PROLOGUE TO MELIBEUS
No more of this, for God’s high dignity!”
Exclaimed our host, “For you, sir, do make me
So weary with your vulgar foolishness
That, as may God so truly my soul bless,
My two ears ache from all your worthless speech;
Now may such rhymes the devil have, and each!
This sort of thing is doggerel,” said he.
“Why so?” I asked, “Why will you hinder me
In telling tales more than another man,
Since I have told the best rhyme that I can?”
“By God!” cried he, “now plainly, in a word,
Your dirty rhyming is not worth a turd;
You do naught else but waste and fritter time.
Sir, in one word, you shall no longer rhyme.
Let’s see if you can use the country verse,
Or tell a tale in prose- you might do worse-
Wherein there’s mirth or doctrine good and plain.’
“Gladly,” said I, “by God’s sweet tears and pain,
I will relate a little thing in prose
That ought to please you, or so I suppose,
For surely, else, you’re contumelious.
It is a moral tale, right virtuous,
Though it is told, sometimes, in different wise
By different folk, as I shall you apprise.
As thus: You know that each evangelist
Who tells the passion of Lord Jesus Christ
Says not in all things as his fellows do,
But, nonetheless, each gospel is all true.
And all of them accord in their essence,
Howbeit there’s in telling difference.
For some of them say more and some say less
When they His piteous passion would express;
I mean now Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;
Yet, without doubt, their meaning is all one.
And therefore, masters all, I do beseech,
If you should think I vary in my speech,
As thus: That I do quote you somewhat more
Of proverbs than you’ve ever heard before,
Included in this little treatise here,
To point the morals out, as they appear,
And though I do not quite the same words say
That you have heard before, yet now, I pray,
You’ll blame me not; for in the basic sense
You will not find a deal of difference
From the true meaning of that tale polite
After the which this happy tale I write.
And therefore hearken now to what I say,
And let me tell you all my tale, I pray.”