The Shipman's Tale

An Interlinear Translation
Part I, lines 1-157

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.)


Heere bigynneth the Shipmannes Tale.


1     A marchant whilom dwelled at Seint-Denys,
                A merchant once dwelled at Seint-Denis,
2     That riche was, for which men helde hym wys.
                Who was rich, for which men considered him wise.
3     A wyf he hadde of excellent beautee;
                He had a wife of excellent beauty;
4     And compaignable and revelous was she,
                And she was sociable and fond of revelry,
5     Which is a thyng that causeth more dispence
                Which is a thing that causes more expense
6     Than worth is al the chiere and reverence
                Than is worth all the good cheer and reverence
7     That men hem doon at festes and at daunces.
                That men do to them at festivities and at dances.
8     Swiche salutaciouns and contenaunces
                Such salutations and courtesies
9     Passen as dooth a shadwe upon the wal;
                Pass away as does a shadow upon the wall;
10     But wo is hym that payen moot for al!
                But woe to him that must pay for all!
11     The sely housbonde, algate he moot paye,
                The poor (hapless) husband, always he must pay,
12     He moot us clothe, and he moot us arraye,
                He must clothe us, and he must adorn us
13     Al for his owene worshipe richely,
                Richly, all for the sake of his own reputation,
14     In which array we daunce jolily.
                In which finery we dance merrily.
15     And if that he noght may, par aventure,
                And if it happens he can not pay,
16     Or ellis list no swich dispence endure,
                Or else desires to endure no such expense,
17     But thynketh it is wasted and ylost,
                But thinks it is wasted and lost,
18     Thanne moot another payen for oure cost,
                Then another must pay for our costs,
19     Or lene us gold, and that is perilous.
                Or lend us gold, and that is perilous.

20     This noble marchaunt heeld a worthy hous,
                This noble merchant held a worthy house,
21     For which he hadde alday so greet repair
                For which he always had so many guests
22     For his largesse, and for his wyf was fair,
                Because of his generosity, and because his wife was fair,
23     That wonder is; but herkneth to my tale.
                That it is a wonder; but listen to my tale.
24     Amonges alle his gestes, grete and smale,
                Among all his guests, high ranking and low,
25     Ther was a monk, a fair man and a boold --
                There was a monk, a handsome man and a bold one --
26     I trowe a thritty wynter he was oold --
                I believe he was about thirty years old --
27     That evere in oon was drawynge to that place.
                Who continually was drawing to that place.
28     This yonge monk, that was so fair of face,
                This young monk, who had so handsome a face,
29     Aqueynted was so with the goode man,
                Was so acquainted with the good man,
30     Sith that hir firste knoweliche bigan,
                Since their first acquaintance began,
31     That in his hous as famulier was he
                That in his house as intimate was he
32     As it is possible any freend to be.
                As it is possible for any friend to be.

33     And for as muchel as this goode man,
                And in view of the fact that this good man,
34     And eek this monk of which that I bigan,
                And also this monk of whom I began (to tell),
35     Were bothe two yborn in o village,
                The two of them, were both born in one village,
36     The monk hym claymeth as for cosynage,
                The monk claims him as a kinsman,
37     And he agayn; he seith nat ones nay,
                And he does the same; he not once says 'nay,'
38     But was as glad therof as fowel of day,
                But was as glad of this as a fowl is of day,
39     For to his herte it was a greet plesaunce.
                For to his heart it was a great pleasure.
40     Thus been they knyt with eterne alliaunce,
                Thus are they knit with eternal alliance,
41     And ech of hem gan oother for t' assure
                And each of them assured the other
42     Of bretherhede whil that hir lyf may dure.
                Of brotherhood while their life may endure.
43     Free was daun John, and manly of dispence,
                Free-handed was Don John, and generous in spending
44     As in that hous, and ful of diligence
                In that house, and full of diligence
45     To doon plesaunce, and also greet costage.
                To do pleasure, and also great expenditure.
46     He noght forgat to yeve the leeste page
                He did not forget to give to the lowest ranking servant
47     In al that hous; but after hir degree,
                In all that house; but according to their rank,
48     He yaf the lord, and sitthe al his meynee,
                He gave to the lord, and then to all his household,
49     Whan that he cam, som manere honest thyng,
                When he came, some sort of suitable gift,
50     For which they were as glad of his comyng
                For which they were as glad of his coming
51     As fowel is fayn whan that the sonne up riseth.
                As a fowl is happy when the sun rises up.
52     Na moore of this as now, for it suffiseth.
                No more of this for now, for it suffices.

53     But so bifel, this marchant on a day
                But as it happened, this merchant on a day
54     Shoop hym to make redy his array
                Decided to make ready his preparations
55     Toward the toun of Brugges for to fare,
                To travel to the town of Bruges ,
56     To byen there a porcioun of ware;
                To buy there a quantity of merchandise;
57     For which he hath to Parys sent anon
                For which he has to Paris sent immediately
58     A messager, and preyed hath daun John
                A messenger, and has prayed Don John
59     That he sholde come to Seint-Denys to pleye
                That he should come to Seint-Denis to visit
60     With hym and with his wyf a day or tweye,
                With him and with his wife a day or two,
61     Er he to Brugges wente, in alle wise.
                Before he went to Bruges, indeed.

62     This noble monk, of which I yow devyse,
                This noble monk, of whom I tell you,
63     Hath of his abbot, as hym list, licence,
                Has of his abbot, as he pleases, permission,
64     By cause he was a man of heigh prudence
                Because he was a man of great prudence
65     And eek an officer, out for to ryde,
                And also an officer, to ride out
66     To seen hir graunges and hire bernes wyde,
                To see to their granges and their capacious barns,
67     And unto Seint-Denys he comth anon.
                And he comes quickly to Seint-Denis.
68     Who was so welcome as my lord daun John,
                Who was so welcome as my lord Don John,
69     Oure deere cosyn, ful of curteisye?
                Our dear cousin, full of courtesy?
70     With hym broghte he a jubbe of malvesye,
                With him he brought a jug of malmsey wine,
71     And eek another ful of fyn vernage,
                And also another full of fine white wine,
72     And volatyl, as ay was his usage.
                And game fowls, as always was his custom.
73     And thus I lete hem ete and drynke and pleye,
                And thus I let them eat and drink and amuse themselves,
74     This marchant and this monk, a day or tweye.
                This merchant and this monk, for a day or two.

75     The thridde day, this marchant up ariseth,
                The third day, this merchant up arises,
76     And on his nedes sadly hym avyseth,
                And seriously considers his business,
77     And up into his countour-hous gooth he
                And he goes up into his counting-house
78     To rekene with hymself, wel may be,
                To reckon with himself, as it well may be,
79     Of thilke yeer how that it with hym stood,
                Of that same year how it stood with him,
80     And how that he despended hadde his good,
                And how he had spent his funds,
81     And if that he encressed were or noon.
                And if he had profited or not.
82     His bookes and his bagges many oon
                His account books and his moneybags many a one
83     He leith biforn hym on his countyng-bord.
                He lays before him on his counting-board.
84     Ful riche was his tresor and his hord,
                His treasure and his hoard was very rich,
85     For which ful faste his countour-dore he shette;
                For which he very tightly shut his counting house-door;
86     And eek he nolde that no man sholde hym lette
                And also he wanted that no one should hinder him
87     Of his acountes, for the meene tyme;
                From (making) his accounts, for the time being;
88     And thus he sit til it was passed pryme.
                And thus he sits until it was past nine o'clock.

89     Daun John was rysen in the morwe also,
                Don John had also risen in the morning,
90     And in the gardyn walketh to and fro,
                And in the garden walks to and fro,
91     And hath his thynges seyd ful curteisly.
                And has said his prayers very courteously.

92     This goode wyf cam walkynge pryvely
                This good wife came walking alone
93     Into the gardyn, there he walketh softe,
                Into the garden, where he walks quietly,
94     And hym saleweth, as she hath doon ofte.
                And salutes him, as she has often done.
95     A mayde child cam in hire compaignye,
                A maid servant came in her company,
96     Which as hir list she may governe and gye,
                Whom she may govern and guide as she pleases,
97     For yet under the yerde was the mayde.
                For the maid was yet subject to adult discipline.
98     "O deere cosyn myn, daun John," she sayde,
                "Oh my dear cousin, Don John," she said,
99     "What eyleth yow so rathe for to ryse?"
                "What ails you to rise so early?"

100     "Nece," quod he, "it oghte ynough suffise
                "Niece," said he, "it ought enough suffice
101     Fyve houres for to slepe upon a nyght,
                To sleep five hours upon a night,
102     But it were for an old appalled wight,
                Unless it were for an old enfeebled creature,
103     As been thise wedded men, that lye and dare
                As are these wedded men, that lie and doze
104     As in a fourme sit a wery hare,
                As in his lair sits a weary hare,
105     Were al forstraught with houndes grete and smale.
                Which is greatly distressed by hounds great and small.
106     But deere nece, why be ye so pale?
                But dear niece, why are you so pale?
107     I trowe, certes, that oure goode man
                I believe, certainly, that the head of our household
108     Hath yow laboured sith the nyght bigan
                Has labored you since the night began
109     That yow were nede to resten hastily."
                So much that you badly have need to rest."
110     And with that word he lough ful murily,
                And with that word he laughed very merrily,
111     And of his owene thought he wax al reed.
                And of his own thought he grew all red.

112     This faire wyf gan for to shake hir heed
                This fair wife began to shake her head
113     And seyde thus, "Ye, God woot al," quod she.
                And said thus, "Yea, God knows all," she said.
114     "Nay, cosyn myn, it stant nat so with me;
                "Nay, my cousin, it stands not so with me;
115     For, by that God that yaf me soule and lyf,
                For, by that God that gave me soul and life,
116     In al the reawme of France is ther no wyf
                In all the realm of France there is no wife
117     That lasse lust hath to that sory pley.
                That has less desire for that sorry play.
118     For I may synge `allas and weylawey
                For I may sing `alas and alack
119     That I was born,' but to no wight," quod she,
                That I was born,' but to no one," she said,
120     "Dar I nat telle how that it stant with me.
                "Dare I tell how it stands with me.
121     Wherfore I thynke out of this land to wende,
                Therefore I intend to go out of this land,
122     Or elles of myself to make an ende,
                Or else to make an end of myself,
123     So ful am I of drede and eek of care."
                I am so full of dread and also of care."

124     This monk bigan upon this wyf to stare,
                This monk began to stare upon this wife,
125     And seyde, "Allas, my nece, God forbede
                And said, "Alas, my niece, God forbid
126     That ye, for any sorwe or any drede,
                That you, for any sorrow or any dread,
127     Fordo youreself; but telleth me youre grief.
                Should destroy yourself; but tell me your grief.
128     Paraventure I may, in youre meschief,
                Perhaps I can, in your unhappy situation,
129     Conseille or helpe; and therfore telleth me
                 Advise or help; and therefore tell me
130     Al youre anoy, for it shal been secree.
                All your trouble, for it shall be secret.
131     For on my portehors I make an ooth
                For on my prayer book I make an oath
132     That nevere in my lyf, for lief ne looth,
                That never in my life, willing or unwilling,
133     Ne shal I of no conseil yow biwreye."
                Shall I betray any of your secrets."

134     "The same agayn to yow," quod she, "I seye.
                "The same in reply to you," she said, "I say.
135     By God and by this portehors I swere,
                By God and by this prayer book I swear,
136     Though men me wolde al into pieces tere,
                Though men would tear me all to pieces
137     Ne shal I nevere, for to goon to helle,
                I shall never, even though I go to hell for it,
138     Biwreye a word of thyng that ye me telle,
                Betray a word of anything that you tell me,
139     Nat for no cosynage ne alliance,
                Not for any kinship nor alliance,
140     But verraily for love and affiance."
                But truly for love and trust."
141     Thus been they sworn, and heerupon they kiste,
                Thus they are sworn, and thereupon they kissed,
142     And ech of hem tolde oother what hem liste.
                And each of them told the other what they pleased.

143     "Cosyn," quod she, "if that I hadde a space,
                "Cousin," she said, "if I had a space of time,
144     As I have noon, and namely in this place,
                As I have none, and especially in this place,
145     Thanne wolde I telle a legende of my lyf,
                Then would I tell a legend of my life,
146     What I have suffred sith I was a wyf
                What I have suffered since I was a wife
147     With myn housbonde, al be he youre cosyn."
                Because of my husband, although he is your cousin."

148     "Nay," quod this monk, "by God and Seint Martyn,
                "Nay," said this monk, "by God and Saint Martin,
149     He is na moore cosyn unto me
                He is no more cousin unto me
150     Than is this leef that hangeth on the tree!
                Than is this leaf that hangs on the tree!
151     I clepe hym so, by Seint Denys of Fraunce,
                I call him so, by Saint Denis of France,
152     To have the moore cause of aqueyntaunce
                To have the more opportunity of acquaintance
153     Of yow, which I have loved specially
                With you, whom I have loved especially
154     Aboven alle wommen, sikerly.
                Above all women, certainly.
155     This swere I yow on my professioun.
                This I swear to you on my religious vows.
156     Telleth youre grief, lest that he come adoun;
                Tell your grief, lest that he come down;
157     And hasteth yow, and gooth youre wey anon."
                And hasten you, and go your way quickly."

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Last modified: May 9, 2006
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