« AnteriorContinuar »
duty upon himself—not from any desire to oblige the Cook, but simply to let him keep his mouth shut, and so save himself from being annoyed by his filthy drunken breath, which filled all the air. “What do you mean by making a beast of yourself in this way?” said he; “can you not come out for a holiday without acting in this disgusting fashion, to the great discomfort of us all ?” Roger, the Cook, was very angry; but all he could do was to nod his head at the Maunciple in an imbecile sort of way; and even that effort was too much for him, for in doing it he fairly fell off his horse down on the dirty road, and they had great difficulty in getting him mounted again. The Host said that he thought the Maunciple had been somewhat hard on him, that he must have got bad stuff on the road, and with an eye, no doubt, to the welfare of the Tabard, added that the only way to prevent a mishap like that from occurring was for each to carry his own liquor with him, for then it would be sure to be good. The Maunciple made his peace with Roger, by offering him another hair of the dog that bit him, in the shape of a draught from his own gourd of wine, which the poor creature took. He “thanked him in swich wys as he coulde,” and all was well again; so much so, that the Host burst out in pious ejaculation:
“O Bacchus ! Bacchus ! blessed be thy name !
He then called upon the Maunciple to give them the tale he had promised. It is that of Phoebus and the Crow, which is to be found in Ovid, and of which many versions appeared in the middle ages. A short account of it may be given, although it is not one of the most important tales.
THE MAUNCIPLES TALE: PHOEBUS AND THE
Long ago, Phoebus Apollo, the sun-god, came to earth, and lived in one of its most pleasant spots for a time. While there, he charmed all by the beauty of his person, by his feats of manly daring, by the magic of his music, and by the efforts he made to promote culture amongst men. He also married one of the most beautiful of mortal maidens, whom he loved very dearly, and he made it the business of his life to contribute to her pleasure; but, as he was foolishly jealous of her love, he shut her up at home, and would allow her to see none of her kind. Living in this unnatural way, the poor wife was utterly miserable.
“For, God it wot, there may no man embrace
She therefore received visitors when her husband was away, and thought that he would never know. But in the house at home there was a beautiful crow which Phoebus had tamed and trained. Crows then were very different from what they are now. This one was of beautiful snow-white plumage; it could imitate the voices of men and women better than any jay, and its singing was as sweet as that of the nightingale itself. Sitting quietly in its cage, it saw the visitors whom the wife received, it heard their conversation, and repeated to Phoebus all they had said, when he came home. He was beside himself with rage, and in his fit of madness laid his wife dead at his feet. As is usual with those who do rash and cruel deeds, he felt the greatest remorse for what he had done, when he came to his senses; and, in his misery, he turned upon the wretched crow as being the cause of it all, bitterly blaming himself the while.
“‘O dearé wyf I O gem of plesauntness
Ne never sweeté noisé schal ye make,
And the cautious wide-awake Maunciple drew this moral from the story, which, he said, his mother had taught him in these words:–
“My son, be war, and be no author newe
By this time the sun had sunk pretty low down in the sky; it was four o'clock, and it was evident that there would be time for only one more tale before they reached the city. The Host, therefore, as they were passing through a little village on the way, called out to them that they were approaching the end of their journey, that things had fallen out most satisfactorily, and that “almost fulfilléd” was his “ordinance,” since they had had a tale from one “ of each degree" in the company. He then asked the Parson to do his part, and not disappoint them— “For every man, save thou, hath told his tale. Unbuckle, and show us what is in thy male,
For, truély, methinketh by thy chere,
The Parson, however, declined. He said that the book which he made the guide of his life for