Page images


CHAUCER-A.D. 1328-1400.



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,
Aboven alle nations, in Pruce,
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 see
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 Monk ther was, a fayre for the maistrie,
A shefe of peacock arwes bright and kene

An out-rider, that loved venerie;
Under his belt he bare ful thristily;

manly man, to ben an abbot able. Wel coude he dresse his takel yemanly:

Ful many a deinte hors hadde he in stable; His arwes drouped not with fetheres lowe,

And when he rode, men mighte his bridel here And in his hand he bare a mighty bowe.

Gingeling, in a whistling wind, as elere
A not-hed hadde he, with a broune visage, And eke as loude as doth the chapell belle,
Of wood-craft coude he wel alle the usage.

Ther as this lord was keper of the celle.
Upon his arme, he bare a gaie bracer;

The reule of Seint Maure and of Seint Beneit, And by his side, a swerd and a bokeler;

Because that it was olde and somdele streit, And on that other side, a gaie daggere,

This ilke monk lette olde thinges pace Harneised wel, and sharpe as point of spere:

And held after the newe world the trace. A Cristofre on his brest of silver shene.

He yave not of the text a pulled hen, An horne he bare, the baudrik was of grene.

That saith that hunters ben not holy men ; A forster was he, sothely, as I gesse.

Ne that a monk, whan he is rekkeles,
Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,

Is like to a fish that is waterles;
That of hire smiling was ful simple and coy; (This is to say, a monk out of his cloistre;)
Hire gretest othe n'as but by Seint Eloy;

This ilke text he held not worth an oistre.
And she was cleped Madam Eglentine.

And I say, his opinion was good: Ful wel she sange the service divine,

What! shulde he studie, and make himselven wood, Entuned in hire nose ful swetely ;

Upon a book in cloistre alway to pore,
And Frenche she spake, ful faire and fetisly, (Or swinken with his hondes, and laboure,)
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe-

As Austin bit; how shal the world be served? For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe.

Let Austin have his swink to him reserved. At mete was she wel ytaughte withalle;

Therfore he was a prickasoure a right: She lette no morsel from hire lippes falle;

Greihoundes he hadde as swift as foul of Aight: Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe.

Of pricking, and of hunting for the hare Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe, Was all his lust; for no cost wolde he spare. That no drope ne fell upon hire brest,

I saw his sleves purfiled at the hond In curtesie was sette, ful moche, hire lest:

With gris, and that the finest of the lond, Hire over lippe wiped she so clene,

And, for to fasten his hood, under his chinne That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene

He hadde, of gold ywrought, a curious pinne,Of grese, whan she dranken hadde hire draught. A love-knotte in the greter ende ther was. Full semely after hire mete she raught.

His hed was balled, and shone as any glas, And, sikerly, she was of grete disport,

And eke his face, as it hadde ben anoint. And ful pleasant and amiable of port;

He was a lord ful fat and in good point. And peined hire, to contrefeten chere

His eyen stepe, and rolling in his hed, Of court, and ben estatelich of manere,

That stemed as a furneis of a led; And to ben holden digne of reverence.

His bootes souple, his hors in gret estat; But for to speken of lire conscience,

Now certainly he was a fayre prelat. She was so charitable and so pitous,

He was not pale as a forpined gost. She wolde wepe if that she saw a mous

A fat swan loved he best of any rost. Caughte in a trappe, if it were ded or bledde. His palfrey was as broune as is a bery. Of sinale houndes hadde she, that she fedde

A Frere there was, a wanton and a mery, With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel-brede;

A limitour, a ful solempne man, But sore wept she is on of hem were dede,

In all the ordres foure, is non that can Or if men smote it with a yerde smert:

So moche of daliance and fayre langage. And all was conscience and tendre herte.

He hadde ymade ful many a mariage Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was;

Of yonge wimmen, at his owen cost; Hire nose tretis; hire eyen grey as glas;

Until his ordre he was a noble post. Hire mouth ful smale, and therto soft and red; Ful wel beloved, and familier was he But, sikerly, she hadde a faire forehed,

With frankeleins, over all, in his contree; It was almost a spanne brode I trowe;

And, eke, with worthy wimmen of the toun; For hardily she was not undergrowe.

For he had power of confession, Ful fetise was hire cloke, as I was ware.

As saide himselfe, more than a curat, Of smale corall, about hire arm, she bare

For of his ordre he was a licentiat. A pair of bedes gauded all with grene;

Ful swetely herde he confession, And theron heng a broche of gold, ful shene, And plesant was his absolution. On whiche was first ywritten a crouned A,

He was an esy man to give penance, And after Amor vincit omnia.

Ther as he wiste to han a good pitance; Another Nonne also with hire hadde she

For unto a poure ordre for to give, That was hire chapelleine, and Preestes thre. Is signe that a man is wel yshrive;


[ocr errors]


For if he gave,-he dorste make avant,

As lene was his hors as is a rake, He wiste, that a man was repentant;

And he was not right fat, I undertake; For many a man so hard is of his herte,

But looked holwe, and therto soberly. He may not wepe although him sore smerte: Ful thredbare was his overest courtepy, Therfore, in stede of weping and praieres,

For he hadde geten him yet no benefice, Men mote give silver to the poure freres.

He was nought worldly to have an ofhce. His tippet was, ay, farsed full of knives,

For him was lever han, at his beddes hed, And pinnes, for to given fayre wives.

Twenty bokes, clothed in black or red, And, certainly, he hadde a mery note;

Of Aristotle and his philosophie, Wel coude he singe and plaien on a rote,

Than robes riche; or fidel; or sautrie: Of yeddinges he bare utterly the pris;

But all be that he was a philosophre, His nekke was white as the flour de lis.

Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; Therto, he strong was as a champioun;

But all that he might of his frendes hente, And knew wel the tavernes in every toun,

On bokes and on lerning he it spente; And every hosteler and gay tapstere,

And besily gan for the soules praie Better than a lazar or a beggere;

Of hem that yave him wherwith to scolaie. For unto swiche a worthy man as he

Of studie toke he most cure and hede. Accordeth nought, as by his faculte,

Not a word spake he more than was nede; To haven with sike lazars acquaintance;

And that was said in forme and reverence, It is not honest, it may not avance;

And short and quike, and full of high sentence: As for to delen with no swiche pouraille,

Souning in moral vertue was his speche; But all with riche and sellers of vitaille.

And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche. And, over all, ther as profit shuld arise

A Sergeant of the Lawe ware and wise, Curteis he was, and lowly of servise ;

That often hadde ben at the parvis, Ther n'as no man no wher so vertuous,

Ther was also; ful riche of excellence. He was the beste begger in all his hous;

Discrete he was, and of gret reverence; And gave a certain ferme for the grant,

He semed swiche; his wordes were so wise: Non of his brethren came in his haunt.

Justice he was full often in assise, For though a widewe hadde but a shoo,

By patent, and by pleine commissioun; (So plesant was his In Principio)

For his science, and for his high renoun. Yet wold he have a ferthing or he went;

Of fees and robes had he many on. His pourchas was wel better than his rent.

So grete a pourchaser was no wher non: And rage he coude as it hadde ben a whelp, All was fee simple to him in effect, In lovedayes, there coude he mochel help; His pourchasing might not ben in suspect. For ther was he-nat like a cloisterere,

No wher so besy a man as he ther n'as, With thredbare cope, as is a poure scolere- And yet he semed besier than he was. But he was like a maister or a pope.

In termes had he cas and domes alle Of double worsted was his semicope,

That fro the time of King Will. weren falle: That round was as a belle out of the presse,

Therto, he coude endite and make a thing; Somw hat he lisped for his wantonnesse,

Ther coude no wight pinche at his writing. To make his English swete upon his tonge;

And every statute coude he plaine by rote. And in his harping, whan that he hadde songe,

He rode but homely,-in a medlee cote, His eyen twinkeled in his hed aright,

Girt with a seint of silk, with barres smale. As don the sterres in a frosty night.

Of his array tell I no lenger tale. This worthy limitour was cleped Huberd.

A Frankelein was in this compagnie; A Marchant was ther with a forked berd, White was his berd as is the dayesie. la mottelee, and highe on hors he sat,

Of his complexion he was sanguin. And on his hed a Flaundrish bever hat,

Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in win. His bootes clapsed fayre and fetisly,

To liven in delit was ever his wone. His resons spake he ful solempnely,

For he was Epicures owen sone, Souning alway the encrese of his winning.

That held opinion, that plein delit He wold the see were kept, for any thing,

Was veraily felicite parfite. Betwixen Middelburgh and Orewell.

An housholder, and that a grete was he ; Wel coud he in eschanges sheldes selle.

Seint Julian he was in his contree. This worthy man ful wel his wit besette;

His brede, his ale, was alway after on; Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,

A better envyned man was no wher non. So stedfastly didde he in his governance,

Withouten bake mete never was his hous, With his bargeines, and with his chevisance. Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous, Forsothe he was a worthy man withalle.

It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke, But soth to sayn, I no't how men him calle.

Of alle deintees that men coud of thinke. A Clerk ther was of Oxenforde also,

After the sondry sesons of the yere,
That unto logike hadde long ygo.

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
Ileng 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.
lle 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 taught, 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 therof 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.

And than his neighebour, right as himselve. In felawship, wel coude she laughe and carpe Ile wolde thresh, and therto dike and delve, Of remedies of love she knew perchance;

For Cristes sake, for every poure wight, For, of that arte, she coude the olde dance.

Withouten hire, if it lay in his might. A good man ther was of religioun,

His tithes paied he ful fayre and wel
That was a poure Persone of a toun :

Both of his propre swinke, and his catel.
But riche he was of holy thought and werk. In a tabard he rode, upon a mere.
He was also a lerned man, a Clerk,

Ther was also a Reve and a Millere,
That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;

A Sompnour, and a Pardoner also, His parishens devoutly would he teche,

A Manciple, and myself; ther n'ere no mo. Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,

The Miller was a stout carl for the nones, And in adversite ful patient,

Ful bigge he was of braun, and eke of bones; And swiche he was ypreved often sithes:

That proved wel; for over all ther he came, Ful loth were him to cursen for his tithes :

At wrastling he wold bere away the ram. But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,

He was short shuldered, brode, a thikke gnarre, Unto his poure parishens, aboute,

Ther n'as no dore, that he n'olde heve of barre, Of his offring, and, eke, of his substance.

Or breke it at a renning with his hede. He coude in litel thing have suffisance.

His berd as any sowe or fox was rede, Wide was his parish, and houses fer asonder; And therto brode, as though it were a spade: But he ne left nought, for no rain ne thonder,

Upon the cop right of his nose he hade In sikeness and in mischief to visite

A wert, and theron stode a tufte of heres, The ferrest in his parish, moche and lite,

Rede as the bristles of a sowes eres:
Upon his fete, and in his hand a staf.

His nose-thirles blacke were and wide.
This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf,- A swerd and bokeler bare he by his side.
That, first, he wrought; and, afterward, he taught. His mouth as wide was as a forneis:
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught,

He was a jangler, and a goliardeis,
And this figure he added yet therto,

And that was most of sinne and harlotries, That if gold ruste, what shulde iron do?

Wel coude he stelen corne and tollen thries. For if a preest be foule, on whom we trust,

And yet he had a thomb of gold parde. No wonder is a lewed man to rust:

A white cote and a blew hode wered he. And shame it is, if that a preest take kepe,

A baggepipe wel coude he blowe and soune, To see a shitten shepherd, and clene shepe.

And therwithall he brought us out of toune. Wel ought a preest ensample for to yeve

A gentil Manciple was ther of a temple,By his clenenesse, how his shepe shulde live. Of which achatours mighten take ensemple He sette not his benefice to hire,

For to ben wise in bying of vitaille. And lette his shepe acombred in the mire,

For whether that he paide, or toke by taille, And ran unto London, unto Seint Poules,

Algate he waited so in his achate, To seken him a chanterie for soules;

That he was, ay, before, in good estate. Or with a brotherhede to be withold;

Now is not that of God a ful fayre grace, But dwelt at home and kepte wel his fold,

That swiche a lewed mannes wit shal pace So that the wolf ne made it not miscarie;

The wisdom of an hepe of lered men ? He was a shepherd and no mercenarie,

Of maisters had he mo than thries ten, And though he holy were, and vertuous,

That were of lawe expert and curious ; He was, to sinful men, not dispitous;

Of which ther was a dosein in that hous, Ne of his speche dangerous ne digne;

Worthy to ben stewardes of rent and lond But, in his teching, discrete and benigne.

Of any lord that is in Englelond, To drawen folk to heven, with fairenesse,

To maken him live by his propre good, By good ensample, was his besinesse :

In honour detteles, (but if he were wood,) But it were any persone obstinat,

Or live as scarsly as him list desire, What so he were of highe, or low estat,

And able for to helpen all a shire, Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones.

In any cas that might fallen or happe; A better preest I trowe that no wher non is. And yet this Manciple sette hir aller cappe. He waited after no pompe ne reverence,

The Reve was a slendre colerike man Ne maked him no spiced conscience:

His berd was shave as neighe as ever he can: But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,

His here was by his eres round yshorne; He taught-but first he folwed it himselve.

His top was docked like a preest beforne: With him ther was a Plowman, was his brother, Ful longe were his legges, and ful lene, That hadde ylaid of dong ful many a fother.

Ylike a staff, ther was no calf ysene. A trewe swinker, and a good was he,

Wel coude he kepe a garner and a binne ; Living in pees and parfite charitee.

Ther was non auditour coude on him winne. God loved he beste with alle his herte

Wel wiste he, by the drought and by the rain, At alle times, were it gain or smerte;

The yelding of his seed and of his grain.


« PreviousContinue »