History of Literature









Geoffrey Chaucer


"THE CANTERBURY TALES"



 

Geoffrey Chaucer




English writer

born c. 1342/43, London?, Eng.
died Oct. 25, 1400, London

Main
the outstanding English poet before Shakespeare and “the first finder of our language.” His The Canterbury Tales ranks as one of the greatest poetic works in English. He also contributed importantly in the second half of the 14th century to the management of public affairs as courtier, diplomat, and civil servant. In that career he was trusted and aided by three successive kings—Edward III, Richard II, and Henry IV. But it is his avocation—the writing of poetry—for which he is remembered.

Perhaps the chief characteristics of Chaucer’s works are their variety in subject matter, genre, tone, and style and in the complexities presented concerning the human pursuit of a sensible existence. Yet his writings also consistently reflect an all-pervasive humour combined with serious and tolerant consideration of important philosophical questions. From his writings Chaucer emerges as poet of love, both earthly and divine, whose presentations range from lustful cuckoldry to spiritual union with God. Thereby, they regularly lead the reader to speculation about man’s relation both to his fellows and to his Maker, while simultaneously providing delightfully entertaining views of the frailties and follies, as well as the nobility, of mankind.

Forebears and early years
Chaucer’s forebears for at least four generations were middle-class English people whose connection with London and the court had steadily increased. John Chaucer, his father, was an important London vintner and a deputy to the king’s butler; in 1338 he was a member of Edward III’s expedition to Antwerp, in Flanders, now part of Belgium, and he owned property in Ipswich, in the county of Suffolk, and in London. He died in 1366 or 1367 at age 53. The name Chaucer is derived from the French word chaussier, meaning a maker of footwear. The family’s financial success derived from wine and leather.

Although c. 1340 is customarily given as Chaucer’s birth date, 1342 or 1343 is probably a closer guess. No information exists concerning his early education, although doubtless he would have been as fluent in French as in the Middle English of his time. He also became competent in Latin and Italian. His writings show his close familiarity with many important books of his time and of earlier times.

Chaucer first appears in the records in 1357, as a member of the household of Elizabeth, countess of Ulster, wife of Lionel, third son of Edward III. Geoffrey’s father presumably had been able to place him among the group of young men and women serving in that royal household, a customary arrangement whereby families who could do so provided their children with opportunity for the necessary courtly education and connections to advance their careers. By 1359 Chaucer was a member of Edward III’s army in France and was captured during the unsuccessful siege of Reims. The king contributed to his ransom, and Chaucer served as messenger from Calais to England during the peace negotiations of 1360. Chaucer does not appear in any contemporary record during 1361–65. He was probably in the king’s service, but he may have been studying law—not unusual preparation for public service, then as now—since a 16th-century report implies that, while so engaged, he was fined for beating a Franciscan friar in a London street. On February 22, 1366, the king of Navarre issued a certificate of safe-conduct for Chaucer, three companions, and their servants to enter Spain. This occasion is the first of a number of diplomatic missions to the continent of Europe over the succeeding 10 years, and the wording of the document suggests that here Chaucer served as “chief of mission.”

By 1366 Chaucer had married. Probably his wife was Philippa Pan, who had been in the service of the countess of Ulster and entered the service of Philippa of Hainaut, queen consort of Edward III, when Elizabeth died in 1363. In 1366 Philippa Chaucer received an annuity, and later annuities were frequently paid to her through her husband. These and other facts indicate that Chaucer married well.

In 1367 Chaucer received an annuity for life as yeoman of the king, and in the next year he was listed among the king’s esquires. Such officers lived at court and performed staff duties of considerable importance. In 1368 Chaucer was abroad on a diplomatic mission, and in 1369 he was on military service in France. Also in 1369 he and his wife were official mourners for the death of Queen Philippa. Obviously, Chaucer’s career was prospering, and his first important poem—Book of the Duchess—seems further evidence of his connection with persons in high places.

That poem of more than 1,300 lines, probably written in late 1369 or early 1370, is an elegy for Blanche, duchess of Lancaster, John of Gaunt’s first wife, who died of plague in September 1369. Chaucer’s close relationship with John, which continued through most of his life, may have commenced as early as Christmas 1357 when they, both about the same age, were present at the countess of Ulster’s residence in Yorkshire. For this first of his important poems, Chaucer used the dream-vision form, a genre made popular by the highly influential 13th-century French poem of courtly love, the Roman de la rose. Chaucer translated that poem, at least in part, probably as one of his first literary efforts, and he borrowed from it throughout his poetic career. The Duchess is also indebted to contemporary French poetry and to Ovid, Chaucer’s favourite Roman poet. Nothing in these borrowings, however, will account for his originality in combining dream-vision with elegy and eulogy of Blanche with consolation for John. Also noteworthy here—as it increasingly became in his later poetry—is the tactful and subtle use of a first-person narrator, who both is and is not the poet himself. The device had obvious advantages for the minor courtier delivering such a poem orally before the high-ranking court group. In addition, the Duchess foreshadows Chaucer’s skill at presenting the rhythms of natural conversation within the confines of Middle English verse and at creating realistic characters within courtly poetic conventions. Also, Chaucer here begins, with the Black Knight’s account of his love for Good Fair White, his career as a love poet, examining in late medieval fashion the important philosophic and religious questions concerning the human condition as they relate to both temporal and eternal aspects of love.


Diplomat and civil servant
During the decade of the 1370s, Chaucer was at various times on diplomatic missions in Flanders, France, and Italy. Probably his first Italian journey (December 1372 to May 1373) was for negotiations with the Genoese concerning an English port for their commerce, and with the Florentines concerning loans for Edward III. His next Italian journey occupied May 28 to September 19, 1378, when he was a member of a mission to Milan concerning military matters. Several times during the 1370s, Chaucer and his wife received generous monetary grants from the king and from John of Gaunt. On May 10, 1374, he obtained rent-free a dwelling above Aldgate, in London, and on June 8 of that year he was appointed comptroller of the customs and subsidy of wools, skins, and tanned hides for the Port of London. Now, for the first time, Chaucer had a position away from the court, and he and his wife had a home of their own, about a 10-minute walk from his office. In 1375 he was granted two wardships, which paid well, and in 1376 he received a sizable sum from a fine. When Richard II became king in June 1377, he confirmed Chaucer’s comptrollership and, later, the annuities granted by Edward III to both Geoffrey and Philippa. Certainly during the 1370s fortune smiled upon the Chaucers.

So much responsibility and activity in public matters appears to have left Chaucer little time for writing during this decade. The great literary event for him was that, during his missions to Italy, he encountered the work of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio, which was later to have profound influence upon his own writing. Chaucer’s most important work of the 1370s was Hous of Fame, a poem of more than 2,000 lines, also in dream-vision form. In some ways it is a failure—it is unfinished, its theme is unclear, and the diversity of its parts seems to overshadow any unity of purpose—but it gives considerable evidence of Chaucer’s advancing skill as a poet. The eight-syllable metre is handled with great flexibility; the light, bantering, somewhat ironic tone—later to become one of Chaucer’s chief effects—is established; and a wide variety of subject matter is included. Further, the later mastery in creation of memorable characters is here foreshadowed by the marvelous golden eagle who carries the frightened narrator, “Geoffrey,” high above the Earth to the houses of Fame and Rumour, so that as a reward for his writing and studying he can learn “tydings” to make into love poems. Here, too, Chaucer’s standard picture of his own fictional character emerges: the poet, somewhat dull-witted, dedicated to writing about love but without successful personal experience of it. The comedy of the poem reaches its high point when the pedantic eagle delivers for Geoffrey’s edification a learned lecture on the properties of sound. In addition to its comic aspects, however, the poem seems to convey a serious note: like all earthly things, fame is transitory and capricious.


The middle years: political and personal anxieties
In a deed of May 1, 1380, one Cecily Chaumpaigne released Chaucer from legal action, “both of my rape and of any other matter or cause.” Rape (raptus) could at the time mean either sexual assault or abduction; scholars have not been able to establish which meaning applies here, but, in either case, the release suggests that Chaucer was not guilty as charged. He continued to work at the Customs House and in 1382 was additionally appointed comptroller of the petty customs for wine and other merchandise, but in October 1386 his dwelling in London was leased to another man, and in December of that year successors were named for both of his comptrollerships in the customs; whether he resigned or was removed from office is not clear. Between 1382 and 1386 he had arranged for deputies—permanent in two instances and temporary in others—in his work at the customs. In October 1385 he was appointed a justice of the peace for Kent, and in August 1386 he became knight of the shire for Kent, to attend Parliament in October. Further, in 1385 he probably moved to Greenwich, then in Kent, to live. These circumstances suggest that, for some time before 1386, he was planning to move from London and to leave the Customs House. Philippa Chaucer apparently died in 1387; if she had suffered poor health for some time previously, that situation could have influenced a decision to move. On the other hand, political circumstances during this period were not favourable for Chaucer and may have caused his removal. By 1386 a baronial group led by Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester, had bested both Richard II and John of Gaunt—with whose parties Chaucer had long been associated—and usurped the king’s authority and administration. Numerous other officeholders—like Chaucer, appointed by the king—were discharged, and Chaucer may have suffered similarly. Perhaps the best view of the matter is that Chaucer saw which way the political wind was blowing and began early to prepare to move when the necessity arrived.

The period 1386–89 was clearly difficult for Chaucer. Although he was reappointed justice of the peace for 1387, he was not returned to Parliament after 1386. In 1387 he was granted protection for a year to go to Calais, in France, but seems not to have gone, perhaps because of his wife’s death. In 1388 a series of suits against him for debts began, and he sold his royal pension for a lump sum. Also, from February 3 to June 4, 1388, the Merciless Parliament, controlled by the barons, caused many leading members of the court party—some of them Chaucer’s close friends—to be executed. In May 1389, however, the 23-year-old King Richard II regained control, ousted his enemies, and began appointing his supporters to office. Almost certainly, Chaucer owed his next public office to that political change. On July 12, 1389, he was appointed clerk of the king’s works, with executive responsibility for repair and maintenance of royal buildings, such as the Tower of London and Westminster Palace, and with a comfortable salary.

Although political events of the 1380s, from the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 through the Merciless Parliament of 1388, must have kept Chaucer steadily anxious, he produced a sizable body of writings during this decade, some of very high order. Surprisingly, these works do not in any way reflect the tense political scene. Indeed, one is tempted to speculate that during this period Chaucer turned to his reading and writing as escape from the difficulties of his public life. The Parlement of Foules, a poem of 699 lines, is a dream-vision for St. Valentine’s Day, making use of the myth that each year on that day the birds gathered before the goddess Nature to choose their mates. Beneath its playfully humorous tone, it seems to examine the value of various kinds of love within the context of “common profit” as set forth in the introductory abstract from the Somnium Scipionis (The Dream of Scipio) of Cicero. The narrator searches unsuccessfully for an answer and concludes that he must continue his search in other books. For this poem Chaucer also borrowed extensively from Boccaccio and Dante, but the lively bird debate from which the poem takes its title is for the most part original. The poem has often been taken as connected with events at court, particularly the marriage in 1382 of Richard II and Anne of Bohemia. But no such connection has ever been firmly established. The Parlement is clearly the best of Chaucer’s earlier works.

The Consolation of Philosophy, written by the Roman philosopher Boethius (early 6th century), a Christian, was one of the most influential of medieval books. Its discussion of free will, God’s foreknowledge, destiny, fortune, and true and false happiness—in effect, all aspects of the manner in which the right-minded individual should direct his thinking and action to gain eternal salvation—had a deep and lasting effect upon Chaucer’s thought and art. His prose translation of the Consolation is carefully done, and in his next poem—Troilus and Criseyde—the influence of Boethius’s book is pervasive. Chaucer took the basic plot for this 8,239-line poem from Boccaccio’s Filostrato.

Some critics consider Troilus and Criseyde Chaucer’s finest work, greater even than the far more widely read Canterbury Tales. But the two works are so different that comparative evaluation seems fruitless. The state of the surviving manuscripts of Troilus shows Chaucer’s detailed effort in revising this poem. Against the background of the legendary Trojan War, the love story of Troilus, son of the Trojan king Priam, and Criseyde, widowed daughter of the deserter priest Calkas, is recounted. The poem moves in leisurely fashion, with introspection and much of what would now be called psychological insight dominating many sections. Aided by Criseyde’s uncle Pandarus, Troilus and Criseyde are united in love about halfway through the poem; but then she is sent to join her father in the Greek camp outside Troy. Despite her promise to return, she gives her love to the Greek Diomede, and Troilus, left in despair, is killed in the war. These events are interspersed with Boethian discussion of free will and determinism. At the end of the poem, when Troilus’s soul rises into the heavens, the folly of complete immersion in sexual love is viewed in relation to the eternal love of God. The effect of the poem is controlled throughout by the direct comments of the narrator, whose sympathy for the lovers—especially for Criseyde—is ever present.

Also in the 1380s Chaucer produced his fourth and final dream-vision poem, The Legend of Good Women, which is not a success. It presents a Prologue, existing in two versions, and nine stories. In the Prologue the god of love is angry because Chaucer had earlier written about so many women who betrayed men. As penance, Chaucer must now write about good women. The Prologue is noteworthy for the delightful humour of the narrator’s self-mockery and for the passages in praise of books and of the spring. The stories—concerning such women of antiquity as Cleopatra, Dido, and Lucrece—are brief and rather mechanical, with the betrayal of women by wicked men as a regular theme; as a result, the whole becomes more a legend of bad men than of good women. Perhaps the most important fact about the Legend, however, is that it shows Chaucer structuring a long poem as a collection of stories within a framework. Seemingly the static nature of the framing device for the Legend and the repetitive aspect of the series of stories with a single theme led him to give up this attempt as a poor job. But the failure here must have contributed to his brilliant choice, probably about this same time, of a pilgrimage as the framing device for the stories in The Canterbury Tales.




Pilgrims on Their Way



Last years and The Canterbury Tales
Chaucer’s service as clerk of the king’s works lasted only from July 1389 to June 1391. During that tenure he was robbed several times and once beaten, sufficient reason for seeking a change of jobs. In June 1391 he was appointed subforester of the king’s park in North Petherton, Somerset, an office that he held until his death. He retained his home in Kent and continued in favour at court, receiving royal grants and gifts during 1393–97. The records show his close relationship during 1395–96 with John of Gaunt’s son, the earl of Derby, later King Henry IV. When John died in February 1399, King Richard confiscated John’s Lancastrian inheritance; then in May he set forth to crush the Irish revolt. In so doing, he left his country ready to rebel. Henry, exiled in 1398 but now duke of Lancaster, returned to England to claim his rights. The people flocked to him, and he was crowned on September 30, 1399. He confirmed Chaucer’s grants from Richard II and in October added an additional generous annuity. In December 1399 Chaucer took a lease on a house in the garden of Westminster Abbey. But in October of the following year he died. He was buried in the Abbey, a signal honour for a commoner.

Chaucer’s great literary accomplishment of the 1390s was The Canterbury Tales. In it a group of about 30 pilgrims gather at the Tabard Inn in Southwark, across the Thames from London, and agree to engage in a storytelling contest as they travel on horseback to the shrine of Thomas à Becket in Canterbury, Kent, and back. Harry Bailly, host of the Tabard, serves as master of ceremonies for the contest. The pilgrims are introduced by vivid brief sketches in the General Prologue. Interspersed between the 24 tales told by the pilgrims are short dramatic scenes presenting lively exchanges, called links and usually involving the host and one or more of the pilgrims. Chaucer did not complete the full plan for his book: the return journey from Canterbury is not included, and some of the pilgrims do not tell stories. Further, the surviving manuscripts leave room for doubt at some points as to Chaucer’s intent for arranging the material. The work is nevertheless sufficiently complete to be considered a unified book rather than a collection of unfinished fragments. Use of a pilgrimage as a framing device for the collection of stories enabled Chaucer to bring together people from many walks of life: knight, prioress, monk; merchant, man of law, franklin, scholarly clerk; miller, reeve, pardoner; wife of Bath and many others. Also, the pilgrimage and the storytelling contest allowed presentation of a highly varied collection of literary genres: courtly romance, racy fabliau, saint’s life, allegorical tale, beast fable, medieval sermon, alchemical account, and, at times, mixtures of these genres. Because of this structure, the sketches, the links, and the tales all fuse as complex presentations of the pilgrims, while at the same time the tales present remarkable examples of short stories in verse, plus two expositions in prose. In addition, the pilgrimage, combining a fundamentally religious purpose with its secular aspect of vacation in the spring, made possible extended consideration of the relationship between the pleasures and vices of this world and the spiritual aspirations for the next, that seeming dichotomy with which Chaucer, like Boethius and many other medieval writers, was so steadily concerned.

For this crowning glory of his 30 years of literary composition, Chaucer used his wide and deep study of medieval books of many sorts and his acute observation of daily life at many levels. He also employed his detailed knowledge of medieval astrology and subsidiary sciences as they were thought to influence and dictate human behaviour. Over the whole expanse of this intricate dramatic narrative, he presides as Chaucer the poet, Chaucer the civil servant, and Chaucer the pilgrim: somewhat slow-witted in his pose and always intrigued by human frailty but always questioning the complexity of the human condition and always seeing both the humour and the tragedy in that condition. At the end, in the Retractation with which The Canterbury Tales closes, Chaucer as poet and pilgrim states his conclusion that the concern for this world fades into insignificance before the prospect for the next; in view of the admonitions in The Parson’s Tale, he asks forgiveness for his writings that concern “worldly vanities” and remembrance for his translation of the Consolation and his other works of morality and religious devotion. On that note he ends his finest work and his career as poet.


Descendants and posthumous reputation
Information concerning Chaucer’s children is not fully clear. The probability is that he and Philippa had two sons and two daughters. One son, Thomas Chaucer, who died in 1434, owned large tracts of land and held important offices in the 1420s, including the forestership of North Petherton. He later leased Chaucer’s house in Westminster, and his twice-widowed daughter Alice became duchess of Suffolk. In 1391 Chaucer had written Treatise on the Astrolabe for “little Lewis,” probably his younger son, then 10 years old. Elizabeth “Chaucy,” probably the poet’s daughter, was a nun at Barking in 1381. A second probable daughter, Agnes Chaucer, was a lady-in-waiting at Henry IV’s coronation in 1399. The records lend some support to speculation that John of Gaunt fathered one or more of these children. Chaucer seems to have had no descendants living after the 15th century.

For Chaucer’s writings the subsequent record is clearer. His contemporaries praised his artistry, and a “school” of 15th-century Chaucerians imitated his poetry. Over the succeeding centuries, his poems, particularly The Canterbury Tales, have been widely read, translated into modern English, and, since about the middle of the 19th century, the number of scholars and critics who devote themselves to the study and teaching of his life and works has steadily increased.

R.M. Lumiansky

 

 
THE CANTERBURY TALES


Type of work: Poetry
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400)
Types of plots: Chivalric romance, folktale, and saint's legend
Times of plots: Remote antiquity to fourteenth century
Locale: England
First transcribed: 1380-1390



In this great Middle English classic, Chaucer uses an imaginative frame-story format to present twenty-four tales: A group of pilgrims meet at a tavern on their way to the shrine of Becket at Canterbury and agree to pass the long hours of their journey in a storytelling contest to be judged by the innkeeper. The stories range from bawdy burlesques to tales of chivalry, from local folk legends to sermons. Chaucer's genius is such that the tales reveal the personalities of their tellers; in addition, the pilgrims grow as distinct personalities as they converse and argue between stories.




The Canterbury Tales Pilgrims dining at The Tabard Inn. From Chaucer Coloring Book, Dover Books.
 
Principal Characters


The Knight, a courtly medieval fighting man who has served king and religion all over the known world. Modest in dress and speech, though the highest in rank of the pilgrims to Canterbury, he rides with only his son and a yeoman in attendance. He tells a metrical romance, the first of the stories in the series related by the various pilgrims. His is a tale of courtly love, the story of the love two young Theban noblemen, Palamon and Arcite, have for Emily, beautiful sister-in-law of Duke Theseus of Athens. The young men compete in a tourney for the girl's hand; Arcite wins but is killed in an accident, so that Palamon eventually has his love rewarded.
The Squire, the Knight's son. A young man of twenty, he has fought in several battles. Like his father, he is full of knightly courtesy, but he also enjoys a good time. He tells a story of adventure and enchantment in a distant land. The story he leaves unfinished tells of three gifts sent to Canacee, daughter of King Cambuscan. Each of the gifts has magical powers: a ring that enables the bearer to talk to birds, a brass horse that will take its rider anywhere, and a mirror that shows the truth and the future. The ring enables Canacee to learn the story of a lovelorn hawk, deserted by her mate.
The Yeoman, the Knight's attendant, a forester who takes excellent care of his gear. He wears a St. Christopher medal on his breast. Chaucer assigned no story to his telling.
The Prioress (Madame Eglentyn), who travels with another nun and three priests as her attendants to the shrine of St. Thomas a Becket at Canterbury. A woman of conscience and sympathy, she wears a curious brooch upon which appears the ambiguous statement, in Latin, "Love conquers all." Her story is that of a little schoolboy murdered for his religion by Jews. The child's death is discovered by a miracle of Our Lady. Like most of the stories told in the collection of tales, this one fits the personality of its narrator.
The Second Nun, who accompanies the Prioress. She also tells a Christian legend of the martyrdom of St. Cecilia, a story typical of medieval hagiography.
The Nun's Priest, whose name is John. He tells the beast epic relating the adventures of the cock Chanticleer and the fox. It is a didactic yet humorous story suitable for the Prioress' father confessor.
The Monk, a fat hedonist who prefers to be out of his cloister. No lover of books and learning, he prefers to hunt and eat. He defines tragedy as being the story of a man fallen from high degree and then offers many examples, including anecdotes of Lucifer, Adam, Samson. Hercules, Balthasar, Ugolino of Pisa, Julius Caesar, and Croesus. His lugubrious recital is interrupted by the Knight.
The Friar, named Huberd. He is a merry chap v. ho knows barmaids better than the sick. Having the reputation of being the best beggar in his house, he appears to be a venal, worldly man. His story is a fabliau telling about a summoner who loses his soul to the devil; the story arouses the discomfiture of the Summoner in the group of pilgrims.
The Merchant, a tight-lipped man of business. Unhappily married, he tells a story of the evils of marriage between old men and young women. A variation of an old marchen, it relates how a super-annuated husband named January is deceived by his young and hearty spouse named May.
The Clerk of Oxford, a serious young scholar who heeds philosophy and prefers books to worldly pleasures. His tale is an answer to the Wife of Bath's idea that in marriage the woman ought to have dominion. The Clerk's tale is of an infinitely patient wife named Griselda, who endures all manner of ill-treatment from her husband.
The Sergeant of Law, a busy man who seems busier than he really is. He makes a great show of his learning, citing cases all the way back to William the Conqueror.
The Franklin, a rich landlord who loves to eat and keeps a ready table of dainties. In his time he has been sheriff of his county. His story is an old Breton lay, a tale of chivalry and the supernatural. He apologizes for his story and its telling, saying he is an uneducated man.
The Haberdasher, The Carpenter, The Weaver, The Dyer, and The Tapestry Maker, all members of a guild, each one rich and wise enough to be an alderman. None has been assigned a tale by Chaucer.
The Cook, named Roger, hired by the master workmen to serve them during their journey. He is a rollicking fellow. Pleased by the bawdy tales of the Miller and the Reeve, he insists upon telling a bawdy story of his own, one left unfinished by Chaucer.
The Shipman, captain of the Maudelayne, of Dartmouth. He is a good skipper and a smuggler. Like others of the company, he tells a fabliau, a bawdy tale. He relates the misadventures of a merchant of St. Denis, in Belgium, who is cheated of his wife's favors and his money by a sly monk named John.
The Doctor of Physick, a materialistic man greatly interested in money. He knows all the great medical authorities, as well as his astrology, though he seldom reads the Bible. His story, which he attributes to Livy, is the old tale of Appius and Virginia.
The Wife of Bath, named Alice, a clothmaker and five times a widow. Apparently wealthy from her marriages, she has traveled a great deal, including three trips to Jerusalem. She is well-versed in marriage and love-making. Her theory is that the woman must dominate in marriage, and to make her point tells a tale of an ugly lady who, when her husband is obedient, becomes fair.
The Parson, a poor but loyal churchman who teaches his parishioners by his good example. Refusing to tell an idle tale to his fellow pilgrims, he tells what he terms a merry tale about the Seven Deadly Sins.
The Plowman, an honest man, the Parson's brother. He tells no tale.
The Miller, a jolly, drunken reveler who leads the company, playing on his bagpipes. He tells a bawdy story about a carpenter named John who is cuckolded by his young wife, Alison, and her witty lover, Nicholas.
The Reeve, a slender, choleric man named Oswald. Having been a carpenter, he is incensed by Miller's tale. In retribution he tells a story about a miller cuckolded by two lusty students, who sleep with the miller's wife and daughter.
The Manciple, an uneducated man who is shrewd enough to steal a great deal from the learned lawyers who hire him to look after their establishments. He relates the old folktale of the tattling bird.
The Summoner, a lecherous, drunken fellow who loves food and strong drink. Angered by the Friar's tale about a summoner, he tells a tale about a friar who becomes the butt of coarse humor.
The Pardoner, a womanish man with long, blond hair. He tells a tale of three young men who seek death and find it. His story is actually a sermon on the evils of the unnatural love of money. He follows up the sermon with an attempt to sell phony relics to his fellow pilgrims.
Harry Bailey, the host at the Tabard Inn in Southwark. He organizes the storytelling among the pilgrims, with the winner to have a meal at his fellows' cost upon the company's return. He is a natural leader, as his words and actions show.
Geoffrey Chaucer, the author, who put himself into his poem as a retiring, mild-mannered person. He tries to recite the "Rime of Sir Thopas," a dreary tale which is interrupted as dull, whereupon he tells the story of Melibee and Dame Prudence.
The Canon, a traveler who joins the pilgrims briefly on the road to Canterbury. He leaves when it is hinted that he is a cheating alchemist.
The Canon's Yeoman, who remains with the pilgrim company and tells an anecdote about an alchemist, a canon like his master, who swindles a priest.
 
 
The Stories

Although a number of the individual tales of Geoffrey Chaucer's masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, are themselves brilliant feats, the work as a whole—though an unfinished whole—is unique. No earlier collection of narratives is framed so imaginatively. The General Prologue gathers together thirty characters, most of whom are not mere storytellers but well-articulated personalities of various occupations and social levels. They meet at the Tabard, a real inn in Southwark, across the Thames River from London, for a purpose familiar to fourteenth century English folk: a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral, where St. Thomas a Becket was murdered in 1170.
Chaucer devotes the bulk of the General Prologue to describing the pilgrims. He deftly sketches the Knight, who loves chivalry and has fought in many lands for his faith; his son, the Squire, blessed with blond curls and musical talent; the Prioress, who eats perhaps too heartily but nevertheless very daintily; the Monk, who escapes his monastery as often as possible to hunt; the begging Friar, lisper of easy penances to widows who open their pocketbooks wide; the Clerk of Oxford, a sober student of Aristotle; the Miller, a brawny chap with a wart on the end of his nose—and even Chaucer the pilgrim, a shy and rotund little man.
Harry Bailly, the proprietor of the Tabard, offers to accompany them and enliven their journey, which will take two days each way, by hosting a storytelling contest. As they ride along, each pilgrim will tell two tales outbound and two more on the return journey, at the end of which Harry will reward the teller of the tales he judges most instructive and entertaining with a free meal (the cost of which devolves upon the other pilgrims). The competition is never completed. In fact, Chaucer did not succeed in bringing his pilgrims into Canterbury, but he left two dozen richly diverse tales embedded in a context of lively interplay among the pilgrims.
The gentlemanly Knight appropriately begins the storytelling with a long, stately romance about two The-ban knights, Palamon and Arcite, who, as prisoners of war in Athens, spot through a window of their cell Emily, the sister-in-law of their captor, Duke Theseus, and immediately fall in love with her. Later Arcite is released and Palamon escapes, and the two friends battle over the beautiful Emily. Theseus, coming upon this unseemly struggle, arranges a proper tournament for the purpose of determining her husband. Arcite wins but is mortally injured. On his deathbed he commends his friend to Emily, and Theseus confers her upon Palamon.
The Miller follows with a tale as earthy as the Knight's is elevated. Nicholas, an Oxford student boarding with a carpenter named John, lusts for Alison, the latter's young wife. He convinces his landlord that a great flood is imminent but assures him that they can escape if John will make three tubs, one for each of them, and hang them from the eaves of the house in readiness. When John falls asleep in his tub, Nicholas and Alison climb down from theirs and make love in John's bed. Toward morning, another admirer, Absalom, a dandified parish clerk, comes to the bedroom window and begs a kiss. Alison gleefully presents her posterior over the win-dowsill. When Absalom discovers which end of Alison he has kissed, he vows revenge. Returning from a blacksmith's forge with a hot coulter, he asks for another kiss. This time Nicholas decides to repeat the ruse. Absalom applies the smoking implement, the stricken Nicholas shouts "Water!" and John awakens. When he cuts loose his tub and crashes to the ground, the confusion brings out the neighbors in the gathering dawn, who laugh at the disorder, particularly at John's "madness."
This fabliau, as such a tale is called, brings the Knight's theme of contending lovers down to earth, with gross motives, language, and behavior replacing the courtly conduct of the previous tale. It also generates wrath in the Reeve, a carpenter by profession, who sees himself in the gulled husband. He thereupon tells a similar tale whose victim is naturally a miller. Thus, Chaucer sets in motion an intricate work in which tales can reflect then-tellers, tellers often interact, and themes sometimes intersect.
The Wife of Bath introduces another theme. She is perhaps Chaucer's most complex creation: a virago who has outlived five husbands and is seeking a sixth, a champion of oppressed womanhood, an outrageous misinter-preter of the Bible, an experienced traveler, a skilled clothmaker, a sinner who has nevertheless enjoyed her life and would not have had it otherwise. She tells an old fairy tale beautifully adapted to her purpose, the promotion of woman's sovereignty. An Arthurian knight has dishonored his calling by raping a woman. The queen prevails upon King Arthur to suspend the death penalty he has imposed if the knight can, in a year and a day, discover "what women most desire." Near the end of a fruitless quest, the knight meets an ugly old woman who reveals the secret extracting a promise that he will do the first thing she asks of him. The hag trails the knight to court and, upon his disclosure that women desire most sovereignty over their men, requests that he marry her. The appalled knight objects to her age, ugliness, poverty, and low social standing; she responds with a lecture on gentilesse, comprising the qualities of a true gentleman. He must fulfill his promise, but the hag unexpectedly gives him a choice: He can have her ugly and loyal, or beautiful and perhaps unfaithful. The knight avoids the dilemma by turning the choice over to her. By accepting her "governance," he is rewarded beyond his hopes, for she is transformed into a beautiful woman who will always be true to him.
This tale provokes several more on the sovereignty theme. In the Clerk's tale of patient Griselda, a marquis named Walter marries a peasant's daughter and soon begins to subject her to humiliations. He sends away their daughter because his lowborn wife is not a suitable mother. Later he removes their son also and eventually sends Griselda back to her father's house in rags. At length he announces that he is remarrying and orders Griselda back to his palace to minister to the young bride-to-be. Patient and diplomatic as ever, Griselda nevertheless counsels Walter not to subject his second wife to the same indignities, for she has been reared gently and could not endure adversity. At this point Walter confesses that the "bride" is in fact their own daughter. He has been testing Griselda's obedience, and since she has passed all the tests, the family is now reunited in happiness and prosperity.
The Merchant, a newlywed already regretting his own marriage, tells a cynical tale of a possessive old husband who, in the midst of guarding his young wife from temptation, is struck blind. In their secluded garden, she plays him false in his presence. When his sight is suddenly restored, she is still able to convince him of her fidelity against the evidence of his senses. The story ends with the befuddled old man doting on her.
After such extremities of marital disorder, the Franklin's story of Arveragus and Dorigen achieves a moral equilibrium. Dorigen rashly promises herself to a lover in order to promote her beloved husband's safety. When she confesses to Arveragus, he advises his distraught wife to be true to her word and reward her lover. The lover, Aurelius, in turn acknowledges Arveragus's magnanimity by releasing Dorigen from her promise. Finally, Aurelius is forgiven a huge debt he has incurred in his efforts to gain her love. Gentilesse, not sovereignty, turns out to be the last word in the marriage debate.
Several other tales, less obviously connected, are classics. The rapacious Pardoner's is an exemplum, a tale designed to illustrate the theme of a sermon. His unvarying theme—that avarice is the root of all evil (and, incidentally, an obstacle to his success as a con man)—he exemplifies by his tale of three carousers who seek to kill the "false traitor Death," the destroyer of many of their friends. A strange old man points the way to Death's abode; they follow it and find a pile of gold. Their original quest now forgotten, two of the revelers send the third for food and drink to celebrate their find. When he returns, they slay him to increase their share, then consume the poison he has brought back for them. Thus all three find Death.
The Nun's Priest contributes a rollicking beast fable about Chanticleer the proud rooster, who almost loses his life to a sly fox but outwits the beast in the climactic
moments of a helter-skelter barnyard chase. The pilgrim Chaucer attempts a chivalric romance in clanging short lines, but his listeners disgustedly cut short his uproarious tale of Sir Thopas and force him to substitute a prose narrative. The Parson, similarly unable to manage the rhymed couplets and other verse forms which Chaucer the author was pioneering, tells the only other prose tale, actually a treatise on the Seven Deadly Sins.
At the end of the Parson's Tale, Chaucer purports to revoke all his writings of "worldly vanities" in a pious retraction that has produced much controversy. It stands as Chaucer's alternative to the fulfillment of an original plan which he recognized, late in his life, as beyond his capacity to complete. Neither the scribes who copied The Canterbury Tales nor its modern editors, however, have withdrawn from circulation even Chaucer's most "worldly" poems but have consigned to posterity in its fullness the work to which John Dry den later referred as "God's plenty."
 
 
Critical Evaluation

Geoffrey Chaucer, the first great poet in English literature, left behind him a work of perennial attraction and enjoyment. Not only was The Canterbury Tales popular from the time of its composition; it has been read ever since, edited, reprinted endlessly, taught in schools, adapted in part for the stage, and used for political parody.
Why should a work written in Middle English six centuries ago have such a hold upon subsequent generations? What does its author contribute in his collection of stories that appeals so to all classes of individuals down the years? Why is The Canterbury Tales considered one of the outstanding works of English literature? Answers to these questions are not difficult when one reads the tales either in their original language or in modern translation. Immediately one finds an author who had a tremendous feeling for life, understood human motivation, and could tell a story with great gusto.
The collection of pilgrims making their way to the shrine of Canterbury is a fair cross section of people from various walks of life and professions. Chaucer draws them with detailed individual characteristics but still with universal qualities that allow them to come alive in any generation. Moreover, he has taken consummate care to match these stories to their tellers.
No one, for example, can forget the brief portrait in the Prologue of the Wife of Bath, a florid woman, gaudy and bold in appearance. She is a lower-middle-class weaver from beside the town of Bath and has had five husbands; Chaucer slyly adds, "not to speak of other company in her youth." Yet the story she tells is an Arthurian romance stressing the virtues of courtesy and gentilesse. It has been termed a wish-fulfillment tale in which the ugly old woman wins sovereignty over her unwilling youthful husband and then turns young and beautiful. Careful study of this tale with the Wife's Prologue portrait, her conversation with other pilgrims, and her lusty confessional prologue reveals another side of this apparently crude and brash woman. She is more complex than one at first realizes, but Chaucer handles this point subtly withput stating the fact.
Another pilgrim who fascinates readers is the Pardoner, a thorough charlatan, admittedly evil, who brags of his scandalous treatment of those he should serve. It is again important that Chaucer never says the Pardoner is a rogue; as with all the characters, he is allowed to reveal his character through quarrels with other pilgrims or by the type of story he relates.
The purposeful ambiguity in the portrait of the Nun, who concentrates on social concerns—feeding delicate morsels to her pet dogs and watching her table manners— instead of showing more Christian traits, makes a comment, though again indirect. Her tale reveals little human sympathy but is a typical miracle story she might have learned by rote.
Throughout The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer, who places himself along with other pilgrims as a naive, unobservant traveling companion, uses this persona to effect satire and irony in the portraits. Seldom is the work didactic; Chaucer does not condemn clerics, tradespeople, or any other group. Instead, he allows them to reveal their own faults or makes clever asides to the reader to suggest a viewpoint. We see the pilgrims as they are with all their virtues and vices, and we can readily identify with their humanness.
Another reason for this great work's popularity lies in the variety of tales. Chaucer handles with equal facility different genres of medieval literature, from the courtly romance told by the Knight down to the bawdy tales of the Miller and Reeve. In the collection of twenty-four stories, there is something for everyone. If the reader does not care for one, Chaucer advises, "turn over the leaf and choose another tale." If anyone is offended by a tale of lechery, he can select a saint's legend or something in between.
Chaucer also handles with dexterity different levels of language: courtly speech, bawdy expressions, elegant prayers—language of the church, street and tavern. He can employ a clipped reporting style and turn out a parody of the excesses in metrical romance. He has at his command a whole bag of rhetorical tricks.
Critics and readers have attempted over the centuries to find an encompassing theme in The Canterbury Tales. Is the work a mere collection of unrelated stories or do they in one way or another deal with a single topic such as love (human or divine), or the question of who should have the upper hand in marriage? Attempts at making the tales conform to a single theme have mainly been unsuccessful; one can always find certain tales which do not fit the chosen category. It seems more likely that the Canterbury collection represents a panorama of representative humanity—a comedie humaine, not only of the fourteenth century but of all ages.
One other reason for the lasting quality of this first great work in English literature is that, like Shakespeare's drama, it opens innumerable possibilities to the reader. It poses questions about human motivation and aspirations. It probes into established attitudes, questions existing institutions. The Canterbury Tales reveals the tensions of Chaucer's time, the alternatives for man in a changing world, where many long-cherished customs and opinions were disintegrating.
Chaucer's pilgrims with their tales reveal the hopes and uncertainties of life, the heights to which man can climb as well as the depths to which he can descend. Perhaps all these qualities make The Canterbury Tales timeless.
 

Chaucer as a Pilgrim from the Ellesmere manuscript.
 

 



THE CANTERBURY TALES
 

 

 

 

 

 




CONTENTS

PART I
The General Prologue
The Knight's Tale
The Miller's tale

PART II
The Reeve's Tale
The Cook's Tale
The Man of Law's Tale
The Wife of Bath's Tale
The Friar's Tale
The Sompnour's Tale
The Clerk's Tale

PART III
The Merchant's Tale
The Squire's Tale
The Franklin's Tale
The Doctor's Tale
The Pardoner's Tale
The Shipman's Tale
The Prioress's Tale
Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas

PART IV
Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus
The Monk's Tale
The Nun's Priest's Tale
The Second Nun's Tale
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale
The Manciple's Tale
The Parson's Tale




Ezra Winter, Canterbury tales mural (1939), Library of Congress John Adams Building, Washington, D.C.





THE PROLOGUE.

WHEN that Aprilis, with his showers swoot*, *sweet
The drought of March hath pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such licour,
Of which virtue engender'd is the flower;
When Zephyrus eke with his swoote breath
Inspired hath in every holt* and heath *grove, forest
The tender croppes* and the younge sun *twigs, boughs
Hath in the Ram <1> his halfe course y-run,
And smalle fowles make melody,
That sleepen all the night with open eye,
(So pricketh them nature in their corages*); *hearts, inclinations
Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers <2> for to seeke strange strands,
To *ferne hallows couth* in sundry lands; *distant saints known*<3>
And specially, from every shire's end
Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful Martyr for to seek,
That them hath holpen*, when that they were sick. *helped

Befell that, in that season on a day,
In Southwark at the Tabard <4> as I lay,
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devout corage,
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry folk, *by aventure y-fall *who had by chance fallen
In fellowship*, and pilgrims were they all, into company.* <5>
That toward Canterbury woulde ride.
The chamber, and the stables were wide,
And *well we weren eased at the best.* *we were well provided
And shortly, when the sunne was to rest, with the best*
So had I spoken with them every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made forword* early for to rise, *promise
To take our way there as I you devise*. *describe, relate

But natheless, while I have time and space,
Ere that I farther in this tale pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to reason,
To tell you alle the condition
Of each of them, so as it seemed me,
And which they weren, and of what degree;
And eke in what array that they were in:
And at a Knight then will I first begin.

A KNIGHT there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To riden out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his Lorde's war,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farre*, *farther
As well in Christendom as in Heatheness,
And ever honour'd for his worthiness
At Alisandre <6> he was when it was won.
Full often time he had the board begun
Above alle nations in Prusse.<7>
In Lettowe had he reysed,* and in Russe, *journeyed
No Christian man so oft of his degree.
In Grenade at the siege eke had he be
Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie. <8>
At Leyes was he, and at Satalie,
When they were won; and in the Greate Sea
At many a noble army had he be.
At mortal battles had he been fifteen,
And foughten for our faith at Tramissene.
In listes thries, and aye slain his foe.
This ilke* worthy knight had been also *same <9>
Some time with the lord of Palatie,
Against another heathen in Turkie:
And evermore *he had a sovereign price*. *He was held in very
And though that he was worthy he was wise, high esteem.*
And of his port as meek as is a maid.
He never yet no villainy ne said
In all his life, unto no manner wight.
He was a very perfect gentle knight.
But for to telle you of his array,
His horse was good, but yet he was not gay.
Of fustian he weared a gipon*, *short doublet
Alle *besmotter'd with his habergeon,* *soiled by his coat of mail.*
For he was late y-come from his voyage,
And wente for to do his pilgrimage.

With him there was his son, a younge SQUIRE,
A lover, and a lusty bacheler,
With lockes crulle* as they were laid in press. *curled
Of twenty year of age he was I guess.
Of his stature he was of even length,
And *wonderly deliver*, and great of strength. *wonderfully nimble*
And he had been some time in chevachie*, *cavalry raids
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie,
And borne him well, *as of so little space*, *in such a short time*
In hope to standen in his lady's grace.
Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead
All full of freshe flowers, white and red.
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.
Well could he sit on horse, and faire ride.
He coulde songes make, and well indite,
Joust, and eke dance, and well pourtray and write.
So hot he loved, that by nightertale* *night-time
He slept no more than doth the nightingale.
Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable,
And carv'd before his father at the table.<10>

A YEOMAN had he, and servants no mo'
At that time, for *him list ride so* *it pleased him so to ride*
And he was clad in coat and hood of green.
A sheaf of peacock arrows<11> bright and keen
Under his belt he bare full thriftily.
Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly:
His arrows drooped not with feathers low;
And in his hand he bare a mighty bow.
A nut-head <12> had he, with a brown visiage:
Of wood-craft coud* he well all the usage: *knew
Upon his arm he bare a gay bracer*, *small shield
And by his side a sword and a buckler,
And on that other side a gay daggere,
Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear:
A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen.
An horn he bare, the baldric was of green:
A forester was he soothly* as I guess. *certainly

There was also a Nun, a PRIORESS,
That of her smiling was full simple and coy;
Her greatest oathe was but by Saint Loy;
And she was cleped* Madame Eglentine. *called
Full well she sang the service divine,
Entuned in her nose full seemly;
And French she spake full fair and fetisly* *properly
After the school of Stratford atte Bow,
For French of Paris was to her unknow.
At meate was she well y-taught withal;
She let no morsel from her lippes fall,
Nor wet her fingers in her sauce deep.
Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep,
That no droppe ne fell upon her breast.
In courtesy was set full much her lest*. *pleasure
Her over-lippe wiped she so clean,
That in her cup there was no farthing* seen *speck
Of grease, when she drunken had her draught;
Full seemely after her meat she raught*: *reached out her hand
And *sickerly she was of great disport*, *surely she was of a lively
And full pleasant, and amiable of port, disposition*
And *pained her to counterfeite cheer *took pains to assume
Of court,* and be estately of mannere, a courtly disposition*
And to be holden digne* of reverence. *worthy
But for to speaken of her conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous,* *full of pity
She woulde weep if that she saw a mouse
Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.
Of smalle houndes had she, that she fed
With roasted flesh, and milk, and *wastel bread.* *finest white bread*
But sore she wept if one of them were dead,
Or if men smote it with a yarde* smart: *staff
And all was conscience and tender heart.
Full seemly her wimple y-pinched was;
Her nose tretis;* her eyen gray as glass;<13> *well-formed
Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red;
But sickerly she had a fair forehead.
It was almost a spanne broad I trow;
For *hardily she was not undergrow*. *certainly she was not small*
Full fetis* was her cloak, as I was ware. *neat
Of small coral about her arm she bare
A pair of beades, gauded all with green;
And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen,
On which was first y-written a crown'd A,
And after, *Amor vincit omnia.* *love conquers all*
Another Nun also with her had she,
[That was her chapelleine, and PRIESTES three.]

A MONK there was, a fair *for the mast'ry*, *above all others*<14>
An out-rider, that loved venery*; *hunting
A manly man, to be an abbot able.
Full many a dainty horse had he in stable:
And when he rode, men might his bridle hear
Jingeling <15> in a whistling wind as clear,
And eke as loud, as doth the chapel bell,
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet, <16>
Because that it was old and somedeal strait
This ilke* monk let olde thinges pace, *same
And held after the newe world the trace.
He *gave not of the text a pulled hen,* *he cared nothing
That saith, that hunters be not holy men: for the text*
Ne that a monk, when he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless;
This is to say, a monk out of his cloister.
This ilke text held he not worth an oyster;
And I say his opinion was good.
Why should he study, and make himselfe wood* *mad <17>
Upon a book in cloister always pore,
Or swinken* with his handes, and labour, *toil
As Austin bid? how shall the world be served?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therefore he was a prickasour* aright: *hard rider
Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl of flight;
Of pricking* and of hunting for the hare *riding
Was all his lust,* for no cost would he spare. *pleasure
I saw his sleeves *purfil'd at the hand *worked at the end with a
With gris,* and that the finest of the land. fur called "gris"*
And for to fasten his hood under his chin,
He had of gold y-wrought a curious pin;
A love-knot in the greater end there was.
His head was bald, and shone as any glass,
And eke his face, as it had been anoint;
He was a lord full fat and in good point;
His eyen steep,* and rolling in his head, *deep-set
That steamed as a furnace of a lead.
His bootes supple, his horse in great estate,
Now certainly he was a fair prelate;
He was not pale as a forpined* ghost; *wasted
A fat swan lov'd he best of any roast.
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.

A FRIAR there was, a wanton and a merry,
A limitour <18>, a full solemne man.
In all the orders four is none that can* *knows
So much of dalliance and fair language.
He had y-made full many a marriage
Of younge women, at his owen cost.
Unto his order he was a noble post;
Full well belov'd, and familiar was he
With franklins *over all* in his country, *everywhere*
And eke with worthy women of the town:
For he had power of confession,
As said himselfe, more than a curate,
For of his order he was licentiate.
Full sweetely heard he confession,
And pleasant was his absolution.
He was an easy man to give penance,
*There as he wist to have a good pittance:* *where he know he would
For unto a poor order for to give get good payment*
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive.
For if he gave, he *durste make avant*, *dared to boast*
He wiste* that the man was repentant. *knew
For many a man so hard is of his heart,
He may not weep although him sore smart.
Therefore instead of weeping and prayeres,
Men must give silver to the poore freres.
His tippet was aye farsed* full of knives *stuffed
And pinnes, for to give to faire wives;
And certainly he had a merry note:
Well could he sing and playen *on a rote*; *from memory*
Of yeddings* he bare utterly the prize. *songs
His neck was white as is the fleur-de-lis.
Thereto he strong was as a champion,
And knew well the taverns in every town.
And every hosteler and gay tapstere,
Better than a lazar* or a beggere, *leper
For unto such a worthy man as he
Accordeth not, as by his faculty,
To have with such lazars acquaintance.
It is not honest, it may not advance,
As for to deale with no such pouraille*, *offal, refuse
But all with rich, and sellers of vitaille*. *victuals
And *ov'r all there as* profit should arise, *in every place where&
Courteous he was, and lowly of service;
There n'as no man nowhere so virtuous.
He was the beste beggar in all his house:
And gave a certain farme for the grant, <19>
None of his bretheren came in his haunt.
For though a widow hadde but one shoe,
So pleasant was his In Principio,<20>
Yet would he have a farthing ere he went;
His purchase was well better than his rent.
And rage he could and play as any whelp,
In lovedays <21>; there could he muchel* help. *greatly
For there was he not like a cloisterer,
With threadbare cope as is a poor scholer;
But he was like a master or a pope.
Of double worsted was his semicope*, *short cloak
That rounded was as a bell out of press.
Somewhat he lisped for his wantonness,
To make his English sweet upon his tongue;
And in his harping, when that he had sung,
His eyen* twinkled in his head aright, *eyes
As do the starres in a frosty night.
This worthy limitour <18> was call'd Huberd.

A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard,
In motley, and high on his horse he sat,
Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat.
His bootes clasped fair and fetisly*. *neatly
His reasons aye spake he full solemnly,
Sounding alway th' increase of his winning.
He would the sea were kept <22> for any thing
Betwixte Middleburg and Orewell<23>
Well could he in exchange shieldes* sell *crown coins <24>
This worthy man full well his wit beset*; *employed
There wiste* no wight** that he was in debt, *knew **man
So *estately was he of governance* *so well he managed*
With his bargains, and with his chevisance*. *business contract
For sooth he was a worthy man withal,
But sooth to say, I n'ot* how men him call. *know not

A CLERK there was of Oxenford* also, *Oxford
That unto logic hadde long y-go*. *devoted himself
As leane was his horse as is a rake,
And he was not right fat, I undertake;
But looked hollow*, and thereto soberly**. *thin; **poorly
Full threadbare was his *overest courtepy*, *uppermost short cloak*
For he had gotten him yet no benefice,
Ne was not worldly, to have an office.
For him was lever* have at his bed's head *rather
Twenty bookes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle, and his philosophy,
Than robes rich, or fiddle, or psalt'ry.
But all be that he was a philosopher,
Yet hadde he but little gold in coffer,
But all that he might of his friendes hent*, *obtain
On bookes and on learning he it spent,
And busily gan for the soules pray
Of them that gave him <25> wherewith to scholay* *study
Of study took he moste care and heed.
Not one word spake he more than was need;
And that was said in form and reverence,
And short and quick, and full of high sentence.
Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,
And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.

A SERGEANT OF THE LAW, wary and wise,
That often had y-been at the Parvis, <26>
There was also, full rich of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of great reverence:
He seemed such, his wordes were so wise,
Justice he was full often in assize,
By patent, and by plein* commission; *full
For his science, and for his high renown,
Of fees and robes had he many one.
So great a purchaser was nowhere none.
All was fee simple to him, in effect
His purchasing might not be in suspect* *suspicion
Nowhere so busy a man as he there was
And yet he seemed busier than he was
In termes had he case' and doomes* all *judgements
That from the time of King Will. were fall.
Thereto he could indite, and make a thing
There coulde no wight *pinch at* his writing. *find fault with*
And every statute coud* he plain by rote *knew
He rode but homely in a medley* coat, *multicoloured
Girt with a seint* of silk, with barres small; *sash
Of his array tell I no longer tale.

A FRANKELIN* was in this company; *Rich landowner
White was his beard, as is the daisy.
Of his complexion he was sanguine.
Well lov'd he in the morn a sop in wine.
To liven in delight was ever his won*, *wont
For he was Epicurus' owen son,
That held opinion, that plein* delight *full
Was verily felicity perfite.
An householder, and that a great, was he;
Saint Julian<27> he was in his country.
His bread, his ale, was alway *after one*; *pressed on one*
A better envined* man was nowhere none; *stored with wine
Withoute bake-meat never was his house,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous,
It snowed in his house of meat and drink,
Of alle dainties that men coulde think.
After the sundry seasons of the year,
So changed he his meat and his soupere.
Full many a fat partridge had he in mew*, *cage <28>
And many a bream, and many a luce* in stew**<29> *pike **fish-pond
Woe was his cook, *but if* his sauce were *unless*
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear.
His table dormant* in his hall alway *fixed
Stood ready cover'd all the longe day.
At sessions there was he lord and sire.
Full often time he was *knight of the shire* *Member of Parliament*
An anlace*, and a gipciere** all of silk, *dagger **purse
Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk.
A sheriff had he been, and a countour<30>
Was nowhere such a worthy vavasour<31>.

An HABERDASHER, and a CARPENTER,
A WEBBE*, a DYER, and a TAPISER**, *weaver **tapestry-maker
Were with us eke, cloth'd in one livery,
Of a solemn and great fraternity.
Full fresh and new their gear y-picked* was. *spruce
Their knives were y-chaped* not with brass, *mounted
But all with silver wrought full clean and well,
Their girdles and their pouches *every deal*. *in every part*
Well seemed each of them a fair burgess,
To sitten in a guild-hall, on the dais. <32>
Evereach, for the wisdom that he can*, *knew
Was shapely* for to be an alderman. *fitted
For chattels hadde they enough and rent,
And eke their wives would it well assent:
And elles certain they had been to blame.
It is full fair to be y-clep'd madame,
And for to go to vigils all before,
And have a mantle royally y-bore.<33>

A COOK they hadde with them for the nones*, *occasion
To boil the chickens and the marrow bones,
And powder merchant tart and galingale.
Well could he know a draught of London ale.
He could roast, and stew, and broil, and fry,
Make mortrewes, and well bake a pie.
But great harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That, on his shin a mormal* hadde he. *ulcer
For blanc manger, that made he with the best <34>

A SHIPMAN was there, *wonned far by West*: *who dwelt far
For ought I wot, be was of Dartemouth. to the West*
He rode upon a rouncy*, as he couth, *hack
All in a gown of falding* to the knee. *coarse cloth
A dagger hanging by a lace had he
About his neck under his arm adown;
The hot summer had made his hue all brown;
And certainly he was a good fellaw.
Full many a draught of wine he had y-draw
From Bourdeaux-ward, while that the chapmen sleep;
Of nice conscience took he no keep.
If that he fought, and had the higher hand,
*By water he sent them home to every land.* *he drowned his
But of his craft to reckon well his tides, prisoners*
His streames and his strandes him besides,
His herberow*, his moon, and lodemanage**, *harbourage
There was none such, from Hull unto Carthage **pilotage<35>
Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake:
With many a tempest had his beard been shake.
He knew well all the havens, as they were,
From Scotland to the Cape of Finisterre,
And every creek in Bretagne and in Spain:
His barge y-cleped was the Magdelain.

With us there was a DOCTOR OF PHYSIC;
In all this worlde was there none him like
To speak of physic, and of surgery:
For he was grounded in astronomy.
He kept his patient a full great deal
In houres by his magic natural.
Well could he fortune* the ascendent *make fortunate
Of his images for his patient,.
He knew the cause of every malady,
Were it of cold, or hot, or moist, or dry,
And where engender'd, and of what humour.
He was a very perfect practisour
The cause y-know,* and of his harm the root, *known
Anon he gave to the sick man his boot* *remedy
Full ready had he his apothecaries,
To send his drugges and his lectuaries
For each of them made other for to win
Their friendship was not newe to begin
Well knew he the old Esculapius,
And Dioscorides, and eke Rufus;
Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien;
Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen;
Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin;
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin. <36>
Of his diet measurable was he,
For it was of no superfluity,
But of great nourishing, and digestible.
His study was but little on the Bible.
In sanguine* and in perse** he clad was all *red **blue
Lined with taffeta, and with sendall*. *fine silk
And yet *he was but easy of dispense*: *he spent very little*
He kept *that he won in the pestilence*. *the money he made
For gold in physic is a cordial; during the plague*
Therefore he loved gold in special.

A good WIFE was there OF beside BATH,
But she was somedeal deaf, and that was scath*. *damage; pity
Of cloth-making she hadde such an haunt*, *skill
She passed them of Ypres, and of Gaunt. <37>
In all the parish wife was there none,
That to the off'ring* before her should gon, *the offering at mass
And if there did, certain so wroth was she,
That she was out of alle charity
Her coverchiefs* were full fine of ground *head-dresses
I durste swear, they weighede ten pound <38>
That on the Sunday were upon her head.
Her hosen weren of fine scarlet red,
Full strait y-tied, and shoes full moist* and new *fresh <39>
Bold was her face, and fair and red of hue.
She was a worthy woman all her live,
Husbands at the church door had she had five,
Withouten other company in youth;
But thereof needeth not to speak as nouth*. *now
And thrice had she been at Jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a strange stream
At Rome she had been, and at Bologne,
In Galice at Saint James, <40> and at Cologne;
She coude* much of wand'rng by the Way. *knew
Gat-toothed* was she, soothly for to say. *Buck-toothed<41>
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Y-wimpled well, and on her head an hat
As broad as is a buckler or a targe.
A foot-mantle about her hippes large,
And on her feet a pair of spurres sharp.
In fellowship well could she laugh and carp* *jest, talk
Of remedies of love she knew perchance
For of that art she coud* the olde dance. *knew

A good man there was of religion,
That was a poore PARSON of a town:
But rich he was of holy thought and werk*. *work
He was also a learned man, a clerk,
That Christe's gospel truly woulde preach.
His parishens* devoutly would he teach. *parishioners
Benign he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversity full patient:
And such he was y-proved *often sithes*. *oftentimes*
Full loth were him to curse for his tithes,
But rather would he given out of doubt,
Unto his poore parishens about,
Of his off'ring, and eke of his substance.
*He could in little thing have suffisance*. *he was satisfied with
Wide was his parish, and houses far asunder, very little*
But he ne left not, for no rain nor thunder,
In sickness and in mischief to visit
The farthest in his parish, *much and lit*, *great and small*
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staff.
This noble ensample to his sheep he gaf*, *gave
That first he wrought, and afterward he taught.
Out of the gospel he the wordes caught,
And this figure he added yet thereto,
That if gold ruste, what should iron do?
For if a priest be foul, on whom we trust,
No wonder is a lewed* man to rust: *unlearned
And shame it is, if that a priest take keep,
To see a shitten shepherd and clean sheep:
Well ought a priest ensample for to give,
By his own cleanness, how his sheep should live.
He sette not his benefice to hire,
And left his sheep eucumber'd in the mire,
And ran unto London, unto Saint Paul's,
To seeke him a chantery<42> for souls,
Or with a brotherhood to be withold:* *detained
But dwelt at home, and kepte well his fold,
So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry.
He was a shepherd, and no mercenary.
And though he holy were, and virtuous,
He was to sinful men not dispitous* *severe
Nor of his speeche dangerous nor dign* *disdainful
But in his teaching discreet and benign.
To drawen folk to heaven, with fairness,
By good ensample, was his business:
*But it were* any person obstinate, *but if it were*
What so he were of high or low estate,
Him would he snibbe* sharply for the nones**. *reprove **nonce,occasion
A better priest I trow that nowhere none is.
He waited after no pomp nor reverence,
Nor maked him a *spiced conscience*, *artificial conscience*
But Christe's lore, and his apostles' twelve,
He taught, and first he follow'd it himselve.

With him there was a PLOUGHMAN, was his brother,
That had y-laid of dung full many a fother*. *ton
A true swinker* and a good was he, *hard worker
Living in peace and perfect charity.
God loved he beste with all his heart
At alle times, were it gain or smart*, *pain, loss
And then his neighebour right as himselve.
He woulde thresh, and thereto dike*, and delve, *dig ditches
For Christe's sake, for every poore wight,
Withouten hire, if it lay in his might.
His tithes payed he full fair and well,
Both of his *proper swink*, and his chattel** *his own labour* **goods
In a tabard* he rode upon a mare. *sleeveless jerkin

There was also a Reeve, and a Millere,
A Sompnour, and a Pardoner also,
A Manciple, and myself, there were no mo'.

The MILLER was a stout carle for the nones,
Full big he was of brawn, and eke of bones;
That proved well, for *ov'r all where* he came, *wheresoever*
At wrestling he would bear away the ram.<43>
He was short-shouldered, broad, a thicke gnarr*, *stump of wood
There was no door, that he n'old* heave off bar, *could not
Or break it at a running with his head.
His beard as any sow or fox was red,
And thereto broad, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop* right of his nose he had *head <44>
A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs
Red as the bristles of a sowe's ears.
His nose-thirles* blacke were and wide. *nostrils <45>
A sword and buckler bare he by his side.
His mouth as wide was as a furnace.
He was a jangler, and a goliardais*, *buffoon <46>
And that was most of sin and harlotries.
Well could he steale corn, and tolle thrice
And yet he had a thumb of gold, pardie.<47>
A white coat and a blue hood weared he
A baggepipe well could he blow and soun',
And therewithal he brought us out of town.

A gentle MANCIPLE <48> was there of a temple,
Of which achatours* mighte take ensample *buyers
For to be wise in buying of vitaille*. *victuals
For whether that he paid, or took *by taile*, *on credit
Algate* he waited so in his achate**, *always **purchase
That he was aye before in good estate.
Now is not that of God a full fair grace
That such a lewed* mannes wit shall pace** *unlearned **surpass
The wisdom of an heap of learned men?
Of masters had he more than thries ten,
That were of law expert and curious:
Of which there was a dozen in that house,
Worthy to be stewards of rent and land
Of any lord that is in Engleland,
To make him live by his proper good,
In honour debtless, *but if he were wood*, *unless he were mad*
Or live as scarcely as him list desire;
And able for to helpen all a shire
In any case that mighte fall or hap;
And yet this Manciple *set their aller cap* *outwitted them all*

The REEVE <49> was a slender choleric man
His beard was shav'd as nigh as ever he can.
His hair was by his eares round y-shorn;
His top was docked like a priest beforn
Full longe were his legges, and full lean
Y-like a staff, there was no calf y-seen
Well could he keep a garner* and a bin* *storeplaces for grain
There was no auditor could on him win
Well wist he by the drought, and by the rain,
The yielding of his seed and of his grain
His lorde's sheep, his neat*, and his dairy *cattle
His swine, his horse, his store, and his poultry,
Were wholly in this Reeve's governing,
And by his cov'nant gave he reckoning,
Since that his lord was twenty year of age;
There could no man bring him in arrearage
There was no bailiff, herd, nor other hine* *servant
That he ne knew his *sleight and his covine* *tricks and cheating*
They were adrad* of him, as of the death *in dread
His wonning* was full fair upon an heath *abode
With greene trees y-shadow'd was his place.
He coulde better than his lord purchase
Full rich he was y-stored privily
His lord well could he please subtilly,
To give and lend him of his owen good,
And have a thank, and yet* a coat and hood. *also
In youth he learned had a good mistere* *trade
He was a well good wright, a carpentere
This Reeve sate upon a right good stot*, *steed
That was all pomely* gray, and highte** Scot. *dappled **called
A long surcoat of perse* upon he had, *sky-blue
And by his side he bare a rusty blade.
Of Norfolk was this Reeve, of which I tell,
Beside a town men clepen* Baldeswell, *call
Tucked he was, as is a friar, about,
And ever rode the *hinderest of the rout*. *hindmost of the group*

A SOMPNOUR* was there with us in that place, *summoner <50>
That had a fire-red cherubinnes face,
For sausefleme* he was, with eyen narrow. *red or pimply
As hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow,
With scalled browes black, and pilled* beard: *scanty
Of his visage children were sore afeard.
There n'as quicksilver, litharge, nor brimstone,
Boras, ceruse, nor oil of tartar none,
Nor ointement that woulde cleanse or bite,
That him might helpen of his whelkes* white, *pustules
Nor of the knobbes* sitting on his cheeks. *buttons
Well lov'd he garlic, onions, and leeks,
And for to drink strong wine as red as blood.
Then would he speak, and cry as he were wood;
And when that he well drunken had the wine,
Then would he speake no word but Latin.
A fewe termes knew he, two or three,
That he had learned out of some decree;
No wonder is, he heard it all the day.
And eke ye knowen well, how that a jay
Can clepen* "Wat," as well as can the Pope. *call
But whoso would in other thing him grope*, *search
Then had he spent all his philosophy,
Aye, Questio quid juris,<51> would he cry.

He was a gentle harlot* and a kind; *a low fellow<52>
A better fellow should a man not find.
He woulde suffer, for a quart of wine,
A good fellow to have his concubine
A twelvemonth, and excuse him at the full.
Full privily a *finch eke could he pull*. *"fleece" a man*
And if he found owhere* a good fellaw, *anywhere
He woulde teache him to have none awe
In such a case of the archdeacon's curse;
*But if* a manne's soul were in his purse; *unless*
For in his purse he should y-punished be.
"Purse is the archedeacon's hell," said he.
But well I wot, he lied right indeed:
Of cursing ought each guilty man to dread,
For curse will slay right as assoiling* saveth; *absolving
And also 'ware him of a significavit<53>.
In danger had he at his owen guise
The younge girles of the diocese, <54>
And knew their counsel, and was of their rede*. *counsel
A garland had he set upon his head,
As great as it were for an alestake*: *The post of an alehouse sign
A buckler had he made him of a cake.

With him there rode a gentle PARDONERE <55>
Of Ronceval, his friend and his compere,
That straight was comen from the court of Rome.
Full loud he sang, "Come hither, love, to me"
This Sompnour *bare to him a stiff burdoun*, *sang the bass*
Was never trump of half so great a soun'.
This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax,
But smooth it hung, as doth a strike* of flax: *strip
By ounces hung his lockes that he had,
And therewith he his shoulders oversprad.
Full thin it lay, by culpons* one and one, *locks, shreds
But hood for jollity, he weared none,
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
Him thought he rode all of the *newe get*, *latest fashion*<56>
Dishevel, save his cap, he rode all bare.
Such glaring eyen had he, as an hare.
A vernicle* had he sew'd upon his cap. *image of Christ <57>
His wallet lay before him in his lap,
Bretful* of pardon come from Rome all hot. *brimful
A voice he had as small as hath a goat.
No beard had he, nor ever one should have.
As smooth it was as it were new y-shave;
I trow he were a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, from Berwick unto Ware,
Ne was there such another pardonere.
For in his mail* he had a pillowbere**, *bag <58> **pillowcase
Which, as he saide, was our Lady's veil:
He said, he had a gobbet* of the sail *piece
That Sainte Peter had, when that he went
Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ him hent*. *took hold of
He had a cross of latoun* full of stones, *copper
And in a glass he hadde pigge's bones.
But with these relics, whenne that he fond
A poore parson dwelling upon lond,
Upon a day he got him more money
Than that the parson got in moneths tway;
And thus with feigned flattering and japes*, *jests
He made the parson and the people his apes.
But truely to tellen at the last,
He was in church a noble ecclesiast.
Well could he read a lesson or a story,
But alderbest* he sang an offertory: *best of all
For well he wiste, when that song was sung,
He muste preach, and well afile* his tongue, *polish
To winne silver, as he right well could:
Therefore he sang full merrily and loud.

Now have I told you shortly in a clause
Th' estate, th' array, the number, and eke the cause
Why that assembled was this company
In Southwark at this gentle hostelry,
That highte the Tabard, fast by the Bell.<59>
But now is time to you for to tell
*How that we baren us that ilke night*, *what we did that same night*
When we were in that hostelry alight.
And after will I tell of our voyage,
And all the remnant of our pilgrimage.
But first I pray you of your courtesy,
That ye *arette it not my villainy*, *count it not rudeness in me*
Though that I plainly speak in this mattere.
To tellen you their wordes and their cheer;
Not though I speak their wordes properly.
For this ye knowen all so well as I,
Whoso shall tell a tale after a man,
He must rehearse, as nigh as ever he can,
Every word, if it be in his charge,
*All speak he* ne'er so rudely and so large; *let him speak*
Or elles he must tell his tale untrue,
Or feigne things, or finde wordes new.
He may not spare, although he were his brother;
He must as well say one word as another.
Christ spake Himself full broad in Holy Writ,
And well ye wot no villainy is it.
Eke Plato saith, whoso that can him read,
The wordes must be cousin to the deed.
Also I pray you to forgive it me,
*All have I* not set folk in their degree, *although I have*
Here in this tale, as that they shoulden stand:
My wit is short, ye may well understand.

Great cheere made our Host us every one,
And to the supper set he us anon:
And served us with victual of the best.
Strong was the wine, and well to drink us lest*. *pleased
A seemly man Our Hoste was withal
For to have been a marshal in an hall.
A large man he was with eyen steep*, *deep-set.
A fairer burgess is there none in Cheap<60>:
Bold of his speech, and wise and well y-taught,
And of manhoode lacked him right naught.
Eke thereto was he right a merry man,
And after supper playen he began,
And spake of mirth amonges other things,
When that we hadde made our reckonings;
And saide thus; "Now, lordinges, truly
Ye be to me welcome right heartily:
For by my troth, if that I shall not lie,
I saw not this year such a company
At once in this herberow*, am is now. *inn <61>
Fain would I do you mirth, an* I wist* how. *if I knew*
And of a mirth I am right now bethought.
To do you ease*, and it shall coste nought. *pleasure
Ye go to Canterbury; God you speed,
The blissful Martyr *quite you your meed*; *grant you what
And well I wot, as ye go by the way, you deserve*
Ye *shapen you* to talken and to play: *intend to*
For truely comfort nor mirth is none
To ride by the way as dumb as stone:
And therefore would I make you disport,
As I said erst, and do you some comfort.
And if you liketh all by one assent
Now for to standen at my judgement,
And for to worken as I shall you say
To-morrow, when ye riden on the way,
Now by my father's soule that is dead,
*But ye be merry, smiteth off* mine head. *unless you are merry,
Hold up your hands withoute more speech. smite off my head*

Our counsel was not longe for to seech*: *seek
Us thought it was not worth to *make it wise*, *discuss it at length*
And granted him withoute more avise*, *consideration
And bade him say his verdict, as him lest.
Lordings (quoth he), now hearken for the best;
But take it not, I pray you, in disdain;
This is the point, to speak it plat* and plain. *flat
That each of you, to shorten with your way
In this voyage, shall tellen tales tway,
To Canterbury-ward, I mean it so,
And homeward he shall tellen other two,
Of aventures that whilom have befall.
And which of you that bear'th him best of all,
That is to say, that telleth in this case
Tales of best sentence and most solace,
Shall have a supper *at your aller cost* *at the cost of you all*
Here in this place, sitting by this post,
When that ye come again from Canterbury.
And for to make you the more merry,
I will myselfe gladly with you ride,
Right at mine owen cost, and be your guide.
And whoso will my judgement withsay,
Shall pay for all we spenden by the way.
And if ye vouchesafe that it be so,
Tell me anon withoute wordes mo'*, *more
And I will early shape me therefore."

This thing was granted, and our oath we swore
With full glad heart, and prayed him also,
That he would vouchesafe for to do so,
And that he woulde be our governour,
And of our tales judge and reportour,
And set a supper at a certain price;
And we will ruled be at his device,
In high and low: and thus by one assent,
We be accorded to his judgement.
And thereupon the wine was fet* anon. *fetched.
We drunken, and to reste went each one,
Withouten any longer tarrying
A-morrow, when the day began to spring,
Up rose our host, and was *our aller cock*, *the cock to wake us all*
And gather'd us together in a flock,
And forth we ridden all a little space,
Unto the watering of Saint Thomas<62>:
And there our host began his horse arrest,
And saide; "Lordes, hearken if you lest.
Ye *weet your forword,* and I it record. *know your promise*
If even-song and morning-song accord,
Let see now who shall telle the first tale.
As ever may I drinke wine or ale,
Whoso is rebel to my judgement,
Shall pay for all that by the way is spent.
Now draw ye cuts*, ere that ye farther twin**. *lots **go
He which that hath the shortest shall begin."

"Sir Knight (quoth he), my master and my lord,
Now draw the cut, for that is mine accord.
Come near (quoth he), my Lady Prioress,
And ye, Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness,
Nor study not: lay hand to, every man."
Anon to drawen every wight began,
And shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by a venture, or sort*, or cas**, *lot **chance
The sooth is this, the cut fell to the Knight,
Of which full blithe and glad was every wight;
And tell he must his tale as was reason,
By forword, and by composition,
As ye have heard; what needeth wordes mo'?
And when this good man saw that it was so,
As he that wise was and obedient
To keep his forword by his free assent,
He said; "Sithen* I shall begin this game, *since
Why, welcome be the cut in Godde's name.
Now let us ride, and hearken what I say."
And with that word we ridden forth our way;
And he began with right a merry cheer
His tale anon, and said as ye shall hear.

Notes to the Prologue

1. Tyrwhitt points out that "the Bull" should be read here, not "the Ram," which would place the time of the pilgrimage in the end of March; whereas, in the Prologue to the Man of Law's Tale, the date is given as the "eight and twenty day of April, that is messenger to May."

2. Dante, in the "Vita Nuova," distinguishes three classes of pilgrims: palmieri - palmers who go beyond sea to the East, and often bring back staves of palm-wood; peregrini, who go the shrine of St Jago in Galicia; Romei, who go to Rome. Sir Walter Scott, however, says that palmers were in the habit of passing from shrine to shrine, living on charity — pilgrims on the other hand, made the journey to any shrine only once, immediately returning to their ordinary avocations. Chaucer uses "palmer" of all pilgrims.

3. "Hallows" survives, in the meaning here given, in All Hallows — All-Saints — day. "Couth," past participle of "conne" to know, exists in "uncouth."

4. The Tabard — the sign of the inn — was a sleeveless coat, worn by heralds. The name of the inn was, some three centuries after Chaucer, changed to the Talbot.

5. In y-fall," "y" is a corruption of the Anglo-Saxon "ge" prefixed to participles of verbs. It is used by Chaucer merely to help the metre In German, "y-fall," or y-falle," would be "gefallen", "y-run," or "y-ronne", would be "geronnen."

6. Alisandre: Alexandria, in Egypt, captured by Pierre de Lusignan, king of Cyprus, in 1365 but abandoned immediately afterwards. Thirteen years before, the same Prince had taken Satalie, the ancient Attalia, in Anatolia, and in 1367 he won Layas, in Armenia, both places named just below.

7. The knight had been placed at the head of the table, above knights of all nations, in Prussia, whither warriors from all countries were wont to repair, to aid the Teutonic Order in their continual conflicts with their heathen neighbours in "Lettowe" or Lithuania (German. "Litthauen"), Russia, &c.

8. Algesiras was taken from the Moorish king of Grenada, in 1344: the Earls of Derby and Salisbury took part in the siege. Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in Africa; but "Palmyrie" has been suggested as the correct reading. The Great Sea, or the Greek sea, is the Eastern Mediterranean. Tramissene, or Tremessen, is enumerated by Froissart among the Moorish kingdoms in Africa. Palatie, or Palathia, in Anatolia, was a fief held by the Christian knights after the Turkish conquests — the holders paying tribute to the infidel. Our knight had fought with one of those lords against a heathen neighbour.

9. Ilke: same; compare the Scottish phrase "of that ilk," — that is, of the estate which bears the same name as its owner's title.

10. It was the custom for squires of the highest degree to carve at their fathers' tables.

11. Peacock Arrows: Large arrows, with peacocks' feathers.

12. A nut-head: With nut-brown hair; or, round like a nut, the hair being cut short.

13. Grey eyes appear to have been a mark of female beauty in Chaucer's time.

14. "for the mastery" was applied to medicines in the sense of "sovereign" as we now apply it to a remedy.

15. It was fashionable to hang bells on horses' bridles.

16. St. Benedict was the first founder of a spiritual order in the Roman church. Maurus, abbot of Fulda from 822 to 842, did much to re-establish the discipline of the Benedictines on a true Christian basis.

17. Wood: Mad, Scottish "wud". Felix says to Paul, "Too much learning hath made thee mad".

18. Limitour: A friar with licence or privilege to beg, or exercise other functions, within a certain district: as, "the limitour of Holderness".

19. Farme: rent; that is, he paid a premium for his licence to beg.

20. In principio: the first words of Genesis and John, employed in some part of the mass.

21. Lovedays: meetings appointed for friendly settlement of differences; the business was often followed by sports and feasting.

22. He would the sea were kept for any thing: he would for anything that the sea were guarded. "The old subsidy of tonnage and poundage," says Tyrwhitt, "was given to the king 'pour la saufgarde et custodie del mer.' — for the safeguard and keeping of the sea" (12 E. IV. C.3).

23. Middleburg, at the mouth of the Scheldt, in Holland; Orwell, a seaport in Essex.

24. Shields: Crowns, so called from the shields stamped on them; French, "ecu;" Italian, "scudo."

25. Poor scholars at the universities used then to go about begging for money to maintain them and their studies.

26. Parvis: The portico of St. Paul's, which lawyers frequented to meet their clients.

27. St Julian: The patron saint of hospitality, celebrated for supplying his votaries with good lodging and good cheer.

28. Mew: cage. The place behind Whitehall, where the king's hawks were caged was called the Mews.

29. Many a luce in stew: many a pike in his fish-pond; in those Catholic days, when much fish was eaten, no gentleman's mansion was complete without a "stew".

30. Countour: Probably a steward or accountant in the county court.

31. Vavasour: A landholder of consequence; holding of a duke, marquis, or earl, and ranking below a baron.

32. On the dais: On the raised platform at the end of the hall, where sat at meat or in judgement those high in authority, rank or honour; in our days the worthy craftsmen might have been described as "good platform men".

33. To take precedence over all in going to the evening service of the Church, or to festival meetings, to which it was the fashion to carry rich cloaks or mantles against the home- coming.

34. The things the cook could make: "marchand tart", some now unknown ingredient used in cookery; "galingale," sweet or long rooted cyprus; "mortrewes", a rich soup made by stamping flesh in a mortar; "Blanc manger", not what is now called blancmange; one part of it was the brawn of a capon.

35. Lodemanage: pilotage, from Anglo-Saxon "ladman," a leader, guide, or pilot; hence "lodestar," "lodestone."

36. The authors mentioned here were the chief medical text- books of the middle ages. The names of Galen and Hippocrates were then usually spelt "Gallien" and "Hypocras" or "Ypocras".

37. The west of England, especially around Bath, was the seat of the cloth-manufacture, as were Ypres and Ghent (Gaunt) in Flanders.

38. Chaucer here satirises the fashion of the time, which piled bulky and heavy waddings on ladies' heads.

39. Moist; here used in the sense of "new", as in Latin, "mustum" signifies new wine; and elsewhere Chaucer speaks of "moisty ale", as opposed to "old".

40. In Galice at Saint James: at the shrine of St Jago of Compostella in Spain.

41. Gat-toothed: Buck-toothed; goat-toothed, to signify her wantonness; or gap-toothed — with gaps between her teeth.

42. An endowment to sing masses for the soul of the donor.

43. A ram was the usual prize at wrestling matches.

44. Cop: Head; German, "Kopf".

45. Nose-thirles: nostrils; from the Anglo-Saxon, "thirlian," to pierce; hence the word "drill," to bore.

46. Goliardais: a babbler and a buffoon; Golias was the founder of a jovial sect called by his name.

47. The proverb says that every honest miller has a thumb of gold; probably Chaucer means that this one was as honest as his brethren.

48. A Manciple — Latin, "manceps," a purchaser or contractor - - was an officer charged with the purchase of victuals for inns of court or colleges.

49. Reeve: A land-steward; still called "grieve" — Anglo-Saxon, "gerefa" in some parts of Scotland.

50. Sompnour: summoner; an apparitor, who cited delinquents to appear in ecclesiastical courts.

51. Questio quid juris: "I ask which law (applies)"; a cant law- Latin phrase.

52 Harlot: a low, ribald fellow; the word was used of both sexes; it comes from the Anglo-Saxon verb to hire.

53. Significavit: an ecclesiastical writ.

54. Within his jurisdiction he had at his own pleasure the young people (of both sexes) in the diocese.

55. Pardoner: a seller of pardons or indulgences.

56. Newe get: new gait, or fashion; "gait" is still used in this sense in some parts of the country.

57. Vernicle: an image of Christ; so called from St Veronica, who gave the Saviour a napkin to wipe the sweat from His face as He bore the Cross, and received it back with an impression of His countenance upon it.

58. Mail: packet, baggage; French, "malle," a trunk.

59. The Bell: apparently another Southwark tavern; Stowe mentions a "Bull" as being near the Tabard.

60. Cheap: Cheapside, then inhabited by the richest and most prosperous citizens of London.

61. Herberow: Lodging, inn; French, "Herberge."

62. The watering of Saint Thomas: At the second milestone on the old Canterbury road.







 

THE KNIGHT'S TALE

 <1>

WHILOM*, as olde stories tellen us, *formerly
There was a duke that highte* Theseus. *was called <2>
Of Athens he was lord and governor,
And in his time such a conqueror
That greater was there none under the sun.
Full many a riche country had he won.
What with his wisdom and his chivalry,
He conquer'd all the regne of Feminie,<3>
That whilom was y-cleped Scythia;
And weddede the Queen Hippolyta
And brought her home with him to his country
With muchel* glory and great solemnity, *great
And eke her younge sister Emily,
And thus with vict'ry and with melody
Let I this worthy Duke to Athens ride,
And all his host, in armes him beside.

And certes, if it n'ere* too long to hear, *were not
I would have told you fully the mannere,
How wonnen* was the regne of Feminie, <4> *won
By Theseus, and by his chivalry;
And of the greate battle for the nonce
Betwixt Athenes and the Amazons;
And how assieged was Hippolyta,
The faire hardy queen of Scythia;
And of the feast that was at her wedding
And of the tempest at her homecoming.
But all these things I must as now forbear.
I have, God wot, a large field to ear* *plough<5>;
And weake be the oxen in my plough;
The remnant of my tale is long enow.
I will not *letten eke none of this rout*. *hinder any of
Let every fellow tell his tale about, this company*
And let see now who shall the supper win.
There *as I left*, I will again begin. *where I left off*

This Duke, of whom I make mentioun,
When he was come almost unto the town,
In all his weal, and in his moste pride,
He was ware, as he cast his eye aside,
Where that there kneeled in the highe way
A company of ladies, tway and tway,
Each after other, clad in clothes black:
But such a cry and such a woe they make,
That in this world n'is creature living,
That hearde such another waimenting* *lamenting <6>
And of this crying would they never stenten*, *desist
Till they the reines of his bridle henten*. *seize
"What folk be ye that at mine homecoming
Perturben so my feaste with crying?"
Quoth Theseus; "Have ye so great envy
Of mine honour, that thus complain and cry?
Or who hath you misboden*, or offended? *wronged
Do telle me, if it may be amended;
And why that ye be clad thus all in black?"

The oldest lady of them all then spake,
When she had swooned, with a deadly cheer*, *countenance
That it was ruthe* for to see or hear. *pity
She saide; "Lord, to whom fortune hath given
Vict'ry, and as a conqueror to liven,
Nought grieveth us your glory and your honour;
But we beseechen mercy and succour.
Have mercy on our woe and our distress;
Some drop of pity, through thy gentleness,
Upon us wretched women let now fall.
For certes, lord, there is none of us all
That hath not been a duchess or a queen;
Now be we caitives*, as it is well seen: *captives
Thanked be Fortune, and her false wheel,
That *none estate ensureth to be wele*. *assures no continuance of
And certes, lord, t'abiden your presence prosperous estate*
Here in this temple of the goddess Clemence
We have been waiting all this fortenight:
Now help us, lord, since it lies in thy might.

"I, wretched wight, that weep and waile thus,
Was whilom wife to king Capaneus,
That starf* at Thebes, cursed be that day: *died <7>
And alle we that be in this array,
And maken all this lamentatioun,
We losten all our husbands at that town,
While that the siege thereabouten lay.
And yet the olde Creon, wellaway!
That lord is now of Thebes the city,
Fulfilled of ire and of iniquity,
He for despite, and for his tyranny,
To do the deade bodies villainy*, *insult
Of all our lorde's, which that been y-slaw, *slain
Hath all the bodies on an heap y-draw,
And will not suffer them by none assent
Neither to be y-buried, nor y-brent*, *burnt
But maketh houndes eat them in despite."
And with that word, withoute more respite
They fallen groff,* and cryden piteously; *grovelling
"Have on us wretched women some mercy,
And let our sorrow sinken in thine heart."

This gentle Duke down from his courser start
With hearte piteous, when he heard them speak.
Him thoughte that his heart would all to-break,
When he saw them so piteous and so mate* *abased
That whilom weren of so great estate.
And in his armes he them all up hent*, *raised, took
And them comforted in full good intent,
And swore his oath, as he was true knight,
He woulde do *so farforthly his might* *as far as his power went*
Upon the tyrant Creon them to wreak*, *avenge
That all the people of Greece shoulde speak,
How Creon was of Theseus y-served,
As he that had his death full well deserved.
And right anon withoute more abode* *delay
His banner he display'd, and forth he rode
To Thebes-ward, and all his, host beside:
No ner* Athenes would he go nor ride, *nearer
Nor take his ease fully half a day,
But onward on his way that night he lay:
And sent anon Hippolyta the queen,
And Emily her younge sister sheen* *bright, lovely
Unto the town of Athens for to dwell:
And forth he rit*; there is no more to tell. *rode

The red statue of Mars with spear and targe* *shield
So shineth in his white banner large
That all the fieldes glitter up and down:
And by his banner borne is his pennon
Of gold full rich, in which there was y-beat* *stamped
The Minotaur<8> which that he slew in Crete
Thus rit this Duke, thus rit this conqueror
And in his host of chivalry the flower,
Till that he came to Thebes, and alight
Fair in a field, there as he thought to fight.
But shortly for to speaken of this thing,
With Creon, which that was of Thebes king,
He fought, and slew him manly as a knight
In plain bataille, and put his folk to flight:
And by assault he won the city after,
And rent adown both wall, and spar, and rafter;
And to the ladies he restored again
The bodies of their husbands that were slain,
To do obsequies, as was then the guise*. *custom

But it were all too long for to devise* *describe
The greate clamour, and the waimenting*, *lamenting
Which that the ladies made at the brenning* *burning
Of the bodies, and the great honour
That Theseus the noble conqueror
Did to the ladies, when they from him went:
But shortly for to tell is mine intent.
When that this worthy Duke, this Theseus,
Had Creon slain, and wonnen Thebes thus,
Still in the field he took all night his rest,
And did with all the country as him lest*. *pleased
To ransack in the tas* of bodies dead, *heap
Them for to strip of *harness and of **weed, *armour **clothes
The pillers* did their business and cure, *pillagers <9>
After the battle and discomfiture.
And so befell, that in the tas they found,
Through girt with many a grievous bloody wound,
Two younge knightes *ligging by and by* *lying side by side*
Both in *one armes*, wrought full richely: *the same armour*
Of whiche two, Arcita hight that one,
And he that other highte Palamon.
Not fully quick*, nor fully dead they were, *alive
But by their coat-armour, and by their gear,
The heralds knew them well in special,
As those that weren of the blood royal
Of Thebes, and *of sistren two y-born*. *born of two sisters*
Out of the tas the pillers have them torn,
And have them carried soft unto the tent
Of Theseus, and he full soon them sent
To Athens, for to dwellen in prison
Perpetually, he *n'olde no ranson*. *would take no ransom*
And when this worthy Duke had thus y-done,
He took his host, and home he rit anon
With laurel crowned as a conquerour;
And there he lived in joy and in honour
Term of his life; what needeth wordes mo'?
And in a tower, in anguish and in woe,
Dwellen this Palamon, and eke Arcite,
For evermore, there may no gold them quite* *set free

Thus passed year by year, and day by day,
Till it fell ones in a morn of May
That Emily, that fairer was to seen
Than is the lily upon his stalke green,
And fresher than the May with flowers new
(For with the rose colour strove her hue;
I n'ot* which was the finer of them two), *know not
Ere it was day, as she was wont to do,
She was arisen, and all ready dight*, *dressed
For May will have no sluggardy a-night;
The season pricketh every gentle heart,
And maketh him out of his sleep to start,
And saith, "Arise, and do thine observance."

This maketh Emily have remembrance
To do honour to May, and for to rise.
Y-clothed was she fresh for to devise;
Her yellow hair was braided in a tress,
Behind her back, a yarde long I guess.
And in the garden at *the sun uprist* *sunrise
She walketh up and down where as her list.
She gathereth flowers, party* white and red, *mingled
To make a sotel* garland for her head, *subtle, well-arranged
And as an angel heavenly she sung.
The greate tower, that was so thick and strong,
Which of the castle was the chief dungeon<10>
(Where as these knightes weren in prison,
Of which I tolde you, and telle shall),
Was even joinant* to the garden wall, *adjoining
There as this Emily had her playing.

Bright was the sun, and clear that morrowning,
And Palamon, this woful prisoner,
As was his wont, by leave of his gaoler,
Was ris'n, and roamed in a chamber on high,
In which he all the noble city sigh*, *saw
And eke the garden, full of branches green,
There as this fresh Emelia the sheen
Was in her walk, and roamed up and down.
This sorrowful prisoner, this Palamon
Went in his chamber roaming to and fro,
And to himself complaining of his woe:
That he was born, full oft he said, Alas!
And so befell, by aventure or cas*, *chance
That through a window thick of many a bar
Of iron great, and square as any spar,
He cast his eyes upon Emelia,
And therewithal he blent* and cried, Ah! *started aside
As though he stungen were unto the heart.
And with that cry Arcite anon up start,
And saide, "Cousin mine, what aileth thee,
That art so pale and deadly for to see?
Why cried'st thou? who hath thee done offence?
For Godde's love, take all in patience
Our prison*, for it may none other be. *imprisonment
Fortune hath giv'n us this adversity'.
Some wick'* aspect or disposition *wicked
Of Saturn<11>, by some constellation,
Hath giv'n us this, although we had it sworn,
So stood the heaven when that we were born,
We must endure; this is the short and plain.

This Palamon answer'd, and said again:
"Cousin, forsooth of this opinion
Thou hast a vain imagination.
This prison caused me not for to cry;
But I was hurt right now thorough mine eye
Into mine heart; that will my bane* be. *destruction
The fairness of the lady that I see
Yond in the garden roaming to and fro,
Is cause of all my crying and my woe.
I *n'ot wher* she be woman or goddess, *know not whether*
But Venus is it, soothly* as I guess, *truly
And therewithal on knees adown he fill,
And saide: "Venus, if it be your will
You in this garden thus to transfigure
Before me sorrowful wretched creature,
Out of this prison help that we may scape.
And if so be our destiny be shape
By etern word to dien in prison,
Of our lineage have some compassion,
That is so low y-brought by tyranny."

And with that word Arcita *gan espy* *began to look forth*
Where as this lady roamed to and fro
And with that sight her beauty hurt him so,
That if that Palamon was wounded sore,
Arcite is hurt as much as he, or more.
And with a sigh he saide piteously:
"The freshe beauty slay'th me suddenly
Of her that roameth yonder in the place.
And but* I have her mercy and her grace, *unless
That I may see her at the leaste way,
I am but dead; there is no more to say."
This Palamon, when he these wordes heard,
Dispiteously* he looked, and answer'd: *angrily
"Whether say'st thou this in earnest or in play?"
"Nay," quoth Arcite, "in earnest, by my fay*. *faith
God help me so, *me lust full ill to play*." *I am in no humour
This Palamon gan knit his browes tway. for jesting*
"It were," quoth he, "to thee no great honour
For to be false, nor for to be traitour
To me, that am thy cousin and thy brother
Y-sworn full deep, and each of us to other,
That never for to dien in the pain <12>,
Till that the death departen shall us twain,
Neither of us in love to hinder other,
Nor in none other case, my leve* brother; *dear
But that thou shouldest truly farther me
In every case, as I should farther thee.
This was thine oath, and mine also certain;
I wot it well, thou dar'st it not withsayn*, *deny
Thus art thou of my counsel out of doubt,
And now thou wouldest falsely be about
To love my lady, whom I love and serve,
And ever shall, until mine hearte sterve* *die
Now certes, false Arcite, thou shalt not so
I lov'd her first, and tolde thee my woe
As to my counsel, and my brother sworn
To farther me, as I have told beforn.
For which thou art y-bounden as a knight
To helpe me, if it lie in thy might,
Or elles art thou false, I dare well sayn,"

This Arcita full proudly spake again:
"Thou shalt," quoth he, "be rather* false than I, *sooner
And thou art false, I tell thee utterly;
For par amour I lov'd her first ere thou.
What wilt thou say? *thou wist it not right now* *even now thou
Whether she be a woman or goddess. knowest not*
Thine is affection of holiness,
And mine is love, as to a creature:
For which I tolde thee mine aventure
As to my cousin, and my brother sworn
I pose*, that thou loved'st her beforn: *suppose
Wost* thou not well the olde clerke's saw<13>, *know'st
That who shall give a lover any law?
Love is a greater lawe, by my pan,
Than may be giv'n to any earthly man:
Therefore positive law, and such decree,
Is broke alway for love in each degree
A man must needes love, maugre his head.
He may not flee it, though he should be dead,
*All be she* maid, or widow, or else wife. *whether she be*
And eke it is not likely all thy life
To standen in her grace, no more than I
For well thou wost thyselfe verily,
That thou and I be damned to prison
Perpetual, us gaineth no ranson.
We strive, as did the houndes for the bone;
They fought all day, and yet their part was none.
There came a kite, while that they were so wroth,
And bare away the bone betwixt them both.
And therefore at the kinge's court, my brother,
Each man for himselfe, there is no other.
Love if thee list; for I love and aye shall
And soothly, leve brother, this is all.
Here in this prison musten we endure,
And each of us take his Aventure."

Great was the strife and long between these tway,
If that I hadde leisure for to say;
But to the effect: it happen'd on a day
(To tell it you as shortly as I may),
A worthy duke that hight Perithous<14>
That fellow was to the Duke Theseus
Since thilke* day that they were children lite** *that **little
Was come to Athens, his fellow to visite,
And for to play, as he was wont to do;
For in this world he loved no man so;
And he lov'd him as tenderly again.
So well they lov'd, as olde bookes sayn,
That when that one was dead, soothly to sayn,
His fellow went and sought him down in hell:
But of that story list me not to write.
Duke Perithous loved well Arcite,
And had him known at Thebes year by year:
And finally at request and prayere
Of Perithous, withoute ranson
Duke Theseus him let out of prison,
Freely to go, where him list over all,
In such a guise, as I you tellen shall
This was the forword*, plainly to indite, *promise
Betwixte Theseus and him Arcite:
That if so were, that Arcite were y-found
Ever in his life, by day or night, one stound* *moment<15>
In any country of this Theseus,
And he were caught, it was accorded thus,
That with a sword he shoulde lose his head;
There was none other remedy nor rede*. *counsel
But took his leave, and homeward he him sped;
Let him beware, his necke lieth *to wed*. *in pledge*

How great a sorrow suff'reth now Arcite!
The death he feeleth through his hearte smite;
He weepeth, waileth, crieth piteously;
To slay himself he waiteth privily.
He said; "Alas the day that I was born!
Now is my prison worse than beforn:
*Now is me shape* eternally to dwell *it is fixed for me*
Not in purgatory, but right in hell.
Alas! that ever I knew Perithous.
For elles had I dwelt with Theseus
Y-fettered in his prison evermo'.
Then had I been in bliss, and not in woe.
Only the sight of her, whom that I serve,
Though that I never may her grace deserve,
Would have sufficed right enough for me.
O deare cousin Palamon," quoth he,
"Thine is the vict'ry of this aventure,
Full blissfully in prison to endure:
In prison? nay certes, in paradise.
Well hath fortune y-turned thee the dice,
That hast the sight of her, and I th' absence.
For possible is, since thou hast her presence,
And art a knight, a worthy and an able,
That by some cas*, since fortune is changeable, *chance
Thou may'st to thy desire sometime attain.
But I that am exiled, and barren
Of alle grace, and in so great despair,
That there n'is earthe, water, fire, nor air,
Nor creature, that of them maked is,
That may me helpe nor comfort in this,
Well ought I *sterve in wanhope* and distress. *die in despair*
Farewell my life, my lust*, and my gladness. *pleasure
Alas, *why plainen men so in commune *why do men so often complain
Of purveyance of God*, or of Fortune, of God's providence?*
That giveth them full oft in many a guise
Well better than they can themselves devise?
Some man desireth for to have richess,
That cause is of his murder or great sickness.
And some man would out of his prison fain,
That in his house is of his meinie* slain. *servants <16>
Infinite harmes be in this mattere.
We wot never what thing we pray for here.
We fare as he that drunk is as a mouse.
A drunken man wot well he hath an house,
But he wot not which is the right way thither,
And to a drunken man the way is slither*. *slippery
And certes in this world so fare we.
We seeke fast after felicity,
But we go wrong full often truely.
Thus we may sayen all, and namely* I, *especially
That ween'd*, and had a great opinion, *thought
That if I might escape from prison
Then had I been in joy and perfect heal,
Where now I am exiled from my weal.
Since that I may not see you, Emily,
I am but dead; there is no remedy."

Upon that other side, Palamon,
When that he wist Arcita was agone,
Much sorrow maketh, that the greate tower
Resounded of his yelling and clamour
The pure* fetters on his shinnes great *very <17>
Were of his bitter salte teares wet.

"Alas!" quoth he, "Arcita, cousin mine,
Of all our strife, God wot, the fruit is thine.
Thou walkest now in Thebes at thy large,
And of my woe thou *givest little charge*. *takest little heed*
Thou mayst, since thou hast wisdom and manhead*, *manhood, courage
Assemble all the folk of our kindred,
And make a war so sharp on this country
That by some aventure, or some treaty,
Thou mayst have her to lady and to wife,
For whom that I must needes lose my life.
For as by way of possibility,
Since thou art at thy large, of prison free,
And art a lord, great is thine avantage,
More than is mine, that sterve here in a cage.
For I must weep and wail, while that I live,
With all the woe that prison may me give,
And eke with pain that love me gives also,
That doubles all my torment and my woe."

Therewith the fire of jealousy upstart
Within his breast, and hent* him by the heart *seized
So woodly*, that he like was to behold *madly
The box-tree, or the ashes dead and cold.
Then said; "O cruel goddess, that govern
This world with binding of your word etern* *eternal
And writen in the table of adamant
Your parlement* and your eternal grant, *consultation
What is mankind more *unto you y-hold* *by you esteemed
Than is the sheep, that rouketh* in the fold! *lie huddled together
For slain is man, right as another beast;
And dwelleth eke in prison and arrest,
And hath sickness, and great adversity,
And oftentimes guilteless, pardie* *by God
What governance is in your prescience,
That guilteless tormenteth innocence?
And yet increaseth this all my penance,
That man is bounden to his observance
For Godde's sake to *letten of his will*, *restrain his desire*
Whereas a beast may all his lust fulfil.
And when a beast is dead, he hath no pain;
But man after his death must weep and plain,
Though in this worlde he have care and woe:
Withoute doubt it maye standen so.
"The answer of this leave I to divines,
But well I wot, that in this world great pine* is; *pain, trouble
Alas! I see a serpent or a thief
That many a true man hath done mischief,
Go at his large, and where him list may turn.
But I must be in prison through Saturn,
And eke through Juno, jealous and eke wood*, *mad
That hath well nigh destroyed all the blood
Of Thebes, with his waste walles wide.
And Venus slay'th me on that other side
For jealousy, and fear of him, Arcite."

Now will I stent* of Palamon a lite**, *pause **little
And let him in his prison stille dwell,
And of Arcita forth I will you tell.
The summer passeth, and the nightes long
Increase double-wise the paines strong
Both of the lover and the prisonere.
I n'ot* which hath the wofuller mistere**. *know not **condition
For, shortly for to say, this Palamon
Perpetually is damned to prison,
In chaines and in fetters to be dead;
And Arcite is exiled *on his head* *on peril of his head*
For evermore as out of that country,
Nor never more he shall his lady see.
You lovers ask I now this question,<18>
Who lieth the worse, Arcite or Palamon?
The one may see his lady day by day,
But in prison he dwelle must alway.
The other where him list may ride or go,
But see his lady shall he never mo'.
Now deem all as you liste, ye that can,
For I will tell you forth as I began.

When that Arcite to Thebes comen was,
Full oft a day he swelt*, and said, "Alas!" *fainted
For see this lady he shall never mo'.
And shortly to concluden all his woe,
So much sorrow had never creature
That is or shall be while the world may dure.
His sleep, his meat, his drink is *him byraft*, *taken away from him*
That lean he wex*, and dry as any shaft. *became
His eyen hollow, grisly to behold,
His hue sallow, and pale as ashes cold,
And solitary he was, ever alone,
And wailing all the night, making his moan.
And if he hearde song or instrument,
Then would he weepen, he might not be stent*. *stopped
So feeble were his spirits, and so low,
And changed so, that no man coulde know
His speech, neither his voice, though men it heard.
And in his gear* for all the world he far'd *behaviour <19>
Not only like the lovers' malady
Of Eros, but rather y-like manie* *madness
Engender'd of humours melancholic,
Before his head in his cell fantastic.<20>
And shortly turned was all upside down,
Both habit and eke dispositioun,
Of him, this woful lover Dan* Arcite. *Lord <21>
Why should I all day of his woe indite?
When he endured had a year or two
This cruel torment, and this pain and woe,
At Thebes, in his country, as I said,
Upon a night in sleep as he him laid,
Him thought how that the winged god Mercury
Before him stood, and bade him to be merry.
His sleepy yard* in hand he bare upright; *rod <22>
A hat he wore upon his haires bright.
Arrayed was this god (as he took keep*) *notice
As he was when that Argus<23> took his sleep;
And said him thus: "To Athens shalt thou wend*; *go
There is thee shapen* of thy woe an end." *fixed, prepared
And with that word Arcite woke and start.
"Now truely how sore that e'er me smart,"
Quoth he, "to Athens right now will I fare.
Nor for no dread of death shall I not spare
To see my lady that I love and serve;
In her presence *I recke not to sterve.*" *do not care if I die*
And with that word he caught a great mirror,
And saw that changed was all his colour,
And saw his visage all in other kind.
And right anon it ran him ill his mind,
That since his face was so disfigur'd
Of malady the which he had endur'd,
He mighte well, if that he *bare him low,* *lived in lowly fashion*
Live in Athenes evermore unknow,
And see his lady wellnigh day by day.
And right anon he changed his array,
And clad him as a poore labourer.
And all alone, save only a squier,
That knew his privity* and all his cas**, *secrets **fortune
Which was disguised poorly as he was,
To Athens is he gone the nexte* way. *nearest <24>
And to the court he went upon a day,
And at the gate he proffer'd his service,
To drudge and draw, what so men would devise*. *order
And, shortly of this matter for to sayn,
He fell in office with a chamberlain,
The which that dwelling was with Emily.
For he was wise, and coulde soon espy
Of every servant which that served her.
Well could he hewe wood, and water bear,
For he was young and mighty for the nones*, *occasion
And thereto he was strong and big of bones
To do that any wight can him devise.

A year or two he was in this service,
Page of the chamber of Emily the bright;
And Philostrate he saide that he hight.
But half so well belov'd a man as he
Ne was there never in court of his degree.
He was so gentle of conditioun,
That throughout all the court was his renown.
They saide that it were a charity
That Theseus would *enhance his degree*, *elevate him in rank*
And put him in some worshipful service,
There as he might his virtue exercise.
And thus within a while his name sprung
Both of his deedes, and of his good tongue,
That Theseus hath taken him so near,
That of his chamber he hath made him squire,
And gave him gold to maintain his degree;
And eke men brought him out of his country
From year to year full privily his rent.
But honestly and slyly* he it spent, *discreetly, prudently
That no man wonder'd how that he it had.
And three year in this wise his life be lad*, *led
And bare him so in peace and eke in werre*, *war
There was no man that Theseus had so derre*. *dear
And in this blisse leave I now Arcite,
And speak I will of Palamon a lite*. *little

In darkness horrible, and strong prison,
This seven year hath sitten Palamon,
Forpined*, what for love, and for distress. *pined, wasted away
Who feeleth double sorrow and heaviness
But Palamon? that love distraineth* so, *afflicts
That wood* out of his wits he went for woe, *mad
And eke thereto he is a prisonere
Perpetual, not only for a year.
Who coulde rhyme in English properly
His martyrdom? forsooth*, it is not I; *truly
Therefore I pass as lightly as I may.
It fell that in the seventh year, in May
The thirde night (as olde bookes sayn,
That all this story tellen more plain),
Were it by a venture or destiny
(As when a thing is shapen* it shall be), *settled, decreed
That soon after the midnight, Palamon
By helping of a friend brake his prison,
And fled the city fast as he might go,
For he had given drink his gaoler so
Of a clary <25>, made of a certain wine,
With *narcotise and opie* of Thebes fine, *narcotics and opium*
That all the night, though that men would him shake,
The gaoler slept, he mighte not awake:
And thus he fled as fast as ever he may.
The night was short, and *faste by the day *close at hand was
That needes cast he must himself to hide*. the day during which
And to a grove faste there beside he must cast about, or contrive,
With dreadful foot then stalked Palamon. to conceal himself.*
For shortly this was his opinion,
That in the grove he would him hide all day,
And in the night then would he take his way
To Thebes-ward, his friendes for to pray
On Theseus to help him to warray*. *make war <26>
And shortly either he would lose his life,
Or winnen Emily unto his wife.
This is th' effect, and his intention plain.

Now will I turn to Arcita again,
That little wist how nighe was his care,
Till that Fortune had brought him in the snare.
The busy lark, the messenger of day,
Saluteth in her song the morning gray;
And fiery Phoebus riseth up so bright,
That all the orient laugheth at the sight,
And with his streames* drieth in the greves** *rays **groves
The silver droppes, hanging on the leaves;
And Arcite, that is in the court royal
With Theseus, his squier principal,
Is ris'n, and looketh on the merry day.
And for to do his observance to May,
Remembering the point* of his desire, *object
He on his courser, starting as the fire,
Is ridden to the fieldes him to play,
Out of the court, were it a mile or tway.
And to the grove, of which I have you told,
By a venture his way began to hold,
To make him a garland of the greves*, *groves
Were it of woodbine, or of hawthorn leaves,
And loud he sang against the sun so sheen*. *shining bright
"O May, with all thy flowers and thy green,
Right welcome be thou, faire freshe May,
I hope that I some green here getten may."
And from his courser*, with a lusty heart, *horse
Into the grove full hastily he start,
And in a path he roamed up and down,
There as by aventure this Palamon
Was in a bush, that no man might him see,
For sore afeard of his death was he.
Nothing ne knew he that it was Arcite;
God wot he would have *trowed it full lite*. *full little believed it*
But sooth is said, gone since full many years,
The field hath eyen*, and the wood hath ears, *eyes
It is full fair a man *to bear him even*, *to be on his guard*
For all day meeten men at *unset steven*. *unexpected time <27>
Full little wot Arcite of his fellaw,
That was so nigh to hearken of his saw*, *saying, speech
For in the bush he sitteth now full still.
When that Arcite had roamed all his fill,
And *sungen all the roundel* lustily, *sang the roundelay*<28>
Into a study he fell suddenly,
As do those lovers in their *quainte gears*, *odd fashions*
Now in the crop*, and now down in the breres**, <29> *tree-top
Now up, now down, as bucket in a well. **briars
Right as the Friday, soothly for to tell,
Now shineth it, and now it raineth fast,
Right so can geary* Venus overcast *changeful
The heartes of her folk, right as her day
Is gearful*, right so changeth she array. *changeful
Seldom is Friday all the weeke like.
When Arcite had y-sung, he gan to sike*, *sigh
And sat him down withouten any more:
"Alas!" quoth he, "the day that I was bore!
How longe, Juno, through thy cruelty
Wilt thou warrayen* Thebes the city? *torment
Alas! y-brought is to confusion
The blood royal of Cadm' and Amphion:
Of Cadmus, which that was the firste man,
That Thebes built, or first the town began,
And of the city first was crowned king.
Of his lineage am I, and his offspring
By very line, as of the stock royal;
And now I am *so caitiff and so thrall*, *wretched and enslaved*
That he that is my mortal enemy,
I serve him as his squier poorely.
And yet doth Juno me well more shame,
For I dare not beknow* mine owen name, *acknowledge <30>
But there as I was wont to hight Arcite,
Now hight I Philostrate, not worth a mite.
Alas! thou fell Mars, and alas! Juno,
Thus hath your ire our lineage all fordo* *undone, ruined
Save only me, and wretched Palamon,
That Theseus martyreth in prison.
And over all this, to slay me utterly,
Love hath his fiery dart so brenningly* *burningly
Y-sticked through my true careful heart,
That shapen was my death erst than my shert. <31>
Ye slay me with your eyen, Emily;
Ye be the cause wherefore that I die.
Of all the remnant of mine other care
Ne set I not the *mountance of a tare*, *value of a straw*
So that I could do aught to your pleasance."

And with that word he fell down in a trance
A longe time; and afterward upstart
This Palamon, that thought thorough his heart
He felt a cold sword suddenly to glide:
For ire he quoke*, no longer would he hide. *quaked
And when that he had heard Arcite's tale,
As he were wood*, with face dead and pale, *mad
He start him up out of the bushes thick,
And said: "False Arcita, false traitor wick'*, *wicked
Now art thou hent*, that lov'st my lady so, *caught
For whom that I have all this pain and woe,
And art my blood, and to my counsel sworn,
As I full oft have told thee herebeforn,
And hast bejaped* here Duke Theseus, *deceived, imposed upon
And falsely changed hast thy name thus;
I will be dead, or elles thou shalt die.
Thou shalt not love my lady Emily,
But I will love her only and no mo';
For I am Palamon thy mortal foe.
And though I have no weapon in this place,
But out of prison am astart* by grace, *escaped
I dreade* not that either thou shalt die, *doubt
Or else thou shalt not loven Emily.
Choose which thou wilt, for thou shalt not astart."

This Arcite then, with full dispiteous* heart, *wrathful
When he him knew, and had his tale heard,
As fierce as lion pulled out a swerd,
And saide thus; "By God that sitt'th above,
*N'ere it* that thou art sick, and wood for love, *were it not*
And eke that thou no weap'n hast in this place,
Thou should'st never out of this grove pace,
That thou ne shouldest dien of mine hand.
For I defy the surety and the band,
Which that thou sayest I have made to thee.
What? very fool, think well that love is free;
And I will love her maugre* all thy might. *despite
But, for thou art a worthy gentle knight,
And *wilnest to darraine her by bataille*, *will reclaim her
Have here my troth, to-morrow I will not fail, by combat*
Without weeting* of any other wight, *knowledge
That here I will be founden as a knight,
And bringe harness* right enough for thee; *armour and arms
And choose the best, and leave the worst for me.
And meat and drinke this night will I bring
Enough for thee, and clothes for thy bedding.
And if so be that thou my lady win,
And slay me in this wood that I am in,
Thou may'st well have thy lady as for me."
This Palamon answer'd, "I grant it thee."
And thus they be departed till the morrow,
When each of them hath *laid his faith to borrow*. *pledged his faith*

O Cupid, out of alle charity!
O Regne* that wilt no fellow have with thee! *queen <32>
Full sooth is said, that love nor lordeship
Will not, *his thanks*, have any fellowship. *thanks to him*
Well finden that Arcite and Palamon.
Arcite is ridd anon unto the town,
And on the morrow, ere it were daylight,
Full privily two harness hath he dight*, *prepared
Both suffisant and meete to darraine* *contest
The battle in the field betwixt them twain.
And on his horse, alone as he was born,
He carrieth all this harness him beforn;
And in the grove, at time and place y-set,
This Arcite and this Palamon be met.
Then change gan the colour of their face;
Right as the hunter in the regne* of Thrace *kingdom
That standeth at a gappe with a spear
When hunted is the lion or the bear,
And heareth him come rushing in the greves*, *groves
And breaking both the boughes and the leaves,
Thinketh, "Here comes my mortal enemy,
Withoute fail, he must be dead or I;
For either I must slay him at the gap;
Or he must slay me, if that me mishap:"
So fared they, in changing of their hue
*As far as either of them other knew*. *When they recognised each
There was no good day, and no saluting, other afar off*
But straight, withoute wordes rehearsing,
Evereach of them holp to arm the other,
As friendly, as he were his owen brother.
And after that, with sharpe speares strong
They foined* each at other wonder long. *thrust
Thou mightest weene*, that this Palamon *think
In fighting were as a wood* lion, *mad
And as a cruel tiger was Arcite:
As wilde boars gan they together smite,
That froth as white as foam, *for ire wood*. *mad with anger*
Up to the ancle fought they in their blood.
And in this wise I let them fighting dwell,
And forth I will of Theseus you tell.

The Destiny, minister general,
That executeth in the world o'er all
The purveyance*, that God hath seen beforn; *foreordination
So strong it is, that though the world had sworn
The contrary of a thing by yea or nay,
Yet some time it shall fallen on a day
That falleth not eft* in a thousand year. *again
For certainly our appetites here,
Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love,
All is this ruled by the sight* above. *eye, intelligence, power
This mean I now by mighty Theseus,
That for to hunten is so desirous —
And namely* the greate hart in May — *especially
That in his bed there dawneth him no day
That he n'is clad, and ready for to ride
With hunt and horn, and houndes him beside.
For in his hunting hath he such delight,
That it is all his joy and appetite
To be himself the greate harte's bane* *destruction
For after Mars he serveth now Diane.
Clear was the day, as I have told ere this,
And Theseus, with alle joy and bliss,
With his Hippolyta, the faire queen,
And Emily, y-clothed all in green,
On hunting be they ridden royally.
And to the grove, that stood there faste by,
In which there was an hart, as men him told,
Duke Theseus the straighte way doth hold,
And to the laund* he rideth him full right, *plain <33>
There was the hart y-wont to have his flight,
And over a brook, and so forth on his way.
This Duke will have a course at him or tway
With houndes, such as him lust* to command. *pleased
And when this Duke was come to the laund,
Under the sun he looked, and anon
He was ware of Arcite and Palamon,
That foughte breme*, as it were bulles two. *fiercely
The brighte swordes wente to and fro
So hideously, that with the leaste stroke
It seemed that it woulde fell an oak,
But what they were, nothing yet he wote*. *knew
This Duke his courser with his spurres smote,
*And at a start* he was betwixt them two, *suddenly*
And pulled out a sword and cried, "Ho!
No more, on pain of losing of your head.
By mighty Mars, he shall anon be dead
That smiteth any stroke, that I may see!
But tell to me what mister* men ye be, *manner, kind <34>
That be so hardy for to fighte here
Withoute judge or other officer,
As though it were in listes royally. <35>
This Palamon answered hastily,
And saide: "Sir, what needeth wordes mo'?
We have the death deserved bothe two,
Two woful wretches be we, and caitives,
That be accumbered* of our own lives, *burdened
And as thou art a rightful lord and judge,
So give us neither mercy nor refuge.
And slay me first, for sainte charity,
But slay my fellow eke as well as me.
Or slay him first; for, though thou know it lite*, *little
This is thy mortal foe, this is Arcite
That from thy land is banisht on his head,
For which he hath deserved to be dead.
For this is he that came unto thy gate
And saide, that he highte Philostrate.
Thus hath he japed* thee full many year, *deceived
And thou hast made of him thy chief esquier;
And this is he, that loveth Emily.
For since the day is come that I shall die
I make pleinly* my confession, *fully, unreservedly
That I am thilke* woful Palamon, *that same <36>
That hath thy prison broken wickedly.
I am thy mortal foe, and it am I
That so hot loveth Emily the bright,
That I would die here present in her sight.
Therefore I aske death and my jewise*. *judgement
But slay my fellow eke in the same wise,
For both we have deserved to be slain."

This worthy Duke answer'd anon again,
And said, "This is a short conclusion.
Your own mouth, by your own confession
Hath damned you, and I will it record;
It needeth not to pain you with the cord;
Ye shall be dead, by mighty Mars the Red.<37>

The queen anon for very womanhead
Began to weep, and so did Emily,
And all the ladies in the company.
Great pity was it as it thought them all,
That ever such a chance should befall,
For gentle men they were, of great estate,
And nothing but for love was this debate
They saw their bloody woundes wide and sore,
And cried all at once, both less and more,
"Have mercy, Lord, upon us women all."
And on their bare knees adown they fall
And would have kissed his feet there as he stood,
Till at the last *aslaked was his mood* *his anger was
(For pity runneth soon in gentle heart); appeased*
And though at first for ire he quoke and start
He hath consider'd shortly in a clause
The trespass of them both, and eke the cause:
And although that his ire their guilt accused
Yet in his reason he them both excused;
As thus; he thoughte well that every man
Will help himself in love if that he can,
And eke deliver himself out of prison.
Of women, for they wepten ever-in-one:* *continually
And eke his hearte had compassion
And in his gentle heart he thought anon,
And soft unto himself he saide: "Fie
Upon a lord that will have no mercy,
But be a lion both in word and deed,
To them that be in repentance and dread,
As well as-to a proud dispiteous* man *unpitying
That will maintaine what he first began.
That lord hath little of discretion,
That in such case *can no division*: *can make no distinction*
But weigheth pride and humbless *after one*." *alike*
And shortly, when his ire is thus agone,
He gan to look on them with eyen light*, *gentle, lenient*
And spake these same wordes *all on height.* *aloud*

"The god of love, ah! benedicite*, *bless ye him
How mighty and how great a lord is he!
Against his might there gaine* none obstacles, *avail, conquer
He may be called a god for his miracles
For he can maken at his owen guise
Of every heart, as that him list devise.
Lo here this Arcite, and this Palamon,
That quietly were out of my prison,
And might have lived in Thebes royally,
And weet* I am their mortal enemy, *knew
And that their death li'th in my might also,
And yet hath love, *maugre their eyen two*, *in spite of their eyes*
Y-brought them hither bothe for to die.
Now look ye, is not this an high folly?
Who may not be a fool, if but he love?
Behold, for Godde's sake that sits above,
See how they bleed! be they not well array'd?
Thus hath their lord, the god of love, them paid
Their wages and their fees for their service;
And yet they weene for to be full wise,
That serve love, for aught that may befall.
But this is yet the beste game* of all, *joke
That she, for whom they have this jealousy,
Can them therefor as muchel thank as me.
She wot no more of all this *hote fare*, *hot behaviour*
By God, than wot a cuckoo or an hare.
But all must be assayed hot or cold;
A man must be a fool, or young or old;
I wot it by myself *full yore agone*: *long years ago*
For in my time a servant was I one.
And therefore since I know of love's pain,
And wot how sore it can a man distrain*, *distress
As he that oft hath been caught in his last*, *snare <38>
I you forgive wholly this trespass,
At request of the queen that kneeleth here,
And eke of Emily, my sister dear.
And ye shall both anon unto me swear,
That never more ye shall my country dere* *injure
Nor make war upon me night nor day,
But be my friends in alle that ye may.
I you forgive this trespass *every deal*. *completely*
And they him sware *his asking* fair and well, *what he asked*
And him of lordship and of mercy pray'd,
And he them granted grace, and thus he said:

"To speak of royal lineage and richess,
Though that she were a queen or a princess,
Each of you both is worthy doubteless
To wedde when time is; but natheless
I speak as for my sister Emily,
For whom ye have this strife and jealousy,
Ye wot* yourselves, she may not wed the two *know
At once, although ye fight for evermo:
But one of you, *all be him loth or lief,* *whether or not he wishes*
He must *go pipe into an ivy leaf*: *"go whistle"*
This is to say, she may not have you both,
All be ye never so jealous, nor so wroth.
And therefore I you put in this degree,
That each of you shall have his destiny
As *him is shape*; and hearken in what wise *as is decreed for him*
Lo hear your end of that I shall devise.
My will is this, for plain conclusion
Withouten any replication*, *reply
If that you liketh, take it for the best,
That evereach of you shall go where *him lest*, *he pleases
Freely without ransom or danger;
And this day fifty weekes, *farre ne nerre*, *neither more nor less*
Evereach of you shall bring an hundred knights,
Armed for listes up at alle rights
All ready to darraine* her by bataille, *contend for
And this behete* I you withoute fail *promise
Upon my troth, and as I am a knight,
That whether of you bothe that hath might,
That is to say, that whether he or thou
May with his hundred, as I spake of now,
Slay his contrary, or out of listes drive,
Him shall I given Emily to wive,
To whom that fortune gives so fair a grace.
The listes shall I make here in this place.
*And God so wisly on my soule rue*, *may God as surely have
As I shall even judge be and true. mercy on my soul*
Ye shall none other ende with me maken
Than one of you shalle be dead or taken.
And if you thinketh this is well y-said,
Say your advice*, and hold yourselves apaid**. *opinion **satisfied
This is your end, and your conclusion."
Who looketh lightly now but Palamon?
Who springeth up for joye but Arcite?
Who could it tell, or who could it indite,
The joye that is maked in the place
When Theseus hath done so fair a grace?
But down on knees went every *manner wight*, *kind of person*
And thanked him with all their heartes' might,
And namely* these Thebans *ofte sithe*. *especially *oftentimes*
And thus with good hope and with hearte blithe
They take their leave, and homeward gan they ride
To Thebes-ward, with his old walles wide.

I trow men woulde deem it negligence,
If I forgot to telle the dispence* *expenditure
Of Theseus, that went so busily
To maken up the listes royally,
That such a noble theatre as it was,
I dare well say, in all this world there n'as*. *was not
The circuit a mile was about,
Walled of stone, and ditched all without.
*Round was the shape, in manner of compass,
Full of degrees, the height of sixty pas* *see note <39>*
That when a man was set on one degree
He letted* not his fellow for to see. *hindered
Eastward there stood a gate of marble white,
Westward right such another opposite.
And, shortly to conclude, such a place
Was never on earth made in so little space,
For in the land there was no craftes-man,
That geometry or arsmetrike* can**, *arithmetic **knew
Nor pourtrayor*, nor carver of images, *portrait painter
That Theseus ne gave him meat and wages
The theatre to make and to devise.
And for to do his rite and sacrifice
He eastward hath upon the gate above,
In worship of Venus, goddess of love,
*Done make* an altar and an oratory; *caused to be made*
And westward, in the mind and in memory
Of Mars, he maked hath right such another,
That coste largely of gold a fother*. *a great amount
And northward, in a turret on the wall,
Of alabaster white and red coral
An oratory riche for to see,
In worship of Diane of chastity,
Hath Theseus done work in noble wise.
But yet had I forgotten to devise* *describe
The noble carving, and the portraitures,
The shape, the countenance of the figures
That weren in there oratories three.

First in the temple of Venus may'st thou see
Wrought on the wall, full piteous to behold,
The broken sleepes, and the sikes* cold, *sighes
The sacred teares, and the waimentings*, *lamentings
The fiery strokes of the desirings,
That Love's servants in this life endure;
The oathes, that their covenants assure.
Pleasance and Hope, Desire, Foolhardiness,
Beauty and Youth, and Bawdry and Richess,
Charms and Sorc'ry, Leasings* and Flattery, *falsehoods
Dispence, Business, and Jealousy,
That wore of yellow goldes* a garland, *sunflowers <40>
And had a cuckoo sitting on her hand,
Feasts, instruments, and caroles and dances,
Lust and array, and all the circumstances
Of Love, which I reckon'd and reckon shall
In order, were painted on the wall,
And more than I can make of mention.
For soothly all the mount of Citheron,<41>
Where Venus hath her principal dwelling,
Was showed on the wall in pourtraying,
With all the garden, and the lustiness*. *pleasantness
Nor was forgot the porter Idleness,
Nor Narcissus the fair of *yore agone*, *olden times*
Nor yet the folly of King Solomon,
Nor yet the greate strength of Hercules,
Th' enchantments of Medea and Circes,
Nor of Turnus the hardy fierce courage,
The rich Croesus *caitif in servage.* <42> *abased into slavery*
Thus may ye see, that wisdom nor richess,
Beauty, nor sleight, nor strength, nor hardiness
Ne may with Venus holde champartie*, *divided possession <43>
For as her liste the world may she gie*. *guide
Lo, all these folk so caught were in her las* *snare
Till they for woe full often said, Alas!
Suffice these ensamples one or two,
Although I could reckon a thousand mo'.

The statue of Venus, glorious to see
Was naked floating in the large sea,
And from the navel down all cover'd was
With waves green, and bright as any glass.
A citole <44> in her right hand hadde she,
And on her head, full seemly for to see,
A rose garland fresh, and well smelling,
Above her head her doves flickering
Before her stood her sone Cupido,
Upon his shoulders winges had he two;
And blind he was, as it is often seen;
A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen.

Why should I not as well eke tell you all
The portraiture, that was upon the wall
Within the temple of mighty Mars the Red?
All painted was the wall in length and brede* *breadth
Like to the estres* of the grisly place *interior chambers
That hight the great temple of Mars in Thrace,
In thilke* cold and frosty region, *that
There as Mars hath his sovereign mansion.
In which there dwelled neither man nor beast,
With knotty gnarry* barren trees old *gnarled
Of stubbes sharp and hideous to behold;
In which there ran a rumble and a sough*, *groaning noise
As though a storm should bursten every bough:
And downward from an hill under a bent* *slope
There stood the temple of Mars Armipotent,
Wrought all of burnish'd steel, of which th' entry
Was long and strait, and ghastly for to see.
And thereout came *a rage and such a vise*, *such a furious voice*
That it made all the gates for to rise.
The northern light in at the doore shone,
For window on the walle was there none
Through which men mighten any light discern.
The doors were all of adamant etern,
Y-clenched *overthwart and ende-long* *crossways and lengthways*
With iron tough, and, for to make it strong,
Every pillar the temple to sustain
Was tunne-great*, of iron bright and sheen. *thick as a tun (barrel)
There saw I first the dark imagining
Of felony, and all the compassing;
The cruel ire, as red as any glede*, *live coal
The picke-purse<45>, and eke the pale dread;
The smiler with the knife under the cloak,
The shepen* burning with the blacke smoke *stable <46>
The treason of the murd'ring in the bed,
The open war, with woundes all be-bled;
Conteke* with bloody knife, and sharp menace. *contention, discord
All full of chirking* was that sorry place. *creaking, jarring noise
The slayer of himself eke saw I there,
His hearte-blood had bathed all his hair:
The nail y-driven in the shode* at night, *hair of the head <47>
The colde death, with mouth gaping upright.
Amiddes of the temple sat Mischance,
With discomfort and sorry countenance;
Eke saw I Woodness* laughing in his rage, *Madness
Armed Complaint, Outhees*, and fierce Outrage; *Outcry
The carrain* in the bush, with throat y-corve**, *corpse **slashed
A thousand slain, and not *of qualm y-storve*; *dead of sickness*
The tyrant, with the prey by force y-reft;
The town destroy'd, that there was nothing left.
Yet saw I brent* the shippes hoppesteres, <48> *burnt
The hunter strangled with the wilde bears:
The sow freting* the child right in the cradle; *devouring <49>
The cook scalded, for all his longe ladle.
Nor was forgot, *by th'infortune of Mart* *through the misfortune
The carter overridden with his cart; of war*
Under the wheel full low he lay adown.
There were also of Mars' division,
The armourer, the bowyer*, and the smith, *maker of bows
That forgeth sharp swordes on his stith*. *anvil
And all above depainted in a tower
Saw I Conquest, sitting in great honour,
With thilke* sharpe sword over his head *that
Hanging by a subtle y-twined thread.
Painted the slaughter was of Julius<50>,
Of cruel Nero, and Antonius:
Although at that time they were yet unborn,
Yet was their death depainted there beforn,
By menacing of Mars, right by figure,
So was it showed in that portraiture,
As is depainted in the stars above,
Who shall be slain, or elles dead for love.
Sufficeth one ensample in stories old,
I may not reckon them all, though I wo'ld.

The statue of Mars upon a carte* stood *chariot
Armed, and looked grim as he were wood*, *mad
And over his head there shone two figures
Of starres, that be cleped in scriptures,
That one Puella, that other Rubeus. <51>
This god of armes was arrayed thus:
A wolf there stood before him at his feet
With eyen red, and of a man he eat:
With subtle pencil painted was this story,
In redouting* of Mars and of his glory. *reverance, fear

Now to the temple of Dian the chaste
As shortly as I can I will me haste,
To telle you all the descriptioun.
Depainted be the walles up and down
Of hunting and of shamefast chastity.
There saw I how woful Calistope,<52>
When that Dian aggrieved was with her,
Was turned from a woman to a bear,
And after was she made the lodestar*: *pole star
Thus was it painted, I can say no far*; *farther
Her son is eke a star as men may see.
There saw I Dane <53> turn'd into a tree,
I meane not the goddess Diane,
But Peneus' daughter, which that hight Dane.
There saw I Actaeon an hart y-maked*, *made
For vengeance that he saw Dian all naked:
I saw how that his houndes have him caught,
And freten* him, for that they knew him not. *devour
Yet painted was, a little farthermore
How Atalanta hunted the wild boar;
And Meleager, and many other mo',
For which Diana wrought them care and woe.
There saw I many another wondrous story,
The which me list not drawen to memory.
This goddess on an hart full high was set*, *seated
With smalle houndes all about her feet,
And underneath her feet she had a moon,
Waxing it was, and shoulde wane soon.
In gaudy green her statue clothed was,
With bow in hand, and arrows in a case*. *quiver
Her eyen caste she full low adown,
Where Pluto hath his darke regioun.
A woman travailing was her beforn,
But, for her child so longe was unborn,
Full piteously Lucina <54> gan she call,
And saide; "Help, for thou may'st best of all."
Well could he painte lifelike that it wrought;
With many a florin he the hues had bought.
Now be these listes made, and Theseus,
That at his greate cost arrayed thus
The temples, and the theatre every deal*, *part <55>
When it was done, him liked wonder well.

But stint* I will of Theseus a lite**, *cease speaking **little
And speak of Palamon and of Arcite.
The day approacheth of their returning,
That evereach an hundred knights should bring,
The battle to darraine* as I you told; *contest
And to Athens, their covenant to hold,
Hath ev'reach of them brought an hundred knights,
Well-armed for the war at alle rights.
And sickerly* there trowed** many a man, *surely <56> **believed
That never, sithen* that the world began, *since
For to speaken of knighthood of their hand,
As far as God hath maked sea and land,
Was, of so few, so noble a company.
For every wight that loved chivalry,
And would, *his thankes, have a passant name*, *thanks to his own
Had prayed, that he might be of that game, efforts, have a
And well was him, that thereto chosen was. surpassing name*
For if there fell to-morrow such a case,
Ye knowe well, that every lusty knight,
That loveth par amour, and hath his might
Were it in Engleland, or elleswhere,
They would, their thankes, willen to be there,
T' fight for a lady; Benedicite,
It were a lusty* sighte for to see. *pleasing
And right so fared they with Palamon;
With him there wente knightes many one.
Some will be armed in an habergeon,
And in a breast-plate, and in a gipon*; *short doublet.
And some will have *a pair of plates* large; *back and front armour*
And some will have a Prusse* shield, or targe; *Prussian
Some will be armed on their legges weel;
Some have an axe, and some a mace of steel.
There is no newe guise*, but it was old. *fashion
Armed they weren, as I have you told,
Evereach after his opinion.
There may'st thou see coming with Palamon
Licurgus himself, the great king of Thrace:
Black was his beard, and manly was his face.
The circles of his eyen in his head
They glowed betwixte yellow and red,
And like a griffin looked he about,
With kemped* haires on his browes stout; *combed<57>
His limbs were great, his brawns were hard and strong,
His shoulders broad, his armes round and long.
And as the guise* was in his country, *fashion
Full high upon a car of gold stood he,
With foure white bulles in the trace.
Instead of coat-armour on his harness,
With yellow nails, and bright as any gold,
He had a beare's skin, coal-black for old*. *age
His long hair was y-kempt behind his back,
As any raven's feather it shone for black.
A wreath of gold *arm-great*, of huge weight, *thick as a man's arm*
Upon his head sate, full of stones bright,
Of fine rubies and clear diamants.
About his car there wente white alauns*, *greyhounds <58>
Twenty and more, as great as any steer,
To hunt the lion or the wilde bear,
And follow'd him, with muzzle fast y-bound,
Collars of gold, and torettes* filed round. *rings
An hundred lordes had he in his rout* *retinue
Armed full well, with heartes stern and stout.

With Arcita, in stories as men find,
The great Emetrius the king of Ind,
Upon a *steede bay* trapped in steel, *bay horse*
Cover'd with cloth of gold diapred* well, *decorated
Came riding like the god of armes, Mars.
His coat-armour was of *a cloth of Tars*, *a kind of silk*
Couched* with pearls white and round and great *trimmed
His saddle was of burnish'd gold new beat;
A mantelet on his shoulders hanging,
Bretful* of rubies red, as fire sparkling. *brimful
His crispe hair like ringes was y-run,
And that was yellow, glittering as the sun.
His nose was high, his eyen bright citrine*, *pale yellow
His lips were round, his colour was sanguine,
A fewe fracknes* in his face y-sprent**, *freckles **sprinkled
Betwixte yellow and black somedeal y-ment* *mixed <59>
And as a lion he *his looking cast* *cast about his eyes*
Of five and twenty year his age I cast* *reckon
His beard was well begunnen for to spring;
His voice was as a trumpet thundering.
Upon his head he wore of laurel green
A garland fresh and lusty to be seen;
Upon his hand he bare, for his delight,
An eagle tame, as any lily white.
An hundred lordes had he with him there,
All armed, save their heads, in all their gear,
Full richely in alle manner things.
For trust ye well, that earles, dukes, and kings
Were gather'd in this noble company,
For love, and for increase of chivalry.
About this king there ran on every part
Full many a tame lion and leopart.
And in this wise these lordes *all and some* *all and sundry*
Be on the Sunday to the city come
Aboute prime<60>, and in the town alight.

This Theseus, this Duke, this worthy knight
When he had brought them into his city,
And inned* them, ev'reach at his degree, *lodged
He feasteth them, and doth so great labour
To *easen them*, and do them all honour, *make them comfortable*
That yet men weene* that no mannes wit *think
Of none estate could amenden* it. *improve
The minstrelsy, the service at the feast,
The greate giftes to the most and least,
The rich array of Theseus' palace,
Nor who sate first or last upon the dais.<61>
What ladies fairest be, or best dancing
Or which of them can carol best or sing,
Or who most feelingly speaketh of love;
What hawkes sitten on the perch above,
What houndes liggen* on the floor adown, *lie
Of all this now make I no mentioun
But of th'effect; that thinketh me the best
Now comes the point, and hearken if you lest.* *please

The Sunday night, ere day began to spring,
When Palamon the larke hearde sing,
Although it were not day by houres two,
Yet sang the lark, and Palamon right tho* *then
With holy heart, and with an high courage,
Arose, to wenden* on his pilgrimage *go
Unto the blissful Cithera benign,
I meane Venus, honourable and digne*. *worthy
And in her hour <62> he walketh forth a pace
Unto the listes, where her temple was,
And down he kneeleth, and with humble cheer* *demeanour
And hearte sore, he said as ye shall hear.

"Fairest of fair, O lady mine Venus,
Daughter to Jove, and spouse of Vulcanus,
Thou gladder of the mount of Citheron!<41>
For thilke love thou haddest to Adon <63>
Have pity on my bitter teares smart,
And take mine humble prayer to thine heart.
Alas! I have no language to tell
Th'effecte, nor the torment of mine hell;
Mine hearte may mine harmes not betray;
I am so confused, that I cannot say.
But mercy, lady bright, that knowest well
My thought, and seest what harm that I feel.
Consider all this, and *rue upon* my sore, *take pity on*
As wisly* as I shall for evermore *truly
Enforce my might, thy true servant to be,
And holde war alway with chastity:
That make I mine avow*, so ye me help. *vow, promise
I keepe not of armes for to yelp,* *boast
Nor ask I not to-morrow to have victory,
Nor renown in this case, nor vaine glory
Of *prize of armes*, blowing up and down, *praise for valour*
But I would have fully possessioun
Of Emily, and die in her service;
Find thou the manner how, and in what wise.
I *recke not but* it may better be *do not know whether*
To have vict'ry of them, or they of me,
So that I have my lady in mine arms.
For though so be that Mars is god of arms,
Your virtue is so great in heaven above,
That, if you list, I shall well have my love.
Thy temple will I worship evermo',
And on thine altar, where I ride or go,
I will do sacrifice, and fires bete*. *make, kindle
And if ye will not so, my lady sweet,
Then pray I you, to-morrow with a spear
That Arcita me through the hearte bear
Then reck I not, when I have lost my life,
Though that Arcita win her to his wife.
This is th' effect and end of my prayere, —
Give me my love, thou blissful lady dear."
When th' orison was done of Palamon,
His sacrifice he did, and that anon,
Full piteously, with alle circumstances,
*All tell I not as now* his observances. *although I tell not now*
But at the last the statue of Venus shook,
And made a signe, whereby that he took
That his prayer accepted was that day.
For though the signe shewed a delay,
Yet wist he well that granted was his boon;
And with glad heart he went him home full soon.

The third hour unequal <64> that Palamon
Began to Venus' temple for to gon,
Up rose the sun, and up rose Emily,
And to the temple of Dian gan hie.
Her maidens, that she thither with her lad*, *led
Th' incense, the clothes, and the remnant all
That to the sacrifice belonge shall,
The hornes full of mead, as was the guise;
There lacked nought to do her sacrifice.
Smoking* the temple full of clothes fair, *draping <65>
This Emily with hearte debonnair* *gentle
Her body wash'd with water of a well.
But how she did her rite I dare not tell;
But* it be any thing in general; *unless
And yet it were a game* to hearen all *pleasure
To him that meaneth well it were no charge:
But it is good a man to *be at large*. *do as he will*
Her bright hair combed was, untressed all.
A coronet of green oak cerriall <66>
Upon her head was set full fair and meet.
Two fires on the altar gan she bete,
And did her thinges, as men may behold
In Stace of Thebes <67>, and these bookes old.
When kindled was the fire, with piteous cheer
Unto Dian she spake as ye may hear.

"O chaste goddess of the woodes green,
To whom both heav'n and earth and sea is seen,
Queen of the realm of Pluto dark and low,
Goddess of maidens, that mine heart hast know
Full many a year, and wost* what I desire, *knowest
To keep me from the vengeance of thine ire,
That Actaeon aboughte* cruelly: *earned; suffered from
Chaste goddess, well wottest thou that I
Desire to be a maiden all my life,
Nor never will I be no love nor wife.
I am, thou wost*, yet of thy company, *knowest
A maid, and love hunting and venery*, *field sports
And for to walken in the woodes wild,
And not to be a wife, and be with child.
Nought will I know the company of man.
Now help me, lady, since ye may and can,
For those three formes <68> that thou hast in thee.
And Palamon, that hath such love to me,
And eke Arcite, that loveth me so sore,
This grace I pray thee withoute more,
As sende love and peace betwixt them two:
And from me turn away their heartes so,
That all their hote love, and their desire,
And all their busy torment, and their fire,
Be queint*, or turn'd into another place. *quenched
And if so be thou wilt do me no grace,
Or if my destiny be shapen so
That I shall needes have one of them two,
So send me him that most desireth me.
Behold, goddess of cleane chastity,
The bitter tears that on my cheekes fall.
Since thou art maid, and keeper of us all,
My maidenhead thou keep and well conserve,
And, while I live, a maid I will thee serve.

The fires burn upon the altar clear,
While Emily was thus in her prayere:
But suddenly she saw a sighte quaint*. *strange
For right anon one of the fire's *queint
And quick'd* again, and after that anon *went out and revived*
That other fire was queint, and all agone:
And as it queint, it made a whisteling,
As doth a brande wet in its burning.
And at the brandes end outran anon
As it were bloody droppes many one:
For which so sore aghast was Emily,
That she was well-nigh mad, and gan to cry,
For she ne wiste what it signified;
But onely for feare thus she cried,
And wept, that it was pity for to hear.
And therewithal Diana gan appear
With bow in hand, right as an hunteress,
And saide; "Daughter, stint* thine heaviness. *cease
Among the goddes high it is affirm'd,
And by eternal word writ and confirm'd,
Thou shalt be wedded unto one of tho* *those
That have for thee so muche care and woe:
But unto which of them I may not tell.
Farewell, for here I may no longer dwell.
The fires which that on mine altar brenn*, *burn
Shall thee declaren, ere that thou go henne*, *hence
Thine aventure of love, as in this case."
And with that word, the arrows in the case* *quiver
Of the goddess did clatter fast and ring,
And forth she went, and made a vanishing,
For which this Emily astonied was,
And saide; "What amounteth this, alas!
I put me under thy protection,
Diane, and in thy disposition."
And home she went anon the nexte* way. *nearest
This is th' effect, there is no more to say.

The nexte hour of Mars following this
Arcite to the temple walked is
Of fierce Mars, to do his sacrifice
With all the rites of his pagan guise.
With piteous* heart and high devotion *pious
Right thus to Mars he said his orison
"O stronge god, that in the regnes* old *realms
Of Thrace honoured art, and lord y-hold* *held
And hast in every regne, and every land
Of armes all the bridle in thine hand,
And *them fortunest as thee list devise*, *send them fortune
Accept of me my piteous sacrifice. as you please*
If so be that my youthe may deserve,
And that my might be worthy for to serve
Thy godhead, that I may be one of thine,
Then pray I thee to *rue upon my pine*, *pity my anguish*
For thilke* pain, and thilke hote fire, *that
In which thou whilom burned'st for desire
Whenne that thou usedest* the beauty *enjoyed
Of faire young Venus, fresh and free,
And haddest her in armes at thy will:
And though thee ones on a time misfill*, *were unlucky
When Vulcanus had caught thee in his las*, *net <69>
And found thee ligging* by his wife, alas! *lying
For thilke sorrow that was in thine heart,
Have ruth* as well upon my paine's smart. *pity
I am young and unconning*, as thou know'st, *ignorant, simple
And, as I trow*, with love offended most *believe
That e'er was any living creature:
For she, that doth* me all this woe endure, *causes
Ne recketh ne'er whether I sink or fleet* *swim
And well I wot, ere she me mercy hete*, *promise, vouchsafe
I must with strengthe win her in the place:
And well I wot, withoute help or grace
Of thee, ne may my strengthe not avail:
Then help me, lord, to-morr'w in my bataille,
For thilke fire that whilom burned thee,
As well as this fire that now burneth me;
And do* that I to-morr'w may have victory. *cause
Mine be the travail, all thine be the glory.
Thy sovereign temple will I most honour
Of any place, and alway most labour
In thy pleasance and in thy craftes strong.
And in thy temple I will my banner hong*, *hang
And all the armes of my company,
And evermore, until that day I die,
Eternal fire I will before thee find
And eke to this my vow I will me bind:
My beard, my hair that hangeth long adown,
That never yet hath felt offension* *indignity
Of razor nor of shears, I will thee give,
And be thy true servant while I live.
Now, lord, have ruth upon my sorrows sore,
Give me the victory, I ask no more."

The prayer stint* of Arcita the strong, *ended
The ringes on the temple door that hong,
And eke the doores, clattered full fast,
Of which Arcita somewhat was aghast.
The fires burn'd upon the altar bright,
That it gan all the temple for to light;
A sweete smell anon the ground up gaf*, *gave
And Arcita anon his hand up haf*, *lifted
And more incense into the fire he cast,
With other rites more and at the last
The statue of Mars began his hauberk ring;
And with that sound he heard a murmuring
Full low and dim, that saide thus, "Victory."
For which he gave to Mars honour and glory.
And thus with joy, and hope well to fare,
Arcite anon unto his inn doth fare.
As fain* as fowl is of the brighte sun. *glad

And right anon such strife there is begun
For thilke* granting, in the heav'n above, *that
Betwixte Venus the goddess of love,
And Mars the sterne god armipotent,
That Jupiter was busy it to stent*: *stop
Till that the pale Saturnus the cold,<70>
That knew so many of adventures old,
Found in his old experience such an art,
That he full soon hath pleased every part.
As sooth is said, eld* hath great advantage, *age
In eld is bothe wisdom and usage*: *experience
Men may the old out-run, but not out-rede*. *outwit
Saturn anon, to stint the strife and drede,
Albeit that it is against his kind,* *nature
Of all this strife gan a remedy find.
"My deare daughter Venus," quoth Saturn,
"My course*, that hath so wide for to turn, *orbit <71>
Hath more power than wot any man.
Mine is the drowning in the sea so wan;
Mine is the prison in the darke cote*, *cell
Mine the strangling and hanging by the throat,
The murmur, and the churlish rebelling,
The groyning*, and the privy poisoning. *discontent
I do vengeance and plein* correction, *full
I dwell in the sign of the lion.
Mine is the ruin of the highe halls,
The falling of the towers and the walls
Upon the miner or the carpenter:
I slew Samson in shaking the pillar:
Mine also be the maladies cold,
The darke treasons, and the castes* old: *plots
My looking is the father of pestilence.
Now weep no more, I shall do diligence
That Palamon, that is thine owen knight,
Shall have his lady, as thou hast him hight*. *promised
Though Mars shall help his knight, yet natheless
Betwixte you there must sometime be peace:
All be ye not of one complexion,
That each day causeth such division,
I am thine ayel*, ready at thy will; *grandfather <72>
Weep now no more, I shall thy lust* fulfil." *pleasure
Now will I stenten* of the gods above, *cease speaking
Of Mars, and of Venus, goddess of love,
And telle you as plainly as I can
The great effect, for which that I began.

Great was the feast in Athens thilke* day; *that
And eke the lusty season of that May
Made every wight to be in such pleasance,
That all that Monday jousten they and dance,
And spenden it in Venus' high service.
But by the cause that they shoulde rise
Early a-morrow for to see that fight,
Unto their reste wente they at night.
And on the morrow, when the day gan spring,
Of horse and harness* noise and clattering *armour
There was in the hostelries all about:
And to the palace rode there many a rout* *train, retinue
Of lordes, upon steedes and palfreys.
There mayst thou see devising* of harness *decoration
So uncouth* and so rich, and wrought so weel *unkown, rare
Of goldsmithry, of brouding*, and of steel; *embroidery
The shieldes bright, the testers*, and trappures** *helmets<73>
Gold-hewen helmets, hauberks, coat-armures; **trappings
Lordes in parements* on their coursers, *ornamental garb <74>;
Knightes of retinue, and eke squiers,
Nailing the spears, and helmes buckeling,
Gniding* of shieldes, with lainers** lacing; *polishing <75>
There as need is, they were nothing idle: **lanyards
The foamy steeds upon the golden bridle
Gnawing, and fast the armourers also
With file and hammer pricking to and fro;
Yeomen on foot, and knaves* many one *servants
With shorte staves, thick* as they may gon**; *close **walk
Pipes, trumpets, nakeres*, and clariouns, *drums <76>
That in the battle blowe bloody souns;
The palace full of people up and down,
There three, there ten, holding their questioun*, *conversation
Divining* of these Theban knightes two. *conjecturing
Some saiden thus, some said it shall he so;
Some helden with him with the blacke beard,
Some with the bald, some with the thick-hair'd;
Some said he looked grim, and woulde fight:
He had a sparth* of twenty pound of weight. *double-headed axe
Thus was the halle full of divining* *conjecturing
Long after that the sunne gan up spring.
The great Theseus that of his sleep is waked
With minstrelsy, and noise that was maked,
Held yet the chamber of his palace rich,
Till that the Theban knightes both y-lich* *alike
Honoured were, and to the palace fet*. *fetched
Duke Theseus is at a window set,
Array'd right as he were a god in throne:
The people presseth thitherward full soon
Him for to see, and do him reverence,
And eke to hearken his hest* and his sentence**. *command **speech
An herald on a scaffold made an O, <77>
Till the noise of the people was y-do*: *done
And when he saw the people of noise all still,
Thus shewed he the mighty Duke's will.
"The lord hath of his high discretion
Considered that it were destruction
To gentle blood, to fighten in the guise
Of mortal battle now in this emprise:
Wherefore to shape* that they shall not die, *arrange, contrive
He will his firste purpose modify.
No man therefore, on pain of loss of life,
No manner* shot, nor poleaxe, nor short knife *kind of
Into the lists shall send, or thither bring.
Nor short sword for to stick with point biting
No man shall draw, nor bear it by his side.
And no man shall unto his fellow ride
But one course, with a sharp y-grounden spear:
*Foin if him list on foot, himself to wear. *He who wishes can
And he that is at mischief shall be take*, fence on foot to defend
And not slain, but be brought unto the stake, himself, and he that
That shall be ordained on either side; is in peril shall be taken*
Thither he shall by force, and there abide.
And if *so fall* the chiefetain be take *should happen*
On either side, or elles slay his make*, *equal, match
No longer then the tourneying shall last.
God speede you; go forth and lay on fast.
With long sword and with mace fight your fill.
Go now your way; this is the lordes will.
The voice of the people touched the heaven,
So loude cried they with merry steven*: *sound
God save such a lord that is so good,
He willeth no destruction of blood.

Up go the trumpets and the melody,
And to the listes rode the company
*By ordinance*, throughout the city large, *in orderly array*
Hanged with cloth of gold, and not with sarge*. *serge <78>
Full like a lord this noble Duke gan ride,
And these two Thebans upon either side:

And after rode the queen and Emily,
And after them another company
Of one and other, after their degree.
And thus they passed thorough that city
And to the listes came they by time:
It was not of the day yet fully prime*. *between 6 & 9 a.m.
When set was Theseus full rich and high,
Hippolyta the queen and Emily,
And other ladies in their degrees about,
Unto the seates presseth all the rout.
And westward, through the gates under Mart,
Arcite, and eke the hundred of his part,
With banner red, is enter'd right anon;
And in the selve* moment Palamon *self-same
Is, under Venus, eastward in the place,
With banner white, and hardy cheer* and face *expression
In all the world, to seeken up and down
So even* without variatioun *equal
There were such companies never tway.
For there was none so wise that coulde say
That any had of other avantage
Of worthiness, nor of estate, nor age,
So even were they chosen for to guess.
And *in two ranges faire they them dress*. *they arranged themselves
When that their names read were every one, in two rows*
That in their number guile* were there none, *fraud
Then were the gates shut, and cried was loud;
"Do now your devoir, younge knights proud
The heralds left their pricking* up and down *spurring their horses
Now ring the trumpet loud and clarioun.
There is no more to say, but east and west
In go the speares sadly* in the rest; *steadily
In go the sharpe spurs into the side.
There see me who can joust, and who can ride.
There shiver shaftes upon shieldes thick;
He feeleth through the hearte-spoon<79> the prick.
Up spring the speares twenty foot on height;
Out go the swordes as the silver bright.
The helmes they to-hewen, and to-shred*; *strike in pieces <80>
Out burst the blood, with sterne streames red.
With mighty maces the bones they to-brest*. *burst
He <81> through the thickest of the throng gan threst*. *thrust
There stumble steedes strong, and down go all.
He rolleth under foot as doth a ball.
He foineth* on his foe with a trunchoun, *forces himself
And he him hurtleth with his horse adown.
He through the body hurt is, and *sith take*, *afterwards captured*
Maugre his head, and brought unto the stake,
As forword* was, right there he must abide. *covenant
Another led is on that other side.
And sometime doth* them Theseus to rest, *caused
Them to refresh, and drinken if them lest*. *pleased
Full oft a day have thilke Thebans two *these
Together met and wrought each other woe:
Unhorsed hath each other of them tway* *twice
There is no tiger in the vale of Galaphay, <82>
When that her whelp is stole, when it is lite* *little
So cruel on the hunter, as Arcite
For jealous heart upon this Palamon:
Nor in Belmarie <83> there is no fell lion,
That hunted is, or for his hunger wood* *mad
Or for his prey desireth so the blood,
As Palamon to slay his foe Arcite.
The jealous strokes upon their helmets bite;
Out runneth blood on both their sides red,
Sometime an end there is of every deed
For ere the sun unto the reste went,
The stronge king Emetrius gan hent* *sieze, assail
This Palamon, as he fought with Arcite,
And made his sword deep in his flesh to bite,
And by the force of twenty is he take,
Unyielding, and is drawn unto the stake.
And in the rescue of this Palamon
The stronge king Licurgus is borne down:
And king Emetrius, for all his strength
Is borne out of his saddle a sword's length,
So hit him Palamon ere he were take:
But all for nought; he was brought to the stake:
His hardy hearte might him helpe naught,
He must abide when that he was caught,
By force, and eke by composition*. *the bargain
Who sorroweth now but woful Palamon
That must no more go again to fight?
And when that Theseus had seen that sight
Unto the folk that foughte thus each one,
He cried, Ho! no more, for it is done!
I will be true judge, and not party.
Arcite of Thebes shall have Emily,
That by his fortune hath her fairly won."
Anon there is a noise of people gone,
For joy of this, so loud and high withal,
It seemed that the listes shoulde fall.

What can now faire Venus do above?
What saith she now? what doth this queen of love?
But weepeth so, for wanting of her will,
Till that her teares in the listes fill* *fall
She said: "I am ashamed doubteless."
Saturnus saide: "Daughter, hold thy peace.
Mars hath his will, his knight hath all his boon,
And by mine head thou shalt be eased soon."
The trumpeters with the loud minstrelsy,
The heralds, that full loude yell and cry,
Be in their joy for weal of Dan* Arcite. *Lord
But hearken me, and stinte noise a lite,
What a miracle there befell anon
This fierce Arcite hath off his helm y-done,
And on a courser for to shew his face
He *pricketh endelong* the large place, *rides from end to end*
Looking upward upon this Emily;
And she again him cast a friendly eye
(For women, as to speaken *in commune*, *generally*
They follow all the favour of fortune),
And was all his in cheer*, as his in heart. *countenance
Out of the ground a fire infernal start,
From Pluto sent, at request of Saturn
For which his horse for fear began to turn,
And leap aside, and founder* as he leap *stumble
And ere that Arcite may take any keep*, *care
He pight* him on the pummel** of his head. *pitched **top
That in the place he lay as he were dead.
His breast to-bursten with his saddle-bow.
As black he lay as any coal or crow,
So was the blood y-run into his face.
Anon he was y-borne out of the place
With hearte sore, to Theseus' palace.
Then was he carven* out of his harness. *cut
And in a bed y-brought full fair and blive* *quickly
For he was yet in mem'ry and alive,
And always crying after Emily.

Duke Theseus, with all his company,
Is come home to Athens his city,
With alle bliss and great solemnity.
Albeit that this aventure was fall*, *befallen
He woulde not discomforte* them all *discourage
Then said eke, that Arcite should not die,
He should be healed of his malady.
And of another thing they were as fain*. *glad
That of them alle was there no one slain,
All* were they sorely hurt, and namely** one, *although **especially
That with a spear was thirled* his breast-bone. *pierced
To other woundes, and to broken arms,
Some hadden salves, and some hadden charms:
And pharmacies of herbs, and eke save* *sage, Salvia officinalis
They dranken, for they would their lives have.
For which this noble Duke, as he well can,
Comforteth and honoureth every man,
And made revel all the longe night,
Unto the strange lordes, as was right.
Nor there was holden no discomforting,
But as at jousts or at a tourneying;
For soothly there was no discomfiture,
For falling is not but an aventure*. *chance, accident
Nor to be led by force unto a stake
Unyielding, and with twenty knights y-take
One person all alone, withouten mo',
And harried* forth by armes, foot, and toe, *dragged, hurried
And eke his steede driven forth with staves,
With footmen, bothe yeomen and eke knaves*, *servants
It was *aretted him no villainy:* *counted no disgrace to him*
There may no man *clepen it cowardy*. *call it cowardice*
For which anon Duke Theseus *let cry*, — *caused to be proclaimed*
To stenten* alle rancour and envy, — *stop
The gree* as well on one side as the other, *prize, merit
And either side alike as other's brother:
And gave them giftes after their degree,
And held a feaste fully dayes three:
And conveyed the kinges worthily
Out of his town a journee* largely *day's journey
And home went every man the righte way,
There was no more but "Farewell, Have good day."
Of this bataille I will no more indite
But speak of Palamon and of Arcite.

Swelleth the breast of Arcite and the sore
Increaseth at his hearte more and more.
The clotted blood, for any leache-craft* *surgical skill
Corrupteth and is *in his bouk y-laft* *left in his body*
That neither *veine blood nor ventousing*, *blood-letting or cupping*
Nor drink of herbes may be his helping.
The virtue expulsive or animal,
From thilke virtue called natural,
Nor may the venom voide, nor expel
The pipes of his lungs began to swell
And every lacert* in his breast adown *sinew, muscle
Is shent* with venom and corruption. *destroyed
Him gaineth* neither, for to get his life, *availeth
Vomit upward, nor downward laxative;
All is to-bursten thilke region;
Nature hath now no domination.
And certainly where nature will not wirch,* *work
Farewell physic: go bear the man to chirch.* *church
This all and some is, Arcite must die.
For which he sendeth after Emily,
And Palamon, that was his cousin dear,
Then said he thus, as ye shall after hear.

"Nought may the woful spirit in mine heart
Declare one point of all my sorrows' smart
To you, my lady, that I love the most:
But I bequeath the service of my ghost
To you aboven every creature,
Since that my life ne may no longer dure.
Alas the woe! alas, the paines strong
That I for you have suffered and so long!
Alas the death, alas, mine Emily!
Alas departing* of our company! *the severance
Alas, mine hearte's queen! alas, my wife!
Mine hearte's lady, ender of my life!
What is this world? what aske men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave
Al one, withouten any company.
Farewell, my sweet, farewell, mine Emily,
And softly take me in your armes tway,
For love of God, and hearken what I say.
I have here with my cousin Palamon
Had strife and rancour many a day agone,
For love of you, and for my jealousy.
And Jupiter so *wis my soule gie*, *surely guides my soul*
To speaken of a servant properly,
With alle circumstances truely,
That is to say, truth, honour, and knighthead,
Wisdom, humbless*, estate, and high kindred, *humility
Freedom, and all that longeth to that art,
So Jupiter have of my soul part,
As in this world right now I know not one,
So worthy to be lov'd as Palamon,
That serveth you, and will do all his life.
And if that you shall ever be a wife,
Forget not Palamon, the gentle man."

And with that word his speech to fail began.
For from his feet up to his breast was come
The cold of death, that had him overnome*. *overcome
And yet moreover in his armes two
The vital strength is lost, and all ago*. *gone
Only the intellect, withoute more,
That dwelled in his hearte sick and sore,
Gan faile, when the hearte felte death;
Dusked* his eyen two, and fail'd his breath. *grew dim
But on his lady yet he cast his eye;
His laste word was; "Mercy, Emily!"
His spirit changed house, and wente there,
As I came never I cannot telle where.<84>
Therefore I stent*, I am no divinister**; *refrain **diviner
Of soules find I nought in this register.
Ne me list not th' opinions to tell
Of them, though that they writen where they dwell;
Arcite is cold, there Mars his soule gie.* *guide
Now will I speake forth of Emily.

Shriek'd Emily, and howled Palamon,
And Theseus his sister took anon
Swooning, and bare her from the corpse away.
What helpeth it to tarry forth the day,
To telle how she wept both eve and morrow?
For in such cases women have such sorrow,
When that their husbands be from them y-go*, *gone
That for the more part they sorrow so,
Or elles fall into such malady,
That at the laste certainly they die.
Infinite be the sorrows and the tears
Of olde folk, and folk of tender years,
In all the town, for death of this Theban:
For him there weepeth bothe child and man.
So great a weeping was there none certain,
When Hector was y-brought, all fresh y-slain,
To Troy: alas! the pity that was there,
Scratching of cheeks, and rending eke of hair.
"Why wouldest thou be dead?" these women cry,
"And haddest gold enough, and Emily."
No manner man might gladden Theseus,
Saving his olde father Egeus,
That knew this worlde's transmutatioun,
As he had seen it changen up and down,
Joy after woe, and woe after gladness;
And shewed him example and likeness.
"Right as there died never man," quoth he,
"That he ne liv'd in earth in some degree*, *rank, condition
Right so there lived never man," he said,
"In all this world, that sometime be not died.
This world is but a throughfare full of woe,
And we be pilgrims, passing to and fro:
Death is an end of every worldly sore."
And over all this said he yet much more
To this effect, full wisely to exhort
The people, that they should them recomfort.
Duke Theseus, with all his busy cure*, *care
*Casteth about*, where that the sepulture *deliberates*
Of good Arcite may best y-maked be,
And eke most honourable in his degree.
And at the last he took conclusion,
That there as first Arcite and Palamon
Hadde for love the battle them between,
That in that selve* grove, sweet and green, *self-same
There as he had his amorous desires,
His complaint, and for love his hote fires,
He woulde make a fire*, in which th' office *funeral pyre
Of funeral he might all accomplice;
And *let anon command* to hack and hew *immediately gave orders*
The oakes old, and lay them *on a rew* *in a row*
In culpons*, well arrayed for to brenne**. *logs **burn
His officers with swifte feet they renne* *run
And ride anon at his commandement.
And after this, Duke Theseus hath sent
After a bier, and it all oversprad
With cloth of gold, the richest that he had;
And of the same suit he clad Arcite.
Upon his handes were his gloves white,
Eke on his head a crown of laurel green,
And in his hand a sword full bright and keen.
He laid him *bare the visage* on the bier, *with face uncovered*
Therewith he wept, that pity was to hear.
And, for the people shoulde see him all,
When it was day he brought them to the hall,
That roareth of the crying and the soun'.
Then came this woful Theban, Palamon,
With sluttery beard, and ruggy ashy hairs,<85>
In clothes black, y-dropped all with tears,
And (passing over weeping Emily)
The ruefullest of all the company.
And *inasmuch as* the service should be *in order that*
The more noble and rich in its degree,
Duke Theseus let forth three steedes bring,
That trapped were in steel all glittering.
And covered with the arms of Dan Arcite.
Upon these steedes, that were great and white,
There satte folk, of whom one bare his shield,
Another his spear in his handes held;
The thirde bare with him his bow Turkeis*, *Turkish.
Of brent* gold was the case** and the harness: *burnished **quiver
And ride forth *a pace* with sorrowful cheer** *at a foot pace*
Toward the grove, as ye shall after hear. **expression

The noblest of the Greekes that there were
Upon their shoulders carried the bier,
With slacke pace, and eyen red and wet,
Throughout the city, by the master* street, *main <86>
That spread was all with black, and wondrous high
Right of the same is all the street y-wrie.* *covered <87>
Upon the right hand went old Egeus,
And on the other side Duke Theseus,
With vessels in their hand of gold full fine,
All full of honey, milk, and blood, and wine;
Eke Palamon, with a great company;
And after that came woful Emily,
With fire in hand, as was that time the guise*, *custom
To do th' office of funeral service.

High labour, and full great appareling* *preparation
Was at the service, and the pyre-making,
That with its greene top the heaven raught*, *reached
And twenty fathom broad its armes straught*: *stretched
This is to say, the boughes were so broad.
Of straw first there was laid many a load.
But how the pyre was maked up on height,
And eke the names how the trees hight*, *were called
As oak, fir, birch, asp*, alder, holm, poplere, *aspen
Willow, elm, plane, ash, box, chestnut, lind*, laurere, *linden, lime
Maple, thorn, beech, hazel, yew, whipul tree,
How they were fell'd, shall not be told for me;
Nor how the goddes* rannen up and down *the forest deities
Disinherited of their habitatioun,
In which they wonned* had in rest and peace, *dwelt
Nymphes, Faunes, and Hamadryades;
Nor how the beastes and the birdes all
Fledden for feare, when the wood gan fall;
Nor how the ground aghast* was of the light, *terrified
That was not wont to see the sunne bright;
Nor how the fire was couched* first with stre**, *laid **straw
And then with dry stickes cloven in three,
And then with greene wood and spicery*, *spices
And then with cloth of gold and with pierrie*, *precious stones
And garlands hanging with full many a flower,
The myrrh, the incense with so sweet odour;
Nor how Arcita lay among all this,
Nor what richess about his body is;
Nor how that Emily, as was the guise*, *custom
*Put in the fire* of funeral service<88>; *appplied the torch*
Nor how she swooned when she made the fire,
Nor what she spake, nor what was her desire;
Nor what jewels men in the fire then cast
When that the fire was great and burned fast;

Nor how some cast their shield, and some their spear,
And of their vestiments, which that they wear,
And cuppes full of wine, and milk, and blood,
Into the fire, that burnt as it were wood*; *mad
Nor how the Greekes with a huge rout* *procession
Three times riden all the fire about <89>
Upon the left hand, with a loud shouting,
And thries with their speares clattering;
And thries how the ladies gan to cry;
Nor how that led was homeward Emily;
Nor how Arcite is burnt to ashes cold;
Nor how the lyke-wake* was y-hold *wake <90>
All thilke* night, nor how the Greekes play *that
The wake-plays*, ne keep** I not to say: *funeral games **care
Who wrestled best naked, with oil anoint,
Nor who that bare him best *in no disjoint*. *in any contest*
I will not tell eke how they all are gone
Home to Athenes when the play is done;
But shortly to the point now will I wend*, *come
And maken of my longe tale an end.

By process and by length of certain years
All stinted* is the mourning and the tears *ended
Of Greekes, by one general assent.
Then seemed me there was a parlement
At Athens, upon certain points and cas*: *cases
Amonge the which points y-spoken was
To have with certain countries alliance,
And have of Thebans full obeisance.
For which this noble Theseus anon
Let* send after the gentle Palamon, *caused
Unwist* of him what was the cause and why: *unknown
But in his blacke clothes sorrowfully
He came at his commandment *on hie*; *in haste*
Then sente Theseus for Emily.
When they were set*, and hush'd was all the place *seated
And Theseus abided* had a space *waited
Ere any word came from his wise breast
*His eyen set he there as was his lest*, *he cast his eyes
And with a sad visage he sighed still, wherever he pleased*
And after that right thus he said his will.
"The firste mover of the cause above
When he first made the faire chain of love,
Great was th' effect, and high was his intent;
Well wist he why, and what thereof he meant:
For with that faire chain of love he bond* *bound
The fire, the air, the water, and the lond
In certain bondes, that they may not flee:<91>
That same prince and mover eke," quoth he,
"Hath stablish'd, in this wretched world adown,
Certain of dayes and duration
To all that are engender'd in this place,
Over the whiche day they may not pace*, *pass
All may they yet their dayes well abridge.
There needeth no authority to allege
For it is proved by experience;
But that me list declare my sentence*. *opinion
Then may men by this order well discern,
That thilke* mover stable is and etern. *the same
Well may men know, but that it be a fool,
That every part deriveth from its whole.
For nature hath not ta'en its beginning
Of no *partie nor cantle* of a thing, *part or piece*
But of a thing that perfect is and stable,
Descending so, till it be corruptable.
And therefore of His wise purveyance* *providence
He hath so well beset* his ordinance,
That species of things and progressions
Shallen endure by successions,
And not etern, withouten any lie:
This mayst thou understand and see at eye.
Lo th' oak, that hath so long a nourishing
From the time that it 'ginneth first to spring,
And hath so long a life, as ye may see,
Yet at the last y-wasted is the tree.
Consider eke, how that the harde stone
Under our feet, on which we tread and gon*, *walk
Yet wasteth, as it lieth by the way.
The broade river some time waxeth drey*. *dry
The greate townes see we wane and wend*. *go, disappear
Then may ye see that all things have an end.
Of man and woman see we well also, —
That needes in one of the termes two, —
That is to say, in youth or else in age,-
He must be dead, the king as shall a page;
Some in his bed, some in the deepe sea,
Some in the large field, as ye may see:
There helpeth nought, all go that ilke* way: *same
Then may I say that alle thing must die.
What maketh this but Jupiter the king?
The which is prince, and cause of alle thing,
Converting all unto his proper will,
From which it is derived, sooth to tell
And hereagainst no creature alive,
Of no degree, availeth for to strive.
Then is it wisdom, as it thinketh me,
To make a virtue of necessity,
And take it well, that we may not eschew*, *escape
And namely what to us all is due.
And whoso grudgeth* ought, he doth folly, *murmurs at
And rebel is to him that all may gie*. *direct, guide
And certainly a man hath most honour
To dien in his excellence and flower,
When he is sicker* of his goode name. *certain
Then hath he done his friend, nor him*, no shame *himself
And gladder ought his friend be of his death,
When with honour is yielded up his breath,
Than when his name *appalled is for age*; *decayed by old age*
For all forgotten is his vassalage*. *valour, service
Then is it best, as for a worthy fame,
To dien when a man is best of name.
The contrary of all this is wilfulness.
Why grudge we, why have we heaviness,
That good Arcite, of chivalry the flower,
Departed is, with duty and honour,
Out of this foule prison of this life?
Why grudge here his cousin and his wife
Of his welfare, that loved him so well?
Can he them thank? nay, God wot, neverdeal*, — *not a jot
That both his soul and eke themselves offend*, *hurt
And yet they may their lustes* not amend**. *desires **control
What may I conclude of this longe serie*, *string of remarks
But after sorrow I rede* us to be merry, *counsel
And thanke Jupiter for all his grace?
And ere that we departe from this place,
I rede that we make of sorrows two
One perfect joye lasting evermo':
And look now where most sorrow is herein,
There will I first amenden and begin.
"Sister," quoth he, "this is my full assent,
With all th' advice here of my parlement,
That gentle Palamon, your owen knight,
That serveth you with will, and heart, and might,
And ever hath, since first time ye him knew,
That ye shall of your grace upon him rue*, *take pity
And take him for your husband and your lord:
Lend me your hand, for this is our accord.
*Let see* now of your womanly pity. *make display*
He is a kinge's brother's son, pardie*. *by God
And though he were a poore bachelere,
Since he hath served you so many a year,
And had for you so great adversity,
It muste be considered, *'lieveth me*. *believe me*
For gentle mercy *oweth to passen right*." *ought to be rightly
Then said he thus to Palamon the knight; directed*
"I trow there needeth little sermoning
To make you assente to this thing.
Come near, and take your lady by the hand."
Betwixte them was made anon the band,
That hight matrimony or marriage,
By all the counsel of the baronage.
And thus with alle bliss and melody
Hath Palamon y-wedded Emily.
And God, that all this wide world hath wrought,
Send him his love, that hath it dearly bought.
For now is Palamon in all his weal,
Living in bliss, in riches, and in heal*. *health
And Emily him loves so tenderly,
And he her serveth all so gentilly,
That never was there worde them between
Of jealousy, nor of none other teen*. *cause of anger
Thus endeth Palamon and Emily
And God save all this faire company.

Notes to The Knight's Tale.

1. For the plan and principal incidents of the "Knight's Tale," Chaucer was indebted to Boccaccio, who had himself borrowed from some prior poet, chronicler, or romancer. Boccaccio speaks of the story as "very ancient;" and, though that may not be proof of its antiquity, it certainly shows that he took it from an earlier writer. The "Tale" is more or less a paraphrase of Boccaccio's "Theseida;" but in some points the copy has a distinct dramatic superiority over the original. The "Theseida" contained ten thousand lines; Chaucer has condensed it into less than one-fourth of the number. The "Knight's Tale" is supposed to have been at first composed as a separate work; it is undetermined whether Chaucer took it direct from the Italian of Boccaccio, or from a French translation.

2. Highte: was called; from the Anglo-Saxon "hatan", to bid or call; German, "Heissen", "heisst".

3. Feminie: The "Royaume des Femmes" — kingdom of the Amazons. Gower, in the "Confessio Amantis," styles Penthesilea the "Queen of Feminie."

4. Wonnen: Won, conquered; German "gewonnen."

5. Ear: To plough; Latin, "arare." "I have abundant matter for discourse." The first, and half of the second, of Boccaccio's twelve books are disposed of in the few lines foregoing.

6. Waimenting: bewailing; German, "wehklagen"

7. Starf: died; German, "sterben," "starb".

8. The Minotaur: The monster, half-man and half-bull, which yearly devoured a tribute of fourteen Athenian youths and maidens, until it was slain by Theseus.

9. Pillers: pillagers, strippers; French, "pilleurs."

10. The donjon was originally the central tower or "keep" of feudal castles; it was employed to detain prisoners of importance. Hence the modern meaning of the word dungeon.

11. Saturn, in the old astrology, was a most unpropitious star to be born under.

12. To die in the pain was a proverbial expression in the French, used as an alternative to enforce a resolution or a promise. Edward III., according to Froissart, declared that he would either succeed in the war against France or die in the pain — "Ou il mourroit en la peine." It was the fashion in those times to swear oaths of friendship and brotherhood; and hence, though the fashion has long died out, we still speak of "sworn friends."

13. The saying of the old scholar Boethius, in his treatise "De Consolatione Philosophiae", which Chaucer translated, and from which he has freely borrowed in his poetry. The words are "Quis legem det amantibus? Major lex amor est sibi." ("Who can give law to lovers? Love is a law unto himself, and greater")

14. "Perithous" and "Theseus" must, for the metre, be pronounced as words of four and three syllables respectively — the vowels at the end not being diphthongated, but enunciated separately, as if the words were printed Pe-ri-tho-us, The-se-us. The same rule applies in such words as "creature" and "conscience," which are trisyllables.

15. Stound: moment, short space of time; from Anglo-Saxon, "stund;" akin to which is German, "Stunde," an hour.

16. Meinie: servants, or menials, &c., dwelling together in a house; from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning a crowd. Compare German, "Menge," multitude.

17. The pure fetters: the very fetters. The Greeks used "katharos", the Romans "purus," in the same sense.

18. In the medieval courts of Love, to which allusion is probably made forty lines before, in the word "parlement," or "parliament," questions like that here proposed were seriously discussed.

19. Gear: behaviour, fashion, dress; but, by another reading, the word is "gyre," and means fit, trance — from the Latin, "gyro," I turn round.

20. Before his head in his cell fantastic: in front of his head in his cell of fantasy. "The division of the brain into cells, according to the different sensitive faculties," says Mr Wright, "is very ancient, and is found depicted in mediaeval manuscripts." In a manuscript in the Harleian Library, it is stated, "Certum est in prora cerebri esse fantasiam, in medio rationem discretionis, in puppi memoriam" (it is certain that in the front of the brain is imagination, in the middle reason, in the back memory) — a classification not materially differing from that of modern phrenologists.

21. Dan: Lord; Latin, "Dominus;" Spanish, "Don."

22. The "caduceus."

23. Argus was employed by Juno to watch Io with his hundred eyes but he was sent to sleep by the flute of Mercury, who then cut off his head.

24. Next: nearest; German, "naechste".

25. Clary: hippocras, wine made with spices.

26. Warray: make war; French "guerroyer", to molest; hence, perhaps, "to worry."

27. All day meeten men at unset steven: every day men meet at unexpected time. "To set a steven," is to fix a time, make an appointment.

28. Roundelay: song coming round again to the words with which it opened.

29. Now in the crop and now down in the breres: Now in the tree-top, now down in the briars. "Crop and root," top and bottom, is used to express the perfection or totality of anything.

30. Beknow: avow, acknowledge: German, "bekennen."

31. Shapen was my death erst than my shert: My death was decreed before my shirt ws shaped — that is, before any clothes were made for me, before my birth.

32. Regne: Queen; French, "Reine;" Venus is meant. The common reading, however, is "regne," reign or power.

33. Launde: plain. Compare modern English, "lawn," and French, "Landes" — flat, bare marshy tracts in the south of France.

34. Mister: manner, kind; German "muster," sample, model.

35. In listes: in the lists, prepared for such single combats between champion and accuser, &c.

36. Thilke: that, contracted from "the ilke," the same.

37. Mars the Red: referring to the ruddy colour of the planet, to which was doubtless due the transference to it of the name of the God of War. In his "Republic," enumerating the seven planets, Cicero speaks of the propitious and beneficent light of Jupiter: "Tum (fulgor) rutilis horribilisque terris, quem Martium dicitis" — "Then the red glow, horrible to the nations, which you say to be that of Mars." Boccaccio opens the "Theseida" by an invocation to "rubicondo Marte."

38. Last: lace, leash, noose, snare: from Latin, "laceus."

39. "Round was the shape, in manner of compass, Full of degrees, the height of sixty pas" The building was a circle of steps or benches, as in the ancient amphitheatre. Either the building was sixty paces high; or, more probably, there were sixty of the steps or benches.

40. Yellow goldes: The sunflower, turnsol, or girasol, which turns with and seems to watch the sun, as a jealous lover his mistress.

41. Citheron: The Isle of Venus, Cythera, in the Aegean Sea; now called Cerigo: not, as Chaucer's form of the word might imply, Mount Cithaeron, in the south-west of Boetia, which was appropriated to other deities than Venus — to Jupiter, to Bacchus, and the Muses.

42. It need not be said that Chaucer pays slight heed to chronology in this passage, where the deeds of Turnus, the glory of King Solomon, and the fate of Croesus are made memories of the far past in the time of fabulous Theseus, the Minotaur-slayer.

43. Champartie: divided power or possession; an old law-term, signifying the maintenance of a person in a law suit on the condition of receiving part of the property in dispute, if recovered.

44. Citole: a kind of dulcimer.

45. The picke-purse: The plunderers that followed armies, and gave to war a horror all their own.

46. Shepen: stable; Anglo-Saxon, "scypen;" the word "sheppon" still survives in provincial parlance.

47. This line, perhaps, refers to the deed of Jael.

48. The shippes hoppesteres: The meaning is dubious. We may understand "the dancing ships," "the ships that hop" on the waves; "steres" being taken as the feminine adjectival termination: or we may, perhaps, read, with one of the manuscripts, "the ships upon the steres" — that is, even as they are being steered, or on the open sea — a more picturesque notion.

49. Freting: devouring; the Germans use "Fressen" to mean eating by animals, "essen" by men.

50. Julius: i.e. Julius Caesar

51. Puella and Rubeus were two figures in geomancy, representing two constellations-the one signifying Mars retrograde, the other Mars direct.

52. Calistope: or Callisto, daughter of Lycaon, seduced by Jupiter, turned into a bear by Diana, and placed afterwards, with her son, as the Great Bear among the stars.

53. Dane: Daphne, daughter of the river-god Peneus, in Thessaly; she was beloved by Apollo, but to avoid his pursuit, she was, at her own prayer, changed into a laurel-tree.

54. As the goddess of Light, or the goddess who brings to light, Diana — as well as Juno — was invoked by women in childbirth: so Horace, Odes iii. 22, says:—

"Montium custos nemorumque, Virgo,
Quae laborantes utero puellas
Ter vocata audis adimisque leto,
Diva triformis."

("Virgin custodian of hills and groves, three-formed goddess who hears and saves from death young women who call upon her thrice when in childbirth")

55. Every deal: in every part; "deal" corresponds to the German "Theil" a portion.

56. Sikerly: surely; German, "sicher;" Scotch, "sikkar," certain. When Robert Bruce had escaped from England to assume the Scottish crown, he stabbed Comyn before the altar at Dumfries; and, emerging from the church, was asked by his friend Kirkpatrick if he had slain the traitor. "I doubt it," said Bruce. "Doubt," cried Kirkpatrick. "I'll mak sikkar;" and he rushed into the church, and despatched Comyn with repeated thrusts of his dagger.

57. Kemped: combed; the word survives in "unkempt."

58. Alauns: greyhounds, mastiffs; from the Spanish word "Alano," signifying a mastiff.

59. Y-ment: mixed; German, "mengen," to mix.

60. Prime: The time of early prayers, between six and nine in the morning.

61. On the dais: see note 32 to the Prologue.

62. In her hour: in the hour of the day (two hours before daybreak) which after the astrological system that divided the twenty-four among the seven ruling planets, was under the influence of Venus.

63. Adon: Adonis, a beautiful youth beloved of Venus, whose death by the tusk of a boar she deeply mourned.

64. The third hour unequal: In the third planetary hour; Palamon had gone forth in the hour of Venus, two hours before daybreak; the hour of Mercury intervened; the third hour was that of Luna, or Diana. "Unequal" refers to the astrological division of day and night, whatever their duration, into twelve parts, which of necessity varied in length with the season.

65. Smoking: draping; hence the word "smock;" "smokless," in Chaucer, means naked.

66. Cerrial: of the species of oak which Pliny, in his "Natural History," calls "cerrus."

67. Stace of Thebes: Statius, the Roman who embodied in the twelve books of his "Thebaid" the ancient legends connected with the war of the seven against Thebes.

68. Diana was Luna in heaven, Diana on earth, and Hecate in hell; hence the direction of the eyes of her statue to "Pluto's dark region." Her statue was set up where three ways met, so that with a different face she looked down each of the three; from which she was called Trivia. See the quotation from Horace, note 54.

69. Las: net; the invisible toils in which Hephaestus caught Ares and the faithless Aphrodite, and exposed them to the "inextinguishable laughter" of Olympus.

70. Saturnus the cold: Here, as in "Mars the Red" we have the person of the deity endowed with the supposed quality of the planet called after his name.

71. The astrologers ascribed great power to Saturn, and predicted "much debate" under his ascendancy; hence it was "against his kind" to compose the heavenly strife.

72. Ayel: grandfather; French "Aieul".

73. Testers: Helmets; from the French "teste", "tete", head.

74. Parements: ornamental garb, French "parer" to deck.

75. Gniding: Rubbing, polishing; Anglo-Saxon "gnidan", to rub.

76. Nakeres: Drums, used in the cavalry; Boccaccio's word is "nachere".

77. Made an O: Ho! Ho! to command attention; like "oyez", the call for silence in law-courts or before proclamations.

78. Sarge: serge, a coarse woollen cloth

79. Heart-spoon: The concave part of the breast, where the lower ribs join the cartilago ensiformis.

80. To-hewen and to-shred: "to" before a verb implies extraordinary violence in the action denoted.

81. He through the thickest of the throng etc.. "He" in this passage refers impersonally to any of the combatants.

82. Galaphay: Galapha, in Mauritania.

83. Belmarie is supposed to have been a Moorish state in Africa; but "Palmyrie" has been suggested as the correct reading.

84. As I came never I cannot telle where: Where it went I cannot tell you, as I was not there. Tyrwhitt thinks that Chaucer is sneering at Boccacio's pompous account of the passage of Arcite's soul to heaven. Up to this point, the description of the death-scene is taken literally from the "Theseida."

85. With sluttery beard, and ruggy ashy hairs: With neglected beard, and rough hair strewn with ashes. "Flotery" is the general reading; but "sluttery" seems to be more in keeping with the picture of abandonment to grief.

86. Master street: main street; so Froissart speaks of "le souverain carrefour."

87. Y-wrie: covered, hid; Anglo-Saxon, "wrigan," to veil.

88. Emily applied the funeral torch. The "guise" was, among the ancients, for the nearest relative of the deceased to do this, with averted face.

89. It was the custom for soldiers to march thrice around the funeral pile of an emperor or general; "on the left hand" is added, in reference to the belief that the left hand was propitious — the Roman augur turning his face southward, and so placing on his left hand the east, whence good omens came. With the Greeks, however, their augurs facing the north, it was just the contrary. The confusion, frequent in classical writers, is complicated here by the fact that Chaucer's description of the funeral of Arcite is taken from Statius' "Thebaid" — from a Roman's account of a Greek solemnity.

90. Lyke-wake: watching by the remains of the dead; from Anglo-Saxon, "lice," a corpse; German, "Leichnam."

91. Chaucer here borrows from Boethius, who says: "Hanc rerum seriem ligat, Terras ac pelagus regens, Et coelo imperitans, amor." (Love ties these things together: the earth, and the ruling sea, and the imperial heavens)








 

THE MILLER'S TALE.



THE PROLOGUE.

When that the Knight had thus his tale told
In all the rout was neither young nor old,
That he not said it was a noble story,
And worthy to be *drawen to memory*; *recorded*
And *namely the gentles* every one. *especially the gentlefolk*
Our Host then laugh'd and swore, "So may I gon,* *prosper
This goes aright; *unbuckled is the mail;* *the budget is opened*
Let see now who shall tell another tale:
For truely this game is well begun.
Now telleth ye, Sir Monk, if that ye conne*, *know
Somewhat, to quiten* with the Knighte's tale." *match
The Miller that fordrunken was all pale,
So that unnethes* upon his horse he sat, *with difficulty
He would avalen* neither hood nor hat, *uncover
Nor abide* no man for his courtesy, *give way to
But in Pilate's voice<1> he gan to cry,
And swore by armes, and by blood, and bones,
"I can a noble tale for the nones* *occasion,
With which I will now quite* the Knighte's tale." *match
Our Host saw well how drunk he was of ale,
And said; "Robin, abide, my leve* brother, *dear
Some better man shall tell us first another:
Abide, and let us worke thriftily."
By Godde's soul," quoth he, "that will not I,
For I will speak, or elles go my way!"
Our Host answer'd; "*Tell on a devil way*; *devil take you!*
Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome."
"Now hearken," quoth the Miller, "all and some:
But first I make a protestatioun.
That I am drunk, I know it by my soun':
And therefore if that I misspeak or say,
*Wite it* the ale of Southwark, I you pray: *blame it on*<2>
For I will tell a legend and a life
Both of a carpenter and of his wife,
How that a clerk hath *set the wrighte's cap*." *fooled the carpenter*
The Reeve answer'd and saide, "*Stint thy clap*, *hold your tongue*
Let be thy lewed drunken harlotry.
It is a sin, and eke a great folly
To apeiren* any man, or him defame, *injure
And eke to bringe wives in evil name.
Thou may'st enough of other thinges sayn."
This drunken Miller spake full soon again,
And saide, "Leve brother Osewold,
Who hath no wife, he is no cuckold.
But I say not therefore that thou art one;
There be full goode wives many one.
Why art thou angry with my tale now?
I have a wife, pardie, as well as thou,
Yet *n'old I*, for the oxen in my plough, *I would not*
Taken upon me more than enough,
To deemen* of myself that I am one; *judge
I will believe well that I am none.
An husband should not be inquisitive
Of Godde's privity, nor of his wife.
So he may finde Godde's foison* there, *treasure
Of the remnant needeth not to enquere."

What should I more say, but that this Millere
He would his wordes for no man forbear,
But told his churlish* tale in his mannere; *boorish, rude
Me thinketh, that I shall rehearse it here.
And therefore every gentle wight I pray,
For Godde's love to deem not that I say
Of evil intent, but that I must rehearse
Their tales all, be they better or worse,
Or elles falsen* some of my mattere. *falsify
And therefore whoso list it not to hear,
Turn o'er the leaf, and choose another tale;
For he shall find enough, both great and smale,
Of storial* thing that toucheth gentiless, *historical, true
And eke morality and holiness.
Blame not me, if that ye choose amiss.
The Miller is a churl, ye know well this,
So was the Reeve, with many other mo',
And harlotry* they tolde bothe two. *ribald tales
*Avise you* now, and put me out of blame; *be warned*
And eke men should not make earnest of game*. *jest, fun

Notes to the Prologue to the Miller's Tale

1. Pilate, an unpopular personage in the mystery-plays of the middle ages, was probably represented as having a gruff, harsh voice.

2. Wite: blame; in Scotland, "to bear the wyte," is to bear the blame.






 

THE TALE.

Whilom there was dwelling in Oxenford
A riche gnof*, that *guestes held to board*, *miser *took in boarders*
And of his craft he was a carpenter.
With him there was dwelling a poor scholer,
Had learned art, but all his fantasy
Was turned for to learn astrology.
He coude* a certain of conclusions *knew
To deeme* by interrogations, *determine
If that men asked him in certain hours,
When that men should have drought or elles show'rs:
Or if men asked him what shoulde fall
Of everything, I may not reckon all.

This clerk was called Hendy* Nicholas; *gentle, handsome
Of derne* love he knew and of solace; *secret, earnest
And therewith he was sly and full privy,
And like a maiden meek for to see.
A chamber had he in that hostelry
Alone, withouten any company,
Full *fetisly y-dight* with herbes swoot*, *neatly decorated*
And he himself was sweet as is the root *sweet
Of liquorice, or any setewall*. *valerian
His Almagest,<1> and bookes great and small,
His astrolabe,<2> belonging to his art,
His augrim stones,<3> layed fair apart
On shelves couched* at his bedde's head, *laid, set
His press y-cover'd with a falding* red. *coarse cloth
And all above there lay a gay psalt'ry
On which he made at nightes melody,
So sweetely, that all the chamber rang:
And Angelus ad virginem<4> he sang.
And after that he sung the kinge's note;
Full often blessed was his merry throat.
And thus this sweete clerk his time spent
After *his friendes finding and his rent.* *Attending to his friends,
and providing for the
cost of his lodging*
This carpenter had wedded new a wife,
Which that he loved more than his life:
Of eighteen year, I guess, she was of age.
Jealous he was, and held her narr'w in cage,
For she was wild and young, and he was old,
And deemed himself belike* a cuckold. *perhaps
He knew not Cato,<5> for his wit was rude,
That bade a man wed his similitude.
Men shoulde wedden after their estate,
For youth and eld* are often at debate. *age
But since that he was fallen in the snare,
He must endure (as other folk) his care.
Fair was this younge wife, and therewithal
As any weasel her body gent* and small. *slim, neat
A seint* she weared, barred all of silk, *girdle
A barm-cloth* eke as white as morning milk *apron<6>
Upon her lendes*, full of many a gore**. *loins **plait
White was her smock*, and broider'd all before, *robe or gown
And eke behind, on her collar about
Of coal-black silk, within and eke without.
The tapes of her white volupere* *head-kerchief <7>
Were of the same suit of her collere;
Her fillet broad of silk, and set full high:
And sickerly* she had a likerous** eye. *certainly **lascivious
Full small y-pulled were her browes two,
And they were bent*, and black as any sloe. *arched
She was well more *blissful on to see* *pleasant to look upon*
Than is the newe perjenete* tree; *young pear-tree
And softer than the wool is of a wether.
And by her girdle hung a purse of leather,
Tassel'd with silk, and *pearled with latoun*. *set with brass pearls*
In all this world to seeken up and down
There is no man so wise, that coude thenche* *fancy, think of
So gay a popelot*, or such a wench. *puppet <8>
Full brighter was the shining of her hue,
Than in the Tower the noble* forged new. *a gold coin <9>
But of her song, it was as loud and yern*, *lively <10>
As any swallow chittering on a bern*. *barn
Thereto* she coulde skip, and *make a game* *also *romp*
As any kid or calf following his dame.
Her mouth was sweet as braket,<11> or as methe* *mead
Or hoard of apples, laid in hay or heath.
Wincing* she was as is a jolly colt, *skittish
Long as a mast, and upright as a bolt.
A brooch she bare upon her low collere,
As broad as is the boss of a bucklere.
Her shoon were laced on her legges high;
She was a primerole,* a piggesnie <12>, *primrose
For any lord t' have ligging* in his bed, *lying
Or yet for any good yeoman to wed.

Now, sir, and eft* sir, so befell the case, *again
That on a day this Hendy Nicholas
Fell with this younge wife to rage* and play, *toy, play the rogue
While that her husband was at Oseney,<13>
As clerkes be full subtle and full quaint.
And privily he caught her by the queint,* *cunt
And said; "Y-wis,* but if I have my will, *assuredly
For *derne love of thee, leman, I spill."* *for earnest love of thee
And helde her fast by the haunche bones, my mistress, I perish*
And saide "Leman, love me well at once,
Or I will dien, all so God me save."
And she sprang as a colt doth in the trave<14>:
And with her head she writhed fast away,
And said; "I will not kiss thee, by my fay*. *faith
Why let be," quoth she, "let be, Nicholas,
Or I will cry out harow and alas!<15>
Do away your handes, for your courtesy."
This Nicholas gan mercy for to cry,
And spake so fair, and proffer'd him so fast,
That she her love him granted at the last,
And swore her oath by Saint Thomas of Kent,
That she would be at his commandement,
When that she may her leisure well espy.
"My husband is so full of jealousy,
That but* ye waite well, and be privy, *unless
I wot right well I am but dead," quoth she.
"Ye muste be full derne* as in this case." *secret
"Nay, thereof care thee nought," quoth Nicholas:
"A clerk had *litherly beset his while*, *ill spent his time*
*But if* he could a carpenter beguile." *unless
And thus they were accorded and y-sworn
To wait a time, as I have said beforn.
When Nicholas had done thus every deal*, *whit
And thwacked her about the lendes* well, *loins
He kiss'd her sweet, and taketh his psalt'ry
And playeth fast, and maketh melody.
Then fell it thus, that to the parish church,
Of Christe's owen workes for to wirch*, *work
This good wife went upon a holy day;
Her forehead shone as bright as any day,
So was it washen, when she left her werk.

Now was there of that church a parish clerk,
The which that was y-cleped Absolon.
Curl'd was his hair, and as the gold it shone,
And strutted* as a fanne large and broad; *stretched
Full straight and even lay his jolly shode*. *head of hair
His rode* was red, his eyen grey as goose, *complexion
With Paule's windows carven on his shoes <16>
In hosen red he went full fetisly*. *daintily, neatly
Y-clad he was full small and properly,
All in a kirtle* of a light waget*; *girdle **sky blue
Full fair and thicke be the pointes set,
And thereupon he had a gay surplice,
As white as is the blossom on the rise*. *twig <17>
A merry child he was, so God me save;
Well could he letten blood, and clip, and shave,
And make a charter of land, and a quittance.
In twenty manners could he trip and dance,
After the school of Oxenforde tho*,<18> *then
And with his legges caste to and fro;
And playen songes on a small ribible*; *fiddle
Thereto he sung sometimes a loud quinible* *treble
And as well could he play on a gitern.* *guitar
In all the town was brewhouse nor tavern,
That he not visited with his solas*, *mirth, sport
There as that any *garnard tapstere* was. *licentious barmaid*
But sooth to say he was somedeal squaimous* *squeamish
Of farting, and of speeche dangerous.
This Absolon, that jolly was and gay,
Went with a censer on the holy day,
Censing* the wives of the parish fast; *burning incense for
And many a lovely look he on them cast,
And namely* on this carpenter's wife: *especially
To look on her him thought a merry life.
She was so proper, and sweet, and likerous.
I dare well say, if she had been a mouse,
And he a cat, he would *her hent anon*. *have soon caught her*
This parish clerk, this jolly Absolon,
Hath in his hearte such a love-longing!
That of no wife took he none offering;
For courtesy he said he woulde none.
The moon at night full clear and brighte shone,
And Absolon his gitern hath y-taken,
For paramours he thoughte for to waken,
And forth he went, jolif* and amorous, *joyous
Till he came to the carpentere's house,
A little after the cock had y-crow,
And *dressed him* under a shot window <19>, *stationed himself.*
That was upon the carpentere's wall.
He singeth in his voice gentle and small;
"Now, dear lady, if thy will be,
I pray that ye will rue* on me;" *take pity
Full well accordant to his giterning.
This carpenter awoke, and heard him sing,
And spake unto his wife, and said anon,
What Alison, hear'st thou not Absolon,
That chanteth thus under our bower* wall?" *chamber
And she answer'd her husband therewithal;
"Yes, God wot, John, I hear him every deal."
This passeth forth; what will ye bet* than well? *better

From day to day this jolly Absolon
So wooeth her, that him is woebegone.
He waketh all the night, and all the day,
To comb his lockes broad, and make him gay.
He wooeth her *by means and by brocage*, *by presents and by agents*
And swore he woulde be her owen page.
He singeth brokking* as a nightingale. *quavering
He sent her piment <20>, mead, and spiced ale,
And wafers* piping hot out of the glede**: *cakes **coals
And, for she was of town, he proffer'd meed.<21>
For some folk will be wonnen for richess,
And some for strokes, and some with gentiless.
Sometimes, to show his lightness and mast'ry,
He playeth Herod <22> on a scaffold high.
But what availeth him as in this case?
So loveth she the Hendy Nicholas,
That Absolon may *blow the bucke's horn*: *"go whistle"*
He had for all his labour but a scorn.
And thus she maketh Absolon her ape,
And all his earnest turneth to a jape*. *jest
Full sooth is this proverb, it is no lie;
Men say right thus alway; the nighe sly
Maketh oft time the far lief to be loth. <23>
For though that Absolon be wood* or wroth *mad
Because that he far was from her sight,
This nigh Nicholas stood still in his light.
Now bear thee well, thou Hendy Nicholas,
For Absolon may wail and sing "Alas!"

And so befell, that on a Saturday
This carpenter was gone to Oseney,
And Hendy Nicholas and Alison
Accorded were to this conclusion,
That Nicholas shall *shape him a wile* *devise a stratagem*
The silly jealous husband to beguile;
And if so were the game went aright,
She shoulde sleepen in his arms all night;
For this was her desire and his also.
And right anon, withoute wordes mo',
This Nicholas no longer would he tarry,
But doth full soft unto his chamber carry
Both meat and drinke for a day or tway.
And to her husband bade her for to say,
If that he asked after Nicholas,
She shoulde say, "She wist* not where he was; *knew
Of all the day she saw him not with eye;
She trowed* he was in some malady, *believed
For no cry that her maiden could him call
He would answer, for nought that might befall."
Thus passed forth all thilke* Saturday, *that
That Nicholas still in his chamber lay,
And ate, and slept, and didde what him list
Till Sunday, that* the sunne went to rest. *when
This silly carpenter *had great marvaill* *wondered greatly*
Of Nicholas, or what thing might him ail,
And said; "I am adrad*, by Saint Thomas! *afraid, in dread
It standeth not aright with Nicholas:
*God shielde* that he died suddenly. *heaven forbid!*
This world is now full fickle sickerly*. *certainly
I saw to-day a corpse y-borne to chirch,
That now on Monday last I saw him wirch*. *work
"Go up," quod he unto his knave*, "anon; *servant.
Clepe* at his door, or knocke with a stone: *call
Look how it is, and tell me boldely."
This knave went him up full sturdily,
And, at the chamber door while that he stood,
He cried and knocked as that he were wood:* *mad
"What how? what do ye, Master Nicholay?
How may ye sleepen all the longe day?"
But all for nought, he hearde not a word.
An hole he found full low upon the board,
Where as the cat was wont in for to creep,
And at that hole he looked in full deep,
And at the last he had of him a sight.
This Nicholas sat ever gaping upright,
As he had kyked* on the newe moon. *looked <24>
Adown he went, and told his master soon,
In what array he saw this ilke* man. *same

This carpenter to *blissen him* began, *bless, cross himself*
And said: "Now help us, Sainte Frideswide.<25>
A man wot* little what shall him betide. *knows
This man is fall'n with his astronomy
Into some woodness* or some agony. *madness
I thought aye well how that it shoulde be.
Men should know nought of Godde's privity*. *secrets
Yea, blessed be alway a lewed* man, *unlearned
That *nought but only his believe can*. *knows no more
So far'd another clerk with astronomy: than his "credo."*
He walked in the fieldes for to *pry
Upon* the starres, what there should befall, *keep watch on*
Till he was in a marle pit y-fall.<26>
He saw not that. But yet, by Saint Thomas!
*Me rueth sore of* Hendy Nicholas: *I am very sorry for*
He shall be *rated of* his studying, *chidden for*
If that I may, by Jesus, heaven's king!
Get me a staff, that I may underspore* *lever up
While that thou, Robin, heavest off the door:
He shall out of his studying, as I guess."
And to the chamber door he gan him dress* *apply himself.
His knave was a strong carl for the nonce,
And by the hasp he heav'd it off at once;
Into the floor the door fell down anon.
This Nicholas sat aye as still as stone,
And ever he gap'd upward into the air.
The carpenter ween'd* he were in despair, *thought
And hent* him by the shoulders mightily, *caught
And shook him hard, and cried spitously;* *angrily
"What, Nicholas? what how, man? look adown:
Awake, and think on Christe's passioun.
I crouche thee<27> from elves, and from wights*. *witches
Therewith the night-spell said he anon rights*, *properly
On the four halves* of the house about, *corners
And on the threshold of the door without.
"Lord Jesus Christ, and Sainte Benedight,
Blesse this house from every wicked wight,
From the night mare, the white Pater-noster;
Where wonnest* thou now, Sainte Peter's sister?" *dwellest
And at the last this Hendy Nicholas
Gan for to sigh full sore, and said; "Alas!
Shall all time world be lost eftsoones* now?" *forthwith
This carpenter answer'd; "What sayest thou?
What? think on God, as we do, men that swink.*" *labour
This Nicholas answer'd; "Fetch me a drink;
And after will I speak in privity
Of certain thing that toucheth thee and me:
I will tell it no other man certain."

This carpenter went down, and came again,
And brought of mighty ale a large quart;
And when that each of them had drunk his part,
This Nicholas his chamber door fast shet*, *shut
And down the carpenter by him he set,
And saide; "John, mine host full lief* and dear, *loved
Thou shalt upon thy truthe swear me here,
That to no wight thou shalt my counsel wray*: *betray
For it is Christes counsel that I say,
And if thou tell it man, thou art forlore:* *lost<28>
For this vengeance thou shalt have therefor,
That if thou wraye* me, thou shalt be wood**." *betray **mad
"Nay, Christ forbid it for his holy blood!"
Quoth then this silly man; "I am no blab,* *talker
Nor, though I say it, am I *lief to gab*. *fond of speech*
Say what thou wilt, I shall it never tell
To child or wife, by him that harried Hell." <29>

"Now, John," quoth Nicholas, "I will not lie,
I have y-found in my astrology,
As I have looked in the moone bright,
That now on Monday next, at quarter night,
Shall fall a rain, and that so wild and wood*, *mad
That never half so great was Noe's flood.
This world," he said, "in less than half an hour
Shall all be dreint*, so hideous is the shower: *drowned
Thus shall mankinde drench*, and lose their life." *drown
This carpenter answer'd; "Alas, my wife!
And shall she drench? alas, mine Alisoun!"
For sorrow of this he fell almost adown,
And said; "Is there no remedy in this case?"
"Why, yes, for God," quoth Hendy Nicholas;
"If thou wilt worken after *lore and rede*; *learning and advice*
Thou may'st not worken after thine own head.
For thus saith Solomon, that was full true:
Work all by counsel, and thou shalt not rue*. *repent
And if thou worke wilt by good counseil,
I undertake, withoute mast or sail,
Yet shall I save her, and thee, and me.
Hast thou not heard how saved was Noe,
When that our Lord had warned him beforn,
That all the world with water *should be lorn*?" *should perish*
"Yes," quoth this carpenter," *full yore ago*." *long since*
"Hast thou not heard," quoth Nicholas, "also
The sorrow of Noe, with his fellowship,
That he had ere he got his wife to ship?<30>
*Him had been lever, I dare well undertake,
At thilke time, than all his wethers black,
That she had had a ship herself alone.* *see note <31>
And therefore know'st thou what is best to be done?
This asketh haste, and of an hasty thing
Men may not preach or make tarrying.
Anon go get us fast into this inn* *house
A kneading trough, or else a kemelin*, *brewing-tub
For each of us; but look that they be large,
In whiche we may swim* as in a barge: *float
And have therein vitaille suffisant
But for one day; fie on the remenant;
The water shall aslake* and go away *slacken, abate
Aboute prime* upon the nexte day. *early morning
But Robin may not know of this, thy knave*, *servant
Nor eke thy maiden Gill I may not save:
Ask me not why: for though thou aske me
I will not telle Godde's privity.
Sufficeth thee, *but if thy wit be mad*, *unless thou be
To have as great a grace as Noe had; out of thy wits*
Thy wife shall I well saven out of doubt.
Go now thy way, and speed thee hereabout.
But when thou hast for her, and thee, and me,
Y-gotten us these kneading tubbes three,
Then shalt thou hang them in the roof full high,
So that no man our purveyance* espy: *foresight, providence
And when thou hast done thus as I have said,
And hast our vitaille fair in them y-laid,
And eke an axe to smite the cord in two
When that the water comes, that we may go,
And break an hole on high upon the gable
Into the garden-ward, over the stable,
That we may freely passe forth our way,
When that the greate shower is gone away.
Then shalt thou swim as merry, I undertake,
As doth the white duck after her drake:
Then will I clepe,* 'How, Alison? How, John? *call
Be merry: for the flood will pass anon.'
And thou wilt say, 'Hail, Master Nicholay,
Good-morrow, I see thee well, for it is day.'
And then shall we be lordes all our life
Of all the world, as Noe and his wife.
But of one thing I warne thee full right,
Be well advised, on that ilke* night, *same
When we be enter'd into shippe's board,
That none of us not speak a single word,
Nor clepe nor cry, but be in his prayere,
For that is Godde's owen heste* dear. *command
Thy wife and thou must hangen far atween*, *asunder
For that betwixte you shall be no sin,
No more in looking than there shall in deed.
This ordinance is said: go, God thee speed
To-morrow night, when men be all asleep,
Into our kneading tubbes will we creep,
And sitte there, abiding Godde's grace.
Go now thy way, I have no longer space
To make of this no longer sermoning:
Men say thus: Send the wise, and say nothing:
Thou art so wise, it needeth thee nought teach.
Go, save our lives, and that I thee beseech."

This silly carpenter went forth his way,
Full oft he said, "Alas! and Well-a-day!,'
And to his wife he told his privity,
And she was ware, and better knew than he
What all this *quainte cast was for to say*. *strange contrivance
But natheless she fear'd as she would dey, meant*
And said: "Alas! go forth thy way anon.
Help us to scape, or we be dead each one.
I am thy true and very wedded wife;
Go, deare spouse, and help to save our life."
Lo, what a great thing is affection!
Men may die of imagination,
So deeply may impression be take.
This silly carpenter begins to quake:
He thinketh verily that he may see
This newe flood come weltering as the sea
To drenchen* Alison, his honey dear. *drown
He weepeth, waileth, maketh *sorry cheer*; *dismal countenance*
He sigheth, with full many a sorry sough.* *groan
He go'th, and getteth him a kneading trough,
And after that a tub, and a kemelin,
And privily he sent them to his inn:
And hung them in the roof full privily.
With his own hand then made he ladders three,
To climbe by *the ranges and the stalks* *the rungs and the uprights*
Unto the tubbes hanging in the balks*; *beams
And victualed them, kemelin, trough, and tub,
With bread and cheese, and good ale in a jub*, *jug
Sufficing right enough as for a day.
But ere that he had made all this array,
He sent his knave*, and eke his wench** also, *servant **maid
Upon his need* to London for to go. *business
And on the Monday, when it drew to night,
He shut his door withoute candle light,
And dressed* every thing as it should be. *prepared
And shortly up they climbed all the three.
They satte stille well *a furlong way*. *the time it would take
"Now, Pater noster, clum,"<32> said Nicholay, to walk a furlong*
And "clum," quoth John; and "clum," said Alison:
This carpenter said his devotion,
And still he sat and bidded his prayere,
Awaking on the rain, if he it hear.
The deade sleep, for weary business,
Fell on this carpenter, right as I guess,
About the curfew-time,<33> or little more,
For *travail of his ghost* he groaned sore, *anguish of spirit*
*And eft he routed, for his head mislay.* *and then he snored,
Adown the ladder stalked Nicholay; for his head lay awry*
And Alison full soft adown she sped.
Withoute wordes more they went to bed,
*There as* the carpenter was wont to lie: *where*
There was the revel, and the melody.
And thus lay Alison and Nicholas,
In business of mirth and in solace,
Until the bell of laudes* gan to ring, *morning service, at 3.a.m.
And friars in the chancel went to sing.

This parish clerk, this amorous Absolon,
That is for love alway so woebegone,
Upon the Monday was at Oseney
With company, him to disport and play;
And asked upon cas* a cloisterer** *occasion **monk
Full privily after John the carpenter;
And he drew him apart out of the church,
And said, "I n'ot;* I saw him not here wirch** *know not **work
Since Saturday; I trow that he be went
For timber, where our abbot hath him sent.
And dwellen at the Grange a day or two:
For he is wont for timber for to go,
Or else he is at his own house certain.
Where that he be, I cannot *soothly sayn.*" *say certainly*
This Absolon full jolly was and light,
And thought, "Now is the time to wake all night,
For sickerly* I saw him not stirring *certainly
About his door, since day began to spring.
So may I thrive, but I shall at cock crow
Full privily go knock at his window,
That stands full low upon his bower* wall: *chamber
To Alison then will I tellen all
My love-longing; for I shall not miss
That at the leaste way I shall her kiss.
Some manner comfort shall I have, parfay*, *by my faith
My mouth hath itched all this livelong day:
That is a sign of kissing at the least.
All night I mette* eke I was at a feast. *dreamt
Therefore I will go sleep an hour or tway,
And all the night then will I wake and play."
When that the first cock crowed had, anon
Up rose this jolly lover Absolon,
And him arrayed gay, *at point devise.* *with exact care*
But first he chewed grains<34> and liquorice,
To smelle sweet, ere he had combed his hair.
Under his tongue a true love <35> he bare,
For thereby thought he to be gracious.

Then came he to the carpentere's house,
And still he stood under the shot window;
Unto his breast it raught*, it was so low; *reached
And soft he coughed with a semisoun'.* *low tone
"What do ye, honeycomb, sweet Alisoun?
My faire bird, my sweet cinamome*, *cinnamon, sweet spice
Awaken, leman* mine, and speak to me. *mistress
Full little thinke ye upon my woe,
That for your love I sweat *there as* I go. *wherever
No wonder is that I do swelt* and sweat. *faint
I mourn as doth a lamb after the teat
Y-wis*, leman, I have such love-longing, *certainly
That like a turtle* true is my mourning. *turtle-dove
I may not eat, no more than a maid."
"Go from the window, thou jack fool," she said:
"As help me God, it will not be, 'come ba* me.' *kiss
I love another, else I were to blame",
Well better than thee, by Jesus, Absolon.
Go forth thy way, or I will cast a stone;
And let me sleep; *a twenty devil way*. *twenty devils take ye!*
"Alas!" quoth Absolon, "and well away!
That true love ever was so ill beset:
Then kiss me, since that it may be no bet*, *better
For Jesus' love, and for the love of me."
"Wilt thou then go thy way therewith?" , quoth she.
"Yea, certes, leman," quoth this Absolon.
"Then make thee ready," quoth she, "I come anon."
[And unto Nicholas she said *full still*: *in a low voice*
"Now peace, and thou shalt laugh anon thy fill."]<36>
This Absolon down set him on his knees,
And said; "I am a lord at all degrees:
For after this I hope there cometh more;
Leman, thy grace, and, sweete bird, thine ore.*" *favour
The window she undid, and that in haste.
"Have done," quoth she, "come off, and speed thee fast,
Lest that our neighebours should thee espy."
Then Absolon gan wipe his mouth full dry.
Dark was the night as pitch or as the coal,
And at the window she put out her hole,
And Absolon him fell ne bet ne werse,
But with his mouth he kiss'd her naked erse
Full savourly. When he was ware of this,
Aback he start, and thought it was amiss;
For well he wist a woman hath no beard.
He felt a thing all rough, and long y-hair'd,
And saide; "Fy, alas! what have I do?"
"Te he!" quoth she, and clapt the window to;
And Absolon went forth at sorry pace.
"A beard, a beard," said Hendy Nicholas;
"By God's corpus, this game went fair and well."
This silly Absolon heard every deal*, *word
And on his lip he gan for anger bite;
And to himself he said, "I shall thee quite*. *requite, be even with
Who rubbeth now, who frotteth* now his lips *rubs
With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips,
But Absolon? that saith full oft, "Alas!
My soul betake I unto Sathanas,
But me were lever* than all this town," quoth he *rather
I this despite awroken* for to be. *revenged
Alas! alas! that I have been y-blent*." *deceived
His hote love is cold, and all y-quent.* *quenched
For from that time that he had kiss'd her erse,
Of paramours he *sette not a kers,* *cared not a rush*
For he was healed of his malady;
Full often paramours he gan defy,
And weep as doth a child that hath been beat.
A softe pace he went over the street
Unto a smith, men callen Dan* Gerveis, *master
That in his forge smithed plough-harness;
He sharped share and culter busily.
This Absolon knocked all easily,
And said; "Undo, Gerveis, and that anon."
"What, who art thou?" "It is I, Absolon."
"What? Absolon, what? Christe's sweete tree*, *cross
Why rise so rath*? hey! Benedicite, *early
What aileth you? some gay girl,<37> God it wote,
Hath brought you thus upon the viretote:<38>
By Saint Neot, ye wot well what I mean."
This Absolon he raughte* not a bean *recked, cared
Of all his play; no word again he gaf*, *spoke
For he had more tow on his distaff<39>
Than Gerveis knew, and saide; "Friend so dear,
That hote culter in the chimney here
Lend it to me, I have therewith to don*: *do
I will it bring again to thee full soon."
Gerveis answered; "Certes, were it gold,
Or in a poke* nobles all untold, *purse
Thou shouldst it have, as I am a true smith.
Hey! Christe's foot, what will ye do therewith?"
"Thereof," quoth Absolon, "be as be may;
I shall well tell it thee another day:"
And caught the culter by the colde stele*. *handle
Full soft out at the door he gan to steal,
And went unto the carpentere's wall
He coughed first, and knocked therewithal
Upon the window, light as he did ere*. *before <40>
This Alison answered; "Who is there
That knocketh so? I warrant him a thief."
"Nay, nay," quoth he, "God wot, my sweete lefe*, *love
I am thine Absolon, my own darling.
Of gold," quoth he, "I have thee brought a ring,
My mother gave it me, so God me save!
Full fine it is, and thereto well y-grave*: *engraved
This will I give to thee, if thou me kiss."
Now Nicholas was risen up to piss,
And thought he would *amenden all the jape*; *improve the joke*
He shoulde kiss his erse ere that he scape:
And up the window did he hastily,
And out his erse he put full privily
Over the buttock, to the haunche bone.
And therewith spake this clerk, this Absolon,
"Speak, sweete bird, I know not where thou art."
This Nicholas anon let fly a fart,
As great as it had been a thunder dent*; *peal, clap
That with the stroke he was well nigh y-blent*; *blinded
But he was ready with his iron hot,
And Nicholas amid the erse he smote.
Off went the skin an handbreadth all about.
The hote culter burned so his tout*, *breech
That for the smart he weened* he would die; *thought
As he were wood*, for woe he gan to cry, *mad
"Help! water, water, help for Godde's heart!"

This carpenter out of his slumber start,
And heard one cry "Water," as he were wood*, *mad
And thought, "Alas! now cometh Noe's flood."
He sat him up withoute wordes mo'
And with his axe he smote the cord in two;
And down went all; he found neither to sell
Nor bread nor ale, till he came to the sell*, *threshold <41>
Upon the floor, and there in swoon he lay.
Up started Alison and Nicholay,
And cried out an "harow!" <15> in the street.
The neighbours alle, bothe small and great
In ranne, for to gauren* on this man, *stare
That yet in swoone lay, both pale and wan:
For with the fall he broken had his arm.
But stand he must unto his owen harm,
For when he spake, he was anon borne down
With Hendy Nicholas and Alisoun.
They told to every man that he was wood*; *mad
He was aghaste* so of Noe's flood, *afraid
Through phantasy, that of his vanity
He had y-bought him kneading-tubbes three,
And had them hanged in the roof above;
And that he prayed them for Godde's love
To sitten in the roof for company.
The folk gan laughen at his phantasy.
Into the roof they kyken* and they gape, *peep, look.
And turned all his harm into a jape*. *jest
For whatsoe'er this carpenter answer'd,
It was for nought, no man his reason heard.
With oathes great he was so sworn adown,
That he was holden wood in all the town.
For every clerk anon right held with other;
They said, "The man was wood, my leve* brother;" *dear
And every wight gan laughen at his strife.
Thus swived* was the carpentere's wife, *enjoyed
For all his keeping* and his jealousy; *care
And Absolon hath kiss'd her nether eye;
And Nicholas is scalded in the tout.
This tale is done, and God save all the rout*. *company

Notes to the Miller's Tale

1. Almagest: The book of Ptolemy the astronomer, which formed the canon of astrological science in the middle ages.

2. Astrolabe: "Astrelagour," "astrelabore"; a mathematical instrument for taking the altitude of the sun or stars.

3. "Augrim" is a corruption of algorithm, the Arabian term for numeration; "augrim stones," therefore were probably marked with numerals, and used as counters.

4. Angelus ad virginem: The Angel's salutation to Mary; Luke i. 28. It was the "Ave Maria" of the Catholic Church service.

5. Cato: Though Chaucer may have referred to the famous Censor, more probably the reference is merely to the "Moral Distichs," which go under his name, though written after his time; and in a supplement to which the quoted passage may be found.

6. Barm-cloth: apron; from Anglo-Saxon "barme," bosom or lap.

7. Volupere: Head-gear, kerchief; from French, "envelopper," to wrap up.

8. Popelet: Puppet; but chiefly; young wench.

9. Noble: nobles were gold coins of especial purity and brightness; "Ex auro nobilissimi, unde nobilis vocatus," (made from the noblest (purest) gold, and therefore called nobles) says Vossius.

10. Yern: Shrill, lively; German, "gern," willingly, cheerfully.

11. Braket: bragget, a sweet drink made of honey, spices, &c. In some parts of the country, a drink made from honeycomb, after the honey is extracted, is still called "bragwort."

12. Piggesnie: a fond term, like "my duck;" from Anglo-Saxon, "piga," a young maid; but Tyrwhitt associates it with the Latin, "ocellus," little eye, a fondling term, and suggests that the "pigs- eye," which is very small, was applied in the same sense. Davenport and Butler both use the word pigsnie, the first for "darling," the second literally for "eye;" and Bishop Gardner, "On True Obedience," in his address to the reader, says: "How softly she was wont to chirpe him under the chin, and kiss him; how prettily she could talk to him (how doth my sweet heart, what saith now pig's-eye)."

13. Oseney: A once well-known abbey near Oxford.

14. Trave: travis; a frame in which unruly horses were shod.

15. Harow and Alas: Haro! was an old Norman cry for redress or aid. The "Clameur de Haro" was lately raised, under peculiar circumstances, as the prelude to a legal protest, in Jersey.

16. His shoes were ornamented like the windows of St. Paul's, especially like the old rose-window.

17. Rise: Twig, bush; German, "Reis," a twig; "Reisig," a copse.

18. Chaucer satirises the dancing of Oxford as he did the French of Stratford at Bow.

19. Shot window: A projecting or bow window, whence it was possible shoot at any one approaching the door.

20. Piment: A drink made with wine, honey, and spices.

21. Because she was town-bred, he offered wealth, or money reward, for her love.

22. Parish-clerks, like Absolon, had leading parts in the mysteries or religious plays; Herod was one of these parts, which may have been an object of competition among the amateurs of the period.

23 ."The nighe sly maketh oft time the far lief to be loth": a proverb; the cunning one near at hand oft makes the loving one afar off to be odious.

24. Kyked: Looked; "keek" is still used in some parts in the sense of "peep."

25. Saint Frideswide was the patroness of a considerable priory at Oxford, and held there in high repute.

26. Plato, in his "Theatetus," tells this story of Thales; but it has since appeared in many other forms.

27. Crouche: protect by signing the sign of the cross.

28. Forlore: lost; german, "verloren."

29. Him that harried Hell: Christ who wasted or subdued hell: in the middle ages, some very active exploits against the prince of darkness and his powers were ascribed by the monkish tale- tellers to the saviour after he had "descended into hell."

30. According to the old mysteries, Noah's wife refused to come into the ark, and bade her husband row forth and get him a new wife, because he was leaving her gossips in the town to drown. Shem and his brothers got her shipped by main force; and Noah, coming forward to welcome her, was greeted with a box on the ear.

31. "Him had been lever, I dare well undertake, At thilke time, than all his wethers black, That she had had a ship herself alone." i.e. "At that time he would have given all his black wethers, if she had had an ark to herself."

32. "Clum," like "mum," a note of silence; but otherwise explained as the humming sound made in repeating prayers; from the Anglo-Saxon, "clumian," to mutter, speak in an under- tone, keep silence.

33. Curfew-time: Eight in the evening, when, by the law of William the Conqueror, all people were, on ringing of a bell, to extinguish fire and candle, and go to rest; hence the word curfew, from French, "couvre-feu," cover-fire.

34. Absolon chewed grains: these were grains of Paris, or Paradise; a favourite spice.

35. Under his tongue a true love he bare: some sweet herb; another reading, however, is "a true love-knot," which may have been of the nature of a charm.

36. The two lines within brackets are not in most of the editions: they are taken from Urry; whether he supplied them or not, they serve the purpose of a necessary explanation.

37. Gay girl: As applied to a young woman of light manners, this euphemistic phrase has enjoyed a wonderful vitality.

38. Viretote: Urry reads "meritote," and explains it from Spelman as a game in which children made themselves giddy by whirling on ropes. In French, "virer" means to turn; and the explanation may, therefore, suit either reading. In modern slang parlance, Gerveis would probably have said, "on the rampage," or "on the swing" — not very far from Spelman's rendering.

39. He had more tow on his distaff: a proverbial saying: he was playing a deeper game, had more serious business on hand.

40. Ere: before; German, "eher."

41. Sell: sill of the door, threshold; French, "seuil," Latin, "solum," the ground.

 

 
 
 
 
 

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