The Second Nun's Tale

The minister and norice* unto vices, *nurse
Which that men call in English idleness,
The porter at the gate is of delices;* *delights
T'eschew, and by her contrar' her oppress, -
That is to say, by lawful business,* - *occupation, activity
Well oughte we to *do our all intent* *apply ourselves*
Lest that the fiend through idleness us hent.* *seize

For he, that with his thousand cordes sly
Continually us waiteth to beclap,* *entangle, bind
When he may man in idleness espy,
He can so lightly catch him in his trap,
Till that a man be hent* right by the lappe,** *seize **hem
He is not ware the fiend hath him in hand;
Well ought we work, and idleness withstand.

And though men dreaded never for to die,
Yet see men well by reason, doubteless,
That idleness is root of sluggardy,
Of which there cometh never good increase;
And see that sloth them holdeth in a leas,* *leash
Only to sleep, and for to eat and drink,
And to devouren all that others swink.* *labour

And, for to put us from such idleness,
That cause is of so great confusion,
I have here done my faithful business,
After the Legend, in translation
Right of thy glorious life and passion, -
Thou with thy garland wrought of rose and lily,
Thee mean I, maid and martyr, Saint Cecilie.

And thou, thou art the flow'r of virgins all,
Of whom that Bernard list so well to write,
To thee at my beginning first I call;
Thou comfort of us wretches, do me indite
Thy maiden's death, that won through her merite
Th' eternal life, and o'er the fiend victory,
As man may after readen in her story.

Thou maid and mother, daughter of thy Son,
Thou well of mercy, sinful soules' cure,
In whom that God of bounte chose to won;* *dwell
Thou humble and high o'er every creature,
Thou nobilest, *so far forth our nature,* *as far as our nature admits*
That no disdain the Maker had of kind,* *nature
His Son in blood and flesh to clothe and wind.* *wrap

Within the cloister of thy blissful sides
Took manne's shape th' eternal love and peace,
That of *the trine compass* Lord and guide is *the trinity*
Whom earth, and sea, and heav'n, *out of release,* *unceasingly
*Aye hery;* and thou, Virgin wemmeless,* *forever praise* *immaculate
Bare of thy body, and dweltest maiden pure,
The Creator of every creature.

Assembled is in thee magnificence
With mercy, goodness, and with such pity,
That thou, that art the sun of excellence,
Not only helpest them that pray to thee,
But oftentime, of thy benignity,
Full freely, ere that men thine help beseech,
Thou go'st before, and art their lives' leech.* *healer, saviour.

Now help, thou meek and blissful faire maid,
Me, flemed* wretch, in this desert of gall; *banished, outcast
Think on the woman Cananee that said
That whelpes eat some of the crumbes all
That from their Lorde's table be y-fall;
And though that I, unworthy son of Eve,
Be sinful, yet accepte my believe.* *faith

And, for that faith is dead withoute werkes,
For to worke give me wit and space,
That I be *quit from thennes that most derk is;* *freed from the most
O thou, that art so fair and full of grace, dark place (Hell)*
Be thou mine advocate in that high place,
Where as withouten end is sung Osanne,
Thou Christe's mother, daughter dear of Anne.

And of thy light my soul in prison light,
That troubled is by the contagion
Of my body, and also by the weight
Of earthly lust and false affection;
O hav'n of refuge, O salvation
Of them that be in sorrow and distress,
Now help, for to my work I will me dress.

Yet pray I you, that reade what I write,
Forgive me that I do no diligence
This ilke* story subtilly t' indite. *same
For both have I the wordes and sentence
Of him that at the sainte's reverence
The story wrote, and follow her legend;
And pray you that you will my work amend.

First will I you the name of Saint Cecilie
Expound, as men may in her story see.
It is to say in English, Heaven's lily,
For pure chasteness of virginity;
Or, for she whiteness had of honesty,* *purity
And green of conscience, and of good fame
The sweete savour, Lilie was her name.

Or Cecilie is to say, the way of blind;
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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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"The Second Nun's Tale" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 21 Sep. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/14665/the-second-nun's-tale>.

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