The Tale of Melibeus

‘ No more of this, for goddes dignitee,’

Quod oure hoste, ‘ for thou makest me

So wery of thy verray lewednesse

That, also wisly god my soule blesse,

Myn eres aken of thy drasty speche ;

Now swiche a rym the devel I biteche !

This may wel be rym dogerel,’ quod he.

‘ Why so ? ‘ quod I, ‘ why wiltow lette me

More of my tale than another man,

Sin that it is the beste rym I can ? ‘

‘ By god,’ quod he, ‘ for pleynly, at a word,

Thy drasty ryming is nat worth a tord ;

Thou doost nought elles but despendest tyme,

Sir, at o word, thou shalt no lenger ryme.

Lat see wher thou canst tellen aught in geste,

Or telle in prose somwhat at the leste

In which ther besom mirthe or som doctryne.’

‘ Gladly,’ quod I, ‘ by goddes swete pyne,

I wol yow telle a litel thing in prose,

That oghte lyken yow, as I suppose,

Or elles, certes, ye been to daungerous.

It is a moral tale vertuous,

Al be it told som-tyme in sondry wyse

Of sondry folk, as I shal yow devyse.

As thus ; ye woot that every evangelist,

That telleth us the peyne of Jesu Crist,

Ne saith nat al thing as his felaw dooth,

But natheles, hir sentence is al sooth,

And alle acorden as in hir sentence,

Al be ther in hir telling difference.

For somme of hem seyn more, and somme lesse,

Whan they his pitous passioun expresse ;

I mene of Mark [and] Mathew, Luk and John ;

But doutelees hir sentence is al oon.

Therfor, lordinges alle, I yow biseche,

If that ye thinke I varie as in my speche,

As thus, thogh that I telle som-what more

Of proverbes, than ye han herd bifore,

Comprehended in this litel tretis here,

To enforce with the th’effect of my matere,

And thogh I nat the same wordes seye

As ye han herd, yet to yow alle I preye,

Blameth me nat ; for, as in my sentence,

Ye shul not fynden moche difference

Fro the sentence of this tretis lyte

After the which this mery tale I wryte.

And therfor herkneth what that I shal seye,

And lat me tellen al my tale, I preye.’


Here biginneth Chaucers Tale of Melibee.

§ 1. A yong man called Melibeus, mighty and riche,

bigat up-on his wyf that called was Prudence, a doghter

which that called was Sophie.

§ 2. Upon a day bifel, that he for his desport is went

in-to the feeldes him to pleye. His wyf and eek his

doghter hath he left inwith his hous, of which the

dores weren fast y-shette. Three of his olde foos han

it espyed, and setten laddres to the walles of his hous,

and by the windowes been entred, and betten his wyf,

and wounded his doghter with fyve mortal woundes in

fyve sondry places ; this is to seyn, in hir feet, in hir

handes, in hir eres, in hir nose, and in hir mouth ; and

leften hir for deed, and wenten awey.

§ 3. Whan Melibeus retourned was in-to his hous, and

saugh al this meschief, he, lyk a mad man, rendinge his

clothes, gan to wepe and crye.

§ 4. Prudence his wyf, as ferforth as she dorste,

bisoghte him of his weping for to stinte ; but nat for-

thy he gan to crye and wepen ever lenger the more.

§ 5. This noble wyf Prudence remembered hir upon

the sentence of Ovide, in his book that cleped is The

Remedie of Love, wher-as he seith ; ‘ he is a fool that

destourbeth the moder to wepen in the deeth of hir

child, til she have wept hir fille, as for a certein tyme ;

and thanne shal man doon his diligence with amiable

wordes hir to reconforte, and preyen hir of hir weping

for to stinte.’ For which resoun this noble wyf Pru-

dence suffred hir housbond for to wepe and crye as for

a certein space ; and whan she saugh hir tyme, she

seyde him in this wyse. ‘ Allas, my lord,’ quod she,

‘ why make ye your-self for to be lyk a fool ? For

sothe, it aperteneth nat to a wys man, to maken swiche

a sorwe. Your doghter, with the grace of god, shal

warisshe and escape. And al were it so that she right

now were deed, ye ne oghte nat as for hir deeth your-

self to destroye. Senek seith : ” the wise man shal

nat take to greet disconfort for the deeth of his chil-

dren, but certes he sholde suffren it in pacience, as

wel as he abydeth the deeth of his owene propre

persone.” ‘

§ 6. This Melibeus answerde anon and seyde, ‘ What

man,’ quod he, ‘ sholde of his weping stinte, that hath

so greet a cause for to wepe ? Jesu Crist, our lord,

him-self wepte for the deeth of Lazarus his freend.’

Prudence answerde, ‘ Certes, wel I woot, attempree

weping is no-thing defended to him that sorweful is,

amonges folk in sorwe, but it is rather graunted him to

wepe. The Apostle Paul un-to the Romayns wryteth,

” man shal rejoyse with hem that maken joye, and

wepen with swich folk as wepen.” But thogh attem-

pree weping be y-graunted, outrageous weping certes

is defended. Mesure of weping sholde be considered,

after the lore that techeth us Senek. ” Whan that

thy freend is deed,” quod he, ” lat nat thyne eyen to

moyste been of teres, ne to muche drye ; althogh the

teres come to thyne eyen, lat hem nat falle.” And

whan thou hast for-goon thy freend, do diligence to

gete another freend ; and this is more wysdom than

for to Avepe for thy freend which that thou hast lorn ;

for ther-inne is no bote. And therfore, if ye governe

yow by sapience, put awey sorwe out of your herte.

Remembre yow that Jesus Syrak seith : ” a man that

is joyous and glad in herte, it him conserveth fiorissh-

ing in his age ; but soothly sorweful herte maketh his

bones drye.” He seith eek thus : ” that sorwe in

herte sleeth fui many a man.” Salomon seith : ” that,

right as motthes in the shepes flees anoyeth to the

clothes, and the smale wormes to the tree, right so

anoyeth sorwe to the herte.” Wherfore us oghte, as

wel in the deeth of our children as in the losse of our

goodes temporels, have pacience.

§ 7. Remembre yow up-on the pacient Job, whan he

hadde lost his children and his temporel substance, and

in his body endured and receyved ful many a grevous

tribulacioun ; yet seyde he thus : ” our lord hath yeven

it me, our lord hath biraft it me ; right as our lord hath

wold, right so it is doon ; blessed be the name of our

lord.” ‘ To thise foreseide thinges answerde Melibeus

un-to his wyf Prudence : ‘ Alle thy wordes,’ quod he,

‘ been sothe, and ther-to profitable ; but trewely myn

herte is troubled with this sorwe so grevously, that

I noot what to done.’ ‘ Lat calle,’ quod Prudence, ‘ thy

trewe freendes alle, and thy linage whiche that been

wyse ; telleth your cas, and herkneth what they seye

in conseiling, and yow governe after hir sentence.

Salomon seith : ” vverk alle thy thinges by conseil, and

thou shalt never repente.” ‘

§ 8. Thanne, by the conseil of his wyf Prudence, this

Melibeus leet callen a greet congregacioun of folk ; as

surgiens, phisiciens, olde folk and yonge, and somme of

hise olde enemys reconsiled as by hir semblaunt to his

love and in-to his grace ; and ther-with-al ther comen

somme of hise neighebores that diden him reverence

more for drede than for love, as it happeth ofte. Ther

comen also ful many subtile flatereres, and wyse advo-

cats lerned in the lawe.

§ 9. And whan this folk togidre assembled weren,

this Melibeus in sorweful wyse shewed hem his cas ;

and by the manere of his speche it semed that in herte

he bar a cruel ire, redy to doon vengeaunce up-on hise

foos, and sodeynly desired that the werre sholde

biginne ; but nathelees yet axed he hir conseil upon

this matere. A surgien, by licence and assent of

swiche as weren wyse, up roos and un-to Melibeus

seyde as ye may here.

§ 10. ‘ Sir,’ quod he, ‘ as to us surgiens aperteneth,

that we do to every wight the beste that we can, wher-

as we been with-holde, and to our pacients that we do

no damage ; wherfore it happeth, many tyme and ofte,

that whan twey men han everich wounded other, oon

same surgien heleth hem bothe ; wherefore un-to our

art it is nat pertinent to norice werre, ne parties to

supporte. But certes, as, to the warisshinge of your

doghter, al-be-it so that she perilously be wounded, we

shullen do so ententif bisinesse fro day to night, that

with the grace of god she shal be hool and sound as

sone as is possible.’ Almost right in the same wyse the

phisiciens answerden, save that they seyden a fewe

hordes more : ‘ That, right as maladyes been cured by

hir contraries, right so shul men warisshe werre by

vengeaunce.’ His neighebores, ful of envye, his feyned

freendes that semeden reconsiled, and his flatereres,

maden semblant of weping, and empeireden and agreg-

geden muchel of this matere, in preising greetly Melibee

of might, of power, of richesse, and of freendes, des-

pysinge the power of his adversaries, and seiden outrely

that he anon sholde wreken him on his foos and biginne


§ 11. Up roos thanne an advocat that was wys, by

leve and by conseil of othere that were wyse, and

seyde : ‘ Lordinges, the nede for which we been assem-

bled in this place is a ful’hevy thing and an heigh”

matere, by-cause of the wrong and of the wikkednesse

that hath be doon, and eek by resoun of the grete

damages that in tyme cominge been possible to fallen

for this same cause ; and eek by resoun of the grete

richesse and power of the parties bothe ; for the whiche

resouns it were a ful greet peril to erren in this matere.

Wherfore, Melibeus, this is our sentence : we conseille

vow 1 aboven alle thing, that right anon thou do thy

diligence in kepinge of thy propre persone, in swich

a wyse that thou ne wante noon espye ne wacche, thy

body for to save. And after that we conseille, that in

thyn hous thou sette suffisant garnisoun, so that they

may as wel thy body as thyn hous defende. But

certes, for to moeve werre, or sodeynly for to doon

vengeaunce, we may nat demen in so litel tyme that it

were profitable. Wherfore we axen leyser and espace

to have deliberacioun in this cas to deme. For the

commune proverbe seith thus : “he that sone demeth,

sone shal repente.” And eek men seyn that thilke

juge is wys, that sone understondeth a matere and

juggeth by leyser. For al-be-it so that alle tarying be

anoyful, algates it is nat to repreve in yevinge of juge-

ment, ne in vengeance -taking, whan it is suffisant and

resonable. And that shewed our lord Jesu Crist by

ensample ; for whan that the womman that was taken

in avoutrie was broght in his presence, to knowen what

sholde be doon with hir persone, al-be-it so that he

wiste wel him-self what that he wolde answere, yet ne

wolde he nat answere sodeynly, but he wolde have

deliberacioun, and in the ground he wroot twyes. And

by thise causes we axen deliberacioun, and we shal

thanne, by the grace of god, conseille thee thing that

shal be profitable.’

§ 12. Up stirten thanne the yonge folk at-ones, and

the moste partie of that companye han scorned the

olde wyse men, and bigonnen to make noyse, and

seyden : that, right so as whyl that iren is hoot, men

sholden smyte, right so, men sholde wreken hir wronges

whyle that they been fresshe and newe ; and with loud

voys they cryden, ‘ werre ! werre ! ‘

Up roos tho oon of thise olde wyse, and with his hand

made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille

and yeven him audience. ‘ Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘ ther

is ful many a man that cryeth ” werre ! werre ! ” that

woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his

biginning hath so greet an entree and so large, that

every wight may entre whan him lyketh, and lightly

finde werre. But, certes, what ende that shal ther-of

bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For sothly, whan that

werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn

of his moder, that shal sterve yong by-cause of that

ilke werre, or elles live in sorwe and dye in wrecched-

nesse. And ther-fore, er that any werre biginne, men

moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacioun.’ And

whan this olde man wende to enforcen his tale by

resons, wel ny alle at-ones bigonne they to ryse for to

breken his tale, and beden him ful ofte his wordes for

to abregge. For soothly, he that precheth to hem that

listen nat heren his wordes, his sermon hem anoyeth.

For Jesus Syrak seith : that ‘ musik in wepinge is

anoyous thing ‘ ; this is to seyn : as muche availleth

to speken bifore folk to whiche his speche anoyeth, as

dooth to singe biforn him that wepeth. And whan this

wyse man saugh that him wanted audience, al shame-

fast he sette him doun agayn. For Salomon seith :

k ther-as thou ne mayst have noon audience, enforce

thee nat to speke.’ ‘ I see wel,’ quod this wyse man,

that the commune proverbe is sooth ; that ” good

conseil wanteth whan it is most nede.” ‘

§ 13. Yet hadde this Melibeus in his conseil many

folk, that prively in his ere conseilled him certeyn thing,

and conseilled him the contrarie in general audience.

Whan Melibeus hadde herd that the gretteste partie

of his conseil weren accorded that he sholde maken

werre, anoon he consented to hir conseilling, and fully

affermed hir sentence. Thanne dame Prudence, whan

that she saugh how that hir housbonde shoop him for

to wreken him on his foos, and to biginne werre, she

in ful humble wyse, when she saugh hir tyme, seide

him thise wordes : ‘ My lord,’ quod she, ‘ I yow biseche

as hertely as I dar and can, ne haste yow nat to faste,

and for alle guerdons as yeveth me audience. For

Piers Alfonce seith : ” who-so that dooth to that other

good or harm, haste thee nat to quyten it ; for in this

Avyse thy freend wol abyde, and thyn enemy shal the

lenger live in drede.” The proverbe seith : ” he hasteth

Avel that wysely can abyde ” ; and in wikked haste is

no profit.’

§ 14. This Melibee answerde un-to his wyf Prudence :

‘ I purpose nat,’ quod he, ‘ to werke by thy conseil, for

many causes and resouns. For certes every wight

wolde holde me thanne a fool ; this is to seyn, if I, for

thy conseilling, wolde chaungen thinges that been

ordeyned and affermed by so manye wyse. Secoundly

I seye, that alle wommen been wikke and noon good

of hem alle. For ” of a thousand men,” seith Salomon,

” I fond a good man : but certes, of alle wommen,

good womman fond I never.” And also certes, if

I governed me by thy conseil, it sholde seme that I

hadde yeve to thee over me the maistrie ; and god

forbede that it so were. For Jesus Syrak seith : ” that

if the wyf have maistrie, she is contrarious to hir hous-

bonde.” And Salomon seith : ” never in thy lyf, to

thy wyf, ne to thy child, ne to thy freend, ne yeve no

power over thyself. For bettre it were that thy

children aske of thy persone thinges that hem nedeth,

than thou see thy-self in the handes of thy children.”

And also, if I wolde werke by thy conseilling, certes my

conseilling moste som tyme be secree, til it were tyme

that it moste be knowe ; and this ne may noght be.

[For it is writen, that ” the janglerie of wommen can

hyden thinges that they witen noght.” Furthermore,

the philosophre seith, ” in wikked conseil wommen

venquisshe men ” ; and for thise resouns I ne ow nat

usen thy conseil.’]

§ 15. Whanne dame Prudence, ful debonairly and

with greet pacience, hadde herd al that hir housbonde

lyked for to seye, thanne axed she of him licence for

to speke, and seyde in this wyse. ‘ My lord,’ quod she,

‘ as to your firste resoun, certes it may lightly been

answered. For I seye, that it is no folie to chaunge

conseil whan the thing is chaunged ; or elles whan the

thing semeth otherweyes than it was biforn. And

more-over I seye, that though ye han sworn and bihight

to perfourne your emprise, and nathelees ye wey ve to

perfourne thilke same emprise by juste cause, men

sholde nat seyn therefore that ye were a Iyer ne for-

sworn. For the book seith, that ” the wyse man

maketh no lesing whan he turneth his corage to the

bettre.” And al-be-it so that your emprise be estab-

lissed and ordeyned by greet multitude of folk, yet

thar ye nat accomplice thilke same ordinaunce but

yow lyke. For the trouthe of thinges and the profit

been rather founden in fewe folk that been wyse and

ful of resoun, than by greet multitude of folk, ther

every man cryeth and clatereth what that him lyketh.

Soothly swich multitude is nat honeste. As to the

seconde resoun, where-as ye seyn that ” alle wommen

been wikke,” save your grace, certes ye despysen alle

wommen in this wyse ; and ” he that alle despyseth

alle displeseth,” as seith the book. And Senek seith

that ” who-so wole have sapience, shal no man dis-

preise ; but he shal gladly techen the science that he

can, with-outen presumpcioun or pryde. And swiche

thinges as he nought ne can, he shal nat been ashamed

to lerne hem and enquere of lasse folk than him-self.”

And sir, that ther hath been many a good womman,

may lightly be preved. For certes, sir, our lord Jesu

Crist wolde never have descended to be born of a

womman, if alle wommen hadden ben wikke. And

after that, for the grete bountee that is in wommen,

our lord Jesu Crist, whan he was risen fro deeth to

lyve, appeered rather to a womman than to his apostles.

And though that Salomon seith, that ” he ne fond never

womman good,” if folweth nat therfore that alle

wommen ben wikke. For though that he ne fond no

good womman, certes, ful many another man hath

founden many a womman ful good and trewe. Or

elles per-aventure the entente of Salomon was this ;

that, as in sovereyn bountee, he fond no womman ;

this is to seyn, that ther is no wight that hath sovereyn

bountee save god allone ; as he him-self recordeth in

his Evaungelie. For ther nis no creature so good that

him ne wanteth somwhat of the perfeccioun of god, that

is his maker. Your thridde resoun is this : ye seyn

that ” if ye governe yow by my conseil, it sholde seme

that ye hadde yeve me the maistrie and the lordshipe

over your persone.” Sir, save your grace, it is nat so.

For if it were so, that no man sholde be conseilled but

only of hem that hadden lordshipe and maistrie of his

persone, men wolden nat be conseilled so ofte. For

soothly, thilke man that asketh conseil of a purpos,

yet hath he free chois, wheither he wole werke by that

conseil or noon. And as to your fourthe resoun, ther

ye seyn that ” the janglerie of wommen hath hid thinges

that they woot noght,” as who seith, that ” a womman

can nat hyde that she woot ” ; sir, thise wordes been

understonde of wommen that been jangleresses and

wikked ; of whiche wommen, men seyn that ” three

thinges dryven a man out of his hous ; that is to seyn,

smoke, dropping of reyn, and wikked wyves ” ; and of

swiche wommen seith Salomon, that ” it were bettre

dwelle in desert, than with a womman that is riotous.”

And sir, by your leve, that am nat I ; for ye han ful

ofte assayed my grete silence and my gret pacience ;

and eek how wel that I can hyde and hele thinges

that men oghte secreely to hyde. And soothly, as to

your nfthe resoun, wher-as ye seyn, that ” in wikked

conseil wommen venquisshe men ” ; god woot, thilke

resoun stant here in no stede. For understond now,

ye asken conseil to do wikkednesse ; and if ye wole

werken wikkednesse, and your wyf restreyneth thilke

wikked purpos, and overcometh yow by resoun and by

good conseil ; certes, your wyf oghte rather to be

preised than y-blamed. Thus sholde ye understonde

the philosophre that seith, ” in wikked conseil wommen

venquisshen hir housbondes.” And ther-as ye blamen

alle wommen and hir resouns, I shal shewe yow by

manye ensamples that many a womman hath ben ful

good, and yet been ; and hir conseils ful hoolsome and

profitable. Eek som men han seyd, that ” the con-

seillinge of wommen is outher to dere, or elles to litel

of prys.” But al-be-it so, that ful many a womman is

badde, and hir conseil vile and noght worth, yet han

men founde ful many a good womman, and ful discrete

and wise in conseillinge. Lo, Jacob, by good conseil

of his moder Rebekka, wan the benisoun of Ysaak his

fader, and the lordshipe over alle his bretheren. Judith,

by hir good conseil, delivered the citee of Bethulie, in

which she dwelled, out of the handes of Olofernus,

that hadde it biseged and wolde have al destroyed it.

Abigail delivered Nabal hir housbonde fro David the

king, that wolde have slayn him, and apaysed the ire

of the king by hir wit and by hir good conseilling.

Hester by hir good conseil enhaunced greetly the peple

of god in the regne of Assuerus the king. And the

same bountee in good ” conseilling of many a good

womman may men telle. And moreover, whan our

lord hadde creat Adam our forme-fader, he seyde in

this wyse : “it is nat good to been a man allone ;

make we to him an help semblable to himself.” Here

may ye se that, if that wommen were nat goode, and

hir conseils goode and profitable, our lord god of hevene

wolde never han wroghthem, ne called hem help of

man, but rather confusioun of man. And ther seyde

ones a clerk in two vers : ” what is bettre than gold ?

Jaspre. What is bettre than jaspre ? Wisdom. And<

what is bettre than wisdom ? Womman. And what

is bettre than a good womman ? No- thing.” And sir,

by manye of othre resons may ye seen, that manye

wommen been goode, and hir conseils goode and profit-

able. And therfore sir, if ye wol triste to my conseil,

I shal restore yow your doghter hool and sound. And

eek I wol do to yow so muche, that ye shul have honour

in this cause.’

§ 16. Whan Melibee hadde herd the wordes of his

wyf Prudence, he seyde thus : ‘ I see wel that the word

of Salomon is sooth ; he seith, that ” wordes that been

spoken discreetly by ordinaunce, been honycombes ;

for they yeven swetnesse to the soule, and hoolsom-

nesse to the body.” And wyf, by -cause of thy swete

wordes, and eek for I have assayed and preved thy

grete sapience and thy grete trouthe, I wol governe me

by thy conseil in alle thing.’

§ 17. ‘ Now sir,’ quod dame Prudence, ‘ and sin ye

vouche-sauf to been governed by my conseil, I wol

enforme yow how ye shul governe your-self in chesinge

of your conseillours. Ye shul first, in alle your werkes,

mekely biseken to the heighe god that he wol be your

conseillour ; and shapeth yow to swich entente, that

he yeve yow conseil and contort, as taughte Thobie

his sone : “at alle tymes thou shalt blesse god, and

praye him to dresse thy weyes ” ; and looke that alle

thy conseils besn in him for evermore. Seint Jame

eek seith : ” if any of yow have nede of sapience, axe

it of god.” And afterward thanne shul ye taken con-

seil in your-self, and examine wel your thoghtes, of

swich thing as yow thinketh that is best for your

profit. And thanne shul ye dryve fro your herte three

thinges that been contrariouse to good conseil, that is

to seyn, ire, coveitise, and hastifnesse.

§ 18. First, he that axeth conseil of him-self, certes

he moste been with-outen ire, for manye causes. The

firste is this : he that hath greet ire and wratthe in

him-self, he weneth alwey that he may do thing that

he may nat do. And secoundely, he that is irous and

wroth, he ne may nat wel deme ; and he that may nat

wel deme, may nat wel conseille. The thridde is this ;

that ” he that is irous and wrooth,” as seith Senek,

” ne may nat speke but he blame thinges ” ; and with

his viciouse wordes he stireth other folk to angre and

to ire. And eek sir, ye moste dryve coveitise out of

your herte. For the apostle seith, that ” coveitise is

rote of alle harmes.” And trust wel that a coveitous

man ne can noght deme ne thinke, but only to fulfille

the ende of his coveitise ; and certes, that ne may

never been accompliced ; for ever the more habun-

daunce that he hath of richesse, the more he desyreth.

And sir, ye moste also dryve out of your herte hastif-

nesse ; for certes, ye ne may nat deme for the beste

a sodeyn thought that falleth in youre herte, but ye

moste avyse yow on it ful ofte. For as ye herde

biforn, the commune proverbe is this, that ” he that

sone demeth, sone repenteth.”

§ 19. Sir, ye ne be nat alwey in lyke disposicioun ;

for certes, som thing that somtyme semeth to yow that

it is good for to do, another tyme it semeth to yow the


§ 20. Whan ye han taken conseil in your-self, and

han demed by good deliberacion swich thing as you

semeth best, thanne rede I yow, that ye kepe it secree.

Biwrey nat your conseil to no persone, but-if so be that

ye wenen sikerly that, thurgh your biwreying, your

condicioun shal be to yow the more profitable. For

Jesus Syrak seith : ” neither to thy foo ne to thy

freend disco vere nat thy secree ne thy folie ; for they

wol yeve yow audience and loking and supportacioun

in thy presence, and scorne thee in thyn absence.”

Another clerk seith, that ” scarsly shaltou finden any

persone that may kepe conseil secreely.” The book

seith : ” whyl that thou kepest thy conseil in thyn

herte, thou kepest it in thy prisoun : and whan thou

biwreyest thy conseil to any wight, he holdeth thee in

his snare.” And therefore yow is bettre to hyde your

conseil in your herte, than praye him, to whom ye han

biwreyed your conseil, that he wole kepen it cloos and

stille. For Seneca seith : ” if so be that thou ne mayst

nat thyn owene conseil hyde, how darstou prayen

any other wight thy conseil secreely to kepe ? ” But

nathelees, if thou wene sikerly that the biwreying of

thy conseil to a persone wol make thy condicioun to

stonden in the bettre plyt, thanne shaltou tellen him

thy conseil in this wyse. First, thou shalt make no

semblant whether thee were lever pees or werre, or

this or that, ne shewe him nat thy wille and thyn

entente ; for trust wel, that comunly thise conseillours

been flatereres, namely the conseillours of grete

lordes ; for they enforcen hem alwey rather to speken

plesante wordes, enclyninge to the lordes lust, than

wordes that been trewe or profitable. And therfore

men seyn, that ” the riche man hath seld good conseil

but-if he have it of himself.” And after that, thou

shalt considere thy freendes and thyne enemys. And

as touchinge thy freendes, thou shalt considere whiche

of hem been most feithful and most wyse, and eldest

and most approved in conseilling. And of hem shalt

thou aske thy conseil, as the caas requireth.

§ 21. I seye that first ye shul clepe to your conseil

your freendes that been trewe. For Salomon seith :

that ” right as the herte of a man delyteth in savour

that is sote, right so the conseil of trewe freendes yeveth

swetenesse to the soule.” He seith also : ” ther may

no-thing be lykned to the trewe freend.” For certes,

gold ne silver beth nat so muche worth as the gode

wil of a trewe freend. And eek he seith, that ” a trewe

freend is a strong deffense ; who-so that it findeth,

certes he findeth a greet tresour.” Thanne shul ye

eek considere, if that your trewe freendes been dis-

crete and wyse. For the book seith : ” axe alwey thy

conseil of hem that been wyse.” And by this same

resoun shul ye clepen to your conseil, of your freendes

that been of age, swiche as han seyn and been expert

in manye thinges, and been approved in conseillinges.

For the book seith, that ” in olde men is the sapience

and in longe tyme the prudence.” And Tullius seith :

that ” grete thinges ne been nat ay accompliced by

strengthe, ne by delivernesse of body, but by good

conseil, by auctoritee of persones, and by science – r the

whiche three thinges ne been nat feble by age, but certes

they enforcen and encreesen day by day.” And thanne

shul ye kepe this for a general reule. First shul ye

clepen to your conseil a fewe of your freendes that been

especiale ; for Salomon seith : ” manye freendes have

thou ; but among a thousand chese thee oon to be thy

conseillour.” For al-be-it so that thou first ne telle

thy conseil but to a fewe, thou mayst afterward telle

it to mo folk, if it be nede. But loke alwey that thy

conseillours have thilke three condiciouns that I have

seyd bifore ; that is to seyn, that they be trewe, wyse,

and of old experience. And werke nat alwey in every

nede by oon counseillour allone ; for somtyme bihoveth

it to been conseilled by manye. For Salomon seith :

” salvacioun of thinges is wher-as ther been manye


§ 22. Now sith that I have told yow of which folk

ye sholde been counseilled, now wol I teche yow which

conseil ye oghte to eschewe. First ye shul eschewe

the conseilling of foles ; for Salomon seith : ” taak no

conseil of a fool, for he ne can noght conseille but after

his owene lust and his affeccioun.” The book seith :

that ” the propretee of a fool is this ; he troweth lightly

harm of every wight, and lightly troweth alle bountee

in himself.” Thou shalt eek eschewe the conseilling

of alle flatereres, swiche as enforcen hem rather to

preise your persone by flaterye than for to telle yow

the sothfastnesse of thinges.

§ 23. Wherfore Tullius seith : ” amonges alle the

pestilences that been in freendshipe, the gretteste is

flaterye.” And therfore is it more nede that thou

eschewe and drede flatereres than any other peple. The

book seith : ” thou shalt rather drede and flee fro the

swete wordes of flateringe preiseres, than fro the egre

wordes of thy freend that seith thee thy sothes.”

Salomon seith, that ” the wordes of a flaterere is a

snare to cacche with innocents.” He seith also, that

” he that speketh to his freend wordes of swetnesse and

of plesaunce, setteth a net biforn his feet to cacche

him.” And therfore seith Tullius : ” enclyne nat thyne

eres to flatereres, ne taketh no conseil of wordes of

flaterye.” And Caton seith : ” avyse thee wel, and

eschewe the wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce.”

And eek thou shalt eschewe the conseilling of thyne

olde enemys that been reconsiled. The book seith :

that ” no wight retourneth saufly in-to the grace of his

olde enemy.” And Isope seith : ” ne trust nat to

hem to whiche thou hast had som-tyme werre or

enmitee, ne telle hem nat thy conseil.” And Seneca

telleth the cause why. ” It may nat be,” seith he,

” that, where greet fyr hath longe tyme endured, that

ther ne dwelleth som vapour of warmnesse.” And ther-

fore seith Salomon : “in thyn olde foo trust never.”

For sikerly, though thyn enemy be reconsiled and

maketh thee chere of humilitee, and louteth to thee

with his heed, ne trust him never. For certes, he

maketh thilke feyned humilitee more for his profit

than for any love of thy persone ; by-cause that he

demeth to have victorie over thy persone by swich

feyned contenance, the which victorie he mighte nat

have by stryf or werre. And Peter Alfonce seith :

” make no felawshipe with thyne olde enemys ; for if

thou do hem bountee, they wol perverten it in -to

wikkednesse.” And eek thou most eschewe the con-

seilling of hem that been thy servants, and beren thee

greet reverence ; for pera venture they seyn it more for

drede than for love. And therfore seith a philosophre

in this Avyse : ” ther is no wight parfitly trewe to him

that he to sore dredeth.” And Tullius seith : ” ther

nis no might so greet of any emperour, that longe may

endure, but-if he have more love of the peple than

drede.” Thou shalt also eschewe the conseiling of

folk that been dronkelewe ; for they ne can no conseil

hyde. For Salomon seith : ” ther is no privetee ther-

as regneth dronkenesse.” Ye shul also han in suspect

the conseilling of swich folk as conseille yow a thing

prively, and conseille yow the contrarie openly. For

Cassidorie seith : that ” it is a maner sleigh te to hindre,

whan he sheweth to doon a thing openly and werketh

prively the contrarie.” Thou shalt also have in suspect

the conseilling of wikked folk. For the book seith :

” the conseilling of wikked folk is alwey ful of fraude : “

And David seith: ” blisful is that man that hath nat

folwed the conseilling of shrewes.” Thou shalt also

eschewe the conseilling of yong folk ; for hir conseil is

nat rype.

§ 24. Now sir, sith I have shewed yow of which folk

ye shul take your conseil, and of which folk ye shul

folwe the conseil, now wol I teche yow how ye shal

examine your conseil, after the doctrine of Tullius.

In the examininge thanne of your conseillour, ye shul

considere manye thinges. Alderfirst thou shalt con-

sidere, that in thilke thing that thou purposest, and

upon what thing thou wolt have conseil, that verray

trouthe be seyd and conserved ; this is to seyn, telle

trewely thy tale. For he that seith fals may nat wel

be conseilled, in that cas of which he lyeth. And after

this, thou shalt considere the thinges that acorden to

that thou purposest for to do by thy conseillours, if

resoun accorde therto ; and eek, if thy might may

atteine ther-to ; and if the more part and the bettre

part of thy conseillours acorde ther-to, or no. Thanne

shaltou considere what thing shal folwe of that con-

seilling ; as hate, pees, werre, grace, profit, or damage ;

and manye othere thinges. And in alle thise thinges

thou shalt chese the beste, and weyve alle othere

thinges. Thanne shaltow considere of what rote is

engendred the matere of thy conseil, and what fruit it

may conceyve and engendre. Thou shalt eek consid-

ere alle thise causes, fro whennes they been sprongen.

And whan ye han examined your conseil as I have

seyd, and which partie is the bettre and more profit-

able, and hast approved it by manye wyse folk and

olde ; thanne shaltou considere, if thou mayst par-

fourne it and maken of it a good ende. For certes,:

resoun wol nat that any man sholde biginne a thing,;

but-if he mighte parfourne it as him oghte. Ne no

wight sholde take up-on hym so hevy a charge that he

mighte nat bere it. For the proverbe seith : “he that

to muche embraceth, distreyneth litel.” And Catoun

seith : ” assay to do swich thing as thou hast power to

doon, lest that the charge oppresse thee so sore, that

thee bihoveth to weyve thing that thou hast bigonne.”

And if so be that thou be in doute, whether thou mayst

parfourne a thing or noon, chese rather to suffre than

biginne. And Piers Alphonce seith : ” if thou hast

might to doon a thing of which thou most repente thee,

it is bettre ‘ nay ‘ than ‘ ye ‘ ; ” this is to seyn, that

thee is bettre holde thy tonge stille, than for to speke.

Thanne may ye understonde by strenger resons, that

if thou hast power to parfourne a werk of which thou

shalt repente, thanne is it bettre that thou suffre than

biginne. Wei seyn they, that defenden every wight

to assaye any thing of which he is in doute, whether

he may parfourne it or no. And after, whan ye han

examined your conseil as I have seyd biforn, and


knowen wel that ye may parfourne youre emprise,

conferme it thanne sadly til it be at an ende.

§ 25. Now is it resoun and tyme that I shewe yow,

whanne, and wherfore, that ye may chaunge your

conseil with-outen your repreve. Soothly, a man may

chaungen his purpos and his conseil if the cause cesseth,

•or whan a newe caas bitydeth. For the la we seith :

that ” upon thinges that newely bityden bihoveth

newe conseil.” And Senek seith : “if thy conseil is

comen to the eres of thyn enemy, chaunge thy conseil.”

Thou mayst also chaunge thy conseil if so be that thou

finde that, by errour or by other cause, harm or damage

may bityde. Also, if thy conseil be dishonest, or elles

cometh of dishoneste cause, chaunge thy conseil. For

the lawes seyn : that ” alle bihestes that been dis-

honeste been of no value.” And eek, if it so be that

it be inpossible, or may nat goodly be parfourned or


§ 26. And take this for a general reule, that every

conseil that is affermed so strongly that it may nat be

chaunged, for no condicioun that may bityde, I seye

that thilke conseil is wikked.’

§ 27. This Melibeus, whanne he hadde herd the

doctrine of his wyf dame Prudence, answerde in this

wyse. ‘ Dame,’ quod he, ‘ as yet in-to this tyme ye

han wel and covenably taught me as in general, how

I shal governe me in the chesinge and in the with-

holdinge of my conseillours. But now wolde I fayn

that ye wolde condescende in especial, and telle me

how lyketh yow, or what semeth yow, by our con-

seillours that we han chosen in our present nede.’

§ 28. ‘ My lord,’ quod she, ‘ I biseke yow in al

humblesse, that ye wol nat wilfully replye agayn my

resouns, ne distempre your herte thogh I speke thing

that yow displese. For god wot that, as in myn

entente, I speke it for your beste, for your honour and

for your profite eke. And soothly, I hope that your

benignitee wol taken it in pacience. Trusteth me wel,’

quod she, ‘ that your conseil as in this caas ne sholde

nat, as to speke properly, be called a conseilling, but


a mocioun or a moevyng of folye ; in which conseil ye

han erred in many a sondry wyse.

§ 29. First and forward, ye han erred in th’assem-

blinge of your conseillours. For ye sholde first have

cleped a fewe folk to your conseil, and after ye mighte

han shewed it to mo folk, if it hadde been nede. But

certes, ye han sodeynly cleped to your conseil a greet

multitude of peple, ful chargeant and ful anoyous for

to here. Also ye han erred, for there-as ye sholden only

have cleped to your conseil your trewe freendes olde

and wyse, ye han y-cleped straunge folk, and yong folk,

false flatereres, and enemys reconsiled, and folk that

doon yow reverence withouten love. And eek also ye

have erred, for ye han broght with yow to your conseil

ire, covetise, and hastifnesse ; the whiche three thinges

been contrariouse to every conseil honeste and profit-

able ; the whiche three thinges ye han nat anientissed or

destroyed hem, neither in your-self ne in your conseil-

lours, as yow oghte. Ye han erred also, for ye han shewed

to your conseillours your talent, and your affeccioun

to make werre anon and for to do vengeance ; they

han espyed by your wordes to what, thing ye been

enclyned. And therfore han they rather conseilled yow

to your talent than to your profit. Ye han erred also,

for it semeth that yow suffyseth to han been conseilled

by thise conseillours only, and with litel avys ; wher-as,

in so greet and so heigh a nede, it hadde been necessarie

mo conseillours, and more deliberacioun to parfourne

your emprise. Ye han erred also, for ye han nat

examined your conseil in the forseyde manere, ne in

due manere as the caas requireth. Ye han erred also,

for ye han maked no divisioun bitwixe your con-

seillours ; this is to seyn, bitwixen your trewe freendes

and your feyned conseillours ; ne ye han nat knowe

the\wil of your trewe freendes olde and wyse ; but ye

han cast alle hir wordes in an hochepot, and enclyned

your herte to the more part and to the gretter nombre ;

and ther been ye condescended. And sith ye wot wel

that men shal alwey finde a gretter nombre of foles

than of wyse men, and therfore the conseils that been

at congregaciouns and multitudes of folk, ther-as men

take more reward to the nombre than to the sapience

of persones, ye see wel that in swiche conseillinges

foles han the maistrie.’ Melibeus answerde agayn, and

seyde : ‘ I graunte wel that I have erred ; but ther-as

thou hast told me heer-biforn, that he nis nat to blame

that chaungeth hise conseillours in certein caas, and

for certeine juste causes, I am al redy to chaunge my

conseillours, right as thou wolt devyse. The proverbe

seith : that ” for to do sinne is mannish, but certes for

to persevere longe in sinne is werk of the devel.” ‘

§ 30. To this sentence answerde anon dame Prudence,

and seyde : ‘ Examineth,’ quod she, ‘ your conseil, and

lat us see the whiche of hem han spoken most reson-

ably, and taught yow best conseil. And for-as-muche

as that the examinacioun is necessarie, lat us biginne

at the surgiens and at the phisiciens, that first speken

in this matere. I sey yow, that the surgiens and

phisiciens han seyd yow in your conseil discreetly, as

hem oughte ; and in hir speche seyden ful wysly, that

to the office of hem aperteneth to doon to every wight

honour and profit, and no wight for to anoye ; and,

after hir craft, to doon greet diligence un-to the cure

of hem whiche that they han in hir governaunce.

And sir, right as they han answered wysly and dis-

creetly, right so rede I that they been heighly and

sovereynly guerdoned for hir noble speche ; and eek

for they sholde do the more ententif bisinesse in the

curacioun of your doghter dere. For al-be-it so that

they been your freendes, therfore shal ye nat suffren

that they serve yow for noght ; but ye oghte the rather

guerdone hem and shewe hem your largesse. And as

touchinge the proposicioun which that the phisiciens

entreteden in this caas, this is to seyn, that, in maladyes,

that oon contrarie is warisshed by another contrarie,

I wolde fayn knowe how ye understonde thilke text,

and what is your sentence.’ ‘Certes,’ quod Melibeus,

‘ I understonde it in this wyse : that, right as they han

doon me a contrarie, right so sholde I doon hem another.

For right as they han venged hem on me and doon me

wrong, right so shal I venge me upon hem and doon

hem wrong ; and thanne have I cured oon contrarie by


§ 31. ‘ Lo, lo ! ‘ quod dame Prudence, ‘ how lightly

is every man enclyned to his owene desyr and to his

owene plesaunce ! Certes,’ quod she, ‘ the wordes of

the phisiciens ne sholde nat han been understonden in

this wyse. For certes, wikkednesse is nat contrarie to

wikkednesse, ne vengeaunce to vengeaunce, ne wrong to

wrong ; but they been semblable. And therfore, o ven-

geaunce is nat warisshed by another vengeaunce, ne

o wrong by another wrong ; but everich of hem en-

creesceth and aggreggeth other. But certes, the wordes

of the phisiciens sholde been understonden in this wyse :

for good and wikkednesse been two contraries, and pees

and werre, vengeaunce and suffraunce, discord and

accord, and manye othere thinges. But certes, wikked-

nesse shal be warisshed by goodnesse, discord by accord,

werre by pees, and so forth of othere thinges. And heer-

to accordeth Seint Paul the apostle in manye places. He

seith : ” ne yeldeth nat harm for harm, ne wikked speche

for wikked speche ; but do wel to him that dooth thee

harm, and blesse him that seith to thee harm.” And

in manye othere places he amonesteth pees and accord.

But now wol I speke to yow of the conseil which that

was yeven to yow by the men of lawe and the wyse

folk, that seyden alle by oon accord as ye han herd

bifore ; that, over alle thynges, ye sholde doon your

diligence to kepen your persone and to Avarnestore your

hous. And seyden also, that in this caas ye oghten for

to werken ful avysely and with greet deliberacioun.

And sir, as to the firste point, that toucheth to the

keping of your persone ; ye shul understonde that he

that hath werre shal evermore mekely and devoutly

preyen biforn alle thinges, that Jesus Crist of his grete

mercy wol han him in his proteccioun, and been his

sovereyn helping at his nede. For certes, in this world

ther is no wight that may be conseilled ne kept suffi-

santly wi thou ten the keping of our lord Jesu Crist.

To this sentence accordeth the prophete David, that

seith : ” if god ne kepe the citee, in ydel waketh he

that it kepeth.” Now sir, thanne shul ye committe

the keping of your persone to your trewe freendes that

been approved and y-knowe ; and of hem shul ye axen

help your persone for to kepe. For Catoun seith :

” if thou hast nede of help, axe it of thy freendes ;

for ther nis noon so good a phisicien as thy trewe

freend.” And after this, thanne shul ye kepe yow fro

alle straunge folk, and fro lyeres, and have alwey in

suspect hir companye. For Piers Alfonce seith: “ne

tak no companye by the weye of a straunge man, but-if

so be that thou have knowe him of a lenger tyme.

And if so be that he falle in-to thy companye para-

venture withouten thyn assent, enquere thanne, as

subtilly as thou mayst, of hj s conversacioun and of his

lyf bifore, and feyne thy wey ; seye that thou goost

thider as thou wolt nat go ; and if he bereth a spere,

hold thee on the right syde, and if he bere a swerd,

hold thee on the lift syde.” And after this, thanne

shul ye kepe yow wysely from alle swich manere peple

as I have seyd bifore, and hem and hir conseil eschewe.

And after this, thanne shul ye kepe yow in swich

manere, that for any presumpcioun of your strengthe,

that ye ne dispyse nat ne acounte nat the might of

your adversarie so litel, that ye lete the keping of your

persone for your presumpcioun ; for every wys man

dredeth his enemy. And Salomon seith : ” weleful is

he that of alle hath drede ; for certes, he that thurgh

the hardinesse of his herte and thurgh the hardinesse

of him-self hath to greet presumpcioun, him shal yvel

bityde.” Thanne shul ye evermore countrewayte em-

busshements and alle espiaille. For Senek seith : that

” the wyse man that dredeth harmes eschewe th harmes ;

ne he ne falleth in-to perils, that perils escheweth.”

And al-be-it so that it seme that thou art in siker

place, yet shaltow alwey do thy diligence in kepinge of

thy persone ; this is to seyn, ne be nat necligent to

kepe thy persone, nat only fro thy gretteste enemys

but fro thy leeste enemy. Senek seith : “a man that

is wel avysed, he dredeth his leste enemy.” Ovide

seith : that ” the litel wesele wol slee the grete bole

and the wilde hert.” And the book seith : “a litel

thorn may prikke a greet king ful sore ; and an hound

wol holde the wilde boor.” But nathelees, I sey nat

thou shalt be so coward that thou doute ther wher-as

is no drede. The book seith : that ” somme folk han

greet lust to deceyve, but yet they dreden hem to be

deceyved.” Yet shaltou drede to been empoisoned,

and kepe yow from the companye of scorneres. For

the book seith : ” with scorneres make no companye,

but flee hir wordes as venim.”

§ 32. Now as to the seconde point, wher-as your

wyse conseillours conseilled yow to warnestore your

hous with gret diligence, I wolde fayn knowe, how that

ye understonde thilke wordes, and what is your sen-


§ 33. Melibeus answerde and seyde, ‘ Certes I under-

stande it in this wise ; that I shal warnestore myn

hous with toures, swiche as han castelles and othere

manere edifices, and armure and artelleries, by whiche

thinges I may my persone and myn hous so.kepen and

defenden, that myne enemys shul been in drede myn

hous for to approche.’

§ 34. To this sentence answerde anon Prudence ;

‘ warnestoring,’ quod she, ‘ of heighe toures and of

grete edifices apperteneth som-tyme to pryde ; and

eek men make heighe toures and grete edifices with

grete costages and with greet travaille ; and whan that

they been accompliced, yet be they nat worth a stree,

but-if they be defended by trewe freendes that been

olde and wyse. And understond wel, that the gret-

teste and strongeste garnison that a riche man may

have, as wel to kepen his persone as hise goodes, is

that he be biloved amonges his subgets and with hise

neighebores. For thus seith Tullius : that ” ther is

a maner garnison that no man may venquisse ne dis-

confite, and that is, a lord to be biloved of hise citezeins

and of his peple.”

§ 35. Now sir, as to the thridde point ; wher-as your

olde and wise conseillours seyden, that yow ne oghte

nat sodeynly ne hastily proceden in this nede, but that

yow oghte purveyen and apparaillen yow in this caas

with greet diligence and greet deliberacioun ; trewely,

I trowe that they seyden right wysly and right sooth.

For Tullius seith, ” in every nede, er thou biginne it,

apparaille thee with greet diligence.” Thanne seye

I, that in vengeance-taking, in werre, in bataille, and

in warnestoring, er thow biginne, I rede that thou

apparaille thee ther-to, and do it with greet delibera-

cioun. For Tullius seith : that ” long apparailling

biforn the bataille maketh short victorie.” And

Cassidorus seith : ” the garnison is stronger whan it

is longe tyme avysed.”

§ 36. But now lat us speken of the conseil that was

accorded by your neighebores, swiche as doon yow

reverence withouten love, your olde enemys recon-

siled, your flatereres that conseilled yow certeyne

thinges prively, and openly conseilleden yow the con-

trarie ; the yonge folk also, that conseilleden yow to

venge yow and make werre anon. And certes, sir, as

I have seyd biforn, ye han greetly erred to han cleped

swich maner folk to your conseil ; which conseillours

been y-nogh repreved by the resouns aforeseyd. But

nathelees, lat us now descende to the special. Ye

shuln first procede after the doctrine of Tullius. Certes,

the trouthe of this matere or of this conseil nedeth nat

diligently enquere ; for it is wel wist whiche they been

that han doon to yow this trespas and vileinye, and

how manye trespassours, and in what manere they

han to yow doon al this wrong and al this vileinye.

And after this, thanne shul ye examine the seconde

condicioun, which that the same Tullius addeth in this

matere. For Tullius put a thing, which that he

clepeth ” consentinge,” this is to seyri ; who been they

and how manye, and whiche been they, that con-

senteden to thy conseil, in thy wilfulnesse to doon

hastif vengeance. And lat us considere also who been

they, and how manye been they, and whiche been they,

that consenteden to your adversaries. And certes, as

to the firste poynt, it is wel knowen whiche folk been

they that consenteden to your hastif wilfulnesse ; for

trewely, alle tho that conseilleden yow to maken

sodeyn werre ne been nat your freendes. Lat us now

considere whiche been they, that ye holde so greetly

your freendes as to your persone. For al-be-it so that

ye be mighty and riche, certes ye ne been nat but

allone. For certes, ye ne han no child but a doghter ;

ne ye ne han bretheren ne cosins germayns, ne noon

other neigh kinrede, wherfore that your enemys, for

drede, sholde stinte to plede with yow or to destroye

your persone. Ye knowen also, that your richesses

moten been dispended in diverse parties ; and whan

that every wight hath his part, they ne wollen taken

but litel reward to venge thy deeth. But thyne

enemys been three, and they han manie children,

bretheren, cosins, and other ny kinrede ; and, though

so were that thou haddest slayn of hem two or three,

yet dwellen ther y-nowe to wreken hir deeth and to

slee thy persone. And though so be that your kinrede

be more siker and stedefast than the kin of your

adversarie, yet nathelees your kinrede nis but a fer

kinrede ; they been but litel sib to yow, and the kin

of your enemys been ny sib to hem. And certes, as

in that, hir condicioun is bet than youres. Thanne

lat us considere also if the conseilling of hem that

conseilleden yow to taken sodeyn vengeaunce, whether

it accorde to resoun ? And certes, ye knowe wel

” nay.” For as by right and resoun, ther may no man

taken vengeance on no wight, but the juge that hath

the jurisdiccioun of it, whan it is graunted him to take

thilke vengeance, hastily or attemprely, as the lawe

requireth. And yet more-over, of thilke word that

Tullius clepeth ” consentinge,” thou shalt considere if

thy might and thy power may consenten and suffyse

to thy wilfulnesse and to thy conseillours. And certes,

thou mayst wel seyn that ” nay.” For sikerly, as for

to speke proprely, we may do no-thing but only swich

thing as we may doon rightfully. And certes, right-

fully ne mowe ye take no vengeance as of your propre

auctoritee. Thanne mowe ye seen, that your power

ne consenteth nat ne accordeth nat with your wilful-

nesse. Lat us now examine the thridde point that

Tullius clepeth ” consequent.” Thou shalt under-

stonde that the vengeance that thou purposest for to

take is the consequent. And ther-of folweth another

vengeaunce, peril, and werre ; and othere damages

with-oute nombre, of whiche we be nat war as at this

tyme. And as touchinge the fourthe point, that

Tullius clepeth ” engendringe,” thou shalt considere,

that this wrong which that is doon to thee is engendred

of the hate of thyne enemys ; and of the vengeance-

takinge upon that wolde engendre another vengeance,

and muchel sorwe and was tinge of richesses, as I


§ 37. Now sir, as to the point that Tullius clepeth

” causes,” which that is the laste point, thou shalt

understonde that the wrong that thou hast receyved

hath certeine causes, whiche that clerkes clepen Oriens

and Efliciens, and Causa longinqua and Causa pro-

pinqua ; this is to seyn, the fer cause and the ny cause.

The fer cause is almighty god, that is cause of alle

thinges. The neer cause is thy three enemys. The

cause accidental was hate. The cause material been

the fyve woundes of thy doghter. The cause formal

is the manere of hir werkinge, that broghten laddres

and cloumben in at thy windowes. The cause final was

for to slee thy doghter ; it letted nat in as muche as in

hem was. But for to speken of the fer cause, as to

what ende they shul come, or what shal finally bityde

of hem in this caas, ne can I nat deme but by con-

jectinge and by supposinge. For we shul suppose that

they shul come to a wikked ende, by-cause that the

Book of Decrees seith : ” selden or with greet peyne

been causes y-broght to good ende whanne they been

baddely bigonne.”

§ 38. Now sir, if men wolde axe me, why that god

suffred men to do yow this vileinye, certes, I can nat

wel answere as for no sothfastnesse. For th’apostle

seith, that ” the sciences and the juggementz of our

lord god almighty been ful depe ; ther may no man

comprehende ne serchen hem suffisantly.” Nathelees,

by certeyne presumptions and conjectinges, I holde

and bileve that god, which that is ful of justice and of

rightwisnesse, hath suffred this bityde by juste cause


§ 39. Thy name is Melibee, this is to seyn, ” a man

that drinketh hony.” Thou hast y-dronke so muchel

hony of swete temporel richesses and delices and honours

of this world, that thou art dronken ; and hast forgeten

Jesu Crist thy creatour ; thou ne hast nat doon to him

swich honour and reverence as thee oughte. Ne thou

ne hast nat wel y-taken kepe to the wordes of Ovide,

that seith : ” under the hony of the godes of the body

is hid the venim that sleeth the soule.” And Salomon

seith, ” if thou hast founden hony, ete of it that

suffyseth ; for if thou ete of it out of mesure, thou

shalt spewe,” and be nedy and povre. And per-

aventure Crist hath thee in despit, and hath turned

awey fro thee his face and hise eres of misericorde ;

and also he hath suffred that thou hast been punisshed

in the manere that thow hast y-trespassed. Thou hast

doon sinne agayn our lord Crist ; for certes, the three

enemys of mankinde, that is to seyn, the flessh, the

feend, and the world, thou hast suffred hem entre

in-to thyn herte wilfully by the windowes of thy body,

and hast nat defended thyself suffisantly agayns hir

assautes and hir temptaciouns, so that they han

wounded thy soule in fyve places ; this is to seyn,

the deedly^innes that been entred in-to thyn herte by

thy fyve wittes. And in the same manere our lord

Crist hath wold and suffred, that thy three enemys

been entred in-to thyn hous by the windowes, and han

y-wounded thy doghter in the fore-seyde manere.’

§ 40. ‘ Certes,’ quod Melibee, ‘ I see wel that ye

enforce yow muchel by wordes to overcome me in

swich manere, that I shal nat venge me of myne

enemys ; shewinge me the perils and the yveles that

mighten falle of this vengeance. But who-so wolde

considere in alle vengeances the perils and yveles that

mighte sewe of vengeance-takinge, a man wolde never

take vengeance, and that were harm ; for by the

vengeance -takinge been the wikked men dissevered

fro the gode men. And they that han wil to do

wikkednesse restreyne hir wikked purpos, whan they

seen the punissinge and chastysinge of the trespassours.’

[And to this answerde dame Prudence : ‘ Certes,’ seyde

she, ‘ I graunte wel that of vengeaunce cometh muchel

yvel and muchel good ; but vengeaunce-taking aper-

teneth nat unto everichoon, but only unto juges and

unto hem that han jurisdiccioun upon the trespassours.]

And yet seye I more, that right as a singuler persone

sinneth in takinge vengeance of another man, right so

sinneth the juge if he do no vengeance of hem that it

han deserved. For Senek seith thus : ” that maister,”

he seith, ” is good that proveth shrewes.” And as

Cassidore seith : ” A man dredeth to do outrages,

whan he woot and knoweth that it displeseth to the

juges and sovereyns.” And another seith : ” the juge

that dredeth to do right, maketh men shrewes.” And

Seint Paule the apostle seith in his epistle, whan he

wryteth un-to the Romayns : that ” the juges beren

nat the spere with-outen cause ; ” but they beren it to

punisse the shrewes and misdoeres, and for to defende

the gode men. If ye wol thanne take vengeance of

your enemys, ye shul retourne or have your recours to

the juge that hath the jurisdiccion up-on hem ; and he

shal punisse hem as the lawe axeth and requyreth.’

§ 41. ‘ A ! ‘ quod Melibee, ‘ this vengeance lyketh

me no-thing. I bithenke me now and take hede, how

fortune hath norissed me fro my childhede, and hath

holpen me to passe many a strong pas. Now wol

I assayen hir, trowinge, with goddes help, that she shal

helpe me my shame for to venge.’

§ 42. ‘ Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘ if ye wol werke by

my conseil, ye shul nat assaye fortune by no wey ; ne

ye shul nat lene or bowe unto hir, after the word of

Senek : for ” thinges that been folily doon, and that

been in hope of fortune, shullen never come to good

ende.” And as the same Senek seith : ” the more

cleer and the more shyning that fortune is, the more

brotil and the sonner broken she is.” Trusteth nat

in hir, for she nis nat stidefast ne stable ; for whan

thow trowest to be most seur or siker of hir help, she

wol faille thee and deceyve thee. And wheras ye seyn

that fortune hath norissed yow fro your childhede,

I seye, that in so muchel shul ye the lasse truste in

hir and in hir wit. For Senek seith : ” what man that

is norissed by fortune, she maketh him a greet fool.”

Now thanne, sin ye desyre and axe vengeance, and the

vengeance that is doon after the lawe and bifore the

juge ne lyketh yow nat, and the vengeance that is

doon in hope of fortune is perilous and uncertein,

thanne have ye noon other remedie but for to have

your recours unto the sovereyn juge that vengeth alle

vileinyes and wronges ; and he shal venge yow after

that him-self witnesseth, wher-as he seith : ” leveth

the vengeance to me, and I shal do it.” ‘

§ 43. Melibee answerde, ‘ if I ne venge me nat of the

vileinye that men han doon to me, I sompne or warne

hem that han doon to me that vileinye and alle othere,

to do me another vileinye. For it is writen : “if thou

take no vengeance of an old vileinye, thou sompnest

thyne adversaries to do thee a newe vileinye.” And

also, for my suffrance, men wolden do to me so muchel

vileinye, that I mighte neither bere it ne sustene ; and

so sholde I been put and holden over lowe. For men

seyn: “in muchel suffringe shul manye thinges falle

un-to thee whiche thou shalt nat mowe suffre.”

§ 44. ‘ Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘ I graunte yow that

over muchel suffraunce nis nat good ; but yet ne f olweth

it nat ther-of, that every persone to whom men doon

vileinye take of it vengeance ; for that aperteneth and

longeth al only to the juges, for they shul venge the

vileinyes and iniuries. And ther-fore tho two auctori-

tees that ye han seyd above, been only understonden

in the juges ; for whan they suffren over muchel the

wronges and the vileinyes to be doon withouten punissh-

inge, they sompne nat a man al only for to do newe

wronges, but they comanden it. Also a wys man

seith : that ” the juge that correcteth nat the sinnere

comandeth and biddeth him do shine.” And the juges

and sovereyns mighten in hir land so muchel suffre of

the shrewes and misdoeres, that they sholden by swich

suffrance, by proces of tyme, wexen of swich power

and might, that they sholden putte out the juges and

the sovereyns from hir places, and atte laste maken

hem lesen hir lordshipes.

§ 45. But lat us now putte, that ye have leve to

venge vow. I seye ye been nat of might and power as

now to venge yow. For if ye wole maken comparisoun

un-to the might of your adversaries, ye shul finde in

manye thinges, that I have shewed yow er this, that

hir condicioun is bettre than youres. xAnd therfore

seye I, that it is good as now that ye suffre and be


§ 46. Forther-more, ye knowen wel that, after the

comune sawe, ” it is a woodnesse a man to stryve with

a strenger or a more mighty man than he is him-self ;

and for to stryve with a man of evene strengthe, that

is to seyn, with as strong a man as he, it is peril ; and

for to stryve with a weyker man, it is folie.” And

therfore sholde a man flee stryvinge as muchel as he

mighte. For Salomon seith : ” it is a greet worship

to a man to kepen him fro noyse and stryf.” And if

it so bifalle or happe that a man of gretter might and

strengthe than thou art do thee grevaunce, studie and

bisie thee rather to stille the same grevaunce, than for

to venge thee. For Senek seith : that ” he putteth

him in greet peril that stryveth with a gretter man

than he is him-self.” And Catoun seith : ” if a man

of hyer estaat or degree, or more mighty than thou, do

thee anoy or grevaunce, suffre him ; for he that ones

hath greved thee may another tyme releve thee and

helpe.” Yet sette I caas, ye have bo the might and

licence for to venge yow. I seye, that ther be ful

manye thinges that shul restreyne yow of vengeance-

takinge, and make yow for to enclyne to suffre. and

for to han pacience in the thinges that han been doon

to yow. First and foreward, if ye wole considere the

defautes that been in your owene persone, for whichc

defautes god hath suffred yow have this tribulacioun,

as I have seyd yow heer-biforn. For the poete seith,

that ” we oghte paciently taken the tribulacions that

comen to us, whan we thinken and consideren that we

han deserved to have hem.” And Seint Gregorie

seith : that ” whan a man considereth wel the nombre

of hise defautes and of his sinnes, the peynes and the

tribulaciouns that he suffreth semen the lesse un-to

hym ; and in-as-muche as him thinketh hise sinnes

more hevy and grevous, in-so-muche semeth his peyne

the lighter and the esier un-to him.” Also ye owen to

enclyne and bowe your herte to take the pacience of

our lord Jesu Crist, as seith seint Peter in hise epistles :

” Jesu Crist,” he seith, ” hath suffred for us, and yeven

ensample to every man to folwe and sewe him ; for he

dide never sinne, ne never earn ther a vileinous word

out of his mouth : whan men cursed him, he cursed

hem noght ; and whan men betten him, he manaced

hem noght.” Also the grete pacience, which the

seintes that been in paradys han had in tribulaciouns

that they han y-suffred, with-outen hir desert or gilt,

oghte muchel stiren yow to pacience. Forthermore,

ye sholde enforce yow to have pacience, consideringe

that the tribulaciouns of this world but litel whyle

endure, and sone passed been and goon. And the joye

that a man seketh to have by pacience in tribulaciouns

is perdurable, after that the apostle seith in his epistle :

” the joye of god,” he seith, ” is perdurable,” that is

to seyn, everlastinge. Also troweth and bileveth stede-

fastly, that he nis nat wel y-norissed ne wel y-taught,

that can nat have pacience or wol nat recey ve pacience.

For Salomon seith : that ” the doctrine and the wit of

a man is knowen by pacience.” And in another place

he seith : that ‘he that is pacient governeth him by

greet prudence.” And the same Salomon seith : ” the

angry and wrathful man maketh noyses, and the

pacient man atempreth hem and stilleth.” He seith

also : ‘ it is more worth to be pacient than for to be

right strong ; and he that may have the lordshipe of

his owene herte is more to preyse, than he that by his

force or strengthe taketh grete citees.” And therfore

seith seint Jame in his epistle : that ” pacience is a

greet vertu of perfeccioun.” ‘

§ 47. ‘ Certes,’ quod Melibee, ‘ I graunte yow, dame

Prudence, that pacience is a greet vertu of perfeccioun ;

but every man may nat have the perfeccioun that ye

seken ; ne I nam nat of the nombre of right parfite men,

for myn herte may never been in pees un-to the tyme it

be venged. And al-be-it so that it was greet peril to

myne enemys, to do me a vileinye in takinge vengeance

up-on me, yet token they noon hede of the peril, but

fulfilleden hir wikked wil and hir corage. And ther-

fore, me thinketh men oghten nat repreve me, though

I putte me in a litel peril for to venge me, and though

I do a greet excesse, that is to seyn, that I venge oon

outrage by another.’ .

§ 48. ‘ A ! ‘ quod dame Prudence, ‘ ye seyn your wil

and as yow lyketh ; but in no caas of the world a man

sholde nat doon outrage ne excesse for to vengen him.

For Cassidore seith : that ” as yvel doth he that

venge th him by outrage, as he that doth the outrage.”

And therfore ye shul venge yow after the ordre of right,

that is to seyn by the lawe, and noght by excesse ne

by outrage. And also, if ye wol venge yow of the out-

rage of your adversaries in other maner than right

comandeth, ye sinnen ; and therfore seith Senek : that

” a man shal never vengen shrewednesse by shrew’ed-

nesse.” And if ye seye, that right axeth a man to

defenden violence by violence, and fighting by fighting,

certes ye seye sooth, whan the defense is doon anon

with-outen intervalle or with-outen tarying or delay,

for to defenden him and nat for to vengen him. And

it bihoveth that a man putte swich attemperance in

his defence, that men have no cause ne matere to

repreven him that defendeth him of excesse and out-

rage ; for elles were it agajm resoun. Pardee, ye

knowen wel, that ye maken no defence as now for to

defende yow, but for to venge yow ; and so seweth it

that ye han no wil to do your dede attemprely. And

therfore, me thinketh that pacience is good. For

Salomon seith : that ” he that is nat pacient shal have

greet harm.” ‘

§ 49. ‘ Certes,’ quod Melibee, ‘ I graunte yow, that

whan a man is inpacient and wroth, of that that

toucheth him noght and that aperteneth nat un-to

him, though it harme him, it is no wonder. For the

lawe seith : that “he is coupable that entremetteth or

medleth with swich thyng as aperteneth nat un-to

him.” And Salomon seith : that ” he that entre-

metteth him of the noyse or stryf of another man, is

lyk to him that taketh an hound by the eres.” For

right as he that taketh a straunge hound by the eres

is outherwhyle biten with the hound, right in the same

wyse is it resoun that he have harm, that by his in-

pacience medleth him of the noyse of another man,

wher-as it aperteneth nat un-to him. But ye knowen

wel that this dede, that is to seyn, my grief and my

disese, toucheth me right ny. And therfore, though

I be wroth and inpacient, it is no merveille. And

savinge your grace, I can nat seen that it mighte greetly

harme me though I toke vengeaunce ; for I am richer

and more mighty than myne enemys been. And wel j

knowen ye, that by moneye and by havinge grete

possessions been all the thinges of this world governed.

And Salomon seith : that ” alle thinges obeyen to

moneye.” ‘

§ 50. Whan Prudence hadde herd hir housbonde

avanten him of his richesse and of his moneye, dis-

preisinge the power of hise adversaries, she spak, and

seyde in this wyse : ‘ certes, dere sir, I graunte yow

that ye been rich and mighty, and that the richesses

been goode to hem that han wel y-geten hem and wel

conne usen hem. For right as the body of a man may I

nat liven withoute the soule, namore may it live with-

outen temporel goodes. And by richesses may a man

gete him grete freendes. And therfore seith Pamphilles : ‘

” if a netherdes doghter,” seith he, ” be riche, she may

chesen of a thousand men which she wol take to hir

housbonde ; for, of a thousand men, oon wol nat for-

saken hir ne refusen hir.” And this Pamphilles seith

also : “if thou be right happy, that is to seyn, if thou

be right riche, thou shalt find a greet nombre of felawes

and freendes. And if thy fortune change that thou

wexe povre, farewel freendshipe and felaweshipe ; for

thou shalt be allone with-outen any companye, but-if

it be the companye of povre folk.” And yet seith this

Pamphilles moreover : that ” they that been thralle

and bond of linage shullen been maad worthy and

noble by the richesses.” And right so as by richesses

ther comen manye goodes, right so by poverte come

ther manye harmes and yveles. For greet poverte

constreyneth a man to do manye yveles. And therfore

clepeth Cassidore poverte ” the moder of ruine,” that

is to seyn, the moder of overthrowinge or fallinge doun.

And therfore seith Piers Alfonce : ” oon of the gretteste

adversitees of this world is whan a free man, by kinde

or by burthe, is constreyned by poverte to eten the

almesse of his enemy.” And the same seith Innocent

in oon of hise bokes ; he seith: that ” sorweful and

mishappy is the condicioun of a povre begger ; for if

he axe nat his mete, he dyeth for hunger ; and if he

axe, he dyeth for shame ; and algates necessitee con-

streyneth him to axe.” And therfore seith Salomon :

that ” bet it is to dye than for to have swich poverte.”

And as the same Salomon seith : ” bettre it is to dye

of bitter deeth than for to liven in swich wyse.” By

thise resons that I have seid un-to yow, and by manye

othere resons that I coude seye, I graunte yow that

richesses been goode to hem that geten hem wel, and

to hem that wel usen tho richesses. And therfore wol

I shewe yow how ye shul have yow, and how ye shul

bere yow in gaderinge of richesses, and in what manere

ye shul usen hem.

§ 51. First, ye shul geten hem withouten greet desyr,

by good leyser sokingly, and nat over hastily. For

a man that is to desyringe to gete richesses abaun-

doneth him first to thefte and to alle other yveles.

And therfore seith Salomon : “he that hasteth him to

bisily to wexe riche shal be noon innocent.” He seith

also : that ” the richesse that hastily cometh to a man,

sone and lightly gooth and passeth fro a man ; but

that richesse that cometh litel and litel wexeth alwey

and multiplyeth.” And sir, ye shul geten richesses by

your wit and by your travaille un-to your profit ; and

that with-outen wrong or harm-doinge to any other

persone. For the la we seith : that ” ther maketh no

man himselven riche, if he do harm to another wight ” ;

this is to seyn, that nature defendeth and forbedeth by

right, that no man make himself riche un-to the harm

of another persone. And Tullius seith : that ” no

sorwe ne no drede of deeth, ne no-thing that may falle

un-to a man is so muchel agayns nature, as a man to

encressen his owene profit to the harm of another man.

And though the grete men and the mighty men geten

richesses more lightly than thou, yet shaltou nat been

ydel ne slow to do thy profit ; for thou shalt in alle

wyse flee ydelnesse.” For Salomon seith : that ” ydel-

nesse techeth a man to do manye yveles.” And the

same Salomon seith : that ” he that travailleth and

bisieth him to tilien his land, shal eten breed ; but he

that is ydel and casteth him to no bisinesse ne occupa-

cioun, shal falle in-to poverte, and dye for hunger.”

And he that is ydel and slow can never finde coven-

able tyme for to doon his profit. For ther is a versifiour I

seith : that ” the ydel man excuseth hym in winter, by

cause of the grete cold ; and in somer, by enchesoun

of the hete.” For thise causes seith Caton : ” waketh

and enclyneth nat yow over muchel for to slepe ; for

over muchel reste norisseth and causeth manye vices.” >

And therfore seith seint Jerome : ” doth somme gode

dedes, that the devel which is our enemy ne finde yow

nat unoccupied. For the devel ne taketh nat lightly

un-to his werkinge swiche as he findeth occupied in

gode werkes.”

§ 52. Thanne thus, in getinge richesses, ye mosten

flee ydelnesse. And afterward, ye shul use the richesses,

whiche ye have geten by your wit and by your travaille,

in swich a manere, that men holde nat yow to scars, ne

to sparinge, ne to fool-large, that is to seyn, over-

large a spender. For right as men blamen an avari-

cious man by-cause of his scarsetee and chincherye, in

the same wyse is he to blame that spendeth over

largely. And therfore seith Caton : ” use,” he seith,

” thy richesses that thou hast geten in swich a manere,

that men have no matere ne cause to calle thee neither

wrecche ne chinche ; for it is a greet shame to a man

to have a povere herte and a riche purs.” He seith

also : ” the goodes that thou hast y-geten, use hem by

mesure,” that is to seyn, spende hem mesurably ; for

they that folily wasten and despenden the goodes that

they han, whan they han namore propre of hir owene,

they shapen hem to take the goodes of another man.

I seye thanne, that ye shul fleen avarice ; usinge your

richesses in swich manere, that men seye nat that your

richesses been y-buried, but that ye have hem in your

might and in your weeldinge. For a wys man repreveth

the avaricious man, and seith thus, in two vers : ” wher-

to and why burnetii a man hise goodes by his grete

avarice, and knoweth wel that nedes moste he dye ;

for deeth is the ende of every man as in this present

lyf.” And for what cause or enchesoun joyneth he

him or knitteth he him so faste un-to hise goodes, that

alle his wittes mowen nat disseveren him or departen

him from hise goodes ; and knoweth wel, or oghte

knowe, that whan he is deed, he shal no-thing bere with

him out of this world ? And ther-fore seith seint

Augustin : that ” the avaricious man is likned un-to

helle ; that the more it swelweth, the more desyr it

hath to s wel we and devoure.” And as wel as ye

wolde eschewe to be called an avaricious man or

chinche, as wel sholde ye kepe yow and governe yow

in swich a wyse that men calle yow nat fool-large.

Therfore seith Tullius : ” the goodes,” he seith, ” of

thyn hous ne sholde nat been hid, ne kept so cloos but

that they mighte been opened by pitee and debonaire-

tee” ; that is to seyn, to yeven part to hem that han

greet nede ; ” ne thy goodes shullen nat been so opene,

to been every mannes goodes.” Afterward, in getinge

of your richesses and in usinge hem, ye shul alwey have

three thinges in your herte ; that is to seyn, our lord

god, conscience, and good name. First, ye shul have

god in your herte ; and for no richesse ye shullen do

no-thing, which may in any manere displese god, that

is your creatour and maker. For after the word of

Salomon : ” it is bettre to have a litel good with the

love of god, than to have muchel good and tresour,

and lese the love of his lord god.” And the prophete

seith : that ” bettre it is to been a good man and have

litel good and tresour, than to been holden a shrewe

and have grete richesses.” And yet seye I ferther-

more, that ye sholde alwey doon your bisinesse to gete

yow richesses, so that ye gete hem with good con-

science. And th’ apostle seith : that ” ther nis thing

in this world, of which we sholden have so greet joye

as whan our conscience bereth us good witnesse.”

And the wyse man seith : ” the substance of a man

is ful good, whan sinne is nat in mannes conscience.”

Afterward, in getinge of your richesses, and in usinge

of hem, yow moste have greet bisinesse and greet dili-

gence, that your goode name be alwey kept and con-

served. For Salomon seith : that ” bettre it is and more

it availleth a man to have a good name, than for to

have grete richesses.” And therfore he seith in another

place : ” do greet diligence,” seith Salomon, ” in keping

of thy freend and of thy gode name ; for it shal lenger

abide with thee than any tresour, be it never so pre-

cious.” And certes he sholde nat be called a gentil

man, that after god and good conscience, alle thinges

left, ne dooth his diligence and bisinesse to kepen his

good name. And Cassidore seith : that ” it is signe of

a gentil herte, whan a man loveth and desyreth to han

a good name.” And therfore seith seint Augustin : that

” ther been two thinges that arn necessarie and nede-

fulle, and that is good conscience and good loos ; that

is to seyn, good conscience to thyn owene persone

inward, and good loos for thy neighebore outward.”

And he that trusteth him so muchel in his gode

conscience, that he displeseth and setteth at noght his

gode name or loos, and rekketh noght though he kepe

nat his gode name, nis but a cruel cherl.

§ 53. Sire, now have I shewed yow how ye shul do

in getinge richesses, and how ye shullen usen hem ;

and I see we!, that for the trust that ye han in youre

richesses, ye wole moeve werre and bataille. I con-

seille yow, that ye biginne no werre in trust of your

richesses ; for they ne suffysen noght werres to mayn-

tene. And therfore seith a philosophre : ” that man

that desyreth and wole algates han werre, shal never

have suffisaunce ; for the richer that he is, the gretter

despenses moste he make, if he woie have worship and

victorie.” And Salomon seith : that ” the gretter

richesses that a man hath, the mo despendours he

hath.” And dere sire, al-be-it so that for your richesses

ye mowe have muchel folk, yet bihoveth it nat, ne it

is nat good, to biginne werre, where-as ye mowe in

other manere have pees, un-to your worship and profit.

For the victories of batailles that been in this world,

lyen nat in greet nombre or multitude of the peple ne

in the vertu of man ; but it lyth in the wil and in the

hand of our lord god almighty. And therfore Judas

Machabeus, which was goddes knight, whan he sholde

fighte agayn his adversarie that hadde a greet nombre,

and a gretter multitude of folk and strenger than was

this peple of Machabee, yet he reconforted his litel

companye, and seyde right in this wyse : ” als lightly,”

quod he, ” may our lord god almighty yeve victorie to

a fewe folk as to many folk ; for the victorie of bataile

cometh nat by the grete nombre of peple, but it cometh

from our lord god of hevene.” And dere sir, for as

muchel as there is no man certein, if he be worthy that

god yeve him victorie, [namore than he is certein

whether he be worthy of the love of god] or naught,

after that Salomon seith, therfore every man sholde

greetly drede werres to biginne. And by-cause that

in batailles fallen manye perils, and happeth outher-

while, that as sone is the grete man sleyn as the litel

man ; and, as it is written in the seconde book of

Kinges, ” the dedes of batailles been aventurouse and

nothing certeyne ; for as lightly is oon hurt with a

spere as another.” And for ther is gret peril in werre.

therfore sholde a man flee and eschewe werre, in as

muchel as a man may goodly. For Salomon seith :

” he that loveth peril shal falle in peril.” ‘

§ 54. After that Dame Prudence hadde spoken in this

manere, Melibee answerde and seyde, ‘ I see wel, dame

Prudence, that by your faire wordes and by your

resons that ye ham shewed me, that the werre lyketh

yow no-thing ; but I have nat yet herd your conseil,

how I shal do in this nede.’

§ 55. Certes,’ quod she, ‘ I conseille yow that ye

accorde with youre adversaries, and that ye have pees

with hem. For seint Jame seith in hise epistles : that

” by concord and pees the smale richesses wexen grete,

and by debaat and discord the grete richesses fallen

doun.” And ye knowen wel that oon of the gretteste

and most sovereyn thing, that is in this world, is unitee

and pees. And therfore seyde oure lord Jesu Crist to

hise apostles in this wyse : ” wel happy and blessed

been they that loven and purchacen pees ; for they

been called children of god.” ‘ ‘ A ! ‘ quod Melibee,

‘ now see I wel that ye loven nat myn honour ne my

worshipe. Ye knowen wel that myne adversaries han

bigonnen this debaat and brige by hir outrage ; and

ye see wel that they ne requeren ne preyen me nat of

pees, ne they asken nat to be reconsiled. Wol ye

thanne that I go and meke me and obeye me to hem,

and crye hem mercy ? For sothe, that were nat my

worship. For right as men seyn, that ” over-greet

homlinesse engendreth dispreysinge,” so fareth it by

to greet humylitee or mekenesse.’

§ 56. Thanne bigan dame Prudence to maken sem-

blant of wratthe, and seyde, ‘ certes, sir, sauf your

grace, I love your honour and your profit as I do myn

owene, and ever have doon ; ne ye ne noon other syen

never the contrarie. And yit, if I hadde seyd that ye

sholde han purchaced the pees and the reconsiliacioun,

I ne hadde nat muchel mistaken me, ne seyd amis.

For the wyse man seith : ” the dissensioun biginneth

by another man, and the reconsiling biginneth by thy-

self.” And the prophete seith : ” flee shrewednesse

and do goodnesse ; seke pees and folwe it, as muchel

as in thee is.” Yet seye I nat that ye shul rather

pursue to your adversaries for pees than they shuln

to yow ; for I knowe wel that ye been so hard-herted,

that ye wol do no-thing for me. And Salomon seith :

” he that hath over-hard an herte, atte laste he shal

mishappe and mistyde.” ‘

§ 57. Whanne Melibee hadde herd dame Prudence

maken semblant of wratthe, he seyde in this wyse,

‘ dame, I prey yow that ye be nat displesed of thinges

that I seye ; for ye knowe wel that I am angry and

wrooth, and that is no wonder ; and they that been

wrothe witen nat wel what they doon, ne what they

seyn. Therfore the prophete seith : that ” troubled

eyen han no cleer sighte.” But seyeth and conseileth

me as yow lyketh ; for I am redy to do right as ye wol

desyre ; and if ye repreve me of my folye, I am the

more holden to love yow and to preyse yow. For

Salomon seith : that ” he that repreveth him that doth

folye, he shal finde gretter grace than he that deceyveth

him by swete wordes.” ‘

§ 58. Thanne seide dame Prudence, ‘ I make no sem-

blant of wratthe ne anger but for your grete profit.

For Salomon seith : ” he is more worth, that repreveth

or chydeth a fool for his folye, shewinge him semblant

of wratthe, than he that supporteth him and preyseth

him in his misdoinge, and laugheth at his folye.” And

this same Salomon seith afterward : that “by the

sorweful visage of a man,” that is to seyn, by the sory

and hevy countenaunce of a man, ” the fool correcteth

and amende th him -self.” ‘

§ 59. Thanne seyde Melibee, ‘I shal nat conne answerc

to so manye faire resouns as ye putten to me and

shewen. Seyeth shortly your wil and your conseil,

and I am al ready to fulfille and parfourne it.’

§ 60. Thanne dame Prudence discovered al hir wil

to him, and seyde, ‘ I conseille yow,’ quod she, ‘ aboven

alle thinges, that ye make pees bitwene god and yow ;

and beth reconsiled un-to him and to his grace. For

as I have seyd yow heer-biforn, god hath suffred yow

to have this tribulacioun and disese for your sinnes.

And if ye do as I sey yow, god wol sende your adver-

saries un-to yow, and maken hem fallen at your feet,

redy to do your wil and your comandements. For

Salomon seith : ” whan the condicioun of man is

plesaunt and likinge to god, he chaungeth the hertes

of the mannes adversaries, and constreyneth hem to

biseken him of pees and of grace.” And I prey yow,

lat me speke with your adversaries in privee place ;

for they shul nat knowe that it be of your wil or your

assent. And thanne, whan I knowe hir wil and hir

entente, I may conseille yow the more seurly.’

§ 61. ‘ Dame,’ quod Melibee, ‘ dooth your wil and

your lykinge, for I putte me hoolly in your disposicioun

and ordinaunce.’

§ 62. Thanne Dame Prudence, whan she saugh the

gode wil of her housbonde, delibered and took avys in

hir-self, thinkinge how she mighte bringe this nede

un-to a good conclusioun and to a good ende. And

whan she saugh hir tyme, she sente for thise adver-

saries to come un-to hir in-to a privee place, and shewed

wysly un-to hem the grete gcodes that comen of pees,

and the grete harmes and perils that been in werre ;

and seyde to hem in a goodly manere, how that hem

oughte have greet repentaunce of the injurie and

wrong that they hadden doon to Melibee hir lord, and

to hir, and to hir doghter.

§ 63. And whan they herden the goodliche wordes of

dame Prudence, they weren so surprised and ravisshed,

and hadden so greet joye of hir, that wonder was to

telle. ‘ A ! lady ! ‘ quod they, ‘ ye han shewed un-to

us ” the blessinge of swetnesse,” after the sawe of

David the prophete ; for the reconsilinge which we

been nat worthy to have in no manere, but we oghte

requeren it with greet contricioun and humilitee, ye of

your grete goodnesse have presented unto us. Now

see we wel that the science and the conninge of Salomon

is ful trewe ; for he seith : that ” swete wordes multi-

plyen and encresen freendes, and maken shrewes to be

debonaire and meke.”

§ 64. Certes,’ quod they, ‘ we putten our dede and

al our matere and cause al hoolly in your goode wil ;

and been redy to obeye to the speche and comanderaent

of my lord Melibee. And therfore, dere and benigne

lady, we preyen yow and biseke yow as mekely as we

conne and mowen, that it lyke un-to your grete good-

nesse to f ulfillen in dede your goodliche wordes ; for we

consideren and knowlichen that we han offended and

greved my lord Melibee out of mesure ; so ferforth, that

we be nat of power to maken hise amendes. And therfore

we oblige and binden us and our freendes to doon al

his wil and hise comandements. But peraventure he

hath swich hevinesse and swich wratthe to us -ward,

by -cause of our offence, that he wole enjoyne us swich

a peyne as we mowe nat bere ne sustene. And therfore,

noble lady, we biseke to your wommanly pitee, to taken

swich avysement in this nede, that we, ne our freendes,

be nat desherited ne destroyed thurgh our folye.’

§ 65. ‘ Certes,’ quod Prudence, ‘ it is an hard thing

and right perilous, that a man putte him al outrely in

the arbitracioun and juggement, and in the might and

power of hise enemys. For Salomon seith : ” leveth

me, and yeveth credence to that I shal seyn ; I seye,”

quod he, ” ye peple, folk, and governours of holy

chirche, to thy sone, to thy wyf, to thy freend, ne to

thy brother ne yeve thou never might ne maistrie of

thy body, whyl thou livest.” Now sithen he defendeth,

that man shal nat yeven to his brother ne to his freend

the might of his body, by a strenger resoun he defendeth

and forbedeth a man to yeven him-self to his enemy.

And nathelees I conseille you, that ye mistruste nat

my lord. For I woot wel and knowe verraily, that he

is debonaire and meke, large, curteys, and nothing

desyrous ne coveitous of good ne richesse. For ther

nis no -thing in this world that he desyreth, save only

worship and honour. Forther-more I knowe wel, and

am right seur, that he shal no-thing doon in this nede

with-outen my conseil. And I shal so werken in this

cause, that, by grace of our lord god, ye shul been

reconsiled un-to us.’

§ 66. Thanne seyden they with o vois, ‘ worshipful

lady, we putten us and our goodes al fully in your

wil and disposicioun ; and been redy to comen,

what day that it lyke un-to your noblesse to liniite

us or assigne us, for to maken our obligacioun and

bond as strong as it lyketh un-to your goodnesse ;

that we mowe fulfille the wille of yow and of my lord


§ 67. Whan dame Prudence hadde herd the answeres

of thise men, she bad hem goon agayn prively ; and

she retourned to hir lord Melibee, and tolde him how

she fond hise adversaries ful repentant, knowlechinge

ful lowely hir sinnes and trespas, and how they were

redy to suffren al peyne, requiringe and preyinge him

of mercy and pitee.

§ 68. Thanne seyde Melibee, ‘ he is wel worthy to

have pardoun and foryifnesse of his sinne, that excuseth

nat his sinne, but knowlecheth it and repenteth him,

axinge indulgence. For Senek seith : ” ther is the

remissioun and foryifnesse, whereas confessioun is ” ;

for confession is neighebore to innocence. And he seith

in another place : ” he that hath shame for his sinne

and knowlecheth it, is worthy remissioun.” And ther-

fore I assente and conferme me to have pees : but it

is good that we do it nat with-outen the assent and wil

of our freendes.’

§ 69. Thanne was Prudence right glad and joyeful,

and seyde, ‘Certes, sir,’ quod she, ‘ye han wel and

goodly answered. For right as by the conseil, assent,

and help of your freendes, ye han been stired to venge

yow and maken werre, right so with-outen hir conseil

shul ye nat accorden yow, ne have pees with your

adversaries. For the lawe seith : ” ther nis no- thing

so good by wey of kinde, as a thing to been unbounde

by him that it was y-bounde.” ‘

§ 70. And thanne dame Prudence, with-outen delay

or taryinge, sente anon hir messages for hir kin, and

for hir olde freendes whiche that were trewe and wyse,

and tolde hem by ordre, in the presence of Melibee, al

this matere as it is aboven expressed and declared ;

and preyden hem that they wolde yeven hir avys and

conseil, what best were to doon in this nede. And

whan Melibees freendes hadde taken hir avys and de-

liberacioun of the f orseide matere, and hadden examined

it by greet bisinesse and greet diligence, they yave ful

conseil for to have pees and reste ; and that Melibee

sholde receyve with good herte hise adversaries to

foryifnesse and mercy.

§ 71. And whan dame Prudence hadde herd the

assent of hir lord Melibee, and the conseil of hise

freendes, accorde with hir wille and hir entencioun, she

was wonderly glad in hir herte, and seyde : ‘ ther is

an old proverbe,’ quod she, ‘ seith : that ” the good-

nesse that thou mayst do this day, do it ; and abyde

nat ne delaye it nat til to-morwe.” And therfore

I conseille that ye sende your messages, swiche as been

discrete and wyse, un-to your adversaries ; tellinge

hem, on your bihalve, that if they wole trete of pees

and of accord, that they shape hem, with-outen delay

or tarying, to comen un-to us.’ Which thing par-

fourned was in dede. And whanne thise trespassours

and repentinge folk of hir folies, that is to seyn, the

adversaries of Melibee, hadden herd what thise messagers

seyden un-to hem, they weren right glad and joyeful,

and answereden ful mekely and benignely, yeldinge

graces and thankinges to hir lord Melibee and to al

his companye ; and shopen hem, with-outen delay, to

go with the messagers, and obeye to the comandement

of hir lord Melibee.

§ 72. And right anon they token hir wey to the court

of Melibee, and token with hem somme of hir trewe

freendes, to maken feith for hem and for to been hir

borwes. And whan they were comen to the presence

of Melibee, he seyde hem thise wordes : ‘ it standeth

thus,’ quod Melibee, ‘ and sooth it is, that ye, causeless,

and with-outen skile and resoun, han doon grete

injuries and wronges to me and to my wyf Prudence,

and to my doghter also. For ye han entred in-to myn

hous by violence, and have doon swich outrage, that

alle men knowen wel that ye have deserved the deeth ;

and therfore wol I knowe and wite of yow, whether ye

wol putte the punissement and the chastysinge and

the vengeance of this outrage in the wil of me and of

my wyf Prudence ; or ye wol nat ? ‘

§ 73. Thanne the wyseste of hem three answerde for

hem alle, and seyde : ‘ sire,’ quod he, ‘ we knowen wel,

that we been unworthy to comen un-to the court of so

greet a lord and so worthy as ye been. For we han

so greetly mistaken us, and han offended and agilt in

swich a wyse agayn your heigh lordshipe, that trewely

we han deserved the deeth. But yet, for the grete

goodnesse and debonairetee that all the world wit-

nesseth of your persone, we submitten us to the ex-

cellence and benignitee of your gracious lordshipe, and

been redy to obeie to alle your comandements ; bisek-

inge yow, that of your merciable pitee ye wol con-

sidere our grete repentaunce and lowe submissioun,

and graunten us foryevenesse of our outrageous trespas

and offence. For wel we knowe, that your liberal

grace and mercy strecchen hem ferther in-to good-

nesse, than doon our outrageouse giltes and trespas

in-to wikkednesse ; al-be-it that cursedly and damp-

nably we han agilt agayn your heigh lordshipe.’

§ 74. Thanne Melibee took hem up fro the ground ful

benignely, and receyved hir obligaciouns and hir bondes

by hir othes up-on hir plegges and borwes, and assigned

hem a certeyn day to retourne un-to his court, for to

accepte and receyve the sentence and jugement that

Melibee wolde comande to be doon on hem by the

causes afore-seyd ; whiche thinges ordeyned, every

man retourned to his hous.

§ 75. And whan that dame Prudence saugh hir tyme,

she freyned and axed hir lord Melibee, what vengeance

he thoughte to taken of hise adversaries ?

§ 76. To which Melibee answerde and seyde, ‘ certes,’

quod he, ‘ I thinke and purpose me fully to desherite

hem of al that ever they han, and for to putte hem in

exil for ever.’

§ 77. ‘ Certes,’ quod dame Prudence, ‘ this were a

cruel sentence, and muchel agayn resoun. For ye been

riche y-nough, and han no nede of other mennes good ;

and ye mighte lightly in this wyse gete yow a coveitous

name, which is a vicious thing, and oghte been eschewed

of every good man. For after the sawe of the word of

the apostle : ” coveitise is rote of alle harmes.” And

therfore, it were bettre for yow to lese so muchel

good of your owene, than for to taken of hir good

in this manere. For bettre it is to lesen good with

worshipe, than it is to winne good with vileinye

and shame. And every man oghte to doon his dili-

gence and his bisinesse to geten him a good name.

And yet shal he nat only bisie him in kepinge of his

good name, but he shal also enforcen him alwey to do

som-thing by which he may renovelle his good name ;

for it is writen, that ” the olde good loos or good name

of a man is sone goon and passed, whan it is nat newed

ne reno veiled.” And as touchinge that ye seyn, ye

wole exile your adversaries, that thinketh me muchel

agayn resoun and out of mesure, considered the power

that they han yeve yow up-on hem-self. And it is

writen, that “he is worthy to lesen his privilege that

misuseth the might and the power that is yeven him.”

And I sette cas ye mighte enjoyne hem that peyne by

right and by lawe, which I trowe ye mowe nat do,

I seye, ye mighte nat putten it to execucioun per-

aventure, and thanne were it lykly to retourne to the

werre as it was biforn. And therfore, if ye wole that

men do yow obeisance, ye moste demen more cur-

teisly ; this is to seyn, ye moste yeven more esy

sentences and jugements. For it is writen, that “he

that most curteisly comandeth, to him men most

obeyen.” And therfore, I prey yow that in this

necessitee and in this nede, ye caste yow to overcome

your herte. For Senek seith : that ” he that over-

cometh his herte, overcometh twyes.” And Tullius

seith : ” ther is no- thing so comendable in a greet lord

as whan he is debonaire and meke, and appeseth him

lightly.” And I prey yow that ye wol forbere now to

do vengeance, in swich a manere, that your goode

name may be kept and conserved ; and that men

mowe have cause and matere to preyse yow of pitee

and of mercy ; and that ye have no cause to repente

yow of thing that ye doon. For Senek seith : “he

overcometh in an yvel manere, that repenteth him of

his victorie.” Wherfore I pray yow, lat mercy been

in your minde’ and in your herte, to th’effect and

entente that god almighty have mercy on yow in his

laste jugement. For seint Jame seith in his epistle:

” jugement withouten mercy shal be doon to him, that

hath no mercy of another wight.” ‘

§ 78. Whanne Melibee hadde herd the grete skiles

and resouns of dame Prudence, and hir wise informa-

ciouns and techinges, his herte gan enclyne to the wil

of his wyf, consideringe hir trewe entente ; and con-

formed him anon, and assented fully to werken after

hir conseil ; and thonked god, of whom procedeth al

vertu and alle goodnesse, that him sente a wyf of so

greet discrecioun. And whan the day cam that hise

adversaries sholde apperen in his presence, he spak

unto hem ful goodly, and seyde in this wyse : ‘ al-be-it

so that of your pryde and presumpcioun and folie, and

of your necligence and unconninge, ye have misborn

yow and trespassed un-to me ; yet, for as much as

I see and biholde your grete humilitee, and that ye

been sory and repentant of your giltes, it constreyneth

me to doon yow grace and mercy. Therfore I receyve

yow to my grace, and foryeve yow outrely alle the

offences, injuries, and wronges, that ye have doon

agayn me and myne ; to this effect and to this ende,

that god of his endelees mercy wole at the tyme of our

dyinge fo^even us our giltes that we han trespassed

to him in this wrecched world. For doutelees, if we

be sory and repentant of the sinnes and giltes whiche

we han trespassed in the sighte of our lord god, he is so

free and so merciable, that he wole foryeven us our

giltes, and bringen us to his blisse that never hath

ende. Amen.’

Here is ended Chancers Tale of Melibee and of Dame