The Tale of the Doctor of Phisik

When that this yeoman his tale ended hadde
Of this false chanon whiche that was so badde
Oure oste gan sayen, “truly and certayne
Thys preest was begylèd, sothely for to sayne,
(He wenynge for to be a phylosófre)
Tylle he no golde lefte had in hys coffre;
And sothely this preest met a sorry jape,
Thys cursed canoun put in hys hood an ape.
But al this wil I passe overe as nowe.
Sir Doctour of Phisyke we prayen you,
Telle us a tale of some honéste matére.”
“It shal be done, yf that ye wille it here,”
Sayde this doctoúr, and hys tale began anon.
“Nowe, gode men,” quoth he, “herken every oon.”

Ther was, as telleth Titus Lyvius,
A knight, that clepèd was Virginius,
Fulfild of honours and of worthiness,
And strong of frendes, and of gret riches.
This knight a doughter hadde by his wyf,
And never hadde he mo in al his lyf.
Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
Aboven every wight that men may see;
For Nature hath with sovereyn diligence
I-formèd hir in so gret excellence,
As though she wolde say, “Lo, I, Natùre,
Thus can I forme and peynte a crèatùre,
When that me list; who can me counterfete?
Pigmalion? No, though he alwey forge and bete,
Or grave, or paynte; for I dar wel sayn,
Apelles, Zeuxis, shulde wirche in vayn,
Either to grave, or paynte, or forge or bete,
If thay presumèd me to counterfete.
For He that is the Former principal
Hath made me his viker general,
To forme and peynte al erthely créatúre
Right as me list, al thing is in my care
Under the moone that may wane and waxe,
And for my werke no thing wil I axe;
My lord and I be fully at accord.
I made hir to the worship of my Lord;
So do I alle myn other créatúres,
What colour that thay be, or what figures.”
Thus semeth me that Nature wolde saye.
This mayde was of age twelf yer and twaye,
In which that nature hadde suche delite.
For right as she can peynte a lili white
And ruddy a rose, right with such peynture
She peynted hath this noble créatúre
Er she was born, upon her limbes free,
Where as by right such coloures shulde be;
And Phebus deyèd hadde hire tresses bright,
I-lyk the stremes of his burning light.
And if that excellent was hir beautee,
A thousand fold more vertuous was she.
In hir there lakketh no condicioun,
That hath ben praysed by mens discrecioun.
As wel in body as soule chaste was she;
For which she flourèd in virginitee,
With alle humilitee and abstinence,
With alle temperaunce and pacience,
With modest look and bearyng and array.
Discret she was in answeryng alway,
Though she were wis as Pallas, dar I sayn.
Hir spekyng was ful womanly and playn;
No countrefeted termes hadde she
To seeme wys; but after hir degree
She spak and alle hir wordes more and lesse
Sounyng in vertu and in gentilesse.
Shamefast she was in maydenes shamfastnesse,
Constant in hert, and ever in besynesse,
To dryve hir out of ydelle slogardye.
Bacchus had of hir mouth no maistrye;
For wyn and youthe doon Venús encrece,
As when men in the fyr caste oyle or grece.
And of hir owne vertu unconstreined,
She hath ful ofte tyme sikness feyned,
For that she wolde flee the companye,
Wher likly was to treten of folye,
As is at festes, reveles, and at daunces,
That be occasiouns of daliaunces.
Such thinges maken children for to be
Too soone rype and bold, as men may see,
Which is ful perilous, and hath ben yore;
For al too soone may she lerne the lore
Of boldenesse, when that she is a wyf.
And ye maystresses that older are in lyf
Who lordes doughtres have in governaunce,
Take ye not of my word no displesaúnce;
Thinke that ye be set in governynges
Of lordes doughtres, only for tuo thinges;
Either for ye have kept your honestee,
Or else for ye have fallen in freletee,
And knowe wel y-nough the olde daunce,
And conne forsake fully suche meschaunce
For evermo; therfore, for Cristes sake,
Kepe wel those that ye undertake.
A theef of venesoun, that hath ylaft
His theevishness, and al his wikked craft,
Can kepe a forest best of any man.
Now kepe them wel, for if ye wil ye can;
Loke wel, that to no vice ye assente,
Lest ye be damnèd for your wikked entente,
For who-so doth, a traytour is certayn;
And take keep of that that I shal sayn;
Of al tresoún the sovereyn pestilence
Is, when a wight bytrayeth innocence.
Ye fadres, and ye modres eek also,
Though ye have children, be it one or mo,
Yours is the charge of al their sufferaunce,
Whiles thay be under your governaunce.
Be war, that by ensample of youre lyvynge,
Or by your negligence in chástisynge,
That thay ne perishe; for it is wel sayd,
If that thay do, ye shul ful sore abide.
Under a shepherd softe and negligent,
The wolf hath many a shep and lamb to-rent.
Sufficeth one ensample now as here,
For I moot turne agein to my matére.

This mayde, of which I now my tale expresse,
So kept hir self, hir nedede no maystresse;
For in hir lyvyng maydens mighte rede,
As in a book, every word and dede,
That longeth unto a mayden vertuous;
She was so prudent and so bounteous.
For which the fame outsprong on every syde
Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde;
That thurgh the lond thay praysèd hir each one,
That lovèd vertu, save envye allone
That sory is of other mennes wele,
And glad is of his sorwe and his ill.
(The doctor made this descripcioun.)
This mayde wente on a day into the toun
Toward the temple, with hir moder deere,
As is of yonge maydenes the manére.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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