Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales (The Clerk's Tale Part 6)
From Bologn' is the earl of Panic' come,
Of which the fame up sprang to more and less;
And to the people's eares all and some
Was know'n eke, that a newe marchioness
He with him brought, in such pomp and richess
That never was there seen with manne's eye
So noble array in all West Lombardy.
The marquis, which that shope and knew all this,
Ere that the earl was come, sent his message
For thilke poore sely Griseldis;
And she, with humble heart and glad visage,
Nor with no swelling thought in her corage,
Came at his hest, and on her knees her set,
And rev'rently and wisely she him gret.
"Griseld'," quoth he, "my will is utterly,
This maiden, that shall wedded be to me,
Received be to-morrow as royally
As it possible is in my house to be;
And eke that every wight in his degree
Have his estate in sitting and service,
And in high pleasance, as I can devise. condition
"I have no women sufficient, certain,
The chambers to array in ordinance
After my lust; and therefore would I fain
That thine were all such manner governance:
Thou knowest eke of old all my pleasance;
Though thine array be bad, and ill besey,
Do thou thy devoir at the leaste way."
"Not only, Lord, that I am glad," quoth she,
"To do your lust, but I desire also
You for to serve and please in my degree,
Withoute fainting, and shall evermo':
Nor ever for no weal, nor for no woe,
Ne shall the ghost within mine hearte stent
To love you best with all my true intent."
And with that word she gan the house to dight,
And tables for to set, and beds to make,
And pained her to do all that she might,
Praying the chambereres for Godde's sake
To hasten them, and faste sweep and shake,
And she the most serviceable of all
Hath ev'ry chamber arrayed, and his hall.
Aboute undern gan the earl alight,
That with him brought these noble children tway;
For which the people ran to see the sight
Of their array, so richely besey;
And then at erst amonges them they say,
That Walter was no fool, though that him lest
To change his wife; for it was for the best.
For she is fairer, as they deemen all,
Than is Griseld', and more tender of age,
And fairer fruit between them shoulde fall,
And more pleasant, for her high lineage:
Her brother eke so fair was of visage,
That them to see the people hath caught pleasance,
Commending now the marquis' governance.
"O stormy people, unsad and ev'r untrue,
And undiscreet, and changing as a vane,
Delighting ev'r in rumour that is new,
For like the moon so waxe ye and wane:
Aye full of clapping, dear enough a jane,
Your doom is false, your constance evil preveth,
A full great fool is he that you believeth."
Thus saide the sad folk in that city,
When that the people gazed up and down;
For they were glad, right for the novelty,
To have a newe lady of their town.
No more of this now make I mentioun,
But to Griseld' again I will me dress,
And tell her constancy and business.
Full busy was Griseld' in ev'ry thing
That to the feaste was appertinent;
Right nought was she abash'd of her clothing,
Though it were rude, and somedeal eke to-rent;
But with glad cheer unto the gate she went
With other folk, to greet the marchioness,
And after that did forth her business.
With so glad cheer his guestes she receiv'd
And so conningly each in his degree,
That no defaulte no man apperceiv'd,
But aye they wonder'd what she mighte be
That in so poor array was for to see,
And coude such honour and reverence;
And worthily they praise her prudence.
In all this meane while she not stent
This maid, and eke her brother, to commend
With all her heart in full benign intent,
So well, that no man could her praise amend:
But at the last, when that these lordes wend
To sitte down to meat, he gan to call
Griseld', as she was busy in the hall.
"Griseld'," quoth he, as it were in his play,
"How liketh thee my wife, and her beauty?"
"Right well, my Lord," quoth she, "for, in good fay,
A fairer saw I never none than she:
I pray to God give you prosperity;
And so I hope, that he will to you send
Pleasance enough unto your lives end.
"One thing beseech I you, and warn also,
That ye not pricke with no tormenting
This tender maiden, as ye have done mo:
For she is foster'd in her nourishing
More tenderly, and, to my supposing,
She mighte not adversity endure
As could a poore foster'd creature."
And when this Walter saw her patience,
Her gladde cheer, and no malice at all,
And he so often had her done offence,
And she aye sad and constant as a wall,
Continuing ev'r her innocence o'er all,
The sturdy marquis gan his hearte dress
To rue upon her wifely steadfastness.
"This is enough, Griselda mine," quoth he,
"Be now no more aghast, nor evil paid,
I have thy faith and thy benignity
As well as ever woman was, assay'd,
In great estate and poorely array'd:
Now know I, deare wife, thy steadfastness;"
And her in arms he took, and gan to kiss.
And she for wonder took of it no keep;
She hearde not what thing he to her said:
She far'd as she had start out of a sleep,
Till she out of her mazedness abraid.
"Griseld'," quoth he, "by God that for us died,
Thou art my wife, none other I have,
Nor ever had, as God my soule save.
"This is thy daughter, which thou hast suppos'd
To be my wife; that other faithfully
Shall be mine heir, as I have aye dispos'd;
Thou bare them of thy body truely:
At Bologna kept I them privily:
Take them again, for now may'st thou not say
That thou hast lorn none of thy children tway.
"And folk, that otherwise have said of me,
I warn them well, that I have done this deed
For no malice, nor for no cruelty,
But to assay in thee thy womanhead:
And not to slay my children (God forbid),
But for to keep them privily and still,
Till I thy purpose knew, and all thy will."
When she this heard, in swoon adown she falleth
For piteous joy; and after her swooning,
She both her younge children to her calleth,
And in her armes piteously weeping
Embraced them, and tenderly kissing,
Full like a mother, with her salte tears
She bathed both their visage and their hairs.
O, what a piteous thing it was to see
Her swooning, and her humble voice to hear!
"Grand mercy, Lord, God thank it you," quoth she,
That ye have saved me my children dear;
Now reck I never to be dead right here;
Since I stand in your love, and in your grace,
No force of death, nor when my spirit pace.
"O tender, O dear, O young children mine,
Your woeful mother weened steadfastly
That cruel houndes, or some foul vermine,
Had eaten you; but God of his mercy,
And your benigne father tenderly
Have done you keep:" and in that same stound
All suddenly she swapt down to the ground.
And in her swoon so sadly holdeth she
Her children two, when she gan them embrace,
That with great sleight and great difficulty
The children from her arm they can arace,
O! many a tear on many a piteous face
Down ran of them that stoode her beside,
Unneth' aboute her might they abide.
Walter her gladdeth, and her sorrow slaketh:
She riseth up abashed from her trance,
And every wight her joy and feaste maketh,
Till she hath caught again her countenance.
Walter her doth so faithfully pleasance,
That it was dainty for to see the cheer
Betwixt them two, since they be met in fere.
The ladies, when that they their time sey,
Have taken her, and into chamber gone,
And stripped her out of her rude array,
And in a cloth of gold that brightly shone,
And with a crown of many a riche stone
Upon her head, they into hall her brought:
And there she was honoured as her ought.
Thus had this piteous day a blissful end;
For every man and woman did his might
This day in mirth and revel to dispend,
Till on the welkin shone the starres bright:
For more solemn in every mannes sight
This feaste was, and greater of costage,
Than was the revel of her marriage.
Full many a year in high prosperity
Lived these two in concord and in rest;
And richely his daughter married he
Unto a lord, one of the worthiest
Of all Itale; and then in peace and rest
His wife's father in his court he kept,
Till that the soul out of his body crept.
His son succeeded in his heritage,
In rest and peace, after his father's day:
And fortunate was eke in marriage,
All he put not his wife in great assay:
This world is not so strong, it is no nay,
As it hath been in olde times yore;
And hearken what this author saith, therefore;
This story is said, not for that wives should
Follow Griselda in humility,
For it were importable though they would;
But for that every wight in his degree
Shoulde be constant in adversity,
As was Griselda; therefore Petrarch writeth
This story, which with high style he inditeth.
For, since a woman was so patient
Unto a mortal man, well more we ought
Receiven all in gree that God us sent. good-will
For great skill is he proved that he wrought:
But he tempteth no man that he hath bought,
As saith Saint James, if ye his 'pistle read;
He proveth folk all day, it is no dread.
And suffereth us, for our exercise,
With sharpe scourges of adversity
Full often to be beat in sundry wise;
Not for to know our will, for certes he,
Ere we were born, knew all our frailty;
And for our best is all his governance;
Let us then live in virtuous sufferance.
But one word, lordings, hearken, ere I go:
It were full hard to finde now-a-days
In all a town Griseldas three or two:
For, if that they were put to such assays,
The gold of them hath now so bad allays
With brass, that though the coin be fair at eye,
It woulde rather break in two than ply.
For which here, for the Wife's love of Bath, —
Whose life and all her sex may God maintain
In high mast'ry, and elles were it scath,
I will, with lusty hearte fresh and green,
Say you a song to gladden you, I ween:
And let us stint of earnestful mattere.
Hearken my song, that saith in this mannere.
L'Envoy of Chaucer.
"Griseld' is dead, and eke her patience,
And both at once are buried in Itale:
For which I cry in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be t' assail
His wife's patience, in trust to find
Griselda's, for in certain he shall fail.
"O noble wives, full of high prudence,
Let no humility your tongues nail:
Nor let no clerk have cause or diligence
To write of you a story of such marvail,
As of Griselda patient and kind,
Lest Chichevache you swallow in her entrail.
"Follow Echo, that holdeth no silence,
But ever answereth at the countertail;
Be not bedaffed for your innocence,
But sharply take on you the governail;
Imprinte well this lesson in your mind,
For common profit, since it may avail.
"Ye archiwives, stand aye at defence,
Since ye be strong as is a great camail,
Nor suffer not that men do you offence.
And slender wives, feeble in battail,
Be eager as a tiger yond in Ind;
Aye clapping as a mill, I you counsail.
"Nor dread them not, nor do them reverence;
For though thine husband armed be in mail,
The arrows of thy crabbed eloquence
Shall pierce his breast, and eke his aventail;
In jealousy I rede eke thou him bind,
And thou shalt make him couch as doth a quail.
"If thou be fair, where folk be in presence
Shew thou thy visage and thine apparail:
If thou be foul, be free of thy dispence;
To get thee friendes aye do thy travail:
Be aye of cheer as light as leaf on lind,
And let him care, and weep, and wring, and wail."
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