Ye seeke land and see for your wynnýnges,
As wyse folk ye knowen alle the estate
Of kingdoms, ye be
fadres of tydynges,
Of tales, bothe of pees and of debate.
I were right now of tales desolat,
Hadde not a
merchaunt, ded for many a yere,
Me taught a tale, which ye shal after heere.
In Syria dwellèd once a companye
Of chapmen riche, and therto sober and trewe,
That everywhere thay
sent their spycerye,
Clothes of gold, and satyn rich of hewe.
Their goodes were so profitable and newe,
every wight on lond hath covetíse
To buy their ware and sell his merchandise.
Now fel it, that the maystres
of that sort
Have mynded them to Rome for to wende,
Were it for merchandise or for disport,
message wold they thider sende,
But came themself to Rome, this is the ende;
And in such place as they
For their entent, they tooke her harbourage.
Sojoúrnèd have these marchaunts in the toun
A certeyn tyme, as gave them their plesaúnce.
But so bifell,
that the excellent renoun
Of the emperoures doughter dame Constaunce
Reported was, with every circumstaunce,
these Syrrien marchaunts, in such wyse
Fro day to day, as I shal you devyse.
This was the common voys of every man:
Oure emperour of Rome, God him see!
A doughter hath, that,
since the world bygan,
To rekon wel hir goodnes and beautee,
Was never such another as was she.
to God hir save and eek susteene,
And wolde she were of al Európe the queene.
In her is hy beautee, withoute pryde;
Youthe, withoute wantonnesse or eny folye;
In alle her werkes vertu
is hir gyde;
Humblesse hath slayne in hir al tyrrannye;
She is myroúr of alle curtesýe,
Hir herte is very chambre
Hir hand mynístre of generous almesse.
And al this word is soth, as God is trewe.
But now to purpos let us turne agayn:
These marchants have
fulfilled their shippes newe,
And when they have this blisful mayde seyn,
Home to Syria be they gon agayn,
doon their needes, as they have don yore,
And lyven in welth, I can you say no more.
Now fel it, that these marchaunts stoode in grace
Of him that was the Sultan of Syrie.
For when they
come fro eny straunge place
He wolde of his benigne curtesye
Make them good chere, and busily espye
of sondry kingdoms, for to here
The wondres that they met or far or neer.
Amonges other thinges specially
These marchaunts have him told of dame Constaunce
So gret noblesse,
in ernest, seriously,
That this sultán hath caught so gret plesaúnce
To have hir figure in his rémembraúnce,
al his wil, and al his busy cure,
Was for to love hir, whiles his lyf ma dure.
Paráventure in that same large booke,
Which that is cleped the heven, y-written was
With sterres, whan
that he his birthe took,
That he for love shulde have his deth, allas!
For in the sterres, clerere than is glas,
wryten, God wot, who-so coude it rede,
The deth of every man, withouten drede.
In sterres many a wynter therbyfore,
Was writ the deth of Ector, Achillés,
Of Pompey, Julius, ere they were
The stryf of Thebes, and of Ercules,
Of Samson, Turnus, and of Socrates
The deth; but mennes
wittes be so dulle,
That no wight can wel rede it at the fulle.
This sultan for his pryvee counseil sent,
And shortly of this mater for to pace,
He hath to them declarèd his
And told them certeyn, if he hadde not grace
To wed Constance withinne a litel space,
He was but
deed, and chargèd them to hie
And shapen for his lyf som remedye.
Dyverse men dyverse thinges seyd,
The argumentes casten up and down;
And many a subtyl resoun
forth they leyd;
They speken of magike, and deceptioún;
But finally, as in conclusioún,
They can nought see
in that non ávauntáge,
Nor eny other wey, save mariáge.
Then saw they therein such diffícultee
By wey of
reson, for to speke al playn,
Bycause that ther was such dyversitee
Bitwen their countrees lawes, as they
They trowe that no cristen prince wold fayn
Wedden his child under our lawe swete,
That us was
taught by Mahoun oure prophéte.