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But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were of highe, or low estat,
Him wolde he snibben 2 sharply for the nonés.3
A better preest I trowe that nowher non“ is.
He waited after no pompe ne reverence,
Ne makéd him no spiced consciènce,
But Cristés lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taught, but first he folwed it himselve.
THE TALE OF THE ENCHANTED STEED.6
At Sarra, in the lond of Tartarie,
Ther dwelt a king that werreièd? Russie,
Thurgh which ther diéd many a doughty man:
This noble king was clepéd Cambuscàn,
Which in his time was of so gret renoun,
That ther n'as no wher in no regioùn
So excellent a lord in allé thing :
Him lacked nought that longetho to a king,
As of the sectelo of which that he was borne.
He kept his layil to which he was ysworne;
And, therto, he was hardy, wise, and riche,
And pitöus, and just; and alway yliche ; 12 (1) But it were-But if there were. (2) Snibben-snub, reprove. (3) For the nones — for the occasion, implying that he did not generally reprove sharply. (4) Non-no one. (5) Spiced conscience-a conscience embalmed in sophistries.
(6) This romantic story—usually called “the Squire's Tale”-seems to have been a favourite with Milton, who in the". Il Penseroso" characterizes Chaucer
“ Him that left half-told
The story of Cambuscan bold,
Of Camball, and of Algarsife,
And who had Canace to wife,
That owned the virtuous ring and glass,
And of the wondrous horse of brass,
On which the Tartar king did ride.” “ The imagination,” says Warton ("History of English Poetry," $ xv), “ of this story, consists in Arabian fiction, engrafted on Gothic chivalry.”
The story, as above intimated, is in the original only “half told,” but to fit it for this selection, the fragment has been somewhat abridged-the part left out however being a wearisome specimen of that "tediousness” which even Chaucer, sometimes“ bestows” upon his readers.
(7) Werreied--made war against. (8) Thurgh-through. (9) Longeth-belongeth. (10) As of the secte, &c.-As suitable to the rank in life to which he was born. (11) Lay-law, that which is laid down, as saw is that which is said. (12) Yliche-alike, the same.
Trewe of his word, benigne and honourable ;
Of his coràge as any centre, stable;
Yong, fresh, and strong; in armés desiroùs,
As any bacheler of all his hous.
A faire person he was, and fortunate,
And kept alway so well real estat,
That ther n'as no wher swiche another man,
This noble king, this Tartre Cambuscàn,
Haddé two sones by Elfeta his wif,
Of which the eldest sone hightea Algarsif
That other was yclepéd Camballo.
A daughter had this worthy king also,
That yongest was, and highté Canace :
But for to tellen you all hire beautee,
It lith 3 not in my tonge, ne in my conning;
I dare not undertake so high a thing :
Min English, eke, is unsufficient ;
It mustě ben a rethor4 excellent,
That coude his colours longing forø that art,
If he shuld hire descriven ony part:
I am not swiche; I mote7 speke as I can.
And so befell, that when this Cambuscàn
Hath twenty winter borne his diademe,
As he was wont fro yere to yere, I deme,
He let the festes of his nativitee,
Don crién, thurghout Sarra his citee,
The last Idus of March, after the yere.
Phebus the sonne ful jolif was and clere,
For he was nigh his exaltatiòn
In Martés face, and in his mansión
In Aries, the colerike hote signe :
Ful lusty 10 was the wether, and benigne ;
For which the foules again the sonné shene,
(What for the seson and the yonge grene),
Ful loudé songen hir affectiòns ;
Hem semed 13 han gatten hem protectiòns
(1) Real--royal, from the Latin regalis. (2) Highte-was called. (3) Lithlieth. (4) Rethor-rhetorician, one highly skilled in composition. (5) Coudeknew. (6) Longing for, &c.—Belonging to that art. (7) Mote-must. (8) Let the feste, &c.-Ordered the feast of his nativity to be proclaimed.
(9) Idus of March-the 15th day, by the Roman computation. (10) Lusty-vigorous, inspiriting. (11) Again---against, in front of. (12) Affections- gratitude. (13) Hem semed, &c.--i.e, they seemed to have got, &c.
Again the swerd? of winter kene and cold.
This Cambuscàn, of which I have you told,
In real vestiments, sit on his deis?
With diademe, ful high in his paleis;
And holt his feste so solempne and so riche,
That in this world ne was ther non it liche,
Of which if I shal tellen all the array,
Than wold it occupie a somers day;
And, eke, it nedeth not for to devise
At every cours the order of hir service:
I wol not tellen of hir strangé sewes,
Ne of hir swar
wannés, ne hir heronsewes.5
Eke, in that lond, as tellen knightés old,
Ther is som mete that is ful daintee hold,
That in this lond men recche 6 of it ful smal :
Ther n'is no man that may reporten al.
I wol not tarien you, for it is prime,
And for it is no fruit, but losse of time,
Unto my purpose I wol have recours.
And so befell, that after the thridde 8 cours,
While that this king sit thus in his noblèy,'
Herking his minstrallés hir thingés pley
Before him at his bord deliciously,
In at the hallé dore, al sodenly,
Ther came a knight upon a stede of bras,
And in his hond a brod 10 mirroùr of glas;
Upon his thombe he had of gold a ring;
And by his side a naked swerd hanging,
And up he rideth to the highé bord.
In all the halle ne was ther spoke a word,
For mervaille of this knight; him to behold
Ful besily they waiten, yong and old.
This strangé knight that come thus sodenly
Al arméd, save his hed, ful richély,
Salueth 11 king and quene, and lordés alle,
By order as they saten in the halle,
(1) Swerd sword. (2) Deis--dais, the elevated part of an ancient dining hall, where the principal persons sat under a canopy. (3) Holt-held. (4) Hir strange sewes-their strange or dainty dishes. (5) Heronseves-young herons. (6) Recche of it, &c.—Reck, or care for it very little. (7) It is prime, either means, it is now the first quarter of the day (or early in the morning), and therefore I must be quicker with my story; or it is used metaphorically for the season of action and business. (8) Thridde-third. (9) In his nobley-in his splendour, or, among his nobility. (10) Brod - broad. (11) Salueth--saluteth,
With so high reverence and observance,
As wel in speche as in his contenance,
That Gawain with his oldé curtesie,
Though he were come agen out of faerie,
Ne coude him not amenden with a word.
And, after this, beforn the highé bord,
He with a manly vois sayd his message,
After the forme used in his langàge,
Withouten vice of sillable or of letter.
And for? his talé shuldé seme the better,
Accordant to his wordés was his chere,3
As techeth art of speche hem that it lere: 4
Al be it that I cannot soune his stile,
Ne cannot climben over so high a stile,
I this, as to comùn entent,
Thus much amounteth al that ever he ment,
If it so be that I have it in mind.
He sayd: “The King of Arabie and of Inde,
My liege Lord! on this solempné day,
Salueth you as he best can and may,
And sendeth you, in honour of your feste,
By me, that am al redy at your heste,
This stede of bras, that esily and wel
Can in the space of a day naturel,
(This is to sayn, in four and twenty houres),
Wher so you list, in drought or ellés shoures,
Beren your body into every place,
To which your herté willeth for to pace,
Withouten wemme of you, thurgh foule or faire.
you list to fleen 11 as high in the aire
As doth an egle, whan him list 12 to sore,
This samé stede shal bere you evermore,
(1) Gawain-a nephew to King Arthur, and described as a model of knightly courtesy. (2) And for, &c.—And in order that his tale, &c. (3) Chere--appearance, the expression of his countenance. (4) Lere- learn; hence the noun, lore.
(5) Stile—the two words thus written above, and given as rhymes, are of different origin—the former is from the Latin stylus, the writing implement of the Romans; the latter from the Anglo-Saxon stigh-el, something raised. (6) Comun entent--the general meaning or scope. (7) If it so be, &c.-If at least I understand it well myself. (8) Heste-command. (9) Pace-pass, go. (10) Withouten wemme of you—without spot or any injury to you. (11) Fleen---to fly. (12) Him list--this verb is generally used in old authors, as in the above examples, impersonally. It is the same as lest, used two lines below; its past tense was luste.
Withouten harme, till
(Though that ye slepen on his back or rest,)
Ànd turne again with writhing' of a pin.
He that it wrought, he coude? many a gin;
He waited many a constellation
Or he had don this operatïòn,
And knew ful many a sele and
This mirrour, eke, that I have in min hond,
Hath swiche a might, that men may in it see
When ther shal falle
Unto your regne, or to yourself also,
And openly, who is your
And, over all this, if any lady bright
Hath set her herte on any maner wight,
If he be false, she shal his treson see,
His newé love, and all his subtiltee,
So openly, that ther shal nothing hide.
Wherfore, again this 4 lusty somer tide,
This mirrour and this ring that ye may see,
He hath sent to my lady Canace,
Your excellenté doughter that is here.
“The vertue of this ring, if ye wol here,
Is this, that if hire list it for to were
Upon hire thombe, or in hire purse it bere,
Ther is no foule that fleeth under heven,
That she ne shal wel understond his steven,
And know his mening openly and plaine,
And answere him in his langage again :
that groweth upon rote
She shall eke know, and whom it wol do bote,6
Al be his woundes never so depe and wide.
This naked swerd, that hangeth by my side,
Swiche vertue hath, that what man that it smite,
Thurghout his armure it wol kerve? and bite,
Were it as thicke as a braunched oke;
And what man that is wounded with the stroke
(1) Writhing-turning. (2) He coude, &c.—He knew many a contrivance. (3) He waited, dc.--i.e. he waited until the stars were favourable to him. (4) Again this, &c.-- Against this pleasant summer-time. (5) Steven- from the Anglo-Saxon stefn-ian, to set up, institute; hence steven is instituted language, speech. (6) Bote-from the Anglo-Saxon bot-an, to superadd, satisfy-satisfaction, help, remedy; do bole, cure. The words boot, in “ to boot” and bootless, are derived from this word. (7) Kerve-carve, cut.