Geoffrey Chaucer is an English writer and poet who was born in London in the 1340s and died in 1400 in that same city. His most famous work is Canterbury Tales. The Canterbury Tales are, with Sire Gauvain and the Green Knight (from an anonymous person) and Peter the Plowman (by William Langland), the very first great works of English literature. Here is the first tale: Mellibée.
"More of that, for the dignity of God!"
2110(says our host) because you give me back
so tired of your stupid foolishness
may, as sure as God bless me,
my ears hurt with your sickening story.
I give the devil such a rhyme!
It must be doggy rhyme (He says).
" Why that ? (I said). Why do you want to prevent me
more than the others to tell my tale,
since it's the best rhyme I know of? "
"Pardieu! (he says) is that quite clean, and in a word,
2120your sickening rhyme is not worth a turd;
you're just wasting our time.
Sir, in a word, you won't rhyme any more.
Let's see if you can tell us something
or at least tell us something in prose
where there is a little fun or a little doctrine. "
"Willingly (I say), by the passion of God!"
I'll tell you a little thing in prose
which should please you, I suppose;
otherwise, of course, you are too difficult.
2130It is a virtuous moral tale;
it is true that it is sometimes told in different ways
by various people, as I will explain to you;
here's like: you know every evangelist
who tells us about the passion of Jesus Christ
does not say everything like his companion;
but nevertheless their account is all truth,
and all agree for the meaning
although there are differences in their manner;
because some say more, and others less
2140 when they describe his pitiful passion;
I'm talking about Marc and Mathieu, Luc and Jean;
but their meaning is undoubtedly one.
So all of you, my lords, I beg you,
if you find that I vary in my words,
if, for example, I say a little more
proverbs that you have never heard before -
as understood in this little treatise, -
in order to strengthen the effect of my material,
and if i don't say the same words
2150 that you have heard, I beg you all,
do not blame me; because, for the bottom of my story,
you won't find much difference
with the meaning of this little treatise
from which I write this happy tale.
So listen to what I'm going to tell you
and let me tell my whole story, please ”.
[Here it seemed good to substitute for the complete translation a rapid analysis. Mellibée's prose tale has against it being very boring and very long. It fits in the edition of Skeat (Student's Chaucer) 25 pages in two very tight columns. It was, moreover, useless to translate it since it is itself, as we will see in the note, only a literal translation from French and may the original find you in the charming Housekeeper of Paris, book very accessible. However, it should be noted that scholasticism and unbearable the length of this story is (dramatically) its interest, in this case. Chaucer has just been scoffed at for his ballad so fertile in rhyme and so empty of reason. He takes revenge by telling a story without a rhyme this time, and loaded with reason, wisdom and doctrine, to sink in low. The joker is here in the good trick he plays on pilgrims. But it is too much for today's patience that a whole volume where humor remains understood from cover to cover. Better to point out the enormous hoax than to reproduce it.]
“A young man called Mellibée, powerful and rich, had a wife named Prudence, and by this woman had a daughter. It happened one day that he went to frolic and play and left his wife and daughter in his house. The doors were closed. Three of his old enemies leaned ladders against the walls of his house, and through the windows entered into it, and beat his wife, and grieved his daughter with five plagues and left her almost dead, and then went their way. "
When Mellibée returned, he surrendered to despair. "For this Prudence restrained herself a little time, and then when she saw her time, if said to her: Sire, why are you making yourself seem crazy? It is not for a wise man to mourn so much. Your daughter will escape if God pleases: if she was ores dead, you must not destroy yourself for her, for Seneca says that the wise man must not take great discomfort at the death of his children, so must suffer their deaths as lightly as he expects. his own… When you have lost your friend, let your eye be neither too dry nor too moist, for, although a tear does come to your eye, it must not emerge; and when you have lost your friend, think and strive for another to recover, for it is better for you to recover another friend than the lost friend to cry. If you want to live wisely, remove sadness from your heart ... Call all your loyal friends and rule you according to the advice they will give you. "
Many of Mellibée's friends gathered. We heard successively speak of a surgeon, a physicist, a lawyer. Mellibée showed only too clearly how impatient he was to avenge the injury done and declare war on his enemies. In vain did a wise old man try to preach conciliation: "when the young men and most of all the others laughed at this wise man and made a great noise and said that everything so how hot it is, so one must avenge the insult as long as it is cool, and cried aloud: war, war, war! "
Fortunately Prudence saw the danger. When the advisers had withdrawn, she approached her husband, she refuted in a long preliminary speech the arguments by which he pretended not to listen to her, and ended with this tasty praise of the woman: "When you blame them so much. women and their advice, I show you for many reasons that many women have been good and their advice good and profitable. We are accustomed to say: a woman's advice, or it is very dear or it is very base. Because although many women are very bad and their advice base, however we find enough good and who have given very good advice and very dear. A master made two verses to which he asks and answers and thus says: What thing is better than gold? Jasper. What more than jasper? Sense. What thing is better than sense? Women. What is better than a woman? Nothing. For these reasons and many others can you see that many women are good and their advice good and profitable. So now you want to believe my advice, I will make your daughter healthy and do as long as you have honor in this fact. Mellibée agreed to listen to his wife and here are the wise words he heard.
“Since you want to rule yourself by my advice, I want to teach you how to behave by taking advice. First you have to ask the advice of God in front of all others, then you have to take advice in yourself and then you have to remove three things from you which are contrary to advice, to sit down, lust and haste. Finally you have to get your advisers together. You must call only your good and loyal friends, especially old men, for old is wisdom, and beware of listening to flatterers, false friends and young fools. The councilors assembled, you must know how to question them, hide nothing from them, and the deliberation over, carry out what you have decided. The tumultuous assembly to which Mellibée had submitted her quarrel was incapable of issuing a wise advice: they were "strange people, youths, madmen, losengeurs, reconciled enemies bearing reverence without love. You have erred by refusing to follow the advice of your wise and old friends, but have looked only at the greatest number and you know very well that the fools are always in greater number than the wise ones and for this the council of the chapters and the great multitudes of people where one looks more at the number than the merits of the people often wanders, because in such councils the fools always won ”. You have to get to the bottom of things: “The insult that has been done to you has two working and efficient causes, the distant and the next; the distant is God who is the cause of all things, the next are your three enemies. Who would ask me why God wanted and suffered that they did such an insult to you, I could not answer for sure, because, according to what the Apostle says, the science and judgment of Our Lord are so deep that no one can understand them or encenter them sufficiently. However by no presumptions I hold that God who is just and right-wing, suffered that it happened for a just and reasonable cause ... You were drunk with your riches and forgot God your creator, did not bring him honor and reverence as well as you had to. You have sinned against Our Lord because the three enemies of the human lineage who are the world, the flesh and the devil, you have allowed your heart to enter quite frankly through the windows of the body so that they have grieved your daughter, it is to assassinate the soul of you, of five plagues, that is to say of all the mortal sins which entered the heart among the five senses of the body. By this semblance, Our Lord allowed these three enemies to enter your house through the windows and to upset your daughter in the above manner. " Until then Mellibée had listened patiently to Lady Prudence's long speech, he stops her now, he is not one of the "perfect good", "his heart cannot be at peace until he is avenged" , isn't he rich? why not take advantage of the advantage that fortune gives since "all things, according to Solomon, obey money"?
“The fiance of your wealth,” Prudence replied softly, “is not enough to maintain a war. The victory does not depend on the great number of people or on the virtue of men but on the will of God. And she concludes thus: "I advise you that you grant your enemies and have peace with them, for you know that one of the greatest goods in this world is peace. For what Jesus Christ said to his apostles: blessed are those who love and pursue peace, for they are called children of God. "
So Mellibée declared himself convinced by "these very gentle words" and relied entirely on the judgment of Dame Prudence. This secretly summoned the adversaries to the place, and brought them back to better feelings. Then she brought together Mellibée's friends who advised him to forgive him. By a supreme return of the spirit of vengeance, Mellibée was preparing to pronounce a severe sentence against his repentant enemies: exile and the confiscation of property, when Prudence again intervened. “When Mellibée had heard the wise teachings of his wife, so was in great peace of heart and praised God who had given him such a wise companion, and when the day came that his adversaries appeared in his presence, he spoke to them very gently and said to them: the great humility that I see in you compels me to be grateful to you and for this we receive you in our friendship and in our good grace, and forgive you all insults and all your misdeeds against us, to the end that God in no death will forgive our own. "