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- The Canterbury Tales - 40/183 -


Toward the ship, her following all the press:* *multitude And ever she pray'd her child to hold his peace, And took her leave, and with an holy intent She blessed her, and to the ship she went.

Victualed was the ship, it is no drede,* *doubt Abundantly for her a full long space: And other necessaries that should need* *be needed She had enough, heried* be Godde's grace: *praised <15> For wind and weather, Almighty God purchase,* *provide And bring her home; I can no better say; But in the sea she drived forth her way.

Alla the king came home soon after this Unto the castle, of the which I told, And asked where his wife and his child is; The Constable gan about his heart feel cold, And plainly all the matter he him told As ye have heard; I can tell it no better; And shew'd the king his seal, and eke his letter

And saide; "Lord, as ye commanded me On pain of death, so have I done certain." The messenger tormented* was, till he *tortured Muste beknow,* and tell it flat and plain, *confess <16> From night to night in what place he had lain; And thus, by wit and subtle inquiring, Imagin'd was by whom this harm gan spring.

The hand was known that had the letter wrote, And all the venom of the cursed deed; But in what wise, certainly I know not. Th' effect is this, that Alla, *out of drede,* *without doubt* His mother slew, that may men plainly read, For that she traitor was to her liegeance:* *allegiance Thus ended olde Donegild with mischance.

The sorrow that this Alla night and day Made for his wife, and for his child also, There is no tongue that it telle may. But now will I again to Constance go, That floated in the sea in pain and woe Five year and more, as liked Christe's sond,* *decree, command Ere that her ship approached to the lond.* *land

Under an heathen castle, at the last, Of which the name in my text I not find, Constance and eke her child the sea upcast. Almighty God, that saved all mankind, Have on Constance and on her child some mind, That fallen is in heathen hand eftsoon* *again *In point to spill,* as I shall tell you soon! *in danger of perishing* Down from the castle came there many a wight To gauren* on this ship, and on Constance: *gaze, stare But shortly from the castle, on a night, The lorde's steward, -- God give him mischance, -- A thief that had *renied our creance,* *denied our faith* Came to the ship alone, and said he would Her leman* be, whether she would or n'ould. *illicit lover

Woe was this wretched woman then begone; Her child cri'd, and she cried piteously: But blissful Mary help'd her right anon, For, with her struggling well and mightily, The thief fell overboard all suddenly, And in the sea he drenched* for vengeance, *drowned And thus hath Christ unwemmed* kept Constance. *unblemished

O foul lust of luxury! lo thine end! Not only that thou faintest* manne's mind, *weakenest But verily thou wilt his body shend.* *destroy Th' end of thy work, or of thy lustes blind, Is complaining: how many may men find, That not for work, sometimes, but for th' intent To do this sin, be either slain or shent?

How may this weake woman have the strength Her to defend against this renegate? O Goliath, unmeasurable of length, How mighte David make thee so mate?* *overthrown So young, and of armour so desolate,* *devoid How durst he look upon thy dreadful face? Well may men see it was but Godde's grace.

Who gave Judith courage or hardiness To slay him, Holofernes, in his tent, And to deliver out of wretchedness The people of God? I say for this intent That right as God spirit of vigour sent To them, and saved them out of mischance, So sent he might and vigour to Constance.

Forth went her ship throughout the narrow mouth Of *Jubaltare and Septe,* driving alway, *Gibraltar and Ceuta* Sometime west, and sometime north and south, And sometime east, full many a weary day: Till Christe's mother (blessed be she aye) Had shaped* through her endeless goodness *resolved, arranged To make an end of all her heaviness.

Now let us stint* of Constance but a throw,** *cease speaking And speak we of the Roman emperor, **short time That out of Syria had by letters know The slaughter of Christian folk, and dishonor Done to his daughter by a false traitor, I mean the cursed wicked Soudaness, That at the feast *let slay both more and less.* *caused both high and low to be killed* For which this emperor had sent anon His senator, with royal ordinance, And other lordes, God wot, many a one, On Syrians to take high vengeance: They burn and slay, and bring them to mischance Full many a day: but shortly this is th' end, Homeward to Rome they shaped them to wend.

This senator repaired with victory To Rome-ward, sailing full royally, And met the ship driving, as saith the story, In which Constance sat full piteously: And nothing knew he what she was, nor why She was in such array; nor she will say Of her estate, although that she should dey.* *die

He brought her unto Rome, and to his wife He gave her, and her younge son also: And with the senator she led her life. Thus can our Lady bringen out of woe Woeful Constance, and many another mo': And longe time she dwelled in that place, In holy works ever, as was her grace.

The senatores wife her aunte was, But for all that she knew her ne'er the more: I will no longer tarry in this case, But to King Alla, whom I spake of yore, That for his wife wept and sighed sore, I will return, and leave I will Constance Under the senatores governance.

King Alla, which that had his mother slain, Upon a day fell in such repentance; That, if I shortly tell it shall and plain, To Rome he came to receive his penitance, And put him in the Pope's ordinance In high and low, and Jesus Christ besought Forgive his wicked works that he had wrought.

The fame anon throughout the town is borne, How Alla king shall come on pilgrimage, By harbingers that wente him beforn, For which the senator, as was usage, Rode *him again,* and many of his lineage, *to meet him* As well to show his high magnificence, As to do any king a reverence.

Great cheere* did this noble senator *courtesy To King Alla and he to him also; Each of them did the other great honor; And so befell, that in a day or two This senator did to King Alla go To feast, and shortly, if I shall not lie, Constance's son went in his company.

Some men would say,<17> at request of Constance This senator had led this child to feast: I may not tellen every circumstance, Be as be may, there was he at the least: But sooth is this, that at his mother's hest* *behest Before Alla during *the meates space,* *meal time* The child stood, looking in the kinges face.

This Alla king had of this child great wonder, And to the senator he said anon, "Whose is that faire child that standeth yonder?" "I n'ot,"* quoth he, "by God and by Saint John; *know not A mother he hath, but father hath he none, That I of wot:" and shortly in a stound* *short time <18> He told to Alla how this child was found.

"But God wot," quoth this senator also, "So virtuous a liver in all my life I never saw, as she, nor heard of mo' Of worldly woman, maiden, widow or wife: I dare well say she hadde lever* a knife *rather Throughout her breast, than be a woman wick',* *wicked There is no man could bring her to that prick.* *point

Now was this child as like unto Constance As possible is a creature to be: This Alla had the face in remembrance Of Dame Constance, and thereon mused he, If that the childe's mother *were aught she* *could be she* That was his wife; and privily he sight,* *sighed And sped him from the table *that he might.* *as fast as he could*

"Parfay,"* thought he, "phantom** is in mine head. *by my faith I ought to deem, of skilful judgement, **a fantasy That in the salte sea my wife is dead."


The Canterbury Tales - 40/183

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