Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
1. The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
Lines 601–800
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340(?)–1400)
Sin that his lord was twenty yeer of age;
Ther coude no man bringe him in arrerage. 1
Ther nas baillif, ne herde, ne other hyne, 2
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covync; 3
They were adrad of him, as of the deeth. 4        605
His woning 5 was ful fair up-on an heeth,
With grene treës shadwed was his place.
He coude bettre than his lord purchace.
Ful riche he was astored 6 prively.
His lord wel coude he plesen subtilly,        610
To yeve and lene him of his owne good,
And have a thank, and yet a cote, and hood.
In youthe he lerned hadde a good mister; 7
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
This reve sat up-on a ful good stot, 8        615
That was al pomely 9 grey, and highte 10 Scot.
A long surcote 11 of pers 12 up-on he hade,
And by his syde he bar a rusty blade.
Of Northfolk was this reve, of which I telle,
Bisyde a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.        620
Tukked 13 he was, as is a frere, aboute,
And evere he rood the hindreste of our route.
  A SOMNOUR 14 was ther with us in that place,
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubinnes face,
For sawceflem 15 he was, with eyen narwe.        625
As hoot he was, and lecherous as a sparwe,
With scalled 16 browes blake, and piled 17 berd;
Of his visage children were aferd.
Ther nas quick-silver, litarge, 18 ne brimston,
Boras, 19 ceruce, 20 ne oille of tartre 21 noon,        630
Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
That him mighte helpen of his whelkes 22 whyte,
Ne of the knobbes sittinge on his chekes.
Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes,
And for to drinken strong wyn, reed as blood.        635
Thanne wolde he speke, and crye as he were wood. 23
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn.
A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,
That he had lerned out of som decree;        640
No wonder is, he herde it al the day;
And eek ye knowen wel, how that a jay
Can clepen ‘Watte,’ as well as can the pope.
But who-so coude in other thing him grope, 24
Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophye;        645
Ay ‘Questio quid iuris’ 25 wolde he crye.
He was a gentil harlot 26 and a kynde;
A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde.
He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn
A good felawe to have his concubyn        650
A twelf-month, and excuse him atte fulle:
And prively a finch eek coude he pulle. 27
And if he fond owher a good felawe,
He wolde techen him to have non awe,
In swich cas, of the erchedeknes curs,        655
But-if 28 a mannes soule were in his purs;
For in his purs he sholde y-punisshed be.
‘Purs is the erchedeknes helle,’ seyde he.
But wel I woot he lyed right in dede;
Of cursing oghte ech gulty man him drede—        660
For curs wol slee right as assoilling 29 saveth—
And also war him of a significavit 30
In daunger 31 hadde he at his owne gyse 32
The yonge girles 33 of the diocyse,
And knew hir counseil, and was al hir reed. 34        665
A gerland hadde he set up-on his heed,
As greet as it were for an ale-stake; 35
A bokeler hadde he maad him of a cake.
  With him ther rood a gentil PARDONER
Of Rouncivale, his frend and his compeer,        670
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome.
Ful loude he song, ‘Com hider, love, to me.’
This somnour bar to him a stiff burdoun, 36
Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
This pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,        675
But smothe it heng, as doth a strike 37 of flex;
By ounces 38 henge his lokkes that he hadde,
And ther-with he his shuldres overspradde;
But thinne it lay, by colpons 39 oon and oon;
But hood, for jolitee, ne wered he noon,        680
For it was trussed 40 up in his walet.
Him thoughte, he rood al of the newe jet; 41
Dischevele, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
Swiche glaringe eyen hadde he as an hare.
A vernicle 42 hadde he sowed on his cappe,        685
His walet lay biforn him in his lappe,
Bret-ful 43 of pardoun come from Rome al hoot,
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 y-shave;        690
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 44 he hadde a pilwe-beer, 45
Which that, he seyde, was our lady 46 veyl:        695
He seyde, he hadde a gobet 47 of the seyl
That seynt Peter hadde, whan that he wente
Up-on the see, til Iesu Crist him hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun, 48 ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.        700
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A povre person dwelling up-on lond,
Up-on a day he gat him more moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye.
And thus with feyned flaterye and japes, 49        705
He made the person gat in monthes tweye.
But trewely to tellen, atte laste,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste.
Wel coude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
But alderbest 50 he song an offertorie;        710
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
He moste preche, and wel affyle 51 his tonge,
To winne silver, as he ful wel coude;
Therefore he song so meriely and loude.
  Now have I told you shortly, in a clause,        715
Thestat, tharray, the nombre, and eek the cause
Why that assembled was this compaignye
In Southwerk, at this gentil hostelrye,
That highte 52 the Tabard, faste by the Belle.
But now is tyme to yow for to telle        720
How that we baren 53 us that like 54 night,
Whan we were in that hostelrye alight.
And after wol I telle of our viage 55
And al the remenaunt of our pilgrimage.
But first I pray yow of your curteisye,        725
That ye narette 56 it nat my vileinye, 57
Thogh that I pleynly speke in this matere,
To telle yow hir wordes and hir chere; 58
Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely.
For this ye knowen al-so 59 wel as I,        730
Who-so shal telle a tale after a man,
He moot reherce, as ny as evere he can,
Everich a word, if it be in his charge, 60
Al 61 speke he never so rudeliche and large, 62
Or elles he moot telle his tale untrewe,        735
Or feyne thing, or fynde wordes newe.
He may nat spare, al-thogh he were his brother;
He moot as wel seye o word asanother.
Crist spak him-self ful brode in holy writ,
And wel ye woot, no vileinye 63 is it.        740
Eek Plato seith, who-so that can him rede,
“The wordes mote 64 be cosin to the dede.”
Also I prey yow to foryeve it me,
Al 65 have I nat set folk in hir 66 degree
Here in this tale, as that they sholde stonde;        745
My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.
  Greet chere made our hoste us everichon, 67
And to the soper sette he us anon;
And served us with vitaille at the beste.
Strong was the wyn, and wel to drink us leste. 68        750
A semely man our hoste was with-alle
For to han been a marshal in an halle;
A large man he was with eyen stepe, 69
A fairer burgeys was ther noon in Chepe: 70
Bold of his speche, and wys, and wel y-taught,        755
And of manhod him lakkede right naught.
Eek therto 71 he was right a mery man,
And after soper pleyen he bigan,
And spak of mirthe amonges othere thinges,
Whan that we hadde maad our rekeninges;        760
And seyde thus: ‘Now, lordinges, trewely
Ye ben to me right welcome hertely:
For by my trouthe, if that I shall nat lye,
I ne saugh 72 this yeer so mery a compaignye
At ones in this herberwe 73 as is now.        765
Fayn wolde I doon yow mirthe, wiste I how.
And of a mirthe I am right now bithoght,
To doon yow ese, and it shall coste noght.
  Ye goon to Caunterbury; God yow spede,
The blishful martir quyte yow your mede. 74        770
And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye,
Ye shapen 75 yow to talen 76 and to pleye;
For trewely, confort ne mirthe is noon
To ryde by the weye doumb as a stoon;
And therefore wol I maken yow disport,        775
As I seyde erst, 77 and doon yow som confort.
And if yow lyketh 78 alle, by oon assent,
Now for to stonden at my jugement,
And for toe werken as I shal yow seye.
To-morwe, whan ye ryden by the weye,        780
Now, by my fader 79 soule, that is deed,
But 80 ye be merye, I wol yeve yow myn heed.
Hold up your hond, withoute more speche.’
Our counseil was nat longe for to seche;
Us thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys, 81        785
And graunted him with-outen more avys, 82
And bad him seye his verdit, as him leste,
  ‘Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘now herkneth for the beste;
But tak it not, I prey yow, in desdeyn;
This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn,        790
That ech of yow, to shorte with our weye,
In this viage, shal telle tales tweye,
To Caunterbury-ward, I mene it so,
And hom-ward he shal tellen othere two,
Of aventures that whylom 83 han bifalle.        795
And which of yow that bereth him best of alle,
That is to seyn, that telleth in this cas
Tales of best sentence 84 and most solas, 85
Shal han a soper at our aller 86 cost
Here in this place, sitting by this post,        800
Note 1. Farm-laborer. [back]
Note 2. Deceit. [back]
Note 3. Pestilence. [back]
Note 4. Dwelling. [back]
Note 5. Furnished with supplies. [back]
Note 6. Trade. [back]
Note 7. Cob. [back]
Note 8. Dappled. [back]
Note 9. Was called. [back]
Note 10. Overcoat. [back]
Note 11. With the skirts of his coat tucked up. [back]
Note 12. Apparitor, summoner to ecclesiatical courts. [back]
Note 13. Pimpled. [back]
Note 14. Scabby. [back]
Note 15. Thin. [back]
Note 16. White lead. [back]
Note 17. Borax. [back]
Note 18. A kind of ointment made from white lead. [back]
Note 19. Cream of tartar. [back]
Note 20. Boils. [back]
Note 21. Mad. [back]
Note 22. Test. [back]
Note 23. The question is, What is the law? [back]
Note 24. Fellow. [back]
Note 25. Fleece a greenhorn. [back]
Note 26. Unless. [back]
Note 27. Absolution. [back]
Note 28. The word which began the writ of excommunication. [back]
Note 29. Under his control. [back]
Note 30. In his own way. [back]
Note 31. Young people of both sexes. [back]
Note 32. Adviser. [back]
Note 33. As large as the garlands hung on a stake in front of alehouses. [back]
Note 34. Bass. [back]
Note 35. Hank. [back]
Note 36. Small bunches. [back]
Note 37. Packed. [back]
Note 38. Fashion. [back]
Note 39. Fashion. [back]
Note 40. A small copy of the handkerchief of Veronica with the miraculous portrait of Christ. [back]
Note 41. Brimfull. [back]
Note 42. Bag. [back]
Note 43. Pillow-case. [back]
Note 44. Lady’s. [back]
Note 45. Fragment. [back]
Note 46. A compound of copper and zinc. [back]
Note 47. Jests. [back]
Note 48. Best of all. [back]
Note 49. Make smooth. [back]
Note 50. Was called [back]
Note 51. Bore, behaved. [back]
Note 52. Same. [back]
Note 53. Journey. [back]
Note 54. Every one. [back]
Note 55. Ill-breading. [back]
Note 56. Behavior [back]
Note 57. As. [back]
Note 58. Task. [back]
Note 59. Although. [back]
Note 60. Broad. [back]
Note 61. Vulgarity. [back]
Note 62. Must. [back]
Note 63. Their. [back]
Note 64. Every one. [back]
Note 65. Vulgarity. [back]
Note 66. It pleased us. [back]
Note 67. Prominent. [back]
Note 68. Cheapside. [back]
Note 69. Besides. [back]
Note 70. Saw. [back]
Note 71. Inn. [back]
Note 72. Give you your reward. [back]
Note 73. Prepare. [back]
Note 74. Tell tales. [back]
Note 75. Before. [back]
Note 76. It pleases you. [back]
Note 77. Father’s. [back]
Note 78. Unless. [back]
Note 79. To deliberate. [back]
Note 80. Consideration. [back]
Note 81. Once upon a time. [back]
Note 82. Meaning. [back]
Note 83. Pleasure. [back]
Note 84. Of all of us. [back]
Note 85. Gainsay. [back]
Note 86. Prepare. [back]


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