Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales (The Clerk's Tale Part 5)
Among all this, after his wick' usage,
The marquis, yet his wife to tempte more going on
To the uttermost proof of her corage,
Fully to have experience and lore
If that she were as steadfast as before,
He on a day, in open audience,
Full boisterously said her this sentence:
"Certes, Griseld', I had enough pleasance
To have you to my wife, for your goodness,
And for your truth, and for your obeisance,
Not for your lineage, nor for your richess;
But now know I, in very soothfastness,
That in great lordship, if I well advise,
There is great servitude in sundry wise.
"I may not do as every ploughman may:
My people me constraineth for to take
Another wife, and cryeth day by day;
And eke the Pope, rancour for to slake,
Consenteth it, that dare I undertake:
And truely, thus much I will you say,
My newe wife is coming by the way.
"Be strong of heart, and void anon her place;
And thilke dower that ye brought to me,
Take it again, I grant it of my grace.
Returne to your father's house," quoth he;
"No man may always have prosperity;
With even heart I rede you to endure
The stroke of fortune or of aventure."
And she again answer'd in patience:
"My Lord," quoth she, "I know, and knew alway,
How that betwixte your magnificence
And my povert' no wight nor can nor may
Make comparison, it is no nay;
I held me never digne in no mannere
To be your wife, nor yet your chamberere.
"And in this house, where ye me lady made,
(The highe God take I for my witness,
And all so wisly he my soule glade),
I never held me lady nor mistress,
But humble servant to your worthiness,
And ever shall, while that my life may dure,
Aboven every worldly creature.
"That ye so long, of your benignity,
Have holden me in honour and nobley,
Where as I was not worthy for to be,
That thank I God and you, to whom I pray
Foryield it you; there is no more to say:
Unto my father gladly will I wend,
And with him dwell, unto my lifes end,
"Where I was foster'd as a child full small,
Till I be dead my life there will I lead,
A widow clean in body, heart, and all.
For since I gave to you my maidenhead,
And am your true wife, it is no dread,
God shielde such a lordes wife to take
Another man to husband or to make.
"And of your newe wife, God of his grace
So grant you weal and all prosperity:
For I will gladly yield to her my place,
In which that I was blissful won't to be.
For since it liketh you, my Lord," quoth she,
"That whilom weren all mine hearte's rest,
That I shall go, I will go when you lest.
"But whereas ye me proffer such dowaire
As I first brought, it is well in my mind,
It was my wretched clothes, nothing fair,
The which to me were hard now for to find.
O goode God! how gentle and how kind
Ye seemed by your speech and your visage,
The day that maked was our marriage!
"But sooth is said, — algate I find it true,
For in effect it proved is on me, —
Love is not old as when that it is new.
But certes, Lord, for no adversity,
To dien in this case, it shall not be
That e'er in word or work I shall repent
That I you gave mine heart in whole intent.
"My Lord, ye know that in my father's place
Ye did me strip out of my poore weed,
And richely ye clad me of your grace;
To you brought I nought elles, out of dread,
But faith, and nakedness, and maidenhead;
And here again your clothing I restore,
And eke your wedding ring for evermore.
"The remnant of your jewels ready be
Within your chamber, I dare safely sayn:
Naked out of my father's house," quoth she,
"I came, and naked I must turn again.
All your pleasance would I follow fain:
But yet I hope it be not your intent
That smockless I out of your palace went.
"Ye could not do so dishonest a thing,
That thilke womb, in which your children lay,
Shoulde before the people, in my walking,
Be seen all bare: and therefore I you pray,
Let me not like a worm go by the way:
Remember you, mine owen Lord so dear,
I was your wife, though I unworthy were.
Wherefore, in guerdon of my maidenhead,
Which that I brought and not again I bear,
As vouchesafe to give me to my meed
But such a smock as I was won't to wear,
That I therewith may wrie the womb of her
That was your wife: and here I take my leave
Of you, mine owen Lord, lest I you grieve."
"The smock," quoth he, "that thou hast on thy back,
Let it be still, and bear it forth with thee."
But well unnethes thilke word he spake,
But went his way for ruth and for pity.
Before the folk herselfe stripped she,
And in her smock, with foot and head all bare,
Toward her father's house forth is she fare.
The folk her follow'd weeping on her way,
And fortune aye they cursed as they gon:
But she from weeping kept her eyen drey,
Nor in this time worde spake she none.
Her father, that this tiding heard anon,
Cursed the day and time, that nature
Shope him to be a living creature.
For, out of doubt, this olde poore man
Was ever in suspect of her marriage:
For ever deem'd he, since it first began,
That when the lord fulfill'd had his corage,
He woulde think it were a disparage
To his estate, so low for to alight,
And voide her as soon as e'er he might.
Against his daughter hastily went he
(For he by noise of folk knew her coming),
And with her olde coat, as it might be,
He cover'd her, full sorrowfully weeping:
But on her body might he it not bring,
For rude was the cloth, and more of age
By dayes fele than at her marriage.
Thus with her father for a certain space
Dwelled this flow'r of wifely patience,
That neither by her words nor by her face,
Before the folk nor eke in their absence,
Ne shewed she that her was done offence,
Nor of her high estate no remembrance
Ne hadde she, as by her countenance.
No wonder is, for in her great estate
Her ghost was ever in plein humility;
No tender mouth, no hearte delicate,
No pomp, and no semblant of royalty;
But full of patient benignity,
Discreet and prideless, aye honourable,
And to her husband ever meek and stable.
Men speak of Job, and most for his humbless,
As clerkes, when them list, can well indite,
Namely of men; but, as in soothfastness,
Though clerkes praise women but a lite,
There can no man in humbless him acquite
As women can, nor can be half so true
As women be, but it be fall of new.
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