L'ENVOY OF CHAUCER TO BUKTON.
My Master Bukton, when of Christ our King
Was asked, What is truth or soothfastness?
He not a word answer'd to that asking,
As who saith, no man is all true, I guess;
And therefore, though I highte* to express
The sorrow and woe that is in marriage,
I dare not write of it no wickedness,
Lest I myself fall eft* in such dotage.**
I will not say how that it is the chain
Of Satanas, on which he gnaweth ever;
But I dare say, were he out of his pain,
As by his will he would be bounden never.
But thilke* doated fool that eft had lever
Y-chained be, than out of prison creep,
God let him never from his woe dissever,
Nor no man him bewaile though he weep!
But yet, lest thou do worse, take a wife;
Bet is to wed than burn in worse wise; <2>
But thou shalt have sorrow on thy flesh *thy life,* *all thy life*
And be thy wife's thrall, as say these wise.
And if that Holy Writ may not suffice,
Experience shall thee teache, so may hap,
That thee were lever to be taken in Frise, <3>
Than eft* to fall of wedding in the trap.
This little writ, proverbes, or figure,
I sende you; take keep* of it, I read!
"Unwise is he that can no weal endure;
If thou be sicker,* put thee not in dread."** *in security **danger
The Wife of Bath I pray you that you read,
Of this mattere which that we have on hand.
God grante you your life freely to lead
In freedom, for full hard is to be bond.
Notes to L'Envoy of Chaucer to Bukton.
1. Tyrwhitt, founding on the reference to the Wife of Bath,
places this among Chaucer's latest compositions; and states that
one Peter de Bukton held the office of king's escheator for
Yorkshire in 1397. In some of the old editions, the verses were
made the Envoy to the Book of the Duchess Blanche -- in very
bad taste, when we consider that the object of that poem was to
console John of Gaunt under the loss of his wife.
2. "But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to
marry than to burn." 1 Cor.
3. Lever to be taken in Frise: better to be taken prisoner in
Friesland -- where probably some conflict was raging at the