT 2384 “I se,” quod he, “as wel as evere I myghte,
MerT 2385 Thonked be God! With bothe myne eyen two,
MerT 2386 And by my trouthe, me thoughte he dide thee so.”
MerT 2387 “Ye maze, maze, goode sire,” quod she;
MerT 2388 “This thank have I for I have maad yow see.
MerT 2389 Allas,” quod she, “that evere I was so kynde!”
MerT 2390 “Now, dame,” quod he, “lat al passe out of mynde.
MerT 2391 Com doun, my lief, and if I have myssayd,
MerT 2392 God helpe me so, as I am yvele apayd.
MerT 2393 But, by my fader soule, I wende han seyn
MerT 2394 How that this Damyan hadde by thee leyn,
MerT 2395 And that thy smok hadde leyn upon his brest.”
MerT 2396 “Ye, sire,” quod she, “ye may wene as yow lest.
MerT 2397 But, sire, a man that waketh out of his sleep,
MerT 2398 He may nat sodeynly wel taken keep
MerT 2399 Upon a thyng, ne seen it parfitly,
MerT 2400 Til that he be adawed verraily.
MerT 2401 Right so a man that longe hath blynd ybe,
MerT 2402 Ne may nat sodeynly so wel yse,
MerT 2403 First whan his sighte is newe come ageyn,
MerT 2404 As he that hath a day or two yseyn.
MerT 2405 Til that youre sighte ysatled be a while
MerT 2406 Ther may ful many a sighte yow bigile.
MerT 2407 Beth war, I prey yow, for by hevene kyng,
MerT 2408 Ful many a man weneth to seen a thyng,
MerT 2409 And it is al another than it semeth.
MerT 2410 He that mysconceyveth, he mysdemeth.”
MerT 2411 And with that word she leep doun fro the tree.
MerT 2412 This Januarie, who is glad but he?
MerT 2413 He kisseth hire and clippeth hire ful ofte,
MerT 2414 And on hire wombe he stroketh hire ful softe,
MerT 2415 And to his palays hoom he hath hire lad.
MerT 2416 Now, goode men, I pray yow to be glad.
MerT 2417 Thus endeth heere my tale of Januarie;
MerT 2418 God blesse us, and his mooder Seinte Marie!