Previous Previous:
From The Tale of Melibee, paragraph 31-36:
Prudence tells how to select advisers
Librarius Homepage
© Librarius
All rights reserved.

From The Canterbury Tales:
The Tale of Melibee
Paragraph 37-45
About the value of fortification and good friends

§ 37        "Lo, lo," quod dame Prudence, "how lightly is every man enclined to his owene desir and to his owene plesaunce! Certes," quod she, "the wordes of the phisiciens ne sholde nat han been understonden in thys wise. For certes, wikkednesse is nat contrarie to wikkednesse, ne vengeance to vengeaunce, ne wrong to wrong, but they been semblable. And therfore o vengeaunce is nat warisshed by another vengeaunce, ne o wroong by another wroong, but everich of hem encreesceth and aggreggeth oother. But certes, the wordes of the phisiciens sholde been understonden in this wise: for dood and wikkednesse been two contraries, and pees and werre, vengeaunce and suffraunce, discord and accord, and manye othere thynges. But certes, wikkednesse shal be warisshed by goodnesse, discord by accord, werre by pees, and so forth of othere thynges. And heerto accordeth Seint Paul the Apostle in manye places. He seith: 'ne yeldeth nat harm for harm, ne wikked speche for wikked speche; but do wel to hym that dooth thee harm, and blesse hym that seith to thee harm.' And in manye othere places he amonesteth pees and accord. But now wol I speke to yow of the conseil which that was yeven to yow by the men of lawe and the wise folk, that seyden alle by oon accord, as ye han herd bifore, that over alle thynges ye shal doon youre diligence to kepen youre persone and to warnestoore youre hous; and seyden also that in this caas yow oghten for to werken ful avysely and with greet deliberacioun. And, sire, as to the firste point, that toucheth to the kepyng of youre persone, ye shul understonde that he that hath werre shal everemoore mekely and devoutly preyen, biforn alle thynges, that Jhesus Crist of his mercy wol han hym in his proteccion and been his sovereyn helpyng at his nede. For certes, in this world ther is no wight that may be conseilled ne kept sufficeantly withouten the kepyng of oure lord Jhesu Crist. To this sentence accordeth the prophete David, that seith, 'if God ne kepe the citee, in ydel waketh he that it kepeth.' Now, sire, thanne shul ye committe the kepyng of youre persone to youre trewe freendes, that been approved and yknowe, and of hem shul ye axen help youre persone for to kepe. For Catoun seith: 'if thou hast nede of help, axe it of thy freendes; for ther nys noon so good a phisicien as thy trewe freend.' And after this thanne shul ye kepe yow fro alle straunge folk, and fro lyeres, and have alwey in suspect hire compaignye. For Piers Alfonce seith, 'ne taak no compaignye by the weye of a straunge man, but if so be that thou have knowe hym of a lenger tyme. And if so be that he falle into thy compaignye paraventure, withouten thyn assent, enquere thanne as subtilly as thou mayst of his conversacion, and of his lyf bifore, and feyne thy wey; seye that thou wolt thider as thou wolt nat go; and if he bereth a spere, hoold thee on the right syde, and if he bere a swerd, hoold thee on the lift syde.' And after this thanne shul ye kepe yow wisely from all swich manere peple as I have seyd bifore, and hem and hir conseil eschewe. And after this thanne shul ye kepe yow in swich manere that, for any presumpcion of youre strengthe, that ye ne dispise nat, ne accompte nat the myght of youre adversarie so litel, that ye lete the kepyng of youre persone for youre presumpcioun; for every wys man dredeth his enemy. And Salomon seith: 'weleful is he that of alle hath drede; for certes, he that thurgh the hardynesse of his herte, and thurgh the hardynesse of hymself, hath to greet presumpcioun, hym shal yvel bityde.' Thanne shul ye everemoore contrewayte embusshementz and alle espiaille. For Senec seith that 'the wise man that dredeth harmes, eschueth harmes, ne he ne falleth into perils that perils eschueth.' And al be it so that it seme that thou art in siker place, yet shaltow alwey do thy diligence in kepynge of thy persone; this is to seyn, ne be nat necligent to kepe thy persone, nat oonly for thy gretteste enemys, but fro thy leeste enemy. Senek seith: 'a man that is well avysed, he dredeth his leste enemy.' Ovyde seith that 'the litel wesele wol slee the grete bole and the wilde hert.' And the book seith, 'a litel thorn may prikke a kyng ful soore, and an hound wol holde the wolde boor.' But nathelees, I sey nat thou shalt be so coward that thou doute ther wher as is no drede. The book seith that somme folk han greet lust to deceyve, but yet they dreden hem to be deceyved. Yet shaltou drede to been empoisoned, and kepe the from the compaignye of Scorneres. For the book seith, 'with scorneres make no compaignye, but flee hire wordes as venym.' § 37        "Lo, lo," said dame Prudence, "how easily is every man inclined to his own desire and to his own pleasure! Certainly," said she, "the words of the physicians should not have been understood in this way. For certainly, wickedness is not contrary to wickedness, nor vengeance to vengeance, nor wrong to wrong, but they are similar. And therefore one vengeance is not cured by another vengeance, nor one wrong by another wrong, but each of them increases and aggravates the other. But certainly, the words of the physicians should be understood in this way: for good and wickedness are two contraries, and peace and war, vengeance and forbearance, discord and accord, and many other things ; but certainly, wickedness must be cured by goodness, discord by accord, war by peace, and so forth of other things. And to this Saint Paul the Apostle agrees in many places. He says, `Yield not harm for harm, nor wicked speech for wicked speech, but do well to him that does thee harm and bless him that says to thee harm.' And in many other places he recommends peace and accord. But now will I speak to you of the advice which was given to you by the men of law and the wise people, who said all by unanimous agreement, as you have heard before, that over all things you should do your best effort to guard your person and to garrison your house; and said also that in this case you ought to work very advisedly and with great deliberation. And, sir, as to the first point, that touches on the keeping of your person, you should understand that he who has war should evermore meekly and devoutly pray, before all things, that Jesus Christ of his mercy will have him in his protection and be his best help at his need. For certainly, in this world there is no person that can be advised nor guarded sufficiently without the protection of our Lord Jesus Christ. To this opinion agrees the prophet David, who says, `If God does not guard the city, in vain watches he who guards it.' Now, sir, then shall you commit the guarding of your person to your true friends that are proven and known, and of them shall you ask help to guard your person. For Cato says, `If thou hast need of help, ask it of thy friends, for there is no physician so good as thy true friend.' And after this then shall you keep yourself from all unfamiliar people, and from liars, and be always suspicious of their company. For Petrus Alphonsus says, `take no company by the way of a strange man, but if it so be that thou have known him of a longer time. And if it so be that he fall into thy company by chance, without thine assent, inquire then as subtly as thou can of his way of life, and of his life before, and feign thy way; say that you will thither as you will not go; and if he bears a spear, hold thyself on the right side, and if he bear a sword, hold thyself on the left side.' And after this then shall you keep yourself wisely from all such manner people as I have said before, and avoid them and their advice. And after this then shall you keep yourself in such manner that, for any confidence in your strength, that you nor despise not, nor account not the might of your adversary so little that you neglect the protection of your person because of your over-confidence, for every wise man fears his enemy. And Solomon says, `Happy is he who of all has fear, for certainly, he who through the hardiness of his heart and through the hardiness of himself has too great self-confidence, to him shall evil befall.' Then shall you evermore watch out for ambushes and all espionage, For Seneca says that `the wise man who fears harms, avoids harms, nor does he who avoids dangers fall into dangers.' And although it be so that it seems that you are in a safe place, yet shall you always do your best efforts in guarding of thy person; this is to say, be not negligent to guard your person not only from your greatest enemies but from thy least enemy. Seneca says, `A man that is well advised, he fears his least enemy.' Ovid says that `the little weasel will slay the great bull and the wild hart.' And the book says, `A little thorn may prick a king very sorely, and a hound will bring to bay the wild boar.' But nevertheless, I say not thou should be so cowardly that thou fear where there is no reason for fear. The book says that `some people have great desire to deceive, but yet they fear themselves to be deceived.' Yet you should fear to be poisoned and keep yourself from the company of scoffers. For the book says, `With scorners make no company, but flee their words as venom.'
§ 38        Now, as to the seconde point, where as youre wise conseillours conseilled yow to warnestoore youre hous with gret diligence, I wolde fayn knowe how that ye understonde thilke wordes and what is youre sentence." § 38        Now, as to the second point, whereas your wise advisors counseled you to fortify your house with great diligence, I would be eager to know how you understand those words and what is your decision."
§ 39        Melibeus answerde, and seyde, "certes, I understande it in this wise: that I shal warne stoore myn hous with toures, swiche as han castelles and othere manere edifices, and armure, and artelries; by whiche thynges I may my persone and myn hous so kepen and deffenden that myne enemys shul been in drede myn hous for to approche." § 39        Melibeus answered and said, "Certainly, I understand it in this way: That I should fortify my house with towers, such as castles have and other sorts of edifices, and armor, and artillery, by which things I can my person and my house so guard and defend that my enemies shall be in fear to approach my house."
§ 40        To this sentence answerde anon Prudence: "Warnestooryng," quod she, "of heighe toures and of grete edifices apperteyneth somtyme to pryde. And eek men make heighe toures, and grete edifices with grete costages and with greet travaille; and whan that they been accompliced, yet be they nat worth a stree, but if they be defended by trewe freendes that been olde and wise. And understoond wel that the gretteste and strongeste garnysoun that a riche man may have, as wel to kepen his persone as his goodes, is that he be biloved with hys subgetz and with his neighebores. For thus seith Tullius, that 'ther is a manere garnysoun that no man may vanquysse ne disconfite, and that is a lord to be biloved of his citezeins and of his peple.' § 40        To this saying Prudence answered immediately: "Fortifying," said she, "of high towers and of great edifices pertains sometimes to pride. And also men make high towers, and great edifices with great expenditures and with great work, and when that they are accomplished, yet are they not worth a straw, unless they are defended by true friends that are old and wise. And understand well that the greatest and strongest garrison that a rich man may have, as well to keep his person as his goods, is that he is beloved by his subjects and by his neighbours. For thus says Cicero, that `there is a sort of garrison that no man can vanquish nor discomfit, and that is for a lord to be beloved by his citizens and by his people.'
§ 41        Now, sire, as to the thridde point, where as youre olde and wise conseillours seyden that yow ne oghte nat sodeynly ne hastily proceden in this nede, but that yow oghte purveyen and apparaillen yow in this caas with greet diligence and greet deliberacioun; trewely, I trowe that they seyden right wisely and right sooth. For Tullius seith: 'in every nede, er thou bigynne it, apparaille thee with greet diligence.' Thanne seye I that in vengeance-takyng, in were, in bataille, and in warnestooryng, er thow bigynne, I rede that thou apparaille thee therto, and do it with greet deliberacion. For Tullius seith that 'longe apparaillyng biforn the bataille maketh short victorie.' And Cassidorus seith, 'the garnysoun is stronger, whan it is longe tyme avysed.' § 41        Now, sir, as to the third point, whereas your old and wise advisors said that you ought not suddenly nor hastily proceed in this urgent matter, but that you ought to prepare yourself and get ready in this case with great diligence and great deliberation; truly, I believe that they spoke very wisely and real truth. For Cicero says, `In every urgent matter, before you begin it, prepare yourself with great diligence.' Then say I that in vengeance-taking, in war, in battle, and in fortification, before you begin, I advise that you prepare yourself for that, and do it with great deliberation. For Cicero says that `long preparation before the battle makes short victory.' And Cassiodorus says, `The protection is stronger when it is long time considered.'
§ 42        But now lat us speken of the conseil that was accorded by youre neighebores, swiche as doon yow reverence withouten love, youre olde enemys reconsiled, youre flatereres, that conseilled yow certeyne thynges prively, and openly conseilleden yow the contrarie; the yonge folk also, that conseilleden yow to venge yow, and make werre anon. And certes, sire, as I have seyd biforn, ye han greetly erred to han cleped swich manere folk to youre conseil, which conseillours been ynogh repreved by the resouns aforeseyd. But nathelees, lat us now descende to the special. Ye shuln first procede after the doctrine of Tullius. Certes, the trouthe of this matiere, or of this conseil, nedeth nat diligently enquere; for it is wel wist whiche they been that han doon to yow this trespas and vileynye, and how manye trespassours, and in what manere they han to yow doon al this wrong and al this vileynye. And after this, thanne shul ye examyne the seconde condicion which that the same Tullius addeth in this matiere. For Tullius put a thyng which that he clepeth 'consentynge'; this is to seyn, who been they, and which been they and how manye, that consenten to thy conseil in thy wilfulnesse to doon hastif vengeance. And lat us considere also who been they, and how manye been they, and whiche been they, that consenteden to youre adversaries. And certes, as to the first poynt, it is wel knowen whiche folk been they that consenteden to youre hastif wilfulnesse; for trewely, alle tho that conseilleden yow to maken sodeyn were ne been nat youre freendes. Lat us now considere whiche been they that ye holde so greetly youre freendes as to youre persone. For al be it so that ye be myghty and riche, certes ye ne been but allone, for certes ye ne han no child but a doghter, ne ye ne han brotheren, ne cosyns germayns, ne noon oother neigh kynrede, wherfore that youre enemys for drede wholde stinte to plede with yow, or to destroye youre persone. Ye knowen also that youre richesses mooten been dispended in diverse parties, and whan that every wight hath his part, they ne wollen taken but litel reward to venge thy deeth. But thyne enemys been thre, and they han manie children, bretheren, cosyns, and oother ny kynrede. And though so were that thou haddest slayn of hem two or three, yet dwellen ther ynowe to wreken hir deeth and to sle thy persone. And though so be that youre kynrede be moore siker and stedefast than the kyn of youre adversarie, yet nathelees youre kynrede nys but a fer kynrede; they been but litel syb to yow, and the kyn of youre enemys been nysyb to hem. And certes, as in that, hir condicioun is bet than youres. Thanne lat us considere also if the conseillung of hem that conseilleden yow to taken sodeyn bengeaunce, wheither it accorde to resoun. And certes, ye knowe wel 'nay'.For, as by right and resoun, ther may no man taken vengeance on no wight. But the juge that hath the jurisdiccioun of it, whan it is graunted hym to take thilke vengeance hastily or attemprely, as the lawe requireth. And yet mooreover of thilke word that Tullius clepeth 'consentynge,' thou shalt considere if thy myght and thy power may consenten and suffise to thy wilfulnesse and to thy conseillours. And certes thou mayst wel seyn that 'nay'. For sikerly, as for to speke proprely, we may do no thyng, but oonly swich thyng as we may doon rightfully. And certes rightfully ne mowe ye take no vengeance, as of youre propre auctoritee. Thanne mowe ye seen that youre power ne consenteth nat, ne accordeth nat, with youre wilfulnesse. § 42        But now let us speak of the advice that was agreed upon by your neighbours, such as do you reverence without love, your old enemies reconciled, your flatterers, that advised you certain things secretly, and openly counseled you the contrary; the young people also, who advised you to avenge yourself and make war immediately. And certainly, sir, as I have said before, you have greatly erred to have called such sort of folk to your council, which advisors are enough reproved by the reasons spoken earlier. But nevertheless, let us now descend to the particular details. You should first proceed according to the doctrine of Cicero. Certainly, the truth of this matter, or of this advice, we need not diligently inquire, for it is well known who they are that have done to you this trespass and villainy, and how many trespassers, and in what manner they have done to you all this wrong and all this villainy. And after this, then you should examine the second condition which the same Cicero adds in this matter. For Cicero hypothesized a thing which he calls `consenting'; this is to say, who are they, and which are they and how many that consent to thy advice in thy willfulness to do hasty vengeance. And let us consider also who are they, and how many are they, and which are they that consented to your adversaries. And certainly, as to the first point, it is well known which folk are they that consented to your hasty willfulness, for truly, all those who advised you to make sudden war are not your friends. Let us now consider which are they that you consider so greatly your friends as to your person. For although it be so that you are mighty and rich, certainly you are but alone, for certainly you have no child but a daughter, nor do you have neither brethren, nor first cousins, nor any other close relatives, for which your enemies for fear should stop pleading with you or destroying your person. You know also that your riches must be dispended in several parts, and when each person has his part, they will take but little regard to avenging thy death. But your enemies are three, and they have many children, brethren, cousins, and other close kin. And though it so were that you had slain of them two or three, yet dwell there enough to avenge their death and to slay your person. And though it so be that your kin are more sure and steadfast than the kin of your adversary, yet nevertheless your kinship is but a far kinship; they are but little related to you, and the kin of your enemies are close relatives to them. And certainly, in that respect, their condition is better than yours. Then let us consider also the advice of those who advised you to take sudden vengeance, whether it accord to reason. And certainly, you know well `nay.' For, by justice and reason, there may no man take vengeance on no person but the judge that has the jurisdiction of it, when it is granted to him to take that vengeance hastily or temperately, as the law requires. And yet moreover of that word that Cicero calls `consenting,' thou should consider if your might and your power can consent and suffice to your willfulness and to thy advisors. And certainly thou can well say that `nay.' For truly, strictly speaking, we can do no thing but only such thing as we can do justly. And certainly in justice must you take no vengeance, as of your own authority. Then must you see that your power is not consistent, nor accords not, with your willfulness.
§ 43        Lat us now examyne the thridde point, that Tullius clepeth 'consequent.' Thou shal understonde that the vengeance that thou purposest for to take is the consequent; and therof folweth another vengeaunce, peril, and werre, and othere damages withoute nombre, of whiche we be nat war, as at this tyme. § 43        Let us now examine the third point, that Cicero calls `consequent.' You shall understand that the vengeance that you intend to take is the consequent; and thereof follows another vengeance, danger, and war, and other damages without number, of which we are not aware, at this time.
§ 44        And as touchynge the fourthe point, that Tullius clepeth 'engendrynge', thou shalt considere that this wrong which that is doon to thee is engendred of the hate of thyne enemys, and of the vengeance-takynge upon that wolde engendre another vengeance, and muchel sorwe and wastynge of richesses, as I seyde. § 44        And as touching the fourth point, what Cicero calls `engendering,' you shall consider that this wrong which is done to you is engendered by the hate of your enemies, and by the vengeance-taking thereupon that would engender another vengeance, and much sorrow and wasting of riches, as I said.
§ 45        Now, sire, as to the point that Tullius clepeth 'causes,;' which that is the laste point, thou shalt understonde that the wrong that thou hast receyved hath certeine causes, whiche that clerkes clepen Oriens and Efficiens, and Causa longinqua and Causa propinqua, this is to seyn, the fer cause and the ny cause. The fer cause is almyghty god, that is cause of alle thynges. The neer cause is thy thre enemys. The cause accidental was hate. The cause material been the fyve woundes of thy doghter. The cause formal is the manere of hir werkynge that broghten laddres and cloumben in at thy wyndowes. The cause final was for to sle thy doghter. It letted nat in as muche as in hem was. But for to speken of the fer cause, as to what ende they shul come, or what shal finally bityde of hem in this caas, ne kan I nat deeme but by conjectynge and by supposynge. For we shul suppose that they shul come to a wikked ende, by cause that the Book of Decrees seith, 'seelden, or with greet peyne, been causes ybroght to good ende whanne they been baddely bigonne.' § 45        Now, sir, as to the point that Cicero calls `causes,' which is the last point, you shall understand that the wrong that you have received has certain causes, which clerks call Oriens and Efficiens, and Causa longinqua and Causa propinqua; this is to say, the far cause and the near cause. The far cause is almighty God, that is cause of all things. The near cause is your three enemies. The cause accidental was hate. The cause material are the five wounds of your daughter. The cause formal is the manner of their working who brought ladders and climbed in at thy windows. The cause final was to kill your daughter. It did not delay insofar as was in their power. But to speak of the far cause, as to what end they shall come, or what shall finally happen to them in this case, nor can I judge except by conjecture and by supposing. For we should suppose that they shall come to a wicked end, because the Book of Decrees says, `Seldom, or with great effort, are causes brought to a good end when they are badly begun.'

Next Next:
From The Tale of Melibee, paragraph 46-50:
Revenge is reserved to a judge, not to an individual