The Cook's Tale

The prologue of the Cook's Tale.

The Cook of London, while the Reeve spoke, (4325)
For enjoyment thought he was being scratched on the back.
"Ha! ha!" quoth he, "For Christ's passion,
This miller had a sharp conclusion
Upon his argument of harborage!
Well said Solomon in his language, (4330)
'Do not bring every man into your house,'
For harboring by night is perilous.
Well ought a man advised be
Whom that he brings into his privacy.
I pray to God, so give me sorrow and care (4335)
If ever, since I was called Rodger of Ware,
Heard I a miller better set a work.
He had a joke of malice in the dark.
But God forbid that we stop here;
And therefore, if you vouchsafe to hear (4340)
A tale of me, a poor man,
I will tell you, as well as ever I can,
A little trick that fell in our city."

Our Host answered and said, "I grant it you.
Now tell on, Rodger; look that it be good, (4345)
For many a pastie have you ladled gravy,
And many a Jake of Dover have you sold
That has been twice hot and twice cold.
Of many a pilgrim you have Christ's curse,
For of your parsley yet they fare the worse, (4350)
That they have eaten of your fatted goose,
For in your shop many flies are loose.
Now tell on, gentle Rodger your name.
But yet I pray you, be not wrathful for game;
A man may say full truth in game and play." (4355)

"You say full true," quoth Rodger, "by my faith!
But 'true play, bad play' as the Fleming says.
And therefore, Harry Bailey, by your faith,
Be you not wrath, before we depart here,
Though that my tale is of a hosteler. (4360)
But nonetheless I will not tell it yet;
But before we part, surely, you shall be requited."
And therewith all he laughed and made cheer,
And said his tale, as you shall after hear.

Here begins the Cook's Tale.

An apprentice once dwelt in our city, (4365)
And of a craft of food-sellers was he.
Merry was he as a goldfinch in the wood,
Brown as a bear, a proper short fellow,
With locks black, combed full festively.
He could dance so well and jollily (4370)
That he was called Perkin the Reveler.
He was as full of love and paramour
As the hive is full of honey sweet;
Well was the wench that with him might meet.
At every bridal party would he sing and hop; (4375)
He loved better the tavern than the shop.
For when there was any procession in Cheapside,
Out of the shop thither would he leap -
Until he had all the sights seen,
And danced well, he would not come again - (4380)
And gathered him a crowd of his sort
To hop and sing and make such sport;
And there they set time for to meet,
To play at the dice in such a street.
For in the town there was no apprentice
That fairer could cast a pair of dice
Than Perkin could, and thereto he was free
Of his expense, in a place of privacy.
That found his master well in his business,
For often times he found his cash-box full bare. (4390)
For truly an apprentice reveler
That haunts dice, riot, or paramour,
His master shall in his shop it buy,
Even though he has no part of the minstralry.
For theft and riot, they are interchangeable, (4395)
Even if he knows how to play a cithern or a fiddle.
Revel and truth, and in a low degree,
They are at odds all day, as men may see.

This jolly apprentice with his master abided,
Until he was almost out of his apprenticeship, (4400)
All was he scolded both early and late,
And sometime led with revel to Newgate*. *(a prison)
But at last his master bethought,
Upon a day, when he his paper sought,
Of a proverb that says this same word: (4405)
"Well better is a rotten apple out of hoard
Than it rot all the remnant."
So fared it with a riotous servant;
It is full less harm to let him pace
Than he harm all the servants in this place. (4410)
Therefore his master gave him quittance,
And bade him go, with sorrow and with mischance!
And thus this jolly apprentice had his leave.
Now let him riot all the night or leave.
And because there is no thief without a friend, (4415)
That helps him to waste and to spend
Of what he bribe can or borrow may,
At once he sent his bed and his array
Unto a peer of his own sort,
That loved dice, and revel, and sport, (4420)
And had a wife that held for countenance
A shop, and shagged for her sustenance.

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