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‘The sonne,’ he sayde, ‘is clomben up on hevene
Fourty degrees and oon, and more, y-wis.
380Madame Pertelote, my worldes blis,
Herkneth thise blisful briddes how they singe,
And see the fresshe floures how they springe;
Ful is myn herte of revel and solas.’
But sodeinly him fil a sorweful cas;
For ever the latter ende of Ioye is wo.
God woot that worldly Ioye is sone ago;
And if a rethor coude faire endyte,
He in a cronique saufly mighte it wryte,
As for a sovereyn notabilitee.
390Now every wys man, lat him herkne me;
This storie is al-so trewe, I undertake,
As is the book of Launcelot de Lake,
“The sun,” he crowed, “has climbed across the sky more than 40˚. Madame Pertelote, the light of my life, listen to the happy birds singing and the fresh new flowers sprouting from the ground. My heart is so happy!” But no sooner had he finished saying this than his happiness quickly vanished. God knows that happiness only lasts a moment. A poet should take note of this saying and write it in a poem sometime. Now, ladies and gentlemen, what I’m about to tell you is completely true, as true as that famous romance novel about Lancelot du Lac that women like to read so much. I swear it. Okay, back to the story.
That wommen holde in ful gret reverence.
Now wol I torne agayn to my sentence.
It so happens that the night before, a sly and mischievious fox, who had been living in the nearby woods for the last three years, had entered the old woman’s yard where Chanticleer and his wives lived. He’d slunk over to the bed of cabbages and had waited until midmorning for the right time to pounce on Chanticleer, as all murderers wait to strike. Oh wicked, lurking murderer! You’re just like the traitors Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus; Genelon of France; and Sinon of Greece, who caused the fall of Troy when he convinced the Trojans that the wooden Greek horse was a present. Oh Chanticleer, damn the day when you flew down from the rafters and into the yard! You should have payed attention to your dream and known that today would be a dangerous day for you. But, according to some philosophers, what God foresees is destined to happen and cannot be changed. Well, then again, any philosopher worth his salt would tell you that not everyone agrees that this is so. A hundred thousand men have tried to answer this question whether the future is already written or can be changed. I’m not really good at logic and picking apart the various arguments like St. Augustine can or like the philosopher Boethius or Bishop Bradwardine can. I’m not sure whether God’s foretelling of an event means that it has to happen or whether I have free will and can choose to make it not happen.
A col-fox, ful of sly iniquitee,
That in the grove hadde woned yeres three,
By heigh imaginacioun forn-cast,
The same night thurgh-out the hegges brast
Into the yerd, ther Chauntecleer the faire
400Was wont, and eek his wyves, to repaire;
And in a bed of wortes stille he lay,
Til it was passed undern of the day,
Wayting his tyme on Chauntecleer to falle,
As gladly doon thise homicydes alle,
That in awayt liggen to mordre men.
O false mordrer, lurking in thy den!
O newe Scariot, newe Genilon!
False dissimilour, O Greek Sinon,
That broghtest Troye al outrely to sorwe!
410O Chauntecleer, acursed be that morwe,
That thou into that yerd flough fro the bemes!
Thou were ful wel y-warned by thy dremes,
That thilke day was perilous to thee.
But what that God forwoot mot nedes be,
After the opinioun of certeyn clerkis.
Witnesse on him, that any perfit clerk is,
That in scole is gret altercacioun
In this matere, and greet disputisoun,
And hath ben of an hundred thousand men.
420But I ne can not bulte it to the bren,
As can the holy doctour Augustyn,
Or Boece, or the bishop Bradwardyn,
Whether that Goddes worthy forwiting
Streyneth me nedely for to doon a thing,
(Nedely clepe I simple necessitee);
Or elles, if free choys be graunted me
To do that same thing, or do it noght,
Though God forwoot it, er that it was wroght;
Or if his witing streyneth nevere a del
430But by necessitee condicionel.
I wol not han to do of swich matere;
My tale is of a cok, as ye may here,
That took his counseil of his wyf, with sorwe,
To walken in the yerd upon that morwe
That he had met the dreem, that I yow tolde.
Wommennes counseils been ful ofte colde;
Wommannes counseil broghte us first to wo,
And made Adam fro paradys to go,
Ther-as he was ful mery, and wel at ese.
440But for I noot, to whom it mighte displese,
If I counseil of wommen wolde blame,
Passe over, for I seyde it in my game.
Rede auctours, wher they trete of swich matere,
And what thay seyn of wommen ye may here.
Thise been the cokkes wordes, and nat myne;
I can noon harm of no womman divyne.
I don’t really want to get into all that. My story is just about a rooster, who, as you already know, foolishly listened to his wife after having had that dream I told you about. Women’s advice is more harmful than good. It caused Adam to get kicked out of Eden, where he’d been happy and doing just fine. Okay, okay. I’m only joking. I don’t want to offend anybody by saying that women are full of foolishness. There are lots of books on that subject, and you can read them and make up your own mind. I’m just telling you what the rooster thought, not what I think. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with women.