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Geoffrey Chaucer

(c. 1343 – 25 October 1400 / London, England)

Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus

'No more of this, for Godde's dignity!'
Quoth oure Hoste; 'for thou makest me
So weary of thy very lewedness,* *stupidity, ignorance <1>
That, all so wisly* God my soule bless, *surely
Mine eares ache for thy drafty* speech. *worthless <2>
Now such a rhyme the devil I beteche:* *commend to
This may well be rhyme doggerel,' quoth he.
'Why so?' quoth I; 'why wilt thou lette* me *prevent
More of my tale than any other man,
Since that it is the best rhyme that I can?'* *know
'By God!' quoth he, 'for, plainly at one word,
Thy drafty rhyming is not worth a tord:
Thou dost naught elles but dispendest* time. *wastest
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme.
Let see whether thou canst tellen aught *in gest,* *by way of
Or tell in prose somewhat, at the least, narrative*
In which there be some mirth or some doctrine.'
'Gladly,' quoth I, 'by Godde's sweete pine,* *suffering
I will you tell a little thing in prose,
That oughte like* you, as I suppose, *please
Or else certes ye be too dangerous.* *fastidious
It is a moral tale virtuous,
*All be it* told sometimes in sundry wise *although it be*
By sundry folk, as I shall you devise.
As thus, ye wot that ev'ry Evangelist,
That telleth us the pain* of Jesus Christ, *passion
He saith not all thing as his fellow doth;
But natheless their sentence is all soth,* *true
And all accorden as in their sentence,* *meaning
All be there in their telling difference;
For some of them say more, and some say less,
When they his piteous passion express;
I mean of Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;
But doubteless their sentence is all one.
Therefore, lordinges all, I you beseech,
If that ye think I vary in my speech,
As thus, though that I telle somedeal more
Of proverbes, than ye have heard before
Comprehended in this little treatise here,
*T'enforce with* the effect of my mattere, *with which to
And though I not the same wordes say enforce*
As ye have heard, yet to you all I pray
Blame me not; for as in my sentence
Shall ye nowhere finde no difference
From the sentence of thilke* treatise lite,** *this **little
After the which this merry tale I write.
And therefore hearken to what I shall say,
And let me tellen all my tale, I pray.'

A young man called Meliboeus, mighty and rich, begat upon his
wife, that called was Prudence, a daughter which that called was
Sophia. Upon a day befell, that he for his disport went into the
fields him to play. His wife and eke his daughter hath he left
within his house, of which the doors were fast shut. Three of his
old foes have it espied, and set ladders to the walls of his house,
and by the windows be entered, and beaten his wife, and
wounded his daughter with five mortal wounds, in five sundry
places; that is to say, in her feet, in her hands, in her ears, in her
nose, and in her mouth; and left her for dead, and went away.
When Meliboeus returned was into his house, and saw all this
mischief, he, like a man mad, rending his clothes, gan weep and
cry. Prudence his wife, as farforth as she durst, besought him of
his weeping for to stint: but not forthy [notwithstanding] he gan
to weep and cry ever longer the more.

This noble wife Prudence remembered her upon the sentence of
Ovid, in his book that called is the 'Remedy of Love,' <2>
where he saith: He is a fool that disturbeth the mother to weep
in the death of her child, till she have wept her fill, as for a
certain time; and then shall a man do his diligence with amiable
words her to recomfort and pray her of her weeping for to stint
[cease]. For which reason this noble wife Prudence suffered her
husband for to weep and cry, as for a certain space; and when
she saw her time, she said to him in this wise: 'Alas! my lord,'
quoth she, 'why make ye yourself for to be like a fool? For
sooth it appertaineth not to a wise man to make such a sorrow.
Your daughter, with the grace of God, shall warish [be cured]
and escape. And all [although] were it so that she right now
were dead, ye ought not for her death yourself to destroy.
Seneca saith, 'The wise man shall not take too great discomfort
for the death of his children, but certes he should suffer it in
patience, as well as he abideth the death of his own proper

Meliboeus answered anon and said: 'What man,' quoth he,
'should of his weeping stint, that hath so great a cause to weep?
Jesus Christ, our Lord, himself wept for the death of Lazarus
his friend.' Prudence answered, 'Certes, well I wot,
attempered [moderate] weeping is nothing defended [forbidden]
to him that sorrowful is, among folk in sorrow but it is rather
granted him to weep. The Apostle Paul unto the Romans
writeth, 'Man shall rejoice with them that make joy, and weep
with such folk as weep.' But though temperate weeping be
granted, outrageous weeping certes is defended. Measure of
weeping should be conserved, after the lore [doctrine] that
teacheth us Seneca. 'When that thy friend is dead,' quoth he, 'let
not thine eyes too moist be of tears, nor too much dry: although
the tears come to thine eyes, let them not fall. And when thou
hast forgone [lost] thy friend, do diligence to get again another
friend: and this is more wisdom than to weep for thy friend
which that thou hast lorn [lost] for therein is no boot
[advantage]. And therefore if ye govern you by sapience, put
away sorrow out of your heart. Remember you that Jesus
Sirach saith, 'A man that is joyous and glad in heart, it him
conserveth flourishing in his age: but soothly a sorrowful heart
maketh his bones dry.' He said eke thus, 'that sorrow in heart
slayth full many a man.' Solomon saith 'that right as moths in
the sheep's fleece annoy [do injury] to the clothes, and the small
worms to the tree, right so annoyeth sorrow to the heart of
man.' Wherefore us ought as well in the death of our children,
as in the loss of our goods temporal, have patience. Remember
you upon the patient Job, when he had lost his children and his
temporal substance, and in his body endured and received full
many a grievous tribulation, yet said he thus: 'Our Lord hath
given it to me, our Lord hath bereft it me; right as our Lord
would, right so be it done; blessed be the name of our Lord.''

To these foresaid things answered Meliboeus unto his wife
Prudence: 'All thy words,' quoth he, 'be true, and thereto
[also] profitable, but truly mine heart is troubled with this
sorrow so grievously, that I know not what to do.' 'Let call,'
quoth Prudence, 'thy true friends all, and thy lineage, which be
wise, and tell to them your case, and hearken what they say in
counselling, and govern you after their sentence [opinion].
Solomon saith, 'Work all things by counsel, and thou shall never
repent.'' Then, by counsel of his wife Prudence, this Meliboeus
let call [sent for] a great congregation of folk, as surgeons,
physicians, old folk and young, and some of his old enemies
reconciled (as by their semblance) to his love and to his grace;
and therewithal there come some of his neighbours, that did him
reverence more for dread than for love, as happeneth oft. There
come also full many subtle flatterers, and wise advocates
learned in the law. And when these folk together assembled
were, this Meliboeus in sorrowful wise showed them his case,
and by the manner of his speech it seemed that in heart he bare
a cruel ire, ready to do vengeance upon his foes, and suddenly
desired that the war should begin, but nevertheless yet asked he
their counsel in this matter. A surgeon, by licence and assent of
such as were wise, up rose, and to Meliboeus said as ye may
hear. 'Sir,' quoth he, 'as to us surgeons appertaineth, that we
do to every wight the best that we can, where as we be
withholden, [employed] and to our patient that we do no
damage; wherefore it happeneth many a time and oft, that when
two men have wounded each other, one same surgeon healeth
them both; wherefore unto our art it is not pertinent to nurse
war, nor parties to support [take sides]. But certes, as to the
warishing [healing] of your daughter, albeit so that perilously
she be wounded, we shall do so attentive business from day to
night, that, with the grace of God, she shall be whole and
sound, as soon as is possible.' Almost right in the same wise the
physicians answered, save that they said a few words more: that
right as maladies be cured by their contraries, right so shall man
warish war (by peace). His neighbours full of envy, his feigned
friends that seemed reconciled, and his flatterers, made
semblance of weeping, and impaired and agregged [aggravated]
much of this matter, in praising greatly Meliboeus of might, of
power, of riches, and of friends, despising the power of his
adversaries: and said utterly, that he anon should wreak him on
his foes, and begin war.

Up rose then an advocate that was wise, by leave and by
counsel of other that were wise, and said, 'Lordings, the need
[business] for which we be assembled in this place, is a full
heavy thing, and an high matter, because of the wrong and of
the wickedness that hath been done, and eke by reason of the
great damages that in time coming be possible to fall for the
same cause, and eke by reason of the great riches and power of
the parties both; for which reasons, it were a full great peril to
err in this matter. Wherefore, Meliboeus, this is our sentence
[opinion]; we counsel you, above all things, that right anon thou
do thy diligence in keeping of thy body, in such a wise that thou
want no espy nor watch thy body to save. And after that, we
counsel that in thine house thou set sufficient garrison, so that
they may as well thy body as thy house defend. But, certes, to
move war or suddenly to do vengeance, we may not deem
[judge] in so little time that it were profitable. Wherefore we
ask leisure and space to have deliberation in this case to deem;
for the common proverb saith thus; 'He that soon deemeth soon
shall repent.' And eke men say, that that judge is wise, that soon
understandeth a matter, and judgeth by leisure. For albeit so
that all tarrying be annoying, algates [nevertheless] it is no
reproof [subject for reproach] in giving of judgement, nor in
vengeance taking, when it is sufficient and, reasonable. And
that shewed our Lord Jesus Christ by example; for when that
the woman that was taken in adultery was brought in his
presence to know what should be done with her person, albeit
that he wist well himself what he would answer, yet would he
not answer suddenly, but he would have deliberation, and in the
ground he wrote twice. And by these causes we ask deliberation
and we shall then by the grace of God counsel the thing that
shall be profitable.'

Up started then the young folk anon at once, and the most part
of that company have scorned these old wise men and begun to
make noise and said, 'Right as while that iron is hot men should
smite, right so men should wreak their wrongs while that they
be fresh and new:' and with loud voice they cried. 'War! War!'
Up rose then one of these old wise, and with his hand made
countenance [a sign, gesture] that men should hold them still,
and give him audience. 'Lordings,' quoth he, 'there is full many
a man that crieth, 'War! war!' that wot full little what war
amounteth. War at his beginning hath so great an entering and
so large, that every wight may enter when him liketh, and lightly
[easily] find war: but certes what end shall fall thereof it is not
light to know. For soothly when war is once begun, there is full
many a child unborn of his mother, that shall sterve [die] young
by cause of that war, or else live in sorrow and die in
wretchedness; and therefore, ere that any war be begun, men
must have great counsel and great deliberation.' And when this
old man weened [thought, intended] to enforce his tale by
reasons, well-nigh all at once began they to rise for to break his
tale, and bid him full oft his words abridge. For soothly he that
preacheth to them that list not hear his words, his sermon them
annoyeth. For Jesus Sirach saith, that music in weeping is a
noyous [troublesome] thing. This is to say, as much availeth to
speak before folk to whom his speech annoyeth, as to sing
before him that weepeth. And when this wise man saw that him
wanted audience, all shamefast he sat him down again. For
Solomon saith, 'Where as thou mayest have no audience,
enforce thee not to speak.' 'I see well,' quoth this wise man,
'that the common proverb is sooth, that good counsel wanteth,
when it is most need.' Yet [besides, further] had this Meliboeus
in his council many folk, that privily in his ear counselled him
certain thing, and counselled him the contrary in general
audience. When Meliboeus had heard that the greatest part of
his council were accorded [in agreement] that he should make
war, anon he consented to their counselling, and fully affirmed
their sentence [opinion, judgement].

(Dame Prudence, seeing her husband's resolution thus taken, in
full humble wise, when she saw her time, begins to counsel him
against war, by a warning against haste in requital of either
good or evil. Meliboeus tells her that he will not work by her
counsel, because he should be held a fool if he rejected for her
advice the opinion of so many wise men; because all women are
bad; because it would seem that he had given her the mastery
over him; and because she could not keep his secret, if he
resolved to follow her advice. To these reasons Prudence
answers that it is no folly to change counsel when things, or
men's judgements of them, change - especially to alter a
resolution taken on the impulse of a great multitude of folk,
where every man crieth and clattereth what him liketh; that if all
women had been wicked, Jesus Christ would never have
descended to be born of a woman, nor have showed himself
first to a woman after his resurrection and that when Solomon
said he had found no good woman, he meant that God alone
was supremely good; <3> that her husband would not seem to
give her the mastery by following her counsel, for he had his
own free choice in following or rejecting it; and that he knew
well and had often tested her great silence, patience, and
secrecy. And whereas he had quoted a saying, that in wicked
counsel women vanquish men, she reminds him that she would
counsel him against doing a wickedness on which he had set his
mind, and cites instances to show that many women have been
and yet are full good, and their counsel wholesome and
profitable. Lastly, she quotes the words of God himself, when
he was about to make woman as an help meet for man; and
promises that, if her husband will trust her counsel, she will
restore to him his daughter whole and sound, and make him
have honour in this case. Meliboeus answers that because of his
wife's sweet words, and also because he has proved and assayed
her great wisdom and her great truth, he will govern him by her
counsel in all things. Thus encouraged, Prudence enters on a
long discourse, full of learned citations, regarding the manner in
which counsellors should be chosen and consulted, and the
times and reasons for changing a counsel. First, God must be
besought for guidance. Then a man must well examine his own
thoughts, of such things as he holds to be best for his own
profit; driving out of his heart anger, covetousness, and
hastiness, which perturb and pervert the judgement. Then he
must keep his counsel secret, unless confiding it to another shall
be more profitable; but, in so confiding it, he shall say nothing
to bias the mind of the counsellor toward flattery or
subserviency. After that he should consider his friends and his
enemies, choosing of the former such as be most faithful and
wise, and eldest and most approved in counselling; and even of
these only a few. Then he must eschew the counselling of fools,
of flatterers, of his old enemies that be reconciled, of servants
who bear him great reverence and fear, of folk that be drunken
and can hide no counsel, of such as counsel one thing privily
and the contrary openly; and of young folk, for their counselling
is not ripe. Then, in examining his counsel, he must truly tell his
tale; he must consider whether the thing he proposes to do be
reasonable, within his power, and acceptable to the more part
and the better part of his counsellors; he must look at the things
that may follow from that counselling, choosing the best and
waiving all besides; he must consider the root whence the
matter of his counsel is engendered, what fruits it may bear,
and from what causes they be sprung. And having thus
examined his counsel and approved it by many wise folk and
old, he shall consider if he may perform it and make of it a good
end; if he be in doubt, he shall choose rather to suffer than to
begin; but otherwise he shall prosecute his resolution steadfastly
till the enterprise be at an end. As to changing his counsel, a
man may do so without reproach, if the cause cease, or when a
new case betides, or if he find that by error or otherwise harm
or damage may result, or if his counsel be dishonest or come of
dishonest cause, or if it be impossible or may not properly be
kept; and he must take it for a general rule, that every counsel
which is affirmed so strongly, that it may not be changed for
any condition that may betide, that counsel is wicked.
Meliboeus, admitting that his wife had spoken well and suitably
as to counsellors and counsel in general, prays her to tell him in
especial what she thinks of the counsellors whom they have
chosen in their present need. Prudence replies that his counsel in
this case could not properly be called a counselling, but a
movement of folly; and points out that he has erred in sundry
wise against the rules which he had just laid down. Granting
that he has erred, Meliboeus says that he is all ready to change
his counsel right as she will devise; for, as the proverb runs, to
do sin is human, but to persevere long in sin is work of the
Devil. Prudence then minutely recites, analyses, and criticises
the counsel given to her husband in the assembly of his friends.
She commends the advice of the physicians and surgeons, and
urges that they should be well rewarded for their noble speech
and their services in healing Sophia; and she asks Meliboeus
how he understands their proposition that one contrary must be
cured by another contrary. Meliboeus answers, that he should
do vengeance on his enemies, who had done him wrong.
Prudence, however, insists that vengeance is not the contrary of
vengeance, nor wrong of wrong, but the like; and that
wickedness should be healed by goodness, discord by accord,
war by peace. She proceeds to deal with the counsel of the
lawyers and wise folk that advised Meliboeus to take prudent
measures for the security of his body and of his house. First, she
would have her husband pray for the protection and aid of
Christ; then commit the keeping of his person to his true
friends; then suspect and avoid all strange folk, and liars, and
such people as she had already warned him against; then beware
of presuming on his strength, or the weakness of his adversary,
and neglecting to guard his person - for every wise man
dreadeth his enemy; then he should evermore be on the watch
against ambush and all espial, even in what seems a place of
safety; though he should not be so cowardly, as to fear where is
no cause for dread; yet he should dread to be poisoned, and
therefore shun scorners, and fly their words as venom. As to
the fortification of his house, she points out that towers and
great edifices are costly and laborious, yet useless unless
defended by true friends that be old and wise; and the greatest
and strongest garrison that a rich man may have, as well to keep
his person as his goods, is, that he be beloved by his subjects
and by his neighbours. Warmly approving the counsel that in all
this business Meliboeus should proceed with great diligence and
deliberation, Prudence goes on to examine the advice given by
his neighbours that do him reverence without love, his old
enemies reconciled, his flatterers that counselled him certain
things privily and openly counselled him the contrary, and the
young folk that counselled him to avenge himself and make war
at once. She reminds him that he stands alone against three
powerful enemies, whose kindred are numerous and close,
while his are fewer and remote in relationship; that only the
judge who has jurisdiction in a case may take sudden vengeance
on any man; that her husband's power does not accord with his
desire; and that, if he did take vengeance, it would only breed
fresh wrongs and contests. As to the causes of the wrong done
to him, she holds that God, the causer of all things, has
permitted him to suffer because he has drunk so much honey
<4> of sweet temporal riches, and delights, and honours of this
world, that he is drunken, and has forgotten Jesus Christ his
Saviour; the three enemies of mankind, the flesh, the fiend, and
the world, have entered his heart by the windows of his body,
and wounded his soul in five places - that is to say, the deadly
sins that have entered into his heart by the five senses; and in
the same manner Christ has suffered his three enemies to enter
his house by the windows, and wound his daughter in the five
places before specified. Meliboeus demurs, that if his wife's
objections prevailed, vengeance would never be taken, and
thence great mischiefs would arise; but Prudence replies that the
taking of vengeance lies with the judges, to whom the private
individual must have recourse. Meliboeus declares that such
vengeance does not please him, and that, as Fortune has
nourished and helped him from his childhood, he will now assay
her, trusting, with God's help, that she will aid him to avenge his
shame. Prudence warns him against trusting to Fortune, all the
less because she has hitherto favoured him, for just on that
account she is the more likely to fail him; and she calls on him
to leave his vengeance with the Sovereign Judge, that avengeth
all villainies and wrongs. Meliboeus argues that if he refrains
from taking vengeance he will invite his enemies to do him
further wrong, and he will be put and held over low; but
Prudence contends that such a result can be brought about only
by the neglect of the judges, not by the patience of the
individual. Supposing that he had leave to avenge himself, she
repeats that he is not strong enough, and quotes the common
saw, that it is madness for a man to strive with a stronger than
himself, peril to strive with one of equal strength, and folly to
strive with a weaker. But, considering his own defaults and
demerits, - remembering the patience of Christ and the
undeserved tribulations of the saints, the brevity of this life with
all its trouble and sorrow, the discredit thrown on the wisdom
and training of a man who cannot bear wrong with patience -
he should refrain wholly from taking vengeance. Meliboeus
submits that he is not at all a perfect man, and his heart will
never be at peace until he is avenged; and that as his enemies
disregarded the peril when they attacked him, so he might,
without reproach, incur some peril in attacking them in return,
even though he did a great excess in avenging one wrong by
another. Prudence strongly deprecates all outrage or excess; but
Meliboeus insists that he cannot see that it might greatly harm
him though he took a vengeance, for he is richer and mightier
than his enemies, and all things obey money. Prudence
thereupon launches into a long dissertation on the advantages of
riches, the evils of poverty, the means by which wealth should
be gathered, and the manner in which it should be used; and
concludes by counselling her husband not to move war and
battle through trust in his riches, for they suffice not to maintain
war, the battle is not always to the strong or the numerous, and
the perils of conflict are many. Meliboeus then curtly asks her
for her counsel how he shall do in this need; and she answers
that certainly she counsels him to agree with his adversaries and
have peace with them. Meliboeus on this cries out that plainly
she loves not his honour or his worship, in counselling him to
go and humble himself before his enemies, crying mercy to them
that, having done him so grievous wrong, ask him not to be
reconciled. Then Prudence, making semblance of wrath, retorts
that she loves his honour and profit as she loves her own, and
ever has done; she cites the Scriptures in support of her counsel
to seek peace; and says she will leave him to his own courses,
for she knows well he is so stubborn, that he will do nothing for
her. Meliboeus then relents; admits that he is angry and cannot
judge aright; and puts himself wholly in her hands, promising to
do just as she desires, and admitting that he is the more held to
love and praise her, if she reproves him of his folly)

Then Dame Prudence discovered all her counsel and her will
unto him, and said: 'I counsel you,' quoth she, 'above all
things, that ye make peace between God and you, and be
reconciled unto Him and to his grace; for, as I have said to you
herebefore, God hath suffered you to have this tribulation and
disease [distress, trouble] for your sins; and if ye do as I say
you, God will send your adversaries unto you, and make them
fall at your feet, ready to do your will and your commandment.
For Solomon saith, 'When the condition of man is pleasant and
liking to God, he changeth the hearts of the man's adversaries,
and constraineth them to beseech him of peace of grace.' And I
pray you let me speak with your adversaries in privy place, for
they shall not know it is by your will or your assent; and then,
when I know their will and their intent, I may counsel you the
more surely.' ''Dame,' quoth Meliboeus, ''do your will and
your liking, for I put me wholly in your disposition and

Then Dame Prudence, when she saw the goodwill of her
husband, deliberated and took advice in herself, thinking how
she might bring this need [affair, emergency] unto a good end.
And when she saw her time, she sent for these adversaries to
come into her into a privy place, and showed wisely into them
the great goods that come of peace, and the great harms and
perils that be in war; and said to them, in goodly manner, how
that they ought have great repentance of the injuries and
wrongs that they had done to Meliboeus her Lord, and unto her
and her daughter. And when they heard the goodly words of
Dame Prudence, then they were surprised and ravished, and had
so great joy of her, that wonder was to tell. 'Ah lady!' quoth
they, 'ye have showed unto us the blessing of sweetness, after
the saying of David the prophet; for the reconciling which we
be not worthy to have in no manner, but we ought require it
with great contrition and humility, ye of your great goodness
have presented unto us. Now see we well, that the science and
conning [knowledge] of Solomon is full true; for he saith, that
sweet words multiply and increase friends, and make shrews
[the ill-natured or angry] to be debonair [gentle, courteous] and
meek. Certes we put our deed, and all our matter and cause, all
wholly in your goodwill, and be ready to obey unto the speech
and commandment of my lord Meliboeus. And therefore, dear
and benign lady, we pray you and beseech you as meekly as we
can and may, that it like unto your great goodness to fulfil in
deed your goodly words. For we consider and acknowledge
that we have offended and grieved my lord Meliboeus out of
measure, so far forth that we be not of power to make him
amends; and therefore we oblige and bind us and our friends to
do all his will and his commandment. But peradventure he hath
such heaviness and such wrath to usward, [towards us] because
of our offence, that he will enjoin us such a pain [penalty] as we
may not bear nor sustain; and therefore, noble lady, we beseech
to your womanly pity to take such advisement [consideration]
in this need, that we, nor our friends, be not disinherited and
destroyed through our folly.'

'Certes,' quoth Prudence, 'it is an hard thing, and right
perilous, that a man put him all utterly in the arbitration and
judgement and in the might and power of his enemy. For
Solomon saith, 'Believe me, and give credence to that that I
shall say: to thy son, to thy wife, to thy friend, nor to thy
brother, give thou never might nor mastery over thy body, while
thou livest.' Now, since he defendeth [forbiddeth] that a man
should not give to his brother, nor to his friend, the might of his
body, by a stronger reason he defendeth and forbiddeth a man
to give himself to his enemy. And nevertheless, I counsel you
that ye mistrust not my lord: for I wot well and know verily,
that he is debonair and meek, large, courteous and nothing
desirous nor envious of good nor riches: for there is nothing in
this world that he desireth save only worship and honour.
Furthermore I know well, and am right sure, that he shall
nothing do in this need without counsel of me; and I shall so
work in this case, that by the grace of our Lord God ye shall be
reconciled unto us.'

Then said they with one voice, ''Worshipful lady, we put us
and our goods all fully in your will and disposition, and be ready
to come, what day that it like unto your nobleness to limit us or
assign us, for to make our obligation and bond, as strong as it
liketh unto your goodness, that we may fulfil the will of you and
of my lord Meliboeus.'

When Dame Prudence had heard the answer of these men, she
bade them go again privily, and she returned to her lord
Meliboeus, and told him how she found his adversaries full
repentant, acknowledging full lowly their sins and trespasses,
and how they were ready to suffer all pain, requiring and
praying him of mercy and pity. Then said Meliboeus, 'He is well
worthy to have pardon and forgiveness of his sin, that excuseth
not his sin, but acknowledgeth, and repenteth him, asking
indulgence. For Seneca saith, 'There is the remission and
forgiveness, where the confession is; for confession is neighbour
to innocence.' And therefore I assent and confirm me to have
peace, but it is good that we do naught without the assent and
will of our friends.' Then was Prudence right glad and joyful,
and said, 'Certes, Sir, ye be well and goodly advised; for right
as by the counsel, assent, and help of your friends ye have been
stirred to avenge you and make war, right so without their
counsel shall ye not accord you, nor have peace with your
adversaries. For the law saith, 'There is nothing so good by way
of kind, [nature] as a thing to be unbound by him that it was

And then Dame Prudence, without delay or tarrying, sent anon
her messengers for their kin and for their old friends, which
were true and wise; and told them by order, in the presence of
Meliboeus, all this matter, as it is above expressed and declared;
and prayed them that they would give their advice and counsel
what were best to do in this need. And when Meliboeus' friends
had taken their advice and deliberation of the foresaid matter,
and had examined it by great business and great diligence, they
gave full counsel for to have peace and rest, and that Meliboeus
should with good heart receive his adversaries to forgiveness
and mercy. And when Dame Prudence had heard the assent of
her lord Meliboeus, and the counsel of his friends, accord with
her will and her intention, she was wondrous glad in her heart,
and said: 'There is an old proverb that saith, 'The goodness that
thou mayest do this day, do it, and abide not nor delay it not till
to-morrow:' and therefore I counsel you that ye send your
messengers, such as be discreet and wise, unto your adversaries,
telling them on your behalf, that if they will treat of peace and
of accord, that they shape [prepare] them, without delay or
tarrying, to come unto us.' Which thing performed was indeed.
And when these trespassers and repenting folk of their follies,
that is to say, the adversaries of Meliboeus, had heard what
these messengers said unto them, they were right glad and
joyful, and answered full meekly and benignly, yielding graces
and thanks to their lord Meliboeus, and to all his company; and
shaped them without delay to go with the messengers, and obey
to the commandment of their lord Meliboeus. And right anon
they took their way to the court of Meliboeus, and took with
them some of their true friends, to make faith for them, and for
to be their borrows [sureties].

And when they were come to the presence of Meliboeus, he
said to them these words; 'It stands thus,' quoth Meliboeus,
'and sooth it is, that ye causeless, and without skill and reason,
have done great injuries and wrongs to me, and to my wife
Prudence, and to my daughter also; for ye have entered into my
house by violence, and have done such outrage, that all men
know well that ye have deserved the death: and therefore will I
know and weet of you, whether ye will put the punishing and
chastising, and the vengeance of this outrage, in the will of me
and of my wife, or ye will not?' Then the wisest of them three
answered for them all, and said; 'Sir,' quoth he, 'we know well,
that we be I unworthy to come to the court of so great a lord
and so worthy as ye be, for we have so greatly mistaken us, and
have offended and aguilt [incurred guilt] in such wise against
your high lordship, that truly we have deserved the death. But
yet for the great goodness and debonairte [courtesy, gentleness]
that all the world witnesseth of your person, we submit us to
the excellence and benignity of your gracious lordship, and be
ready to obey to all your commandments, beseeching you, that
of your merciable [merciful] pity ye will consider our great
repentance and low submission, and grant us forgiveness of our
outrageous trespass and offence; for well we know, that your
liberal grace and mercy stretch them farther into goodness, than
do our outrageous guilt and trespass into wickedness; albeit that
cursedly [wickedly] and damnably we have aguilt [incurred
guilt] against your high lordship.' Then Meliboeus took them
up from the ground full benignly, and received their obligations
and their bonds, by their oaths upon their pledges and borrows,
[sureties] and assigned them a certain day to return unto his
court for to receive and accept sentence and judgement, that
Meliboeus would command to be done on them, by the causes
aforesaid; which things ordained, every man returned home to
his house.

And when that Dame Prudence saw her time she freined
[inquired] and asked her lord Meliboeus, what vengeance he
thought to take of his adversaries. To which Meliboeus
answered, and said; 'Certes,' quoth he, 'I think and purpose me
fully to disinherit them of all that ever they have, and for to put
them in exile for evermore.' 'Certes,' quoth Dame Prudence,
'this were a cruel sentence, and much against reason. For ye be
rich enough, and have no need of other men's goods; and ye
might lightly [easily] in this wise get you a covetous name,
which is a vicious thing, and ought to be eschewed of every
good man: for, after the saying of the Apostle, covetousness is
root of all harms. And therefore it were better for you to lose
much good of your own, than for to take of their good in this
manner. For better it is to lose good with worship [honour],
than to win good with villainy and shame. And every man ought
to do his diligence and his business to get him a good name.
And yet [further] shall he not only busy him in keeping his good
name, but he shall also enforce him alway to do some thing by
which he may renew his good name; for it is written, that the
old good los [reputation <5>] of a man is soon gone and
passed, when it is not renewed. And as touching that ye say,
that ye will exile your adversaries, that thinketh ye much against
reason, and out of measure, [moderation] considered the power
that they have given you upon themselves. And it is written,
that he is worthy to lose his privilege, that misuseth the might
and the power that is given him. And I set case [if I assume] ye
might enjoin them that pain by right and by law (which I trow
ye may not do), I say, ye might not put it to execution
peradventure, and then it were like to return to the war, as it
was before. And therefore if ye will that men do you obeisance,
ye must deem [decide] more courteously, that is to say, ye must
give more easy sentences and judgements. For it is written, 'He
that most courteously commandeth, to him men most obey.'
And therefore I pray you, that in this necessity and in this need
ye cast you [endeavour, devise a way] to overcome your heart.
For Seneca saith, that he that overcometh his heart, overcometh
twice. And Tullius saith, 'There is nothing so commendable in a
great lord, as when he is debonair and meek, and appeaseth him
lightly [easily].' And I pray you, that ye will now forbear to do
vengeance, in such a manner, that your good name may be kept
and conserved, and that men may have cause and matter to
praise you of pity and of mercy; and that ye have no cause to
repent you of thing that ye do. For Seneca saith, 'He
overcometh in an evil manner, that repenteth him of his victory.'
Wherefore I pray you let mercy be in your heart, to the effect
and intent that God Almighty have mercy upon you in his last
judgement; for Saint James saith in his Epistle, 'Judgement
without mercy shall be done to him, that hath no mercy of
another wight.''

When Meliboeus had heard the great skills [arguments, reasons]
and reasons of Dame Prudence, and her wise information and
teaching, his heart gan incline to the will of his wife, considering
her true intent, he conformed him anon and assented fully to
work after her counsel, and thanked God, of whom proceedeth
all goodness and all virtue, that him sent a wife of so great
discretion. And when the day came that his adversaries should
appear in his presence, he spake to them full goodly, and said in
this wise; 'Albeit so, that of your pride and high presumption
and folly, an of your negligence and unconning, [ignorance] ye
have misborne [misbehaved] you, and trespassed [done injury]
unto me, yet forasmuch as I see and behold your great humility,
and that ye be sorry and repentant of your guilts, it constraineth
me to do you grace and mercy. Wherefore I receive you into my
grace, and forgive you utterly all the offences, injuries, and
wrongs, that ye have done against me and mine, to this effect
and to this end, that God of his endless mercy will at the time of
our dying forgive us our guilts, that we have trespassed to him
in this wretched world; for doubtless, if we be sorry and
repentant of the sins and guilts which we have trespassed in the
sight of our Lord God, he is so free and so merciable [merciful],
that he will forgive us our guilts, and bring us to the bliss that
never hath end.' Amen.

Submitted: Wednesday, April 04, 2012

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