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A BOOK OF ENGLISH LITERATURE
THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES
GEOFFREY CHAUCER (1340-1400)
Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth 5
Inspired hath in every holt1 and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale fowles maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open yë,
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages2):
Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
(And palmers for to seken straunge
To ferne3 halwes, couthe" in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
At many a noble aryve14 hadde he be.
At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
And foughten for our feith at Tramissene
In listes thryes, and ay slayn his foo.
This ilke worthy knight hadde been also
Somtyme with the lord of Palatye,
Ageyn another hethen in Turkye:
And evermore he hadde a sovereyn
And though that he were worthy, he was
A lovyere, and a lusty bacheler,
With lokkes crulle, as they were leyd in
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,7
And wonderly deliver, and greet of
And he had been somtyme in chivachye,"
In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Picardye, 86
And born him wel, as of so litel space,'
In hope to stonden in his lady11 grace.
Embrouded 12 was he, as it were a mede13
Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and rede. 90
Singinge he was, or floytinge,14 al the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his goune, with sleves longe and
Wel coude he sitte on hors, and faire ryde.
He coude songes make and wel endyte, 95
Iuste1 and eek daunce, and wel purtreye16
So hote he lovede, that by nightertale18 He sleep namore than dooth a nightingale.
Curteys he was, lowly, and servisable,
And carf biforn his fader at the table.
Harneised 23 wel, and sharp as point of spere;
A Cristofre24 on his brest of silver shene.115 An horn he bar, the bawdrik 25 was of grene; A forster 26 was he, soothly, as I gesse.
Ther was also a Nonne, a PRIORESSE, That of hir smyling was ful simple and coy;
Hir gretteste ooth was but by seynt Loy,
And she was cleped27 madame Eglentyne.
Ful wel she song the service divyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely;
And Frensh she spak ful faire and fetisly,"
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe, 125
For Frensh of Paris was to hir unknowe.
At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle;
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
Ne wette hir fingres in hir sauce depe.
Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel
That no drope ne fille up-on hir brest.
In curteisye was set ful moche hir lest.2
Hir over lippe wyped she so clene,
That in hir coppe was no ferthing sene
Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir
But sore weep she if oon of hem were deed,
Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte:
And al was conscience and tendre herte.150
Ful semely hir wimpel pinched was;
Hir nose tretys;41 hir eyen greye as glas;
Hir mouth ful smal, and ther-to softe and
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed;
It was almost a spanne brood, I trowe; 155
For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
Ful fetis1 was hir cloke, as I was war.
Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar
A peire2 of bedes, gauded al with grene;
And ther-on heng a broche of gold ful
On which ther was first write a crowned A,
And after, Amor vincit omnia.
Another NONNE with hir hadde she, That was hir chapeleyne, and PREESTES thre.
A MONK ther was, a fair for the mais-
An out-rydere, that lovede venerye;4
A manly man, to been an abbot able.
He hadde of gold y-wroght a curious pin:
A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
His heed was balled, that shoon as any
And eek his face, as he had been anoint.
He was a lord ful fat and in good point;15
His eyen stepe,16 and rollinge in his heed,
That stemed17 as a forneys of a leed;18
His botes souple, his hors in greet estat.
Now certeinly he was a fair prelat;
He was nat pale as a for-pyned19 goost. 205
A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.
A FRERE there was, a wantown and a
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in A limitour,20 a ful solempne21 man.
In alle the ordres foure is noon that can22
And, whan he rood, men mighte his brydel So moche of daliaunce and fair langage.211 here
Ne that a monk, whan he is cloisterlees,
Is lykned til a fish that is waterlees;
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloistre.
But thilke text held he nat worth an oistre.
And I seyde, his opinioun was good.
What sholde he studie, and make him-
Upon a book in cloistre alwey to poure, 185
Or swinken10 with his handes, and laboure,
As Austin bit? How shal the world be
Lat Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therfore he was a pricasour11 aright;
Grehoundes he hadde, as swifte as fowel
Of priking12 and of hunting for the hare
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
I seigh his sleves purfiled13 at the hond
With grys,14 and that the fyneste of a
And, for to festne his hood under his chin,
He hadde maad ful many a mariage
Of yonge wommen, at his owne cost.
Un-to his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns23 over-al in his contree,
And eek with worthy wommen of the
For he had power of confessioun,
As seyde him-self, more than a curat,
For of his ordre he was licentiat.24
Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
And plesaunt was his absolucioun;
He was an esy man to yeve25 penaunce
Ther-as he wiste to han a good pitaunce;
For unto a povre order for to yive
Is signe that a man is wel y-shrive.
For if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt,2
He wiste that a man was repentaunt.
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
He may nat wepe al-thogh him sore
19 wasted away.
24 licensed to hear confessions. 26 boast.
And everich hostiler and tappestere1
Bet2 than a lazar3 or a beggestere;4
For unto swich a worthy man as he
Acorded nat, as by his facultee,5
To have with seke lazars aqueyntaunce.245
It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce
For to delen with no swich poraille,?
But al with riche and sellers of vitaille.
And over-al, ther as profit sholde aryse,
Curteys he was, and lowly of servyse. 250
Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous.
He was the beste beggere in his hous;
For thogh a widwe hadde noght a sho,
So plesaunt was his In principio,
Yet wolde he have a ferthing, er he wente.
His purchas10 was wel bettre than his
For sothe he was a worthy man with-alle, But sooth to seyn, I noot18 how men him calle.
A CLERK ther was of Oxenford also, 285 That un-to logik hadde longe y-go. As lene was his hors as is a rake, And he nas nat right fat, I undertake; But loked holwe, and ther-to soberly. Ful thredbar was his overest courtepy;19290 For he had geten him yet no benefyce, Ne was so worldly for to have offyce. For him was lever have at his beddes heed Twenty bokes, clad in blak or reed, Of Aristotle and his philosophye, Than robes riche, or fithele,' trye.21
or gay sauBut al be that he was a philosophre, Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; But al that he mighte of his freendes hente, 22
On bokes and on lerninge he it spente, 300 And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf him wher-with to scoleye. Of studie took he most cure and most hede.
Noght o word spak he more than was nede, And that was seyd in forme and rever
A SERGEANT OF THE LAWE, war26 and wys, That often hadde been at the parvys, 310 Ther was also, ful riche of excellence. Discreet he was, and of greet reverence: He semed swich, his wordes weren so wyse. Iustyce he was ful often in assyse, By patente, and by pleyn commissioun;315 For28 his science, and for his heigh renoun, Of fees and robes hadde he many oon. So greet a purchasour29 was nowher noon. Al was fee simple to him in effect, His purchasing mighte nat been infect. 320 Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas, And yet he semed bisier than he was. In termes hadde he caas30 and domes31 alle, That from the tyme of king William were falle.
19 outer coat. 20 fiddle. 21 psaltery. 23 "with propriety and modesty." 25 conducing to.
27 church-porch. 28 because of.