The Canterbury Tales; THE PHISICIENS TALE

Part 16

THE PHISICIENS TALE

Heere folweth the Phisiciens tale.

Ther was, as telleth Titus Livius,
A knyght that called was Virginius,
Fulfild of honour and of worthynesse,
And strong of freendes, and of greet richesse.
This knyght a doghter hadde by his wyf,

No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.
Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
Aboven every wight that man may see.
For Nature hath with sovereyn diligence
Yformed hir in so greet excellence,

As though she wolde seyn, 'Lo, I, Nature,
Thus kan I forme and peynte a creature
Whan that me list; who kan me countrefete?
Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,
Or grave, or peynte, for I dar wel seyn

Apelles, Zanzis sholde werche in veyn
Outher to grave or peynte, or forge, or bete,
If they presumed me to countrefete.
For He that is the former principal
Hath maked me his vicaire general

To forme and peynten erthely creaturis
Right as me list, and ech thyng in my cure is
Under the Moone, that may wane and waxe,
And for my werk right nothyng wol I axe.
My lord and I been ful of oon accord;

I made hir to the worship of my lord,
So do I alle myne othere creatures,
What colour that they han, or what figures.'
Thus semeth me that Nature wolde seye.
This mayde of age twelf yeer was and tweye,

Is which that Nature hadde swich delit.
For right as she kan peynte a lilie whit,
And reed a rose, right with swich peynture
She peynted hath this noble creature,
Er she were born, upon hir lymes fre,

Where as by right swiche colours sholde be.
And Phebus dyed hath hir treses grete,
Lyk to the stremes of his burned heete;
And if that excellent was hir beautee,
A thousand foold moore vertuous was she.

In hire ne lakked no condicioun
That is to preyse, as by discrecioun;
As wel in goost as body chast was she,
For which she floured in virginitee
With alle humylitee and abstinence,

With alle attemperaunce and pacience,
With mesure eek of beryng and array.
Discreet she was in answeryng alway,
Though she were wise Pallas, dar I seyn,
Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,

No countrefeted termes hadde she
To seme wys, but after hir degree
She spak, and alle hir wordes, moore and lesse,
Sownynge in vertu and in gentillesse.
Shamefast she was in maydens shamefastnesse,

Constant in herte, and evere in bisynesse
To dryve hir out of ydel slogardye.
Bacus hadde of hire mouth right no maistrie;
For wyn and youthe dooth Venus encresse,
As man in fyr wol casten oille or greesse.

And of hir owene vertu unconstreyned,
She hath ful ofte tyme syk hir feyned,
For that she wolde fleen the compaignye
Wher likly was to treten of folye,
As is at feestes, revels, and at daunces

That been occasions of daliaunces.
Swich thynges maken children for to be
To soone rype and boold, as men may se,
Which is ful perilous, and hath been yoore;
For al to soone may they lerne loore

Of booldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.
And ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf,
That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,
Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce;
Thenketh that ye been set in governynges

Of lordes doghtres, oonly for two thynges;
Outher for ye han kept youre honestee,
Or elles ye han falle in freletee,
And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce,
And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce

For everemo; therfore for Cristes sake,
To teche hem vertu looke that ye ne slake.
A theef of venysoun, that hath forlaft
His likerousnesse, and al his olde craft,
Kan kepe a forest best of any man.

Now kepeth wel, for if ye wole, ye kan.
Looke wel that ye unto no vice assente,
Lest ye be dampned for your wikke entente.
For who so dooth, a traitour is, certeyn;
And taketh kepe of that that I shal seyn,

Of alle tresons, sovereyn pestilence
Is whan a wight bitrayseth innocence.
Ye fadres and ye moodres, eek also,
Though ye han children, be it oon or two,
Youre is the charge of al hir surveiaunce

Whil that they been under youre governaunce.
Beth war, if by ensample of youre lyvynge,
Or by youre necligence in chastisynge,
That they perisse, for I dar wel seye,
If that they doon ye shul it deere abeye;

Under a shepherde softe and necligent
The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb to-rent.
Suffyseth oon ensample now as here,
For I moot turne agayn to my mateere.
This mayde, of which I wol this tale expresse,

So kepte hirself, hir neded no maistresse.
For in hir lyvyng mayd
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Geoffrey Chaucer

Geoffrey Chaucer, known as the Father of English literature, is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages and was the first poet to have been buried in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey. more…

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