Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
Extracts from The Frankeleynes Tale
By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)
(See full text)

IN Armoryke, that cleped is Briteyne,
Ther was a knight, that lovede and dide his peyne
To serve a lady in his bestë wise;
And many a labour, and many a greet emprise
He for his lady wrought, er sche were wonne;        5
For sche was on the fairest 1 under sonne,
And eek therto come of so heih kynrede,
That wel unnethës dorste this knight for drede
Telle hire his woo, his peyne, and his distresse.
But attë laste sche for his worthinesse,        10
And namely for his meke obeissance,
Hath suche a pité caught of his penaunce,
That prively sche fel of his acord
To take him for hir housbonde and hir lord,
(Of suche lordschipe as men han over her 2 wyves);        15
And, for to lede the more in blisse her lyves,
Of his fre wille he swor hir as a knight,
That never in al his lyf by day ne night
Ne schulde he upon him takë no maystrie
Ayeins hir wille, ne kythe 3 hir jalousye,        20
But hir obeye, and folwe hir wille in al,
As any lovere to his lady schal;
Save that the name of sovereynëté,
That wolde he han for schame of his degre.
Sche thanketh him, and with ful grete humblesse        25
Sche sayde: ‘Sire, sith 4 of your gentilnesse
Ye profre me to han so large a reyne,
Ne woldë never God betwixe us tweyne,
As in my gilt, were eyther werre or stryf.
Sire, I wil be your humble trewë wijf,        30
Have heer my trouthe, til that myn hertë breste.’
Thus be they bothe in quiete and in reste.
For o 5 thing, syrës, saufly dar I seye,
That frendës everich other moot obeye,
If they wille longë holden companye        35
Love wol nought ben constreigned by maystrye.
Whan maystrie cometh, the god of love anon
Beteth his wyngës, and fare wel, he is gon!
Love is a thing, as any spiryt, fre.
Wommen of kynde desiren liberté,        40
And nought to be constreigned as a thral;
And so do men, if I sooth seyen schal.
*        *        *        *        *
Here may men sen an humble wyse acord;
Thus hath sche take hire servaunt and hire lord,
Servaunt in love, and lord in mariage.        45
Than was he bothe in lordschipe and servage!
Servagë? nay, but in lordschipe above,
Sith he hath bothe his lady and his love;
His lady certës, and his wyf also,
The whiche that lawe of love accordeth to.        50
And whan he was in this prosperité,
Hoom with his wyf he goth to his cuntre,
Nought fer fro Penmark, ther his dwellyng was,
Wher as he lyveth in blisse and in solas.
*        *        *        *        *
[Arviragus goes to England for two years on military service, and leaves Dorigen at home.]

  Now stood hir castel fastë by the see,
And often with hir frendës walked sche,
Hir to disporte upon the banke on heih,
Wher as sche many a schippe and bargë seih,
Seylinge her cours, wher as hem listë go.
But yit was ther a parcelle 6 of hir wo,        60
For to hir self ful often seydë sche,
‘Is there no schip, of so many as I se,
Wole bryngen hoom my lord? than were myn herte
Al waryssched 7 of this bitter peynës smerte.’
  Another tyme ther wolde sche sitte and thinke,        65
And caste hir eyën dounward fro the brynke;
But whan sche saugh the grisly rokkës blake,
For verray fere so wolde hire hertë quake,
That on hire feet sche mighte hir nought sustene.
Than wolde sche sitte adoun upon the grene,        70
And pitously into the see byholde,
And sayn right thus, with sorowful sikës 8 colde.
‘Eternë God, that thurgh thy purveyaunce
Ledest the world by certein governaunce,
In ydel, as men sayn, ye nothing make.        75
But, Lord, these grisly feendly rokkës blake,
That semen rather a foul confusioun
Of werk, then any fayr creacioun
Of suche a parfyt wys God and a stable,
Why han ye wrought this werk unresonable?        80
For by this werk, south, north, ne west, ne est,
Ther nis y-fostred man, ne brid, ne best;
Hit doth no good, to my wit, but anoyeth.
Se ye nought, Lord, how mankynd it destroyeth?
An hundred thousand bodyes of mankynde        85
Han rokkës slayn, al be they nought in mynde;
Which mankynd is so fair part of thy werk,
That thou it madest lyk to thyn owën werk,
Than semed it, ye hadde a gret chierte 9
Toward mankynd; but how than may it be,        90
That ye suche menës 10 make it to distroyen?
Whiche menës doth no good, but ever anoyen.
I wot wel, clerkës woln sayn as hem leste,
By argumentz, that al is for the beste,
Though I ne can the causes nat yknowe;        95
But thilkë God that madë wynd to blowe,
As kepe my lord, this is my conclusioun;
To clerkes lete 11 I al disputison; 12
But woldë God, that al the rokkës blake
Were sonken into hellë for his sake!        100
These rokkës sleen myn hertë for the feere.’
Thus wolde sche sayn with many a pitous teere.
  Hir freendes sawe that it nas no disport
To romen by the see, but discomfort,
And schopen 13 for to pleyen somwhere elles.        105
They leden hir by ryverës and by welles,
And eek in other places delitables;
They dauncen and they playe at chesse and tables. 14
So on a day, right in the morwe tyde,
Unto a gardyn that was ther besyde,        110
In which that thay hadde made here ordinaunce
Of vitaile, and of other purveyaunce,
They gon and pleye hem al the longë day;
And this was on the sixtë morwe of May,
Which May hadde peynted with his softë schoures        115
This gardyn ful of levës and of floures:
And crafte of mannës hand so curiously
Arayëd hath this gardyn trewëly,
That never nas ther gardyn of such prys,
But if it were the verrey paradys.        120
The odoure of flourës and the fresshë sight,
Wolde han made any pensyf hertë light
That ever was born, but if to 15 gret siknesse
Or to gret sorwe held it in distresse;
So ful it was of beaute with plesaunce.        125
And after dynere gonnë they to daunce,
And synge also, save Dorigen alone.
Sche made alwey hir compleynt and hir mone,
For sche ne saugh him on the dauncë go,
That was hir housbond, and hir love also;        130
But nathëles sche moste a tyme abyde,
And with good hope sche let hir sorwe slyde. 16
  Upon this daunce, amonges other men,
Daunced a squier biforen Dorigen,
That fresscher was and jolyer of array,        135
As to my dome, 17 than is the month of May.
He syngeth and daunceth passyng any man,
That is or was sith that 18 this world bygan;
Therwith he was, if men schulde him discryve,
On of the bestë farynge man on lyve,        140
Yong, strong, ryht vertuous, and riche, and wys,
And wel biloved, and holden in gret prys.
And schortliche, if the soth I tellen schal,
Unwytyng of this Dorigen at al,
This lusty squyer, servaunt to Venus,        145
Which that y-cleped was Aurelius,
Had loved hire best of any creäture
Two yeer and more, as was his aventure;
But never durste he telle hir his grevaunce,
Withoutë cuppe 19 he drank al his penaunce.        150
He was dispeyred, nothing durste he seye,
Save in his songës somwhat wolde he wreye 20
His woo, as in a general compleyning;
He sayde, he lovede and was biloved nothing.
Of suche materë made he many layes,        155
Songës, compleintës, roundels, virëlayes;
How that he durstë nought his sorwe telle,
But languissheth as a fury doth in helle;
And deye he moste, he seyde, as did Ekko
For Narcisus, that durste nought telle hir wo.        160
In other manere then 21 ye here me seye
Ne durste he nought to hir his wo bewreye,
Save that paraventure som tyme at daunces,
Ther 22 yongë folk kepen here observaunces,
Hit may wel be he lokëd on hir face        165
In such a wise, as man that asketh grace,
But nothing wistë sche of his entent.
Natheles it happed, er they thennës went,
Bycausë that he was hir neygheboure,
And was a man of worschipe and honour,        170
And haddë knowën him of tymë yore,
They felle in speche, and oftë more and more
Unto his purpos drow Aurelius;
And whan he saw his tyme, he saydë thus.
‘Madame,’ quod he, ‘by God, that this world made,        175
So that I wiste it mighte your hertë glade,
I wolde that day, that your Arveragus
Wente on the see, that I Aurelius
Had went ther I schulde never have come ayain;
For wel I woot my service is in vayn,        180
My guerdon nys but bersting of myn herte.
Madame, reweth upon my peynës smerte,
For with a word ye may me sle or save.
Her at your foot, God wold that I were grave! 23
I have as now no leyser more to seye;        185
Have mercy, swete, or ye wole do me deye.’
  Sche gan to loke upon Aurelius;
‘Is this your wil,’ quod sche, ‘and say ye thus?
Never erst,’ quod sche, ‘ne wiste I what ye mente,
But now, Aurely, I knowë your entente.        190
By thilkë God, that yaf me soule and lyf,
Ne schal I never ben untrewë wif
In word ne werk; as fer as I have wit,
I wol ben his to whom that I am knit.’
But after that in pley thus seydë sche:        195
‘Tak this for fynal answer as of me.
Aurelie,’ quod sche, ‘by heighë God above,
Yit wol I grauntë you to ben your love,
(Sin I you se so pitously compleyne),
Lokë, what day that endëlong 24 Bryteyne        200
Ye remewe alle the rokkës, ston by stoon,
That thay ne lettë schip ne boot to goon;
I say, whan ye han maad the coost so clene
Of rokkës, that ther nys no stoon y-sene,
Than wol I love yow best of any man,        205
Have heer my trouthe, in al that ever I can.’
‘Is ther non other grace in you?’ quod he.
‘No, by that Lord,’ quod sche, ‘that madë me,
For wel I wot that that schal never betyde.
Let such folye out of youre hertë slyde.        210
What deyntë schuldë man have by his lijf,
For to go love another mannës wyf?’
Wo was Aurely whan that he this herde,
And with a sorwful herte he thus answerde.
‘Madame,’ quod he, ‘this were an impossíble.        215
Than mot I deye on sodeyn deth orríble.’
And with that word he torned him anon.
*        *        *        *        *
[Aurelius applies to a ‘subtil clerke’ of Orleans, who by magical arts causes all the rocks to seem to disappear. He then goes to Dorigen, and claims her promise.]

  He taketh his leve, and sche astoniëd stood;
In alle hir face ther nas oon drop of blood;
Sche wendë never have come in such a trappe.        220
‘Allas!’ quod sche, ‘that ever this schulde happe!
For wende I never by possibilité,
That such a monstre or merveyl mightë be;
It is agayns the proces of nature.’
And hom sche goth a sorwful creäture,        225
For verray fere unnethë may sche go.
Sche wepeth, wayleth al a day or two,
And swowneth, that it routhë was to see;
But why it was, to no wight toldë sche,
For out of toune was goon Arviragus.        230
But to hir self sche spak, and saydë thus,
With facë pale, and with ful sorwful cheere,
In hir compleint, as ye schul after heere.
*        *        *        *        *
[Dorigen complains to Fortune.]

  Thus playned Dorigen a day or tweye,
Purposyng ever that sche woldë deye;        235
But nathëles upon the thriddë night
Hom cam Arveragus, the worthy knight,
And askëd hir why that sche weep so sore;
And sche gan wepen ever lenger the more.
  ‘Allas!’ quod sche, ‘that ever was I born!        240
Thus have I sayd,’ quod sche, ‘thus have I sworn;’
And told him al, as ye han herd bifore;
It nedeth nought reherse it you no more.
  This housbond with glad cheere in frendly wise
Answerde and sayde, as I schal you devyse.        245
‘Is ther aught ellës, Dorigen, but this?’
‘Nay, nay,’ quod sche, ‘God helpe me so as wis, 25
This is to moche, and it were Goddes wille.’
‘Ye, wyf,’ quod he, ‘let slepen that is stille,
It may be wel peraunter 26 yet to day,        250
Ye schal your trouthë holden, by my fay,
For God so wisly have mercy upon me,
I hadde wel lever y-stikid 27 for to be,
For verray love which that I to you have,
But-if ye scholde your trouthë kepe and save.        255
Trouthe is the heighest thing that men may kepe.’
But with that word he gan anoon to wepe,
And sayde, ‘I yow forbede up peyne of deth,
That never whil thee lasteth lyf or breth,
To no wight telle thou of this aventure.        260
As I may best, I wil my woo endure.
Ne make no contenaunce of hevynesse,
That folk of you may demen harm or gesse.’
And forth he cleped a squyer and a mayde.
‘Go forth anoon with Dorigen,’ he sayde,        265
‘And bryngeth hir to such a place anoon.’
They take her leve, and on her wey they gon;
But they ne wistë why sche thider wente,
He nolde no wight tellen his entente…..
  This squyer, which that highte Aurelius,        270
On Dorigen that was so amorous,
Of adventurë happëd hir to mete
Amyd the toun, right in the quykë strete;
As sche was boun to goon the wey forth-right
Toward the gardyn, ther as sche had hight.        275
And he was to the gardyn-ward also;
For wel he spyëd whan sche woldë go
Out of hir hous, to any maner place.
But thus thay mette, of adventure or grace,
And he salueth hir with glad entente,        280
And askith of hir whider-ward sche wente.
And sche answerdë, half as sche were mad,
‘Unto the gardyn, as myn housbond bad,
My trouthë for to holde, allas! allas!’
Aurilius gan wondren on this cas, 28        285
And in his herte hadde gret compassioun
Of hir, and of hir lamentacioun,
And of Arveragus the worthy knight,
That bad hir holden al that sche hadde hight,
So loth him was his wif schuld breke hir trouthe.        290
And in his hert he caughte of this gret routhe,
Consideryng the best on every syde,
That fro his lust yet were him lever abyde,
Than doon so heigh a cherlissch wrecchednesse
Agayns fraunchise 29 of allë gentilesse;        295
For which in fewë wordës sayde he thus.
‘Madame, saith to your lord Arveragus,
That sith I se his gretë gentilesse
To you, and eek I se wel your distresse,
That him were lever han schame (and that were routhe)        300
Than ye to me schulde brekë thus your trouthe,
I have wel lever 30 ever to suffre woo,
Than I departe 31 the love bytwix yow two.
I yow relesse, madame, into your hond
Quyt every seurëment and every bond        305
That ye han maad to me as herebiforn,
Sith thilkë tymë which that ye were born.
My trouthe I plighte, I schal yow never repreve 32
Of no byhest, 33 and heer I take my leve,
As of the trewest and the bestë wif        310
That ever yit I knew in al my lyf.
But every wyf be war of hir byheste,
On Dorigen remembreth attë leste.
Thus can a squyer doon a gentil dede
As wel as can a knyght, withouten drede.’        315
  Sche thanketh him upon hir knees al bare,
And hoom unto hir housbond is sche fare,
And told him al, as ye han herd me sayd;
And, be ye siker, he was so wel apayd, 34
That it were impossible me to write.        320
What schuld I lenger of this cas endite?
Arveragus and Dorigen his wyf
In sovereyn blissë leden forth her lyf,
Never eft ne was ther anger hem bytwene;
He cherisscheth hir as though sche were a quene,        325
And sche was to him trewe for evermore;
Of these two folk ye gete of me nomore.
Note 1. the one fairest. [back]
Note 2. their. [back]
Note 3. shew. [back]
Note 4. since. [back]
Note 5. one. [back]
Note 6. part. [back]
Note 7. cured. [back]
Note 8. sighs. [back]
Note 9. charity. [back]
Note 10. means, ways. [back]
Note 11. let, leave. [back]
Note 12. disputing. [back]
Note 13. planned. [back]
Note 14. backgammon. [back]
Note 15. too. [back]
Note 16. pass. [back]
Note 17. doom, judgment. [back]
Note 18. since. [back]
Note 19. without measure. [back]
Note 20. bewray, shew. [back]
Note 21. than. [back]
Note 22. where. [back]
Note 23. buried. [back]
Note 24. all along. [back]
Note 25. for a certainty, certainly. [back]
Note 26. peradventure. [back]
Note 27. stabbed. [back]
Note 28. case, circumstance. [back]
Note 29. generosity. [back]
Note 30. I prefer. [back]
Note 31. divide. [back]
Note 32. reprove. [back]
Note 33. promise. [back]
Note 34. paid, pleased. [back]

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