The Shipmannes Tale

Here biginneih the Shipmannes Prolog.

Our hoste up-on his stiropes stood anon,

And seyde, ‘ good men, herkneth everich on ;

This was a thrifty tale for the nones !

Sir parish prest,’ quod he, ‘ for goddes bones,

Tel us a tale, as was thy forward yore.

I see wel that ye lerned men in lore

Can moche good, by goddes dignitee ! ‘

The Persone him answerde, ‘ ben’ cite !

What eyleth the man, so sinfully to swere ? ‘

Our hoste answerde, ‘ O Jankin, be ye there ?

I smelle a loller in the wind,’ quod he.

‘How ! good men,’ quod our hoste, ‘herkneth me;

Abydeth, for goddes digne passioun,

For we shal han a predicacioun ;

This loller heer wil prechen us som-what.’

‘ Nay, by my fader soule ! that shal be nat,’

Seyde the Shipman ; ‘ heer he shal nat preche,

He shal no gospel glosen heer ne teche.

We leve alle in the grete god,’ quod he,

‘ He wolde sowen som difficultee,

Or springen cokkel in our clene corn ;

And therfor, hoste, I warne thee biforn,

My joly body shal a tale telle,

And I shal clinken yow so mery a belle,

That I shal waken al this companye ;

But it shal nat ben of philosophye,

Ne physices, ne termes queinte of lawe ;

Ther is but litel Latin in my mawe.’

Here endeth the Shipman his Prolog.

Here biginneth the Shipmannes Tale.


A Marchant whylom dwelled at Seint Denys,

That riche was, for which men helde him wys ;

A wyf he hadde of excellent beautee,

And compaignable and revelous was she,

Which is a thing that causeth more dispence

Than worth is al the chere and reverence

That men hem doon at festes and at daunces ;

Swiche salutaciouns and contenaunces

Passen as dooth a shadwe up-on the wal.

But wo is him that payen moot for al ;

The sely housbond, algate he mot paye ;

He moot us clothe, and he moot us arraye,

Al for his owene worship richely,

In which array we daunce jolily.

And if that he noght may, par-aventure,

Or elles, list no swich dispence endure,

But thinketh it is wasted and y-lost,

Than moot another payen for our cost,

Or lene us gold, and that is perilous.

This noble Marchant heeld a worthy hous,

For which he hadde alday so greet repair

For his largesse, and for his wyf was fair,

That wonder is ; but herkneth to my tale.

Amonges alle his gestes, grete and smale,

Ther was a monk, a fair man and a bold,

I trowe of thritty winter he was old,

That ever in oon was drawing to that place.

This yonge monk, that was so fair of face,

Aqueinted was so with the gode man,

Sith that hir firste knoweliche bigan,

That in his hous as famulier was he

As it possible is any freend to be.

And for as muchel as this gode man

And eek this monk, of which that I bigan,

Were bothe two y-born in o village,

The monk him claimeth as for cosinage ;

And he again, he seith nat ones nay,

But was as glad ther-of as fowel of dav ;

For to his herte it was a greet plesaunce.

Thus been they knit with eterne aliiaunce,

And ech of hem gan other for t’ assure

Of bretherhede, whyl that hir lyf may dure.

Free was daun John, and namely of dispence,

As in that hous ; and ful of diligence

To doon plesaunce, and also greet costage.

He noght forgat to yeve the leeste page

In al that hous ; but, after hir degree,

He yaf the lord, and sitthe al his nieynee,

When that he cam, som maner honest thing ;

For which they were as glad of his coming

As fowel is fayn, whan that the sonne up-ryseth.

Na more of this as now, for it suffyseth.

But so bifel, this marchant on a day

Shoop him to make redy his array

Toward the toun of Brugges for to fare,

To byen ther a porcioun of ware ;

For which he hath to Paris sent anon

A messager, and preyed hath daun John

That he sholde come to Seint Denys to pleye

With him and with his wyf a day or tweye,

Er he to Brugges wente, in alle wyse.

This noble monk, of which I yow devyse,

Hath of his abbot, as him list, licence,

By-cause he was a man of heigh prudence,

And eek an officer, out for to ryde,

To seen hir graunges and hir bernes wyde ;

And un-to Seint Denys he comth anon.

Who was so welcome as my lord daun John,

Our dere cosin, ful of curteisye ?

With him broghte he a jubbe of Malvesye,

And eek another, ful of fyn Vernage,

And volatyl, as ay was his usage.

And thus I lete hem ete and drinke and pleye,

This marchant and this monk, a day or tweye.

The thridde day, this marchant up aryseth,

And on his nedes sadly him avyseth,

And up in-to his countour-hous goth he

To rekene with him-self, as wel may be,

Of thilke yeer, how that it with him stood,

And how that he despended hadde his good ;

And if that he encressed were or noon.

His bokes and his bagges many oon

He leith biforn him on his counting- bord ;

Ful riche was his tresor and his hord,

For which ful faste his countour-dore he shette ;

And eek he nolde that no man sholde him lette

Of his accountes, for the mene tyme ;

And thus he sit til it was passed pryme.

Daun John was risen in the morwe also,

And in the gardin walketh to and fro,

And hath his thinges seyd ful curteisly.

This gode wyf cam walking prively

In-to the gardin, ther he walketh softe,

And him saleweth, as she hath don ofte.

A mayde child cam in hir companye,

Which as hir list she may governe and gye,

For yet under the yerde was the mayde.

‘ O dere cosin myn, daun John,’ she sayde,

‘ What eyleth yow so rathe for to ryse ? ‘

‘ Nece,’ quod he, ‘ it oghte y-nough suffyse

Fyve houres for to slepe up-on a night,

But it were for an old appalled wight,

As been thise wedded men, that lye and dare

As in a forme sit a wery hare,

Were al for-straught with houndes grete and smale.

But dere nece, why be ye so pale ?

I trowe certes that our gode man

Hath yow laboured sith the night bigan,

That yow were nede to resten hastily ? ‘

And with that word he lough ful merily,

And of his owene thought he wex al reed.

This faire wyf gan for to shake hir heed,

And seyde thus, ‘ ye, god wot al,’ quod she ;

‘ Nay, cosin myn, it stant nat so with me.

For, by that god that yaf me soule and lyf,

In al the reme of France is ther no wyf

That lasse lust hath to that sory pley.

For I may singe “allas” and “weylawey,

That I was born,” but to no wight,’ quod she,

‘ Dar I nat telle how that it stant with me.

Wherfore I thinke out of this land to wende,

Or elles of my-self to make an ende,

So ful am I of drede and eek of care.’

This monk bigan up-on this wyf to stare,

And seyde, ‘ allas, my nece, god forbede

That ye, for any sorwe or any drede,

Fordo your-self ; but telleth me your grief ;

Para venture I may, in your meschief,

Conseille or helpe, and therfore telleth me

Al your anoy, for it shal been secree ;

For on my porthors here I make an ooth,

That never in my lyf, for lief ne looth,

Ne shal I of no conseil yow biwreye.’

‘ The same agayn to yow,’ quod she, ‘ I seye ;

By god and by this porthors, I yow swere,

Though men me wolde al in-to peces tere,

Ne shal I never, for to goon to helle,

Biwreye a word of thing that ye me telle,

Nat for no cosinage ne alliance,

But verraily, for love and affiance.’

Thus been they sworn, and heer-upon they kiste,

And ech of hem tolde other what hem liste.

‘Cosin,’ quod she, ‘if that I hadde a space,

As I have noon, and namely in this place,

Than wolde I telle a legende of my lyf,

What I have suffred sith I was a wyf

With myn housbonde, al be he your cosyn.’

‘Nay,’ quod this monk, ‘by god and seint Martyn,

He is na more cosin un-to me

Than is this leef that hangeth on the tree !

I clepe him so, by Seint Denys of Fraunce,

To have the more cause of aqueintaunce

Of yow, which I have loved specially

Aboven alle wommen sikerly ;

This swere I yow on my professioun.

Telleth your grief, lest that he come adoun,

And hasteth yow, and gooth your wey anon.’

‘My dere love,’ quod she, ‘o my daun John,

Ful lief were me this conseil for to hyde,

But out it moot, I may namore abyde.

Myn housbond is to me the worste man

That ever was, sith that the world bigan.

But sith I am a wyf , it sit nat me

To tellen no wight of our privetee,

Neither a-bedde, ne in non other place ;

God shilde I sholde it tellen, for his grace !

A wyf ne shal nat seyn of hir housbonde

But al honour, as I can understonde ;

Save un-to yow thus muche I tellen shal ;

As help me god, he is noght worth at al

In no degree the value of a flye.

But yet me greveth most his nigardye ;

And wel ye woot that wommen naturelly

Desyren thinges sixe, as wel as I.

They wolde that hir housbondes sholde be

Hardy, and wyse, and riche, and ther-to free,

And buxom to his wyf, and fresh a-bedde.

But, by that ilke lord that for us bledde,

For his honour, my-self for to arraye,

A Sonday next, I moste nedes paye

An hundred frankes, or elles am I lorn.

Yet were me lever that I were unborn

Than me were doon a sclaundre or vileinye ;

And if myn housbond eek it mighte espye,

I nere but lost, and therfore I yow preye

Lene me this somme, or elles moot I deye.

Daun John, I seye, lene me thise hundred frankes ;

Pardee, I wol nat faille yow my thankes,

If that yow list to doon that I yow praye.

For at a certein day I wol yow paye,

And doon to yow what plesance and servyce

That I may doon, right as yow list devyse.

And but I do, god take on me vengeance

As foul as ever had Geniloun of France ! ‘

This gentil monk answerde in this manere ;

‘Now, trewely, myn owene lady dere,

I have,’ quod he, ‘on yow so greet a routhe,

That I yow swere and plighte yow my trouthe,

That whan your housbond is to Flaundres fare,

I wol delivere yow out of this care;

For I wol bringe yow an hundred frankes.’

And with that word he caughte hir by the flankes,

And hir embraceth harde, and kiste hir ofte.

‘ Goth now your wey,’ quod he, ‘ al stille and softe,

And lat us dyne as sone as that ye may ;

For by my chilindre it is pryme of day.

Goth now, and beeth as trewe as I shal be.’

‘ Now, elles god forbede, sire,’ quod she,

And forth she gooth, as jolif as a pye,

And bad the cokes that they sholde hem hye,

So that men mighte dyne, and that anon.

Up to hir housbonde is this wyf y-gon,

And knokketh at his countour boldely.

‘Qui la?‘ quod he. ‘Peter ! it am I,’

Quod she, ‘ what, sire, how longe wol ye faste ?

How longe tyme wol ye rekene and caste

Your sommes, and your bokes, and your thinges ?

The devel have part of alle swiche rekeninges !

Ye have y-nough, pardee, of goddes sonde ;

Com doun to-day, and lat your bagges stonde.

Ne be ye nat ashamed that daun John

Shal fasting al this day eienge goon ?

What ! lat us here a messe, and go we dyne.’

‘Wyf,’ quod this man, ‘litel canstow devyne

The curious bisinesse that we have.

For of us chapmen, al-so god me save,

And by that lord that cleped is Seint Yve,

Scarsly amonges twelve ten shul thryve,

Continuelly, lastinge un-to our age.

We may wel make chere and good visage,

And dryve forth the world as it may be,

And kepen our estaat in privetee,

Til we be deed, or elles that we pleye

A pilgrimage, or goon out of the weye.

And therfor have I greet necessitee

Up-on this queintc world t’avyse me ;

For evermore we mote stonde in drede

Of hap and fortune in our chapmanhede.

To Flaundres wol I go to-morwe at day,

And come agayn, as sone as ever I may.

For which, my dere wyf, I thee biseke,

As be to every wight buxom and meke,

And for to kepe our good be curious,

And honestly governe wel our hous.

Thou hast y-nough, in every maner wyse,

That to a thrifty houshold may suffyse.

Thee lakketh noon array ne no vitaille,

Of silver in thy purs shaltow nat faille.’

And with that word his countour-dore he shette,

And doun he gooth, no lenger wolde he lette,

But hastily a messe was ther seyd,

And spedily the tables were y-leyd,

And to the diner faste they hem spedde ;

And richely this monk the chapman fedde.

At-after diner daun John sobrely

This chapman took a-part, and prively

He seyde him thus, ‘ cosyn, it standeth so,

That wel I see to Brugges wol ye go.

God and seint Austin spede yow and gyde !

I prey yow, cosin, wysly that ye ryde ;

Governeth yow also of your diete

Atemprely, and namely in this hete.

Bitwix us two nedeth no strange fare ;

Fare-wel, cosyn ; god shilde yow fro care.

If any thing ther be by day or night,

If it lye in my power and my might,

That ye me wol comande in any wyse,

It shal be doon, right as ye wol devyse.

O thing, er that ye goon, if it may be,

I wolde prey yow ; for to lene me

An hundred frankes, for a wyke or tweye,

For certein beestes that I moste beye,

To store with a place that is oures.

God help me so, I wolde it were youres !

I shal nat faille surely of my day,

Nat for a thousand frankes, a myle-way.

But lat this thing be secree, I yow preye,

For yet to-night thise beestes moot I beye ;

And fare-now wel, myn owene cosin dere,

Graunt mercy of your cost and of your chere.’

This noble marchant gentilly anon

Answerde, and seyde, ‘o cosin myn, daun John,

Now sikerly this is a smal requeste ;

My gold is youres, whan that it yow leste.

And nat only my gold, but my chaffare ;

Take what yow list, god shilde that ye spare.

But o thing is, ye knowe it wel y-nogh,

Of chapmen, that hir moneye is hir plogh.

We may creaunce whyl we have a name,

But goldlees for to be, it is no game.

Paye it agayn whan it lyth in your ese ;

After my might ful fayn wolde I yow plese.’

Thise hundred frankes he fette forth anon,

And prively he took hem to daun John.

No wight in al this world wiste of this lone,

Savinge this marchant and daun John allone.

Theyclrinke, and speke, and rome a whyle and pleye,

Til that daun John rydeth to his abbeye.

The morwe cam, and forth this marchant rydeth

To Flaundres-ward ; his prentis wel him gydeth,

Til he cam in-to Brugges merily.

Now gooth this marchant faste and bisily

Aboute his nede, and byeth and creaunceth.

He neither pleyeth at the dees ne daunceth ;

But as a marchant, shortly for to telle.

He let his lyf, and there I lete him dwelle.

The Sonday next this Marchant was agon,

To Seint Denys y-comen is daun John,

With crowne and berd all fresh and newe y-shave.

In al the hous ther nas so litel a knave,

Ne no wight elles, that he nas ful fayn,

For that my lord daun John was come agayn.

And shortly to the point right for to gon,

This faire wyf accorded with daun John,

That for thise hundred frankes he sholde al night

Have hir in his armes bolt -upright :

And this acord parfourned was in dede.

In mirthe al night a bisy lyf they lede

Til it was day, that daun John wente his way,

And bad the meynee ‘ fare-wel, have good day ! ‘

For noon of hem, ne no wight in the toun,

Hath of daun John right no suspecioun.

And forth he rydeth hoom to his abbeye,

Or where him list; namore of him I seye.

This marchant, whan that ended was the faire,

To Seint Denys he gan for to repaire,

And with his wyf he maketh feste and chere,

And telleth hir that chaffare is so dere,

That nedes moste he make a chevisaunce.

For he was bounde in a reconissaunce

To paye twenty thousand sheeld anon.

For which this marchant is to Paris gon,

To borwe of certein -frendes that he hadde

A certein frankes ; and somme with him he ladde.

And whan that he was come in-to the toun,

For greet chertee and greet affeccioun,

Un-to daun John he gooth him first, to pleye ;

Nat for to axe or borwe of him moneye,

But for to wite and seen of his welfare,

And for to tellen him of his chaffare,

As freendes doon whan they ben met y-fere.

Daun John him maketh feste and mery chere ;

And he him tolde agayn ful specially,

How he hadde wel y-boght and graciously,

Thanked be god, al hool his marchandyse.

Save that he moste, in alle maner wyse,

Maken a chevisaunce, as for his beste,

And thanne he sholde been in joye and reste.

Daun John answerde, ‘ certes, I am fayn

That ye in hele ar comen hoom agayn.

And if that I were ri’che, as have I blisse,

Of twenty thousand sheeld shold ye nat misse,

For ye so kindely this other day

Lente me gold ; and as I can and may,

I thanke yow, by god and by seint Jame !

But nathelees I took un-to our dame,

Your wyf at hoom, the same gold ageyn

Upon your bench ; she woot it wel, certeyn,

By certein tokenes that I can hir telle.

Now, by your leve, I may no lenger dwelle,

Our abbot wol out of this toun anon ;

And in his companye moot I gon.

Grete wel our dame, myn owene nece swete,

And fare-wel, dere cosin, til we mete ! ‘

This Marchant, which that was ful war and wys

Creaunced hath, and payd eek in Parys,

To certeyn Lumbardes, redy in hir hond,

The somme of gold, and gat of hem his bond ;

And hoom he gooth, mery as a papejay.

For wel he knew he stood in swich array,

That nedes moste he winne in that viage

A thousand frankes above al his costage.

His wyf ful redy mette ‘him atte gate,

As she was wont of old usage algate,

And al that night in mirthe they bisette ;

For he was riche and cleerly out of dette.

Whan it was day, this marchant gan embrace

His wyf al newe, and kiste hir on hir face,

And up he gooth and maketh it ful tough.

‘ Namore,’ quod she, ‘ by god, ye have y-nough !

And wantounly agayn with him she pleyde ;

Til, atte laste, that this Marchant seyde,

‘ By god,’ quod he, ‘ I am a litel wrooth

With yow, my wyf, al-thogh it be me looth.

And woot ye why ? by god, as that I gesse,

That ye han maad a maner straungenesse

Bitwixen me and my cosyn daun John.

Ye sholde han warned me, er I had gon,

That he yow hadde an hundred frankes payed

By redy tokene ; and heeld him yvel apayed,

For that I to him spak of chevisaunce,

Me semed so, as by his contenaunce.

But nathelees, by god our hevene king,

I thoghte nat to axe of him no-thing.

I prey thee, wyf, ne do namore so ;

Tel me alwey, er that I fro thee go,

If any dettour hath in myn absence

Y-payed thee ; lest, thurgh thy necligence,

I mighte him axe a thing that he hath payed.’

This wyf was nat afered nor affrayed,

But boldely she seyde, and that anon :

‘ Marie, I defye the false monk, daun John !

I kepe nat of hise tokenes never a deel ;

He took me certein gold, that woot I weel !

What ! yvel thedom on his monkes snoute !

For, god it woot, I wende, withouten doute,

That he had yeve it me bycause of yow,

To doon ther-with myn honour and my prow.

For cosinage, and eek for bele chere

That he hath had ful ofte tymes here.

But sith I see I stonde in this disjoint,

I wol answere yow shortly, to the point.

Ye han mo slakker dettours than am I !

For I wol paye yow wel and redily

Fro day to day ; and, if so be I faille,

I am your wyf ; score it up-on my taille,

And I shal paye, as sone as ever I may.

For, by my trouthe, I have on myn array,

And nat on wast, bistowed every deel.

And for I have bistowed it so weel

For your honour, for goddes sake, I seye,

As be nat wrooth, but lat us laughe and pleye.

Ye shal my joly body have to wedde ;

By god, I wol nat paye yow but a-bedde.

Forgive it me, myn owene spouse dere ;

Turne hiderward and maketh bettre chere.’

This marchant saugh ther was no remedye,

And, for to chyde, it nere but greet folye,

Sith that the thing may nat amended be.

‘ Now, wyf,’ he seyde, ‘ and I foryeve it thee ;

But, by thy lyf, ne be namore so large ;

Keep bet our good, this yeve I thee in charge.’

Thus endeth now my tale, and god us sende

Taling y-nough, un-to our lyves ende. Amen.

Here endeth the Shipmannes Tale.