The Plowman's Tale/Prologue

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Here beginneth the Plowmans Prologue.

The Plowman plucked up his plow,
Whan midsommer mone was comen in,
And sayd, 'his beestes shuld ete y-now,
And lig in the grasse, up to the chin;
They ben feble, both oxe and cow,5

Of hem nis left but boon and skin.'
He shook of share, and cultre of-drow,
And hong his harneys on a pin.

He took his tabard and his staf eke,
And on his heed he set his hat;10
And sayde, he wolde saynt Thomas seke,
On pilgrimage he goth forth plat.
In scrippe he bar both breed and lekes,
He was forswonke and all forswat;15
Men might have seen through both his chekes,
And every wang-toth and where it sat.

Our hoste beheld wel all about,
And saw this man was sunne y-brent;
He knew well by his senged snout,
And by his clothes that were to-rent,20
He was a man wont to walke about,
He nas nat alway in cloystre y-pent;
He coud not religiousliche lout,
And therfore was he fully shent.

Our host him axed, 'what man art thou?'25
'Sir,' quod he, 'I am an hyne;
For I am wont to go to the plow,
And erne my mete yer that I dyne.
To swete and swinke I make avow,
My wyf and children therwith to fynd,30
And servë god, and I wist how;
But we lewd men ben full[y] blynd.

For clerkes saye, we shullen be fayn
For hir lyvelod [to] swete and swinke,
And they right nought us give agayn,35
Neyther to ete ne yet to drinke.
They mowe by lawë, as they sayn,
Us curse and dampne to hell[e] brinke;
Thus they putten us to payn,
With candles queynt and belles clinke.40

They make us thralles at hir lust,
And sayn, we mowe nat els be saved;
They have the corn and we the dust,
Who speketh ther-agayn, they say he raved.'

'What, man,' quod our host, 'canst thou preche?45
Come neer, and tell us some holy thing.'
'Sir,' quod he, 'I herde ones teche
A prest in pulpit a good preching.'
'Say on,' quod our host, 'I thee beseche.'
'Sir, I am redy at your bidding.50
I pray you that no man me reproche
Whyl that I am my tale telling.

Thus endeth the prologue, and here foloweth the first part of the tale.