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◈ The Canterbury Tales ◈

◇ The General Prologue ◇

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 1. The General Prologue

1. The General Prologue

1 When that April with his showers sweet
2 The drought of March has pierced root deep,
3 And bathed each vein with liquor of such power
4 That engendered from it is the flower,
5 When Zephyrus too with his gentle strife,
6 To every field and wood, has brought new life
7 In tender shoots, and the youthful sun
8 Half his course through the Ram has run,
9 And little birds are making melody,
10 Who all the night with open eye do sleep –
11 Nature their hearts in every way so pricks –
12 Then people long to go on pilgrimage,
13 And palmers who seek out foreign strands,
14 To far-off shrines, renowned in sundry lands;
15 And specially, from every shire’s end
16 Of England, down to Canterbury they wend,
17 The holy blissful martyr there to seek,
18 Who had aided them when they were sick.
 
19 It befell that in that season on a day,
20 In Southwark at The Tabard as I lay,
21 Ready to set out on my pilgrimage
22 To Canterbury with pious courage,
23 There came at night to that hostelry
24 Quite nine and twenty in a company
25 Of sundry folk who had chanced to fall
26 Into a fellowship, and pilgrims all,
27 That towards Canterbury meant to ride.
28 The chambers and the stables were full wide,
29 And we housed at our ease, and of the best;
30 And shortly, when the sun had gone to rest,
31 I had such speech with each and everyone,
32 That of their fellowship I soon made one,
33 Agreeing I would make an early rise,
34 To take our way there, as I now advise.
 
35 Nonetheless while I have time and space,
36 Before a step more of my tale I pace,
37 It seems to me in full accord with reason,
38 To tell you everything of their condition,
39 Of each of them, as they appeared to me,
40 And who they were, and of what degree,
41 And what apparel they were travelling in;
42 And with a knight then I will first begin.
 
43 There was a KNIGHT and he a worthy man,
44 That from the day on which he first began,
45 To ride abroad, had followed chivalry,
46 Truth, honour, courtesy and charity.
47 He had fought nobly in his lord’s war,
48 And ridden to the fray, and no man more,
49 As much in Christendom as heathen place,
50 And ever honoured for his worth and grace.
51 When we took Alexandria was there;
52 Often at table held the place of honour,
53 Above all other nations too in Prussia;
54 Campaigned in Lithuania and Russia,
55 No Christian man of his rank more often.
56 At the siege of Algeciras had he been,
57 In Granada, and on Moroccan shore;
58 He was at Ayash and Antalya
59 When taken, and many times had been
60 In action on the Mediterranean Sea.
61 Of mortal battles he had seen fifteen,
62 And fought for the faith at Tramissene
63 Thrice in the lists and always slain his foe.
64 This same worthy knight had been also
65 With the Emir of Balat once, at work
66 With him against some other heathen Turk;
67 Won him a reputation highly prized,
68 And though he was valiant, he was wise,
69 And in his manner modest as a maid.
70 And never a discourtesy he said
71 In all his life to those who met his sight;
72 He was a very perfect gentle knight.
73 But to tell of his equipment, his array,
74 His horses fine, he wore no colours gay
75 Sported a tunic, padded fustian
76 On which his coat of mail left many a stain;
77 For he was scarcely back from his voyage,
78 And going now to make his pilgrimage.
 
79 With him there was his son, a young SQUIRE,
80 Lover and lively bachelor entire
81 With locks as crisp as from a curling-press;
82 Of twenty years of age he was, I guess.
83 Of his stature, he was of middle height,
84 Wonderfully agile, powerful in a fight.
85 And had served a while in the cavalry,
86 In Flanders, in Artois and Picardy,
87 And done so well, and in so short a space,
88 He hoped for favour from his lady’s grace.
89 Like to a meadow he was embroidered,
90 One full of fresh flowers white and red.
91 Singing he was, or playing flute all day;
92 He was as fresh as is the month of May.
93 Short was his gown, with sleeves both long and wide;
94 He knew how to sit a horse, and could ride.
95 He could make songs, and compose aright,
96 Joust and dance, and draw things well and write.
97 He loved so hotly night through without fail
98 He slept no more than does the nightingale.
99 Courteous he was, humble, attentive, able,
100 And carved for his father at the table.
 
101 A YEOMAN had he (servants did forgo
102 Other than this, and chose to travel so),
103 One who was clad in coat and hood of green.
104 A sheaf of peacock arrows, bright and keen
105 Sheathed in his belt he bore right properly –
106 Well could he dress his gear, yeomanly;
107 His arrows never drooped with feathers low –
108 And in his hand he bore a mighty bow.
109 Cropped hair he had, and a nut-brown visage;
110 Of woodcraft he well knew all the usage.
111 On his arm an archer’s brace he wore,
112 And by his side a buckler and a sword,
113 And at the other side a jaunty dagger
114 Ornamented, and sharp as any spear;
115 On his breast St Christopher did gleam.
116 He bore a horn, the baldric was of green.
117 He truly was a forester, I guess.
 
118 There was also a nun, a PRIORESS,
119 Her smile itself ingenuous and coy.
120 Her greatest oath was only ‘by Saint Loy’,
121 And she was called Madame Eglentine.
122 Full well she sung the service, divine,
123 Intoning through her nose, all seemly,
124 And fair French she spoke, all elegantly,
125 After the school of Stratford-atte-Bowe;
126 For French of Paris was not hers to know.
127 At meals she had been taught well withal;
128 And from her lips she let no morsel fall,
129 Nor dipped her fingers in the sauce too deep;
130 Well could she take a morsel and then keep
131 The slightest drop from falling on her breast;
132 Courtesy it was that pleased her best.
133 Her upper lip she would wipe so clean
134 That in her cup no trace of grease was seen
135 When she had drunk her draught; and to eat,
136 In a most seemly manner took her meat.
137 And certainly she had a cheerful manner,
138 Pleasant and amiable in her behaviour,
139 Took pains to imitate the ways of court,
140 Display a stately bearing as she ought,
141 And be considered worthy of reverence.
142 As for consideration of her conscience,
143 She was so charitable, tender, anxious,
144 She would weep if she but saw a mouse
145 Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.
146 Of slender hounds she had, that she fed
147 With roasted flesh, or milk, and fine white bread;
148 But wept sorely when one of them was dead
149 Or if men struck it with a stick too hard,
150 And all was sentiment and tender heart.
151 Her wimple was pleated in a seemly way,
152 Her nose was elegant, her eyes blue-grey;
153 Her lips quite fine, and also soft and red,
154 But certainly she had a fair forehead,
155 It was almost a span broad, I deem,
156 For she was not small of build, I mean.
157 Her cloak was very elegant, I saw;
158 Fine coral round her arm she wore
159 A rosary, the larger beads were green,
160 And from it hung a brooch of golden sheen,
161 On which there first was writ a crowned A,
162 And after: ‘Amor vincit omnia’.
 
163 Another NUN she had with her, and she
164 Was her chaplain, and with them priests three.
 
165 A MONK there was, of the highest degree,
166 Who loved to hunt, agent of a monastery,
167 A manly man, for an Abbot’s role quite able.
168 Full many a fine horse had he in his stable,
169 His bridle, when he rode, men might hear
170 Jingling in a whistling wind as clear,
171 And quite as loud as does the chapel bell.
172 Now as this lord was prior of his cell,
173 The rule of Saint Benedict and Saint Mawr,
174 As old and somewhat strict he would ignore,
175 This same monk scorned the old world’s pace,
176 And spurred after the new world, apace.
177 He gave not for that text a plucked hen
178 That says that hunters are not holy men,
179 And that a monk when he grows heedless
180 Is like a fish that’s all waterless –
181 That is to say a monk out of his cloister –
182 But he held that text not worth an oyster.
183 And I agreed his views were scarcely bad:
184 What! Should he study, drive himself quite mad,
185 In his cloister over a book must pore,
186 Or labour with his hands, and toil the more
187 As Augustine bids? How would the world run?
188 Let Augustine keep his labour for his own!
 
189 Therefore he was a hunting man outright.
190 Greyhounds he had, as swift as birds in flight;
191 Tracking with dogs and hunting the hare
192 Was all his pleasure, no cost did he spare.
193 I saw his sleeves were trimmed at the wrist
194 With grey fur, and of the country’s finest;
195 And to fasten his hood beneath his chin,
196 He had a wrought-gold elaborate pin;
197 A love-knot in the larger end there was.
198 His head was bald, and shone like any glass,
199 And his face, as if he had been anointed;
200 He was a lord full fat, and well appointed.
201 His bulging eyeballs, rolling in his head,
202 Glowing like a cauldron-fire well-fed;
203 Supple his boots, his horse in perfect state.
204 Now certainly he was a fair prelate;
205 He was not pale like some tormented ghost.
206 A fat swan he loved best of any roast;
207 His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.
 
208 A FRIAR there was, a wanton one and merry,
209 A Limiter, a very jovial man.
210 In all the friars’ four orders none that can
211 Lead a discussion in fairer language.
212 And he had arranged many a marriage
213 Of young women, granting each a dower.
214 He was a noble pillar of his Order.
215 Well-beloved and intimate was he
216 With Franklins within his boundary,
217 And also worthy women of the town;
218 Had power to confess coat and gown –
219 As he said himself – more than a curate,
220 Having licence from his bishop to do it.
221 Full sweetly he would hear confessions,
222 And very pleasant were his absolutions.
223 He was an easy man at granting penance
224 From which he made more than a pittance.
225 When to a poor Order alms are given
226 It is a token that a man’s well-shriven;
227 Since he dared claim that from the intent,
228 Of giving, then the man was penitent.
229 For many a man is so hard of heart
230 He cannot weep, though he feels the smart.
231 Therefore instead of weeping and prayer,
232 Better to give the poor friars silverware.
233 His sleeve’s end was stuffed with pocket-knives
234 And gilded pins, to give to pretty wives.
235 He could hold a note for sure; could sing
236 And play quite sweetly on the tuneful string.
237 Such competitions he won easily.
238 His neck was white as the fleur-de-lis;
239 And he was as strong as any champion.
240 He knew the taverns well in every town,
241 And all the barmaids and innkeepers,
242 Rather than the lepers and the beggars
243 Since such a worthy man as he
244 It suited not his calling or degree,
245 With such lepers to maintain acquaintance.
246 It is not seemly – helps no man advance –
247 To have dealings with such poor people,
248 Only with the rich, sellers of victuals.
249 An everywhere a profit might arise,
250 He wore a courteous and humble guise;
251 There was no man half so virtuous.
252 He was the finest beggar of his house
253 – and paid a fixed fee for the right;
254 None of his brethren poached in his sight.
255 For though a widow lacked a shoe
256 So pleasant was his ‘In principio’,
257 He yet would gain a farthing as he went.
258 His income was far greater than his rent,
259 And he romped around, like any whelp.
260 In settling disputes he could help,
261 Not like a friar from a cloister,
262 With threadbare cloak, like needy scholar,
263 But he was like a doctor or a pope;
264 Of double worsted was his demi-cloak,
265 A bell shaped from the mould, its fashion.
266 He lisped a little out of affectation,
267 To sound his English sweet upon the tongue;
268 And in his harping, whenever he had sung,
269 His eyes would twinkle in his head aright
270 As do the stars on high in frosty night.
271 Hubert his name, this worthy Limiter.
 
272 A MERCHANT was there, with a forked beard,
273 Dressed in motley, high on horse he sat.
274 Upon his head a Flemish beaver hat,
275 Buckled his boots were, fair and neatly.
276 He made his comments solemnly, fully,
277 Boasting of profits ever increasing,
278 Wishing sea-trade secure, more than anything,
279 Twixt Middleburgh and the River Orwell.
280 He could exchange monies, buy and sell.
281 This worthy man made such use of his wits;
282 No one knew he was beset by debts,
283 So stately his manner of behaving,
284 In his bargaining, and money-lending.
285 Truly a worthy man then, all in all,
286 But truth to tell, I know not what he’s called.
 
287 A CLERK there was of Oxford town also,
288 Who had set himself to logic long ago.
289 Thinner was his horse than many a rake,
290 And he was none too fat, I’ll undertake,
291 But gazed quite hollowly, and soberly.
292 His jacket threadbare, where the eye could see;
293 For he had not yet found a benefice,
294 Far too unworldly ever to seek office.
295 He would rather have at his bed-head
296 Twenty books, clad in black or red,
297 Of Aristotle and his philosophy,
298 Than rich robes, fiddle, and sweet psaltery.
299 But though he was a true philosopher
300 No stone for making gold lay in his coffer!
301 But every single penny his friends lent,
302 On books and on learning it was spent,
303 And for the souls he offered up a prayer,
304 Of those who funded him to be a scholar.
305 Of study he took most care, and most heed.
306 He spoke not one word more than he need,
307 And that was formal, said with reverence,
308 Short, and quick, and in a noble sentence.
309 Agreeing with moral virtue all his speech,
310 And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.
 
311 A SERGEANT AT LAW, wise and cautious,
312 Often consulted at St Paul’s porch and such,
313 Was also there, rich in excellence.
314 Discreet he was, a man for reverence –
315 Or so he seemed, his words being so wise.
316 He had often been a Justice at assize,
317 By letters patent and by full commission.
318 By his science and his high renown
319 Of fees and robes he garnered many a one.
320 So great a buyer of land was never known;
321 All was his in fee-simple, in effect.
322 His purchases were not the least suspect.
323 More business than he had, no man has,
324 And yet he seemed busier than he was.
325 He had correctly cases, judgements, all
326 From King William’s time in men’s recall.
327 Moreover he could draw up anything,
328 That no man might find fault with its drafting;
329 And every statute he could cite by rote,
330 He rode along in a simple striped coat,
331 Tied with a silken belt, its clasps of metal;
332 Of his array I will no further tell.
 
333 A FRANKLIN was in his company;
334 White was his beard as is the daisy.
335 Of his complexion he was sanguine;
336 He loved a sop in wine each morning.
337 To live in delight was ever his wont,
338 For he was Epicurus’ very son,
339 Who held the view that perfect delight
340 Was the true felicity outright.
341 A hospitable householder was he
342 Saint Julian he was to his county.
343 His bread and ale always second to none;
344 And no better wine than his was known.
345 His house was never short of fish and flesh,
346 Of pastry dishes, and all so plenteous
347 It snowed in his house with meat and drink,
348 And all the dainties of which men might think.
349 In accordance with the seasons of the year,
350 So he changed his dinner and his supper.
351 Full many a fat partridge had he in coop,
352 And many a bream and pike in the pool.
353 Woe to his cook unless his sauces were
354 Pungent and tasty, and every dish prepared!
355 His table fixed in his hall stood always
356 Ready set with covers, every day.
357 At court-sessions he was lord and sire;
358 And oftentimes was Member for the Shire.
359 A two-edged dagger and a purse of silk
360 Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk.
361 A Sheriff had he been, and a lawyer;
362 Nowhere lived so worthy a landowner.
 
363 A HABERDASHER, CARPENTER, a WEAVER
364 A DYER too, and TAPESTRY-MAKER,
365 Were there all clothed in the livery
366 Of their imposing guild fraternity.
367 Full fresh and new their costume was;
368 Their knives were mounted not with brass
369 But all with silver, wrought clean and well,
370 Their girdles and their pouches as befell.
371 Each of them seemed a splendid burgess
372 Fit to grace a guildhall on a dais.
373 Each owning as much wisdom as man can,
374 Was suitable to be an alderman,
375 For they had property enough and rent,
376 And wives too who would give their assent.
377 They would be blamed for sure were it not done;
378 It is a fine thing to be called ‘Madame’,
379 And go to vigil before the celebration,
380 With mantle royally carried, on occasion.
 
381 A COOK they had with them I own
382 To boil the chickens with the marrow-bones,
383 And pungent flavouring, spices without fail.
384 Well could he distinguish London ale;
385 He could roast and seethe and boil and fry,
386 Make thick soup and bake a tasty pie.
387 But a mortal pity, it seemed to me,
388 That on his shin an ulcerous sore had he.
389 Yet a fricassee, he made it with the best.
 
390 A SHIPMAN was there, from out the west;
391 A Dartmouth man for all I understood.
392 He rode a hired hack, as best he could,
393 In a woollen gown that reached his knee,
394 A dagger hanging on a cord had he,
395 About his neck, under his arm, and down.
396 The summer heat had tanned his visage brown.
397 And certainly he was a splendid fellow;
398 Full many a draught of wine he made flow
399 From Bordeaux, the merchant fast asleep,
400 The nicer rules of conscience did not keep:
401 If he fought, and gained the upper hand,
402 He sent men home by water to every land.
403 As for his skill in calculating tides,
404 Currents, and every other risk besides,
405 Harbours and moons, on every voyage,
406 There was none such from Hull to Carthage.
407 Hardy he was, wise in his undertakings,
408 In many a tempest had his beard been shaken.
409 He knew all the havens that there were
410 From Gotland’s Isle to Cape Finisterre,
411 And every creek in Brittany and Spain;
412 The barque he owned was called the Magdalene.
 
413 With us there was a DOCTOR OF PHYSIC.
414 In all this world none ever saw his like
415 On points of physic and of surgery,
416 For he was grounded in astronomy.
417 He knew the best hours for the sick,
418 By the power of his natural magic.
419 And could select the right ascendant
420 For making talismans for his patient.
421 He knew the cause of every malady,
422 Whether of hot or cold, or moist and dry,
423 And where engendered, of what humour;
424 He was a truly perfect practitioner.
425 The cause known, and of the ill its root,
426 He gave the sick man remedy to suit.
427 To send him medicines, his apothecaries
428 And potions too, they were ever ready,
429 For each enhanced the other’s profiting –
430 There needed no new friendship there to win.
431 He was well-versed in Aesculapius,
432 And Dioscorides and likewise Rufus,
433 Old Hippocrates, Hali and Galen,
434 Serapion, Rhazes and Avicen,
435 Averroes, Damascenus, Constantinus,
436 Bernard, and Gaddesden, and Gilbertus.
437 In his diet quite moderate was he,
438 For it avoided superfluity,
439 But nourishing it was, digestible.
440 He made little study of the Bible.
441 In red and blue, and colours of that ilk,
442 Lined with taffeta, was clad, and silk.
443 And yet he was most careful of expense;
444 He kept the money won from pestilence.
445 For gold in physic is a cordial;
446 Therefore he loved gold above all.
447 A good WIFE was there from next to BATH,
448 But pity was that she was somewhat deaf.
449 In cloth-making she was excellent,
450 Surpassing those of Ypres and of Ghent.
451 In all the parish there was no wife, so
452 Before her to the Offertory might go –
453 And if they did, indeed, so angry she
454 That she was quite put out of charity.
455 Her kerchiefs were finely wove I found;
456 I dare to swear those weighed a good ten pounds,
457 That on a Sunday she wore on her head.
458 Here hose were of a fine scarlet red,
459 And tightly tied: her shoes full soft and new.
460 Bold was her face, and fair and red of hue.
461 Had been a worthy woman all her life;
462 Husbands at the church-door she had five,
463 Besides other company in her youth –
464 No need to speak of that just now, in truth.
465 And thrice had she been to Jerusalem;
466 She had crossed many a foreign stream.
467 At Boulogne she had been, and Rome,
468 St James of Compostella, and Cologne,
469 And she knew much of wandering by the way,
470 Gap toothed was she, truthfully to say.
471 At ease upon a saddle-horse she sat,
472 Well wimpled, and on her head a hat
473 As wide as a small buckler or large shield,
474 Her large hips an over-skirt concealed,
475 And on her feet a pair of sharp spurs sat.
476 In fellowship she loved to laugh and chat;
477 And remedies for love she had, by chance,
478 For in that art she knew the oldest dance.
 
479 A holy man there was of good renown,
480 Who was a poor PARSON to a town,
481 But rich he was in holy thought and works.
482 He also was a learned man, a clerk,
483 That Christ’s gospel earnestly would preach;
484 His parishioners devoutly he would teach.
485 Benign he was and wondrous diligent,
486 And in adversity extremely patient,
487 And proven to be such as many times.
488 He was loth to curse men over tithes,
489 But preferred to give, without a doubt,
490 To the poor parishioners round about,
491 From his own goods and the offerings,
492 He found sufficiency in little things.
493 Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder,
494 But he neglected naught, in rain or thunder,
495 In sickness or affliction went to all
496 The farthest in his parish, great or small,
497 Upon his feet, and in his hand a stave.
498 This fine example to his flock he gave,
499 That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
500 Out of the gospel he those words had caught;
501 And this maxim he would add thereto,
502 That if gold rust, what should iron do?
503 For if the priest be foul in whom we trust,
504 No wonder if the layman turn to rust!
505 And shame it is, and let priests note, to see
506 The shepherd doused in shit, the sheep still clean.
507 The true example the priest ought to give
508 Is by his cleanness how the sheep should live.
509 He did not set his benefice to hire
510 And leave his sheep encumbered in the mire,
511 Running off to London to Saint Paul’s,
512 To work a wealthy chantry for dead souls,
513 Or in guild brotherhood remain enrolled
514 But dwelt at home and cared well for his fold,
515 So that no wolf should make his task miscarry.
516 He was a shepherd not a mercenary.
517 And though he was holy and virtuous,
518 He did not scorn the sinful, nor because
519 Of it in speech was proud or over-fine,
520 But in his teaching was discreet, benign;
521 To draw folk towards heaven by gentleness,
522 By good example – such was his business.
523 But if anyone proved obstinate,
524 Whoever he was, of high or low estate,
525 He would rebuke him sharply, him to punish.
526 A better priest I think there nowhere none is.
527 He never looked for pomp or reverence,
528 Nor showed a too fastidious conscience,
529 But Christ’s lore, and his Apostles’ twelve,
530 He taught, but first he followed it himself.
 
531 With him there was a PLOUGHMAN, was his brother,
532 Many a load of dung, one time or other,
533 He had carted, a good true worker he,
534 Living in peace and perfect charity.
535 God loved he best with all his whole heart
536 At all times, whether with delight or smart,
537 Then his neighbour loved he as himself.
538 He would thresh the corn, and dig and delve,
539 For Christ’s sake, grant the poor their hour,
540 Without reward, if it lay in his power.
541 His tithes he paid in full, fair and well,
542 Both of his labour and his capital.
543 In a loose tunic he rode on a mare.
 
544 There was a REEVE also and a MILLER,
545 A SUMMONER and a PARDONER as well,
546 A college MANCIPLE, and then myself.
 
547 The MILLER was a strong man I own;
548 A stout fellow, big in brawn and bone.
549 It served him well, for, everywhere, the man,
550 At wrestling, always looked to win the ram.
551 Broad, thick-set, short in the upper arm,
552 Off its hinges, he lifted any door,
553 Or ran at it and broke it with his head.
554 His beard, as any sow or fox, was red,
555 And broad as well, as if it were a spade.
556 On the tip of his nose he displayed
557 A wart, and on it stood a tuft of hair,
558 Red as the bristles in a sow’s ear.
559 His nostrils were as black as they were wide;
560 A sword and buckler he wore at his side.
561 His mouth as great was as a great furnace.
562 He was a loudmouth and to his disgrace
563 Told stories most of sin and harlotry.
564 He stole corn, and made one toll pay three;
565 Yet had the golden thumb, a mystery!
566 A white coat and a blue hood wore he;
567 The bagpipes he could blow well and sound,
568 And that was how he piped us out of town.
 
569 The MANCIPLE was of the Inner Temple,
570 All purchasers might follow his example
571 Of wisdom in the buying of victuals;
572 For whether he paid cash or owed it all
573 He was so careful always in his purchase,
574 That he was all prepared and acted first.
575 Now is it not a wonder of God’s grace
576 That a man so illiterate can outpace
577 The wisdom of a host of learned men?
578 Of masters he had more than thrice ten,
579 Expert in the law and meritorious,
580 Of whom there were a dozen in that house
581 Worthy to be stewards of rent and land
582 For any lord who lives in England,
583 And show him the income to be had
584 Debt-free, from his estates, less he were mad,
585 Or be as frugal as he should desire;
586 And they were able to assist a shire
587 In any case that chanced to arise –
588 And yet this Manciple outdid the wise.
 
589 The REEVE was a slender, choleric man.
590 His beard was shaved as close as any can;
591 His hair by his ears was fully shorn;
592 The top was cropped like a priest before.
593 His legs were long, and very lean,
594 Like sticks they were – no calves to be seen.
595 He kept a tidy granary and bin;
596 No auditor could get the best of him.
597 Well could he judge from drought or rain
598 The yield of his seed and of his grain.
599 His lord’s sheep, beef-cattle, and his dairy,
600 His swine, his horses, stock and poultry,
601 Was wholly in this Reeve’s governance
602 And he made reckoning by covenant,
603 Since his lord had only twenty years;
604 No man could find him ever in arrears.
605 No bailiff, cowherd, servant of any kind
606 But their deceits and tricks were in his mind;
607 They feared him like the plague, is my belief.
608 He had a pleasant dwelling on a heath,
609 With green trees shadowed was the sward.
610 He could purchase better than his lord;
611 He had riches of his own privately.
612 He could please his lord subtly,
613 Giving and lending of his own goods,
614 And earn his thank you and a coat and hood.
615 In youth he had a good and learned master;
616 He was a fine craftsman, a carpenter.
617 This Reeve sat on a farm-horse that was
618 All dappled grey and bore the name of Scot.
619 A long bluish top-coat he displayed,
620 And by his side he bore a rusty blade.
621 Of Norfolk was this Reeve of whom I tell,
622 Near a town that men call Bawdeswell.
623 His gown was tucked up like a friar’s about,
624 And he always rode the hindmost on the route.
 
625 A SUMMONER was with us in that place,
626 Who had a fiery-red cherubim’s face,
627 Carbuncled so, and his eyes were narrow.
628 He was hot and lecherous as a sparrow,
629 With scabby black brows and scrubby beard;
630 Of his visage children were a-feared.
631 No quicksilver, lead salve, or brimstone,
632 Borax, ceruse, or oil of tartar known,
633 No ointment that would cleanse and bite,
634 Could cure him of his pimples white,
635 Or of the lumps rising from his cheeks.
636 Well loved he garlic, onions, and leeks,
637 And to drink strong wine, as red as blood;
638 Making him speak, and cry, as madman would.
639 And when he had drunk, and the wine was in,
640 Then he would speak no word but Latin.
641 A few tags he had, some two or three,
642 That he had learned out of some decree –
643 No wonder, since he heard them every day.
644 And you well know moreover how a jay
645 Can say ‘Walter’ better than the Pope –
646 But try any other matter’s scope,
647 Then had he spent all his philosophy;
648 Ay ‘Questio quid iuris’ was his plea.
649 He was a noble rogue and a kind;
650 A better fellow no man could find.
651 He would allow, for a quart of wine,
652 A good friend to keep a concubine
653 A twelvemonth and excuse him fully;
654 And he could pluck a fool privately.
655 And if he made a good friend anywhere,
656 He would teach him not to have a care
657 In such a case of the Archdeacon’s curse,
658 Unless a man’s soul lay in his purse,
659 For in his purse he should punished be.
660 ‘The purse is the Archdeacon’s hell,’ said he.
661 But well I know he lied in what he said;
662 For his curse each guilty man should dread,
663 Since absolution saves, but slays that writ,
664 And so ware of that word Significavit.
665 He had in his power as he pleased
666 All the young folk of the diocese,
667 Knew their secrets, they by him were led.
668 A garland had he set upon his head,
669 Big as an inn-sign’s holly on a stake;
670 A buckler he had made him of a cake.
 
671 With him there rode a noble PARDONER
672 Of Charing Cross, his friend and his peer,
673 Returned directly from the Court of Rome.
674 He sang out loud: ‘Come hither, love, to me!’
675 The Summoner sang a powerful bass around;
676 Never a trumpet of half so great a sound.
677 The Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax,
678 But smooth it hung like a hank of flax.
679 In clusters hung the locks he possessed,
680 With which his shoulders he overspread;
681 But thin they fell, in strands, one by one.
682 But hood, to adorn them, he wore none,
683 For it was trussed up in his wallet –
684 He thought he rode fashionably set;
685 Dishevelled, save his cap, he rode all bare.
686 Such bulging eyeballs had he as a hare.
687 A pilgrim badge had he sewn on his cap;
688 His wallet lay before him in his lap,
689 Brimful of pardons, come from Rome hotfoot.
690 A voice he had as small as has a goat;
691 No beard had he, nor ever looked to have;
692 As smooth it were as it were lately shaved –
693 I judge he was a gelding or a mare.
694 But of his craft, from Berwick unto Ware,
695 Never was such another Pardoner.
696 And in his bag a pillow-case was there,
697 Which he claimed was Our Lady’s veil;
698 He said he had a fragment of the sail
699 That Saint Peter used, when he skimmed
700 Upon the sea till Jesus summoned him.
701 He had a cross of brass set with stones,
702 And in a glass, he had pigs’ bones.
703 And with these relics, when he had to hand
704 Some poor parson living on the land,
705 In one day he gathered in more money
706 Than the parson in a month of Sundays.
707 And thus with feigned flattery, his japes
708 Made people and the parson his apes.
709 But to tell true from first to last,
710 He was in church a noble ecclesiast.
711 He read a lesson well or a story,
712 But best of all he sang an Offertory.
713 For well he knew, when that song was sung,
714 He must preach and well tune his tongue
715 To win silver, as he well knew how;
716 Therefore he sang more sweetly and loud.
 
717 Now I have told you in a brief clause,
718 The array, condition, number and the cause
719 Whereby assembled was this company,
720 In Southwark at that noble hostelry
721 Called The Tabard, fast by The Bell.
722 But now the time has come for me to tell
723 How we behaved on that same night,
724 At that hostelry where we did alight;
725 And after will I tell, at every stage,
726 All the remainder of our pilgrimage.
727 But first I pray you of your courtesy,
728 Not to consider me unmannerly
729 If I speak plainly in this matter,
730 In telling you their words hereafter,
731 Though I speak their words literally;
732 For this you know as well as me,
733 Whoso tells the tale of another man
734 Must repeat as closely as he can
735 Every word, if it be in his power,
736 However coarse or broad his dower
737 Of words, or else his tale will be untrue,
738 Or feign things, inventing words anew.
739 He may spare none, though it were his brother,
740 Must say the one word if he says the other.
741 Christ himself spoke plain in Holy Writ,
742 And you well know no coarseness is in it.
743 As Plato says, to any who can read,
744 The words must be cousin to the deed.
745 Also I beg you, if you will, forgive me
746 If I have not placed folk in due degree
747 Here in this tale, as they indeed should stand;
748 I lack the wit, you may well understand.
 
749 Our HOST made great cheer for everyone,
750 And down to supper set us all anon.
751 He served us with victuals of the best:
752 Strong was the wine, we drank with zest.
753 A handsome man our Host was withal,
754 And fit to be a marshal in a hall.
755 A large man he was with striking eyes;
756 No fairer burgess was there in Cheapside.
757 Bold in his speech, and wise, and well taught,
758 And of honest manhood he lacked naught.
759 Add that he was a truly merry man;
760 And after supper jokingly began
761 To speak of entertainment and other things,
762 After we had paid our reckonings,
763 Saying to us: ‘Now lordings, truly
764 To me you are right welcome, heartily!
765 For by my troth and telling you no lie,
766 I have not seen this year such folk go by
767 As gathered together in this tavern now.
768 And I would entertain, if I knew how,
769 Yet there is an entertainment, in my thoughts,
770 To amuse you and it will cost you naught.
 
771 You go to Canterbury – God you speed!
772 May the blissful martyr bless you indeed! –
773 And well I know, as you go on your way
774 You intend to chatter and make hay.
775 For truly, comfort and delight is none
776 In riding on the way dumb as a stone.
777 And therefore I offer you some sport,
778 As I first said, to give you some comfort.
779 And if you agree as one and consent
780 Each of you to accept my judgement,
781 And to work it as I to you will say,
782 Tomorrow when you ride on your way,
783 Now, by my father’s soul, he being dead,
784 If you lack merriment, be it on my head!
785 Hold up your hands, without longer speech.’
 
786 Our decision was not long to seek:
787 We thought it not worth serious debating,
788 And gave him leave, without deliberating,
789 And bade him give his orders as he wished,
790 ‘Lordings,’ quoth he, ‘now listen to the rest –
791 But hear me out, I pray, without disdain –
792 Here is the point, to tell you short and plain:
793 That each of you, to speed you on your way,
794 On the journey there, shall tell two tales,
795 Till Canterbury, I mean it so,
796 And on the homeward way another two,
797 Of adventures that did once befall.
798 And which of you that bears them best of all –
799 That is to say, who tells in this case
800 Tales the most serious that most solace –
801 Shall have a supper and we pay the cost,
802 Here in this place, sitting by this post,
803 When that we come again from Canterbury.
804 And to make you all the more merry,
805 I will myself gladly with you ride,
806 All at my own cost, and be your guide.
807 And whoever my judgement does gainsay
808 Shall pay all that we spend by the way.
809 And if you will agree it shall be so,
810 Tell me now, without more ado,
811 And I will get me ready for the dawn.’
 
812 The thing was agreed, and our oath sworn
813 With right good heart, and we begged also
814 That he accordingly would do so,
815 And that he act then as our governor,
816 And of our tales be judge and recorder,
817 And fix the supper at a certain price,
818 And we would be ruled by his device,
819 In high and low, and thus by one assent
820 We all agreed to his true judgement.
821 And the wine was brought, thereupon
822 We drank, and to rest went everyone,
823 Without our any longer tarrying.
 
824 Next morning, when the day began to spring,
825 Up rose our Host and roused us like the cock,
826 And gathered us together in a flock;
827 And forth we rode, at barely walking-pace
828 To Saint Thomas, and his watering place.
829 And there our Host held the reins still,
830 And said: ‘Lordings, hearken if you will!
831 You know what you agreed, as I record.
832 If even-song and morning-song accord,
833 Let us see who shall tell the first tale.
834 As ever I hope to drink wine and ale,
835 Whoever is a rebel to my judgement
836 Shall pay for all that on the way is spent.
837 Now draw a straw before our journeying;
838 And he that has the shortest shall begin.
839 ‘Sir Knight,’ quoth he, ‘my master and my lord,
840 Now make the draw for that is our accord.
841 Come near,’ quoth he, ‘my lady Prioress,
842 And you, Sir Cleric, hide your bashfulness,
843 No pondering now – a hand from everyone!’
 
844 At once by each the draw was begun;
845 And to tell you how it was, as I relate,
846 Whether by happenstance or chance or fate,
847 The truth is this: the lot fell to the Knight,
848 Which filled us all with joy and delight.
849 And tell his tale he must, in due season,
850 According to our pact and our decision,
851 As you have heard – what needs more ado?
852 And when this good man saw that it was so,
853 As he was wise and given to obedience
854 And keeping promises with free assent,
855 He said: ‘Since I shall begin the game,
856 Why, welcome is the outcome, in God’s name!
857 Now let us ride, and hark at what I say.’
858 And with that word we rode forth on our way,
859 And he began, all merry and full of cheer
860 His tale anon, and spoke as you may hear.
 
861 End of the General Prologue
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◈ The Canterbury Tales ◈

©2004 General Libraries

페이지 최종 수정일: 2004년 1월 1일