Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue - (Forrest Hainline's Minimalist Translation) - Poem by Forrest Hainline
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue - (Forrest Hainline's Minimalist Translation)
When that April with his shower's sweet
The drought of March has pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such liquor
Of which virtue engendered is the flower;
5 When Zephyrus eek with his sweet breath
Inspired has in every holt and heath
The tender crops, and the young sun
Has in the Ram his half course run,
And small fowls making melody,
10 That sleep all the night with open eye
(So pricks them Nature in their courage) :
Then long folk to go on pilgrimage
And palmers for to seek strange strands,
To foreign hallways, known in sundry lands;
15 And specially, from every shire's end
Of England, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful martyr for to seek
That them has helped, when that they were sick.
Befell that in that season on a day,
20 In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
Ready to go on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with full devout courage,
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine and twenty in a company
25 Of sundry folk, by adventure to fall
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all,
That toward Canterbury would ride.
The chambers and the stables were wide,
And well we were eased at best.
30 And shortly, when the sun was to rest,
So had I spoken with them everyone,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made forward early for to rise,
To take our way there as I you devise.
35 But nonetheless, while I have time and space,
Ere that I further in this tale pace,
Me thinks it according to reason,
To tell you all the condition
Of each of them, so as it seemed me,
40 And which they were, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were in;
And at a knight then will I first begin.
A knight there was, and that a worthy man
That from the time that he first began
45 To ride out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honor, freedom and courtesy,
Full worthy was he in his lord's war,
And thereto had he ridden, no man as far,
As well in Christendom as in heatheness,
50 And ever honored for his worthiness.
At Alexander he was when it was won;
Full oft time he had the board begun
Above all nations in Prussia;
In Lithuania had he raised and in Russia,
55 No Christian man so oft of his degree;
In Grenada at the siege eek had he be
Of Algezir, and ridden in Belmarie;
At Ayas was he and at Attalie,
When they were won, and in the Great Sea
60 At many a noble army had he be.
At mortal battles had he been fifteen,
And fought for our faith at Tlemcen
In lists thrice, and aye slain his foe.
This same worthy knight had been also
65 Sometime with the lord of Paletey
Against another heathen in Turkey:
And evermore he had a sovereign prize.
And though that he were worthy, he was wise,
And of his port as meek as is a maid.
70 He never yet any villainy said
In all of his life, unto no manner wight.
He was a very perfect, gentle knight.
But for to tell you of his array,
His horse was good, but he was not gay.
75 Of fustian he wore a gipon
All bespattered with his habergeon;
For he was lately come from his voyage,
And went for to do his pilgrimage.
With him there was his son, a young Squire,
80 A lover, and a lusty bachelor,
With locks curly as they were laid in press,
Of twenty year of age he was, I guess.
Of his stature he was of even length,
And wondrously delivered, and of great strength.
85 And he had been sometime in cavalry,
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardy,
And born him well, as of so little space,
In hope to stand in his lady's grace.
Embroidered was he, as it were a meadow
90 All full of fresh flowers, white and red.
Singing he was, or fluting, all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gown, with sleeves long and wide.
Well could he sit on horse, and fair ride.
95 He could songs make and well endite,
Joust and eek dance, and well portray and write.
So hot he loved that by nightertale
He sleeps no more than doth a nightingale.
Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable,
100 And carved before his father at the table.
A Yeoman had he, and servants no more
At that time, for he pleased to ride so;
And he was clad in coat and hood of green;
A sheaf of peacock arrows bright and keen
105 Under his belt he bore full thriftily;
Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly:
His arrows drooped not with feathers low;
And in his hand he bore a mighty bow.
A knot-head had he, with a brown visage.
110 Of woodcraft well could he all the usage.
Upon his arm he bore a gay bracer,
And by his side a sword and a buckler,
And on that other side a gay dagger,
Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear;
115 A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen;
A horn he bore, the baldric was of green.
A forester he was, truly as I guess.
There was also a Nun, a Prioress,
That of her smiling was full simple and coy.
120 Her greatest oath was but by Saint Loy;
And she was called Madame Eglantine.
Full well she sang the service divine,
Intoned in her nose full seemly;
And French she spoke full fair and fetisly,
125 After the school of Stratford at the Bowe,
For French of Paris was to her unknow.
At meat well taught was she withal;
She let no morsel from her lips fall,
Nor wet her fingers in her sauce deep.
130 Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep,
That no drop would fall upon her breast.
In courtesy was set full much her lest.
Her over-lip wiped she so clean
That in her cup there was no farthing seen
135 Of grease, when she drunk had her draft.
Full seemly after her meat she raft,
And certainly she was of great disport,
And full pleasant, and amiable of port,
And pained her to counterfeit cheer
140 Of court, and be stately of manner
And to be held worthy of reverence.
But for to speak of her conscience,
She was so charitable and so piteous
She would weep, if that she saw a mouse
145 Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.
Of small hounds had she, that she fed
With roasted flesh, or milk and wastel-bread.
But sore wept she if one of them were dead,
Or if men smote it with a yard smart:
150 And all was conscience and tender heart.
Full seemly her wimple pinched was;
Her nose tretis, her eyes gray as glass;
Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red.
But certainly she had a fair forehead;
155 It was almost a span broad, I trow;
For hardily, she was not under grow.
Full fetis was her cloak, as I was ware.
Of small coral about her arm she bare
A pair of beads, gauded all with green,
160 And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen,
On which there was first writ a crowned A,
And after, amor vincit omnia.
Another nun with her had she,
That was her chaplain, and priests three.
165 A monk there was, a fair for the mastery,
An outrider, that loved venery,
A manly man, to be an abbot able.
Full many a dainty horse had he in stable,
And when he rode, men might his bridle hear
170 Jingling in a whistling wind all clear
And eek as loud as doth the chapel bell
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
The rule of Saint Maure or of Saint Benedict -
Because that it was old and somewhat strict
175 This same monk let old things pace,
And held after the new world the space.
He gave not of that text a pulled hen,
That says that hunters be not holy men,
Nor that a monk, when he is reckless,
180 Is likened to a fish that is waterless -
This is to say, a monk out of his cloister.
But that text held he not worth an oyster;
And I said his opinion was good.
What should he study and make himself wood,
185 Upon a book in cloister always to pour,
Or swink with his hands, and labor,
As Austin bid? How shall the world be served?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved!
Therefore he was a pricasour aright:
190 Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl in flight;
Of pricking and of hunting the hare
Was all his lust, for no cost would he spare.
I saw his sleeves purfled at the hand
With gray, and that the finest of the land;
195 And for to fasten his hood under his chin,
He had of gold wrought a full curious pin;
A love knot in the greater end there was.
His head was bald, that shone as any glass,
And eek his face, as he had been anoint.
200 He was a lord full fat and in good point;
His eyes steep, and rolling in his head,
That steamed as a furnace of lead;
His boots supple, his horse in great estate.
Now certainly he was a fair prelate;
205 He was not pale as a forpined ghost.
A fat swan he loved best of any roast.
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.
A Friar there was, a wanton and a merry,
A limiter, a full solemn man.
210 In all the orders four there is none that can
So much of dalliance and fair language.
He had made full many a marriage
Of young women at his own cost.
Unto his order he was a noble post.
215 Full well beloved and familiar was he
With franklins over all in his country,
And eek with worthy women of the town;
For he had power of confession,
As said himself, more than a curate,
220 For of his order he was licentiate.
Full sweetly heard he confession,
And pleasant was his absolution:
He was an easy man to give penance,
There as he knew to have a good pittance.
225 For unto a poor order for to give
Is sign that a man is well shrive;
For if he gave, he dared make avaunt,
He knew that a man was repentant;
For many a man so hard is of his heart,
230 He may not weep, although him sorely smart.
Therefore instead of weeping and prayers
Men must give silver to the poor friars.
His tippet was ay farsed full of knives
And pins, for to give young wives.
235 And certainly he had a merry note:
Well could he sing and play on a rote;
Of yeddings he bore utterly the prize.
His neck white was as the flour-de-lys;
Thereto he strong was as a champion.
240 He knew the taverns well in every town
And every hosteler and tappester,
Better than a lazar or a begster,
For unto such a worthy man as he
Accorded not, as by his faculty,
245 To have with sick lazars acquaintance.
It is not honest, it may not advance,
For to deal with no such porail,
But all with rich and sellers of victual.
And over all, there as profit should arise,
250 Courteous he was and lowly of service;
There's no man nowhere so virtuous.
He was the best beggar in his house;
[And gave a certain fee for the grant;
None of his brethren came there in his haunt; ]
255 For though a widow had not a shoe,
So pleasant was his "In principio, "
Yet would he have a farthing, ere he went.
His purchase was well better than his rent.
And rage he could, as it were right a whelp.
260 In love days there could he much help,
For there he was not like a cloisterer
With a threadbare cope, as is a poor scholar,
But he was like a master or a pope.
Of double worsted was his semicope,
265 That rounded as a bell out of the press.
Somewhat he lisped, for his wantonness,
To make his English sweet upon his tongue;
And in his harping, when that he had sung,
His eyes twinkled in his head aright
270 As do the stars in the frosty night.
This worthy limiter was called Huberd.
A merchant was there with a forked beard,
In motley, and high on horse he sat;
Upon his head a Flanderish beaver hat,
275 His boots clasped fair and featously.
His reasons he spoke full solemnly,
Speaking always the increase of his winning.
He would the sea were kept for anything
Between Middleburgh and Orwell.
280 Well could he in exchange shields sell.
This worthy man full well his wit beset;
There knew no wight that he was in debt,
So stately was he of his governance
With his bargains and with his chevisance
285 For truth he was a worthy man withall,
But, truth to say, I know not how men him call.
A clerk there was of Oxford also,
That unto logic had long ago.
As lean was his horse as is a rake,
290 And he was not right fat, I undertake,
But looked hollow, and thereto soberly,
Full threadbare was his overest courtepy,
For he had gotten him yet no benefice,
Nor was so worldly for to have office.
295 For he was rather have at his bed's head
Twenty books, clad in black or red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophy
Than robes rich, or fiddle, or gay psaltry.
But all be that he was a philosopher,
300 Yet had he but little gold in coffer;
But all that he might of his friends hent,
On books and on learning he it spent,
And busily gan for the soul's prayer
Of them that gave him wherewith to scholar.
305 Of study took he most cure and most heed.
Not a word spoke he more than was need,
And that was said in form and reverence,
And short and quick and full of high sentence;
Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,
310 And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.
A Sergeant of the Law, aware and wise,
That often had been at the Parvise,
There was also, full rich of excellence.
Discreet he was and of great reverence -
315 He seemed such, his words were so wise.
Justice he was full often in assize,
By patent and by plain commission.
For his science and for his high renown,
Of fees and robes had he many a one.
320 So great a purchaser was nowhere none:
All was fee simple to him in effect;
His purchasing might not been infect.
Nowhere so busy a man as he there was,
And yet he seemed busier than he was.
325 In terms had he case and dooms all
That from the time of King William were fall.
Thereto he could endite and make a thing,
There could no wight pinch at his writing;
And every statute could he play by rote.
330 He rode but homely in a motley coat,
Girt with a sash of silk, with bars small;
Of his array shall I no longer tell.
A Franklin was in his company.
White was his beard as is the daisy;
335 Of his complexion he was sanguine.
Well loved he by the morning a sup of wine;
To live in delight was ever his won,
For he was Epicurus' own son,
That held opinion that plain delight
340 Was very felicity parfit.
A householder, and that a great, was he;
Saint Julian was he in his country.
His bread, his ale, was always after one;
A better envied man was nowhere known.
345 Without baked meat was never his house,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous
It snowed in his house of meat and drink;
Of all dainties that men could think,
After the sundry seasons of the year,
350 So changed he his meat and his supper.
Full many a fat partridge had he in mew,
And many a bream and many a luce in stew.
Woe was his cook but if his sauce were
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear.
355 His table dormant in his hall alway
Stood ready covered all the long day.
At sessions there he was lord and sire;
Full oft time he was knight of the shire.
A dagger and a purse all of silk
360 Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk.
A sheriff had he been, an auditor.
Was nowhere such a worthy vavasour.
A Haberdasher and a Carpenter,
A Weaver, a Dyer, and a Tapisser -
365 And they were clothed all in a livery
Of a solemn and a great fraternity.
Full fresh and new their gear apiked was;
Their knives were mounted not with brass
But all with silver, wrought full clean and well,
370 Their girdles and their pouches everydell.
Well seemed each of them a fair burgess
To sit in a guildhall on a dais.
Each one, for the wisdom that he kan,
Was shapely for to be an alderman.
375 For chattel had they enough and rent,
And eek their wives would it well assent
And else certain were they to blame.
It is full fair to have been called "madame, "
And go to vigils all before,
380 And have a mantle royally bore.
A Cook they had with them for the nonce
To boil the chickens with the marrow bones,
And powdered marchant tart and galingale.
Well could he know a draft of London ale.
385 He could roast, and boil, and broil, and fry,
Make mortreux, and well bake a pie.
But great harm was it, as it thought me,
That on his shin, an ulcer had he.
For blancmanger, that made he with the best.
390 A Shipman was there, dwelling far by west;
For aught I know, he was of Dartmouth.
He rode upon a rouncy, as he couth,
In a gown of falding to the knee.
A dagger hanging on a laas had he
395 About his neck, under his arm adown.
The hot summer had made his hue all brown;
And certainly he was a good fellow.
Full many a draft of wine had he draw.
From Bordeaux-ward, while that the chapman sleep.
400 Of nice conscience took he no keep.
If that he fought and had the higher hand,
By water he sent them home to every land.
But of his craft to reckon well his tides,
His streams, and his dangers him besides,
405 His harbor, and his moon, his pilotage,
There was none such from Hull to Carthage.
Hardy he was and wise to undertake;
With many a tempest had his beard been shake.
He knew all the havens, as they were,
410 From Gotland to the cape of Finisterre,
And every creek in Brittany and in Spain.
His barge called was the Madelene.
With us there was A Doctor of Physic;
In all this world there was no one like him,
415 To speak of physic and of surgery,
For he was grounded in astronomy.
He kept his patient a full great deal
In hours, by his magic natural.
Well could he fortune the ascendant
420 Of his images for his patient.
He knew the cause of every malady,
Were it of hot, or cold, or moist, or dry,
And where they engendered, and of what humor.
He was a very, perfect practitioner:
425 The cause known, and of his harm the root,
Anon he gave the sick man his boot.
Full ready had he his apothecaries
To send him drugs and electuaries,
For each of them made other for to win -
430 Their friendship was not new to begin.
Well knew he the old Aesculapius,
And Dioscorides and too Rufus,
Old Hippocrates, Hali, and Galen,
Serapion, Rhazes, and Avicen,
435 Averroes, Damascene, and Constantine,
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertus.
Of his diet measurable was he,
For it was of no superfluity,
But of great nourishing and digestable.
440 His study was but little on the Bible.
In sanguine and in perse he clad was all,
Lined with taffeta and with sendal.
And yet he was but easy of dispense;
He kept that he won in pestilence.
445 For gold in physic is a cordial,
Therefore he loved gold in special.
A good Wife was there of beside Bath,
But she was somewhat deaf, and that was scathe.
Of cloth making she had such a haunt
450 She passed them of Ypres and of Ghent.
In all the parish wife was there none
That to the offering before her should go on;
And if they did, certain so wroth was she
That she was out of all charity.
455 Her kerchiefs full fine were of ground;
I dare swear they weighed ten pound
That on a Sunday were upon her head.
Her hose were of fine scarlet red,
Full straight tied, and shoes full moist and new.
460 Bold was her face, and fair, and red of hew.
She was a worthy woman all her life:
Husbands at church door she had five,
Without them other company in youth -
But there's no need to speak as now.
465 And thrice had she been at Jerusalem;
She had passed many a strange stream;
At Rome she had been, and at Boulogne,
In Galicia at Saint Jame, and at Cologne.
She could much of wandering by the way.
470 Gap-toothed was she, truly for to say.
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Wimpled well, and on her head a hat
As broad as is a buckler or a targe;
A foot-mantle about her hips large,
475 And on her feet a pair of spurs sharp.
In fellowship well could she laugh and carp.
Of remedies of love she knew per chance,
For she knew of that art the old dance.
A good man was there of religion,
480 And was a poor Parson of a town,
But rich he was of holy thought and work.
He was also a learned man, a clerk,
That Christ's Gospel truly would preach;
His parishioners devoutly would he teach.
485 Benign he was and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patient,
And such he was proved oft times.
Full loathe was he to curse for his tithes,
But rather would he give, out of doubt,
490 Unto his poor parishioners about
Of his offering and eek of his substance.
He could in little things have sufficience.
Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder,
But he left not, for rain or thunder,
495 In sickness nor in mischief to visit
The farthest in his parish, much and light,
Upon his feet, and in his hand a stave.
This noble example to his sheep he gave,
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
500 Out of the Gospel he those words caught,
And this figure he added eek thereto,
That if gold rust, what shall iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewd man to rust;
505 And shame it is if a priest take keep,
A shitten shepherd and a clean sheep.
Well ought a priest example for to give,
By his cleanness, how that his sheep should live.
He set not his benefice to hire
510 And let his sheep encumbered in the mire
And ran to London unto Saint Paul's
To seek him a chantry for souls,
Or with a brotherhood to be withhold;
But dwelt at home, and kept well his fold,
515 So that the wolf not make it miscarry;
He was a shepherd and not a mercenary.
And though he holy were and virtuous,
He was to sinful men not despitous,
Nor of his speech dangerous nor digne,
520 But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To draw folk to heaven by fairness,
By good example, this was his business.
But it were any person obstinate,
What so he were of high or low estate,
525 Him would he snib him sharply for the nonce.
A better priest I trust that nowhere none is.
He waited after no pomp and reverence,
Nor maked him a spiced conscience,
But Christ's lore and his apostles twelve
530 He taught; but first he followed it himself.
With him there was a Plowman, was his brother,
That had hauled of dung full many a fother;
A true swinker and a good was he,
Living in peace and perfect charity.
535 God loved he best with all his whole heart
At all times, though him gamed or smarte,
And then his neighbor right as himself.
He would thresh, and thereto dike and delve,
For Christ's sake, for every poor wight,
540 Without hire, if it lay in his might.
His tithes paid he full fair and well,
Both of his proper swink and his chattel.
In a tabard he road upon a mare.
There was also a Reeve and a Miller,
545 A Summoner and a Pardoner also,
A Manciple, and myself, - there were no more.
The Miller was a stout carl for the nonce;
Full big he was of brawn, and eek of bones.
That proved well, for over all there he came,
550 At wrestling he would have always the ram.
He was short-shouldered, broad, a thick knar;
There was no door that he could not heave off har,
Or break it at a running with his head.
His beard as any sow or fox was red,
555 And thereto broad as it were a spade.
Upon the top right of his nose he had
A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs,
Red as the bristles of a sow's ears;
His nostrils black were and wide.
560 A sword and a buckler bore he by his side.
His mouth as great was as a great furnace.
He was a jangler and a galliardise,
And that was most of sin and harlotries.
Well could he steal corn toll threes;
565 And yet he had a thumb of gold, pardie.
A white cope and a blue hood wore he.
A bagpipe well could he blow and sound,
And therewithal he brought us out of town.
A gentle Manciple was there of a temple,
570 Of which acaters might take example
For to be wise in buying of victuals;
For whether that he paid or took by tally,
Always he waited so in his achate,
That he was ay before and in good state.
575 Now is not that of God a full fair grace
That such a lewd man's wit shall pace
The wisdom of a heap of learned men?
Of masters had he more than thrice ten,
That were of law expert and curious,
580 Of which there were a dozen in that house
Worthy to be stewards of rent and land
Of any lord that is in England,
To make him live by his proper good
In honor debtless (but if he were wood) ,
585 Or live as scarcely as he might desire;
And able for to help all a shire
In any case that might fall or hap
And yet this Manciple set their all cap.
The Reeve was a slender choleric man.
590 His beard was shaved as nigh as ever he can;
His hair was by his ears full round shorn;
His top was docked like a priest before.
Full long were his legs and full leen,
Like a staff; there was no calf seen.
595 Well could he keep a garner and bin;
There was no auditor could on him win.
Well wist he by the drought and by the rain
The yielding of his seed and of his grain.
His lord's sheep, his neet, his dairy,
600 His swine, his horse, his stores, and his poultry
Was wholly in this Reeve's governing,
And by his covenant gave the reckoning,
Since that his lord was twenty year of age.
There could no man bring him in arrearage.
605 There's no bailiff, no herder, no other hine,
That he not knew his sleight and his covine;
They were adread of him as of the death.
His dwelling was full fair upon the heath,
With green trees shaded was his place.
610 He could better than his lord purchase.
Full rich he was astored privily.
His lord well could he please subtlely,
To give and lend him of his own good,
And have a thank, and yet a coat and hood.
615 In youth he had learned a good mister:
He was a well good wright, a carpenter.
This Reeve sat upon a full good stot
That was all pomely grey, and called Scot.
A long surcoat of perse upon him hade,
620 And by his side he bore a rusty blade.
Of Norfolk was this Reeve of which I tell,
Beside a town men call Baldeswell.
Tucked he was as is a friar about,
And ever he rode the hindmost of our route.
625 A Summoner was there with us in that place
That had a fire-red cherubin's face,
For sauceflemed he was, with eyes narrow.
As hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow,
With scaled brows black, and piled beard.
630 Of his visage children were afeard.
There's no quick-silver, litharge, nor brimstone,
Borax, ceruse, nor oil of tarter none,
No ointment that would cleanse and bite,
That him might help of his whelks white,
635 Nor of the knobs sitting on his cheeks.
Well loved he garlic, onions, and eek leeks,
And for to drink strong wine, red as blood;
Then would he speak and cry as he were wood.
And when that he well drunk had the wine,
640 Then would he speak no word but Latin.
A few terms had he, two or three,
That he had learned out of some decree -
No wonder is, he heard it all the day;
And eek you know well how that a jay
645 Can call out "Walter" as well as can the pope.
But whoso could in other things him grope,
Then had he spent all his philosophy;
Ay "Questio quid juris" would he cry.
He was a gentle harlot and a kind;
650 A better fellow should men not find.
He would suffer for a quart of wine
A good fellow to have his concubine
A twelve month, and excuse him at full;
Full privily a finch eek could he pull.
655 And if he found anywhere a good fellow,
He would teach him to have no awe,
In such case of the archdeacon's curse,
But if a man's soul were in his purse;
For in his purse he should punished be.
660 "Purse is the archdeacon's hell, " said he.
But well I know he lied right indeed;
Of cursing ought each guilty man him dread,
For curse will slay right as absolving save it,
And also ware him of a Significavit.
665 In danger had he at his own guise
The young girls of the diocese,
And knew their counsel, and was all their rede.
A garland had he set upon his head,
As great as it were for an ale-stake.
670 A buckler had he made him of a cake.
With him there rode a gentle Pardoner
Of Rouncivale, his friend and his compeer,
That straight was come from the court of Rome.
Full loud he sang "Come hither, love, to me! "
675 This Summoner barred to him a stiff burdoun;
Was never trumpet of half so great a sound.
This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax,
But smooth it hung as does a strike of flax;
By ounces hung his locks that he had,
680 And therewith he his shoulders overspread;
But thin it lay, by culpons one and one.
But hood, for jollity, wore he none,
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
He thought he rode all of the new jet;
685 Disheveled, save his cap, he rode all bare.
Such glaring eyes had he as a hare.
A Vernicle had he sowed upon his cap;
His wallet, before him in his lap,
Bretfull of pardon come from Rome all hot.
690 A voice he had as small as has a goat.
No beard had he, nor ever should have;
As smooth it was as it were late shave.
I trow he were a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, from Berwick into Ware
695 Nor was there such another pardoner.
For in his male he had a pillow-bier,
Which that he said was Our Lady's veil;
He said he had a gobbet of the sail
That Saint Peter had, when that he went
700 Upon the sea, ‘til Jesus Christ him hent.
He had a cross of latten full of stones,
And in a glass he had pigs' bones,
But with these relics, when that he found
A poor person dwelling upon land
705 Upon a day he got him more money
Then that the person got in months twey;
And thus, with feigned flattery and japes,
He made the person and the people his apes.
But truly to tell at the last,
710 He was in church a noble ecclesiast.
Well could he read a lesson or a story,
But all the best he sang an offertory;
For well he wist, when that song was sung,
He must preach and well affile his tongue
715 To win silver, as he full well could;
Therefore he sang the merrily and loud.
Now have I told you truly, in a clause,
The estate, the array, the number, and too the cause
Why that assembled was this company
720 In Southwerk at this gentle hostelry
Called the Tabard, fast by the Belle.
But now is time to you for to tell
How that we baren us that same night,
When we were in that hostelry allright;
725 And after will I tell of our voyage
And all the remnant of our pilgrimage.
But first I pray you, of your courtesy,
That you not ascribe it to my villainy,
Though that I plainly speak in this matter,
730 To tell you their words and their cheer.
Nor though I speak their words properly.
For this you know also well as I:
Whoso shall tell a tale after a man,
He must rehearse as nigh as ever he can
735 Every word, if it be in his charge,
All speak he never so rudely or large,
Or else he must tell his tale untrue,
Or feign things, or find words new.
He may not spare, although he were his brother;
740 He might as well say one word as another.
Christ spoke himself full broad in holy writ,
And well you know no villainy is it.
Eek Plato said, whoso can him read,
The words must be cousin to the deed.
745 Also I pray you to forgive it me,
All have I not set folk in their degree
Here in this tale, as that they should stand.
My wit is short, you may well understand.
Great cheer made our Host us everyone,
750 And to the supper set he us anon.
He served us with victuals at the best;
Strong was the wine, and well to drink us lest.
A seemly man our host was withall
For he'd been a marshal in a hall.
755 A large man he was with even step -
A fairer burgess was there none in Chepe -
Bold of his speech, and wise, and well taught,
And of manhood he lacked right naught.
Eek thereto he was right a merry man;
760 And after supper playing he began,
And spoke of mirth among other things,
When that we had made our reckonings,
And said thus: "Now, lords, truly,
You've been to me right welcome, heartily;
765 For by my troth, if that I shall not lie,
I saw not this year so merry a company
At once in this herber as is now.
Fain would I do you mirth, knew I how.
And of a mirth I am right now bethought,
770 To do you ease, and it shall cost naught.
"You're going to Canterbury - God you speed,
The blissful martyr quit you your meed!
And well I know, as you go on by the way,
You'll shape you to tell and to play;
775 For truly, comfort nor mirth is none
To ride by the way dumb as a stone;
And therefore will I make you disport,
As I said erst, and do you some comfort.
And if you like all by one assent
780 For to stand at my judgment,
And for to work, as I shall you say,
Tomorrow, when you ride by the way,
Now by my father's soul that is dead,
But you be merry, I will give you my head!
785 Hold up your hands, without more speech."
Our counsel was not long for to seek.
We thought it was not worth to make it wise,
And granted him without more avise,
And bade him say his verdict as he lest.
790 "Lords, " said he, "now hearken for the best;
But take it not, I pray you, in disdain.
This is the point, to speak short and plain,
That each of you, to short with our way,
In this voyage shall tell tales tway
795 To Canterbury-ward, I mean it so,
And homeward he shall tell another two,
Of adventures that awhile have befall.
And which of you that bears him best of all -
That is to say, that tells in this case
800 Tales of best sentence and most solace -
Shall have a supper at all our cost
Here in this place, sitting by this post,
When that we come again from Canterbury.
And for to make you the more merry,
805 I will myself goodly with you ride,
Right at my own cost, and be your guide;
And whoso will my judgment gainsay
Shall pay all that we spend by the way.
And if you vouchsafe that it be so,
810 Tell me anon, without words more,
And I will early shape me therefore."
This thing was granted, and our oaths swore
With full glad heart, and prayed him also
That he would vouchsafe for to do so,
815 And that he would be our governor,
And our tale's judge and reporter,
And set a supper at a certain price,
And we will ruled be at his devise
In high and low; and thus by one assent
820 We were accorded to his judgment.
And thereupon the wine was fetched anon;
We drank, and to rest went each one,
Without any longer tarrying.
At morning, when that day began to spring,
825 Up rose our Host, and was all our cock,
And gathered us together all in a flock,
And forth we rode a little more than pace
Unto the watering of Saint Thomas;
And there our Host began his horse to rest
830 And said, "Lords, hearken, if you lest,
You know your forward, and I it you record.
If even-song and morning-song accord,
Let's see now who shall tell the first tale.
As ever must I drink wine or ale,
835 Whoso be rebel to my judgment
Shall pay for all that by the way is spent.
Now draw cut, er we further twin;
He which that has the shortest will begin.
"Sir Knight, " said he, "my master and my lord,
840 Now draw cut, for that is my accord.
"Come near, " said he, "my lady Prioress.
And you, sir Clerk, let be your shamefacedness,
Study it not; lay hand to, every man! "
Anon to draw every wight began,
845 And shortly for to tell it as it was,
Were it by adventure, or sort, or case,
The truth is this: the cut fell to the Knight,
Of which full blithe and glad was every wight,
And tell he must his tale, as was reason,
850 By forward and by composition,
As you have heard; what need words more?
And when this good man saw that it was so,
And he that wise was and obedient
To keep his forward by his free assent,
855 He said, "Since I shall begin the game,
What, welcome be the cut, by God's name!
Now let us ride, and hearken what I say."
And with that word we rode on forth our way,
And he began with right a merry cheer
860 His tale anon, and said as you may hear.
© 2008,2012,2019 Forrest Hainline
Comments about Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue - (Forrest Hainline's Minimalist Translation) by Forrest Hainline
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