The Seconde Nonnes Tale
The nurse and minister to evil within,
Which that men clepe in English ydelnesse,
She is the porter at
the gates of sin,
Eschew her, and by her contrary her oppresse,
That is to say, by lawful besynesse,
oughte we our business to fulfil,
Lest that the Fiend thurgh ydelnesse us spill.
For he that with his thousand cordes slye
Continuelly wayteth us to get,
When he may man in ydelnes
He can so lightly catche him in his net,
Til that a man be caught and sure beset,
He is nought ware
the fend hath him in honde;
Wel oughte we werk, and ydelnes withstonde.
And though men dredde never for to deye,
Yet see men wel by resoun douteless,
That ydelnes is roten
Of which ther cometh never good increase;
But sin that sloth ay holdeth in a leash,
sleep, and for to drink and ete,
And to devouren al that others get.
And for to put from us such ydleness,
That cause is of so gret confusioún,
I have here don my faithful
After the legende in translacioún
Right of this glorious lif and passioún,
Thou with thi garland, wrought
with rose and lylye,
Thee mene I, mayde and martir Cecilie;
And thou, that flour of holy virgines alle,
Of whom that Bernard loved so wel to write,
To thee at my bygynnyng
first I calle;
Thou comfort of us wretches, make me endite
Thy mayden deth, that won thurgh hir merite
lif, and of the fiend victórie,
As man may after reden in her storie.
Thou mayde and moder, doughter of thi sone,
Thou welle of mercy, synful soules cure,
Whom that heigh
God in bountee chose allone;
Humblest and best of every créatúre,
Thou didst enoble so far our natúre,
no disdeyn the maker had of kynde
His son in blood and flessh to clothe and wind.
Withinne the cloyster of thi blisful sydes,
Took mannes shape the eternal love and peace,
That of the
triple compas lord and guyde is,
The lord whom erthe and heven, land and seas
Ay praisen; and thou,
Bare of thy body, and dwellest mayden pure,
The créatoúr of every créatúre.
Assembled is in thee magnificence
With mercy, goodnes, and with such pitee,
That thou, that art the summe
Not only helpist them that prayen thee,
But ofte tyme of thy benignitee
Ful frely, ere that
men thin help beseech.
Thou goest bifore, and art their lives leech.
Now help, thou meke and blisful faire mayde,
Me exile wrecche, in this desert of galle;
Thenk on the womman
Canaanite, that sayde
That whelpes ete some of the crumbes alle
That from their lordes table be i-falle;
though that I, unworthy son of Eve,
Be synful, yet accepte my bileve.
And for that faith is deth withoute
So for to werken give me wit and space,
That I be quit fro alle that most derk is;
O thou, that art so
fair and ful or grace,
Be myn advócat in that hihe place,
There where withouten ende is sung Osanne,
Cristes mother, doughter deere of Anne.
And with thi light my soule in prisoun light,
That troubled is by the contagioún
Of my bodý, and also by the
Of every lust and fals affeccioún;
O haven of refuge, o salvacioún
Of them that be in sorrow and in
Now help, for to my werk I wil me addresse.
Yet pray I you who reden that I write,
Forgeve me, that I do no diligence
This same story subtly to endite.
both have I the wordes and the sense
Of him, that in the seintes reverence
The story wrote, and follow
And pray you that ye wil my werk amende
First wil I you the name of seint Cecilie
Expound, as men may in her story see;
It is to say on English,
For pure chastenesse of virginitee;
Or that she witnesse hadde of honestee
And clean of conscience
was and of good fame
The sweete savour, lilie was her name.
Or Cecile meneth this, the way of the blynde,
For she ensample was by way of techyng;
Or elles Cecily,
as I writen fynde,
Is joynèd by a maner of conjoynynge
O heven and Lia, and here in figurynge
is sette for thought of holynesse,
And Lia, for hir lastyng besynesse.