The Clerk's Envoy de Chaucer

An Interlinear Translation

The Middle English text is from Larry D. Benson., Gen. ed., The Riverside Chaucer,
Houghton Mifflin Company; used with permission of the publisher.


(How to use the interlinear translations.)



1163      But o word, lordynges, herkneth er I go:
                But one word, lords, hear before I go:
1164      It were ful hard to fynde now-a-dayes
                It would be very difficult to find now-a-days
1165      In al a toun Grisildis thre or two;
                In all the town Griseldas three or two;
1166      For if that they were put to swiche assayes,
                For if they were put to such tests,
1167      The gold of hem hath now so badde alayes
                The gold of them has now been so badly debased
1168      With bras, that thogh the coyne be fair at ye,
                With brass, that though the coin be fair to look at,
1169      It wolde rather breste a-two than plye.
                It would rather break in two than bend.

1170      For which heere, for the Wyves love of Bathe --
                For which here, for the love of the Wife of Bath --
1171      Whos lyf and al hire secte God mayntene
                Whose life and all her sect may God maintain
1172      In heigh maistrie, and elles were it scathe --
                In high mastery, and otherwise it would be a pity --
1173      I wol with lusty herte, fressh and grene,
                I will with lusty heart, fresh and vigorous,
1174      Seyn yow a song to glade yow, I wene;
                Say you a song to make you happy, I believe;
1175      And lat us stynte of ernestful matere.
                And let us stint of serious matter.
1176      Herkneth my song that seith in this manere:
                Hear my song that says in this manner:


Lenvoy de Chaucer.
Chaucer's envoy.


1177      Grisilde is deed, and eek hire pacience,
                Griselda is dead, and also her patience,
1178      And bothe atones buryed in Ytaille;
                And both together buried in Italy;
1179      For which I crie in open audience
                For which I cry in the hearing of all
1180      No wedded man so hardy be t'assaille
                No wedded man so bold be to test
1181      His wyves pacience in trust to fynde
                His wife's patience trusting to find
1182      Grisildis, for in certein he shal faille.
                Griselda, for certainly he shall faille.

1183      O noble wyves, ful of heigh prudence,
                O noble wives, full of great prudence,
1184      Lat noon humylitee youre tonge naille,
                Let no humility nail down your tongue,
1185      Ne lat no clerk have cause or diligence
                Nor let any clerk have cause or eagerness
1186      To write of yow a storie of swich mervaille
                To write about you a story of such marvel
1187      As of Grisildis pacient and kynde,
                As of patient and kind Griselda,
1188      Lest Chichevache yow swelwe in hire entraille!
                Lest Chichevache swallow you in her entrails!

1189      Folweth Ekko, that holdeth no silence,
                Follow Echo, who holds no silence,
1190      But evere answereth at the countretaille.
                But ever answers in reply.
1191      Beth nat bidaffed for youre innocence,
                Be not fooled because of your innocence,
1192      But sharply taak on yow the governaille.
                But eagerly take the governance to yourself.
1193      Emprenteth wel this lessoun in youre mynde,
                Imprint well this lesson in your mind,
1194      For commune profit sith it may availle.
                Since it may work to the benefit of all.

1195      Ye archewyves, stondeth at defense,
                You arch-wives, stand ready for battle,
1196      Syn ye be strong as is a greet camaille;
                Since you are strong as is a great camel;
1197      Ne suffreth nat that men yow doon offense.
                Suffer not that men do offense to you.
1198      And sklendre wyves, fieble as in bataille,
                And slender wives, feeble in battle,
1199      Beth egre as is a tygre yond in Ynde;
                Be fierce as is a tiger yonder in India;
1200      Ay clappeth as a mille, I yow consaille.
                Ever wag your tongues like a windmill, I you advise.

1201      Ne dreed hem nat; doth hem no reverence,
                Fear them not; do them no reverence,
1202      For though thyn housbonde armed be in maille,
                For though thy husband be armed in mail,
1203      The arwes of thy crabbed eloquence
                The arrows of thy spiteful eloquence
1204      Shal perce his brest and eek his aventaille.
                Shall pierce his breast and also his neck-guard.
1205      In jalousie I rede eek thou hym bynde,
                In jealousy I advise also that thou bind him,
1206      And thou shalt make hym couche as doth a quaille.
                And thou shalt make him cower as does a quail.

1207      If thou be fair, ther folk been in presence,
                If thou be fair, where folk are present,
1208      Shewe thou thy visage and thyn apparaille;
                Show thou thy visage and thy apparel;
1209      If thou be foul, be fre of thy dispence;
                If thou be ugly, be lavish in thy expenditures;
1210      To gete thee freendes ay do thy travaille;
                To get thee friends always work hard;
1211      Be ay of chiere as light as leef on lynde,
                Be ever in behavior as light as a leaf on a linden tree,
1212      And lat hym care, and wepe, and wrynge, and waille!
                And let him grieve, and weep, and wring his hands, and wail!


[Bihoold the murye words of the Host


1212a      This worthy Clerk, whan ended was his tale,
                [When ended was the tale of this worthy Clerk,
1212b      Oure Hooste seyde, and swoor, "By Goddes bones,
                Our Host said, and swore, "By God's bones,
1212c      Me were levere than a barel ale
                I would rather than have a barrel of ale
1212d      My wyf at hoom had herd this legende ones!
                My wife at home had heard this legend once!
1212e      This is a gentil tale for the nones,
                This is a fine tale for this occasion,
1212f      As to my purpos, wiste ye my wille;
                For my purposes, if you knew my will;
1212g      But thyng that wol nat be, lat it be stille."]
                But thing that will not be, let it be still."]


Heere endeth the Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.


If you wish, you can test your knowledge of the vocabulary by taking a

Or go to the beginning of this set of texts.

Or go The Geoffrey Chaucer Page | The Index of Translations | The Teach Yourself Chaucer Page. Or use the back button on your browser to return to the previous page.



Last modified: May 7, 2006
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College

Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (