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English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Geoffrey Chaucer

1. The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

Lines 401–600

But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes,

His stremes and his daungers him bisydes,

His herberwe and his mone, his lodemenage,

Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.

Hardy he was, and wys to undertake,

With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake.

He knew wel alle the havenes, as they were,

From Gootlond to the cape of Finistere,

And every cryke in Britayne and in Spayne;

His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne.

With us ther was a DOCTOUR OF PHISYK,

In al this world ne was ther noon him lyk

To speke of phisik and of surgerye;

For he was grounded in astronomye.

He kepte his pacient a ful greet del

In houres, by his magik naturel.

Wel coude he fortunen the ascendent

Of his images for his pacient.

He knew the cause of everich maladye,

Were it of hoot or cold, or moiste, or drye,

And where engendred, and of what humour;

He was a verrey parfit practisour.

The cause y-knowe, and of his harm the rote,

Anon he yaf the seke man his bote.

Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries,

To sende him drogges, and his letuaries,

For ech of hem made other for to winne;

Hir frendschipe nas nat newe to biginne.

Wel knew he the olde Esculapius,

And Deiscorides, and eek Rufus;

Old Ypocras, Haly, and Galien;

Serapion, Razis, and Avicen;

Averrois, Damascien, and Constantyn;

Bernard, and Gatesden, and Gilbertyn.

Of his diete mesurable was he,

For it was of no superfluitee,

But of greet norissing and digestible.

His studie was but litel on the Bible.

In sangwin and in pers he clad was al,

Lyned with taffata and with sendal;

And yet he was but esy of dispence;

He kepte that he wan in pestilence.

For gold in phisik is a cordial,

Therfor he lovede gold in special.

A good WYF was ther of bisyde BATHE,

But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe.

Of cloth-making she hadde swiche an haunt,

She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.

In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon

That to the offring bifore hir sholde goon;

And if ther dide, certeyn, so wrooth was she,

That she was out of alle charitee.

Hir coverchiefs ful fyne were of ground;

I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound

That on a Sonday were upon hir heed.

Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,

Ful streite y-teyd, and shoos ful moiste and newe.

Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.

She was a worthy womman al hir lyve,

Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve,

Withouten other compaignye in youthe;

But therof nedeth nat to speke as nouthe.

And thryes hadde she been at Ierusalem;

But hadde passed many a straunge streem;

At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne,

In Galice at seint Iame, and at Coloigne.

She coude moche of wandring by the weye.

Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.

Up-on an amblere esily she sat,

Y-wimpled wel, and on hir heed an hat

As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;

A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,

And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.

In felaweschip wel coude she laughe and carpe.

Of remedies of love she knew per-chaunce,

For she coude of that art the olde daunce.

A good man was ther of religioun,

And was a povre PERSOUN of a toun;

But riche he was of holy thoght and werk.

He was also a lerned man, a clerk,

That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;

His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.

Benigne he was, and wonder diligent,

And in adversitee ful pacient;

And swich he was y-preved ofte sythes.

Ful looth were him to cursen for his tythes,

But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,

Un-to his povre parisshens aboute

Of his offring, and eek of his substaunce.

He coude in litel thing han suffisaunce.

Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer a-sonder,

But he ne lafte nat, for reyn ne thonder,

In siknes nor in meschief, to visyte

The ferreste in his parisshe, moche and lyte,

Up-on his feet, and in his hand a staf.

This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,

That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte;

Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte;

And this figure he added eek ther-to,

That if gold ruste, what shal yren do?

For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,

No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;

And shame it is, if a preest take keep,

A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.

Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,

By his clennesse, how that his sheep shold live.

He sette nat his benefice to hyre,

And leet his sheep encombred in the myre,

And ran to London, un-to sëynt Poules,

To seken him a chaunterie for soules,

Or with a bretherhed to been withholde;

But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,

So that the wolf ne made it nat miscarie;

He was a shepherde and no mercenarie;

And though he holy were, and vertuous,

He was to sinful man nat despitous,

Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,

But in his teching discreet and benigne.

To drawen folk to heven by fairness

By good ensample, this was his bisynesse:

But it were any persone obstinat,

What so he were, of heigh or lowe estat,

Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones.

A bettre preest, I trowe that nowher non is.

He wayted after no pompe and reverence,

Ne maked him a spyced conscience,

But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,

He taughte, but first he folwed it him-selve.

With him ther was a PLOWMAN, was his brother,

That hadde y-lad of dong ful many a fother,

A trewe swinkere and a good was he,

Livinge in pees and parfit charitee.

God loved he best with al his hole herte

At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte,

And thanne his neighebour right as him-selve.

He wolde thresshe, and ther-to dyke and delve,

For Cristes sake, for every povre wight,

Withouten hyre, if it lay in his might.

His tythes payed he ful faire and wel,

Bothe of his propre swink and his catel.

In a tabard he rood upon a mere.

Ther was also a Reve and a Millere,

A Somnour and a Pardoner also,

A Maunciple, and my-self; ther wer namo.

The MILLER was a stout carl, for the nones,

Ful big he was of braun, and eek of bones;

That proved wel, for over-al ther he cam,

At wrastling he wolde have alwey the ram.

He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre,

Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre,

Or breke it, at a renning, with his heed.

His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,

And ther-to brood, as though it were a spade.

Up-on the cop right of his nose he hade

A werte, and ther-on stood a tuft of heres,

Reed as the bristles of a sowes eres,

His nose-thirles blake were and wyde.

A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde;

His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys.

He was a janglere and a goliardeys,

And that was most of sinne and harlotryes.

Wel coude he stelen corn, and tolled thryes;

And yet he hadde a thombe of gold pardee.

A whyt cote and a blew hood wered he.

A baggepype wel coude he blowe and sowne,

And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.

A gentil MAUNCIPLE was ther of a temple,

Of which achatours mighte take exemple

For to be wyse in bying of vitaille.

For whether that he payde, or took by taille,

Algate he wayted so in his acaht,

That he was ay biforn and in good stat.

Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace,

That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace

The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?

Of maistres hadde he mo than thryes ten,

That were of lawe expert and curious;

Of which ther were a doseyn in that hous,

Worthy to been stiwardes of rente and lond

Of any lord that is in Engelond,

To make him live by his propre good,

In honour dettelees, but he were wood.

Or live as scarsly as him list desire;

And able for to helpen al a shire

In any cas that mighte falle or happe;

And yit this maunciple sette hir aller cappe.

The REVE was a sclendre colerik man,

His berd was shave as ny as ever he can.

His heer was by his eres round y-shorn.

His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn.

Ful longe were his legges, and ful lene,

Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene.

Wel coude he kepe a gerner and a binne;

Ther was noon auditour coude on him winne.

Wel wiste he, by the droghte, and by the reyn,

The yeldyng of his seed, and of his greyn.

His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,

His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye,

Was hoolly in this reves governing,

And by his covenaunt yaf the rekening,