The Physician’s Tale

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

PhyT 1 Ther was, as telleth Titus Livius,
PhyT 2 A knyght that called was Virginius,
PhyT 3 Fulfild of honour and of worthynesse,
PhyT 4 And strong of freendes, and of greet richesse.
PhyT 5 This knyght a doghter hadde by his wyf;
PhyT 6 No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.
PhyT 7 Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
PhyT 8 Aboven every wight that man may see;
PhyT 9 For Nature hath with sovereyn diligence
PhyT 10 Yformed hire in so greet excellence,
PhyT 11 As though she wolde seyn, “Lo! I, Nature,
PhyT 12 Thus kan I forme and peynte a creature,
PhyT 13 Whan that me list; who kan me countrefete?
PhyT 14 Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,
PhyT 15 Or grave, or peynte; for I dar wel seyn
PhyT 16 Apelles, Zanzis, sholde werche in veyn
PhyT 17 Outher to grave, or peynte, or forge, or bete,
PhyT 18 If they presumed me to countrefete.
PhyT 19 For He that is the formere principal
PhyT 20 Hath maked me his vicaire general,
PhyT 21 To forme and peynten erthely creaturis
PhyT 22 Right as me list, and ech thyng in my cure is
PhyT 23 Under the moone, that may wane and waxe,
PhyT 24 And for my werk right no thyng wol I axe;
PhyT 25 My lord and I been ful of oon accord.
PhyT 26 I made hire to the worshipe of my lord;
PhyT 27 So do I alle myne othere creatures,
PhyT 28 What colour that they han or what figures.”
PhyT 29 Thus semeth me that Nature wolde seye.
PhyT 30 This mayde of age twelve yeer was and tweye,
PhyT 31 In which that Nature hadde swich delit.
PhyT 32 For right as she kan peynte a lilie whit,
PhyT 33 And reed a rose, right with swich peynture
PhyT 34 She peynted hath this noble creature,
PhyT 35 Er she were born, upon hir lymes fre,
PhyT 36 Where as by right swiche colours sholde be;
PhyT 37 And Phebus dyed hath hire tresses grete
PhyT 38 Lyk to the stremes of his burned heete.
PhyT 39 And if that excellent was hire beautee,
PhyT 40 A thousand foold moore vertuous was she.
PhyT 41 In hire ne lakked no condicioun
PhyT 42 That is to preyse, as by discrecioun.
PhyT 43 As wel in goost as body chast was she,
PhyT 44 For which she floured in virginitee
PhyT 45 With alle humylitee and abstinence,
PhyT 46 With alle attemperaunce and pacience,
PhyT 47 With mesure eek of beryng and array.
PhyT 48 Discreet she was in answeryng alway;
PhyT 49 Though she were wis as Pallas, dar I seyn,
PhyT 50 Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,
PhyT 51 No countrefeted termes hadde she
PhyT 52 To seme wys, but after hir degree
PhyT 53 She spak, and alle hire wordes, moore and lesse,
PhyT 54 Sownynge in vertu and in gentillesse.
PhyT 55 Shamefast she was in maydens shamefastnesse,
PhyT 56 Constant in herte, and evere in bisynesse
PhyT 57 To dryve hire out of ydel slogardye.
PhyT 58 Bacus hadde of hir mouth right no maistrie;
PhyT 59 For wyn and youthe dooth Venus encresse,
PhyT 60 As men in fyr wol casten oille or greesse.
PhyT 61 And of hir owene vertu, unconstreyned,
PhyT 62 She hath ful ofte tyme syk hire feyned,
PhyT 63 For that she wolde fleen the compaignye
PhyT 64 Where likly was to treten of folye,
PhyT 65 As is at feestes, revels, and at daunces,
PhyT 66 That been occasions of daliaunces.
PhyT 67 Swich thynges maken children for to be
PhyT 68 To soone rype and boold, as men may se,
PhyT 69 Which is ful perilous and hath been yoore.
PhyT 70 For al to soone may she lerne loore
PhyT 71 Of booldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.
PhyT 72 And ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf,
PhyT 73 That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,
PhyT 74 Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce.
PhyT 75 Thenketh that ye been set in governynges
PhyT 76 Of lordes doghtres oonly for two thynges:
PhyT 77 Outher for ye han kept youre honestee,
PhyT 78 Or elles ye han falle in freletee,
PhyT 79 And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce,
PhyT 80 And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce
PhyT 81 For everemo; therfore, for Cristes sake,
PhyT 82 To teche hem vertu looke that ye ne slake.
PhyT 83 A theef of venysoun, that hath forlaft
PhyT 84 His likerousnesse and al his olde craft,
PhyT 85 Kan kepe a forest best of any man.
PhyT 86 Now kepeth wel, for if ye wole, ye kan.
PhyT 87 Looke wel that ye unto no vice assente,
PhyT 88 Lest ye be dampned for youre wikke entente;
PhyT 89 For whoso dooth, a traitour is, certeyn.
PhyT 90 And taketh kep of that that I shal seyn:
PhyT 91 Of alle tresons sovereyn pestilence
PhyT 92 Is whan a wight bitrayseth innocence.
PhyT 93 Ye fadres and ye moodres eek also,
PhyT 94 Though ye han children, be it oon or mo,
PhyT 95 Youre is the charge of al hir surveiaunce,
PhyT 96 Whil that they been under youre governaunce.
PhyT 97 Beth war, if by ensample of youre lyvynge,
PhyT 98 Or by youre necligence in chastisynge,
PhyT 99 That they ne perisse; for I dar wel seye
PhyT 100 If that they doon, ye shul it deere abeye.
PhyT 101 Under a shepherde softe and necligent
PhyT 102 The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb torent.
PhyT 103 Suffiseth oon ensample now as heere,
PhyT 104 For I moot turne agayn to my matere.
PhyT 105 This mayde, of which I wol this tale expresse,
PhyT 106 So kepte hirself hir neded no maistresse,
PhyT 107 For in hir lyvyng maydens myghten rede,
PhyT 108 As in a book, every good word or dede
PhyT 109 That longeth to a mayden vertuous,
PhyT 110 She was so prudent and so bountevous.
PhyT 111 For which the fame out sprong on every syde,
PhyT 112 Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde,
PhyT 113 That thurgh that land they preised hire echone
PhyT 114 That loved vertu, save Envye allone,
PhyT 115 That sory is of oother mennes wele
PhyT 116 And glad is of his sorwe and his unheele.
PhyT 117 (The Doctour maketh this descripcioun.)
PhyT 118 This mayde upon a day wente in the toun
PhyT 119 Toward a temple, with hire mooder deere,
PhyT 120 As is of yonge maydens the manere.
PhyT 121 Now was ther thanne a justice in that toun,
PhyT 122 That governour was of that regioun.
PhyT 123 And so bifel this juge his eyen caste
PhyT 124 Upon this mayde, avysynge hym ful faste,
PhyT 125 As she cam forby ther as this juge stood.
PhyT 126 Anon his herte chaunged and his mood,
PhyT 127 So was he caught with beautee of this mayde,
PhyT 128 And to hymself ful pryvely he sayde,
PhyT 129 “This mayde shal be myn, for any man!”
PhyT 130 Anon the feend into his herte ran,
PhyT 131 And taughte hym sodeynly that he by slyghte
PhyT 132 The mayden to his purpos wynne myghte.
PhyT 133 For certes, by no force ne by no meede,
PhyT 134 Hym thoughte, he was nat able for to speede;
PhyT 135 For she was strong of freendes, and eek she
PhyT 136 Confermed was in swich soverayn bountee
PhyT 137 That wel he wiste he myghte hire nevere wynne
PhyT 138 As for to make hire with hir body synne.
PhyT 139 For which, by greet deliberacioun,
PhyT 140 He sente after a cherl, was in the toun,
PhyT 141 Which that he knew for subtil and for boold.
PhyT 142 This juge unto this cherl his tale hath toold
PhyT 143 In secree wise, and made hym to ensure
PhyT 144 He sholde telle it to no creature,
PhyT 145 And if he dide, he sholde lese his heed.
PhyT 146 Whan that assented was this cursed reed,
PhyT 147 Glad was this juge, and maked him greet cheere,
PhyT 148 And yaf hym yiftes preciouse and deere.
PhyT 149 Whan shapen was al hire conspiracie
PhyT 150 Fro point to point, how that his lecherie
PhyT 151 Parfourned sholde been ful subtilly,
PhyT 152 As ye shul heere it after openly,
PhyT 153 Hoom gooth the cherl, that highte Claudius.
PhyT 154 This false juge, that highte Apius,
PhyT 155 (So was his name, for this is no fable,
PhyT 156 But knowen for historial thyng notable;
PhyT 157 The sentence of it sooth is, out of doute),
PhyT 158 This false juge gooth now faste aboute
PhyT 159 To hasten his delit al that he may.
PhyT 160 And so bifel soone after, on a day,
PhyT 161 This false juge, as telleth us the storie,
PhyT 162 As he was wont, sat in his consistorie,
PhyT 163 And yaf his doomes upon sondry cas.
PhyT 164 This false cherl cam forth a ful greet pas,
PhyT 165 And seyde, “Lord, if that it be youre wille,
PhyT 166 As dooth me right upon this pitous bille,
PhyT 167 In which I pleyne upon Virginius;
PhyT 168 And if that he wol seyn it is nat thus,
PhyT 169 I wol it preeve, and fynde good witnesse,
PhyT 170 That sooth is that my bille wol expresse.”
PhyT 171 The juge answerde, “Of this, in his absence,
PhyT 172 I may nat yeve diffynytyf sentence.
PhyT 173 Lat do hym calle, and I wol gladly heere;
PhyT 174 Thou shalt have al right, and no wrong heere.”
PhyT 175 Virginius cam to wite the juges wille,
PhyT 176 And right anon was rad this cursed bille;
PhyT 177 The sentence of it was as ye shul heere:
PhyT 178 “To yow, my lord, sire Apius so deere,
PhyT 179 Sheweth youre povre servant Claudius
PhyT 180 How that a knyght, called Virginius,
PhyT 181 Agayns the lawe, agayn al equitee,
PhyT 182 Holdeth, expres agayn the wyl of me,
PhyT 183 My servant, which that is my thral by right,
PhyT 184 Which fro myn hous was stole upon a nyght,
PhyT 185 Whil that she was ful yong; this wol I preeve
PhyT 186 By witnesse, lord, so that it nat yow greeve.
PhyT 187 She nys his doghter nat, what so he seye.
PhyT 188 Wherfore to yow, my lord the juge, I preye,
PhyT 189 Yeld me my thral, if that it be youre wille.”
PhyT 190 Lo, this was al the sentence of his bille.
PhyT 191 Virginius gan upon the cherl biholde,
PhyT 192 But hastily, er he his tale tolde,
PhyT 193 And wolde have preeved it as sholde a knyght,
PhyT 194 And eek by witnessyng of many a wight,
PhyT 195 That al was fals that seyde his adversarie,
PhyT 196 This cursed juge wolde no thyng tarie,
PhyT 197 Ne heere a word moore of Virginius,
PhyT 198 But yaf his juggement, and seyde thus:
PhyT 199 “I deeme anon this cherl his servant have;
PhyT 200 Thou shalt no lenger in thyn hous hir save.
PhyT 201 Go bryng hire forth, and put hire in oure warde.
PhyT 202 The cherl shal have his thral, this I awarde.”
PhyT 203 And whan this worthy knyght Virginius
PhyT 204 Thurgh sentence of this justice Apius
PhyT 205 Moste by force his deere doghter yiven
PhyT 206 Unto the juge, in lecherie to lyven,
PhyT 207 He gooth hym hoom, and sette him in his halle,
PhyT 208 And leet anon his deere doghter calle,
PhyT 209 And with a face deed as asshen colde
PhyT 210 Upon hir humble face he gan biholde,
PhyT 211 With fadres pitee stikynge thurgh his herte,
PhyT 212 Al wolde he from his purpos nat converte.
PhyT 213 “Doghter,” quod he, “Virginia, by thy name,
PhyT 214 Ther been two weyes, outher deeth or shame,
PhyT 215 That thou most suffre; allas, that I was bore!
PhyT 216 For nevere thou deservedest wherfore
PhyT 217 To dyen with a swerd or with a knyf.
PhyT 218 O deere doghter, endere of my lyf,
PhyT 219 Which I have fostred up with swich plesaunce
PhyT 220 That thou were nevere out of my remembraunce!
PhyT 221 O doghter, which that art my laste wo,
PhyT 222 And in my lyf my laste joye also,
PhyT 223 O gemme of chastitee, in pacience
PhyT 224 Take thou thy deeth, for this is my sentence.
PhyT 225 For love, and nat for hate, thou most be deed;
PhyT 226 My pitous hand moot smyten of thyn heed.
PhyT 227 Allas, that evere Apius the say!
PhyT 228 Thus hath he falsly jugged the to-day” —
PhyT 229 And tolde hire al the cas, as ye bifore
PhyT 230 Han herd; nat nedeth for to telle it moore.
PhyT 231 “O mercy, deere fader!” quod this mayde,
PhyT 232 And with that word she bothe hir armes layde
PhyT 233 Aboute his nekke, as she was wont to do.
PhyT 234 The teeris bruste out of hir eyen two,
PhyT 235 And seyde, “Goode fader, shal I dye?
PhyT 236 Is ther no grace, is ther no remedye?”
PhyT 237 “No, certes, deere doghter myn,” quod he.
PhyT 238 “Thanne yif me leyser, fader myn,” quod she,
PhyT 239 “My deeth for to compleyne a litel space;
PhyT 240 For, pardee, Jepte yaf his doghter grace
PhyT 241 For to compleyne, er he hir slow, allas!
PhyT 242 And, God it woot, no thyng was hir trespas,
PhyT 243 But for she ran hir fader first to see,
PhyT 244 To welcome hym with greet solempnitee.”
PhyT 245 And with that word she fil aswowne anon,
PhyT 246 And after, whan hir swownyng is agon,
PhyT 247 She riseth up, and to hir fader sayde,
PhyT 248 “Blissed be God that I shal dye a mayde!
PhyT 249 Yif me my deeth, er that I have a shame;
PhyT 250 Dooth with youre child youre wyl, a Goddes name!”
PhyT 251 And with that word she preyed hym ful ofte
PhyT 252 That with his swerd he wolde smyte softe;
PhyT 253 And with that word aswowne doun she fil.
PhyT 254 Hir fader, with ful sorweful herte and wil,
PhyT 255 Hir heed of smoot, and by the top it hente,
PhyT 256 And to the juge he gan it to presente,
PhyT 257 As he sat yet in doom in consistorie.
PhyT 258 And whan the juge it saugh, as seith the storie,
PhyT 259 He bad to take hym and anhange hym faste;
PhyT 260 But right anon a thousand peple in thraste,
PhyT 261 To save the knyght, for routhe and for pitee,
PhyT 262 For knowen was the false iniquitee.
PhyT 263 The peple anon had suspect in this thyng,
PhyT 264 By manere of the cherles chalangyng,
PhyT 265 That it was by the assent of Apius;
PhyT 266 They wisten wel that he was lecherus.
PhyT 267 For which unto this Apius they gon
PhyT 268 And caste hym in a prisoun right anon,
PhyT 269 Ther as he slow hymself; and Claudius,
PhyT 270 That servant was unto this Apius,
PhyT 271 Was demed for to hange upon a tree,
PhyT 272 But that Virginius, of his pitee,
PhyT 273 So preyde for hym that he was exiled;
PhyT 274 And elles, certes, he had been bigyled.
PhyT 275 The remenant were anhanged, moore and lesse,
PhyT 276 That were consentant of this cursednesse.
PhyT 277 Heere may men seen how synne hath his merite.
PhyT 278 Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte
PhyT 279 In no degree, ne in which manere wyse;
PhyT 280 The worm of conscience may agryse
PhyT 281 Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
PhyT 282 That no man woot therof but God and he.
PhyT 283 For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
PhyT 284 He noot how soone that he shal been afered.
PhyT 285 Therfore I rede yow this conseil take:
PhyT 286 Forsaketh synne, er synne yow forsake.