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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Prologue to the Monkes Tale

The murye wordes of the Hoost to the Monk.

       Whan ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence, and hir benignytee,
Oure Hooste seyde, "As I am feithful man,
And by that precious corpus Madrian,
5I hadde levere than a barel ale
That Goodelief my wyf hadde herd this tale!
For she nys nothyng of swich pacience
As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.
By Goddes bones, whan I bete my knaves
10She bryngeth me forth the grete clobbed staves,
And crieth, `Slee the dogges, everichoon,
And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon.'
       And if that any neighebore of myne
Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
15Or be so hardy to hir to trespace,
Whan she comth hoom she rampeth in my face,
And crieth, `False coward, wrek thy wyf!
By corpus bones, I wol have thy knyf,
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne
20Fro day to nyght!' Right thus she wol bigynne.
`Allas,' she seith, `that evere I was shape
To wedden a milksop or a coward ape,
That wol been overlad with every wight;
Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right!'
25       This is my lif, but if that I wol fighte,
And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
Or elles I am but lost, but if that I
Be lik a wilde leoun fool-hardy.
I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
30Som neighebor, and thanne go my way.
For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
Al be it that I dar hir nat withstonde.
For she is byg in armes, by my feith,
That shal he fynde that hir mysdooth or seith-
35But lat us passe awey fro this mateere.
       "My lord the Monk," quod he, "be myrie of cheere,
For ye shul telle a tale, trewely.
Loo, Rouchestre stant heer faste by.
Ryde forth, myn owene lord, brek nat oure game.
40But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name;
Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun John,
Or daun Thomas, or elles daun Albon?
Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn?
I vowe to God, thou hast a ful fair skyn,
45It is a gentil pasture ther thow goost.
Thou art nat lyk a penant or a goost.
Upon my feith, thou art som officer,
Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
50Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom,
No povre cloysterer, ne no novys,
But a governour, wily and wys;
And therwithal of brawnes and of bones
A wel-farynge persone, for the nones.
55I pray to God, yeve hym confusioun
That first thee broghte unto religioun.
Thou woldest han been a tredefowel aright;
Haddestow as greet a leeve as thou hast myght
To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
60Thou haddest bigeten ful many a creature.
Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope?
God yeve me sorwe, but, and I were a pope,
Nat oonly thou but every myghty man
Though he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
65Sholde have a wyf, for al the world is lorn.
Religioun hath take up al the corn
Of tredyng, and we borel men been shrympes.
Of fieble trees ther comen wrecched ympes.
This maketh that our heyres ben so sclendre
70And feble, that they may nat wel engendre;
This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
Of Venus paiementz than mowe we;
God woot no lussheburghes payen ye.
75But be nat wrooth, my lord, for that I pleye,
Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye."
       This worthy Monk took al in pacience,
And seyde, "I wol doon al my diligence,
As fer as sowneth into honestee,
80To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.
And if yow list to herkne hyderward
I wol yow seyn the lyf of Seint Edward;
Or ellis first tragedies wol I telle
Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
85Tragedie is to seyn, a certeyn storie,
As olde bookes maken us memorie,
Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee
And is yfallen out of heigh degree
Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly,
90And they ben versified communely
Of six feet, which men clepen exametron.
In prose eek been endited many oon,
And eek in meetre, in many a sondry wyse.
Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise;
95       Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere.
But first, I yow biseeke in this mateere,
Though I by ordre telle nat this thynges,
Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
100But tellen hem, som bifore and som bihynde,
As it now comth unto my remembraunce;
Have me excused of myn ignoraunce."


The Monk's Tale (ll. 103-878)

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