Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400. The Canterbury tales :
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The Second Nun's Tale
120: This mayden bright cecilie, as hir lif seith,
121: Was comen of romayns, and of noble kynde,
122: And from hir cradel up fostred in the feith
123: Of crist, and bar his gospel in hir mynde.
124: She nevere cessed, as I writen fynde,
125: Of hir preyere, and God to love and drede,
126: Bisekynge hym to kepe hir maydenhede.
127: And whan this mayden sholde unto a man
128: Ywedded be, that was ful yong of age,
129: Which that ycleped was valerian,
130: And day was comen of hir marriage,
131: She, ful devout and humble in hir corage,
132: Under hir robe of gold, that sat ful faire,
133: Hadde next hire flessh yclad hire in an haire.
134: And whil the organs maden melodie,
135: To God allone in herte thus sang she:
136: O lord, my soule and eek my body gye
137: Unwemmed, lest that it confounded be.
138: And, for his love that dyde upon a tree,
139: Every seconde and thridde day she faste,
140: Ay biddynge in hire orisons ful faste.
141: The nyght cam, and to bedde moste she gon
142: With hire housbonde, as ofte is the manere,
143: And pryvely to hym she seyde anon,
144: O sweete and wel biloved spouse deere,
145: Ther is a conseil, and ye wolde it heere,
146: Which that right fayn I wolde unto yow seye,
147: So that ye swere ye shul it nat biwreye.
148: Valerian gan faste unto hire swere
149: That for no cas, ne thyng that myghte be,
150: He sholde nevere mo biwreyen here;
151: And thanne at erst to hym thus seyde she:
152: I have an aungel which that loveth me,
153: That with greet love, wher so I wake or sleepe,
154: Is redy ay my body for to kepe.
155: And if that he may feelen, out of drede,
156: That ye me touche, or love in vileynye,
157: He right anon wol sle yow with the dede,
158: And in youre yowthe thus ye shullen dye;
159: And if that ye in clene love me gye,
160: He wol yow loven as me, for youre clennesse,
161: And shewen yow his joye and his brightnesse.
162: Valerian, corrected as God wolde,
163: Answerde agayn, if I shal trusten thee,
164: Lat me that aungel se, and hym biholde;
165: And if that it a verray angel bee,
166: Thanne wol I doon as thou hast prayed me;
167: And if thou love another man, for sothe
168: Right with this swerd thanne wol I sle yow bothe.
169: Cecile answerde anon-right in this wise:
170: If that yow list, the angel shul ye see,
171: So that ye trowe on crist and yow baptize.
172: Gooth forth to via apia, quod shee,
173: That fro this toun ne stant but miles three,
174: And to the povre folkes that ther dwelle,
175: Sey hem right thus, as that I shal yow telle.
176: Telle hem that I, cecile, yow to hem sente,
177: To shewen yow the goode urban the olde,
178: For secree nedes and for good entente.
179: And whan that ye seint urban han biholde,
180: Telle hym the wordes whiche I to yow tolde;
181: And whan that he hath purged yow fro synne,
182: Thanne shul ye se that angel, er ye twynne.
183: Valerian is to the place ygon,
184: And right as hym was taught by his lernynge,
185: He foond this hooly olde urban anon
186: Among the seintes buryeles lotynge.
187: And he anon, withouten tariynge,
188: Dide his message; and whan that he it tolde,
189: Urban for joye his handes gan up holde.
190: The teeris from his eyen leet he falle.
191: Almyghty lord, o jhesu crist, quod he,
192: Sower of chaast conseil, hierde of us alle,
193: The fruyt of thilke seed of chastitee
194: That thou hast sowe in cecile, taak to thee!
195: Lo, lyk a bisy bee, withouten gile,
196: Thee serveth ay thyn owene thral cecile.
197: For thilke spouse that she took but now
198: Ful lyk a fiers leoun, she sendeth heere,
199: As meke as evere was any lomb, to yow!
200: And with that word anon ther gan appeere
201: An oold man, clad in white clothes cleere,
202: That hadde a book with lettre of gold in honde,
203: And gan bifore valerian to stonde.
204: Valerian as deed fil doun for drede
205: Whan he hym saugh, and he up hente hym tho,
206: And on his book right thus he gan to rede:
207: O lord, o feith, o god, withouten mo,
208: O cristendom, and fader of alle also,
209: Aboven alle and over alle everywhere.
210: Thise wordes al with gold ywriten were.
211: Whan this was rad, thanne seyde this olde man,
212: Leevestow this thyng or no? sey ye or nay.
213: I leeve al this thyng, quod valerian,
214: For sother thyng than this, I dar wel say,
215: Under the hevene no wight thynke may.
216: Tho vanysshed the olde man, he nyste where,
217: And pope urban hym cristned right there.
218: Valerian gooth hoom and fynt cecilie
219: Withinne his chambre with an angel stonde.
220: This angel hadde of roses and of lilie
221: Corones two, the which he bar in honde;
222: And first to cecile, as I understonde,
223: He yaf that oon, and after gan he take
224: That oother to valerian, hir make.
225: With body clene and with unwemmed though
226: Kepeth ay wel thise corones, quod he;
227: Fro paradys to yow have I hem broght,
228: Ne nevere mo ne shal they roten bee,
229: Ne lese hir soote savour, trusteth me;
230: Ne nevere wight shal seen hem with his ye,
231: But he be chaast and hate vileynye.
232: And thow, valerian, for thow so soone
233: Assentedest to good conseil also,
234: Sey what thee list, and thou shalt han thy boone.
235: I have a brother,quod valerian tho,
236: That in this world I love no man so.
237: I pray yow that my brother may han grace
238: To knowe the trouthe, as I do in this place.
239: The angel seyde,god liketh thy requeste,
240: And bothe, with the palm of martirdom,
241: Ye shullen come unto his blisful feste.
242: And with that word tiburce his brother coom.
243: And whan that he the savour undernoom,
244: Which that the roses and the lilies caste,
245: Withinne his herte he gan to wondre faste,
246: And seyde,i wondre, this tyme of the yeer
247: Whennes that soote savour cometh so
248: Of rose and lilies that I smelle heer.
249: For though I hadde hem in myne handes two.
250: The savour myghte in me no depper go.
251: The sweete smel that in myn herte I fynde
252: Hath chaunged me al in another kynde.
253: Valerian seyde: two corones han we,
254: Snow white and rose reed, that shynen cleere,
255: Whiche that thyne eyen han no myght to see;
256: And as thou smellest hem thurgh my preyere,
257: So shaltow seen hem,leeve brother deere,
258: If it so be thou wolt, withouten slouthe,
259: Bileve aright and knowen verray troughe,
260: Tiburce answerde, seistow this to me
261: In soothnesse, or in dreem I herkne this?
262: In dremes, quod valerian, han we be
263: Unto this tyme, brother myn, ywis.
264: But now at erst in trouthe oure dwellyng is.
265: How woostow this? quod tiburce, and in what wyse?
266: Quod valerian, that shal I thee devyse.
267: The aungel of God hath me the trouthe ytaught
268: Which thou shalt seen, if that thou wolt reneye
269: The ydoles and be clene, and elles naught.
270: And of the myracle of thise corones tweye
271: Seint ambrose in his preface list to seye;
272: Solempnely this noble doctour deere
273: Commendeth it, and seith in this manere:
274: The palm of martirdom for to receyve,
275: Seinte cecile, fulfild of goddes yifte,
276: The world and eek hire chambre gan she weyve;
277: Witnesse tyburces and valerians shrifte,
278: To whiche God of his bountee wolde shifte
279: Corones two of floures wel smellynge,
280: And make his angel hem the corones brynge.
281: The mayde hath broght thise men to blisse above;
282: The world hath wist what it is worth, certeyn,
283: Devocioun of chastitee to love.
284: Tho shewed hym cecile al open and pleyn
285: That alle ydoles nys but a thyng in veyn,
286: For they been dombe, and therto they been deve,
287: And charged hym his ydoles for to leve.
288: Whoso that troweth nat this, a beest he is,
289: Quod tho tiburce, if that I shal nat lye.
290: And she gan kisse his brest, that herde this,
291: And was ful glad he koude trouthe espye.
292: This day I take thee for myn allye,
293: Seyde this blisful faire mayde deere,
294: And after that, she seyde as ye may heere:
295: Lo, right so as the love of crist, quod she,
296: Made me thy brotheres wyf, right in that wise
297: Anon for myn allye heer take I thee,
298: Syn that thou wolt thyne ydoles despise.
299: Go with thy brother now, and thee baptise,
300: And make thee clene, so that thou mowe biholde
301: The angels face of which thy brother tolde.
302: Tiburce answerde and seyde, brother deere,
303: First el me whider I shal, and to what man?
304: To whom? quod he, com forth with right good cheere,
305: I wol thee lede unto the pope urban.
306: Til urban?brother myn valerian,
307: Quod tho tiburce, woltow me thider lede?
308: Me thynketh that it were a wonder dede.
309: Ne menestow nat urban,quod he tho,
310: That is so ofte dampned to be deed,
311: And woneth in halkes alwey to and fro,
312: And dar nat ones putte forth his heed?
313: Men sholde hym brennen in a fyr so reed
314: If he were founde, or that men myghte hym spye,
315: And we also, to bere hym compaignye;
316: And whil we seken thile divinitee
317: That is yhid in hevene pryvely,
318: Algate ybrend in this world shul we bel
319: To whom cecile answerde boldely,
320: Men myghten dreden wel and skilfully
321: This lyf to lese, myn owene deere brother,
322: If this were lyvynge oonly and noon oother.
323: But ther is bettre lif in oother place,
324: That nevere shal be lost, ne drede thee noght,
325: Which goddes sone us tolde thurgh his grace.
326: That fadres sone hath alle thyng ywroght,
327: And al that wroght is with a skilful though,
328: The goost, that fro the fader gan procede,
329: Hath sowled hem, withouten any drede.
330: By word and by myracle heigh goodes sone
331: Whan he was in this world, declared heere
332: That ther was oother lyf ther men may wone.
333: To whom answerde tiburce,o suster deere,
334: Ne seydestow right now in this manere,
335: Ther nys but o god, lord in soothfastnesse?
336: And now of three how maystow bere witnesse?
337: That shal I telle,quod she, er I go.
338: Right as a man hath sapiences three,
339: Memorie, engyn, and intellect also,
340: So in o beynge of divinitee,
341: Thre persones may ther wright wel bee.
342: Tho gan she hym ful bisily to preche
343: Of cristes come, and of his peynes teche,
344: And manye pointes of his passioun;
345: How goddes sone in this world was withholde
346: To doon mankynde pleyn remissioun,
347: That was ybounde in synne and cares colde,
348: Al this thyng she unto tiburce tolde.
349: And after this, tiburce in good entente
350: With valerian to pope urban he wente,
351: That thanked god, and with glad herte light
352: He cristned hyn, and made hym in that place
353: Parfit in his lernynge, goddes knyght.
354: And after this, tiburce gat swich grace
355: That every day he saugh, in tyme and space,
356: The aungel of god; and every maner boone
357: That he God axed, it was sped ful soone.
358: If were ful hard by ordre for to seyn
359: How manye wondres jhesus for hem wroghte;
360: But atte laste, to tellen short and pleyn,
361: The sergeantz of the toun of rome hem soghte,
362: And hem biforn almache, the prefect, broghte,
363: Which hem apposed, and knew al hire entente,
364: And to the ymage of juppiter hem sente,
365: And seyde, whoso wol nat sacrifise,
366: Swape of his heed; this my sentence heer.
367: Anon thise martirs that I yow devyse,
368: Oon maximus, that was an officer
369: Of the prefectes, and his corniculer,
370: Hem hente, and whan he forth the seintes ladde,
371: Hymself he weep for pitee that he hadde.
372: Whan maximus had herd the seintes loore,
373: He gat hym of the tormentoures leve,
374: And ladde hem to his hous withoute moore,
375: And with hir prechyng, er that it were eve,
376: They gonnen fro the tormentours to reve,
377: And fro maxime, and fro his fold echone,
378: The false feith, to trowe in God allone.
379: Cecile cam, whan it was woxen nyght,
380: With preestes that hem cristned alle yfeere;
381: And afterward, whan day was woxen light,
382: Cecile hem seyde with a ful stedefast cheere,
383: Now, Christes owene knyghtes leeve and deere,
384: Cast alle awey the werkes of derknesse,
385: And armeth yow in armure of brightnesse.
386: Ye han for sothe ydoon a greet bataille,
387: Youre cours is doon, youre feith han ye conserved.
388: Gooth to the corone of lif that may nat faille;
389: The rightful juge, which that ye han served,
390: Shal yeve it yow, as ye han it deserved.
391: And whan this thyng was seyd as I devyse,
392: Men ledde hem forth to doon the sacrefise.
393: But whan they weren to the place broght
394: To tellen shortly the conclusioun,
395: They nolde encense ne sacrifise right noght,
396: But on hir knees they setten hem adoun
397: With humble herte and sad devocioun,
398: And losten bothe hir hevedes in the place.
399: Hir soules wenten to the kyng of grace.
400: This maximus, that saugh this thyng bityde,
401: With pitous teeris tolde it anonright,
402: That he hir soules saugh to hevene glyde
403: With aungels ful of cleernesse and of light,
404: And with his word converted many a wight;
405: For which almachius dide hym so tobete
406: With whippe of leed, til he his lif gan lete.
407: Cecile hym took and buryed hym anon
408: By tiburce and valerian softely
409: Withinne hire buriyng place, under the stoon;
410: And after this, almachius hastily
411: Bad his ministres fecchen openly
412: Cecile, so that she myghte in his presence
413: Doon sacrifice, and juppiter encense.
414: But they, converted at hir wise loore,
415: Wepten ful soore, and yaven ful credence
416: Unto hire word, and cryden moore and moore,
417: Crist, goddes sone, withouten difference,
418: Is verray God -- this is al oure sentence --
419: That hath so good a servant hym to serve.
420: This with o voys we trowen, thogh we sterve!
421: Almachius, that herde of this doynge,
422: Bad fecchen cecile, that he myghte hire see,
423: And alderfirst, lo! this was his axynge.
424: What maner womman artow? tho quod he.
425: I am a gentil womman born, quod she.
426: I axe thee, quod he, though it thee greeve,
427: Of thy religioun and of thy bileeve.
428: Ye han bigonne youre questioun folily,
429: Quod she, that wolden two answers conclude
430: In o demande; ye axed lewedly.
431: Almache answerde unto that similitude,
432: Of whennes comth thyn answeryng so rude?
433: Of whennes? quod she, whan that she was freyned,
434: Of conscience and of good feith unfeyned.
435: Almachius seyde, ne takestow noon heede
436: Of my power? and she answerde hym this:
437: Youre myght, quod she, ful litel is to dreede.
438: For every mortal mannes power nys
439: But lyk a bladdre ful of wynd ywys.
440: For with nedles poynt, whan it is blowe,
441: May al the boost of it be leyd ful lowe.
442: Ful wrongfully bigonne thow, quod he,
443: And yet in wrong is thy perserveraunce.
444: Wostow nat how oure myghty princes free
445: Han thus comanded and maad ordinaunce,
446: That every cristen wight shal han penaunce
447: But if that he his cristendom withseye,
448: And foon al quit, if he wole it reneye?
449: Yowre princes erren, as youre nobleye dooth,
450: Quod tho cecile, and with a wood sentence
451: Ye make us gilty, and it is nat sooth.
452: For ye, that knowen wel oure innocence,
453: For as muche as we doon a reverence
454: To crist, and for we berre a cristen name,
455: Ye putte on us a cryme, and eek a blame.
456: But we that knowen thilke name so
457: For vertuous, we may it nat withseye.
458: Almache answerde, chees oon of thise two:
459: Do sacrifice, or cristendom reneye,
460: That thou mowe now escapen by that weye.
461: At which the hooly blisful faire mayde
462: Gan for to laughe, and to juge sayde:
463: O juge, confus in thy nycetee,
464: Woltow that I reneye innocence,
465: To make me a wikked wight? quod shee.
466: Lo, he dissymuleth heere in audience;
467: He stareth, and woodeth in his advertence!
468: To whom almachius, unsely wrecche,
469: Ne woostow nat how fer my myght may strecche?
470: Han noght oure myghty princes to me yiven,
471: Ye, bothe power and auctoritee
472: To maken folk to dyen or to lyven?
473: Why spekestow so proudly thanne to me?
474: I speke noght but stedfastly, quod she;
475: Nat prudly, for I seye, as for my syde,
476: We haten deedly thilke vice of pryde.
477: And if thou drede nat a sooth to heere,
478: Thanne wol I shewe al openly, by right,
479: That thou hast maad a ful gret lesyng heere.
480: Thou seyst thy princes han thee yeven myght
481: Bothe for to sleen and for to quyken a wight;
482: Thou, that ne mayst but oonly lyf bireve,
483: Thou hast noon oother power ne no leve.
484: But thou mayst seyn thy princes han thee maked
485: Ministre of deeth; for if thou speke of mo,
486: Thou lyest, for thy power is ful naked.
487: Do wey thy booldnesse, seyde almachius tho,
488: And sacrifice to oure goddes, er thou go!
489: Irecche nat what wrong that thou me profre,
490: For I kan suffre it as a philosophre;
491: But thilke wronges may I nat endure
492: That thou spekest of oure goddes heere, quod
493: Cecile answerde, o nyce creature!
494: Thou seydest no word syn thou spak to me
495: That I ne knew therwith thy nycetee;
496: And that thou were, in every maner wise,
497: A lewed officer and a veyn justise.
498: Ther lakketh no thyng to thyne outer yen
499: That thou n' art blynd; for thyng that we seen alle
500: That it is stoon, -- that men may wel espyen, --
501: That ilke stoon a God tho wolt it calle.
502: I rede thee, lat thyn hand upon it falle,
503: And taste it wel, and stoon thou shalt it fynde,
504: Syn that thou seest nat with thyne eyen blynde.
505: It is a shame that the peple shal
506: So scorne thee, and laughe at thy folye;
507: For communly men woot it wel overal
508: That myghty God is in his hevenes hye;
509: And thise ymages, wel thou mayst espye,
510: To thee ne to hemself mowen noght profite,
511: For in effect thy been nat worth a myte.
512: Thise wordes and swiche othere seyde she,
513: And he weex wroth, and bad men sholde hir lede
514: Hom til hir hous, and in hire hous, quod he,
515: Brenne hire right in a bath of flambes rede.
516: And as he bad, right so was doon the dede;
517: For in a bath they gonne hire faste shetten,
518: And nyght and day greet fyr they under betten.
519: The longe nyght, and eek a day also,
520: For al the fyr, and eek the bathes heete,
521: She sat al coold, and feelede no wo.
522: It made hire nat a drope for to sweete.
523: But in that bath hir lyf she moste lete,
524: For he almachius, with ful wikke entente,
525: To sleen hire in the bath his sonde sente.
526: Thre strokes in the nekke he smoot hire tho,
527: The tormentour, but for no maner chaunce
528: He myghte noght smyte al hir nekke atwo;
529: And for ther was that tyme an ordinaunce
530: That no man sholde doon man swich penaunce
531: The ferthe strook to smyten, softe or soore,
532: This tormentour ne dorste do namoore,
533: But half deed, with hir nekke ycorven there,
534: He lefte hir lye, and on his wey is went.
535: The cristen folk, which that aboute hire were,
536: With sheetes han the blood ful faire yhent.
537: Thre dayes lyved she in this torment,
538: And nevere cessed hem the feithe to teche
539: That she hadde fostred; hem she gan to preche,
540: And hem she yaf hir moebles and hir thyng,
541: And to the pope urban bitook hem tho,
542: And seyde, I axed this of hevene kyng,
543: To han respit thre dayes and namo,
544: To recomende to yow, er that I go,
545: Thise soules, lo! and that I myghte do werche
546: Heere of myn hous perpetuilly a cherche.
547: Seint urban, with his deknes, prively
548: The body fette, and buryed it by nyghte
549: Among his othere seintes honestly.
550: Hir hous the chirche of seint cecilie highte;
551: Seint urban halwed it, as he wel myghte;
552: In which, into this day, in noble wyse,
553: Men doon to crist and to his seint servyse.