Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CANTERBURY TALES: THE GENERAL PROLOGUE, by GEOFFREY CHAUCER



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THE CANTERBURY TALES: THE GENERAL PROLOGUE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Whan that aprille [april] with his shoures [showres] soote [sote]
Last Line: His tale anoon, and saide in this manere.


Whan that April with his showres soote
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veine in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flowr;
Whan Zephyrus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye
That sleepen al the night with open ye --
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages --
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;
And specially from every shires ende
Of Englelond to Canterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martyr for to seeke
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seke.
Bifel that in that seson on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with ful devout corage,
At night was come into that hostelrye
Wel nine and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle
That toward Canterbury wolden ride.
The chambres and the stables weren wide,
And wel we weren esed at the beste.
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everichoon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anoon,
And made forward erly for to rise,
To take oure way ther as I you devise.
But nathelees, whil I have time and space,
Er that I ferther in his tale pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to resoun
To telle you al the condicioun
Of eech of hem, so as it seemed me,
And whiche they were, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne:
And at a knight thanne wol I first biginne.
A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrye,
Trouthe and honour, freedom and curteisye.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And thereto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthinesse.
At Alisandre he was whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte time he hadde the boord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in Pruce;
In Lettou had he reised, and in Ruce,
No Cristen man so ofte of his degree;
In Gernade at the sege eek hadde he be
Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye;
At Lyeis was he, and at Satalye,
Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See
At many a noble arivee hadde he be.
At mortal batailes hadde he been fifteene,
And foughten for oure faith at Tramissene
In listes thries, and ay slain his fo.
This ilke worthy Knight hadde been also
Somtime with the lord of Palatye
Again another hethen in Turkye;
And everemore he hadde a soverein pris.
And though that he were worthy, he was wis,
And of his port as meeke as is a maide.
He nevere yit no vilainye ne saide
In al his lif unto no manere wight:
He was a verray, parfit, gentil knight.
But for to tellen you of his array,
His hors were goode, but he was nat gay.
Of fustian he wered a gipoun
Al bismotered with his haubergeoun,
For he was late come from his viage,
And wente for to doon his pilgrimage.
With him ther was his sone, a yong Squier,
A lovere and a lusty bacheler,
With lokkes crulle as they were laid in presse.
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
And wonderly delivere, and of greet strengthe.
And he hadde been som time in chivachye
In Flandres, in Artois, and Picardye,
And born him wel as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
Embrouded was he as it were a mede,
Al ful of fresshe flowres, white and rede;
Singing he was, or floiting, al the day:
He was as fressh as is the month of May.
Short was his gowne, with sleeves longe and wide.
Wel coude he sitte on hors, and faire ride;
He coude songes make, and wel endite,
Juste and eek daunce, and wel portraye and write.
So hote he loved that by nightertale
He slepte namore than dooth a nightingale.
Curteis he was, lowely, and servisable,
And carf biforn his fader at the table.
A Yeman hadde he and servants namo
At that time, for him liste ride so;
And he was clad in cote and hood of greene.
A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and keene,
Under his belt he bar ful thriftily;
Wel coude he dresse his takel yemanly:
His arwes drouped nought with fetheres lowe.
And in his hand he bar a mighty bowe.
A not-heed hadde he with a brown visage.
Of wodecraft wel coude he al the usage.
Upon his arm he bar a gay bracer,
And by his side a swerd and a bokeler,
And on that other side a gay daggere,
Harneised wel and sharp as point of spere;
A Cristophre on his brest of silver sheene;
An horn he bar, the baudrik was of greene.
A forster was he soothly, as I gesse.
Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hir smiling was ful simple and coy.
Hir gretteste ooth was but by sainte Loy!
And she was cleped Madame Eglantine.
Ful wel she soong the service divine,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely;
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford at the Bowe --
For Frenssh of Paris was to hire unknowe.
At mete wel ytaught was she withalle:
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
Ne wette hir fingres in hir sauce deepe;
Wel coude she carye a morsel, and wel keepe
That no drope ne fille upon hir brest.
In curteisye was set ful muchel hir lest.
Hir over-lippe wiped she so clene
That in hir coppe ther was no ferthing seene
Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte;
Ful semely after hir mete she raughte.
And sikery she was of greet disport,
And ful pleasant, and amiable of port,
And pained hire to countrefete cheere
Of court, and to been statlich of manere,
And to been holden digne of reverence.
But, for to speken of hir conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous
She wolde weep if that she saw a mous
Caught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.
Of smale houndes hadde she that she fedde
With rosted flessh, or milk and wastelbreed;
But sore wepte she if oon of hem were deed,
Of if men smoot it with a yerde smerte;
And al was conscience and tendre herte.
Ful semely hir wimpel pinched was,
Hir nose tretis, hir yen greye as glas,
Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed,
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed:
It was almost a spanne brood, I trowe,
For hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
Ful fetis was hir cloke, as I was war;
Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar
A paire of bedes, gauded al with greene,
And theron heeng a brooch of gold ful sheene,
On which ther was first writen a crowned A,
And after, Amor vincit omnia.
Another Noone with hire hadde she
That was hir chapelaine, and preestes three.
A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrye,
An outridere that loved v enerye,
A manly man, to been an abbot able.
Ful many a daintee hors hadde he in stable,
And whan he rood, men mighte his bridel heere
Ginglen in a whistling wind as clere
And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle
Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle.
The rule of Saint Maure or of Saint Beneit,
By cause that it was old and somdeel strait --
This ilke Monk leet olde thinges pace,
And heeld after the newe world the space.
He yaf nought of that text a pulled hen
That saith that hunteres been nought holy men,
Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees --
This is to sayn, a monk out of his cloistre;
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre.
And I saide his opinion was good:
What sholde he studye and make himselven wood
Upon a book in cloistre alway to poure,
Or swinke with his handes and laboure,
As Austin bit? How shal the world be served?
Lat Austin have his swink to him reserved!
Therfore he was a prikasour aright.
Grehoundes he hadde as swift as fowl in flight.
Of priking and of hunting for the hare
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
I sawgh his sleeves purfiled at the hand
With gris, and that the fineste of a land;
And for to festne his hood under his chin
He hadde of gold wrought a ful curious pin:
A love-knotte in the grettere ende ther was.
His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
And eek his face, as he hadde been anoint:
He was a lord ful fat and in good point;
His yen steepe, and rolling in his heed,
That stemed as a furnais of a leed,
His bootes souple, his hors in greet estat --
Now certainly he was a fair prelat.
He was nat pale as a forpined gost:
At fat swan loved he best of any rost.
His palfrey was as brown asis a berye.
A Frere ther was, a wantoune and a merye,
A limitour, a ful solempne man.
In alle the ordres foure is noon that can
So muche of daliaunce and fair langage:
He hadde maad ful many a mariage
Of yonge wommen at his owene cost;
Unto his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel biloved and familier was he
With frankelains over al in his contree,
And with worthy wommen of the town --
For he hadde power of confessioun,
As saide himself, more than a curat,
For of his ordre he was licenciat.
Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
And pleasant was his absolucioun.
He was an esy man to yive penaunce
Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce;
For unto a poore ordre for to yive
Is signe that a man is wel yshrive;
For if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt
He wiste that a man was repentaunt;
For many a man so hard is of his herte
He may nat weepe though him sore smerte:
Therfore, in stede of weeping and prayeres,
Men mote yive silver to the poore freres.
His tipet was ay farsed ful of knives
And pinnes, for to yiven faire wives;
And certainly he hadde a merye note;
Wel coude he singe and playen on a rote;
Of yeddinges he bar outrely the pris.
His nekke whit was as the flowr-de-lis;
Therto he strong was as a champioun.
He knew the tavernes wel in every town,
And every hostiler and tappestere,
Bet than a lazar or a beggestere.
For unto swich a worthy man as he
Accorded nat, as by his facultee,
To have with sike lazars aquaintaunce:
It is nat honeste, it may nought avaunce,
For to delen with no swich poraile,
But al with riche, and selleres of vitaile;
And over al ther as profit sholde arise,
Curteis he was, and lowely of servise.
Ther was no man nowher so vertuous:
He was the beste beggere in his hous.
And yaf a certain ferme for the graunt:
Noon of his bretheren cam ther in his haunt.
For though a widwe hadde nought a sho,
So plesant was his In principio
Yit wolde he have a ferthing er he wente;
His purchas was wel bettre than his rente.
And rage he coude as it were right a whelpe,
In love-dayes ther coude he muchel helpe,
For ther he was nat lik a cloisterer,
With a thredbare cope, as is a poore scoler,
But he was lik a maister or a pope.
Of double worstede was his semicope,
And rounded as a belle out of the presse.
Somwhat he lipsed for his wantounesse
To make his Englissh sweete upon his tonge;
And in his harping, whan he hadde songe,
His yen twinkled in his heed aright
As doon the sterres in the frosty night.
This worthy limitour was cleped Huberd.
A Marchant was ther with a forked beerd,
In motelee, and hye on hors he sat,
Upon his heed a Flandrissh bevere hat,
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
His resons he spak ful solempnely,
Souning alway th'encrees of his winning.
He wolde the see were kept for any thing
Bitwixen Middelburgh and Orewelle.
Wel coude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle.
This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette:
Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
So statly was he of his governaunce,
With his bargaines, and with his chevissaunce.
Forsoothe he was a worthy man withalle;
But, sooth to sayne, I noot how men him calle.
A Clerk ther was of Oxenforde also
That unto logik hadde longe ygo.
As lene was his hors as is a rake,
And he was nought right fat, I undertake,
But looked holwe, and therto sobrely.
Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy,
For he hadde geten him yit no benefice,
Ne was so wordly for to have office.
For him was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his philosophye,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrye.
But al be that he was a philosophre
Yit hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But al that he mighte of his freendes hente,
On bookes and on lerning he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules praye
Of hem that yaf him wherwith to scoleye.
Of studye took he most cure and most heede.
Nought oo word spak he more than was neede,
And that was said in forme and reverence,
And short and quik, and ful of heigh sentence:
Souning in moral vertu was his speeche,
And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.
A Sergeant of the Lawe, war and wis,
That often hadde been at the Parvis
Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of greet reverence --
He seemed swich, his wordes weren so wise.
Justice he was ful often in assise
By patente and by plein commissioun.
For his science and for his heigh renown
Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
So greet a purchasour was nowher noon;
Al was fee simple to him in effect --
His purchasing mighte nat been infect.
Nowher so bisy a many as he ther nas;
And yit he seemed bisier than he was.
In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle
That from the time of King William were falle.
Therto he coude endite and make a thing,
Ther coude no wight pinchen at his writing;
And every statut coude he plein by rote.
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote,
Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale.
Of his array telle I no lenger tale.
A Frankelain was in his compaignye:
Whit was his beerd as is the dayesye;
Of his complexion he was sanguin.
Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in win.
To liven in delit was evere his wone,
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinion that plein delit
Was verray felicitee parfit.
An housholdere and that a greet was he:
Saint Julian he was in his contree.
His breed, his ale, was always after oon;
A bettre envined man was nevere noon.
Withouten bake mete was nevere his hous,
Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous
It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke,
Of alle daintees that men coude thinke.
After the sondry sesons of the yeer
So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in mewe,
And many a breem, and many a luce in stewe.
Wo was his cook but if his sauce were
Poinant and sharp, and redy all his gere.
His table dormant in his halle alway
Stood redy covered all the longe day.
At sessions ther was he lord and sire.
Ful ofte time he was Knight of the Shire.
An anlaas and a gipser al of silk
Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
A shirreve hadde he been, and countour.
Was nowher swich a worthy vavasour.
An Haberdasshere and a Carpenter,
A Webbe, a Dyere, and a Tapicer --
And they were clothed alle in oo liveree
Of a solempne and greet fraternitee.
Ful fresshe and newe hir gere apiked was;
Hir knives were chaped nought with bras,
But al with silver; wrought ful clene and weel
Hir girdles and hir pouches everydeel.
Wel seemed eech of hem a fair burgeis
To sitten in a yeldehalle on a dais.
Everich, for the wisdom that he can,
Was shaply for to been an alderman.
For catel hadde they ynough and rente,
And eek hir wives wolde it wel assente --
And elles certain were they to blame:
It is ful fair to been ycleped "Madame,"
And goon to vigilies all bifore,
And have a mantel royalliche ybore.
A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones,
To boile the chiknes with the marybones,
And powdre-marchant tart and galingale.
Wel coude he knowe a draughte of London ale.
He coude roste, and seethe, and broile, and frye,
Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pie.
But greet harm was it thoughte me,
That on his shine a mormal hadde he.
For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.
A Shipman was ther, woning fer by weste --
For ought I woot, he was of Dertemouthe.
He rood upon a rouncy as he couthe,
In a gowne of falding to the knee.
A daggere hanging on a laas hadde he
Aboute his nekke, under his arm adown.
The hote somer hadde maad his hewe al brown;
And certainly he was a good felawe.
Ful many a draughte of win hadde he drawe
Fro Burdeuxward, whil that the chapman sleep:
Of nice conscience took he no keep;
If that he faught and hadde the hyer hand,
By water he sente hem hoom to every land.
But of his craft, to rekene wel his tides,
His stremes and his daungers him bisides,
His herberwe and his moone, his lodemenage,
There was noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
Hardy he was and wis to undertake;
With many a tempest hadde his beerd been shake;
He knew alle the havenes as they were
Fro Gotlond to the Cape of Finistere,
And every crike in Britaine and in Spaine.
His barge ycleped was the Maudelaine.
With us ther was a Doctour of Physik:
In al this world ne was ther noon him lik
To speken of physik and of sugerye.
For he was grounded in astronomye,
He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel
In houres by his magik naturel.
Wel coude he fortunen the ascendent
Of his images for his pacient.
He knew the cause of every maladye,
Were if of hoot or cold or moiste or drye,
And where engendred and of what humour:
He was a verray parfit praktisour.
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the roote,
Anoon he yaf the sike man his boote.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
To senden him drogges and his letuaries,
For eech of hem made other for to winne:
Hir frendshipe was nought newe to biginne.
Wel knew he the olde Esculapius,
And Deiscorides and eek Rufus,
Olde Ipocras, Hali, and Galien,
Serapion, Razis, and Avicen,
Averrois, Damascien, and Constantin,
Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertin.
Of his diete mesurable was he,
For it was of no superfluitee,
But of greet norrising and digestible.
His studye was but litel on the Bible.
In sanguin and in pers he clad was al,
Lined with taffata and with sendal;
And yit he was but esy of dispence;
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in physik is a cordial,
Therfore he loved gold in special.
A good Wif was ther of biside Bathe,
But she wa somdeel deef, and that was scathe.
Of cloth-making she hadde swich an haunt,
She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.
In al the parissh wif ne was ther noon
That to the offring bifore hire sholde goon,
And if ther dide, certain so wroth was she
That she was out of alle charitee.
Hir coverchiefs ful fine were of ground --
I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed.
Hir hosen weren of fin scarlet reed,
Ful straite yteyd, and shoes ful moiste and newe.
Bold was hir face and fair and reed of hewe.
She was a worthy womman al hir live:
Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde five,
Withouten other compaigny in youthe --
But therof needeth nought to speke as nouthe.
And thries hadde she been at Jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a straunge streem;
At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne,
In Galice at Saint Jame, and at Coloigne:
She coude muchel of wandring by the waye.
Gat-toothed was she, soothly for to saye.
Upon an amblere esily she sat,
Ywimpled wel, and on hir heed an hat
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe,
A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
In felaweshipe wel coude she laughe and carpe.
Of remedies of love she knew parchaunce,
For she coude of that art the olde daunce.
A good many was ther of religioun,
And was a poore Person of a town,
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversitee ful pacient,
And swich he was preved ofte sithes.
Ful loth were him to cursen for his tithes,
But rather wolde he yiven, out of doute,
Unto his poore parisshens aboute
Of his offring and eek of his substaunce:
He coude in litel thing have suffisaunce.
Wid was his parissh, and houses fer asonder,
But he ne lafte nought for rain ne thonder,
In siknesse nor in meschief, to vistie
The ferreste in his parissh, muche and lite,
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf
That first he wroughte, and afterward he taughte.
Out of the Gospel he tho wordes caughte,
And this figure he added eek therto:
That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste.
And shame it is, if a preest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oughte a preest ensample for to yive
By his clennesse how that his sheep sholde live.
He sette nought his benefice to hire
And leet his sheep encombred in the mire
And ran to London, unto Sainte Poules,
To seeken him a chaunterye for soules,
Or with a bretherhede to been withholde,
But dwelte at hoom and kepte wel his folde,
So that the wolf ne made it nought miscarye:
He was a shepherde and nought a mercenarye.
And though he holy were and vertuous,
He was to sinful men nought despitous,
Ne of his speeche daungerous ne digne,
But in his teching discreet and benigne,
To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse
By good ensample -- this was his bisinesse.
But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were, of heigh or lowe estat,
Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones:
A bettre preest I trowe ther nowher noon is.
He waited after no pompe and reverence,
Ne maked him a spiced conscience,
But Cristes lore and his Apostles twelve
He taughte, but first he folwed it himselve.
With him ther was a Plowman, was his brother,
That hadde ylad of dong ful many a fother.
A trewe swinkere and a good was he,
Living in pees and parfit charitee.
God loved he best with al his hoole herte
At alle times, though him gamed or smerte,
And thanne his neighebor right as himselve.
He wolde thresshe, and therto dike and delve,
For Cristes sake, for every poore wight,
Withouten hire, if it laye in his might.
His tithes payed he ful faire and wel,
Bothe of his proper swink and his catel.
In a tabard he rood upon a mere.
Ther was also a Reeve and a Millere,
A Somnour, and a Pardoner also,
A Manciple, and myself -- ther were namo.
The Millere was a stout carl for the nones.
Ful big he was of brawn and eek of bones --
That preved wel, for overal ther he cam
At wrastling he wolde have alway the ram.
He was short-shuldred, brood, a thikke knarre.
Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it at a renning with his heed.
His beerd as any sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade;
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and theron stood a tuft of heres,
Rede as the bristles of a sowes eres;
His nosethirles blake were and wide.
A swerd and a bokeler bar he by his side.
His mouth as greet was as a greet furnais.
He was a janglere and a Goliardais,
And that was most of sinne and harlotries.
Wel coude he stelen corn and tollen thries --
And yit he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
A baggepipe wel coude he blowe and soune,
And therwithal he broughte us out of towne.
A gentil Manciple was ther of a temple,
Of which achatours mighte take exemple
For to been wise in bying of vitaile;
For wheither that he paide or took by taile,
Algate he waited so in his achat
That he was ay biforn and in good stat.
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace
That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace
The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?
Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten
That weren of lawe expert and curious,
Of whiche ther were a dozeine in that hous
Worthy to been stiwardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in Engelond,
To make him live by his propre good
In honour dettelees but if he were wood,
Or live as scarsly as him list desire,
And able for to helpen al a shire
In any caas that mighte falle or happe,
And yit this Manciple sette hir aller cappe!
The Reeve was a sclendre colerik man;
His beerd was shave as neigh as evere he can;
His heer was by his eres ful round yshorn;
His top was dokked lik a preest biforn;
Ful longe were his legges and ful lene,
Ylik a staf, ther was no calf yseene.
Wel coude he keepe a gerner and a binne --
Ther was noon auditour coude on him winne.
Wel site he by the droughte and by the rain
The yeelding of his seed and of his grain.
His lordes sheep, his need, his dayerye,
His swin, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye
Was hoolly in this Reeves governinge,
And by his covenant yaf the rekeninge,
Sin that his lord was twenty-yeer of age.
There coude no man bringe him in arrerage.
Ther nas baillif, hierde, nor other hine,
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covine --
They were adrad of him as of the deeth.
His woning was ful faire upon an heeth;
With greene trees shadwed was his place.
He coude bettre than his lord purchace.
Ful riche he was astored prively.
His lord wel coude he plesen subtilly,
Toi yive and lene him of his owene good,
And have a thank, and yit a cote and hood.
In youthe he hadde lerned a good mister:
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
This Reeve sat upon a ful good stot
That was a pomely grey and highte Scot.
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his side he bar a rusty blade.
Of Northfolk was this Reeve of which I telle,
Biside a town men clepen Baldeswelle.
Tukked he was as is a frere aboute,
And evere he rood the hindreste of oure route.
A Somnour was ther with us in that place
That hadde a fir-reed cherubinnes face,
For saucefleem he was, with yen narwe,
And hoot he was, and lecherous as a sparwe,
With scaled browes blake and piled beerd:
Of his visage children were aferd.
Ther nas quiksilver, litarge, ne brimstoon,
Boras, ceruce, ne oile of tartre noon,
Ne oinement that wolde clense and bite,
That him mighte helpen of his whelkes white,
Nor of the knobbes sitting on his cheekes.
Wel loved he garlek, oinons, and eek leekes,
And for to drinke strong win reed as blood.
Thanne wolde he speke and crye as he were wood;
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the win,
Thanne wolde he speke no word but Latin:
A fewe termes hadde he, two or three,
That he hadde lerned out of some decree;
No wonder is -- he herde it al the day,
And eek ye knowe wel how that a jay
Can clepen "Watte" as wel as can the Pope --
But whoso coude in other thing him grope,
Thanne hadde he spent all his philosophye;
Ay Questio quid juris wolde he crye.
He was a gentil harlot and a kinde;
A bettre felawe sholde men nought finde:
He wolde suffre, for a quart of win,
A good felawe to have his concubin
A twelfmonth, and excusen him at the fulle;
Ful prively a finch eek coude he pulle.
And if he foond owher a good felawe
He wolde techen him to have noon awe
In swich caas of the Ercedekenes curs,
But if a mannes soule were in his purs,
For in his purs he sholde ypunisshed be.
"Purs is the Ercedekenes helle," saide he.
But wel I woot he lied right in deede:
Of cursing oughte eech gilty man drede,
For curs wol slee right as assoiling savith --
And also war him of a significavit.
In daunger hadde he at his owene gise
The yonge girles of the diocise,
And knew hir conseil, and was al hir reed.
A gerland hadde he set upon his heed
As greet as it were for an ale-stake;
A bokeler hadde he maad him of a cake.
With him ther rood a gentil Pardoner
Of Rouncival, his freend and his compeer,
That straight was comen fro the Court of Rome.
Ful loude he soong, "Com hider, love, to me."
This Somnour bar to him a stif burdoun:
Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
But smoothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
By ounces heenge his lokkes that he hadde,
And therwith he his shuldres overspradde,
But thinne it lay, by colpons, oon by oon;
But hood for jolitee wered he noon,
For it was trussed up in his walet:
Him thoughte he rood al of the newe jet.
Dischevelee save his cappe he rood al bare.
Swiche glaring yen hadde he as an hare.
A vernicle hadde he sowed upon his cappe,
His walet biforn him in his lappe,
Bretful of pardon, comen from Rome al hoot.
A vois he hadde as smal as hath a goot;
No beerd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have;
As smoothe it was as it were late yshave:
I trowe he were a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, fro Berwik into Ware,
Ne was ther swich another pardoner;
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer
Which that he saide was Oure Lady veil;
He saide he hadde a gobet of the sail
That Sainte Peter hadde whan that he wente
Upon the see, til Jesu Crist him hente.
He hadde a crois of laton, ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones,
But with thise relikes whan that he foond
A poore person dwelling upon lond,
Upon a day he gat him more moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes twaye;
And thus with feined flaterye and japes
He made the person and the peple his apes.
But trewely to tellen at the laste,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste;
Wel coude he rede a lesson and a storye,
But alderbest he soong an offertorye,
For wel he wiste whan that song was songe,
He moste preche and wel affile his tonge
To winne silver, as he ful wel coude --
Therfore he soong the merierly and loude.
Now have I told you soothly in a clause
Th'estaat, th'array, the nombre, and eek the cause
Why that assembled was this compaignye
In Southwerk at this gentil hostelrye
That highte the Tabard, faste by the Belle;
But now is time to you for to telle
How that we baren us that ilke night
Whan we were in that hostelrye alight;
And after wol I telle of oure viage,
And al the remenant of oure pilgrimage.
But first I praye you of youre curteisye
That ye n'arette it nought my vilainye
Though that I plainly speke in this matere
To telle you hir wordes and hir cheere,
Ne though I speke hir wordes proprely;
For this ye knowen also wel as I:
Who so shal telle a tale after a man
He moot reherce, as neigh as evere he can,
Everich a word, if it be in his charge,
Al speke he nevere so rudeliche and large,
Or elles he moot telle his tale untrewe,
Or feine thing, or finde words newe;
He may nought spare although he were his brother:
He moot as wel saye oo word as another.
Crist spake himself ful brode in Holy Writ,
And wel ye woot no vilainye is it;
Eeek Plato saith, who so can him rede,
The wordes mote be cosin to the deede.
Also I praye you to firyive it me
Al have I nat set folk in hir degree
Here in this tale as that they sholde stonde:
My wit is short, ye many wel understonde.
Greet cheere made oure Host us everichoon,
And to the soper sette he us anoon.
He served us with vitaile at the beste.
Strong was the win, and wel to drinke us leste.
A semely man oure Hoste was withalle
For to been a marchal in an halle;
A large man he was, with yen steepe,
A fairer burgeis was ther noon in Chepe --
Bold of his speeche, and wis, and wel ytaught,
And of manhood him lakkede right naught.
Eek therto he was right a merye man,
And after soper playen he bigan,
And spak of mirthe amonges othere thinges --
Whan that we hadde maad oure rekeninges --
And saide thus, "Now, lordinges, trewely,
Ye been to me right welcome, hertely.
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lie,
I sawgh nat this yeer so merye a campaignye
At ones in this herberwe as is now.
Fain wolde I doon you mirthe, wiste I how.
And of a mirthe I am right now bithought,
To doon you ese, and it shal coste nought.
"Ye goon to Canterbury -- God you speede;
The blisful martyr quite you youre meede.
And wel I woot as ye goon by the waye
Ye shapen you to talen and to playe,
For trewely, confort ne mirthe is noon
To ride by the waye domb as stoon;
And therfore wol I maken you disport
As I saide erst, and doon you som confort;
And if you liketh alle, by oon assent,
For to stonden at my juggement,
And for to werken as I shal you saye,
Tomorwe whan ye riden by the waye --
Now by my fader soule that is deed,
But ye be merye I wol yive you myn heed!
Holde up youre handes withouten more speeche."
Oure counseil was nat longe for to seeche;
Us thoughte it was nat worth to make it wis,
And graunted him withouten more avis,
And bade him saye his voirdit as him leste.
"Lordinges," quod he, "now herkneth for the beste;
But taketh it nought, I praye you, in desdain.
This is the point, to speken short and plain,
That eech of you, to shorte with oure waye
In this viage, shal tellen tales twaye --
To Canterburyward, I mene it so,
And hoomward he shal tellen othere two,
Of aventures that whilom have bifalle;
And which of you that bereth him best of alle --
That is to sayn, that telleth in this cas
Tales of best sentence and most solas --
Shal have a soper at oure aller cost,
Here in this place, sitting by this post,
Whan that we come again fro Canterbury.
And for to make you the more mury
I wol myself goodly with you ride --
Right at myn owene cost -- and be youre gide.
And who so wol my juggement withsaye
Shal paye al that we spende by the waye.
And if y vouche sauf that it be so,
Telle me anoon, withouten wordes mo,
And I wol erly shape me therfore."
This thing was graunted and oure othes swore
With ful glad herte, and prayden him also
That he wolde vouche sauf for to do so,
And that he wolde been oure governour,
And of oure tales juge and reportour,
And sette a soper at a certain pris,
And we wol ruled been at his devis,
In heigh and lowe; and thus by oon assent
We been accorded to his juggement.
And therupon the win was fet anoon;
We dronken and to reste wente eechoon
Withouten any lenger taryinge.
Amorwe whan that day bigan to springe
Up roos oure Host and was oure aller cok,
And gadred us togidres in a flok,
And forth we riden, a litel more than pas,
Unto the watering of Saint Thomas;
And ther oure Host bigan his hors arreste,
And saide, "Lordes, herkneth if you leste:
Ye woot youre forward and it you recorde:
If evensong and morwesong accorde,
Lat see now who shal telle the firste tale.
As evere mote I drinken win or ale,
Who so be rebel to my juggement
Shal paye for al that by the way is spent.
Now draweth cut er that we ferre twinne:
He which that hath the shorteste shal biginne.
"Sire Knight," quod he, "my maister and my lord,
Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord.
Comeht neer," quod he, "my lady Prioresse,
And ye, sire Clerk, lat by youre shamefastnesse --
Ne studieth nought. Lay hand to, every man!"
Anoon to drawen every wight bigan,
And shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,
The soothe is this, the cut fil to the Knight;
Of which ful blithe and glad was every wight,
And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
By forward and by composicioun,
As ye han herd. What needeth wordes mo?
And whan this goode man sawgh that it was so,
As he that wis was and obedient
To keepe his forward by his free assent,
He saide, "Sin I shal biginne the game,
What, welcome be the cut, in Goddes name!
Now lat us ride, and herkneth what I saye."
And with that word we riden forth oure waye,
And he bigan with right a merye cheere
His tale anoon, and saide in this manere.









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