Geoffrey Chaucer, The Clerk's Tale (Forrest Hainline's Minimalist Translation)
Here begins the Tale of the Clerk of Oxford
There is, at the west side of Itaille,
Down at the root of Vesulus the cold,
A lusty plain, abundant of vitaille,
Where many a tower and town thou may behold,
That founded were in time of fathers old,
And many another delightful sight,
And Saluces this noble country hight.
A marquis once lord was of that land,
As were his worthy elders him before;
And obeisant, ay ready to his hand,
Were all his lieges, both less and more.
Thus in delight he lives, and has done yore,
Beloved and dread, through favor of Fortune,
Both of his lords and of his commune.
Therewith he was, to speak as of lineage,
The gentlest born of Lombardy,
A fair person, and strong, and young of age,
And full of honor and of courtesy;
Discreet enough his country for to guide,
Save in some things that he was to blame;
And Walter was this young lord's name.
I blame him thus: that he considered not
In time coming what might him betide,
But on his lust present was all his thought,
As for to hawk and hunt on every side.
Well-nigh all other cares let he slide,
And too he'd not - and that was worst of all -
Wed no wife, for naught that may befall.
Only that point his people bore so sore
That flockmel on a day they to him went,
And one of them, that wisest was of lore -
Or else that the lord best would assent
That he should tell him what his people meant,
Or else could he show well such matter -
He to the marquis said as you shall hear:
'O noble marquis, your humanity
Assures us and gives us hardiness,
As oft as time is of necessity,
That we to you may tell our heaviness.
Accept, lord, now of your gentleness
That we with piteous heart unto you plain
And let your ears not my voice disdain.
'Al have I naught to do in this matter
More than another man has in this place,
Yet for as much as you, my lord so dear,
Have always shown me favor and grace
I dare the better ask of you a space
Of audience to show our request,
And you, my lord, to do right as you lest.
'For certain, lord, so well us like you
And all your work, and ever have done, that we
Could not ourselves devise how
We might live in more felicity,
Save one thing, lord, if it your will be,
That for to be a wedded man you lest;
Then were your people in sovereign hearts' rest.
'Bow your neck under that blissful yoke
Of sovereignty, not of service,
Which that men call spousal or wedlock;
And think, lord, among your thoughts wise
How that our days pass in sundry ways,
For though we sleep, or wake, or roam, or ride,
Aye flees the time; it will no man abide.
'And though your green youth flowers as yet,
In creeps age always, as still as stone,
And death menaces every age, and smites
In each estate, for there escapes no one;
And all so certain as we know each one,
That we shall die, as uncertain we all
Be of that day when death shall on us fall.
'Accept then of us the true intent,
Who never yet refused your hest,
And we will, lord, if that you will assent,
Chose you a wife, in short time at the least,
Born of the gentlest and of the most
Of all this land, so that it ought seem
Honor to God and you, as we deem.
'Deliver us out of all this busy dread,
And take a wife, for high God's sake!
For if it so befell, as God forbid,
That through your death your line should slake,
And that a strange successor should take
Your heritage, O woe were us alive!
Wherefore we pray you hastily to wive."
Their meek prayer and their piteous cheer
Made the marquis's heart have pity.
'You will, ' said he, 'my own people dear,
To that I never erst thought constrain me.
I me rejoiced of my liberty,
That seldom is found in marriage;
There I was free, I must be in servitude.
'But nonetheless I see your true intent,
And trust upon your wit, and have done aye;
Wherefore of my free will I will assent
To wed, as soon as ever I may.
But there as you have proffered me to-day
To choose me a wife, I you release
That choice and pray you of that proffer cease.
'For God it knows, that children often be
Unlike their worthy elders them before;
Bounty comes all of God, not of the strain
Of which they be engendered and born.
I trust in God's bounty, and therefore
My marriage and my estate and ease
I him betake; he may do as he please.
'Let me alone in choosing of my wife -
That charge upon my back I will endure.
But I you pray, and charge upon your life,
What wife that I take, you me assure
To honor her, while that her life may endure,
In word and work, both here and everywhere,
As she an emperor's daughter were.
'And furthermore, this shall you swear: that you
Against my choice shall neither grouch nor strive;
For since I must forgo my liberty
your request, as ever must I thrive,
There as my heart is set, there will I wive;
And but you will assent in such manner,
I pray you, speak no more of this matter.'
With hearty will they swore and assent
To all this thing - there said no one nay -
Beseeching him of grace, ere that they went,
That he would grant them a certain day
Of his spousal, as soon as ever he may;
For yet always the people somewhat dread,
Lest that the marquis no wife would wed.
He granted them a day, such as he lest,
On which he would be wedded surely,
And said he did all this at their request.
And they, with humble intent, buxomly,
Kneeling upon their knees full reverently,
Him thanked all; and thus they have an end
Of their intent, and home again they wend.
And hereupon he to his officers
Commands for the feast to purvey,
And to his privy knights and squires
Such charge gave as he list on them lay;
And they to his commandment obey,
And each of them does all his diligence
To do unto the feast reverence.
Explicit prima pars.
Incipit secunda pars.
Not far from that palace honorable,
Whereas this marquis shaped his marriage,
There stood a throop, of site delightable,
In which that poor folk of that village
Had their beasts and their harborage,
And of their labor took their sustenance,
After that the earth gave them abundance.
Among these poor folk there dwelt a man
Which that was held poorest of them all;
But high God sometimes send can
His grace into a little ox's stall;
Janicula men of that throop him call.
A daughter had he, fair enough to sight,
And Griselda this young maiden hight.
But for to speak of virtuous beauty,
Then was she one the fairest under sun;
For poorly fostered up was she,
No lecherous lust was through her heart run.
Well often of the well than of the tun
She drank, and for she would virtue please,
She knew well labor but no idle ease.
But though this maid tender was of age,
Yet in the breast of her virginity
There was enclosed ripe and sad courage;
And in great reverence and charity
Her old poor father fostered she.
few sheep, spinning, on field she kept;
She would not be idle til she slept.
And when she homeward came, she would bring
Worts or other herbs times oft,
The which she shred and seethe for their living,
And made her bed full hard and nothing soft;
And aye she kept her father's life on-loft
With every obeisance and diligence
That child may do to father's reverence.
Upon Griselda, this poor creature,
Full oft times this marquis set his eye
As he on hunting rode peradventure;
And when it fell that he might her espy,
He not with wonton looking of folly
His eyes cast on her, but in sad wise
Upon her cheer he would often avise,
Commending in his heart her womanhead,
And too her virtue, passing any wight
Of so young age, as well in cheer as deed.
For though the people have no great insight
In virtue, he considered full right
Her bounty, and disposed that he would
Wed her only, if ever he wed should.
The day of wedding came, but no wight can
Tell what woman that it should be;
For which marvel wondered many a man,
And said, when they were in privity,
'Will not our lord yet leave his vanity?
Will he not wed? Alas! Alas, the while!
Why will he thus himself and us beguile? '
But nonetheless this marquis has done make
Of gems, set in gold and in azure,
Brooches and rings, for Griselda's sake;
And of her clothing took he the measure
By a maid like to her stature,
And too of other ornaments all
That unto such a wedding should fall.
The time of undern of the same day
Approaches, that this wedding should be,
And all the palace put was in array,
Both hall and chambers, each in its degree;
Houses of office stuffed with plenty,
There may you see, of deinteous vittle
That may be found as far as last Italy.
This royal marquis, richly arrayed,
Lords and ladies in his company,
The which that to the feast were prayed,
And of his retinue the bachelry,
With many a sound of sundry melody,
Unto the village of the which I told
In this array the right way has held.
Griselda of this, God knows, full innocent,
That for her shaped was all this array,
To fetch water at a well is went,
And comes home as soon as ever she may;
For well she had heard said that same day
The marquis should wed, and if she might,
She would fain have seen some of that sight.
She thought, 'I will with other maidens stand,
That be my fellows, in our door and see
The marchioness, and therefore will I find
To do at home, as soon as it may be,
The labor which that longs unto me,
And then I may at leisure her behold,
If she this way unto the castle hold.'
And as she would over her threshold go,
The marquis came and gan her for to call;
And she set down her water pot anon,
Beside the threshold, in an ox's stall,
And down upon her knees she gan to fall,
And with sad countenance kneels still,
Til she had heard what was the lord's will.
This pensive marquis spoke unto this maid
Full soberly, and said in this manner:
'Where is your father, O Griselda? ' he said.
And she with reverence, in humble cheer,
Answered, 'Lord, he is already here.'
And in she goes without longer lette,
And to the marquis she her father fette.
He by the hand then took this old man,
And said thus, when he him had aside:
'Janicula, I neither may nor can
Longer the pleasure of my heart hide.
that thou vouchsafe, what so betide,
Thy daughter will I take, ere that I wend,
As for my wife, until her life's end.
'Thou loves me, I know it well certain,
And art my faithful liege man born,
And all that liketh me, I dare well say
It liketh thee, and specially therefore
Tell me that point that I have stated before,
If that thou will unto that purpose draw,
To take me for thy son-in-law.'
This sudden case this man astounded so
That red he waxed; abashed and all quaking
He stood; hardly said he more words,
But only thus: 'Lord, ' said he, 'my willing
Is as you will, not against your liking
I will no thing, you be my lord so dear;
Right as you wish, govern this matter.'
'Yet wish I' said this marquis softly,
'That in thy chamber I and thou and she
Have a discussion, and know thou why?
For I will ask if it her will be
To be my wife and rule her after me.
And all this shall be done in thy presence;
I will not speak out of thy audience.'
And in the chamber, while they were about
Their treaties, which as you shall after hear,
The people came unto house without,
And wondered them in how honest manner
And attentively she kept her father dear.
But utterly Griselda wonder might,
For never erst saw she such a sight.
No wonder is though that she were astoned
To see so great a guest come in that place;
She never was to such guests woned,
For which she looked with full pale face.
But shortly forth this matter for to chase,
These are the words that the marquis said
To this benign, verray, faithful maid:
'Griselda, ' he said, 'you shall well understand
It liketh to your father and to me
That I you wed, and too it may so stand,
As I suppose, you will that it so be.
But these demands ask I first, ' said he,
'That, since it shall be done in hasty wise,
Will you assent, or else you avise?
'I say this: be you ready with good heart
To all my lust, and that I freely may,
As me best think, do you laugh or smerte,
And never you to grouch it, night nor day?
And too when I say `yes, ' say not `nay, '
Neither by word nor frowning countenance?
Swear this, and here I swear our alliance.'
Wondering upon these words, quaking for dread,
She said, 'Lord, undigne and unworthy
Am I to that honor that you me bade,
But as you will yourself, right so will I.
And here I swear that never willingly,
In work nor thought, I'll you disobey,
For to be dead, though me were loath to die.'
'This is enough, Griselda mine, ' said he.
And forth he goes with a full sober cheer
Out of the door, and after that came she,
And to the people he said in this manner:
'This is my wife, ' said he, 'that stands here.
Honor her and love her, I pray,
Whoever me loves; there is no more to say.'
And for that nothing of her old gear
She should bring into his house, he bade
That women should disrobe her right there;
Of which these ladies were not right glad
To handle her clothes, wherein she was clad.
But nevertheless, this maid bright of hue
From foot to head they clothed have all new.
Her hair have they combed, that lay untressed
Full rudely, and with their fingers small
A crown on her head they have dressed,
And set her garments full of nouches great and small.
Of her array what should I make a tale?
Barely the people her knew for her fairness
When she translated was in such riches.
This marquis has her spoused with a ring
Brought for the same cause, and then her set
Upon a horse, snow-white and well ambling,
And to his palace, before he longer let,
With joyful people that her led and met,
Conveyed her; and thus the day they spend
In revel, til the sun gan descend.
And shortly forth this tale for to chase,
I say that to this new marchioness
God has such favor sent her of his grace
That it seemed not by likeliness
That she was born and fed in rudeness,
As in a cote or in an ox-stall,
But nurtured in an emperor's hall.
To every one she waxen is so dear
And worshipful that folk there she was born,
And from her birth knew her year by year,
Barely trusted they - but dared have sworn -
That to Janicle, of which I spoke before,
She daughter was, for, by conjecture,
They thought she was another creature.
For though that ever virtuous was she,
She was increased in such excellence
Of thewes good, set in high bounty,
And so discreet and fair of eloquence,
So benign and so digne of reverence,
And could so the people's heart embrace,
That each her loved that looked on her face.
Not only of Saluces in the town
Published was the bounty of her name,
But too beside in many a region,
If one said well, another said the same;
So spread of her high bounty the fame
That men and women, as well young as old,
Go to Saluce upon her to behold.
Thus Walter lowly - nay, but royally -
Wedded with fortunate honesty,
In God's peace lives full easily
At home, and outward grace enough had he;
And for he saw that under low degree
Was oft virtue hid, the people him held
A prudent man, and that is seen full seld.
Not only this Griselda through her wit
Knew all the fet of wifely homeliness,
But too, when that the case required it,
The communal profit could she redress.
There's no discord, rancor, nor heaviness
In all that land that she could not appease,
And wisely bring them all in rest and ease.
Though that her husband absent were anon,
If gentle men or others of her country
Were wroth, she would bring them at-one;
So wise and ripe words had she,
And judgments of so great equity,
That she from heaven sent was, as men wend,
People to save and every wrong to amend.
Not long time after that this Griselda
Was wedded, she a daughter has bore,
All had her lief have born a knave child;
Glad was this marquis and the folk therefore,
For though a maid child came all before,
She may unto a male child attain
By likelihood, since she's not barren.
Explicit secundus pars.
Incipit tercia pars.
There fell, as it befalls times more,
When that this child had sucked but a throw,
This marquis in his heart longs so
To tempt his wife, her sadness for to know,
That he might not out of his heart throw
This marvelous desire his wife to assay;
Needless, God knows, he thought her for to affray.
He had assayed her enough before,
And found her ever good; what needed it
Her for to tempt, and always more and more,
Though some men praise it for a subtle wit?
But as for me, I say that evil it sit
To assay a wife when that it is no need,
And put her in anguish and in dread.
For which this marquis wrought in this manner:
He came alone at night, there as she lay,
With stern face and with full trouble cheer,
And said thus: 'Griselda, ' said he, 'that day
That I you took out of your poor array,
And put you in estate of high noblesse -
You have not that forgotten, as I guess?
'I say, Griselda, this present dignity,
In which I have put you, as I trow,
Makes you not forgetful for to be
That I you took in poor estate full low,
For any weal you must yourself know.
Take heed of every word that I you say;
There is no one that hears it but we two.
'You know yourself well how that you came here
Into this house, it is not long ago;
And though to me that you lief and dear,
Unto my gentles you be nothing so.
They say, to them it is great shame and woe
To be subjects and be in servage
To thee, that born art of a small village.
'And namely since thy daughter was born
These words have they spoken, doubtless.
But I desire, as I have done before,
To live my life with them in rest and peace.
I may not in this case be reckless;
I must do with thy daughter for the best,
Not as I would, but as my people lest.
'And yet, God knows, this is full loath to me;
But nonetheless without your witting
I will not do; but this will I, ' said he,
'That you to me assent as in this thing.
Show now your patience in your working,
That you me called and swore in your village
That day that maked was our marriage.'
When she had heard all this, she was not moved
Neither in word, or cheer, or countenance,
For, as it seemed, she was not aggrieved.
She said, 'Lord, all lies in your pleasance.
My child and I, with hearty obeisance,
Be yours all, and you may save or spill
Your own thing; work after your will.
'There may nothing, God so my soul save,
Liken to you that may displease me;
Nay I desire nothing for to have,
Nor dread for to lose, save only you.
This will is in my heart, and aye shall be;
No length of time or death may this deface,
Nor change my courage to another place.'
Glad was this marquis of her answering,
But yet he feigned as he were not so;
All dreary was his cheer and his looking,
When that he should out of the chamber go.
Soon after this, a furlong way or two,
He privately has told all his intent
Unto a man, and to his wife him sent.
A manner sergeant was this privy man,
The which that faithful oft he found had
In things great, and too such folk well can
Do execution in things bad.
The lord knew well that he him loved and dread;
And when this sergeant knew his lord's will,
Into the chamber he stalked him full still.
'Madame, ' he said, 'you must forgive it me,
Though I do thing to which I am constrained.
You be so wise that full well know ye
That lord's hest may not be feigned;
They may well be bewailed or complained,
But men must need unto their lust obey,
And so will I; there is no more to say.
'This child I am commanded for to take' -
And spoke no more, but out the child he hent
Despiteously, and gan a cheer make
As though he would have slain it ere he went.
Griselda must all suffer and all consent,
And as a lamb she sits meek and still,
And let this cruel sergeant do his will.
Suspicious was the defame of this man,
Suspect his face, suspect his word also;
Suspect the time in which he this began.
Alas! Her daughter that she loved so,
She wend he would have slain it right tho.
But nonetheless she neither wept nor sighed,
Conforming her to that the marquis liked.
But at the last to speak she began,
And meekly she to the sergeant prayed,
So as he was a worthy gentle man,
That she might kiss her child ere that it died.
And in her barm this little child she laid
With full sad face, began the child to bless,
And lulled it, and after that it kiss.
And thus she said in her benign voice,
'Farewell my child! I shall thee never see.
But since I thee have marked with the cross
Of that Father - blessed may he be! -
That for us died upon a cross of tree,
Thy soul, little child, I him betake,
For this night shalt thou die for my sake.'
I trow that to a nurse in this case
It had been hard this ruth for to see;
Well might a mother then have cried 'alas! '
But nonetheless so sad steadfast was she
That she endured all adversity,
And to the sergeant meekly she said,
'Have here again your little young maid.
'Go now, ' said she, 'and do my lord's hest;
But one thing will I pray you of your grace,
That, but my lord forbad you, at the least
Bury this little body in some place
That beasts no nor birds it torace.'
But he no word will to that proposal say,
But took the child and went upon his way.
This sergeant came unto his lord again,
And of Griselda's words and her cheer
He told him point for point, in short and plain,
And him presents with his daughter dear.
Somewhat this lord had ruth in his manner,
But nonetheless his purpose held he still,
As lords do, when they will have their will;
And bade this sergeant that he privily
Should this child softly wind and wrap,
With all circumstances tenderly,
And carry it in a coffer or in a lap;
But, upon pain his head off for swap,
That no man should know of his intent,
Nor when he came, nor whither that he went;
But at Bologna to his sister dear,
That same time of Panik was countess,
He should it take and show her this matter,
Beseeching her to do her business
This child to foster in all gentleness;
And whose child that it was he bade her hide
From every wight, for ought that may betide.
The sergeant goes, and has fulfilled this thing;
But to this marquis now return we.
For now goes he full fast imagining
If by his wife's cheer he might see,
Or by her word perceive, that she
Were changed; but he never her could find
But ever in one alike sad and kind.
As glad, as humble, as busy in service,
And too in love, as she was wont to be,
Was she to him in every manner wise;
Nor of her daughter naught a word spoke she.
No accident, for no adversity,
Was seen in her, nor never her daughter's name
Nor mentioned she, in earnest nor in game.
Explicit tercia pars.
Sequitur pars quarta.
In this estate there passed be four years
Ere she with child was, but, as God would,
A knave child she bore by this Walter,
Full gracious and fair for to behold.
And when that folk it to his father told,
Not only he but all his country merry
Was for this child, and God they thank and herie.
When it was two years old, and from the breast
Departed of his nurse, on a day
This marquis caught yet another lest
To tempt his wife yet after, if he may.
O needless was she tempted in assay!
But wedded men know no measure,
When that they find a patient creature.
'Wife, ' said this marquis, 'you have heard ere this
My people sickly bare our marriage;
And namely since my son born is,
Now is it worse than ever in all our age.
The murmur slays my heart and my courage,
For to my ears comes the voice so smart
That it well-nigh destroyed has my heart.
'Now say they thus: `When Walter is gone,
Then shall the blood of Janicle succeed
And be our lord, for other have we none.'
Such words say my people, out of dread.
Well ought I of such murmur take heed,
For certainly I dread such sentence,
Though they not plain speak in my audience.
'I would live in peace, if that I might;
Wherefore I am disposed utterly,
As I his sister served by night,
Right so think I to serve him privily.
This warn I you, that you not suddenly
Out of yourself for no woe outrage;
Be patient, and thereof I you pray.'
'I have, ' said she, 'said thus, and ever shall:
I will nothing, nor I'll nothing, certain,
But as you list. Naught grieves me at all,
Though that my daughter and my son be slain -
At your commandment, this is to say.
I have not had no part of children twain
But first sickness, and after, woe and pain.
'You be our lord; do with your own thing
Right as you list; ask no rede at me.
For as I left at home all my clothing,
When I first came to you, right so, ' said she,
'Left I my will and all my liberty,
And took your clothing; wherefore I you pray,
Do your pleasure; I will your lust obey.
'And certain, if I had prescience
To know your will, ere you your lust me told,
I would it do without negligence;
But now I know your lust, and what you would,
All your pleasure firm and stable I hold;
For knew I that my death would do you ease,
Right gladly would I die, you to please.
'Death may not make no comparison
Unto your love.' And when this marquis saw
The constancy of his wife, he cast down
His eyes two, and wondered that she may
In patience suffer all this array;
And forth he goes with dreary countenance,
But to his heart it was full great pleasance.
This ugly sergeant, in the same manner
That he her daughter caught, right so he -
Or worse, if men worse can devise -
Has hent her son, that full was of beauty.
And ever in one so patient was she
That she no cheer made of heaviness,
But kissed her son, and after gan it bless;
Save this, she prayed him that, if he might,
Her little son he would in earth grave
His tender limbs, delicate to sight,
From fowls and from beasts for to save.
But she no answer of him might have.
He went his way, as he nothing rought,
But to Bologna he tenderly it brought.
This marquis wondered, ever longer the more,
Upon her patience, and if that he
Had not truly known there before
That she perfectly her children loved she,
He would have thought that of some subtlety,
And out of malice, or for cruel courage,
That she had suffered this with sad visage.
But well he knew that next to himself, certain,
She loved her children best in every wise.
But now I would like to ask fain
If these assays might not suffice?
What could a sturdy husband more devise
To prove her wifehood and her steadfastness,
And he continuing ever in sturdiness?
But there be folk of such condition
That when they have a certain purpose take,
They cannot stint of their intention,
But, right as they were bound to that stake,
They will not of that first purpose slake.
Right so this marquis fully has purposed
To test his wife as he was first disposed.
He watches if by word or countenance
That she to him was changed of courage,
But never could he find variance.
She was aye one in heart and in visage,
And aye the farther that she was in age,
The more true, if it were possible,
She was to him in love, and more penible.
For which it seemed thus: that of them two
There was but one will, for as Walter lest,
The same lust was her pleasance also.
And, God be thanked, all fell for the best.
She proved good; for no worldly unrest
A wife, as of herself, nothing should
Will in effect, but as her husband would.
The slander of Walter oft and wide spread,
That of a cruel heart he wickedly,
For he a poor woman wedded had,
Has murdered both his children privily.
Such murmur was among them commonly.
No wonder is, for to the people's ear
There came no word but that they murdered were.
For which, whereas his people there before
Had loved him well, the slander of his defame
Made them that they him hated therefore.
To be a murderer is a hateful name;
But nonetheless, for earnest nor for game,
He of his cruel purpose would not stint;
To tempt his wife was set all his intent.
When that his daughter was twelve years of age,
He to the court of Rome, in subtle wise
Informed of his wile, sent his message
Commanding them such bulls to devise
As to his cruel purpose may suffice -
How the pope, as for his people's rest,
Bade him to wed another, if he lest.
I say, he bade they should counterfeit
The pope's bulls, making mention
That he has leave his first wife to let,
As by the pope's dispensation,
To stint rancor and dissension
Betwixt his people and him; thus said the bull,
The which they have published at full.
The rude people, as it no wonder is,
Wended full well that it had been right so;
But when these tidings came to Griseldis,
I deem that her heart was full woe.
But she, alike sad for evermore,
Disposed was, this humble creature,
To adversity of Fortune all to endure,
Abiding ever his lust and his pleasance,
To whom that she was given, heart and all,
As to her very worldly sufficience.
But shortly if this story I tell shall,
This marquis written has in special
A letter, in which he shows his intent,
And secretly he to Bologna it sent.
To the Earl of Panyk, which that had though
Wedded his sister, prayed he specially
To bring home again his two children
In honorable estate all openly.
But one thing he him prayed utterly,
That he to no one, though men would inquire,
Should not tell whose children they were,
But say the maiden should wedded be
Unto the Marquis of Saluce anon.
And as this earl was prayed, so did he;
For at day set he on his way is gone
Toward Saluce, and lords many a one
In rich array, this maiden to guide,
Her young brother riding her beside.
Arrayed was toward her marriage
This fresh maid, full of gems clear;
Her brother, which that seven years was of age,
Adorned too full fresh in his manner.
And thus in great noblesse and with glad cheer,
Toward Saluce shaping their journey,
From day to day they ride in their way.
Explicit quarta pars.
Sequitur pars quinta.
Among all this, after his wicked usage,
This marquis, yet his wife to tempt more
To the outermost proof of her courage,
Fully to have experience and lore
If that she were as steadfast as before,
He on a day in open audience
Full boisterously has said her this sentence:
'Certainly, Griselda, I had enough pleasure
To have you to my wife for your goodness,
As for your truth and for your obedience
Not for your lineage, nor for your riches;
But now know I in very soothfastness
That in great lordship, if I well avise,
There is great servitude in sundry ways.
'I may not do as every plowman may.
My people me constrain for to take
Another wife, and cry out day by day;
And too the pope, rancor for to slake,
Consents it - that dare I undertake -
And truly thus much I will you say:
My new wife is coming by the way.
'Be strong of heart, and void anon her place;
And that dowry that you brought me,
Take it again; I grant it of my grace.
Return to your father's house, ' said he;
'No man may always have prosperity.
With even heart I rede you to endure
The stroke of Fortune or of adventure.'
And she again answered in patience:
'My lord, ' said she, 'I know, and knew always,
How between your magnificence
And my poverty no one can nor may
Make comparison; it is no nay.
I held me never worthy in no manner
To be your wife, no, nor your chamberer.
'And in this house, there you me lady made-
The high God take I for my witness,
And also wisely he my soul gladden -
I never held me lady or mistress,
But humble servant to your worthiness,
And ever shall, while that my life may endure,
Above every worldly creature.
'That you so long of your benignity
Have held me in honor and nobility,
Whereas I was not worthy for to be,
For thank I God and you, to whom I pray
Foryelde it you; there is no more to say.
Unto my father gladly will I wend,
And with him dwell unto my life's end.
'There I was fostered of a child full small,
Til I be dead my life there will I lead,
A widow clean in body, heart, and all.
For since I gave to you my maidenhead,
And am your true wife, there is no dread,
God shield such a lord's wife to take
Another man to husband or to make!
'And of your new wife God of his grace
So grant you weal and prosperity!
For I will gladly yield her my place,
In which that I was blissful want to be.
For since it pleases you, my lord, ' said she,
'That whilom were all my heart's rest,
That I shall go, I will go when you lest.
'But there as you me proffer such dower
As I first brought, it is well in my mind
It was my wretched clothing, nothing fair,
The which to me were hard now for to find.
O good God! How gentle and how kind
You seemed by your speech and your visage
The day that maked was our marriage!
'But sooth is said - always I find it true,
For in fact it proved is on me -
Love is not old as when that it is new.
But certain, lord, for no adversity,
To die in the case, it shall not be
That ever in word or work I shall repent
That I you gave my heart whole entente.
'My lord, you know that in my father's place
You did me strip out of my poor wede,
And richly me clad, of your grace.
To you I brought naught else, out of dread,
But faith, and nakedness, and maidenhead;
And here again your clothing I restore,
And too your wedding ring, for evermore.
'The remnant of your jewels ready be
Inwith your chamber, dare I safely say.
Naked out of my father's house, ' said she,
'I came, and naked must I turn again.
All your pleasure will I follow fain;
But yet I hope it be not your intent
That I smockless out of your palace went.
'You could not do so dishonest a thing,
That same womb in which your children lay
Should before the people, in my walking,
Be seen all bare; wherefore I you pray,
Let me not like a worm go by the way.
Remember you, my own lord so dear,
I was your wife, though I unworthy were.
'Wherefore, in guerdon of my maidenhead,
Which that I brought, and not again I bear,
As vouchsafe to give me, to my meed,
Only such a smock as I was want to wear,
That I therewith may wry the womb of her
That was your wife. And here take I my leave
Of you, my own lord, lest I you grieve.'
The smock, ' said he, 'that thou hast on thy back,
Let it be still, and bear it forth with thee.'
But well uneath that word he spoke,
But went his way, for ruth and for pity.
Before the folk herself strips she,
And in her smock, with head and foot all bare,
Toward her father's house forth is she fare.
The folk here follow, weeping in their way,
And Fortune aye they curse as they go;
But she from weeping kept her eyes dry,
Nor in this time word spoke she none.
Her father, that this tiding heard anon,
Curses the day and time that Nature
Shaped him to be a live creature.
For out of doubt this old poor man
Was ever in suspect of her marriage;
For ever he deemed, since that it began,
That when the lord fulfilled had his courage,
He would think it was a disparage
To his estate so low for to alight,
And void of her as soon as ever he might.
Against his daughter hastily goes he,
For he by noise of folk knew her coming,
And with her old coat, as it might be
He covered her, full sorrowfully weeping.
But on her body might he it not bring,
For rude was the cloth, and more of age
By days fele than at her marriage.
Thus with her father for a certain space
Dwells this flower of wifely patience,
That neither by her words nor her face,
Before the folk, nor too in their absence,
Nor showed she that her was done offence;
Nor of her high estate no remembrance
Nor had she, as by her countenance.
No wonder is, for in her great estate
Her ghost was ever in plain humility;
No tender mouth, no heart delicate,
No pomp, no semblance of royalty,
But full of patient benignity,
Discreet and prideless, aye honorable,
And to her husband ever meek and stable.
Men speak of Job, and most for his humbleness,
As clerks, when they want, can well endite,
Namely of men, but as in truthfulness,
Though clerks praise women but a lit,
There can no man in humbleness him acquit
As woman can, nor can be half so true
As women be, but it be fall of new.
From Bologna is this Earl of Panyk come,
Of which the news up sprang to more and less,
And to the people's ears, all and some,
Was known too that a new marchioness
He with him brought, in such pomp and riches
That never was there seen with man's eye
So noble array in all West Lombardy.
The marquis, which that shaped and knew all this,
Ere that this earl was come, sent his message
For that silly poor Griselda;
And she with humble heart and glad visage,
Not with no swollen thought in her courage,
Came at his hest, and on her knees her set,
And reverently and wisely she him greet.
'Griselda, ' said he, 'my will is utterly
This maiden, that shall wedded be to me,
Received be tomorrow as royally
As it possible is in my house to be,
And too that every wight in his degree
Have his estate, in seating and service
And high pleasure, as I can best devise.
'I have no women capable, certain,
The chambers for to array in ordinance
After my lust, and therefore would I fain
That thine were all such manner governance.
Thou knowest also of old all my pleasance;
Though thy array be bad and evil besee,
Do thou thy duty at the least way.'
'Not only, lord, that I am glad, ' said she,
'To do your lust, but I desire also
You for to serve and please in my degree
Without feinting, and shall evermore;
Nor never, for any wele nor no woe,
Nor shall the ghost within my heart stint
To love you best with all my true intent.'
And with that word she gan the house to dight,
And tables for to set, and beds make;
And pained her to do all that she might,
Praying the chambers, for God's sake,
To hasten them, and fast sweep and shake;
And she, the most serviceable of all,
Has every chamber arrayed and his hall.
About undern gan this earl alight,
That with him brought these noble children two,
For which the people ran to see the sight
Of their array, so richly besee;
And then at first among them they say
That Walter was no fool, though that he lest
To change his wife, for it was for the best.
For she is fairer, as they deem all,
Than is Griselda, and more tender of age,
And fairer fruit between them should fall,
And more pleasant, for her high lineage.
Her brother too so fair was of visage
That them to see the people had caught pleasure in seeing them,
Commending now the marquis's governance.
'O stormy people! Unsad and ever untrue!
Aye indiscreet and changing as a vane!
Delighting ever in rumble that is new,
For like the moon aye wax you and wane!
Aye full of clapping, dear enough a jane!
Your doom is false, your constancy evil preves;
A full great fool is he that on you believes.'
Thus said sad folk in that city,
When that the people gazed up and down,
For they were glad, right for the novelty,
To have a new lady of their town.
No more of this make I now mention,
But to Griselda again will I me dress,
And tell her constancy and her business.
Full busy was Griselda in everything
That to the feast was appurtenant.
Right naught was she abashed of her clothing,
Though it were rude and somedeal too torent;
But with glad cheer to the gate is went
With other folk to greet the marchioness,
And after that do forth her business.
With so glad cheer his guests she receives,
And so cunningly, each in his degree,
no default no man perceives,
But aye they wonder what she might be
That in so poor array was for to see,
And knew such honor and reverence,
And worthily they praise her prudence.
In all this meanwhile she not stint
This maid and too her brother to commend
With all her heart, in full benign intent,
So well that no man could her praise amend.
But at the last, when that these lords went
To sit down to meat, he gan to call
Griselda, as she was busy in his hall.
'Griselda, ' said he, as it were in his play,
'How like thee my wife and her beauty? '
'Right well, ' said she, 'my lord; for, in good faith,
I fairer saw I never none than she.
I pray to God give her prosperity;
And so hope I that he will to you send
Pleasure enough unto your lives' end.
'One thing beseech I you, and warn also,
That you not prick with no tormenting
This tender maiden, as you have more;
For she is fostered in her nourishing
More tenderly, and, to my supposing,
She could not adversity endure
As could a poor fostered creature.'
And when this Walter saw her patience,
Her glad cheer, and no malice at all,
And he so oft had done to her offence,
And she aye sad and constant as a wall,
Continuing ever her innocence overall,
This stern marquis gan his heart dress
To rue upon her wifely steadfastness.
'This is enough, Griselda mine, ' said he;
'Be now no more aghast nor evil apaid.
I have thy faith and thy benignity,
As well as ever woman was, assayed,
In great estate and poverty arrayed.
Now know I, dear wife, thy steadfastness' -
And her in arms took and gan her kiss.
And she for wonder took of it no keep;
She heard not what thing he to her said;
She fared as she had start out of a sleep,
Til she of her mazedness abraid.
'Griselda, ' said he, 'by God, that for us died,
Thou art my wife, no none other I have,
Nor never had, as God my soul save!
'This is thy daughter, which thou hast supposed
To be my wife; that other faithfully
Shall be my heir, as I have aye disposed;
Thou bore him in thy body truly.
At Bologna have I kept them privily;
Take them again, for now mayst thou not say
That thou hast lorn none of thy children two.
'And folk that otherwise have said of me,
I warn them well that I have done this deed
For no malice, nor for no cruelty,
But for to assay in thee thy womanhood,
And not to slay my children - God forbid! -
But for to keep them privily and still,
Til I thy purpose knew and all thy will.'
When she this heard, a swoon down she falls
For piteous joy, and after her swooning
She both her young children to her calls,
And in her arms, piteously weeping,
Embraces them, and tenderly kissing
Full like a mother, with her salt tears
She bathed both their visage and their hair.
O which a piteous thing it was to see
Her swooning, and her humble voice to hear!
'Grant mercy, lord, God thank it you, ' said she,
'That you have saved me my children dear!
Now reck I never to be dead right here;
Since I stand in your love and in your grace,
No force of death, nor when my spirit pace!
'O tender, o dear, o young children mine!
Your woeful mother weened steadfastly
That cruel hounds or some foul vermin
Had eaten you; but God of his mercy
And your benign father tenderly
Has done you kept' - and in that same stound
All suddenly she swept down to the ground.
And in her swoon so sadly holds she
Her children two, when she gan them to embrace,
That with great sleight and great difficulty
The children from her arm they gone arace.
O many a tear on many a piteous face
Down ran of them that stood her beside;
Uneath about her might they abide.
Walter her gladdens and her sorrow slakes;
She rises up, abased, from her trance,
And everyone her joy and feast makes
Til she has caught again her countenance.
Walter her does so faithfully pleasance
That it was dainty for to see the cheer
Between them two, now they be met ifere.
These ladies, when that they their time say,
Have taken her and into chamber go,
And strip her out of her rude array,
And in a cloth of gold that brightly shone,
With a crown of many a rich stone
Upon her head, they into hall her brought,
And there she was honored as her ought.
Thus has this piteous day a blissful end,
For every man and woman does his might
This day in mirth and revel to dispend
Til on the welkin shone the stars' light.
For more solemn in every man's sight
This feast was, and greater of costage,
Than was the revel of their marriage.
Full many a year in high prosperity
Live these two in concord and in rest,
And richly his daughter married he
Unto a lord, one of the worthiest
Of all Italy; and then in peace and rest
His wife's father in his court he keeps,
Til that the soul out of his body creeps.
His son succeeds in his heritage
In rest and peace, after his father's day,
And fortunate was too in marriage,
All put he not his wife in great assay.
This world is not so strong, it is no nay,
As it has been in old times yore,
And hearken what this author says therefore.
This story is said not so that wives should
Follow Griselda as in humility,
For it were impossible, though they would,
But so that everyone, in his degree,
Should be constant in adversity
As was Griselda; therefore Petrarch writes
This story, which with high style he endites.
For since a woman was so patient
Unto a mortal man, well more us ought
Receive all in gree that God us sent;
For great skill is he proof that he wrought.
But he not temps no man that he bought,
As says Saint James, if you his pistle read;
He proves folk all day, it is no drede,
And suffers us, as for our exercise
With sharp scourges of adversity
Full oft to be beat in sundry wise;
Not for to know our will, for certain he,
Ere we were born, knew all our frailty;
And for our best is all his governance.
Let us then live in virtuous sufferance.
But a word, lords, hearken ere I go:
It were full hard to find now-a-days
In all a town Griseldas three or two;
For if that they were put to such assays,
The gold of them has now so bad allays
With brass, that though the coin be fair at ye,
It would rather burst a-two than plie.
For which here, for the Wife's love of Bath -
Whose life and all her sect God maintain
In high mastery, and else were it scathe -
I will with lusty heart, fresh and green,
Say you a song to glad you, I wene;
And let us stint of earnestful matter.
Hearken my song that says in this manner:
Lenvoy de Chaucer.
Griselda is dead, and too her patience,
And both at ones buried in Italy;
For which I cry in open audience
No wedded man so hardy be to assail
His wife's patience in trust to find
Griselda, for in certain he shall fail.
O noble wives, full of high prudence,
Let no humility your tongue nail,
Nor let no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of you a story of such marvel
As of Griselda patient and kind,
Lest Chichevache you swallow in her entrails!
Follow Echo, who holds no silence,
But ever answers at the countretaille.
Be not bedaffed for your innocence,
But sharply take on you the governance.
Imprint well this lesson in your mind,
For common profit since it may avail.
You arch-wives, stand at defense,
Since you be strong as is a great camel;
Nor suffer not that men you do offense.
And slender wives, feeble as in battle,
Be eager as is a tiger yond in India;
Aye clap as a mill, I you counsel.
Nor dread them not; do them no reverence,
For though thy husband armed be in mail,
The arrows of thy crabbed eloquence
Shall pierce his breast and too his aventail.
In jealousy I rede too thou him bind,
And thou shalt make him couch as does a quail.
If thou be fair, where folk be in presence,
Show thou thy visage and thy apparel;
If thou be foul, be free of thy dispense;
To get thee friends aye do thy travail;
Be aye of cheer as light as leaf on lind,
And let him care, and weep, and wring, and wail!
[Behold the merry words of the Host
This worthy Clerk, when ended was his tale,
Our Host said, and swore, 'By God's bones,
Me were lever than a barrel ale
My wife at home had heard this legend once!
This is a gentle tale for the nones,
For my purpose, wist you my will;
But thing that will not be, let it be still.']
Here ends the Tale of the Clerk of Oxford.