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 sailor.
Our host stood up in his stirrups
and said to them, “Good people, look, everyone!
This was, for once, a profitable story!
You, Monsieur le Cure, (added he,) corbleu!
tell us therefore a tale, as we have promised;
I can see that these people fed on old science
know many good things, sacredieu! "
1170 The priest replied: “Ah! Benedicite !
What does our man have to swear so outrageously? "
And the host replied: "Are you there, Jeannot?"
I seem to smell a Lollard in this wind!
Now, my good people, listen to me, (he said 😉
and wait, by the worthy passion of God,
for we're going to have a preaching;
this Lollard here wants to preach to us a little. "
- " No no ! Point will not do! By the soul of my father,
(said the sailor), here will not come to preach;
1180 we do not want a lesson or a gloss of the gospel!
We all believe in the great God, (he added 😉
he wants to sow some difficulty here,
and among our neat wheat grow the niello;
so, our hotelier, I warn you in advance,
my happy person will tell you a story,
and I will ring so happy a bell
that I will wake up the whole company;
but it will not be a question of philosophy,
physical or no weird law words
1190because there is hardly any Latin in my gizzard. "
A merchant once lived in Saint-Denis
who was rich (and for that he was considered wise).
Now a woman had, of excellent beauty,
but loving company, and a lot of joy;
and this thing causes greater expense
that are worth all the dear and all the honor
that men make them at feasts and at dances;
because greetings and beautiful countenances
pass like shadows do in front of a wall;
1200but woe to him who has to pay for them!
“A good husband must always pay everything;
he needs to dress us, he needs us watering,
very richly, to do oneself honor,
in which area we will dance gaily.
And if he cannot contribute, by adventure,
or if he does not want to endure the expense,
but thinks it's money wasted,
then someone else will have to pay for all our costs,
or lend us its gold - and there lies great peril. "
1210This notable merchant kept a brave house,
and therefore always had such a big crowd of people
for his generosity, - and because his wife was pretty,
how wonderful it was. Now listen to my said.
In all this world, hosts young and old,
there was a monk, a handsome and bold man,
I think he was a good thirty winters old,
and who every little bit came to this place.
This young sparrow who wore a beautiful face,
had bonded so well with our merchant,
1220since they had made first acquaintance,
that his house was just as familiar
that it is possible for a friend to be.
And for what this good merchant,
and this monk also that I told you about,
were both born in the same village,
the monk considered him to be his cousin;
not once does the other say no to him,
but was happy with it like a bird of the day,
for it was great rejoicing in his heart.
1230Thus were united in eternal alliance,
and each of them gave the second assurance
of a fraternity which lasted all their days.
Dom Jean was giving, and quick to spend,
know in this home, and full of diligence
to please everyone, sparing no expense.
He never failed to give to the smallest page
of the whole house; but according to their degree,
did to the master and then to the whole household,
whenever he came, some honest present
which made them so happy with his coming
1240that are birdies when the sun rises;
but enough of this, for it is already enough.
But one day it happened that the said merchant
decided to get all his outfit ready
in order to go to Bruges the city,
wanting to buy a lot of goods there.
For this he immediately sent to Paris
a messenger, and made Dom Jean pray
he wanted to come, in order to cheer himself up
1250with him and his wife, for a day or two,
before leaving for Bruges, in any case.
This noble monk, then, of whom I am speaking to you,
had from the Lord Abbot, as he wished, license,
- because he was very careful,
holding office also - to go straddling
their barns to visit and their vast attics;
and soon he is back in Saint-Denis.
Who was so welcome that Monsignor Dom Jean,
our dear cousin, so full of courtesy?
1260Brought with him a jug of Malvasia,
and then another jug, filled with fine vernage,
and poultry too - as was its custom.
And I let them cheer up, eat and drink,
the monk and the merchant, a day or two.
On the third day our merchant gets up
and seriously thinks about what needs;
and here he goes up to his office
and who for himself counts, as best he can,
where is his state, at the end of this year,
1270and what he spent of his property,
and if it has grown, or not.
Books and bags of ecus in number
he spreads it out in front of him on his counter.
He had very rich fortune and great treasure;
why he carefully closed his door,
not wanting anyone to disturb him
in his accounts, during all that time;
and sat there until premium passed.
Dom Jean also got up in the morning;
1280and went back and forth in the garden,
courteously saying his paternosters.
And our good wife in secret also came
in the garden where the other was going very slowly;
greeted him, as she had often done.
A young virgin accompanied the lady
that at her pleasure she guided and governed,
for what still was the child under the rule.
"O my dear cousin Dom Jean, (she cried,)
What do you have to get up so early in the morning? "
1290- "Niece, (he replied,) it must be enough
from five hours of nap to sleep one night,
fors that it is for old man languid,
as are married people, who lie in torpor
as well as at the lodge makes a hare,
that large and small dogs would have harassed everything.
But why, dear niece, are you so pale?
I really think our good friend
has tired you so much since night came,
that you need a speedy rest. "
1300And with that word he laughs happily,
then he turned all red at his own thought.
The beautiful lady began to jerk her head
and thus said: "Yes da, God knows it!
Ah my cousin! It is not so with me,
because by this God who gives me soul and life,
in all the kingdom of France, he is not a woman
who has less pleasure in this sad game;
because I can sing well: alas, alas! Why
was I born then? - But to no one, (she added,)
1310dare not say how things are going for me;
so I think far from this place to go,
or I will end this life myself,
I am so filled with fear and worry. "
The monk began to look at the lady,
and said: "Alas, my niece, God forbid
whether you go, for grief or fear,
cushion you; but tell me your troubles;
of adventure I will have for your misfortune
advice or help; or so tell me
1320all your boredom, for it will remain secret;
and, on my door outside, I take an oath
than ever in my life, neither willingly nor despite,
I will not betray any of your advice ".
- "And I also tell you the same thing, (she said 😉
by God and by this door outside you swear,
though they want me to tear my body to pieces,
will not betray, when I even go to hell,
just one word of what you will say to me here -
and not by cousinship or any other alliance,
1330but really out of love and trust. "
Having thus sworn and on this kissing,
each one says to each one what he pleases.
"Cousin, (she said,) had I a little time
(but I don't have any, especially in this place),
then I will tell you the tale of my life,
all that i have suffered since i got married
with him, even though he is your cousin. "
- "No, (he said,) it doesn't please God and Saint Martin!"
He is not my cousin either
1340what a leaf hanging from the tree!
But I call it that, by Saint-Denis de France,
to have a little more reason for acquaintance
with you, whom I have always loved especially,
she is beyond any other woman in truth;
and you swear that on my profession.
Tell me your pain before it goes down
and hurry, and then go your way. "
- "My dear friend, (she said,) O my Dom Jean!"
Gladly this secret I would have kept hidden ...
1350But outside it must! can no longer endure it!
My husband is for me the meanest man
which has never been since the world began ...
But since I'm his wife, it doesn't suit me to say
to anyone any point of our privacy,
whether in my bed, or other place,
and that in his grace God spare me from doing anything! ...
A woman should not talk about her husband
that in all honor, as far as I could understand,
- except to you however; - and this must tell you:
1360as true as i want god help me this man
had no degree worth even a fly!
But more than anything I am sorry for his smallness.
You know very well that all women, by nature,
want, like me, the following six things:
they want their husbands
be bold and prudent, rich and generous,
to them submissive, and fresh in bed;
but, by our Lord who bled for us!
for his honor in order to clothe me
1370this next Sunday, I will have to pay
a hundred pounds, otherwise I'm lost!
Yet I would rather not have been born
that to me is never made scandal or villainy;
and then, if my husband found out,
it would be almost done with me; so please,
lend me this sum, or else I must die!
Lend, I said, Dom Jean, lend me these hundred francs!
Pardieu! I will not fail to thank you,
please do here what I ask you;
1380because on the day assured I will repay it to you
and will do you any pleasure and any service
that I will be able and that you will like to converse.
And if don't, may God take revenge on me
as ordained as he made of Ganelon of France! "
The kind monk replied in this way:
"Now this, really, my good dear lady,
I have you, (he said,) with such great pity,
that I swear to you, and give you my faith,
that when your husband in Flanders leaves,
1390I will deliver you from this present worry;
for I will then bring you the said hundred francs. "
And with that word, he took her by the side,
kissed her strongly and often kissed her,
"Go your way, (he said,) quietly and quietly,
and make us dinner as soon as possible,
because according to my chilandre, it is day premium.
Go then and be as faithful as I am! "
- "May never otherwise please God!" " she says,
and went away as cheerful as a magpie,
1400and told his servants to make haste,
so that we could have dinner in no time.
And then towards her husband this wife went up,
and knocked boldly on the door of his desk.
" Who there ? He said. " Rock ! it's me ! (she replied.)
Hey! sir! how long will you fast,
how long will count and calculate
your sums and your books and all your things?
May the devil have his share of all your supplements!
Haven't you had enough of what God sends?
1410Come downstairs and leave your bags alone!
What, aren't you ashamed that Dom Jean goes like this
dreary and fasting all day?
Let's go to mass and have dinner right away! "
- " Women ! (our man told him,) barely can you believe
how curious our business is;
for among the merchants - yes, on God who saves me!
and on this good lord who is called Saint Yves! -
hardly will you see two out of twelve prosper,
continually, lasting until our age.
1420Because we can make expensive and show a good face,
and lead a good train in the world, maybe,
and yet keep his true state secret,
until we die, or go play
to the pilgrim, or dodge in some other way.
And that's why I have great need
to reflect on this strange world;
because always we must remain in fear
lucky fate for our merchandise.
1430In Flanders do I want to go tomorrow at dawn,
and then get back to me as soon as possible;
and so, my dear wife, please,
to be very kind and gentle to everyone,
to be careful also to keep our property,
and very honestly to rule the house.
'Cause you planted all the things required
and sufficient for well-kept housekeeping.
Do you lack clothes or food
and there will be no want of money in your purse. "
With that word he closed the counter door
1440and got out, without further delay;
a mass, however, was hastily said,
and then quickly tables were set,
and for dinner all three hurried,
and monk by merchant was richly fed.
Early in the afternoon, Dom Jean
gravely took the merchant aside and told him
thus, in great secrecy: "Cousin, since he is,
as I see, that you want to go to Bruges,
God and Saint Augustine bless and guide you!
1450Please, cousin, ride wisely;
govern yourselves also in your food
temperately, especially during this heat.
There is no need between us to do a hundred ways;
farewell then, my cousin, God forbid you!
And if it's something or day or night
that it is in my power and faculty to do,
and that you order me, in any way,
I will do it, quite rightly, as I wish.
Before you go, if it can be, of one thing
1460I will beg you, it is to know to lend me
a hundred francs for one or two weeks;
it is for some cattle that I must buy
to garnish some of our mansions
(I would, if God help me!) be yours!).
For a thousand crowns, to pay you on the appointed day
it won't take time to go a mile.
But keep this secret, please
because tonight I must buy these beasts.
But farewell, now, my beloved cousin,
1470very big thank you for your dear and your expenses! "
Our noble merchant immediately kindly
answered him: "O my cousin, Dom Jean!"
surely this is only a small request;
all my gold is yours when it pleases you,
and not only gold, but all commodities;
take what you need, for God do not look!
But there is one thing, and you know it well:
for the merchant, money is the plow;
we get credit during our reputation,
1480but to be without money is no longer a game.
So, repay me at your convenience;
as far as I can, I would like to please you. "
He immediately went to fetch these hundred francs;
secretly handed them over to Dom Jean
and no one in the world knew of this loan,
except only the merchant and Dom Jean.
El to drink, chat, wander and rejoice,
There, that Dom Jean finally went to the abbey.
Comes in the morning, and the merchant goes on horseback
1490for Flanders; his apprentice guides him very well;
and happily he arrives in Bruge.
And now he's very busy
to its needs, both for purchase and for debt;
he does not play dice, nor does he dance,
but like a merchant, to put it mildly,
leads his way of life - and there lets him do it.
The Sunday that came after he was gone,
to Saint-Denis came Dom Jean,
having freshly shaved head and chin.
1500In the whole house there was no little servant,
nor anyone else, who did not feel very comfortable
that Monsignor Dom Jean had returned;
briefly, in order to get straight to the point,
the beautiful lady agrees with Dom Jean
that for these said hundred francs, he can all night
have her stretched out between her arms on her back;
and this agreement was in fact fulfilled:
in joy all night led an active life
until it is daylight; and Jean took his way
1510and said to the household: "Farewell! have a good day! "
because none of them, like no one in town,
has no suspicion of Dom Jean;
and went riding towards his abbey,
- or by that he wanted, because I will say nothing more.
Our merchant as soon as the fair was over,
in Saint-Denis repaired.
With his wife he makes feasts and good food,
and tells him that merchandise is at such a price
that he will have to do an overlap,
1520for what he is bound by his recognition
to pay twenty thousand ecus shortly;
for this purpose our merchant came to Paris
borrow from some friends that there were
sums of money; and he took a little on himself.
And when he arrived in the big city,
by his great friendship and affection,
he first came to find Dom Jean, to cheer himself up,
not to ask him or to borrow money,
but to learn and see how he was doing,
1530and to tell him, in full, his affairs,
as well as make friends when they are together.
Dom Jean gave her a happy face,
and the merchant repeated to him specially
as he had bought well, and favorably,
God be praised! all its merchandise;
but that he had to find somehow
to overlap, as best as possible,
and that then he would be in joy and at rest.
Dom Jean said to him: "Certainly, I am very happy.
1530whether you are at home in good health,
and on my share of paradise, if I were rich,
of your twenty thousand crowns you would not miss,
because you have me that other day so blissfully
loaned money; and as far as I can,
I say thank you, by God and by Saint Jacques!
But nevertheless I reported to our lady,
your wife, at home, that gold there;
put it on your table; she knows, no doubt,
by certain clues that I can tell him again.
1550But, with your grace, here must not delay;
our abbot will soon leave this city,
and in his company I must go.
Greet our lady, and my sweet cousin;
well you are, my dear cousin, until we see you again! "
Our merchant, a very wise and shrewd man,
in Paris was able to find credit, and therefore paid, -
to do not know which Lombards, free money in their hands, -
said sum, and withdrew his pledge.
And then returned, gay as papegaut,
1560because he knew very well that he was in such a situation
that he should surely win on this trip
a thousand francs above all his costs.
His wife was waiting for him ready at the door,
as it had always by old use made;
and all that night they passed in joy,
for he felt rich and drawn from his debt.
When it was daylight the merchant wanted to kiss
his wife once more kissed her on the face;
in short, he is mounted and leading the case.
1570" No more ! By God! (she said,) that's enough! "
El pleasantly still played with him,
until at the end our merchant said to him:
“By God! (he said, I'm a little irritated
against you, my wife, although it pains me.
And do you know why? By God is that I learn
that you caused a little strangeness
between Dom Jean, our cousin, and me.
You had to warn me, before I left,
that he had paid you a hundred francs, -
1580which he has proof ready. He was angry
when I told him about this overlap,
at least such seemed to me, according to his countenance -
but yet, by God, the king of paradise,
I didn't think to ask him anything!
So I beg you, my wife, not to do so again;
but always tell me before i leave you
if any debtor has you in my absence
paid its due, for fear that in your negligence
I'm not going to claim something he gave me back. "
1590the woman was not afraid or upset,
but boldly she immediately resumed:
"By Marie, I challenge that false monk, Dom Jean!
because of its proofs I have no concern.
He brought me some money, I know that;
but what misfortune befalls his monk's muzzle!
God knows it! I was without doubt
that he had not given it to me for his love of you,
to do myself honor and good profit,
for our cousinship, and for the beautiful dear
1600that he has so often received in this dwelling.
But since I see myself at this disadvantage,
you will have debtors lazier than me,
because I will repay you well, and when you please,
from day to day, and if I miss money,
your wife i am, check it on my waist,
and I will pay it to you as soon as I can;
because by my faith! I have in my own outfit,
and not wasteful, used all the money,
1610and since I knew how to spend so well
in your honor, please, for god's sake,
don't be irritated, but let's laugh and play.
I promise you my good body as a pledge.
By God! will never pay you except in bed!
Forgive me, my dear and my only husband,
turn around here, make a better face! "
Our merchant saw that there was no remedy,
and that to scold would be nothing but great madness,
since the thing could not be amended.
1620"Now that, woman," he said; I will forgive you,
but by life! no longer be so wide,
and take better care of our property, I'll give it to you!
So ends my tale - and may God send us
enough tales until the end of our days!