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The Canterbury Tales: The Clerk's Tale (Part Two)

Heere bigynneth the Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.

Ther is, at the west syde of Ytaille, Doun at the roote of Vesulus the colde, A lusty playne, habundant of vitaille, 60 Where many a tour and toun thou mayst biholde That founded were in tyme of fadres olde, And many another delitable sighte, And Saluces this noble contree highte. A markys whilom lord was of that lond, 65 As were his worthy eldres hym bifore, And obeisant and redy to his hond Were alle his liges, bothe lasse and moore. Thus in delit he lyveth, and hath doon yoore, Biloved and drad thurgh favour of Fortune, 70 Bothe of his lordes and of his commune. Therwith he was, to speke as of lynage, The gentilleste yborn of Lumbardye; A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age, And ful of honour and of curteisye, 75 Discreet ynogh his contree for to gye, Save that in somme thynges that he was to blame, And Walter was this yonge lordes name. I blame hym thus, that he considereth noght In tyme comynge what hym myghte bityde, 80 But in his lust present was al his thoght, As for to hauke and hunte on every syde. Wel ny alle othere cures leet he slyde; And eek he nolde - and that was worst of alle - Wedde no wyf, for noght that may bifalle. 85 Oonly that point his peple bar so soore, That flokmeele on a day they to hym wente, And oon of hem, that wisest was of loore - Or elles that the lord best wolde assente, That he sholde telle hym what his peple mente, 90 Or elles koude he shewe wel swich mateere - He to the markys seyde as ye shul heere: "O noble Markys, youre humanitee Asseureth us, and yeveth us hardinesse, As ofte as tyme is of necessitee 95 That we to yow mowe telle oure hevynesse. Accepteth, lord, now for youre gentillesse That we with pitous herte unto yow pleyne, And lat youre eres nat my voys desdeyne. Al have I noght to doone in this mateere 100 Moore than another man hath in this place; Yet for as muche as ye, my lord so deere, Han alwey shewed me favour and grace, I dar the bettre aske of yow a space Of audience to shewen oure requeste, 105 And ye, my lord, to doon right as yow leste. For certes, lord, so wel us liketh yow And al youre werk, and evere han doon that we Ne koude nat us-self devysen how We myghte lyven in moore felicitee, 110 Save o thyng, lord, if it youre wille be, That for to been a wedded man yow leste, Thanne were youre peple in sovereyn hertes reste. Boweth youre nekke under that blisful yok Of soveraynetee, noght of servyse, 115 Which that men clepeth spousaille or wedlock; And thenketh, lord, among youre thoghtes wyse How that oure dayes passe in sondry wyse, For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde, Ay fleeth the tyme, it nyl no man abyde. 120 And thogh youre grene youthe floure as yit, In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon, And deeth manaceth every age, and smyt In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon; And al so certein as we knowe echoon 125 That we shul deye, as uncerteyn we alle Been of that day, whan deeth shal on us falle. Accepteth thanne of us the trewe entente That nevere yet refuseden thyn heeste; And we wol, lord, if that ye wole assente, 130 Chese yow a wyf in short tyme atte leeste, Born of the gentilleste and of the meeste Of al this land, so that it oghte seme Honour to God, and yow, as we kan deeme. Delivere us out of al this bisy drede, 135 And taak a wyf for hye Goddes sake, For if it so bifelle, as God forbede, That thurgh your deeth your lyne sholde slake, And that a straunge successour sholde take Youre heritage, o wo were us alyve! 140 Wherfore we pray you hastily to wyve." Hir meeke preyere and hir pitous cheere Made the markys herte han pitee. "Ye wol," quod he, "myn owene peple deere, To that I nevere erst thoughte, streyne me. 145 I me rejoysed of my liberte, That seelde tyme is founde in mariage. Ther I was free, I moot been in servage. But nathelees I se youre trewe entente, And truste upon youre wit, and have doon at; 150 Wherfore of my free wyl I wole assente To wedde me, as soone as evere I may. But ther as ye han profred me to-day To chese me a wyf, I yow relesse That choys, and prey yow of that profre cesse. 155 For God it woot, that children ofte been Unlyk hir worthy eldres hem bifore. Bountee comth al of God, nat of the streen, Of which they been engendred and ybore. I truste in Goddes bountee; and therfore 160 My mariage, and myn estaat and reste, I hym bitake, he may doon as hym leste. Lat me allone in chesynge of my wyf, That charge upon my bak I wole endure; But I yow preye, and charge upon youre lyf 165 What wyf that I take, ye me assure To worshipe hir, whil that hir lyf may dure, In word and werk, bothe heere and everywheere, As she an emperoures doghter weere. And forthermoore, this shal ye swere, that ye 170 Agayn my choys shul neither grucche ne stryve, For sith I shal forgoon my libertee At youre requeste, as evere moot I thryve, Ther as myn herte is set, ther wol I wyve! And but ye wole assente in this manere, 175 I prey yow, speketh namoore of this matere." With hertely wyl they sworen and assenten To al this thyng, ther seyde no wight nay, Bisekynge hym of grace er that they wenten, That he wolde graunten hem a certein day 180 Of his spousaille, as soone as evere he may, For yet alwey the peple somwhat dredde Lest that this markys no wyf wolde wedde. He graunted hem a day, swich as hym leste, On which he wolde be wedded sikerly, 185 And seyde he dide al this at hir requeste; And they with humble entente, buxomly, Knelynge upon hir knees ful reverently Hym thonken alle, and thus they han an ende Of hir entente, and hoom agayn they wende. 190 And heerupon he to hise officeres Comaundeth for the feste to purveye, And to hise privee knyghtes and squieres Swich charge yaf, as hym liste on hem leye. And they to his comandement obeye, 195 And ech of hem dooth al his diligence To doon unto the feeste reverence.

Explicit prima pars.

The Clerk's Prologue | The Clerk's Tale: Part Two

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