Published on December 9, 2014
Geoffrey Chaucer - The Canterbury Tales: The Shipman’s Tale 2 The monk began to stare upon this wife. “Alack, my niece,” he said, “God forbid that for any sorrow or fear you should destroy yourself! But tell me your trouble; perhaps I may counsel or help you in your misfortune, and therefore tell me all, for it shall be a secret. For on my breviary 2 here I take my oath never to betray your counsel for friend or foe.” 132 “I say the same to you again,” she said. “By God and this breviary I swear, though I may be torn in pieces or though I go to hell for it, never to betray a word of what you tell me. This I say not for our kinship but truly for friendship and good trust.” 140 “Thus they swore and kissed upon it, and each said to the other what they pleased. 142 “Cousin,” she said, “if I had a fit opportunity, though I have none in this place, I would tell you the legend of my life, what I have suffered from my husband since I wedded him, even though he is your kin. 147 “Nay,” said the monk, by God and St. Martin, he is no more my kin than is this leaf hanging on the tree! By St. Denis of France, I call him so to have the more ground for acquaintance with you, whom of a truth I have loved especially above all women; this I swear on my profession. Tell me your grief and hasten yourself, and then go your way, lest he come down.” 157 “My dear love, oh my Brother John!” she said. “I wish I could keep this secret, but it must come out: I can wait no longer. My husband is the worst man to me that ever was since the world was created. But since I am a wife, it is inappropriate for me not to tell any person of our private matters, those in bed or elsewhere. God of His grace forbid that I tell them. A wife should say nothing but honor of her husband, I know full well, except that to you thus much I may say: so may God help me, as he is not worth in any degree at all the value of a fly! Yet most of all his stinginess grieves me. You well know that all women by nature desire six things as well as I do; they would have their husbands brave and wise and rich, and generous too, and obedient to their wives, and lively in bed. But by the very Lord who for us bled, for his honor, to array myself, I must pay on next Sunday a hundred francs, or else I am lost. Rather would I never have been born than there should be scandal or dishonor for it; yet if my husband should learn of it, I am as good as lost; therefore, I pray you, lend me this 2 Breviary. A book of prayers in which the various daily prayer services, or offices, are contained. sum or I must die. Brother John, I say, lend me these hundred francs, and by God, I will not fail in gratitude if you grant to do what I ask. At a certain day I will repay you and do you whatever pleasure and service I can, just as you suggest. If I do not, may God take vengeance upon me as shamefully as ever had Ganelon for his treason to France.” 194 This noble monk answered, “Now truly, my own dear lady, I have such pity for you that I swear to you and pledge you my word that when your husband has gone to Flanders I will deliver you from this trouble. I will bring you a hundred francs.” 201 And at that he caught her by the flanks and kissed her many times. “Now go,” he said, “all quietly and gently, and let us dine as soon as may be, for it is prime of day by the sun-dial. Go now, and be as true as I shall be.” 206 “God forbid that it would be otherwise, Sir,” she said, and went forth as merry as a magpie, and told the cooks make haste that they all might dine soon. Then up to her husband she went and knocked at his counting-house door very boldly. “Qui la 3 ?” he said. 214 “By Peter, it is I,” she said; “What, sir, how long do you wish to fast? How long will you calculate and figure your sums and your books and things? May the Devil have a share in all such sums! You have enough of God's gifts, by God! Come down today and leave your bags alon. Are you not ashamed that Brother John should fast wretchedly all this long day? What! Let us hear a mass and then to dinner!” 223 This man said, “Wife, little can you fancy this intricate and anxious business of ours. For so may God help me and my lord St. Ive, among twelve of us merchants scarcely shall two prosper continually until old age. We are glad to make good cheer and put as good a face on it as may be, and make what show we can in the world and keep our affairs private, until we are dead; or, if this fails, find relaxation on a pilgrimage or take ourselves way somewhere. Therefore it is of great necessity for me to plan my course in this queer world, for in trade we must always stand in fear of chance and fortune. 238 “Tomorrow at sunrise I will go to Flanders, and return as soon as ever I can. Therefore I beseech you, dear wife, be gentle and meek toward every creature and careful to watch over our goods, and govern our 3 Qui la? Who is there?