« AnteriorContinuar »
at the same time his good feeling never at fault any more than his good sense, his inexhaustible and unflagging fun and spirit, and the all-accommodating humour and perfect sympathy with which, without for a moment stooping from his own frank and manly character, he bears himself to every individual of the varied cavalcade. He proposes that they should draw cuts to decide who was to begin; and with how genuine a courtesy, at once encouraging and reverential, he first addresses himself to the modest Clerk, and the gentle Lady Prioress, and the Knight, who also was " of his port as meek as is a maid:"—
Sir Knight, quod he, my maister and my lord,
Now draweth cut, for that is mine accord.
Cometh near, quod he, my Lady Prioress;
And ye, Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness,
And studieth nought; lay hand to, every man.
But for personages of another order, again, he is another man, giving and taking jibe and jeer with the hardest and boldest in their own style and humour, only more nimbly and happily than any of them, and without ever compromising his dignity. And all the while his kindness of heart, simple and quick, and yet considerate, is as conspicuous as the cordial appreciation and delight with which he enters into the spirit of what is going forward, and enjoys the success of his scheme. For example,—
When that the Knight had thus his tale told,
In all the company n'as there young ne old
That he ne said it was a noble storie,
And worthy to be drawen to memorie,a
And namely b the gentles everich one.
Our Hoste lough" and swore, so mote I gone,*1
This goth aright; unbokeled is the male;e
Let see now who shall tell another tale,
For truely this game is well begonne:
Now telleth ye, Sir Monk, if that ye conne.'
Somewhat to quiten with * the Knighte's tale.
The Miller, that for-dronkenh was all pale,
So that urmeaths1 upon his horse he sat,
He n'old avalen-J neither hood ne hat,
Ne abiden k no man for his courtesy,
But in Pilate's voice1 he gan to cry,
And swore by amies, and by blood and bones,
I can m a noble tale for the nones,"
With which I wol now quite the Knighte's tale.
Our Hoste saw that he was dronken of ale,
And said, Abide, Robin, my leve o brother;
Some better man shall tell us first another;
Abide and let us werkenP thriftily.
By Goddes' soul, quod he, that woll not I,
For I woll speak, or elles go my way.
Our Host answered, Tell on a devil way;
Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome.
Now, hearkeneth, quod the Millar, all and some;
But first I make a protestatioun
That I am drunk, I know it by my soun,
And therefore, if that I misspeak or say,
Wite it i the ale of Southwark, I you pray.
c Laughed. d So may I fare well.
• Unbuckled is the budget. 'Can.
* To requite. b Very drunk.
1 With difficulty. J Would not doff or lower.
k Stop for.
1 "In such a voice as Pilate was used to speak with in the Mysteries. Pilate, being an odious character, was probably represented as speaking with a harsh disagreeable voice."— Tyrwhitt.
m Know. "For the nonce, for the occasion.
"Dear. P Go to work.
i Lay the blame of it on.
The Millar is at last allowed to tell his tale—which is
mere accordant with his character, and the condition ho
was in, than with either good morals or good manners ;—
as the poet observes:—
What should I more say, but this Millere
He n'old his wordes for no man forbere,
But told his cherle's" tale in his manere;
Methinketh that I shall rehearse it here:
And therefore every gentle wight I pray \
For Godde's love, as deem not that I say]
Of evil intent, but that I mote rehearse
Their tales all, al be they better or werse,
Or elles falseu some of my matere:
And, therefore, whoso list it not to hear,
Turn over the leaf, and cheseb another tale;
For he shal find enow, both great and smale,
Of storial thing that toucheth gentiless,
: And eke morality and holiness.
The Millar's Tale is capped by another in the same style from his fellow "churl" theReve (or Bailiff)—who before he begins, however, avails himself of the privilege of his advanced years to prelude away for some time in a preaching strain, till his eloquence is suddenly cut short by the voice of authority :—
When that our Host had heard this sermoning,
He gan to speak as lordly as a king,
And saide, What amounteth all this wit?
What, shall we speak all day of holy writ?
The devil made a Reve for to preach,
Or of a souter" a shipman or a leech.b
Say forth thy tale, and tarry not the time;
Lo Depeford,c and it is half way prime ;d
Lo Greenewich, there many a shrew is in :e
It were all time thy Tale to begin.
"Churl's. b Choose.
"Cobbler. 1> Physician. c Deptford.
d Tyrwhitt supposes this means half-past seven in the morning. e In which (wherein) is many a shrew.
The last specimen we shall give of "our Host" shallbe from the Clerk's Prologue :—
Sir Clerk of Oxenford, our Hoste said,
Ye ride as still and coy as doth a maid
Were newe spoused, sitting at tlie board;
This day nc heard I of your tongue a word.'
I trow ye study abouten some sophime,"
But Salomon saith that every tiling hath time.
For Godde's sake as bethb of better cheer;
It is no time for to studien here.
Tell us some merry tale by your fay ;c
For what man that is entered in a play
He needes must unto the play assent.
But preachcth not, as freres don in Lent,
To make us for our olde shmes weep,
Ne that thy tale make us not to sleep.
Tell us some merry thing of aventures;
Your terms, your coloures, and your figures,'
Keep them in store till so be ye indite
High style, as when that men to kinges write.
Speaketh so plain at this time, I you pray,
That we may understonden what ye say.
This worthy Clerk benignely answerd;
Hoste, quod he, I am under your yerde;
Ye have of us as now the governance,
And therefore would I do you obeisance, .
As fer as reason asketh hardily.d
I wol you tell a tale which that I
Learned at Padow of a worthy clerk,
As prevede by his wordes and his werk:
He is now dead and nailed in his chest;
I pray to God so yeve his soule rest.
Francis Petrarch, the laureat poete
Highte this clerk, whose rhethoricke sweet
Enlumined all Itaille of poetry,
As Liniauf did of philosophy,
Or law, or other art particulere;
But death, that wol not suffre us dwellen here
* Sophism, perhaps generally for a logical argument.
b Be. c Faith.
i Surely. e Proved.
'A great lawyer of the fourteenth century. ]
But as it were a twinkling of an eye,
Them both hath slain, and alle we shall die.
And our last specimen of the Canterbury Tales,
and also of Chaucer, being a passage exhibiting that
power of pathos in the delicacy as well as in the depth
of which he is unrivalled, shall be taken from this tale
told by the Clerk, the exquisite tale of Griselda. Her
husband has carried his trial of her submission and
endurance to the last point by informing her that she
must return to her father, and that his new wife is
"coming by the way :"—
And she again answerd in patience:
My lord, quod she, I wot, and wist alway,
How that betwixen your magnificence
And my povert no wight ne can nc may
Maken comparison: it is no nay:
I ne held me never digne * in no manere
To be your wife, ne yet your chamberere.b
And in this house there" ye me lady made
(The highe God take I for my witness,
And all so wislyd he my soule glade)
I never held me lady ne maistress,
But humble servant to your worthiness,
And ever shall, while that my life may dure,
Aboven every worldly creature. .
That ye so long, of your benignity,
Han" holden me in honour and nobley,'
Whereas" I was not worthy for to be,
That thank I God and you, to whom I pray
Foryeldh it you: there is no more to say.
Unto my fader gladly wol I wend,
And with him dwell unto my live's end.
God shielde swich a lorde's wife to take
Another man to husband or to make.1