Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
The Canterbury Tales
The Cokes Tale
Heer bigynneth the Cokes tale.

A PRENTIS whylom dwelled in our citee,
And of a craft of vitaillers was he;
Gaillard he was as goldfinch in the shawe,
Broun as a berie, a propre short felawe,
With lokkes blake, y-kempt ful fetisly.        5
Dauncen he coude so wel and Iolily,
That he was cleped Perkin Revelour.
He was as ful of love and paramour
As is the hyve ful of hony swete;
Wel was the wenche with him mighte mete.        10
At every brydale wolde he singe and hoppe,
He loved bet the taverne than the shoppe.
  For whan ther any ryding was in Chepe,
Out of the shoppe thider wolde he lepe.
Til that he hadde al the sighte y-seyn,        15
And daunced wel, he wolde nat come ageyn.
And gadered him a meinee of his sort
To hoppe and singe, and maken swich disport.
And ther they setten steven for to mete
To pleyen at the dys in swich a strete.        20
For in the toune nas ther no prentys,
That fairer coude caste a paire of dys
Than Perkin coude, and ther-to he was free
Of his dispense, in place of privetee.
That fond his maister wel in his chaffare;        25
For often tyme he fond his box ful bare.
For sikerly a prentis revelour,
That haunteth dys, riot, or paramour,
His maister shal it in his shoppe abye,
Al have he no part of the minstralcye;        30
For thefte and riot, they ben convertible,
Al conne he pleye on giterne or ribible.
Revel and trouthe, as in a low degree,
They been ful wrothe al day, as men may see.
  This Ioly prentis with his maister bood,        35
Til he were ny out of his prentishood,
Al were he snibbed bothe erly and late,
And somtyme lad with revel to Newgate;
But atte laste his maister him bithoghte,
Up-on a day, whan he his paper soghte,        40
Of a proverbe that seith this same word,
‘Wel bet is roten appel out of hord
Than that it rotie al the remenaunt.’
So fareth it by a riotous servaunt;
It is wel lasse harm to lete him pace,        45
Than he shende alle the servants in the place.
Therfore his maister yaf him acquitance,
And bad him go with sorwe and with meschance;
And thus this Ioly prentis hadde his leve.
Now lat him riote al the night or leve.        50
  And for ther is no theef with-oute a louke,
That helpeth him to wasten and to souke
Of that he brybe can or borwe may,
Anon he sente his bed and his array
Un-to a compeer of his owne sort,        55
That lovede dys and revel and disport,
And hadde a wyf that heeld for countenance
A shoppe, and swyved for hir sustenance.
.      .      .      .      .      .

Of this Cokes tale maked Chaucer na more.
[For The Tale of Gamelin, see the Appendix.]

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