Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400. The Canterbury tales :
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The General Prologue

1: Whan that aprill with his shoures soote
2: The droghte of march hath perced to the roote,
3: And bathed every veyne in swich licour
4: Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
5: Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
6: Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
7: Tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
8: Hath in the ram his halve cours yronne,
9: And smale foweles maken melodye,
10: That slepen al the nyght with open ye
11: (so priketh hem nature in hir corages);
12: Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
13: And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
14: To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
15: And specially from every shires ende
16: Of engelond to caunterbury they wende,
17: The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
18: That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
19: Bifil that in that seson on a day,
20: In southwerk at the tabard as I lay
21: Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
22: To caunterbury with ful devout corage,
23: At nyght was come into that hostelrye
24: Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
25: Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
26: In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
27: That toward caunterbury wolden ryde.
28: The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
29: And wel we weren esed atte beste.
30: And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
31: So hadde I spoken with hem everichon
32: That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
33: And made forward erly for to ryse,
34: To take oure wey ther as I yow devyse.
35: But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
36: Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
37: Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun
38: To telle yow al the condicioun
39: Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
40: And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
41: And eek in what array that they were inne;
42: And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.

The Knight's Portrait

43: A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
44: That fro the tyme that he first bigan
45: To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
46: Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
47: Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
48: And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
49: As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
50: And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
51: At alisaundre he was whan it was wonne.
52: Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
53: Aboven alle nacions in pruce;
54: In lettow hadde he reysed and in ruce,
55: No cristen man so ofte of his degree.
56: In gernade at the seege eek hadde he be
57: Of algezir, and riden in belmarye.
58: At lyeys was he and at satalye,
59: Whan they were wonne; and in the grete see
60: At many a noble armee hadde he be.
61: At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
62: And foughten for oure feith at tramyssene
63: In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo.
64: This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also
65: Somtyme with the lord of palatye
66: Agayn another hethen in turkye.
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67: And everemoore he hadde a sovereyn prys;
68: And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
69: And of his port as meeke as is a mayde.
70: He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
71: In al his lyf unto no maner wight.
72: He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.
73: But, for to tellen yow of his array,
74: His hors were goode, but he was nat gay.
75: Of fustian he wered a gypon
76: Al bismotered with his habergeon,
77: For he was late ycome from his viage,
78: And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.

The Squire's Portrait

79: With hym ther was his sone, a yong squier,
80: A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
81: With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
82: Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
83: Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
84: And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
85: And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
86: In flaundres, in artoys, and pycardie,
87: And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
88: In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
89: Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
90: Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
91: Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
92: He was as fressh as is the month of may.
93: Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
94: Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
95: He koude songes make and wel endite,
96: Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
97: So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale.
98: He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
99: Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
100: And carf biforn his fader at the table.

The Yeoman's Portrait

101: A yeman hadde he and servantz namo
102: At that tyme, for hym liste ride so,
103: And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
104: A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene,
105: Under his belt he bar ful thriftily,
106: (wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly:
107: His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe)
108: And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
109: A not heed hadde he, with a broun visage.
110: Of wodecraft wel koude he al the usage.
111: Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
112: And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
113: And on that oother syde a gay daggere
114: Harneised wel and sharp as point of spere;
115: A cristopher on his brest of silver sheene.
116: An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene;
117: A forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.

The Prioress' Portrait

118: Ther was also a nonne, a prioresse,
119: That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
120: Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
121: And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
122: Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
123: Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
124: And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
125: After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
126: For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.
127: At mete wel ytaught was she with alle:
128: She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
129: Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe;
130: Wel koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe
131: That no drope ne fille upon hire brest.
132: In curteisie was set ful muchel hir lest.
133: Hir over-lippe wyped she so clene
134: That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene
135: Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte.
136: Ful semely after hir mete she raughte.
137: And sikerly she was of greet desport,
138: And ful plesaunt, and amyable of port,
139: And peyned hire to countrefete cheere
140: Of court, and to been estatlich of manere,
141: And to ben holden digne of reverence.
142: But, for to speken of hire conscience,
143: She was so charitable and so pitous
144: She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous
145: Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.
146: Of smale houndes hadde she that she fedde
147: With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel-breed.
148: But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed,
149: Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte;
150: And al was conscience and tendre herte.
151: Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was,
152: Hir nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
153: Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed;
154: But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed;
155: It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe;
156: For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
157: Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war.
158: Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar
159: A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
160: And theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene,
161: On which ther was first write a crowned a,
162: And after amor vincit omnia.

The Second Nun's Portrait

163: Another nonne with hire hadde she,
164: That was hir chapeleyne, and preestes thre.

The Monk's Portrait

165: A monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie,
166: An outridere, that lovede venerie,
167: A manly man, to been an abbot able.
168: Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable,
169: And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
170: Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere
171: And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle.
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172: Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle,
173: The reule of seint maure or of seint beneit,
174: By cause that it was old and somdel streit
175: This ilke monk leet olde thynges pace,
176: And heeld after the newe world the space.
177: He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
178: That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men,
179: Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
180: Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees, --
181: This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre.
182: But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre;
183: And I seyde his opinion was good.
184: What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood,
185: Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,
186: Or swynken with his handes, and laboure,
187: As austyn bit? how shal the world be served?
188: Lat austyn have his swynk to hym reserved!
189: Therfore he was a prikasour aright:
190: Grehoundes he hadde as swift as fowel in flight;
191: Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare
192: Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
193: I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond
194: With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
195: And, for to festne his hood under his chyn,
196: He hadde of gold ywroght a ful curious pyn;
197: A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
198: His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
199: And eek his face, as he hadde been enoynt.
200: He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt;
201: His eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed,
202: That stemed as a forneys of a leed;
203: His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat.
204: Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat;
205: He was nat pale as a forpyned goost.
206: A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
207: His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.

The Friar's Portrait

208: A frere ther was, a wantowne and a merye,
209: A lymytour, a ful solempne man.
210: In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan
211: So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage.
212: He hadde maad ful many a mariage
213: Of yonge wommen at his owene cost.
214: Unto his ordre he was a noble post.
215: Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
216: With frankeleyns over al in his contree,
217: And eek with worthy wommen of the toun;
218: For he hadde power of confessioun,
219: As seyde hymself, moore than a curat,
220: For of his ordre he was licenciat.
221: Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
222: And plesaunt was his absolucioun:
223: He was an esy man to yeve penaunce,
224: Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce.
225: For unto a povre ordre for to yive
226: Is signe that a man is wel yshryve;
227: For if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt,
228: He wiste that a man was repentaunt;
229: For many a man so hard is of his herte,
230: He may nat wepe, althogh hym soore smerte.
231: Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyeres
232: Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres.
233: His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves
234: And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves.
235: And certeinly he hadde a murye note:
236: Wel koude he synge and pleyen on a rote;
237: Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris.
238: His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys;
239: Therto he strong was as a champioun.
240: He knew the tavernes wel in every toun
241: And everich hostiler and tappestere
242: Bet than a lazar or a beggestere;
243: For unto swich a worthy man as he
244: Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
245: To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce.
246: It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce,
247: For to deelen with no swich poraille,
248: But al with riche and selleres of vitaille.
249: And over al, ther as profit sholde arise,
250: Curteis he was and lowely of servyse.
251: Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous.
252: He was the beste beggere in his hous;
252.1: (and yaf a certeyne ferme for the graunt;
252.2: Noon of his bretheren cam ther in his haunt;)
253: For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho,
254: So plesaunt was his in principio,
255: Yet wolde he have a ferthyng, er he wente.
256: His purchas was wel bettre than his rente.
257: And rage he koude, as it were right a whelp.
258: In love-dayes ther koude he muchel help,
259: For ther he was nat lyk a cloysterer
260: With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler,
261: But he was lyk a maister or a pope.
262: Of double worstede was his semycope,
263: That rounded as a belle out of the presse.
264: Somwhat he lipsed, for his wantownesse,
265: To make his englissh sweete upon his tonge;
266: And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe,
267: His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght,
268: As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght.
269: This worthy lymytour was cleped huberd.

The Merchant's Portrait

270: A marchant was ther with a forked berd,
271: In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat;
272: Upon his heed a flaundryssh bever hat,
273: His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
274: His resons he spak ful solempnely,
275: Sownynge alwey th' encrees of his wynnyng.
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276: He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
277: Bitwixe middelburgh and orewelle.
278: Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle.
279: This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette:
280: Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
281: So estatly was he of his governaunce
282: With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce.
283: For sothe he was a worthy man with alle,
284: But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle.

The Clerk's Portrait

285: A clerk ther was of oxenford also,
286: That unto logyk hadde longe ygo.
287: As leene was his hors as is a rake,
288: And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
289: But looked holwe, and therto sobrely.
290: Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy;
291: For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
292: Ne was so worldly for to have office.
293: For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
294: Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
295: Of aristotle and his philosophie,
296: Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
297: But al be that he was a philosophre,
298: Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
299: But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
300: On bookes and on lernynge he it spente,
301: And bisily gan for the soules preye
302: Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye.
303: Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede,
304: Noght o word spak he moore than was neede,
305: And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
306: And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence;
307: Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche,
308: And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.

The The MAn of Law's Portrait

309: A sergeant of the lawe, war and wys,
310: That often hadde been at the parvys,
311: Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
312: Discreet he was and of greet reverence --
313: He semed swich, his wordes weren so wise.
314: Justice he was ful often in assise,
315: By patente and by pleyn commissioun.
316: For his science and for his heigh renoun,
317: Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
318: So greet a purchasour was nowher noon:
319: Al was fee symple to hym in effect;
320: His purchasyng myghte nat been infect.
321: Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
322: And yet he semed bisier than he was.
323: In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle
324: That from the tyme of kyng william were falle.
325: Therto he koude endite, and make a thyng,
326: Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng;
327: And every statut koude he pleyn by rote.
328: He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote.
329: Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale;
330: Of his array telle I no lenger tale.

The Franklin's Portrait

331: A frankeleyn was in his compaignye.
332: Whit was his berd as is the dayesye;
333: Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
334: Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn;
335: To lyven in delit was evere his wone,
336: For he was epicurus owene sone,
337: That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
338: Was verray felicitee parfit.
339: An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
340: Seint julian he was in his contree.
341: His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon;
342: A bettre envyned man was nowher noon.
343: Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous
344: Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous,
345: It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke,
346: Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke.
347: After the sondry sesons of the yeer,
348: So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
349: Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe,
350: And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe.
351: Wo was his cook but if his sauce were
352: Poynaunt and sharp, and redy al his geere.
353: His table dormant in his halle alway
354: Stood redy covered al the longe day.
355: At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire;
356: Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire.
357: An anlaas and a gipser al of silk
358: Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
359: A shirreve hadde he been, and a contour.
360: Was nowher swich a worthy vavasour.

The Guildsmen's Portrait

361: An haberdasshere and a carpenter,
362: A webbe, a dyere, and a tapycer, --
363: And they were clothed alle in o lyveree
364: Of a solempne and a greet fraternitee.
365: Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was;
366: Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras
367: But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel
368: Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel.
369: Wel semed ech of hem a fair burgeys
370: To sitten in a yeldehalle on a deys.
371: Everich, for the wisdom that he kan,
372: Was shaply for to been an alderman.
373: For catel hadde they ynogh and rente,
374: And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente;
375: And elles certeyn were they to blame.
376: It is ful fair to been ycleped madame,
377: And goon to vigilies al bifore,
378: And have a mantel roialliche ybore.

The Cook's Portrait

379: A cook they hadde with hem for the nones
380: To boille the chiknes with the marybones,
381: And poudre-marchant tart and galyngale.
382: Wel koude he knowe a draughte of londoun ale.
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383: He koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye,
384: Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pye.
385: But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me,
386: That on his shyne a mormal hadde he.
387: For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.

The Shipman's Portrait

388: A shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste;
389: For aught I woot, he was of dertemouthe.
390: He rood upon a rounce, as he kouthe,
391: In a gowne of faldyng to the knee.
392: A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he
393: Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
394: The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun;
395: And certeinly he was a good felawe.
396: Ful many a draughte of wyn had he ydrawe
397: Fro burdeux-ward, whil that the chapmen sleep.
398: Of nyce conscience took he no keep.
399: If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond,
400: By water he sente hem hoom to every lond.
401: But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes,
402: His stremes, and his daungers hym bisides,
403: His herberwe, and his moone, his lodemenage,
404: Ther nas noon swich from hulle to cartage.
405: Hardy he was and wys to undertake;
406: With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake.
407: He knew alle the havenes, as they were,
408: Fro gootlond to the cape of fynystere,
409: And every cryke in britaigne and in spayne.
410: His barge ycleped was the maudelayne.

The Physician's Portrait

411: With us ther was a doctour of phisik;
412: In al this world ne was the noon hym lik,
413: To speke of phisik and of surgerye
414: For he was grounded in astronomye.
415: He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel
416: In houres by his magyk natureel.
417: Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent
418: Of his ymages for his pacient.
419: He knew the cause of everich maladye,
420: Were it of hoot, or coold, or moyste, or drye,
421: And where they engendred, and of what humour.
422: He was a verray, parfit praktisour:
423: The cause yknowe, and of his harm the roote,
424: Anon he yaf the sike man his boote.
425: Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
426: To sende hym drogges and his letuaries,
427: For ech of hem made oother for to wynne --
428: Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne.
429: Wel knew he the olde esculapius,
430: And deyscorides, and eek rufus,
431: Olde ypocras, haly, and galyen,
432: Serapion, razis, and avycen,
433: Averrois, damascien, and constantyn,
434: Bernard, and gatesden, and gilbertyn.
435: Of his diete mesurable was he,
436: For it was of no superfluitee,
437: But of greet norissyng and digestible.
438: His studie was but litel on the bible.
439: In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al,
440: Lyned with taffata and with sendal;
441: And yet he was but esy of dispence;
442: He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
443: For gold in phisik is a cordial,
444: Therefore he lovede gold in special.

The Wife of Bath's Portrait

445: A good wif was ther of biside bathe,
446: But she was somdel deef, and that was scathe.
447: Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt,
448: She passed hem of ypres and of gaunt.
449: In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon
450: That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon;
451: And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she,
452: That she was out of alle charitee.
453: Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground;
454: I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
455: That on a sonday weren upon hir heed.
456: Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
457: Ful streite yteyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe.
458: Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
459: She was a worthy womman al hir lyve:
460: Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve,
461: Withouten oother compaignye in youthe, --
462: But therof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe.
463: And thries hadde she been at jerusalem;
464: She hadde passed many a straunge strem;
465: At rome she hadde been, and at boloigne,
466: In galice at seint-jame, and at coloigne.
467: She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye.
468: Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
469: Upon an amblere esily she sat,
470: Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat
471: As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
472: A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
473: And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
474: In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe.
475: Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce,
476: For she koude of that art the olde daunce.

The Parson's Portrait

477: A good man was ther of religioun,
478: And was a povre persoun of a toun,
479: But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk.
480: He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
481: That cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
482: His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
483: Benygne he was, and wonder diligent,
484: And in adversitee ful pacient,
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485: And swich he was ypreved ofte sithes.
486: Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes,
487: But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
488: Unto his povre parisshens aboute
489: Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce.
490: He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce.
491: Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder,
492: But he ne lefte nat, for reyn ne thonder,
493: In siknesse nor in meschief to visite
494: The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite,
495: Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
496: This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
497: That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte.
498: Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte,
499: And this figure he added eek therto,
500: That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
501: For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
502: No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
503: And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
504: A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
505: Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
506: By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.
507: He sette nat his benefice to hyre
508: And leet his sheep encombred in the myre
509: And ran to londoun unto seinte poules
510: To seken hym a chaunterie for soules,
511: Or with a bretherhed to been withholde;
512: But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
513: So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie;
514: He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie.
515: And though he hooly were and vertuous,
516: He was to synful men nat despitous,
517: Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
518: But in his techyng discreet and benygne.
519: To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse,
520: By good ensample, this was his bisynesse.
521: But it were any persone obstinat,
522: What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
523: Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys.
524: A bettre preest I trowe that nowher noon ys.
525: He waited after no pompe and reverence,
526: Ne maked him a spiced conscience,
527: But cristes loore and his apostles twelve
528: He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve.

The Plowman's Portrait

529: With hym ther was a plowman, was his brother,
530: That hadde ylad of dong ful many a fother;
531: A trewe swynkere and a good was he,
532: Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee.
533: God loved he best with al his hoole herte
534: At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte,
535: And thanne his neighebor right as hymselve.
536: He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve,
537: For cristes sake, for every povre wight,
538: Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.
539: His tithes payde he ful faire and wel,
540: Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel.
541: In a tabard he rood upon a mere.

542: Ther was also a reve, and a millere,
543: A somnour, and a pardoner also,
544: A maunciple, and myself -- ther were namo.

The Miller's Portrait

545: The millere was a stout carl for the nones;
546: Ful byg he was of brawn, and eek of bones.
547: That proved wel, for over al ther he cam,
548: At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram.
549: He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre;
550: Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
551: Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
552: His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
553: And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
554: Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
555: A werte, and theron stood a toft of herys,
556: Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
557: His nosethirles blake were and wyde.
558: A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde.
559: His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys.
560: He was a janglere and a goliardeys,
561: And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
562: Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries;
563: And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
564: A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
565: A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne,
566: And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.

The Manciple's Portrait

567: A gentil maunciple was ther of a temple,
568: Of which achatours myghte take exemple
569: For to be wise in byynge of vitaille;
570: For wheither that he payde or took by taille,
571: Algate he wayted so in his achaat
572: That he was ay biforn and in good staat.
573: Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace
574: That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace
575: The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?
576: Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten,
577: That weren of lawe expert and curious,
578: Of which ther were a duszeyne in that hous
579: Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
580: Of any lord that is in engelond,
581: To make hym lyve by his propre good
582: In honour dettelees (but if he were wood),
583: Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire;
584: And able for to helpen al a shire
585: In any caas that myghte falle or happe;
586: And yet this manciple sette hir aller cappe.

The Reeve's Portrait

587: The reve was a sclendre colerik man.
588: His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan;
589: His heer was by his erys ful round yshorn;
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590: His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn
591: Ful longe were his legges and ful lene,
592: Ylyk a staf, ther was no calf ysene.
593: Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne;
594: Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne.
595: Wel wiste he by the droghte and by the reyn
596: The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn.
597: His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
598: His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye
599: Was hoolly in this reves governynge,
600: And by his covenant yaf the rekenynge,
601: Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age.
602: Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage.
603: Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
604: That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne;
605: They were adrad of hym as of the deeth.
606: His wonyng was ful faire upon an heeth;
607: With grene trees yshadwed was his place.
608: He koude bettre than his lord purchace.
609: Ful riche he was astored pryvely:
610: His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly,
611: To yeve and lene hym of his owene good,
612: And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood.
613: In youthe he hadde lerned a good myster;
614: He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
615: This reve sat upon a ful good stot,
616: That was al pomely grey and highte scot.
617: A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
618: And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
619: Of northfolk was this reve of which I telle,
620: Biside a toun men clepen baldeswelle.
621: Tukked he was as is a frere aboute,
622: And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.

The Summoner's Portrait

623: A somonour was ther with us in that place,
624: That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face,
625: For saucefleem he was, with eyen narwe.
626: As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe,
627: With scalled browes blake and piled berd.
628: Of his visage children were aferd.
629: Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon,
630: Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon;
631: Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
632: That hym myghte helpen of his whelkes white,
633: Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes.
634: Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes,
635: And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;
636: Thanne wolde he speke and crie as he were wood.
637: And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
638: Thanne wolde he speke no word but latyn.
639: A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,
640: That he had lerned out of som decree --
641: No wonder is, he herde it al the day;
642: And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
643: Kan clepen watte as wel as kan the pope.
644: But whoso koude in oother thyng hym grope,
645: Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophie;
646: Ay questio quid iuris wolde he crie.
647: He was a gentil harlot and a kynde;
648: A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde.
649: He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn
650: A good felawe to have his concubyn
651: A twelf month, and excuse hym atte fulle;
652: Ful prively a fynch eek koude he pulle.
653: And if he foond owher a good felawe,
654: He wolde techen him to have noon awe
655: In swich caas of the ercedekenes curs,
656: But if a mannes soule were in his purs;
657: For in his purs he sholde ypunysshed be.
658: Purs is the ercedekenes helle, seyde he.
659: But wel I woot he lyed right in dede;
660: Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede,
661: For curs wol slee right as assoillyng savith,
662: And also war hym of a significavit.
663: In daunger hadde he at his owene gise
664: The yonge girles of the diocise,
665: And knew hir conseil, and was al hir reed.
666: A gerland hadde he set upon his heed
667: As greet as it were for an ale-stake.
668: A bokeleer hadde he maad hym of a cake.

The Pardoner's Portrait

669: With hym ther rood a gentil pardoner
670: Of rouncivale, his freend and his compeer,
671: That streight was comen fro the court of rome.
672: Ful loude he soong com hider, love, to me!
673: This somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun;
674: Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
675: This pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
676: But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
677: By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
678: And therwith he his shuldres overspradde;
679: But thynne it lay, by colpons oon and oon.
680: But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon,
681: For it was trussed up in his walet.
682: Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet;
683: Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
684: Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.
685: A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe.
686: His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe,
687: Bretful of pardoun, comen from rome al hoot.
688: A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.
689: No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have;
690: As smothe it was as it were late shave.
691: I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
692: But of his craft, fro berwyk into ware,
693: Ne was ther swich another pardoner
694: For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
695: Which that he seyde was oure lady veyl:
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696: He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
697: That seint peter hadde, whan that he wente
698: Upon the see, til jhesu crist hym hente.
699: He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
700: And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
701: But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
702: A povre person dwellynge upon lond,
703: Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
704: Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
705: And thus, with feyned flaterye and japes,
706: He made the person and the peple his apes.
707: But trewely to tellen atte laste,
708: He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste.
709: Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
710: But alderbest he song an offertorie;
711: For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
712: He moste preche and wel affile his tonge
713: To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;
714: Therefore he song the murierly and loude.

715: Now have I toold you soothly, in a clause,
716: Th' estaat, th' array, the nombre, and eek the cause
717: Why that assembled was this compaignye
718: In southwerk at this gentil hostelrye
719: That highte the tabard, faste by the belle.
720: But now is tyme to yow for to telle
721: How that we baren us that ilke nyght,
722: Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght;
723: And after wol I telle of our viage
724: And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.
725: But first I pray yow, of youre curteisye,
726: That ye n' arette it nat my vileynye,
727: Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere,
728: To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere,
729: Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely.
730: For this ye knowen al so wel as I,
731: Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,
732: He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan
733: Everich a word, if it be in his charge,
734: Al speke he never so rudeliche and large,
735: Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,
736: Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
737: He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother;
738: He moot as wel seye o word as another.
739: Crist spak hymself ful brode in hooly writ,
740: And wel ye woot no vileynye is it.
741: Eek plato seith, whoso that kan hym rede,
742: The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede.
743: Also I prey yow to foryeve it me,
744: Al have I nat set folk in hir degree
745: Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde.
746: My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.
747: Greet chiere made oure hoost us everichon,
748: And to the soper sette he us anon.
749: He served us with vitaille at the beste;
750: Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us leste.
751: A semely man oure hooste was withalle
752: For to han been a marchal in an halle.
753: A large man he was with eyen stepe --
754: A fairer burgeys is ther noon in chepe --
755: Boold of his speche, and wys, and wel ytaught,
756: And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
757: Eek therto he was right a myrie man,
758: And after soper pleyen he bigan,
759: And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
760: Whan that we hadde maad oure rekenynges,
761: And seyde thus: now, lordynges, trewely,
762: Ye been to me right welcome, hertely;
763: For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
764: I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye
765: Atones in this herberwe as is now.
766: Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how.
767: And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght,
768: To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght.
769: Ye goon to caunterbury -- God yow speede,
770: The blisful martir quite yow youre meede!
771: And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye,
772: Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye;
773: For trewely, confort ne myrthe is noon
774: To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon;
775: And therfore wol I maken yow disport,
776: As I seyde erst, and doon yow som confort.
777: And if yow liketh alle by oon assent
778: For to stonden at my juggement,
779: And for to werken as I shal yow seye,
780: To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye,
781: Now, by my fader soule that is deed,
782: But ye be myrie, I wol yeve yow myn heed!
783: Hoold up youre hondes, withouten moore speche.
784: Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche.
785: Us thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys,
786: And graunted hym withouten moore avys,
787: And bad him seye his voirdit as hym leste.
788: Lordynges, quod he, now herkneth for the beste;
789: But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn.
790: This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn,
791: That ech of yow, to shorte with oure weye,
792: In this viage shal telle tales tweye
793: To caunterbury-ward, I mene it so,
794: And homward he shal tellen othere two,
795: Of aventures that whilom han bifalle.
796: And which of yow that bereth hym best of alle,
797: That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas
798: Tales of best sentence and moost solaas,
799: Shal have a soper at oure aller cost
800: Heere in this place, sittynge by this post,
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801: Whan that we come agayn fro caunterbury.
802: And for to make yow the moore mury,
803: I wol myselven goodly with yow ryde,
804: Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde,
805: And whoso wole my juggement withseye
806: Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
807: And if ye vouche sauf that it be so,
808: Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo,
809: And I wol erly shape me therfore.
810: This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore
811: With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also
812: That he wolde vouche sauf for to do so,
813: And that he wolde been oure governour,
814: And oure tales juge and reportour,
815: And sette a soper at a certeyn pris,
816: And we wol reuled been at his devys
817: In heigh and lough; and thus by oon assent
818: We been acorded to his juggement.
819: And therupon the wyn was fet anon;
820: We dronken, and to reste wente echon,
821: Withouten any lenger taryynge.
822: Amorwe, whan that day bigan to sprynge,
823: Up roos oure hoost, and was oure aller cok,
824: And gradrede us togidre alle in a flok,
825: And forth we riden a litel moore than paas
826: Unto the wateryng of seint thomas;
827: And there oure hoost bigan his hors areste
828: And seyde, lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste.
829: Ye woot youre foreward, and I it yow recorde.
830: If even-song and morwe-song accorde,
831: Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
832: As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale,
833: Whoso be rebel to my juggement
834: Shal paye for al that by the wey is spent.
835: Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne;
836: He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne.
837: Sire knyght, quod he, my mayster and my lord,
838: Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord.
839: Cometh neer, quod he, my lady prioresse.
840: And ye, sire clerk, lat be youre shamefastnesse,
841: Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man!
842: Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
843: And shortly for to tellen as it was,
844: Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,
845: The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knyght,
846: Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght,
847: And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
848: By foreward and by composicioun,
849: As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo?
850: And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,
851: As he that wys was and obedient
852: To kepe his foreward by his free assent,
853: He seyde, syn I shal bigynne the game,
854: What, welcome be the cut, a goddes name!
855: Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.
856: And with that word we ryden forth oure weye,
857: And he bigan with right a myrie cheere
858: His tale anon, and seyde as ye may heere.