The Prioress's Tale


Domine dominus noster

"O Lord our Lord, how marvelous thy name, Spread so afar through this wide world," said she. "Thy precious praise not only they proclaim 455 Who are among good men of dignity, But from the mouths of babes thy charity Is praised as well. Babes sucking at the breast May often show their praises like the rest. "Wherefore as best I can or may, in praise 460 Of thee and of that whitest lily flower Who gave thee birth and is a maiden always, To tell a tale I'll labor in this hour-- Increasing not her honor by my power, For she herself is honor, root and palm 465 Of bounty (next to Christ), and our souls' balm. "O mother Maiden, maiden Mother free! O bush unburnt, burning in Moses' sight, Thou who drew down, through thy humility, The Spirit from the Godhead, to alight 470 In thee, conceiving, as thy heart grew bright, The Wisdom of the Father--now this story Help me to tell, related for thy glory! "Lady, thy goodness, thy magnificence, Thy power, and thy great humility 475 No tongue may yet express with competence; For sometimes, Lady, ere men pray to thee, Thou goest before in thy benignity, Securing for us through thy orison The light to guide us to thy precious Son. 480 "O blissful Queen, my learning is too weak To be declaring thy great worthiness; I cannot bear such burden, I would speak As does a child who's twelve months old or less, One who can scarcely any word express. 485 That's how I fare, and therefore hear my plea To guide my song that I shall sing of thee."

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