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Best Famous The Bible Poems


Here is a collection of the all-time best famous The Bible poems. This is a select list of the best famous The Bible poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous The Bible poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of The Bible poems.

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by Ralph Waldo Emerson |

The Problem

I LIKE a church; I like a cowl; 
I love a prophet of the soul; 
And on my heart monastic aisles 
Fall like sweet strains or pensive smiles; 
Yet not for all his faith can see 5 
Would I that cowl¨¨d churchman be. 
Why should the vest on him allure  
Which I could not on me endure? 

Not from a vain or shallow thought 
His awful Jove young Phidias brought; 10 
Never from lips of cunning fell 
The thrilling Delphic oracle: 
Out from the heart of nature rolled 
The burdens of the Bible old; 
The litanies of nations came 15 
Like the volcano's tongue of flame  
Up from the burning core below ¡ª 
The canticles of love and woe; 
The hand that rounded Peter's dome  
And groined the aisles of Christian Rome 20 
Wrought in a sad sincerity; 
Himself from God he could not free; 
He builded better than he knew;¡ª 
The conscious stone to beauty grew. 

Know'st thou what wove yon woodbird's nest 25 
Of leaves and feathers from her breast? 
Or how the fish outbuilt her shell  
Painting with morn each annual cell? 
Or how the sacred pine tree adds 
To her old leaves new myriads? 30 
Such and so grew these holy piles  
Whilst love and terror laid the tiles. 
Earth proudly wears the Parthenon  
As the best gem upon her zone; 
And Morning opes with haste her lids 35 
To gaze upon the Pyramids; 
O'er England's abbeys bends the sky  
As on its friends with kindred eye; 
For out of Thought's interior sphere  
These wonders rose to upper air; 40 
And Nature gladly gave them place  
Adopted them into her race  
And granted them an equal date 
With Andes and with Ararat. 

These temples grew as grows the grass; 45 
Art might obey but not surpass. 
The passive Master lent his hand 
To the vast soul that o'er him planned; 
And the same power that reared the shrine  
Bestrode the tribes that knelt within. 50 
Ever the fiery Pentecost 
Girds with one flame the countless host  
Trances the heart through chanting choirs  
And through the priest the mind inspires. 

The word unto the prophet spoken 55 
Was writ on tables yet unbroken; 
The word by seers or sibyls told  
In groves of oak or fanes of gold  
Still floats upon the morning wind  
Still whispers to the willing mind. 60 
One accent of the Holy Ghost 
The heedless world hath never lost. 
I know what say the fathers wise ¡ª 
The Book itself before me lies ¡ª 
Old Chrysostom best Augustine 65 
And he who blent both in his line  
The younger Golden Lips or mines  
Taylor the Shakespeare of divines. 
His words are music in my ear  
I see his cowl¨¨d portrait dear; 70 
And yet for all his faith could see  
I would not this good bishop be. 


by Wystan Hugh (W H) Auden |

On the Circuit

Among pelagian travelers,
Lost on their lewd conceited way
To Massachusetts, Michigan,
Miami or L.A.,
An airborne instrument I sit,
Predestined nightly to fulfill
Columbia-Giesen-Management's
Unfathomable will,
By whose election justified,
I bring my gospel of the Muse
To fundamentalists, to nuns,
to Gentiles and to Jews,
And daily, seven days a week,
Before a local sense has jelled,
From talking-site to talking-site
Am jet-or-prop-propelled.
Though warm my welcome everywhere,
I shift so frequently, so fast,
I cannot now say where I was
The evening before last,
Unless some singular event
Should intervene to save the place,
A truly asinine remark,
A soul-bewitching face,
Or blessed encounter, full of joy,
Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan,
With, here, an addict of Tolkien,
There, a Charles Williams fan.
Since Merit but a dunghill is,
I mount the rostrum unafraid:
Indeed, 'twere damnable to ask
If I am overpaid.
Spirit is willing to repeat
Without a qualm the same old talk,
But Flesh is homesick for our snug
Apartment in New York.
A sulky fifty-six, he finds
A change of mealtime utter hell,
Grown far too crotchety to like
A luxury hotel.
The Bible is a goodly book
I always can peruse with zest,
But really cannot say the same
For Hilton's Be My Guest.
Nor bear with equanimity
The radio in students' cars,
Muzak at breakfast, or--dear God!--
Girl-organists in bars.
Then, worst of all, the anxious thought,
Each time my plane begins to sink
And the No Smoking sign comes on:
What will there be to drink?
Is this a milieu where I must
How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig!
Snatch from the bottle in my bag
An analeptic swig?

Another morning comes: I see,
Dwindling below me on the plane,
The roofs of one more audience
I shall not see again.
God bless the lot of them, although
I don't remember which was which:
God bless the U.S.A., so large,
So friendly, and so rich.


by Anna Akhmatova |

White Flock

Copyright Anna Akhmatova
Copyright English translation by Ilya Shambat (ilya_shambat@yahoo.com)
Origin: http://www.geocities.com/ilya_shambat/akhmatova.html

 * I * 

We thought we were beggars, we thought we had nothing at all
But then when we started to lose one thing after another,
Each day became
A memorial day --
And then we made songs
Of great divine generosity
And of our former riches.


Unification

I'll leave your quiet yard and your white house -
Let life be empty and with light complete.
I'll sing the glory to you in my verse
Like not one woman has sung glory yet.
And that dear girlfriend you remember
In heaven you created for her sight,
I'm trading product that is very rare -
I sell your tenderness and loving light.



Song about Song

So many stones have been thrown at me
That I don't fear them any longer
Like elegant tower the westerner stands free
Among tall towers, the taller.
I'm grateful to their builders -- so be gone
Their sadness and their worry, go away,
Early from here I can see the dawn
And here triumphant lives the sun's last ray.
And frequently into my room's window
The winds from northern seas begin to blow
And pigeon from my palms eats wheat..
The pages that I did not complete
Divinely light she is and calm,
Will finish Muse's suntanned arm.



x x x

Just like a cold noreaster
At first she'll sting,
And then a single salty tear
The heart will wring.

The evil heart will pity
Something and then regret.
But this light-headed sadness
It will not forget.

I only sow. To harvest.
Others will come. And yes!
The lovely group of harvesters
May true God bless.

And that more perfectly I could
Give to you gratitude,
Allow me to give the world
Love incorruptible.



x x x

My voice is weak, but will does not get weaker.
It has become still better without love,
The sky is tall, the mountain wind is blowing
My thoughts are sinless to true God above.
The sleeplessness has gone to other places,
I do not on grey ashes count my sorrow,
And the skewed arrow of the clock face
Does not look to me like a deadly arrow.
How past over the heart is losing power!
Freedom is near. I will forgive all yet,
Watching, as ray of sun runs up and down
The springtime vine that with spring rain is wet.



x x x

He was jealous, fearful and tender,
He loved me like God's only light,
And that she not sing of the past times
He killed my bird colored white.

He said, in the lighthouse at sundown:
"Love me, laugh and write poetry!"
And I buried the joyous songbird
Behind a round well near a tree.

I promised that I would not mourn her.
But my heart turned to stone without choice,
And it seems to me that everywhere
And always I'll hear her sweet voice.



x x x

True love's memory, You are heavy!
In your smoke I sing and burn,
And the rest -- is only fire
To keep the chilled soul warm.

To keep warm the sated body,
They need my tears for this
Did I for this sing your song, God?
Did I take part of love for this?

Let me drink of such a poison,
That I would be deaf and dumb,
And my unglorious glory
Wash away to the final crumb.



x x x

The blue lacquer dims of heaven,
And the song is better heard.
It's the little trumpet made of dirt,
There's no reason for her to complain.
Why does she forgive me,
And whoever told her of my sins?
Or is that this voice that now repeats
The last poems that you wrote for me?



x x x

Instead of wisdom -- experience, bare,
That does not slake thirst, is not wet.
Youth's gone -- like a Sunday prayer..
Is it mine to forget?

On how many desert roads have searched I
With him who wasn't dear for me,
How many bows gave in church I
For him, who had well loved me.

I've become more oblivious than inviting,
Quietly years swim.
Lips unkissed, eyes unsmiling --
Nothing will give me back him.



x x x

Ah! It is you again. You enter in this house
Not as a kid in love, but as a husband
Courageous, harsh and in control.
The calm before the storm is fearful to my soul.
You ask me what it is that I have done of late
With given unto me forever love and fate.
I have betrayed you. And this to repeat --
Oh, if you could one moment tire of it!
The killer's sleep is haunted, dead man said,
Death's angel thus awaits me at deathbed.
Forgive me now. Lord teaches to forgive.
In burning agony my flesh does live,
And already the spirit gently sleeps,
A garden I recall, tender with autumn leaves
And cries of cranes, and the black fields around..
How sweet it would be with you underground!



x x x
The muse has left along narrow
And winding street,
And with large drops of dew
Were sprinkled her feet.

For long did I ask of her
To wait for winter with me,
But she said, "The grave is here,
How can you breathe, you see?"

I wanted to give her a dove
That is whiter than all the rest
But the bird herself flew above
After my graceful guest.

Looking at her I was silent,
I loved her alone
And like gates into her country
In the sky stood the dawn.



x x x

I have ceased and desisted from smiling
The frosty wind chills lips - say so long
To one hope of which will be lesser,
Instead there will be one more song.
And this song, without my volition,
I will give out for laughter and parable,
For this that the silence of love
Is to me simply unbearable.



x x x

They're on the way, the words of love and freedom,
They're flying faster than the moment flies
And I am in stage fright before singing -
My lips have grown colder than ice.

But soon that place, where, leaning to the windows
The tender birches make dry rustling sound,
The voices will be ringing of the shadows
And roses will in blackened wreaths be wound.

And further onward still -- the light is generous
Unbearably as though ¡®t were red hot wine..
And now the wind, all redolent and heated,
In perfect vigor has enflamed my mind.



x x x

Oh, this was a cold day
In Peter's wonderful town!
The shadow grew dense, and the sundown
Like purple fire lay.

Let him not want my eyes fair
Prophetic and never-changing
All life long verse he'll be catching -
My conceited lips' empty prayer.



x x x

This way I prayed: "Slake the dumb thirst
Of singing with a sweet libation!"
But to the earthling of the earth
There can be no liberation.
Like smoke from sacrifice, that it could not
Fly Strength- and Glory-ward -- alas -
But only clouded at the feet
And, as if praying, kissed the grass.
Thus I, O Lord, before thee bow:
Will reach the fire of the sky
My lashes that are closed for now
And muteness utter and divine?



x x x

In intimacy there exists a line
That can't be crossed by passion or love's art --
In awful silence lips melt into one
And out of love to pieces bursts the heart.

And friendship here is impotent, and years
Of happiness sublime in fire aglow,
When soul is free and does not hear
The dulling of sweet passion, long and slow.

Those who are striving toward it are in fever,
But those that reach it struck with woe that lingers.
Now you have understood, why forever
My heart does not beat underneath your fingers.



x x x

All has been taken: strength as well as love.
Into the unloved town the corpse is thrown.
It does not love the sun. I fear, that blood
Inside of me already cold has grown.

I do not recognize sweet Muse's loving taste:
She looks ahead and does not let a word pass,
And bows a head in the dark garland dressed
Onto my chest, exhausted from the haste.

And only conscience, scarier with each day,
Wants a great ransom and for this abuses.
Closing the face, I answer her this way..
But there remain no tears and no excuses.



x x x

To lose the freshness of the words and sense, for us,
Is it same as for an artist to lose vision,
Or for an actor -- voice and motion,
Or for a gorgeous woman -- her finesse?

But do not seek now for yourself to keep
What heaven has given to you below:
We have been judged -- and we ourselves both know --
To give away, and not to keep.

Or else alone you go to heal the blind,
To know yourself in heavy hour of doubt
The students' smug shaudenfreude
And the uncaring of mankind.


Answer

The quiet April day has sent me
What a strange missive.
You knew that passionately in me
The scary week is still alive.
I did not hear those ringing bells
That swam along in glazier clear.
For seven days sounded copper laugh
Or poured from eyes a silver tear.
And I, then having closed my face
As for eternal parting's moment,
Lay down and waited for her grace
That was not known yet as torment.



x x x

This city by the fearsome river
Was my crib blessed and dear
And a solemn wedding bed
Which the garlands for the head
Your young cherubs held above -
A city loved with bitter love.

The subject of my prayers
Were you, moody, calm, and austere.
There first the groom came to me
Having shown me the pathway holy,
And that sad muse of mine
Led me like one blind.


 * II * 


December 9, 1913
The darkest days of the year
Must become the most clear.
I can't find words to compare -
Your lips are so tender and dear.

Only to raise your eyes do not dare,
Keeping the life of me.
They're lighter than vials premier,
And deadlier for me.

I understand now, that we need no words,
The snowed branches are light, and more,
The birdcatcher, to catch birds,
Has laid nets on the rivershore.



x x x

How can you look at Nieva,
How can on the bridges you rise?
With a reason I'm sad since the time
You appeared before my eyes.
Sharp are black angels' wings,
The last judgment is coming soon,
And raspberry fires, like roses,
In the white snow bloom.



x x x

I do not count mortal days
Under the roof of a chilled empty building,
I'm reading the Apostles' words,
Words of Psalm-singer I am reading.
Sleet is fluffy, and stars turn blue,
And more marvelous is each meeting --
And in the Bible a leaf
On Song of Songs is sitting.



x x x

All year long you are close to me
And, like formerly, happy and young!
Aren't you tortured already
By the traumatized strings' dark song?
Those now only lightly moan
That once, taut, loudly rang
And aimlessly they are torn
By my dry, waxen hand.
Little is necessary to make happy
One who is tender and loving yet,
The young forehead is not touched yet
By jealousy, rage or regret.
He is quiet, does not ask to be tender,
Only stares and stares at me
And with blissful smile does he bear
My oblivion's dreadful insanity.



x x x

Black road wove ahead of me,
Drizzling rain fell,
To accompany me
Someone asked for a spell.
I agreed, but I forgot
To see him in light of day,
And then it was strange
To remember the way.
Like incense of thousand censers
Flowed the fog
And the companion bothered
The heart with a song.
Ancient gates I remember
And the end of the way --
There the man who went with me
"Forgive," did say.
He gave me a copper cross
Like my brother very own
And everywhere I hear the sound
Of the steppe song.
Here I am at home like home --
I cry and I am in rue
Answer to me, my stranger,
I am looking for you!



x x x

How I love, how I loved to stare
At the ironclad shores,
On the balcony, where forever
No foot stepped, not mine, not yours.
And in truth you are -- a capital
For the mad and luminous us;
But when over Nieva sail
Those special, pure hours
And the winds of May fly over
You past the iron beams
You are like a dying sinner
Seeing heavenly dreams



x x x

Ancient city is as if dead,
Strange's my coming here.
Vladimir has raised a black cross
Over the river.
Noisy elm trees, noisy lindens
In the gardens dark,
Raised to God, the needle-bearing
Stars' bright diamond sparks.
Sacrificial and glorious
Way, I am ending here,
With me is but you, my equal,
And my love so dear.



x x x

It seems as though the voice of man
Will never sound in this place,
But only wind from age of stone
Is knocking on black gates.
It seems to me that I alone
Have kept good health under this sky,
Because of this, that first I sought
To drink the deadly wine.



Parting
Evening and slanting,
Downward goes my way.
Yesterday in love still,
"Don't forget" you prayed.
Now there's only shepherds'
Cry, and glancing winds,
And the worried cedars
Stand by clear springs.



x x x

Yellow and fresh are the lanterns,
Black is the road of the garden at sea.
I am very calm. Only please, do not
Talk about him with me.
You're tender and loyal, we'll be friends..
Have fun, kiss, together grow old..
And light months above us will fly like feathers,
Like stars made of snow and as cold.



x x x

We aren't in the forest, there is no need for calling --
You know your jokes do not shine..
Why don't you come to lull into quiet
This wounded conscience of mine?

You possess other worries
You have another wife
And, looking into my dry eyes,
St. Petersburg spring has arrived.

With harsh cough and with evening fever
She will punish and she will kill.
Under the smoke on the river
Nieva's ice is no longer still.



x x x

God is unkind to gardeners and reapers.
Slanted rain coils and falls from up high
And the wide raincoats catch water,
That once had reflected the sky.

In underwater realm are fields and meadows
And the free currents sing a lot,
Plums rupture on bloated branches
And grass strands, lying down, rot.

And through the dense and watery net
I see your darling face,
A quiet park, a round porch
And a Chinese arbour-place.



x x x

All promised him to me:
The heaven's edge, dark and kind,
And lovely Christmas sleep
And multi-ringing Easter wind,

And the red branches of a twig,
And waterfalls inside a park,
And two dragonflies
On rusty iron of a bulwark.

And I could not disbelieve,
That he'll befriend me all alone
When on the mountain slopes I went
Along hot pathway made of stone.



x x x

Every evening I receive
A letter like a bride
To my friend I give
Response late at night.

"I'll be guest of the white death
On my journey down.
You, my tender one, don't do
Harm to anyone."

And there stands a giant star
Between two wood beams,
With such calmness promising
To fulfil your dreams.



x x x

Divine angel, who betrothed us
Secretly on winter morn,
From our sadness-free existence
Does not take his darkened eyes.

For this reason we love sky,
And fresh wind, and air so thin,
And the dark tree branches
Behind fence of iron.

For this reason we love the strict,
Many-watered, and dark city,
And we love the parting,
And brief meetings' hour.



x x x

Somewhere is light and happy, in elation,
Transparent, warm and simple life there is.
A man across the fence has conversation
With girl before the evening, and the bees
Hear only the tenderest of conversation.

And we are living pompously and hard
And follow bitter rituals like sun
When, flight past us, the unreasoned wind
Interrupts speech that's barely begun.

But not for anything will we change the pompous
Granite city of glory, pain and lies,
The glistening wide rivers' ice
Sunless and murky gardens, and the voice,
Though barely audible, of the Muse.



x x x

I remember you only rarely
And your fate I do not view
But the mark won't be stripped from my soul
Of the meaningless meeting with you.

Your red house I avoid on purpose,
Your red house murky river beside,
But I know, that I am disturbing
Gravely your heart-pierced respite.

Would it weren't you that, on to my lips pressing,
Prayed of love, and for love did wish,
Would it weren't you that with golden verses
Immortalized my anguish

Over future I do secret magic
If the evening is truly blue,
And I divine a second meeting,
Unavoidable meeting with you.



x x x

How spacious are these squares,
How resonant bridges and stark!
Heavy, peaceful, and starless
Is the covering of the dark.

And we walk on the fresh snow
As if we were mortal people.
That we are together this hour
Unseparable -- is it not a miracle?

The knees go unwittingly weaker
It seems there's no air -- so long!
You are my life's only blessing,
You are the sun of my song.

Now the dark buildings are stirring
And I'll fall on earth as they shake --
Inside of my village garden
I do not fear to awake.



Escape

"My dear, if we could only
Reach all the way to the seas"
"Be quiet" and descended the stairs
Losing breath and looking for keys.

Past the buildings, where sometime
We danced and had fun and drank wine
Past the white columns of Senate
Where it's dark, dark again.

"What are you doing, you madman!"
"No, I am only in love with thee!
This evening is wide and noisy,
Ship will have lots of fun at the sea!"

Horror tightly clutches the throat,
Shuttle took us at dusk on our turn..
The tough smell of ocean tightrope
Inside trembling nostrils did burn.

"Say, you most probably know:
I don't sleep? Thus in sleep it can be"
Only oars splashed in measured manner
Over Nieva's waves heavy.

And the black sky began to get lighter,
Someone called from the bridge to us,
As with both hands I was clutching
On my chest the rim of the cross.

On your arms, as I lost all my power,
Like a little girl you carried me,
That on deck of a yacht alabaster
Incorruptible day's light we'd meet.



x x x

When with a strong but tired hand
In dreary capital of nation
Upon the whiteness of the page
I did record my recantations,

And wind into the window round
Poured in a wet and silent stream
The sky was burning, burning bright
With smoky dawn, it so did seem.

I did not look at the Nieva,
The dawn-drenched granite did not view,
And it appeared that that I, awake, my
Unforgettable, saw you..

But then the unexpected night
Covered the before-autumn town,
That, so as to assist my flight,
The ashen shadows melted down.

I only took with me the cross,
That you had given on day of treason
That wormwood steppe should be in bloom
And winds, like sirens, sing in season.

And here upon an empty wall
He keeps me from the broodings dour
And I don't fear to recall
Anything - even the final hour.



Village of the Tsar Statue

Upon the swan pond maple leaves
Are gathered already, you see,
And bloodied are the branches dark
Of slowly blooming quicken-tree.

Blindingly elegant is she,
Crossing her legs that don't feel cold
Upon the northern stone sits she
And calmly looks upon the road.

I felt the gloomy, dusky fear
Before this woman of delight
As on her shoulders played alone
The rays of miserable light.

And how could I forgive her yet
Your shining praise by love deluded
Look, she is happily in sorrow,
And in such elegance denuded.



x x x

In the sleep to me is given
Our last eden of stars up high
City of clean water towers,
Golden Bakchisarai

There behind a colored fencing
By the pensive water stalled
Village of the Tsar's gardens
With rejoicing we recalled.

And the eagles of Catherine
Suddenly recognized - it's that!
He had flown to valley bottom
From the ornate bronze-clad gate.

That the song of parting heartache
In the memory longer lives,
The dark-bodied mother autumn
Brought to me the redding leaves

And she sprinkled on her soles
Where we parted in the sun
And from where for land of shadows
You had left, my soothing one.



x x x

I have visions of hilly Pavlovsk,
Meadow circular, water dead,
With most heavy and most shady,
All of this I will never forget.

In the cast-iron gates you will enter,
Blissful tremor the flesh does rile,
You don't live, but you're screaming and ranting
Or you live in another style.

In late autumn fresh and biting
Wanders wind, for its loneliness glad.
In white gowns dressed the black fir trees
On the molten snow stand.

And, filled up with a burning fever,
Dear voice sounds like song without word,
And on copper shoulder of Cytharus
Sits the red-chested bird.



x x x

Immortelle's dry and pink. On the fresh heaven
The clouds are roughly pasted, almost dark.
The leaves of only oak within the park
Are still colorless and thin.

The rays of dusk are burning until midnight.
How nice it is inside my cramped abode!
Today with me converse many-a-bird
About the most tender, in delight.

I'm happy. But the way,
Forest and smooth, is to me most dear,
The crippled bridge, curved a bit here,
And that remain only several days.



x x x

She came up. I did not show my worry,
Calmly looking outside the windows.
She sat down, like ceramic idol
In a long-ago-chosen pose.

To be happy -- is well-accustomed,
But attentive -- is harder just might.
Or the dark shadow has been overpowered
After many a jasmine March night?

Tiring din of the conversations,
Yellow chandelier's lifeless light
And the glimmer of crafty gadgets
Underneath the arm raised and light.

My companion looks at her with hope
And to her flashes a smile..
O my happy and wealthy heir,
Read from my will.

 * III * 



May Snow

Upon fresh ground falls and melts
At once unnoticed a thin film.
The harsh and chilly spring
The ripened buds does kill.
Sight of early death is so horrid
That I can't look at God's creation, and am riven
With sadness, to which king David
Millenia of life has given.



x x x

Why do you pretend to be
A wind, a bird, or a stone?
Why do you smile at me
From the sky with a sudden dawn?

Do not torment me, do not touch!
Leave me to wise cares, away!
The inebriated flame sways
Over dried-up marshes gray.

And Muse in a torn kerchief
Sings disconsolate and at length.
In harsh and youthful anguish
Is her miraculous strength.



x x x

Transparent glass of empty sky
The bleached-out bulky prison building
And churchgoers' solemn singing
Over Volkhov, growing blue with light.

September wind tore leaves birch off
Through branches tossed and screamed with hate
And city recollects its fate:
Here ruled Martha and Arackcheyev.



July 1914

I

Smells like burning. For four weeks now
The dry ground on the swamplands bakes.
Today even birds did not sing songs
And the aspen-tree does not shake.

Sun has stopped in divine displeasure
Easter rain did not pelt fields hard.
A one-legged passerby came here
And alone said in the yard:

"Awful times near. For freshly dug graves
There will be not be enough place soon.
Expect pest, expect plague, expect coward,
And eclipses of Sun and Moon.

But the enemy won't get to divide
Our lands for his fun:
Holy Mary will spread on her own
Over great sorrows a white gown"

II

From the burning forests is flying
Sweet smell of the evergreens.
Over children soldiers' wives are moaning
Cry of widows through village rings.

Not in vain were the prayers rendered,
The earth was thirsty for rain:
The stomped-over fields with red dampness
Were covered and covered remain.

Low, low is the empty heaven,
And quiet is the praying one's voice:
"They will wound your most holy body
And cast dice about your acts of choice."



x x x

That voice, with great quietude arguing,
Had a victory over her.
In me still, like song or woe,
Is last winter before the war.

She was whiter than Smolny Cathedral
More mysterious than summer garden festooned
We didn't know that in parting sadness
We'd be looking back soon.



x x x

To say goodbye we don't know -
It's already nearing night,
We are walking shoulder to shoulder,
You are pensive and I am quiet

We'll walk into church, we'll witness
The singing, the wedding, the cross,
Not seeing each other, we'll exit..
Why are things not working for us?

Or we'll sit on the pressed-down snow
In a cemetery, lightly sigh,
And you with your stick paint the palace
Where together we'll be for all time.



Consolation

You won't hear about him any longer,
You won't hear about him in the wind,
In the mournful fire-consumed Poland
His grave you will not find.

May your spirit be still an peaceful,
There will be no losses now:
He is new warrior of God's army,
Do not be about him in sorrow.

In the dear, beloved home
It's sinful to cry and feel blue.
Think, now you can make prayer
To the man who stood up for you.



x x x

Did for this, and for this only,
In my arms I carry you,
Did for this the strength flash
In your gorgeous eyes of blue?
Tall and elegant you have grown,
You sang songs, Madeira drank,
To the far-off Anatolia
You have driven your mine tank.

On the Malahov's kurgan
They shot an officer with a gun.
Less than a week for 20 years
He saw God's light with eyes so dear.



Prayer

Give me bitter years in malady
Breathlessness, sleeplessness, fever,
Both a friend and a child and mysterious
Gift take away forever --
Thus I pray after your liturgy
After many exhausting days,
That the cloud over dark Russia
Become cloud in the glory of rays.



x x x
"Where is your gypsy boy, tall one,
That over black kerchief did weep,
Where is your small first child
What memory of him do you keep?"

"Mother's role is a sweet torture,
I was not worthy of it.
The gate dissolved into white heaven,
Magdalene took the kid.

"Each day for me is happy and jolly,
I got lost in a too-long spring,
Only arms pine away for a burden
Only his cries in my sleep ring.

"The heart will be restless and weary
And no memory cross my mind,
I still wander in rooms dark and bleary
And his crib still attempt to find."



x x x

How often did I curse
This sky, this earth as well,
The slowly waving arms
Of this ancient windmill.
In a wing there lies a dead man,
Straight and grayhaired, on a bench,
As he did three years ago.
Thus the mice whet with their teeth
Books, thus the stearine candle
Leans its flame to the left.
And the odious tambourine
From the Nizhny Novgorod
Sings an uningenious song
Of my bitter happiness.
And the brightly painted
Dahlias stood straight
Along silver road.
Where are snails and wormwood.
Thus it was: Incarceration
Became second country,
And the first I cannot dare
Recollect even in prayer.



x x x

In boat or in horsecart
This way you cannot go
Deep water stands and lingers
In the decrepit snow
Surrounding the mansion
From every side by now..
Ah! Closely wails it over
The same Robinson Crusoe.
The sled, the skies, the horse
He will come by to see,
And later on the couch
He sits and waits for me
And with a short spore
He tears the rug in two.
Now the brief smile of mine
The mirror will not view.



x x x

Bow of moon I see, I see
Through dense canopy of groves,
Level sound I hear, I hear
Of the free horse's hooves.

What? And you don't want to sleep,
In a year could you forget
Me, nor are you used to find
Empty and unmade your bed?

Not with you then do I speak
Through sharp cries of hunting birds,
Not in your eyes do I look
From white pages full of words?

Why you circle, like a thief
At the quiet habitat?
Or recall the verdict and
Wait for me alive like that?

I'm asleep. In dense dark, moon
Threw a blade just like a dart.
There is knocking. In this way
Beats my warm and precious heart.



x x x

We noiselessly walked through the house,
Not waiting for anything.
They showed me way to the sick man,
And I did not recognize him.

He said, "Now let God have the glory"
And became more thoughtful and blue.
"It's long time that I hit the road,
I've only been waiting for you.

So you bother me in my fever,
I keep those words from you.
Tell me: can you not forgive me?"
And I said, "I can do."

It seemed, that the walls were shining
From floor to the ceiling that day.
Upon the silken blanket
A withered arm lay.

And the thrown-over predatory profile
Became horribly heavy and stark,
And one could not hear the breathing
Through the bitten-up lips turned dark.

But suddenly the last bit of strength
Came alive in the eyes of blue:
"It is good that you released me,
Not always kind were you."

And then the face became younger,
And I recognized him once more.
And then I said, "Holy Father,
Accept a slave of yours."



x x x

I came over to the pine forest.
It is hot, and the road is not short.
He pushed back the door and came out
Greyhaired, luminous, short.

He looked at me, insolent bastard,
And muttered at once, "Christ's bride!
Do not envy success of the happy,
A place for you there does hide.

Do forget your parents' abode,
Get accustomed to open heaven
You will sleep on the straw and dirty,
And will meet a blissful end."

Truly, the priest must have heard
On the way back my singing voice
As I of untold happiness
Marveled and rejoiced.



x x x

The other cranes shout "Cour-lee"
Calling a wounded one
When autumn fields around
Are fallow and warm.

And I, being sick, hear calling,
The noise of golden wings
From dense and low clouds
And thick underbrush.

"It's time to fly, it's time to fly,
Over the field and river.
For you already cannot sing
And wipe a tear from a cheek
With a weakened arm."



x x x

I will quietly in the churchyard
Sleep on wooden boards in the sun,
On the Sunday as guest to mother
You will come, my dear one --
Through the river over the mountain
Can't catch up to grown ones
From afar, the sharp-eyed fellow,
This my cross you'll recognize.
I know, dear one, very little
Can you now recall of me:
Did not scold you, did not fawn you,
Did not hold the cup to thee.



x x x

With pride your spirit is darkened
For this you won't know world at all.
You say that this faith is a dream
And mirage is this capital.

You say that my country is sinful,
Your country is godless, I scream.
May the guilt still lie upon us --
We can correct and redeem.

Around you are water and flowers
Why seek a beggar and sinner, my dear?
I know that you're sick very badly:
You seek death and the end you fear.



x x x

The early chills are most pleasant to me.
Torment releases me when I come there.
Mysterious, dark places of habitation --
Are storehouses of labor and prayer.

The calm and confident loving
I can't surmount in this side of mine:
A drop of Novgorod blood inside me
Is like a piece of ice in foamy wine.

And this can not in any way be corrected,
She has not been melted by great heat,
And what ever I began to glory --
You, quiet one, shine before me yet.



x x x

I dream less of him, dear God be gloried,
Does not shimmer everywhere any more.
Fog has fallen on the whitened road,
Shadows run over water to the shore.

And all day the ringing did not quiet
Over the expanse of ploughed up soil,
Here most powerfully from Jonah
Distant Laurel belltowers do recoil.

I am trimming on the lilac bushes
Branches, that are now in full flower;
Ramparts of the ancient fortifying
Two old monks are slowly walking over.

Dear world, understood and corporeal,
For me, one unseeing, set alive.
Heal this soul of mine, the King of Heaven,
With the icy comfort of not love.



x x x

We'll be with each other, dear,
All now know we are together,
And the wily laughs and putdowns
Like a distant tambourine
Can't insult us any longer
And can't give us injury.
Where we married -- we don't know,
But this church at once did glimmer
With that furious beaming light
That only the angels know
How to bring upon white wings.

And the time is now such,
Fearful city, fearful year.
How can now be parted
Me from you and you from me?



In Memory of June 19, 1914

We have grown old by hundred years, and this
Happened to us in one hour then:
The brief summer was already ending,
Steamed the body of ploughed-up plain.

Suddenly glistened the quiet road,
Cry flew, ringing silverly..
Closing my face, I was praying to God
Before first battle to murder me.

From mind the shades of songs and passions
Disappeared like load from misuse.
To her -- descended -- the Almighty ordered
To be the fearful book of menacing news.



 * IV * 


x x x

Before the spring arrives there are such days:
Under the thick snow cover rests the lawn,
The dry-and-jolly trees are making noise,
Tender and strong, the wind is warm.
And body is amazed at its own lightness,
And your own home is alien to you,
And song that had just previously been tiring
With worry you are singing just like new.



x x x

The fifth time of the year,
Only the praise of his.
Breathe with the final freedom,
Because love is this.
The sky has flown up high,
The objects' contours are light,
And the body does not celebrate any longer
The anniversary of its plight.



x x x

I myself have freely chosen
Fate of the friend of my heart:
To the freedom under gospel
I allowed him to depart.
And the pigeon came back, beating
On the window with all might
Like from shine of divine restments,
In the room it became light.



Sleep

I know that you dreamed of me,
That's why I could not sleep.
The muddy light had turned blue
And showed me the path to keep.

You saw the queen's garden,
White palace, luxurious one,
And the black patterned fence
Before resounding stone perron.

You went, not knowing the way,
And thinking, "Faster, faster!
If only to find her now,
Not wake before meeting her."

And the janitor at the red gate
Shouted at you, "Where to, alack!"
The ice crackled and broke,
Underfoot, water went black.

"This is the lake, and inside
There's an island," thus thought you.
And then suddenly from the dark
Appeared a fire hot-blue.

Awakening, you did moan
In harsh light of a nasty day,
And then at once you called
For me loudly by my name.



White House

Sun is frosty. In parade
Soldiers march with all their might.
I am glad at the January noon,
And my fear is very light.

Here they remember each branch
And every silhouette.
The raspberry light is dripping
Through a snow-whitened net.

Almost white was the house,
Made of glass was the wing.
How many times with numb arm
Did I hold the doorbell's ring.

How many times.. play, soldiers,
I'll make my house, I'll espy
You from a roof that's inclined,
From the ivy that does not die.

But who at last did remove it,
Took away into foreign lands
Or took out from the memory
Forever the road thence..

Snow flies, like a cherry blossom,
Distant bagpipes desist..
And, it seems like, nobody knows
That the white house does not exist.



x x x

He walked over fields and over village,
And asked people from afar:
"Where is she, where is the happy glimmer
Of her eyes that are gray stars?

Here the final days of spring
Come along, in turbid fire.
Still more frequent, still more tender
Are the dreams I have of her."

And he came in the dark city
In the quiet evening time
He was thinking then of Venice
And of London all the same.

At the church both tall and dark
Stepped on shining stairs' granite
And he prayed then of the coming
Meeting with his first delight.

And above the altar made of gold
Flamed away the garden of God's rays:
"Here she is, here is the happy glimmer
Of gray joyous stars that are her eyes."



x x x

Wide and yellow's evening light,
Tender is the April chill,
You are late by many years
But I am glad of you still.

Come and sit right next to me,
With the happy eyes come look:
Here, my childhood poetry
Is in this blue notebook.

That I lived sorrowful and little
Was I glad of the sun, forgive.
And forgive, that in your stead I
Many others did receive.



x x x

Whether to look for you on earth --
I don't know if you're dead or you live --
Or about you in the evening
I should for you, departed, grieve.

All is for you: and the daily prayer
And the sleeplessness' swooning flame
And the white flock of my poems
And my eyes' blue violent flame.

No one was dearer to me, no one,
No one left me this bereft,
Not even he who betrayed me to torment,
Not even he who caressed, then left.



x x x

No, my prince, I am not the one
On whom you'd rather lay your eyes,
And for long these lips of mine
Do not kiss, but prophesize.

Do not think I'm in delirium
Or with boredom I do whine
Loudly I speak of pain:
It's the very trade of mine.

And I know how to teach,
That the unexpected happened,
How to tame for centuries
Her, whose love is so rapid.

You want glory? Ask from me
For advice for this your plight,
Only it is but a trap,
There's no joy here and no light.

Well, go home, and forget
This our meeting, I implore,
And for your sin, my dear one,
I'll respond before the Lord.



x x x

From memory of you I will remove that day,
So that your helpless-foggy look will ask this:
Where did I see the Persian lilac bush,
The swallows and the wooden house?

Oh, how often will you recollect
The sudden angst of the uncalled desires
And in the pensive cities you did seek
That street which was not on the map entire!

Upon the sound of voice behind an open door,
Upon the sight of every accidental letter,
You will remember: "Here has she herself
Come to assist my disbelief unfettered."



x x x

Did not scold me, did not praise me,
Like friends and like enemies.
Only left his soul to me
And then said, "Now keep in peace."

And one thing worries me so:
If this moment he will die,
God's archangel will come to me
For his soul from the sky.

How then will I hide her so,
How to hide it from God's eyes?
She, the soul, that cries and sings so
Must be in His paradise.



x x x

My shadow has remained there and is angstful,
In that blue room she still to this day lives,
She waits for guests from city beyond midnight
And to enamel image gives a kiss.
And things are not quite well around the house:
It still is dark, although they lit the flame..
Not from all this the hostess is in boredom,
Not from all this the host drinks all the same
And hears how on the other side of the thin wall
The guest arrived talks to me at all?



x x x

I see capital through the flurry
On this Monday night twenty-first.
Some do-nothing has made up the story
That love exists on the earth.

And from laziness or from boredom
All believed, and thus they live:
Wait for meeting, fear the parting,
And sing songs of love.

But to others opens a secret
And upon them descends a still..
I by accident came upon this
And since then am as if I'm ill.



x x x

On the blooming lilac bushes
Sky is sowing the light rain.
Beats with wings upon the window
The white, the white Spirits' day.

For a friend to be returning
From the sea - especial hour.
I am dreaming of the far shore,
Of the stone, sand and tower.

I will enter, meeting light,
On the top of one of these towers.
In the land of swamps and fields
There are in memory no towers.

Only I will sit on the porch,
There, where dense shadows lay.
Help me in my fright, at last,
The white, the white Spirits' day.



x x x

I know, that you are my reward
For years of labor and of pain,
For that unto the earthly pleasures
I never did myself betray,
For that I never ever told
Unto my loved one, "You are loved."
For that I did forgive all people
You'll be my angel from above.



x x x

Yes, I had loved them, those meetings of the nights -
Upon small table a glass filled with ice,
Above black coffee thick and smelly steam,
From the red heater heavy winter heat,
The stinging mirth of literary parable
And first look of the friend, helpless and terrible.



x x x

Not mystery and not sadness,
Not the wise will of fate -
These meetings have always given
Impression of fight and hate.

And I, having guessed your coming's
Minute and circumstance,
In the bent arms the slightly
Tingling feeling did sense.

And with dry fingers I mangled
The colorful tablecloth..
I understood even then
How small was this earth.



To my dear one

Do not send a dove in my direction,
Do not write tumultuous notes at all,
Do not fan my face with the March breeze.
I have now entered a green heaven,
Where there's calm for body and for soul
Underneath the shady maple trees.

And from here I can see a town,
Booths and barracks of a palace made of stone
Chinese yellow bridge over the ice.
For three hours now you wait for me -- you're frozen,
But you cannot move from the perron,
At the stars you marvel with your eyes.

Like a gray squirrel you'll jump on the alder,
Like a frightful swallow I will go,
I will then call for you like a swan,
So that the bridegroom would not fear
In the blue and swirling falling snow
To await his deceased bride alone.



x x x

Has my fate really been so altered,
Or is this game truly truly over?
Where are winters, when I fell asleep
In the morning in the sixth hour?

In a new way, severely and calmly,
I now live on the wild shore.
I can no longer pronounce
The tender or idle word.

I can't believe that Christmas-tide is coming.
Touchingly green is this the steppe before
The beaming sun. Like a warm
Wave, licks the tender shore.

When from happiness languid and tired
I was, then of such quiet
With trembling inexpressible I dreamed
And this in my imagining I deemed
The after-mortal wandering of the soul.



x x x

Like a white stone at the bottom of the well,
One memory lies in me.
I cannot and I do not want to struggle,
It is both joy and suffering.

I think that anyone who looks into my
Eyes will all at once see him.
More sad and pensive he'll become
That heard the story of this suffering.

I know that the gods had turned
People to objects, without killing mind,
That divine sadness lived eternally.
You're turned into my memory, I find.



x x x

The first ray -- as the blessing of the Lord --
Across the face of the beloved did creep,
Who, sleeping, went a little pale,
And then again more tightly went to sleep.

It seemed that warmth of ray of sun
Appeared to him just like a kiss...
And long with these my lips I have not touched
The tan strong shoulder or the dear lips.

And now, the deceased spirits in my long
Disconsolate wandering along the way,
I am now flying toward him as a song
And I caress him with a morning ray.



x x x

Not thus, from cursed lightness having disembarked,
I look with worry on the chambers dark?
Already used to ringing high and raw,
Already judged not by the earthly law,
I, like a criminal, am being drawn along
To place of shame and execution long.
I see the glorious city, and the voice most dear,
As though there is no secret grave to fear,
Where day and night, in heat and in cold bent,
I must await the Final Judgment.



x x x

I was born not late and not early,
This time is blessed and meet,
Only God did not allow a heart
To live long without deceit.

And from this it is dark in the light room,
And from this do the friends I've sought,
Like the sorrowful birds of evening,
Sing of love that was not.



x x x

Best for me loudly the gaming-poems to say,
And for you the hoarse harmonica to play!

And having left, hugging, for the night of late,
Lose a band from a stiff, tight plait.

Best for me your child to rock and sway,
And for you to make fifty rubles in a day,

And to go on memory day to cemetery
There to look upon the white God's lilac tree.



x x x

I will lead a man to dear one --
I don't want the little joy --
And I'll quietly lay to sleep
The glad, tired little boy.

In a chilly room once more
I will pray to Mother of God,
It is hard to be a hermit,
To be happy is also hard.

Only fiery sleep will come to me,
I'll enter a temple on the hill,
Five-domed, white, and stone-hewn,
On the paths remembered well.



x x x

The spring was still mysteriously swooning,
Across the hills wandered transparent wind
And the deep lake was growing blue among us --
A temple forged and kept not by mankind.

You were affrighted of our first encounter,
And prayed already for the second one,
And now today once more is the hot evening --
How low over the mountain dropped the sun..

You aren't with me, but this is not a parting:
For me triumphant news is in each moment.
I know that you can't even pronounce a word
For so complete within you is the torment.



x x x

In Kievan temple of the divine wisdom
Falling to my knees, I did before thee vow
That your way will be my way
Wherever it will go.

Thus heard Yaroslav in a white coffin
And angels made of gold in his stead.
Like pigeons, weave the simple words
And now near the sunny heads.

And if I get weak, I dream of an icon
And there are ten steps on it, all are blessed.
In menacing voice of the Sofian ringing
I hear the sound of your unrest.



x x x

City vanished, the last house's window
Stared like one living and stark...
This place is totally unfamiliar,
Smells of burning, and field is dark.

But when the curtain of thunder
Moon had cut, indecisive and wan,
We could see: On the hill, to the forest,
Hobbled a handicapped man.

It was frightening, that he's overcoming
The three horses, sated and glad,
He stood up and then again waddled
Under his heavy load.

We had almost failed to notice him
Before the nomad-tent taking his place.
Just like stars the blue eyes were shining,
Lighting the tormented face.

And I proffered to him the child,
Raising arms with the trace of a chain
He pronounced with joy and with ringing:
"May your son live and healthy remain."



x x x

Oh, there are unrepeated words,
Who ever said wasted more than he should.
Inexhaustible only is the blue
Of sky and generosity of God.


by Stephen Dunn |

At The Smithville Methodist Church

 It was supposed to be Arts & Crafts for a week, 
but when she came home 
with the "Jesus Saves" button, we knew what art 
was up, what ancient craft. 

She liked her little friends. She liked the songs 
they sang when they weren't 
twisting and folding paper into dolls. 
What could be so bad? 

Jesus had been a good man, and putting faith 
in good men was what 
we had to do to stay this side of cynicism, 
that other sadness. 

OK, we said, One week. But when she came home 
singing "Jesus loves me, 
the Bible tells me so," it was time to talk. 
Could we say Jesus 

doesn't love you? Could I tell her the Bible 
is a great book certain people use 
to make you feel bad? We sent her back 
without a word. 

It had been so long since we believed, so long 
since we needed Jesus 
as our nemesis and friend, that we thought he was 
sufficiently dead, 

that our children would think of him like Lincoln 
or Thomas Jefferson. 
Soon it became clear to us: you can't teach disbelief 
to a child, 

only wonderful stories, and we hadn't a story 
nearly as good. 
On parents' night there were the Arts & Crafts 
all spread out 

like appetizers. Then we took our seats 
in the church 
and the children sang a song about the Ark, 
and Hallelujah 

and one in which they had to jump up and down 
for Jesus. 
I can't remember ever feeling so uncertain 
about what's comic, what's serious. 

Evolution is magical but devoid of heroes. 
You can't say to your child 
"Evolution loves you." The story stinks 
of extinction and nothing 

exciting happens for centuries. I didn't have 
a wonderful story for my child 
and she was beaming. All the way home in the car 
she sang the songs, 

occasionally standing up for Jesus. 
There was nothing to do 
but drive, ride it out, sing along 
in silence.


by Geoffrey Chaucer |

The General Prologue

 WHEN that Aprilis, with his showers swoot*, *sweet
The drought of March hath pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such licour,
Of which virtue engender'd is the flower;
When Zephyrus eke with his swoote breath
Inspired hath in every holt* and heath *grove, forest
The tender croppes* and the younge sun *twigs, boughs
Hath in the Ram <1> his halfe course y-run,
And smalle fowles make melody,
That sleepen all the night with open eye,
(So pricketh them nature in their corages*); *hearts, inclinations
Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers <2> for to seeke strange strands,
To *ferne hallows couth* in sundry lands; *distant saints known*<3>
And specially, from every shire's end
Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful Martyr for to seek,
That them hath holpen*, when that they were sick. *helped

Befell that, in that season on a day,
In Southwark at the Tabard <4> as I lay,
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devout corage,
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry folk, *by aventure y-fall *who had by chance fallen
In fellowship*, and pilgrims were they all, into company.* <5>
That toward Canterbury woulde ride.
The chamber, and the stables were wide,
And *well we weren eased at the best.* *we were well provided
And shortly, when the sunne was to rest, with the best*
So had I spoken with them every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made forword* early for to rise, *promise
To take our way there as I you devise*. *describe, relate

But natheless, while I have time and space,
Ere that I farther in this tale pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to reason,
To tell you alle the condition
Of each of them, so as it seemed me,
And which they weren, and of what degree;
And eke in what array that they were in:
And at a Knight then will I first begin.

A KNIGHT there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To riden out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his Lorde's war,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farre*, *farther
As well in Christendom as in Heatheness,
And ever honour'd for his worthiness
At Alisandre <6> he was when it was won.
Full often time he had the board begun
Above alle nations in Prusse.<7>
In Lettowe had he reysed,* and in Russe, *journeyed
No Christian man so oft of his degree.
In Grenade at the siege eke had he be
Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie. <8>
At Leyes was he, and at Satalie,
When they were won; and in the Greate Sea
At many a noble army had he be.
At mortal battles had he been fifteen,
And foughten for our faith at Tramissene.
In listes thries, and aye slain his foe.
This ilke* worthy knight had been also *same <9>
Some time with the lord of Palatie,
Against another heathen in Turkie:
And evermore *he had a sovereign price*. *He was held in very
And though that he was worthy he was wise, high esteem.*
And of his port as meek as is a maid.
He never yet no villainy ne said
In all his life, unto no manner wight.
He was a very perfect gentle knight.
But for to telle you of his array,
His horse was good, but yet he was not gay.
Of fustian he weared a gipon*, *short doublet
Alle *besmotter'd with his habergeon,* *soiled by his coat of mail.*
For he was late y-come from his voyage,
And wente for to do his pilgrimage.

With him there was his son, a younge SQUIRE,
A lover, and a lusty bacheler,
With lockes crulle* as they were laid in press. *curled
Of twenty year of age he was I guess.
Of his stature he was of even length,
And *wonderly deliver*, and great of strength. *wonderfully nimble*
And he had been some time in chevachie*, *cavalry raids
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie,
And borne him well, *as of so little space*, *in such a short time*
In hope to standen in his lady's grace.
Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead
All full of freshe flowers, white and red.
Singing he was, or fluting all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gown, with sleeves long and wide.
Well could he sit on horse, and faire ride.
He coulde songes make, and well indite,
Joust, and eke dance, and well pourtray and write.
So hot he loved, that by nightertale* *night-time
He slept no more than doth the nightingale.
Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable,
And carv'd before his father at the table.<10>

A YEOMAN had he, and servants no mo'
At that time, for *him list ride so* *it pleased him so to ride*
And he was clad in coat and hood of green.
A sheaf of peacock arrows<11> bright and keen
Under his belt he bare full thriftily.
Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly:
His arrows drooped not with feathers low;
And in his hand he bare a mighty bow.
A nut-head <12> had he, with a brown visiage:
Of wood-craft coud* he well all the usage: *knew
Upon his arm he bare a gay bracer*, *small shield
And by his side a sword and a buckler,
And on that other side a gay daggere,
Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear:
A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen.
An horn he bare, the baldric was of green:
A forester was he soothly* as I guess. *certainly

There was also a Nun, a PRIORESS,
That of her smiling was full simple and coy;
Her greatest oathe was but by Saint Loy;
And she was cleped* Madame Eglentine. *called
Full well she sang the service divine,
Entuned in her nose full seemly;
And French she spake full fair and fetisly* *properly
After the school of Stratford atte Bow,
For French of Paris was to her unknow.
At meate was she well y-taught withal;
She let no morsel from her lippes fall,
Nor wet her fingers in her sauce deep.
Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep,
That no droppe ne fell upon her breast.
In courtesy was set full much her lest*. *pleasure
Her over-lippe wiped she so clean,
That in her cup there was no farthing* seen *speck
Of grease, when she drunken had her draught;
Full seemely after her meat she raught*: *reached out her hand
And *sickerly she was of great disport*, *surely she was of a lively
And full pleasant, and amiable of port, disposition*
And *pained her to counterfeite cheer *took pains to assume
Of court,* and be estately of mannere, a courtly disposition*
And to be holden digne* of reverence. *worthy
But for to speaken of her conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous,* *full of pity
She woulde weep if that she saw a mouse
Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.
Of smalle houndes had she, that she fed
With roasted flesh, and milk, and *wastel bread.* *finest white bread*
But sore she wept if one of them were dead,
Or if men smote it with a yarde* smart: *staff
And all was conscience and tender heart.
Full seemly her wimple y-pinched was;
Her nose tretis;* her eyen gray as glass;<13> *well-formed
Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red;
But sickerly she had a fair forehead.
It was almost a spanne broad I trow;
For *hardily she was not undergrow*. *certainly she was not small*
Full fetis* was her cloak, as I was ware. *neat
Of small coral about her arm she bare
A pair of beades, gauded all with green;
And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen,
On which was first y-written a crown'd A,
And after, *Amor vincit omnia.* *love conquers all*
Another Nun also with her had she,
[That was her chapelleine, and PRIESTES three.]

A MONK there was, a fair *for the mast'ry*, *above all others*<14>
An out-rider, that loved venery*; *hunting
A manly man, to be an abbot able.
Full many a dainty horse had he in stable:
And when he rode, men might his bridle hear
Jingeling <15> in a whistling wind as clear,
And eke as loud, as doth the chapel bell,
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet, <16>
Because that it was old and somedeal strait
This ilke* monk let olde thinges pace, *same
And held after the newe world the trace.
He *gave not of the text a pulled hen,* *he cared nothing
That saith, that hunters be not holy men: for the text*
Ne that a monk, when he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless;
This is to say, a monk out of his cloister.
This ilke text held he not worth an oyster;
And I say his opinion was good.
Why should he study, and make himselfe wood* *mad <17>
Upon a book in cloister always pore,
Or swinken* with his handes, and labour, *toil
As Austin bid? how shall the world be served?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therefore he was a prickasour* aright: *hard rider
Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl of flight;
Of pricking* and of hunting for the hare *riding
Was all his lust,* for no cost would he spare. *pleasure
 I saw his sleeves *purfil'd at the hand *worked at the end with a
With gris,* and that the finest of the land. fur called "gris"*
And for to fasten his hood under his chin,
He had of gold y-wrought a curious pin;
A love-knot in the greater end there was.
His head was bald, and shone as any glass,
And eke his face, as it had been anoint;
He was a lord full fat and in good point;
His eyen steep,* and rolling in his head, *deep-set
That steamed as a furnace of a lead.
His bootes supple, his horse in great estate,
Now certainly he was a fair prelate;
He was not pale as a forpined* ghost; *wasted
A fat swan lov'd he best of any roast.
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.

A FRIAR there was, a wanton and a merry,
A limitour <18>, a full solemne man.
In all the orders four is none that can* *knows
So much of dalliance and fair language.
He had y-made full many a marriage
Of younge women, at his owen cost.
Unto his order he was a noble post;
Full well belov'd, and familiar was he
With franklins *over all* in his country, *everywhere*
And eke with worthy women of the town:
For he had power of confession,
As said himselfe, more than a curate,
For of his order he was licentiate.
Full sweetely heard he confession,
And pleasant was his absolution.
He was an easy man to give penance,
*There as he wist to have a good pittance:* *where he know he would
For unto a poor order for to give get good payment*
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive.
For if he gave, he *durste make avant*, *dared to boast*
He wiste* that the man was repentant. *knew
For many a man so hard is of his heart,
He may not weep although him sore smart.
Therefore instead of weeping and prayeres,
Men must give silver to the poore freres.
His tippet was aye farsed* full of knives *stuffed
And pinnes, for to give to faire wives;
And certainly he had a merry note:
Well could he sing and playen *on a rote*; *from memory*
Of yeddings* he bare utterly the prize. *songs
His neck was white as is the fleur-de-lis.
Thereto he strong was as a champion,
And knew well the taverns in every town.
And every hosteler and gay tapstere,
Better than a lazar* or a beggere, *leper
For unto such a worthy man as he
Accordeth not, as by his faculty,
To have with such lazars acquaintance.
It is not honest, it may not advance,
As for to deale with no such pouraille*, *offal, refuse
But all with rich, and sellers of vitaille*. *victuals
And *ov'r all there as* profit should arise, *in every place where&
Courteous he was, and lowly of service;
There n'as no man nowhere so virtuous.
He was the beste beggar in all his house:
And gave a certain farme for the grant, <19>
None of his bretheren came in his haunt.
For though a widow hadde but one shoe,
So pleasant was his In Principio,<20>
Yet would he have a farthing ere he went;
His purchase was well better than his rent.
And rage he could and play as any whelp,
In lovedays <21>; there could he muchel* help. *greatly
For there was he not like a cloisterer,
With threadbare cope as is a poor scholer;
But he was like a master or a pope.
Of double worsted was his semicope*, *short cloak
That rounded was as a bell out of press.
Somewhat he lisped for his wantonness,
To make his English sweet upon his tongue;
And in his harping, when that he had sung,
His eyen* twinkled in his head aright, *eyes
As do the starres in a frosty night.
This worthy limitour <18> was call'd Huberd.

A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard,
In motley, and high on his horse he sat,
Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat.
His bootes clasped fair and fetisly*. *neatly
His reasons aye spake he full solemnly,
Sounding alway th' increase of his winning.
He would the sea were kept <22> for any thing
Betwixte Middleburg and Orewell<23>
Well could he in exchange shieldes* sell *crown coins <24>
This worthy man full well his wit beset*; *employed
There wiste* no wight** that he was in debt, *knew **man
So *estately was he of governance* *so well he managed*
With his bargains, and with his chevisance*. *business contract
For sooth he was a worthy man withal,
But sooth to say, I n'ot* how men him call. *know not

A CLERK there was of Oxenford* also, *Oxford
That unto logic hadde long y-go*. *devoted himself
As leane was his horse as is a rake,
And he was not right fat, I undertake;
But looked hollow*, and thereto soberly**. *thin; **poorly
Full threadbare was his *overest courtepy*, *uppermost short cloak*
For he had gotten him yet no benefice,
Ne was not worldly, to have an office.
For him was lever* have at his bed's head *rather
Twenty bookes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle, and his philosophy,
Than robes rich, or fiddle, or psalt'ry.
But all be that he was a philosopher,
Yet hadde he but little gold in coffer,
But all that he might of his friendes hent*, *obtain
On bookes and on learning he it spent,
And busily gan for the soules pray
Of them that gave him <25> wherewith to scholay* *study
Of study took he moste care and heed.
Not one word spake he more than was need;
And that was said in form and reverence,
And short and quick, and full of high sentence.
Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,
And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.

A SERGEANT OF THE LAW, wary and wise,
That often had y-been at the Parvis, <26>
There was also, full rich of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of great reverence:
He seemed such, his wordes were so wise,
Justice he was full often in assize,
By patent, and by plein* commission; *full
For his science, and for his high renown,
Of fees and robes had he many one.
So great a purchaser was nowhere none.
All was fee simple to him, in effect
His purchasing might not be in suspect* *suspicion
Nowhere so busy a man as he there was
And yet he seemed busier than he was
In termes had he case' and doomes* all *judgements
That from the time of King Will. were fall.
Thereto he could indite, and make a thing
There coulde no wight *pinch at* his writing. *find fault with*
And every statute coud* he plain by rote *knew
He rode but homely in a medley* coat, *multicoloured
Girt with a seint* of silk, with barres small; *sash
Of his array tell I no longer tale.

A FRANKELIN* was in this company; *Rich landowner
White was his beard, as is the daisy.
Of his complexion he was sanguine.
Well lov'd he in the morn a sop in wine.
To liven in delight was ever his won*, *wont
For he was Epicurus' owen son,
That held opinion, that plein* delight *full
Was verily felicity perfite.
An householder, and that a great, was he;
Saint Julian<27> he was in his country.
His bread, his ale, was alway *after one*; *pressed on one*
A better envined* man was nowhere none; *stored with wine
Withoute bake-meat never was his house,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous,
It snowed in his house of meat and drink,
Of alle dainties that men coulde think.
After the sundry seasons of the year,
So changed he his meat and his soupere.
Full many a fat partridge had he in mew*, *cage <28>
And many a bream, and many a luce* in stew**<29> *pike **fish-pond
Woe was his cook, *but if* his sauce were *unless*
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear.
His table dormant* in his hall alway *fixed
Stood ready cover'd all the longe day.
At sessions there was he lord and sire.
Full often time he was *knight of the shire* *Member of Parliament*
An anlace*, and a gipciere** all of silk, *dagger **purse
Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk.
A sheriff had he been, and a countour<30>
Was nowhere such a worthy vavasour<31>.

 An HABERDASHER, and a CARPENTER,
A WEBBE*, a DYER, and a TAPISER**, *weaver **tapestry-maker
Were with us eke, cloth'd in one livery,
Of a solemn and great fraternity.
Full fresh and new their gear y-picked* was. *spruce
Their knives were y-chaped* not with brass, *mounted
But all with silver wrought full clean and well,
Their girdles and their pouches *every deal*. *in every part*
Well seemed each of them a fair burgess,
To sitten in a guild-hall, on the dais. <32>
Evereach, for the wisdom that he can*, *knew
Was shapely* for to be an alderman. *fitted
For chattels hadde they enough and rent,
And eke their wives would it well assent:
And elles certain they had been to blame.
It is full fair to be y-clep'd madame,
And for to go to vigils all before,
And have a mantle royally y-bore.<33>

A COOK they hadde with them for the nones*, *occasion
To boil the chickens and the marrow bones,
And powder merchant tart and galingale.
Well could he know a draught of London ale.
He could roast, and stew, and broil, and fry,
Make mortrewes, and well bake a pie.
But great harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That, on his shin a mormal* hadde he. *ulcer
For blanc manger, that made he with the best <34>

A SHIPMAN was there, *wonned far by West*: *who dwelt far
For ought I wot, be was of Dartemouth. to the West*
He rode upon a rouncy*, as he couth, *hack
All in a gown of falding* to the knee. *coarse cloth
A dagger hanging by a lace had he
About his neck under his arm adown;
The hot summer had made his hue all brown;
And certainly he was a good fellaw.
Full many a draught of wine he had y-draw
From Bourdeaux-ward, while that the chapmen sleep;
Of nice conscience took he no keep.
If that he fought, and had the higher hand,
*By water he sent them home to every land.* *he drowned his
But of his craft to reckon well his tides, prisoners*
His streames and his strandes him besides,
His herberow*, his moon, and lodemanage**, *harbourage
There was none such, from Hull unto Carthage **pilotage<35>
Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake:
With many a tempest had his beard been shake.
He knew well all the havens, as they were,
From Scotland to the Cape of Finisterre,
And every creek in Bretagne and in Spain:
His barge y-cleped was the Magdelain.

With us there was a DOCTOR OF PHYSIC;
In all this worlde was there none him like
To speak of physic, and of surgery:
For he was grounded in astronomy.
He kept his patient a full great deal
In houres by his magic natural.
Well could he fortune* the ascendent *make fortunate
Of his images for his patient,.
He knew the cause of every malady,
Were it of cold, or hot, or moist, or dry,
And where engender'd, and of what humour.
He was a very perfect practisour
The cause y-know,* and of his harm the root, *known
Anon he gave to the sick man his boot* *remedy
Full ready had he his apothecaries,
To send his drugges and his lectuaries
For each of them made other for to win
Their friendship was not newe to begin
Well knew he the old Esculapius,
And Dioscorides, and eke Rufus;
Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien;
Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen;
Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin;
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin. <36>
Of his diet measurable was he,
For it was of no superfluity,
But of great nourishing, and digestible.
His study was but little on the Bible.
In sanguine* and in perse** he clad was all *red **blue
Lined with taffeta, and with sendall*. *fine silk
And yet *he was but easy of dispense*: *he spent very little*
He kept *that he won in the pestilence*. *the money he made
For gold in physic is a cordial; during the plague*
Therefore he loved gold in special.

A good WIFE was there OF beside BATH,
But she was somedeal deaf, and that was scath*. *damage; pity
Of cloth-making she hadde such an haunt*, *skill
She passed them of Ypres, and of Gaunt. <37>
In all the parish wife was there none,
That to the off'ring* before her should gon, *the offering at mass
And if there did, certain so wroth was she,
That she was out of alle charity
Her coverchiefs* were full fine of ground *head-dresses
I durste swear, they weighede ten pound <38>
That on the Sunday were upon her head.
Her hosen weren of fine scarlet red,
Full strait y-tied, and shoes full moist* and new *fresh <39>
Bold was her face, and fair and red of hue.
She was a worthy woman all her live,
Husbands at the church door had she had five,
Withouten other company in youth;
But thereof needeth not to speak as nouth*. *now
And thrice had she been at Jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a strange stream
At Rome she had been, and at Bologne,
In Galice at Saint James, <40> and at Cologne;
She coude* much of wand'rng by the Way. *knew
Gat-toothed* was she, soothly for to say. *Buck-toothed<41>
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Y-wimpled well, and on her head an hat
As broad as is a buckler or a targe.
A foot-mantle about her hippes large,
And on her feet a pair of spurres sharp.
In fellowship well could she laugh and carp* *jest, talk
Of remedies of love she knew perchance
For of that art she coud* the olde dance. *knew

A good man there was of religion,
That was a poore PARSON of a town:
But rich he was of holy thought and werk*. *work
He was also a learned man, a clerk,
That Christe's gospel truly woulde preach.
His parishens* devoutly would he teach. *parishioners
Benign he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patient:
And such he was y-proved *often sithes*. *oftentimes*
Full loth were him to curse for his tithes,
But rather would he given out of doubt,
Unto his poore parishens about,
Of his off'ring, and eke of his substance.
*He could in little thing have suffisance*. *he was satisfied with
Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder, very little*
But he ne left not, for no rain nor thunder,
In sickness and in mischief to visit
The farthest in his parish, *much and lit*, *great and small*
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff.
This noble ensample to his sheep he gaf*, *gave
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught,
And this figure he added yet thereto,
That if gold ruste, what should iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewed* man to rust: *unlearned
And shame it is, if that a priest take keep,
To see a shitten shepherd and clean sheep:
Well ought a priest ensample for to give,
By his own cleanness, how his sheep should live.
He sette not his benefice to hire,
And left his sheep eucumber'd in the mire,
And ran unto London, unto Saint Paul's,
To seeke him a chantery<42> for souls,
Or with a brotherhood to be withold:* *detained
But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold,
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry.
He was a shepherd, and no mercenary.
And though he holy were, and virtuous,
He was to sinful men not dispitous* *severe
Nor of his speeche dangerous nor dign* *disdainful
But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To drawen folk to heaven, with fairness,
By good ensample, was his business:
*But it were* any person obstinate, *but if it were*
What so he were of high or low estate,
Him would he snibbe* sharply for the nones**. *reprove **nonce,occasion
A better priest I trow that nowhere none is.
He waited after no pomp nor reverence,
Nor maked him a *spiced conscience*, *artificial conscience*
But Christe's lore, and his apostles' twelve,
He taught, and first he follow'd it himselve.

With him there was a PLOUGHMAN, was his brother,
That had y-laid of dung full many a fother*. *ton
A true swinker* and a good was he, *hard worker
Living in peace and perfect charity.
God loved he beste with all his heart
At alle times, were it gain or smart*, *pain, loss
And then his neighebour right as himselve.
He woulde thresh, and thereto dike*, and delve, *dig ditches
For Christe's sake, for every poore wight,
Withouten hire, if it lay in his might.
His tithes payed he full fair and well,
Both of his *proper swink*, and his chattel** *his own labour* **goods
In a tabard* he rode upon a mare. *sleeveless jerkin

There was also a Reeve, and a Millere,
A Sompnour, and a Pardoner also,
A Manciple, and myself, there were no mo'.

The MILLER was a stout carle for the nones,
Full big he was of brawn, and eke of bones;
That proved well, for *ov'r all where* he came, *wheresoever*
At wrestling he would bear away the ram.<43>
He was short-shouldered, broad, a thicke gnarr*, *stump of wood
There was no door, that he n'old* heave off bar, *could not
Or break it at a running with his head.
His beard as any sow or fox was red,
And thereto broad, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop* right of his nose he had *head <44>
A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs
Red as the bristles of a sowe's ears.
His nose-thirles* blacke were and wide. *nostrils <45>
A sword and buckler bare he by his side.
His mouth as wide was as a furnace.
He was a jangler, and a goliardais*, *buffoon <46>
And that was most of sin and harlotries.
Well could he steale corn, and tolle thrice
And yet he had a thumb of gold, pardie.<47>
A white coat and a blue hood weared he
A baggepipe well could he blow and soun',
And therewithal he brought us out of town.

A gentle MANCIPLE <48> was there of a temple,
Of which achatours* mighte take ensample *buyers
For to be wise in buying of vitaille*. *victuals
For whether that he paid, or took *by taile*, *on credit
Algate* he waited so in his achate**, *always **purchase
That he was aye before in good estate.
Now is not that of God a full fair grace
That such a lewed* mannes wit shall pace** *unlearned **surpass
The wisdom of an heap of learned men?
Of masters had he more than thries ten,
That were of law expert and curious:
Of which there was a dozen in that house,
Worthy to be stewards of rent and land
Of any lord that is in Engleland,
To make him live by his proper good,
In honour debtless, *but if he were wood*, *unless he were mad*
Or live as scarcely as him list desire;
And able for to helpen all a shire
In any case that mighte fall or hap;
And yet this Manciple *set their aller cap* *outwitted them all*

The REEVE <49> was a slender choleric man
His beard was shav'd as nigh as ever he can.
His hair was by his eares round y-shorn;
His top was docked like a priest beforn
Full longe were his legges, and full lean
Y-like a staff, there was no calf y-seen
Well could he keep a garner* and a bin* *storeplaces for grain
There was no auditor could on him win
Well wist he by the drought, and by the rain,
The yielding of his seed and of his grain
His lorde's sheep, his neat*, and his dairy *cattle
His swine, his horse, his store, and his poultry,
Were wholly in this Reeve's governing,
And by his cov'nant gave he reckoning,
Since that his lord was twenty year of age;
There could no man bring him in arrearage
There was no bailiff, herd, nor other hine* *servant
That he ne knew his *sleight and his covine* *tricks and cheating*
They were adrad* of him, as of the death *in dread
His wonning* was full fair upon an heath *abode
With greene trees y-shadow'd was his place.
He coulde better than his lord purchase
Full rich he was y-stored privily
His lord well could he please subtilly,
To give and lend him of his owen good,
And have a thank, and yet* a coat and hood. *also
In youth he learned had a good mistere* *trade
He was a well good wright, a carpentere
This Reeve sate upon a right good stot*, *steed
That was all pomely* gray, and highte** Scot. *dappled **called
A long surcoat of perse* upon he had, *sky-blue
And by his side he bare a rusty blade.
Of Norfolk was this Reeve, of which I tell,
Beside a town men clepen* Baldeswell, *call
Tucked he was, as is a friar, about,
And ever rode the *hinderest of the rout*. *hindmost of the group*

A SOMPNOUR* was there with us in that place, *summoner <50>
That had a fire-red cherubinnes face,
For sausefleme* he was, with eyen narrow. *red or pimply
As hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow,
With scalled browes black, and pilled* beard: *scanty
Of his visage children were sore afeard.
There n'as quicksilver, litharge, nor brimstone,
Boras, ceruse, nor oil of tartar none,
Nor ointement that woulde cleanse or bite,
That him might helpen of his whelkes* white, *pustules
Nor of the knobbes* sitting on his cheeks. *buttons
Well lov'd he garlic, onions, and leeks,
And for to drink strong wine as red as blood.
Then would he speak, and cry as he were wood;
And when that he well drunken had the wine,
Then would he speake no word but Latin.
A fewe termes knew he, two or three,
That he had learned out of some decree;
No wonder is, he heard it all the day.
And eke ye knowen well, how that a jay
Can clepen* "Wat," as well as can the Pope. *call
But whoso would in other thing him grope*, *search
Then had he spent all his philosophy,
Aye, Questio quid juris,<51> would he cry.

He was a gentle harlot* and a kind; *a low fellow<52>
A better fellow should a man not find.
He woulde suffer, for a quart of wine,
A good fellow to have his concubine
A twelvemonth, and excuse him at the full.
Full privily a *finch eke could he pull*. *"fleece" a man*
And if he found owhere* a good fellaw, *anywhere
He woulde teache him to have none awe
In such a case of the archdeacon's curse;
*But if* a manne's soul were in his purse; *unless*
For in his purse he should y-punished be.
"Purse is the archedeacon's hell," said he.
But well I wot, he lied right indeed:
Of cursing ought each guilty man to dread,
For curse will slay right as assoiling* saveth; *absolving
And also 'ware him of a significavit<53>.
In danger had he at his owen guise
The younge girles of the diocese, <54>
And knew their counsel, and was of their rede*. *counsel
A garland had he set upon his head,
As great as it were for an alestake*: *The post of an alehouse sign
A buckler had he made him of a cake.

With him there rode a gentle PARDONERE <55>
Of Ronceval, his friend and his compere,
That straight was comen from the court of Rome.
Full loud he sang, "Come hither, love, to me"
This Sompnour *bare to him a stiff burdoun*, *sang the bass*
Was never trump of half so great a soun'.
This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax,
But smooth it hung, as doth a strike* of flax: *strip
By ounces hung his lockes that he had,
And therewith he his shoulders oversprad.
Full thin it lay, by culpons* one and one, *locks, shreds
But hood for jollity, he weared none,
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
Him thought he rode all of the *newe get*, *latest fashion*<56>
Dishevel, save his cap, he rode all bare.
Such glaring eyen had he, as an hare.
A vernicle* had he sew'd upon his cap. *image of Christ <57>
His wallet lay before him in his lap,
Bretful* of pardon come from Rome all hot. *brimful
A voice he had as small as hath a goat.
No beard had he, nor ever one should have.
As smooth it was as it were new y-shave;
I trow he were a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, from Berwick unto Ware,
Ne was there such another pardonere.
For in his mail* he had a pillowbere**, *bag <58> **pillowcase
Which, as he saide, was our Lady's veil:
He said, he had a gobbet* of the sail *piece
That Sainte Peter had, when that he went
Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ him hent*. *took hold of
He had a cross of latoun* full of stones, *copper
And in a glass he hadde pigge's bones.
But with these relics, whenne that he fond
A poore parson dwelling upon lond,
Upon a day he got him more money
Than that the parson got in moneths tway;
And thus with feigned flattering and japes*, *jests
He made the parson and the people his apes.
But truely to tellen at the last,
He was in church a noble ecclesiast.
Well could he read a lesson or a story,
But alderbest* he sang an offertory: *best of all
For well he wiste, when that song was sung,
He muste preach, and well afile* his tongue, *polish
To winne silver, as he right well could:
Therefore he sang full merrily and loud.

Now have I told you shortly in a clause
Th' estate, th' array, the number, and eke the cause
Why that assembled was this company
In Southwark at this gentle hostelry,
That highte the Tabard, fast by the Bell.<59>
But now is time to you for to tell
*How that we baren us that ilke night*, *what we did that same night*
When we were in that hostelry alight.
And after will I tell of our voyage,
And all the remnant of our pilgrimage.
But first I pray you of your courtesy,
That ye *arette it not my villainy*, *count it not rudeness in me*
Though that I plainly speak in this mattere.
To tellen you their wordes and their cheer;
Not though I speak their wordes properly.
For this ye knowen all so well as I,
Whoso shall tell a tale after a man,
He must rehearse, as nigh as ever he can,
Every word, if it be in his charge,
*All speak he* ne'er so rudely and so large; *let him speak*
Or elles he must tell his tale untrue,
Or feigne things, or finde wordes new.
He may not spare, although he were his brother;
He must as well say one word as another.
Christ spake Himself full broad in Holy Writ,
And well ye wot no villainy is it.
Eke Plato saith, whoso that can him read,
The wordes must be cousin to the deed.
Also I pray you to forgive it me,
*All have I* not set folk in their degree, *although I have*
Here in this tale, as that they shoulden stand:
My wit is short, ye may well understand.

Great cheere made our Host us every one,
And to the supper set he us anon:
And served us with victual of the best.
Strong was the wine, and well to drink us lest*. *pleased
A seemly man Our Hoste was withal
For to have been a marshal in an hall.
A large man he was with eyen steep*, *deep-set.
A fairer burgess is there none in Cheap<60>:
Bold of his speech, and wise and well y-taught,
And of manhoode lacked him right naught.
Eke thereto was he right a merry man,
And after supper playen he began,
And spake of mirth amonges other things,
When that we hadde made our reckonings;
And saide thus; "Now, lordinges, truly
Ye be to me welcome right heartily:
For by my troth, if that I shall not lie,
I saw not this year such a company
At once in this herberow*, am is now. *inn <61>
Fain would I do you mirth, an* I wist* how. *if I knew*
And of a mirth I am right now bethought.
To do you ease*, and it shall coste nought. *pleasure
Ye go to Canterbury; God you speed,
The blissful Martyr *quite you your meed*; *grant you what
And well I wot, as ye go by the way, you deserve*
Ye *shapen you* to talken and to play: *intend to*
For truely comfort nor mirth is none
To ride by the way as dumb as stone:
And therefore would I make you disport,
As I said erst, and do you some comfort.
And if you liketh all by one assent
Now for to standen at my judgement,
And for to worken as I shall you say
To-morrow, when ye riden on the way,
Now by my father's soule that is dead,
*But ye be merry, smiteth off* mine head. *unless you are merry,
Hold up your hands withoute more speech. smite off my head*

Our counsel was not longe for to seech*: *seek
Us thought it was not worth to *make it wise*, *discuss it at length*
And granted him withoute more avise*, *consideration
And bade him say his verdict, as him lest.
Lordings (quoth he), now hearken for the best;
But take it not, I pray you, in disdain;
This is the point, to speak it plat* and plain. *flat
That each of you, to shorten with your way
In this voyage, shall tellen tales tway,
To Canterbury-ward, I mean it so,
And homeward he shall tellen other two,
Of aventures that whilom have befall.
And which of you that bear'th him best of all,
That is to say, that telleth in this case
Tales of best sentence and most solace,
Shall have a supper *at your aller cost* *at the cost of you all*
Here in this place, sitting by this post,
When that ye come again from Canterbury.
And for to make you the more merry,
I will myselfe gladly with you ride,
Right at mine owen cost, and be your guide.
And whoso will my judgement withsay,
Shall pay for all we spenden by the way.
And if ye vouchesafe that it be so,
Tell me anon withoute wordes mo'*, *more
And I will early shape me therefore."

This thing was granted, and our oath we swore
With full glad heart, and prayed him also,
That he would vouchesafe for to do so,
And that he woulde be our governour,
And of our tales judge and reportour,
And set a supper at a certain price;
And we will ruled be at his device,
In high and low: and thus by one assent,
We be accorded to his judgement.
And thereupon the wine was fet* anon. *fetched.
We drunken, and to reste went each one,
Withouten any longer tarrying
A-morrow, when the day began to spring,
Up rose our host, and was *our aller cock*, *the cock to wake us all*
And gather'd us together in a flock,
And forth we ridden all a little space,
Unto the watering of Saint Thomas<62>:
And there our host began his horse arrest,
And saide; "Lordes, hearken if you lest.
Ye *weet your forword,* and I it record. *know your promise*
If even-song and morning-song accord,
Let see now who shall telle the first tale.
As ever may I drinke wine or ale,
Whoso is rebel to my judgement,
Shall pay for all that by the way is spent.
Now draw ye cuts*, ere that ye farther twin**. *lots **go
He which that hath the shortest shall begin."

"Sir Knight (quoth he), my master and my lord,
Now draw the cut, for that is mine accord.
Come near (quoth he), my Lady Prioress,
And ye, Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness,
Nor study not: lay hand to, every man."
Anon to drawen every wight began,
And shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by a venture, or sort*, or cas**, *lot **chance
The sooth is this, the cut fell to the Knight,
Of which full blithe and glad was every wight;
And tell he must his tale as was reason,
By forword, and by composition,
As ye have heard; what needeth wordes mo'?
And when this good man saw that it was so,
As he that wise was and obedient
To keep his forword by his free assent,
He said; "Sithen* I shall begin this game, *since
Why, welcome be the cut in Godde's name.
Now let us ride, and hearken what I say."
And with that word we ridden forth our way;
And he began with right a merry cheer
His tale anon, and said as ye shall hear.



Notes to the Prologue


1. Tyrwhitt points out that "the Bull" should be read here, not
"the Ram," which would place the time of the pilgrimage in the
end of March; whereas, in the Prologue to the Man of Law's
Tale, the date is given as the "eight and twenty day of April,
that is messenger to May."

2. Dante, in the "Vita Nuova," distinguishes three classes of
pilgrims: palmieri - palmers who go beyond sea to the East,
and often bring back staves of palm-wood; peregrini, who go
the shrine of St Jago in Galicia; Romei, who go to Rome. Sir
Walter Scott, however, says that palmers were in the habit of
passing from shrine to shrine, living on charity -- pilgrims on the
other hand, made the journey to any shrine only once,
immediately returning to their ordinary avocations. Chaucer
uses "palmer" of all pilgrims.

3. "Hallows" survives, in the meaning here given, in All Hallows
-- All-Saints -- day. "Couth," past participle of "conne" to
know, exists in "uncouth."

4. The Tabard -- the sign of the inn -- was a sleeveless coat,
worn by heralds. The name of the inn was, some three
centuries after Chaucer, changed to the Talbot.

5. In y-fall," "y" is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon "ge"
prefixed to participles of verbs. It is used by Chaucer merely to
help the metre In German, "y-fall," or y-falle," would be
"gefallen", "y-run," or "y-ronne", would be "geronnen."

6. Alisandre: Alexandria, in Egypt, captured by Pierre de
Lusignan, king of Cyprus, in 1365 but abandoned immediately
afterwards. Thirteen years before, the same Prince had taken
Satalie, the ancient Attalia, in Anatolia, and in 1367 he won
Layas, in Armenia, both places named just below.

7. The knight had been placed at the head of the table, above
knights of all nations, in Prussia, whither warriors from all
countries were wont to repair, to aid the Teutonic Order in their
continual conflicts with their heathen neighbours in "Lettowe"
or Lithuania (German. "Litthauen"), Russia, &c.

8. Algesiras was taken from the Moorish king of Grenada, in
1344: the Earls of Derby and Salisbury took part in the siege.
Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in Africa;
but "Palmyrie" has been suggested as the correct reading. The
Great Sea, or the Greek sea, is the Eastern Mediterranean.
Tramissene, or Tremessen, is enumerated by Froissart among
the Moorish kingdoms in Africa. Palatie, or Palathia, in
Anatolia, was a fief held by the Christian knights after the
Turkish conquests -- the holders paying tribute to the infidel.
Our knight had fought with one of those lords against a heathen
neighbour.

9. Ilke: same; compare the Scottish phrase "of that ilk," --
that is, of the estate which bears the same name as its owner's
title.

10. It was the custom for squires of the highest degree to carve
at their fathers' tables.

11. Peacock Arrows: Large arrows, with peacocks' feathers.

12. A nut-head: With nut-brown hair; or, round like a nut, the
hair being cut short.

13. Grey eyes appear to have been a mark of female beauty in
Chaucer's time.

14. "for the mastery" was applied to medicines in the sense of
"sovereign" as we now apply it to a remedy.

15. It was fashionable to hang bells on horses' bridles.

16. St. Benedict was the first founder of a spiritual order in the
Roman church. Maurus, abbot of Fulda from 822 to 842, did
much to re-establish the discipline of the Benedictines on a true
Christian basis.

17. Wood: Mad, Scottish "wud". Felix says to Paul, "Too
much learning hath made thee mad".

18. Limitour: A friar with licence or privilege to beg, or
exercise other functions, within a certain district: as, "the
limitour of Holderness".

19. Farme: rent; that is, he paid a premium for his licence to
beg.

20. In principio: the first words of Genesis and John, employed
in some part of the mass.

21. Lovedays: meetings appointed for friendly settlement of
differences; the business was often followed by sports and
feasting.

22. He would the sea were kept for any thing: he would for
anything that the sea were guarded. "The old subsidy of
tonnage and poundage," says Tyrwhitt, "was given to the king
'pour la saufgarde et custodie del mer.' -- for the safeguard and
keeping of the sea" (12 E. IV. C.3).

23. Middleburg, at the mouth of the Scheldt, in Holland;
Orwell, a seaport in Essex.

24. Shields: Crowns, so called from the shields stamped on
them; French, "ecu;" Italian, "scudo."

25. Poor scholars at the universities used then to go about 
begging for money to maintain them and their studies.

26. Parvis: The portico of St. Paul's, which lawyers frequented
to meet their clients.

27. St Julian: The patron saint of hospitality, celebrated for
supplying his votaries with good lodging and good cheer.

28. Mew: cage. The place behind Whitehall, where the king's
hawks were caged was called the Mews.

29. Many a luce in stew: many a pike in his fish-pond; in those
Catholic days, when much fish was eaten, no gentleman's
mansion was complete without a "stew".

30. Countour: Probably a steward or accountant in the county
court.

31. Vavasour: A landholder of consequence; holding of a duke,
marquis, or earl, and ranking below a baron.

32. On the dais: On the raised platform at the end of the hall,
where sat at meat or in judgement those high in authority, rank
or honour; in our days the worthy craftsmen might have been
described as "good platform men".

33. To take precedence over all in going to the evening service
of the Church, or to festival meetings, to which it was the
fashion to carry rich cloaks or mantles against the home-
coming.

34. The things the cook could make: "marchand tart", some
now unknown ingredient used in cookery; "galingale," sweet or
long rooted cyprus; "mortrewes", a rich soup made by stamping
flesh in a mortar; "Blanc manger", not what is now called
blancmange; one part of it was the brawn of a capon.

35. Lodemanage: pilotage, from Anglo-Saxon "ladman," a
leader, guide, or pilot; hence "lodestar," "lodestone."

36. The authors mentioned here were the chief medical text-
books of the middle ages. The names of Galen and Hippocrates
were then usually spelt "Gallien" and "Hypocras" or "Ypocras".

37. The west of England, especially around Bath, was the seat
of the cloth-manufacture, as were Ypres and Ghent (Gaunt) in
Flanders.

38. Chaucer here satirises the fashion of the time, which piled
bulky and heavy waddings on ladies' heads.

39. Moist; here used in the sense of "new", as in Latin,
"mustum" signifies new wine; and elsewhere Chaucer speaks of
"moisty ale", as opposed to "old".

40. In Galice at Saint James: at the shrine of St Jago of
Compostella in Spain.

41. Gat-toothed: Buck-toothed; goat-toothed, to signify her
wantonness; or gap-toothed -- with gaps between her teeth.

42. An endowment to sing masses for the soul of the donor.

43. A ram was the usual prize at wrestling matches.

44. Cop: Head; German, "Kopf".

45. Nose-thirles: nostrils; from the Anglo-Saxon, "thirlian," to
pierce; hence the word "drill," to bore.

46. Goliardais: a babbler and a buffoon; Golias was the founder
of a jovial sect called by his name.

47. The proverb says that every honest miller has a thumb of
gold; probably Chaucer means that this one was as honest as his
brethren.

48. A Manciple -- Latin, "manceps," a purchaser or contractor -
- was an officer charged with the purchase of victuals for inns
of court or colleges.

49. Reeve: A land-steward; still called "grieve" -- Anglo-Saxon,
"gerefa" in some parts of Scotland.

50. Sompnour: summoner; an apparitor, who cited delinquents
to appear in ecclesiastical courts.

51. Questio quid juris: "I ask which law (applies)"; a cant law-
Latin phrase.

52 Harlot: a low, ribald fellow; the word was used of both
sexes; it comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb to hire.

53. Significavit: an ecclesiastical writ.

54. Within his jurisdiction he had at his own pleasure the young
people (of both sexes) in the diocese.

55. Pardoner: a seller of pardons or indulgences.

56. Newe get: new gait, or fashion; "gait" is still used in this
sense in some parts of the country.

57. Vernicle: an image of Christ; so called from St Veronica,
who gave the Saviour a napkin to wipe the sweat from His face
as He bore the Cross, and received it back with an impression
of His countenance upon it.

58. Mail: packet, baggage; French, "malle," a trunk.

59. The Bell: apparently another Southwark tavern; Stowe
mentions a "Bull" as being near the Tabard.

60. Cheap: Cheapside, then inhabited by the richest and most
prosperous citizens of London.

61. Herberow: Lodging, inn; French, "Herberge."

62. The watering of Saint Thomas: At the second milestone on
the old Canterbury road.      


by Geoffrey Chaucer |

The Wife of Baths Tale

 THE PROLOGUE. 1


Experience, though none authority* *authoritative texts
Were in this world, is right enough for me
To speak of woe that is in marriage:
For, lordings, since I twelve year was of age,
(Thanked be God that *is etern on live),* *lives eternally*
Husbands at the church door have I had five,2
For I so often have y-wedded be,
And all were worthy men in their degree.
But me was told, not longe time gone is
That sithen* Christe went never but ones *since
To wedding, in the Cane* of Galilee, *Cana
That by that ilk* example taught he me, *same
That I not wedded shoulde be but once.
Lo, hearken eke a sharp word for the nonce,* *occasion
Beside a welle Jesus, God and man,
Spake in reproof of the Samaritan:
"Thou hast y-had five husbandes," said he;
"And thilke* man, that now hath wedded thee, *that
Is not thine husband:" 3 thus said he certain;
What that he meant thereby, I cannot sayn.
But that I aske, why the fifthe man
Was not husband to the Samaritan?
How many might she have in marriage?
Yet heard I never tellen *in mine age* *in my life*
Upon this number definitioun.
Men may divine, and glosen* up and down; *comment
But well I wot, express without a lie,
God bade us for to wax and multiply;
That gentle text can I well understand.
Eke well I wot, he said, that mine husband
Should leave father and mother, and take to me;
But of no number mention made he,
Of bigamy or of octogamy;
Why then should men speak of it villainy?* *as if it were a disgrace

Lo here, the wise king Dan* Solomon, *Lord 4
I trow that he had wives more than one;
As would to God it lawful were to me
To be refreshed half so oft as he!
What gift* of God had he for all his wives? *special favour, licence
No man hath such, that in this world alive is.
God wot, this noble king, *as to my wit,* *as I understand*
The first night had many a merry fit
With each of them, so *well was him on live.* *so well he lived*
Blessed be God that I have wedded five!
Welcome the sixth whenever that he shall.
For since I will not keep me chaste in all,
When mine husband is from the world y-gone,
Some Christian man shall wedde me anon.
For then th' apostle saith that I am free
To wed, *a' God's half,* where it liketh me. *on God's part*
He saith, that to be wedded is no sin;
Better is to be wedded than to brin.* *burn
What recketh* me though folk say villainy** *care **evil
Of shrewed* Lamech, and his bigamy? *impious, wicked
I wot well Abraham was a holy man,
And Jacob eke, as far as ev'r I can.* *know
And each of them had wives more than two;
And many another holy man also.
Where can ye see, *in any manner age,* *in any period*
That highe God defended* marriage *forbade 5
By word express? I pray you tell it me;
Or where commanded he virginity?
I wot as well as you, it is no dread,* *doubt
Th' apostle, when he spake of maidenhead,
He said, that precept thereof had he none:
Men may counsel a woman to be one,* *a maid
But counseling is no commandement;
He put it in our owen judgement.
For, hadde God commanded maidenhead,
Then had he damned* wedding out of dread;** *condemned **doubt
And certes, if there were no seed y-sow,* *sown
Virginity then whereof should it grow?
Paul durste not commanden, at the least,
A thing of which his Master gave no hest.* *command
The dart* is set up for virginity; *goal 6
Catch whoso may, who runneth best let see.
But this word is not ta'en of every wight,
*But there as* God will give it of his might. *except where*
I wot well that th' apostle was a maid,
But natheless, although he wrote and said,
He would that every wight were such as he,
All is but counsel to virginity.
And, since to be a wife he gave me leave
Of indulgence, so is it no repreve* *scandal, reproach
To wedde me, if that my make* should die, *mate, husband
Without exception* of bigamy; *charge, reproach
*All were it* good no woman for to touch *though it might be*
(He meant as in his bed or in his couch),
For peril is both fire and tow t'assemble
Ye know what this example may resemble.
This is all and some, he held virginity
More profit than wedding in frailty:
(*Frailty clepe I, but if* that he and she *frailty I call it,
Would lead their lives all in chastity), unless*
I grant it well, I have of none envy
Who maidenhead prefer to bigamy;
It liketh them t' be clean in body and ghost;* *soul
Of mine estate* I will not make a boast. *condition

For, well ye know, a lord in his household
Hath not every vessel all of gold; 7
Some are of tree, and do their lord service.
God calleth folk to him in sundry wise,
And each one hath of God a proper gift,
Some this, some that, as liketh him to shift.* *appoint, distribute
Virginity is great perfection,
And continence eke with devotion:
But Christ, that of perfection is the well,* *fountain
Bade not every wight he should go sell
All that he had, and give it to the poor,
And in such wise follow him and his lore:* *doctrine
He spake to them that would live perfectly, --
And, lordings, by your leave, that am not I;
I will bestow the flower of mine age
In th' acts and in the fruits of marriage.
Tell me also, to what conclusion* *end, purpose
Were members made of generation,
And of so perfect wise a wight* y-wrought? *being
Trust me right well, they were not made for nought.
Glose whoso will, and say both up and down,
That they were made for the purgatioun
Of urine, and of other thinges smale,
And eke to know a female from a male:
And for none other cause? say ye no?
Experience wot well it is not so.
So that the clerkes* be not with me wroth, *scholars
I say this, that they were made for both,
That is to say, *for office, and for ease* *for duty and
Of engendrure, there we God not displease. for pleasure*
Why should men elles in their bookes set,
That man shall yield unto his wife her debt?
Now wherewith should he make his payement,
If he us'd not his silly instrument?
Then were they made upon a creature
To purge urine, and eke for engendrure.
But I say not that every wight is hold,* *obliged
That hath such harness* as I to you told, *equipment
To go and use them in engendrure;
Then should men take of chastity no cure.* *care
Christ was a maid, and shapen* as a man, *fashioned
And many a saint, since that this world began,
Yet ever liv'd in perfect chastity.
I will not vie* with no virginity. *contend
Let them with bread of pured* wheat be fed, *purified
And let us wives eat our barley bread.
And yet with barley bread, Mark tell us can,8
Our Lord Jesus refreshed many a man.
In such estate as God hath *cleped us,* *called us to
I'll persevere, I am not precious,* *over-dainty
In wifehood I will use mine instrument
As freely as my Maker hath it sent.
If I be dangerous* God give me sorrow; *sparing of my favours
Mine husband shall it have, both eve and morrow,
When that him list come forth and pay his debt.
A husband will I have, I *will no let,* *will bear no hindrance*
Which shall be both my debtor and my thrall,* *slave
And have his tribulation withal
Upon his flesh, while that I am his wife.
I have the power during all my life
Upon his proper body, and not he;
Right thus th' apostle told it unto me,
And bade our husbands for to love us well;
All this sentence me liketh every deal.* *whit

Up start the Pardoner, and that anon;
"Now, Dame," quoth he, "by God and by Saint John,
Ye are a noble preacher in this case.
I was about to wed a wife, alas!
What? should I bie* it on my flesh so dear? *suffer for
Yet had I lever* wed no wife this year." *rather
"Abide,"* quoth she; "my tale is not begun *wait in patience
Nay, thou shalt drinken of another tun
Ere that I go, shall savour worse than ale.
And when that I have told thee forth my tale
Of tribulation in marriage,
Of which I am expert in all mine age,
(This is to say, myself hath been the whip),
Then mayest thou choose whether thou wilt sip
Of *thilke tunne,* that I now shall broach. *that tun*
Beware of it, ere thou too nigh approach,
For I shall tell examples more than ten:
Whoso will not beware by other men,
By him shall other men corrected be:
These same wordes writeth Ptolemy;
Read in his Almagest, and take it there."
"Dame, I would pray you, if your will it were,"
Saide this Pardoner, "as ye began,
Tell forth your tale, and spare for no man,
And teach us younge men of your practique."
"Gladly," quoth she, "since that it may you like.
But that I pray to all this company,
If that I speak after my fantasy,
To take nought agrief* what I may say; *to heart
For mine intent is only for to play.

Now, Sirs, then will I tell you forth my tale.
As ever may I drinke wine or ale
I shall say sooth; the husbands that I had
Three of them were good, and two were bad
The three were goode men, and rich, and old
*Unnethes mighte they the statute hold* *they could with difficulty
In which that they were bounden unto me. obey the law*
Yet wot well what I mean of this, pardie.* *by God
As God me help, I laugh when that I think
How piteously at night I made them swink,* *labour
But, *by my fay, I told of it no store:* *by my faith, I held it
They had me giv'n their land and their treasor, of no account*
Me needed not do longer diligence
To win their love, or do them reverence.
They loved me so well, by God above,
That I *tolde no dainty* of their love. *cared nothing for*
A wise woman will busy her ever-in-one* *constantly
To get their love, where that she hath none.
But, since I had them wholly in my hand,
And that they had me given all their land,
Why should I take keep* them for to please, *care
But* it were for my profit, or mine ease? *unless
I set them so a-worke, by my fay,
That many a night they sange, well-away!
The bacon was not fetched for them, I trow,
That some men have in Essex at Dunmow.9
I govern'd them so well after my law,
That each of them full blissful was and fawe* *fain
To bringe me gay thinges from the fair.
They were full glad when that I spake them fair,
For, God it wot, I *chid them spiteously.* *rebuked them angrily*
Now hearken how I bare me properly.

Ye wise wives, that can understand,
Thus should ye speak, and *bear them wrong on hand,* *make them
For half so boldely can there no man believe falsely*
Swearen and lien as a woman can.
(I say not this by wives that be wise,
*But if* it be when they them misadvise.)* *unless* *act unadvisedly
A wise wife, if that she can* her good, *knows
Shall *beare them on hand* the cow is wood, *make them believe*
And take witness of her owen maid
Of their assent: but hearken how I said.
"Sir olde kaynard,10 is this thine array?
Why is my neigheboure's wife so gay?
She is honour'd *over all where* she go'th, *wheresoever
I sit at home, I have no *thrifty cloth.* *good clothes*
What dost thou at my neigheboure's house?
Is she so fair? art thou so amorous?
What rown'st* thou with our maid? benedicite, *whisperest
Sir olde lechour, let thy japes* be. *tricks
And if I have a gossip, or a friend
(Withoute guilt), thou chidest as a fiend,
If that I walk or play unto his house.
Thou comest home as drunken as a mouse,
And preachest on thy bench, with evil prefe:* *proof
Thou say'st to me, it is a great mischief
To wed a poore woman, for costage:* *expense
And if that she be rich, of high parage;* * birth 11
Then say'st thou, that it is a tormentry
To suffer her pride and melancholy.
And if that she be fair, thou very knave,
Thou say'st that every holour* will her have; *whoremonger
She may no while in chastity abide,
That is assailed upon every side.
Thou say'st some folk desire us for richess,
Some for our shape, and some for our fairness,
And some, for she can either sing or dance,
And some for gentiless and dalliance,
Some for her handes and her armes smale:
Thus goes all to the devil, by thy tale;
Thou say'st, men may not keep a castle wall
That may be so assailed *over all.* *everywhere*
And if that she be foul, thou say'st that she
Coveteth every man that she may see;
For as a spaniel she will on him leap,
Till she may finde some man her to cheap;* *buy
And none so grey goose goes there in the lake,
(So say'st thou) that will be without a make.* *mate
And say'st, it is a hard thing for to weld *wield, govern
A thing that no man will, *his thankes, held.* *hold with his goodwill*
Thus say'st thou, lorel,* when thou go'st to bed, *good-for-nothing
And that no wise man needeth for to wed,
Nor no man that intendeth unto heaven.
With wilde thunder dint* and fiery leven** * stroke **lightning
Mote* thy wicked necke be to-broke. *may
Thou say'st, that dropping houses, and eke smoke,
And chiding wives, make men to flee
Out of their owne house; ah! ben'dicite,
What aileth such an old man for to chide?
Thou say'st, we wives will our vices hide,
Till we be fast,* and then we will them shew. *wedded
Well may that be a proverb of a shrew.* *ill-tempered wretch
Thou say'st, that oxen, asses, horses, hounds,
They be *assayed at diverse stounds,* *tested at various
Basons and lavers, ere that men them buy, seasons
Spoones, stooles, and all such husbandry,
And so be pots, and clothes, and array,* *raiment
But folk of wives make none assay,
Till they be wedded, -- olde dotard shrew! --
And then, say'st thou, we will our vices shew.
Thou say'st also, that it displeaseth me,
But if * that thou wilt praise my beauty, *unless
And but* thou pore alway upon my face, *unless
And call me faire dame in every place;
And but* thou make a feast on thilke** day *unless **that
That I was born, and make me fresh and gay;
And but thou do to my norice* honour, *nurse 12
And to my chamberere* within my bow'r, *chamber-maid
And to my father's folk, and mine allies;* *relations
Thus sayest thou, old barrel full of lies.
And yet also of our prentice Jenkin,
For his crisp hair, shining as gold so fine,
And for he squireth me both up and down,
Yet hast thou caught a false suspicioun:
I will him not, though thou wert dead to-morrow.
But tell me this, why hidest thou, *with sorrow,* *sorrow on thee!*
The keyes of thy chest away from me?
It is my good* as well as thine, pardie. *property
What, think'st to make an idiot of our dame?
Now, by that lord that called is Saint Jame,
Thou shalt not both, although that thou wert wood,* *furious
Be master of my body, and my good,* *property
The one thou shalt forego, maugre* thine eyen. *in spite of
What helpeth it of me t'inquire and spyen?
I trow thou wouldest lock me in thy chest.
Thou shouldest say, 'Fair wife, go where thee lest;
Take your disport; I will believe no tales;
I know you for a true wife, Dame Ales.'* *Alice
We love no man, that taketh keep* or charge *care
Where that we go; we will be at our large.
Of alle men most blessed may he be,
The wise astrologer Dan* Ptolemy, *Lord
That saith this proverb in his Almagest:13
'Of alle men his wisdom is highest,
That recketh not who hath the world in hand.
By this proverb thou shalt well understand,
Have thou enough, what thar* thee reck or care *needs, behoves
How merrily that other folkes fare?
For certes, olde dotard, by your leave,
Ye shall have [pleasure] 14 right enough at eve.
He is too great a niggard that will werne* *forbid
A man to light a candle at his lantern;
He shall have never the less light, pardie.
Have thou enough, thee thar* not plaine** thee *need **complain
Thou say'st also, if that we make us gay
With clothing and with precious array,
That it is peril of our chastity.
And yet, -- with sorrow! -- thou enforcest thee,
And say'st these words in the apostle's name:
'In habit made with chastity and shame* *modesty
Ye women shall apparel you,' quoth he,15
'And not in tressed hair and gay perrie,* *jewels
As pearles, nor with gold, nor clothes rich.'
After thy text nor after thy rubrich
I will not work as muchel as a gnat.
Thou say'st also, I walk out like a cat;
For whoso woulde singe the catte's skin
Then will the catte well dwell in her inn;* *house
And if the catte's skin be sleek and gay,
She will not dwell in house half a day,
But forth she will, ere any day be daw'd,
To shew her skin, and go a caterwaw'd.* *caterwauling
This is to say, if I be gay, sir shrew,
I will run out, my borel* for to shew. *apparel, fine clothes
Sir olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen?
Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyen
To be my wardecorps,* as he can best *body-guard
In faith he shall not keep me, *but me lest:* *unless I please*
Yet could I *make his beard,* so may I the. *make a jest of him*

"Thou sayest eke, that there be thinges three, *thrive
Which thinges greatly trouble all this earth,
And that no wighte may endure the ferth:* *fourth
O lefe* sir shrew, may Jesus short** thy life. *pleasant **shorten
Yet preachest thou, and say'st, a hateful wife
Y-reckon'd is for one of these mischances.
Be there *none other manner resemblances* *no other kind of
That ye may liken your parables unto, comparison*
But if a silly wife be one of tho?* *those
Thou likenest a woman's love to hell;
To barren land where water may not dwell.
Thou likenest it also to wild fire;
The more it burns, the more it hath desire
To consume every thing that burnt will be.
Thou sayest, right as wormes shend* a tree, *destroy
Right so a wife destroyeth her husbond;
This know they well that be to wives bond."

Lordings, right thus, as ye have understand,
*Bare I stiffly mine old husbands on hand,* *made them believe*
That thus they saiden in their drunkenness;
And all was false, but that I took witness
On Jenkin, and upon my niece also.
O Lord! the pain I did them, and the woe,
'Full guilteless, by Godde's sweete pine;* *pain
For as a horse I coulde bite and whine;
I coulde plain,* an'** I was in the guilt, *complain **even though
Or elles oftentime I had been spilt* *ruined
Whoso first cometh to the nilll, first grint;* *is ground
I plained first, so was our war y-stint.* *stopped
They were full glad to excuse them full blive* *quickly
Of things that they never *aguilt their live.* *were guilty in their
 lives*
Of wenches would I *beare them on hand,* *falsely accuse them*
When that for sickness scarcely might they stand,
Yet tickled I his hearte for that he
Ween'd* that I had of him so great cherte:** *though **affection16
I swore that all my walking out by night
Was for to espy wenches that he dight:* *adorned
Under that colour had I many a mirth.
For all such wit is given us at birth;
Deceit, weeping, and spinning, God doth give
To women kindly, while that they may live. *naturally
And thus of one thing I may vaunte me,
At th' end I had the better in each degree,
By sleight, or force, or by some manner thing,
As by continual murmur or grudging,* *complaining
Namely* a-bed, there hadde they mischance, *especially
There would I chide, and do them no pleasance:
I would no longer in the bed abide,
If that I felt his arm over my side,
Till he had made his ransom unto me,
Then would I suffer him do his nicety.* *folly 17
And therefore every man this tale I tell,
Win whoso may, for all is for to sell;
With empty hand men may no hawkes lure;
For winning would I all his will endure,
And make me a feigned appetite,
And yet in bacon* had I never delight: *i.e. of Dunmow 9
That made me that I ever would them chide.
For, though the Pope had sitten them beside,
I would not spare them at their owen board,
For, by my troth, I quit* them word for word *repaid
As help me very God omnipotent,
Though I right now should make my testament
I owe them not a word, that is not quit* *repaid
I brought it so aboute by my wit,
That they must give it up, as for the best
Or elles had we never been in rest.
For, though he looked as a wood* lion, *furious
Yet should he fail of his conclusion.
Then would I say, "Now, goode lefe* tak keep** *dear **heed
How meekly looketh Wilken oure sheep!
Come near, my spouse, and let me ba* thy cheek *kiss 18
Ye shoulde be all patient and meek,
And have a *sweet y-spiced* conscience, *tender, nice*
Since ye so preach of Jobe's patience.
Suffer alway, since ye so well can preach,
And but* ye do, certain we shall you teach* *unless
That it is fair to have a wife in peace.
One of us two must bowe* doubteless: *give way
And since a man is more reasonable
Than woman is, ye must be suff'rable.
What aileth you to grudge* thus and groan? *complain
Is it for ye would have my [love] 14 alone?
Why, take it all: lo, have it every deal,* *whit
Peter! 19 shrew* you but ye love it well *curse
For if I woulde sell my *belle chose*, *beautiful thing*
I coulde walk as fresh as is a rose,
But I will keep it for your owen tooth.
Ye be to blame, by God, I say you sooth."
Such manner wordes hadde we on hand.

Now will I speaken of my fourth husband.
My fourthe husband was a revellour;
This is to say, he had a paramour,
And I was young and full of ragerie,* *wantonness
Stubborn and strong, and jolly as a pie.* *magpie
Then could I dance to a harpe smale,
And sing, y-wis,* as any nightingale, *certainly
When I had drunk a draught of sweete wine.
Metellius, the foule churl, the swine,
That with a staff bereft his wife of life
For she drank wine, though I had been his wife,
Never should he have daunted me from drink:
And, after wine, of Venus most I think.
For all so sure as cold engenders hail,
A liquorish mouth must have a liquorish tail.
In woman vinolent* is no defence,** *full of wine *resistance
This knowe lechours by experience.
But, lord Christ, when that it rememb'reth me
Upon my youth, and on my jollity,
It tickleth me about mine hearte-root;
Unto this day it doth mine hearte boot,* *good
That I have had my world as in my time.
But age, alas! that all will envenime,* *poison, embitter
Hath me bereft my beauty and my pith:* *vigour
Let go; farewell; the devil go therewith.
The flour is gon, there is no more to tell,
The bran, as I best may, now must I sell.
But yet to be right merry will I fand.* *try
Now forth to tell you of my fourth husband,
I say, I in my heart had great despite,
That he of any other had delight;
But he was quit,* by God and by Saint Joce:21 *requited, paid back
I made for him of the same wood a cross;
Not of my body in no foul mannere,
But certainly I made folk such cheer,
That in his owen grease I made him fry
For anger, and for very jealousy.
By God, in earth I was his purgatory,
For which I hope his soul may be in glory.
For, God it wot, he sat full oft and sung,
When that his shoe full bitterly him wrung.* *pinched
There was no wight, save God and he, that wist
In many wise how sore I did him twist.20
He died when I came from Jerusalem,
And lies in grave under the *roode beam:* *cross*
Although his tomb is not so curious
As was the sepulchre of Darius,
Which that Apelles wrought so subtlely.
It is but waste to bury them preciously.
Let him fare well, God give his soule rest,
He is now in his grave and in his chest.

Now of my fifthe husband will I tell:
God let his soul never come into hell.
And yet was he to me the moste shrew;* *cruel, ill-tempered
That feel I on my ribbes all *by rew,* *in a row
And ever shall, until mine ending day.
But in our bed he was so fresh and gay,
And therewithal so well he could me glose,* *flatter
When that he woulde have my belle chose,
Though he had beaten me on every bone,
Yet could he win again my love anon.
I trow, I lov'd him better, for that he
Was of his love so dangerous* to me. *sparing, difficult
We women have, if that I shall not lie,
In this matter a quainte fantasy.
Whatever thing we may not lightly have,
Thereafter will we cry all day and crave.
Forbid us thing, and that desire we;
Press on us fast, and thenne will we flee.
With danger* utter we all our chaffare;** *difficulty **merchandise
Great press at market maketh deare ware,
And too great cheap is held at little price;
This knoweth every woman that is wise.
My fifthe husband, God his soule bless,
Which that I took for love and no richess,
He some time was *a clerk of Oxenford,* *a scholar of Oxford*
And had left school, and went at home to board
With my gossip,* dwelling in oure town: *godmother
God have her soul, her name was Alisoun.
She knew my heart, and all my privity,
Bet than our parish priest, so may I the.* *thrive
To her betrayed I my counsel all;
For had my husband pissed on a wall,
Or done a thing that should have cost his life,
To her, and to another worthy wife,
And to my niece, which that I loved well,
I would have told his counsel every deal.* *jot
And so I did full often, God it wot,
That made his face full often red and hot
For very shame, and blam'd himself, for he
Had told to me so great a privity.* *secret
And so befell that ones in a Lent
(So oftentimes I to my gossip went,
For ever yet I loved to be gay,
And for to walk in March, April, and May
From house to house, to heare sundry tales),
That Jenkin clerk, and my gossip, Dame Ales,
And I myself, into the fieldes went.
Mine husband was at London all that Lent;
I had the better leisure for to play,
And for to see, and eke for to be sey* *seen
Of lusty folk; what wist I where my grace* *favour
Was shapen for to be, or in what place? *appointed
Therefore made I my visitations
To vigilies,* and to processions, *festival-eves22
To preachings eke, and to these pilgrimages,
To plays of miracles, and marriages,
And weared upon me gay scarlet gites.* *gowns
These wormes, nor these mothes, nor these mites
On my apparel frett* them never a deal** *fed **whit
And know'st thou why? for they were used* well. *worn
Now will I telle forth what happen'd me:
I say, that in the fieldes walked we,
Till truely we had such dalliance,
This clerk and I, that of my purveyance* *foresight
I spake to him, and told him how that he,
If I were widow, shoulde wedde me.
For certainly, I say for no bobance,* *boasting23
Yet was I never without purveyance* *foresight
Of marriage, nor of other thinges eke:
I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leek,
That hath but one hole for to starte* to,24 *escape
And if that faile, then is all y-do.* *done
[*I bare him on hand* he had enchanted me *falsely assured him*
(My dame taughte me that subtilty);
And eke I said, I mette* of him all night, *dreamed
He would have slain me, as I lay upright,
And all my bed was full of very blood;
But yet I hop'd that he should do me good;
For blood betoken'd gold, as me was taught.
And all was false, I dream'd of him right naught,
But as I follow'd aye my dame's lore,
As well of that as of other things more.] 25
But now, sir, let me see, what shall I sayn?
Aha! by God, I have my tale again.
When that my fourthe husband was on bier,
I wept algate* and made a sorry cheer,** *always **countenance
As wives must, for it is the usage;
And with my kerchief covered my visage;
But, for I was provided with a make,* *mate
I wept but little, that I undertake* *promise
To churche was mine husband borne a-morrow
With neighebours that for him made sorrow,
And Jenkin, oure clerk, was one of tho:* *those
As help me God, when that I saw him go
After the bier, methought he had a pair
Of legges and of feet so clean and fair,
That all my heart I gave unto his hold.* *keeping
He was, I trow, a twenty winter old,
And I was forty, if I shall say sooth,
But yet I had always a colte's tooth.
Gat-toothed* I was, and that became me well, *see note 26
I had the print of Sainte Venus' seal.
[As help me God, I was a lusty one,
And fair, and rich, and young, and *well begone:* *in a good way*
For certes I am all venerian* *under the influence of Venus
In feeling, and my heart is martian;* *under the influence of Mars
Venus me gave my lust and liquorishness,
And Mars gave me my sturdy hardiness.] 25
Mine ascendant was Taure,* and Mars therein: *Taurus
Alas, alas, that ever love was sin!
I follow'd aye mine inclination
By virtue of my constellation:
That made me that I coulde not withdraw
My chamber of Venus from a good fellaw.
[Yet have I Marte's mark upon my face,
And also in another privy place.
For God so wisly* be my salvation, *certainly
I loved never by discretion,
But ever follow'd mine own appetite,
All* were he short, or long, or black, or white, *whether
I took no keep,* so that he liked me, *heed
How poor he was, neither of what degree.] 25
What should I say? but that at the month's end
This jolly clerk Jenkin, that was so hend,* *courteous
Had wedded me with great solemnity,
And to him gave I all the land and fee
That ever was me given therebefore:
But afterward repented me full sore.
He woulde suffer nothing of my list.* *pleasure
By God, he smote me ones with his fist,
For that I rent out of his book a leaf,
That of the stroke mine eare wax'd all deaf.
Stubborn I was, as is a lioness,
And of my tongue a very jangleress,* *prater
And walk I would, as I had done beforn,
From house to house, although he had it sworn:* *had sworn to
For which he oftentimes woulde preach prevent it
And me of olde Roman gestes* teach *stories
How that Sulpitius Gallus left his wife
And her forsook for term of all his
For nought but open-headed* he her say** *bare-headed **saw
Looking out at his door upon a day.
Another Roman 27 told he me by name,
That, for his wife was at a summer game
Without his knowing, he forsook her eke.
And then would he upon his Bible seek
That ilke* proverb of Ecclesiast, *same
Where he commandeth, and forbiddeth fast,
Man shall not suffer his wife go roll about.
Then would he say right thus withoute doubt:
"Whoso that buildeth his house all of sallows,* *willows
And pricketh his blind horse over the fallows,
And suff'reth his wife to *go seeke hallows,* *make pilgrimages*
Is worthy to be hanged on the gallows."
But all for nought; I *sette not a haw* *cared nothing for*
Of his proverbs, nor of his olde saw;
Nor would I not of him corrected be.
I hate them that my vices telle me,
And so do more of us (God wot) than I.
This made him wood* with me all utterly; *furious
I woulde not forbear* him in no case. *endure
Now will I say you sooth, by Saint Thomas,
Why that I rent out of his book a leaf,
For which he smote me, so that I was deaf.
He had a book, that gladly night and day
For his disport he would it read alway;
He call'd it Valerie,28 and Theophrast,
And with that book he laugh'd alway full fast.
And eke there was a clerk sometime at Rome,
A cardinal, that highte Saint Jerome,
That made a book against Jovinian,
Which book was there; and eke Tertullian,
Chrysippus, Trotula, and Heloise,
That was an abbess not far from Paris;
And eke the Parables* of Solomon, *Proverbs
Ovide's Art, 29 and bourdes* many one; *jests
And alle these were bound in one volume.
And every night and day was his custume
(When he had leisure and vacation
From other worldly occupation)
To readen in this book of wicked wives.
He knew of them more legends and more lives
Than be of goodde wives in the Bible.
For, trust me well, it is an impossible
That any clerk will speake good of wives,
(*But if* it be of holy saintes' lives) *unless
Nor of none other woman never the mo'.
Who painted the lion, tell it me, who?
By God, if women haddde written stories,
As clerkes have within their oratories,
They would have writ of men more wickedness
Than all the mark of Adam 30 may redress
The children of Mercury and of Venus,31
Be in their working full contrarious.
Mercury loveth wisdom and science,
And Venus loveth riot and dispence.* *extravagance
And for their diverse disposition,
Each falls in other's exaltation.
As thus, God wot, Mercury is desolate
In Pisces, where Venus is exaltate,
And Venus falls where Mercury is raised. 32
Therefore no woman by no clerk is praised.
The clerk, when he is old, and may not do
Of Venus' works not worth his olde shoe,
Then sits he down, and writes in his dotage,
That women cannot keep their marriage.
But now to purpose, why I tolde thee
That I was beaten for a book, pardie.

Upon a night Jenkin, that was our sire,* *goodman
Read on his book, as he sat by the fire,
Of Eva first, that for her wickedness
Was all mankind brought into wretchedness,
For which that Jesus Christ himself was slain,
That bought us with his hearte-blood again.
Lo here express of women may ye find
That woman was the loss of all mankind.
Then read he me how Samson lost his hairs
Sleeping, his leman cut them with her shears,
Through whiche treason lost he both his eyen.
Then read he me, if that I shall not lien,
Of Hercules, and of his Dejanire,
That caused him to set himself on fire.
Nothing forgot he of the care and woe
That Socrates had with his wives two;
How Xantippe cast piss upon his head.
This silly man sat still, as he were dead,
He wip'd his head, and no more durst he sayn,
But, "Ere the thunder stint* there cometh rain." *ceases
Of Phasiphae, that was queen of Crete,
For shrewedness* he thought the tale sweet. *wickedness
Fy, speak no more, it is a grisly thing,
Of her horrible lust and her liking.
Of Clytemnestra, for her lechery
That falsely made her husband for to die,
He read it with full good devotion.
He told me eke, for what occasion
Amphiorax at Thebes lost his life:
My husband had a legend of his wife
Eryphile, that for an ouche* of gold *clasp, collar
Had privily unto the Greekes told,
Where that her husband hid him in a place,
For which he had at Thebes sorry grace.
Of Luna told he me, and of Lucie;
They bothe made their husbands for to die,
That one for love, that other was for hate.
Luna her husband on an ev'ning late
Empoison'd had, for that she was his foe:
Lucia liquorish lov'd her husband so,
That, for he should always upon her think,
She gave him such a manner* love-drink, *sort of
That he was dead before it were the morrow:
And thus algates* husbands hadde sorrow. *always
Then told he me how one Latumeus
Complained to his fellow Arius
That in his garden growed such a tree,
On which he said how that his wives three
Hanged themselves for heart dispiteous.
"O leve* brother," quoth this Arius, *dear
"Give me a plant of thilke* blessed tree, *that
And in my garden planted shall it be."
Of later date of wives hath he read,
That some have slain their husbands in their bed,
And let their *lechour dight them* all the night, *lover ride them*
While that the corpse lay on the floor upright:
And some have driven nails into their brain,
While that they slept, and thus they have them slain:
Some have them given poison in their drink:
He spake more harm than hearte may bethink.
And therewithal he knew of more proverbs,
Than in this world there groweth grass or herbs.
"Better (quoth he) thine habitation
Be with a lion, or a foul dragon,
Than with a woman using for to chide.
Better (quoth he) high in the roof abide,
Than with an angry woman in the house,
They be so wicked and contrarious:
They hate that their husbands loven aye."
He said, "A woman cast her shame away
When she cast off her smock;" and farthermo',
"A fair woman, but* she be chaste also, *except
Is like a gold ring in a sowe's nose.
Who coulde ween,* or who coulde suppose *think
The woe that in mine heart was, and the pine?* *pain
And when I saw that he would never fine* *finish
To readen on this cursed book all night,
All suddenly three leaves have I plight* *plucked
Out of his book, right as he read, and eke
I with my fist so took him on the cheek,
That in our fire he backward fell adown.
And he up start, as doth a wood* lion, *furious
And with his fist he smote me on the head,
That on the floor I lay as I were dead.
And when he saw how still that there I lay,
He was aghast, and would have fled away,
Till at the last out of my swoon I braid,* *woke
"Oh, hast thou slain me, thou false thief?" I said
"And for my land thus hast thou murder'd me?
Ere I be dead, yet will I kisse thee."
And near he came, and kneeled fair adown,
And saide", "Deare sister Alisoun,
As help me God, I shall thee never smite:
That I have done it is thyself to wite,* *blame
Forgive it me, and that I thee beseek."* *beseech
And yet eftsoons* I hit him on the cheek, *immediately; again
And saidde, "Thief, thus much am I awreak.* *avenged
Now will I die, I may no longer speak."

But at the last, with muche care and woe
We fell accorded* by ourselves two: *agreed
He gave me all the bridle in mine hand
To have the governance of house and land,
And of his tongue, and of his hand also.
I made him burn his book anon right tho.* *then
And when that I had gotten unto me
By mast'ry all the sovereignety,
And that he said, "Mine owen true wife,
Do *as thee list,* the term of all thy life, *as pleases thee*
Keep thine honour, and eke keep mine estate;
After that day we never had debate.
God help me so, I was to him as kind
As any wife from Denmark unto Ind,
And also true, and so was he to me:
I pray to God that sits in majesty
So bless his soule, for his mercy dear.
Now will I say my tale, if ye will hear. --

The Friar laugh'd when he had heard all this:
"Now, Dame," quoth he, "so have I joy and bliss,
This is a long preamble of a tale."
And when the Sompnour heard the Friar gale,* *speak
"Lo," quoth this Sompnour, "Godde's armes two,
A friar will intermete* him evermo': *interpose 33
Lo, goode men, a fly and eke a frere
Will fall in ev'ry dish and eke mattere.
What speak'st thou of perambulation?* *preamble
What? amble or trot; or peace, or go sit down:
Thou lettest* our disport in this mattere." *hinderesst
"Yea, wilt thou so, Sir Sompnour?" quoth the Frere;
"Now by my faith I shall, ere that I go,
Tell of a Sompnour such a tale or two,
That all the folk shall laughen in this place."
"Now do, else, Friar, I beshrew* thy face," *curse
Quoth this Sompnour; "and I beshrewe me,
But if* I telle tales two or three *unless
Of friars, ere I come to Sittingbourne,
That I shall make thine hearte for to mourn:
For well I wot thy patience is gone."
Our Hoste cried, "Peace, and that anon;"
And saide, "Let the woman tell her tale.
Ye fare* as folk that drunken be of ale. *behave
Do, Dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best."
"All ready, sir," quoth she, "right as you lest,* *please
If I have licence of this worthy Frere."
"Yes, Dame," quoth he, "tell forth, and I will hear."


Notes to the Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale


1. Among the evidences that Chaucer's great work was left
incomplete, is the absence of any link of connexion between the
Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, and what goes before. This
deficiency has in some editions caused the Squire's and the
Merchant's Tales to be interposed between those of the Man of
Law and the Wife of Bath; but in the Merchant's Tale there is
internal proof that it was told after the jolly Dame's. Several
manuscripts contain verses designed to serve as a connexion;
but they are evidently not Chaucer's, and it is unnecessary to
give them here. Of this Prologue, which may fairly be regarded
as a distinct autobiographical tale, Tyrwhitt says: "The
extraordinary length of it, as well as the vein of pleasantry that
runs through it, is very suitable to the character of the speaker.
The greatest part must have been of Chaucer's own invention,
though one may plainly see that he had been reading the popular
invectives against marriage and women in general; such as the
'Roman de la Rose,' 'Valerius ad Rufinum, De non Ducenda
Uxore,' ('Valerius to Rufinus, on not being ruled by one's wife')
and particularly 'Hieronymus contra Jovinianum.' ('Jerome
against Jovinianus') St Jerome, among other things designed to
discourage marriage, has inserted in his treatise a long passage 
from 'Liber Aureolus Theophrasti de Nuptiis.' ('Theophrastus's
Golden Book of Marriage')."

2. A great part of the marriage service used to be performed in
the church-porch.

3. Jesus and the Samaritan woman: John iv. 13.

4. Dan: Lord; Latin, "dominus." Another reading is "the wise
man, King Solomon."

5. Defended: forbade; French, "defendre," to prohibit.

6. Dart: the goal; a spear or dart was set up to mark the point of
victory.

7. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and
silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and
some to dishonour." -- 2 Tim. ii 20.

8. Jesus feeding the multitude with barley bread: Mark vi. 41,
42.

9. At Dunmow prevailed the custom of giving, amid much
merry making, a flitch of bacon to the married pair who had
lived together for a year without quarrel or regret. The same
custom prevailed of old in Bretagne.

10. "Cagnard," or "Caignard," a French term of reproach,
originally derived from "canis," a dog.

11. Parage: birth, kindred; from Latin, "pario," I beget.

12. Norice: nurse; French, "nourrice."

13. This and the previous quotation from Ptolemy are due to
the Dame's own fancy.

14. (Transcriber's note: Some Victorian censorship here. The
word given in [brackets] should be "queint" i.e. "cunt".)

15. Women should not adorn themselves: see I Tim. ii. 9.

16. Cherte: affection; from French, "cher," dear.

17. Nicety: folly; French, "niaiserie."

18. Ba: kiss; from French, "baiser."

19. Peter!: by Saint Peter! a common adjuration, like Marie!
from the Virgin's name.

20. St. Joce: or Judocus, a saint of Ponthieu, in France.

21. "An allusion," says Mr Wright, "to the story of the Roman
sage who, when blamed for divorcing his wife, said that a shoe
might appear outwardly to fit well, but no one but the wearer
knew where it pinched."

22. Vigilies: festival-eves; see note 33 to the Prologue to the
Tales.

23. Bobance: boasting; Ben Jonson's braggart, in "Every Man in
his Humour," is named Bobadil.

24. "I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leek,
 That hath but one hole for to starte to"
 A very old proverb in French, German, and Latin.

25. The lines in brackets are only in some of the manuscripts.

26. Gat-toothed: gap-toothed; goat-toothed; or cat- or separate
toothed. See note 41 to the prologue to the Tales.

27. Sempronius Sophus, of whom Valerius Maximus tells in his
sixth book.

28. The tract of Walter Mapes against marriage, published
under the title of "Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum."

29. "Ars Amoris."

30. All the mark of Adam: all who bear the mark of Adam i.e.
all men.

31. The Children of Mercury and Venus: those born under the
influence of the respective planets.

32. A planet, according to the old astrologers, was in
"exaltation" when in the sign of the Zodiac in which it exerted
its strongest influence; the opposite sign, in which it was
weakest, was called its "dejection." Venus being strongest in
Pisces, was weakest in Virgo; but in Virgo Mercury was in
"exaltation."

33. Intermete: interpose; French, "entremettre."


THE TALE. 1


In olde dayes of the king Arthour,
Of which that Britons speake great honour,
All was this land full fill'd of faerie;* *fairies
The Elf-queen, with her jolly company,
Danced full oft in many a green mead
This was the old opinion, as I read;
I speak of many hundred years ago;
But now can no man see none elves mo',
For now the great charity and prayeres
Of limitours,* and other holy freres, *begging friars 2
That search every land and ev'ry stream
As thick as motes in the sunne-beam,
Blessing halls, chambers, kitchenes, and bowers,
Cities and burghes, castles high and towers,
Thorpes* and barnes, shepens** and dairies, *villages 3 **stables
This makes that there be now no faeries:
For *there as* wont to walke was an elf, *where*
There walketh now the limitour himself,
In undermeles* and in morrowings**, *evenings 4 **mornings
And saith his matins and his holy things,
As he goes in his limitatioun.* *begging district
Women may now go safely up and down,
In every bush, and under every tree;
There is none other incubus 5 but he;
And he will do to them no dishonour.

And so befell it, that this king Arthour
Had in his house a lusty bacheler,
That on a day came riding from river: 6
And happen'd, that, alone as she was born,
He saw a maiden walking him beforn,
Of which maiden anon, maugre* her head, *in spite of
By very force he reft her maidenhead:
For which oppression was such clamour,
And such pursuit unto the king Arthour,
That damned* was this knight for to be dead *condemned
By course of law, and should have lost his head;
(Paraventure such was the statute tho),* *then
But that the queen and other ladies mo'
So long they prayed the king of his grace,
Till he his life him granted in the place,
And gave him to the queen, all at her will
To choose whether she would him save or spill* *destroy
The queen thanked the king with all her might;
And, after this, thus spake she to the knight,
When that she saw her time upon a day.
"Thou standest yet," quoth she, "in such array,* *a position
That of thy life yet hast thou no surety;
I grant thee life, if thou canst tell to me
What thing is it that women most desiren:
Beware, and keep thy neck-bone from the iron* *executioner's axe
And if thou canst not tell it me anon,
Yet will I give thee leave for to gon
A twelvemonth and a day, to seek and lear* *learn
An answer suffisant* in this mattere. *satisfactory
And surety will I have, ere that thou pace,* *go
Thy body for to yielden in this place."
Woe was the knight, and sorrowfully siked;* *sighed
But what? he might not do all as him liked.
And at the last he chose him for to wend,* *depart
And come again, right at the yeare's end,
With such answer as God would him purvey:* *provide
And took his leave, and wended forth his way.

He sought in ev'ry house and ev'ry place,
Where as he hoped for to finde grace,
To learne what thing women love the most:
But he could not arrive in any coast,
Where as he mighte find in this mattere
Two creatures *according in fere.* *agreeing together*
Some said that women loved best richess,
Some said honour, and some said jolliness,
Some rich array, and some said lust* a-bed, *pleasure
And oft time to be widow and be wed.
Some said, that we are in our heart most eased
When that we are y-flatter'd and y-praised.
He *went full nigh the sooth,* I will not lie; *came very near
A man shall win us best with flattery; the truth*
And with attendance, and with business
Be we y-limed,* bothe more and less. *caught with bird-lime
And some men said that we do love the best
For to be free, and do *right as us lest,* *whatever we please*
And that no man reprove us of our vice,
But say that we are wise, and nothing nice,* *foolish 7
For truly there is none among us all,
If any wight will *claw us on the gall,* *see note 8*
That will not kick, for that he saith us sooth:
Assay,* and he shall find it, that so do'th. *try
For be we never so vicious within,
We will be held both wise and clean of sin.
And some men said, that great delight have we
For to be held stable and eke secre,* *discreet
And in one purpose steadfastly to dwell,
And not bewray* a thing that men us tell. *give away
But that tale is not worth a rake-stele.* *rake-handle
Pardie, we women canne nothing hele,* *hide 9
Witness on Midas; will ye hear the tale?
Ovid, amonges other thinges smale* *small
Saith, Midas had, under his longe hairs,
Growing upon his head two ass's ears;
The whiche vice he hid, as best he might,
Full subtlely from every man's sight,
That, save his wife, there knew of it no mo';
He lov'd her most, and trusted her also;
He prayed her, that to no creature
She woulde tellen of his disfigure.
She swore him, nay, for all the world to win,
She would not do that villainy or sin,
To make her husband have so foul a name:
She would not tell it for her owen shame.
But natheless her thoughte that she died,
That she so longe should a counsel hide;
Her thought it swell'd so sore about her heart
That needes must some word from her astart
And, since she durst not tell it unto man
Down to a marish fast thereby she ran,
Till she came there, her heart was all afire:
And, as a bittern bumbles* in the mire, *makes a humming noise
She laid her mouth unto the water down
"Bewray me not, thou water, with thy soun'"
Quoth she, "to thee I tell it, and no mo',
Mine husband hath long ass's eares two!
Now is mine heart all whole; now is it out;
I might no longer keep it, out of doubt."
Here may ye see, though we a time abide,
Yet out it must, we can no counsel hide.
The remnant of the tale, if ye will hear,
Read in Ovid, and there ye may it lear.* *learn

This knight, of whom my tale is specially,
When that he saw he might not come thereby,
That is to say, what women love the most,
Within his breast full sorrowful was his ghost.* *spirit
But home he went, for he might not sojourn,
The day was come, that homeward he must turn.
And in his way it happen'd him to ride,
In all his care,* under a forest side, *trouble, anxiety
Where as he saw upon a dance go
Of ladies four-and-twenty, and yet mo',
Toward this ilke* dance he drew full yern,** *same **eagerly 10
The hope that he some wisdom there should learn;
But certainly, ere he came fully there,
Y-vanish'd was this dance, he knew not where;
No creature saw he that bare life,
Save on the green he sitting saw a wife,
A fouler wight there may no man devise.* *imagine, tell
Against* this knight this old wife gan to rise, *to meet
And said, "Sir Knight, hereforth* lieth no way. *from here
Tell me what ye are seeking, by your fay.
Paraventure it may the better be:
These olde folk know muche thing." quoth she.
My leve* mother," quoth this knight, "certain, *dear
I am but dead, but if* that I can sayn *unless
What thing it is that women most desire:
Could ye me wiss,* I would well *quite your hire."* *instruct 11
"Plight me thy troth here in mine hand," quoth she, *reward you*
"The nexte thing that I require of thee
Thou shalt it do, if it be in thy might,
And I will tell it thee ere it be night."
"Have here my trothe," quoth the knight; "I grant."
"Thenne," quoth she, "I dare me well avaunt,* *boast, affirm
Thy life is safe, for I will stand thereby,
Upon my life the queen will say as I:
Let see, which is the proudest of them all,
That wears either a kerchief or a caul,
That dare say nay to that I shall you teach.
Let us go forth withoute longer speech
Then *rowned she a pistel* in his ear, *she whispered a secret*
And bade him to be glad, and have no fear.

When they were come unto the court, this knight
Said, he had held his day, as he had hight,* *promised
And ready was his answer, as he said.
Full many a noble wife, and many a maid,
And many a widow, for that they be wise, --
The queen herself sitting as a justice, --
Assembled be, his answer for to hear,
And afterward this knight was bid appear.
To every wight commanded was silence,
And that the knight should tell in audience,
What thing that worldly women love the best.
This knight he stood not still, as doth a beast,
But to this question anon answer'd
With manly voice, that all the court it heard,
"My liege lady, generally," quoth he,
"Women desire to have the sovereignty
As well over their husband as their love
And for to be in mast'ry him above.
This is your most desire, though ye me kill,
Do as you list, I am here at your will."
In all the court there was no wife nor maid
Nor widow, that contraried what he said,
But said, he worthy was to have his life.
And with that word up start that olde wife
Which that the knight saw sitting on the green.

"Mercy," quoth she, "my sovereign lady queen,
Ere that your court departe, do me right.
I taughte this answer unto this knight,
For which he plighted me his trothe there,
The firste thing I would of him requere,
He would it do, if it lay in his might.
Before this court then pray I thee, Sir Knight,"
Quoth she, "that thou me take unto thy wife,
For well thou know'st that I have kept* thy life. *preserved
If I say false, say nay, upon thy fay."* *faith
This knight answer'd, "Alas, and well-away!
I know right well that such was my behest.* *promise
For Godde's love choose a new request
Take all my good, and let my body go."
"Nay, then," quoth she, "I shrew* us bothe two, *curse
For though that I be old, and foul, and poor,
I n'ould* for all the metal nor the ore, *would not
That under earth is grave,* or lies above *buried
But if thy wife I were and eke thy love."
"My love?" quoth he, "nay, my damnation,
Alas! that any of my nation
Should ever so foul disparaged be.
But all for nought; the end is this, that he
Constrained was, that needs he muste wed,
And take this olde wife, and go to bed.

Now woulde some men say paraventure
That for my negligence I do no cure* *take no pains
To tell you all the joy and all th' array
That at the feast was made that ilke* day. *same
To which thing shortly answeren I shall:
I say there was no joy nor feast at all,
There was but heaviness and muche sorrow:
For privily he wed her on the morrow;
And all day after hid him as an owl,
So woe was him, his wife look'd so foul
Great was the woe the knight had in his thought
When he was with his wife to bed y-brought;
He wallow'd, and he turned to and fro.
This olde wife lay smiling evermo',
And said, "Dear husband, benedicite,
Fares every knight thus with his wife as ye?
Is this the law of king Arthoures house?
Is every knight of his thus dangerous?* *fastidious, niggardly
I am your owen love, and eke your wife
I am she, which that saved hath your life
And certes yet did I you ne'er unright.
Why fare ye thus with me this firste night?
Ye fare like a man had lost his wit.
What is my guilt? for God's love tell me it,
And it shall be amended, if I may."
"Amended!" quoth this knight; "alas, nay, nay,
It will not be amended, never mo';
Thou art so loathly, and so old also,
And thereto* comest of so low a kind, *in addition
That little wonder though I wallow and wind;* *writhe, turn about
So woulde God, mine hearte woulde brest!"* *burst
"Is this," quoth she, "the cause of your unrest?"
"Yea, certainly," quoth he; "no wonder is."
"Now, Sir," quoth she, "I could amend all this,
If that me list, ere it were dayes three,
*So well ye mighte bear you unto me.* *if you could conduct
But, for ye speaken of such gentleness yourself well
As is descended out of old richess, towards me*
That therefore shalle ye be gentlemen;
Such arrogancy is *not worth a hen.* *worth nothing
Look who that is most virtuous alway,
*Prive and apert,* and most intendeth aye *in private and public*
To do the gentle deedes that he can;
And take him for the greatest gentleman.
Christ will,* we claim of him our gentleness, *wills, requires
Not of our elders* for their old richess. *ancestors
For though they gave us all their heritage,
For which we claim to be of high parage,* *birth, descent
Yet may they not bequeathe, for no thing,
To none of us, their virtuous living
That made them gentlemen called to be,
And bade us follow them in such degree.
Well can the wise poet of Florence,
That highte Dante, speak of this sentence:* *sentiment
Lo, in such manner* rhyme is Dante's tale. *kind of
'Full seld'* upriseth by his branches smale *seldom
Prowess of man, for God of his goodness
Wills that we claim of him our gentleness;' 12
For of our elders may we nothing claim
But temp'ral things that man may hurt and maim.
Eke every wight knows this as well as I,
If gentleness were planted naturally
Unto a certain lineage down the line,
Prive and apert, then would they never fine* *cease
To do of gentleness the fair office
Then might they do no villainy nor vice.
Take fire, and bear it to the darkest house
Betwixt this and the mount of Caucasus,
And let men shut the doores, and go thenne,* *thence
Yet will the fire as fair and lighte brenne* *burn
As twenty thousand men might it behold;
*Its office natural aye will it hold,* *it will perform its
On peril of my life, till that it die. natural duty*
Here may ye see well how that gentery* *gentility, nobility
Is not annexed to possession,
Since folk do not their operation
Alway, as doth the fire, lo, *in its kind* *from its very nature*
For, God it wot, men may full often find
A lorde's son do shame and villainy.
And he that will have price* of his gent'ry, *esteem, honour
For* he was boren of a gentle house, *because
And had his elders noble and virtuous,
And will himselfe do no gentle deedes,
Nor follow his gentle ancestry, that dead is,
He is not gentle, be he duke or earl;
For villain sinful deedes make a churl.
For gentleness is but the renomee* *renown
Of thine ancestors, for their high bounte,* *goodness, worth
Which is a strange thing to thy person:
Thy gentleness cometh from God alone.
Then comes our very* gentleness of grace; *true
It was no thing bequeath'd us with our place.
Think how noble, as saith Valerius,
Was thilke* Tullius Hostilius, *that
That out of povert' rose to high
Read in Senec, and read eke in Boece,
There shall ye see express, that it no drede* is, *doubt
That he is gentle that doth gentle deedes.
And therefore, leve* husband, I conclude, *dear
Albeit that mine ancestors were rude,
Yet may the highe God, -- and so hope I, --
Grant me His grace to live virtuously:
Then am I gentle when that I begin
To live virtuously, and waive* sin. *forsake

"And whereas ye of povert' me repreve,* *reproach
The highe God, on whom that we believe,
In wilful povert' chose to lead his life:
And certes, every man, maiden, or wife
May understand that Jesus, heaven's king,
Ne would not choose a virtuous living.
*Glad povert'* is an honest thing, certain; *poverty cheerfully
This will Senec and other clerkes sayn endured*
Whoso that *holds him paid of* his povert', *is satisfied with*
I hold him rich though he hath not a shirt.
He that coveteth is a poore wight
For he would have what is not in his might
But he that nought hath, nor coveteth to have,
Is rich, although ye hold him but a knave.* *slave, abject wretch
*Very povert' is sinne,* properly. *the only true poverty is sin*
Juvenal saith of povert' merrily:
The poore man, when he goes by the way
Before the thieves he may sing and play 13
Povert' is hateful good,14 and, as I guess,
A full great *bringer out of business;* *deliver from trouble*
A great amender eke of sapience
To him that ta


by John Betjeman |

Diary of a Church Mouse

 Here among long-discarded cassocks,
Damp stools, and half-split open hassocks,
Here where the vicar never looks
I nibble through old service books.
Lean and alone I spend my days
Behind this Church of England baize.
I share my dark forgotten room
With two oil-lamps and half a broom.
The cleaner never bothers me,
So here I eat my frugal tea.
My bread is sawdust mixed with straw;
My jam is polish for the floor.
Christmas and Easter may be feasts
For congregations and for priests,
And so may Whitsun. All the same,
They do not fill my meagre frame.
For me the only feast at all
Is Autumn's Harvest Festival,
When I can satisfy my want
With ears of corn around the font.
I climb the eagle's brazen head
To burrow through a loaf of bread.
I scramble up the pulpit stair
And gnaw the marrows hanging there.
It is enjoyable to taste
These items ere they go to waste,
But how annoying when one finds
That other mice with pagan minds
Come into church my food to share
Who have no proper business there.
Two field mice who have no desire
To be baptized, invade the choir.
A large and most unfriendly rat
Comes in to see what we are at.
He says he thinks there is no God
And yet he comes ... it's rather odd.
This year he stole a sheaf of wheat
(It screened our special preacher's seat),
And prosperous mice from fields away
Come in to hear our organ play,
And under cover of its notes
Ate through the altar's sheaf of oats.
A Low Church mouse, who thinks that I
Am too papistical, and High,
Yet somehow doesn't think it wrong
To munch through Harvest Evensong,
While I, who starve the whole year through,
Must share my food with rodents who
Except at this time of the year
Not once inside the church appear.
Within the human world I know
Such goings-on could not be so,
For human beings only do
What their religion tells them to.
They read the Bible every day
And always, night and morning, pray,
And just like me, the good church mouse,
Worship each week in God's own house,
But all the same it's strange to me
How very full the church can be
With people I don't see at all
Except at Harvest Festival.


by Charles Bukowski |

Girl In A Miniskirt Reading The Bible Outside My Window

 Sunday, I am eating a
grapefruit, church is over at the Russian 
Orthadox to the
west.

she is dark
of Eastern descent,
large brown eyes look up from the Bible
then down. a small red and black
Bible, and as she reads
her legs keep moving, moving,
she is doing a slow rythmic dance
reading the Bible. . .

long gold earrings;
2 gold bracelets on each arm,
and it's a mini-suit, I suppose,
the cloth hugs her body,
the lightest of tans is that cloth,
she twists this way and that,
long yellow legs warm in the sun. . .

there is no escaping her being
there is no desire to. . .

my radio is playing symphonic music
that she cannot hear
but her movements coincide exactly
to the rythms of the
symphony. . .

she is dark, she is dark
she is reading about God.
I am God.


by Yehuda Amichai |

Temporary Poem Of My Time

 Hebrew writing and Arabic writing go from east to west,
Latin writing, from west to east.
Languages are like cats:
You must not stroke their hair the wrong way.
The clouds come from the sea, the hot wind from the desert,
The trees bend in the wind,
And stones fly from all four winds,
Into all four winds. They throw stones,
Throw this land, one at the other,
But the land always falls back to the land.
They throw the land, want to get rid of it.
Its stones, its soil, but you can't get rid of it.
They throw stones, throw stones at me
In 1936, 1938, 1948, 1988,
Semites throw at Semites and anti-Semites at anti-Semites,
Evil men throw and just men throw,
Sinners throw and tempters throw,
Geologists throw and theologists throw,
Archaelogists throw and archhooligans throw,
Kidneys throw stones and gall bladders throw,
Head stones and forehead stones and the heart of a stone,
Stones shaped like a screaming mouth
And stones fitting your eyes
Like a pair of glasses,
The past throws stones at the future,
And all of them fall on the present.
Weeping stones and laughing gravel stones,
Even God in the Bible threw stones,
Even the Urim and Tumim were thrown
And got stuck in the beastplate of justice,
And Herod threw stones and what came out was a Temple.

Oh, the poem of stone sadness
Oh, the poem thrown on the stones
Oh, the poem of thrown stones.
Is there in this land
A stone that was never thrown
And never built and never overturned
And never uncovered and never discovered
And never screamed from a wall and never discarded by the builders
And never closed on top of a grave and never lay under lovers
And never turned into a cornerstone?

Please do not throw any more stones,
You are moving the land,
The holy, whole, open land,
You are moving it to the sea
And the sea doesn't want it
The sea says, not in me.

Please throw little stones,
Throw snail fossils, throw gravel,
Justice or injustice from the quarries of Migdal Tsedek,
Throw soft stones, throw sweet clods,
Throw limestone, throw clay,
Throw sand of the seashore,
Throw dust of the desert, throw rust,
Throw soil, throw wind,
Throw air, throw nothing
Until your hands are weary
And the war is weary
And even peace will be weary and will be.


by Oliver Wendell Holmes |

The Organ-Blower

 DEVOUTEST of my Sunday friends,
The patient Organ-blower bends;
I see his figure sink and rise,
(Forgive me, Heaven, my wandering eyes!)
A moment lost, the next half seen,
His head above the scanty screen,
Still measuring out his deep salaams
Through quavering hymns and panting psalms.

No priest that prays in gilded stole,
To save a rich man's mortgaged soul;
No sister, fresh from holy vows,
So humbly stoops, so meekly bows;
His large obeisance puts to shame
The proudest genuflecting dame,
Whose Easter bonnet low descends
With all the grace devotion lends.

O brother with the supple spine,
How much we owe those bows of thine!
Without thine arm to lend the breeze,
How vain the finger on the keys!
Though all unmatched the player's skill,
Those thousand throats were dumb and still:
Another's art may shape the tone,
The breath that fills it is thine own.

Six days the silent Memnon waits
Behind his temple's folded gates;
But when the seventh day's sunshine falls
Through rainbowed windows on the walls,
He breathes, he sings, he shouts, he fills
The quivering air with rapturous thrills;
The roof resounds, the pillars shake,
And all the slumbering echoes wake!

The Preacher from the Bible-text
With weary words my soul has vexed
(Some stranger, fumbling far astray
To find the lesson for the day);
He tells us truths too plainly true,
And reads the service all askew,--
Why, why the-- mischief-- can't he look
Beforehand in the service-book?

But thou, with decent mien and face,
Art always ready in thy place;
Thy strenuous blast, whate'er the tune,
As steady as the strong monsoon;
Thy only dread a leathery creak,
Or small residual extra squeak,
To send along the shadowy aisles
A sunlit wave of dimpled smiles.

Not all the preaching, O my friend,
Comes from the church's pulpit end!
Not all that bend the knee and bow
Yield service half so true as thou!
One simple task performed aright,
With slender skill, but all thy might,
Where honest labor does its best,
And leaves the player all the rest.

This many-diapasoned maze,
Through which the breath of being strays,
Whose music makes our earth divine,
Has work for mortal hands like mine.
My duty lies before me. Lo,
The lever there! Take hold and blow!
And He whose hand is on the keys
Will play the tune as He shall please.