Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury.
Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open eye-
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages-
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunturbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for the seke
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.
Bifil that in that seson, on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
To Caunterbury, with ful devout corage,
At nyght were come into that hostelrye
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
And wel we weren esed atte beste;
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everychon
That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
And made forward erly for to ryse
To take our wey, ther as I yow devyse.
But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thynketh it acordaunt to resoun
To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degree,
And eek in what array that they were inne;
And at a knyght than wol I first bigynne.
A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in Pruce;
In Lettow hadde he reysed, and in Ruce,
No cristen man so ofte of his degree.
In Gernade at the seege eek hadde he be
Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye;
At Lyeys was he, and at Satalye,
Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See
At many a noble arive hadde he be.
At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
And foughten for oure feith at Tramyssene
In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo.
This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also
Somtyme with the lord of Palatye
Agayn another hethen in Turkye,
And everemoore he hadde a sovereyn prys.
And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
And of his port as meeke as is a mayde;
He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
In al his lyf unto no maner wight;
He was a verray parfit gentil knyght.
But for to tellen yow of his array,
His hors weren goode, but he was nat gay.
Of fustian he wered a gypoun,
Al bismotered with his habergeoun;
For he was late ycome from his viage,
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
With hym ther was his sone, a yong Squier,
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
With lokkes crulle, as they were leyd in presse.
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
In Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie,
And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede,
Al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede;
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day,
He was as fressh as is the monthe of May.
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
Wel koude he sitte on hors, and faire ryde,
He koude songes make, and wel endite,
Juste, and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
So hoote he lovede, that by nyghtertale
He slepte namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
And carf biforn his fader at the table.
A Yeman hadde he, and servantz namo
At that tyme, for hym liste ride soo;
And he was clad in cote and hood of grene,
A sheef of pecok arwes bright and kene
Under his belt he bar ful thriftily-
Wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly,
Hise arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe-
And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
A not -heed hadde he, with a broun visage,
Of woodecraft wel koude he al the usage.
Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
And on that oother syde a gay daggere,
Harneised wel, and sharpe as point of spere.
A Cristophere on his brest of silver sheene,
An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene.
A Forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.
Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy.
Hir gretteste ooth was but by Seinte Loy,
And she was cleped Madame Eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely;
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly
After the scole of Stratford-atte-Bowe,
For Frenssh of Parys was to hir unknowe.
At mete wel ytaught was she withalle;
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe.
Wel koude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe
That no drope ne fille upon hir brist.
In curteisie was set ful muche hir list;
Hire over-lippe wyped she so clene,
That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene
Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte.
Ful semely after hir mete she raughte;
And sikerly, she was of greet desport,
And ful plesaunt, and amyable of port,
And peyned hir to countrefete cheere
Of court, and been estatlich of manere,
And to ben holden digne of reverence.
But for to speken of hir conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous,
She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous
Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.
Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde
With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel-breed.
But soore weep she if oon of hem were deed,
Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte;
And al was conscience, and tendre herte.
Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was,
Hire nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed;
But sikerly, she hadde a fair forheed,
It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe,
For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war;
Of smal coral aboute hir arm she bar
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
An theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene,
On which ther was first write a crowned `A,'
And after,`Amor vincit omnia.'
Another Nonne with hir hadde she,
That was hire Chapeleyne, and preestes thre.
A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie,
An outridere, that lovede venerie,
A manly man, to been an abbot able.
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable;
And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere,
And eek as loude, as dooth the chapel belle,
Ther as this lord was keper of the celle.
The reule of Seint Maure, or of Seint Beneit,
Bycause that it was old and somdel streit-
This ilke Monk leet olde thynges pace,
And heeld after the newe world the space.
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
That seith that hunters beth nat hooly men,
Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees-
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre-
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre!
And I seyde his opinioun was good,
What sholde he studie, and make hymselven wood,
Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,
Or swynken with his handes and laboure
As Austyn bit? How shal the world be served?
Lat Austyn have his swynk to him reserved;
Therfore he was a prikasour aright,
Grehoundes he hadde, as swift as fowel in flight;
Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
I seigh his sleves ypurfiled at the hond
With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
And for to festne his hood under his chyn
He hadde of gold ywroght a curious pyn;
A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
And eek his face, as it hadde been enoynt.
He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt,
Hise eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed,
That stemed as a forneys of a leed;
His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat;
Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat!
He was nat pale as a forpyned goost,
A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye,
A Frere ther was, a wantowne and a merye,
A lymytour, a ful solempne man,
In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan
So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage.
He hadde maad ful many a mariage
Of yonge wommen at his owene cost.
Unto his ordre he was a noble post,
And wel biloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns overal in his contree
And eek with worthy wommen of the toun,
For he hadde power of confessioun,
As seyde hymself, moore than a curat,
For of his ordre he was licenciat.
Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
And plesaunt was his a absolucioun,
He was an esy man to yeve penaunce
Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce;
For unto a povre ordre for to yive
Is signe that a man is wel yshryve;
For, if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt,
He wiste that a man was repentaunt.
For many a man so harde is of his herte,
He may nat wepe, al thogh hym soore smerte;
Therfore, in stede of wepynge and preyeres,
Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres.
His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves
And pynnes, for to yeven yonge wyves.
And certeinly he hadde a murye note,
Wel koude he synge, and pleyen on a rote,
Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris.
His nekke whit was as the flour delys;
Therto he strong was as a champioun,
He knew the tavernes wel in every toun
And everich hostiler and tappestere
Bet than a lazar or a beggestere.
For unto swich a worthy man as he
Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce;
It is nat honeste, it may nat avaunce,
For to deelen with no swich poraille,
But al with riche and selleres of vitaille;
And overal, ther as profit sholde arise,
Curteis he was, and lowely of servyse.
Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous;
He was the beste beggere in his hous,
(And yaf a certeyn ferme for the graunt
Noon of his brethren cam ther in his haunt;)
For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho,
So plesaunt was his `In principio'
Yet wolde he have a ferthyng er he wente;
His purchas was wel bettre than his rente.
And rage he koude, as it were right a whelpe;
In love-dayes ther koude he muchel helpe;
For there he was nat lyk a cloysterer,
With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler,
But he was lyk a maister or a pope;
Of double worstede was his semycope,
That rounded as a belle out of the presse.
Somwhat he lipsed for his wantownesse
To make his Englissh sweete upon his tonge,
And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe,
Hise eyen twynkled in his heed aryght
As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght.
This worthy lymytour was cleped Huberd.
A Marchant was ther, with a forkek berd,
In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat,
Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bevere hat,
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
Hise resons he spak ful solempnely,
Sownynge alway thencrees of his wynnyng.
He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.
Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle.
This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette;
Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
So estatly was he of his governaunce,
With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce.
Forsothe, he was a worthy man with-alle,
But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle.
A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also,
That unto logyk hadde longe ygo.
As leene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
But looked holwe and therto sobrely.
Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy,
For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
Ne was so worldly for to have office,
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of Aristotle and his plilosophie,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
On bookes and his lernynge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye.
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede,
Noght o word spak he moore than was neede,
And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quyk, and ful of hy sentence.
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.
A Sergeant of the Lawe, war and wys,
That often hadde been at the parvys,
Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of greet reverence,-
He semed swich, hise wordes weren so wise.
Justice he was ful often in assise,
By patente, and by pleyn commissioun.
For his science, and for his heigh renoun,
Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
So greet a purchasour was nowher noon,
Al was fee symple to hym in effect,
His purchasyng myghte nat been infect.
Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
And yet he semed bisier than he was;
In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle,
That from the tyme of Kyng William were falle.
Therto he koude endite, and make a thyng,
Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng.
And every statut koude he pleyn by rote.
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote
Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale;-
Of his array telle I no lenger tale.
A Frankeleyn was in his compaignye;
Whit was his berd as is a dayesye.
Of his complexioun he was sangwyn.
Wel loved he by the morwe a sope in wyn,
To lyven in delit was evere his wone;
For he was Epicurus owene sone,
That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit
Was verraily felicitee parfit,
An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
Seint Julian was he in his contree.
His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon,
A bettre envyned man was nowher noon.
Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous,
Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous,
It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke,
Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke.
After the sondry sesons of the yeer
So chaunged he his mete and his soper.
Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe,
And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe.
Wo was his cook, but if his sauce were
Poynaunt, and sharp, and redy al his geere.
His table dormant in his halle alway
Stood redy covered al the longe day.
At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire;
Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire.
An anlaas and a gipser al of silk
Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk.
A shirreve hadde he been, and a countour,
Was nowher swich a worthy vavasour.
An Haberdasshere and a Carpenter,
A Webbe, a Dyere, and a Tapycer-
And they were clothed alle in o lyveree
Of a solempne and a greet fraternitee.
Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was,
Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras,
But al with silver wroght ful clene and weel,
Hir girdles and hir pouches everydeel.
Wel semed ech of hem a fair burgeys
To sitten in a yeldehalle on a deys.
Everich for the wisdom that he kan
Was shaply for to been an alderman;
For catel hadde they ynogh, and rente,
And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente-
And eles, certeyn, were they to blame!
It is ful fair to been ycleped `ma Dame,'
And goon to vigilies al bifore,
And have a mantel roialliche ybore.
A Cook they hadde with hem for the nones,
To boille the chiknes with the marybones,
And poudre-marchant tart, and galyngale.
Wel koude he knowe a draughte of London ale;
He koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye,
Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pye.
But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That on his shyne a mormal hadde he!
For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.
A Shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste;
For aught I woot, he was of Dertemouthe.
He rood upon a rouncy, as he kouthe,
In a gowne of faldyng to the knee.
A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he
Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun,
And certeinly he was a good felawe.
Ful many a draughte of wyn had he ydrawe
Fro Burdeuxward, whil that the chapman sleep.
Of nyce conscience took he no keep;
If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond,
By water he sente hem hoom to every lond.
But of his craft, to rekene wel his tydes,
His stremes, and his daungers hym bisides,
His herberwe and his moone, his lodemenage,
Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
Hardy he was, and wys to undertake,
With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake;
He knew alle the havenes as they were
From Gootlond to the Cape of Fynystere,
And every cryke in Britaigne and in Spayne.
His barge yeleped was the Maudelayne.
With us ther was a Doctour of Phisik;
In al this world ne was ther noon hym lik,
To speke of phisik and of surgerye;
For he was grounded in astronomye.
He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel
In houres, by his magyk natureel.
Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent
Of hisc ymages for his pacient.
He knew the cause of everich maladye,
Were it of hoot or coold, or moyste, or drye,
And where they engendred, and of what humour.
He was a verray parfit praktisour;
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the roote,
Anon he yaf the sike man his boote.
Ful redy hadde he hise apothecaries
To sende him drogges and his letuaries,
For ech of hem made oother for to wynne,
Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne.
Wel knew he the olde Esculapius,
And Deyscorides and eek Rufus,
Olde Ypocras, Haly, and Galyen,
Serapioun, Razis, and Avycen,
Averrois, Damascien, and Constantyn,
Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertyn.
Of his diete mesurable was he,
For it was of no superfluitee,
But of greet norissyng, and digestible.
His studie was but litel on the Bible.
In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al,
Lyned with taffata and with sendal-
And yet he was but esy of dispence;
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in phisik is a cordial,
Therfore he lovede gold in special.
A good wif was ther, of biside Bathe,
He was to synful man nat despitous,
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
But in his techyng discreet and benygne;
To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse,
By good ensample, this was his bisynesse.
But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys.
A bettre preest, I trowe, that nowher noon ys.
He waited after no pompe and reverence,
Ne maked him a spiced conscience,
But Cristes loore, and Hise apostles twelve
He taughte, but first he folwed it hym-selve.
With hym ther was a Plowman, was his brother,
That hadde ylad of dong ful many a fother.
A trewe swybnker and a good was he,
Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee.
God loved he best with al his hoole herte
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte,
And thanne his neighebore right as hym-selve;
He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve,
For Cristes sake, for every povre wight
Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.
Hise tithes payed he ful faire and wel,
Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel.
In a tabard he rood, upon a mere.
Ther was also a Reve and a Millere,
A Somnour and a Pardoner also,
A Maunciple, and myself, ther were namo.
The Millere was a stout carl for the nones,
Ful byg he was of brawn and eek of bones-
That proved wel, for overal ther he cam
At wrastlyng he wolde have alwey the ram.
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre,
Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and thereon stood a toft of heres
Reed as the brustles of a sowes eres;
Hise nosethirles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde.
His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys,
He was a janglere and a goliardeys,
And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
Wel koude he stelen corn, and tollen thries,
And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne,
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.
A gentil Maunciple was ther of a temple,
Of which achatours myghte take exemple
For to be wise in byynge of vitaille;
For wheither that he payde or took by taille,
Algate he wayted so in his achaat
That he was ay biforn, and in good staat.
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace,
That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace
The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?
Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten,
That weren of lawe expert and curious,
Of whiche ther weren a duszeyne in that hous
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in Engelond,
To maken hym lyve by his propre good,
In honour dettelees, but if he were wood;
Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire,
And able for to helpen al a shire
In any caas that myghte falle or happe-
And yet this manciple sette hir aller cappe!
The Reve was a sclendre colerik man;
His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan,
His heer was by his erys ful round yshorn,
His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn.
Ful longe were his legges, and ful lene,
Ylyk a staf, ther was no calf ysene.
Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne,
Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne.
Wel wiste he, by the droghte, and by the reyn,
The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn.
His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye,
Was hooly in this reves governyng
And by his covenant yaf the rekenyng,
Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age;
Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage.
Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne,
They were adrad of hym as of the deeth.
His wonyng was ful faire upon an heeth,
With grene trees shadwed was his place.
He koude bettre than his lord purchace.
Ful riche he was astored pryvely;
His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly
To yeve and lene hym of his owene good,
And have a thank, and yet a cote and hook.
In youthe he hadde lerned a good myster,
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
This reve sat upon a ful good stot,
That was al pomely grey, and highte Scot.
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
Of Northfolk was this reve, of which I telle,
Bisyde a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.
Tukked he was, as is a frere, aboute,
And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.
A Somonour was ther with us in that place,
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face,
For sawcefleem he was, with eyen narwe.
As hoot he was, and lecherous, as a sparwe,
With scalled browes blake, and piled berd,
Of his visage children were aferd.
Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon,
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon,
Ne oynement, that wolde clense and byte,
That hym myghte helpen of his wheldes white,
Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes.
Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes,
And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;
Thanne wolde he speke and crie as he were wood.
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn.
A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,
That he had lerned out of som decree-
No wonder is, he herde it al the day,
And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
Kan clepen `watte' as wel as kan the Pope.
But who so koude in oother thyng hym grope,
Thanne hadde he spent al his plilosophie;
Ay `questio quid juris' wolde he crie.
He was a gentil harlot and a kynde,
A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde;
He wolde suffre, for a quart of wyn,
A good felawe to have his concubyn
A twelf-monthe, and excuse hym atte fulle-
Ful prively a fynch eek koude he pulle.
And if he foond owher a good felawe,
He wolde techen him to have noon awe,
In swich caas, of the erchedekeness curs,
But if a mannes soule were in his purs;
For in his purs he sholde ypunysshed be,
`Purs is the erchedekenes helle,' seyde he.
But wel I woot he lyed right in dede;
Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede-
For curs wol slee, right as assoillyng savith-
And also war him of a Significavit.
In daunger hadde he at his owene gise
The yonge girles of the diocise,
And knew hir conseil, and was al hir reed.
A gerland hadde he set upon his heed
As greet as it were for an ale-stake;
A bokeleer hadde he maad him of a cake.
With hym ther rood a gentil Pardoner
Of Rouncivale, his freend and his compeer,
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome.
Ful loude he soong `com hider, love, to me.'
This Somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun,
Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
By ounces henge hise lokkes that he hadde,
And therwith he hise shuldres overspradde;
But thynne it lay by colpons oon and oon.
But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon,
For it was trussed up in his walet.
Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet,
Dischevele, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe.
His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe
Bret-ful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot.
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot,
No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have,
As smothe it was as it were late shave,
I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
But of his craft, fro Berwyk into Ware,
Ne was ther swich another Pardoner;
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
Which that he seyde was Oure Lady veyl;
He seyde, he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That Seinte Peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til Jesu Crist hym hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun, ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones;
But with thise relikes whan that he fond
A povre persoun dwellyng up-on-lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye,
And thus with feyned flaterye and japes
He made the persoun and the peple his apes.
But trewely to tellen atte laste,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste;
Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
But alderbest he song an offertorie,
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe
He moste preche, and wel affile his tonge;
To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude,
Therfore he song the murierly and loude.
Now have I toold you shortly in a clause
Thestaat, tharray, the nombre, and eek the cause
Why that assembled was this compaignye
In Southwerk, at this gentil hostelrye,
That highte the Tabard, faste by the Belle.
But now is tyme to yow for to telle
How that we baren us that ilke nyght
Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght,
And after wol I telle of our viage,
And all the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.
But first I pray yow, of youre curteisye
That ye narette it nat my vileynye,
Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere
To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere,
Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely.
For this ye knowen also wel as I,
Who-so shal telle a tale after a man,
He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan
Everich a word, if it be in his charge,
Al speke he never so rudeliche or large;
Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,
Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
He may nat spare, al thogh he were his brother,
He moot as wel seye o word as another.
Crist spak hym-self ful brode in Hooly Writ,
And, wel ye woot, no vileynye is it.
Eek Plato seith, who so kan hym rede,
The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede.
Also I prey yow to foryeve it me,
Al have I nat set folk in hir degree
Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde-
My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.
Greet chiere made oure hoost us everichon,
And to the soper sette he us'anon.
He served us with vitaille at the beste;
Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us lestel
A semely man oure Hooste was withalle
For to been a marchal in an halle.
A large man he was, with eyen stepe,
A fairer burgeys was ther noon in Chepe;
Boold of his speche, and wys, and well ytaught,
And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
Eek therto he was right a myrie man;
And after soper pleyen he bigan,
And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges,
And seyde thus: 'Now lordynges, trewely,
Ye been to me right welcome hertely,
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye
Atones in this herberwe, as is now.
Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how-
And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght
To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght.
Ye goon to Caunterbury, God yow speede-
The blisful martir quite yow youre meede-
And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye,
Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye,
For trewely, confort ne myrthe is noon
To ride by the weye doumb as stoon,
And therfore wol I maken yow disport,
As I seyde erst, and doon yow som confort;
And if yow liketh alle by oon assent
For to stonden at my juggement,
And for to werken as I shal yow seye,
To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye,
Now, by my fader soule that is deed,
But ye be myrie I wol yeve yow myn heed!
Hoold up youre hond, withouten moore speche.'
Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche-
Us thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys-
And graunted hym, withouten moore avys,
And bad him seye his voirdit, as hym leste.
'Lordynges,' quod he, 'now herkneth for the beste,
But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn.
This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn,
That ech of yow, to shorte with oure weye,
In this viage shal telle tales tweye,
To Caunterburyward I mene it so,
And homward he shal tellen othere two,
Of aventures that whilom han bifalle.
And which of yow that bereth hym best of alle-
That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas
Tales of best sentence and moost solaas-
Shal have a soper at oure aller cost,
Heere in this place, sittynge by this post,
Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury.
And for to make yow the moore mury
I wol my-selven goodly with yow ryde
Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde.
And who so wole my juggement withseye
Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
And if ye vouchesauf that it be so,
Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo,
And I wol erly shape me therfore.'
This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore
With ful gald herte, and preyden hym also
That he wolde vouchesauf for to do so,
And that he wolde been oure governour,
And of our tales juge and reportour,
And sette a soper at a certeyn pris,
And we wol reuled been at his devys
In heigh and lough; and thus by oon assent
We been acorded to his juggement;
And therupon the wyn was fet anon,
We dronken, and to reste wente echon
Withouten any lenger taryynge.
Amorwe, whan that day bigan to sprynge,
Up roos oure Hoost, and was oure aller cok,
And gadrede us to gidre, alle in a flok,
And forth we riden, a litel moore than paas,
Unto the wateryng of Seint Thomas.
And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste,
And seyde, 'Lordynges, herkneth if yow leste,
Ye woot youre foreward, and I it yow recorde;
If even-song and morwe-song accorde,
Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale,
Whoso be rebel to my juggement
Shal paye for al that by the wey is spent.
Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne,
He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne.
Sire knyght,' quod he, 'my mayster and my lord,
Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord,
Cometh neer,' quod he, 'my lady Prioresse,
And ye, Sir Clerk, lat be your shamefastnesse,
Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man.'
Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
And shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,
The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knyght,
Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght.
And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
By foreward and by composicioun,-
As ye han herd, what nedeth wordes mo?
And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,
As he that wys was and obedient
To kepe his foreward by his free assent,
He seyde, 'Syn I shal bigynne the game,
What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name!
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.'
And with that word we ryden forth oure weye,
And he bigan with right a myrie cheere
His tale anon, and seyde in this manere.
THE KNYGHTES TALE.
Iamque domos patrias Scithice post aspera gentis prelia
laurigero &c. Thebaid, xii, 519.
Heere bigynneth the knyghtes tale.
Whilom, as olde stories tellen us,
Ther was a duc that highte Theseus;
Of Atthenes he was lord and governour,
That gretter was ther noon under the sonne.
Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne,
What with his wysdom and his chivalrie;
He conquered al the regne of Femenye,
That whilom was ycleped Scithia,
And weddede the queene Ypolita,
And broghte hir hoom with hym in his contree,
With muchel glorie and greet solempnytee,
And eek hir yonge suster Emelye.
And thus with victorie and with melodye
Lete I this noble duk to Atthenes ryde,
And al his hoost, in armes hym bisyde.
And certes, if it nere to long to heere,
I wolde have toold yow fully the manere
How wonnen was the regne of Femenye
By Theseus, and by his chivalrye,
And of the grete bataille for the nones
Bitwixen Atthenes and Amazones,
And how asseged was Ypolita
The faire hardy queene of Scithia,
And of the feste that was at hir weddynge,
And of the tempest at hir hoom-comynge;
But al the thyng I moot as now forbere,
I have, God woot, a large feeld to ere,
And wayke been the oxen in my plough,
The remenant of the tale is long ynough.
I wol nat letten eek noon of this route,
Lat every felawe telle his tale aboute,
And lat se now who shal the soper wynne;-
And ther I lefte, I wol ayeyn bigynne.
This duc of whom I make mencioun,
Whan he was come almoost unto the toun,
In al his wele and in his mooste pride,
He was war, as he caste his eye aside,
Where that ther kneled in the hye weye
A compaignye of ladyes, tweye and tweye,
Ech after oother, clad in clothes blake;
But swich a cry and swich a wo they make,
That in this world nys creature lyvynge
That herde swich another waymentynge!
And of this cry they nolde nevere stenten,
Til they the reynes of his brydel henten.
'What folk been ye, that at myn hom-comynge
Perturben so my feste with criynge?'
Quod Theseus, 'hav ye so greet envye
Of myn honour, that thus compleyne and crye?
Or who hath yow mysboden or offended?
And telleth me if it may been amended,
And why that ye been clothed thus in blak?'
The eldeste lady of hem alle spak-
Whan she hadde swowned with a deedly cheere,
That it was routhe for to seen and heere-
And seyde, 'Lord, to whom Fortune hath yeven
Victorie, and as a conqueror to lyven,
Nat greveth us youre glorie and youre honour,
But we biseken mercy and socour.
Have mercy on oure wo and oure distresse,
Som drope of pitee thurgh thy gentillesse
Upon us wrecched wommen lat thou falle;
For certes, lord, ther is noon of us alle
That she ne hath been a duchesse or a queene.
Now be we caytyves, as it is wel seene-
Thanked be Fortune, and hir false wheel,
That noon estat assureth to be weel.
And certes, lord, to abyden youre presence,
Heere in the temple of the goddesse Clemence
We han ben waitynge al this fourtenyght;
Now help us, lord, sith it is in thy myght!
I wrecche, which that wepe and waille thus,
Was whilom wyf to kyng Cappaneus,
That starf at Thebes, cursed be that day!
And alle we that been in this array
And maken al this lamentacioun,
We losten alle oure housbondes at that toun,
Whil that the seege theraboute lay.
And yet now the olde Creon, weylaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the Citee,
Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
He, for despit and for his tirannye,
To do the dede bodyes vileynye,
Of alle oure lordes, whiche that been slawe,
He hath alle the bodyes on an heep ydrawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
Neither to been yburyed nor ybrent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despit.'
And with that word, withouten moore respit,
They fillen gruf, and criden pitously,
'Have on us wrecched wommen som mercy
And lat oure sorwe synken in thyn herte.'
This gentil duk doun from his courser sterte
With herte pitous, whan he herde hem speke;
Hym thoughte that his herte wolde breke,
Whan he saugh hem so pitous and so maat,
That whilom weren of so greet estaat.
And in his armes he hem alle up hente,
And hem conforteth in ful good entente,
And swoor his ooth, as he was trewe knyght,
He solde doon so ferforthyl his myght
Upon the tiraunt Creon hem to wreke,
That all the peple of Grece sholde speke
How Creon was of Theseus yserved,
As he that hadde his deeth ful wel deserved.
And right anoon, withouten moore abood,
His baner he desplayeth, and forth rood
To Thebesward, and al his hoost biside,
No neer Atthenes wolde he go ne ride,
Ne take his ese fully half a day,
But onward on his wey that nyght he lay-
And sente anon Ypolita the queene,
And Emelye, hir yonge suster sheene,
Unto the toun of Atthenes to dwelle-
And forth he rit; ther is namoore to telle.
The rede statue of Mars, with spere and targe,
So shyneth, in his white baner large,
That alle the feeldes gliteren up and doun,
And by his baner gorn is his penoun
Of gold ful riche, in which ther was ybete
The Mynotaur which that he slough in Crete.
Thus rit this duc, thus rit this conquerour,
And in his hoost of chivalrie the flour,
Til that he cam to Thebes, and alighte
Faire in a feeld, ther as he thoughte fighte.
But shortly for to speken of this thyng,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes kyng,
He faught, and slough hym manly as a knyght
In pleyn bataille, and putte the folk to flyght,
And by assaut he wan the citee after,
And rente adoun bothe wall, and sparre, and rafter.
And to the ladyes he sestored agayn
The bones of hir housbondes that weren slayn,
To doon obsequies as was tho the gyse.
But it were al to longe for to devyse
The grete clamour and the waymentynge
That the ladyes made at the brennynge
Of the bodies, and the grete honour
That Theseus, the noble conquerour,
Dooth to the ladyes, whan they from hym wente;
But shortly for to telle is myn entente.
Whan that his worthy duc, this Theseus,
Hath Creon slayn, and wonne Thebes thus,
Stille in that feeld he took al nyght his reste
And dide with al the contree as hym leste.
To ransake in the taas of bodyes dede,
Hem for to strepe of harneys and of wede,
The pilours diden bisynesse and cure,
After the bataille and disconfiture;
And so bifel, that in the taas they founde
Thurgh-girt with many a grevous blody wounde,
Two yonge knyghtes liggynge by and by,
Bothe in oon armes wroght ful richely,
Of whiche two Arcita highte that oon,
And that oother knyght highte Palamon.
Nat fully quyke, ne fully dede they were,
But by here cote-armures, and by hir gere,
The heraudes knewe hem best, in special,
As they that weren of the blood roial
Of Thebes, and of sustren two yborn.
Out of the taas the pilours han hem torn,
And had hem caried softe unto the tente
Of Theseus, and he ful soone hem sente
To Atthenes to dwellen in prisoun
Perpetuelly, he nolde no raunsoun.
And whan this worthy due hath thus ydon,
He took his hoost, and hoom he rood anon,
With laurer crowned, as a conquerour,
And ther he lyveth in joye and in honour
Terme of his lyve, what nedeth wordes mo?
And in a tour, in angwissh and in wo,
Dwellen this Palamon and eek Arcite
For evermoore, ther may no gold hem quite.
This passeth yeer by yeer, and day by day,
Till it fil ones, in a morwe of May,
That Emelye, that fairer was to sene
Than is the lylie upon his stalke grene,
And fressher than the May with floures newe-
For with the rose colour stroof hir hewe,
I noot which was the fairer of hem two-
Er it were day, as was hir wone to do,
She was arisen, and al redy dight-
For May wole have no slogardrie a-nyght;
The sesoun priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh hym out of his slepe to sterte,
And seith, `arys and do thyn observaunce,'
This maked Emelye have remembraunce
To doon honour to May, and for to ryse.
Yclothed was she fressh, for to devyse,
Hir yelow heer was broyded in a tresse,
Bihynde hir bak, a yerde long, I gesse,
And in the gardyn, at the sonne upriste,
She walketh up and doun, and as hir liste
She gadereth floures, party white and rede,
To make a subtil gerland for hir hede,
And as an aungel hevenysshly she soong.
The grete tour, that was so thikke and stroong,
Which of the castel was the chief dongeoun,
Ther as the knyghtes weren in prisoun,
Of whiche I tolde yow, and tellen shal,
Was evene joynant to the gardyn wal
Ther as this Emelye hadde hir pleyynge.
Bright was the sonne, and cleer that morwenynge,
And Palamoun, this woful prisoner,
As was his wone, by leve of his gayler,
Was risen, and romed in a chambre on heigh,
In which he al the noble citee seigh,
And eek the gardyn, ful of braunches grene,
Ther as this fresshe Emelye the shene
Was in hire walk, and romed up and doun.
This sorweful prisoner, this Palamoun,
Goth in the chambre romynge to and fro,
And to hym-self compleynynge of his wo.
That he was born, ful ofte he seyde, `allas!'
And so bifel, by aventure or cas,
That thurgh a wyndow, thikke of many a barre
Of iren greet, and square as any sparre,
He cast his eye upon Emelya,
And therwithal he bleynte, and cryede 'A!'
As though he stongen were unto the herte.
And with that cry Arcite anon upsterte
And seyde, 'Cosyn myn, what eyleth thee,
That art so pale and deedly on to see?
Why cridestow? who hath thee doon offence?
For Goddess love, taak al in pacience
Oure prisoun, for it may noon oother be;
Fortune hath yeven us this adversitee.
Som wikke aspect or disposicioun
Of Saturne by sum constellacioun
Hath yeven us this, al though we hadde it sworn.
So stood the hevene, whan that we were born.
We moste endure it, this the short and playn.'
This Palamon answerde and seyde agayn,
'Cosyn, for sothe, of this opinioun
Thow hast a veyn ymaginacioun.
This prison caused me nat for to crye,
But I was hurt right now thurgh-out myn eye
Into myn herte, that wol my bane be.
The fairnesse of that lady, that I see
Yond in the gardyn romen to and fro,
Is cause of al my criyng and my wo.
I noot wher she be womman or goddesse,
But Venus is it, soothly as I gesse.'
And therwithal, on knees doun he fil,
And seyde, 'Venus, if it be thy wil,
Yow in this gardyn thus to transfigure
Bifore me, sorweful wrecche creature,
Out of this prisoun helpe that we may scapen!
And if so be my destynee be shapen
By eterne word to dyen in prisoun,
Of oure lynage have som compassioun,
That is so lowe ybroght by tirannye.'
And with that word Arcite gan espye
Wher-as this lady romed to and fro,
And with that sighte hir beautee hurte hym so,
That if that Palamon was wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as moche as he, or moore.
And with a sigh he seyde pitously,
'The fresshe beautee sleeth me sodeynly
Of hir, that rometh in the yonder place!
And but I have hir mercy and hir grace
That I may seen hir atte leeste weye,
I nam but deed, ther is namoore to seye.'
This Palamon, whan he tho wordes herde,
Dispitously he looked and answerde,
'Wheither seistow this in ernest or in pley?'
'Nay,' quod Arcite, 'in ernest by my fey,
God helpe me so, me list ful yvele pleye.'
This Palamon gan knytte his browes tweye;
'It nere,' quod he, 'to thee no greet honour
For to be fals, ne for to be traitour
To me, that am thy cosyn and thy brother,
Ysworn ful depe, and ech of us til oother,
That nevere for to dyen in the peyne,
Til that the deeth departe shal us tweyne,
Neither of us in love to hyndre other,
Ne in noon oother cas, my leeve brother,
But that thou sholdest trewely forthren me
In every cas, as I shal forthren thee.
This was thyn ooth, and myn also certeyn,
I woot right wel thou darst it nat withseyn.
Thus artow of my conseil, out of doute;
And now thou woldest falsly been aboute
To love my lady, whom I love and serve
And evere shal, til that myn herte sterve.
Nay, certes, false Arcite, thow shalt nat so!
I loved hir first, and tolde thee my wo
As to my conseil, and to my brother sworn,
To forthre me as I have toold biforn,
For which thou art ybounden as a knyght
To helpen me, if it lay in thy myght,
Or elles artow fals, I dar wel seyn.'
This Arcite ful proudly spak ageyn,
'Thow shalt,' quod he, 'be rather fals than I.
But thou art fals, I telle thee outrely,
For paramour I loved hir first er thow.
What, wiltow seyn thou wistest nat yet now
Wheither she be a womman or goddesse?
Thyn is affeccioun of hoolynesse,
And myn is love as to a creature;
For which I tolde thee myn aventure
As to my cosyn and my brother sworn.
I pose, that thow lovedest hir biforn;
Wostow nat wel the olde clerkes sawe
That `who shal yeve a lovere any lawe?'
Love is a gretter lawe, by my pan,
Than may be yeve of any erthely man.
And therfore positif lawe and swich decree
Is broken al day for love in ech degree.
A man moot nedes love, maugree his heed,
He may nat fleen it, thogh he sholde be deed,
Al be she mayde, or wydwe, or elles wyf.
And eek it is nat likly, al thy lyf,
To stonden in hir grace, namoore shal I,
For wel thou woost thyselven, verraily,
That thou and I be dampned to prisoun
Perpetuelly, us gayneth no faunsoun.
We stryven as dide the houndes for the boon,
They foughte al day, and yet hir part was noon.
Ther cam a kyte, whil they weren so wrothe,
And baar awey the boon bitwixe hem bothe.
And therfore at the kynges court, my brother,
Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
Love if thee list, for I love, and ay shal;
And soothly, leeve brother, this is al.
Heere in this prisoun moote we endure,
And everich of us take his aventure.'
Greet was the strif and long bitwix hem tweye,
If that I hadde leyser for to seye-
But to theffect; it happed on a day,
To telle it yow as shortly as I may,
A worthy duc, that highte Perotheus,
That felawe was unto duc Theseus
Syn thilke day that they were children lite,
Was come to Atthenes his felawe to visite,
And for to pleye as he was wont to do-
For in this world he loved no man so,
And he loved hym als tendrely agayn.
So wel they lovede, as olde bookes sayn,
That whan that oon was deed, soothly to telle,
His felawe wente and soughte hym doun in helle.
But of that storie list me nat to write;
Duc Perotheus loved wel Arcite,
And hadde hym knowe at Thebes yeer by yere,
And finally, at requeste and preyere
Of Perotheus, withouten any raunsoun
Duc Theseus hym leet out of prisoun
Frely to goon, wher that hym liste overal,
In swich a gyse as I you tellen shal.
This was the forward, pleynly for tendite,
Bitwixen Theseus and hym Arcite,
That if so were that Arcite were yfounde
Evere in his lif, by day or nyght or stounde,
In any contree of this Theseus,
And he were caught, it was acorded thus,
That with a swerd he sholde lese his heed;
Ther nas noon oother remedie ne reed,
But taketh his leve and homward he him spedde;
Lat hym be war, his nekke lith to wedde!
How greet a sorwe suffreth now Arcite!
The deeth he feeleth thurgh his herte smyte,
He wepeth, wayleth, crieth pitously,
To sleen hymself he waiteth prively.
He seyde, 'Allas, that day that he was born!
Now is my prisoun worse than biforn;
Now is me shape eternally to dwelle
Nat in purgatorie but in helle.
Allas, that evere knew I Perotheus!
For elles hadde I dwelled with Theseus,
Yfetered in his prisoun evermo;
Thanne hadde I been in blisse, and nat in wo.
Oonly the sighte of hire whom that I serve,
Though that I nevere hir grace may deserve,
Wolde han suffised right ynough for me.
O deere cosyn Palamon,' quod he,
'Thyn is the victorie of this aventure.
Ful blisfully in prison maistow dure.-
In prisoun? certes, nay, but in Paradys!
Wel hath Fortune yturned thee the dys,
That hast the sighte of hir, and I thabsence;
For possible is, syn thou hast hir presence,
And art a knyght, a worthy and an able,
That by som cas, syn Fortune is chaungeable,
Thow maist to thy desir som tyme atteyne.
But I, that am exiled and bareyne
Of alle grace, and in so greet dispeir
That ther nys erthe, water, fir, ne eir,
Ne creature, that of hem maked is,
That may me heelp, or doon confort in this,
Wel oughte I sterve in wanhope and distresse,
Farwel, my lif, my lust, and my galdnesse!
Allas, why pleynen folk so in commune
On purveyaunce of God or of Fortune,
That yeveth hem ful ofte in many a gyse
Wel bettre than they kan hem-self devyse?
Som man desireth for to han richesse,
That cause is of his moerdre of greet siknesse.
And som man wolde out of his prisoun fayn,
That in his hous is of his meynee slayn.
Infinite harmes been in thai mateere,
We witen nat what thing we preyen here.
We faren as he that dronke is as a mous;
A dronke man woot wel he hath an hous,
But he noot which the righte wey is thider,
And to a dronke man the wey is slider.
And certes, in this world so faren we;
We seken faste after felicitee,
But we goon wrong ful often trewely.
Thus may we seyen alle, and namely I,
That wende and hadde a greet opinioun
That if I myghte escapen from prisoun,
Thanne hadde I been in joye and perfit heele,
Ther now I am exiled fro my wele.
Syn that I may nat seen you, Emelye,
I nam but deed, ther nys no remedye.'
Upon that oother syde, Palamon,
Whan that he wiste Arcite was agon,
Swich sorwe he maketh, that the grete tour
Resouneth of his youlyng and clamour.
The pure fettres on his shynes grete
Weren of his bittre salte teeres wete.
'Allas,' quod he, 'Arcite, cosyn myn!
Of al oure strif, God woot, the fruyt is thyn.
Thow walkest now in Thebes at thy large,
And of my wo thow yevest litel charge.
Thou mayst, syn thou hast wysdom and manhede,
Assemblen alle the folk of oure kynrede,
And make a werre so sharp on this citee,
That by som aventure, or som tretee,
Thow mayst have hir to lady and to wyf,
For whom that I moste nedes lese my lyf.
For as by wey of possibilitee,
Sith thou art at thy large of prisoun free,
And art a lord, greet is thyn avauntage
Moore than is myn, that sterve here in a cage.
For I moot wepe and wayle, whil I lyve,
With al the wo that prison may me yeve,
And eek with peyne that love me yeveth also,
That doubleth al my torment and my wo.'
Therwith the fyr of jalousie up-sterte
Withinne his brest, and hente him by the herte
So woodly, that he lyk was to biholde
The boxtree, or the asshen dede and colde.
Thanne seyde he, 'O cruel goddes, that governe
This world with byndyng of youre word eterne,
And writen in the table of atthamaunt
Youre parlement and youre eterne graunt,
What is mankynde moore unto you holde
Than is the sheep that rouketh in the folde?
For slayn is man right as another beeste,
And dwelleth eek in prison and arreeste,
And hath siknesse, and greet adversitee,
And ofte tymes giltelees, pardee!
What governance is in this prescience
That giltelees tormenteth innocence?
And yet encresseth this al my penaunce,
That man is bounden to his observaunce,
For Goddes sake, to letten of his wille,
Ther as a beest may al his lust fulfille.
And whan a beest is deed, he hath no peyne,
But man after his deeth moot wepe and pleyne,
Though in this world he have care and wo.
Withouten doute it may stonden so.
The answere of this lete I to dyvynys,
But well I woot, that in this world greet pyne ys.
Allas, I se a serpent or a theef,
That many a trewe man hath doon mescheef,
Goon at his large, and where hym list may turne!
But I moot been in prisoun thurgh Saturne,
And eek thurgh Juno, jalous and eek wood,
That hath destroyed wel ny al the blood
Of Thebes, with hise waste walles wyde.
And Venus sleeth me on that oother syde
For jalousie and fere of hym Arcite.'
Now wol I stynte of Palamon a lite,
And lete hym in his prisoun stille dwelle,
And of Arcita forth I wol yow telle.
The somer passeth, and the nyghtes longe
Encressen double wise the peynes stronge
Bothe of the lovere and the prisoner;
I noot which hath the wofuller mester.
For shortly for to seyn, this Palamoun
Perpetuelly is dampned to prisoun
In cheynes and in fettres to been deed,
And Arcite is exiled upon his heed
For evere mo as out of that contree,
Ne nevere mo he shal his lady see.
Yow loveres axe I now this questioun,
Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamoun?
That oon may seen his lady day by day,
But in prison he moot dwelle alway;
That oother wher hym list may ride or go,
But seen his lady shal he nevere mo.
Now demeth as yow liste ye that kan,
For I wol telle forth, as I bigan.
Explicit prima pars.
Sequitur pars secunda.
Whan that Arcite to Thebes comen was,
Ful ofte a day he swelte and seyde `allas,'
For seen his lady shal he nevere mo;
And shortly to concluden al his wo,
So muche sorwe hadde nevere creature,
That is, or shal whil that the world may dure.
His sleep, his mete, his drynke is hym biraft,
That lene he wex and drye as is a shaft.
Hise eyen holwe and grisly to biholde,
His hewe falow and pale as asshen colde;
And solitarie he was and evere allone
And waillynge al the nyght, makynge his mone.
And if he herde song or instrument,
Thanne wolde he wepe, he myghte nat be stent.
So feble eek were hise spiritz, and so lowe,
And chaunged so, that no man koude knowe
His speche nor his voys, though men it herde.
And in his geere for al the world he ferde
Nat oonly lik the loveris maladye
Of Hereos, but rather lyk manye
Engendred of humour malencolik
Biforen in his celle fantastik,
And shortly turned was al up-so-doun
Bothe habit and eek disposicioun
Of hym, this woful lovere daun Arcite.
What sholde I al day of his wo endite?
Whan he endured hadde a yeer or two
This crueel torment, and this peyne and woo,
At Thebes in his contree, as I seyde,
Upon a nyght in sleep as he hym leyde,
Hym thoughte how that the wynged god Mercurie
Biforn hym stood, and bad hym to be murie.
His slepy yerde in hond he bar uprighte,
An hat he werede upon hise heris brighte.
Arrayed was this god, as he took keep,
As he was whan that Argus took his sleep;
And seyde hym thus, 'To Atthenes shaltou wende,
Ther is thee shapen of thy wo an ende.'
And with that word Arcite wook and sterte.
'Now trewely, how soore that me smerte,'
Quod he, 'to Atthenes right now wol I fare,
Ne for the drede of deeth shal I nat spare
To se my lady that I love and serve,
In hir presence I recche nat to sterve.'
And with that word he caughte a greet mirour,
And saugh that chaunged was al his colour,
And saugh his visage al in another kynde.
And right anon it ran hym in his mynde,
That sith his face was so disfigured
Of maladye, the which he hadde endured,
He myghte wel, if that he bar hym lowe,
Lyve in Atthenes, everemoore unknowe,
And seen his lady wel ny day by day.
And right anon he chaunged his array,
And cladde hym as a povre laborer,
And al allone, save oonly a squier
That knew his privetee and al his cas,
Which was disgised povrely, as he was,
To Atthenes is he goon, the nexte way.
And to the court he wente, upon a day,
And at the gate he profreth his servyse,
To drugge and drawe, what so men wol devyse.
And shortly of this matere for to seyn,
He fil in office with a chamberleyn,
The which that dwellynge was with Emelye,
For he was wys and koude soone espye
Of every servant which that serveth here.
Wel koude he hewen wode, and water bere,
For he was yong and myghty for the nones,
And therto he was strong and big of bones
To doon that any wight kan hym devyse.
A yeer or two he was in this servyse
Page of the chambre of Emelye the brighte;
And Philostrate he seyde that he highte.
But half so wel biloved a man as he
Ne was ther nevere in court, of his degree;
He was so gentil of condicioun
That thurghout al the court was his renoun.
They seyden, that it were a charitee,
That Theseus wolde enhaunsen his degree,
And putten hym in worshipful servyse
Ther as he myghte his vertu exercise.
And thus withinne a while his name is spronge
Bothe of hise dedes and his goode tonge,
That Theseus hath taken hym so neer
That of his chambre he made hym a Squier,
And gaf hym gold to mayntene his degree.
And eek men broghte hym out of his contree
From yeer to yeer, ful pryvely, his rente.
But honestly and slyly he it spente,
That no man wondred how that he it hadde.
And thre yeer in this wise his lif he ladde,
And bar hym so in pees, and eek ibn werre,
Ther was no man that Theseus hath derre.
And in this blisse lete I now Arcite,
And speke I wole of Palamon a lite.
In derknesse and horrible and strong prisoun
Thise seven yeer hath seten Palamoun,
Forpyned, what for wo and for distresse.
Who feeleth double soor and hevynesse
But Palamon, that love destreyneth so,
That wood out of his wit he goth for wo?
And eek therto he is a prisoner,
Perpetuelly, noght oonly for a yer.
Who koude ryme in Englyssh proprely
His martirdom? Forsothe it am nat I,
Therfore I passe as lightly as I may.
It fel that in the seventhe yer, in May,
The thridde nyght, as olde bookes seyn,
That al this storie tellen moore pleyn,
Were it by aventure or destynee-
As, whan a thyng is shapen, it shal be-
That soone after the mydnyght, Palamoun
By helpyng of a freend, brak his prisoun
And fleeth the citee faste as he may go;
For he hade yeve his gayler drynke so
Of a clarree maad of a certeyn wyn,
With nercotikes and opie of Thebes fyn,
That al that nyght, thogh that men wolde him shake,
The gayler sleep, he myghte nat awake.
And thus he fleeth as faste as evere he may;
The nyght was short and faste by the day,
That nedes-cost he moot hymselven hyde;
And til a grove, faste ther bisyde,
With dredeful foot thanne stalketh Palamoun.
For shortly this was his opinioun,
That in that grove he wolde hym hyde al day,
And in the nyght thanne wolde he take his way
To Thebesward, his freendes for to preye
On Theseus to helpe hym to werreye;
And shortly, outher he wolde lese his lif,
Or wynnen Emelye unto his wyf;
This is theffect and his entente pleyn.
Now wol I turne to Arcite ageyn,
That litel wiste how ny that was his care
Til that Fortune had broght him in the snare.
The bisy larke, messager of day,
Salueth in hir song the morwe gray,
And firy Phebus riseth up so brighte
That al the orient laugheth of the lighte,
And with hise stremes dryeth in the greves
The silver dropes hangynge on the leves;
And Arcita, that is in the court roial
With Theseus, his squier principal,
Is risen, and looketh on the myrie day.
And for to doon his observaunce ot May,
Remembrynge on the poynt of his desir
He on a courser startlynge as the fir
Is riden into the feeldes, hym to pleye,
Out of the court, were it a myle or tweye.
And to the grove of which that I yow tolde
By aventure his wey he gan to holde,
To maken hym a gerland of the greves,
Were it of wodebynde or hawethorn-leves.
And loude he song ayeyn the sonne shene,
'May, with alle thy floures and thy grene,
Welcome be thou, faire fresshe May,
In hope that I som grene gete may.'
And from his courser, with a lusty herte,
Into a grove ful hastily he sterte,
And in a path he rometh up and doun
Ther as by aventure this Palamoun
Was in a bussh, that no man myghte hym se;
For soore afered of his deeth was he.
No thyng ne knew he that it was Arcite,
God woot, he wolde have trowed it ful lite!
But sooth is seyd, gon sithen many yeres,
That feeld hath eyen and the wode hath eres.
It is ful fair a man to bere hym evene,
For al day meeteth men at unset stevene.
Ful litel woot Arcite of his felawe,
That was so ny to herknen al his sawe,
For in the bussh he sitteth now ful stille.
Whan that Arcite hadde romed al his fille
And songen al the roundel lustily,
Into a studie he fil al sodeynly,
As doon thise loveres in hir queynte geres,
Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres,
Now up, now doun as boket in a welle.
Right as the Friday, soothly for to telle,
Now it shyneth, now it reyneth faste,
Right so kan geery Venus overcaste
The hertes of hir folk; right as hir day
Is gereful, right so chaungeth she array.
Selde is the Friday al the wowke ylike.
Whan that Arcite had songe, he gan to sike,
And sette hym doun withouten any moore;
'Allas,' quod he, 'that day that I was bore!
How longe, Juno, thurgh thy crueltee
Woltow werreyen Thebes the Citee?
Allas, ybroght is to confusioun
The blood roial of Cadme and Amphioun!
Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man
That Thebes bulte, or first the toun bigan,
And of the citee first was crouned kyng,
Of his lynage am I, and his ofspryng,
By verray ligne, as of the stok roial,
And now I am so caytyf and so thral
That he that is my mortal enemy
I serve hym as his squier povrely.
And yet dooth Juno me wel moore shame,
For I dar noght biknowe myn owene name,
But theras I was wont to highte Arcite,
Now highte I Philostrate, noght worth a myte.
Allas, thou felle Mars! allas, Juno!
Thus hath youre ire oure kynrede al fordo,
Save oonly me, and wrecched Palamoun
That Theseus martireth in prisoun.
And over al this, to sleen me outrely,
Love hath his firy dart so brennyngly
Ystiked thurgh my trewe careful herte,
That shapen was my deeth erst than my sherte.
Ye sleen me with youre eyen, Emelye,
Ye been the cause wherfore that I dye.
Of al the remenant of myn oother care
Ne sette I nat the montance of a tare,
So that I koude doon aught to youre plesaunce.'
And with that word he fil doun in a traunce
A longe tyme, and after he upsterte.
This Palamoun, that thoughte that thurgh his herte
He felte a coold swerd sodeynliche glyde,
For ire he quook, no lenger wolde he byde.
And whan that he had herd Arcites tale,
As he were wood, with face deed and pale,
He stirte hym up out of the buskes thikke,
And seide, 'Arcite, false traytour wikke!
Now artow hent that lovest my lady so,
For whom that I have al this peyne and wo,
And art my blood, and to my conseil sworn,
As I ful ofte have seyd thee heer-biforn,
And hast byjaped heere duc Theseus,
And falsly chaunged hast thy name thus.
I wol be deed, or elles thou shalt dye;
Thou shalt nat love my lady Emelye,
But I wol love hire oonly, and namo,
For I am Palamon, thy mortal foo!
And though that I no wepene have in this place,
But out of prison am astert by grace,
I drede noght that outher thow shalt dye,
Or thow ne shalt nat loven Emelye.
Chees which thou wolt, for thou shalt nat asterte!'
This Arcite, with ful despitous herte,
Whan he hym knew, and hadde his tale herd,
As fiers as leoun pulled out his swerd,
And seyde thus: 'By God that sit above,
Nere it that thou art sik and wood for love,
And eek that thow no wepne hast in this place,
Thou sholdest nevere out of this grove pace,
That thou ne sholdest dyen of myn hond.
For I defye the seurete and the bond
Which that thou seist that I have maad to thee.
What, verray fool, thynk wel that love is free!
And I wol love hir, maugree al thy myght!
But for as muche thou art a worthy knyght,
And wilnest to darreyne hire by bataille,
Have heer my trouthe; tomorwe I wol nat faille
Withoute wityng of any oother wight
That heere I wol be founden as a knyght,
And bryngen harneys right ynough for thee,
And chese the beste, and leve the worste for me.
And mete and drynke this nyght wol I brynge
Ynough for thee, and clothes for thy beddynge;
And if so be that thou my lady wynne,
And sle me in this wode ther I am inne,
Thow mayst wel have thy lady as for me.'
This Palamon answerde, 'I graunte it thee.'
And thus they been departed til amorwe,
Whan ech of hem had leyd his feith to borwe.
O Cupide, out of alle charitee!
O regne, that wolt no felawe have with thee!
Ful sooth is seyd that love ne lordshipe
Wol noght, hir thankes, have no felaweshipe.
Wel fynden that Arcite and Palamoun:
Arcite is riden anon unto the toun,
And on the morwe, er it were dayes light,
Ful prively two harneys hath he dight,
Bothe suffisaunt and mete to darreyne
The bataille in the feeld bitwix hem tweyne.
And on his hors, allone as he was born,
He carieth al this harneys hym biforn,
And in the grove, at tyme and place yset,
This Arcite and this Palamon ben met.
Tho chaungen gan the colour in hir face
Right as the hunters in the regne of Trace,
That stondeth at the gappe with a spere,
Whan hunted is the leoun and the bere,
And hereth hym come russhyng in the greves,
And breketh bothe bowes and the leves,
And thynketh, 'Heere cometh my mortal enemy,
Withoute faille he moot be deed or I,
For outher I moot sleen hym at the gappe,
Or he moot sleen me, if that me myshappe'-
So ferden they in chaungyng of hir hewe,
As fer as everich of hem oother knewe.
Ther nas no good day ne no saluyng,
But streight withouten word or rehersyng
Everich of hem heelp for to armen oother,
As freendly as he were his owene brother.
And after that with sharpe speres stronge
They foynen ech at oother wonder longe.
Thou myghtest wene that this Palamoun
In his fightyng were a wood leoun,
And as a crueel tigre was Arcite.
As wilde bores gonne they to smyte,
That frothen white as foom for ire wood.
Up to the ancle foghte they in hir blood;
And in this wise I lete hem fightyng dwelle,
And forth I wole of Theseus yow telle.
The destinee, ministre general,
That executeth in the world overal
The purveiaunce that God hath seyn biforn,
So strong it is, that though the world had sworn
The contrarie of a thyng, by ye or nay,
Yet somtyme it shal fallen on a day
That falleth nat eft withinne a thousand yeere.
For certeinly, oure appetites heere,
Be it of werre, or pees, or hate, or love,
Al is this reuled by the sighte above.
This mene I now by myghty Theseus,
That for to hunten is so desirus
And namely at the grete hert in May,
That in his bed ther daweth hym no day
That he nys clad, and redy for to ryde
With hunte and horn, and houndes hym bisyde.
For in his huntyng hath he swich delit
That it is al his joye and appetit
To been hymself the grete hertes bane-
For after Mars he serveth now Dyane.
Cleer was the day, as I have toold er this,
And Theseus, with alle joye and blis,
With his Ypolita, the faire quene,
And Emelye, clothed al in grene,
On huntyng be they riden roially,
And to the grove, that stood ful faste by,
In which ther was an hert, as men hym tolde,
Duc Theseus the streighte wey hath holde,
And to the launde he rideth hym ful right,
For thider was the hert wont have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth in his weye.
This duc wol han a cours at hym, or tweye,
With houndes swiche as that hym list comaunde.
And whan this duc was come unto the launde,
Under the sonne he looketh, and anon
He was war of Arcite and Palamon,
That foughten breme, as it were bores two;
The brighte swerdes wenten to and fro
So hidously, that with the leeste strook
It semed as it wolde felle an ook;
But what they were, nothyng he ne woot.
This duc his courser with his spores smoot,
And at a stert he was bitwix hem two,
And pulled out a swerd, and cride, 'Hoo!
Namoore, up peyne of lesynge of youre heed!
By myghty Mars, he shal anon be deed
That smyteth any strook, that I may seen!
But telleth me what myster men ye been,