Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales (The Clerk's Tale Part 4)
In this estate there passed be four year
Ere she with childe was; but, as God wo'ld,
A knave child she bare by this Waltere,
Full gracious and fair for to behold;
And when that folk it to his father told,
Not only he, but all his country, merry
Were for this child, and God they thank and hery.
When it was two year old, and from the breast
Departed of the norice, on a day taken, weaned
This marquis caughte yet another lest
To tempt his wife yet farther, if he may. another desire
Oh! needless was she tempted in as say;
But wedded men not connen no measure,
When that they find a patient creature.
"Wife," quoth the marquis, "ye have heard ere this
My people sickly bear our marriage;
And namely since my son y-boren is,
Now is it worse than ever in all our age:
The murmur slays mine heart and my corage,
For to mine ears cometh the voice so smart,
That it well nigh destroyed hath mine heart.
"Now say they thus, 'When Walter is y-gone,
Then shall the blood of Janicol' succeed,
And be our lord, for other have we none:'
Such wordes say my people, out of drede.
Well ought I of such murmur take heed,
For certainly I dread all such sentence,
Though they not plainen in mine audience.
"I woulde live in peace, if that I might;
Wherefore I am disposed utterly,
As I his sister served ere by night,
Right so think I to serve him privily.
This warn I you, that ye not suddenly
Out of yourself for no woe should outraie;
Be patient, and thereof I you pray."
"I have," quoth she, "said thus, and ever shall,
I will no thing, nor n'ill no thing, certain,
But as you list; not grieveth me at all
Though that my daughter and my son be slain
At your commandement; that is to sayn,
I have not had no part of children twain,
But first sickness, and after woe and pain.
"Ye be my lord, do with your owen thing
Right as you list, and ask no rede of me:
For, as I left at home all my clothing
When I came first to you, right so," quoth she,
"Left I my will and all my liberty,
And took your clothing: wherefore I you pray,
Do your pleasance, I will your lust obey.
"And, certes, if I hadde prescience
Your will to know, ere ye your lust me told,
I would it do withoute negligence:
But, now I know your lust, and what ye wo'ld,
All your pleasance firm and stable I hold;
For, wist I that my death might do you ease,
Right gladly would I dien you to please.
"Death may not make no comparisoun
Unto your love." And when this marquis say
The constance of his wife, he cast adown
His eyen two, and wonder'd how she may
In patience suffer all this array;
And forth he went with dreary countenance;
But to his heart it was full great pleasance.
This ugly sergeant, in the same wise
That he her daughter caught, right so hath he
(Or worse, if men can any worse devise,)
Y-hent her son, that full was of beauty:
And ever-in-one so patient was she,
That she no cheere made of heaviness,
But kiss'd her son, and after gan him bless.
Save this she prayed him, if that he might,
Her little son he would in earthe grave,
His tender limbes, delicate to sight,
From fowles and from beastes for to save.
But she none answer of him mighte have;
He went his way, as him nothing ne raught,
But to Bologna tenderly it brought.
The marquis wonder'd ever longer more
Upon her patience; and, if that he
Not hadde soothly knowen therebefore
That perfectly her children loved she,
He would have ween'd that of some subtilty,
And of malice, or for cruel corage,
She hadde suffer'd this with sad visage.
But well he knew, that, next himself, certain
She lov'd her children best in every wise.
But now of women would I aske fain,
If these assayes mighte not suffice?
What could a sturdy husband more devise
To prove her wifehood and her steadfastness,
And he continuing ev'r in sturdiness?
But there be folk of such condition,
That, when they have a certain purpose take,
Thiey cannot stint of their intention,
But, right as they were bound unto a stake,
They will not of their firste purpose slake:
Right so this marquis fully hath purpos'd
To tempt his wife, as he was first dispos'd.
He waited, if by word or countenance
That she to him was changed of corage:
But never could he finde variance,
She was aye one in heart and in visage,
And aye the farther that she was in age,
The more true (if that 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 pleasance was her lust also;
And, God be thanked, all fell for the best.
She shewed well, for no worldly unrest,
A wife as of herself no thinge should
Will, in effect, but as her husbaud would.
The sland'r of Walter wondrous wide sprad,
That of a cruel heart he wickedly,
For he a poore woman wedded had,
Had murder'd 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 murder'd were.
For which, whereas his people therebefore
Had lov'd him well, the sland'r of his diffame
Made them that they him hated therefore.
To be a murd'rer is a hateful name.
But natheless, for earnest or for game,
He of his cruel purpose would not stent;
To tempt his wife was set all his intent.
When that his daughter twelve year was of age,
He to the Court of Rome, in subtle wise
Informed of his will, sent his message,
Commanding him such bulles to devise
As to his cruel purpose may suffice,
How that the Pope, for his people's rest,
Bade him to wed another, if him lest.
I say he bade they shoulde counterfeit
The Pope's bulles, making mention
That he had leave his firste wife to lete,
To stinte rancour and dissension
Betwixt his people and him: thus spake the bull,
The which they have published at full.
The rude people, as no wonder is,
Weened full well that it had been right so:
But, when these tidings came to Griseldis.
I deeme that her heart was full of woe;
But she, alike sad for evermo',
Disposed was, this humble creature,
Th' adversity of fortune all t' endure;
Abiding ever his lust and his pleasance,
To whom that she was given, heart and all,
As to her very worldly suffisance.
But, shortly if this story tell I shall, of her power
The marquis written hath in special
A letter, in which he shewed his intent,
And secretly it to Bologna sent.
To th' earl of Panico, which hadde tho
Wedded his sister, pray'd he specially
To bringe home again his children two
In honourable estate all openly:
But one thing he him prayed utterly,
That he to no wight, though men would inquere,
Shoulde not tell whose children that they were,
But say, the maiden should y-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 lorde's many a one
In rich array, this maiden for to guide, —
Her younge brother riding her beside.
Arrayed was toward her marriage
This freshe maiden, full of gemmes clear;
Her brother, which that seven year was of age,
Arrayed eke full fresh in his mannere:
And thus, in great nobless, and with glad cheer,
Toward Saluces shaping their journey,
From day to day they rode upon their way.
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