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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Canterbury Tales

The Second Nun's Prologue

 The ministre and the norice unto vices,
 Which that men clepe in Englissh Ydelnesse,
 That porter of the gate is of delices,
 To eschue, and by hire contrarie hire oppresse --
 That is to seyn, by leveful bisynesse --
 Wel oghten we to doon al oure entente,
 Lest that the feend thurgh ydelnesse us hente.
 For he that with his thousand cordes slye
 Continuelly us waiteth to biclappe,
10 Whan he may man in ydelnesse espye,
 He kan so lightly cache hym in his trappe,
 Til that a man be hent right by the lappe,
 He nys nat war the feend hath hym in honde.
 Wel oghte us werche and ydelnesse withstonde.
 And though men dradden nevere for to dye,
 Yet seen men wel by resoun, doutelees,
 That ydelnesse is roten slogardye,
 Of which ther nevere comth no good n' encrees;
 And syn that slouthe hire holdeth in a lees
20 Oonly to slepe, and for to ete and drynke,
 And to devouren al that othere swynke,
 And for to putte us fro swich ydelnesse,
 That cause is of so greet confusioun,
 I have heer doon my feithful bisynesse
 After the legende in translacioun
 Right of thy glorious lif and passioun,
 Thou with thy gerland wroght with rose and lilie --
 Thee meene I, mayde and martyr, Seint Cecilie.
 And thow that flour of virgines art alle,
30 Of whom that Bernard list so wel to write,
 To thee at my bigynnyng first I calle;
 Thou confort of us wrecches, do me endite
 Thy maydens deeth, that wan thurgh hire merite
 The eterneel lyf and of the feend victorie,
 As man may after reden in hire storie.
 Thow Mayde and Mooder, doghter of thy Sone,
 Thow welle of mercy, synful soules cure,
 In whom that God for bountee chees to wone,
 Thow humble, and heigh over every creature,
40 Thow nobledest so ferforth oure nature,
 That no desdeyn the Makere hadde of kynde
 His Sone in blood and flessh to clothe and wynde.
 Withinne the cloistre blisful of thy sydis
 Took mannes shap the eterneel love and pees,
 That of the tryne compas lord and gyde is,
 Whom erthe and see and hevene out of relees
 Ay heryen; and thou, Virgine wemmelees,
 Baar of thy body -- and dweltest mayden pure --
 The Creatour of every creature.
50 Assembled is in thee magnificence
 With mercy, goodnesse, and with swich pitee
 That thou, that art the sonne of excellence
 Nat oonly helpest hem that preyen thee,
 But often tyme of thy benygnytee
 Ful frely, er that men thyn help biseche,
 Thou goost biforn and art hir lyves leche.
 Now help, thow meeke and blisful faire mayde,
 Me, flemed wrecche, in this desert of galle;
 Thynk on the womman Cananee, that sayde
60 That whelpes eten somme of the crommes alle
 That from hir lordes table been yfalle;
 And though that I, unworthy sone of Eve,
 Be synful, yet accepte my bileve.
 And, for that feith is deed withouten werkis,
 So for to werken yif me wit and space,
 That I be quit fro thennes that most derk is!
 O thou, that art so fair and ful of grace,
 Be myn advocat in that heighe place
 Theras withouten ende is songe "Osanne,"
70 Thow Cristes mooder, doghter deere of Anne!
 And of thy light my soule in prison lighte,
 That troubled is by the contagioun
 Of my body, and also by the wighte
 Of erthely lust and fals affeccioun;
 O havene of refut, O salvacioun
 Of hem that been in sorwe and in distresse,
 Now help, for to my werk I wol me dresse.
 Yet preye I yow that reden that I write,
 Foryeve me that I do no diligence
80 This ilke storie subtilly to endite,
 For bothe have I the wordes and sentence
 Of hym that at the seintes reverence
 The storie wroot, and folwen hire legende,
 And pray yow that ye wole my werk amende.
 First wolde I yow the name of Seint Cecilie
 Expowne, as men may in hir storie see.
 It is to seye in Englissh "hevenes lilie,"
 For pure chaastnesse of virginitee;
 Or, for she whitnesse hadde of honestee,
90 And grene of conscience, and of good fame
 The soote savour, "lilie" was hir name.
 Or Cecilie is to seye "the wey to blynde,"
 For she ensample was by good techynge;
 Or elles Cecile, as I writen fynde,
 Is joyned, by a manere conjoynynge
 Of "hevene" and "Lia"; and heere, in figurynge,
 The "hevene" is set for thoght of hoolynesse,
 And "Lia" for hire lastynge bisynesse.
 Cecile may eek be seyd in this manere,
100 "Wantynge of blyndnesse," for hir grete light
 Of sapience and for hire thewes cleere;
 Or elles, loo, this maydens name bright
 Of "hevene" and "leos" comth, for which by right
 Men myghte hire wel "the hevene of peple" calle,
 Ensample of goode and wise werkes alle.
 For "leos" "peple" in Englissh is to seye,
 And right as men may in the hevene see
 The sonne and moone and sterres every weye,
 Right so men goostly in this mayden free
110 Seyen of feith the magnanymytee,
 And eek the cleernesse hool of sapience,
 And sondry werkes, brighte of excellence.
 And right so as thise philosophres write
 That hevene is swift and round and eek brennynge,
 Right so was faire Cecilie the white
 Ful swift and bisy evere in good werkynge,
 And round and hool in good perseverynge,
 And brennynge evere in charite ful brighte.
 Now have I yow declared what she highte.

Next: The Second Nun's Tale