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◈ The Canterbury Tales (캔터베리 이야기) ◈

◇ The Man of Law’s Prologue, Tale and Epilogue ◇

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 1. The Man of Law’s Prologue
 2. The Man of Law’s Tale
   2.1. (Part One)
   2.2. (Part Two)
   2.3. (Part Three)
 3. The Epilogue to the Man of Law’s Tale

1. The Man of Law’s Prologue

0 The words of the Host to the company
 
1 Our Host saw well that the bright sun
2 The arc of his artificial day had run
3 The fourth part and half an hour and more,
4 And though he was not deeply versed in lore,
5 He knew that it was the eighteenth day
6 Of April, that is messenger to May,
7 And saw that the shadow of every tree
8 Was in its length the same in quantity
9 As was the body erect that produced it,
10 And therefore, from the shadow, his wit
11 Deduced that Phoebus, so clear and bright,
12 Was five and forty degrees in height,
13 And on that day, and in that latitude,
14 It was ten o’clock, he might conclude;
15 And suddenly he turned his horse about.
 
16 Lordings,’ quoth he, ‘I warn you all right now,
17 The fourth part of this day’s already gone.
18 Now, for the love of God and of Saint John,
19 Lose no time, as little as you may.
20 Lordings, time is wasting, night and day,
21 And steals from us, what with covert sleeping,
22 And what with negligence in our waking,
23 Like the stream that never returns again,
24 Descending from the mountain to the plain.
25 Seneca, and many a philosopher,
26 Mourn for time more than for gold in coffer;
27 For loss of wealth recovered it may be,
28 But loss of time consumes us,’ quoth he.
29 It will not come again, once sped,
30 No more than will Malkin’s maidenhead,
31 When she has lost it in her wantonness.
32 Let us not moulder thus in idleness!
 
33 Sir Man of Lawquoth he, ‘yours be bliss,
34 Tell us a tale, as our agreement is.
35 You have submitted by your free assent,
36 To accept, in this affair, my judgement.
37 Acquit yourself now at my request;
38 Then shall you do your duty, with the best.’
 
39 Host,’ quoth he, ‘depardieux, I assent!
40 To break a pledge was never my intent.
41 A promise is a debt, and I would pay
42 All my debts; I can no fairer say.
43 For the laws a man makes in his might
44 He should obey himself, and that is right
45 Thus says our text. Nonetheless, for certain,
46 I can right now no decent tale sustain
47 Such as Chaucer, though little skilled is he
48 In metre, and in rhyming craftily,
49 Has written, in such English as he can,
50 Of ancient times, known to many a man.
51 And if he has not told them, dear brother
52 In one book, he has told them in another.
53 He has written of lovers up and down
54 More than our Ovid himself had found
55 In his Heroides that are full old.
56 Why tell them again, since they are told?
 
57 In youth he spoke of Ceyx and Alcyon,
58 And after that has written of everyone,
59 Those noble wives and those lovers too.
60 Whoever reads his large volume through
61 That is called The Legend of Good Women,
62 There the large wounds wide are penned
63 Of Babylon’s Thisbe, and Lucretia,
64 Dido’s sword for Aeneas her lover,
65 The tree of Phyllis for her Demophon,
66 Deianira’s and Hermione’s moan
67 Ariadne’s and Hypsipyle’s,
68 The barren isle standing in the sea,
69 The drowned Leander for his Hero,
70 The tears of Helen, and then the woe
71 Of Briseis, and you, Laodamia;
72 The cruelty of the Queen, Medea
73 The little children hanged in the hall,
74 For your Jason, who in love was false.
75 O Hypermnestra, Penelope, Alceste,
76 Your wifehood he commended with the best!
 
77 But certainly no word does he sample
78 Of the wicked Canace’s example,
79 Who loved her own brother sinfully.
80 Such cursed stories, they are not for me,
81 Nor that of Tyre’s Apollonius
82 And how the cursed King Antiochus
83 Bereft his daughter of her maidenhead.
84 And is so terrible, that tale I read,
85 Where he hurls her to the pavement!
86 And therefore with deliberate intent,
87 Would never write in any of his sermons
88 Of such unnatural abominations,
89 Nor will I retell them, though I may.
 
90 But what shall I do for a tale today?
91 I’m loath to be likened, you see,
92 To Muses men call the Pierides
93 The Metamorphoses shows what I mean.
94 But nonetheless I care not a bean,
95 Though I come after him with poor man’s bake.
96 I’ll speak in prose, let him the rhymes make.’
97 And with a serious expression here
98 Began his tale, as you shall after hear.
 
99 The Prologue to the Man of Law’s Tale
 
100 O hateful harm, condition of poverty,
101 With thirst, with cold, with hunger, so confounded!
102 To ask for help shames your heart wretchedly;
103 If you ask none, so sore then are you wounded
104 That very need discovers all your wound hid.
105 Despite your need, you must for indigence
106 Steal or beg, or borrow your subsistence.
 
107 You blame the Christ, and say full bitterly
108 He misdirects our riches temporal.
109 Your neighbour you blame sinfully,
110 And say you have too little, and he has all.
111 By faith,’ you say, ‘judgement someday will fall,
112 And his tail shall burn in the fire indeed
113 For he the needy helped not in their need!’
114 Hark to the opinion of the wise:
115 Better to die than live in indigence.
116 Your very neighbour will you despise.’
117 If you be poor, respect for you flies hence!
118 Yet from the wise man hear this sentence:
119 All the days of poor men are wretched.’
120 Beware then, ere there you make your bed.
121 If you are poor, your brother hates you too,
122 And all your friends flee from you, alas!
123 O rich merchant, full of wealth are you!
124 O noble, o prudent folk, as is your case!
125 Your bag’s not filled by throwing double ace,
126 But six and five that fall to you by chance.
127 At Christmas-tide merrily may you dance!
128 You seek o’er land and sea for your winnings.
129 As wise folk you know the certain state
130 Of kingdoms; are the fathers of tidings
131 And tales, both of peace and fierce debate.
132 I were now of tales right desolate,
133 But that a merchant, of another year,
134 Taught me a tale, one that you now shall hear.
 

2. The Man of Law’s Tale

0 Here begins the Man of Law’s tale
 

2.1. (Part One)

0 In Syria once there dwelt a company
1 Of merchants rich, both dignified and true,
2 That far and wide despatched their spicery,
3 Their cloth of gold and satins rich of hue,
4 Merchandise of such quality, brand new,
5 That every one was happy to trade there
6 With them, and sell them all their wares.
 
7 Now it happened that merchants of this sort
8 Decided that to Rome their way they’d wend.
9 Whether for business dealings or for sport,
10 They wished no other messenger to send,
11 But go to Rome themselves did so intend.
12 And in such place as they thought pleasing
13 For their purpose, settle on their lodging.
 
14 The merchants had sojourned in that town
15 A certain time, as their pleasure chanced.
16 And so befell that the excellent renown
17 Of the Emperor’s daughter, Dame Constance,
18 Reported was, with every circumstance,
19 To these Syrian merchants in such wise,
20 From day to day, as I shall you advise.
 
21 This was the common voice of every man:
22 Our Emperor of Rome, God save thee!
23 A daughter has, that since the world began,
24 Reckoning both her goodness and her beauty,
25 There was never such another one as she.
26 I pray that God in honour keep her green,
27 And would she were of all Europe the queen!
 
28 In her there is high beauty without pride,
29 Youth, without frivolity or folly;
30 In all her works virtue is her guide;
31 Humility has conquered vanity.
32 She is the mirror of all courtesy;
33 Her heart the chamber is of holiness,
34 Her hand, the medium of all largesse.’
 
35 And all these words were just, as God is true;
36 But to our purpose let us turn again.
37 These merchants their ships had freighted new,
38 And after they had seen this blessed maid,
39 Home to Syria they gladly sailed,
40 And ran their trade as they had done before,
41 And lived in wealth; I can say no more.
 
42 Now it befell these merchants stood in grace
43 With him that was the Sultan of Syria;
44 For when they returned from foreign place,
45 He would, of his benevolence and care,
46 Make them good cheer so he might share
47 Tidings of sundry kingdoms, and have word
48 Of wonders that they might have seen or heard.
 
49 Among other things, especially,
50 The merchants told him of Dame Constance
51 Her nobleness, in earnest, so minutely,
52 That thought of her the Sultan did entrance
53 And kept her image so in his remembrance
54 That all his delight and care was for
55 The love of her, while life might endure.
 
56 Peradventure, in that immense book
57 Men call the heavens, it written was
58 In stars, since upon our birth they look,
59 That love would be the death of him, alas!
60 For in the stars, clearer than in glass,
61 Is written, God knows, for us to read
62 Each man’s death as it must come to be.
 
63 In stars many a winter long before
64 Was written the death of Hector, Achilles,
65 Of Pompey, Caesar, ere they were born;
66 The strife of Thebes, and of Hercules,
67 Of Samson, Turnus, and of Socrates
68 The death; but men’s wits are so dull,
69 That no man can read of it all in full.
 
70 This Sultan for his privy council sent,
71 And briefly through this matter to pace,
72 He declared to them his whole intent,
73 And said, unless he might have the grace
74 To win Constance within a little space,
75 He was but a dead man, bade them see
76 If they could find for him some remedy.
 
77 Diverse men diverse words then said;
78 They discussed it, argued up and down.
79 Many a subtle reason forth they led;
80 They spoke of magic and deception.
81 But finally, resolved in conclusion
82 That they could see no clear advantage
83 In any other course, except in marriage.
 
84 But therein they saw such difficulty,
85 Reasoning like this, to make all plain,
86 Because there was such great diversity
87 Between their laws, one must maintain
88 They saidno Christian prince would deign
89 Wed his daughter by the laws as set
90 And taught us by Mahomet, our prophet.’
 
91 And he replied: ‘Rather than I should lose
92 Constance, I would be christened, no less.
93 I must be hers; I may no other choose.
94 I pray you, these thoughts no more express;
95 Save my life, and show no idleness
96 In gaining her who can kill me or cure,
97 For in this woe I cannot long endure.’
 
98 What need for greater explanation?
99 I say, by treaties and diplomacy,
100 And also by the Pope’s mediation,
101 And all the Church, and all the chivalry,
102 Bent on destroying Islam and heresy,
103 And spreading the law of Christ dear,
104 They all agreed, such as you shall hear:
 
105 How that the Sultan and his baronage
106 And all his lieges should christened be,
107 And he should have Constance in marriage,
108 And certain gold – I know not what quantity;
109 Be found as sufficient security.
110 This same accord was sworn on either side.
111 Now, fair Constance, may God be your guide!
 
112 Some might expect me to tell, I guess,
113 Of all the preparations in advance
114 That the Emperor, in his nobleness,
115 Made for his daughter, Dame Constance.
116 Yet men will know that such an instance
117 Cannot be described in some little clause,
118 As was displayed in all that noble cause.
 
119 Bishops were appointed to attend,
120 Lords, ladies, knights of high renown,
121 And other folk enoughto this end.
122 And it is notified to all the town
123 That everyone of true devotion
124 Should pray to Christ that He this marriage
125 Might favour in His sight, and speed its passage.
 
126 The time is come for her departure
127 I say the woeful fatal day is come,
128 That there she may no longer linger,
129 And forth to go were ready all and some.
130 Constance, who was with sorrow overcome,
131 Full pale arose, and dressed herself to go,
132 For well she knows it must indeed be so.
 
133 Alas, what wonder is it if she wept,
134 On being sent to a foreign nation,
135 Far from friends whose company she’d kept,
136 And then be bound in absolute subjection
137 To someone, knowing not his predilection?
138 Husbands are all good men, as known before
139 By all good wives – I dare say nothing more.
 
140 Father,’ she said, ‘your wretched child Constance,
141 Your young daughter used to life so soft,
142 And you, my mother, of delight the instance
143 Above all things, except for Christ aloft,
144 Constance your child commends herself oft
145 To your grace, for I go to Syria,
146 And I lose you from my sight forever.
 
147 Alas, unto that barbarous nation
148 I must anon, since it is your will!
149 But Christ, that died for our redemption,
150 So give me grace his purpose to fulfil.
151 I, wretched woman, any can me kill.
152 Women are born to servitude and penance,
153 And to be kept within man’s governance.’
 
154 I think in Troy, when Pyrrhus breached the wall,
155 And Ilium burnt, or in Thebes the city,
156 Or Rome, when harm was done by Hannibal,
157 Who vanquished the Romans times three,
158 Never were heard such tender tears, for pity,
159 As were heard in her room at her departing!
160 But forth she must, whether she weep or sing.
 
161 O Primum Mobile, cruel firmament!
162 That drives all on in your diurnal sway
163 And hurls all from the east to occident
164 That naturally would run the other way,
165 Your driving set the heavens in such array
166 At the beginning of this fierce miscarriage
167 That cruel Mars had cursed the marriage.
 
168 Unfortunate ascendant tortuous
169 Whose ruler now helpless falls, alas,
170 Out of his angle into the darkest house!
171 O Mars, O fatal chart, as this one was!
172 O feeble moon, unhappy in your course!
173 Positioned, where you are not well-received;
174 From where you would be so, cruelly heaved.
 
175 Imprudent Emperor of Rome, alas!
176 Was there no astrologer in all your town?
177 Was there no better day than this day was?
178 In journeying is there no decision
179 To be made for folk of high condition,
180 Even when their natal chart we know?
181 Alas, we are too ignorant or slow!
 
182 To ship is brought this woeful fair maid,
183 Solemnly, with royal circumstance.
184 Now Jesus Christ be with you all,’ she said.
185 Them there’s no more but: ‘Farewell, fair Constance!’
186 She strives to show a happy countenance;
187 And forth I let her sail now in this manner,
188 And turn I will again to my matter.
 
189 The Sultan’s mother, a well of vices,
190 Has understood her son’s full intent,
191 How he will forsake old sacrifices,
192 And right anon she for her council sent,
193 And they were made aware of her bent.
194 And when they were all assembled there,
195 She sat down, and spoke as you shall hear:
 
196 Lords,’ quoth she, ‘you know, each and every one,
197 How my son is minded to forget
198 The holy laws proclaimed in our Koran,
199 Even by God’s messenger Mahomet.
200 But one vow to great God I make yet:
201 The life shall rather out of my body start,
202 Than Mahomet’s law from out my heart!
 
203 What can befall us from this new law
204 But thraldom to our bodies and grief,
205 And afterward to fall into Hell’s maw
206 Renouncing Mahomet, and our belief?
207 So lords, will you make pledge to me
208 In what I say, assenting to my course,
209 And I shall make us safe for evermore?
 
210 They swore and assented, every man,
211 To live and die for her, and by her stand,
212 And ever, in the best way that he can,
213 Support her with his friends throughout the land.
214 And she this enterprise takes in hand
215 Which you shall hear of as I devise,
216 And to them all she spoke and in this wise:
 
217 We first shall feign their baptism to take
218 Cold water will grieve us but a mite!
219 And I shall such a feast and revel make
220 That, I vow, the Sultan I’ll requite.
221 For, though his wife be christened never so white,
222 She shall have need to wash away the red,
223 Though she pour a font of water on her head.’
 
224 O Sultaness, root of iniquity,
225 Virago, Semiramis the second!
226 O serpent masked in femininity,
227 Like the serpent who in Hell is bound!
228 O feigning woman, all that may confound
229 Virtue and innocence, through your malice,
230 Is bred in you, the nest of every vice!
 
231 O Satan, envious since that day
232 When you were chased from our heritage,
233 You know well woman’s ancient way!
234 You made Eve bring us into bondage.
235 You will foredoom this Christian marriage.
236 Your instrumentwell-away the while! –
237 You make of woman, whom you will beguile.
 
238 This Sultaness, whom I blame and decry,
239 Let her council go quietly on their way.
240 Why should I in this tale longer tarry?
241 She rides to see the Sultan on a day,
242 And tells him she will renounce her faith,
243 And baptism at the priest’s hands undergone
244 Repent of being a heathen for so long,
 
245 Beseeching him to do her the honour,
246 Of asking the Christian folks to a feast.
247 To please them I will nobly labour.’
248 The Sultan said: ‘I accept at your behest,’
249 And, kneeling thanked her for her request.
250 So glad he was he knew not what to say.
251 She kissed her son, and home she went her way.
 

2.2. (Part Two)

0 The Christian folk have reached the land
1 Of Syria, with a great solemn rout,
2 Swiftly a message left the Sultan’s hand
3 First to his mother, then to all about,
4 And said his wife was here, without doubt.
5 And asked her to ride and meet his Queen,
6 That his kingdom’s honour should be green.
 
7 Great was the throng and rich was the array
8 Of Syrians and Romans in that place.
9 The mother of the Sultan, rich and gay,
10 Received her also with as glad a face
11 As mother might her daughter there embrace.
12 And to the nearest city there beside
13 At a gentle pace they thither ride.
 
14 I doubt that the triumph of Julius,
15 Of which Lucan makes such a boast
16 Was more royal or more curious
17 Than was the meeting of this splendid host.
18 But this scorpion, this wicked ghost,
19 The Sultaness, for all her flattering,
20 Planned in her heart full mortally to sting.
 
21 The Sultan himself arrived soon after this,
22 So royally, it was wonderful to tell.
23 He welcomes her with every joy and bliss.
24 And thus in mirth and joy I’ll let him dwell;
25 The fruit of this matter I must tell.
26 In due time, men thought it for the best
27 That revel ended, men went to their rest.
 
28 The day arrived, when this old Sultaness
29 Had ordained the feast of which I told,
30 And to the feast Christian folk addressed
31 Themselves, in general, both young and old.
32 Here may men feast and royalty behold,
33 And dainties more than I could so devise
34 But all too dearly paid for ere they rise.
 
35 O sudden woe that ever is successor
36 To worldly bliss, mixed with bitterness!
37 The end of joy in all our earthly labour!
38 Woe occupies the bound of our gladness.
39 Hark to this counsel, such our auspices:
40 On the glad day bear it well in mind
41 That unknown woe or harm comes on behind.’
 
42 For briefly for to tell, in a word,
43 The Sultan and the Christians every one
44 Were hacked to pieces, stabbed at the board,
45 Except for our Dame Constance alone.
46 The old Sultaness, that cursed crone,
47 Has with her friends done this cursed deed,
48 For she herself would all that country lead.
 
49 There was not one Syrian that converted,
50 No member of the Sultan’s council but
51 Was hewn to pieces, none had death averted.
52 And Constance have they taken now, hot-foot,
53 And in a ship all rudderless is she put,
54 God knows, and told to study how to sail
55 From Syria to Italy, calm or gale.
 
56 A certain treasure, brought with her, they add,
57 And, truth to tell, victuals in great plenty,
58 Were given her with the clothes she had;
59 And forth she sailed into the salt sea.
60 O my Constance, full of benignity,
61 O Emperor’s young daughter dear,
62 He that is lord of Fortune, shall you steer!
 
63 She crossed herself, and with full piteous voice,
64 Unto the cross of Christ thus spoke she:
65 ‘O bright, o joyful altar, holy cross,
66 Reed of the Lamb’s blood, full of pity,
67 That wash the world of old iniquity,
68 Me from the fiend and his claws now keep,
69 That day that I shall drown in the deep!
 
70 Victorious Tree, protection of the true,
71 Thou alone worthy were to bear
72 The King of Heaven, with His wounds new,
73 The white Lamb, that hurt was with a spear;
74 Driver of fiends from every him and her
75 Over whom your arms faithfully extend,
76 Protect and grant me strength my life to amend!’
 
77 For years and days driven was this creature
78 Through the seas of Greece, unto the strait
79 Of Morocco, her fate it was to adventure.
80 Of many a sorry meal now she ate!
81 On her death full often must she wait,
82 Ere that the wild waves shall her drive
83 To any shore whence succour might arrive.
 
84 Men might ask why then she was not slain
85 At the feast itself? Who did her body save?
86 And I reply to that demand again,
87 Who saved Daniel in the dreadful cave,
88 Where every man save he, master and knave,
89 Was eaten by lions before he could depart?
90 No one but God, whom he bore in his heart.
 
91 God wished to show a wondrous miracle
92 In her, for us to see how great his work is.
93 Christ, that is remedy for every fickle
94 Act of fate, by means that learned clerics
95 Know of, does many a thing that full dark is
96 To Man’s wit, and in our ignorance
97 We cannot know His careful providence.
 
98 Now, since she was not drenched in gore,
99 What kept her then from drowning in the sea?
100 Well, who kept Jonah in the whale’s maw,
101 Till he was spouted up in Nineveh?
102 Men must know that it was none but He
103 That kept the Hebrew people from drowning,
104 With dry feet through the Red Sea passing.
 
105 Who bade the four spirits of the tempest,
106 That have the power to trouble land and sea,
107 Both north and south, and also east and west,
108 Trouble not the waves, nor land nor tree’?
109 Truly, of that the commander was He
110 That from the tempest ever this woman kept,
111 As well when she awoke as when she slept.
 
112 What meat and drink for her then on the wave
113 Three years and more beyond the sight of sail?
114 Who fed Mary of Egypt in the cave
115 Or the desert? No one but Christ, sans fail.
116 Five thousand folk were in a greater tale
117 On loaves five and fishes two to feed.
118 God sent his plenty in hour of need.
 
119 She is driven out into our ocean
120 Through the wild sea, till at the last
121 Below a castle, known to no man,
122 Far in Northumberland, she was cast.
123 And in the sand her vessel stuck so fast
124 That it remained from turn to turn of tide;
125 The will of Christ was that she should abide.
 
126 The Constable of the castle came there
127 To see the wreck, and in the vessel sought,
128 And found this weary woman full of care;
129 He found also the treasure that she brought
130 In her own language mercy she besought,
131 The life out of her body fate to win,
132 And deliver her from the woe that she was in.
 
133 A sort of degenerate Latin was her speech,
134 But nevertheless he yet could understand.
135 This Constable, when nought was left to seek,
136 Brought this woeful woman to the land.
137 She knelt down, blessed God’s saving hand;
138 But as to who she was gave no reply,
139 For foul or fair, though she might die.
 
140 She said, she was confounded by the sea
141 Her memory was gone, in very truth.
142 And the Constable had for her such pity
143 And his wife too, that they wept forsooth.
144 She was so diligent, eager in her youth,
145 To serve and please all who were in that place
146 That all loved her who looked on her face.
 
147 The Constable, and Dame Hermengild his wife,
148 Were pagan, as was that country everywhere.
149 But Hermengild loved her as her life,
150 And Constance had so long sojourned there,
151 In orisons, with many a bitter tears,
152 Till Jesus converted through his grace
153 Dame Hermengild, the lady of the place.
 
154 In all that land no Christians were about;
155 All Christian folk had fled the country,
156 For pagans had conquered, made a rout,
157 On all the northern shores, by land and sea.
158 To Wales had fled that Christianity
159 Of ancient Britons living in this isle;
160 There was its refuge for the meanwhile.
 
161 But Christian Britain was not so exiled
162 That there was not a few that secretly
163 Honoured Christ, and heathen folk beguiled;
164 And of such by the castle there lived three.
165 One of them was blind, and could not see
166 Except with the eyes within the mind,
167 With which men see when they are blind.
 
168 Bright was the sun on that summer’s day
169 On which the Constable and his wife also
170 And Constance had taken the direct way
171 Towards the sea, a furlong off or two,
172 To take their pleasure, roaming fro and to.
173 And on their walk this blind man they met,
174 Bent and old, with eyes fast shut and set.
 
175 In Christ’s name,’ cried out this blind Briton,
176 Dame Hermengild, give me my sight again!’
177 This lady grew fearful at the sound,
178 Lest her husband, briefly to explain,
179 Should for her love of Christ have her slain;
180 Till Constance made bold, and bade her work
181 The will of Christ, as daughter of his church.
 
182 The Constable was troubled at the sight,
183 And said: ‘What means it then, this affair?’
184 Constance answered: ‘Sir, it is Christ’s might,
185 Who helps folks from out the foul fiend’s snare.’
186 And so our faith began she to declare,
187 Till she the Constable, before that eve,
188 Converted, and in Christ made him believe.
 
189 The Constable was not lord of this place
190 Where he found Constance on the sand,
191 But held it strongly, many wintersspace,
192 Under Alla, King of Northumberland,
193 That was full wise and strong of hand
194 Against the Scots, as men are aware.
195 But I turn now again to my matter.
 
196 Satan, that waits for us to beguile,
197 Saw of Constance all her perfection,
198 And cast about how he might her defile,
199 And made a young knight dwelling in that town
200 Love her so hotly, with a foul affection,
201 That truly he thought to die, or live until
202 He of her might once have had his will.
 
203 He wooed her then, but it availed him not
204 She would not sin at all in any way.
205 And out of spite he plotted in his thought
206 A shameful death indeed for her, I say.
207 Waiting till the Constable was away,
208 Secretly upon a night he crept
209 Into Hermengild’s chamber while she slept.
 
210 Wearied, with making of her orisons,
211 Constance sleeps, and Hermengild also.
212 This knight, through Satan’s temptations
213 All stealthily towards the bed does go,
214 And at once slits Hermengild’s throat,
215 And lays the bloody knife by Dame Constance
216 And goes his waymay God bring him mischance!
 
217 Soon after comes the Constable home again,
218 Along with Alla, that king was of those lands,
219 And saw his wife pitilessly slain,
220 At which full oft he wept and wrung his hands.
221 And in the bed the bloody knife he found
222 Beside Dame Constance. Alas, what could she say?
223 For very woe her wits went all astray.
 
224 To King Alla was told all this mischance,
225 And the time, and where, and in what wise
226 That in a ship was found this Dame Constance,
227 As before you have heard me advise.
228 The king’s heart melted in his eyes
229 When he saw so gentle a creature
230 Lost in suffering and misadventure.
 
231 For as the lamb towards its death is brought,
232 So stands this innocent before the king.
233 The false knight that has this treason wrought
234 Accuses her of doing this dark thing.
235 But nonetheless there was great mourning
236 Among the people, saying they would not guess
237 That she could do so great a wickedness.
 
238 That they had ever seen her virtuous,
239 And loving Hermengild as her life,
240 Of this bore witness all in that house,
241 Save he that slew Hermengild with his knife.
242 The noble king heard far and wide
243 This testimony, and thought to enquire
244 Deep into this, and find the truth entire.
 
245 Alas, Constance, you have no champion,
246 Nor can you fight yourself, so well-away!
247 But he that died for our redemption
248 And bound Satan (who lies where he lay),
249 May He be your strong champion this day!
250 Unless Christ an open miracle display,
251 Guiltless you shall be slain without delay.
 
252 She fell upon her knees, and thus she said:
253 Immortal God, that did save Susanna
254 From calumny, and you, merciful maid,
255 Mary I mean, daughter of Saint Anna,
256 Before whose child angels sing Hosanna,
257 If I be guiltless of this felony,
258 My succour be, or else I shall die!’
 
259 Have you not seen sometimes a pale face
260 Among the throng, of him that has been led
261 Towards his death, having obtained no grace,
262 And such a hue over his face has spread,
263 Men might know his face as one in dread
264 Among all the faces there to be found?
265 So stands Constance, and gazes all around.
 
266 O Queens, living in prosperity
267 Duchesses, and you ladies every one,
268 Take pity on her in adversity!
269 An Emperor’s daughter stands alone;
270 She has no one to whom to make her moan.
271 O blood royal, that stands in dread indeed,
272 Far off are your friends in your great need!
 
273 This King Alla had such compassion,
274 As noble heart is filled full of pity,
275 That from his eyes ran the water down.
276 Now swiftly go fetch a Book,’ quoth he,
277 And if this knight will swear that she
278 This woman slew, we will consider much
279 On whom we wish to nominate as judge.’
 
280 A British Book, in which were the Gospels,
281 Was fetched, and on this book he swore anon
282 She guilty was, it instantly befell
283 That a hand smote him on the neck-bone,
284 And down he fell lifeless as a stone,
285 And both his eyes burst from his face,
286 In sight of everybody in that place.
 
287 A voice was heard in general audience,
288 And said: ‘You have slandered the innocent,
289 A daughter of Holy Church in high presence.
290 So have you done, yet I remain silent!’
291 The throng was struck with amazement,
292 At this wonder, dumb stood every one
293 For fear of vengeance, save Constance alone.
 
294 Great was the dread, and also the repentance,
295 Of those who had harboured false suspicion
296 Of the innocent and humble Constance.
297 And for this miracle, in conclusion,
298 And through Constance’s mediation,
299 The king, and many another in that place,
300 Converted were, thanks be to Christ’s grace!
 
301 The false knight had been slain in untruth
302 By judgement of Alla, instantly,
303 And yet Constance had pity for his youth.
304 And after this Jesus of his mercy
305 Made Alla marry full solemnly
306 This holy maid, who is so bright serene.
307 And so has Christ made Constance a queen.
 
308 But who was woeful, and I tell no lie,
309 At this wedding, but Donegild alone,
310 The king’s mother, full of tyranny?
311 She thought her cursed heart would break;
312 She wished her son had not done so.
313 She thought it an insult he should take
314 A foreign creature to be his mate.
 
315 Now I’d not wish from chaff and straw
316 To make so long a tale, but from good corn.
317 Why should I tell then of the wealth they pour
318 Out for the marriage, the course first borne,
319 Who blows upon the trumpet or the horn?
320 The fruit of every tale is but to say:
321 They eat and drink, and dance, and sing, and play.
 
322 They went to bed, both reasonable and right,
323 For though wives are the holiest of things,
324 They must accept patiently at night
325 Such necessary customs as are pleasing
326 To folk that have wedded them with rings,
327 And lay their holiness somewhat aside
328 On such occasionsit cannot be denied.
 
329 He begat a boy child on her anon;
330 And to the Constable and Bishop he,
331 Gave his wife to guard when he was gone
332 To Scotland, there his enemies to seek.
333 Now fair Constance, who is so humble and meek
334 So far is gone with child, that calm and still
335 She lies in her chamber, abiding Christ’s will.
 
336 The time is come, a boy child she bears;
337 Mauricius at the font they him name.
338 The Constable summons a messenger,
339 And writes to his king, Alla, the same,
340 With blissful tidings how the child came
341 And other news expedient to say.
342 He takes the letter, and goes on his way.
 
343 This messenger, for his own advantage,
344 To the king’s mother swiftly rides,
345 And greets her full fair in this language:
346 Madame,’ quoth he, ‘you may be glad and blithe,
347 And thank God a hundred thousand times:
348 My lady has a child, of that no doubt,
349 To the joy and bliss of all the land about.
 
350 Lo, here, these sealed letters speak the thing,
351 Which I must bear with all the haste I may.
352 If you have aught for your son the king,
353 I am your servant, both night and day.’
354 Donegild answered: ‘Not at this time, nay.
355 But here tonight I would you’d take your rest;
356 Tomorrow will I tell you all the rest.’
 
357 The messenger drank deep of ale and wine,
358 And stolen were his letters secretly
359 Out of his box, while he slept like a swine.
360 And counterfeited was all subtly
361 Another letter, wrought all sinfully,
362 Unto the king addressed about the matter
363 From his Constable, as youll hear after.
 
364 The letter claimed the Queen delivered was
365 Of so horrible a fiendish creature
366 That in the castle none so stalwart was
367 To dare for any time there to endure.
368 The mother was an elf, peradventure
369 Come by charms or by sorcery,
370 And every soul hated her company.
 
371 Woe was the king with this letter plain,
372 But spoke to no one of his sorrows sore,
373 And on his own hand he wrote again:
374 Welcome what Christ sends for evermore
375 To me that am now learned in His lore!
376 Lord, welcome be your wish and action;
377 All mine is subject to your direction.
 
378 Defend this child, though it be foul or fair,
379 And my wife also, till my home-coming.
380 Christ, when he wish, may send me an heir
381 More agreeable than this to my liking.’
382 This letter he sealed, privately weeping,
383 Which to the messenger was taken soon,
384 And off he goes; no more was to be done.
 
385 O messenger, filled full of drunkenness,
386 Strong is your breath, your limbs falter they,
387 And all your secrets you confess.
388 Your mind is gone, you chatter like a jay;
389 Your face altered features does display.
390 Where drunkenness reigns in the house
391 There is no counsel hid, have no doubt.
 
392 O Donegild, there’s no English of mine
393 Fit for your malice and your tyranny,
394 And therefore to the fiend I you resign;
395 Let him write further of your treachery!
396 Fie, human monster! – No, by God, I lie! –
397 Fie, fiendish spirit! For I dare say well,
398 Though you walk here, your spirit is in Hell.
 
399 The messenger comes from the King again,
400 And at the King’s Mother’s court alights,
401 And she worked his confidence to gain,
402 And pleased him in everything she might.
403 He drank and filled his belly till the night;
404 He slept then, and snored in every wise
405 Until the morning sun began to rise.
 
406 Again were his letters stolen every one,
407 And counterfeit letters penned like this:
408 The King commands his Constable anon,
409 On pain of hanging and severe justice,
410 That he should in no manner suffer his
411 Wife Constance in the land, she to abide
412 Three days more, and the quarter of a tide;
 
413 But in the same ship where she was found,
414 Her and her young son and all her gear
415 He should set, and thrust her from the land,
416 And charge her to nevermore come here.’
417 O my Constance, well may your spirit fear,
418 And sleeping, in your dream, feel the pangs,
419 When Donegild decrees this ordinance!
 
420 The messenger that morrow, when he woke,
421 Hastened to the castle the nearest way,
422 And to the Constable he the letter took.
423 And seeing what this sad letter had to say,
424 Full often he said: ‘Alas!’ andWell-away!’
425 Lord Christ,’ quoth he, ‘how may this world endure,
426 So full of sin is many a creature?
 
427 Almighty God, if it should be your will,
428 Since you are the true Judge, how can it be
429 That you will allow innocent blood to spill,
430 And wicked folk to reign in prosperity?
431 O good Constance, alas, so woe is me,
432 That I must be your tormentor, or pay
433 In shameful death; there is no other way.’
 
434 Both young and old wept in that place,
435 When the King this cursed letter sent.
436 And Constance, with a deadly pale face,
437 On the fourth day to her ship she went.
438 Nevertheless with inward content
439 She bowed to Christ’s will, knelt on the sand,
440 And said: ‘Lord, welcome is your command!
 
441 He that has defended me from blame
442 While I was on the shore among you,
443 He will keep me from all harm and shame
444 On the salt sea, though I know not how.
445 As strong as ever He was, so is He now.
446 In Him I trust, and in His Mother dear,
447 Who is to me my sail, and He will steer.’
 
448 Her little child lay weeping in her arms,
449 And kneeling, piteously to him she said:
450 Peace, little son, I will do you no harm.’
451 With that her head-cloth she disarrayed,
452 And doffing it, over his eyes it laid,
453 And in her arms she lulled him full fast,
454 And up to Heaven her eyes she cast.
 
455 Mother,’ quoth she, and maiden bright, Marie,
456 True it is, that through woman’s frail intent
457 Mankind was ruined, and condemned was he,
458 For which your child was on the Cross rent.
459 Your blessed eyes witnessed His torment;
460 Thus is there no comparison between
461 Your woe, and any woe that man has seen.
 
462 You saw your child slain before your eyes,
463 And yet now lives my little child, in faith.
464 Now lady bright, who hears all woeful cries,
465 You glory of womanhood, you fair maid,
466 You haven of refuge, bright star of day,
467 Pity my child, and in your gentleness
468 Pity the pitiful, in sore distress.
 
469 O little child, alas, what is your guilt
470 That never sinned as yet, can it be
471 That your harsh father shall have you killed?
472 O mercy, dear Constable,’ quoth she,
473 Let my little child dwell still with thee!
474 And if you dare not save him, fearing blame,
475 Yet kiss him once in his father’s name!’
 
476 With this she looked back towards the land,
477 And said: ‘Farewell, my husband, pitiless!’
478 And up she rose and walked across the sand
479 Towards the ship; her followed all the rest.
480 And ever she prayed her child to cry the less,
481 And took her leave, and with holy intent
482 She crossed herself, and into the ship she went.
 
483 Victualled fully was the ship, indeed
484 Abundantly for her, a longish space;
485 And other necessaries she would need
486 She had enough, praised be God’s grace!
487 May wind and weather bow to God’s face,
488 And bring her home! I can no other say
489 Than through the sea she sets out on her way.
 

2.3. (Part Three)

0 Alla the King comes home soon after this
1 Back to his castle, that of which I told,
2 And asks where his wife and child is.
3 The Constable at his heart turned cold,
4 And plainly all the matter he him told
5 As you have heard; I cannot tell it better
6 And showed the King his seal and the letter,
 
7 And said: ‘Lord, as you commanded me
8 On pain of death, so have I done, be certain.’
9 The messenger questioned was till he
10 Was forced to confess, blunt and plain,
11 From night to night in what place he had lain.
12 And thus by close and subtle enquiry
13 It was conceived from whom this harm might be,
 
14 The hand was revealed that letter wrote,
15 And all the venom of this cursed deed,
16 But in what manner, certainly I know not.
17 The outcome was this: that Alla, as is said,
18 His mother slewthat all might know instead
19 How, traitor, she had failed in her allegiance.
20 So ends old Donegild, cursed in all that land!
 
21 The sorrow that this Alla night and day,
22 Feels for his wife and for his child also,
23 There is no tongue that tell it may.
24 But now will I again to Constance go,
25