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That wereth on a couerchief or a calle, "Mercy," quod she, "my sovereyn lady That dar seye nay of that I shal thee
Er that youre court departe, do me right. Lat us go forth with-outen lenger speche." I taughte this answere unto the knyght, Tho rowned 2 she a pistel in his ere, For which he plighte me his trouthe there, And bad hym to be glad and have no The firste thyng I wolde hym requere, fere.
He wolde it do, if it lay in his myght. Whan they be comen to the court, this
Bifore the court thanne preye I thee, sir knyght
knyght,” Seyde he had holde his day, as he hadde Quod she, "that thou me take unto thy hight,
wyf; And redy was his answere, as he sayde. For wel thou woost that I have kept thy Ful many a noble wyf, and many a
If I sey fals, sey nay, vpon thy fey!" 5 And many a wydwe, for that they been This knyght answerde, “Allas and wise,
weylawey! The queene hir-self sittynge as Justise, I woot right wel that swich was my Assembled been, his answere for to heere;
biheste.6 And afterward this knyght was bode ap For Goddes love, as chees a newe peere.
queste; To every wight comanded was silence, Taak al my good and lat my body go.” And that the knyght sholde telle in audi "Nay thanne," quod she, "I shrewe us ence,
bothe two! What thyng that worldly wommen loven For thogh that I be foul, oold, and poore best.
I nolde for al the metal, ne for oore, This knyght ne stood nat stille as doth a That under erthe is grave,' or lith above, best,
But-if thy wyf I were and eek thy But to his questioun anon answerede,
love." With manly voys that al the court it "My love?" quod he. "Nay, my herde:
dampnacion! "My lige lady, generally," quod he, Allas, that any of my nacion “Wommen desiren have souereynetee Sholde evere so foule disparaged be!” As wel over hir housbond as hir love, But al for noght: thende is this, that he And for to been in maistrie hym above; Constreyned was, he nedes moste hire This is youre mooste desir, thogh ye me
And taketh his olde wyf and gooth to Dooth as yow list; I am at youre wille.”
bedde. In al the court ne was ther wyf ne Now wolden som men seye paraventure mayde,
That for my necligence I do no cure 8 Ne wydwe, that contraried that he sayde, To tellen yow the joye and al tharray But seyden he was worthy han his lyf. That at the feeste was that ilke day; And with that word up stirte the olde To which thyng shortly answere I shal. wyf,
I seye ther nas no joye ne feeste at al; Which that the knyght saugh sittynge in Ther nas but hevynesse and muche sorwe.
For prively he wedded hire on a morwe, 1 hair net, often
8 attention rately ornamented * promised
morning ? whispered
And al day after hidde hym as an owle; Pryvee and apert, and moost entendeth
And taak hym for the grettest gentil Whan he was with his wyf abedde
Crist wole we clayme of hym oure genHe walweth and he turneth to and fro.
tillesse, His olde wyf lay smylynge everemo, Nat of oure eldres for hire old richesse, And seyde, "O deere housbonde, bene- For thogh they yeve vs al hir heritage, dicite!
For which we clayme to been of heigh Fareth every knyght thus with his wyf as
Yet may they nat biquethe for no thyng Is this the lawe of Kyng Arthures hous? To noon of us hir vertuous lyvyng, Is every knyght of his so dangerous? That made hem gentil men y-called be, I am youre owene love and youre wyf And bad us folwen hem in swich degree. I am she which that saved hath youre lyf, Wel kan the wise poete of Florence And certes, yet dide I yow nevere un- That highte Dant* speken in this senright:
tence; Why fare ye thus with me this firste Lo, in swich maner rym is Dantes tale: nyght?
"Ful selde up riseth by his branches Ye faren lyk a man had lost his wit.
smale What is my gilt? For Goddes love, tel Prowesse of man, for God of his goodnesse it
Wole that of hym we clayme oure genAnd it shal been amended, if I may."
tillesse.” 5 "Amended?" quod this knyght. "Allas! For of oure eldres may we no thyng nay, nay!
clayme It wol nat been amended nevere mo! But temporel thyng, that man may hurte Thou art so loothly, and so oold also,
and mayme. And ther-to comen of so lough a kynde, Eek every wight woot this as wel as I, That litel wonder is thogh I walwe and If gentillesse were planted natureelly wynde.?
Unto a certeyn lynage doun the lyne, So wolde God myn herte wolde breste!” Pryvee nor apert, thanne wolde they "Is this," quod she, "the cause of youre nevere fyne unreste?"
To doon of gentillesse the faire office; "Ye, certeinly," quod he, "no wonder They myghte do no vileynye or vice. is.”
Taak fyr, and ber it in the derkeste "Now, sire," quod she, “I koude
hous amende al this,
Bitwix this and the mount of Kaukasous, If that me liste, er it were dayes thre, And lat men shette the dores and go So wel ye myghte bere yow unto me.
thenne, But for ye speken of swich gentillesse Yet wolde the fyr as faire lye and brenne As is descended out of old richesse, As twenty thousand men myghte it That therfore sholden ye be gentil men,
biholde; Swich arrogance is nat worth an hen. His office natureel ay wol it holde Looke who that is moost vertuous alway, Up peril of my lyf, til that it dye.
4 Dante Alighieri (1265- Dante, Purgat. VII. 1 hard to please gentility
1321) twist and turn
I 21-23 6
Heere may ye se wel how that genterye May understonde that Jhesus, hevene Is nat annexed to possession,
kyng, Sith folk ne doon hir operacion
Ne wolde nat chesen vicious lyvyng. Alwey, as dooth the fyr, lo! in his kynde. Glad poverte is an honeste thyng, cerFor, God it woot, men may wel often
This wole Senec and othere clerkes seyn. A lordes sone do shame and vileynye; Who-so that halt hym payd' of his And he that wole han pris of his gentrye,
poverte, For he was born of a gentil hous,
I holde hym riche, al 8 hadden he nat a And hadde hise eldres noble and ver
He that coveiteth is a povere wight, And nel hym selven do no gentil dedis, For he wolde han that is nat in his myght. Ne folwen his gentil aunceştre that deed But he that noght hath, ne coveiteth have, is,
Is riche, although ye holde hym but a He nys nat gentil, be he duc or erl;
Ķnave. For vileyns synful dedes make a cherl. Verray poverte, it syngeth proprely; For gentillesse nys but renomee 1
Juvenal seith of poverte myrily: Of thyne auncestres, for hire heigh "The povre man, whan he goth by the bountee,
weye, Which is a strange 3 thyng to thy persone. Bifore the theves he may synge and Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone;
pleye." Thanne comth oure verray gentillesse of Poverte is hateful good, and, as I gesse, grace.
A ful greet bryngere out of bisynesse; 340 It was no thyng biquethe us with oure A greet amendere eek of sapience place.
To hym that taketh it in pacience. Thenketh hou noble, as seith Valerius, Poverte is this, al-though it seme alenge: 10 Was thilke Tullius Hostillius 5
Possession that no wight wol chalenge. That out of poverte roos to heigh noblesse. Poverte ful ofte whan a man is lowe Reed Senek, and redeth eek Boece; 6 Maketh his God and eek hymself to Ther shul ye seen expres that no drede is,
knowe. That he is gentil that dooth gentil dedis; Poverte a spectacle 11 is, as thynketh me And therfore, leeve housbonde, I thus Thurgh which he may hise verray freendes
conclude: Al were it that myne auncestres weren And therfore, sire, syn that I noght yow rude,
greve, Yet may the hye God, and so hope I, Of my poverte namoore ye me repreve. 350 Grante me grace to lyven vertuously; Now, sire, of elde ye repreve me; Thanne am I gentil whan that I bigynne And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee To lyven vertuously and weyve synne. 320 Were in no book, ye gentils of honour
And ther-as ye of poverte me repreeve, Seyn that men sholde an oold wight doon The hye God on whom that we bileeve
favour, In wilful poverte chees to lyve his lyf. And clepe hym fader, for youre gen. And certes every man, mayden, or wyf
And auctours shal I fynden, gesse. 5 Tullus Hostillus, third goodness
legendary King s external Rome (672-040 B.C.) satisfied
30 miserable Valerius Maximus, De Seneca and Boethius & although
kind of telescope Humili Natis,
Juvenal, Satires, X. Bk. III, Chap. 4
“Kys me," quod she, "we be no. lenger
wrothe; For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow
bothe: This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good. I prey to God that I moote sterven wood, But I to yow be al-so good and trewe As evere was wyf, syn that the world was
newe. And but I be tomorn as fair to seene As any lady emperice or queene That is bitwise the Est and eke the
West, Dooth with my lyf and deth right as yow
lest. Cast up the curtyn, looke how that it
Now ther ye seye that I am foul and
old. Than drede you noght to been a coke
wold; 1 For filthe and eelde, al-so moot I thee, Been grete wardeyns upon chastitee. But nathelees, syn I knowe youre delit, I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit. Chese now (quod she) oon of thise
thynges tweye, To han me foul and old til that I deye, And be to yow a trewe humble wyf, And nevere yow displese in al my lyf Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair, And take youre aventure of the repair a That shal be to youre hous by cause of
me, Or in som oother place, may wel be. Now chese your selven wheither that yow
liketh.” This knyght avyseth hym and sore
siketh, But atte laste he seyde in this manere: “My lady and my love, and wyf so deere, I put me in youre wise governance; Cheseth youreself which may be moost
plesance, And moost honour to yow and me also. I do no fors 3 the wheither of the two; For as yow liketh, it suffiseth me.” “Thanne have I gete of yow maistrie,” quod she,
380 "Syn I may chese and governe as
lest." “Ye, certes, wyf,” quod he, "I holde it
And whan the knyght saugh verraily al
this, That she so fair was, and so yong ther-to, For joye he hente hire in hise armes two, His herte bathed in a bath of blisse; A thousand tyme arewe 5 he gan hire
kisse. And she obeyed hym in every thyng That myghte doon hym plesance or
likyng. And thus they lyve, unto hir lyves ende, In parfit joye; and Jhesu Crist us sende Housbondes meeke, yonge, fressh a bedde, And grace toverbyde hem that we wedde. And eek I pray Jhesu shorte hir lyves That wol nat be governed by hir wyves; And olde and angry nygardes of dispence, God sende hem soone verray pestilence.
Heere endeth the W yves tale of Bathe.
1 cuckold, husband of un
resorting a care not
5 in a row
THE POPULAR BALLAD
A BALLAD is a song which tells a story.” It belongs to oral as opposed to written literature, and has certain well-marked characteristics that serve readily to differentiate it from all other kinds of narrative poetry. First, it is “popular,” that is, the property of the people. The ballads are all anonymous. Their authorship has long since been forgotten. They are often thought to be the product of a homogeneous group composing under the impulse of a recent occurrence or a common emotion. This is not impossible; indeed, the process has been observed to-day. In a recent collection of ballads sung by the Maine lumberjacks the editor quotes one of the men, from whom he obtained a ballad, as to their origin: "Well,” he said, "I will tell you. Something happens. Then, at night, when the fellows are gathered around the fire, some one, who can sing better than the rest, starts a song, and the rest chip in. Each adds a little, some make changes and additions, until the song is made. Probably one hundred and fifty took part in making that song.” One need not think that all ballads have had such a communal origin. Many were doubtless composed by individuals. But they soon became common property; and since they were not written down but carried in the memory and transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation, they have undergone changes through repetition by many singers until, as we have them to-day, they are truly the product of the people.
This popular transmission of the ballad is responsible for most of its other special characteristics. The simple stanza forms, the frequent refrains, the repetition of stock phrases and often of whole stanzas, the complete objectivity and impersonality of the narrative, the brevity which results from telling only the essential points in the story and leaving the rest to the imagination,—these are obviously the effects of folk transmission. Other folk characteristics are equally apparent, such as the frank acceptance of the supernatural, the simple-minded credulity that is content with gross improbabilities in the plot, the lavish reference to gold, silver, and precious stones to heighten the effect, and the blunt representation of tragedy and death unsentimentalized.
It is a mistake to expect in the ballad the polish of later, more sophisticated art forms. Ballad art is wholly untutored, instinctive. The English and Scottish popular ballads should be judged for what they are; for of their kind there is nothing finer in the literature of any country. * R. P. GRAY. Songs and Ballads of the Maine Lumberjacks, with other songs from Maine, Cambridge, 1924.