Librarius Homepage
© Librarius
All rights reserved.

From The Canterbury Tales:
The Tale of Melibee
Paragraph 1-7
About Melibeus, his wife Prudence, his daughter Sophie, an assault and excessive weeping

§ 1        A yong man called Melibeus, myghty and riche, bigat upon his wyf, that called was Prudence, a doghter which that called was Sophie. § 1        A young man called Melibeus, mighty and rich, begot upon his wife, who was called Prudence, a daughter who was called Sophie.
§ 2        Upon a day bifel that he for his desport is went into the feeldes hym to pleye. His wyf and eek his doghter hath he left inwith his hous, of which the dores weren faste yshette. Thre of his olde foes han it espyed, and setten laddres to the walles of his hous, and by wyndowes been entred, and betten his wyf, and wounded his doghter with fyve mortal woundes in fyve sondry places, this is to seyn, in hir feet, in hire handes, in hir erys, in hir nose, and in hire mouth, and leften hire for deed, and wenten awey. § 2        Upon one day it happened that he for his pleasure went into the fields to amuse himself. His wife and also his daughter has he left within his house, of which the doors were tightly shut. Three of his old foes have seen this, and set ladders to the walls of his house, and through the windows have entered, and beat his wife, and wounded his daughter with five mortal wounds in five different places, that is to say, in her feet, in her hands, in her ears, in her nose, and in her mouth and left her for dead, and went away.
§ 3        Whan Melibeus retourned was in to his hous, and saugh al this meschief, he, lyk a mad man, rentynge his clothes, gan to wepe and crie. § 3        When Melibeus had returned to his house, and saw all this mischief, he, like a mad man tearing his clothes, began to weep and cry.
§ 4        Prudence, his wyf, as ferforth as she dorste, bisoghte hym of his wepyng for to stynte; but nat forthy he gan to crie and wepen evere lenger the moore. § 4        Prudence, his wife, insofar as she dared, besought him to stop his weeping. but not able (to stop) he began to cry and the longer he wept the more he wept.
§ 5        This noble wyf Prudence remembred hire upon the sentence of Ovide, in his book that cleped is the Remedie of Love, where as he seith , "He is a fool that destourbeth the mooder to wepen in the deeth of hire child, til she have wept hir fille as for a certein tyme; and thanne shal man doon his diligence with amyable wordes hire to reconforte, and preyen hire of hir wepyng for to stynte". For which resoun this noble wyf Prudence suffred hir housbonde for to wepe and crie as for a certein space; and whan she saugh hir tyme, she seyde hym in this wise: "Allas, my lord," quod she, "why make ye youreself for to lyk a fool? For sothe it aperteneth nat to a wys man to maken swich a sorwe. Youre doghter, with the grace of God, shal warisshe and escape. And, al were it so that she right now were deed, ye ne oughte nat, as for hir deeth, youreself to destroye. Senek seith: "The wise man shal nat take to greet disconfort for the deeth of his children; but, certes, he sholde suffren it in pacience as wel as he abideth the deeth of his owene propre persone.'" § 5        This noble wife Prudence remembered the saying of Ovid, in his book that is called the Remedy of Love, where he says "He is a fool that stops the mother from weeping on the death of her child until she has wept her fill as for a certain time, and then shall one do his best efforts with amiable words to comfort her, and pray her to stop her weeping." For which reason this noble wife Prudence allowed her husband to weep and cry as for a certain amount of time, and when she saw her opportunity, she said to him in this way: "Alas, my lord," said she, "why do you make yourself to be like a fool? For truly it does not befit a wise man to make such a sorrow. Your daughter, with the grace of God, shall recover and escape. And, even if it were so that she right now were dead, You ought not, for her death, to destroy yourself. Seneca says: `The wise man shall not take too great discomfort for the death of his children, but, certainly, he should suffer it in patience as well as he abides the death of his own self.'"
§ 6        This Melibeus answerde anon, and seyde, "What man," quod he, "sholde of his wepyng stente that hath so greet a cause for to wepe? Jhesu Crist, oure lord, hymself wepte for the deeth of Lazarus hys freend." § 6        This Melibeus answered immediately and said, "What man," said he, "should cease his weeping who has such a good reason to weep? Jesus Christ, our Lord, himself wept for the death of Lazarus his friend."
§ 7        Prudence answerde: "Certes, wel I woot attempree wepyng is no thyng deffended to hym that sorweful is, amonges folk in sorwe, but it is rather graunted hym to wepe. The apostle Paul unto the Romayns writeth, 'Man shal rejoyse with hem that maken joye, and wepen with swich folk as wepen.' But though attempree wepyng be ygraunted, outrageous wepyng certes is deffended. Mesure of wepyng sholde be considered, after the loore that techeth us Senek: 'Whan that thy frend is deed,' quod he, 'lat nat thyne eyen to moyste been of teeris, ne to muche drye; although the teeris come to thyne eyen, lat hem nat falle; and whan thou hast forgoon thy freend, do diligence to gete another freend; and this is moore wysdom than for to wepe for thy freend which that thou has lorn, for therinne is no boote.' And therfore, if ye governe yow by sapience, put awey sorwe out of youre herte. Remembre yow that Jhesus Syrak seith, 'a man that is joyous and glad in herte, it hym conserveth florissynge in his age; but soothly sorweful herte maketh his bones drye.' He seith eek thus, that sorwe in herte sleeth ful many a man. Salomon seith that right as motthes in shepes flees anoyeth to the clothes, and the smale wormes to the tree, right so anoyeth sorwe to the herte. Wherfore us oghte, as wel in the deeth of oure children as in the los of oure othere goodes temporels, have pacience. Remembre yow upon the pacient job. Whan he hadde lost his children and his temporeel substance, and in his body endured and receyved ful many a grevous tribulacion, yet seyde he thus: 'Oure Lord hath yeve it me; oure Lord hath biraft it me; right as oure Lord hath wold, right so it is doon; blessed be the name of oure Lord!'" § 7        Prudence answered: "Certainly, I know well that moderate weeping is in no way forbidden to him who is sorrowful, amongst people in sorrow, but it is rather granted to him to weep. The Apostle Paul unto the Romans writes, `One shall rejoice with those who make joy and weep with such people as weep.' But though moderate weeping is granted, excessive weeping certainly is forbidden. Moderation in weeping should be considered in the light of the rule that Seneca teaches us: `When your friend is dead,' said he, `let not your eyes be too moist of tears, nor too much dry; although the tears come to your eyes, let them not fall; and when you have lost your friend, make an effort to get another friend; and this is more wisdom than to weep for your friend whom you have lost, for therein is no remedy.' And therefore, if you govern yourself by wisdom, put away sorrow out of your heart. Remember you that Jesus son of Sirach says, `A man that is joyous and glad in heart, it conserves him flourishing in his age; but truly sorrowful heart makes his bones dry.' He says also thus, that sorrow in heart slays very many a man. Solomon says that just as moths in the sheep's fleece do harm to the clothes, and the small worms to the tree, just so sorrow does harm to the heart. Wherefore we should, as well in the death of our children as in the loss of our other earthly goods, have patience. Remember the patient Job. When he had lost his children and his earthly property, and in his body endured and received very many a grievous tribulation, yet said he thus: `Our Lord has given it to me; our Lord hath taken it from me; just as our Lord wished, just so it is done; blessed be the name of our Lord!'"

Next Next:
From The Tale of Melibee, paragraph 8-18:
A gathering of people advising Melibeus on how to respond to the assault