Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales (The Clerk's Tale Part 2)
Not far from thilke palace honourable,
Where as this marquis shope his marriage,
There stood a thorp, of sighte delectable,
In which the poore folk of that village
Hadde their beastes and their harbourage,
And of their labour took their sustenance,
After the earthe gave them abundance.
Among this poore folk there dwelt a man
Which that was holden poorest of them all;
But highe God sometimes sende can
His grace unto a little ox's stall;
Janicola men of that thorp him call.
A daughter had he, fair enough to sight,
And Griseldis this younge maiden hight.
But for to speak of virtuous beauty,
Then was she one the fairest under sun:
Full poorely y-foster'd up was she;
No likerous lust was in her heart y-run;
Well ofter of the well than of the tun
She drank, and, for she woulde virtue please
She knew well labour, but no idle ease.
But though this maiden tender were of age;
Yet in the breast of her virginity
There was inclos'd a sad and ripe corage;
And in great reverence and charity spirit
Her olde poore father foster'd she.
A few sheep, spinning, on the field she kept,
She woulde not be idle till she slept.
And when she homeward came, she would bring
Wortes, and other herbes, times oft,
The which she shred and seeth'd for her living,
And made her bed full hard, and nothing soft:
And aye she kept her father's life on loft
With ev'ry obeisance and diligence,
That child may do to father's reverence.
Upon Griselda, this poor creature,
Full often sithes this marquis set his eye,
As he on hunting rode, paraventure:
And when it fell that he might her espy,
He not with wanton looking of folly
His eyen cast on her, but in sad wise
Upon her cheer he would him oft advise;
Commending in his heart her womanhead,
And eke 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 bounte, and disposed that he would
Wed only her, if ever wed he should.
The day of wedding came, but no wight can
Telle what woman that it shoulde be;
For which marvail wonder'd many a man,
And saide, 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 natheless this marquis had done make
Of gemmes, set in gold and in azure,
Brooches and ringes, for Griselda's sake,
And of her clothing took he the measure
Of a maiden like unto her stature,
And eke of other ornamentes all
That unto such a wedding shoulde fall.
The time of undern of the same day
Approached, that this wedding shoulde be,
And all the palace put was in array,
Both hall and chamber, each in its degree,
Houses of office stuffed with plenty
There may'st thou see of dainteous vitaille,
That may be found, as far as lasts Itale.
This royal marquis, richely array'd,
Lordes and ladies in his company,
The which unto the feaste were pray'd,
And of his retinue the bach'lery,
With many a sound of sundry melody,
Unto the village, of the which I told,
In this array the right way did they hold.
Griseld' of this (God wot) full innocent,
That for her shapen was all this array,
To fetche water at a well is went,
And home she came as soon as e'er she may.
For well she had heard say, that on that day
The marquis shoulde wed, and, if she might,
She fain would have seen somewhat 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 fand
To do at home, as soon as it may be,
The labour which belongeth unto me,
And then I may at leisure her behold,
If she this way unto the castle hold."
And as she would over the threshold gon,
The marquis came and gan for her 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 kneeled still, steady
Till she had heard what was the lorde's will.
The thoughtful marquis spake unto the maid
Full soberly, and said in this mannere:
"Where is your father, Griseldis?" he said.
And she with reverence, in humble cheer,
Answered, "Lord, he is all ready here."
And in she went withoute longer let
And to the marquis she her father fet.
He by the hand then took the poore man,
And saide thus, when he him had aside:
"Janicola, I neither may nor can
Longer the pleasance of mine hearte hide;
If that thou vouchesafe, whatso betide,
Thy daughter will I take, ere that I wend,
As for my wife, unto her life's end.
"Thou lovest me, that know I well certain,
And art my faithful liegeman y-bore,
And all that liketh me, I dare well sayn
It liketh thee; and specially therefore
Tell me that point, that I have said before, —
If that thou wilt unto this purpose draw,
To take me as for thy son-in-law."
This sudden case the man astonied so,
That red he wax'd, abash'd, and all quaking
He stood; unnethes said he wordes mo',
But only thus; "Lord," quoth he, "my willing
Is as ye will, nor against your liking
I will no thing, mine owen lord so dear;
Right as you list governe this mattere."
"Then will I," quoth the marquis softely,
"That in thy chamber I, and thou, and she,
Have a collation; and know'st thou why?
For I will ask her, if her will it 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 thine audience."
And in the chamber while they were about
The treaty, which ye shall hereafter hear,
The people came into the house without,
And wonder'd them in how honest mannere
And tenderly she kept her father dear;
But utterly Griseldis wonder might,
For never erst ne saw she such a sight.
No wonder is though that she be astoned,
To see so great a guest come in that place,
She never was to no such guestes woned;
For which she looked with full pale face.
But shortly forth this matter for to chase,
These are the wordes that the marquis said
To this benigne, very, faithful maid.
"Griseld'," he said, "ye shall well understand,
It liketh to your father and to me
That I you wed, and eke it may so stand,
As I suppose ye will that it so be:
But these demandes ask I first," quoth he,
"Since that it shall be done in hasty wise;
Will ye assent, or elles you advise?
"I say this, be ye ready with good heart
To all my lust, and that I freely may,
As me best thinketh, do you laugh or smart,
And never ye to grudge, night nor day,
And eke when I say Yea, ye say not Nay,
Neither by word, nor frowning countenance?
Swear this, and here I swear our alliance."
Wond'ring upon this word, quaking for dread,
She saide; "Lord, indigne and unworthy
Am I to this honour that ye me bede,
But as ye will yourself, right so will I:
And here I swear, that never willingly
In word or thought I will you disobey,
For to be dead; though me were loth to dey."
"This is enough, Griselda mine," quoth he.
And forth he went with a full sober cheer,
Out at the door, and after then came she,
And to the people he said in this mannere:
"This is my wife," quoth he, "that standeth here.
Honoure her, and love her, I you pray,
Whoso me loves; there is no more to say."
And, for that nothing of her olde gear
She shoulde bring into his house, he bade
That women should despoile her right there;
Of which these ladies were nothing glad
To handle her clothes wherein she was clad:
But natheless this maiden bright of hue
From foot to head they clothed have all new.
Her haires have they comb'd that lay untress'd
Full rudely, and with their fingers small
A crown upon her head they have dress'd,
And set her full of nouches great and small:
Of her array why should I make a tale?
Unneth the people her knew for her fairness,
When she transmuted was in such richess.
The marquis hath 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, ere he longer let ed
With joyful people, that her led and met,
Conveyed her; and thus the day they spend
In revel, till the sunne gan descend.
And, shortly forth this tale for to chase,
I say, that to this newe marchioness
God hath such favour sent her of his grace,
That it ne seemed not by likeliness
That she was born and fed in rudeness, —
As in a cot, or in an ox's stall, —
But nourish'd in an emperore's hall.
To every wight she waxen is so dear
And worshipful, that folk where she was born,
That from her birthe knew her year by year,
Unnethes trowed they, but durst have sworn,
That to Janicol' of whom I spake before,
She was not daughter, for by conjecture
Them thought she was another creature.
For though that ever virtuous was she,
She was increased in such excellence
Of thewes good, y-set in high bounte,
And so discreet, and fair of eloquence,
So benign, and so digne of reverence,
And coulde so the people's heart embrace,
That each her lov'd that looked on her face.
Not only of Saluces in the town
Published was the bounte of her name,
But eke besides in many a regioun;
If one said well, another said the same:
So spread of here high bounte the fame,
That men and women, young as well as old,
Went to Saluces, her for to behold.
Thus Walter lowly, — nay, but royally,-
Wedded with fortn'ate honestete,
In Godde's peace lived full easily
At home, and outward grace enough had he:
And, for he saw that under low degree
Was honest virtue hid, the people him held
A prudent man, and that is seen full seld'.
Not only this Griseldis through her wit
Couth all the feat of wifely homeliness,
But eke, when that the case required it,
The common profit coulde she redress:
There n'as discord, rancour, nor heaviness
In all the land, that she could not appease,
And wisely bring them all in rest and ease
Though that her husband absent were or non,
If gentlemen or other of that country,
Were wroth, she woulde bringe them at one,
So wise and ripe wordes hadde she,
And judgement of so great equity,
That she from heaven sent was, as men wend,
People to save, and every wrong t'amend
Not longe time after that this Griseld'
Was wedded, she a daughter had y-bore;
All she had lever borne a knave child,
Glad was the marquis and his folk therefore;
For, though a maiden child came all before,
She may unto a knave child attain
By likelihood, since she is not barren
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