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And trewely, as to my Iugement,
Me thinketh it a thing impertinent,
Saue that he wol conueyen his matere,
But this his tale [is]”, which that ye may here.
Heere bigynneth the tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.
Ther is, at the West syde of Itaille,
Doun at the roote of Vesulus the colde,
A lusty playne, habundant of vitaille,
Wher many a tour and toun thou mayst biholde,
That founded were in tyme of fadres olde,
And many another delitable syghte,
And Saluces this noble contree hyghte.
A markis whylom lord was of that londe,
As were his worthy eldres him bifore;
And obeisant and redy to his honde
Were alle his liges, bothe lasse and more.
Thus in delyt he liueth, and hath doon yore,
Biloued and drad thurgh fauour of fortune
Bothe of his lordes and of his commune.
Therwith he was, to speke as of linage,
The gentilleste yborn of Lumbardye,
A fair persone, and strong, and yong of age,
And ful of honour and of curteisye ;
Discreet ynough his contree for to gye,
Saueạ in somme thinges that he was to blame,
And Walter was this yonge lordes name.
1 E. Hn. this his tale, omitting is; Hl. Pt. this is the tale; Ln, this is tale,
E. Saue that; the rest omit that.
I blame him thus, that he considereth nought
In tyme coming what myghte him? bityde,
But on his lust present was al his thought,
As for to hauke and hunte on euery syde;
Wel ny alle othere cures leet he slyde,
And eek he nolde, and that was worst of alle,
Wedde no wyf, for ought? that may bifalle.
Only that point his peple bar so sore,
That flokmele on a day they to him wente,
And oon of hem, that wysest was of lore,
Or elles that the lord best wolde assente
That he sholde telle him what his peple mente,
Or elles coude he shewe wel swich matere,
He to the markis seyde as ye shul here.
O noble markis, your humanitee
Assureth vs and yiueth vs hardinesse,
As ofte as tyme is of necessitee
That we to yow mowe telle our heuinesse;
Accepteth, lord, now for your gentillesse,
That we with pitous herte vn-to yow pleyne,
And lete your eres nat my voys disdeyne.
Al haue I nought to doone in this matere
More than another man hath in this place,
Yet for as muche as ye, my lord so dere,
Han alwey shewed me fauour and grace,
I dar the better aske of yow a space
Of audience to shewen our requeste,
And ye, my lord, to doon ryght as yow leste.
1 So Hn. Ln.; E. hym myghte; C. Pt. mygt; Hl. mighte.
2 C. Cp. Pt. Ln. ouzte ; E. Hn. noght; Hl. no thing.
3 So Hn. Pt. Hl.; E. to zeue; C. and zeue ; Ln, and whisse.
For certes, lord, so wel vs lyketh yow
And al your werk and euer han doon, that we
Ne coude nat vs self deuysen how
We myghte liuen in more felicitee,
Saue o thing, lord, if it? your wille be,
That for to been a wedded man yow leste,
Than were your peple in souereyn hertes reste.
Boweth your nekke vnder that blisful yok
Of soueraynetee, nought of seruyse,
Which that men clepeth spousail or wedlok ;
And thenketh, lord, among your thoughtes wyse,
How that our dayes passe in sondry wyse;
For though we slepe or wake, or rome, or ryde,
Ay fleeth the tyme, it nil no man abyde.
And though your grene youthe floure as yit,
In crepeth age alwey, as stille as stoon,
And deeth manaceth euery age, and smit
In ech estaat, for ther escapeth noon :
And al so certein as we knowe echoon
That we shul deye, as vncerteyn we alle
Been of that day whan deeth shal on vs falle.
Accepteth than of vs the trewe entente,
That neuer yet refuseden your heste,
And we wol, lord, if that ye wol assente,
Chese yow a wyf in short tyme atte leste,
Born of the gentilleste and of the meste
Of al this lond, so that it oughte seme
Honour to god and yow, as we can deme.
1 C. Pt. Ln. Hl. oure; E. Hn. Cp. vs.
2 E. Ln. omit it. 3 So Cp. Pt. Ln. Hl. ; E. Hn. Cm. thyn.
Deliuer vs out of al this bisy drede,
And tak a wyf, for hye goddes sake;
For if it so bifelle, as god forbede,
That thurgh your deeth your linage? sholde slake,
And that a straunge successour sholde take
Your heritage, o! wo were vs alyue !
Wherfor we pray you hastily to wyue.'
Her meke preyere and her pitous chere
Made the markis herte han pitee.
· Ye wol,' quod he, 'myn owen peple dere,
To that I neuer erst thoughte streyne me.
I me reioysed of my libertee,
That selde tyme is founde in mariage;
Ther I was free, I moot been in seruage.
But nathelees I se your trewe entente,
And truste vpon your wit and haue doon ay;
Wherfor of my free wille I wol assente
To wedde me, as soone as euer I may.
But ther as ye han profred me this day
To chese me a wyf, I yow relesse
That chois, and prey yowof that profre cesse.
For god it woot, that children ofte been
Vnlyk her worthy eldres hem bifore;
Bountee comth al of god, nat of the streen
Of which they been engendred and ybore;
I truste in goddes bountee, and therfore
My mariage and myn estaat and reste
I him bitake; he may doon as him leste.
1 Cp. Pt. lynage ; Ln. Hl. lignage; E. lyne; Hn. ligne ; Cm. lyf. 2 E. (only) omits yow.
Lat me alone in chesing of my wyf,
That charge vp-on my bak I wol endure;
But I yow preye, and charge vp-on your lyf,
That what i wyf that I take, ye me assure
To worshipe hir, whyl that hir lyf may dure,
In word and werk, bothe here and euerywhere,
As she an emperoures doughter were.
And forthermore, this shal ye swere, that ye
Agayn my choys shul neither grucche ne stryue ;
For sith I shal forgoon my libertee
At your requeste, as euer moot I thryue,
Ther as myn herte is set, therwol I wyue ;
And but ye wole assente in swich? manere,
I prey yow, speketh namore of this matere.'
With hertly wil they sworen, and assenten
To al this thing, ther seyde no wyght nay ;
Bisekinge him of grace, er that they wenten,
That he wolde graunten hem a certein day
Of his spousaille, as sone as euer he may ;
For yet alwey the peple som-what dredde
Lest that this markis no wyf wolde wedde.
He graunted hem a day, swich as him leste,
On which he wolde be wedded sikerly,
And seyde he dide al this at her requeste;
And they with humble entente buxomly
Knelinge vp-on her knees ful reuerently
Him thanken alle, and thus they han an ende
Of her entente, and hoom agayn they wende.
1 So Hn. Cp. Ln. Hl. ; E. Cm. Pt. omit That.
2 E. this, the rest swich, such.