Page images

In sangwin and in pers he clad was al,
Lyned with taffata, and with sendal.
And yit he was but esy in dispence :
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in phisik is a cordial;
Therfore he lovede gold in special.

A good WiF was ther of byside BATHE,
But sche was somdel deef, and that was skathe.
Of cloth-makyng sche hadde such an haunt,
Sche passed hem of Ypris and of Gaunt.

In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon,
That to the offryng byforn hire schulde goon,
And if ther dide, certeyn so wroth was sche,
That sche was thanne out of alle charité.
Hire keverchefs weren ful fyne of grounde ;
I durste swere, they weyghede ten pounde,
That on the Sonday were upon hire heed.
Hire hosen were of fyn scarlett reed,
Ful streyte y-teyed, and schoos ful moyste and newe.

444.—pestilence. An allusion, probably, to the great pestilences which devastated Europe in the middle of the fourteenth century, and to which we owe the two celebrated works, the Decameron of Boccacio, and the Visions of Piers Ploughman.

449.-cloth makyng. The west of England, and especially the neighbourhood of Bath, from which the “ good wif" came, was celebrated, till a comparatively recent period, as the district of cloth-making. Ipres and Ghent were the great clothing marts on the Continent.

456.-ten pounde, This is the reading of all the best MSS. I have consulted. Tyrwhitt has a pound. It is a satire on the fashionable head dresses of the ladies at this time, which appear in the illuminations to be composed of large quantities of heavy wadding, and the satirist takes the liberty of exaggerating a little.

459.-moyste. One of the Cambridge MSS. reads softe, which was, perhaps, originally a gloss to moyste.


Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
Sche was a worthy womman al hire lyfe,
Housbondes atte chirche dore hadde sche fyfe,
Withouten othur companye in youthe.
But therof needeth nought to speke as nouthe.
And thries hadde sche ben at Jerusalem ;
Sche hadde passud many a straunge streem;
At Rome sche hadde ben, and at Boloyne,
In Galice at seynt Jame, and at Coloyne.
Sche cowde moche of wandryng by the weye.
Gattothud was sche, sothly for to seye.
Uppon an amblere esely sche sat,
Wymplid ful wel, and on hire heed an hat
As brood as is a bocler, or a targe;
A foot-mantel aboute hire hupes large,
And on hire feet a paire of spores scharpe.
In felawschipe wel cowde lawghe and carpe.
Of remedyes of love sche knew parchaunce,
For of that art sche knew the olde daunce.

A good man was ther of religioun,
And was a pore PERSOUN of a toun:

[merged small][ocr errors]

462.-atle chirche dore. The priest formerly joined the hands of the couple, and performed a great part of the marriage service, in the church porch. See Warton's History of English Poetry, ii. 201 (ed. of 1840).

468.-Coloyne. At Cologne the bones of the three kings of the East were believed to be preserved.

477.remedyes. An allusion to the title and subject of Ovid's book, De Remedio Amoris.

480. Chaucer, in his beautiful character of the parson, sets up the industrious secular clergy against the lazy, wicked monks.

[ocr errors]

But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Cristes gospel truly wolde preche.
His parischens devoutly wold he teche.
Benigne he was, and wondur diligent,
And in adversité ful pacient:
And such he was i-proved ofte sithes.
Ful loth were him to curse for his tythes ;
But rather wolde he geven out of dowte,
Unto his pore parisschens aboute,
Of his offrynge, and eek of his substaunce.
He cowde in litel thing han suffisance.
Wyd was his parisch, and houses fer asondur,
But he ne lafte not for reyn ne thondur,
In siknesse ne in meschief to visite
The ferrest in his parissche, moche and lite,
Uppon his feet, and in his hond a staf.
This noble ensample unto his scheep he gaf,
That ferst he wroughte, and after that he taughte
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte, 500
And this figure he addid yit therto,
That if gold ruste, what schulde yren doo?
For if a prest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wondur is a lewid man to ruste :
And schame it is, if that a prest take kepe,
A schiten schepperd and a clene schepe ;

483.-truly. I have substituted this word, which is found in most of the other MSS., for gladly, the reading of the MS. Har).

Wel oughte a prest ensample for to give,
By his clennesse, how that his scheep schulde lyve.
He sette not his benefice to huyre,
And lefte his scheep encombred in the myre,

And ran to Londone, unto seynte Poules,
To seeken him a chaunterie for soules,
Or with a brethurhede be withholde :
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
So that the wolf ne made it not myscarye.
He was a schepperde and no mercenarie;
And though he holy were, and vertuous,
He was to senful man nought dispitous,
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
But in his teching discret and benigne.

520 To drawe folk to heven by fairnesse, By good ensample, was his busynesse: But it were eny persone obstinat, What so he were of high or lowe estat, Him wolde he snybbe scharply for the nones. A bettre preest I trowe ther nowher non is. He waytud after no pompe ne reverence, Ne maked him a spiced conscience, But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve, He taught, and ferst he folwed it himselve.

530 With him ther was a PLOUGHMAN, his brothur, That hadde i-lad of dong ful many a fothur.

621.-fairnesse. This is the reading of most of the MSS. The MS. Harl. has clennesse, which seems not to give so good a sense.

[ocr errors]

A trewe swynker, and a good was hee,
Lyvynge in pees, and parfight charitee.
God loved he best with al his trewe herte
At alle tymes, though him gained or smerte,
And thanne his neighebour right as himselve.
He wolde threisshe, and therto dyke, and delve,
For Cristes sake, with every pore wight,
Withouten huyre, if it laye in his might.
His tythes payede he ful faire and wel,
Bathe of his owne swynk, and his catel.
In a tabbard he rood upon a mere.

Ther was also a reeve and a mellere,
A sompnour and a pardoner also,
A maunciple, and my self, ther was no mo.

The MELLERE was a stout carl for the nones,
Ful big he was of braun, and eek of boones ;
That prevede wel, for over al ther he cam,
At wrastlynge he wolde bere awey the ram. 550
He was schort schuldred, broode, a thikke knarre,
Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it with a rennyng with his heed.
His berd as ony sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.

550.--the ram. “This was the usual prize at wrestling-matches. See below, ver. 13,671 ; and Gamelyn, ver. 343 and 555. M. Paris mentions a wrestling.match at Westminster, in the year 1222, at which a ram was the prize."--Tyrwhitt.

652.-harre. This is the reading of all the oldest and best MSS.; barre, a later reading, adopted by Tyrwhitt, appears to have originated with some one who did not know the meaning of the other word.

« PreviousContinue »