by Geoffrey Chaucer
PROLOGUE TO CHAUCER'S TALE OF SIR THOPAS
Bihoold the murye wordes of the Hoost to Chaucer.
Whan seyd was al this miracle, every man
As sobre was, that wonder was to se,
Til that oure Hooste japen tho bigan,
And thanne at erst he looked upon me,
And seyde thus, 'What man artow,' quod he,
'Thow lookest as thou woldest fynde an hare,
For ever upon the ground I se thee stare.
Approche neer, and looke up murily;
Now war yow, sires, and lat this man have place.
He in the waast is shape as wel as I;
This were a popet in an arm tenbrace
For any womman smal, and fair of face.
He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce,
For unto no wight dooth he daliaunce.
Sey now somwhat, syn oother folk han sayd,
Telle us a tale of myrthe, and that anon.'
'Hooste,' quod I, 'ne beth nat yvele apayed,
For oother tale certes kan I noon
But of a ryme I lerned longe agoon.'
'Ye, that is good,' quod he, 'now shul we heere
Som deyntee thyng, me thynketh by his cheere.'
Heere bigynneth Chaucers tale of Thopas.
Listeth, lordes, in good entent,
And I wol telle verrayment
Of myrthe and of solas,
Al of a knyght was fair and gent
In bataille and in tourneyment,
His name was Sir Thopas.
Yborn he was in fer contree,
In Flaundres, al biyonde the see,
At Poperyng in the place;
His fader was a man ful free,
And lord he was of that contree,
As it was Goddes grace.
Sir Thopas wax a doghty swayn,
Whit was his face as payndemayn,
Hise lippes rede as rose;
His rode is lyk scarlet in grayn,
And I yow telle, in good certayn,
He hadde a semely nose.
His heer, his berd, was lyk saffroun,
That to his girdel raughte adoun;
Hise shoon of Cordewane.
Of Brugges were his hosen broun,
His robe was of syklatoun
That coste many a jane.
He koude hunte at wilde deer,
And ride an haukyng for river,
With grey goshauk on honde,
Therto he was a good archeer,
Of wrastlyng was ther noon his peer,
Ther any ram shal stonde.
Ful many a mayde, bright in bour,
They moorne for hym, paramour,
Whan hem were bet to slepe;
But he was chaast and no lechour,
And sweete as is the brembulflour
That bereth the rede hepe.
And so bifel upon a day,
Frosothe as I yow telle may,
Sir Thopas wolde out ride;
He worth upon his steede gray,
And in his hand a launcegay,
A long swerd by his side.
The priketh thurgh a fair forest,
Therinne is many a wilde best,
Ye, both bukke and hare,
And as he priketh north and est,
I telle it yow, hym hadde almest
Bitidde a sory care.
Ther spryngen herbes, grete and smale,
The lycorys and cetewale,
And many a clowe-gylofre,
And notemuge to putte in ale,
Wheither it be moyste or stale,
Or for to leye in cofre.
The briddes synge, it is no nay,
The sparhauk and the papejay
That joye it was to heere,
The thrustelcok made eek hir lay,
The wodedowve upon a spray
She sang ful loude and cleere.
Sir Thopas fil in love-longynge,
Al whan he herde the thrustel synge,
And pryked as he were wood;
His faire steede in his prikynge
So swatte that men myghte him wrynge,
His sydes were al blood.
Sir Thopas eek so wery was
For prikyng on the softe gras,
So fiers was his corage,
That doun he leyde him in that plas
To make his steede som solas,
And yaf hym good forage.
'O seinte Marie, benedicite,
What eyleth this love at me
To bynde me so soore?
Me dremed al this nyght, pardee,
An elf-queene shal my lemman be,
And slepe under my goore.
An elf-queene wol I love, ywis,
For in this world no womman is
Worthy to be my make
Alle othere wommen I forsake,
And to an elf-queene I me take
By dale and eek by downe.'
Into his sadel he clamb anon,
And priketh over stile and stoon
An elf-queene for tespye,
Til he so longe hadde riden and goon
That he foond, in a pryve woon,
The contree of Fairye
For in that contree was ther noon
That to him dorste ryde or goon,
Neither wyf ne childe,
Til that ther cam a greet geaunt,
His name was Sir Olifaunt,
A perilous man of dede;
He seyde 'Child, by Termagaunt,
But if thou prike out of myn haunt,
Anon I sle thy steede
Heere is the queene of Fayerye,
With harpe and pipe and symphonye,
Dwellyng in this place.'
The child seyde, 'Also moote I thee,
Tomorwe wol I meete with thee,
Whan I have myn armoure.
And yet I hope, par ma fay,
That thou shalt with this launcegay
Abyen it ful sowre.
Shal I percen if I may
Er it be fully pryme of day,
For heere thow shalt be slawe.'
Sir Thopas drow abak ful faste,
This geant at hym stones caste
Out of a fel staf-slynge;
But faire escapeth Child Thopas,
And al it was thurgh Goddes gras,
And thurgh his fair berynge.
Yet listeth, lordes, to my tale,
Murier than the nightyngale,
For now I wol yow rowne
How Sir Thopas, with sydes smale,
Prikyng over hill and dale
Is comen agayn to towne.
His murie men comanded he
To make hym bothe game and glee,
For nedes moste he fighte
With a geaunt with hevedes three,
For paramour and jolitee
Of oon that shoon ful brighte.
'Do come,: he seyde, 'my mynstrales,
And geestours, for to tellen tales
Anon in myn armynge;
Of romances that been roiales,
Of Popes and of Cardinales,
And eek of love-likynge.'
They fette hym first the sweete wyn,
And mede eek in a mazelyn,
And roial spicerye,
And gyngebreed that was ful fyn,
And lycorys, and eek comyn,
With sugre that is so trye.
He dide next his white leere
Of clooth of lake, fyn and cleere,
A breech, and eek a sherte,
And next his sherte an aketoun,
And over that an haubergeoun,
For percynge of his herte.
And over that a fyn hawberk,
Was al ywroght of Jewes werk,
Ful strong it was of plate.
And over that his cote-armour
As whit as is a lilye flour,
In which he wol debate.
His sheeld was al of gold so reed,
And therinne was a bores heed,
A charbocle bisyde;
And there he swoor on ale and breed,
How that 'the geaunt shal be deed
Bityde what bityde!'
Hise jambeux were of quyrboilly,
His swerdes shethe of yvory,
His helm of laton bright,
His sadel was of rewel-boon,
His brydel as the sonne shoon,
Or as the moone light.
His spere it was of fyn ciprees,
That bodeth werre, and no thyng pees,
The heed ful sharpe ygrounde;
His steede was al dappull-gray,
It gooth an ambil in the way
Ful softely and rounde
Loo, lordes myne, heere is a fit;
If ye wol any moore of it,
To telle it wol I fonde.
The Second Fit.
Now holde youre mouth, par charitee,
Bothe knyght and lady free,
And herkneth to my spelle;
Of batailles and of chivalry
And of ladyes love-drury
Anon I wol yow telle.
Men speken of romances of prys,
Of Hornchild, and of Ypotys,
Of Beves and Sir Gy,
Of Sir Lybeux and Pleyndamour,
But Sir Thopas, he bereth the flour
Of roial chivalry.
His goode steede al he bistrood,
And forth upon his wey he glood
As sparcle out of the bronde.
Upon his creest he bar a tour,
And therinne stiked a lilie-flour;
God shilde his cors fro shonde!
And for he was a knyght auntrous,
He nolde slepen in noon hous,
But liggen in his hoode.
His brighte helm was his wonger,
And by hym baiteth his dextrer
Of herbes fyne and goode.
Hym-self drank water of the well,
As dide the knyght sir Percyvell
So worly under wede,
Til on a day------
Heere the Hoost stynteth Chaucer of his Tale of Thopas.
'Na moore of this, for Goddes dignitee,'
Quod oure hooste, 'for thou makest me
So wery of thy verray lewednesse,
That also wisly God my soule blesse,
Min eres aken of thy drasty speche.
Now swich a rym the devel I biteche!
This may wel be rym dogerel,' quod he.
'Why so?' quod I, 'why wiltow lette me
Moore of my tale than another man
Syn that it is the beste tale I kan?'
'By God,' quod he, 'for pleynly at a word
Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord,
Thou doost noght elles but despendest tyme.
Sir, at o word thou shalt no lenger ryme.
Lat se wher thou kanst tellen aught in geeste,
Or telle in prose somwhat, at the leeste,
In which ther be som murthe or som doctryne.'
'Gladly,' quod I, 'by Goddes sweete pyne,
I wol yow telle a litel thyng in prose,
That oghte liken yow as I suppose,
Or elles, certes, ye been to daungerous.
It is a moral tale vertuous,
Al be it take somtyme in sondry wyse
Of sondry folk as I shal yow devyse.
As thus; ye woot that every Evaungelist
That telleth us the peyne of Jesu Crist
Ne seith nat alle thyng as his felawe dooth,
But, nathelees, hir sentence is al sooth,
And alle acorden as in hir sentence,
Al be her in hir tellyng difference.
For somme of hem seyn moore, and somme seyn lesse,
Whan they his pitous passioun expresse;
I meene of Marke, Mathew, Luc, and John,
But doutelees hir sentence is al oon,
Therfore, lordynges alle, I yow biseche
If that yow thynke I varie as in my speche,
As thus, though that I telle somwhat moore
Of proverbes, than ye han herd bifoore,
Comprehended in this litel tretys heere,
To enforce with theffect of my mateere,
And though I nat the same wordes seye
As ye han herd, yet to yow alle I preye,
Blameth me nat; for, as in my sentence
Ye shul nat fynden moche difference
Fro the sentence of this tretys lyte
After the which this murye tale I write.
And therfore herkneth what that I shal seye,
And lat me tellen al my tale, I preye.'
THE TALE (in prose).
(A young man called Melibeus, whose wife Prudence and
daughter Sophie (Wisdom) are maltreated by his foes in
his absence, is counseled with many wise sayings uttered by
his wife tending toward peace and forgiveness, instead of