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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 801–858

Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury.

And for to make yow the more mery,

I wol my-selven gladly with yow ryde,

Right at myn owne cost, and be your gyde.

And who-so wol my jugement withseye

Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.

And if ye vouche-sauf that it be so,

Tel me anon, with-outen wordes mo,

And I wol erly shape me therfore.’

This thing was graunted, and our othes swore

With ful glad herte, and preyden him also

That he wold vouche-sauf for to do so,

And that he wolde been our governour,

And of our tales juge and reportour,

And sette a soper at a certeyn prys;

And we wold reuled been at his devys,

In heigh and lowe; and thus, by oon assent,

We been acorded to his jugement.

And ther-up-on the wyn was fet anoon;

We dronken, and to reste wente echoon,

With-outen any lenger taryinge.

A-morwe, whan that day bigan to springe,

Up roos our host, and was our aller cok,

And gadrede us togidre, alle in a flok,

And forth we riden, a litel more than pas,

Unto the watering of seint Thomas.

And there our host bigan his hors areste,

And seyde; ‘Lordinges, herkneth if yow leste.

Ye woot your forward, and I it yow recorde.

If even-song and morwe-song acorde,

Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.

As evere mote I drinke wyn or ale,

Who-so be rebel to my jugement

Shal paye for al that by the weye is spent.

Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twinne;

He which that hath the shortest shal biginne.’

‘Sire knight,’ quod he, ‘my maister and my lord,

Now draweth cut, for that is myn acord.

Cometh neer,’ quod he, ‘my lady prioresse;

And ye, sir clerk, lat be your shamfastnesse,

Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man.’

Anon to drawen every wight bigan,

And shortly for to tellen, as it was,

Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,

The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knight,

Of which ful blythe and glad was every wight;

And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,

By forward and by composicioun,

As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo?

And whan this goode man saugh it was so,

As he that wys was and obedient

To kepe his forward by his free assent,

He seyde: ‘Sin I shal biginne the game,

What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name!

Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.’

And with that word we riden forth our weye;

And he bigan with right a mery chere

His tale anon, and seyde in this manere.