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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Geoffrey Chaucer

2. The Nun’s Priest’s Tale

Lines 201–400

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,

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,

As sone as day he wente out of the toun.’

This man gan fallen in suspecioun,

Remembring on his dremes that he mette,

And forth he goth, no lenger wolde he lette,

Unto the west gate of the toun, and fond

A dong-carte, as it were to donge lond,

That was arrayed in that same wyse

As ye han herd the dede man devyse;

And with an hardy herte he gan to crye

Vengeaunce and justice of this felonye:—

‘My felawe mordred is this same night,

And in this carte he lyth gapinge upright.

I crye out on the ministres,’ quod he,

‘That sholden kepe and reulen this citee;

Harrow! allas! her lyth my felawe slayn!’

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!

Lo, how that thou biwreyest mordre alway!

Mordre wol out, that se we day by day.

Mordre is so wlatsom and abhominable

To God, that is so just and resonable,

That he ne wol not suffre it heled be;

Though it abyde a yeer, or two, or three,

Mordre wol out, this my conclusioun.

And right anoon, ministres of that toun

Han hent the carter, and so sore him pyned,

And eek the hostiler so sore engyned,

That thay biknewe hir wikkednesse anoon,

And were an-hanged by the nekke-boon.

Here may men seen that dremes been to drede.

And certes, in the same book I rede,

Right in the nexte chapitre after this,

(I gabbe 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,

That stood ful mery upon an haven-syde.

But on a day, agayn the even-tyde,

The wind gan chaunge, and blew right as hem leste.

Jolif and glad they wente un-to hir reste,

And casten hem ful erly for to saille;

But to that oo man fel a greet mervaille.

That oon of hem, in sleping as he lay,

Him mette a wonder dreem, agayn the day;

Him thoughte a man stood by his beddes syde,

And him comaunded, that he sholde abyde,

And seyde him thus, ‘If thou to-morwe wende,

Thou shalt be dreynt; my tale is at an ende.’

He wook, and tolde his felawe what he mette,

And preyde him his viage for to lette;

As for that day, he preyde him to abyde.

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,

That I wol lette for to do my thinges.

I sette not a straw by thy dreminges,

For swevenes been but vanitees and japes.

Men dreme al-day of owles or of apes,

And eek of many a mase therwithal;

Men dreme of thing that nevere was ne shal.

But sith I see that thou wolt heer abyde,

And thus for-sleuthen wilfully thy tyde,

God wot it reweth 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 I nat why, ne what mischaunce it eyled,

But casuelly 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,

By swiche ensamples olde maistow lere,

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,

That was Kenulpus sone, the noble king

Of Mercenrike, how Kenelm mette a thing;

A lyte er he was mordred, on a day.

His mordre in his avisioun he say.

His norice him expounded every del

His sweven, and bad him for to kepe him wel

For traisoun; but he nas but seven yeer old,

And therfore litel tale hath he told

Of any dreem, so holy was his herte.

By God, I hadde levere than my sherte

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

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

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.

Who-so wol seken actes of sondry remes,

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?

Lo heer Andromacha, Ectores wyf,

That day that Ector sholde lese his lyf,

She dremed on the same night biforn,

How that the lyf of Ector sholde be lorn,

If thilke day he wente in-to bataille;

She warned him, but it mighte nat availle;

He wente for to fighte natheles,

But he was slayn anoon of Achilles.

But thilke tale is al to long to telle,

And eek it is ny day, I may nat dwelle.

Shortly I seye, as for conclusioun,

That I shal han of this avisioun

Adversitee; and I seye forther-more,

That I ne telle of laxatyves no store,

For they ben venimous, I woot it wel;

I hem defye, I love hem nevere a del.

‘Now let us speke of mirthe, and stinte al this;

Madame Pertelote, so have I blis,

Of o thing God hath sent me large grace;

For whan I see the beautee of your face,

Ye ben so scarlet-reed about youre yën,

It maketh al my drede for to dyen;

For, also siker as In principio,

Mulier est hominis confusio;

Madame, the sentence of this Latin is—

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,

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;

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,

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,

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

Twenty degrees and oon, and somwhat more;

And knew by kynde, and by noon other lore,

That it was pryme, and crew with blisful stevene.

‘The sonne,’ he sayde, ‘is clomben up on hevene

Fourty degrees and oon, and more, y-wis.

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.’

But sodeinly him fil a sorweful cas;

For evere the latter ende of joye is wo.

Got woot that worldly joye is sone ago;

And if a rethor coude faire endyte,

He in a chronique saufly mighte it write,

As for a sovereyn notabilitee.

Now every wys man, lat him herkne me;

This storie is al-so 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.

A col-fox, ful of sly iniquitee,

That in the grove hadde woned yeres three,

By heigh imaginacioun forn-cast,

The same night thurgh-out the hegges brast

Into the yerd, ther Chauntecleer the faire

Was wont, and eek his wyves, to repaire;

And in a bed of wortes stille he lay,

Til it was passed undern of the day,

Wayting his tyme on Chauntecleer to falle

As gladly doon thise homicydes alle,