The Second Nun’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

SNT 1 The ministre and the norice unto vices,
SNT 2 Which that men clepe in Englissh Ydelnesse,
SNT 3 That porter of the gate is of delices,
SNT 4 To eschue, and by hire contrarie hire oppresse —
SNT 5 That is to seyn, by leveful bisynesse —
SNT 6 Wel oghten we to doon al oure entente,
SNT 7 Lest that the feend thurgh ydelnesse us hente.
SNT 8 For he that with his thousand cordes slye
SNT 9 Continuelly us waiteth to biclappe,
SNT 10 Whan he may man in ydelnesse espye,
SNT 11 He kan so lightly cache hym in his trappe,
SNT 12 Til that a man be hent right by the lappe,
SNT 13 He nys nat war the feend hath hym in honde.
SNT 14 Wel oghte us werche and ydelnesse withstonde.
SNT 15 And though men dradden nevere for to dye,
SNT 16 Yet seen men wel by resoun, doutelees,
SNT 17 That ydelnesse is roten slogardye,
SNT 18 Of which ther nevere comth no good n’ encrees;
SNT 19 And syn that slouthe hire holdeth in a lees
SNT 20 Oonly to slepe, and for to ete and drynke,
SNT 21 And to devouren al that othere swynke,
SNT 22 And for to putte us fro swich ydelnesse,
SNT 23 That cause is of so greet confusioun,
SNT 24 I have heer doon my feithful bisynesse
SNT 25 After the legende in translacioun
SNT 26 Right of thy glorious lif and passioun,
SNT 27 Thou with thy gerland wroght with rose and lilie —
SNT 28 Thee meene I, mayde and martyr, Seint Cecilie.
SNT 29 And thow that flour of virgines art alle,
SNT 30 Of whom that Bernard list so wel to write,
SNT 31 To thee at my bigynnyng first I calle;
SNT 32 Thou confort of us wrecches, do me endite
SNT 33 Thy maydens deeth, that wan thurgh hire merite
SNT 34 The eterneel lyf and of the feend victorie,
SNT 35 As man may after reden in hire storie.
SNT 36 Thow Mayde and Mooder, doghter of thy Sone,
SNT 37 Thow welle of mercy, synful soules cure,
SNT 38 In whom that God for bountee chees to wone,
SNT 39 Thow humble, and heigh over every creature,
SNT 40 Thow nobledest so ferforth oure nature,
SNT 41 That no desdeyn the Makere hadde of kynde
SNT 42 His Sone in blood and flessh to clothe and wynde.
SNT 43 Withinne the cloistre blisful of thy sydis
SNT 44 Took mannes shap the eterneel love and pees,
SNT 45 That of the tryne compas lord and gyde is,
SNT 46 Whom erthe and see and hevene out of relees
SNT 47 Ay heryen; and thou, Virgine wemmelees,
SNT 48 Baar of thy body — and dweltest mayden pure —
SNT 49 The Creatour of every creature.
SNT 50 Assembled is in thee magnificence
SNT 51 With mercy, goodnesse, and with swich pitee
SNT 52 That thou, that art the sonne of excellence
SNT 53 Nat oonly helpest hem that preyen thee,
SNT 54 But often tyme of thy benygnytee
SNT 55 Ful frely, er that men thyn help biseche,
SNT 56 Thou goost biforn and art hir lyves leche.
SNT 57 Now help, thow meeke and blisful faire mayde,
SNT 58 Me, flemed wrecche, in this desert of galle;
SNT 59 Thynk on the womman Cananee, that sayde
SNT 60 That whelpes eten somme of the crommes alle
SNT 61 That from hir lordes table been yfalle;
SNT 62 And though that I, unworthy sone of Eve,
SNT 63 Be synful, yet accepte my bileve.
SNT 64 And, for that feith is deed withouten werkis,
SNT 65 So for to werken yif me wit and space,
SNT 66 That I be quit fro thennes that most derk is!
SNT 67 O thou, that art so fair and ful of grace,
SNT 68 Be myn advocat in that heighe place
SNT 69 Theras withouten ende is songe “Osanne,”
SNT 70 Thow Cristes mooder, doghter deere of Anne!
SNT 71 And of thy light my soule in prison lighte,
SNT 72 That troubled is by the contagioun
SNT 73 Of my body, and also by the wighte
SNT 74 Of erthely lust and fals affeccioun;
SNT 75 O havene of refut, O salvacioun
SNT 76 Of hem that been in sorwe and in distresse,
SNT 77 Now help, for to my werk I wol me dresse.
SNT 78 Yet preye I yow that reden that I write,
SNT 79 Foryeve me that I do no diligence
SNT 80 This ilke storie subtilly to endite,
SNT 81 For bothe have I the wordes and sentence
SNT 82 Of hym that at the seintes reverence
SNT 83 The storie wroot, and folwen hire legende,
SNT 84 And pray yow that ye wole my werk amende.
SNT 85 First wolde I yow the name of Seint Cecilie
SNT 86 Expowne, as men may in hir storie see.
SNT 87 It is to seye in Englissh “hevenes lilie,”
SNT 88 For pure chaastnesse of virginitee;
SNT 89 Or, for she whitnesse hadde of honestee,
SNT 90 And grene of conscience, and of good fame
SNT 91 The soote savour, “lilie” was hir name.
SNT 92 Or Cecilie is to seye “the wey to blynde,”
SNT 93 For she ensample was by good techynge;
SNT 94 Or elles Cecile, as I writen fynde,
SNT 95 Is joyned, by a manere conjoynynge
SNT 96 Of “hevene” and “Lia”; and heere, in figurynge,
SNT 97 The “hevene” is set for thoght of hoolynesse,
SNT 98 And “Lia” for hire lastynge bisynesse.
SNT 99 Cecile may eek be seyd in this manere,
SNT 100 “Wantynge of blyndnesse,” for hir grete light
SNT 101 Of sapience and for hire thewes cleere;
SNT 102 Or elles, loo, this maydens name bright
SNT 103 Of “hevene” and “leos” comth, for which by right
SNT 104 Men myghte hire wel “the hevene of peple” calle,
SNT 105 Ensample of goode and wise werkes alle.
SNT 106 For “leos” “peple” in Englissh is to seye,
SNT 107 And right as men may in the hevene see
SNT 108 The sonne and moone and sterres every weye,
SNT 109 Right so men goostly in this mayden free
SNT 110 Seyen of feith the magnanymytee,
SNT 111 And eek the cleernesse hool of sapience,
SNT 112 And sondry werkes, brighte of excellence.
SNT 113 And right so as thise philosophres write
SNT 114 That hevene is swift and round and eek brennynge,
SNT 115 Right so was faire Cecilie the white
SNT 116 Ful swift and bisy evere in good werkynge,
SNT 117 And round and hool in good perseverynge,
SNT 118 And brennynge evere in charite ful brighte.
SNT 119 Now have I yow declared what she highte.