Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)
From the Clerkes Tale

THER is right at the West side of Itaille
Doun at the rote of Vesulus the cold,
A lusty plain, abundant of vitaille,
Ther many a toun and tour thou maist behold,
That founded were in time of fathers old,        5
And many another delitable sighte,
And Saluces this noble contree highte.
  A markis whilom lord was of that land,
As were his worthy elders him before,
And obeysant, ay redy to his hand,        10
Were all his lieges, bothe lesse and more:
Thus in delit he liveth, and hath done yore,
Beloved and drad, thurgh favour of fortune,
Both of his lordes, and of his commune.
  Therwith he was, to speken of linage,        15
The gentilest yborne of Lombardie,
A faire person, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curtesie:
Discret ynough, his contree for to gie,
Save in som thingés that he was to blame,        20
And Walter was this yongé lordés name.
  I blame him thus, that he considered nought
In time coming what might him betide,
But on his lust present was all his thought,
And for to hauke and hunt on every side:        25
Wel neigh all other curés let he slide,
And eke he n’old (and that was worst of all)
Wedden no wif for ought that might befall.
  Only that point his peple bare so sore,
That flockmel on a day to him they went.        30
And one of them, that wisest was of lore,
(Or ellés that the lord wold best assent
That he shuld tell him what the peple ment,
Or ellés coud he wel shew suich matere)
He to the markis said as ye shall here.        35
  “O noble markis, your humanitee
Assureth us and yeveth us hardinesse,
As oft as time is of necessitee,
That we to you may tell our hevinesse:
Accepteth, lord, then of your gentillesse,        40
That we with pitous herte unto you plaine,
And let your erés not my vois disdaine.
  Al have I not to don in this matere
More than another man hath in this place,
Yet for as moch as ye, my lord so dere        45
Han alway shewèd me favour and grace,
I dare the better aske of you a space
Of audience, to shewen our request,
And ye, my lord, to don right as you lest.
  For certes, lord, so wel us liketh you        50
And all your werke, and ever have don, that we
Ne couden not ourself devisen how
We mighten live in more felicitee:
Save one thing, lord, if it your willé be,
That for to be a wedded man you lest,        55
Then were your peple in soverain hertés rest.
  Boweth your nekke under the blisful yok
Of soveraintee, and not of servise,
Which that men clepen spousalile or wedlok:
And thinketh, lord, among your thoughtés wise,        60
How that our dayes passe in sondry wise;
For though we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ride,
Ay fleth the time, it wol no man abide.
  And though your grené youthe floure as yet,
In crepeth age alway as still as stone,        65
And deth menaceth every age, and smit
In eche estat, for ther escapeth none:
And al so certain, as we knowe eche one
That we shul die, as uncertain we all
Ben of that day whan deth shal on us fall.        70
  Accepteth then of us the trewe entent,
That never yet refuséden your hest,
And we wol, lord, if that ye wol assent,
Chese you a wife in short time at the mest,
Borne of the gentillest and of the best        75
Of all this lond, so that it oughé seme
Honour to God and you, as we can deme.
  Deliver us out of all this besy drede,
And take a wif, for highé Goddés sake:
For if it so befell, as God forbede,        80
That thurgh your deth your linage shulde slake,
And that a strange successour shuld take
Your heritage, o! wo were us on live:
Wherfore we pray you hastily to wive.”
  Hir meké praiére and hir pitous chere        85
Made the markis for to han pitee.
“Ye wol,” quod he, “min owen peple dere,
To that I never ere thought constrainen me.
I me rejoycèd of my libertee,
That selden time is found in mariage:        90
Ther I was free, I moste ben in servage.
  “But natheles I see your trewe entent,
And trust upon your wit, and have don ay:
Wherfore of my free will I wol assent
To wedden me, as sone as ever I may.        95
But ther as ye han profred me to-day
To chesen me a wife, I you relese
That chois, and pray you of that profer cese.
  “For God it wot, that children often ben
Unlike hir worthy eldres them before,        100
Bountee cometh al of God, not of the stren,
Of which they ben ygendred and ybore:
I trust in Goddés bountee, and therfore
My mariage, and min estat, and rest
I him betake, he may do as him lest.        105
  “Let me alone in chosing of my wife,
That charge upon my bak I wol endure:
But I you pray, and charge upon your life,
That what wif that I take, ye me assure
To worship her while that her life may dure,        110
In word and work both here and elles where,
As she an emperourés daughter were.
  “And forthermore this shuln ye swere, that ye
Again my chois shal never grutch ne strive.
For sith I shal forgo my libertee        115
At your request, as ever mote I thrive,
Where as min herte is set, ther wol I wive:
And but ye wol assent in such manere,
I pray you speke no more of this matere.”
  With hertly will they sworen and assenten        120
To all this thing, ther saide not one wight nay.
Beseching him of grace, or that they wenten,
That he wold granten them a certain day
Of his spousaile, as soon as ever he may,
For yet alway the peple somwhat dred,        125
Lest that this markis wolde no wif wed.
  He granted hem a day, such as him lest,
On which he wold be wedded sikerly,
And said he did all this at hir request.
And they with humble herte ful buxumly        130
Kneling upon their knees ful reverently
Him thankèd all, and thus they had an end
Of their entente, and home agen they wend.
  And hereupon he to his officeres
Commandeth for the festé to purvay.        135
And to his priveé knightes and squieres
Such charge he gave, as him list on them lay:
And they to his commandément obey,
And eche of them doth all his diligence
To do unto the feste all reverence.        140

  Nought far fro thilke paleis honourable,
Wher as this markis shope his mariage,
Ther stood a thorpe, of sighte delitable,
In which that pouré folk of that village
Hadden their bestês and their herbergage,        145
And of hir labour toke hir sustetenance,
After that the erthe gave them abundance.
  Among this pouré folk ther dwelt a man,
Which that was holden poorest of them all:
But highé God somtimé senden can        150
His grace unto a litel oxes stall:
Janicola men of that thorpe him call.
A doughter had he, faire enough to sight,
And Grisildis this yongé maiden hight.
  But for to speke of vertuous beautee,        155
Then was she one the fairest under sonne:
Ful pourléy yfostred up was she:
No likerous lust was in hire herte yronne;
Wel ofter of the well than of the tonne
She dranke, and for she woldé vertue plese,        160
She knew wel labour, but none idel ese.
  But though this mayden tendre were of age,
Yet in the brest of her virginitee
Ther was enclosèd sad and ripe corage:
And in great reverence and charitee        165
Her oldé pouré father fostred she:
A few sheep spinning on the feld she kept,
She wolde not ben idel til she slept.
  And whan she homeward came, she wolde bring
Wortes and other herbés times oft,        170
The which she shred and sethe for her living,
And made her bed ful hard, and nothing soft:
And ay she kept her fadres life on loft
With every obeisance and diligence,
That child may don to fadres reverence.        175
  Upon Grisilde, this pouré creature,
Ful often sithe this markis sette his eye,
As he on hunting rode paraventure:
And whan it fell that he might hire espie,
He not with wanton loking of folie        180
His eyen cast on her, but in sad wise
Upon her chere he wold him oft avise,
  Commending in his herte her womanhede,
And eke her vertue, passing any wight
Of so yong age, as wel in chere as dede.        185
For though the peple have no great insight
In virtue, he considerèd ful right
Her bountee, and disposèd that he wold
Wedde her only, if ever he wedden shold.
  The day of wedding came, but no wight can        190
Tellen what woman that it shuldé be,
For which mervaillé wondred many a man,
And saiden, whan they were in privetee,
Wol not our lord yet leve his vanitee?
Wol he not wedde? alas, alas the while!        195
Why wol he thus himself and us begile?
  But natheles this markis hath do make
Of gemmes, sette in gold and in asure,
Broches and ringes, for Grisildes sake,
And of her clothing toke he the mesure        200
Of a maiden like unto her stature,
And eke of other ornamentés all,
That unto swiche a wedding shuldé fall.
  The time of underne of the same day
Approcheth, that this wedding shuldé be,        205
And all the paleis put was in array,
Both halle and chambres, eche in his degree,
Houses of office stuffèd with plentee
Ther mayst thou see of dainteous vitaillé,
That may be found, as far as lasteth Itaille.        210
  This real markis richély arraide,
Lordes and ladies in his compagnie,
The which unto the festé weren praide,
And of his retenue the bachelerie,
With many a sound of sondry melodie,        215
Unto the village, of the which I told,
In this array the righté way they hold.
  Grisilde of this (God wot) ful innocent,
That for her shapen was all this array,
To fetchen water at a welle is went,        220
And cometh home as sone as ever she may.
For wel she had herd say, that thilké day
The markis shuldé wedde, and, if she might,
She woldé fayn han seen some of that sight.
  She thought, “I wol with other maidens stond,        225
That ben my felawes, in our dore, and see
The markisesse, and therto wol I fond
To don at home, as soon as it may be,
The labour which that longeth unto me,
And than I may at leiser her behold,        230
If she this way unto the castel hold.”
  And as she wolde over the threswold gon,
The markis came and gan her for to call,
And she set doun her water-pot anon
Beside the threswold in an oxes stall,        235
And doun upon her knees she gan to fall,
And with sad countenancé kneleth still,
Til she had herd what was the lordés will.
  This thoughtful markis spake unto this maid
Ful soberly, and said in this manere:        240
“Wher is your fader, Grisildis?” he said.
And she with reverence in humble chere
Answered, “Lord, he is al redy here.”
And in she goth withouten lenger lette,
And to the markis she hire fader fette.        245
  He by the hand than toke this poure man,
And saide thus, whan he him had aside:
“Janicola, I neither may nor can
Longer the plesance of mine herté hide,
If that thou vouchesauf, what so betide,        250
Thy doughter wol I take or that I wend
As for my wif, unto her livés end.
  “Thou lovest me, that wot I wel certain,
And art my faithful liegéman ybore,
And all that liketh me, I dare wel sain        255
It liketh thee, and specially therfore
Tell me that point, that I have said before,
If that thou wolt unto this purpos drawe,
To taken me as for thy son in lawe.”
  This soden cas this man astoned so,        260
That red he wex, abaist, and al quaking
He stood, unnethès said he wordés mo,
But only thus; “Lord,” quod he, “my willing
Is as ye wol, ne ageins your liking
I wol no thing, min owen lord so dere,        265
Right as you list, governeth this matere.”
  “Than wol I,” quod this markis softely,
“That in thy chambre, I, and thou, and she,
Have a collation, and wost thou why?
For I wol ask her, if it her wille be        270
To be my wif, and rule her after me:
And all this shal be done in thy presence,
I wol not speke out of thine audience.”
  And in the chambre, while they were about
The tretee, which as ye shul after here,        275
The peple came into the hous without,
And wondred them, in how honest manere
Ententifly she kept hire fader dere:
But utterly Grisildis wonder might,
For never erst ne saw she swiche a sight.        280
  No wonder is though that she be astoned,
To see so gret a gest come in that place,
She never was to non such gestes woned,
For which she loked with ful pale face.
But shortly forth this matere for to chace,        285
These are the wordés that the markis said
To this benigné, veray, faithful maid.
  “Grisilde,” he said, “ye shuln wel understond,
It liketh to your fader and to me,
That I you wedde, and eke it may so stond        290
As I suppose, ye wol that it so be:
But thise demaundés aske I first (quod he)
That sin it shal be don in hasty wise,
Wol ye assent, or elles you avise?
  “I say this, be ye redy with good herte        295
To all my lust, and that I freely may
As me best thinketh do you laugh or smerte,
And never ye to grutchen, night ne day,
And eke whan I say yea, ye say not nay,
Neither by word, ne frouning countenance?        300
Swere this, and here I swere our alliance.”
  Wondring upon this thing, quaking for drede,
She saide, “Lord, indigne and unworthy
Am I, to thilke honour, that ye me bede,
But as ye wol yourself, right so wol I:        305
And here I swere, that never willingly
In werk, ne thought, I n’ill you disobeie
For to be ded, though me were loth to deie.”
  “This is ynough, Grisilde min,” quod he.
And forth he goth with a ful sobre chere,        310
Out at the dore, and after then came she,
And to the peple he said in this manere:
“This is my wif,” quod he, “that stondeth here.
Honoureth her, and loveth her, I pray,
Who so me loveth, ther n’is no more to say.”        315
  And for that nothing of her oldé gere
She shulde bring into his hous, he bad
That women shuld despoilen her right there,
Of which thise ladies weren nothing glad
To handle her clothes wherin she was clad:        320
But natheles this maiden bright of hew
Fro foot to hed they clothed han all new.
  Her heres han they kempt, that lay untressed
Ful rudély, and with her fingres smal
A coroune on her hed they han ydressed,        325
And sette her ful of nouches gret and smal:
Of her array what shuld I make a tale?
Unneth the peple her knew for her fairnesse,
Whan she transmewèd was in swiche richesse.
  This markis hath her spousèd with a ring        330
Brought for the same cause, and than her sette
Upon an hors snow-white, and wel ambling,
And to his paleis, or he lenger lette,
(With joyful peple, that her lad and mette)
Conveyèd her, and thus the day they spende        335
In revel, til the sonné gan descende.
  And shortly forth this tale for to chace,
I say, that to this newé markisesse
God hath swiche favour sent her of his grace,
That it ne semeth not by likelinesse        340
That she was borne and fed in rudenesse,
As in a cote, or in an oxes stall,
But nourished in an emperoures hall.
  To every wight she waxen is so dere,
And worshipful, that folk ther she was bore        345
And fro her birthé knew her yere by yere,
Unnethes trowed they, but dorst han swore,
That to Janicle, of which I spake before,
She doughter n’as, for as by conjecture
Hem thoughte she was another creáture.        350
  For though that ever vertuous was she,
She was encresèd in swiche excellence
Of thewés good, yset in high bountee,
And so discrete, and faire of eloquence,
So benigne, and so digne of reverence,        355
And coudé so the peples herte embrace,
That eche her loveth that loketh on her face.
  Nor only of Saluces in the toun
Publishèd was the bountee of her name,
But eke beside in many a regioun,        360
If one saith wel, another saith the same:
So spredeth of her hie bountee the fame,
That men and women, yong as wel as old,
Gon to Saluces upon her to behold.
  Thus Walter lowly, nay but rëally,        365
Wedded with fortunat honestetee,
In Goddés peace liveth ful esily
At home, and grace ynough outward had he:
And for he saw that under low degree
Was honest vertue hid, the peple him held        370
A prudent man, and that is seen ful seld.
  Not only this Grisildis thurgh her wit
Coude all the fete of wifly homlinesse,
But eke whan that the cas required it,
The comuné profit coude she redresse:        375
Ther n’as discord, rancour, ne hevinesse
In all the lond, that she ne coude appese,
And wisely bring hem all in hertés ese.
  Though that her husbond absent were or non,
If gentilmen, or other of that contree        380
Were wroth, she wolde bringen them at one,
So wise and ripe wordes hadde she,
And jugement of so gret equitee,
That she from heven sent was, as men wend,
Peple to save, and every wrong to amend.        385
  Not longe time after that this Grisilde
Was wedded, she a doughter hath ybore,
All had hire lever han borne a knave child:
Glad was the markis and his folk therfore,
For though a maiden childe come all before,        390
She may unto a knave child atteine
By likelyhed, sin she n’is not barreine.

  Ther fell, as it befalleth timés mo,
Whan that this childe had soukèd but a throwe,
This markis in his herté longèd so        395
To tempt his wif, her sadnesse for to knowe,
That he ne might out of his herte throwe
This marveillous desir his wif to assay,
Needles, God wot, he thought hire to affray.
  He had assaied her enough before,        400
And found her ever good, what nedeth it
Her for to tempt, and alway more and more?
Though some men praise it for a subtil wit,
But as for me, I say that evil it sit
To assay a wife when that it is no nede,        405
And putten her in anguish and in drede.
  For which this markis wrought in this manere;
He came a-night alone ther as she lay
With sterné face, and with ful trouble chere,
And sayde thus: “Grisilde” (quod he) “that day        410
That I you toke out of your poure array,
And put you in estat of high noblesse,
Ye han it not forgotten, as I gesse.
  “I say, Grisilde, this present dignitee,
In which that I have put you, as I trow,        415
Maketh you not forgetful for to be
That I you toke in poure estat ful low,
For ony wele ye mote yourselven know.
Take hede of every word that I you say,
Ther is no wight that hereth it but we tway.        420
  “Ye wote yourself wel how that ye came here
Into this hous, it is not long ago,
And though to me ye be right lefe and dere,
Unto my gentils ye be nothing so:
They say, to hem it is gret shame and wo        425
For to be suggetes, and ben in servage
To thee, that borne art of a smal linage.
  “And namely since thy doughter was ybore,
These wordes han they spoken douteles,
But I desire, as I have don before,        430
To live my lif with them in rest and peace:
I may not in this case be reccheles;
I mote do with thy doughter for the best,
Not as I wold, but as my gentils lest.
  “And yet, God wote, this is ful loth to me:        435
But natheles withouten youre weting
I wol nought do, but thus wol I (quod he)
That ye to me assenten in this thing.
Shew now youre patience in youre werking
That ye me hight and swore in youre village        440
The day that makéd was our mariage.”
  Whan she had herd all this, she not ameved
Neyther in word, in chere, ne countenance,
(For as it semed, she was not agreved)
She sayde: “Lord, all lith in your plesance,        445
My child and I, with hertely obeisance
Ben youres all, and ye may save or spill,
Your owen thing: werketh after your will.
  Ther may no thing, so God my soule save,
Like unto you, that may displesen me:        450
Ne I desire nothing for to have,
Ne drede for to lese, sauf only ye:
This will is in myn herte, and ay shal be,
No length of time, or deth may this deface,
Ne change my corage to an other place.”        455
  Glad was this markis for her answering,
But yet he feined as he were not so,
Al drery was his chere and his loking,
Whan that he shuld out of the chambre go.
Sone after this, a furlong way or two,        460
He prively hath told all his entent
Unto a man, and to his wif him sent.
  A maner sergeant was this privé man,
The which he faithful often founden had
In thinges gret, and eke swiche folk wel can        465
Don execution on thinges bad:
The lord knew wel, that he him loved and drad.
And whan this sergeant wist his lordes will,
Into the chambre he stalked him ful still.
  “Madame,” he sayd, “ye mote forgive it me,        470
Though I do thing, to which I am constreined:
Ye ben so wise, that right wel knowen ye,
That lordés hestés may not ben yfeined,
They may wel be bewailed and complained,
But men mote nedes to their lust obey,        475
And so wol I, ther n’is no more to say.
  “This child I am commanded for to take.”
And spake no more, but out the child he hent
Despiteously, and gan a chere to make,
As though he wold have slain it, or he went.        480
Grisildis must al suffer and al consent:
And as a lambe, she sitteth meke and still,
And let this cruel sergeant do his will.
  Suspecious was the diffame of this man,
Suspect his face, suspect his word also,        485
Suspect the time in which he this began:
Alas! her doughter, that she lovèd so,
She wende he wold han slaién it right tho,
But natheles she neither wept ne siked,
Conforming her to that the markis liked.        490
  But at the last to speken she began,
And mekely she to the sergeant praid
(So as he was a worthy gentil man)
That she might kiss her child, or that it deid:
And in her barme this litel child she leid,        495
With ful sad face, and gan the child to blisse,
And lulled it, and after gan it kisse.
  And thus she sayd in her benigne vois:
“Farewel, my child, I shal thee never see,
But sin I have thee marked with the crois,        500
Of thilke fader yblessed mote thou be,
That for us died upon a crois of tree:
Thy soule, litel child, I him betake,
For this night shalt thou dien for my sake.”
  I trow that to a norice in this case        505
It had ben hard this routhe for to see:
Wel might a moder than han cried alas,
But natheles so sad stedfast was she,
That she endured all adversitee,
And to the sergeant mekely she sayde,        510
“Have here agen your litel yonge mayde.
  “Goth now” (quod she) “and doth my lordés hest:
And one thing wold I pray you of your grace,
But if my lord forbade you at the lest,
Burieth this litel body in some place,        515
That bestes ne no birdies it to-race.”
But he no word to that purpos wold say,
But toke the child and went upon his way.
  This sergeant came unto his lord again,
And of Grisildés wordés and her chere        520
He told him point for point, in short and plain,
And him presented with his doughter dere.
Somwhat this lord hath routhe in his manere,
But natheles his purpos held he still,
As lordes don, whan they wol han hir will.        525
  And bad this sergeant that he prively
Shulde this child ful softe wind and wrappe,
With alle circumstances tendrely,
And carry it in a coffer, or in a lappe;
But upon peine his hed off for to swappe        530
That no man shulde know of his entent,
Ne whence he came, ne whither that he went;
  But at Boloigne, unto his sister dere,
That thilke time of Pavie was countesse,
He shuld it take, and shew hire this matere,        535
Beseching hire to don her besinesse
This child to fostren in all gentillesse,
And whos child that it was he bade her hide
From every wight, for ought that may betide.
  This sergeant goth, and hath fulfilde this thing.        540
But to this marquis now retorné we;
For now goth he ful fast imagining,
If by his wivés chere he mighté see,
Or by her wordés apperceive, that she
Were changed, but he never coud hire finde,        545
But ever in one ylike sad and kinde.
  As glad, as humble, as besy in service
And eke in love, as she was wont to be,
Was she to him, in every manner wise;
Ne of her doughter not a word spake she:        550
Non accident for non adversitee
Was seen in her, ne never her doughter’s name
Ne nevened she, for ernest ne for game.

  In this estat ther passèd ben foure yere
Er she with childe was, but, as God wold,        555
A knave childe she bare by this Waltere
Ful gracious, and fair for to behold:
And whan that folk it to his fader told,
Not only he, but all his contree mery
Was for this childe, and God they thonke and hery.        560
  Whan it was two yere old, and from the brest
Departed of his norice, on a day
This markis caughte yet another lest
To tempte his wif yet ofter, if he may.
O! nedeles was she tempted in assay.        565
But wedded men ne connen no mesure,
Whan that they finde a patient creature.
  “Wif,” quod this markis, “ye han herd or this
My peple sikely beren our mariage,
And namely sin my son yboren is,        570
Now is it worse than ever in all our age:
The murmur sleth myn herte and my corage,
For to mine eres cometh the vois so smerte,
That it wel nie destroyed hath my herte.
  “Now say they thus, whan Walter is agon,        575
Than shal the blood of Janicle succede,
And ben our lord, for other han we none:
Swiche wordes sayn my peple, it is no drede,
Wel ought I of swiche murmur taken hede,
For certainly I drede al swiche sentence,        580
Though they not plainen in myn audience.
  “I wolde live in pees, if that I might:
Wherfore I am disposed utterly,
As I his suster served er by night,
Right so thinke I to serve him prively.        585
This warne I you, that ye not sodenly
Out of yourself for no wo shuld outraie,
Beth patient, and thereof I you praie.”
  “I have,” quod she, “sayd thus and ever shal,
I wol no thing, ne n’ill no thing certain,        590
But as you list: not greveth me at al,
Though that my doughter and my sone be slain
At your commandement: that is to sain,
I have not had no part of children twein,
But first sikenesse, and after wo and peine.        595
  “Ye ben my lord, doth with your owen thing
Right as you list, asketh no rede of me:
For as I left at home al my clothing
Whan I came first to you, right so (quod she)
Left I my will and al my libertee,        600
And toke your clothing: wherfore I you prey,
Doth your plesance, I wol youre lust obey.
  “And certes, if I hadde prescience
Your will to know, er ye your lust me told,
I wold it do withouten negligence:        605
But now I wote your lust, and what ye wold,
All your plesance ferme and stable I hold,
For wist I that my deth might do you ese,
Right gladly wold I dien, you to plese.
  “Deth may not maken no comparisoun        610
Unto your love.” And whan this markis say
The constance of his wif, he cast adoun
His eyen two, and wondreth how she may
In patience suffer al this array:
And forth he goth with drery contenance,        615
But to his herte it was ful gret plesance.
  This ugly sergeant in the same wise
That he her doughter caughte, right so he
(Or werse, if men can any werse devise)
Hath hent her son, that ful was of beautee:        620
And ever in on so patient was she,
That she no chere made of hevinesse,
But kist her sone and after gan it blesse.
  Save this she praied him, if that he might,
Her litel sone he wold in erthé grave,        625
His tendre limmés, delicat to sight,
Fro foules and fro bestes for to save.
But she non answer of him mighte have,
He went his way, as him no thing ne rought,
But to Boloigne he tendrely it brought.        630
  This markis wondreth ever lenger the more
Upon her patience, and if that he
Ne hadde sothly knowen therbefore,
That parfitly her children lovèd she,
He wold han wend that of som subtiltee        635
And of malice, or for cruel corage,
That she had suffred this with sad visage.
  But wel he knew, that next himself, certain
She loved her children best in every wise.
But now of women wold I asken fayn,        640
If thise assaies mighten not suffise;
What coud a sturdy husbond more devise
To preve her wifhood, and her stedfastnesse,
And he continuing ever in sturdinesse?
  But ther be folk of such condition,        645
That, whan they han a certain purpos take,
They can not stint of their intention,
But, right as they were bounden to a stake,
They wol not of their firste purpose slake:
Right so this markis fully hath purposed        650
To tempt his wif, as he was first disposed.
  He waiteth, if by word or contenance
That she to him was changed of corage:
But never coud he finden variance,
She was ay one in herte and in visage,        655
And ay the further that she was in age,
The more trewe (if that were possible)
She was to him in love, and more penible.
  For which it semed thus, that of them two
Ther was but one will; for as Walter lest,        660
The same lust was hire plesance also;
And God be thanked, all fell for the best.
She shewed wel, for no worldly unrest
A wif, as of hirself, no thing ne sholde
Wille in effect, but as her husbond wolde.        665
  The sclandre of Walter wonder wide spradde,
That of a cruel herte he wikkedly,
For he a poure woman wedded hadde,
Hath murdred both his children prively:
Such murmur was among them comunly.        670
No wonder is: for to the peples’ ere
Ther came no word, but that they murdred were.
  For which ther as his people therbefore
Had loved him wel, the sclandre of his diffame
Made them that they him hateden therfore:        675
To ben a murdrour is an hateful name.
But natheles, for ernest ne for game,
He of his cruel purpos n’olde stente,
To tempt his wif was sette all his entente.
  Whan that his doughter twelf yere was of age,        680
He to the court of Rome, in subtil wise
Enformed of his will, sent his message,
Commanding him, swiche billes to devise,
As to his cruel purpos may suffise,
How that the pope, as for his peples rest,        685
Bade him to wed another, if him lest.
  I say he bade, they shulden contrefete
The popes bulles, making mention
That he hath leve his firste wif to lete,
As by the popes dispensation,        690
To stinten rancour and dissension
Betwix his peple and him: thus spake the bull,
The which they han publishèd at the full.
  The rude peple, as no wonder is,
Wenden ful wel, that it had ben right so:        695
But whan thise tidings came to Grisildis,
I deme that her herte was ful of wo;
But she ylike sad for evermo
Disposed was, this humble creature,
The adversitee of fortune al to endure;        700
  Abiding ever his lust and his plesance,
To whom that she was yeven, herte and al,
As to hire veray worldly suffisance.
But shortly if this storie tell I shal,
This markis writen hath in special        705
A lettre, in which he sheweth his entente,
And secretly he to Boloigne it sente,
  To the erl of Pavie, which that hadde tho
Wedded his suster, prayed he specially
To bringen home agein his children two        710
In honourable estat al openly:
But one thing he him prayèd utterly,
That he to no wight, though men wold enquere,
Shulde not tell whos children that they were,
  But say, the maiden shuld ywedded be        715
Unto the markis of Saluces anon.
And as this erl was prayed, so did he,
For at day sette he on his way is gon
Toward Saluces, and lordes many on
In rich arraie, this maiden for to gide,        720
Her yonge brother riding hire beside.
  Arraied was toward her mariage
This fresshe maiden, ful of gemmes clere,
Her brother, which that seven yere was of age,
Arraied eke ful fresh in his manere:        725
And thus in gret noblesse and with glade chere
Toward Saluces shaping their journay
Fro day to day they riden in their way.

  Among al this, after his wicked usage,
This markis yet his wif to tempten more        730
To the uttereste proof of hire corage,
Fully to have experience and lore,
If that she were as stedefast as before,
He on a day in open audience
Ful boistously hath said her this sentence:        735
  “Certes, Grisilde, I had ynough plesance
To han you to my wif, for your goodnesse,
And for your trouthe, and for your obeysance,
Not for your linage, ne for your richesse,
But now know I in veray sothfastnesse,        740
That in gret lordship, if I me wel avise,
Ther is gret servitude in sondry wise.
  “I may not do, as every ploughman may:
My peple me constreineth for to take
Another wif, and crien day by day;        745
And eke the pope rancour for to slake
Consenteth it, that dare I undertake:
And trewely, thus moche I wol you say,
My newe wif is coming by the way.
  “Be strong of herte, and voide anon hire place,        750
And thilke dower that ye broughten me
Take it agen, I grant it of my grace,
Returneth to your fadres hous, (quod he)
No man may alway have prosperitee.
With even herte I rede you to endure        755
The stroke of fortune, or of aventure.”
  And she agen answerd in patience:
“My lord,” quod she, “I wote, and wist alway,
How that betwixen your magnificence
And my poverte no wight ne can ne may        760
Maken comparison, it is no nay;
I ne held me never digne in no manere
To be your wif, ne yet your chamberere.
  “And in this hous, ther ye me lady made,
(The highe God take I for my witnesse,        765
And all so wisly he my soule glad)
I never held me lady ne maistresse,
But humble servant to your worthinesse,
And ever shal, while that my lif may dure,
Aboven every worldly creature.        770
  “That ye so longe of your benignitee
Han holden me in honour and nobley,
Wheras I was not worthy for to be,
That thanke I God and you, to whom I prey
Foryelde it you, ther is no more to sey:        775
Unto my fader gladly wol I wende,
And with him dwell unto my livés ende;
  “Ther I was fostred of a childe ful smal,
Till I be dead my life there will I lead,
A widew clene in body, herte and al.        780
For sith I gave to you my maidenhede,
And am your trewe wif, it is no drede,
God shilde such a lordés wif to take
Another man to husbond or to make.
  “And of your newe wif, God of his grace        785
So graunte you wele and prosperite:
For I wol gladly yelden her my place,
In which that I was blisful wont to be.
For sith it liketh you, my lord, (quod she)
That whilom weren all myn hertés rest,        790
That I shal gon, I wot go whan you lest.
  “But ther as ye me profer swiche dowaire
As I first brought, it is wel in my mind,
It were my wretched clothés, nothing faire,
The which to me were hard now for to find.        795
O goode God! how gentil and how kind
Ye semed by your speche and your visage,
The day that maked was oure marriage!
  “But soth is said, algate I find it trewe,
For in effect it preved is on me,        800
Love is not old, as whan that it is newe.
But certes, lord, for non adversitee
To dien in this cas, it shal not be
That ever in word or werke I shal repent,
That I you yave min herte in whole entent.        805
  “My lord, ye wot, that in my father’s place
Ye did me stripe out of my poure wede.
And richely ye clad me of your grace;
To you brought I nought elles out of drede,
But faith and nakednesse, and maidenhede;        810
And here agen your clothing I restore,
And eke your wedding ring for evermore.
  “The remenant of your jeweles redy be
Within your chambre, I dare it safly sain;
Naked out of my father’s hous (quod she)        815
I came, and naked I mote turne again.
All your plesance wolde I folwe fain:
But yet I hope it be not your entent,
That I smockless out of your paleis went.
  “Ye coude not do so dishonest a thing,        820
That thilke wombe, in which your children lay,
Shulde before the peple, in my walking,
Be seen al bare: wherfore I you pray
Let me not like a worme go by the way:
Remembre you, min owen lord so dere,        825
I was your wif, though I unworthy were.
  “Wherfore in guerdon of my maidenhede,
Which that I brought and not agen I bere,
As vouchesauf to yeve me to my mede
But swiche a smok as I was wont to were,        830
That I therwith may wrie the wombe of her
That was your wif: and here I take my leve
Of you, min owen lord, lest I you greve.”
  “The smok,” quod he, “that thou hast on thy bake,
Let it be still, and bere it forth with thee.”        835
But wel unnethes thilke word he spake,
But went his way for routhe and for pitee.
Before the folk hireselven stripeth she,
And in her smok, with foot and hed al bare,
Toward her fadres hous forth is she fare.        840
  The folk her folwen weping in hir wey,
And fortune ay they cursen as they gon:
But she fro weping kept her eyen drey,
Ne in this time word ne spake she non.
Her fader, that this tiding herd anon,        845
Curseth the day and time, that nature
Shope him to ben a lives creature.
  For out of doute this olde poure man
Was ever in suspect of her mariage:
For ever he demed, sin it first began,        850
That whan the lord fulfilled had his corage,
Him wolde thinke it were a disparage
To his estat, so lowe for to alight,
And voiden her as sone as ever he might.
  Agein his doughter hastily goth he,        855
(For he by noise of folk knew her coming)
And with her olde cote, as it might be,
He covereth her ful sorwefully weping:
But on her body might he it not bring,
For rude was the cloth, and more of age        860
By daies fele than at her mariage.
  Thus with her fader for a certain space
Dwelleth this flour of wifly patience,
That nother by her wordes ne her face,
Beforn the folk, ne eke in her absence,        865
Ne shewed she that her was don offence,
Ne of her high estat no remembrance
Ne hadde she, as by hire contenance.
  No wonder is, for in her gret estat
Her gost was ever in pleine humilitee;        870
No tendre mouth, no herte delicat,
No pompe, no semblant of realtee;
But ful of patient benignitee,
Discrete, and prideles, ay honourable,
And to her husbond ever meke and stable.        875
  Men speke of Job, and most for his humblesse,
As clerkes, whan hem list, can wel endite,
Namely of men, but as in sothfastnesse,
Though clerkes preisen women but a lite,
Ther can no man in humblesse him acquite        880
As woman can, ne can be half so trewe
As women ben, but it be falle of newe.

  Fro Boloigne is this erl of Pavie come,
Of which the fame up sprang to more and lesse:
And to the peples eres all and some        885
Was couth eke, that a newe markisesse
He with him brought, in swiche pomp and richesse,
That never was ther seen with mannes eye
So noble array in al West Lumbardie.
  The markis, which that shope and knew all this,        890
Er that this erl was come, sent his message
For thilke poure sely Grisildis;
And she with humble herte and glad visage,
Not with no swollen thought in her corage,
Came at his hest, and on her knees her sette,        895
And reverently and wisely she him grette.
  “Grisilde,” (quod he) “my will is utterly,
This maiden, that shal wedded be to me,
Received be to-morwe as really
As it possible is in myn hous to be:        900
And eke that every wight in his degree
Have his estat in sitting and service,
And high plesance, as I can best devise.
  “I have no woman suffisant certain
The chambres for to array in ordinance        905
After my lust, and therfore wolde I fain,
That thin were all swiche manere governance:
Thou knowest eke of old all my plesance;
Though thin array be bad, and evil besey,
Do thou thy devoir at the leste wey.        910
  Not only, lord, that I am glad (quod she)
To don your lust, but I desire also
You for to serve and plese in my degree,
Withouten fainting, and shal evermo:
Ne never for no wele, ne for no wo,        915
Ne shal the gost within myn herte stente
To love you best with all my trewe entente.”
  And with that word she gan the hous to dight,
And tables for to sette, and beddes make,
And peined hire to don all that she might,        920
Praying the chambereres for Goddés’ sake
To hasten hem, and faste swepe and shake,
And she the moste serviceable of all
Hath every chambre arraied, and his hall.
  Abouten undern gan this erl alight,        925
That with him brought thise noble children twey;
For which the peple ran to see the sight
Of hir arrayed, so richely besey:
And than at erst amonges them they sey,
That Walter was no fool, though that him lest        930
To change his wif; for it was for the best.
  For she is fairer, as they demen all,
Than is Grisilde, and more tendre of age,
And fairer fruit betwene hem shulde fall,
And more plesant for hire high linage:        935
Hire brother eke so faire was of visage,
That hem to seen the peple hath caught plesance,
Commending now the markis governance.
  O stormy peple; unsad and ever untrewe,
And undiscrete, and changing as a fane,        940
Delighting ever in rombel that is newe,
For like the mone waxen ye and wane:
Ay ful of clapping, dere ynough a jane,
Your dome is fals, your constance evil preveth,
A ful gret fool is he that on you leveth.        945
  Thus saiden sade folk in that citee,
Whan that the peple gased up and doun:
For they were glad, right for the noveltee,
To have a newe lady of hir toun.
No more of this make I now mentioun,        950
But to Grisilde agen I wol me dresse,
And telle hire constance, and hire besinesse.
  Ful besy was Grisilde in every thing,
That to the feste was appertinent;
Right naught was she abaist of hire clothing,        955
Though it were rude, and somdel eke to-rent,
But with glad chere to the yate is went
With other folk, to grete the markisesse,
And after that doth forth hire besinesse.
  With so glad chere his gestes she receiveth,        960
And conningly everich in his degree,
That no defaute no man apperceiveth,
But ay they wondren what she mighte be,
That in so poure array was for to see,
And coude swiche honour and reverence,        965
And worthily they preisen hire prudence.
  In all this mene while she ne stent
This maide and eke hire brother to commend
With all hire herte in ful benigne entent,
So wel, that no man coud hire preise amend:        970
But at the last whan that thise lordes wend
To sitten doun to mete, he gan to call
Grisilde, as she was besy in the hall.
  “Grisilde, (quod he, as it were in his play)
How liketh thee my wif, and hire beautee?”        975
“Right wel, my lord, (quod she,) for in good fay,
A fairer saw I never non than she:
I pray to God yeve you prosperitee;
And so I hope, that he wol to you send
Plesance ynough unto your lives end.”        980
  “O thing beseche I you and warne also,
That ye ne prikke with no turmenting
This tendre maiden as ye han do mo:
For she is fostred in her norishing
More tendrely, and to my supposing        985
She mighte not adversitee endure,
As coude a poure fostred creature.”
  And when this Walter saw her patience,
Her glade chere, and no malice at all,
And he so often hadde her don offence,        990
And she ay sade and constant as a wall,
Continuing ever her innocence over all,
This sturdy markis gan his herte dresse
To rewe upon her wifly stedefastnesse.
  “This is ynough, Grisilde min, (quod he,)        995
Be now no more agast, ne evil apaid,
I have thy faith and thy benignitee,
As wel as ever woman was, assaid
I gret estat, and pourelich arraied:
Now know I, dere wif, thy stedefastnesse,        1000
And her in armes toke, and gan to kesse.
  And she for wonder toke of it no kepe,
She herde not what thing he to her said:
She ferde as she had stert out of a slepe,
Til she out of her masednesse abraid.        1005
“Grisilde, (quod he,) by God that for us deid,
Thou art my wit, non other I ne have,
Ne never had, as God my soule save.
  “This is thy doughter, which thou hast supposed
To be my wif; that other faithfully        1010
Shal be min heir, as I have ay disposed;
Thou bare hem of thy body trewely:
At Boloigne have I kept hem prively:
Take hem agen, for now maist thou not say,
That thou hast lorn non of thy children tway.        1015
  “And folk, that otherwise han said of me,
I warne hem wel, that I have don this dede
For no malice, ne for no crueltee,
But for to assay in thee thy womanhede:
And not to slee my children (God forbede)        1020
But for to kepe hem prively and still,
Til I thy purpos knew, and all thy will.”
  Whan she this herd aswoune doun she falleth
For pitous joye, and after her swouning
She both her yonge children to her calleth,        1025
And in her armes pitously weping
Embraceth hem, and tendrely kissing
Ful like a moder with her salte teres
She bathed both her visage and her heres.
  O, which a pitous thing it was to see        1030
Her swouning, and her humble vois to here!
“Grand mercy, lord, God thank it you (quod she)
That ye han saved me my children dere:
Now rekke I never to be ded right here,
Sin I stond in your love, and in your grace,        1035
No force of deth, ne whan my spirit pace.
  “O tendre, o dere, o yonge children mine,
Your woful mother wened stedfastly,
That cruel houndes, or some foul vermine
Had eten you; but God of his mercy,        1040
And your benigne fader tendrely
Hath don you kepe:” and in that same stound
Al sodenly she swapt adoun to ground.
  And in her swough so sadly holdeth she
Her children two, whan she gan hem embrace,        1045
That with gret sleight and gret difficultee
The children from her arm they gan arrace;
O! many a tere on many a pitous face
Doun ran of hem that stoden her beside,
Unnethe abouten her might they abide.        1050
  Walter her gladeth, and her sorwe slaketh,
She riseth up abashed from her trance,
And every wight her joye and feste maketh,
Til she hath caught agen her contenance.
Walter hire doth so faithfully plesance,        1055
Thet it was deintee for to seen the chere
Betwix hem two, sin they ben met in fere.
  Thise ladies, whan that they her time sey,
Han taken her, and into chambre gon,
And stripen her out of her rude arrey,        1060
And in a cloth of gold that brighte shone,
With a coroune of many a riche stone
Upon her hed, they into hall her broughte:
And ther she was honoured as her ought.
  Thus hath this pitous day a blisful end;        1065
For every man, and woman, doth his might
This day in mirth and revel to dispend,
Til on the welkin shone the sterres bright:
For more solempne in every mannes sight
This festé was, and greter of costage,        1070
Than was the revel of her mariage.
  Ful many a yere in high prosperitee
Liven thise two in concord and in rest,
And richely his doughter maried he
Unto a lord, on of the worthiest        1075
Of all Itaille, and than in pees and rest
His wivés fader in his court he kepeth,
Til that the soule out of his body crepeth.
  His sone succedeth in his heritage,
In rest and pees, after his fadres day:        1080
And fortunat was eke in mariage,
Al put he not his wif in gret assay:
This world is not so strong, it is no nay,
As it hath ben in olde times yore,
And herkneth, what this auctour saith therfore.        1085
  This story is said, not for that wives shuld
Folwe Grisilde, as in humilitee,
For it were importable, tho they wold;
But for that every wight in his degree
Shulde be constant in adversitee,        1090
As was Grisilde, therfore Petrark writeth
This storie, which with high stile he enditeth.
  For sith a woman was so patient
Unto a mortal man, wel more we ought
Receiven all in gree that God us sent.        1095
For gret skill is he preve that he wrought
But he ne tempteth no man that he bought
As saith seint Jame, if ye his pistell rede;
He preveth folk al day, it is no drede:
  And suffreth us, as for our exercise,        1100
With sharpe scourges of adversitee
Ful often to be bete in sondry wise;
Not for to know our will, for certes he
Or we were borne, knew all our freeletee;
And for our best is all his governance;        1105
Let us than live in vertuous suffrance.
  But one word, lordings, herkeneth, ere I go:
It were ful hard to finden now adayes
In all a toun Grisildes three or two:
For if that they were put to swiche assayes,        1110
The gold of hem hath now so bad alayes
With bras, that though the coine be faire at eye,
It wolde rather brast atwo than plie.
  For which here, for the wives love of Bathe,
Whos lif and al hire secte God maintene        1115
In high maistrie, and elles were it scathe,
I wol with lusty herte fresshe and grene,
Say you a song to gladen you, I wene:
And let us stint of ernestful matere.
Herkneth my song, that saith in this manere.        1120
  Grisilde is ded, and eke her patience,
And both at ones buried in Itaille:
For which I crie in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be to assaille
His wives patience, in trust to find        1125
Grisildes, for in certain he shal faille.
  O noble wives, ful of high prudence,
Let non humilitee your tonges naile:
Ne let no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of you a storie of swiche mervaille,        1130
As of Grisildis patient and kinde,
Lest Chichevache you swalwe in her entraille.
  Folweth ecco, that holdeth no silence,
But ever answereth at the countretaille:
Beth not bedaffed for your innocence,        1135
But sharply taketh on you the governaille:
Emprenteth wel this lesson in your minde,
For comun profit, sith it may availle.
  Ye archewives, stondeth ay at defence,
Sin ye be strong, as is a gret camaille,        1140
Ne suffreth not, that men do you offence.
And sclendre wives, feble as in bataille,
Beth egre as is a tigre yond in Inde;
Ay clappeth as a mill, I you counsaille.
  Ne drede hem not, doth hem no reverence,        1145
For though thin husbond armèd be in maille,
The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence
Shal perce his brest, and eke his aventaille:
In jalousie I rede eke thou him binde,
And thou shalt make him couche as doth a quaille.        1150
  If thou be faire, ther folk ben in presence
Shew thou thy visage, and thin apparaille:
If thou be foule, be free of thy dispence,
To get the frendes ay do thy travaille:
Be ay of chere as light as lefe on linde,        1155
And let him care, and wepe, and wringe, and waille.

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