Canterbury Tales: The Doctor

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: the doctor.

canterbury tales the doctor

Canterbury Tales: The Doctor's Tale

Here follows the Tale of the Doctor.

He was, according to Titus Live,
a knight called Virginius,
man full of honor and merit,
having many friends and great wealth.
This knight, by his wife had a daughter;
no other children had in all his life.
She was a beautiful damsel of perfect beauty,
surpassing any creature that man can see;
because Nature, with supreme care
10made her of such great excellence
as if to say: "See, it's me Nature
who knows how to shape and paint a creature in this way,
when I like it; who will be able to imitate me?
It is not Pygmalion, should he constantly forge or strike
or engrave or paint; because I dare say
Qu'Appelles, Zanzis would work in vain
to engrave or paint, to forge or strike
if they had the brow of wanting to imitate me.
For He who is the Sovereign Creator
20made me his vicar general
to shape and paint earthly creatures
according to my good pleasure, and all being is in my tutelage
under the moon which grows and wanes;

for the work here I will not ask for anything;
my master and I are in complete agreement;
I created it to worship my master.
I do the same for all my other creatures,
whatever their color or shape. "
It seems to me that Nature would speak thus.
30    This young lady was twelve and two years old,
in which Nature had such great delight;
because just like this one knows how to paint a white lily
and red a rose, just the same colors
she painted this noble creature,
from before she was born, on her graceful limbs,
where it is appropriate that such colors be put;
and Phébus gave his long tresses the color
rays of its fiery flames.
And if she excelled in her beauty,
40she was a thousand times more virtuous still.
He lacked none of the qualities
that must be rented discreetly.
In soul as in body she was chaste,
why bloomed in virginity
with all humility and abstinence,
with all reserve and all patience,
also measured in its gait and its adjustment.
Discreet in her answers, she was always found;
although she was wise like Pallas, I dare say it,
50her ease, however, was quite feminine and simple;
she did not use formal terms
to appear wise; but it is according to his condition
that she spoke, and all her words, from the smallest to the largest,
conformed to virtue and kindness.
She was modest in the modesty of virgins,
of constant heart, and always at work
to tear himself away from vain indolence.
Bacchus had no empire over his mouth,
because wine and youth make the desire for love grow:
60like men who throw oil or grease on the fire.
Of herself and only listening to her virtue

she often feigned illness,
for what she wanted to run away from the company
of those who risked speaking follies,
as we do at feasts, celebrations and dances,
which are occasions for debauchery;
such things mature children
too early and make them too bold, as we can see,
and it is very dangerous and always has been.
70'Cause it's only too soon that girl can take a lesson
of boldness when she becomes a woman.
And you, governesses in your old age,
who have to raise daughters of lords,
do not be offended by my words.
Consider that we made you housekeepers
daughters of lords for only two reasons:
either because you have kept your honesty,
or that you were of fragile virtue
and know the old dance very well,
but have completely abandoned such conduct
81forever ; and therefore in the name of Christ
beware of failing to teach them virtue.
A game thief who gave up
to his appetites and all his old tricks
knows how to keep a forest better than anyone.
Now, keep them well, because if you want, you can.
Be careful not to assume any vice,
fear of being damned for your bad intentions;
whoever does this is a traitor, that's for sure.
90And beware of what I'm about to say:
of all betrayals the sovereign pestilence
it is for a human being to betray innocence.
And you fathers, and you also mothers,
if you have children, either one or two,
it's up to you to always watch them,
however they remain under your law.
See to it that, by the example of your life,
or by your negligence to chastise them
they don't get lost; because, I dare say it,
100if so, you will pay dearly for it.
Under a shepherd, and soft and careless,

the wolf cuts many sheep and lambs to pieces.
Let this one example suffice here,
because I must come back to my subject.
This young lady, whose story I'm going to tell,
behaved in such a way that there was no need for a governess;
because in his life damsels could read
as in one book all good words and deeds
that suit a virtuous girl:
110she was so careful and so beneficent.
This is why fame emanates from all sides
and of her great beauty and goodness;
and so, by the country, one each praised her
who loved virtue, except envy alone
who for the happiness of others goes to grief
and rejoices in his pain and his misfortune
(it's the Doctor which makes this description).
This young lady one day went to the city
in a temple with her dear mother,
120as the young ladies have become accustomed to.
Now he was a judge in this city,
who was governor of the country.
It happened that this judge cast his eyes
on this young lady, notifying her very quickly
when she happened to pass where this judge was.
Everything immediately changed his heart and his mind
he was so captivated by the beauty of the young lady;
and in himself, very secretly, he says to himself:
"This girl will be mine, in spite of anyone".
130Immediately the demon in his heart came running
and suddenly whispered to him that, by trickery,
he could win the maiden to his projects.
Because, of course, neither by force nor by present,
he thought, he was unable to succeed;
because she had many friends, and, moreover, she
was so established in his sovereign virtue
that he knew very well that he would never be able to train her
to yawn his body to sin.
This is why, after careful deliberation,

140he sent for a bastard from the city,
which he knew to be subtle and bold.
The judge to this bastard told his story
in great secrecy, and made him promise
not to tell it to any creature:
because, to tell it, he was going on his head.
When their cursed plan was stopped,
this judge rejoiced and made him dear
and gave him gifts of great value.
When their whole plot was hatched
point to point, thanks to which the lust of the judge
151was to triumph very ingeniously,
as you will clearly learn later,
the ribaud goes home; his name was Claudius.
The felon judge, who was called Apius
(such was its name, because this is not a fable,
but indeed a historical and notable fact;
the subject is true, undoubtedly none),
this felon judge, gets down to work
to hasten his pleasure, as much as possible.
160And it happened soon after that a day
this felon judge, according to history,
as he was accustomed to sit in his praetorium,
and rendered its judgments on various causes.
The felon ribaud came with great strides
and said: "Monsignor, if that is your good will,
please do right to this pitiful placet
in which I bring a complaint against Virginius.
That if he claims that it is not so,
I will prove - and this by good witnesses -
that it is the truth that expresses my request. "
171The judge replied: "On this, he absent,
I cannot make a final sentence.
Let him be called and I will gladly listen;
you will find justice, and not injustice, in this place. "
Virginius came to know what the judge wanted,

and immediately the accursed request was read;
the content was what you're gonna hear:
"To you, my lord, dear Sir Apius,
I, your poor servant Claudius, exhibit
180how a knight called Virginius,
against the law and against all fairness,
retains, against my express will,
my servant, who by right is my slave ;
it was stolen from me at home, during the night,
when she was very young; that, I will prove it
by witnesses, monseigneur, if it does not displease you;
not his daughter, though he may die;
So it is you, Lord Judge, that I pray
to yawn me, my slave, if that is your will. "
190That was the whole content of the request.
Virginius fixed his eyes on the ribaud;
but, in all haste, before he himself had spoken
- and he would have proved, as a knight should,
and also by the testimony of many individuals,
that saying his opponent was a lie -
this accursed judge would not wait for anything,
nor listen to one more word from Virginius,
but he rendered his judgment, and thus said:
"I give this bastard his servant right away;
200you will not keep it any longer in your home;
go get her, put her in our custody;
the ribaud will have his slave; such is my sentence. "
When this worthy knight Virginius,
by sentence of this judge Apius,
must, by force, hand over his darling daughter
to the judge, to live in lust,
he goes home, sits in the main hall
and immediately sent for his darling daughter;
and, his face dead like cold ashes,
210he began to contemplate her modest face,
and his father's grief pierced his heart.
However, no one wanted to give up his plan:
"My daughter," he said, "you are called Virginia,

there are two ways, either dead or ashamed,
for you to suffer; alas! why was i born?
because you have never deserved
to die by the sword or under the knife.
O darling girl, with you will end my life,
you that I raised with so much pleasure
220that you were never out of my mind.
O my daughter! you who are my last pain,
and also the last joy of my life,
O gem of chastity, in patience
take your death; because that is my sentence.
It is love, not hate, that will cause your death;
my pitiful hand must cut off your head.
Alas! that Apius has never seen you!
Here is how, congratulations, he judged you today. "
And he tells her the whole thing, like earlier
230you heard it; there is no need to repeat it.
“Oh pity! beloved father, (said the young lady,)
and with these words she put both arms to him
around the neck, as she was accustomed to;
tears flowed from both eyes
and she said: "My good father, must we die?
Is there no grace? is there no remedy?
- "No, of course, my darling daughter," he said.
- "Then, give me leisure, my father", she said,
“To cry over my death for a brief moment;
240for, see, Jephthah granted his daughter the grace
to cry before he kills it, alas!
and God knows his only fault was
to run to his father to see him first
and to welcome him in great solemnity. "
And with that word she swooned.
Then, when her swoon has passed,
she gets up, and then says to her father:
“God be blessed that I die a virgin;
Yawn my death, rather than be ashamed;
250make your child as you wish, in the name of Heaven! "
And, with that word, she often prayed to him
that he wanted to strike gently with his sword;
and with that word she fell into pamoison.

His father, with sorrowful heart and will,
chopped off her head, took her by the hair
and the judge came to bring it,
however he was still sitting in his praetorium.
And when the judge saw her, what the story says,
he ordered Virginius to be taken away and hanged very quickly;
260but now a thousand people rushed
to save the knight, out of compassion and pity;
for they knew the unfair iniquity;
the people immediately suspected,
according to the ribaud's request,
that he agreed with Apius;
it was well known that the latter was a debauchery.
This is why towards the said Apius we go,
and immediately they throw him in a prison,
in which he killed himself; and Claudius,
270who was a servant of the said Apius,
was condemned to be hanged from a tree;
and without Virginius who, at his mercy,
interceded so well for him that they were exiled,
he would certainly have been put to death.
The others were hanged, from first to last,
who had been complicit in this accursed act.
Here can we see how sin has reward!
Be on your guard, because no one knows who God will strike
to no degree, nor in what way
280the serpent of consciousness may quiver
of your perverse life, were it so secret
let no one know anything about it except God and yourself.
Whether you are ignorant or educated,
you don't know when you should tremble.
And so, I advise you to listen to a piece of advice:
forsake sin, before sin forsakes you.

Here ends the Doctor's Tale.
Words of the Host.
Words from the Host to the Doctor and the Forgiver.

Our host began to swear as if he were mad:
“Haro! (he said,) by nails and by blood!
What a bastard felon and what a felon judge!
290May the most shameful death the heart can imagine
strike those judges and their henchmen!
However, alas, she is the poor innocent!
Alas! her beauty cost her too dearly.
That's why I always say, and everyone can see it,
than gifts of fortune and nature
are causes of death for many creatures.
Her beauty was her death, I dare say it.
Alas! how pitifully it was slain!
Of these two presents I was talking about earlier,
300man often does more harm than good.
But, in truth, my very dear master,
this is a sad story to listen to.
Finally, let's move on, it doesn't matter:
I pray to God that he has your lovely body in his custody,
and at the same time your vases and your urinals,
your Hypocras and the Galians,
and all the boxes full of your electuaries;
God bless them, as well as Our Lady Saint Mary.
God save me! you are a handsome fellow,
310and you look like a prelate, by Saint Ronyan !
Did I not say correctly? I do not know how to speak in fine terms;
but what I know is that you made my heart squeeze so well
that I almost had a heartache.
By the bones of the Corpus! if no one gives me a triad
or otherwise a shot of strong and cold beer;
or if I don't hear a happy tale right now,
my heart is broken with pity for this young lady.

Hey! you ! handsome friend the forgiver, (he said,)
tell us some gaiety or fun right now "
320 - “It will be so, (he said,) by Saint Ronyan;
but first of all, said the latter, at the sign of this tavern,
I want to drink, and have a snack. "
But at once well-born people cry out:
“No, let him not tell us any nonsense;
tell us some moral story that we can learn
some wisdom; then we will gladly listen to you. "-
"Alright, (he said,) but I have to advise myself
of an honest subject, while drinking. "