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From The Tale of Melibee, paragraph 77-84:
About repentance
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Tale of Melibee
Paragraph 85-88
Forgiveness and a happy end

§ 85        And whan that dame Prudence saugh hir tyme, she freyned and axed hir lord Melibee what vengeance he thoughte to taken of his adversaries. § 85        And when dame Prudence saw her time, she questioned and asked her lord Melibee what vengeance he thought to take upon his adversaries.
§ 86        To which Melibee answerde, and seyde: "Certes, quod he, I thynke and purpose me fully to desherite hem of al that evere they han, and for to putte hem in exil for evere." § 86        To which Melibee answered and said, "Certainly," said he, "I think and purpose me fully to dispossess them of all that ever they have and to put them in exile forever."
§ 87        "Certes," quod dame Prudence, "this were a crueel sentence and muchel agayn resoun. For ye been riche ynough, and han no nede of oother mennes good; and ye myghte lightly in this wise gete yow a coveitous name, which is a vicious thyng, and oghte been eschued of every good man. For after the sawe of the word of the apostle, 'coveitise is roote of alle harmes.' And therfore it were bettre for yow to lese so muchel good of youre owene, than for to taken of hir good in this manere; for bettre it is to lesen good with worshipe, than it is to wynne good with vileynye and shame. And everi man oghte to doon his diligence and his bisynesse to geten hym a good name. And yet shal he nat oonly bisie hym in kepynge of his good name, but he shal also enforcen hym alwey to do somthyng by which he may renovelle his good name. For it is writen that 'the olde good loos or good name of a man is soone goon and passed, whan it is nat newed ne renovelled.' And as touchynge that ye seyn ye wole exile youre adversaries, that thynketh me muchel agayn resoun and out of mesure, considered the power that they han yeve yow upon hemself. And it is writen that 'he is worthy to lesen his privilege, that mysuseth the myght and the power that is yeven hym.' And I sette cas ye myghte enjoyne hem that peyne by right and by lawe, which I trowe ye mowe nat do, I seye ye mighte nat putten it to execucioun peraventure, and thanne were it likly to retourne to the werre as it was biforn. And therfore, if ye wole that men do yow obeisance, ye moste deemen moore curteisly; this is to seyn, ye moste yeven moore esy sentences and juggementz. For it is writen that 'he that moost curteisly comandeth, to hym men moost obeyen.' And therfore I prey yow that in this necessitee and in this nede ye caste yow to overcome youre herte. For Senec seith that 'he that overcometh his herte, overcometh twies.' And Tullius seith: "ther is no thyng so comendable in a greet lord as whan he is debonaire and meeke, and appeseth him lightly. And I prey yow that ye wole forbere now to do vengeance, in swich a manere that youre goode name may be kept and conserved, and that men mowe have cause and mateere to preyse yow of pitee and of mercy, and that ye have no cause to repente yow of thyng that ye doon. For Senec seith, 'he overcometh in an yvel manere that repenteth hym of his victorie.' Wherfore I pray yow, lat mercy been in youre herte, to th' effect and entente that God almighty have mercy on yow in his laste juggement. For Seint Jame seith in his epistle: 'juggement withouten mercy shal be doon to hym that hath no mercy of another wight.'" § 87        "Certainly," said dame Prudence, "this would be a cruel sentence and much again reason. For you are rich enough and have no need of other men's wealth, and you might easily in this way get yourself a covetous name, which is a vicious thing, and ought to be shunned by every good man. For according to the saying of the word of the Apostle, `Greed is root of all harms.' And therefore it were better for you to lose so much wealth of your own than to take their wealth in this manner, for better it is to lose wealth with honor than it is to acquire wealth with villainy and shame. And every man ought to do his best efforts and his main concern to get himself a good name. And yet shall he not only busy himself in keeping of his good name, but he shall also strive always to do something by which he may renew his good name. For it is written that `the old good reputation or good name of a man is soon gone and passed, when it is not renewed nor restored.' And as touching that you say you will exile your adversaries, that thinks me much against reason and out of measure, considered the power that they have given you upon themselves. And it is written that `he is worthy to lose his privilege that misuses the might and the power that is given him.' And I assume you might impose on them that punishment by justice and by law, which I believe you can not do; I say perhaps you could not put it to execution, and then it would be likely to return to the war as it was before. And therefore, if you want men to do you obedience, you must judge more courteously; this is to say, you must give more easy sentences and judgments. For it is written that `he who most courteously commands, to him men most obey.' And therefore I pray you that in this necessity and in this urgent matter you endeavor to overcome your heart. For Seneca says that `he that overcomes his heart overcomes twice.' And Cicero says, `There is no thing so commendable in a great lord as when he is gentle and meek, and calms himself easily. And I pray you that you will forbear now to do vengeance, in such a manner that your good name may be kept and conserved, and that men may have cause and matter to praise you for pity and for mercy, and that you have no cause to repent yourself of thing that you do. For Seneca says, `He overcomes in an evil manner who repents himself of his victory.' Wherefore I pray you, let mercy be in your heart, to the effect and intent that God Almighty have mercy on you in his last judgment. For Saint James says in his Epistle: `Judgment without mercy shall be done to him that has no mercy for another person.'"
§ 88        Whanne Melibee hadde herd the grete skiles and resouns of dame Prudence, and hire wise informaciouns and techynges, his herte gan enclyne to the wil of his wif, considerynge hir trewe entente, and conformed hym anon, and assented fully to werken after hir conseil; and thonked God, of whom procedeth al vertu and alle goodnesse, that hym sente a wyf of so greet discrecioun. And whan the day cam that his adversaries sholde appieren in his presence, he spak unto hem ful goodly, and seyde in this wyse: "al be it so that of youre pride and heigh presumpcioun and folie, and of youre necligence and unkonnynge, ye have mysborn yow and trespassed unto me, yet for as muche as I see and biholde youre grete humylitee, and that ye been sory and repentant of youre giltes, it constreyneth me to doon yow grace and mercy. Wherfore I receyve yow to my grace, and foryeve yow outrely alle the offenses, injuries, and wronges that ye have doon agayn me and myne, to this effect and to this ende that God of his endelees mercy wole at the tyme of oure diynge foryeven us oure giltes that we han trespassed to hym in this wrecched world. For doutelees, if we be sory and repentant of the synnes and giltes which we han trespassed in the sighte of oure lord God, he is so free and so merciable that he wole foryeven us oure giltes, and bryngen us to the blisse that nevere hath ende." Amen. § 88        When Melibee had heard the great logical arguments and reasons of dame Prudence, and her wise counsels and teachings, his heart began to incline to the will of his wife, considering her true intent, and conformed him immediately and assented fully to work according to her advice, and thanked God, of whom proceeds all virtue and all goodness, that sent him a wife of so great discretion. And when the day came that his adversaries should appear in his presence, he spoke unto them very goodly, and said in this way: "Although it be so that of your pride and high presumption and folly, and of your negligence and ignorance, you have misbehaved yourself and trespassed unto me, yet forasmuch as I see and behold your great humility and that you are sorry and repentant of your guilts, it constrains me to do you grace and mercy. Wherefore I receive you to my grace and forgive you completely all the offenses, injuries, and wrongs that you have done against me and mine, to this effect and to this end, that God of his endless mercy will at the time of our dying forgive us our guilts that we have trespassed to him in this wretched world. For doubtless, if we are sorry and repentant of the sins and guilts which we have trespassed in the sight of our Lord God, he is so free and so merciful that he will forgive us our guilts and bring us to the bliss that never has end." Amen.

Heere is ended Chaucers Tale of Melibee and of Dame Prudence.

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From The Canterbury Tales, The Monk's Tale