General Prologue

General Prologue

Here begins the Book of the Tales of Canterbury

When April, with its showers sweet
Has pierced the drought of March to the root
And bathed every vine in such liquor,
By virtue of which engendered is the flour;
When Zephirus also with his sweet breath (5)
Has inspired in every holt and heath
The tender crops, and the young sun
Has in Aries halfway made his run,
And small birds make melody,
That sleep all the night with open eyes - (10)
(So Nature inspires them in their intents);
Then do people long to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers to seek foreign shores,
To famous holy places, known in all the lands;
And especially from every township's end (15)
Of England, to Canterbury they go,
The holy blissful martyr for to seek
Who had helped those who were sick.

It happened in that season, on a day,
In Southwerk at a Tavern as I lay (20)
Ready to wander on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with full devout intent,
At night there came into that hostelry
A full nine and twenty in a company
Of various folk, by adventure fallen (25)
In fellowship, and they were pilgrims all,
That toward Canterbury meant to ride.
The chambers and stables there numbered many,
And all of us were eased at best,
And quickly, when the sun had gone to rest, (30)
Then I had spoken to them, every one,
So that I was of their fellowship at once,
And planned to rise early the next day
To make our way, of which I will tell you.

But none the less, while I have time and space, (35)
Before I further in this tale progress,
I think it is accordant to reason
To tell you of the condition
Of each of them, as it seemed to me,
Of what they were, and of what class, (40)
And what clothing they were in;
And of a knight will I begin.

A KNIGHT there was, he was a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To ride out, he loved chivalry, (45)
Truth and honor, freedom and courtesy.
Quite worthy was he in his lord's war,
And there where he had charged, no man fared
As well in Christendom as in Heatheness,
And ever was he honored for his worthiness. (50)
At Alexandria he was, when it was won.
Many times he had led the table
Above all knights of other nations in Prussia;
In Lithuania had he fought, and in Russia,
No Christian man often rises to his degree. (55)
In Granada at the siege also had he been
And in Spain, and fought in Morocco.
At Turkey was he and at Atalia,
When they were won; and in the Great Sea
At many a noble armed scene had he been. (60)
Of deadly battles, he had seen fifteen,
And fought for our faith at Tlemcen
In three tournaments, and also slain his foes.
This same worth knight had been also
Some time with the lord of Balat (65)
Against another heathen in Turkye.
And always he had a good reputation;
And as well as being worthy, he was wise,
And of his bearing as meek as is a maid.
He would never, ever any villainy speak (70)
In all his life to any manner of man.
He was an honest, perfectly gentle knight.
And, to tell you of his array,
His horses were good, but he was not gay.
Of thick cotton was his short overcoat (75)
And bespattered was his mail coat,
For he had come recently from his journey,
And come to do his pilgrimage.

With him there was his son, A young SQUIRE,
A lover and a lively bachelor; (80)
With hair curled, as though it had been pressed.
Around twenty years of age was he, I would guess.
Of his stature, he was of medium height,
And wonderfully nimble, and with great strength.
And had been some time with the cavalry (85)
In Flanders, in Artoys, and Pycardie,
And bore himself well, in such short space,
In hopes of standing in his lady's grace.
Embroidered were his clothes, as though he were a maid,
All full of fresh flowers, white and red; (90)
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.
He knew well how to handle horses, and how to ride.
He could songs make, and well describe, (95)
Joust, and also dance, and draw well and write.
So fiercely he loved, that in the night time
He slept no more than does the nightengale.
Courteous was he, humble and servile,
And he carved before his father at the table. (100)

Also the Knight had a YEOMAN and servants no more
at that time, for he preferred to ride so;
And he was clad in a coat and a hood of green.
A sheaf of peacock arrows, bright and keen
He wore under his belt quite properly, (105)
(He knew well how to handle his Yeoman's tackle:
His arrows drooped not with feathers low)
And in his hand he bore a mighty bow.
A close-cropped head had he, with a brown visage,
Of woodcraft he well knew all the usage. (110)
Upon his arm he wore a bright bracer,
And by his side a sword and a small shield,
And on his other side a bright dagger
Ornamented well and as sharp as the point of a spear.
A silver Saint Christopher Medal he wore on his breast. (115)
He carried a horn, and his belt was green;
A forester was he, truly, as I guess.

There was also a Nun, a Prioresse,
That of her smiling was quite simple and coy;
Her greatest oath was of Saint Loy; (120)
And she was called Madame Eglentyne.
Full well she sang the service divine,
Intoned in her nose in a manner seemeley,
And French she spoke fairly and elegantly,
After the school of Stratford-at-Bowe, (125)
For the French of Paris was to her unknown.
Of manners in eating, she was taught in all:
She let no morsel from her lips fall,
Nor wet her fingers in her sauce too deep;
Well could she carry a morsel, and well take keep (130)
That no drop ever fell on her breast.
In courtesy she liked to set her care.
Her upper-lip she wiped so clean
That on her cup no spot could be seen
Of grease, when she had drunk her draught. (135)
She reached for her meat in a manner full seemly.
And certainly, she was held in great deportment,
And fully pleasant, and of amiable display,
And took pains to present an attitude
Of court, and was stately in manner, (140)
And held the dignity of reverence.
But, to speak of her conscience,
She was so charitable and so full of pity
That she would weep, if she saw a mouse
Caught in a trap, or if it were dead or bleeding. (145)
She had some small hounds, that she fed
With roasted flesh, or milk and good bread.
But sorely would she weep if one of them were dead,
Or if a man might hit them with a stick smart;
And she was all conscience and tender heart. (150)
Full seemly was her wimple pleated,
Her nose was good, and her eyes gray as glass,
Her mouth was full small, and soft and red;
And truly she had a fair forehead;
It was almost a hand-span broad, I say truly; (155)
For, certainly, she was not undergrown.
Full elegant was her cloak, as I was aware;
A small band of coral about her arm she bore
Made up of beads, striped through with green,
And there hung a brooch of full golden sheen, (160)
On which the primary device was a crowned "A,"
And after "Amor vincit omnia."* (*love conquers all)
Another Nun with her had she,
That was her assistant, and priests three.

A MONK there was, free for the ministry, (165)
An outrider, who loved hunting,
A manly man, who could have been an abbot.
And quite a few dainty horses had he in stable,
And when he rode, men could his bridle hear
Jingling in a whistling wind as clear (170)
And also as loud, as men heard the chapel bell.
There this lord was the keeper of his cell,
The rule of Saint Maure, or of Saint Benedict,
By cause that is was old and somewhat small
This same Monk let old things pass, (175)
And gave to the new world all the space.
He didn't give for the text a pulled hen,
That said that hunters were not holy men,
Nor that a monk, when he is reckless,
Is likened to a fish that is waterless, - (180)
That is to say, a monk out of his cloister
But that same text he held not worth an oyster;
And I said his opinion was good.
Why should he study, and make himself mad,
Always pouring over a book in a cloister, (185)
Or working with his hands and laboring
As Augustine did? How will the world be served?
Let Augustine have his work to him reserved!
And so he was a horseman aright:
Grayhounds he had, as swift as a bird in flight; (190)
Of riding and of hunting for the hare
Was all his joy, and for it no cost would he spare.
I say his sleeves were lined at the wrist
With gray squirrel fur, the finest of the land;
And, to fasten his hood under his chin, (195)
He had, made of gold, a skillfully wrought pin;
With a love-knot in the large end.
His head was bald, and shone bright as any glass,
And also his face, as though he was with oil anointed,
He was a lord full strong and in good health, (200)
His eyes were steep, and rolling in his head,
And steamed like a cauldron full of lead;
His boots were supple, and his horse in good bearing.
Now truly he was a fair dignitary;
He was not as pale as a tormented ghost. (205)
A fat swan he loved better than any other roast.
His palfrey was as brown as a bear.

A Friar there was, wanton and merry,
An alms-seeker, a full solemn man.
In all the orders four there was none who knew (210)
So much of flirtation and fair language.
He had made full many a marriage
Of young women at his own cost.
Unto his order he was a noble pillar,
He was well beloved and familiar (215)
With land-owners over all his country,
And also with worthy women of the town;
For he was empowered as a confessor,
As he said, more than a parish priest,
For of his order he was so licensed. (220)
And full sweetly he heard confession,
And pleasant was his absolution:
He was an easy man to give penance,
By which he knew he would gain a good pittance.
Because to give unto a poor order (225)
Is a sign that a man is well shriven:
For, if he gives, he dared make advance,
He knew that a man was repentant;
For many a man is so hard of heart,
He may not weep, although he sore smarts; (230)
Therefore instead of weeping and prayers
Men might give silver to the poor friars.
His hood was always stuffed full of knives
And pins, to give to young wives.
And certainly he had a merry voice: (235)
Well could he sing and play on a rote;
Of ballads he bore plainly the prize.
His neck was as white as the lily flour;
And he was as strong as a champion.
He knew the taverns well in every town (240)
And each innkeep and barmaid
Better than the lepers or beggars;
For unto such a worthy man as he
It accorded not, because of his abilities,
To have with sick lepers acquaintance. (245)
It is not honest, it may not advance,
To deal with such poor folk,
But instead with the rich, and sellers of food.
And overall, where profit should arise,
Courteous was he, and humble of service. (250)
There was no man anywhere so virtuous.
He was the best beggar of his house;
(Which gave a certain firmness to his grant
None of his brethren came there in his haunt;)
For though a widow had not a shoe, (255)
So pleasant was his "In principio"* (*"In the beginning")
He would have a farthing before he went;
His gains were far better than his rent.
And he knew how to romp, as if he were a whelp.
In love-days there could he much help, (260)
For there he was not like a cloisterer
With a threadbare hood, as is a poor scholar,
But he was like a master or a pope;
He wore thick wool for his semicope,
Which rounded like a bell out of the pleat. (265)
He lisped a bit for his wantonness
To make his English sweet upon his tongue;
And in his playing, when he had song,
His eyes twinkled in his head aright
As do the stars on a frosty night. (270)
This worthy limitor was called Huberd.

A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard,
In multicolored clothes, and high on his horse he sat;
Upon his head was a Flemmish beaver hat,
His boots were clasped well and elegantly. (275)
His opinions he spoke full solemnly,
Concerning always the increase of his profit.
He would that the sea were protected for any price
Between Middleburgh and Orwelle.
Well he knew how to in exchanges shields sell. (280)
This worthy man full well his cunning beset;
For no man knew that he was in debt,
So stately was he of his management
With his bargains and his arrangements.
For truly, he was a worthy man in spite of all, (285)
But, truth be told, I know not what he was called.

A CLERK there was of Oxford also,
Who unto logic had long since gone.
As lean was his horse as is a rake,
And he was not right fat, I undertake, (290)
But looked near starved and thereby grave.
Full threadbare was his upper coat;
For he had gotten no parish living,
Nor was he worldly enough to have a paid office.
For he would rather have at his bed's head (295)
Twenty books, bound in black or red,
Of Aristotle and his philosophy,
Than rich robes, or a fiddle, or a bright harp.
But albeit that he was a philosopher,
He had but little gold in his coffer; (300)
But all that he might of his friends get,
On books and on learning would it be spent,
And busily he began for the souls to pray
Of them who gave him the wherewithal for his schooling.
Of study he took the most comfort and heed. (305)
Not a word spoke he more than was needed,
And that was said formally and in respect,
And short and apt, and full of high meaning;
Concerning moral virtue was his speech,
And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach. (310)

A SERGEANT OF THE LAW, aware and wise,
That often had been at the porch of St. Paul's Cathedral,
There was also, full rich of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of great reverence -
He seemed such, his words were so wise. (315)
A Justice he was quite often in the courts of assize,
By appointment, and by complete jurisdiction.
For his knowledge, and for his high renown,
Of fees and robes he had many of.
So great a land purchaser there was nowhere one; (320)
All was straight possession to him in effect,
His purchasing might not be contested.
Nowhere so busy a man as he was,
And yet he seemed busier than he was.
In terms he had cases and dooms all (325)
That from the time of King William were fallen.
Thereby he could write and make a thing,
There could no man find flaw in his writing.
And every statute he knew full by rote.
He road but homely in a motley coat (330)
Belted with a length of silk, with stripes small;
Of his clothing I tell no longer tell.

A FRANKLIN was in his company.
White was his beard as is a daisy;
Of his composition he was sanguine. (335)
Well loved he by mornings a sop in wine,
To live in delight was ever his custom,
For he was Epicurus's own son,
Who held opinion that plain delight
Was truly happiness perfect. (340)
A house-holder, and a great one, was he;
Saint Julian was he in his country.
His bread, his ale, was always of the best type,
A more envied man there was nowhere one,
His house was never without baked meat (345)
Of fish and flesh, and that so plentiful,
It snowed in his house of meat and drink,
Of all the dainties that men could think.
After the various season of the year,
So changed he his meat and his supper. (350)
Full many a fat partridge had he in a cage,
And many a bream and a pike in his pond.
Woe was to his cook, unless his sauces were
Flavorful and sharp, and ready all his gear.
His table slept in his hall always (355)
Stood ready covered all the long day.
At sessions there he was the lord and sire;
Full often times he was knight of the shire.
A dagger and a pouch made of silk
Hung at his belt, white as morning milk. (360)
A sheriff had he been, and an auditor.
Nowhere was there such a worthy landowner.

And they were clothed all in one livery (365)
Of a solemn and great fraternity.
Full fresh and new their gear trimmed was;
There knives were mounted not with brass,
But all with silver; wrought full clean and well,
Their belts and their pouches in every detail. (370)
Each of them well seemed a fair tradesman
To sit in a guildhall on a dais.
Each, for the science that he understood,
Was made well enough to be an alderman.
For property they had enough and rent, (375)
And also their wives would it well assent;
And otherwise affirm, were they to blame.
It is quite pleasant to be called "madame,"
And go to feasts all before,
And have a mantle royally borne. (380)

A COOK they had with them for the occasion
To boil the chickens with the marrowbones,
And poudre-marchant tarte, and sweet aromatic spice.
Well he knew how to recognize a draught of London ale.
He could roast, and simmer, and broil and fry, (385)
Make stews, and well bake a pie.
But great harm was it, as it though me,
That on his shin an ulcer had he.
For blankmanger, that he made with the best.

A SHIPMAN was there, hailing far from the west; (390)
For all I knew, he was of Dartmouth.
He rode upon a nag, as he was aware,
In a gown of coarse wool to the knee.
A dagger hanging on a lace had he
About his neck, under his arm laid. (395)
The hot summer had made his hue all brown,
And certainly he was a good fellow.
Full many a draught of wine he had drawn
From Bordeaux, while the Merchant was asleep.
Of nice conscience he took no keep. (400)
If 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 currents, and the dangers him beside,
His astronomy and his moon, his navigation (405)
There was none such from Hull to Carthage.
Hardy he was, and wise to declare;
With many a tempest had his beard been shaken.
He knew all the heavens as they were,
From Gotland to the Cape of Finistre, (410)
And every current in Britain and in Spain.
His barge was called the Maudenlayne.

With us there was a DOCTOR OF MEDICINE;
In all this world there was none him like,
To speak of medicine and of surgery, (415)
For he was grounded in astronomy.
He protected his patient a full great deal
In hours, by his magic natural.
Well he knew the planetary position
Of his images for his patient. (420)
He knew the cause of every malady
Were it hot, or cold, or moist or dry,
And where they manifested, and of what humor.
He was a truly perfect practitioner:
The cause understood, and of his harm the root, (425)
At once he gave the sick man his cure.
Full ready had he his apothecaries
To send him drugs and his mixtures,
For each of them aided the other to win -
Their friendship was not new to begin. (430)
Well knew he old Esculapius,
And Deyscorides and also Rufus,
Old Ypocras, Haly and Gaylen,
Serapioun, Razis and Avycen,
Averrois, Damascien, and Constantyn, (435)
Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertyn.
Of his diet measured was he,
For it was of no superfluity,
But of great nourishing, and digestible.
His study was but little on the Bible. (440)
In red and in blue he clad was all,
Lined with taffeta and with sendal;
And yet was he but easy of expense;
He claimed that he won in pestilence.
For gold in medicine is a cordial, (445)
Therefore he loved gold in special.

A good WIFE was there, OF beside BATH,
But she was somewhat deaf, and that was a pity.
Of cloth-making she had such a haunt,
She passed those of Ipres and of Guant. (450)
In all the parish wife was there none
That to the offering before her should go;
And if their did, certain so wrathful was she,
That she was out of all charity.
Her coverchiefs full fine were of ground; (455)
I dare swear they weighed ten pounds
That on a Sunday wore she upon her head.
Her stockings were of a fine scarlet red,
Full tightly laced, and shoes full supple and new.
Bold was her face, and fair, and red of hue. (460)
She was a worthy woman all her life:
Husbands at church door she had five,
Without other company in youth, -
But thereof it needs not to speak as knoweth.
And three times had she been at Jerusalem; (465)
She had passed many a strange stream;
At Rome she had been, and at Bolognia,
In Galice at Saint-Jame, and at Cologne.
She knew much of wandering by the way.
Gap-toothed was she, truly to say. (470)
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Wimpled well, and on her head a hat
As broad as a shield or a targe;
A foot-mantle about her hips large,
And on her feet a pair of spurs sharp. (475)
In fellowship well could she laugh and carp.
Of remedies of love she knew by chance,
For she knew of that art the old dance.

A good man was there of religion,
And was a poor PARSON OF A TOWN, (480)
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 parishoners devoutly would he teach.
Benign he was, and wonderfully diligent, (485)
And in adversity full patient,
And such he was proved many times.
Full loathe was he to punish for tithes,
But rather would he give, out of doubt,
Unto his poor parishioners about (490)
Of his offering and also of his possessions.
He could with few things live sufficiently.
Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder,
But he left not, for rain or thunder,
In sickness nor in mischeif to visit (495)
The furthest in his parish, great and low,
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff.
This noble example to his sheep he gave,
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the Gospel he those words caught, (500)
And this figure he added also thereto,
That if gold should rust, what shall iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is an unlearned man to rust;
And shame it is, if a priest take keep, (505)
A defiled shepard and a clean sheep.
Well ought a priest example to give,
By his cleanliness, how his sheep should live.
He set not his blessings to hire
And allowed his sheep to become encumbered in the mire (510)
And ran to London unto Saint Paul's
To seek for himself an endowment for souls,
Or with a brotherhood to be witheld;
But dwelt at home, and kept well his fold,
So that the wolf made it not misstep; (515)
He was a shepard and not a mercenary.
And though he was holy and virtuous,
He was to sinful men not dispiteous,
Nor in his speech domineering nor haughty,
But in his teaching discreet and benign; (520)
To draw folk to heaven by fairness,
By good example, this was his business.
Unless it were any person obstinate,
Whatever he was, of high or low estate,
They would he rebuke sharply for the offence. (525)
A better priest I believe, that nowhere one is.
He waited for no pomp and reverence,
Nor made himself a spiced conscience,
But Christ's lore, and His apostles twelve
He taught, but first he followed it himself. (530)

With him there was a PLOWMAN, who was his brother,
That had led full of dung full many a cart;
A true worker and a good man was he,
Living in peace and perfect charity.
God loved he best with his whole heart (535)
At all times, though he gamed or hurt,
And then his neighbor right as himself.
He would thresh, and also ditch and dig,
For Christ's sake, for every poor man
Without work, if it lay in his might. (540)
His tithes he payed full fair and well,
Both of his proper work and his possessions.
In a workman's shirt he rode, upon a mare.

There was also a REEVE and a MILLER,
A SUMMONER and a PARDONER also, (545)
A MAUNCIPLE, and myself - there were no more.
The MILLER was a stout fellow indeed;
Full big he was of muscle and also of bones -
That proved well, for over all there he came
At wrestling he wold have always the ram. (550)
He was short-shouldered, broad, a thick chap,
There was no door he could not cleave of its hinges,
Or break it by ramming it with his head.
His beard was as any sow or fox was red,
And also broad, as though it were a spade. (555)
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 his nostrils were black and wide.
A sword and a shield he bore by his side. (560)
His mouth was as wide as was a large cauldron.
He was a chatterer and a talking buffoon,
And that was most of sin and harlotry.
Well he knew how to steal corn, and charge thrice;
And yet he had a thumb of gold, indeed. (565)
A white coat and a blue hood wore he.
A bagpipe well could he blow and play,
And therewithal he brought us out of town.

A gentle MAUNCIPLE was there of a temple,
Of which purchasers might take example (570)
Of how to be wise in buying of food;
For whether he paid or took by tally,
Always he waited so in his purchase
That he was always ahead, and in a good state.
Now is not that of God a full fair grace, (575)
That such an unschooled man's wit shall outpace
The wisdom of a heap of learned men?
Of masters he had more than thrice ten,
That were of law expert and crafty,
Of which there were a dozen in that house (580)
Worthy to have been stewards of rent and land
Of any lord that is in England,
To make him live by his proper good,
In honor debtless (unless he were mad),
Or live as scarcely as he might desire, (585)
And able to help a whole shire
In any case that might fall or happen -
And yet at this Manciple set all their caps.

The REEVE was a slender choleric man.
His beard was shaved as close as he could; (590)
His hair was by his ears full round shorn;
His top was clipped like a priest before.
Full long were his legs, and full lean,
Like a staff, there was no calve to be seen.
Well could he keep a grainery and a bin; (595)
There was no auditor who could against him win.
Well he knew by the drought and by the rain,
The yielding of his seed and of his grain.
His lord's sheep, his cattle, his dairy,
His swine, his horses, his store and his poultry, (600)
Was wholly in this Reeve's governing,
And by his covenant gave the reckoning,
Since that his lord was twenty years of age,
There could no man bring him to be arraigned.
There was no bailiff, nor herder, nor other servant, (605)
That did not know of his slight and his treachery;
They were as dread of him as of death.
His dwelling was full fair upon a heath;
With green trees shadowed was his place.
He knew better than his lord purchase. (610)
Full rich he was provided privately:
His lord well could he please subtly,
To give and loan him of his own goods,
And have from him thanks, and yet a coat and hood.
In youth he had learned a good trade; (615)
He was a well good wright, a carpenter.
This Reeve sat upon a full good horse,
That was all mottled gray, and called Scot.
A long undercoat of blue he had,
And by his side he bore a rusty blade. (620)
Of Northfolk was this Reeve, of which I tell,
Beside a town men called Baldeswelle.
Tucked he was as is a friar about,
And ever he rode the last of our route.

A SUMMONER was there with us in that place,
That had a fire-red cherub's face,
For pimpled he was, with eyes narrow. (625)
As hot was he and lecherous as a sparrow,
With rashed brows black and patchy beard.
Of his visage children were afraid.
There was no mercury, lead, nor sulfur,
Borax, white lead, nor oil of tartar none, (630)
Nor ointment that would cleanse and bite,
That he might be helped of his pustules white,
Nor of the knobs sitting on his cheeks.
Well loved he garlic, onions, and also leeks,
And to drink strong wine, red as blood; (635)
Then would he speak and cry as if he were mad.
And when he had well drunk the wine,
Then would he speak no word but Latin.
A few phrases had he, two or three,
That he had learned out of some decree - (640)
No wonder that, he heard it all the day;
And also you know well how a jay
Can call "Watte" as well as can the pope.
But who knows in other things he gropes,
Than had he spent all his philosophy; (645)
Ay, "Questo quid iuris"* would he cry. (*The question is)
He was a gentle buffoon and kind;
A better fellow should men not find.
He would suffer for a quart of wine
A good fellow to have his concubine (650)
AA twelvemonth, and excuse him at full;
Full discreetly a trick could he pull.
And if he found anywhere a good fellow,
He would teach him to have no awe
In such case of the Archdeacon's curse. (655)
But if a man's soul were in his purse;
For in his purse he should punished be.
"Purse is the the archdeacon's hell," said he.
But well I knew he lied right in deed;
Of excommunication should each guilty man dread, (660)
For curse will slay right as absolution saveth,
And also beware of a Significavit*. (* order for imprisonment)
In control and as he pleased
Had he the young girls of the diocese,
And knew their secrets and advised them all. (665)
A garland had he upon his head,
As great as if it were for an alehouse sign.
A shield had he made himself of a loaf.

With him rode a gentle PARDONER
Of Rouncivale, his friend and companion, (670)
That straight was come from the court of Rome.
Full loud he sang "Come hither, love, to me!"
The Summoner sang along with a strong bass;
There was never a trumpet with half so great a sound.
This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax, (675)
But smooth it hung as does a hank of flax;
By strands hung the locks that he had,
And therewith he his shoulders overspread;
But thin it lay, by strands one and one.
But hood, for jollity he wore none, (680)
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
He thought he rode in the newest style;
Hair unbound, except his cap, he rode all bare.
Such glaring eyes had he as does a hare.
A Veronica had he sewed upon his cap; (685)
His wallet, before him in his lap,
Brimming wish pardons come fresh from Rome.
A voice he had as quiet as does a goat.
No beard had he, nor never should have;
As smooth it was as if it were lately shaved. (690)
I say true he was a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, from Berwick to Ware
Never was there such another pardoner.
For in his bag he had a pillow-case,
Which he claimed was Our Lady's veil; (695)
He said he had a particle of the sail
That Saint Peter had, when he went
Upon the sea, until Jesus Christ took him.
He had a cross of brassy metal laid with stones,
And in a glass he had pigs' bones. (700)
But with these relics, when that he found
A poor parson dwelling upon the land,
Upon a day he got himself more money
Than the parson got in two months;
And thus, with feigned flattery and tricks, (705)
He made the parson and the people his apes.
But truly to tell at last,
He was in the church a noble ecclesiaste.
Well could he read a lesson or a story,
But most wonderfully he sang an offertory; (710)
For well he knew, when that song was sung,
He must preach and well smooth his tongue
To win silver, as full well he could;
Therefore he sang more merrily and loud.

Now have I told you truly, in a clause, (715)
The estate, the array, the number and also the cause
That assembled was this company
In Southwerk at this gentle hostelry
That was called the Tabard, close to the Belle.
But now is it time for to tell (720)
How that we bore us that same night,
When we were in that hostelry arrived;
And after will I tell of our voyage
And all the remnant of our pilgrimage.
But first I pray you, of your courtesy, (725)
That you attribute it not to my crudity,
That I plainly speak in this matter,
To tell you their words and their cheer,
Nor though I speak their words properly.
For this you know as well as I: (730)
Whoever shall tell a tale after a man,
He might rehearse it as near as ever he can
Every word, if it be his responsibility,
Though he may speak never so rudely or free,
Or else he might tell his tale untrue, (735)
Or feign a thing, or find words new.
He may not spare, although he were his brother;
He might as well say one word as another.
Christ spake himself full plain in holy writ,
And well you know no crudeness is it. (740)
Also Plato says, whoever can his verses read,
The words might be cousin to the deed.
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. (745)
My wit is short, you may well understand.

Our Host made great cheer to us, everyone,
And to the supper he set us at once.
He served us with victuals all the best;
Strong was the wine, and we were pleased to drink. (750)
A seemly man OUR HOST was indeed,
A marshal in a hall he could have been.
A large man he was with eyes bright -
A fairer citizen there was none in Cheapside -
Bold of his speech, and wise, and well taught, (755)
And of manliness there was nothing he lacked.
And also he was a right merry man;
And after supper he began to play,
And spoke of mirth amongst other things,
When that we had made our reckonings, (760)
And said thus: "Now good folk, truly,
Ye are to me right welcome, heartily;
For by my troth, if I shall not lie,
I saw not this year so merry a company
All together in this lodging as there is now. (765)
Gladly would I do you mirth, if I knew how.
And of a mirth I am right now bethought,
To do you ease, and it shall cost naught.

"You go to Canterbury - God you speed,
The blissful martyr requite you your reward! (770)
And well I know, as you go by the way,
You shall shape yourselves to tales and to play;
For truly, comfort and mirth is there none
To ride by the way as dumb as a stone;
And therefore will I make you some sport, (775)
As I said first, and do you some comfort.
And if you are all pleased and all assent
To stand by my judgment,
And to do as I shall you say,
Tomorrow, when you ride by the way, (780)
Now, my the soul of my father dead,
If you aren't merry, I will give you my head!
Hold up your hands, without more speech."

Our counsel was not long for to seek.
We thought it not worth too much deliberation, (785)
And granted him without more discussion,
And bade him say his verdict as he liked.
"Good folk," quoth he, "now hearken for the best;
But take it not, I pray you, in disdain.
This is the point, to speak short and plain, (790)
That each of you, to make short our way,
In this voyage shall tell tales two
Toward Canterbury, I mean it so,
And homeward each shall tell another two,
Of adventures that once have befallen. (795)
And whichever of you that bears himself best of all -
That is to say, that tells in this case
Tales of best sentence and most solace -
Shall have a supper at all of our cost
Here in this place, sitting by this post, (800)
When that we come again from Canterbury,
And for to make you the more merry,
I will myself gladly with you ride,
Right at mine own cost, and be your guide;
And whoever will my judgment withstand (805)
Shall pay all that we spend by the way,
And if you vouchsafe that it be so,
Tell me at once, without words more,
And I will early shape me therefore."

This thing was granted, and our oaths sworn (810)
With full glad heart, and we prayed him also
That he would vouchsafe to do so,
And that he would be our governor,
And of our tales judge and reporter,
And set a supper at a certain price, (815)
And we would be ruled by his devising
In high and low; and thus by one assent
We were accorded to his judgment.
And thereupon the wine was fetched at once;
We drank, and to rest went each one, (820)
Without any longer tarrying.

Upon the morrow, when the day began to spring,
Up rose our Host, and was to all our cock,
And gathered us together all in a flock,
And forth we rode a little faster than a walk (825)
Unto the Watering of Saint Thomas;
And there our Host began his horse to stop
And said, "Lords, hearken, if you like.
You know your promise, and I recall it to you.
If even-song and morning-song accord, (830)
Let say now who shall tell the first tale.
As ever might I drink wine or ale,
Whosoever be rebel to my judgment
Shall pay for all that by the way is spent.
Now draw lots, before we further make our way; (835)
He that hat the shortest shall begin.
Sir Knight," quoth he, "my master and my lord,
Now draw a cut, for that is my accord.
Come near," quoth he, "my lady Prioress.
And you, sir Clerk, let be your shamefacedness, (840)
And study not; lay a hand to, every man!"
At once to draw every man began,
And shortly to tell as it was,
Were it by adventure, luck or fate,
The truth is this: the cut fell to the Knight, (845)
Of which full blithe and glad was every man,
And to tell he most his tale, as was reasonable,
By promise and by agreement,
As you have heard; what need words more?
And when this good man saw that it was so, (850)
As he was wise and obedient
To keep his foresaying by his free assent,
He said, "Since I shall begin the game,
Welcome be the cut, by God's name!
Now let us ride, and hearken what I say." (855)
And with that word we rode forth our way,
And he began with a right merry cheer
His tale at once, and said as you may hear.

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