Fragment II (Group B1)

The Lawyer's Tale


Words of the Host to the Company

Our Host saw that the brightly shining sun Through artificial day's arc then had run One-fourth the way plus half an hour or more; And though he wasn't deeply into lore, He knew quite well it was the eighteenth day 5 Of April, which is messenger of May. He saw too that the shadow of each tree Was in its length of the same quantity As was the tree that stood producing it; And by that shadow he judged by his wit 10 That Phoebus, who was shining clear and bright, Had climbed then forty-five degrees in height; The hour for that day and latitude Was ten o'clock, our Host had to conclude. He stopped and quickly reined his horse about. 15 "My lords," said he, "I warn you all the rout, A fourth part of the day's already gone. Now for the love of God and of Saint John, Let's lose as little time now as we may. My lords, it's time that wastes both night and day, 20 That robs us while we sleep without defense, And while awake, through our own negligence. It's like a stream returning not again, Descending from the mountain to the plain. Well Seneca, like others of his measure, 25 Bewails the loss of time more than of treasure: 'Of chattels there may be recovery, But we are ruined by loss of time,' said he. It will not come again, that's safely said, No more than may come Malkin's maidenhead 30 Once she has lost it in her wantonness. Let's not grow moldy, then, through idleness. "Sir Lawyer," said our Host, "God grant you bliss, Tell us a tale now; you've agreed to this. You've been committed by your free assent, 35 As I may judge the case, without dissent. Acquit your promise, then you'll be released; You will have done your duty at the least." "Host," he replied, "depardieux, I assent, To break agreements is not my intent. 40 A promise is a debt, and I will pay What I have promised--what more can I say? Laws he would give another man one should Obey himself, it's only right, our good Text so requires. But I know very well 45 There's not one worthy tale that I could tell That Chaucer (though he's not too good at meter, And not too skillful in his rhyming either) Has not been telling folks as best he can For quite a while, as known to any man. 50 And if he hasn't told them, my dear brother, In one book then he's told them in another. He's told of lovers, paid them much attention, Much more than Ovid ever made a mention In his Epistles that are very old. 55 Why should I tell what's been already told? "In youth, of Ceyx and Alcyone he wrote, And since then has of everyone made note Among the noblest wives, their lovers too. Whoever reads his lengthy volume through, 60 The one called The Legend of Cupid's Saints, Will find therein the great wounds and complaints: Lucretia's; those of Babylonian Thisbe, The sword of Dido (false Aeneas!); tree Of Phyllis, who for Demophon would die; 65 Hermione's and Dejanira's cry, Hypsipyle's, and that of Ariadne (Left on that barren island in the sea); Leander drowning for his love of Hero; The tears of Helen, and also the woe 70 Of you, Briseis, and you, Laodamia; The cruelty of you, O Queen Medea, To hang your children, all for hatred of Your Jason who was faithless in his love; Alcestis, Hypermnestra, Penelope, 75 Your wifehood with the best commended he. "But certainly no word he ever wrote Of Canace, that wicked case of note In which she loved her brother sinfully-- Fie on such curséd stories, I agree! 80 Or of the case of Apollonius, In which the curséd king Antiochus Bereft his daughter of her maidenhead-- So horrible a story to be read-- When he had thrown her upon the pavement. 85 He's never written (and for good intent), Not in a single one of his narrations, Of such unnatural abominations. I won't relate them now for all I may. "But for a tale what shall I do today? 90 I'd surely not be likened to the Muses (Or the Pierides if one so chooses, The Metamorphoses tells what I mean). But nonetheless why should I care a bean Though after him I've only haw to bake? 95 I'll speak in prose, his rhymes he's free to make." And with that word, he with a sober cheer Began his tale, as you're about to hear.

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