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◈ The Canterbury Tales ◈

◇ The Shipman’s Tale, and The Prioress’s Tale ◇

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 1. The Shipman’s Tale
 2. The Shipman-Prioress Link
 3. The Prioress’s Prologue
 4. The Prioress’s Tale

1. The Shipman’s Tale

0 Here begins the Shipman’s Tale
1 A merchant once there was at Saint-Denis,
2 Whom men thought wise, for he was wealthy.
3 A wife he had too, of excellent beauty,
4 And sociable, and fond of fun was she
5 Which is a thing that causes more expense
6 Than all the close attention and reverence
7 Is worth, that they receive at feasts and dances.
8 Such salutations and such countenances
9 Pass as do the shadows on a wall.
10 But woe to him then who must pay for all!
11 The foolish husband always has to pay;
12 He must clothe us and provide display,
13 All for his own reputation, richly,
14 Display amongst which we dance, jollily.
15 And if he cannot pay, peradventure,
16 Or else such expense will not endure,
17 But thinks it wasted, and money lost,
18 Then must another man pay our cost,
19 Or lend us gold, and that is perilous.
20 This noble merchant ran a worthy house,
21 Because of which such crowds were always there,
22 For his largess, and since his wife was fair,
23 It was a wonder; hearken to my tale!
24 Amongst his guests, the female and the male,
25 There was a monk, a handsome man and bold
26 I guess he was but thirty winters old
27 And constantly attracted to the place.
28 This young monk, who was so fine of face,
29 Had become so friendly with the husband,
30 Since their acquaintance first began,
31 That he was welcomed as familiarly
32 In his house, as any friend could be.
33 And inasmuch as this good husband,
34 And the monk whose tale I just began,
35 Were both of them born in the same village,
36 The monk would claim him as a relative,
37 And he the same; he never said him nay,
38 But was as glad of it as bird of day,
39 For to his heart it was sweet circumstance,
40 That thus they forged eternal alliance,
41 And each of them the other did assure
42 Of brotherhood while life should so endure.
43 Free was monk John, and liberal of expense,
44 When in that house, and full of diligence
45 To do what pleases, and so pay his wages.
46 He never forgot the lowliest of pages,
47 In all that household, each in his degree
48 He dowered, the lord and all his company,
49 Whenever he came, with some generous thing.
50 So that they were as glad at his arriving
51 As the birds are when the new sun rises.
52 No more of that for now, since it suffices.
53 It so befell, this merchant one fine day
54 Was readying all his travelling array,
55 Towards the town of Bruges for to fare,
56 To buy there a portion of his wares;
57 And so to Paris he had sent anon
58 A messenger, requesting of Sir John
59 That he should come to Saint Denis, and stay
60 With him and with his wife, beyond a day,
61 Before he left for Bruges, as he must do.
62 This noble monk, whom I describe to you,
63 Won from his abbot, as requested, licence,
64 Because he was a man of great prudence
65 An abbey officer, appointed so to ride,
66 To check the barns and granges, far and wide;
67 And to Saint Denis came he anon.
68 Who was as welcome as my lord Sir John,
69 Our dear cousin, full of courtesy?
70 With him he brought a jar of fine Malmsey,
71 Another too, a white, Italian vintage,
72 And wild-fowl as well, as was his usage.
73 And so leave them to eat and drink and play,
74 The merchant and the monk, the livelong day.
75 On the third day, this merchant rises
76 And of his duties sadly himself advises,
77 And up into his counting-house goes he,
78 To reckon up, himself, as it must be,
79 How the year had gone with him, and stood,
80 And how much he’d expended of his goods,
81 And whether he’d made a profit or made none.
82 His books, and bags of coin, many a one,
83 He laid before him on his counting-board.
84 Full rich was his treasure and his hoard,
85 And so he kept the counter-door fast shut;
86 And wished no man to come and interrupt
87 His casting of the accounts, for some time.
88 And so he sat there till well after prime.
89 Sir John had risen in the morn also,
90 And walked about the garden to and fro,
91 While making his devotions all devoutly.
92 The good wife came walking covertly
93 Into the garden where he wandered softly,
94 And saluted him, as she had frequently.
95 A maid child came with her for company,
96 Whom she might govern as she pleased,
97 For yet under the rod was the maid.
98 ‘O dear cousin mine, Sir John,’ she said,
99 What ails you, so early do you rise?’
100 Niece,’ quoth he, ‘really it should suffice
101 For me to sleep five hours of a night,
102 Except I were some old enfeebled fright,
103 As are those married men, who cower there,
104 As in a form might sit a weary hare
105 Tormented by the hounds in the vale.
106 But dear niece, why are you so pale?
107 I might guess, for sure, that our good man
108 Had laboured with you so, since night began,
109 That you have need of rest now, and swiftly.’
110 And with these words he laughed right merrily,
111 And with his own thoughts he waxed all red.
112 The fair wife began to shake her head,
113 And said thus: ‘Ah, God knows all,’ quoth she.
114 Nay, cousin mine, it stands not so with me!
115 For, by the God that gave me soul and life,
116 In all the realm of France there is no wife
117 That finds less pleasure in that sorry play;
118 For I may singalas!” andwell-away
119 That I was born!” but to no one’, quoth she
120 Dare I tell how things truly stand with me.
121 So that I think out of this land to wend,
122 Or else of my own self to make an end,
123 So full am I of fear and of care.’
124 Hearing this, the monk began to stare,
125 And said: ‘Alas, my niece, God forbid
126 That you for any sorrow or for dread
127 Should kill yourself; come, tell me all your grief.
128 Peradventure I may give you some relief
129 Or counsel in your trouble, so tell me
130 All your problems, speak them privately.
131 For on my breviary I swear an oath,
132 That never in all my life, to friend or foe,
133 Any secret of yours shall I betray.’
134 The same again to you,’ quoth she, ‘I say.
135 By God and by this breviary I swear,
136 Though men me into pieces all would tear,
137 That I shall never, may I go to Hell,
138 Betray a single word to me you tell,
139 Not for our kinship, no, nor alliance,
140 But truly out of love and affiance.’
141 So were they sworn, and thereupon they kissed,
142 And each told the other what they wished.
143 Cousin,’ quoth she, ‘if that I had a space
144 Of timeas I have not, here in this place
145 Then would I tell the story of my life,
146 How I have suffered since I was a wife
147 With my husband, though he is your cousin.’
148 Nay,’ quoth the monk, ‘by God and Saint Martin,
149 He is no more a cousin unto me
150 Than is this leaf hanging from the tree!
151 I call him so, by Saint Denis of France,
152 To have better reason for acquaintance
153 With you, whom I love, especially,
154 Above all women, and so most deeply;
155 This I swear to you, by my profession.
156 Tell me your grief, give it full expression,
157 Lest he come: quick, then go your way anon.’
158 My dear love,’ quoth she, ‘O my Sir John,
159 It were better this secret for to hide,
160 But it must out; it may no more abide.
161 My husband is to me the vilest man
162 There ever was since the world began!
163 But since I’m his wife, it befits not me
164 Ever to compromise our privacy,
165 Neither in bed nor any other place.
166 God forbid I should tell, by His grace!
167 A wife should not speak about her husband
168 Except in honour, as I well understand.
169 But to tell you this much, well I shall:
170 So help me God he is worth naught at all,
171 Not even, I say, the value of a flea.
172 But what grieves me most, he’s niggardly!
173 And you know well, that women naturally
174 Desire six things, indeed, like to me:
175 They desire their husbands should be
176 Brave, wise, and rich, and liberally free,
177 Obedient to their wives, and fresh in bed.
178 But by the same Lord that for us bled,
179 For his honour, to dress in fine array,
180 On Sunday next it’s necessary I pay
181 A hundred francs, or else I die forlorn.
182 Yet it were better I had not been born,
183 Than be subject to slander or villainy.
184 And if my husband aught of this should see,
185 I’d be lost; and therefore you I pray,
186 Lend me the sum, or I must die today.
187 Sir John, I say, lend me this hundred francs;
188 In faith, I will not fail of my thanks,
189 If that you choose to do what I pray.
190 For on the date you set I will repay,
191 And do whatever pleasure and service
192 I may do you, such as you shall request.
193 And if I do not, God take on me vengeance,
194 As foul as that earned by Ganelon of France!’
195 The noble monk answered in this manner:
196 Now truly, my own lady, and my dear,
197 I havequoth he, ‘such pity for you, my oath
198 I swear to you, and plight to you my troth
199 That, when your husband does to Flanders fare,
200 I will deliver you from all this care,
201 For I will bring you the hundred francs.’
202 And with these words he caught her by the flanks,
203 And embraced her hard, and kissed her fiercely.
204 Go now your way,’ quoth he, still and softly,
205 And let us dine, soon as ever we may,
206 For by my dial it’s past the prime of day.
207 Go now, and be as true as I shall be.’
208 God forbid it otherwise, sire,’ quoth she;
209 And forth she went as pert as a magpie,
210 And bade the cooks be swift, that by and by
211 Men might sit and dine, and that anon.
212 Off to her husband then the wife was gone,
213 And knocked at his counting-house door boldly.
214 Qui la?’ quoth he. ‘Why, Peter, it is me
215 Quoth she; ‘What, sire! How long now must you fast?
216 How much longer reckon up and cast
217 Your sums, and all your books and things?
218 Devil take all such devilish reckonings!
219 You have enough, in faith, from God’s own hand;
220 Come down today, and let your coffers stand.
221 Aren’t you ashamed now that our good Sir John
222 Is fasting wretchedly all this day gone?
223 What! Let’s hear a Mass, and go and dine.’
224 Wife,’ quoth the man, ‘little can you divine
225 The complicated business that we run;
226 For of us merchants, God save all and one,
227 And by the lord that is called Saint Ive,
228 Scarcely two in every twelve may thrive
229 Continually, and it last to our old age.
230 We must ever show a cheerful visage,
231 And seem to take the world as it will be,
232 And veil our own affairs in secrecy,
233 Till we are dead, or else we must go play
234 At pilgrimage, or hide ourselves away,
235 And therefore it’s a prime necessity
236 For me to judge this strange world carefully.
237 For evermore we must live in dread
238 Of mishap and ill Fortune on our head.
239 To Flanders shall I go tomorrow day,
240 And then return as soon as ever I may.
241 For which reason, wife, I do beseech,
242 You to all men be courteous and meek,
243 And, to guard our property, be zealous,
244 And govern well and honestly our house.
245 You have enough of all, in ever wise,
246 That for a thrifty household should suffice.
247 You lack nothing here in clothes or victuals;
248 The silver in your purse too shall not fail.’
249 And with that his counter-door he shut,
250 And down he went then, with ready foot.
251 Then and there a Mass was swiftly said,
252 And speedily the tables all were spread;
253 And to break their fast they quickly sped;
254 And sumptuously this monk the merchant fed.
255 After the dinner, Sir John, soberly,
256 Took the merchant aside, and privately
257 Spoke to him thus: ‘Cousin, it stands so,
258 I see indeed to Bruges you mean to go.
259 God and Augustine speed you then and guide!
260 I pray you, be careful, cousin, how you ride;
261 Govern yourself also, in your meat,
262 Temperately, especially in this heat.
263 Between us two need nothing formal fare.
264 Farewell, cousin, and God shield you from care!
265 And if there’s anything, by day or night,
266 That lies within my power and my might,
267 Which you command of me, in any wise,
268 It shall be done, just as you shall advise!
269 One thing, before you go though, indulge me,
270 I wonder, now, if you might lend me
271 A hundred francs, for a week, since I
272 Have certain cattle that I must buy,
273 To stock a certain farm that is ours
274 God help me so, I wish it were yours!
275 I must not fail to settle on the day,
276 Not if it were a thousand francs, I say.
277 But let this thing be hidden from the eye,
278 For yet tonight these creatures I must buy.
279 And now farewell, my own cousin dear;
280 Graunt merci for your loan and good cheer.’
281 The noble merchant courteously anon
282 Answered, saying: ‘O cousin mine, Sir John,
283 Now this is indeed but a small request!
284 My gold is yours to do as you think best,
285 And not only my gold but all my wares;
286 Take what you wish, don’t leave yourself spare!
287 But one thing more, let me remind you now,
288 That, with merchants, our money is our plough.
289 We may have credit while we have a name,
290 But to lack gold, well that’s another game.
291 So pay it again when you can with ease;
292 In every way I can I wish to please.’
293 The hundred francs he fetches forth anon,
294 And covertly conveys them to Sir John.
295 No one in all this world knows of the loan,
296 Save the merchant and Sir John alone.
297 They drink and speak, walk a while and play,
298 Till, to his abbey, Sir John rides away.
299 The morrow comes, forth does the merchant ride
300 On Flanders road; his prentice as his guide
301 Until he reaches Bruges full merrily.
302 Now goes the merchant fast and busily
303 About his business, buys, and pays advances.
304 He neither plays at dice, there, nor dances,
305 But like a merchant, briefly for to tell,
306 He leads his life; and there I’ll leave him dwell.
307 The very next Sunday after he’d gone,
308 To Saint-Denis returned the good Sir John,
309 With his beard and tonsure freshly shaved.
310 In all that household, from the littlest knave
311 To every other there, the joy was plain
312 At seeing my lord Sir John back there again.
313 And swiftly to the point right for to go,
314 The fair wife settled with Sir John also
315 That for the hundred francs he should all night
316 Hold her in his arms tight, till it was light.
317 And this accord was acted out in deed;
318 In mirth all night a busy life they lead
319 Till it is day, Sir John goes on his way,
320 Bidding the household all: ‘Farewell, good day!’
321 For none of them, no person of that town,
322 Had of good Sir John the least suspicion.
323 And forth he rode and homeward to his abbey,
324 Or where he pleased; no more of him from me.
325 The merchant, when he’d finished his affairs,
326 To Saint Denis rides off, and there repairs;
327 And with his wife seeks feasting and good cheer,
328 Tells her the merchandise has proved so dear,
329 He must negotiate a fresh advance
330 For he is bound by a recognisance
331 To pay down twenty thousand crowns anon.
332 And so the merchant was to Paris gone,
333 To borrow from certain friends whom he had,
334 A sum of francs, to those he took to add.
335 And when that he was come unto the town,
336 Out of the love and the great affection
337 He had for Sir John, he went to him that day
338 Not to ask gold of him, or borrow, say,
339 But to enquire there about his welfare,
340 And tell him of his merchandise and wares,
341 As friends do, when their friends are near.
342 John welcomed him with feast and merry cheer,
343 And he in turn described, with detailed tally,
344 What wares he’d bought, most successfully
345 Thanks be to God, and all fine merchandise;
346 Save that he must, in some manner of wise,
347 Obtain a loan, for all was of the best,
348 And joyfully thus set his mind at rest.
349 Sir John replied: ‘Well then, I’ll say plain
350 It’s good that youre in health, and home again.
351 And if I were rich, so may I have bliss,
352 Twenty thousand crowns I’d never miss,
353 In loans to you, since kindly, the other day,
354 You lent me gold; and as I can and may
355 I thank you by God and by Saint James!
356 Yet nonetheless, I say, I took our dame,
357 Your wife at home, the same amount again,
358 Paid on your bench; by certain tokens plain
359 I could tell you of, shell know it well.
360 Now, by your leave, I may no longer dwell
361 Upon the matter, our abbot travels anon,
362 And in his company I must be gone.
363 Greet our dame for me, my own niece sweet,
364 And fare thee well, dear cousin, till we meet!’
365 The merchant, prudent in affairs like this,
366 Borrowing money, now paid out in Paris
367 To certain Lombards, placed it in their hands,
368 The sum of gold, received his bond as planned,
369 And home he went, merry as a popinjay,
370 For he knew he must, in the normal way
371 Of business, turn a more than average
372 Profit, a thousand francs or so, he’d gage.
373 His wife was there and met him at the gate,
374 As she was wont to do, early and late,
375 And all that night long, in mirth they met,
376 For he was rich, and free of all his debt.
377 When it was day, the merchant did embrace
378 His wife afresh, and then he kissed her face,
379 At her he went, and played a little rough.
380 No more!’ quoth she, ‘by God, you have enough!’
381 And wantonly again with him she played,
382 Till, at the last, thus the merchant said:
383 ‘I’m angered somewhatquoth he, ‘by my oath,
384 With you, my wife, although as ever loth
385 To criticise. And why? Well, as I guess,
386 Youve brought about a kind of awkwardness
387 Between me and my cousin good Sir John.
388 You should have warned me, ere I was gone,
389 That he a hundred francs to you had paid
390 By ready tokens, and was quite dismayed
391 When I spoke about a loan to be advanced
392 Or so it seemed from his wry countenance.
393 Yet, nonetheless, by God, our Heavenly King,
394 I’d had no wish to ask for anything.
395 I pray you wife, next time do not do so;
396 Tell me always, ere that from you I go,
397 Of any debtor who may in my absence
398 Have paid you, lest by your negligence
399 I ask him for what he’s already paid.’
400 The wife was unfazed and unafraid,
401 And boldly she said, and that anon:
402 Marry, I defy the false monk, Sir John!
403 I care naught for his tokens. It befell
404 He gave me certain coins, I know it well
405 What then? Evil fall on his monk’s snout! –
406 For, God knows, I thought, without a doubt,
407 That they were given to me because of you,
408 To do me honour, and benefit me too,
409 From cousinship, and also the good cheer
410 He has so often had when he was here.
411 But since it seems the thing is all disjoint,
412 I’ll answer you briefly now, and to the point.
413 Youve many a slacker debtor than me,
414 For I will pay you well and readily
415 From day to day; and if so ever I fail,
416 I am your wife, tally it on my tail,
417 And I will pay as soon as ever I may.
418 For, by my oath I have, on fine display,
419 But not extravagance, as thus befell,
420 Spent every bit, and spent it all so well
421 For your honour, that, for God’s sake, I say
422 Do not be angry, let us laugh and play.
423 Youll have my sweet body as pledge instead;
424 By God, I’ll only pay you thus, in bed!
425 Forgive me then, my own spouse, my dear;
426 Turn hitherward, and show better cheer.’
427 The merchant saw there was no remedy,
428 And to chide her for it merely folly,
429 Since the thing could not amended be.
430 Well, wife,’ he said, ‘I forgive it thee;
431 But by your life, the bills make not so large.
432 Guard our wealth better; so I you do charge.’
433 Thus ends my tale now, and may God us send
434 Tal(ly)ing enough unto our own life’s end! Amen.
435 Here ends the Shipman’s Tale

2. The Shipman-Prioress Link

0 Behold the merry words of the Host to the Shipman and to the Lady Prioress
1 Well said, by Corpus Dominus!’ quoth our Host.
2 Now, long may you sail about our coast,
3 Sir gentle master, gentle mariner!
4 God give the monk a cartload of bad years!
5 Aha, my friends, be wary of such japes!
6 In the merchant’s hood our monk loosed an ape,
7 And in his wife’s too, by Saint Augustine;
8 Ask no more monks to any house youre in.
9 But now, pass on, and let us seek about
10 For who will next tell, of all this rout,
11 Another tale’ – and after that he said,
12 As courteously as if he were a maid:
13 My Lady Prioress, by your leave,
14 If that I knew it would not truly grieve,
15 I would judge it fitting that you should
16 Tell the next tale, if it so be you would.
17 Now will you agree, my lady dear?’
18 Gladly,’ quoth she, and spoke as you shall hear.

3. The Prioress’s Prologue

0 The Prologue to the Prioress’s Tale
1 Domine dominus noster: O Lord, our Lord (Psalm 8)
2 ‘O Lord, our Lord, your name how marvellous
3 It is, far spread in this great world!’ quoth she,
4 For not only is your praise, most precious,
5 Celebrated by men of dignity,
6 But in the mouths of children your bounty
7 Is celebrated too; for at the breast sucking
8 Sometimes theyll display their thanksgiving.
9 Wherefore in praise, as best I can or may,
10 Of Thee and of the white lily flower
11 Who bore Thee, and is a maid always,
12 To tell a tale I’ll now turn my labour
13 Not that I may thus increase her honour,
14 For she herself is honour, the fountain
15 Of worth, next her Son, the soul’s salvation.
16 O mother-maid, O maiden-mother free!
17 O bush un-burnt, burning in Mosessight,
18 That drew down in joy from the Deity,
19 Through your humility, in you to alight,
20 The Holy Ghost, of whose power, your heart-light,
21 Was conceived the Father’s Sapience,
22 Help me to speak, and show you reverence.
23 Lady, your worth, and your magnificence,
24 Your virtue, and your great humility,
25 No tongue may express, nor no science.
26 For often lady, ere men pray to thee,
27 You go before them, in benignity,
28 And obtain the light for us of prayer
29 To guide us towards your Son so dear.
30 My skill’s so weak, O my blissful Queen,
31 Ever to declare your great worthiness,
32 That I may not the weight of it sustain,
33 But like a child but twelve months old or less,
34 That can scarce a single word express,
35 So then am I; and therefore I now pray,
36 Guide my song of you, as on I say.

4. The Prioress’s Tale

0 Here begins the Prioress’s Tale
1 There was in Asia, in a great city
2 Of Christian folks, a ghetto for Jewry,
3 Maintained by a lord of that country,
4 For shameful profit out of foul usury,
5 Hateful to Christ and all his company.
6 And through its streets men might ride and wend,
7 For it was free, and open at either end.
8 A little school of Christian folk there stood
9 Down at the farther end, in which there were
10 A crowd of children, born of Christian blood,
11 Who learned in that school, year by year,
12 Such manner of doctrine as men used there
13 That is to say, to sing and then to read,
14 As little ones when children do, indeed.
15 Among these children was a widow’s son,
16 A little schoolboy, seven years of age,
17 Who day by day off to the school would run,
18 And also whenever he saw the image
19 Of Christ’s mother, as was common usage
20 And taught to him, would kneel down and say
21 His Ave Maria, as he passed by the way.
22 Thus had the widow her small son taught
23 Our blissful lady, Christ’s mother dear,
24 To worship ever; and he’d forgotten naught,
25 For innocent children are quick to hear
26 Such things. And I remember in this matter,
27 Saint Nicholas, who is ever in my presence,
28 Who though young showed Christ due reverence.
29 This little child, his little book studying,
30 As he sat in school over his primer,
31 Alma redemptoris heard others singing,
32 Learning the antiphon from their reader;
33 And close as he dared he drew near and nearer,
34 And harkened to the word and the notes,
35 Till he had learnt the first verse by rote.
36 He’d no grasp of what the Latin might say,
37 Being so young, and of so tender an age;
38 But one morning he asked a friend, if, pray,
39 He might expound the song in his language,
40 And tell him why it was in common usage.
41 He begged him to construe it and declare
42 Its meaning, often down on his knees bare.
43 His friend, who was older than was he,
44 Answered him thus: ‘This song, I have heard say,
45 Was made about our blissful Lady free,
46 To salute her, and also to her pray
47 To be our help and succour always.
48 I can expound no further of this matter;
49 I know the song; but have no grasp of grammar.’
50 And is this song made in reverence
51 Of Christ’s mother?’ asked the innocent.
52 Then I’ll employ all my diligence
53 To learn it all ere Christmastide is spent,
54 Though from my primer I must be rent,
55 And shall be beaten thrice in an hour,
56 I will learn it, Our Lady for to honour.’
57 His friend taught him it privately
58 Each day as they went home, till by rote
59 He knew it, then sang it well and boldly,
60 Every word, according to the notes.
61 Twice a day it passed through his throat,
62 School-ward and homeward as he went;
63 On Christ’s mother set was his intent.
64 As I have said, among the Jewry,
65 This little child, as he went to and fro,
66 Full merrily then would he sing and cry
67 ‘O alma redemptorisand ever so.
68 The sweetness had pierced his heart, lo,
69 Of Christ’s mother, so that he must pray
70 To her, nor leave off singing by the way.
71 Our first foe, Serpent Satan, who has
72 Made in the Jew’s heart his wasp’s nest,
73 Swelled up and said, ‘O Hebrew folk, alas!
74 Is this a thing that seems to you full honest,
75 That such a boy shall walk by, as if blessed,
76 In spite of you, and sing out each sentence
77 That goes against the laws you reverence?’
78 From thenceforth the Jews there conspired
79 The innocent from out this world to chase.
80 A murderer, to serve this end, they hired,
81 Who in an alley had a private place,
82 And as the child passed by at a pace,
83 This wretched Jew caught and held him fast,
84 And cut his throat, and in the pit him cast.
85 Into a privy-drain him they threw,
86 Where the Jews purged their entrails.
87 O cursed folk of Herod, born anew,
88 How shall your evil intent you avail?
89 Murder will out, for sure, and shall not fail
90 God’s honour, there, especially for to speed,
91 The blood cries out against your cursed deed.
92 O Martyr, bonded to virginity,
93 Now you may sing, ever following on
94 The white Lamb celestialquoth she
95 Of which the great evangelist, Saint John
96 Of Patmos, wrote, who says those who are gone
97 Sing before the Lamb a song all new,
98 Who never, in the flesh, women knew.
99 The poor widow waited all that night
100 For her little child, but he came not.
101 So, as soon as ever it was light,
102 Her face pale with dread, in anxious thought,
103 She, at the school and elsewhere, him sought;
104 Till this much she discovered, finally,
105 That he had last been seen among the Jewry.
106 With mother’s pity in her breast enclosed,
107 She went, and she was half out of her mind,
108 To every place where she might suppose
109 It likely that she might her child find;
110 And ever on Christ’s mother, meek and kind,
111 She cried, and at the last thus she wrought:
112 Among the cursed Jews she him sought.
113 She begged, and she prayed piteously
114 Of every Jew who dwelt in that place,
115 To tell her if her child had been by.
116 They saidnaybut Jesus, of His grace,
117 Put in her mind, within a little space,
118 To go from that place, where she cried,
119 To where he was, in the pit, cast aside.
120 O Great God, that hears Your praise performed
121 Through innocent mouths, lo, here is Your might!
122 This gem of chastity, this emerald,
123 And of martyrdom this ruby bright,
124 Lay there with his throat cut, upright,
125 And Alma redemptoris did he sing
126 So loud that all the place began to ring.
127 The Christian folk who through the streets went
128 Came crowding for wonder at this thing,
129 And swiftly for the provost then they sent.
130 He came anon, without tarrying,
131 While praising Christ, who is of Heaven king,
132 His mother also, honour of mankind,
133 And after that the wretched Jews did bind.
134 The child, with piteous lamentation
135 Was lifted up, singing his song always;
136 And with honour in a great procession
137 Carried to the abbey ere close of day.
138 His mother, swooning, by his bier lay;
139 Scarcely could the people with a tear
140 Drag this second Rachel from his bier.
141 With torment and shameful death each one
142 The Provost sentence on the Jews did serve
143 Who of the murder knew, and that anon.
144 Death for such wickedness he must observe.
145 Evil shall have what evil does deserve;
146 So with wild horses he did them draw,
147 And hung them then, according to the law.
148 Upon his bier still lay this innocent,
149 Before the altar while the Mass did last,
150 And after that the Abbot with his convent,
151 Hastened them to bury him full fast.
152 And when they holy water on him cast,
153 The child spoke, sprinkled with the water,
154 And sang: ‘O alma redemptis mater’.
155 The abbot then, who was a holy man,
156 As monks areor else they ought to be
157 The little child to beseech began,
158 Saying: ‘O, dear child, I entreat thee,
159 By virtue of the Holy Trinity,
160 Tell me what allows you thus to sing,
161 Since your throat is cut, as seems the thing?’
162 My throat is cut through to the neck-bone,’
163 Said the child, ‘in the manner of mankind,
164 I should have diedand long ago be gone.
165 But Jesus Christ, as you in books will find,
166 Wills that His glory last, be kept in mind;
167 And for the worship of his mother dear,
168 I may yet sing “O almaloud and clear.
169 That well of mercy, Christ’s mother sweet,
170 I have loved always, after my knowing;
171 And when my death I was about to meet,
172 She came to me, and bade me for to sing
173 This anthem in truth while I was dying,
174 As you have heard; and when I had sung
175 She laid a grain of seed upon my tongue.
176 And so I sing, and sing I must again,
177 In honour of that blissful maiden free,
178 Till from my tongue is removed that grain.
179 And after that, thus she spoke to me:
180 My little child, I will come to fetch thee
181 When that the grain from your tongue they take.
182 Be not afraid; I will not thee forsake.”’
183 The holy monkthe abbot, I mean he
184 Touched his tongue, and so removed the grain,
185 And thus he gave up the ghost full softly.
186 And when the abbot saw this wonder plain,
187 His salt tears trickled down like rain,
188 And down he fell flat upon the ground,
189 And still he lay, as if he had been bound.
190 The convent of monks lay on the pavement
191 Weeping, praising Christ’s mother dear.
192 And after that they rose, and forth they went,
193 And took up the martyr from his bier.
194 And in a tomb of marble polished sheer
195 They enclosed his little body sweet.
196 There he is now, God grant we may meet!
197 O young Hugh of Lincoln, slain also
198 By cursed Jews, a tale still notable,
199 Since it was but a little while ago,
200 Pray for us too, we folk to sin so liable,
201 That, in His mercy, God all merciful
202 Grant us great mercy, and never vary,
203 In reverence for his mother Mary. Amen.
【 】The Shipman’s Tale, and The Prioress’s Tale
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