Richard Brodie's modern English translation
The General Prologue
from Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
Also completed: Knight, Miller, Reeve, Cook, Man of Law, Prioress
© Copyright 2005
Click to go directly to a particular character's description:
Carpenter, Clerk, Cook, Doctor, Dyer, Franklin, Friar, Haberdasher, Knight, Man of Law, Manciple, Merchant, Miller, Monk,
Nun, Pardoner, Parson, Plowman, Prioress, Reeve, Shipman, Squire, Summoner, Tapster, Weaver, Wife of Bath, Yeoman
| 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;
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 half cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(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;
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,
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
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.
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 oure wey ther as I yow devyse.
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,
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
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,
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,
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
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
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.
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.
Of fustian he wered a gypon
Al bismotered with his habergeon,
For he was late ycome from his viage,
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
With hym ther was his sone, a yong SQUIER,
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.
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
Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
He was as fressh as is the month of May.
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
He koude songes make and wel endite,
Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale
He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
And carf biforn his fader at the table.
A YEMAN hadde he and servantz namo
At that tyme, for hym liste ride so,
And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene,
Under his belt he bar ful thriftily
(Wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly;
His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe),
And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
A not heed hadde he, with a broun visage.
Of wodecraft 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 sharp as point of spere;
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;
Hire 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,
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
For Frenssh of Parys was to hire 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;
Wel koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe
That no drope ne fille upon hire brest.
In curteisie was set ful muchel hir lest.
Hir over-lippe wyped she so clene
That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene
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 hire to countrefete cheere
Of court, and to been estatlich of manere,
And to ben holden digne of reverence.
But for to speken of hire conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous
She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous
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 wepte she if oon of hem were deed,
Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte;
And al was conscience and tendre herte.
Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was,
Hir nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed.
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed;
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 hire arm she bar
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
And 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 hire hadde she,
That was hir chapeleyne, and preestes thre.
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
Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere
And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle
Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle.
The reule of Seint Maure or of Seint Beneit --
By cause that it was old and somdel streit
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 ben nat hooly men,
Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
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 opinion was good.
What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood,
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 hym reserved!
Therfore he was a prikasour aright:
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;
And for to festne his hood under his chyn,
He hadde of gold ywroght a ful 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 he hadde been enoynt.
He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt;
His 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;
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.
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.
Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns over al in his contree,
And eek with worthy wommen of the toun;
For he hadde power of confessioun,
As seyde hymself, moore than a curat,
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.
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 hard is of his herte,
He may nat wepe, althogh 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 faire wyves.
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.
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,
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce.
It is nat honest; 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,
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 bretheren cam ther in his haunt;]
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.
In love-dayes ther koude he muchel help,
For ther 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,
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,
His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght
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,
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
His resons he spak ful solempnely,
Sownynge alwey th' encrees of his wynnyng.
He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.
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.
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,
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.
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,
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.
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,
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 --
He semed swich, his 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.
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.
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.
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 the dayesye;
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn;
To lyven in delit was evere his wone,
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
Was verray felicitee parfit.
An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
Seint Julian he was in his contree.
His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon;
A bettre envyned man was nowher noon.
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,
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.
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
Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
A shirreve hadde he been, and a contour.
Was nowher swich a worthy vavasour.
AN HABERDASSHERE and a CARPENTER,
A WEBBE, a DYERE, and a TAPYCER --
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,
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.
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,
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 Londoun ale.
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.
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
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.
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,
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,
Fro 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,
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
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:
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the roote,
Anon he yaf the sike man his boote.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
To sende hym drogges and his letuaries,
For ech of hem made oother for to wynne --
Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne.
Wel knew he the olde Esculapius,
And Deyscorides, and eek Rufus,
Olde Ypocras, Haly, and Galyen,
Serapion, Razis, and Avycen,
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.
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.
For gold in phisik is a cordial,
Therefore 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
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.
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.
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,
Withouten oother compaignye in youthe --
But thereof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe.
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.
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,
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,
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.
Benygne 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,
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,
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.
Out of the gospel 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;
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
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 withholde;
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
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,
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,
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 his apostles twelve
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.
God loved he best with al his hoole herte
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte,
And thanne his neighebor right as hymselve.
He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve,
For Cristes sake, for every povre wight,
Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.
His tithes payde 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,
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,
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,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and theron stood a toft of herys,
Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
His nosethirles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and a 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;
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,
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.
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,
Of which ther were a duszeyne in that hous
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in Engelond,
To make hym lyve by his propre good
In honour dettelees (but if he were wood),
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.
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.
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,
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.
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 yshadwed was his place.
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.
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,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
Of Northfolk was this Reve of which I telle,
Biside a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.
Tukked he was as is a frere aboute,
And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.
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.
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,
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,
Thanne 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
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;
A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde.
He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn
A good felawe to have his concubyn
A twelf month, and excuse hym atte fulle;
Ful prively a fynch eek koude he pulle.
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.
"Purs is the ercedekenes 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 hym of a Significavit.
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.
A bokeleer hadde he maad hym 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!"
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,
And therwith he his 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;
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, biforn hym in his lappe,
Bretful of pardoun comen 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 shave.
I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
But of his craft, fro Berwyk into Ware
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
Upon the see, til Jhesu 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 person dwellynge upon lond,
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 person and the peple his apes.
But trewely to tellen atte laste,
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
To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;
Therefore he song the murierly and loude.
Now have I toold you soothly, in a clause,
Th' estaat, th' array, the nombre, and eek the cause
Why that assembled was this compaignye
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;
And after wol I telle of our viage
And al 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,
To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere,
Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely.
For this ye knowen al so wel as I:
Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,
He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan
Everich a word, if it be in his charge,
Al speke he never so rudeliche and large,
Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,
Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother;
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.
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,
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.
A large man he was with eyen stepe --
A fairer burgeys was ther noon in Chepe --
Boold of his speche, and wys, and wel ytaught,
And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
Eek therto he was right a myrie man;
And after soper pleyen he bigan,
And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
Whan that we hadde maad oure rekenynges,
And seyde thus: "Now, lordynges, trewely,
Ye been to me right welcome, hertely;
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,
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;
For trewely, confort ne myrthe is noon
To ride by the weye doumb as a 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
For to stonden at my juggement,
And for to werken as I shal yow seye,
Tomorwe, whan ye riden by the weye,
Now, by my fader soule that is deed,
But ye be myrie, I wol yeve yow myn heed!
Hoold up youre hondes, 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.
"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
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
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,
I wol myselven goodly with yow ryde,
Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde;
And whoso wole my juggement withseye
Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
And if ye vouche sauf that it be so,
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,
And that he wolde been oure governour,
And of oure 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
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,
Up roos oure Hoost, and was oure aller cok,
And gadrede us togidre 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
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,
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,
Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord.
Cometh neer," quod he, "my lady Prioresse.
And ye, sire Clerk, lat be youre shamefastnesse,
Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man!"
Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
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,
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,
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
His tale anon, and seyde as ye may heere.
|When April with its showers sweet and blessed
The drought of March has thoroughly redressed,
And bathed each plant in its reviving power
By virtue of which blooms the springtime flower;
And gentle winds blow sweetly from the west,
Life breathing into tender leaves caressed
In field and forests, and a youthful sun
In Aries only half its course has run,
And birds begin to chirp a cheerful song,
Those that with open eyes sleep all night long
(Inspired by Nature with an instinct strong),
Then folks to pilgrimages turn their faces,
The more adventuresome to foreign places,
To very distant shrines of great renown;
But mostly common folk from every town
In England, off to Canterbury wind,
That they the holy martyr there might find,
Who had in their extremity been kind.
It happened one day in that time of year,
I did to Southwerk’s Tabard Inn draw near,
As I to Canterbury started out
Upon my pilgrimage, with heart devout.
At night into the inn to stay and dine
More pilgrims came, in number twenty-nine.
People of every kind, a motley lot,
Into a fellowship by Fortune brought.
Who, Canterbury-bound, some lodging sought.
With bedrooms large, this was the place to stay,
All nicely furnished in the finest way.
And briefly, when it was no longer day,
In every one of them I had confided,
And so o’er this assemblage I presided.
All early out of bed agreed to rise
And leave, as later I shall thee advise.
But now, while our departure we await,
Ere of our journey further I relate,
I think it might be good to go into
The circumstances of each of our crew,
As noted from my humble point of view -
The social rank and status of each guest,
And also in what outfits they were dressed;
So with the Knight I’ll start off, then the rest.
And what a KNIGHT he was, this worthy man,
Who from the moment that he first began,
He loved to ride neath chivalry’s proud banners,
With honor and repute, largesse and manners.
A worthy soldier in his lordship’s war,
No other man had ridden near as far
In Christendom, as well as foreign lands.
Honored above all other knights he stands.
At Alexandria’s defeat he rode.
He oft into the place of honor strode
Before the knights of every Prussian state;
He fought in Lithuania of late,
And Russia. No knight with him could equate;
And he was in Grenada when it fell -
Morocco and Algeria as well.
Armenia and Turkey? There was he
When they were won, and too in the Great Sea,
There many expeditions he went on.
To fifteen mortal battles he had gone,
And in Algeria for Christ he strove.
Three duels he fought, and won each one, by Jove!
And when in Asia Minor he did rove,
With one Good Turkish lord he went to work
To take care of another, heathen, Turk.
Impeccable his reputation, for
He bravery by prudence tempered, nor
Was his deportment less than dignified.
Nor with profane expression did he chide
A single person, ever, since his birth.
He was a perfect knight, of noble worth.
But to his clothing let me now allude;
Though finely tacked his horse, he dressed subdued.
His tunic was of fabric coarsely grained
That by his rusty coat of mail was stained.
For from his latest exploit he’d returned.
Now on his pilgrimage to go he yearned.
There was with him a SQUIRE, his own young son,
A bachelor, who craved a life of fun.
It seemed that he a permanent had done,
And that in age he was near twenty one.
In stature he was moderately tall;
Quite strong he was, and good at playing ball.
He'd been with cavalry while just a teen
And many European cities seen.
He acted well, and kept his nose quite clean,
That towards him kindly might his lady lean.
He like a meadow was embroidered finely;
Like multi-colored flowers, bedecked divinely.
Singing he was, or fluting, all the day;
Refreshing was he, like the month of May.
His gown was short, with sleeves both long and ample.
Of horsemanship, he was a fine example.
Songs he composed, and wrote the lyrics too,
He danced and jousted, stories wrote, and drew.
A lover with such passion that at night
He slept less than a nightingale might.
Courteous, helpful and as humble known;
His father proud that he could hold his own.
A YEOMAN was sole servant to the knight,
For in his horse he took a great delight.
The coat and hood this yeoman wore were green.
Arrows with peacock feathers, bright and keen
Are hanging from his belt - How sharp they look!
(For in his clothes and gear great pride he took;
For feathers limp, his arrows fell not short);
And in his hand he held a bow for sport.
His face was tanned, his hair cut in a crew.
All aspects of the woodcraft art he knew.
An arm-guard was around his left arm tied,
A sword and small shield were at his left side:
And on his right a dagger hung precisely,
Sharp as a spear, and ornamented nicely.
A medal on his breast, of silver sheen,
And horn on a green shoulder strap are seen.
I’d say for sure, he from the forest came.
There was a PRIORESS, a simple dame,
Whose smile extremely modest was, and coy,
Belonging to the order of Saint Loy.
And she was known as madam Eglantine.
She sang at holy services, so fine,
With quite a pleasing nasal intonation,
And with impeccable pronunciation.
A French provincial dialect she knew;
Parisian French was not her thing, and too
To sloppy etiquette she never slips;
No morsel ever falls down from her lips.
Her fingers deep in sauce she never sticks;
Each morsel with much dainty care she picks,
So that no single drop falls on her breast.
Her table manners were the very best.
Her upper lip she wiped completely clean,
So in her cup no tiny trace was seen
Of any grease, when her last draught she took.
In manners she went strictly by the book.
The rules of proper conduct she obeys,
And pleasant are her amiable ways.
To copy courtly manners she desires;
To dignified behavior she aspires.
Her wish was to be worthy of respect.
But let us now her moral sense inspect:
To be compassionate she had been taught;
If in a trap she saw a mouse was caught,
She’d cry if it was bleeding or was dead.
Some little dogs she had, and kept them fed
With milk and roasted meat and fine white bread.
But then she cried her eyes out when one died,
Or when to hit them some mean person tried.
With tender feelings was her good heart filled.
She wore a pleated wimple, finely frilled.
Her nose exquisite was, eyes gray as glass,
A soft, small, red mouth had this dainty lass.
And what a forehead! very smooth and straight,
Perhaps nine inches broad, or maybe eight.
Size-challenged was she definitely not.
He cloak was very nicely made, I thought.
An orange bead bracelet on her arm was seen,
Divisions marked by larger beads of green.
Her brooch of bright gold a small fortune cost,
On which a fancy “A” was first embossed,
Concluding with “Love conquers all” in Latin.
A NUN was with her and, our ranks to fatten,
An entourage of priests that numbered three.
A MONK there was; of good repute was he,
A wandering monk, a hunter strong, undaunted.
He could have been an abbot if he wanted.
Fine horses in great numbers he’d amassed.
His bridle one could hear as he rode past;
It jingled clearly in the whistling breeze,
As loudly as the chapel bell one sees
Upon the church to which he holds the keys.
He felt the rules of old Saint Benedict
Largely outmoded were, and way too strict;
And so this monk abandoned olden ways
For customs followed in the modern days.
For that text, he cared not a rat’s patute,
Which classed unholy those who hunt and shoot,
And said: “A monk who follows not the rules,
Is like a fish that does not swim in schools.” --
A monk, that is, who from his cloister wanders.
He thinks, “Baloney!” as the text he ponders.
On this was his position very strong.
To study till you’re bonkers - that’s all wrong,
One’s nose inside a book the whole day long -
Or, working with one’s hands at the behest
Of Augustine the Saint? What serves men best?
Let Augustine prevail - may none contest!
An avid horseman was this monk, alright:
His greyhounds were as swift as birds in flight.
Tracking and hunting hare - he loved to do it;
He was quite hopelessly addicted to it.
I saw his sleeves - both at the wrist were lined
With squirrel fur, the finest you can find.
For fastening his hood beneath his chin,
He had a finely fashioned golden pin;
A knot there was, of an uncommon kind.
His head was bald - like polished glass it shined,
As did his face, as though it had been oiled.
Well-fed, around him layers of fat were coiled.
His rolling eyes - most prominent they seemed,
And like a furnace stoked with coal they gleamed;
Supple his boots, in great shape was his steed.
This monk a handsome prelate was indeed;
He was not pale, as a tormented ghost.
He loved a fat swan best, of any roast.
His saddle horse was brown as any berry.
A FRIAR was there, pleasure-loving, merry.
Most solemnly he served a district small.
In all four friars’ orders he stood tall,
In sociability and speech refined.
Of all the weddings that he was assigned,
For many women he did foot the bill.
His order’s duties all he did fulfill.
He was well-liked, and everywhere well known,
By those, especially, who estates did own;
By worthy women he was highly prized;
To take confessions he was authorized,
More so than parish priests, or so he claimed.
For it was by his order he was named.
With empathy he did confessions hear;
His absolutions were not too severe.
He was not harsh, when penances he doled,
When he thought there might be a gift of gold.
For giving to an order of poor friars
Absolved adulterers and thieves and liars.
And if one gave, this friar him assured
From punishment for sin he’d be insured;
A hardened man, who’s heart sin’s suffering sears,
Cries not, for weeping weakness shows, he fears.
So when sin’s payments fall into arrears,
His money is his substitute for tears.
A bunch of little trinkets in his hood
He carried for the girls when they were good.
And his musicianship was up to par;
For he could sing, and play a mean guitar.
And ballads he could pleasingly recite.
The color of his neck was lily-white.
And furthermore he fought just like a pro.
In each town he did all the taverns know,
And every man of substance and his wife,
But he avoided riff-raff, and low-life.
Unless he was prepared to take a fall,
It would not be appropriate at all
For him that kind of company to keep.
No harvest of a profit could he reap
In dealing with the destitute and poor;
The rich and the successful offered more.
When he did on potential profit stumble,
He was all courteous, and very humble.
No man could do this work as well as he.
A better beggar there could never be;
[For begging rights a little fee he paid;
Far from his turf the other brethren stayed;]
For though a widow be of shoes bereft,
He had a lead-in line that was so deft,
He’d have at least a buck before he left.
His wages he augmented by this means.
And he could flirt like someone in their teens.
He well knew how to arbitrate disputes;
He was no cloistered monk with tattered boots
And threadbare coat, like some poor starving scholars;
He wore a short cloak costing fifty dollars,
Without a wrinkle, looking freshly pressed -
In clothes like a professional he dressed.
A slight lisp he affected, quite discreetly,
That off his tongue his words would roll more sweetly.
And when he sang a song, while strumming lightly,
His eyes within his head both twinkled brightly,
As stars do in the frosty heavens nightly.
Now Hubert was the handle of this dude.
A MERCHANT next, with clothing many-hued,
And forked beard, high up on his saddle sat;
Upon his head a Flemish beaver hat,
His handsome boots were elegantly bound,
And when he spoke he never joked around;
He always talked about his profits growing.
He worried of safe passage in his going
From Holland, by sea, to the English coast.
Of skill in arbitrage he could well boast.
To hide, he managed, from all men he met,
That he up to his eyeballs was in debt.
Adroitly he did manage his affairs
With buying and with selling of his wares.
He was a worthy man of means withal,
But honestly, his name I don’t recall.
There was a CLERK from Oxford who, while youthful,
Loved logic, and strove always to be truthful.
He had a horse that was quite lean and trim,
And far from overweight, he was quite slim;
Emaciated, I would even say.
His threadbare clothing at the seams did fray.
For no ecclesiastical commission
Yet had he, and no secular position.
He’d rather have, on shelves beside his bed,
Two dozen books, all bound in black and red,
Plato’s, Saint Augustine’s, and Aristotle’s,
No fancy clothes, guitars, and empty bottles.
Although a thinker of the highest rank,
He didn’t have much money in the bank.
But all that he could borrow from his friends,
On school tuition and on books he spends.
And heavenward his fervent prayer ascends,
To call down blessings on his faithful friends.
To study he with diligence attends.
In speech, no wasted verbiage he appends.
Formal he was, whene’er he did converse,
Uplifting, lively, to the point, and terse.
Consonant with his virtue was his speech,
And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.
A LAWYER with a sterling reputation
For wise and fair and prudent litigation,
Superior in every way, was there.
He was judicious, and he had an air
Of dignity. He well could solve disputes,
And oft served as the judge in civil suits;
The throne did his authority proclaim.
By virtue of his knowledge and his name,
Quite lucrative retainers to him came.
In land there was no greater wheeler-dealer;
He was immune to any would be stealer,
His titles were so air-tight and secure.
He seemed so busy, but you can be sure
He lots of time for leisure set aside.
He had a record of all cases tried
In England, since the time King William reigned.
The papers he drew up were never stained
By any flaw that anyone could find.
All of the statutes he could call to mind.
He dressed in a most unassuming way,
With simple coat and belt; all I can say
Is that quite well into the crowd he blended.
A FRANKLIN was there, whom he had befriended,
With beard white as the feathers on a dove;
In temperament, with life he was in love.
He liked a little bread with wine on waking;
Delight in life he was forever taking.
He was a son of Epicurus, surely,
Who held that to partake of pleasure purely
Is what true happiness is all about.
A big-time home-owner was he, no doubt.
A paragon of hospitality.
Fine food he served, of highest quality;
No man with wine was ever better stocked.
Pies sprang out when the pantry was unlocked.
An endless stream of food - man, what a scene!
A veritable blizzard of cuisine.
Here all the dishes known to humankind,
According to the seasons, one could find;
So did he vary breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Each fish of his was a blue-ribbon winner;
The partridges he kept in pens were fat.
A sauce that was not just so, in the vat,
Would cause the cook to look for new employ.
His dining table was his pride and joy;
With fine cloth it was covered for, in short,
There he presided, like a judge in court.
He was an MP of the finest sort.
A dagger, and a purse made out of silk,
Hung at his belt, as white as morning milk.
He worked with taxes, and security.
A landowner par excellence was he.
A CARPENTER, a HABERDASHER, and
A DYER, WEAVER, and a TAPSTER planned
To throw their lot in with our motley band.
Clothed in the solemn livery of their guild,
All those utensils that their satchels filled
Were new, and all their knives were mounted not
With brass, but with pure silver finely wrought.
Down to the last detail the clothes they brought
Were such it seemed that they should qualify
A seat at city hall to occupy.
Each one seemed, with good common sense replete,
Well suited for a city council seat.
If they ran, their win would be automatic;
If they won, their wives would all be ecstatic;
If not, on them their wives would heap derision,
For to be called “My Lady”, they envision,
While walking at the head of the parade,
In gowns with trains, all regally arrayed.
There was a COOK who’d also joined the group
To boil the bones and chickens for the soup.
He was an expert in the use of spices,
A connoisseur of ale, and other vices;
A master chef who roasts and broils and fries,
And makes the most delicious stews and pies.
He had one defect though, that was quite bad,
Upon his chin and open sore he had.
But his white-pudding was the very best.
A SHIPMAN was there, hailing from the west;
From Dartmouth he did come, for all I know.
His cart horse riding skills were just so so.
A gown of woolen cloth reached to his knees,
And on a cord a dagger hanging he’s
About his neck got, underneath his arm.
A tan he had acquired in weather warm;
A jolly good companion for the road,
For many a draught of wine away he stowed,
When it was night, behind the Merchant’s back.
Of scruples this rough sailor had a lack.
If he won fights at sea, to be quite frank,
His vanquished foes would surely walk the plank.
But for his skill to reckon well the tides,
And see ahead to dangers on all sides,
As by the stars he deftly navigates,
From Spain to England he’s one of the greats.
His courage he with prudence moderates;
And many a tempest he had made it through.
And every harbor that there was he knew,
From Gotland isle clear unto Land’s End Cape,
And inlets where from storms he could escape.
The ship he had was christened Maudelaine.
If anyone should suffer any pain,
We had a DOCTOR of uncommon skills
In surgery, and in prescribing pills.
He used, to cure his patients of their ills,
His knowledge of the sun and moon and Mars;
He timed his medications by the stars.
The planetary risings he consults
So that his treatments give the best results.
He knew the cause of every ill condition,
And how to bring about a swift remission.
For he could pinpoint where each problem lies.
His practice was inspired and very wise;
For since he knew the cause of a disease,
He tells the remedy, collects his fees,
Then sends the patient to his druggists willing
To sell them drugs and make themselves a killing.
In tandem they their patients’ pockets fleece -
A friendship that goes back to ancient Greece.
Of Aesculapius quite well he knew,
And Dioscorides, and Rufus too,
Old Galen, Haly, and Hippocrates,
Serapion, Avicenna, and Rhazes;
Of Damascan, Gilbertus, Averroes,
Bernard, and Constantine he also knows.
In diet to extremes he never goes,
For strictly he avoided all excess;
Just basic nourishment, no more, no less.
His knowledge of the Holy Book was scant.
All red and blue were both his shirt and pant;
With silk and taffeta his clothes were lined.
To buy big ticket items he declined;
But hoarded what, in times of plague, he mined,
For money warms the cockles of his heart -
Of his profession, gold was the best part.
A WIFE there was OF BATH who, sad to tell,
Was getting old, and could not hear too well.
He skill in making cloth was so darn good,
Above all others in the land she stood.
No wife gave offerings, in all the parish,
That any person would more greatly cherish.
But if one did, then she was so offended
That all her charitable feelings ended.
Her kerchiefs were of finely textured weave;
They weighed in at ten pounds, I do believe,
That were on Sundays seen upon her head.
Her hosiery was colored scarlet red,
Her shoes were supple, finely laced, and new.
Bold was her face, and fair, and red of hue.
She was a woman’s woman all her life;
There were five men in all who’d called her wife,
Not counting all her other youthful flings --
But right now I shall speak of other things.
Her journeys to Jerusalem were three;
She’d often sailed on many a foreign sea;
She had been at Bologna and at Rome
And other places far away from home;
Her knowledge of the world was not outdated.
Her teeth with gaps were widely separated.
With confidence upon her horse she sat,
With head-scarf large, upon which was a hat
As broad as is a buckler or a shield;
Her ample hips an overskirt concealed.
To prod her horse she wore a pair of spurs.
A quite congenial attitude was hers.
Some cures for love’s travails she knew, by chance,
For there’s no better expert at romance.
A young man of the cloth, good to the core,
There was with us, a PARSON very poor,
But rich, as far as one who wears the collar,
In holy thoughts and deeds; he was a scholar
Who Christ’s pure teachings boldly would proclaim;
And lead his flock to worship in God’s name.
He graciousness and diligence displayed,
As through life’s setbacks on his course he stayed.
He’d often seen things go from bad to worse,
For tithe non-payment he was loath to curse,
But rather entered it into his head,
Among his poor parishioners to spread
Some of his offerings and wages too.
He could without a lot of things make do.
His flock was spread out, houses distant were,
But neither rain nor hail could him deter
From visiting in sickness or travail
Those living farthest off the beaten trail,
On foot, with staff in hand, o’er roads all wet.
A fine example for his sheep he set,
That actions come first, afterwards the preachings.
He took those words straight out of gospel teachings,
And added his own metaphor thereto,
That if gold rust, then what shall iron do?
For if a priest be foul, in whom one trusts,
It is no wonder that a layman rusts;
A shame it is, if there should e’er be seen
A shitty shepherd and a sheep that’s clean.
A good priest by his cleanness ought to give
A fine example how his sheep should live.
He did not put his priesthood out for hire,
And leave his sheep to wallow in the mire;
To London’s Saint Paul’s runs he not to say:
“I seek a patron for whom I can pray.”
For chaplains’ guilds he will not work for pay;
He’d rather dwell at home, and tend his flock;
His mission: wolves who prey on them to block.
A priest with sense of duty, not for sale,
Was he, who’s holy virtue could not fail,
Yet sinful men he never would despise,
Nor try to build himself up in their eyes,
But in his teachings was benign and wise,
To lead folks gently to celestial skies
By good example, that’s how he did work.
But if there was some unrepentant jerk,
I don’t care who, a pauper or a duke,
Him would he roundly chasten and rebuke.
There’s naught about this priest the least bit phony.
He did not stand on pomp or ceremony,
Nor was he strict where conscience was concerned,
But from the twelve apostles much he learned.
Christ’s gospel teachings in his bosom burned.
His brother was a PLOWMAN, he was young;
He’d hauled his share of cartloads full of dung.
This did a father oft times to him tell:
“A job worth doing is worth doing well.”
With his whole heart in God he did believe,
Whether life brought him health, or made him grieve.
He loved his neighbor, and his deeds would show it:
He’d dig a ditch, or trim a lawn and mow it,
In Christ’s name, for some person who was poor,
Expecting not a single dime therefor.
He paid his tithes, withholding not a cent,
Both on his wages earned, and on his rent.
In sleeveless jackets rode he on a mare.
A MILLER and a REEVE were also there,
A SUMMONER, and PARDONER, and me;
A MANCIPLE completes our company,
The MILLER seemed at first a tub of lard,
But big he was of bones, with muscles hard.
With every wrestling match that he was in,
The prize invariably he would win.
Stout and large-framed and broad, you get my drift;
All doors up off their hinges he could lift,
Or break, as on them hard his head he knocks.
His beard was red as any sow or fox,
And like a shovel, also very wide.
Upon his nose, right at the tip, one spied
A wart, on which a tuft of red hairs grew,
Just like the bristles on a sow’s ears do.
His nostrils full of black hairs were, and wide.
A sword he always carried at this side.
His huge, loud mouth revealed a missing tooth.
He gave new meaning to the word “uncouth”,
From living in debauchery and vice.
For meal he ground, his clients oft paid thrice;
At stealing from them he was very good.
White was the coat he wore, and blue his hood.
Upon the bagpipes he could really blow;
To his sounds, out of town we all did go.
A law school’s MANCIPLE we had, a great
Example buyers ought to emulate,
Of how to purchase stuff for an estate.
Whether on credit or with cash he bought,
He always looked for bargains; he was not
A man who in a swindle could be caught.
Now is that not a gift of God, indeed,
That an unlearned man’s wit should exceed
The wisdom of a bunch of learned men?
Of “betters” he had more than three times ten,
Each one of them in law nobody’s fool;
There were at least a dozen at his school,
Each one of whom in every way would rate
To be a steward of a lord’s estate,
And make him live well, yet his wealth protect,
And deftly all his creditors deflect,
Or simply live, if that were his desire,
So that he could contribute to the shire
For every worthy cause, as he might please.
And still our guy could put to shame all these.
The REEVE a veritable beanpole was,
And sickly, with his hair cut in a buzz,
And closely trimmed up high around his ears,
So that just like a priest’s his crown appears.
His legs were very long and very lean,
Jus like a pair of sticks; no calves were seen.
In all his books he covered his behind;
No auditor one thing amiss could find.
He followed forecasts of the rain and drought,
Sufficient grain he never was without.
His lord’s sheep, cattle, and his dairy cows,
His horses, livestock, poultry, and his sows,
This Reeve controlled, and so of their amounts,
By contract terms, he gave precise accounts,
For only twenty years old was his lord.
To mess with him no man could well afford.
No smoke could servants up his rear end blow;
There were none whose deceit he did not know.
As if he were the plague they feared him, all.
He lived upon a heath, with green trees tall,
Which, giving shade, around his dwelling grew.
More than his lord, of this estate he knew,
And richly for himself he did provide.
He subtly could get on his lord’s good side,
By giving to him some of his own things,
Which nice rewards along with thank-yous brings.
In youth, construction skills he had acquired,
And often as a carpenter was hired.
This Reeve sat on a mare that was a doozy;
She was all dapple gray - her name was Suzy.
An overcoat he had on that was blue;
A rusty sword hung down beside old Sue.
Of Norfolk was this Reeve of whom I tell,
Just down the road a bit from Baudeswelle.
His coat was hitched up, like a friar’s gear;
He always, in our group, brought up the rear.
A SUMMONER was with us in this shire,
With cherubim-like face as red as fire;
Eyes swollen up, a case of zits he’s got;
He’s like a sparrow, lecherous and hot.
Black scabby brows he had, and scraggly beard;
He had the kind of visage children feared.
No zinc monoxide, mercury, nor sulfur,
Borax, white-lead, nor any oil of tartar,
Nor burning ointment sold in any place,
Nor cleansing oil could clear his pustuled face,
Nor cure the knobs that rose upon his cheeks.
His favorite foods were garlic, onions, leeks.
He had for blood-red wine a special craving,
Which made him speak and cry out, madly raving.
And when he was all loaded up with booze,
He Latin words exclusively would use.
He had a knowledge of some legalese
That he had memorized from some decrees --
No wonder, for he heard them all day long --
Just like a parrot can recite a song,
And call out “Polly” clear as you and I.
But if we into other matters pry,
We see how shallow all his learning is;
He’d always cry out “Questio quid iuris?”
Though he was quite a rascal, he was kind;
A better fellow would be hard to find.
He, in return for just one quart of wine,
Would let a fellow have his concubine,
And hold against him nothing, one whole year;
Many a trick he pulled off. Not to fear,
He would advise some man he chanced to meet,
Who for some sin sat in the judgment seat,
And excommunication faced, or worse,
Unless that man’s soul was within his purse,
In which case he’d pronounce the solemn curse:
“My purse is the archdeacon’s pass to hell.”
But that he told a lie I know quite well,
For every guilty man should fear and pray,
For as forgiveness saves, this curse will slay.
Let one beware if ordered to the slammer.
O’er all the youth in town he held a hammer
With which to keep them all in line he tries.
To all their little secrets he is wise.
A garland had he just above his eyes,
Which equaled a small tavern sign is size.
He’d made himself a buckler out of dough.
With him a gentle PARDONER did go
Of Rouncevale, his friend and riding mate,
Who from the court of Rome had come of late.
He loudly sang “Come hither, love, to me!”
The Summoner, a bass, sang harmony;
A trumpet half so great a sound ne’er made.
The Pardoner had yellow hair that laid
Smooth as a clump of flax about his crown,
With many locks in small strands hanging down
That spread to cover both his shoulders wide
In thin strands, one by one, on either side.
No hood he wore to cover up his head,
But in his knapsack stuffed it down instead.
Thus in the latest style to ride he dared,
With hair disheveled, and his head all bared.
His eyes intensely, like a rabbit’s, glared.
An emblem had he sewn upon his cap.
His knapsack sat before him in his lap.
From Rome he’d come, with pardon’s in his coat.
A voice he had as small as has a goat.
Beardless, no hair his cheeks would ever grace;
Smooth always, as if shaven, was his face.
I think he was a eunuch or a gay.
The best he was throughout the land, I’d say.
Did any Pardoner surpass him? Nay,
For in his pouch he had a pillow-case
Which, so he claimed, once veiled Our Lady’s face;
A section of the sail he said he kept,
Belonging to Saint Peter, who was swept
Out on the sea, till Christ came to his aid.
A cross of brass he had, with stones inlaid,
And o’er a glass with pig bones in it prayed.
And with these relics, when he chanced to meet
Some homeless persons living on the street,
He got more money in a single day
Than two full month’s worth of a parson’s pay.
And thus with flattery that was a crock,
He made fools of the parson and his flock.
But further his dissembling talents reached;
In church he very eloquently preached.
A lesson he could read well, or a story;
But best of all he sang an Offertory,
For he knew well that when that song was sung,
All stops he must pull out on his smooth tongue;
He’d really pour it on to win the gold;
Thus loud and long those high notes he would hold.
I’ve told you briefly, and I do not lie,
The rank, dress, number, and the reasons why
This company at this fine Southwerk Inn
Had with each other all their lots thrown in,
The name of which was Tabard by the Bell.
But now the time has come for me to tell
About all that we did on that same night,
While in that hostelry, by candle light;
Then I’ll move on and, o’er a glass of wine,
Tell of our journey to the holy shrine.
But first I pray that you will be benign,
And not accusatory if I’m crude
When I speak plainly, using language rude,
Including terms like “fart”, and “piss”, and “turds”;
I’m but repeating other peoples words.
For this you know as well as I: that when
Repeating stories told by other men,
One must be very faithful to rehearse
All of their words, for better or for worse,
Though they may rudely rant and rave and curse,
Or else the truth you have to overreach,
Or make things up to sanitize their speech.
So even if you’re quoting your best friend,
You must resist temptations to amend.
No words are minced in holy writ by Christ;
With rudeness, though, his speech is never spiced.
And Plato says, for whosoever reads,
The words must be first cousins to the deeds.
And, too, I hope that you can overlook
The fact that I may not go by the book,
All of these people by their ranks respecting.
Occasionally I may need correcting.
Our Host made everyone at ease to feel,
And sat us all down to an evening meal.
On all the very best cuisine we dined,
And then strong wine allowed us to unwind.
OUR HOST was an impressive man indeed,
And many a big event he had MC’d.
His eyes were prominent, his height impressed --
In Cheapside business circles he’s the best.
Well mannered was he, wise, bold in his speeches;
New heights in masculinity he reaches;
But at the same time, he strong wine would sup
When evening meal was done, and loosen up.
He speaks of mirth and many other things;
As to the cashier he our payment brings,
He says: “Now let’s enjoy the wine and beer;
I bid you all a hearty welcome here.
In truth, and that I lie you need not fear,
All this year at this place, I have to tell you,
In mirth there’s been no crowd that could excel you.
I’d like to cheer you up, if I knew how.
And it so happens I have thought, just now,
Of an amusement that might be a blast.
“To Canterbury -- and God make it fast --
You go. May that blessed martyr on you smile!
And well I know, that ere you’ve gone one mile,
To telling stories you will all be prone;
For there’s no fun in being all alone,
And making no more sound than does a stone.
So let me now suggest a little game
Which has a prize that he who wins will claim.
And so if all are of a single mind
That I’m the judge who will a winner find,
And if you’ll all agree that I’m the one
In charge, then when our journey has begun,
Upon my father’s grave to you I swear
If you’re not happy I’ll shave off my hair.
So all in favor, hands up in the air!”
Each one of us a hand up high did thrust.
We thought it didn’t need to be discussed.
Thus we to his request gave our assent,
And asked if he his plan would now present.
“Well, gentlemen, here’s what I would propose.
I hope and pray you will not say: ‘It blows!’
I’d like you each, to make our trip seem short,
An interesting tale to tell for sport,
One half while we toward Canterbury walk,
While homeward bound the other half will talk,
Of things that happened, or that are fictitious,
And whoso’s tale is judged the most delicious --
That is to say, who best deserves a toast,
Proposed, for excellence, by me, your Host,
For edifying and amusing most --
Shall have a supper paid for by the rest,
As is befitting for the one who’s best,
Once we from Canterbury have come back.
And so, that merriment you might not lack,
I shall be glad along with you to ride,
At my own cost entirely, as your guide;
As to my judgment, whoso dares to knock it
Shall cover all our costs from his own pocket.
So if to these terms you are all agreed,
Speak not, a show of hands is all I need,
And I’ll be ready at the crack of dawn.”
We granted this, and swore our oaths anon,
And with no reservations said, “You’re on!
We’re highly honored, nay, we’re overjoyed
That we’re now not of leadership devoid.
You score our tales, your choice we’ll not appeal,
And from the menu choose a pricey meal.
We’ll be your subjects, you can be our lord
In all respects.” And thus with one accord
On his bandwagon everyone was hopping,
And thereupon one heard the corks a-popping;
All drank, then rested from a long day’s toil,
None staying up to burn the midnight oil.
Up like a cock at dawn our Host arose,
Abruptly ending our long night’s repose.
He gathered us together in a flock
And forth we all rode out at six o’clock;
To water, at Saint Thomas Hole we stopped,
As did our Host, where off his horse he hopped
And said, “Now listen up please, one and all.
If you last night’s agreement do recall,
And with it you this morning still are fine,
Then let’s see who shall be the first in line
To tell his tale, while I shall sip some wine;
And whoso is of a rebellious bent
Shall pay for all that on the trip is spent.
So let us all draw straws ere we depart;
And whoso gets the shortest one shall start.
Sir Knight,” said he, “my master, please now draw,
That we may see how long or short thy straw.
And you, my lady Prioress, come near.
Sir Clerk, forget your modesty; come here.
To draw, let every man put forth his hand!”
And so to draw came each one in this band.
Whether by destiny, or luck, or chance,
Or preordained by Fortune in advance,
The truth is this: the draw fell to the Knight,
Which filled all on this journey with delight.
He’s obligated now to tell his tale,
If on his honor he is not to fail
The oath he took; what else is there to say?
So this good man decided to obey
Our Host, when he saw how the drawing went,
And keep his word, made by his free assent.
“Since I’m the one to kick things off,” he said,
“Praise be the draw, by Christ who for us bled!
Now let us ride, and listen to my voice.”
And with that word we all ride and rejoice,
For he began in a right merry way
To tell his story, and that made our day.