The Physician's Tale

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.)



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


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