The Canterbury Tales
The Nun’s Priest’s Tale: Page 17
Certes, swich cry ne lamentacioun
Was never of ladies maad, whan Ilioun
Was wonne, and Pirrus with his streite swerd,
Whan he hadde hent king Priam by the berd,
And slayn him (as saith us Eneydos),
As maden alle the hennes in the clos,
Whan they had seyn of Chauntecleer the sighte.
But sovereynly dame Pertelote shrighte,
Ful louder than dide Hasdrubales wyf,
Whan that hir housbond hadde lost his lyf,
And that the Romayns hadde brend Cartage;
She was so ful of torment and of rage,
That wilfully into the fyr she sterte,
And brende hir-selven with a stedfast herte.
O woful hennes, right so cryden ye,
As, whan that Nero brende the citee
Of Rome, cryden senatoures wyves,
For that hir housbondes losten alle hir lyves;
Withouten gilt this Nero hath hem slayn.
Now wol I torne to my tale agayn:—
|The hens in the yard cried and grieved as they watched the fox snatch Chanticleer and carry him away. Never had there been such a ruckus, not even by the Trojan ladies when the Greek warrior Pyrrhus grabbed the Trojan king Priam by the beard and killed him with his sword, giving victory to the Greeks at Troy as the epic poem The Aeneid describes. Lady Pertelote screamed the loudest—much louder than the wife of King Hasdrubal of Carthage when the Romans killed her husband and burned the city—and she’d been so upset that she committed suicide by burning herself alive. These hens cried like the Roman senators’ wives cried when the emperor Nero killed their husbands and burned the city of Rome. But I digress—back to my story.|
This sely widwe, and eek hir doghtres two,
Herden thise hennes crye and maken wo,
And out at dores sterten they anoon,
And syen the fox toward the grove goon,
And bar upon his bak the cok away;
And cryden, ‘Out! harrow! and weylaway!
Ha, ha, the fox!’ and after him they ran,
And eek with staves many another man;
Ran Colle our dogge, and Talbot, and Gerland,
And Malkin, with a distaf in hir hand;
Ran cow and calf, and eek the verray hogges
So were they fered for berking of the dogges
And shouting of the men and wimmen eke,
They ronne so, hem thoughte hir herte breke.
They yelleden as feendes doon in helle;
The dokes cryden as men wolde hem quelle;
The gees for fere flowen over the trees;
Out of the hyve cam the swarm of bees;
So hidous was the noyse, a! benedicite!
Certes, he Iakke Straw, and his meynee,
Ne made never shoutes half so shrille,
Whan that they wolden any Fleming kille,
As thilke day was maad upon the fox.
Of bras thay broghten bemes, and of box,
Of horn, of boon, in whiche they blewe and pouped,
And therwithal thay shryked and they houped;
It semed as that heven sholde falle.
Now, gode men, I pray yow herkneth alle!
|Well, the old widow and her two daughters heard the commotion in the yard and ran outside to see what was the matter. They saw the fox running into the woods with Chanticleer on his back, and they cried out, “Oh my God! Help! Catch that fox!” as they chased after him. Some of the neighbors, including Talbot and Gerland, grabbed sticks and shovels and whatever they could find and joined in the chase as they screamed like banshees. Coll, the dog, ran after the fox too, and the cows and pigs were running around, scared from the shouting and the barking of the dogs. The ducks and geese were squawking and flying away and even the bees flew out of the hive, so terrible was the noise. God help us! Not even the peasant rebel Jack Straw and his lot were half as loud when they attacked Flemish merchants as this bunch was as they ran after the fox. They blew trumpets and hunting horns, and hearing them, you would’ve thought the sky itself was falling.|