The Pardoner’s Wife’s Cousin’s Tale

have been considering for some time an attempt at poetry in a language different than English and settled on Middle English. I underestimated the difficulty of this project. It is nigh on to impossible to make it scan in iambic pentameter or rhyme the couplets when no one knows for sure how many syllables were in any given or exactly how that word was pronounced. The “e” at the end of words was apparently pronounced as a separate syllable.

I have admittedly lifted whole phrases here and there from Chaucer in order to make the thing long with as little effort on my part as possible. I do not think that he is in a position to protest. Still, for the most part it is original. “Clavenor” is just something that I made up. Perhaps it would be best to think Lewis Carroll instead of Chaucer.

Nathelees, here is the result of the effort. Perhaps I shall pass this along to a grandchild to polish in my memory. Eccentricity, albeit it closeted, is one of those generation skippers, is it not?

Whilom ther was dwellynge in Cantebrigge
A konnynge Clavenor, that born was of Lumbardye,
With fourtey-sevene yeer and with hool bodye hee,
Else way a man ful digne of reverence was hee,
But on wommen, ther as was his appetyt,
Er thanne a routheless bachiler hee disported;
Bigilere days corrumpyng chastitee did him delyt.

Bretful of likerous lecherye was lyk his sortes,
Disposed in lyf withal by his peert membres.
Nevere yat hee thoughte to maydens blent in chambres,
Nor drawen hee to memorie his paramours wanhope,
Pullen up ful many a smok in oother times sooth to seyn,
Throngen hemself in many elf-queene queyntes,
gylour on whuse leef ful many wydwes greveth.

This Clavenor adey was ravysshed in a traunce
Thanne did he take a yong wyf with a flaunce,
Which that he lovede ful moore than his lyf.
That she so fair was, and so yong therto,
For joye he hente hire in hise armes two.
His herte bathed in a bath of blisse,
A thousand tyme hee gan hir mouth a kisse.

Hir mouth was sweete as layte sommer’s
Hoord of apples leyd in hey or comber.
She wolde slepen in his armes al the nyght,
For this was his desir and hire delyght,
Thanne hee kiste hir naked ers full savorly,
Whit as morne milk whan sonne did breyke,
And she doon soones spille his abidyng acke.

Thanne whan anon Aprill, with shoures soote
The droghte of March had perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with that sweete breeth
Inspired had in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the Clavenor
Had in the nonce his sixtye yeer yronne,
Did she eek comme to him and sitte him doun.

“I take no moore delyt in thee,” quod she.
“Whil thou joyn the sparre to sparre, I wolde be free.”
Yet wylde and yong I am, but thou now been hoore,
Whil thou swonken, woostow weex thou cokewold.
I biknowe, make this my shrifteentente to bolt.”
And in a clause withouten no wordes mo,
That rebekke leet the Clavenor mid his wo.

She leet him ther amid his wrecchednesse
Having wreken vengeaunce on him for al her sexe.

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