1 Ther was, as telleth Titus Livius,
There was, as Titus Livius tells,
2 A knyght that called was Virginius,
A knight who was called Virginius,
3 Fulfild of honour and of worthynesse,
Filled with honor and with worthiness,
4 And strong of freendes, and of greet richesse.
And having powerful friends, and great wealth.
5 This knyght a doghter hadde by his wyf;
This knight had a daughter by his wife;
6 No children hadde he mo in al his lyf.
No more children had he in all his life.
7 Fair was this mayde in excellent beautee
Fair was this maid in excellent beauty
8 Aboven every wight that man may see;
Above every person that one may see;
9 For Nature hath with sovereyn diligence
For Nature has with her greatest diligence
10 Yformed hire in so greet excellence,
Formed her in such great excellence,
11 As though she wolde seyn, "Lo! I, Nature,
As though she would say, "Lo! I, Nature,
12 Thus kan I forme and peynte a creature,
Thus can I form and paint a creature,
13 Whan that me list; who kan me countrefete?
When I wish; who can counterfeit my work?
14 Pigmalion noght, though he ay forge and bete,
Not Pygmalion, though he always forge and beat,
15 Or grave, or peynte; for I dar wel seyn
Or carve, or paint; for I dare well say
16 Apelles, Zanzis, sholde werche in veyn
Apelles or Zeuxis, should work in vain
17 Outher to grave, or peynte, or forge, or bete,
Either to carve, or paint, or forge, or beat,
18 If they presumed me to countrefete.
If they presumed to imitate me.
19 For He that is the formere principal
For He who is the principal creator
20 Hath maked me his vicaire general,
Has appointed me his Chief Deputy,
21 To forme and peynten erthely creaturis
To form and paint earthly creatures
22 Right as me list, and ech thyng in my cure is
Right as I wish, and in my control is each thing
23 Under the moone, that may wane and waxe,
Under the moon, which may grow less or grow larger,
24 And for my werk right no thyng wol I axe;
And nothing at all will I ask for my work;
25 My lord and I been ful of oon accord.
My lord and I are fully in agreement.
26 I made hire to the worshipe of my lord;
I made her to the worship of my lord;
27 So do I alle myne othere creatures,
So do I all my other creatures,
28 What colour that they han or what figures."
Whatever complexion they have or whatever shapes."
29 Thus semeth me that Nature wolde seye.
It seems to me that Nature would say thus.
30 This mayde of age twelve yeer was and tweye,
This maid was twelve years of age and two,
31 In which that Nature hadde swich delit.
In whom Nature had such delight.
32 For right as she kan peynte a lilie whit,
For just as she can paint a lily white,
33 And reed a rose, right with swich peynture
And a rose red, just so with such pigments
34 She peynted hath this noble creature,
Has she painted this noble creature,
35 Er she were born, upon hir lymes fre,
Before she was born, upon her noble limbs,
36 Where as by right swiche colours sholde be;
Where such colors should rightly be;
37 And Phebus dyed hath hire tresses grete
And Phebus has dyed her great tresses
38 Lyk to the stremes of his burned heete.
Resembling the rays of his burnished sunbeams.
39 And if that excellent was hire beautee,
And if her beauty was excellent,
40 A thousand foold moore vertuous was she.
A thousand times more virtuous was she.
41 In hire ne lakked no condicioun
In her there lacked no characteristic
42 That is to preyse, as by discrecioun.
That is to be praised by (one with) sound moral judgement.
43 As wel in goost as body chast was she,
As well in spirit as in body chaste was she,
44 For which she floured in virginitee
For which she flourished in virginity
45 With alle humylitee and abstinence,
With all humility and abstinence,
46 With alle attemperaunce and pacience,
With all temperance and patience,
47 With mesure eek of beryng and array.
With moderation also in demeanor and dress.
48 Discreet she was in answeryng alway;
She was always discreet in conversation;
49 Though she were wis as Pallas, dar I seyn,
Though she was wise as Pallas, I dare say,
50 Hir facound eek ful wommanly and pleyn,
Her manner of speaking was also very womanly and plain,
51 No countrefeted termes hadde she
No pretentious terms had she
52 To seme wys, but after hir degree
To seem wise, but in accordance with her rank in life
53 She spak, and alle hire wordes, moore and lesse,
She spoke, and all her words, long speeches and brief,
54 Sownynge in vertu and in gentillesse.
In accord with virtue and nobility.
55 Shamefast she was in maydens shamefastnesse,
Modest she was in maidenly modesty,
56 Constant in herte, and evere in bisynesse
Constant in heart, and ever diligent
57 To dryve hire out of ydel slogardye.
To keep herself away from idle sluggishness.
58 Bacus hadde of hir mouth right no maistrie;
Bacchus had no mastery of her mouth at all;
59 For wyn and youthe dooth Venus encresse,
For wine and youth does increase (the power of) Venus,
60 As men in fyr wol casten oille or greesse.
As if men would cast oil or grease into a fire.
61 And of hir owene vertu, unconstreyned,
And of her own moral strength, of her own free choice,
62 She hath ful ofte tyme syk hire feyned,
She has very often pretended to be ill,
63 For that she wolde fleen the compaignye
Because she wanted to flee the company
64 Where likly was to treten of folye,
Where there was likely to be talk of folly,
65 As is at feestes, revels, and at daunces,
As is at feasts, revels, and at dances,
66 That been occasions of daliaunces.
That provide opportunities for flirtations.
67 Swich thynges maken children for to be
Such things make children to be
68 To soone rype and boold, as men may se,
Too soon ripe and bold, as anyone can see,
69 Which is ful perilous and hath been yoore.
Which is very perilous and has been since long ago,
70 For al to soone may she lerne loore
For all too soon may she learn the lore
71 Of booldnesse, whan she woxen is a wyf.
Of boldness, when she is grown to be a wife.
72 And ye maistresses, in youre olde lyf,
And you mistresses, in your old age,
73 That lordes doghtres han in governaunce,
Who have lords' daughters in governance,
74 Ne taketh of my wordes no displesaunce.
Do not take of my words any displeasure.
75 Thenketh that ye been set in governynges
Think that you are set in charge
76 Of lordes doghtres oonly for two thynges:
Of lords' daughters only for two things:
77 Outher for ye han kept youre honestee,
Either because you have kept your chastity,
78 Or elles ye han falle in freletee,
Or else you have fallen into frailty,
79 And knowen wel ynough the olde daunce,
And know very well the tricks of the trade,
80 And han forsaken fully swich meschaunce
And have fully renounced such misconduct
81 For everemo; therfore, for Cristes sake,
For evermore; therefore, for Christ's sake,
82 To teche hem vertu looke that ye ne slake.
Look that you do not desisit from teaching them virtue.
83 A theef of venysoun, that hath forlaft
A thief of venison, who has abandoned
84 His likerousnesse and al his olde craft,
His greedy appetite and all his old craft,
85 Kan kepe a forest best of any man.
Can guard a forest better than any other man.
86 Now kepeth wel, for if ye wole, ye kan.
Now guard well, for if you want (to do it), you can.
87 Looke wel that ye unto no vice assente,
Take good care that you assent unto no vice,
88 Lest ye be dampned for youre wikke entente;
Lest you be damned for your wicked intent;
89 For whoso dooth, a traitour is, certeyn.
For whoever does so, is a traitor, certainly.
90 And taketh kep of that that I shal seyn:
And pay attention to what I shall say:
91 Of alle tresons sovereyn pestilence
Of all betrayals the supreme wickedness
92 Is whan a wight bitrayseth innocence.
Is when a person betrays innocence.
93 Ye fadres and ye moodres eek also,
You fathers and you mothers also as well,
94 Though ye han children, be it oon or mo,
If you have children, be it one or more,
95 Youre is the charge of al hir surveiaunce,
Yours is the responsibility for all their supervision,
96 Whil that they been under youre governaunce.
While they are under your governance.
97 Beth war, if by ensample of youre lyvynge,
Beware, lest by example of your (manner of) living,
98 Or by youre necligence in chastisynge,
Or by your negligence in chastising,
99 That they ne perisse; for I dar wel seye
That they should perish; for I dare well say
100 If that they doon, ye shul it deere abeye.
If they do, you shall dearly pay for it.
101 Under a shepherde softe and necligent
Under a soft and negligent shepherd
102 The wolf hath many a sheep and lamb torent.
The wolf has many a sheep and lamb torn to pieces.
103 Suffiseth oon ensample now as heere,
Let one ensample sufficefor the present,
104 For I moot turne agayn to my matere.
For I must turn again to my subject.
105 This mayde, of which I wol this tale expresse,
This maiden, of whom I will narrate this tale,
106 So kepte hirself hir neded no maistresse,
So guarded herself she needed no governess
107 For in hir lyvyng maydens myghten rede,
For in her manner of life maidens might read,
108 As in a book, every good word or dede
As in a book, every good word or deed
109 That longeth to a mayden vertuous,
That is proper to a virtuous maiden,
110 She was so prudent and so bountevous.
She was so prudent and so filled with good.
111 For which the fame out sprong on every syde,
For which sprang out all around the fame,
112 Bothe of hir beautee and hir bountee wyde,
Both of her beauty and her goodness widespread,
113 That thurgh that land they preised hire echone
So that throughout that land they praised her everyone
114 That loved vertu, save Envye allone,
Who loved virtue, save Envy alone,
115 That sory is of oother mennes wele
Who is sorry of other men's prosperity
116 And glad is of his sorwe and his unheele.
And is glad of his sorrow and his misery.
117 (The Doctour maketh this descripcioun.)
(The Doctor [St. Augustine] makes this description.)
118 This mayde upon a day wente in the toun
This maid upon a day went in the town
119 Toward a temple, with hire mooder deere,
Toward a temple, with her mother dear,
120 As is of yonge maydens the manere.
As is the manner of young maidens.
121 Now was ther thanne a justice in that toun,
Now was there then a justice in that town,
122 That governour was of that regioun.
Who was governor of that region.
123 And so bifel this juge his eyen caste
And it so happened that this judge cast his eyes
124 Upon this mayde, avysynge hym ful faste,
Upon this maid, considering her very intently,
125 As she cam forby ther as this juge stood.
As she passed by where this judge stood.
126 Anon his herte chaunged and his mood,
Immediately his heart changed and his mood,
127 So was he caught with beautee of this mayde,
So was he caught by the beauty of this maid,
128 And to hymself ful pryvely he sayde,
And to himself very secretly he said,
129 "This mayde shal be myn, for any man!"
"This maid shall be mine, despite what any man (may do)!"
130 Anon the feend into his herte ran,
Immediately. the fiend ran into his heart,
131 And taughte hym sodeynly that he by slyghte
And taught him suddenly that he by trickery
132 The mayden to his purpos wynne myghte.
Could win the maiden to his purpose.
133 For certes, by no force ne by no meede,
For certainly, not by any force nor by any bribery,
134 Hym thoughte, he was nat able for to speede;
He thought, would he be able to succeed;
135 For she was strong of freendes, and eek she
For she had powerful friends, and also she
136 Confermed was in swich soverayn bountee
Was confirmed in such supreme goodness
137 That wel he wiste he myghte hire nevere wynne
That he knew well he could never win her
138 As for to make hire with hir body synne.
And make her sin with her body.
139 For which, by greet deliberacioun,
For which, after great deliberation,
140 He sente after a cherl, was in the toun,
He sent for a churl, who was in the town,
141 Which that he knew for subtil and for boold.
Whom he knew for trickery and for boldness.
142 This juge unto this cherl his tale hath toold
This judge unto this churl his tale has told
143 In secree wise, and made hym to ensure
Secretly, and made him swear
144 He sholde telle it to no creature,
He should tell it to no creature,
145 And if he dide, he sholde lese his heed.
And if he did, he should lose his head.
146 Whan that assented was this cursed reed,
When this cursed plot was agreed upon
147 Glad was this juge, and maked him greet cheere,
Glad was this judge, and made much of him (the churl),
148 And yaf hym yiftes preciouse and deere.
And gave him precious and expensive gifts.
149 Whan shapen was al hire conspiracie
When all their conspiracy was planned
150 Fro point to point, how that his lecherie
In great detail, how his lechery
151 Parfourned sholde been ful subtilly,
Should be accomplished very subtly,
152 As ye shul heere it after openly,
As you shall later hear it clearly,
153 Hoom gooth the cherl, that highte Claudius.
Home goes the churl, who is called Claudius.
154 This false juge, that highte Apius,
This false judge, who is called Apius,
155 (So was his name, for this is no fable,
(Such was his name, for this is no fable,
156 But knowen for historial thyng notable;
But known for a noteworthy historical fact;
157 The sentence of it sooth is, out of doute),
The substance of it is true, beyond doubt),
158 This false juge gooth now faste aboute
This false judge goes now fast about
159 To hasten his delit al that he may.
Hastening his delight all that he can.
160 And so bifel soone after, on a day,
And so it happened soon after, on a certain day,
161 This false juge, as telleth us the storie,
This false judge, as the story tells us,
162 As he was wont, sat in his consistorie,
As he was accustomed, sat in his court,
163 And yaf his doomes upon sondry cas.
And gave his judgements upon various cases.
164 This false cherl cam forth a ful greet pas,
This false churl came forth at a very rapid pace,
165 And seyde, "Lord, if that it be youre wille,
And said, "Lord, if it be your will,
166 As dooth me right upon this pitous bille,
Do me justice concerning this piteous formal complaint,
167 In which I pleyne upon Virginius;
In which I complain about Virginius;
168 And if that he wol seyn it is nat thus,
And if he will say it is not thus,
169 I wol it preeve, and fynde good witnesse,
I will prove it, and find good evidence,
170 That sooth is that my bille wol expresse."
That what my formal complaint will express is truth."
171 The juge answerde, "Of this, in his absence,
The judge answered, "Of this, in his absence,
172 I may nat yeve diffynytyf sentence.
I can not give definitive judgment.
173 Lat do hym calle, and I wol gladly heere;
Let him be called, and I will gladly hear (the case);
174 Thou shalt have al right, and no wrong heere."
Thou shalt have all justice, and no wrong here."
175 Virginius cam to wite the juges wille,
Virginius came to learn the judge's will,
176 And right anon was rad this cursed bille;
And right away this cursed complaint was read;
177 The sentence of it was as ye shul heere:
The substance of it was as you shall hear:
178 "To yow, my lord, sire Apius so deere,
"To you, my lord, Sir Apius so dear,
179 Sheweth youre povre servant Claudius
Your poor servant Claudius shows
180 How that a knyght, called Virginius,
How a knight, called Virginius,
181 Agayns the lawe, agayn al equitee,
Against the law, against all equity,
182 Holdeth, expres agayn the wyl of me,
Expressly against my will, holds
183 My servant, which that is my thral by right,
My servant, who is my slave by right,
184 Which fro myn hous was stole upon a nyght,
Who was stolen from my house upon one night,
185 Whil that she was ful yong; this wol I preeve
While she was very young; this will I prove
186 By witnesse, lord, so that it nat yow greeve.
By evidence, lord, providing that you be not displeased.
187 She nys his doghter nat, what so he seye.
She is not his daughter, whatever he may say.
188 Wherfore to yow, my lord the juge, I preye,
Therefore to you, my lord judge, I pray,
189 Yeld me my thral, if that it be youre wille."
Yield me my slave, if it be your will."
190 Lo, this was al the sentence of his bille.
Lo, this was all the substance of his complaint.
191 Virginius gan upon the cherl biholde,
Virginius began to look upon the churl,
192 But hastily, er he his tale tolde,
Hastily, before he finished telling his tale,
193 And wolde have preeved it as sholde a knyght,
And would have proven it as a knight should (by battle),
194 And eek by witnessyng of many a wight,
And also by the evidence of many a person,
195 That al was fals that seyde his adversarie,
That all that his adversary said was false,
196 This cursed juge wolde no thyng tarie,
This cursed judge would not at all delay,
197 Ne heere a word moore of Virginius,
Nor hear one word more from Virginius,
198 But yaf his juggement, and seyde thus:
But gave his judgment, and said thus:
199 "I deeme anon this cherl his servant have;
"I decide that this churl should have his slave right now;
200 Thou shalt no lenger in thyn hous hir save.
Thou shalt no longer keep her in thine house.
201 Go bryng hire forth, and put hire in oure warde.
Go bring her forth, and put her in our guardianship.
202 The cherl shal have his thral, this I awarde."
The churl shall have his slave, this I decree."
203 And whan this worthy knyght Virginius
And when this worthy knight Virginius
204 Thurgh sentence of this justice Apius
Because of the verdict of this justice Apius
205 Moste by force his deere doghter yiven
By force had to give his dear daughter
206 Unto the juge, in lecherie to lyven,
Unto the judge, to live in lechery,
207 He gooth hym hoom, and sette him in his halle,
He goes home, and sat himself in his hall,
208 And leet anon his deere doghter calle,
And immediately had his dear daughter called,
209 And with a face deed as asshen colde
And with a face as dead as cold ashes
210 Upon hir humble face he gan biholde,
Upon her humble face he did behold,
211 With fadres pitee stikynge thurgh his herte,
With a father's pity stabbing through his heart,
212 Al wolde he from his purpos nat converte.
Although he would not deviate from his purpose.
213 "Doghter," quod he, "Virginia, by thy name,
"Daughter," said he, "Virginia, by thy name,
214 Ther been two weyes, outher deeth or shame,
There are two ways, either death or shame,
215 That thou most suffre; allas, that I was bore!
That thou most suffer; alas, that I was born!
216 For nevere thou deservedest wherfore
For never thou deservedest for whatever reason
217 To dyen with a swerd or with a knyf.
To die by a sword or by a knife.
218 O deere doghter, endere of my lyf,
O dear daughter, ender of my life,
219 Which I have fostred up with swich plesaunce
Whom I have nurured with such pleasure
220 That thou were nevere out of my remembraunce!
That thou were never out of my thoughts!
221 O doghter, which that art my laste wo,
O daughter, who art my greatest woe,
222 And in my lyf my laste joye also,
And in my life my greatest joy also,
223 O gemme of chastitee, in pacience
O gem of chastity, in patience
224 Take thou thy deeth, for this is my sentence.
Take thou thy death, for this is my decision.
225 For love, and nat for hate, thou most be deed;
For love, and not for hate, thou must be dead;
226 My pitous hand moot smyten of thyn heed.
My piteous hand must smite off thy head.
227 Allas, that evere Apius the say!
Alas, that ever Apius saw thee!
228 Thus hath he falsly jugged the to-day" --
For that reason he has falsely judged thee to-day" --
229 And tolde hire al the cas, as ye bifore
And told her the whole business, as you before
230 Han herd; nat nedeth for to telle it moore.
Have heard; there is no need to tell it again.
231 "O mercy, deere fader!" quod this mayde,
"O mercy, dear father!" said this maid,
232 And with that word she bothe hir armes layde
And with that word she both her arms laid
233 Aboute his nekke, as she was wont to do.
About his neck, as she was accustomed to do.
234 The teeris bruste out of hir eyen two,
The tears burst out of her two eyes,
235 And seyde, "Goode fader, shal I dye?
And said, "Good father, must I dye?
236 Is ther no grace, is ther no remedye?"
Is there no grace, is there no remedy?"
237 "No, certes, deere doghter myn," quod he.
"No, certainly, dear daughter mine," said he.
238 "Thanne yif me leyser, fader myn," quod she,
"Then give me time, father mine," said she,
239 "My deeth for to compleyne a litel space;
"To lament my death for a little while;
240 For, pardee, Jepte yaf his doghter grace
For, truly, Jeptha gave his daughter grace
241 For to compleyne, er he hir slow, allas!
To lament, before he slew her, alas!
242 And, God it woot, no thyng was hir trespas,
And, God knows it, her trespass was nothing,
243 But for she ran hir fader first to see,
Except that she ran first to see her father,
244 To welcome hym with greet solempnitee."
To welcome him with great solemnity."
245 And with that word she fil aswowne anon,
And with that word immediately she fell in a swoon,
246 And after, whan hir swownyng is agon,
And afterwards, when her swooning is gone,
247 She riseth up, and to hir fader sayde,
She rises up, and to her father said,
248 "Blissed be God that I shal dye a mayde!
"Blessed be God that I shall die a maid!
249 Yif me my deeth, er that I have a shame;
Give me my death, before I have dishonor;
250 Dooth with youre child youre wyl, a Goddes name!"
Do with your child your will, in God's name!"
251 And with that word she preyed hym ful ofte
And with that word she prayed him repeatedly
252 That with his swerd he wolde smyte softe;
That with his sword he would smite gently;
253 And with that word aswowne doun she fil.
And with that word down she fell in a swoon.
254 Hir fader, with ful sorweful herte and wil,
Her father, with very sorrowful heart and will,
255 Hir heed of smoot, and by the top it hente,
Struck off her head, and by the hair siezed it,
256 And to the juge he gan it to presente,
And he did present it to the judge,
257 As he sat yet in doom in consistorie.
As he sat yet rendering judgements in court.
258 And whan the juge it saugh, as seith the storie,
And when the judge saw it, as says the story,
259 He bad to take hym and anhange hym faste;
He ordered [his men] to take him and hang him at once;
260 But right anon a thousand peple in thraste,
But right away a thousand people burst in,
261 To save the knyght, for routhe and for pitee,
To save the knight, for compassion and for pity,
262 For knowen was the false iniquitee.
For the false wickedness was known.
263 The peple anon had suspect in this thyng,
The people immediately suspected in this matter,
264 By manere of the cherles chalangyng,
Because of the manner of the churl's claim,
265 That it was by the assent of Apius;
That it was by the conspiring of Apius;
266 They wisten wel that he was lecherus.
They knew well that he was lecherous.
267 For which unto this Apius they gon
For which unto this Apius they go
268 And caste hym in a prisoun right anon,
And cast him in a prison straightway,
269 Ther as he slow hymself; and Claudius,
Where he slew himself; and Claudius,
270 That servant was unto this Apius,
Who was servant unto this Apius,
271 Was demed for to hange upon a tree,
Was condemned to hang upon a tree,
272 But that Virginius, of his pitee,
Except that Virginius, of his pity,
273 So preyde for hym that he was exiled;
So prayed for him (Claudius) that he was exiled;
274 And elles, certes, he had been bigyled.
And also, certainly, he had been tricked (by Apius).
275 The remenant were anhanged, moore and lesse,
The remnant were hanged, high ranking and low,
276 That were consentant of this cursednesse.
Who were accessories to this crime.
277 Heere may men seen how synne hath his merite.
Here may men see how sin has its reward.
278 Beth war, for no man woot whom God wol smyte
Beware, for no man knows whom God will smite
279 In no degree, ne in which manere wyse;
In any rank, nor in what sort of way;
280 The worm of conscience may agryse
The worm of conscience may tremble for fear
281 Of wikked lyf, though it so pryvee be
Because of a wicked life, though it so secret be
282 That no man woot therof but God and he.
That no man knows about it but God and he.
283 For be he lewed man, or ellis lered,
For be he ignorant man, or else learned,
284 He noot how soone that he shal been afered.
He knows not how soon he shall be terrified.
285 Therfore I rede yow this conseil take:
Therefore I advise you to take this counsel:
286 Forsaketh synne, er synne yow forsake.
Abandon sin, before sin abandons you.
Heere is ended the Phisiciens Tale
Go to The Geoffrey Chaucer Page | The Index of Translations | The Teach Yourself Chaucer Page. Or go to the beginning of this text.
Or use the back button on your browser to return to the previous page.
Last modified: Feb 3, 2004
Copyright © The President and Fellows of Harvard College
Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (firstname.lastname@example.org)