The Canterbury Tales/General Prologue

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The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
General Prologue

General Prologue[edit]

Here bygynneth the Book of the Tales of Caunterbury

     Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
     The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
     And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
     Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
 5 Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
     Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
     The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
     Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
     And smale foweles maken melodye,
 10 That slepen al the nyght with open yë
     (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);
     Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
     And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
     To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
 15 And specially from every shires ende
     Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
     The hooly blisful martir for to seke
     That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.
 
        Bifil that in that seson, on a day,
 20 In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
     Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
     To Caunterbury with ful devout corage,
     At nyght was come into that hostelrye
     Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
 25 Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
     In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
     That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
     The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
     And wel we weren esed atte beste;
 30 And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
     So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
     That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
     And made forward erly for to ryse
     To take our wey, ther as I yow devyse.
 
 35 But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
     Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
     Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun
     To telle yow al the condicioun
     Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
 40 And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
     And eek in what array that they were inne;
     And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.
 
        A KNYGHT ther was, and that a worthy man,
     That fro the tyme that he first bigan
 45 To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
     Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
     Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
     And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
     As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
 50 And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
     At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne.
     Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
     Aboven alle nacions in Pruce;
     In Lettow hadde he reysed, and in Ruce,
 55 No Cristen man so ofte of his degree.
     In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be
     Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye.
     At Lyeys was he and at Satalye,
     Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See
 60 At many a noble armee hadde he be.
     At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
     And foughten for oure feith at Tramyssene
     In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo.
     This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also
 65 Somtyme with the lord of Palatye
     Agayn another hethen in Turkye.
     And everemoore he hadde a sovereyn prys;
     And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
     And of his port as meeke as is a mayde.
 70 He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
     In al his lyf unto no maner wight.
     He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.
     But, for to tellen yow of his array,
     His hors were goode, but he was nat gay.
 75 Of fustian he wered a gypon
     Al bismotered with his habergeoun,
     For he was late ycome from his viage,
     And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
 
        With hym ther was his sone, a yong SQUIER,
 80 A lovyere and a lusty bacheler;
     With lokkes crulle, as they were leyd in presse.
     Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
     Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
     And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
 85 And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
     In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie,
     And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
     In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
     Embrouded was he, as it were a meede,
 90 Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede;
     Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day,
     He was as fressh as is the monthe of May.
     Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
     Wel koude he sitte on hors, and faire ryde.
 95 He koude songes make, and wel endite,
     Juste, and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
     So hoote he lovede, that by nyghtertale
     He slepte namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
     Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
 100 And carf biforn his fader at the table.
 
        A YEMAN hadde he and servantz namo
     At that tyme, for hym liste ride soo;
     And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
     A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene
 105 Under his belt he bar ful thriftily,
     (Wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly:
     Hise arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe)
     And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
     A not heed hadde he, with a broun visage,
 110 Of woodecraft wel koude he al the usage.
     Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
     And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
     And on that oother syde a gay daggere
     Harneised wel and sharpe as point of spere.
 115 A Cristopher on his brest of silver sheene.
     An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene;
     A forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.
 
        Ther was also a Nonne, a PRIORESSE,
     That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
 120 Hir gretteste ooth was but by Seinte Loy;
     And she was cleped Madame Eglentyne.
     Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
     Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
     And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
 125 After the scole of Stratford-atte-Bowe,
     For Frenssh of Parys was to hir unknowe.
     At mete wel ytaught was she with alle:
     She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
     Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe;
 130 Wel koude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe
     That no drope ne fille upon hir brist.
     In curteisie was set ful muche hir list.
     Hire over-lippe wyped she so clene
     That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene
 135 Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte.
     Ful semely after hir mete she raughte.
     And sikerly, she was of greet desport,
     And ful plesaunt, and amyable of port,
     And peyned hir to countrefete cheere
 140 Of court, and been estatlich of manere,
     And to ben holden digne of reverence.
     But, for to speken of hir conscience,
     She was so charitable and so pitous
     She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous
 145 Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.
     Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde
     With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel-breed.
     But soore weep she if oon of hem were deed,
     Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte;
 150 And al was conscience, and tendre herte.
     Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was,
     Hire nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
     Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed;
     But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed;
 155 It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe;
     For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
     Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war;
     Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar
     A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
 160 An theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene,
     On which ther was first write a crowned A,
     And after Amor vincit omnia.
 
        Another NONNE with hir hadde she,
     That was hire chapeleyne, and preestes thre.
 
 165 A MONK ther was, a fair for the maistrie,
     An outridere, that lovede venerie,
     A manly man, to been an abbot able.
     Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable,
     And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
 170 Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere
     And eek as loude, as dooth the chapel belle.
     Ther as this lord was keper of the celle,
     The reule of Seint Maure, or of Seint Beneit,
     By cause that it was old and somdel streit
 175 This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace,
     And heeld after the newe world the space.
     He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
     That seith that hunters beth nat hooly men,
     Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
 180 Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees,-
     This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre
     But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre;
     And I seyde his opinioun was good.
     What sholde he studie, and make hymselven wood,
 185 Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,
     Or swynken with his handes and laboure,
     As Austyn bit? How shal the world be served?
     Lat Austyn have his swynk to him reserved!
     Therfore he was a prikasour aright:
 190 Grehoundes he hadde, as swift as fowel in flight;
     Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare
     Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
     I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond
     With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
 195 And, for to festne his hood under his chyn,
     He hadde of gold ywroght a curious pyn;
     A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
     His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
     And eek his face, as it hadde been enoynt.
 200 He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt,
     Hise eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed,
     That stemed as a forneys of a leed;
     His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat.
     Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat;
 205 He was nat pale as a forpyned goost.
     A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
     His palfrey was as broun as is a berye,
 
        A FRERE ther was, a wantowne and a merye,
     A lymytour, a ful solempne man.
 210 In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan
     So muchel 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,
 215 And wel biloved and famulier was he
     With frankeleyns overal in his contree,
     And eek with worthy wommen of the toun;
     For he hadde power of confessioun,
     As seyde hymself, moore than a curat,
 220 For of his ordre he was licenciat.
     Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
     And plesaunt was his absolucioun:
     He was an esy man to yeve penaunce,
     Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce.
 225 For unto a povre ordre for to yive
     Is signe that a man is wel yshryve;
     For, if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt,
     He wiste that a man was repentaunt;
     For many a man so harde is of his herte,
 230 He may nat wepe, al thogh hym soore smerte;
     Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyeres
     Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres.
     His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves
     And pynnes, for to yeven yonge wyves.
 235 And certeinly he hadde a murye note:
     Wel koude he synge, and pleyen on a rote;
     Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris.
     His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys;
     Therto he strong was as a champioun.
 240 He knew the tavernes wel in every toun
     And everich hostiler and tappestere
     Bet than a lazar or a beggestere;
     For unto swich a worthy man as he
     Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
 245 To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce.
     It is nat honeste, it may nat avaunce,
     For to deelen with no swich poraille,
     But al with riche and selleres of vitaille.
     And over al, ther as profit sholde arise,
 250 Curteis he was, and lowely of servyse.
     Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous.
     He was the beste beggere in his hous;
     (And yaf a certeyn ferme for the graunt
     Noon of his brethren cam ther in his haunt;)
 255 For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho,
     So plesaunt was his "In principio"
     Yet wolde he have a ferthyng, er he wente;
     His purchas was wel bettre than his rente.
     And rage he koude, as it were right a whelp.
 260 In love-dayes ther koude he muchel help,
     For there he was nat lyk a cloysterer
     With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler,
     But he was lyk a maister or a pope;
     Of double worstede was his semycope,
 265 That rounded as a belle out of the presse.
     Somwhat he lipsed for his wantownesse
     To make his Englissh sweete upon his tonge;
     And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe,
     Hise eyen twynkled in his heed aryght
 270 As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght.
     This worthy lymytour was cleped Huberd.
 
        A MARCHANT was ther with a forked berd,
     In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat;
     Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bever hat,
 275 His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
     His resons he spak ful solempnely,
     Sownynge alway th'encrees of his wynnyng.
     He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
     Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.
 280 Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle.
     This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette;
     Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
     So estatly was he of his governaunce
     With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce.
 285 For sothe, he was a worthy man with-alle,
     But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle.
 
        A CLERK ther was of Oxenford also,
     That unto logyk hadde longe ygo.
     As leene was his hors as is a rake,
 290 And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
     But looked holwe and therto sobrely.
     Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy;
     For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
     Ne was so worldly for to have office.
 295 For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
     Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
     Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
     Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
     But al be that he was a philosophre,
 300 Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
     But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
     On bookes and on lernynge he it spente,
     And bisily gan for the soules preye
     Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye.
 305 Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede.
     Noght o word spak he moore than was neede,
     And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
     And short and quyk, and ful of hy sentence;
     Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche,
 310 And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.
 
        A SERGEANT OF THE LAWE, war and wys,
     That often hadde been at the Parvys,
     Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
     Discreet he was, and of greet reverence-
 315 He semed swich, hise wordes weren so wise.
     Justice he was ful often in assise,
     By patente, and by pleyn commissioun.
     For his science, and for his heigh renoun,
     Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
 320 So greet a purchasour was nowher noon:
     Al was fee symple to hym in effect,
     His purchasyng myghte nat been infect.
     Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
     And yet he semed bisier than he was.
 325 In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle
     That from the tyme of Kyng William were falle.
     Therto he koude endite and make a thyng,
     Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng;
     And every statut koude he pleyn by rote.
 330 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 FRANKELEYN was in his compaignye.
     Whit was his berd as is a dayesye;
 335 Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
     Wel loved he by the morwe a sope in wyn,;
     To lyven in delit was evere his wone,
     For he was Epicurus owene sone,
     That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
 340 Was verray felicitee parfit.
     An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
     Seint Julian was he in his contree.
     His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon,
     A bettre envyned man was nowher noon.
 345 Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous
     Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous,
     It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke,
     Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke.
     After the sondry sesons of the yeer,
 350 So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
     Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe,
     And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe.
     Wo was his cook, but if his sauce were
     Poynaunt and sharp, and redy al his geere.
 355 His table dormant in his halle alway
     Stood redy covered al the longe day.
     At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire;
     Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire.
     An anlaas and a gipser al of silk
 360 Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
     A shirreve hadde he been, and a countour.
     Was nowher swich a worthy vavasour.
 
        An HABERDASSHERE and a CARPENTER,
     A WEBBE, a DYERE, and a TAPYCER,–
 365 And they were clothed alle in o lyveree
     Of a solempne and a greet fraternitee.
     Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was;
     Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras,
     But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel,
 370 Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel.
     Wel semed ech of hem a fair burgeys
     To sitten in a yeldehalle on a deys.
     Everich, for the wisdom that he kan,
     Was shaply for to been an alderman.
 375 For catel hadde they ynogh and rente,
     And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente;
     And elles certeyn, were they to blame.
     It is ful fair to been ycleped "madame,"
     And goon to vigilies al bifore,
 380 And have a mantel roialliche ybore.

        A COOK they hadde with hem for the nones
     To boille the chiknes with the marybones,
     And poudre-marchant tart, and galyngale.
     Wel koude he knowe a draughte of London ale.
 385 He koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye,
     Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pye.
     But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me,
     That on his shyne a mormal hadde he.
     For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.

 390 A SHIPMAN was ther, wonynge fer by weste;
     For aught I woot, he was of Dertemouthe.
     He rood upon a rouncy, as he kouthe,
     In a gowne of faldyng to the knee.
     A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he
 395 Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
     The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun,
     And certeinly he was a good felawe.
     Ful many a draughte of wyn had he ydrawe
     Fro Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman sleep.
 400 Of nyce conscience took he no keep.
     If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond,
     By water he sente hem hoom to every lond.
     But of his craft, to rekene wel his tydes,
     His stremes, and his daungers hym bisides,
 405 His herberwe and his moone, his lodemenage,
     Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
     Hardy he was, and wys to undertake;
     With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake.
     He knew alle the havenes as they were,
 410 From Gootlond to the Cape of Fynystere,
     And every cryke in Britaigne and in Spayne.
     His barge ycleped was the Maudelayne.

        With us ther was a DOCTOUR OF PHISIK;
     In al this world ne was ther noon hym lik,
 415 To speke of phisik and of surgerye,
     For he was grounded in astronomye.
     He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel
     In houres, by his magyk natureel.
     Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent
 420 Of his ymages for his pacient.
     He knew the cause of everich maladye,
     Were it of hoot, or coold, or moyste, or drye,
     And where they engendred, and of what humour.
     He was a verray parfit praktisour:
 425 The cause yknowe, and of his harm the roote,
     Anon he yaf the sike man his boote.
     Ful redy hadde he hise apothecaries
     To sende him drogges and his letuaries,
     For ech of hem made oother for to wynne-
 430 Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne.
     Wel knew he the olde Esculapius,
     And Deyscorides and eek Rufus,
     Olde Ypocras, Haly, and Galyen,
     Serapioun, Razis, and Avycen,
 435 Averrois, Damascien, and Constantyn,
     Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertyn.
     Of his diete mesurable was he,
     For it was of no superfluitee,
     But of greet norissyng, and digestible.
 440 His studie was but litel on the Bible.
     In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al,
     Lyned with taffata and with sendal;
     And yet he was but esy of dispence;
     He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
 445 For gold in phisik is a cordial,
     Therfore he lovede gold in special.

        A good WIF was ther, OF biside BATHE,
     But she was somdel deef, and that was scathe.
     Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt,
 450 She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.
     In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon
     That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon;
     And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she,
     That she was out of alle charitee.
 455 Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground;
     I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
     That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed.
     Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
     Ful streite yteyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe.
 460 Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
     She was a worthy womman al hir lyve:
     Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve,
     Withouthen oother compaignye in youthe, –
     But therof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe.
 465 And thries hadde she been at Jerusalem;
     She hadde passed many a straunge strem;
     At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne,
     In Galice at Seint-Jame, and at Coloigne.
     She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye.
 470 Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
     Upon an amblere esily she sat,
     Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat
     As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
     A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
 475 And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
     In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe.
     Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce,
     For she koude of that art the olde daunce.

        A good man was ther of religioun,
 480 And was a povre PERSOUN OF A TOUN,
     But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk.
     He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
     That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
     His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
 485 Benynge he was, and wonder diligent,
     And in adversitee ful pacient,
     And swich he was ypreved ofte sithes.
     Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes,
     But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
 490 Unto his povre parisshens aboute
     Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce.
     He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce.
     Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder,
     But he ne lefte nat, for reyn ne thonder,
 495 In siknesse nor in meschief to visite
     The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite,
     Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
     This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
     That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte.
 500 Out of the gosple 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;
 505 And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
     A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
     Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
     By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.
     He sette nat his benefice to hyre
 510 And leet his sheep encombred in the myre
     And ran to Londoun unto Seinte Poules
     To seken hym a chaunterie for soules,
     Or with a bretherhed to been witholde;
     But dwelt at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
 515 So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie;
     He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie.
     And though he hooly were and vertuous,
     He was to synful men nat despitous,
     Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
 520 But in his techyng discreet and benygne;
     To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse,
     By good ensample, this was his bisynesse.
     But it were any persone obstinat,
     What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
 525 Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys.
     A bettre preest I trowe, that nowher noon ys.
     He waited after no pompe and reverence,
     Ne maked him a spiced conscience,
     But Cristes loore, and Hise apostles twelve
 530 He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve.

        With hym ther was a PLOWMAN, was his brother,
     That hadde ylad of dong ful many a fother;
     A trewe swynkere and a good was he,
     Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee.
 535 God loved he best with al his hoole herte
     At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte,
     And thanne his neighebor right as hym-selve.
     He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve,
     For Cristes sake, for every povre wight
 540 Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.
     Hise tithes payed he ful faire and wel,
     Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel.
     In a tabard he rood, upon a mere.

        Ther was also a REVE and a MILLERE,
 545 A SOMNOUR and a PARDONER also,
     A MAUNCIPLE, and myself – ther were namo.

        The MILLERE was a stout carl for the nones;
     Ful byg he was of brawn and eek of bones-
     That proved wel, for over al ther he cam
 550 At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram.
     He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre,
     Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
     Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
     His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
 555 And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
     Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
     A werte, and thereon stood a toft of herys,
     Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
     Hise nosethirles blake were and wyde.
 560 A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde.
     His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys.
     He was a janglere and a goliardeys,
     And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
     Wel koude he stelen corn, and tollen thries;
 565 And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
     A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
     A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne,
     And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.

        A gentil MAUNCIPLE was ther of a temple,
 570 Of which achatours myghte take exemple
     For to be wise in byynge of vitaille;
     For wheither that he payde or took by taille,
     Algate he wayted so in his achaat
     That he was ay biforn, and in good staat.
 575 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,
 580 Of whiche ther weren a duszeyne in that hous
     Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
     Of any lord that is in Engelond,
     To maken hym lyve by his propre good,
     In honour dettelees (but if he were wood),
 585 Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire,
     And able for to helpen al a shire
     In any caas that myghte falle or happe-
     And yet this Manciple sette hir aller cappe.

        The REVE was a sclendre colerik man.
 590 His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan;
     His heer was by his erys ful round yshorn;
     His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn.
     Ful longe were his legges, and ful lene,
     Ylyk a staf, ther was no calf ysene.
 595 Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne;
     Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne.
     Wel wiste he by the droghte and by the reyn,
     The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn.
     His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
 600 His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye,
     Was hoolly in this Reves governynge,
     And by his covenant yaf the rekenynge,
     Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age,
     Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage.
 605 Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
     That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne;
     They were adrad of hym as of the deeth.
     His wonyng was ful faire upon an heeth;
     With grene trees shadwed was his place.
 610 He koude bettre than his lord purchace.
     Ful riche he was astored pryvely:
     His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly,
     To yeve and lene hym of his owene good,
     And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood.
 615 In youthe he hadde lerned a good myster;
     He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
     This Reve sat upon a ful good stot,
     That was al pomely grey, and highte Scot.
     A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
 620 And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
     Of Northfolk was this Reve, of which I telle,
     Bisyde a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.
     Tukked he was as is a frere aboute,
     And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.

 625 A SOMONOUR was ther with us in that place,
     That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face,
     For saucefleem he was, with eyen narwe.
     As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe,
     With scalled browes blake, and piled berd,
 630 Of his visage children were aferd.
     Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon,
     Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon,
     Ne oynement, that wolde clense and byte,
     That hym myghte helpen of his whelkes white,
 635 Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes.
     Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes,
     And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;
     Thanne wolde he speke and crie as he were wood.
     And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
 640 Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn.
     A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,
     That he had lerned out of som decree-
     No wonder is, he herde it al the day,
     And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
 645 Kan clepen "Watte" as wel as kan the pope.
     But whoso koude in oother thyng hym grope,
     Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophie;
     Ay "Questio quid iuris" wolde he crie.
     He was a gentil harlot and a kynde;
 650 A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde;
     He wolde suffre, for a quart of wyn,
     A good felawe to have his concubyn
     A twelf-monthe, and excuse hym atte fulle;
     Ful prively a fynch eek koude he pulle.
 655 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 ypunysshed be.
 660 "Purs is the erchedekenes helle," seyde he.
     But wel I woot he lyed right in dede;
     Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede,
     For curs wol slee, right as assoillyng savith,
     And also war him of a Significavit.
 665 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;
 670 A bokeleer hadde he maad him of a cake.

        With hym ther rood a gentil PARDONER
     Of Rouncivale, his freend and his compeer,
     That streight was comen fro the court of Rome.
     Ful loude he soong "Com hider, love, to me!"
 675 This Somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun;
     Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
     This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
     But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
     By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
 680 And therwith he hise shuldres overspradde;
     But thynne it lay by colpons oon and oon.
     But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon,
     For it was trussed up in his walet.
     Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet;
 685 Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
     Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.
     A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe.
     His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe
     Bretful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot.
 690 A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot,
     No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have;
     As smothe it was as it were late shave,
     I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
     But of his craft, from Berwyk into Ware,
 695 Ne was ther swich another pardoner;
     For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
     Which that he seyde was Oure Lady veyl:
     He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
     That Seint Peter hadde, whan that he wente
 700 Upon the see, til Jesu Crist hym hente.
     He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
     And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
     But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
     A povre persoun dwellyng upon lond,
 705 Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
     Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
     And thus, with feyned flaterye and japes,
     He made the persoun and the peple his apes.
     But trewely to tellen atte laste,
 710 He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste.
     Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
     But alderbest he song an offertorie;
     For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
     He moste preche, and wel affile his tonge
 715 To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;
     Therfore he song the murierly and loude.

        Now have I toold you shortly in a clause,
     Th'estaat, th'array, the nombre, and eek the cause
     Why that assembled was this compaignye
 720 In Southwerk, at this gentil hostelrye
     That highte the Tabard, faste by the Belle.
     But now is tyme to yow for to telle
     How that we baren us that ilke nyght,
     Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght;
 725 And after wol I telle of our viage
     And all the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.
     But first I pray yow, of youre curteisye,
     That ye n'arette it nat my vileynye,
     Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere,
 730 To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere,
     Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely.
     For this ye knowen also wel as I,
     Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,
     He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan
 735 Everich a word, if it be in his charge,
     Al speke he never so rudeliche or large,
     Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,
     Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
     He may nat spare, al thogh he were his brother;
 740 He moot as wel seye o word as another.
     Crist spak hymself ful brode in hooly writ,
     And, wel ye woot, no vileynye is it.
     Eek Plato seith, whoso kan hym rede,
     The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede.
 745 Also I prey yow to foryeve it me,
     Al have I nat set folk in hir degree
     Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde.
     My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.

        Greet chiere made oure Hoost us everichon,
 750 And to the soper sette he us anon.
     He served us with vitaille at the beste;
     Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us leste.
     A semely man OURE HOOSTE was withalle
     For to been a marchal in an halle.
 755 A large man he was, with eyen stepe -
     A fairer burgeys was ther noon in Chepe -
     Boold of his speche, and wys, and well ytaught,
     And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
     Eek therto he was right a myrie man,
 760 And after soper pleyen he bigan,
     And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
     Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges,
     And seyde thus: "Now lordynges, trewely,
     Ye been to me right welcome hertely;
 765 For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
     I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye
     Atones in this herberwe, as is now.
     Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how.
     And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght,
 770 To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght.

        Ye goon to Caunterbury - God yow speede,
     The blisful martir quite yow youre meede!
     And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye,
     Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye,
 775 For trewely, confort ne myrthe is noon
     To ride by the weye doumb as stoon;
     And therfore wol I maken yow disport,
     As I seyde erst, and doon yow som confort.
     And if yow liketh alle by oon assent
 780 For to stonden at my juggement,
     And for to werken as I shal yow seye,
     To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye,
     Now, by my fader soule that is deed,
     But ye be myrie, I wol yeve yow myn heed!
 785 Hoold up youre hond, withouten moore speche."

        Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche.
     Us thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys,
     And graunted hym, withouten moore avys,
     And bad him seye his voirdit, as hym leste.
 790 "Lordynges," quod he, "now herkneth for the beste;
     But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn.
     This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn,
     That ech of yow, to shorte with oure weye,
     In this viage shal telle tales tweye
 795 To Caunterbury-ward I mene it so,
     And homward he shal tellen othere two,
     Of aventures that whilom han bifalle.
     And which of yow that bereth hym best of alle,
     That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas
 800 Tales of best sentence and moost solaas,
     Shal have a soper at oure aller cost
     Heere in this place, sittynge by this post,
     Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury.
     And for to make yow the moore mury,
 805 I wol myselven goodly with yow ryde
     Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde;
     And who so wole my juggement withseye
     Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
     And if ye vouche sauf that it be so,
 810 Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo,
     And I wol erly shape me therfore."

        This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore
     With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also
     That he wolde vouche sauf for to do so,
 815 And that he wolde been oure governour,
     And of our tales juge and reportour,
     And sette a soper at a certeyn pris,
     And we wol reuled been at his devys
     In heigh and lough; and thus by oon assent
 820 We been acorded to his juggement.
     And therupon the wyn was fet anon;
     We dronken, and to reste wente echon,
     Withouten any lenger taryynge.

        Amorwe, whan that day bigan to sprynge,
 825 Up roos oure Hoost, and was oure aller cok,
     And gadrede us to gidre alle in a flok,
     And forth we riden, a litel moore than paas
     Unto the wateryng of Seint Thomas;
     And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste
 830 And seyde, "Lordynges, herkneth if yow leste.
     Ye woot youre foreward, and I it yow recorde.
     If even-song and morwe-song accorde,
     Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
     As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale,
 835 Whoso be rebel to my juggement
     Shal paye for al that by the wey is spent.
     Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne,
     He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne.
     Sire Knyght," quod he, "my mayster and my lord,
 840 Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord.
     Cometh neer," quod he, "my lady Prioresse,
     And ye, Sir Clerk, lat be youre shamefastnesse,
     Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man!"
     Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
 845 And shortly for to tellen as it was,
     Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,
     The sothe is this, the cut fil to the Knyght,
     Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght.
     And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
 850 By foreward and by composicioun,-
     As ye han herd, what nedeth wordes mo?
     And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,
     As he that wys was and obedient
     To kepe his foreward by his free assent,
 855 He seyde, "Syn I shal bigynne the game,
     What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name!
     Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye."
     And with that word we ryden forth oure weye,
     And he bigan with right a myrie cheere
 860 His tale anon, and seyde as ye may heere.