Addition to the General Prologue
A Maid there was young and fair
Modest a maiden unbound in hair
The daughter of the Knight’s sworn brother
He was her guardian; she had no other.
She was to be married above her degree
To a Baron much older then she.
Being full pious she feared to be wed
Believing she would be sped
She wore a gown of modest blue
That had a medal of her name saint pinned too.
She was to pray the Saint give her Aid
Thus to Canterbury goes gentle younge Maid.
Here begins the Maiden’s Prologue
“Dear Mistress Agnes” said mine hostes
We have need of a tale from thee now the most
Can you tell a tale as part of our game?
We pray you thou not us disdain.
“By my honre” quothe she
The tales I knowe are those of joy and courtesyie
Those tales I heard at my guardian’s whim
I heard them but to please him.
Alas he wishes me to be wed,
And I myself would rather be dead.
I pray Saint Thomas to take my husband to be
So he may leave this world of misery.
Perhaps instead it should be me
For I love another, lower in degree.
A gallente young man holds my heart
How cruel the fates we must be apart.
But I must a tale to tell,
Your pardon if it is not spoken well.
Yet before the fires grow cold
I will tale my Tale of Tristram and Isolde.
Here begins the Tale of Tristram and Isolde
Tristram was a knight in the service of his uncle-King
He had promised him a boon in anything.
The King desired most Isolde a Princess most fine
But Tristram and she had drank from love-potioned wine
The pair was doomed to love each full strong
Yea thou all knew all was wrong.
Tristram gave up the lady to become his Queen
Bemoaned the old, mean Mark in everything.
The King bestowed honors for bringing his bride
Tristram could not stay, thought he tried.
For a year he was away from her fair face
He weakened for want of her embrace.
He came back to Cornwall to see her again
And heard of a court of the Kings men.
He cut a hazel for which to write
His love for the Queen, his hope and light.
The Queen saw the staff and turned full pale
For she loved Tristram in her heart
And knew at once she did not wish to part.
They did not wish to leave eachother’s compagnye
Time too brief under honeysuckled tree
Tristram had his love won,
But the King Mark learned and they were undone.
King Mark slew Tristram and with his noble last breath
He again spoke of love for Isolde and welcome death.
Isolde held him and gave a last embrace
And died too in the same place.
From hence they were buried a hazel grew
And around it a honeysuckle too
One plant cannot grow alone
So marks their deaths but one stone.
God give them tender mercy pray
For love of another may lead all astray.
Here ends the Maiden’s Tale of Tristram and Isolde
I chose to write a tale about a maiden, a young girl because the tales are lacking in female characters. The Wife of Bath, Nun and Prioress all represent different parts of the medieval society but The Canterbury Tales lacking a female counterpart to the Knight, a knight’s daughter. A Knight’s daughter was my choice because she had enough status to be well educated and it is possible that a well-off Knight would be interested in forming alliances by having his ward marry a Baron. I chose to put the Maiden within the framework of the Knight’s group because she could compliment the Squire, Yoeman and Knight. She would have to travel with escorts so that was an ideal solution.
I chose for my maiden to tell the story of Tristram and Isolde because it is a well-known story of courtly love, second only to Lancelot and Guenevere. Also since my pilgrim is going to be married to a much older Baron as part of an arrange marriage it would suffice for her to tell a romantic story of a young man and young woman who love each other despite the older man Isolde is married too. The thought of loving someone below her status is another part of courtly love where the man gives homage to a lady who has higher status.
Additionally I wanted to have some humor in it and the thought of having a girl being “full pious” who is nonetheless going to pray that her fiancée or herself die was my solas attempt. The tale had to be short but I wanted it to be framed by part of the General Prologue and a Prologue to the tale itself to give the reader an idea of why this particular Pilgrim was telling that kind of tale.
De France, Marie. Translated by Shoaf, Judith P. "Chevrefoil"
Bulfinch, T. “The Age of Chivlary.” Doubleday Book. New York.
I wrote this for a Canterbury Tales class, the inevitable "Write your Own Canterbury Tales" contest. I'm proud of it because I used period sources instead of modern counterpoints.