The Monkes Tale

When ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence and hir benignitee,
Oure Hoste sayde, “As I am faithful man,
And by the precious corpus Madryan
I hadde rather than a barel ale
That good womán my wyf had herd this tale.
For she is no thing of such pacience
As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.
By Goddes boones! whan I bete my knaves,
She bringeth me forth the grete clobbèd staves,
And crieth, “sley the dogges everyone!
And breke of them the bak and eek the bone!”
And if that eny neighebour of myne
Wil nought unto my wyf in chirche inclyne,
Or be so hardy to hir to trespáce,
Whan she comth hom, she rampeth in my face,
And crieth, “false coward, avenge thy wyf!
By corpus bones! I wil have thy knyf,
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne.”
Fro day to night right thus she wil bygynne;
“Allas!” she saith, “that ever I was i-shape,
To wedde a mylk-sop or a coward ape,
That wil be over-lad with every wight!
Thou darst nought stonde by thy wyves right.”
This is my lif, unless that I wil fight;
And out at dore anon I must me dight,
And else I am al lost, but-if that I
Be, lik a wilde lion, fool-hardy.
I wot wel she wil make me sley som day
Som neighebor, and thanne runne away.
For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
Al be it that I dar not hir withstonde.
For she is big in armes, by my faith!
That shal he fynde that hire mysdoth or saith.
But let us passe away fro this matére.
My lord sir monk,” quoth he, “be mery of chere,
For ye shal telle a tale trewely.
Lo, Rowchestre here standeth faste bu.
Ryde forth, myn oune lord, brek nought oure game!
But, by my trothe, I knowe not youre name;
Whether shal I calle you my lord dan John,
Or dan Thomas, or else dan Albon?
Of what hous be ye, by your fader kyn?
I vow to God thou hast a ful fair skyn!
It is a gentil pasture where thou gost;
Thou art not like a penitent or goost.
Upon my faith, thou art an officer,
Som worthy sexteyn, or some celerer;
For, by my fader soule, as in my doom,
Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom,
No poore cloysterer, nor no novys,
But a góvernour a wily and a wys;
And therwithal of brawne and eek of bones
A wel faryng persóne for the nonce.
I praye God give him confusioun,
That first thee broughte to religioun!
Thou woldist have been a gret lover aright;
Haddist thou as gret leve as thou hast might.
Allas! why werest thou so wyd a cope?
God gif me sorrow! if I were a pope,
Nought only thou, but every mighty man,
Though he were shorn al broade upon his pan,
Shuld have a wif; for al this world is lorn;
Religioun hath taken up al the corn
Men sowen, and we comon men be shrympes;
Of feble trees ther cometh feble ympes.
But be nought wroth, my lorde, though I play,
Ful oft in game a soth, I have herd say.”

This worthy Monk took al in pacience,
And saide, “I wil do al my diligence,
Als fer as soundeth into honestee,
To telle you a tale, or tuo or three;
And if you list to herken hider-ward,
I wil yow saye the lif of seint Edward,
Or else first tragedis wil I you telle,
Of which I have an hundred in my celle.
Tragedis is to sayn a certeyn storie,
As olde bookes maken us memorie,
Of them that stood in greet prosperitee,
And are y-fallen out of high degree
To miserie, and endith wrecchedly;
And thay be versifyèd comunly
Of sixe feet, which men clepe examétron.
In prose be endited many oon;
In metre eek, in mony a sondry wise;
Lo, this declaryng ought y-nough suffise.
Now herkne, if you likith for to heere;
But first I you biseche in this matére,
Though I by ordre telle not thise thinges,
Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
After their age, as men may writen fynde,
But telle them som bifore and som byhynde,
As it now cometh to my rémembraúnce,
Have me excusèd of myn ignoraunce.

“I wil bywaile, in maner of tragedye,
The harm of them that stood in high degree,
And fallen so ther is no remedye
To bring them out of their adversitee;
For certeynly, whan fortune list to flee,
Ther may no man the cours of hir wheel holde;
Let no man truste in blynd prosperitee,
Be war by these ensamples trewe and olde.”


At Lucifer, though he an angil be,
And noght a man, at him wil I bygynne;
For though fortune may non aungel slee,
From high degre yit fel he for his synne
Doun into helle, wher as he yet is inne.
O Lucifer! brightest of aungels alle,
Now art thou Sathanas, thou maist nought wynne
Out of the miserie in which thou art falle.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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