The Clerkes Tale

“Sir Clerk of Oxenford,” our hoste sayde,
“Ye ryde as stille and coy as doth a mayde,
Al newly spousèd, sittyng at the board;
This day I herd not of your mouth a word.
I trowe ye study som disputacioún;
But Salomon saith, every thing hath sesoún.
For Goddis sake! be thou of better cheere,
It is no tyme for to stody here.
Tel us som mery tale, by your fay;
For if a man is entred unto play,
He needes must unto that play assent.
But preche not, as freres do in Lent,
To make us for our olde synnes wepe,
Nor let thy tale make us for to slepe.
Tel us som mery thing of áventúres.
Youre termes, your coloúrs, and your figúres,
Keep them in store, til so be that ye endite
High style, as whan that men to kynges write.
Speke so playn at this tyme, we yow praye,
That we may understonde that ye saye.”

This worthy Clerk benignely answerde;
“Sir host,” quoth he, “I am under your word,
Ye have of us as now the governaúnce,
And therfor wil I do you óbeissaunce,
As fer as resoun askith verrily.
I wil you telle a tale, which that I
Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk,
Y-provèd by his wordes and his werk.
He is now ded, and naylèd in his chest,
And may God give his soule wel good rest!
Fraunces Petrark, the laureat poéte,
Highte this clerk, whos retoricke swete
Illumynd al Ytail of poetrie,
As Linian did of philosophie,
Or lawe, or other art particuler;
But deth, that wol not suffre us duellen here,
But as it were a twyncling of an eye,
Them bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
But forth to tellen of this worthy man,
That taughte me this tale, as I first bigan,
I say that he first with high stile enditith
(Er he the body of his tale writith)
A prologe, in the which describith he
Piemounde, and of Saluces the contree,
And spekith of Appenyne the hilles hye,
That be the boundes of al west Lombardye;
And of mount Vesulus in special,
Wher as the Po out of a welle smal
Takith his firste springyng and his source,
That est-ward ay increseth in his cours
To Emyl-ward, to Ferare, and to Venise,
The which a long thing were to devyse.
And trewely, as to my juggement,
Me thinketh this prológe impertinent,
Save that he wold expounden his matére;
But this the tale is which that ye shal heere.”

Ther is at the west ende of Italie,
Doun at the root of Vesulus the colde,
A lusty playn, abundaunt of plentee,
Wher many a tour and toun thou maist byholde,
That foundid were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many anothir délitable sight,
And Sáluces this noble contray hight.

A marquys whilom duellèd in that lond,
As did his worthy eldris him bifore,
Obedient and redy to his hond,
Were alle his servaunts, bothe lesse and more.
Thus in delyt he lyveth and hath of yore,
Biloved and dreaded, thurgh favour of fortúne,
Bothe by his lordes and by his comúne.

Withal he was, to speke of lineáge,
The gentlest knighte born in Lumbardye,
A fair persóne, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curtesie;
Discret y-nough to guiden his contré,
Savynge in somme things he was to blame;
And Walter was this yonge lordes name.

I blame him thus, that he considered nought
In tyme comyng what might him bityde,
But on his present pleasure was his thought,
As for to hauke and hunte on every syde;
Wel ny al othir cures let he slyde,
And eek he wolde not (that was worst of al)
Wedden a wyf for nought that might bifal.

Only that poynt his peple bar so sore,
That flocking on a day to him thay went,
And one of them, that wisest was of lore,
(Either bycause his lord wolde best assent
That he shuld telle him what his peple ment,
Or else that he coude wel shewe such matére)
He to the marquys sayd as ye shal here.

“O noble marquys, your humanitee,
Assureth us and giveth us hardynesse,
For now the matter is of necessitee,
That we to you may telle oure hevynesse;
Accept, o lord, now of your gentilesse,
That we with piteous hert to you complayne,
And let your eares not my vois disdeyne.

“Though I have nought to do in this matére
More than another man hath in this place,
Yit for as moche as ye, my lord so deere,
Have alway shewèd me favoúr and grace,
I dare the better ask of you a space
Of audience, to shewen oure request,
And ye, my lord, to do as seemeth best.

“For certes, lord, so wel we loven yow
And al your werk, and ever have doon, that we
Coude not ourselve lightly devysen how
We mighte lyve more in felicitee:
Save one thing, lord, if that your wille be,
That for to be a weddid man you list
Then were your pepel in there hertes at rest.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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