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PROLOGUE to the CANTERBURY TALES. | Aboven alle nations, in Pruce,
WHANNE that April with his shoures sote
The drought of March hath perced to the rote,-
And bathed every veine in swiche licour
Of which vertue engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eke with his sote brethe
Enspired hath in every holte and hethe
The tendre croppes; and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne;
And smale foules maken melodie,
That slepen alle night with open eye,
So priketh hem nature in hir corages ;—
Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken strange strondes,
To serve halwes couth in sondry londes ;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Englelond to Canterbury they wende,
The holy, blissful martyr for to seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were sike.
Befelle, that, in that seson, on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devoute corage,—
At night was come into that hostelrie
Wel nine-and-twenty in a compagnie
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felawship, and pilgrims were they alle,
That toward Canterbury wolden ride,
The chambres and the stables weren wide,
And wel we weren esed, atte beste.
And shortly, whan the sonne was gon to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everich on,
That I was of hir felawship anon,
And made forward erly for to rise,
To take oure way ther as I you devise.
But, natheles, while I have time and space,
Or that I forther in this Tale pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to reson
To tellen you alle the condition
Of eche of hem, so as it semed me;
And whiche they weren; and of what degre;
And eke in what araie that they were inne :-
And, at a knight, than wol I firste beginne.
A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he first began
To riden out, he loved chevalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre ;
And, therto, hadde he ridden, none more ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And ever honoured for his worthinesse.
At Alisandre was he whan it was wonne,
Ful often time he hadde the bord begonne,
In Lettawe had he reysed, and in Ruce;
No Cristen-man so ofte, of his degre,
In Gernade, at the siege, eke, hadde he be
Of Algesir; and ridden in Belmarie.
At Leyes was he, and at Satalie,
Whan they were wonne; and, in the Grete sce
At many a noble armee hadde he be;
At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene ;
And foughten for our faith, at Tramissene;
In listes, thries and ay slain his fo.
This ilke worthy Knight hadde ben also,
Somtime, with the Lord of Palatie,
Agen another Hethen in Turkie;
And evermore he hadde a sovereine pris,
And though that he was worthy he was wise;
And of his port, as meke as is a mayde:
He never yet no vilainie ne sayde,
In all his lif, unto no manere wight,
He was a veray parfit gentil knight.
But, for to tellen you of his araie,-
His hors was good, but he ne was not gaie.
Of fustian he wered a gipon
Alle besmatred with his habergeon,
For he was late ycome fro his viage,
And wente for to don his pilgrimage.
With him, ther was his sone, a yonge Squier,
A lover, and a lusty bacheler;
With lockes crull as they were laide in presse.
Of twenty yere of age he was I gesse.
Of his stature he was of even lengthe;
And wonderly deliver, and grete of strengthe,
And he hadde be, somtime, in chevachie
In Flaundres; in Artois; and in Picardie;
And borne him wel, as of so litel space,
In hope to standen in his ladies grace.
Embrouded was he, as it were a mede
All full of freshe floures, white and rede.
Singing he was, or floyting, all the day:
He was as freshe as is the moneth of May.
Short was his goune, with sleves long and wide.
Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride,
He coude songes make, and wel endite;
Juste, and eke dance; and wel pourtraie and write :
So hote he loved, that by nightertale
He slep no more than doth the nightingale:
Curteis he was, lowly, and servisable;
And carf before his fader at the table.
A Yeman hadde he; and servantes no mo
At that time; for him luste to ride so:
And he was cladde in cote and hode of grene;
A shefe of peacock arwes bright and kene
Under his belt he bare ful thriftily;
Wel coude he dresse his takel yemanly:
His arwes drouped not with fetheres lowe,
And in his hand he bare a mighty bowe.
A not-hed hadde he, with a broune visage,
Of wood-craft coude he wel alle the usage.
Upon his arme, he bare a gaie bracer;
And by his side, a swerd and a bokeler;
And on that other side, a gaie daggere,
Harneised wel, and sharpe as point of spere:
A Cristofre on his brest of silver shene.
An horne he bare, the baudrik was of grene.
A forster was he, sothely, as I gesse.
Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hire smiling was ful simple and coy;
Hire gretest othe n'as but by Seint Eloy;
And she was cleped Madam Eglentine.
Ful wel she sange the service divine,
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely;
And Frenche she spake, ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe-
For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe.
At mete was she wel ytaughte withalle;
She lette no morsel from hire lippes falle;
Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe.
Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe,
That no drope ne fell upon hire brest,
In curtesie was sette, ful moche, hire lest:
Hire over lippe wiped she so clene,
That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene
Of grese, whan she dranken hadde hire draught.
Full semely after hire mete she raught.
And, sikerly, she was of grete disport,
And ful pleasant and amiable of port;
And peined hire, to contrefeten chere
Of court, and ben estatelich 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 saw a mous
Caughte in a trappe, if it were ded or bledde.
Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde
With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel-brede;
But sore wept she if on of hem were dede,
Or if men smote it with a yerde smert:
And all was conscience and tendre herte.
Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was;
Hire nose tretis; hire eyen grey as glas;
Hire mouth ful smale, and therto soft and red;
But, sikerly, she hadde a faire forehed,—
It was almost a spanne brode I trowe;
For hardily she was not undergrowe.
Ful fetise was hire cloke, as I was ware.
Of smale corall, about hire arm, she bare
A pair of bedes gauded ali with grene;
And theron heng a broche of gold, ful shene,
On whiche was first ywritten a crouned A,
And after Amor vincit omnia.
Another Nonne also with hire hadde she
That was hire chapelleine, and Preestes thre.
A Monk ther was, a fayre for the maistrie,
out-rider, that loved vencrie ;
A manly man, to ben an abbot able.
Ful many a deinte hors hadde he in stable;
And when he rode, men mighte his bridel here
Gingeling, in a whistling wind, as clere
And eke as loude as doth the chapell belle,
Ther as this lord was keper of the celle.
The reule of Seint Maure and of Seint Beneit,
Because that it was olde and somdele streit,
This ilke monk lette olde thinges pace
And held after the newe world the trace.
He yave not of the text a pulled hen,
That saith that hunters ben not holy men;
Ne that a monk, whan he is rekkeles,
Is like to a fish that is waterles;
(This is to say, a monk out of his cloistre ;)
This ilke text he held not worth an oistre.
And I say, his opinion was good:
What! shulde he studie, and make himselven wood,
Upon a book in cloistre alway to pore,
(Or swinken with his hondes, and laboure,)
As Austin bit; how shal the world be served?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therfore he was a prickasoure a right:
Greihoundes he hadde as swift as foul of flight:
Of pricking, and of hunting for the hare
Was all his lust; for no cost wolde he spare.
I saw his sleves purfiled at the hond
With gris, and that the finest of the lond,
And, for to fasten his hood, under his chinne
He hadde, of gold ywrought, a curious pinne,—
A love-knotte in the greter ende ther was.
His hed was balled, and shone as any glas,
And eke his face, as it hadde ben anoint.
He was a lord ful fat and in good point.
His eyen stepe, and rolling in his hed,
That stemed as a furneis of a led;
His bootes souple, his hors in gret estat;
Now certainly he was a fayre prelat.
He was not pale as a forpined gost.
A fat swan loved he best of any rost.
His palfrey was as broune as is a bery.
A Frere there was, a wanton and a mery,
A limitour, a ful solempne man,
In all the ordres foure, is non that can
So moche of daliance and fayre langage.
He hadde ymade ful many a mariage
Of yonge wimmen, at his owen cost;
Until his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel beloved, and familier was he
With frankeleins, over all, in his contree;
And, cke, with worthy wimmen of the toun;
For he had power of confession,
As saide himselfe, more than a curat,
For of his ordre he was a licentiat.
Ful swetely herde he confession,
And plesant was his absolution.
He was an esy man to give penance,
Ther as he wiste to han a good pitance;
For unto a poure ordre for to give,
Is signe that a man is wel yshrive;
For if he gave,-he dorste make avant,
He wiste, that a man was repentant;
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
He may not wepe although him sore smerte:
Therfore, in stede of weping and praieres,
Men mote give silver to the poure freres.
His tippet was, ay, farsed full of knives,
And pinnes, for to given fayre wives.
And, certainly, he hadde a mery note;
Wel coude he singe and plaien on a rote,
Of yeddinges he bare utterly the pris;
His nekke was white as the flour de lis.
Therto, he strong was as a champioun ;
And knew wel the tavernes in every toun,
And every hosteler and gay tapstere,—
Better than a lazar or a beggere;
For unto swiche a worthy man as he
Accordeth nought, as by his faculte,
To haven with sike lazars acquaintance;
It is not honest, it may not avance ;-
As for to delen with no swiche pouraille,
But all with riche and sellers of vitaille.
And, over all, ther as profit shuld arise
Curteis he was, and lowly of servise;
Ther n'as no man no wher so vertuous,
He was the beste begger in all his hous;
And gave a certain ferme for the grant,
Non of his brethren came in his haunt.
For though a widewe hadde but a shoo,
(So plesant was his In Principio)
Yet wold he have a ferthing or he went;
His pourchas was wel better than his rent.
And rage he coude as it hadde ben a whelp,
In lovedayes, there coude he mochel help;
For ther was he-nat like a cloisterere,
With thredbare cope, as is a poure scolere-
But he was like a maister or a pope.
Of double worsted was his semicope,
That round was as a belle out of the presse,
Somwhat he lisped for his wantonnesse,
To make his English swete upon his tonge;
And in his harping, whan that he hadde songe,
His eyen twinkeled in his hed aright,
As don the sterres in a frosty night.
This worthy limitour was cleped Huberd.
A Marchant was ther with a forked berd,
In mottelee, and highe on hors he sat,
And on his hed a Flaundrish bever hat,
His bootes clapsed fayre and fetisly,
His resons spake he ful solempnely,
Souning alway the encrese of his winning.
He wold the see were kept, for any thing,
Betwixen Middelburgh and Orewell.
Wel coud he in eschanges sheldes selle.
This worthy man ful wel his wit besette;
Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
So stedfastly didde he in his governance,
With his bargeines, and with his chevisance.
Forsothe he was a worthy man withalle.
But soth to sayn, I no't how men him calle.
A Clerk ther was of Oxenforde also,
That unto logike hadde long ygo.
As lene was his hors as is a rake,
And he was not right fat, I undertake;
But looked holwe, and therto soberly.
Ful thredbare was his overest courtepy,
For he hadde geten him yet no benefice,
He was nought worldly to have an office.
For him was lever han, at his beddes hed,
Twenty bokes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
Than robes riche; or fidel; or sautrie:
But all be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But all that he might of his frendes hente,
On bokes and on lerning he it spente;
And besily gan for the soules praie
Of hem that yave him wherwith to scolaie.
Of studie toke he most cure and hode.
Not a word spake he more than was nede;
And that was said in forme and reverence,
And short and quike, and full of high sentence:
Souning in moral vertue was his speche;
And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.
A Sergeant of the Lawe ware and wise,
That often hadde ben at the parvis,
Ther was also; ful riche of excellence.
Discrete he was, and of gret reverence;
He semed swiche; his wordes were so wise:
Justice he was full often in assise,
By patent, and by pleine commissioun ;
For his science, and for his high renoun.
Of fees and robes had he many on.
So grete a pourchaser was no wher non:
All was fee simple to him in effect,
His pourchasing might not ben in suspect.
No wher so besy a man as he ther n'as,
And yet he semed besier than he was.
In termes had he cas and domes alle
That fro the time of King Will. weren falle:
Therto, he coude endite and make a thing;
Ther coude no wight pinche at his writing.
And every statute coude he plaine by rote.
He rode but homely,-in a medlee cote,
Girt with a seint of silk, with barres smale.
Of his array tell I no lenger tale.
A Frankelein was in this compagnie;
White was his berd as is the dayesie.
Of his complexion he was sanguin.
Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in win.
To liven in delit was ever his wone.
For he was Epicures owen sone,
That held opinion, that plein delit
Was veraily felicite parfite.
An housholder, and that a grete was he;
Seint Julian he was in his contree.
His brede, his ale, was alway after on;
A better envyned man was no wher non.
Withouten bake mete never was his hous,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous,
It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke,
Of alle deintees that men coud of thinke.
After the sondry sesons of the yere,
So changed he his mete and his soupere.
Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in mewe;
And many a breme, and many a luce, in stewe.
Wo was his coke but if his sauce were
Poinant and sharpe, and redy all his gere.
His table, dormant in his halle, alway
Stode redy covered alle the longe day.
At sessions ther was he lord and sire;
Ful often time he was knight of the shire.
An anelace and a gipciere all of silk
Heng at his girdel, white as morwe milk.
A shereve hadde he ben and a countour.
Was no wher swiche a worthy vavasour.
An Haberdasher, and a Carpenter,
A Webbe, a Deyer, and a Tapiser,
Were alle yclothed in o livere
Of a solempne and grete fraternite.
Ful freshe and newe hir gere ypiked was.
Hir knives were ychaped not with bras,
But all with silver wrought full clene and wel,
Hir girdeles and hir pouches, every del.
Wel semed eche of hem a fayre burgeis,
To sitten in a gild halle, on the deis.
Everich, for the wisdom that he can,
Was shapelich for to ben an alderman.
For catel hadden they ynough, and rent.
And, eke, hir wives wolde it wel assent,
And elles certainly they were to blame,
It is full fayre to ben ycleped Madame,-
And for to gon to vigiles all before,
And have a mantel reallich ybore.
A Coke they hadden with hem for the nones,
To boile the chickenes and the marie bones,
And poudre marchant, tart, and galingale.
Wel coude he knowe a draught of London ale.
He coude roste, and sethe, and broile, and frie,
Maken mortrewes, and wel bake a pie.
(But gret harm was it, as it thoughte me
That on his shinne a mormal hadde he.)
For blanc manger-that made he with the best.
A Shipman was ther-woned fer by West:
For ought I wote, he was of Dertemouth.
He rode upon a rouncie, as he couthe,
All in a goun of falding to the knee.
A dagger hanging by a las hadde hee
About his nekke, under his arm, adoun.
The hote sommer hadde made his hewe al broun.
But certainly he was a good felaw.
Ful many a draught of win he hadde draw
From Burdeux ward, while that the chapmen slepe;
Of nice conscience toke he no kepe:
If that he faught, and hadde the higher hand,
By water he sent hem home to every land.
But, of his craft,-to reken wel his tides,
His stremes and his strandes him besides,
His herberwe, his mone, and his lode manage,
Ther was non swiche from Hull unto Cartage.
Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake:
With many a tempest hadde his berd be shake.
He knew wel alle the havens as they were,
Fro Gotland to the Cape de Finistere,
And every creke in Bretagne and in Spaine:
His barge ycleped was the Magdelaine.
With us ther was a Doctour of Phisike;
In all this world, ne was ther non him like,
To speke of phisike and of surgerie;
For he was grounded in astronomie.
He kept his patient a ful gret del
In houres, by his magike naturel :
Wel coude he fortunen the ascendent
Of his images, for his patient.
He knew the cause of every maladie,
Were it of cold, or hote, or moist, or drie,
And wher engendred, and of what humour:
He was a veray parfite practisour.
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the rote,-
Anon he gave to the sike man his bote.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries,
To send him drugges and his lettuaries;
For eche of hem made other for to winne;
Hir frendship n'as not newe to beginne.
Wel knew he the old Esculapius,
And Dioscorides and eke Rufus,
Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien,
Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen,
Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin,
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin.
Of his diete mesurable was he,
For it was of no superfluitee,
But of gret nourishing, and digestible.
His studie was but litel on the Bible.
In sanguin, and in perse, he clad was alle,
Lined with taffata, and with sendalle.
And yet he was but esy of dispence;
He kepte that he wan in the pestilence;
For gold in phisike is a cordial;
Therfore he loved gold in special.
A good Wif was ther of beside Bathe;
But she was som del defe, and that was scathe.
Of cloth making she hadde swiche an haunt,
She passed hem of Ipres, and of Gaunt.
In all the parish, wif ne was ther non
That to the offring before hire shulde gon,-
And if ther did, certain so wroth was she,
That she was out of alle charitee.
Hire coverchiefs weren ful fine of ground,
(I dorste swere they weyeden a pound,)
That on the Sonday were upon hire hede;
Hire hosen weren of fine scarlet rede,
Ful streite yteyed, and shoon ful moist and newe.
Bold was hire face, and fayre and rede of hew.
She was a worthy woman all hire live:
Housbondes, at the chirche dore, had she had five,
Withouten other compagnie in youthe,
But thereof nedeth not to speke as nouthe.
And thries hadde she ben at Jerusaleme;
She had passed many a strange streme:
At Rome she hadde ben; and at Boloigne ;
In Galice at Seint James; and at Coloine:
She coude moche of wandring by the way,
Gat-tothed was she, sothly for to say.
Upon an ambler esily she sat,
Ywimpled wel; and on hire hede an hat,
As brode as is a bokeler, or a targe;
A fore-mantel about hire hippes large;
And on hire fete a pair of sporres sharpe.
In felawship, wel coude she laughe and carpe
Of remedies of love she knew perchance;
For, of that arte, she coude the olde dance.
A good man ther was of religioun,
That was a poure Persone of a toun:
But riche he was of holy thought and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a Clerk,
That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
His parishens devoutly would he teche.
Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversite ful patient,-
And swiche he was ypreved often sithes:
Ful loth were him to cursen for his tithes :
But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
Unto his poure parishens, aboute,
Of his offring, and, eke, of his substance.
He coude in litel thing have suffisance.
Wide was his parish, and houses fer asonder;
But he ne left nought, for no rain ne thonder,
In sikeness and in mischief to visite
The ferrest in his parish, moche and lite,-
Upon his fete, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf,
That, first, he wrought; and, afterward, he taught. Out of the gospel he the wordes caught,
And this figure he added yet therto,
That if gold ruste, what shulde iron do?