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SELECT BRITISH

BRITISH POETS.

CHAUCER-A.D. 1328-1400.

PROLOGUE to the CANTERBURY TALES. Aboven alle nations, in Pruce,

In Lettawe had he reysed, and in Ruce;
KHANXE that April with his shoures sote

No Cristen-man so ofte, of his degre,
The drought of March hath perced to the rote, In Gernade,- at the sicge, eke, hadde he be
And bathed every veine in swiche licour

Of Algesir ; and ridden in Belmarie.
Of which vertue engendred is the flour;

At Leyes was he, and at Satalie,
Whan Zephirus eke with his sote brethe

Whan they were wonne; and, in the Grete sce
Enspired hath in every holte and hethe

At many a noble armee hadde he be;
The tendre croppes; and the yonge sonne

At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene;
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne ;

And foughten for our faith, at Tramissene ;
And smale foules maken melodie,

In listes, thries—and ay slain his fo.
That slepen alle night with open eye,

This ilke worthy Knight hadde ben also,
so priketh hem nature in hir corages ;-

Somtime, with the Lord of Palatie,
Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,

Agen another Hethen in Turkie ;
And palmeres for to seken strange strondes, And evermore he hadde a sovereine pris,
To serve halwes couth in sondry londes ;

And though that he was worthy he was wise ;
And specially, from every shires ende

And of his port, as meke as is a mayde:
Of Englelond to Canterbury they wende,

He never yet no vilainie ne sayde,
The holy, blissful martyr for to seke

In all his lif, unto no manere wight,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were sike. He was a veray parfit gentil knight.
Befelle, that, in that seson, on a day,

But, for to tellen you of his araie,
In South werk at the Tabard as I lay,

His hors was good, but he ne was not gaie.
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage

Of fustian he wered a gipon
To Canterbury with devoute corage, -

Alle besmatred with his habergeon,
At night was come into that hostelrie

For he was late ycome fro his viage,
Wel nine-and-twenty in a compagnie

And wente for to don his pilgrimage.
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle

With him, ther was his sone, a yonge Squier,
In felawship, and pilgrims were they alle,

A lover, and a lusty bacheler ;
That toward Canterbury wolden ride,

With lockes crúll as they were laide in presse.
The chambres and the stables weren wide,

Of twenty yere of age he was I gesse.
And wel we weren esed, atte beste.

Of his stature he was of even lengthe;
And shortly, whan the sonne was gon to reste,

And wonderly deliver, and grete of strengthe,
So hadde I spoken with hem everich on,

And he hadde be, somtime, in chevachie
That I was of hir felawship anon,

In Flaundres; in Artois; and in Picardie;
And made forward erly for to rise,

And borne him wel, as of so litel space,
To take oure way ther as I you devise.

In hope to standen in his ladies grace.
But, natheles, while I have time and space,

Embrouded was he, as it were a mede
Or that I forther in this Tale pace,

All full of freshe floures, white and rede.
Me thinketh it accordant to reson

Singing he was, or floyting, all the day :
To tellen you alle the condition

He was as freshe as is the moneth of May.
Of eche of hem, so as it semed me;

Short was his goune, with sleves long and wide.
And whiche they weren; and of what degre ;

Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayre ride,
And eke in what araie that they were inne :-

He coude songes make, and wel endite ;
And, at a knight, than wol I firste beginne.

Juste, and eke dance; and wel pourtraie and write ;
A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man, So hote he loved, that by nightertale
That fro the time that he first began

He slep no more than doth the nightingale :
To riden out, he loved chevalrie,

Curteis he was, lowly, and servisable;
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie.

And carf before his fader at the table.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre;

A Yeman hadde he; and servantes no mo
And, therto, hadde he ridden, none more ferre, At that time; for him luste to ride so:
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,

And he was cladde in cote and hode of grene;
And ever honoured for his worthinesse.

A shefe of peacock arwes bright and kene
At Alisandre was he whan it was wonne,

Under his belt he bare ful thriftily;
Ful often time he hadde the bord begonne,

Wel coude he dresse his takel yemanly:

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His arwes drouped not with fetheres lowe,
And in his hand he bare a mighty bowe.

A not-hed hadde hc, with a brounc visage,
Of wood-craft coude he wel alle the usage.
l'pon his arme, he bare a gaie bracer ;
And by his side, a swerd and a bokeler;
And on that other side, a gaie daggere,
Harneised wel, and sharpe as point of spere :
A Cristofre on his brest of silver shene.
An horne he bare, the baudrik was of grene.
A forster was he, sothely, as I gesse.

Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hire smiling was ful simple and coy;
Hire gretest othe n'as but by Seint Eloy;
And she was cleped Madam Eglentine.
Ful wel she sange the service divine,
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely;
And Frenche she spake, ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe-
For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe.
At mete was she wel ytaughte withalle;
She lette no morsel from hire lippes falle ;
Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe.
Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe,
That no drope ne fell upon hire brest,
In curtesie was sette, ful moche, hire lest :
Hire over lippe wiped she so clene,
That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene
Of grese, whan she dranken hadde hire draught.
Full semely after hire mete she raught.
And, sikerly, she was of grete disport,
And ful pleasant and amiable of port;
And peined hire, to contrefeten chere
Of court, and ben estatelich of manere,–
And to ben holden digne of reverence.

But for to speken of hire conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous,
She wolde wepe if that she saw a mous
Caughte in a trappe, if it were ded or blodde.
Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde
With rosted tiesh, and milk, and wastel-brede ;
But sore wept she if on of hem were dede,
Or if men smote it with a yerde smert:
And all was conscience and tendre herte.

Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was;
Ilire nose tretis; hire eyen grey as glas ;
Hire mouth ful smale, and therto soft and red;
But, sikerly, she hadde a faire forehed,
It was almost a spanne brode I trowe;
For hardily she was not undergrowe.

Ful fetise was hire cloke, as I was ware.
Of smale corall, about hire arm, she bare
A pair of bedes gauded all with grene ;
And theron heng a broche of gold, ful shene,
On whiche was first ywritten a crouned A,
And after Amor vincit omnia.

Another Nonne also with hire hadde she
That was hire chapellcine, and Preestes thre.

A Monk ther was, a fayre for the maistrie,
In out-rider, that loved venerie ;
1 manly man, to ben an abbot able.
Ful many a deinte hors hadde he in stable;
And when he rode, men mighte his bridel here
Gingeling, in a whistling wind, as clere
And eke as loude as doth the chapell belle,
Ther as this lord was keper of the celle.

The rcule of Scint Maure and of Seint Beneit,
Because that it was olde and somdele streit,
This ilke monk lette olde thinges pace
And held after the newe world the trace.
He yave not of the text a palled hen,
That saith that hunters ben not holy men;
Ne that a monk, whan he is rekkeles,
Is like to a fish that is waterles;
(This is to say, a monk out of his cloistre ;)
This ilke text he held not worth an oistre.
And I say, his opinion was good :
What! shulde he studie, and make himselven wood,
Upon a book in cloistre alway to pore,
(Or swinken with his hondes, and laboure,)
As Austin bit; how shal the world be served ?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therfore he was a prickasoure a right:
Greihoundes he hadde as swift as foul of flight:
Of pricking, and of hunting for the hare
Was all his lust; for no cost wolde he spare.

I saw his sleves purfiled at the hond
W’ith gris, and that the finest of the lond,
And, for to fasten his hood, under his chinne
He hadde, of gold ywrought, a curious pinne,
A love-knotte in the greter ende ther was.
His hed was balled, and shone as any glas,
And eke his face, as it hadde ben anoint,
He was a lord ful fat and in good point.
His eyen stepe, and rolling in his hed,
That stemed as a furneis of a led;
His bootes souple, his hors in gret estat ;
Now certainly he was a fayre prelat.
He was not pale as a forpined gost.
A fat swan loved he best of any rost.
His palfrey was as broune as is a bery.

A Frere there was, a wanton and a mery,
A limitour, a ful solempne man,
In all the ordres foure, is non that can
So moche of daliance and fayre langage.
He hadde ymade ful many a mariage
Of yonge wimmen, at his owen cost ;
Until his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel beloved, and familier was he
With frankeleins, over all, in his contree;
And, eke, with worthy wimmen of the toun;
For he had power of confession,
As saide himselfe, more than a curat,
For of his ordre he was a licentiat.
Ful swetely herde he confession,
And plesant was his absolution.
He was an esy man to give penance,
Ther as he wiste to han a good pitance ;
For unto a poure ordre for to give,
Is signe that a man is wel yshrive;
For if he gave,-he dorste make avant,
He wiste, that a man was repentant;
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
He may not wepe although him sore smerte :
Therfore, in stede of weping and praieres,
Men mote give silver to the poure freres.

His tippet was, ay, farsed full of knives,
And pinnes, for to given fayre wives.
And, certainly, he hadde a mery note;
Welcoude he singe and plaien on a rote,
Of yeddinges he bare utterly the pris ;
His nekke was white as the four de lis.

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Therto, he strong was as a champioun ;

Of studie toke he most cure and hide.
And knew wel the tavernes in every toun,

Not a word spake he more than was nede;
And every hosteler and gay tapstere, -

And that was said in forme and reverence,
Better than a lazar or a beggere;

And short and quike, and full of high sentence :
For unto swiche a worthy man as he

Souning in moral vertue was his speche;
Accordcth nought, as by his faculte,

And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.
To haven with sike lazars acquaintance ;

A Sergeant of the Lawe ware and wise,
It is not honest, it may not avance;-

That often hadde ben at the parvis,
As for to delen with no swiche pouraille,

Ther was also; ful riche of excellence.
But all with riche and sellers of vitaille.

Discrete he was, and of gret reverence;
And, over all, ther as profit shuld arise

He semed swiche; his wordes were so wise :
Curteis he was, and lowly of servise ;

Justice he was full often in assise,
Ther n'as no man no wher so vertuous,

By patent, and by pleine commissioun ;
He was the beste begger in all his hous;

For his science, and for his high renoun.
And gave a certain ferme for the grant,

Of fees and robes had he many on.
Non of his brethren came in his haunt.

So grete a pourchaser was no wher non :
For though a widewe hadde but a shoo,

All was fee simple to him in effect,
(So plesant was his In Principio)

His pourchasing might not ben in suspect.
Yet wold he have a ferthing or he went;

No wher so besy a man as he ther n'as,
His pourchas was wel better than his rent.

And yet he semed besier than he was.
And rage he coude as it hadde ben a whelp,

In termes had he cas and domes alle
In lovedayes, there coude he mochel help ;

That fro the time of King W'ill. weren falle:
For ther was he-nat like a cloisterere,

Therto, he coude endite and make a thing;
With thredbare cope, as is a poure scolere Ther coude no wight pinche at his writing.
But he was like a maister or a pope.

And every statute coude he plaine by rote.
Of double worsted was his semicope,

He rode but homely,--in a medlee cote,
That round was as a belle out of the presse,

Girt with a seint of silk, with barres smale.
Somshat he lisped for his wantonnesse,

Of his array tell I no lenger tale.
To make his English swete upon his tonge ;

A Frankelein was in this compagnie;
And in his harping, whan that he hadde songe,

White was his berd as is the daycsie.
His eyen twinkeled in his hed aright,

Of his complexion he was sanguin.
As don the sterres in a frosty night.

Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in win.
This worthy limitour was cleped Huberd.

To liven in delit was ever his wone.
A Marchant was ther with a forked berd,

For he was Epicures owen sone,
In mottelee, and highe on hors he sat,

That held opinion, that plein delit
And on his hed a Flaundrish bever hat,

Was veraily felicite parfite.
His bootes clapsed fayre and fetisly,

An housholder, and that a grete was he;
His resons spake he ful solempnely,

Seint Julian he was in his contree.
Souning alway the encrese of his winning.

His brede, his ale, was alway after on;
He wold the see were kept, for any thing,

A better envyned man was no wher non.
Betwixen Middelburgh and Orewell.

Withouten bake mete never was his hous,
Wel coud he in eschanges sheldes selle.

Of fish and fesh, and that so plenteous,
This worthy man ful wel his wit besette ;

It snewed in his hous of mete and drinke,
Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,

Of alle deintees that men coud of thinke.
So stedfastly didde he in his governance,

After the sondry sesons of the yere,
With his bargeines, and with his chevisance. So changed he his mete and his soupere.
Forsothe he was a worthy man withalle.

Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in mewe;
But soth to sayn, I no't how men him calle.

And many a breme, and many a luce, in stewe.
A Clerk ther was of Oxenforde also,

Wo was his coke but if his sauce were
That unto logike hadde long ygo.

Poinant and sharpe, and redy all his gere.
As lene was his hors as is a rake,

His table, dormant in his halle, alway
And he was not right fat, I undertake ;

Stode redy covered alle the longe day.
But looked holwe, and therto soberly.

At sessions ther was he lord and sirc;
Ful thredbare was his overest courtepy,

Ful often time he was knight of the shire.
For he hadde geten him yet no benefice,

An anelace and a gipciere all of silk
He was nought worldly to have an office.

Heng at his girdel, white as morwe milk.
For him was lever han, at his beddes hed,

A shereve hadde he ben and a countour.
Twenty bokes, clothed in black or red,

Was no wher swiche a worthy vavasour.
Of Aristotle and his philosophie,

An Haberdasher, and a Carpenter,
Than robes riche; or fidel ; or sautrie :

A Webbe, a Deyer, and a Tapiser,
But all be that he was a philosophre,

Were alle yclothed in o livere
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre ;

Of a solempne and grete fraternite.
But all that he might of his frendes hente,

Ful freshe and newe hir gere ypiked was.
On bokes and on lerning he it spente ;

Ilir knives were ychaped not with bras,
And besily gan for the soules praie

But all with silver wrought full clene and wel,
Of hem that yave him wherwith to scolaie.

Hir girdeles and hir pouches, every del.

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Wel semed eche of hem a fayre burgeis,

Of his diete mesurable was he, To sitten in a gild halle, on the deis.

For it was of no superfluitee, Everich, for the wisdom that he can,

But of gret nourishing, and digestible. Was shapelich for to ben an alderman.

His studie was but litel on the Bible. For catel hadden they znough, and rent.

In sanguin, and in perse, he clad was alle, And, eke, hir wives wolde it wel assent,

Lined with taffata, and with sendalle. And elles certainly they were to blame,

And yet he was but esy of dispence; It is full fayre to ben ycleped Madame,

He kepte that he wan in the pestilence; And for to gon to vigiles all before,

For gold in phisike is a cordial ;
And have a mantel reallich ybore.

Therfore he loved gold in special.
A Coke they hadden with hem for the nones, A good Wif was ther of beside Bathe;
To boile the chickenes and the marie bones,

But she was som del defe, and that was scathe. And poudre marchant, tart, and galingale.

Of cloth making she hadde swiche an haunt,
Wel coude he knowe a draught of London ale. She passed hem of Ipres, and of Gaunt.
He coude roste, and sethe, and broile, and frie, In all the parish, wif ne was ther non
Maken mortrewes, and wel bake a pie.

That to the offring before hire shulde gong(But gret harm was it, as it thoughte me

And if ther did, certain so wroth was she,
That on his shinne a mormal hadde he.)

That she was out of alle charitee.
For blanc manger—that made he with the best. Hire coverchiefs weren ful fine of ground,

A Shipman was ther-woned fer by West: (I dorste swere they weyeden a pound,)
For ought I wote, he was of Dertemouth.

That on the Sonday were upon hire hede; He rode upon a rouncie, as he couthe,

Hire hosen weren of fine scarlet rede, All in a goun of falding to the knee.

Ful streite yteyed, and shoon ful moist and newe. A dagger hanging by a las hadde hec

Bold was hire face, and fayre and rede of hew. About his nekke, under his arm, adoun.

She was a worthy woman all hire live: The hote sommer hadde made his hewe al broun. Housbondes, at the chirche dore, had she had five, But certainly he was a good felaw.

Withouten other compagnie in youthe, Ful many a draught of win he hadde draw

But thereof nedeth not to speke as nouthe.
From Burdeux ward, while that the chapmen slepe; And thries hadde she ben at Jerusaleme;
Of nice conscience toke he no kepe:

She had passed many a strange streme:
If that he faught, and hadde the higher hand, At Rome she hadde ben; and at Boloigne;
By water he sent hem home to every land.

In Galice at Seint James; and at Coloine:
But, of his craft,—to reken wel his tides,

She coude moche of wandring by the way,
His stremes and his strandes him besides,

Gat-tothed was she, sothly for to say.
His herberwe, his mone, and his lode manage, Upon an ambler esily she sat,
Ther was non swiche from Hull unto Cartage. Ywimpled wel; and on hire hede an hat,
Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake :

As brode as is a bokeler, or a targe;
With many a tempest hadde his berd be shake. A fore-mantel about hire hippes large;
He knew wel alle the havens as they were,

And on hire fete a pair of sporres sharpe. Fro Gotland to the Cape de Finistere,

In felawship, wel coude she laughe and carpe And every creke in Bretagne and in Spaine :

Of remedies of love she knew perchance; His barge ycleped was the Magdelaine.

For, of that arte, she coude the olde dance. With us ther was a Doctour of Phisike;

A good man ther was of religioun, In all this world, ne was ther non him like,

That was a poure Persone of a toun: To speke of phisike and of surgerie;

But riche he was of holy thought and werk. For he was grounded in astronomie.

He was also a lerned man, a Clerk, He kept his patient a ful gret del

That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche; In houres, by his magike naturel :

His parishens devoutly would he teche. Wel coude he fortunen the ascendent

Benigne he was, and wonder diligent, Of his images, for his patient.

And in adversite ful patient, He knew the cause of every maladie,

And swiche he was ypreved often sithes : Were it of cold, or hote, or moist, or drie,

Ful loth were him to cursen for this tithes : And wher engendred, and of what humour :

But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
He was a veray parfite practisour.

Unto his poure parishens, aboute,
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the rote, Of his offring, and, eke, of his substance.
Anon he gave to the sike man his bote.

He coude in litel thing have suffisance.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries,

Wide was his parish, and houses fer asonder; To send him drugges and his lettuaries ;

But he ne left nought, for no rain ne thonder, For eche of hem made other for to winne;

In sikeness and in mischief to visite Hir frendship n'as not newe to beginne.

The ferrest in his parish, moche and lite, Wel knew he the old Esculapius,

Upon his fete, and in his hand a staf. And Dioscorides and eke Rufus,

This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf, Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien,

That, first, he wrought; and, afterward, he taught. Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen,

Out of the gospel he the wordes caught, Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin,

And this figure he added yet therto, Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin.

That if gold ruste, what shulde iron do ?

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