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 401–600
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340(?)–1400)
But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes,
His stremes 1 and his daungers him bisydes,
His herberwe 2 and his mone, his lodemenage, 3
Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
Hardy he was, and wys to undertake, 4        405
With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake.
He knew wel alle the havenes, as they were,
From Gootlond to the cape of Finistere,
And every cryke in Britayne and in Spayne;
His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne.        410
  With us ther was a DOCTOUR OF PHISYK,
In al this world ne was ther noon him lyk
To speke of phisik and of surgerye;
For he was grounded in astronomye.
He kepte 5 his pacient a ful greet del        415
In houres, 6 by his magik naturel.
Wel coude he fortunen the ascendent
Of his images for his pacient. 7
He knew the cause of everich maladye,
Were it of hoot or cold, or moiste, or drye,        420
And where engendred, and of what humour; 8
He was a verrey parfit practisour.
The cause y-knowe, and of his harm the rote,
Anon he yaf the seke man his bote. 9
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries,        425
To sende him drogges, 10 and his letuaries, 11
For ech of hem made other for to winne;
Hir frendschipe nas nat newe to biginne.
Wel knew he the olde Esculapius,
And Deiscorides, and eek Rufus;        430
Old Ypocras, Haly, and Galien;
Serapion, Razis, and Avicen;
Averrois, Damascien, and Constantyn;
Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertyn. 12
Of his diete mesurable 13 was he,        435
For it was of no superfluitee,
But of greet norissing and digestible.
His studie was but litel on the Bible.
In sangwin 14 and in pers 15 he clad was al,
Lyned with taffata and with sendal; 16        440
And yet he was but esy of dispence; 17
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in phisik is a cordial,
Therfor he lovede gold in special.
  A good WYF was ther of bisyde BATHE,        445
But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe. 18
Of cloth-making she hadde swiche an haunt, 19
She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.
In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon
That to the offring bifore hir sholde goon;        450
And if ther dide, certeyn, so wrooth was she,
That she was out of alle charitee.
Hir coverchiefs ful fyne were of ground; 20
I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
That on a Sonday were upon hir heed.        455
Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
Ful streite y-teyd, 21 and shoos ful moiste and newe.
Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
She was a worthy womman al hir lyve,
Housbondes at chirche-dore 22 she hadde fyve,        460
Withouten other compaignye in youthe;
But therof nedeth nat to speke as nouthe. 23
And thryes hadde she been at Ierusalem;
But hadde passed many a straunge streem;
At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne,        465
In Galice at seint Iame, and at Coloigne. 24
She coude moche of wandring by the weye.
Gat-tothed 25 was she, soothly for to seye.
Up-on an amblere esily she sat,
Y-wimpled 26 wel, and on hir heed an hat        470
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe; 27
A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
And on hir feet a paire 28 of spores sharpe.
In felaweschip wel coude she laughe and carpe. 29
Of remedies of love she knew per-chaunce,        475
For she coude of that art the olde daunce. 30
  A good man was ther of religioun,
And was a povre PERSOUN 31 of a toun;
But riche he was of holy thoght and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,        480
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 y-preved 32 ofte sythes. 33        485
Ful looth were him to cursen 34 for his tythes,
But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
Un-to his povre parisshens aboute
Of his offring, and eek of his substaunce.
He coude in litel thing han suffisaunce.        490
Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer a-sonder,
But he ne lafte 35 nat, for reyn ne thonder,
In siknes nor in meschief, to visyte
The ferreste in his parisshe, moche and lyte, 36
Up-on his feet, and in his hand a staf.        495
This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte;
Out of the gospel he tho 37 wordes caughte;
And this figure he added eek ther-to,
That if gold ruste, what shal yren do?        500
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed 38 man to ruste;
And shame it is,if a preest take keep, 39
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,        505
By his clennesse, how that his sheep shold live.
He sette nat his benefice to hyre,
And leet 40 his sheep encombred in the myre,
And ran to London, un-to sëynt Poules,
To seken him a chaunterie for soules,        510
Or with a bretherhed to been withholde;
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
So that the wolf ne made it nat miscarie;
He was a shepherde and no mercenarie;
And though he holy were, and vertuous,        515
He was to sinful man nat despitous, 41
Ne of his speche daungerous 42 ne digne, 43
But in his teching discreet and benigne.
To drawen folk to heven by fairness
By good ensample, this was his bisynesse:        520
But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were, of heigh or lowe estat,
Him wolde he snibben 44 sharply for the nones. 45
A bettre preest, I trowe that nowher non is.
He wayted after no pompe and reverence,        525
Ne maked him a spyced 46 conscience,
But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taughte, but first he folwed it him-selve.
  With him ther was a PLOWMAN, was his brother,
That hadde y-lad of dong ful many a fother, 47        530
A trewe swinkere 48 and a good was he,
Livinge in pees and parfit charitee.
God loved he best with al his hole herte
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte, 49
And thanne his neighebour right as him-selve.        535
He wolde thresshe, and ther-to dyke 50 and delve,
For Cristes sake, for every povre wight,
Withouten hyre, if it lay in his might.
His tythes payed he ful faire and wel,
Bothe of his propre swink 51 and his catel. 52        540
In a tabard 53 he rood upon a mere.
  Ther was also a Reve and a Millere,
A Somnour and a Pardoner also,
A Maunciple, and my-self; ther wer namo. 54
  The MILLER was a stout carl, for the nones, 55        545
Ful big he was of braun, and eek of bones;
That proved wel, for over-al ther he cam,
At wrastling he wolde have alwey the ram. 56
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre, 57
Ther nas no dore that he nolde 58 heve of harre, 59        550
Or breke it, at a renning, with his heed.
His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
And ther-to brood, as though it were a spade.
Up-on the cop 60 right of his nose he hade
A werte, and ther-on stood a tuft of heres,        555
Reed as the bristles of a sowes eres,
His nose-thirles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde;
His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys.
He was a janglere 61 and a goliardeys, 62        560
And that was most of sinne and harlotryes.
Wel coude he stelen corn, and tolled 63 thryes;
And yet he hadde a thombe of gold 64 pardee.
A whyt cote and a blew hood wered he.
A baggepype wel coude he blowe and sowne,        565
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.
  A gentil MAUNCIPLE 65 was ther of a temple, 66
Of which achatours 67 mighte take exemple
For to be wyse in bying of vitaille.
For whether that he payde, or took by taille, 68        570
Algate 69 he wayted so in his acaht, 70
That he was ay biforn 71 and in good stat.
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace,
That swich a lewed 72 mannes wit shal pace 73
The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?        575
Of maistres hadde he mo than thryes ten,
That were of lawe expert and curious;
Of which ther were a doseyn in that hous,
Worthy to been stiwardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in Engelond,        580
To make him live by his propre good,
In honour dettelees, but he were wood. 74
Or live as scarsly 75 as him list desire;
And able for to helpen al a shire
In any cas that mighte falle or happe;        585
And yit this maunciple sette hir aller cappe. 76
  The REVE 77 was a sclendre colerik man,
His berd was shave as ny as ever he can.
His heer was by his eres round y-shorn.
His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn.        590
Ful longe were his legges, and ful lene,
Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene.
Wel coude he kepe a gerner 78 and a binne;
Ther was noon auditour coude on him winne.
Wel wiste he, by the droghte, and by the reyn,        595
The yeldyng of his seed, and of his greyn.
His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, 79 and his pultrye,
Was hoolly in this reves governing,
And by his covenaunt yaf the rekening,        600
Note 1. Currents. [back]
Note 2. Harbour. [back]
Note 3. Pilotage. [back]
Note 4. Clever in planning. [back]
Note 5. Watched. [back]
Note 6. Astrological hours favorable for cures. [back]
Note 7. Choose a fortunate star rising above the horizon, under which to treat images as a charm to cure the patient. [back]
Note 8. Illness was supposed to be due to a humour in excess. [back]
Note 9. Remedy. [back]
Note 10. Drugs. [back]
Note 11. Medicinal syrups. [back]
Note 12. These are the authors of the favorite medical text-books of the Middle Ages. [back]
Note 13. Temperate. [back]
Note 14. Blood-red. [back]
Note 15. Bluish gray. [back]
Note 16. A kind of silk. [back]
Note 17. In spending. [back]
Note 18. Pity. [back]
Note 19. Skill. [back]
Note 20. Texture. [back]
Note 21. Marriages were performed in the church porch. [back]
Note 22. At present. [back]
Note 23. These were all famous shrines. [back]
Note 24. Gap-toothed. [back]
Note 25. Kerchiefed. [back]
Note 26. Shield. [back]
Note 27. Apparently she rode astride. [back]
Note 28. Talk. [back]
Note 29. The whole game. [back]
Note 30. Parson. [back]
Note 31. Proved. [back]
Note 32. Times. [back]
Note 33. Excommunicate. [back]
Note 34. Neglected. [back]
Note 35. Great and small. [back]
Note 36. Those. [back]
Note 37. Ignorant. [back]
Note 38. Heed. [back]
Note 39. Left. [back]
Note 40. Contemptuous. [back]
Note 41. Overbearing. [back]
Note 42. Haughty. [back]
Note 43. Rebuke. [back]
Note 44. This phrase is often vaguely intensive. [back]
Note 45. Suspiciously fastidious. [back]
Note 46. Cartload. [back]
Note 47. Laborer. [back]
Note 48. Pleased or pained him. [back]
Note 49. Also ditch. [back]
Note 50. Labor. [back]
Note 51. Property. [back]
Note 52. Smock frock. [back]
Note 53. No more. [back]
Note 54. The usual prize. [back]
Note 55. Suspiciously fastidious. [back]
Note 56. Knot. [back]
Note 57. Would not. [back]
Note 58. Hinges. [back]
Note 59. Tip. [back]
Note 60. Great talker. [back]
Note 61. Jester. [back]
Note 62. Take his commission. [back]
Note 63. Like all honest millers. [back]
Note 64. Steward. [back]
Note 65. Inn of court, where lawyers lived. [back]
Note 66. Purchasers. [back]
Note 67. Tally, credit. [back]
Note 68. Always. [back]
Note 69. Buying. [back]
Note 70. Ahead. [back]
Note 71. Ignorant. [back]
Note 72. Surpass. [back]
Note 73. Mad. [back]
Note 74. Sparingly. [back]
Note 75. Fooled them all. [back]
Note 76. Bailiff. [back]
Note 77. Garner. [back]
Note 78. Stock. [back]
Note 79. Arrears. [back]


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