Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. I. Chaucer to Donne
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. I. Early Poetry: Chaucer to Donne
Extracts from The Clerkes Tale
By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)
(See full text)

[Chaucer moralises on the story of Patient Grisildis.]

Lenuoy de Chaucer

GRISILD is deed, and eek hir pacience,
And bothe atonës buried in Itaille;
For which I crye in open audience,
No wedded man so hardy be tassaille
His wyuës pacience, in hope to fynde        5
Grisildës, for in certein he shal faille!
O noble wyuës, ful of heigh prudence,
Lat non humilitee your tongë naille,
Ne lat no clerk haue cause or diligence
To wryte of yow a storie of swich meruaille        10
As of Grisildis pacient and kynde;
Lest Chicheuache yow swelwe in hir entraille! 1
Folweth 2 Ekko, that holdeth no silence,
But euere answereth at the countretaille; 3
Beth nat bidaffed 4 for your innocence,        15
But sharply tak on yow the gouernaille.
Emprinteth wel this lesson in your mynde
For commune profit, sith it may auaille.
Ye archewyuës, 5 stondeth at defence,
Sin ye be stronge as is a greet camaille;        20
Ne suffreth nat that men yow don offence.
And slendre wyuës, feble as in bataille,
Beth egre as is a tygre yond in Ynde;
Ay clappeth as a mille, I yow consaille.
Ne dreed hem nat, do hem no reuerence;        25
For though thyn housbonde armed be in maille,
The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence
Shal perce his brest, and eek his auentaille; 6
In Ialousye I rede eek thou him bynde,
And thou shalt make him couche as doth a quaille.        30
If thou be fair, ther folk ben in presence
Shew thou thy visage and thy apparaille;
If thou be foul, be fre of thy dispence,
To gete thee frendës ay do thy trauaille;
Be ay of chere as lyght as leef on lynde, 7        35
And lat him care, and wepe, and wringe, and waille!
Note 1. An allusion to the old French fable of Chichevache and Bicorne, two monstrous cows, of which the former fed on patient wives and was consequently thin, the latter on patient husbands and was always fat. [back]
Note 2. follow: eth is the termination of 2nd pers. plural imperative. [back]
Note 3. in return. [back]
Note 4. befooled. [back]
Note 5. ruling wives. [back]
Note 6. front of helmet. [back]
Note 7. the linden tree. [back]
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