The Phisiciens Tale

Here folweth the Phisiciens Tale.

Ther was, as telleth Titus Livius,

A knight that called was Virginius,

Fulfild of honour and of worthinesse,

And strong of freendes and of greet richesse.

This knight a doghter hadde by his wyf,

No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.

Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee

Aboven every wight that man may see ;

For nature hath with sovereyn diligence

Y-formed hir in so greet excellence,

As though she wolde seyn, ‘ lo ! I, Nature,

Thus can I forme and peynte a creature,

Whan that me list ; who can me countrefete ?

Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,

Or grave, or peynte ; for I dar wel seyn,

Apelles, Zanzis, sholde werche in veyn,

Outher to grave or peynte or forge or bete,

If they presumed me to countrefete.

For he that is the former principal

Hath maked me his vicaire general,

To forme and peynten erthely creaturis

Right as me list, and ech thing in my cure is

Under the mone, that may wane and waxe,

And for my werk right no -thing woi I axe ;

My lord and I ben ful of oon accord ;

I made hir to the worship of my lord.

So do I alle myne othere creatures,

What colour that they han, or what figures.’ —

Thus semeth me that Nature wolde seye.

This mayde of age twelf yeer was and tweye,

In which that Nature hadde swich delyt.

For right as she can peynte a lilie whyt

And reed a rose, right with swich peynture

She peynted hath this noble creature

Er she were born, up-on hir limes free,

Wher-as by right swiche colours sholde be ;

And Phebus dyed hath hir tresses grete

Lyk to the stremes of his burned hete.

And if that excellent was hir beautee,

A thousand -fold more vertuous was she.

In hir ne lakked no condicioun,

That is to preyse, as by discrecioun.

As wel in goost as body chast was she ;

For which she floured in virginitee

With alle humilitee and abstinence,

With alle attemperaunce and pacience,

With mesure eek of bering and array.

Discreet she was in answering alway ;

Though she were wys as Pallas, dar I seyn,

Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,

No countrefeted termes hadde she

To seme wys ; but after hir degree

She spak, and alle hir wordes more and lesse

Souninge in vertu and in gentillesse.

Shamfast she was in maydens shamfastnesse,

Constant in herte, and ever in bisinesse

To dryve hir out of ydel slogardye.

Bacus hadde of hir mouth right no maistrye ;

For wyn and youthe doon Venus encrece,

As men in fyr wol casten oile or grece.

And of hir owene vertu, unconstreyned,

She hath ful ofte tyme syk hir feyned,

For that she wolde fleen the companye

Wher lykly was to treten of folye,

As is at festes, revels, and at daunces.

That been occasions of dAllaunces

Swich thinges maken children for to be

To sone rype and bold, as men may see,

Which is ful perilous, and hath ben yore.

For al to sone may she lerne lore

Of boldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.

And ye maistresses in your olde lyf,

That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,

Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce ;

Thenketh that ye ben set in governinges

Of lordes doghtres, only for two thinges ;

Outher for ye han kept your honestee,

Or elles ye han falle in freletee,

And knowen wel y-nough the olde daunce,

And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce

For evermo ; therfore, for Cristes sake.

To teche hem vertu loke that ye ne slake.

A theef of venisoun, that hath forlaft

His likerousnesse, and al his olde craft,

Can kepe a forest best of any man.

Now kepeth hem wel, for if ye wol, ye can ;

Loke wel that ye un-to no vice assente,

Lest ye be dampned for your wikke entente ;

For who -so doth, a traitour is certeyn.

And taketh kepe of that that I shal seyn ;

Of alle tresons sovereyn pestilence

Is whan a wight bitrayseth innocence.

Ye fadres and ye modres eek also,

Though ye han children, be it oon or two,

Your is the charge of al hir surveyaunce,

Whyl that they been under your governaunce.

Beth war that by ensample of your livinge,

Or by your necligence in chastisinge,

That they ne perisse ; for I dar wel seye,

If that they doon, ye shul it dere abej^e.

Under a shepherde softe and necligent

The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb to -rent.

Suffyseth oon ensample now as here,

For I mot turne agayn to my matere.

This mayde, of which I wol this tale expresse,

So kepte hir-self, hir neded no maistresse ;

For in hir living maydens mighten rede,

As in a book, every good word or dede,

That longeth to a mayden vertuous ;

She was so prudent and so bountevous.

For which the fame out-sprong on every syde

Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde ;

That thurgh that land they preysed hir echone,

That loved vertu, save envye allone,

That sory is of other mennes wele,

And glad is of his sorwe and his unhele ;

(The doctour maketh this descripcioun).

This mayde up -on a day wente in the toun

Toward a temple, with hir moder dere,

As is of yonge maydens the manere.

Now was ther thanne a justice in that toun,

That govemour was of that regioun.

And so bifel, this juge his eyen caste

Up-on this mayde, avysinge him ful faste,

As she cam forby ther this juge stood.

Anon his herte chaunged and his mood,

So was he caught with beautee of this mayde ;

And to him-self ful prively he sayde,

* This mayde shal be myn, for any man.’

Anon the feend in-to his herte ran,

And taughte him sodeynly, that he by slighte

The mayden to his purpos winne mighte.

For certes, by no force, ne by no mede,

Him thoughte, he was nat able for to spede ;

For she was strong of freendes, and eek she

Confermed was in swich soverayn bountee,

That wel he wiste he mighte hir never winne

As for to make hir with hir body sinne.

For which, by greet deliberacioun,

He sente after a cherl, was in the toun,

Which that he knew for subtil and for bold.

This juge un-to this cherl his tale hath told

In secree wyse, and made him to ensure,

He sholde telle it to no creature,

And if he dide, he sholde lese his heed.

Whan that assented was this cursed reed,

Glad was this juge and maked him greet chere,

And yaf him yiftes preciouse and dere.

Whan shapen was al hir conspiracy^

Fro point to point, how that his lecherye

Parfourned sholde been ful subtilly,

As ye shul here it after openly,

Hoom gooth the cherl, that highte Claudius.

This false juge that highte Apius,

So was his name, (for this is no fable,

But knowen for historial thing notable,

The sentence of it sooth is, out of doute),

This false juge gooth now faste aboute

To hasten his delyt al that he may.

And so bifel sone after, on a day,

This false juge, as telle th us the storie,

As he was wont, sat in his consistorie,

And yaf his domes up -on sondry cas.

This false cherl cam forth a ful greet pas,

And seyde, ‘ lord, if that it be your wille,

As dooth me right up -on this pitous bille,

In which I pleyne up-on Virginius.

And if that he wol seyn it is nat thus,

I wol it preve, and finde good witnesse,

That sooth is that my bille wol expresse.’

The juge answerde, ‘ of this, in his absence,

I may nat yeve difhnitif sentence.

Lat do him calle, and I wol gladly here ;

Thou shalt have al right, and no wrong here.’

Virginius cam, to wite the juges wille,

And right anon was rad this cursed bille ;

The sentence of it was as ye shul here.

‘ To yow, my lord, sire Apius so dere,

Sheweth your povre servant Claudius,

How that a knight, called Virginius,

Agayns the lawe, agayn al equitee,

Holdeth, expres agayn the wil of me,

My servant, which that is my thral by right,

Which fro myn hous was stole up-on a night,

Whyl that she was ful yong ; this wol I preve

By witnesse, lord, so that it nat yow greve.

She nis his doghter nat, what so he seye ;

Wherfore to yow, my lord the juge, I preye,

Yeld me my thral, if that it be your wille.’

Lo ! this was al the sentence of his bille.

Virginius gan up-on the cherl biholde,

But hastily, er he his tale tolde,

And wolde have preved it, as sholde a knight,

And eek by witnessing of many a wight,

That it was fals that seyde his adversarie,

This cursed juge wolde no- thing tarie,

Ne here a word more of Virginius,

But yaf his jugement, and seyde thus : —

‘ I deme anon this cherl his servant have ;

Thou shalt no lenger in thyn hous hir save.

Go bring hir forth, and put hir in our warde,

The cherl shal have his thral, this I awarde.’

And whan this worthy knight Virginius,

Thurgh sentence of this justice Apius,

Moste by force his dere doghter yiven

Un-to the juge, in lecherye to liven,

He gooth him hoom, and sette him in his halle,

And leet anon his dere doghter calle,

And, with a face deed as asshen colde,

Upon hir humble face he gan biholde,

With fadres pitee stiking thurgh his herte,

Al wolde he from his purpos nat converte.

‘ Doghter,’ quod he, ‘ Virginia, by thy name,

Ther been two weyes, outher deeth or shame,

That thou most suffre ; allas ! that I was bore !

For never thou deservedest wherfore

To dyen with a swerd or with a knyf.

O dere doghter, ender of my lyf,

Which I have fostred up with swich plesaunce,

That thou were never out of my remembraunoe !

O doghter, which that art my laste wo.

And in my lyf my laste joye also,

O gemme of chastitee, in pacience

Take thou thy deeth, for this is my sentence.

For love and nat for hate, thou most be deed ;

My pitous hand mot smyten of thyn heed.

Allas ! that ever Apius thee say !

Thus hath he falsly juged thee to-day ‘ —

And tolde hir al the cas, as ye bifore

Han herd ; nat nedeth for to telle it more.

‘ mercy, dere fader,’ quod this mayde,

And with that word she both hir armes layde

About his nekke, as she was wont to do :

The teres broste out of hir eyen two,

And seyde, ‘ gode fader, shal I dye ?

Is ther no grace ? is ther no remedye ? ‘

‘ No, certes, dere doghter myn,’ quod he.

. ‘ Thanne yif me leyser, fader myn,’ quod she,

‘ My deeth for to compleyne a litel space ;

For pardee, Jepte yaf his doghter grace

For to compleyne, er he hir slow, allas !

And god it woot, no-thing was hir trespas,

But for she ran hir fader first to see,

To welcome him with greet solempnitee.’

And with that word she fil aswowne anon,

And after, whan hir swowning is agon,

She ryseth up, and to hir fader sayde,

‘ Blessed be god, that I shal dye a mayde.

Yif me my deeth, er that I have a shame ;

Doth with your child your wil, a goddes name ! ‘

And with that word she preyed him ful of te,

That with his swerd he wolde smyte softe,

And with that word aswowne doun she fil.

Hir fader, with ful sorweful herte and wil,

Hir heed of smoot, and by the top it hente,

And to the juge he gan it to presente,

As he sat yet in doom in consistorie.

And whan the juge it saugh, as seith the storie,

He bad to take him and anhange him faste.

But right anon a thousand peple in thraste,

To save the knight, for routhe and for pitee,

For knowen was the false iniquitee.

The peple anon hath suspect of this thing,

By manere of the cherles chalanging,

That it was by th’assent of Apius ;

They wisten wel that he was lecherous.

For which un-to this Apius they gon,

And caste him in a prison right anon,

Wher-as he slow him-self ; and Claudius,

That servant was un-to this Apius,

Was demed for to hange upon a tree ;

But that Virginius, of his pitee,

So preyde for him that he was exyled ;

And elles, certes, he had been bigyled.

The remenant were anhanged, more and lesse,

That were consentant of this cursednesse. —

Heer men may seen how sinne hath his meryte I

Beth war, for no man woot whom god wol smyte

In no degree, ne in which maner wyse

The worm of conscience may agryse

Of wikked lyf, though it so privee be,

That no man woot ther-of but god and he.

For be he lewed man, or elles lered,

He noot how sone that he shal been afered.

Therfore I rede yow this conseil take,

Forsaketh sinne, er sinne yow forsake.

Here endeth the Phisiciens Tale.

Words of the Host.

The wordes of the Host to the Phisicien and the Pardoner.

Our Hoste gan to swere as he were wood,

‘ Harrow ! ‘ quod he, ‘ by nayles and by blood !

This was a fats cherl and a fals justyse !

As shamful deeth as herte may devyse

Come to thise juges and hir advocats !

Algate this sely mayde is slayn, allas !

Allas ! to dere boghte she beautee !

Wherfore I seye al day, as men may see,

That yiftes of fortune or of nature

Ben cause of deeth to many a creature.

Hir beautee was hir deeth, I dar wel sayn ;

Allas ! so pitously as she was slayn !

Of bothe yiftes that I speke of now

Men han ful ofte more harm than prow.

But trewely, myn owene mayster dere,

This is a pitous tale for to here.

But natheles, passe over, is no fors ;

I prey to god, so save thy gentil cors,

And eek thyne urinals and thy jordanes,

Thyn Ypocras, and eek thy GAllanes,

And every boist ful of thy letuarie ;

God blesse hem, and our lady seinte Marie !

So mot I theen, thou art a propre man,

And lyk a prelat, by seint Ronyan !

Seyde I nat wel ? I can nat speke in terme ;

But wel I woot, thou doost my herte to erme,

That I almost have caught a cardiacle.

By corpus bones ! but I have triacle,

Or elles a draught of moyste and corny ale,

Or but I here anon a mery tale,

Myn herte is lost for pitee of this mayde.

Thou bel amy, thou Pardoner,’ he seyde,

‘ Tel us som mirthe or japes right anon.’

‘ It shall be doon,’ quod he, ‘ by seint Ronyon !

But first,’ quod he,* ‘ heer at this ale-stake

I wol both drinke, and eten of a cake.’

But right anon thise gentils gonne to crye,

‘ Nay ! lat him telle us of no ribaudye ;

Tel us som moral thing, that we may lere

Som wit, and thanne wol we gladly here.’

‘ I graunte, y-wis,’ quod he, ‘ but I mot thinke

Up- on som honest thing, whyl that I drinke.’