A yong man called Melibeus, myghty and riche, bigat upon his wyf, that called was Prudence, a doghter which that called was Sophie.
Upon a day bifel that he for his desport is went into the feeldes hem to pleye. His wyf and eek his doghter hath he left inwith his hous, of which the dores weren faste yshette. Thre of his olde foes han it espyed, and setten laddres to the walles of his hous, and by wyndowes been entred, and betten his wyf, and wounded his doghter with fyve mortal woundes in fyve sondry places, this is to seyn, in hir feet, in hire handes, in hir erys, in hir nose, and in hire mouth, and leften hire for deed, and wenten awey.
Whan Melibeus retourned was in to his hous, and saugh al this meschief, he, lyk a mad man, rentynge his clothes, gan to wepe and crie.
Prudence, his wyf, as ferforth as she dorste, bisoghte hym of his wepyng for to stynte; but nat forthy he gan to crie and wepen evere lenger the moore.
This noble wyf Prudence remembred hire upon the sentence of Ovide, in his book that cleped is the remedie of love, where as he seith , "He is a fool that destourbeth the mooder to wepen in the deeth of hire child, til she have wept hir fille as for a certein tyme; and thanne shal man doon his diligence with amyable wordes hire to reconforte, and preyen hire of hir wepyng for to stynte". For which resoun this noble wyf Prudence suffred hir housbonde for to wepe and crie as for a certein space; and whan she saugh hir tyme, she seyde hym in this wise: "Allas, my lord," quod she, "why make ye youreself for to lyk a fool? For sothe it aperteneth nat to a wys man to maken swich a sorwe. Youre doghter, with the grace of God, shal warisshe and escape. And, al were it so that she right now were deed, ye ne oughte nat, as for hir deeth, youreself to destroye. Senek seith: "The wise man shal nat take to greet disconfort for the deeth of his children; but, certes, he sholde suffren it in pacience as wel as he abideth the deeth of his owene propre persone.'"
This Melibeus answerde anon, and seyde, "what man," quod he, "sholde of his wepyng stente that hath so greet a cause for to wepe? Jhesu Crist, oure lord, hymself wepte for the deeth of Lazarus hys freend."
Prudence answerde: "Certes, wel I woot attempree wepyng is no thyng deffended to hym that sorweful is, amonges folk in sorwe, but it is rather graunted hym to wepe. The apostle Paul unto the Romayns writeth, 'Man shal rejoyse with hem that maken joye, and wepen with swich folk as wepen.' But though attempree wepyng be ygraunted, outrageous wepyng certes is deffended. Mesure of wepyng sholde be considered, after the loore that techeth us Senek: 'Whan that thy frend is deed,' quod he, 'lat nat thyne eyen to moyste been of teeris, ne to muche drye; although the teeris come to thyne eyen, lat hem nat falle; and whan thou hast forgoon thy freend, do diligence to gete another freend; and this is moore wysdom than for to wepe for thy freend which that thou has lorn, for therinne is no boote.' And therfore, if ye governe yow by sapience, put awey sorwe out of youre herte. Remembre yow that Jhesus Syrak seith, 'a man that is joyous and glad in herte, it hym conserveth florissynge in his age; but soothly sorweful herte maketh his bones drye.' He seith eek thus, that sorwe in herte sleeth ful many a man. Salomon seith that right as motthes in shepes flees anoyeth to the clothes, and the smale wormes to the tree, right so anoyeth sorwe to the herte. Wherfore us oghte, as wel in the deeth of oure children as in the los of oure othere goodes temporels, have pacience. Remembre yow upon the pacient job. Whan he hadde lost his children and his temporeel substance, and in his body endured and receyved ful many a grevous tribulacion, yet seyde he thus: 'Oure Lord hath yeve it me; oure Lord hath biraft it me; right as oure Lord hath wold, right so it is doon; blessed be the name of oure Lord!'"
To thise forseide thynges answerde Melibeus unto his wyf Prudence: "Alle thy wordes," quod he, "been sothe, and therto profitable; but trewely myn herte is troubled with this sorwe so grevously that I noot what to doone."
"Lat calle," quod Prudence, "thy trewe freendes alle, and thy lynage whiche that been wise. Telleth youre cas, and herkneth what they seye in conseillyng, and yow governe after hire sentence. Salomon seith, 'werk alle thy thynges by conseil, and thou shalt never repente.'"
Thanne, by the conseil of his wyf Prudence, this Melibeus leet callen a greet congregacion of folk; as surgiens, phisiciens, olde folk and yonge, and somme of his olde enemys reconsiled as by hir semblaunt to his love and into his grace; and therwithal ther coomen somme of his neighebores that diden hym reverence moore for drede than for love, as it happeth ofte. Ther coomen also ful many subtille flatereres, and wise advocatz lerned in the lawe.
And whan this folk togidre assembled weren, this Melibeus in sorweful wise shewed hem his cas. And by the manere of his speche it semed that in herte he baar a crueel ire, redy to doon vengeaunce upon his foes, and sodeynly desired that the werre sholde bigynne; but nathelees, yet axed he hire conseil upon this matiere. A surgien, by licence and assent of swiche as weren wise, up roos, and to Melibeus seyde as ye may heere:
"Sire," quod he, "as to us surgiens aperteneth that we do to every wight the beste that we kan, where as we been withholde, and to oure pacientz that we do no damage; wherfore it happeth many tyme and ofte that whan twey men han everich wounded oother, oon same surgien heeleth hem bothe; wherfore unto oure art it is nat pertinent to norice werre ne parties to supporte. But certes, as to the warisshynge of youre doghter, al be it so that she perilously be wounded, we shullen do so ententif bisynesse fro day to nyght that with the grace of God she shal be hool and sound as soone as is possible."
Almoost right in the same wise the phisiciens answerden, save that they seyden a fewe woordes moore: that right as maladies been cured by hir contraries, right so shul men warisshe werre by vengeaunce.
His neighebores ful of envye, his feyned freendes that semeden reconsiled, and his flatereres maden semblant of wepyng, and empeireden and agreggeden muchel of this matiere in preisynge greetly Melibee of myght, of power, of richesse, and of freendes, despisynge the power of his adversaries, and seiden outrely that he anon sholde wreken hym on his foes, and bigynne werre.
Up roos thanne an advocat that was wys, by leve and by conseil of othere that were wise, and seide: "Lordynges, the nede for which we been assembled in this place is a ful hevy thyng and an heigh matiere, by cause of the wrong and of the wikkednesse that hath be doon, and eek by resoun of the grete damages that in tyme comynge been possible to fallen for this same cause, and eek by resoun of the grete richesse and power of the parties bothe; for the whiche resouns it were a ful greet peril to erren in this matiere. Wherfore, Melibeus, this is oure sentence: we conseille yow aboven alle thyng that right anon thou do thy diligence in kepynge of thy propre persone in swich a wise that thou ne wante noon espie ne wacche, thy persone for to save. And after that, we conseille that in thyn hous thou sette sufficeant garnisoun so that they may as wel thy body as thyn hous defende. But certes, for to moeve werre, ne sodeynly for to doon vengeaunce, we may nat demen in so litel tyme that it were profitable. Wherfore we axen leyser and espace to have deliberacion in this cas to deme. For the commune proverbe seith thus: 'He that soone deemeth, soone shal repente. and eek men seyn that thilke juge is wys that soone understondeth a matiere and juggeth by leyser; for al be it so that alle tariyng be anoyful, algates it is nat to repreve in yevynge of juggement ne in vengeance takyng, whan it is sufficeant and resonable. And that shewed oure lord Jhesu Crist by ensample; for whan that the womman that was taken in avowtrie was broght in his presence to knowen what sholde be doon with hire persone, al be it so that he wiste wel hymself what that he wolde answere, yet ne wolde he nat answere sodeynly, but he wolde have deliberacion, and in the ground he wroot twies. And thise causes we axen deliberacioun, and we shal thanne, by the grace of God, conseille thee thyng that shal be profitable.
Up stirten thanne the yonge folk atones, and the mooste partie of that compaignye han scorned this olde wise man, and bigonnen to make noyse, and seyden that right so as, whil that iren is hoot, men sholden smyte, right so men sholde wreken hir wronges whil that they been fresshe and newe; and with loud voys they criden "Werre! Werre!"
Up roos tho oon of thise olde wise, and with his hand made contenaunce that men sholde holden hem stille and yeven hym audience. "Lordynges," quod he, "ther is ful many a man that crieth 'Werre! Werre! that woot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bigynnyng hath so greet an entryng and so large, that every wight may entre whan hym liketh, and lightly fynde werre; but certes what ende that shal therof bifalle, it is nat light to knowe. For soothly, whan that werre is ones bigonne, ther is ful many a child unborn of his mooder that shal sterve yong by cause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and dye in wrecchednesse. And therfore, er that any werre bigynne, men moste have greet conseil and greet deliberacion. And whan this olde man wende to enforcen his tale by resons, wel ny alle atones bigonne they to rise for to breken his tale, and beden hym ful ofte his wordes for to abregge. For soothly, he that precheth to hem that listen nat heeren his wordes, his sermon hem anoieth. For Jhesus Syrak seith that "musik in wepynge is a noyous thyng"; this is to seyn: as muche availleth to speken bifore folk to which his speche anoyeth, as it is to synge biforn hym that wepeth. And whan this wise man saugh that hym wanted audience, al shamefast he sette hym doun agayn. For Salomon seith: "Ther as thou ne mayst have noon audience, enforce thee nat to speke." "I see wel," quod this wise man, "that the commune proverbe is sooth, that good conseil wanteth whan it is moost nede.'"
Yet hadde this Melibeus in his conseil many folk that prively in his eere conseilled hym certeyn thyng, and conseilled hym the contrarie in general audience. Whan Melibeus hadde herd that the gretteste partie of his conseil weren accorded that he sholde maken werre, anoon he consented to hir conseillyng, and fully affermed hire sentence. Thanne dame Prudence, whan that she saugh how that hir housbonde shoop hym for to wreken hym on his foes, and to bigynne werre, she in ful humble wise, whan she saugh hir tyme, seide to hym thise wordes: "My lord," quod she, "I yow biseche as hertely as I dar and kan, ne haste yow nat to faste, and for alle gerdons, as yeveth me audience. For Piers Alfonce seith, 'Whoso that dooth to thee oother good or harm, haste thee nat to quiten it; for in this wise thy freend wole abyde, and thyn anemy shal the lenger lyve in drede.' The proverbe seith, 'He hasteth wel that wisely kan abyde, and in wikked haste is no profit.'"
This Melibee answerde unto his wyf Prudence: "I purpose nat," quod he, "to werke by thy conseil, for many causes and resouns. For certes, every wight wolde holde me thanne a fool; this is to seyn, if I, for thy conseillyng, wolde chaungen thynges that been ordeyned and affermed by so manye wyse. Secoundely, I seye that alle wommen been wikke, and noon good of hem alle. For 'of a thousand men,' seith Salomon, 'I foond o good man, but certes, of alle wommen, good womman foond I nevere.' And also, certes, if I governed me by thy conseil, it sholde seme that I hadde yeve to thee over me the maistrie; and God forbede that it so weere! For Jhesus Syrak seith 'that if the wyf have maistrie, she is contrarious to hir housbonde.' And Salomon seith: 'Nevere in thy lyf to thy wyf, ne to thy child, ne to thy freend, ne yeve no power over thyself; for bettre it were that thy children aske of thy persone thynges that hem nedeth, than thou see thyself in the handes of thy children.' And also if I wolde werke by thy conseillyng, certes, my conseil moste som tyme be secree, til it were tyme that it moste be knowe, and this ne may noght be. (Car il est escript, la genglerie des femmes ne puet riens celler fors ce qu' elle ne scet. Apres, le philosophre dit, en mauvais conseil les femmes vainquent les hommes: et par ces raisons je ne dois point user de ton conseil.)"
Whanne dame Prudence, ful debonairly and with greet pacience, hadde herd al that hir housbonde liked for to seye, thanne axed she of hym licence for to speke, and seyde in this wise: "My lord," quod she, "as to youre firste resoun, certes it may lightly been answered. For I seye that it is no folie to chaunge conseil whan the thyng is chaunged, or elles whan the thyng semeth ootherweyes than it was biforn. And mooreover, I seye that though ye han sworn and bihight to perfourne youre emprise, and nathelees ye weyve to perfourne thilke same emprise by juste cause, men sholde nat seyn therfore that ye were a liere ne forsworn. For the book seith that 'the wise man maketh no lesyng whan he turneth his corage to the bettre.' And al be it so that youre emprise be establissed and ordeyned by greet multitude of folk, yet that ye nat accomplice thilke ordinaunce, but yow like. For the trouthe of thynges and the profit been rather founden in fewe folk that been wise and ful of resoun, than by greet multitude of folk ther every man crieth and clatereth what that hym liketh. Soothly swich multitude is nat hones. And as to the seconde resoun, where as ye seyn that alle wommen been wikke; save youre grace, certes ye despisen alle wommen in this wyse, and 'he that al despiseth, al displeseth,' as seith the book. And Senec seith that 'whose wole have sapience shal no man dispreyse, but he shal gladly techen the science that he kan withouten presumpcion or pride, and swiche thynges as he noght ne kan, he shal nat been ashamed to lerne hem, and enquere of lasse folk than hymself.' and, sire That ther hath been many a good womman, may lightly be preved. For certes, sire, oure Lord Jhesu Crist wolde nevere have descended to be born of a womman, if alle wommen hadden been wikke. And after that, for the grete bountee that is in wommen, oure lord Jhesu Crist, whan he was risen fro deeth to lyve, appeered rather to a womman than to his apostles. And though that Salomon seith that he ne foond nevere womman good, it folweth nat therfore that alle wommen ben wikke. For though that he ne foond no good womman, certes, many another man hath founden many a womman ful good and trewe. Or elles, per aventure, the entente of Salomon was this, that, as in sovereyn bounte, he foond no womman; this is to seyn, that ther is no wight that hath sovereyn bountee save God allone, as he hymself recordeth in hys Evaungelie. For ther nys no creature so good that hym ne wanteth somwhat of the perfeccioun of God, that is his makere. Youre thridde reson is this: ye seyn that if ye governe yow by my conseil, it sholde seme that ye hadde yeve me the maistrie and the lordshipe over youre persone. Sire, save youre grace, it is nat so. For if it so were that no man sholde be conseilled but oonly of hem that hadden lordshipe and maistrie of his persone, men wolden nat be conseilled so ofte. For soothly thilke man that asketh conseil of a purpos, yet hath he free choys wheither he wole werke by that conseil or noon. And as to youre fourthe resoun, ther ye seyn that the janglerie of wommen kan hyde thynges that they wot noght, as who seith that a womman kan nat hyde that she woot; sire, thise wordes been understonde of wommen that been jangleresses and wikked; of whiche wommen men seyn that thre thynges dryven a man out of his hous, that is to seyn, smoke, droppyng of reyn, and wikked wyves, and of swiche wommen seith Salomon that 'it were bettre dwelle in desert than with a woman that is riotous.' And sire, by youre leve, that am nat I; for ye han ful ofte assayed my grete silence and my grete pacience, and eek how wel that I kan hyde and hele thynges that men oghte secreely to hyde. And soothly, as to youre fifthe resoun, where as ye seyn that in wikked conseil wommen venquisshe men, God woot, thilke resoun stant heere in no stede. For understoond now, ye asken conseil to do wikkednesse; and if ye wole werken wikkednesse, and youre wif restreyneth thilke wikked purpos, and overcometh yow by reson and by good conseil, certes youre wyf oghte rather to be preised than yblamed. Thus sholde ye understonde the philosophre that seith, in wikked conseil wommen venquisshen hir housbondes.' Ther as ye blamen alle wommen and hir resouns, I shal shewe yow by manye ensamples that many a womman hath ben ful good, and yet been, and hir conseils ful hoolsome and profitable. Eek som men han seyd that the conseillynge of wommen is outher to deere, or elles to litel of pris. But al be it so that ful many a womman is badde, and hir conseil vile and noght worth, yet han men founde ful many a good womman, and ful discret and wis in conseillynge. Loo, Jacob, by good conseil of his mooder Rebekka, wan the benysoun of Ysaak his fader, and the lordshipe over alle his bretheren. Judith, by hire good conseil, delivered the citee of Bethulie, in which she dwelled, out of the handes of Olofernus, that hadde it biseged and wolde have al destroyed it. Abygail delivered nabal hir housbonde fro David the kyng, that wolde have slayn hym, and apaysed the ire of the kyng by hir wit and by hir good conseillyng. Hester, by hir good conseil, enhaunced greetly the peple of God in the regne of Assuerus the kyng. And the same bountee in good conseillyng of many a good womman may men telle. And mooreover, whan oure lord hadde creat Adam, oure forme fader, he seyde in this wise: it is nat good to been a man alloone; make we to hym an helpe semblable to hymself. May ye se that if that wommen were nat goode, and hir conseils goode and profitable, oure lord God of hevene wolde nevere han wroght hem, ne called hem help of man, but rather confusioun of man. And ther seyde oones a clerk in two vers, 'What is bettre than gold? Jaspre. What is bettre than jaspre? Wisedoom. And what is better than wisedoom? Womman. And what is bettre than a good womman? Nothyng.' And, sire, by manye of othre resons may ye seen that manye wommen been goode, and hir conseils goode and profitable. And therfore, sire, if ye wol triste to my conseil, I shal restoore yow youre doghter hool and sound. And eek I wol do to yow so muche that ye shul have honour in this cause."
Whan Melibee hadde herd the wordes of his wyf Prudence, he seyde thus: "I se wel that the word of Salomon is sooth. He seith that 'wordes that been spoken discreetly by ordinaunce been honycombes, for they yeven swetnesse to the soule and hoolsomnesse to the body.' And, wyf, by cause of thy sweete wordes, and eek for I have assayed and preved thy grete sapience and thy grete trouthe, I wol governe me by thy conseil in alle thyng."
"Now, sire," quod dame Prudence, "and syn ye vouche sauf to been governed by my conseil, I wol enforme yow how ye shul governe yourself in chesynge of youre conseillours. Ye shul first in alle youre werkes mekely biseken to the heighe God that he wol be youre conseillour; and shapeth yow to swich entente that he yeve yow conseil and confort, as taughte Thobie his sone: 'At alle tymes thou shalt blesse god, and praye hym to dresse thy weyes, and looke that alle thy conseils been in hym for everemoore. Jame eek seith: if any of yow have nede of sapience, axe it of god. and afterward thanne shul ye taken conseil in youreself, and examyne wel youre thoghtes of swich thyng as yow thynketh that is bes for youre profit. And thanne shul ye dryve fro youre herte thre thynges that been contrariouse to good conseil; that is to seyn, ire, coveitise, and hastifnesse.
First, he that axeth conseil of hymself, certes he moste been withouten ire, for manye causes. The firste is this: he that hath greet ire and wratthe in hymself, he weneth alwey that he may do thyng that he may nat do. And secoundely, he that is irous and wrooth, he ne may nat wel deme; and he that may nat wel deme, may nat wel conseille. The thridde is this, that he that is irous and wrooth, as seith Senec, ne may nat speke but blameful thynges, and with his viciouse wordes he stireth oother folk to angre and to ire. And eek, sire, ye moste dryve coveitise out of youre herte. For the apostle seith that coveitise is roote of alle harmes. And trust wel that a coveitous man ne kan noght deme ne thynke, but oonly to fulfille the ende of his coveitise; and certes, that ne may nevere been accompliced; For evere the moore habundaunce that he hath of richesse, the moore he desireth. And, sire, ye moste also dryve out of youre herte hastifnesse; for certes, ye ne may nat deeme for the beste by a sodeyn thought that falleth in youre herte, but ye moste avyse yow on it ful ofte. For, as ye herde her biforn, the commune proverbe is this, that he that soone deemeth, soone repenteth. sire, ye ne be nat alwey in lyk disposicioun; for certes, somthyng that somtyme semeth to yow that it is good for to do, another tyme it semeth to yow the contrarie.
Whan ye han taken conseil in youreself, and han deemed by good deliberacion swich thyng as yow semeth bes, thanne rede I yow that ye kepe it secree. Biwrey nat youre conseil to no persone, but if so be that ye wenen sikerly that thurgh youre biwreyyng youre condicioun shal be to yow the moore profitable. for Jhesus Syrak seith, 'neither to thy foo, ne to thy frend, discovere nat thy secree ne thy folie; for they wol yeve yow audience and lookynge and supportacioun in thy presence, and scorne thee in thyn absence.' Another clerk seith that scarsly shaltou fynden any persone that may kepe conseil secrely. The book seith, 'whil that thou kepest thy conseil in thyn herte, thou kepest it in thy prisoun; and whan thou biwreyest thy conseil to any wight, he holdeth thee in his snare.' And therfore yow is bettre to hyde youre conseil in youre herte than praye him to whom ye han biwreyed youre conseil that he wole kepen it cloos and stille. For Seneca seith: 'if so be that thou ne mayst nat thyn owene conseil hyde, how darstou prayen any oother wight thy conseil secrely to kepe?' But nathelees, if thou wene sikerly that the biwreiyng of thy conseil to a persone wol make thy condicion to stonden in the bettre plyt, thanne shaltou tellen hym thy conseil in this wise. First thou shalt make no semblant wheither thee were levere pees or werre, or this or that, ne shewe hym nat thy wille and thyn entente. For trust wel that comunli thise conseillours been flatereres, namely the conseillours of grete Lordes; for they enforcen hem alwey rather to speken plesante wordes, enclynynge to the lordes lust, than wordes that been trewe or profitable. And therfore men seyn that the riche man hath seeld good conseil, but if he have it of hymself.
And after that thou shalt considere thy freendes and thyne enemys. And as touchynge thy freendes, thou shalt considere which of hem been moost feithful and moost wise and eldest and most approved in conseillyng; and of hem shalt thou aske thy conseil, as the caas requireth. I seye that first ye shul clepe to youre conseil youre freendes that been trewe. For Salomon seith that 'right as the herte of a man deliteth in savour that is soote, right so the conseil of certes gold ne silver ben nat so muche worth as the goode wyl of a trewe freend.' And eek he seith that 'a trewe freend is a strong deffense; who so that it fyndeth, certes he fyndeth a greet tresour.' Thanne shul ye eek considere if that youre trewe freendes been discrete and wise. For the book seith, 'axe alwey thy conseil of hem that been wise.' And by this same resoun shul ye clepen to youre conseil of youre freendes that been of age, swiche as han seyn and been expert in manye thynges and been approved in conseillynges. For the book seith 'that in olde men is the sapience, and in longe tyme the prudence.' And Tullius seith 'that grete thynges ne been nat ay accompliced by strengthe, ne by delivernesse of body, but by good conseil, by auctoritee of persones, and by science; the whiche thre thynges ne been nat fieble by age, but certes they enforcen and encreescen day by day.' And thanne shul ye kepe this for a general reule: first shul ye clepen to youre conseil a fewe of youre freendes that been especiale; for Salomon seith, 'manye freendes have thou, but among a thousand chese thee oon to be thy conseillour.' For al be it so that thou first ne telle thy conseil but to a fewe, thou mayst afterward telle it to mo folk if it be nede. But looke alwey that thy conseillours have thilke thre condiciouns that I have seyd bifore, that is to seyn, that they be trewe, wise, and of oold experience. And werke nat alwey in every nede by oon counseillour allone; for somtyme bihooveth it to been conseilled by manye. For Salomon seith, 'salvacion of thynges is where as ther been manye conseillours.'
Now, sith that I have toold yow of which folk ye sholde been conseilled, now wol I teche yow which conseil ye oghte to eschewe. First, ye shul eschue the conseillyng of fooles; for Salomon seith, 'taak no conseil of a fool, for he ne kan noght conseille but after his owene lust and his affeccioun.' The book seith that 'the propretee of a fool is this: he troweth lightly harm of every wight, and lightly troweth alle bountee in hymself.' Thou shalt eek eschue the conseillyng of alle flatereres, swiche as enforcen hem rather to preise youre persone by flaterye than for to telle yow the soothfastnesse of thynges. Wherfore Tullius seith, 'amonges alle the pestilences that been in freendshipe the gretteste is flaterie.' And therfore is it moore nede that thou eschue and drede flatereres than any oother peple. The book seith, 'thou shalt rather drede and flee fro the sweete wordes of flaterynge preiseres than fro the egre wordes of thy freend that seith thee thy sothes.' Salomon seith that 'the wordes of a flaterere is a snare to cacche with innocentz.' He seith also that 'he that speketh to his freend wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce, setteth a net biforn his feet to cacche hym.' And therfore Seith Tullius, 'enclyne nat thyne eres to flatereres, ne taak no conseil of the wordes of flaterye.' And Caton seith, 'avyse thee wel, and eschue the wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce.' And eek thou shalt eschue the conseillyng of thyne olde enemys that been reconsiled. The book seith that 'no wight retourneth saufly into the grace of his olde enemy.' And Isope seith, 'ne trust nat to hem to whiche thou hast had som tyme werre or enemytee, ne telle hem nat thy conseil.' And Seneca telleth the cause why: 'it may nat be,' seith he, 'that where greet fyr hath longe tyme endured, that ther ne dwelleth som vapour of warmness.' And therfore seith Salomon, 'in thyn olde foo trust nevere.' For sikerly, though thyn enemy be reconsiled, and maketh thee chiere of hymylitee, and lowteth to thee with his heed, ne trust hym nevere. For certes he maketh thilke feyned humilitee moore for his profit than for any love of thy persone, by cause that he deemeth to have victorie over thy persone by swich feyned contenance, the which victorie he myghte nat have by strif or werre. And Peter Alfonce seith, 'make no felawshipe with thyne olde enemys; for if thou do hem bountee, they wol perverten it into wikkednesse.' And eek thou most eschue the conseillyng of hem that been thy servantz and beren thee greet reverence, for peraventure they seyn it moore for drede than for love. And therfore seith a philosophre in this wise: 'ther is no wight parfitly trewe to hym that he to soore dredeth.' And Tullius seith, 'ther nys no myght so greet of any emperour that longe may endure, but if he have moore love of the peple than drede.' Thou shalt also eschue the conseiling of folk that been dronkelewe, for they ne kan no conseil hyde. For Salomon seith, 'ther is no privetee ther as regneth dronkenesse.' Ye shul also han in suspect the conseillyng of swich folk as conseille yow o thyng prively, and conseille yow the contrarie openly. For Cassidorie seith that 'it is a manere sleighte to hyndre, whan he sheweth to doon o thyng openly and werketh prively the contrarie.' Thou shalt also have in suspect the conseillyng of wikked folk, for the book seith, 'the conseillyng of wikked folk is alwey ful of fraude.' And David seith, 'blisful is that man that hath nat folwed the conseilyng of shrewes.' Thou shalt also eschue the conseillyng of yong folk, for hir conseil is nat rype.
Now, sire, sith I have shewed yow of which folk ye shul take youre conseil, and of which folk ye shul folwe the conseil, now wol I teche yow how ye shal examyne youre conseil, after the doctrine of Tullius. In the examynynge thanne of youre conseillour ye shul considere manye thynges. Alderfirst thou shalt considere that in thilke thyng that thou purposest, and upon what thyng thou wolt have conseil, that verray trouthe be seyd and conserved; this is to seyn, telle trewely thy tale. For he that seith fals may nat wel be conseilled in that cas of which he lieth. And after this thou shalt considere the thynges that acorden to that thou purposest for to do by thy conseillours, if resoun accorde therto; and eek if thy myght may atteine therto; and if the moore part and the bettre part of thy conseillours acorde therto, or noon. Thanne shaltou considere what thyng shal folwe of that conseillyng, as hate, pees, werre, grace, profit, or damage, and manye othere thynges. And in alle thise thynges thou shalt chese the beste, and weyve alle othere thynges. Thanne shaltow considere of what roote is engendred the matiere of thy conseil, and what fruyt it may conceyve and engendre. Thou shalt eek considere alle thise causes, fro whennes they been sprongen. And whan ye han examyned youre conseil, as I have seyd, and which partie is the bettre and moore profitable, and han approved it by manye wise folk and olde, thanne shaltou considere if thou mayst parfourne it and maken of it a good ende. For certes, resoun wol nat that any man sholde bigynne a thyng, but if he myghte parfourne it as hym oghte; ne no wight sholde take upon hym so hevy a charge that he myghte nat bere it. For the proverbe seith, ;'he that to muche embraceth, distreyneth litel.' And Catoun seith, 'assay to do swich thyng as thou hast power to doon, lest that the charge oppresse thee so soore that thee bihoveth to weyve thyng that thou hast bigonne.' And if so be that thou be in doute wheither thou mayst parfourne a thing or noon, chese rather to suffre than bigynne. And Piers Alphonce seith, 'if thou hast myght to doon a thyng of which thou most repente, it is bettre nay than ye. This is to seyn, that thee is bettre holde thy tonge stille than for to speke. Thanne may ye understonde by strenger resons that if thou hast power to parfourne a werk of which thou shalt repente, thanne is it bettre that thou suffre than bigynne. Wel seyn they that defenden every wight to assaye a thyng of which he is in doute wheither he may parfourne it or noon. And after, whan ye han examyned youre conseil, as I have seyd biforn, and knowen wel that ye may parfourne youre emprise, conferme it thanne sadly til it be at and ende.
Now is it resoun and tyme that I shewe yow whanne and wherfore that ye may chaunge youre conseillours withouten youre repreve. Soothly, a man may chaungen his purpos and his conseil if the cause cesseth, or whan a newe caas bitydeth. For the lawe seith that 'upon thynges that newely bityden bihoveth newe conseil. And Senec seith, 'if thy conseil is comen to the eeris of thyn enemy, chaunge thy conseil.' Thou mayst also chaunge thy conseil if so be that thou fynde that by errour, or by oother cause, harm or damage may bityde. Also if thy conseil be dishonest, or ellis cometh of dishonest cause, chaunge thy conseil. For the lawes seyn that 'alle bihestes that been dishoneste been of no value'; and eek if so be that it be inpossible, or may nat goodly be parfourned or kept.
And take this for a general reule, that every conseil that is affermed so strongly that it may nat be chaunged for no condicioun that may bityde, I seye that thilke conseil is wikked.
This Melibeus, whanne he hadde herd the doctrine of his wyf dame Prudence, answerde in this wyse: "Dame," quod he, "as yet into this tyme ye han wel and covenably taught me as in general, how I shal governe me in the chesynge and in the withholdynge of my conseillours. but now wolde I fayn that ye wolde condescende in especial, and telle me how liketh yow, or what semeth yow, by oure conseillours that we han chosen in oure present nede."
"My lord," quod she, "I biseke yow in al humblesse that ye wol nat wilfully replie agayn my resouns, ne distempre youre herte, thogh I speke thyng that yow displese. For God woot that, as in myn entente, I speke it for youre beste, for youre honour, and for youre profite eke. And soothly, I hope that youre benyngnytee wol taken it in pacience. Trusteth me wel," quod she, "that youre conseil as in this caas ne sholde nat, as to speke properly, be called a conseillyng, but a mocioun or a moevyng of folye, in which conseil ye han erred in many a sondry wise.
First and forward, ye han erred in th' assemblynge of youre conseillours. For ye sholde first have cleped a fewe folk to youre conseil, and after ye myghte han shewed it to mo folk, if it hadde been nede. But certes, ye han sodeynly cleped to youre conseil a greet multitude of peple, ful chargeant and ful anoyous for to heere. Also ye han erred, for theras ye sholden oonly have cleped to youre conseil youre trewe frendes olde and wise. Ye han ycleped straunge folk, yonge folk, false flatereres, and enemys reconsiled, and folk that doon yow reverence withouten love. And eek also ye have erred, for ye han broght with yow to youre conseil ire, coveitise, and hastifnesse, the whiche thre thinges been contrariouse to every conseil honest and profitable; the whiche thre thinges ye han nat anientissed or destroyed hem, neither in youreself, ne in youre conseillours, as yow oghte. Ye han erred also, for ye han shewed to youre conseillours youre talent and youre affeccioun to make werre anon, and for to do vengeance. They han espied by youre wordes to what thyng ye been enclyned; and therfore han they rather conseilled yow to youre talent that to youre profit. Ye han erred also, for it semeth that yow suffiseth to han been conseilled by thise conseillours oonly, and with litel avys, whereas in so greet and so heigh a nede it hadde been necessarie mo conseillours and moore deliberacion to parfourne youre emprise. Ye han erred also, for ye ne han nat examyned youre conseil in the forseyde manere, ne in due manere, as the caas requireth. Ye han erred also, for ye han maked no division bitwixe youre conseillours; this is to seyn, bitwixen youre trewe freendes and youre feyned conseillours; ne ye han nat knowe the wil of youre trewe freendes olde and wise; but ye han cast alle hire wordes in an hochepot, and enclyned youre herte to the moore part and to the gretter nombre, and there been ye condescended. And sith ye woot wel that men shal alwey fynde a gretter nombre of fooles than of wise men, and therfore the conseils that been at congregaciouns and multitudes of folk, there as men take moore reward to the nombre than to the sapience of persones, ye se wel that in swiche conseillynges fooles han the maistrie."
Melibeus answerde agayn, and seyde, "I graunte wel that I have erred; but there as thou hast toold me heerbiforn that he nys nat to blame that chaungeth his conseillours in certein caas and for certeine juste causes, I am al redy to chaunge my conseillours right as thow wolt devyse. The proverbe seith that 'for to do synne is mannyssh, but certes for to persevere longe in synne is werk of the devel.'"
To this sentence answered anon dame Prudence, and seyde: "examineth," quod she, "youre conseil, and lat us see the whiche of hem han spoken most resonably and taught yow best conseil. And for as muche as that the examynacion is necessarie, lat us bigynne at the surgiens and at the phisiciens, that first speeken in this matiere. I sey yow that the surgiens and phisiciens han seyd yow in youre conseil discreetly, as hem oughte; and in hir speche seyden ful wisely that to the office of hem aperteneth to doon to every wight honour and profit, and no wight for to anoye; and after hir craft to doon greet diligence unto the cure of hem which that they han in hir governaunce. And, sire, right as they han answered wisely and discreetly, right so rede I that they been heighly and sovereynly gerdoned for hir noble speche; and eek for they sholde do the moore ententif bisynesse in the curacion of youre doghter deere. For al be it so that they been youre freendes, therfore shal ye nat suffren that they serve yow for noght, but ye oghte the rather gerdone hem and shewe hem youre largesse. And as touchynge the proposicioun which that the phisiciens encreesceden in this caas, this is to seyn. That in maladies that oon contrarie is warisshed by another contrarie, I wolde fayn knowe hou ye understonde thilke text, and what is youre sentence."
"Certes," quod Melibeus, "I understonde it in this wise: that right as they han doon me a contrarie, right so sholde I doon hem another. For right as they han venged hem on me and doon me wrong, right so shal I venge me upon hem and doon hem wrong; and thanne have I cured oon contrarie by another."
"Lo, lo," quod dame Prudence, "how lightly is every man enclined to his owene desir and to his owene plesaunce! Certes," quod she, "the wordes of the phisiciens ne sholde nat han been understonden in thys wise. For certes, wikkednesse is nat contrarie to wikkednesse, ne vengeance to vengeaunce, ne wrong to wrong, but they been semblable. And therfore o vengeaunce is nat warisshed by another vengeaunce, ne o wroong by another wroong, but everich of hem encreesceth and aggreggeth oother. But certes, the wordes of the phisiciens sholde been understonden in this wise: for dood and wikkednesse been two contraries, and pees and werre, vengeaunce and suffraunce, discord and accord, and manye othere thynges. But certes, wikkednesse shal be warisshed by goodnesse, discord by accord, werre by pees, and so forth of othere thynges. And heerto accordeth Seint Paul the Apostle in manye places. He seith: 'ne yeldeth nat harm for harm, ne wikked speche for wikked speche; but do wel to hym that dooth thee harm, and blesse hym that seith to thee harm.' And in manye othere places he amonesteth pees and accord. But now wol I speke to yow of the conseil which that was yeven to yow by the men of lawe and the wise folk, that seyden alle by oon accord, as ye han herd bifore, that over alle thynges ye shal doon youre diligence to kepen youre persone and to warnestoore youre hous; and seyden also that in this caas yow oghten for to werken ful avysely and with greet deliberacioun. And, sire, as to the firste point, that toucheth to the kepyng of youre persone, ye shul understonde that he that hath werre shal everemoore mekely and devoutly preyen, biforn alle thynges, that Jhesus Crist of his mercy wol han hym in his proteccion and been his sovereyn helpyng at his nede. For certes, in this world ther is no wight that may be conseilled ne kept sufficeantly withouten the kepyng of oure lord Jhesu Crist. To this sentence accordeth the prophete David, that seith, 'if God ne kepe the citee, in ydel waketh he that it kepeth.' Now, sire, thanne shul ye committe the kepyng of youre persone to youre trewe freendes, that been approved and yknowe, and of hem shul ye axen help youre persone for to kepe. For Catoun seith: 'if thou hast nede of help, axe it of thy freendes; for ther nys noon so good a phisicien as thy trewe freend.' And after this thanne shul ye kepe yow fro alle straunge folk, and fro lyeres, and have alwey in suspect hire compaignye. For Piers Alfonce seith, 'ne taak no compaignye by the weye of a straunge man, but if so be that thou have knowe hym of a lenger tyme. And if so be that he falle into thy compaignye paraventure, withouten thyn assent, enquere thanne as subtilly as thou mayst of his conversacion, and of his lyf bifore, and feyne thy wey; seye that thou wolt thider as thou wolt nat go; and if he bereth a spere, hoold thee on the right syde, and if he bere a swerd, hoold thee on the lift syde.' And after this thanne shul ye kepe yow wisely from all swich manere peple as I have seyd bifore, and hem and hir conseil eschewe. And after this thanne shul ye kepe yow in swich manere that, for any presumpcion of youre strengthe, that ye ne dispise nat, ne accompte nat the myght of youre adversarie so litel, that ye lete the kepyng of youre persone for youre presumpcioun; for every wys man dredeth his enemy. And Salomon seith: 'weleful is he that of alle hath drede; for certes, he that thurgh the hardynesse of his herte, and thurgh the hardynesse of hymself, hath to greet presumpcioun, hym shal yvel bityde.' Thanne shul ye everemoore contrewayte embusshementz and alle espiaille. For Senec seith that 'the wise man that dredeth harmes, eschueth harmes, ne he ne falleth into perils that perils eschueth.' And al be it so that it seme that thou art in siker place, yet shaltow alwey do thy diligence in kepynge of thy persone; this is to seyn, ne be nat necligent to kepe thy persone, nat oonly for thy gretteste enemys, but fro thy leeste enemy. Senek seith: 'a man that is well avysed, he dredeth his leste enemy.' Ovyde seith that 'the litel wesele wol slee the grete bole and the wilde hert.' And the book seith, 'a litel thorn may prikke a kyng ful soore, and an hound wol holde the wolde boor.' But nathelees, I sey nat thou shalt be so coward that thou doute ther wher as is no drede. The book seith that somme folk han greet lust to deceyve, but yet they dreden hem to be deceyved. Yet shaltou drede to been empoisoned, and kepe the from the compaignye of Scorneres. For the book seith, 'with scorneres make no compaignye, but flee hire wordes as venym.'
Now, as to the seconde point, where as youre wise conseillours conseilled yow to warnestoore youre hous with gret diligence, I wolde fayn knowe how that ye understonde thilke wordes and what is youre sentence."
Melibeus answerde, and seyde, "certes, I understande it in this wise: that I shal warne stoore myn hous with toures, swiche as han castelles and othere manere edifices, and armure, and artelries; by whiche thynges I may my persone and myn hous so kepen and deffenden that myne enemys shul been in drede myn hous for to approche."
To this sentence answerde anon Prudence: "Warnestooryng," quod she, "of heighe toures and of grete edifices apperteyneth somtyme to pryde. And eek men make heighe toures, and grete edifices with grete costages and with greet travaille; and whan that they been accompliced, yet be they nat worth a stree, but if they be defended by trewe freendes that been olde and wise. And understoond wel that the gretteste and strongeste garnysoun that a riche man may have, as wel to kepen his persone as his goodes, is that he be biloved with hys subgetz and with his neighebores. For thus seith Tullius, that 'ther is a manere garnysoun that no man may vanquysse ne disconfite, and that is a lord to be biloved of his citezeins and of his peple.'
Now, sire, as to the thridde point, where as youre olde and wise conseillours seyden that yow ne oghte nat sodeynly ne hastily proceden in this nede, but that yow oghte purveyen and apparaillen yow in this caas with greet diligence and greet deliberacioun; trewely, I trowe that they seyden right wisely and right sooth. For Tullius seith: 'in every nede, er thou bigynne it, apparaille thee with greet diligence.' Thanne seye I that in vengeance-takyng, in were, in bataille, and in warnestooryng, er thow bigynne, I rede that thou apparaille thee therto, and do it with greet deliberacion. For Tullius seith that 'longe apparaillyng biforn the bataille maketh short victorie.' And Cassidorus seith, 'the garnysoun is stronger, whan it is longe tyme avysed.'
But now lat us speken of the conseil that was accorded by youre neighebores, swiche as doon yow reverence withouten love, youre olde enemys reconsiled, youre flatereres, that conseilled yow certeyne thynges prively, and openly conseilleden yow the contrarie; the yonge folk also, that conseilleden yow to venge yow, and make werre anon. And certes, sire, as I have seyd biforn, ye han greetly erred to han cleped swich manere folk to youre conseil, which conseillours been ynogh repreved by the resouns aforeseyd. But nathelees, lat us now descende to the special. Ye shuln first procede after the doctrine of Tullius. Certes, the trouthe of this matiere, or of this conseil, nedeth nat diligently enquere; for it is wel wist whiche they been that han doon to yow this trespas and vileynye, and how manye trespassours, and in what manere they han to yow doon al this wrong and al this vileynye. And after this, thanne shul ye examyne the seconde condicion which that the same Tullius addeth in this matiere. For Tullius put a thyng which that he clepeth 'consentynge'; this is to seyn, who been they, and which been they and how manye, that consenten to thy conseil in thy wilfulnesse to doon hastif vengeance. And lat us considere also who been they, and how manye been they, and whiche been they, that consenteden to youre adversaries. And certes, as to the first poynt, it is wel knowen whiche folk been they that consenteden to youre hastif wilfulnesse; for trewely, alle tho that conseilleden yow to maken sodeyn were ne been nat youre freendes. Lat us now considere whiche been they that ye holde so greetly youre freendes as to youre persone. For al be it so that ye be myghty and riche, certes ye ne been but allone, for certes ye ne han no child but a doghter, ne ye ne han brotheren, ne cosyns germayns, ne noon oother neigh kynrede, wherfore that youre enemys for drede wholde stinte to plede with yow, or to destroye youre persone. Ye knowen also that youre richesses mooten been dispended in diverse parties, and whan that every wight hath his part, they ne wollen taken but litel reward to venge thy deeth. But thyne enemys been thre, and they han manie children, bretheren, cosyns, and oother ny kynrede. And though so were that thou haddest slayn of hem two or three, yet dwellen ther ynowe to wreken hir deeth and to sle thy persone. And though so be that youre kynrede be moore siker and stedefast than the kyn of youre adversarie, yet nathelees youre kynrede nys but a fer kynrede; they been but litel syb to yow, and the kyn of youre enemys been nysyb to hem. And certes, as in that, hir condicioun is bet than youres. Thanne lat us considere also if the conseillung of hem that conseilleden yow to taken sodeyn bengeaunce, wheither it accorde to resoun. And certes, ye knowe wel 'nay'.For, as by right and resoun, ther may no man taken vengeance on no wight. But the juge that hath the jurisdiccioun of it, whan it is graunted hym to take thilke vengeance hastily or attemprely, as the lawe requireth. And yet mooreover of thilke word that Tullius clepeth 'consentynge,' thou shalt considere if thy myght and thy power may consenten and suffise to thy wilfulnesse and to thy conseillours. And certes thou mayst wel seyn that 'nay'. For sikerly, as for to speke proprely, we may do no thyng, but oonly swich thyng as we may doon rightfully. And certes rightfully ne mowe ye take no vengeance, as of youre propre auctoritee. Thanne mowe ye seen that youre power ne consenteth nat, ne accordeth nat, with youre wilfulnesse.
Lat us now examyne the thridde point, that Tullius clepeth 'consequent.' Thou shal understonde that the vengeance that thou purposest for to take is the consequent; and therof folweth another vengeaunce, peril, and werre, and othere damages withoute nombre, of whiche we be nat war, as at this tyme.
And as touchynge the fourthe point, that Tullius clepeth 'engendrynge', thou shalt considere that this wrong which that is doon to thee is engendred of the hate of thyne enemys, and of the vengeance-takynge upon that wolde engendre another vengeance, and muchel sorwe and wastynge of richesses, as I seyde.
Now, sire, as to the point that Tullius clepeth 'causes,;' which that is the laste point, thou shalt understonde that the wrong that thou hast receyved hath certeine causes, whiche that clerkes clepen Oriens and Efficiens, and Causa longinqua and Causa propinqua, this is to seyn, the fer cause and the ny cause. The fer cause is almyghty god, that is cause of alle thynges. The neer cause is thy thre enemys. The cause accidental was hate. The cause material been the fyve woundes of thy doghter. The cause formal is the manere of hir werkynge that broghten laddres and cloumben in at thy wyndowes. The cause final was for to sle thy doghter. It letted nat in as muche as in hem was. But for to speken of the fer cause, as to what ende they shul come, or what shal finally bityde of hem in this caas, ne kan I nat deeme but by conjectynge and by supposynge. For we shul suppose that they shul come to a wikked ende, by cause that the Book of Decrees seith, 'seelden, or with greet peyne, been causes ybroght to good ende whanne they been baddely bigonne.'
Now, sire, if men wolde axe me why that God suffred men to do yow this vileynye, certes, I kan nat wel answere, as for no soothfastnesse. For th' apostle seith that 'the sciences and the juggementz of oure Lord God almyghty been ful depe; ther may no man comprehende ne serchen hem suffisantly. 'Nathelees, by certeyne presumpciouns and conjectynges, I holde and bileeve that God, which that is ful of justice and of rightwisnesse, hath suffred this bityde by juste cause resonable.
Thy name is Melibee, this is to seyn, 'a man that drynketh hony.' Thou hast ydronke so muchel hony of sweete temporeel richesses, and delices and honours of this world, that thou art dronken, and hast forgeten Jhesu Crist thy creatour. Thou ne hast nat doon to hym swich honour and reverence as thee oughte, ne thou ne hast nat wel ytaken kep to the wordes of Ovide, that seith, under the hony of the goodes of the body is hyd the venym that sleeth the soule and Salomon seith, 'if thou hast founden hony, ete of it that suffiseth; for if thou ete of it out of mesure, thou shalt spewe,' And be nedy and povre. And peraventure Crist hath thee in despit, and hath turned awey fro thee his face and his eeris of misericorde; and also he hath suffred that thou hast been punysshed in the manere that thow hast ytrespassed. Thou hast doon synne agayn oure lord Crist; for certes, the three enemys of mankynde, - that is to seyn, the flessh, the feend, and the world, - thou hast suffred hem entre in to thyn herte wilfully by the wyndowes of thy body, and hast nat defended thyself suffisantly agayns hire assautes and hire temptaciouns, so that they han wounded thy soule in fyve places; this is to seyn, the deedly synnes that been entred into thyn herte by thy fyve wittes. And in the same manere oure lord Crist hath woold and suffred that thy three enemys been entred into thyn house by the wyndowes, and han ywounded thy doghter in the forseyde manere.
"Certes," quod Melibee, "I se wel that ye enforce yow muchel by wordes to overcome me in swich manere that I shal nat venge me of myne enemys, shewynge me the perils and the yveles that myghten falle of this vengeance. But whoso wolde considere in alle vengeances the perils and yveles that myghte sewe of vengeance-takynge, a man wolde nevere take vengeance, and that were harm; for by the vengeance-takynge been the wikked men dissevered fro the goode men, and they that han wyl to do wikkednesse restreyne hir wikked purpos, whan they seen the punyssynge and chastisynge of the trespassours.
(Et a ce respont dame Prudence, certes, dist elle, "je t' ottroye que de vengence vient molt de maulx et de biens; mais vengence n' appartient pas a un chascun fors seulement aux juges et a ceulx qui ont la juridicion sur les malfaitteurs.) And yet seye I moore, that right as singuler persone synneth in takynge vengeance of another man, right so synneth the juge if he do no vengeance of hem that it han disserved. For Senec seith thus: 'that maister,' he seith, 'is good that proveth shrewes.' And as Cassidore seith, 'a man dredeth to do outrages whan he woot and knoweth that it despleseth to the juges and the sovereyns.' And another seith, 'the juge that dredeth to do right, maketh men shrewes.' And Seint Paul the apostle seith in his epistle, whan he writeth unto the romayns, that 'the juges beren nat the spere withouten cause, but they beren it to punysse the shrewes and mysdoers, and for to defende the goode men.' If ye wol thanne take vengeance of youre enemys, ye shul retourne or have youre recours to the juge that hath the jurisdiccion upon hem, and he shal punysse hem as the lawe axeth and requireth."
"A!" quod Melibee, "this vengeance liketh me no thyng. I bithenke me now and take heede how fortune hath norissed me fro my childhede, and hath holpen me to passe many a stroong paas. Now wol I assayen hire, trowynge, with goddes help, that she shal helpe me my shame for to venge."
"Certes," quod Prudence, "if ye wol werke by conseil, ye shul nat assaye fortune by no wey, ne ye shul nat lene or bowe unto hire, after the word of Senec; for 'thynges that been folily doon, and that been in hope of fortune, shullen nevere come to good ende.' And, as the same Senec seith, 'the moore cleer and the moore shynyng that Fortune is, the moore brotil and the sonner broken she is.' Trusteth nat in hire, for she nys nat stidefast ne stable; for whan thow trowest to be moost seur or siker of hire help, she wol faille thee and deceyve thee. And where as ye seyn that fortune hath norissed yow fro youre childhede, I seye that in so muchel shul ye the lasse truste in hire and in hir wit. For Senec seith, 'what man that is norissed by Fortune, she maketh hym a greet fool.' Now thanne, syn ye desire and axe vengeance, and the vengeance that is doon after the lawe and bifore the juge ne liketh yow nat, and the vengeance that is doon in hope of fortune is perilous and uncertein, thanne have ye noon oother remedie but for to have youre recours unto the sovereyn juge that vengeth alle vileynyes and wronges. And he shal venge yow after that hymself witnesseth, where as he seith, leveth the vengeance to me, and I shal do it'"
Melibee answerde, "if I ne venge me nat of the vileynye that men han doon to me, I sompne or warne hem that han doon to me that vileynye, and alle othere, to do me another vileynye. For it is writen, 'if thou take no vengeance of an oold vileynye, thou sompnest thyne adversaries to do thee a newe vileynye.' And also for my suffrance men wolden do me so muchel vileynye that I myghte neither bere it ne susteene, and so sholde I been put and holden overlowe. For men seyn, in muchel suffrynge shul manye thynges falle unto thee whiche thou shalt nat mowe suffre.'"
"Certes," quod Prudence, "I graunte yow that over-muchel suffraunce is nat good. But yet ne folweth it nat therof that every persone to whom men doon vileynye take of it vengeance; for that aperteneth and longeth al oonly to the juges, for they shul venge the vileynyes and injuries. And therfore tho two auctoritees that ye han seyd above been oonly understonden in the juges. For whan they suffren over-muchel the wronges and the vileynyes to be doon withouten punysshynge, the sompne nat a man al oonly for to do newe wronges, but they comanden it. Also a wys man seith that 'the juge that correcteth nat the synnere comandeth and biddeth hym do synne.' And the juges and sovereyns myghten in hir land so muchel suffre of the shrewes and mysdoeres that they sholden, by swich suffrance, by proces of tyme wexen of swich power and myght that they sholden putte out the juges and the sovereyns from hir places, and atte laste maken hem lesen hire lordshipes.
But lat us now putte that ye have leve to venge yow. I seye ye been nat of myght and power as now to venge yow; for if ye wole maken comparisoun unto the myght of youre adversaries, ye shul fynde in manye thynges that I have shewed yow er this that hire condicion is bettre than youres. And therfore seye I that it is good as now that ye suffre and be pacient.
Forthermoore, ye knowen wel that after the comune sawe, 'it is a woodnesse a man to stryve with a strenger or a moore myghty man than he is hymself; and for to stryve with a man of evene strengthe, that is to seyn, with as strong a man as he is, it is peril; and for to stryve with a weyker man, it is folie.' And therfore sholde a man flee stryvynge as muchel as he myghte. For Salomon seith, 'it is a greet worshipe to a man to kepen hym fro noyse and stryf.' And if it so bifalle or happe that a man of gretter myght and strengthe than thou art do thee grevaunce, studie and bisye thee rather to stille the same grevaunce than for to venge thee. For Senec seith that 'he putteth hym in greet peril that stryveth with a gretter man than he is hymself.' And Catoun seith, 'if a man of hyer estaat or degree, or moore myghty than thou, do thee anoy or grevaunce, suffre hym; for he that oones hath greved thee, may another tyme releeve thee and helpe.' Yet sette I caas, ye have bothe myght and licence for to venge yow, I seye that ther be ful manye thynges that shul restreyne yow of vengeance-takynge, and make yow for to enclyne to suffre, and for to han pacience in the wronges that han been doon to yow. First and foreward, if ye wole considere the defautes that been in youre owene persone, for whiche defautes God hath suffred yow have this tribulacioun, as I have seyd yow heer-biforn. For the poete seith that 'we oghte paciently taken the tribulacions that comen to us, whan we thynken and consideren that we han disserved to have hem.' And Seint Gregorie seith that 'whan a man considereth wel the nombre of his defautes and of his synnes, the peynes and the tribulaciouns that he suffreth semen the lesse unto hym; and in as muche as hym thynketh his synnes moore hevy and grevous, in so muche semeth his peyne the lighter and the esier unto hym.' Also ye owen to enclyne and bowe youre herte to take the pacience of oure lord Jhesu Crist, as seith Seint Peter in his epistles. 'Jhesu Crist,' he seith, 'hath suffred for us and yeven ensample to every man to folwe and sewe hym; for he dide nevere synne, ne nevere cam ther a vileyns word out of his mouth. Whan men cursed hym, he cursed hem noght; And whan men betten hym, he manaced hem noght.' Also the grete pacience which the seintes that been in paradys han had in tribulaciouns that they han ysuffred, withouten hir desert or gilt, oghte muchel stiren yow to pacience. Forthermoore ye sholde enforce yow to have pacience, considerynge that the tribulaciouns of this world but litel while endure, and soone passed been and goon, and the joye that a man seketh to have by pacience in tribulaciouns is perdurable, after that the apostle seith in his epistle. 'The joye of God,' he seith, 'is perdurable,' that is to seyn, everelastynge. Also troweth and bileveth stedefastly that he nys nat wel ynorissed, ne wel ytaught, that kan nat have pacience, or wol nat receyve pacience. For Salomon seith that 'the doctrine and the wit of a man is knowen by pacience.' And in another place he seith that 'he that is pacient governeth hym by greet prudence.' And the same Salomon seith, 'the angry and wrathful man maketh noyses, and the pacient man atempreth hem and stilleth.' He seith also, 'it is moore worth to be pacient than for to be right strong; and he that may have the lordshipe of his owene herte is moore to preyse than he that by his force or strengthe taketh grete citees. And therfore seith Seint Jame in his epistle that 'pacience is a greet vertu of perfeccioun.'
"Certes," quod Melibee, "I graunte yow, dame Prudence, that pacience is greet vertu of perfeccioun; but every man may nat have the perfeccioun that ye seken; ne I nam nat of the nombre of right parfite men, for myn herte may nevere been in pees unto the tyme it be venged. And al be it so that it was greet peril to myne enemys to do me a vileynye in takynge vengeance upon me, yet tooken they noon heede of the peril, but fulfilleden hir wikked wyl and hir corage. And therfore me thynketh men oghten nat repreve me, though I putte me in a litel peril for to venge me, and though I do a greet excesse, that is to seyn, that I venge oon outrage by another."
"A," quod dame Prudence, "ye seyn youre wyl and as yow liketh, but in no caas of the world a man sholde nat doon outrage ne excesse for to vengen hym. For Cassidore seith that 'as yvele dooth he that vengeth hym by outrage as he that dooth the outrage.' And therfore ye shul venge yow after the ordre of right, that is to seyn, by the lawe, and noght by excesse ne by outrage. And also, if ye wol venge yow of the outrage of youre adversaries in oother manere than right comandeth, ye synne. And therfore seith Senec that 'a man shal nevere vengen shrewednesse by shrewednesse.' And if ye seye that right axeth a man to defenden violence by violence, and fightyng by fightyng, certes ye seye sooth, whan the defense is doon anon withouten intervalle or withouten tariyng or delay, for to deffenden hym and nat for to vengen hym. And it bihoveth that a man putte swich attemperance in his deffense that men have no cause ne matiere to repreven hym that deffendeth hym of excesse and outrage, for ellis were it agayn resoun. Pardee, ye knowen wel that ye maken no deffense as now for to deffende yow, but for to venge yow; and so seweth it that ye han no wyl to do youre dede attemprely. And therfore me thynketh that pacience is good; for Salomon seith that 'he that is nat pacient shal have a greet harm.'
"Certes," quod Melibee, "I graunte yow that whan a man is inpacient and wrooth, of that that toucheth hym noght and that aperteneth nat unto hym, though it harme hym, it is no wonder. For the lawe seith that 'he is coupable that entremetteth hym or medleth with swych thyng as aperteneth nat unto hym.' And Salomon seith that 'he that entremetteth hym of the noyse or strif of another man is lyk to hym that taketh an hound by the eris.' For right as he that taketh a straunge hound by the eris is outherwhile biten with the hound, right in the same wise is it resoun that he have harm that by his inpacience medleth hym of the noyse of another man, wheras it aperteneth nat unto hym. But ye knowen wel that this dede, that is to seyn, my grief and my disese, toucheth me right ny. And therfore, though I be wrooth and inpacient, it is no merveille. And, savynge youre grace, I kan nat seen that it myghte greetly harme me though I tooke vengeaunce. For I am richer and moore myghty than myne enemys been; and wel knowen ye that by moneye and by havynge grete possessions been alle the thynges of this world governed. And Salomon seith that 'alle thynges abeyen to moneye.'
Whan Prudence hadde herd hir housbonde avanten hym of his richesse and of his moneye, dispreisynge the power of his adversaries, she spak, and seyde in this wise: "Certes, deere sire, I graunte yow that ye been riche and myghty, and that the richesses been goode to hem that han wel ygeten hem and wel konne usen hem. For right as the body of a man may nat lyven withoute the soule, namoore may it lyve withouten temporeel goodes. And by richesses may a man gete hym grete freendes. And therfore seith Pamphilles: 'if a net-herdes doghter,' seith he, 'be riche, she may chesen of a thousand men which she wol take to hir housbonde; for, of a thousand men, oon wol nat forsaken hire ne refusen hire. And this Pamphilles seith also: 'if thow be right happy - that is to seyn, if thou be right riche - thou shalt fynde a greet nombre of felawes and freendes. And if thy fortune change that thou wexe povre, farewel freendshipe and felaweshipe; for thou shalt be alloone withouten any compaignye, but if it be the compaignye of povre folk.' And yet seith this Pamphilles moreover that 'they that been thralle and bonde of lynage shullen been maad worthy and noble by the richesses.' And right so as by richesses ther comen manye goodes, right so by poverte come ther manye harmes and yveles. For greet poverte constreyneth a man to do manye yveles. And therfore clepeth Cassidore poverte the mooder of ruyne, that is to seyn, the mooder of overthrowynge or fallynge doun. And therfore seith Piers Alfonce: 'oon of the gretteste adversitees of this world is whan a free man by kynde or of burthe is constreyned by poverte to eten the almesse of his enemy,' and the same seith innocent in oon of his bookes. He seith that 'sorweful and myshappy is the condicioun of a povre beggere; for if he axe nat his mete, he dyeth for hunger; and if he axe, he dyeth for shame; and algates necessitee constreyneth hym to axe.' And seith Salomon that 'bet it is to dye than for to have swich poverte. And as the same Salomon seith, 'bettre it is to dye of bitter deeth than for to lyven in swich wise.' By thise resons that I have seid unto yow, and by manye othere resons that I koude seye, I graunte yow that richesses been goode to hem that geten hem wel, and to hem that wel usen tho richesses. And therfore wol I shewe yow hou ye shul have yow and how ye shul bere yow in gaderynge of richesses, and in what manere ye shul usen hem.
First, ye shul geten hem withouten greet desir, by good leyser, sokyngly and nat over-hastily. For a man that is to desirynge to gete richesses abaundoneth hym first to thefte, and to alle othere yveles; and therfore seith Salomon, 'he that hasteth hym to bisily to wexe riche shal be noon innocent.' He seith also that 'the richesses that hastily cometh to a man, soone and lightly gooth and passeth fro a man; but that richesse that cometh litel and litel, wexeth alwey and multiplieth.' And, sire richesses by youre wit and by youre travaille unto youre profit; and that withouten wrong or harm doynge to any oother persone. For the lawe seith that 'ther maketh no man himselven riche, if he do harm to another wight.' This is to seyn, that nature deffendeth and fordedeth by right that no man make hymself riche unto the harm of another persone. And Tullius seith that 'no sorwe, ne no drede of deeth, ne no thyng that may falle unto a man, is so muchel agayns nature as a man to encressen his owene profit to the harm of another man. And though the grete man and the myghty men geten richesses moore lightly than thou, yet shaltou nat been ydel ne slow to do thy profit, for thou shalt in alle wise flee ydelnesse. For Salomon seith that 'ydelnesse techeth a man to do manye yveles.' And the same Salomon seith that 'he that travailleth and bisieth hym to tilien his land, shal eten breed; but he that is ydel and casteth hym to no bisynesse ne occupacioun, shal falle into poverte, and dye for hynger.' And he that is ydel and slow kan nevere fynde covenable tyme for to doon his profit. For ther is a versifiour seith that 'the ydel man excuseth hym in wynter by cause of the grete coold, and in somer by enchesoun of the greete heete.' For thise causes seith Caton, 'waketh and enclyneth nat yow over-muchel for to slepe, for overmuchel reste norisseth and causeth manye vices.' And therfore seith Seint Jerome, 'dooth somme goode dedes that the devel, which is oure enemy, ne fynde yow nat unocupied.' For the devel ne taketh nat lightly unto his werkynge swiche as he fyndeth occupied in goode werkes.
Thanne thus, in getynge richesses, ye mosten flee ydelnesse. And afterward, ye shul use the richesses which ye have geten by youre wit and by youre travaille, in swich a manere that men holde yow nat to scars, ne to sparynge, ne to fool-large, that is to seyen, over-large a spendere. For right as men blamen an avaricious man by cause of his scarsetee and chyncherie, in the same wise is he to blame that spendeth over-largely. And therfore seith Caton: 'use,' he seith, 'thy richesses that thou hast geten in swich a manere that men have no matiere ne cause to calle the neither wrecche ne chynche; for it is a greet shame to a man to have a povere herte and a riche purs.' He seith also: 'the goodes that thou hast ygeten, use hem by mesure;' that is to seyn, spende hem mesurably; for they that folily wasten and despenden the goodes that they han, what they han namoore propre of hir owene, they shapen hem to take the goodes of another man. I seye thanne that ye shul fleen avarice; usynge youre richesses in swich manere that men seye nat that youre richesses been yburyed, but that ye have hem in youre myght and in youre weeldynge. For a wys man repreveth the avaricious man, and seith thus in two vers: 'wherto and why burieth a man his goodes by his grete avarice, and knoweth wel that nedes moste he dye? For deeth is the ende of every man as in this present lyf.' And for what cause or enchesoun joyneth he hym or knytteth he hym so faste unto his goodes that alle hise wittes mowen nat disseveren hym or departen hym from his goodes, and knoweth wel, or oghte knowe, that whan he is deed he shal no thyng bere with hym out of this world? And therfore seith Seint Austyn that 'the avaricious man is likned unto helle, that the moore it swelweth. The moore desir it hath to swelwe and devoure.' And as wel as ye wolde eschewe to be called an avaricious man or chynche, as wel sholde ye kepe yow and governe yow in swich a wise that men calle yow nat fool-large. Therfore seith Tullius: 'the goodes,' he seith, 'of thyn hous ne sholde nat been hyd ne kept so cloos, but that they myghte been opened by pitee and debonairetee' -- that is to seyn, to yeven part to hem that han greet nede -- 'ne thy goodes shullen nat been so opene to been every mannes goodes. Afterward, in getynge of youre richesses and in usynge hem, ye shul alwey have thre thynges in youre herte, that is to seyn, oure lord god, conscience, and good name. First, ye shul have God in youre herte, and for no richesse ye shullen do no thyng which may in any manere displese God, that is youre creator and makere. For after the word of Salomon, 'it is bettre to have a litel good with the love of God, than to have muchel good and tresour, and lese the love of his lord God.' And the prophete seith that 'bettre it is to been a good man and have litel good and tresour, than to been holden a shrewe and have grete richesses.' And yet seye I ferthermoore, that ye sholde alwey doon youre bisynesse to gete yow richesses, so that ye gete hem with good conscience. And th' apostle seith that 'ther nys thyng in this world of which we sholden have so greet joye as whan oure conscience bereth us good witnesse.' And the wise man seith, 'the substance of a man is ful good, whan synne is nat in mannes conscience. Afterward, in getynge of youre richesses and in usynge of hem, yow moste have greet bisynesse and greet diligence that youre goode name be alwey kept and conserved. For Salomon seith that 'bettre it is an moore it availleth a man to have a good name, than for to have grete richesses.' And therfore he seith in another place, 'do greet diligence, seith Salomon, 'in kepyng of thy freend and of thy goode name; for it shal lenger abide with thee than any tresour, be it never so precious.' And certes he sholde nat be called a gentil man that after God and good conscience, alle thynges left, ne dooth his diligence and bisynesse to kepen his goode name. And Cassidore seith that 'it is signe of a gentil herte, whan a man loveth and desireth to han a good name.' And therfore seith Seint Austyn that 'ther been two thynges that arn necessarie and nedefulle, and that is good conscience and good loos; that is to seyn, good conscience to thyn owene persone inward, and good loos for thy neighebor outward.' And he that trusteth hym so muchel in his goode conscience that he displeseth, and setteth at noght his goode name or loos, and rekketh noght though he kepe nat his goode neam, nys but a crueel cherl.
Sire, now have I shewed yow how ye shul do in getynge richesses, and how ye shullen usen hem, and I se wel that for the trust that ye han in youre richesses ye wole moeve werre and bataille. I conseille yow that ye bigynne no were in trust of youre richesses, for thay ne suffisen noght werres to mayntene. And therfore seith a philosophre, 'that man that desireth and wole algates han werre, shal nevere have suffisaunce; for the richer that he is, the gretter despenses moste he make, if he wole have worshipe and victorie.' And Salomon seith that 'the gretter richesses that a man hath, the mo despendours he hath.' And, deere sire, al be it so that for youre richesses ye mowe have muchel folk, yet bihoveth it nat, ne it is nat good, to bigynne werre, whereas ye mowe in oother manere have pees unto youre worshipe and profit. For the victorie of batailles that been in this world lyth nat in greet nombre or multitude of the peple, ne in the vertu of man, but it lith in the wyl and in the hand of oure lord God Almyghty. And therfore Judas Machabeus, which was Goddes knyght, whan he sholde fighte agayn his adversarie that hadde a gretter nombre and a gretter multitude of folk and strenger than was this peple of Machabee, yet he reconforted his litel compaignye, and seyde right in this wise: 'als lightly,' quod he, 'may oure lord God Almyghty yeve victorie to a fewe folk as to many folk; for the victorie of a bataille comth nat by the grete nombre of peple, but it cometh from oure Lord God of hevene.' And, deere sire, for as muchel is ther is no man certein if he be worthy that God yeve hym victorie, (ne plus que il est certain se il est digne de l' amour de Dieu), or naught, after that Salomon seith, therfore every man sholde greetly drede werres to bigynne. And by cause that in batailles fallen manye perils, and happeth outher while that as soone is the grete man slayn as the litel man; and as it is writen in the seconde Book of Kynges, 'the dedes of Batailles been aventurouse and nothyng certeyne, for as lightly is oon hurt with a spere as another;' and for ther is gret peril in werre; therfore sholde a man flee and eschue werre, in as muchel as a man may goodly. For Salomon seith, 'he that loveth peril shal falle in peril.'"
After that dame Prudence hadde spoken in this manere, Melibee answerde, and seyde: "I see wel, Dame Prudence, that by youre faire wordes, and by youre resouns that ye han shewed me, that the werre liketh yow no thyng; but I have nat yet herd youre conseil, how I shal do in this nede."
"Certes," quod she, "I conseille yow that ye accorde with youre adversaries and that ye have pees with hem. For Seint Jame seith in his Epistles that 'by concord and pees the smale richesses wexen grete, and by debaat and discord the grete richesses fallen doun.' And ye knowen wel that oon of the gretteste and moost sovereyn thyng that is in this world is unytee and pees. And therfore seyde oure lord Jhesu Crist to his apostles in this wise: 'wel happy and blessed been they that loven and purchacen pees, for they been called children of god.'"
"A," quod Melibee, "now se I wel that ye loven nat myn honour ne my worshipe. Ye knowen wel that myne adversaries han bigonnen this debaat and bryge by hire outrage, and ye se wel that they ne requeren ne preyen me nat of pees, ne they asken nat to be reconsiled. Wol ye thanne that I go and meke me and obeye me to hem, and crie hem mercy? For sothe, that were nat my worshipe. For right as men seyn that 'over-greet hoomlynesse engendreth dispreisynge,' so fareth it by to greet hymylitee or mekenesse."
Thanne bigan dame Prudence to maken semblant of wratthe, and seyde: "certes, sire, sauf youre grace, I love youre honour and youre profit as I do myn owene, and evere have doon; ne ye, ne noon oother, seyn nevere the contrarie. And yit if I hadde seyd that ye sholde han purchaced the pees and the reconsilacioun, I ne hadde nat muchel mystaken me, ne seyd amys. For the wise man seith, 'the dissensioun bigynneth by another man, and the reconsilyng bygynneth by thyself.' And the prophete seith, 'flee shrewednesse and do goodnesse; seke pees and folwe it, as muchel as in thee is.' Yet seye I nat that ye shul rather pursue to youre adversaries for pees than they shuln to yow. For I knowe wel that ye been so hard-herted that ye wol do no thyng for me. And Salomon seith, 'he that hath over-hard an herte, atte laste he shal myshappe and mystyde.'
Whanne Melibee hadde herd dame Prudence maken semblant of wratthe, he seyde in this wise: "dame, I prey yow that ye be nat displesed of thynges that I seye, for ye knowe wel that I am angrey and wrooth, and that is no wonder; and they that been wrothe witen nat wel what they don, ne what they seyn. Therfore the prophete seith that 'troubled eyen han no cleer sighte.' But seyeth and conseileth me as yow liketh, for I am redy to do right as ye wol desire; and if ye repreve me of my folye, I am the moore holden to love yow and to preyse yow. For Salomon seith that 'he that repreveth hym that dooth folye, he shal fynde gretter grace than he that deceyveth hym by sweete wordes.'"
Thanne seide dame Prudence, "I make no semblant of wratthe ne anger, but for youre grete profit. For Salomon seith, 'he is moore worth that repreveth or chideth a fool for his folye, shewynge hym semblant of wratthe, than he that supporteth hym and preyseth hym in his mysdoynge, and laugheth at his folye.' And this same Salomon seith afterward that 'by the sorweful visage of a man, 'that is to seyn by the sory and hevy contenaunce of a man, 'the fool correcteth and amendeth hymself.'"
Thanne seyde Melibee, "I shal nat koone answere to so manye faire resouns as ye putten to me and shewen. Seyeth shorthly youre wyl and youre conseil, and I am al redy to fulfille and parfourne it."
Thanne dame Prudence discovered al hir wyl to hym, and seyde, "I conseille yow," quod she, "aboven alle thynges, that ye make pees bitwene God and yow; and beth reconsiled unto hym and to his grace. For, as I have seyd yow heer biforn, God hath suffred yow to have this tribulacioun and disese for youre synnes. And if ye do as I sey yow, God wol sende youre adversaries unto yow, and maken hem fallen at youre feet, redy to do youre wyl and youre comande mentz. For Salomon seith, 'whan the condicioun of man is plesaunt and likynge to god, he chaungeth the hertes of the mannes adversaries and constreyneth hem to biseken hym of pees and of grace.' And I prey yow lat me speke with youre adversaries in privee place; for they shul nat knowe that it be of youre wyl or of youre adsent. And thanne, whan I knowe hir wil and hire entente, I may conseille yow the moore seurely.
"Dame," quod Melibee, "dooth youre wil and youre likynge; for I putte me hoolly in youre disposicioun and ordinaunce."
Thanne dame Prudence, whan she saugh the goode wyl of hir housbonde, delibered and took avys in hirself, thinkinge how she myghte brynge this nede unto a good conclusioun and to a good ende. And whan she saugh hir tyme, she sente for thise adversaries to come unto hire into a pryvee place, and shewed wisely unto hem the grete goodes that comen of pees, and the grete harmes and perils that been in werre; and seyde to hem in a goodly manere hou that hem oughten have greet repentaunce of the injurie and wrong that they hadden doon to Melibee hir lord, and unto hire, and to hire doghter.
And whan they herden the goodliche wordes of dame Prudence, they weren so supprised and ravysshed, and hadden so greet joye of hire that wonder was to telle. "A, lady," quod they, "ye han shewed unto us the blessynge of swetnesse, after the sawe of David the prophete; for the reconsilynge which we been nat worthy to have in no manere, but we oghte requeren it with greet contricioun and humylitee, ye of youre grete goodnesse have presented unto us. Now se we wel that the science and the konnynge of Salomon is ful trewe. For he seith that 'sweete wordes multiplien and encreescen freendes, and maken shrewes to be debonaire and meeke.'
"Certes," quod they, "we putten oure dede and al oure matere and cause al hooly in youre goode wyl and been redy to obeye to the speche and comandement of my lord Melibee. And therfore, deere and benygne lady, we preien yow and biseke yow as mekely as we konne and mowen, that it lyke unto youre grete goodnesse to fulfillen in dede youre goodliche wordes. For we consideren and knowelichen that we han offended and greved my lord Melibee out of mesure, so ferforth that we be nat of power to maken his amendes. And therfore we oblige and bynden us and oure freendes for to doon al his wyl and his comandementz. But peraventure he hath swich hevynesse and swich wratthe to us ward, by cause of oure offense, that he wole enjoyne us swich a peyne as we mowe nat bere ne susteene. And therfore, noble lady, we biseke to youre wommanly pitee to taken swich avysement in this nede that we, ne oure freendes, be nat desherited ne destroyed thurgh oure folye."
"Certes," quod Prudence, "it is an hard thyng and right perilous that a man putte hym al outrely in the arbitracioun and juggement, and in the myght and power of his enemys. For Salomon seith, 'leeveth me, and yeveth credence to that I shal seyn: I seye,' quod he, 'ye peple, folk and governours of hooly chirche, to thy sone, to thy wyf, to thy freend, ne to thy broother, ne yeve thou nevere myght ne maistrie of thy body whil thou lyvest.' Now sithen he deffendeth that man sholde nat yeven to his broother ne to his freend the myght of his body, by a strenger resoun he deffendeth and forbedeth a man to yeven hymself to his enemy. And nathelees I conseille you that ye mystruste nat my lord, for I woot wel and knowe verraily that he is debonaire and meeke, large, curteys, and nothyng desirous ne coveitous of good ne richesse. For ther nys nothyng in this world that he desireth, save oonly worshipe and honour. Forthermoore I knowe wel and am right seur that he shal nothyng doon in this nede withouten my conseil; and I shal so werken in this cause that, by the grace of oure lord god, ye shul been reconsiled unto us."
Thanne seyden they with o voys, "worshipful lady, we putten us and oure goodes al fully in youre wil and disposicioun, and been redy to comen, what day that it like unto youre noblesse to lymyte us or assigne us, for to maken oure obligacioun and boond as strong as it liketh unto youre goodnesse, that we mowe fulfille the wille of yow and of my lord Melibee.
Whan dame Prudence hadde herd the answeres of thise men, she bad hem goon agayn prively; and she retourned to hir lord Melibee, and tolde hym how she foond his adversaries ful repentant, knowelechynge ful lowely hir synnes and trespas, and how they were redy to suffren al peyne, requirynge and preiynge hym of mercy and pitee.
Thanne seyde Melibee: "he is wel worthy to have pardoun and foryifnesse of his synne. That excuseth nat his synne, but knowelecheth it and repenteth hym, axinge indulgence. For Senec seith, 'ther is the remissioun and foryifnesse, where as the confessioun is'; for confessioun is neighebor to innocence. And he seith in another place that 'he that hath shame of his synne and knowlecheth it, is worthy remissioun.' And therfore I assente and conferme me to have pees; but it is good that we do it nat withouten the assent and wyl of oure freendes."
Thanne was Prudence right glad and joyeful, and seyde: "Certes, sire," quod she, "ye han wel and goodly answered; for right as by the conseil, assent, and help of youre freendes ye han been stired to venge yow and maken werre, right so withouten hire conseil shul ye nat accorden yow ne have pees with youre adversaries. For the lawe seith: 'ther nys no thyng so good by wey of kynde as a thyng to be unbounde by hym that it was ybounde.'"
And thanne dame Prudence, withouten delay or tariynge, sente anon hire messages for hire kyn, and for hire olde freendes which that were trewe and wyse, and tolde hem by ordre in the presence of Melibee al this mateere as it is aboven expressed and declared, and preyden hem that they wolde yeven hire avys and conseil what best were to doon in this nede. And whan Melibees freendes hadde taken hire avys and deliberacioun of the forseide mateere, and hadden examyned it by greet bisynesse and greet diligence, they yave ful conseil for to have pees and reste, and that Melibee sholde receyve with good herte his adversaries to foryifnesse and mercy.
And whan dame Prudence hadde herd the assent of hir lord Melibee, and the conseil of his freendes accorde with hire wille and hire entencioun, she was wonderly glad in hire herte, and seyde: "ther is an old proverbe," quod she, "seith that 'the goodnesse that thou mayst do this day, do it, and abide nat ne delaye it nat til tomorwe.' And therfore I conseille that ye sende youre messages, swiche as been discrete and wise, unto youre adversaries, tellynge hem on youre bihalve that if they wole trete of pees and of accord, that they shape hem withouten delay or tariyng to comen unto us." Which thyng parfourned was in dede. And whanne thise trespassours and repentynge folk of hire folies, that is to seyn, the adversaries of Melibee, hadden herd what thise messagers seyden unto hem, they weren right glad and joyeful, and answereden ful mekely and benignely, yeldynge graces and thankynges to hir lord Melibee and to al his compaignye; and shopen hem withouten delay to go with the messagers, and obeye to the comandement of hir Lord Melibee.
And right anon they tooken hire wey to the court of Melibee, and tooken with hem somme of hire trewe freendes to maken feith for hem and for to been hire borwes. And whan they were comen to the presence of Melibee, he seyde hem thise wordes: "it standeth thus," quod Melibee, "and sooth it is, that ye, causelees and withouten skile and resoun, han doon grete injuries and wronges to me and to my wyf Prudence, and to my doghter also. For ye han entred into myn hous by violence, and have doon swich outrage that alle men knowen wel that ye have disserved the deeth. And therfore wol I knowe and wite of yow wheither ye wol putte the punyssement and the chastisynge and the vengeance of this outrage in the wyl of me and of my wyf Prudence, or ye wol nat?"
Thanne the wiseste of hem thre answerde for hem alle, and seyde, "sire," quod he, "we knowen wel that we been unworthy to comen unto the court of so greet a lord and so worthy as ye been. For we han so greetly mystaken us, and han offended and agilt in swich a wise agayn youre heigh lordshipe, that trewely we han disserved the deeth. But yet, for the grete goodnesse and debonairetee that al the world witnesseth of youre persone, we submytten us to the excellence and benignitee of youre gracious lordshipe, and been redy to obeie to alle youre comandementz; bisekynge yow that of youre merciable pitee ye wol considere oure grete repentaunce and lowe submyssioun, and graunten us foryevenesse of oure outrageous trespas and offense. For wel we knowe that youre liberal grace and mercy strecchen hem ferther into goodnesse than doon oure outrageouse giltes and trespas into wikkednesse, al be it that cursedly and dampnablely we han agilt agayn youre heigh lordshipe."
Thanne Melibee took hem up fro the ground ful benignely, and receyved hire obligaciouns and hir boondes by hire othes upon hire plegges and borwes, and assigned hem a certeyn day to retourne unto his court, for to accepte and receyve the sentence and juggement that Melibee wolde comande to be doon on hem by the causes aforeseyd. Whiche thynges ordeyned, every man retourned to his hous.
And whan that dame Prudence saugh hir tyme, she freyned and axed hir lord Melibee what vengeance he thoughte to taken of his adversaries.
To which Melibee answerde, and seyde: "Certes, quod he, I thynke and purpose me fully to desherite hem of al that evere they han, and for to putte hem in exil for evere.
"Certes," quod dame Prudence, "this were a crueel sentence and muchel agayn resoun. For ye been riche ynough, and han no nede of oother mennes good; and ye myghte lightly in this wise gete yow a coveitous name, which is a vicious thyng, and oghte been eschued of every good man. For after the sawe of the word of the apostle, 'coveitise is roote of alle harmes.' And therfore it were bettre for yow to lese so muchel good of youre owene, than for to taken of hir good in this manere; for bettre it is to lesen good with worshipe, than it is to wynne good with vileynye and shame. And everi man oghte to doon his diligence and his bisynesse to geten hym a good name. And yet shal he nat oonly bisie hym in kepynge of his good name, but he shal also enforcen hym alwey to do somthyng by which he may renovelle his good name. For it is writen that 'the olde good loos or good name of a man is soone goon and passed, whan it is nat newed ne renovelled.' And as touchynge that ye seyn ye wole exile youre adversaries, that thynketh me muchel agayn resoun and out of mesure, considered the power that they han yeve yow upon hemself. And it is writen that 'he is worthy to lesen his privilege, that mysuseth the myght and the power that is yeven hym.' And I sette cas ye myghte enjoyne hem that peyne by right and by lawe, which I trowe ye mowe nat do, I seye ye mighte nat putten it to execucioun peraventure, and thanne were it likly to retourne to the werre as it was biforn. And therfore, if ye wole that men do yow obeisance, ye moste deemen moore curteisly; this is to seyn, ye moste yeven moore esy sentences and juggementz. For it is writen that 'he that moost curteisly comandeth, to hym men moost obeyen.' And therfore I prey yow that in this necessitee and in this nede ye caste yow to overcome youre herte. For Senec seith that 'he that overcometh his herte, overcometh twies.' And Tullius seith: "ther is no thyng so comendable in a greet lord as whan he is debonaire and meeke, and appeseth him lightly. And I prey yow that ye wole forbere now to do vengeance, in swich a manere that youre goode name may be kept and conserved, and that men mowe have cause and mateere to preyse yow of pitee and of mercy, and that ye have no cause to repente yow of thyng that ye doon. For Senec seith, 'he overcometh in an yvel manere that repenteth hym of his victorie.' Wherfore I pray yow, lat mercy been in youre herte, to th' effect and entente that God almighty have mercy on yow in his laste juggement. For Seint Jame seith in his epistle: 'juggement withouten mercy shal be doon to hym that hath no mercy of another wight.'"
Whanne Melibee hadde herd the grete skiles and resouns of dame Prudence, and hire wise informaciouns and techynges, his herte gan enclyne to the wil of his wif, considerynge hir trewe entente, and conformed hym anon, and assented fully to werken after hir conseil; and thonked God, of whom procedeth al vertu and alle goodnesse, that hym sente a wyf of so greet discrecioun. And whan the day cam that his adversaries sholde appieren in his presence, he spak unto hem ful goodly, and seyde in this wyse: "al be it so that of youre pride and heigh presumpcioun and folie, and of youre necligence and unkonnynge, ye have mysborn yow and trespassed unto me, yet for as muche as I see and biholde youre grete humylitee, and that ye been sory and repentant of youre giltes, it constreyneth me to doon yow grace and mercy. Wherfore I receyve yow to my grace, and foryeve yow outrely alle the offenses, injuries, and wronges that ye have doon agayn me and myne, to this effect and to this ende that God of his endelees mercy wole at the tyme of oure diynge foryeven us oure giltes that we han trespassed to hym in this wrecched world. For doutelees, if we be sory and repentant of the synnes and giltes which we han trespassed in the sighte of oure lord God, he is so free and so merciable that he wole foryeven us oure giltes, and bryngen us to the blisse that nevere hath ende." Amen.
Heere is ended Chaucers Tale of Melibee and of Dame Prudence