The Nonne Preestes Tale

The prologe of the Nonne Preestes Tale.

‘Ho ! ‘ quod the knight, ‘ good sir, na-more of this,

That ye han seyd is right y-nough, y-wis,

And mochel more ; for litel hevinesse

Is right y-nough to mochel folk, I gesse.

I seye for me, it is a greet disese

Wher-as men han ben in greet welthe and ese,

To heren of hir sodeyn fal, allas !

And the contrarie is joie and greet solas,

As whan a man hath been in povre estaat,

And clymbeth up, and wexeth fortunat,

And ther abydeth in prosperitee,

Swich thing is gladsom, as it thinketh me,

And of swich thing were goodly for to telle.’

‘ Ye,’ quod our hcste, ‘ by seint Poules belle,

Ye seye right sooth ; this monk, he clappeth loude,

He spak how ” fortune covered with a cloude ”

I noot never what, and als of a ” Tragedie ”

Right now ye herde, and parde ! no remedie

It is for to biwaille, ne compieyne

That that is doon, and als it is a peyne,

As ye han seyd, to here of hevinesse.

Sir monk, na-more of this, so god yow blesse !

Your tale anoyeth al this companye ;

Swich talking is nat worth a boterflye ;

For ther-in is ther no desport ne game.

Wherfor, sir Monk, or dan Piers by your name,

I preye yow hertely, telle us somwhat elles,

For sikerly, nere clinking of your belles,

That on your brydel hange on every syde,

By heven king, that for us alle dyde,

I sholde er this han fallen doun for slepe,

Although the slough had never been so depe ;

Than had your tale al be told in vayn.

For certeinly, as that thise clerkes seyn,

” Wher-as a man may have noon audience,

Noght helpeth it to tellen his sentence.”

And wel I woot the substance is in me,

If any thing shal wel reported be.

Sir, sey somwhat of hunting, I yow preye.’

‘ Nay,’ quod this monk, ‘ I have no lust to pleye ;

Now let another telle, as I have told.’

Than spak our host, with rude speche and bold,

And seyde un-to the Nonnes Preest anon,

‘ Com neer, thou preest, com hider, thou sir John,

Tel us swich thing as may our hertes glade,

Be blythe, though thou ryde up-on a jade.

What though thyn hors be bothe foule and lene,

If he wol serve thee, rekke nat a bene ;

Look that thyn herte be mery evermo.’

‘ Yis, sir,’ quod he, ‘ yis, host, so mote I go,

But I be mery, y-wis, I wol be blamed : ‘ —

And right anon his tale he hath attamed,

And thus he seyde un-to us everichon,

This swete preest, this goodly man, sir John.


Here biginneth the Nonne Preestes Tale of the Cok and Hen, Chauntedeer and Pertelote.

A povre widwe, somdel stape in age,

Was whylom dwelling in a narwe cotage,

Bisyde a grove, stonding in a dale.

This widwe, of which I telle yow my tale,

Sin thilke day that she was last a wyf,

In pacience ladde a ful simple lyf,

For litel was hir catel and hir rente ;

By housbondrye, of such as God hir sente,

She fond hir-self, and eek hir doghtren two.

Three large sowes hadde she, and namo,

Three kyn, and eek a sheep that highte Malle,

Ful sooty was hir bour, and eek hir halle,

In which she eet ful many a sclendre meel.

Of poynaunt sauce hir neded never a deel.

No deyntee morsel passed thurgh hir throte ;

Hir dyete was accordant to hir cote.

Repleccioun ne made hir never syk ;

Attempree dyete was al hir phisyk,

And exercyse, and hertes suffisaunce.

The goute lette hir no-thing for to daunce,

N’apoplexye shente nat hir heed ;

No wyn ne drank she, neither whyt ne reed ;

Hir bord was served most with whyt and blak,

Milk and broun breed, in which she fond no lak,

Seynd bacoun, and somtyme an ey or tweye,

For she was as it were a maner deye.

A yerd she hadde, enclosed al aboute

With stikkes, and a drye dich with-oute,

In which she hadde a cok, hight Chauntecleer,

In al the land of crowing nas his peer.

His vois was merier than the mery orgon

On messe-clayes that in the chirche gon ;

Wei sikerer was his crowing in his logge,

Than is a clokke, or an abbey orlogge.

By nature knew he ech ascencioun

Of equinoxial in thilke toun ;

For whan degrees fiftene were ascended,

Thanne crew he, that it mighte nat ben amended.

His comb was redder than the fyn coral,

And batailed, as it were a castel-wal.

His bile was blak, and as the jeet it shoon ;

Lyk asur were his legges, and his toon ;

His nayles whytter than the lilie flour,

And lyk the burned gold was his colour.

This gentil cok hadde in his governaunce

Sevene hennes, for to doon al his plesaunce,

Whiche were his sustres and his paramours,

And wonder lyk to him, as of colours.

Of whiche the faireste hewed on hit throte

Was cleped faire daraoysele Pertelote.

Curteys she was, discreet, and debonaire,

And compaignable, and bar hir-self so faire,

Sin thilke day that she was seven night old,

That trewely she hath the herte in hold

Of Chauntecleer loken in every lith ;

He loved hir so, that wel was him therwith.

But such a joye was it to here hem singe.

Whan that the brighte sonne gan to springe,

In swete accord, ‘ my lief is faren in londe.’

For thilke tyme, as I have understonde,

Bestes and briddes coude speke and singe.

And so bifel, that in a daweninge,

As Chauntecleer among his wyves alle

Sat on his perche, that was in the halle,

And next him sat this faire Pertelote,

This Chauntecleer gan gronen in his throte,

As man that in his dreem is drecched sore.

And whan that Pertelote thus herde him rore,

She was agast, and seyde, ‘ herte dere,

What eyleth yow, to grone in this manere ?

Ye been a verray sleper, fy for shame ! ‘

And he answerde and seyde thus, ‘ madame,

I pray yow, that ye take it nat a-grief :

By god, me mette I was in swich meschief

Right now, that yet myn herte is sore afright.

Now god,’ quod he, ‘ my swevene recche aright,

And keep my body out of foul prisoun !

Me mette, how that I romed up and doun

Withinne our yerde, wher-as I saugh a beste,

Was lyk an hound, and wolde han maad areste

Upon my body, and wolde han had me deed.

His colour was bitwixe yelwe and reed ;

And tipped was his tail, and bothe his eres,

With blak, unlyk the remenant of his heres ;

His snowte smal, with glowinge eyen tweye.

Yet of his look for fere almost I deye ;

This caused me my groning, doutelees.’

‘ Avoy ! ‘ quod she, ‘ fy on yow, hertelees !

Allas ! ‘ quod she, ‘ for, by that god above,

Now han ye lost myn herte and al my love ;

I can nat love a coward, by my feith.

For certes, what so any womman seith,

We alle desyren, if it mighte be,

To han housbondes hardy, wyse, and free,

And secree, and no nigard, ne no fool,

Ne him that is agast of every tool,

Ne noon avauntour, by that god above !

How dorste ye seyn for shame unto your love,

That any thing mighte make yow aferd ?

Have ye no mannes herte, and han a berd ?

Allas ! and conne ye been agast of swevenis ?

No-thing, god wot, but vanitee, in sweven is.

Swevenes engendren of replecciouns,

And ofte of fume, and of complecciouns,

Whan humours been to habundant in a wight.

Certes this dreem, which ye han met to-night,

Cometh of the grete superfluitee

Of youre rede colera, pardee,

Which causeth folk to dreden in here dremes

Of arwes, and of fyr with rede lemes,

Of grete bestes, that they wol hem byte,

Of contek, and of whelpes grete and lyte ;

Right as the humour of malencolye

Causeth ful many a man, in sleep, to crye,

For fere of blake beres, or boles blake,

Or elles, blake develes wole hem take.

Of othere humours coude I telle also,

That werken many a man in sleep ful wo ;

But I wol passe as lightly as I can.

Lo Catoun, which that was so wys a man,

Seyde he nat thus, ne do no fors of dremes ?

Now, sire,’ quod she, ‘ whan we flee fro the bemes,

For Goddes love, as tak som laxatyf ;

Up peril of my soule, and of my lyf,

I counseille yow the beste, I wol nat lye,

That bothe of colere and of malencolye

Ye purge yow ; and for ye shul nat tarie,

Though in this toun is noon apotecarie,

I shal my-self to herbes techen yow,

That shul ben for your hele, and for your prow ;

And in our yerd tho herbes shal I finde,

The whiche han of hir propretee, by kinde,

To purgen yow binethe, and eek above.

Forget not this, for goddes owene love !

Ye been ful colerik of compleccioun.

Ware the sonne in his ascencioun

Ne fynde yow nat repleet of humours hote ;

And if it do, I dar wel leye a grote,

That ye shul have a fevere terciane,

Or an agu, that may be youre bane.

A day or two ye shul have digestyves

Of wormes, er ye take your laxatyves,

Of lauriol, centaure, and fumetere,

Or elles of ellebor, that groweth there,

Of catapuce, or of gaytres beryis,

Of erbe yve, growing in our yerd, that mery is ;

Pekke hem up right as they growe, and ete hem in.

Be mery, housbond, for your fader kin !

Dredeth no dreem ; I can say yow na-more.’

‘ Madame,’ quod he, ‘ graunt mercy of your lore.

But nathelees, as touching daun Catoun,

That hath of wisdom such a greet renoun,

Though that he bad no dremes for to drede,

By god, men may in olde bokes rede

Of many a man, more of auctoritee

Than ever Catoun was, so mote I thee,

That al the revers seyn of his sentence,

And han wel founden by experience,

That dremes ben significaciouns,

As wel of joye as tribulaciouns

That folk enduren in this lyf present.

Ther nedeth make of this noon argument ;

The verray preve sheweth it in dede.

Oon of the gretteste auctours that men rede T

Seith thus, that whylom two felawes wente

On pilgrimage, in a ful good entente ;

And happed so, thay come into a toun,

Wher-as ther was swich congregacioun

Of peple, and eek so streit of herbergage

That they ne founde as muche as o cotage

In which they bothe mighte y-logged be.

Wherfor thay mosten, of necessitee,

As for that night, departen compaignye ;

And ech of hem goth to his hostelrye,

And took his logging as it wolde falle.

That oon of hem was logged in a stalle,

Fer in a yerd, with oxen of the plough ;

That other man was logged wel y-nough,

As was his aventure, or his fortune,

That us governeth alle as in commune.

And so bifel, that, longe er it were day,

This man mette in his bed, ther-as he lay,

How that his felawe gan up-on him calle,

And seyde, ” allas ! for in an oxes stalle

This night I shal be mordred ther I lye.

Now help me, dere brother, er I dye ;

In alle haste com to me,” he sayde.

This man out of his sleep for fere abrayde ;

But whan that he was wakned of his sleep,

He turned him, and took of this no keep ;

Him thoughte his dreem nas but a vanitee.

Thus twyes in his sleping dremed he.

And atte thridde tyme yet his felawe

Cam, as him thoughte, and seide, ” I am now slawe ;

Bihold my blody woundes, depe and wyde !

Arys up erly in the morwe-tyde,

And at the west gate of the toun,” quod he,

‘ ‘ A carte ful of dong ther shaltow see,

In which my body is hid ful prively ;

Do thilke carte aresten boldely.

My gold caused my mordre, sooth to sayn ;”

And tolde him every poynt how he was slayn,

With a ful pitous face, pale of hewe.

And truste wel, his dreem he fond ful trewe ;

For on the morwe, as sone as it was day,

To his felawes in he took the way ;

And whan that he cam to this oxes stalle,

After his felawe he bigan to calle.

The hostiler answered him anon,

And seyde, ‘ ‘ sire, your felawe is agon,

As sone as day he wente out of the toun.”

This man gan fallen in suspecioun,

Remembring on his dremes that he mette,

And forth he goth, no lenger wolde he lette,

Unto the west gate of the toun, and fond

A dong-carte, as it were to donge lond,

That was arrayed in the same wyse

As ye han herd the dede man devyse ;

And with an hardy herte he gan to crye

Vengeaunce and justice of this felonye : —

” My felawe mordred is this same night,

And in this carte he lyth gapinge upright.

I crye out on the ministres,” quod he,

‘ ‘ That sh olden kepe and reulen this citee ;

Harrow ! allas ! her lyth my felawe slayn ! ”

What sholde I more un-to this tale sayn ?

The peple out-sterte, and caste the cart to grounde,

And in the middel of the dong they founde

The dede man, that mordred was al newe.

O blisful god, that art so just and trewe !

Lo, how that thou biwreyest mordre alway !

Mordre wol out, that see we day by day.

Mordre is so wlatsom and abhominable

To god, that is so just and resonable,

That he ne wol nat suffre it heled be ;

Though it abyde a yeer, or two, or three,

Mordre wol out, this my conclusioun.

And right anoon, ministres of that toun

Han hent the carter, and so sore him pyned,

And eek the hostiler so sore engyned,

That thay biknewe hir wikkednesse anoon,

And were an-hanged by the nekke-boon.

Here may men seen that dremes been to drede.

And certes, in the same book I rede,

Right in the nexte chapitre after this,

(I gabbe nat, so have I joye or blis,)

Two men that wolde han passed over see,

For certeyn cause, in-to a fer contree,

If that the wind ne hadde been contrarie,

That made hem in a citee for to tarie,

That stood ful mery upon an haven-syde.

But on a day, agayn the even-tyde,

The wind gan chaunge, and blew right as hem leste.

Jolif and glad they wente un-to hir reste,

And casten hem ful erly for to saille ;

But to that oo man fil a greet mervaille.

That oon of hem, in sleping as he lay,

Him mette a wonder dreem, agayn the day ;

Him thoughte a man stood by his beddes syde,

And him comaunded, that he sholde abyde,

And seyde him thus, ” if thou to-morwe wende,

Thou shalt be dreynt ; my tale is at an ende.”

He wook, and tolde his felawe what he mette,

And preyde him his viage for to lette ;

As for that day, he preyde him to abyde.

His felawe, that lay by his beddes syde,

Gan for to laughe, and scorned him ful faste.

” No dreem,” quod he, tc may so myn herte agaste,

That I wol lette for to do my thinges.

I sette not a straw by thy dreminges,

For swevenes been but vanitees and japes.

Men dreme al-day of owles or of apes,

And eke of many a mase therwithal ;

Men dreme of thing that never was ne shal.

But sith I see that thou wolt heer abyde,

And thus for-sleuthen wilfully thy tyde,

God wot it reweth me ; and have good day.”

And thus he took his leve, and wente his way.

But er that he hadde halfe his cours y-seyled,

Noot I nat why, ne what mischaunce it eyled,

But casuelly the shippes botme rente,

And ship and man under the water wente

In sighte of othere shippes it byside,

That with hem seyled at the same tyde.

And therfor, faire Pertelote so dere,

By swiche ensamples olde maistow lere,

That no man sholde been to recchelees

Of dremes, for I sey thee, doutelees,

That many a dreem ful sore is for to drede.

Lo, in the lyf of seint Kenelm, I rede,

That was Kenulphus sone, the noble king

Of Mercenrike, how Kenelm mette a thing ;

A lyte er he was mordred, on a day,

His mordre in his avisioun he say.

His norice him expouned every del

His sweven, and bad him for to kepe him wel

For traisoun ; but he nas but seven yeer old,

And therfore litel tale hath he told

Of any dreem, so holy was his herte.

By god, I hadde lever than my sherte

That ye had rad his legende, as have I.

Dame Pertelote, I sey yow trewely,

Macrobeus, that writ th’avisioun

In Affrike of the worthy Cipioun,

Affermeth dremes, and seith that they been

Warning of thinges that men after seen.

And forther-more, I pray yow loketh wel

In th’olde testament, of Daniel,

If he held dremes any vanitee.

Reed eek of Joseph, and ther shul ye see

Wher dremes ben somtyme (I sey nat Alla)

Warning of thinges that shul after falie.

Loke of Egipt the king, daun Pharao,

His bakere and his boteler also,

Wher they ne felte noon effect in dremes.

Who-so wol seken actes of sondry remes,

May rede of dremes many a wonder thing.

Lo Cresus, which that was of Lyde king,

Mette he nat that he sat upon a tree,

Which signified he sholde anhanged be ?

Lo heer Andromacha, Ectores wyf,

That day that Ector sholde lese his lyf,

She dremed on the same night biforn,

How that the lyf of Ector sholde be lorn,

If thilke day he wente in-to bataille ;

She warned him, but it mighte nat availle ;

He wente for to fighte nathelees,

But he was slayn anoon of Achilles.

But thilke tale is al to long to telle,

And eek it is ny day, I may nat dwelle.

Shortly I seye, as for conclusioun,

That I shal han of this avisioun

Adversitee ; and I seye forther-more,

That I ne telle of laxaty ves no store,

For they ben venimous, I woot it wel ;

I hem defye, I love hem never a del.

Now let us speke of mirthe, and stinte al this ;

Madame Pertelote, so have I blis,

Of o thing god hath sent me large grace ;

For whan I see the beautee of your face,

Ye ben so scarlet- reed about your yen,

It maketh al my drede for to dyen ;

For, also siker as In principio,

Mulier est hominis conjusio ;

Madame, the sentence of this Latin is —

Womman is mannes jcye and al his blis.

For whan I fele a-night your softe syde,

Al-be-it that I may nat on you ryde,

For that our perche is maad so narwe, alas !

I am so ful of joye and of solas

That I defye bothe sweven ar.d dreem.’

And with that word he fley doun fro the beem,

For it was day, and eek his hennes alle ;

And with a chuk he gan hem for to calle,

For he had founde a coin, lay in the yerd.

Royal he was, he was r. amore aferd ;

He fethered Pertelote twenty tyme,

And trad as ofte, er that it was pryme.

He loketh as it were a grim leoun ;

And on his toos he rometh up and doun,

Him deyned not to sette his foot to grounde.

He chukketh, whan he hath a corn y-fcunde,

And to him rennen thanne his wyves alle.

Thus royal, as a prince is in his halle,

Leve I this Chauntecleer in his pasture ;

And after wol I telle his aventure.

Whan that the month in which the world bigan,

That highte March, whan god first maked man,

Was complet, and [y] -passed were also,

Sin March bigan, thritty dayes and two,

Bifel that Chauntecleer, in al his pryde,

His seven wyves walking by his syde,

Caste up his eyen to the brighte sonne,

That in the signe of Taurus hadde y-ronne

Twenty degrees and oon, and somwhat more ;

And knew by kynde, and by noon other lore,

That it was pryme, and crew with blisful stevene.

‘ The sonne,’ he sayde, ‘ is clomben up on hevene

Fourty degrees and oon, and more, y-wis.

Madame Pertelote, my worldes blis,

Herkneth thise blisful briddes how they singe,

And see the fresshe floures how they springe ;

Ful is myn herte of revel and solas.’

But sodeinly him fil a sorweful cas ;

For ever the latter ende of joye is wo.

God woot that worldly joye is sone ago ;

And if a rethor coude faire endyte,

He in a cronique saufly mighte it wryte,

As for a sovereyn notabilitee.

Now every wys man, lat him herkne me ;

This storie is al-so trewe, I undertake,

As is the book of Launcelot de Lake,

That wommen holde in ful gret reverence.

Now wol I torne agayn to my sentence.

A col-fox, ful of sly iniquitee,

That in the grove hadde woned yeres three,

By heigh imaginacioun forn-cast,

The same night thurgh-out the hegges brast

Into the yerd, ther Chauntecleer the faire

Was wont, and eek his wyves, to repaire ;

And in a bed of wortes stille he lay,

Til it was passed undern of the day,

Wayting his tyme on Chauntecleer to falle,

As gladly doon thise homicydes alle,

That in awayt liggen to mordre men.

false mordrer, lurking in thy den !

O newe Scariot, newe Genilon !

False dissimilour, Greek Sinon,

That broghtest Troye al outrely to sorwe !

Chauntecleer, acursed be that morwe,

That thou into that yerd flough fro the bemes :

Thou were ful wel y-warned by thy dremes,

That thilke day was perilous to thee.

But what that god forwoot mot nedes be,

After the opinioun of certeyn clerkis.

Witnesse on him, that any perfit clerk is,

That in scole is gret altercacioun

In this matere, and greet disputisoun,

And hath ben of an hundred thousand men.

But I ne can not bulte it to the bren,

As can the holy doctour Augustyn,

Or Boece, or the bishop Bradwardyn,

Whether that goddes worthy forwiting

Streyneth me nedely for to doon a thing,

(Nedely clepe I simple necessitee) ;

Or elles, if free choys be graunted me

To do that same thing, or do it noght,

Though god forwoot it, er that it was wroght ;

Or if his witing streyneth nevere a del

But by necessitee condicionel.

1 wol not han to do of swich matere ;

My tale is of a cok, as ye may here,

That took his counseil of his wyf, with sorwe,

To walken in the yerd upon that morwe

That he had met the dreem, that I yow tolde.

Wommennes counseils been ful ofte colde ;

Wommannes counseil broghte us first to wo,

And made Adam fro paradys to go,

Ther-as he was ful mery, and wel at ese.—

But for I noot, to whom it mighte displese,

If I counseil of wommen wolde blame,

Passe over, for I seyde it in my game.

Rede auctours, wher they trete of swich matere,

And what thay seyn of wommen ye may here.

Thise been the cokkes wordes, and nat myne ;

I can noon harm of no womman divyne. —

Faire in the sond, to bathe hir merily,

Lyth Pertelote, and alle hir sustres by,

Agayn the sonne ; and Chauntecleer so free

Song merier than the mermayde in the see :

For Phisiologus seith sikerly,

How that they singen wel and merily.

And so bifel that, as he caste his ye,

Among the wortes, on a boterflye,

He was war of this fox that lay ful lowe.

No-thing ne liste him thanne for to crowe,

But cryde anon, ‘ cok, cok,’ and up he sterte,

As man that was affrayed in his herte.

For naturelly a beest desyreth flee

Fro his contrarie, if he may it see,

Though he never erst had seyn it with his ye.

This Chauntecleer, whan he gan him espye,

He wolde han fled, but that the fox anon

Seyde, ‘ Gentil sire, allas ! wher wol ye gon ?

Be ye affrayed of me that am your freend ?

Now certes, I were worse than a feend,

If I to yow wolde harm or vileinye.

I am nat come your counseil for t’espye ;

But trewely, the cause of my cominge

Was only for to herkne how that ye singe.

For trewely ye have as mery a stevene

As eny aungel hath, that is in hevene ;

Therwith ye han in musik more felinge

Than hadde Boece, or any that can singe.

My lord your fader (god his soule blesse !)

And eek your moder, of hir gentilesse,

Han in myn hous y-been, to my gret ese ;

And certes, sire, ful fayn wolde I yow plese.

But for men speke of singing, I wol saye,

So mote I brouke wel myn eyen tweye,

Save yow, I herde never man so singe,

As dide your fader in the morweninge ;

Certes, it was of herte, al that he song.

And for to make his voys the more strong,

He wolde so peyne him, that with bothe his yen

He moste winke, so loude he wolde cryen,

And stonden on his tiptoon ther-with-al,

And strecche forth his nekke long and smal.

And eek he was of swich discrecioun,

That ther nas no man in no regioun

That him in song or wisdom mighte passe.

I have wel rad in daun Burnel the Asse,

Among his vers, how that ther was a cok,

For that a preestes sone yaf him a knok

Upon his leg, whyl he was yong and nyce,

He made him for to lese his benefyce.

But certeyn, ther nis no comparisoun

Bitwix the wisdom and discrecioun

Of youre fader, and of his subtiltee.

Now singeth, sire, for seinte Charitee,

Let see, conne ye your fader countrefete ? ‘

This Chauntecleer his winges gan to bete,

As man that coude his tresoun nat espye,

So was he ravisshed with his flaterye.

Allas ! ye lordes, many a fals flatour

Is in your courtes, and many a losengeour,

That plesen yow wel more, by my feith,

Than he that soothfastnesse unto yow seith.

Redeth Ecclesiaste of flaterye ;

Beth war, ye lordes, of hir trecherye.

This Chauntecleer stood hye up-on his toos,

Strecching his nekke, and heeld his eyen cloos,

And gan to crowe loude for the nones ;

And daun Russel the fox sterte up at ones,

And by the gargat hente Chauntecleer,

And on his bak toward the wode him beer,

For yet ne was ther no man that him sewed.

O destinee, that mayst nat been eschewed !

Allas, that Chauntecleer fleigh fro the bemcs !

Allas, his wyf ne roghte nat of dremes !

And on a Friday fil al this meschaunce.

O Venus, that art goddesse of plesaunce,

Sin that thy servant was this Chauntecleer,

And in thy service dide al his poweer,

More for delyt, than world to multiplye,

Why woldestow suffre him on thy day to dye ?

O Gaufred, dere mayster soverayn,

That, whan thy worthy king Richard was slayn

With shot, compleynedest his deth so sore,

Why ne hadde I now thy sentence and thy lore,

The Friday for to chyde, as diden ye ?

(For on a Friday soothly slayn was he.)

Than wolde I shewe yow how that I coude pleyne

For Chauntecleres drede, and for his peyne.

Certes, swich cry ne lamentacioun

Was never of ladies maad, whan Ilioun

Was wonne, and Pirrus with his streite swerd,

Whan he hadde hent king Priam by the berd,

And slayn him (as saith us Eneydos),

As maden alle the hennes in the clos,

Whan they had seyn of Chauntecleer the sighte.

But sovereynly dame Pertelote shrighte,

Ful louder than dide Hasdrubales wyf,

Whan that hir housbond hadde lost his lyf,

And that the Romayns hadde brend Cartage ;

She was so ful of torment and of rage,

That wilfully into the fyr she sterte,

And brende hir-selven with a stedfast herte.

O woful hennes, right so cryden ye,

As, whan that Nero brende the citee

Of Rome, cryden senatoures wyves,

For that hir housbondes losten alle hir lyves ;

Withouten gilt this Nero hath hem slayn.

Now wol I torne to my tale agayn : —

This sely widwe, and eek hir doghtres two,

Herden thise hennes crye and maken wo,

And out at dores sterten they anoon,

And syen the fox toward the grove goon,

And bar upon his bak the cok away ;

And cryden, ‘ Out ! harrow ! and weylaway !

Ha, ha, the fox ! ‘ and after him they ran,

And eek with staves many another man ;

Ran Colle our dogge, and Talbot, and Gerland,

And Malkin, with a distaf in hir hand ;

Ran cow and calf, and eek the verray hogges

So were they fered for berking of the dogges

And shouting of the men and wimmen eke,

They ronne so, hem thoughte hir herte breke.

They yelleden as feendes doon in helle ;

The dokes cryden as men wolde hem quelle ;

The gees for fere flowen over the trees ;

Out of the hyve cam the swarm of bees ;

So hidous was the noyse, a ! benedicite /

Certes, he Jakke Straw, and his meynee,

Ne made never shoutes half so shrille,

Whan that they wolden any Fleming kille,

As thilke day was maad upon the fox.

Of bras thay broghten bemes, and of box,

Of horn, of boon, in whiche they blewe and pouped,

And therwithal thay shryked and they houped ;

It semed as that heven sholde falle.

Now, gode men, I pray yow herkneth alle !

Lo, how fortune turneth sodeinly

The hope and pryde eek of hir enemy !

This cok, that lay upon the foxes bak,

In al his drede, un-to the fox he spak,

And seyde, ‘ sire, if that I were as ye,

Yet sholde I seyn (as wis god helpe me),

Turneth agayn, ye proude cherles alle !

A verray pestilence up-on yow falle !

Now am I come un-to this wodes syde,

Maugree your heed, the cok shal heer abyde ;

I wol him ete in feith, and that anon.’ —

The fox answerde, ‘ in feith, it shal be don,’ —

And as he spak that word, al sodeinly

This cok brak from his mouth deliverly,

And heighe up-on a tree he fleigh anon.

And whan the fox saugh that he was y-gon,

‘ Allas ! ‘ quod he, ‘ Chauntecleer, allas !

I have to yow,’ quod he, ‘ y-doon trespas,

In-as-muche as I maked yow aferd,

Whan I yow hente, and broghte out of the yerd ;

But, sire, I dide it in no wikke entente ;

Com doun, and I shal telle yow what I mente.

I shal seye sooth to yow, god help me so.’

‘ Nay than,’ quod he, ‘ I shrewe us bothe two,

And first I shrewe my-self, bothe blood and bones,

If thou bigyle me ofter than ones.

Thou shalt na-more, thurgh thy flaterye,

Do me to singe and winke with myn ye.

For he that winketh, whan he sholde see,

Al wilfully, god lat him never thee ! ‘

‘ Nay,’ quod the fox, ‘ but god yeve him mes«


That is so undiscreet of governaunce,

That jangleth whan he sholde holde his pees.’

Lo, swich it is for to be recchelees,

And necligent, and truste on flaterye.

But ye that holden this tale a folye,

As of a fox, or of a cok and hen,

Taketh the moralitee, good men.

For seint Paul seith, that al that writen is,

To our doctryne it is y-write, y-wis.

Taketh the fruyt, and lat the chaf be stille.

Now, gode god, if that it be thy wille,

As seith my lord, so make us alle good men ;

And bringe us to his heighe blisse. Amen.

Here is ended the Nonne Preestes Tale.

Epilogue to the Nonne Preestes Tale.

‘ Sir Nonnes Preest,’ our hoste seyde anoon,

‘ Y-blessed be thy breche, and every stoon !

This was a mery tale of Chauntecleer.

But, by my trouthe, if thou were seculer,

Thou woldest been a trede-foul a-right.

For, if thou have corage as thou hast might,

Thee were nede of hennes, as I wene,

Ya, mo than seven tymes seventene.

See, whiche braunes hath this gentil Preest,

So greet a nekke, and swich a large breest !

He loketh as a sperhauk with his yen ;

Him nedeth nat his colour for to dyen

With brasil, ne with greyn of Portingale.

Now sire, faire falle yow for youre tale ! ‘

And after that he, with ful mery chere,

Seide to another, as ye shullen here.