Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales (The Clerk's Tale Part 1)
There is, right at the west side of Itale,
Down at the root of Vesulus the cold,
A lusty plain, abundant of vitaille;
There many a town and tow'r thou may'st behold,
That founded were in time of fathers old,
And many another delectable sight;
And Saluces this noble country hight.
A marquis whilom lord was of that land,
As were his worthy elders him before,
And obedient, aye ready to his hand,
Were all his lieges, bothe less and more:
Thus in delight he liv'd, and had done yore,
Belov'd and drad, through favour of fortune,
Both of his lordes and of his commune.
Therewith he was, to speak of lineage,
The gentilest y-born of Lombardy,
A fair person, and strong, and young of age,
And full of honour and of courtesy:
Discreet enough his country for to gie,
Saving in some things that he was to blame;
And Walter was this younge lordes name.
I blame him thus, that he consider'd not
In time coming what might him betide,
But on his present lust was all his thought,
And for to hawk and hunt on every side;
Well nigh all other cares let he slide,
And eke he would (that was the worst of all)
Wedde no wife for aught that might befall.
Only that point his people bare so sore,
That flockmel on a day to him they went,
And one of them, that wisest was of lore
(Or elles that the lord would best assent
That he should tell him what the people meant,
Or elles could he well shew such mattere),
He to the marquis said as ye shall hear.
"O noble Marquis! your humanity
Assureth us and gives us hardiness,
As oft as time is of necessity,
That we to you may tell our heaviness:
Accepte, Lord, now of your gentleness,
What we with piteous heart unto you plain,
And let your ears my voice not disdain.
"All have I nought to do in this mattere
More than another man hath in this place,
Yet forasmuch as ye, my Lord so dear,
Have always shewed me favour and grace,
I dare the better ask of you a space
Of audience, to shewen our request,
And ye, my Lord, to do right as you lest.
"For certes, Lord, so well us like you
And all your work, and ev'r have done, that we
Ne coulde not ourselves devise how
We mighte live in more felicity:
Save one thing, Lord, if that your will it be,
That for to be a wedded man you lest;
Then were your people in sovereign hearte's rest.
"Bowe your neck under the blissful yoke
Of sovereignty, and not of service,
Which that men call espousal or wedlock:
And thinke, Lord, among your thoughtes wise,
How that our dayes pass in sundry wise;
For though we sleep, or wake, or roam, or ride,
Aye fleeth time, it will no man abide.
"And though your greene youthe flow'r as yet,
In creepeth age always as still as stone,
And death menaceth every age, and smit
In each estate, for there escapeth none:
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.
"Accepte then of us the true intent,
That never yet refused youre hest,
And we will, Lord, if that ye will assent,
Choose you a wife, in short time at the lest,
Born of the gentilest and of the best
Of all this land, so that it ought to seem
Honour to God and you, as we can deem.
"Deliver us out of all this busy dread,
And take a wife, for highe Godde's sake:
For if it so befell, as God forbid,
That through your death your lineage should slake,
And that a strange successor shoulde take
Your heritage, oh! woe were us on live:
Wherefore we pray you hastily to wive."
Their meeke prayer and their piteous cheer
Made the marquis for to have pity.
"Ye will," quoth he, "mine owen people dear,
To that I ne'er ere thought constraine me.
I me rejoiced of my liberty,
That seldom time is found in rnarriage;
Where I was free, I must be in servage!
"But natheless I see your true intent,
And trust upon your wit, and have done aye:
Wherefore of my free will I will assent
To wedde me, as soon as e'er I may.
But whereas ye have proffer'd me to-day
To choose me a wife, I you release
That choice, and pray you of that proffer cease.
"For God it wot, that children often been
Unlike their worthy elders them before,
Bounte comes all of God, not of the strene
Of which they be engender'd and y-bore:
I trust in Godde's bounte, and therefore
My marriage, and mine estate and rest,
I him betake; he may do as him lest.
"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,
That what wife that I take, ye me assure
To worship her, while that her life may dure,
In word and work both here and elleswhere,
As she an emperore's daughter were.
"And farthermore this shall ye swear, that ye
Against my choice shall never grudge nor strive.
For since I shall forego my liberty
At your request, as ever may I thrive,
Where as mine heart is set, there will I live
And but ye will assent in such mannere,
I pray you speak no more of this mattere."
With heartly will they sworen and assent
To all this thing, there said not one wight nay:
Beseeching him of grace, ere that they went,
That he would grante them a certain day
Of his espousal, soon as e'er he rnay,
For yet always the people somewhat dread
Lest that the marquis woulde no wife wed.
He granted them a day, such as him lest,
On which he would be wedded sickerly,
And said he did all this at their request;
And they with humble heart full 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
Commanded for the feaste to purvey.
And to his privy knightes and squiers
Such charge he gave, as him list on them lay:
And they to his commandement obey,
And each of them doth all his diligence
To do unto the feast all reverence.
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