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Among hemself? compleignen ofte :
But there is nothing said so softe,
That it ne comith out at laste :
The king it wiste, and als so faste,
As he which was of high prudènce :
He shope therfore an evidence
Of hem” that pleignen in the cas,
To knowe in whose defalte it was;
And all within his owne entent,
That non ma wistè what it ment.
Anon he let two cofres make
Of one semblance, and of one make,
So lich,' that no lif thilke throwe,
That one may fro that other knowe:
They were into his chamber brought,
But no man wot why they be wrought,
And natheles the king hath bede
That they be set in privy stede,
As he that was of wisdom slih;
Whan he therto his time sih,
All privěly, that yone it wiste
His ownè hondes that one chiste
Of fin gold, and of fin perie,
The which out of his tresorie
Was take, anon he fild full;
That other cofre of straw and mull
With stones meynd 7 he fild also :
Thus be they full bothè two.
So that erliche 8 upon a day
He had within, where he lay,
Ther should be tofore his bed
A bord up set and faire spred :
And than he let the cofres fette 9
Upon the bord, and did hem sette.
He knewe the names well of tho, 10
The whiche agein him grutched so,
Both of his chambre and of his halle,
Anon and sent for hem alle;
And seidè to hem in this wise.
There shall no man his hap despise :
I wot well ye have longe served,
And God wot what ye have deserved ;
4 Saw. 7 Mingled.
5 Jewels, or precious stones. 9 Fetched. 10 Those.
But if it is along on me
Of that ye unavanced be,
Or elles if it belong on yow,
The sothè shall be proved now:
To stoppè with your evil word,
Lo! here two cofres on the bord ;
Chese which you list of bothè two;
And witеth well that one of tho
Is with tresor so full bėgon,
That if ye happè therupon
Ye shall be richè men for ever :
Now chese, and take which you is lever,
But be well ware ere that ye take,
For of that one I undertake
Ther is no maner good therein,
Wherof ye mighten profit winne.
Now goth together of one assent,
And taketh your avisement;
For, but I you this day avance,
It stant upon your ownè chance,
Al only in defalte of grace;
So shall be shewed in this place
Upon you all well afyn,
That no defaltè sbal be myn.
They knelen all, and with one vois
The king they thonken of this chois :
And after that they up arise,
And gon aside, and hem avise,
And at lastè they acorde
(Wherof her tale to recorde
To what issue they be falle)
A knyght shall spekè for hem alle :
He kneleth doun unto the king,
And seith that they upon this thing,
Or for to winne, or for to lese,
Ben all avised for to chese.
Tho toke this knyght a yerd? on honde,
And goth there as the cofres stonde,
And with assent of everychone 8
He leith his yerde upon one,
And seith the king how thilke same
They chese in reguerdon 10 by name,
And preith him that they might it have.
The king, which wolde his honor save,
Whan he had heard the common vois,
Hath granted hem her owne chois,
And toke hem therupon the keie ;
But for he woldè it were seie 1
What good they have as they suppose,
He bad anon the cofre unclose,
Which was fulfild with straw and stones :
Thus be they served all at ones.
This king than, in the same stede,
Anon that other cofre undede,
Where as they sihen gret richesse,
Wel more than they couthen gesse.
Lo! seith the king, now may ye se
That ther is no defalte in me;
Forthy’ my self I wol aquite,
And bereth ye your ownè wites
Of that* fortune hath you refused.
Thus was this wise king excused :
And they lefte off her evil speche,
And mercy of her king beseche.
: Blame. 1 i.e. that which.
And specially, from every shirès ende
Of Englelond, to Canterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martyr for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.
Befelle, that, in that seson on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devoute corage,
At night was come into that hostelrie
Wel nine and twenty in a compagnie
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle s
In felawship, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Canterbury wolden * ride.
The chambres and the stables weren wide,
And wel we weren esed attè beste.
And shortly, whan the sonne was gon to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everich on,
That I was of hir felawship anon,
And madò forword erly for to rise,
To take oure way ther as I you devise.
But natheles, while I have time and space,
Or that I forther in this talè pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to resòn,
To tellen you alle the condition
Of eche of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degre;
And eke in what araie that they were inne :
And at a knight than wol I firste beginne.
A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he firste began
To riden out, he loved Chevalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordès werre,
And therto hadde he ridden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And ever honoured for his woi thinesse.
No cristen man so ofte of his degre.
In Gernade at the siege eke hadde he be
Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie.
At Leyès was he, and at Satalie,
Whan they were wonne; and in the Gretè see
At many a noble armee hadde he be.
At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene,
And foughten for our faith at Tramissène
In listès thries, and ay slain his fo.
This ilkè worthy knight hadde ben alsò
Sometime with the Lord of Palatie,
Agen another hethen in Turkìe :
And evermore he hadde a sovereine pris.
And though that he was worthy he was wise,
And of his port as meke as is a mayde.
He never yet no vilanie ne sayde
In alle his lif, unto no manere wight.
He was a veray parfit gentil knight.
But for to tellen you of his araie,
His bors was good, but he ne was not gaie.
Of fustian he wered a gipòn,?
Alle besmotred 8 with his babergeon,
For he was late y come fro his viàge,
And wentè for to don his pilgrimage.
Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hire smiling was full simple and coy ;
Hire gretest othe n'as but by Seint Eloy;
And she was cleped 1 Madame Eglentine.
Ful wel she sange the service devine,
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely ;
And Frenche she spake ful fayre and fetisly,.
After the scole of Stratford attè Bowe,
For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe.
At metè was she wel ytaughte withalle;
She lette no morsel from her lippès fall,
Ne wette hire fingres in hire saucè depe.
Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe
Thattè no drope ne fell upon hire brest.
In curtesie was sette ful moche hire lest.3