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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
2. The Nun’s Priest’s Tale
 
Lines 201–400
 
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340(?)–1400)
 
 
My gold caused my mordre, sooth to sayn;’
And tolde him every poynt how he was slayn,
With a ful pitous face, pale of hewe.
And truste wel, his dreem he fond ful trewe;
For on the morwe, as sone as it was day,        205
To his felawes in he took the way;
And whan that he cam to this oxes stalle,
After his felawe he bigan to calle.
  The hostiler answerde him anon,
And seyde, ‘sire, your felawe is agon,        210
As sone as day he wente out of the toun.’
This man gan fallen in suspecioun,
Remembring on his dremes that he mette, 1
And forth he goth, no lenger wolde he lette, 2
Unto the west gate of the toun, and fond        215
A dong-carte, as it were to donge lond,
That was arrayed in that same wyse
As ye han herd the dede man devyse; 3
And with an hardy herte he gan to crye
Vengeaunce and justice of this felonye:—        220
‘My felawe mordred is this same night,
And in this carte he lyth gapinge upright. 4
I crye out on the ministres,’ 5 quod he,
‘That sholden kepe and reulen this citee;
Harrow! allas! her lyth my felawe slayn!’        225
What sholde I more un-to this tale sayn?
The peple out-sterte, and caste the cart to grounde,
And in the middel of the dong they founde
The dede man, that mordred was al newe.
  O blisful God, that art so just and trewe!        230
Lo, how that thou biwreyest mordre alway!
Mordre wol out, that se we day by day.
Mordre is so wlatsom 6 and abhominable
To God, that is so just and resonable,
That he ne wol not suffre it heled 7 be;        235
Though it abyde a yeer, or two, or three,
Mordre wol out, this 8 my conclusioun.
And right anoon, ministres of that toun
Han hent 9 the carter, and so sore him pyned, 10
And eek the hostiler so sore engyned, 11        240
That thay biknewe 12 hir wikkednesse anoon,
And were an-hanged by the nekke-boon.
  Here may men seen that dremes been to drede. 13
And certes, in the same book I rede,
Right in the nexte chapitre after this,        245
(I gabbe 14 nat, so have I joye or blis,)
Two men that wolde han passed over see,
For certeyn cause, in-to a fer contree,
If that the wind ne hadde been contrarie,
That made hem in a citee for to tarie,        250
That stood ful mery upon an haven-syde.
But on a day, agayn 15 the even-tyde,
The wind gan chaunge, and blew right as hem leste.
Jolif and glad they wente un-to hir reste,
And casten 16 hem ful erly for to saille;        255
But to that oo 17 man fel a greet mervaille.
That oon of hem, in sleping as he lay,
Him mette 18 a wonder dreem, agayn 19 the day;
Him thoughte 20 a man stood by his beddes syde,
And him comaunded, that he sholde abyde,        260
And seyde him thus, ‘If thou to-morwe wende,
Thou shalt be dreynt; 21 my tale is at an ende.’
He wook, and tolde his felawe what he mette, 22
And preyde him his viage for to lette; 23
As for that day, he preyde him to abyde.        265
His felawe, that lay by his beddes syde,
Gan for to laughe, and scorned him ful faste.
‘No dreem,’ quod he, ‘may so myn herte agaste, 24
That I wol lette 25 for to do my thinges.
I sette not a straw by thy dreminges,        270
For swevenes 26 been but vanitees and japes. 27
Men dreme al-day of owles or of apes,
And eek of many a mase 28 therwithal;
Men dreme of thing that nevere was ne shal.
But sith I see that thou wolt heer abyde,        275
And thus for-sleuthen 29 wilfully thy tyde,
God wot it reweth 30 me; and have good day.’
And thus he took his leve, and wente his way.
But er that he hadde halfe his cours y-seyled,
Noot 31 I nat why, ne what mischaunce it eyled,        280
But casuelly 32 the shippes botme rente,
And ship and man under the water wente
In sighte of othere shippes it byside,
That with hem seyled at the same tyde.
And therfor, faire Pertelote so dere,        285
By swiche ensamples olde maistow lere, 33
That no man sholde been to recchelees
Of dremes, for I sey thee, doutelees,
That many a dreem ful sore is for to drede.
  ‘Lo, in the lyf of seint Kenelm, I rede,        290
That was Kenulpus sone, the noble king
Of Mercenrike, how Kenelm mette a thing;
A lyte 34 er he was mordred, on a day.
His mordre in his avisioun he say. 35
His norice him expounded every del        295
His sweven, 36 and bad him for to kepe 37 him wel
For 38 traisoun; but he nas but seven yeer old,
And therfore litel tale hath he told 39
Of any dreem, so holy was his herte.
By God, I hadde levere 40 than my sherte        300
That ye had rad his legende, as have I.
Dame Pertelote, I sey yow trewely,
Macrobeus, that writ the avisioun
In Affrike of the worthy Cipioun,
Affermeth dremes, and seith that they been        305
Warning of thinges that men after seen.
  And forther-more, I pray yow loketh wel
In the olde testament, of Daniel,
If he held dremes any vanitee.
Reed eek of Joseph, and ther shul ye see        310
Wher dremes ben somtyme (I sey nat alle)
Warning of thinges that shul after falle.
Loke of Egipt the king, daun Pharao,
His bakere and his boteler also,
Wher they ne felte noon effect in dremes.        315
Who-so wol seken actes of sondry remes, 41
May rede of dremes many a wonder thing.
  ‘Lo Cresus, which that was of Lyde king,
Mette he nat that he sat upon a tree,
Which signified he sholde anhanged be?        320
Lo heer Andromacha, Ectores wyf,
That day that Ector sholde lese 42 his lyf,
She dremed on the same night biforn,
How that the lyf of Ector sholde be lorn, 43
If thilke day he wente in-to bataille;        325
She warned him, but it mighte nat availle;
He wente for to fighte natheles,
But he was slayn anoon of Achilles.
But thilke 44 tale is al to long to telle,
And eek it is ny 45 day, I may nat dwelle.        330
Shortly I seye, as for conclusioun,
That I shal han of this avisioun 46
Adversitee; and I seye forther-more,
That I ne telle 47 of laxatyves no store,
For they ben venimous, I woot it wel;        335
I hem defye, 48 I love hem nevere a del. 49
  ‘Now let us speke of mirthe, and stinte 50 al this;
Madame Pertelote, so have I blis,
Of o 51 thing God hath sent me large grace;
For whan I see the beautee of your face,        340
Ye ben so scarlet-reed about youre yën,
It maketh al my drede for to dyen;
For, also siker as In principio, 52
Mulier est hominis confusio; 53
Madame, the sentence of this Latin is—        345
Womman is mannes joye and al his blis.
For whan I fele a-night your softe syde,
I am so ful of joye and of solas
That I defyye bothe sweven and dreem.’
And with that word fley doun fro the beem,        350
For it was day, and eek his hennes alle;
And with a chuk he gan hem for to calle,
For he had founde a corn, lay in the yerd.
Roial he was, he was namore aferd; …
He loketh as it were a grim leoun;        355
And on his toos he rometh up and doun,
Him deyned not to sette his foot to grounde.
He chukketh, whan he hath a corn y-founde,
And to him rennen thanne his wyves alle.
Thus roial, as a prince is in his halle,        360
Leve I this Chauntecleer in his pasture;
And after wol I telle his aventure.
  Whan that the month in which the world bigan,
That highte March, whan God first maked man,
Was complet, and y-passed were also,        365
Sin March bigan, thritty dayes and two,
Bifel that Chauntecleer, in al his pryde,
His seven wyves walking by his syde,
Caste up his eyen to the brighte sonne,
That in the signe of Taurus hadde y-ronne        370
Twenty degrees and oon, and somwhat more;
And knew by kynde, 54 and by noon other lore,
That it was pryme, and crew with blisful stevene. 55
‘The sonne,’ he sayde, ‘is clomben up on hevene
Fourty degrees and oon, and more, y-wis. 56        375
Madame Pertelote, my worldes blis,
Herkneth thise blisful briddes how they singe,
And see the fresshe floures how they springe;
Ful is myn hert of revel and solas.’ 57
But sodeinly him fil 58 a sorweful cas; 59        380
For evere the latter ende of joye is wo.
Got woot that worldly joye is sone ago; 60
And if a rethor coude faire endyte, 61
He in a chronique saufly mighte it write,
As for a sovereyn notabilitee. 62        385
Now every wys man, lat him herkne me;
This storie is al-so 63 trewe, I undertake,
As is the book of Launcelot de Lake,
That wommen holde in ful gret reverence.
Now wol I torne agayn to my sentence. 64        390
  A col-fox, 65 ful of sly iniquitee,
That in the grove hadde woned 66 yeres three,
By heigh imaginacioun forn-cast, 67
The same night thurgh-out the hegges brast
Into the yerd, ther 68 Chauntecleer the faire        395
Was wont, and eek his wyves, to repaire;
And in a bed of wortes 69 stille he lay,
Til it was passed undern 70 of the day,
Wayting his tyme on Chauntecleer to falle
As gladly doon thise homicydes alle,        400
 
Note 1. Describe. [back]
Note 2. On his back. [back]
Note 3. Magistrates. [back]
Note 4. Heinous. [back]
Note 5. Concealed. [back]
Note 6. This is. [back]
Note 7. Seized. [back]
Note 8. Tortured. [back]
Note 9. Racked. [back]
Note 10. Confessed. [back]
Note 11. To be dreaded. [back]
Note 12. Lie. [back]
Note 13. Towards. [back]
Note 14. Planned. [back]
Note 15. The one. [back]
Note 16. He dreamed. [back]
Note 17. It seemed to him. [back]
Note 18. Drowned. [back]
Note 19. The one. [back]
Note 20. Delay. [back]
Note 21. Frighten. [back]
Note 22. Drowned. [back]
Note 23. Dreams. [back]
Note 24. Trifles. [back]
Note 25. Dreams. [back]
Note 26. Bewilderment. [back]
Note 27. Lose through sloth. [back]
Note 28. Makes me sorry. [back]
Note 29. Know not. [back]
Note 30. By an accident. [back]
Note 31. Mayst thou learn. [back]
Note 32. Little. [back]
Note 33. Saw. [back]
Note 34. Dream. [back]
Note 35. Guard. [back]
Note 36. Against. [back]
Note 37. Heed hath he paid. [back]
Note 38. Rather. [back]
Note 39. Realms. [back]
Note 40. Lose. [back]
Note 41. Lost. [back]
Note 42. That. [back]
Note 43. Nigh. [back]
Note 44. Vision. [back]
Note 45. Count. [back]
Note 46. Despise. [back]
Note 47. Not a bit. [back]
Note 48. Stop. [back]
Note 49. One. [back]
Note 50. “In the beginning,” John 1. I. [back]
Note 51. “Woman is man’s confusion.” [back]
Note 52. Nature. [back]
Note 53. Voice. [back]
Note 54. Certainly. [back]
Note 55. Delight. [back]
Note 56. Befel. [back]
Note 57. Accident. [back]
Note 58. Gone. [back]
Note 59. Write. [back]
Note 60. Notorious fact. [back]
Note 61. As. [back]
Note 62. Thread of my story. [back]
Note 63. Fox with black tips. [back]
Note 64. Dwelt. [back]
Note 65. Premeditated. [back]
Note 66. Where. [back]
Note 67. Herbs. [back]
Note 68. About 10.30 A. M. [back]
Note 69. Flew. [back]
Note 70. Fore-knows. [back]
 

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