• Share
  • Email
  • Embed
  • Like
  • Save
  • Private Content
Copy of the canterbury tales
 

Copy of the canterbury tales

on

  • 3,480 views

 

Statistics

Views

Total Views
3,480
Views on SlideShare
3,480
Embed Views
0

Actions

Likes
0
Downloads
6
Comments
0

0 Embeds 0

No embeds

Accessibility

Categories

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Microsoft Word

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment

    Copy of the canterbury tales Copy of the canterbury tales Document Transcript

    • THE CANTERBURY TALES<br />by<br />GEOFFREY CHAUCER<br />•<br />The General Prologue and Sixteen Tales<br />A READER-FRIENDLY EDITION<br />Put into modern spelling<br />by<br />MICHAEL MURPHY<br />ii<br />This edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s CANTERBURY TALES is copyright. It may be<br />freely downloaded for personal or pedagogical use, but the editor would be obliged if<br />users inform him.<br />The editor will be grateful to have any errors, big or small, called to his attention.<br />Other suggestions for improvement are also very welcome.<br />Two similar editions of Troilus and Criseyde ( abbreviated and unabbreviated)<br />are also available on this site.<br />Separate print editions of some of the tales as edited here are available:<br />1. A Canterbury Quintet (ISBN 893385-02-7) containing the General Prologue and<br />the tales of the Miller, the Wife, the Pardoner, and the Nun’s Priest.<br />2. Canterbury Marriage Tales (ISBN 0-9679557-1-8) which has the tales of the<br />Wife, the Clerk, the Merchant and the Franklin.<br />These are available from LittleLeaf Press, PO Box 187, Milaca, MN 56353<br />littleleaf@maxminn.com http://www.maxminn.com/littleleaf<br />The editor can be reached at the following addresses:<br />Sarsfield0@aol.com (zero after Sarsfield)<br />or at<br />641 East 24 St, Brooklyn, New York 11210.<br />The fuzziness of the letters on some screens will not affect the clarity of printouts.<br />At least one edition of the Tales in Middle English spelling is available on the Internet<br />through Labyrinth.<br />I am deeply indebted to Nick Irons, Manager of the Faculty Computer Lab, and to<br />Suzy Samuel, his assistant, for the expertise needed to put this edition on the Internet.<br />iii<br />This edition is designed to make the text of a great medieval English classic more<br />reader-friendly to students and general readers, especially to those who are not English<br />majors and those not interested in becoming medievalists.<br />It is NOT a translation. The words are Chaucer’s line for line. Only the spelling is<br />modernized, as it is in Shakespeare texts.<br />It is more faithful than a translation but is a lot less demanding than the standard Middle<br />English text. It is better than a translation because it keeps the verse and in Chaucer’s<br />own language, but in a friendlier form than the old-spelling version.<br />With this text, readers have the language that Chaucer wrote, but without the frustration<br />of trying to master the vagaries of Middle English spelling. The change in spelling is<br />meant to allow the reader to enjoy Chaucer not merely endure him. Even so, this<br />edition is a good deal more conservative than Coleridge was prepared to accept :<br />On Modernizing the Text<br />Let a few plain rules be given for sounding the final  of syllables and for expressing the termination<br />of such words as ocan, and natïon, etc, as disyllables -- or let the syllables to be sounded in such<br />cases be marked by a competent metrist. This simple expedient would, with a very few trifling<br />exceptions where the errors are inveterate, enable any reader to feel the perfect smoothness and<br />harmony of Chaucer's verse. As to understanding his language, if you read twenty pages with a good<br />glossary, you surely can find no further difficulty, even as it is; but I should have no objection to see<br />this done: Strike out those words which are now obsolete, and I will venture to say that I will replace<br />every one of them by words still in use out of Chaucer himself, or Gower his disciple. I don't want<br />this myself: I rather like to see the significant terms which Chaucer unsuccessfully offered as<br />candidates for admission into our language; but surely so very slight a change of the text may well<br />be pardoned, even by black-letterati, for the purpose of restoring so great a poet to his ancient and<br />most deserved popularity.<br />Coleridge, Table Talk, March 15, 1834<br />1 A one-page version of this linguistic introduction can be found on p.xii below. For fuller development of the<br />argument sketched here see my articles "On Not Reading Chaucer -- Aloud," Mediaevalia, 9 (1986 for 1983),<br />205-224, and "On Making an Edition of The Canterbury Tales in Modern Spelling," Chaucer Review 26 (1991),<br />48-64.<br />iv<br />The Language of this Edition1<br />Some Chaucerians, act as if the works of the poet should be carefully kept away from the general<br />reader and student, and reserved for those few who are willing to master the real difficulties of Middle<br />English grammar and spelling, and the speculative subtleties of Middle English pronunciation. Others<br />may read him in translation if they wish !<br />The text of this edition in modern English spelling is intended to subvert that misguided notion. It<br />is designed for those readers in school, university, living room or commuter train who would like to<br />read or re-read Chaucer as readily as they can read or re-read other classics in English; readers who<br />do not want the vagaries of archaic Middle English spelling, nor yet a flat translation. Very few<br />scholars now read Shakespeare in the spelling of his day, but all readers of Chaucer are forced to read<br />him in the spelling of his day, and this is a great obstacle for most people. This edition is meant to<br />supply a version of Chaucer that avoids both simple translation or scholarly archaism.<br />This edition is not a translation. The grammar, the syntax, and the vocabulary of this modspell edition<br />remain essentially unchanged from the language of the original. Everything is Chaucer’s except for<br />the spelling. Hence it can also be used as an accompanying or preliminary text by those who wish to<br />master Chaucer's dialect as it is displayed in scholarly editions.<br />Here are some simple examples of changes from the manuscript forms. The citations are from<br />Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales. Categories overlap a little.<br />Spelling and Inflections<br />v<br />Virtually all words are spelled in the modern way. A few examples from the early parts of T & C will<br />illustrate:<br />Fro wo to wele becomes From woe to weal;<br />ye loveres is changed to you lovers.<br />if any drope of pyte in yow be<br />becomes<br />if any drop of pity in you be<br />Here be rhymes with adversity rather than with adversité.<br />ye han wonne hym with to gret an ese<br />becomes<br />you have won him with too great an ease.<br />Notice that the vocabulary does not change, only the spelling. Even some archaic spellings are<br />retained:<br />For by that morter which that I see bren lamp / burn<br />Know I full well that day is not far henne. hence<br />(a) Since the modspell forms burn and hence would give no kind of rhyme, bren and henne, are<br />retained and glossed.<br />(b) More frequently the older form is kept for the rhythm where the extra syllable is needed. The<br />most frequent and most noticeable occurrences are for those words ending in -en: bathen, departen,<br />wroughten. The words mean the same with or without the -(e)n. Similarly aboven, withouten. Many<br />other words also have an -e- that we no longer use either in spelling or pronunciation. When it is<br />necessary or helpful to keep such -e-’s they are marked with a dot: . (See Rhythm below).<br />The modern form of the third person singular present tense ends in -s: he comes. This was a dialectal<br />form for Chaucer who thought it funny. His standard form ended in -eth: he cometh. Shakespeare<br />could use either form— comes or cometh, one syllable or two—to suit his metrical needs. I follow<br />his example here, using our modern form wherever the meter allows, as in the three occurrences in<br />the first two stanzas of the Canticus Troili where I suspect that even with cometh (the spelling of the<br />standard edition) the pronunciation was one syllable:<br />If love be good, from whenc comes my woe ?<br />in place of: If love be good, from whennes cometh my woo<br />....every torment and adversity<br />That comes of him may to me savory think<br />in place of : ....every torment and adversite<br />That cometh of hym may to me savory thinke<br />vi<br />From whenc comes my wailing and my plaint?<br />in place of: From whennes cometh my waillynge and my pleynte?<br />By contrast the -eth is retained for the pentameter in the four rhyming words in T & C, I, 55:<br />defendeth / offendeth, availeth / saileth, and in the plural imperative that means the same with and<br />without the -eth: Remembereth, Thinketh = Remember! Think!<br />Past participles of verbs that begin with y- are sometimes retained for the same reason. They also<br />mean the same with or without the y-: y-born, y-wrought, y-beat for born, wrought, beaten. For both<br />meaning and rhythm, a word like bisynesse is retained as busyness rather than as business<br />Vocabulary<br />As we have said, the vocabulary remains intact throughout. The word thee is not changed to you, nor<br />wood to mad when that is the meaning; durste means dared, clepe means call, I wot means I know<br />and has the same number of syllables, but our word is not substituted for Chaucer's in any of these<br />cases. In these and in many others like them where a word has become obsolete or has changed its<br />meaning over the centuries, Chaucer's word is kept and the meaning given in a gloss in the margin<br />where it can be readily glanced at or ignored. For Chaucer's hem and hir(e) I use them and their<br />which were dialect forms in his day but which became standard like the -s of sends. Middle English<br />used his to mean both his and its. I have generally used its when that is the meaning. Chaucerian<br />English often used there to mean where; I generally use where when there might be confusing for a<br />modern reader.<br />Pronunciation<br />Whether read silently or aloud this text is designed to accommodate the reader's own modern English<br />pronunciation, modified wherever that reader thinks necessary for rhyme or rhythm. Scholars expect<br />old spelling versions to be read in a reconstructed Middle English dialect whose sounds are at least<br />as difficult to master as the archaic spelling, but the phonetic accuracy of the reconstruction is quite<br />dubious. A regular assignment in college classes is for the students to memorize the first eighteen<br />lines of the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales in this reconstructed dialect. Instructions on<br />how to pronounce the different vowels, consonants and diphthongs in this reconstructed dialect can<br />be found in standard old-spelling editions. For those who are curious to know how medievalists think<br />Chaucer's verse might have sounded, I append a very rough "phonetic" transcription of those first<br />eighteen lines of The General Prologue. Dotted -'s are pronounced; so is the -l- in folk, half and<br />palmers. Syllables marked with an acute accent are stressed. (See further the section below on<br />Rhythm and Meter) :-<br />vii<br />Phonetic Version<br />Whan that Avril with his shoorez sote-eh<br />The druughth of March hath persd toe the rote-eh,<br />And baathd every vein in switch licoor<br />Of which vertúe engendrd is the flure,<br />Whan Zephirus ache with his swayt-eh braith,<br />Inspeerd hath in every holt and haith<br />The tender croppez, and the yung-eh sun-eh<br />Hath in the Ram his hal-f coorse y-run-eh,<br />And smaaleh foolez maaken melody-eh<br />That slaipen al the nicked with awpen ee-eh<br />So pricketh hem Nat-yóor in hir cooráhjez--<br />Than longen fol-k to gawn on pilgrimahjez<br />And pal-mers for to saiken straunj-eh strondez<br />To ferneh halwehs couth in sundry londez<br />And spesyaly from every sheerez end-eh<br />Of Engelond to Caunterbry they wend-eh<br />The hawly blissful martyr for to saik-eh<br />That hem hath holpen whan that they were saik-eh.<br />Hengwrt Manuscript<br />Whan that Auerylle with his shoures soote<br />The droghte of March / hath perced to the roote<br />And bathed euery veyne in swich lycour<br />Of which vertu engendred is the flour<br />Whan zephirus eek with his sweete breeth<br />Inspired hath in euery holt and heeth<br />The tendre croppes / and the yonge sonne<br />Hath in the Ram / his half cours yronne<br />And smale foweles / maken melodye<br />That slepen al the nyght with open Iye<br />So priketh hem nature / in hir corages<br />Thanne longen folk to goon on pilrymages<br />And Palmeres for to seeken straunge strondes<br />To fernè halwes / kouthe in sondry londes<br />And specially / from euery shyres ende<br />Of Engelond / to Caunterbury they wende<br />The holy blisful martir / for to seke<br />That hem hath holpen whan at they weere seeke.<br />This passage and others are reproduced in the International Phonetic Alphabet in Helge Kokeritz's<br />pamphletA Guide To Chaucer's Pronunciation (Holt, Rinehart: N.Y. 1962). Even in Kokeritz, which<br />is the standard version, the uncertainties of the phonetics are clear from the fact that Kokeritz gives<br />fifteen alternative pronunciations in sixteen lines.<br />Rhyme<br />In any modspell version of a Chaucer poem it is clear that some rhymes do not work perfectly or at<br />all, though they did in the original Middle English. This is usually accounted for by the theory that<br />English sounds have changed in a fairly systematic way over the centuries, a change especially<br />noticeable (to us anyway) between about 1400 (the year Chaucer died) and 1800. The change is<br />called the Great Vowel Shift. Roughly, this theory says that in Chaucer's day the long vowels were<br />pronounced more or less as they still are in modern Romance Languages. For example, the i in mine<br />was pronounced like the i in the word machine, a word that retains its French pronunciation. Hence,<br />Chaucer's mine is pronounced mean, his name would rhyme with our calm, his root with our boat<br />and so on.<br />This would not concern us much if the Great Vowel Shift theory worked perfectly; the long vowel<br />sounds might have changed radically, but if the change was consistent, the words that rhymed then<br />would rhyme now. But the Vowel Shift was not wholly consistent, and its inconsistency is probably<br />most observable in the shift from o to u. For example, the theory says that words like root and mood<br />were pronounced with an o sound -- rote and mode, and they have moved to a u sound today. But<br />for Chaucer the words hood, blood, would both have rhymed with mood and with each other ( hode,<br />viii<br />blode, mode); for us they are at best half rhymes or eye rhymes. Similarly deed and dread, mead and<br />red, have and save, heart and convert rhymed for him as they no longer do perfectly for us.<br />Another reason that all of Chaucer's rhymes are not perfect for us is that some of his French-derived<br />words still had their French pronunciation or were still accented in a French way. This accounts for<br />the problem with now-imperfect rhymes like wise / service. The words creature and nature were both<br />accented on the last syllable and the first has three syllables, French fashion. These accents have<br />generally been marked in the text. Sometimes, however, I have not marked the text as in the<br />following:<br />As to my doom in all of Troy city<br />Was none so fair, for-passing every wight<br />So angel like was her native beauty<br />The original ME cite for city was probably pronounced French fashion with the accent on the second<br />syllable. But the reader can make the decision how to pronounce city. The French-influenced Middle<br />English spelling of natif beaute in the third line fairly clearly indicated stress on the second syllable<br />in each word. In reading to oneself, one can either exaggerate a pronunciation in the French direction<br />in order to make the rhymes work fully, or simply accept the imperfections as half rhymes or eye<br />rhymes which are well established features of almost all rhymed verse in English. Most of the rhymes<br />work very well, and a few half rhymes or eye rhymes simply add variety that should be acceptable to<br />modern taste. (See also below the section on Rhythm and Meter).<br />We should also perhaps remember that many of the rhymes of later poets present much the same<br />situation -- Shakespeare's sonnets or Venus and Adonis, Milton's rhymed poems, Donne's lyrics, and<br />even Dryden's translations from Chaucer. Indeed the same final rhyming syllable that occurs in the<br />description of the Squire in the General Prologue: serviceable / table also occurs in Milton's Morning<br />of Christ's Nativity in the closing lines: stable / serviceable. This causes little difficulty for modern<br />readers of Milton and the other poets, and produces no comment among their modern critics. The<br />final rhyme in Troilus and Criseyde: digne / benign also provides a small challenge. Since digne<br />is obsolete we can, presumably, give it any suitable pronunciation, in this case probably something<br />like dine.<br />Rhythm and Meter<br />This section is closely related to the sections on Spelling and Pronunciation above.<br />Many Chaucerian plural and possessive nouns end in -es where our equivents end in -s, and many of<br />his words of all sorts end in an -e where we no longer have it:<br />ix<br />Madáme Pertelote, my worldes blisse<br />Herkneth thise blisful briddes how they synge<br />And se the fresshe floures how they sprynge.<br />It seems that Chaucer would have pronounced all the occurrences of -es and some of those of -e in<br />these lines; the reader's sense of rhythm and meter has to tell him which -e's, unless the "pronounced"<br />-e's are dotted, as they are not dotted in the manuscripts or in scholarly editions. So the rhythm of<br />the original would be somewhat different from that of a radical modspell version (like my first edition<br />of the Tales which dropped all the archaic -e's):<br />Madam Pertelot, my world's bliss,<br />Hearken these blissful birds -- how they sing!<br />And see the fresh flowers -- how they spring!<br />The place of the syllabic -e's would have to be taken by apt pauses. That choice is still possible even<br />after some of the -e's have been restored, as they are here to satisfy a more strictly iambic meter:<br />Madam Pertelot, my world's bliss,<br />Hearken these blissful birds -- how they sing!<br />And see the fresh flowers -- how they spring!<br />Sometimes the -e is pronounced or not pronounced in the same word depending on its position in the<br />line. For example in the old-spelling Troilus and Criseyde the word Troye / Troie is almost<br />invariably spelled with a final -e, which is pronounced or elided as the meter demands. In the<br />modspell version the spelling reflects this:<br />The folk of Troie hire observaunces olde (I, 160)<br />becomes The folk of Troy their óbservances old (I, 16:6)<br />but<br />Knew wel that Troie sholde destroid be (I, 68)<br />becomes Knew well that Troy should destroyd be (I, 6:5)<br />There are many other occasions when the meter seems to require the pronunciation of a now silent<br />or absent -e-. In such cases the  in this text generally has a superscript dot which the reader is free<br />to ignore at will, thus:<br />So that his soul her soul follow might (II, 106.4)<br />The question of pronounced -e- arises with particular frequency in the ending of verbs in the normal<br />past tense or past participle as in the line just quoted:<br />Knew well that Troy should destroyd be.<br />where it is clear that -ed has to be pronunced in either version.<br />x<br />Or take this couplet from the Canterbury Tales, for example:<br />And set a supper at a certain price,<br />And we will ruld be at his device.<br />The rhythm is improved if the -ed of ruled is pronounced as it almost certainly was in Chaucer's day<br />and as -ed was often pronounced in poetry until almost modern times. In this text such -ed's are often<br />marked where the editor feels that the rhythm would benefit, but I have not been relentless about it,<br />and readers should use their own judgement about it. There is plenty of leeway for taste. A reader<br />might easily decide for example, that the following line in the description of the leprous Summoner<br />in the Canterbury Tales is best read as a series of strong monosyllables, and ignore the suggestion<br />to pronounce the -e's of scalled, browes and piled:<br />With scalld brows black and pild beard<br />Another illustration of a rhythmical question with a modspell version:<br />Make no comparison ...<br />Oh lev Pandare in conlusïon<br />I will not be of thine opinïon<br />The editorial accent mark on the i of conclusion and opinion suggests the possibility of pronouncing<br />each word as four syllables: con-clus-i-on, o-pin-i-on as they presumably were in the original, but<br />again the reader is free to prefer the normal three-syllable pronunciation and to be satisfied with a<br />nine-syllable line, of which the Chaucer manuscripts have many.<br />One other thing to be kept in mind is that for Chaucer as for us there were unpronounced -e's and<br />other unpronounced letters. In short, for him as for Shakespeare and for us, there was such a thing<br />as elision, the dropping or blending of syllables, reducing the number that seem to be present on the<br />page. Thus ever and evil may well have been pronounced e'er and ill where the rhythm suited as in<br />the following:<br />“Alas!” quod Absalom, “and Welaway!<br />That tru love was e’er so ill beset”<br />(Orig: That true love was ever so evil beset)<br />Remembereth you on passd heaviness<br />That you have felt, and on the adversity<br />Of other folk<br />To get a pentameter Rememb'reth probably needs to be pronounced thus, eliding one of the e's, and<br />the adversity needs to be said as th'adversity even if these elisions are not so marked in the text.<br />xi<br />Our modern pronunciation of generally often has three rather than four syllables, and a three-syllable<br />sovereignty fits well with this couplet either in its Middle English or modspell form:<br />My lieg lady, generally, quod he,<br />Women desiren to have sovereignty<br />Elision or slurring is particularly noticeable in a word like benedicitee, a common exclamation with<br />Chaucer's characters in the Tales. It was clearly pronounced with anything from two to five syllables<br />to fit the rhythm: benstee, bensitee, bendisitee, ben-e-disitee. And a line like the following is an<br />impossible pentameter without some elision:<br />And certes yet ne dide I yow nevere unright<br />Look at the two different forms of the same verb in the following consecutive lines of Middle English:<br />Thy gentillesse cometh fro God allone.<br />Than comth oure verray gentillesse of grace<br />The spelling comth, occurs in the second line in two MSS, suggesting a common pronunciation of<br />the word, whatever way it was spelled, a pronunciation something like comes in both lines.<br />Assuming the following line to have ten syllables, the first word should come out as one syllable:<br />Fareth every knight thus with his wife as ye?<br />Here the pronunciation of Fareth may have verged on Fares, its modern form, which I have adopted.<br />Analagously, we are so accustomed to pronouncing every as two syllables that we do not notice that<br />it is written with three. The alert reader will see and adapt to other such occurrences in the course<br />of reading this version.<br />STRESS: In some lines an acute accent is inserted to suggest a probable emphasis different from our<br />current stress patterns<br />If this be wist, but e'er in thine absénce<br />or<br />And short and quick and full of high senténce<br />and rhyming groups like the following:<br />sort / comfórt; dance / penánce; disáventure / creäture / measúre<br />Reading a modspell edition of The Canterbury Tales or of Troilus and Criseyde needs goodwill,<br />xii<br />some intelligence, humor, adaptability, and a little skill, qualities that most of us would readily confess<br />to.<br />A Short Note on How the Text may be Read<br />This is mostly a brief summary of what has been said at greater length above.<br />Readers are invited to pronounce or not, as they see fit, all instances of dotted , as in "Inspird",<br />"easd", "young", "sunn".<br />This superscript dot indicates a letter that was probably pronounced in Chaucer's medieval poetic<br />dialect, possibly with a light schwa sound, a kind of brief "-eh". Hence, this modspell text has kept<br />some medieval spellings that differ somewhat from ours: "sweet" for "sweet", "half" for "half",<br />"could" for "could", "lipps" for "lips", and so on. This preserves the extra syllable to indicate the<br />more regular meter that many scholars insist was Chaucer's, and that many readers will prefer. The<br />reader is the final judge.<br />It is perfectly possible to read "With locks curled as they were laid in press" rather than "With locks<br />curled as they were laid in press." Some would prefer "She let no morsel from her lips fall" over "She<br />let no morsel from her lipps fall". Similarly a sentence of strong monosyllables like "With scaled<br />brows black and piled beard" should be at least as good as "With pild brows black and pild beard."<br />As in these examples a stanza like the following could get much of the effect of the pronounced -efrom<br />a crisp pronunciation of final consonants or separation of words: young -- knights<br />This Troilus as he was wont to guide accustomed to<br />His young knights, led them up and down<br />In thilk larg temple on every side, In this<br />Beholding ay the ladies of the town<br />Now here, how there, for no devotïon<br />Had he to none to reiven him his rest. deprive him of<br />But gan to praise and lacken whom him lest. And blame<br />(Troilus & Criseyde: I, 20)<br />There is nothing to prevent any reader from ignoring the superscript -- whenever you feel that is<br />appropriate. Similarly you may wish (or not) to pronounce the ï of words like devotïon, to make<br />three syllables for the word instead of two, etc. The text offers a choice. Blameth not me if that<br />you choose amiss.<br />The medieval endings of some words, especially verbs, in -n or -en have been retained for<br />reasons of smoother rhythm: "lacken, sleepen, seeken, weren, woulden, liven, withouten."<br />xiii<br />Such words mean the same with or without the -n or -en. Also words beginning y- mean the<br />same with or without the y- as in y-tied, y-taught.<br />An acute accent indicates that a word was probably stressed in a different way from its modern<br />counterpart: uságe, viságe, daggér, mannér, serviceáble to rhyme with table.<br />End of Introduction<br />0<br />The Canterbury Tales<br />by<br />GEOFFREY CHAUCER<br />A READER-FRIENDLY EDITION<br />Put into modern spelling<br />by<br />MICHAEL MURPHY<br />GENERAL PROLOGUE<br />1<br />1 When April with its sweet showers has pierced the drought of March to the root and bathed every rootlet in<br />the liquid by which the flower is engendered; when the west wind also, with its sweet breath, has brought forth<br />young shoots in every grove and field; when the early sun of spring has run half his course in the sign of Aries, and<br />when small birds make melody, birds that sleep all night with eyes open, (as Nature inspires them to) --THEN<br />people have a strong desire to go on pilgrimages, and pilgrims long to go to foreign shores to distant shrines<br />known in various countries. And especially they go from every county in England to seek out the shrine of the holy<br />blessed martyr who has helped them when they were sick.<br />2 4: "By virtue (strength) of which the flower is engendered."<br />3 8: The early sun of Spring has moved part way through the sign of Aries (the Ram) in the Zodiac.<br />4 13-14: "Pilgrims seek foreign shores (to go) to distant shrines known in different lands." Palmers: pilgrims,<br />from the palm-leaves they got in Jerusalem.<br />GENERAL PROLOGUE<br />The opening is a long, elaborate sentence about the effects of Spring on the vegetable and animal<br />world, and on people. The style of the rest of the Prologue and Tales is much simpler than this<br />opening. A close paraphrase of the opening sentence is offered at the bottom of this page.1<br />When that April with his showers soote its showers sweet<br />The drought of March hath piercd to the root<br />And bathd every vein in such liquor rootlet / liquid<br />Of which virtúe engendered is the flower;2<br />5 When Zephyrus eke with his sweet breath West Wind also<br />Inspird hath in every holt and heath grove & field<br />The tender cropps, and the young sun young shoots / Spring sun<br />Hath in the Ram his half course y-run,3 in Aries / has run<br />And small fowls maken melody little birds<br />10 That sleepen all the night with open eye Who sleep<br />(So pricketh them Natúre in their couráges), spurs / spirits<br />Then longen folk to go on pilgrimáges, people long<br />And palmers for to seeken strang strands pilgrims / shores<br />To fern hallows couth in sundry lands,4 distant shrines known<br />15 And specially from every shir's end county's<br />Of England to Canterbury they wend go<br />The holy blissful martyr for to seek, St. Thomas Becket<br />That them hath holpen when that they were sick. Who has helped them<br />2 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 45-6: "He loved everything that pertained to knighthood: truth (to one's word), honor, magnanimity<br />At the Tabard Inn, just south of London, the poet-pilgrim falls in with a group of twenty nine<br />other pilgrims who have met each other along the way.<br />Befell that in that season on a day It happened<br />20 In Southwark at The Tabard as I lay inn name / lodged<br />Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage to go<br />To Canterbury with full devout couráge, spirit, heart<br />At night was come into that hostelry inn<br />Well nine and twenty in a company fully 29<br />25 Of sundry folk by áventure y-fall by chance fallen ...<br />In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all ...Into company<br />That toward Canterbury woulden ride. wished to<br />The chambers and the stables weren wide were roomy<br />And well we weren easd at the best. entertained<br />30 And shortly, when the sunn was to rest, sun had set<br />So had I spoken with them every one<br />That I was of their fellowship anon,<br />And mad forward early for to rise agreement<br />To take our way there as I you devise. I shall tell you<br />35 But natheless, while I have time and space, nevertheless<br />Ere that I further in this tal pace, Before I go<br />Methinketh it accordant to reason It seems to me<br />To tell you all the conditïon circumstances<br />Of each of them so as it seemd me, to me<br />40 And which they weren, and of what degree And who / social rank<br />And eke in what array that they were in; also / dress<br />And at a knight then will I first begin.<br />The Knight is the person of highest social standing on the pilgrimage though you would never know<br />it from his modest manner or his clothes. He keeps his ferocity for crusaders' battlefields where he<br />has distinguished himself over many years and over a wide geographical area. As the text says, he<br />is not "gay", that is, he is not showily dressed, but is still wearing the military padded coat stained<br />by the armor he has only recently taken off.<br />A KNIGHT there was and that a worthy man<br />That from the tim that he first began<br />45 To riden out, he lovd chivalry,<br />Truth and honóur, freedom and courtesy.1<br />CANTERBURY TALES 3<br />(freedom), courtesy."<br />1 52-3: He had often occupied the seat of honor at the table of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia, where badges<br />awarded to distinguished crusaders read "Honneur vainc tout: Honor conquers all." Though the campaigns listed<br />below were real, and though it was perhaps just possible for one man to have been in them all, the list is probably<br />idealized. The exact geographical locations are of little interest today. This portrait is generally thought to show a<br />man of unsullied ideals; Jones (see Bibliography) insists that the knight was a mere mercenary.<br />2 63: "In single combat (listes) three times, and always (ay) killed his opponent."<br />3 64-67: The knight had fought for one Saracen or pagan leader against another, a common, if dubious,<br />practice. And ever more ... may mean he always kept the highest reputation or that he always came away with a<br />splendid reward or booty (prize)..<br />Full worthy was he in his lord's war, lorde's = king's or God's<br />And thereto had he ridden--no man farre farther<br />As well in Christendom as Heatheness heathendom<br />50 And ever honoured for his worthiness.<br />His campaigns<br />At Alexandria he was when it was won. captured<br />Full often time he had the board begun table<br />Aboven all natïons in Prussia.1<br />In Lithow had he reisd and in Russia Lithuania / fought<br />55 No Christian man so oft of his degree. rank<br />In Gránad' at the siege eke had he be Granada / also<br />Of Algesir and ridden in Belmarie.<br />At Leys was he and at Satalie<br />When they were won, and in the Great Sea Mediterranean<br />60 At many a noble army had he be.<br />At mortal battles had he been fifteen<br />And foughten for our faith at Tramissene<br />In lists thric, and ay slain his foe.2 combat 3 times & always<br />This ilk worthy knight had been also same<br />65 Sometim with the lord of Palatie<br />Against another heathen in Turkey,<br />And ever more he had a sovereign prize,3 always<br />His modest demeanor<br />And though that he was worthy he was wise, valiant / sensible<br />And of his port as meek as is a maid. deportment<br />70 Ne never yet no villainy he said rudeness<br />4 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 70-71: Notice quadruple negative: "ne, never, no ... no" used for emphasis, perhaps deliberately excessive<br />emphasis. It is not bad grammar. The four negatives remain in Ellesmer's slightlly different version: "He never<br />yet no villainy ne said ... unto no manner wight"<br />2 74: "He (the Knight) was not fashionably dressed." horse was: most MSS read hors weere(n) = "horses<br />were." I have preferred the reading of MS Lansdowne.<br />3 75-78: The poor state of the knight's clothes is generally interpreted to indicate his pious anxiety to fulfill a<br />religious duty even before he has had a chance to change his clothes. Jones thinks it simply confirms that the<br />knight was a mercenary who had pawned his armor. voyage: MSS have viage. Blessed viage was the term often<br />used for the holy war of the crusades.<br />479-80: A squire learned his future duties as a knight by attending on one. Bachelor is another word meaning<br />a young man in training to be a knight.<br />5 87: "And distinguished himself, considering the short time he had been at it."<br />In all his life unto no manner wight.1 no kind of person<br />He was a very perfect gentle knight.<br />But for to tellen you of his array:<br />His horse was good; but he was not gay.2 well dressed<br />75 Of fustian he weard a gipoun coarse cloth / tunic<br />All besmotered with his habergeon, stained / mail<br />For he was late y-come from his voyáge, just come / journey<br />And went for to do his pilgrimáge.3<br />The Knight's 20-year-old son is a striking contrast to his father. True, he has seen some military<br />action, but it was to impress his lady not his Lord God. Unlike his parent, he is fashionably dressed.<br />He is very much in love, he has cultivated all the social graces, and is also aware of his duty to serve<br />as his father's squire<br />With him there was his son, a young SQUIRE,<br />80 A lover and a lusty bachelor 4<br />With locks curled as they were laid in press. as if in curlers<br />Of twenty years he was of age, I guess.<br />Of his statúre he was of even length, moderate height<br />And wonderly deliver and of great strength, very athletic<br />85 And he had been sometime in chivachy on campaign<br />In Flanders, in Artois and Picardy,<br />And borne him well as in so little space5 conducted / time<br />In hope to standen in his lady's grace. good graces<br />Embroidered was he as it were a mead meadow<br />90 All full of fresh flowers white and red.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 5<br />1 100: The table would be occupied at only one side, so when the Squire carved for his father, the Knight, he<br />stood before him across the table.<br />2 101: A servant of middle rank. This one looks after his master's forest land.<br />3 104-114: Why a forester should be so heavily armed on a pilgrimage is not clear.<br />Singing he was or fluting all the day. whistling?<br />He was as fresh as is the month of May.<br />Short was his gown with sleevs long and wide.<br />Well could he sit on horse and fair ride. ride well<br />95 He could songs make and well endite, write words & music<br />Joust and eke dance, and well portray and write. also / draw<br />So hot he lovd that by nightertale night(time)<br />He slept no more than does a nightingale.<br />Courteous he was, lowly and serviceable,<br />100 And carved before his father at the table.1<br />Knight and Squire are accompanied by their Yeoman. He is noticeably over-armed for a<br />pilgrimage, which indicates probably suspicion of the big city by a man more at home in the forest.<br />A YEOMAN he had and servants no more2<br />At that tim, for him list rid so, it pleased him to<br />And he was clad in coat and hood of green.<br />A sheaf of peacock arrows bright and keen<br />105 Under his belt he bore full thriftily. neatly<br />Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly— care for<br />His arrows droopd not with feathers low,<br />And in his hand he bore a mighty bow.<br />A not-head had he with a brown viságe. cropped head<br />110 Of woodcraft could he well all the uságe. knew all the skills<br />Upon his arm he bore a gay bracér elaborate armguard<br />And by his side a sword and a bucklér shield<br />And on that other side a gay daggér fine, splendid<br />Harnessed well and sharp as point of spear.3 Finely wrought<br />115 A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen. St C. medal / bright<br />A horn he bore, the baldrick was of green. cord<br />A forester was he soothly as I guess. truly<br />The Prioress is the head of a fashionable convent. She is a charming lady, none the less charming<br />for her slight worldliness: she has a romantic name, Eglantine, wild rose; she has delicate table<br />6 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 120: The joke that presumably lurks in this line is not explained by the usual annotation that St. Eloy (or<br />Loy or Eligius) was a patron saint of goldsmiths and of carters.<br />2 123: Another joke presumably, but again not adequately explained.<br />3 126: This is a snigger at the provincial quality of the lady's French, acquired in a London suburb, not in<br />Paris. Everything about the prioress is meant to suggest affected elegance of a kind not especially appropriate in a<br />nun: her facial features, her manners, her jewelry, her French, her clothes, her name. Eglantine = "wild rose" or<br />"sweet briar." Madame = "my lady."<br />4 139-40: She took pains to imitate the manners of the (king's) court.<br />manners and is exquisitely sensitive to animal rights; she speaks French -- after a fashion; she has<br />a pretty face and knows it; her nun's habit is elegantly tailored, and she displays discreetly a little<br />tasteful jewelry: a gold brooch on her rosary embossed with the nicely ambiguous Latin motto:<br />Amor Vincit Omnia, Love conquers all.<br />There was also a nun, a PRIORESS, head of a convent<br />That of her smiling was full simple and coy. modest<br />120 Her greatest oath was but by Saint Eloy,1<br />And she was clepd Madame Eglantine. called<br />Full well she sang the servic divine<br />Entund in her nose full seemly.2<br />And French she spoke full fair and fetisly nicely<br />125 After the school of Stratford at the Bow,<br />For French of Paris was to her unknow.3<br />At meat well y-taught was she withall: meals / indeed<br />She let no morsel from her lipps fall,<br />Nor wet her fingers in her sauc deep.<br />130 Well could she carry a morsel and well keep handle<br />That no drop ne fell upon her breast. So that<br />In courtesy was set full much her lest: v. much her interest<br />Her over lipp wipd she so clean upper lip<br />That in her cup there was no farthing seen small stain<br />135 Of greas, when she drunkn had her draught.<br />Full seemly after her meat she raught, reached for her food<br />And sikerly she was of great desport certainly / charm<br />And full pleasánt and amiable of port, behavior<br />And paind her to counterfeit cheer imitate the manners<br />140 Of court,4 and be estately of mannér,<br />And to be holden digne of reverence. thought worthy<br />CANTERBURY TALES 7<br />1 161-2: The gold brooch on her rosary had a capital "A" with a crown above it, and a Latin motto meaning<br />"Love conquers all," a phrase appropriate to both sacred and secular love. It occurs in a French poem that<br />Chaucer knew well, The Romance of the Rose (21327-32), where Courteoisie quotes it from Virgil's Eclogue X,<br />69, to justify the plucking of the Rose by the Lover, a decidedly secular, indeed sexual, act of "Amor".<br />2 164: The Prioress's traveling companion is called, confusingly, her chaplain. The priests are employees of<br />the Prioress's well-to-do convent. Even in a market flooded with priests, bringing three along on the pilgrimage<br />would be a display of celibate feminism and of conspicuous consumption as marked as the Prioress's jewelry and<br />her choice of dog food. However, many scholars think that the words "and priests three" were inserted by a scribe.<br />She is very sensitive<br />But for to speaken of her conscïence: sensitivity<br />She was so charitable and so pitóus moved to pity<br />She would weep if that she saw a mouse<br />145 Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.<br />Of small hounds had she that she fed<br />With roasted flesh or milk and wastel bread, fine bread<br />But sore wept she if one of them were dead<br />Or if men smote it with a yard, smart; a stick smartly<br />150 And all was conscïence and tender heart.<br />Her personal appearance<br />Full seemly her wimple pinchd was, headdress pleated<br />Her nose tretis, her eyen grey as glass, handsome / eyes<br />Her mouth full small and thereto soft and red, and also<br />But sikerly she had a fair forehead. certainly<br />155 It was almost a spann broad, I trow, handsbreadth / I guess<br />For hardily she was not undergrow. certainly / short? thin?<br />Full fetis was her cloak as I was 'ware. elegant / aware<br />Of small coral about her arm she bare bore, carried<br />A pair of beads gauded all with green, A rosary decorated<br />160 And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen shining<br />On which was written first a crownd A<br />And after: Amor Vincit Omnia.1 Love Conquers All<br />Her traveling companions<br />Another Nunn with her hadd she nun<br />That was her chaplain, and priests three.2 companion<br />8 CANTERBURY TALES<br />Three priests would make the number of pilgrims 31 not 29, and only one is heard from again, in the Nun's Priests<br />Tale.<br />1 166: venery: both "hunting" and the work of Venus, goddess of love. This description of the Monk is<br />larded with sexual innuendo.<br />2 172: The lordly monk is in charge of an annex (cell) of the monastery.<br />Another member of the church is the Monk who, like the Prioress, is supposed to stay in his<br />monastery but who, like her, finds an excuse to get away from it, something he does a lot. He has<br />long since lost any of the monastic ideals he may have set out with, and he now prefers travel, good<br />clothes, good food, good hunting with well-equipped horses, in place of the poverty, study and<br />manual labor prescribed by his monastic rule. He may not be a bad man, but he is not a good monk.<br />165 A MONK there was, a fair for the mastery, a very fine fellow<br />An outrider that lovd venery.1 horseman / hunting<br />A manly man to be an abbot able,<br />Full many a dainty horse had he in stable,<br />And when he rode, men might his bridle hear<br />170 Jingle in a whistling wind as clear<br />And eke as loud as does the chapel bell And also<br />There as this lord is keeper of the cell.2 Where / annex<br />The rule of Saint Maur or of Saint Bennett [monastic] rule<br />Because that it was old and somedeal strait somewhat strict<br />175 This ilk monk let old things pass This same / go<br />And held after the new world the space. modern ways now<br />He gave not of that text a pulld hen plucked<br />That says that hunters be not holy men<br />Nor that a monk, when he is reckless, careless of rules<br />180 Is likened to a fish that's waterless,<br />That is to say, a monk out of his cloister. monastery<br />But thilk text held he not worth an oyster. this saying he thought<br />The poet pretends to agree with his lax views<br />And I said his opinïon was good; I = narrator<br />What! Should he study and make himselfen wood himself mad<br />185 Upon a book in cloister always to pore?<br />Or swinken with his hands and labóur or work<br />As Austin bids? How shall the world be served? St Augustine<br />CANTERBURY TALES 9<br />1 188: "Let Augustine keep his work." An unbecoming way for a monk to speak of the great saint whose rule,<br />like that of St. Maurus and St. Benedict (Maur and Bennett, 173) prescribed study and physical labor for monks.<br />Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.1<br />His taste in sport and clothes<br />Therefore he was a prickasour aright. hunter, for sure<br />190 Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl in flight.<br />Of pricking and of hunting for the hare tracking<br />Was all his lust, for no cost would he spare. his passion<br />I saw his sleevs purfled at the hand edged at the wrist<br />With gris, and that the finest of the land, fur<br />195 And for to fasten his hood under his chin<br />He had of gold y-wrought a full curious pin — very elaborate<br />A love knot on the greater end there was.<br />His physical appearance<br />His head was bald, that shone as any glass<br />And eke his face, as he had been anoint. also / as if oiled<br />200 He was a lord full fat and in good point, in good health<br />His eyen steep and rolling in his head eyes prominent<br />That steamd as a furnace of a lead, lead furnace<br />His boots supple, his horse in great estate. in great shape<br />Now certainly he was a fair prelate. a fine cleric<br />205 He was not pale as is a forpined ghost. tortured<br />A fat swan loved he best of any roast.<br />His palfrey was as brown as any berry. horse<br />The Friar, another cleric, is even less a man of God than the Monk. A member of a mendicant<br />order of men who lived on what they could get by begging, he has become a professional fundraiser,<br />the best in his friary because of some special skills: personal charm, a good singing voice,<br />an attractive little lisp, a talent for mending quarrels and having the right little gift for the ladies,<br />and a forgiving way in the confessional especially when he expects a generous donation. He can find<br />good economic reasons to cultivate the company of the rich rather than the poor.<br />A FRIAR there was, a wanton and a merry, lively<br />10 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 208-9: A Friar (Fr. frère) was a member of one of four religious orders of men. Some were "mendicants,"<br />who depended on what they could get by begging. Our friar, a limiter, has a begging district within which he must<br />stay. "Solempne" cannot mean solemn except as heavy irony. See l. 274<br />2 212-13: He had provided dowries for many young women, or he had performed the marriage ceremonies<br />without a fee.<br />3 218-220: Sometimes the pope or bishop would reserve to himself or to a special delegate (licenciate) the<br />right to hear the confessions of prominent public sinners, guilty of particularly heinous offences. This would have<br />no relevance to the ordinary confession-goer, for whom the Friar had no more "power of confession" than the<br />curate or parson.<br />4 227-8: "For if he (the penitent) gave (an offering), he (the Friar) would dare to say that he knew the man<br />was truly repentant."<br />A limiter, a full solémpn man.1 licensed beggar / v. impressive<br />210 In all the orders four is none that can knows<br />So much of dalliance and fair language. smooth manners<br />He had made full many a marrïage<br />Of young women at his own cost.2<br />Unto his order he was a noble post. pillar<br />215 Full well beloved and familiar was he<br />With franklins over all in his country, landowners<br />And eke with worthy women of the town, And also<br />For he had power of confessïon,<br />As said himself, more than a curate, parish priest<br />220 For of his order he was licentiate.3 licensed<br />His manner in the confessional<br />Full sweetly heard he confessïon<br />And pleasant was his absolutïon.<br />He was an easy man to give penánce<br />There as he wist to have a good pittánce, expected / offering<br />225 For unto a poor order for to give<br />Is sign that a man is well y-shrive, confessed<br />For if he gave, he durst make avaunt dared / boast<br />He wist that a man was répentaunt,4 knew<br />For many a man so hard is of his heart,<br />230 He may not weep though that he sor smart. it hurt him sharply<br />Therefore, instead of weeping and [of] prayers<br />Men may give silver to the poor freres. friars<br />CANTERBURY TALES 11<br />1 241-2: "Tapster, beggester": the "-ster" ending signified, strictly, a female. It survives (barely) in "spinster."<br />2 251: The meaning of virtuous ("obliging? effective"?) would seem to depend on whether one takes 251 with<br />the preceding or the following line.<br />3 252a: He had paid a certain fee (farm') for the monopoly (grant) of begging in his district (`haunt'). The<br />couplet 252 a-b occurs only in MS Hengwrt of the Six Text.<br />4 256: His income from the begging was much larger than his outlay for the monopoly.<br />His largess, his talents, and the company he cultivated<br />His tipet was ay farsd full of knives hood was always packed<br />And pinns for to given fair wives. pretty<br />235 And certainly he had a merry note—<br />Well could he sing and playen on a rote. stringed instrument<br />Of yeddings he bore utterly the prize. ballad songs<br />His neck was white as is the fleur de lys; lily<br />Thereto he strong was as a champion. But also / fighter<br />240 He knew the taverns well in every town<br />And every hosteler and tappester innkeeper & barmaid<br />Bet than a lazar or a beggester,1 Better / leper or beggar<br />For unto such a worthy man as he<br />Accorded not as by his faculty Didn't suit his rank<br />245 To have with sick lazars ácquaintance. lepers<br />It is not honest, it may not advance proper / profit<br />For to dealen with no such poraille, poor people<br />But all with rich and sellers of vitaille. food<br />And overall there as profit should arise, everywhere that<br />250 Courteous he was and lowly of service; humbly useful<br />His begging manner was so smooth he could, if necessary, extract money from the poorest<br />There was no man nowhere so virtuous.2<br />He was the best beggar in his house<br />252a And gave a certain farm for the grant.3<br />252b None of his brethren came there in his haunt. district<br />For though a widow hadde not a shoe,<br />So pleasant was his "In Principio" his blessing<br />255 Yet he would have a farthing ere he went. 1/4 of a penny<br />His purchase was well better than his rent.4<br />12 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 259: cloisterer: probably a "real" friar who stayed largely within his cloister, satisfied with poor clothes<br />according to his vow of poverty.<br />2 261: master: possibly Master of Arts, a rather more eminent degree than it is now, though hardly making its<br />holder as exalted as the pope.<br />3 271: (dressed in) motley: probably not the loud mixed colors of the jester, but possibly tweed.<br />4 276-7: "He wished above all that the stretch of sea between Middleburgh (in Flanders) and Orwell (in<br />England) were guarded (kept) against pirates."<br />5 278: He knew the intricacies of foreign exchange. Scholars have charged the Merchant with gold<br />smuggling or even coin clipping; but although shields were units of money, they were neither gold nor coins.<br />And he had other talents and attractions<br />And rage he could as it were right a whelp. frolic like a puppy<br />In lovdays there could he muchel help, mediation days<br />For there he was not like a cloisterer 1<br />260 With a threadbare cope as is a poor scholar, cloak<br />But he was like a master or a pope.2<br />Of double worsted was his semi-cope, short cloak<br />And rounded as a bell out of the press. the mold<br />Somewhat he lispd for his wantonness affectation<br />265 To make his English sweet upon his tongue,<br />And in his harping when that he had sung,<br />His eyen twinkled in his head aright eyes<br />As do the starrs in the frosty night. stars<br />This worthy limiter was clept Huberd. was called<br />The Merchant is apparently a prosperous exporter who likes to TALK of his prosperity; he is<br />concerned about pirates and profits, skillful in managing exchange rates, but tightlipped about<br />business details.<br />270 A MERCHANT was there with a forkd beard,<br />In motley,3 and high on horse he sat,<br />Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat, from Flanders<br />His boots claspd fair and fetisly. neatly<br />His reasons he spoke full solémpnly, solemnly<br />275 Sounding always the increase of his winning. profits<br />He would the sea were kept for anything he wished<br />Betwixt Middleburgh and Orwell.4<br />Well could he in Exchang shields sell.5 currency<br />CANTERBURY TALES 13<br />1 285-6: He had long since set out to study logic, part of the trivium or lower section of the university syllabus<br />(the other two parts were rhetoric and grammar); hence his early college years had long since passed. y-go (gone)<br />is the past participle of "go."<br />2 298: A joke. Although he was a student of philosophy, he had not discovered the "philosopher's stone,"<br />which was supposed to turn base metals into gold. The two senses of "philosopher" played on here are: a) student<br />of the work of Aristotle b) student of science ("natural philosophy"), a meaning which shaded off into "alchemist,<br />magician."<br />This worthy man full well his wit beset — used his brains<br />280 There wist no wight that he was in debt, no person knew<br />So stately was he of his governance management<br />With his bargains and with his chevissance. money dealings<br />Forsooth he was a worthy man withal, Truly / indeed<br />But sooth to say, I n'ot how men him call. truth I don't know<br />The Clerk is the first admirable church member we meet on the pilgrimage. "Clerk" meant<br />a number of related things: a cleric, a student, a scholar. This clerk is all three, devoted to<br />the love of learning and of God, the quintessential scholar, who would rather buy a book<br />than a coat or a good meal, totally unworldly.<br />285 A CLERK there was of Oxenford also Oxford<br />That unto logic hadd long y-go.1 gone<br />As lean was his horse as is a rake,<br />And he was not right fat, I undertake, he=the Clerk<br />But lookd hollow, and thereto soberly. gaunt & also<br />290 Full threadbare was his overest courtepy, outer cloak<br />For he had gotten him yet no benefice parish<br />Nor was so worldly for to have office, secular job<br />For him was lever have at his bed's head For he would rather<br />Twenty books clad in black or red bound<br />295 Of Aristotle and his philosophy<br />Than robs rich or fiddle or gay psalt'ry. stringed instrument<br />But albeit that he was a philosopher, although<br />Yet hadd he but little gold in coffer,2 chest<br />But all that he might of his friends hent get<br />300 On books and on learning he it spent,<br />And busily gan for the souls pray regulary prayed for<br />Of them that gave him wherewith to scholay. study<br />Of study took he most care and most heed.<br />Not one word spoke he mor than was need,<br />14 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 315: patent / plain commission: technical terms meaning by royal appointment.<br />2 326: "Nobody could fault any document he had drawn up" (endited). Clearly line 327 is a deliberate<br />exaggeration.<br />305 And that was spoke in form and reverence,<br />And short and quick and full of high senténce. lofty thought<br />Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,<br />And gladly would he learn and gladly teach.<br />The Sergeant of the Law is a successful but unostentatious, high-ranking lawyer who sometimes<br />functions as a judge. We are told with just a touch of irony, that he is, like many of the pilgrims,<br />the very best at what he does, a busy man, but "yet he seemd busier than he was."<br />A SERGEANT of the law, waryand wise A ranking lawyer<br />310 That often hadd been at the Parvise lawyer's meeting place<br />There was also, full rich of excellence.<br />Discreet he was and of great reverence;<br />He seemd such, his words were so wise.<br />Justice he was full often in assize judge / circuit court<br />315 By patent and by plain commissïon.1<br />For his sciénce and for his high renown knowledge<br />Of fees and robs had he many a one.<br />So great a purchaser was nowhere none;<br />All was fee simple to him in effect. easy money (pun)<br />320 His purchasing might not be infect. faulted<br />Nowhere so busy a man as he there n'as, =ne was=was not<br />And yet he seemd busier than he was.<br />In terms had he case and dooms all In books / judgements<br />That from the time of King William were fall. W. the Conqueror / handed down<br />325 Thereto he could endite and make a thing; Also / draw up<br />There could no wight pinch at his writing.2 no person c. complain<br />And every statute could he plein by rote. knew completely by heart<br />He rode but homely in a medley coat simply / tweed?<br />Girt with a ceint of silk with barrs small. bound w. a belt / stripes<br />330 Of his array tell I no longer tale.<br />The Lawyer is accompanied by his friend, the Franklin, a prosperous country gentleman, prominent<br />in his county. He is a generous extroverted man ("sanguine" the text says) who likes good food and<br />drink and sharing them with others, somewhat like St Julian, the patron saint of hospitality<br />CANTERBURY TALES 15<br />1 333: Complexion ... sanguine probably means (1) he had a ruddy face and (2) he was of "sanguine humor"<br />i.e. outgoing and optimistic because of the predominance of blood in his system. See ENDPAPERS: Humor<br />2 336-8: Epicurus was supposed, rightly or wrongly, to have taught that utmost pleasure was the greatest good<br />(hence "epicure").<br />3 340: St Julian was the patron saint of hospitality<br />4 351-2: His cook would regret it if his sauce was not pungent and sharp ....<br />5 359-60: sherriff: "shire reeve," King's representative in a county. counter: overseer of taxes for the treasury.<br />vavasour: wealthy gentleman, possibly also a family name.<br />A FRANK.LIN was in his company. rich landowner<br />White was his beard as is the daisy.<br />Of his complexïon he was sanguine.1 ruddy & cheerful<br />Well loved he by the morrow a sop in wine. in the a.m.<br />335 To livn in delight was ever his wont, custom<br />For he was Epicurus's own son<br />That held opinïon that plain delight total pleasure<br />Was very felicity perfite.2 truly perfect happiness<br />A householder and that a great was he;<br />340 Saint Julian he was in his country.3<br />His bread, his ale, was always after one. of one kind i.e. good<br />A better envind man was never none. with better wine cellar<br />Withouten bakd meat was never his house meat = food<br />Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous<br />345 It snowd in his house of meat and drink food<br />Of all dainties that men could bethink.<br />After the sundry seasons of the year According to<br />So changd he his meat and his supper.<br />Full many a fat partridge had he in mew in a cage<br />350 And many a bream and many a luce in stew. fish in pond<br />Woe was his cook but if his sauc were<br />Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear.4 tangy<br />His table dormant in his hall alway set / always<br />Stood ready covered all the long day.<br />355 At sessïons there was he lord and sire. law sessions<br />Full often time he was knight of the shire. member of Parliament<br />An anlace and a gipser all of silk dagger & purse<br />Hung at his girdle white as morning milk.<br />A sherriff had he been, and a counter. tax overseer<br />360 Was nowhere such a worthy vavasoúr.5 gentleman<br />16 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 361-64: Haberdasher: a dealer in items of clothing and notions; Webber: weaver; Dyer: a dyer of cloth;<br />Tapiser: tapestry maker--all connected with the cloth business. Since the Carpenter is a member of their<br />"fraternity," but not of their trade group, commentators say that theirs was not a trade guild but a parish guild, with<br />its own livery or uniform. Perhaps "Carpeter" was meant, although all MSS of Six-Text read "Carpenter" and there<br />is no entry for "Carpeter" in MED.<br />Somewhat lower in the social scale is a bevy of Skilled Tradesmen most of them connected with<br />the fabric trades and belonging to a guild, a "fraternity". Their prosperity shows in their<br />clothes, and their accouterments and the fact that they have brought their own cook, perhaps to<br />replace the skills of the ambitious wives they have left at home.<br />A HABERDASHER and a CARPENTER,1<br />A WEBBER, a DYER and a TAPISER<br />And they were clothed all in one livery uniform<br />Of a solemn and a great fraternity. guild<br />365 Full fresh and new their gear apikd was: burnished<br />Their knivs wer chapd not with brass finished<br />But all with silver; wrought full clean and well made<br />Their girdles and their pouches everydeal. belts / every bit<br />Well seemd each of them a fair burgess citizen<br />370 To sitten in a Guildhall on a dais. [in City Council] / platform<br />Ever each for the wisdom that he can Every one / had<br />Was shapely for to be an alderman, fit to be councilman<br />For chattels hadd they enough and rent, property / income<br />And eke their wivs would it well assent also / agree<br />375 And els certainly they were to blame: would be<br />It is full fair to be y-cleped "Madame," called "My Lady"<br />And go to vigils all before evening services<br />And have a mantle royally y-bore. carried<br />They have a great chef with a gorge-raising affliction<br />A COOK they hadd with them for the nones the occasion<br />380 To boil the chickens and the marrow bones<br />And powder merchant tart, and galingale. [names of spices]<br />Well could he know a draught of London ale.<br />He could roast and seeth and broil and fry simmer<br />CANTERBURY TALES 17<br />1 384: Recipes for mortrews and chickens with marrow bones can be found in Pleyn Delit by C. Hieatt and S.<br />Butler (Toronto, 1979), 9, 11, 83.<br />2 387: blancmanger : a dish of white food, such as chicken or fish, with other items of white food--rice,<br />crushed almonds, almond "milk," etc. See Pleyn Delit, 58, 89.<br />3 390: "He rode upon a nag as best he knew how."<br />4 400: He made them walk the plank.<br />5 401-4: These lines deal with the mariner's skill as a navigator: he is the best from England to Spain.<br />lodemenage= navigation, cf. lodestone, lodestar. harborow = position of the sun in the zodiac, or simply "harbors."<br />Make mortrews and well bake a pie.1 thick soups<br />385 But great harm was it, as it thought me, seemed to me<br />That on his shin a mormal hadd he, open sore<br />For bláncmanger that made he with the best.2<br />The Shipman is a ship's captain, the most skilled from here to Spain, more at home on the deck<br />of ship than on the back of a horse. He is not above a little larceny or piracy and in a sea fight<br />he does not take prisoners.<br />A SHIPMAN was there, woning far by west; living<br />For aught I wot, he was of Dartmouth. aught I know<br />390 He rode upon a rouncy as he couth,3 nag<br />In a gown of falding to the knee. wool cloth<br />A dagger hanging on a lace had he<br />About his neck under his arm adown.<br />The hot summer had made his hue all brown. his color<br />395 And certainly he was a good fellow.<br />Full many a draught of wine had he y-draw drawn<br />From Bordeaux-ward while that the chapman sleep. merchant slept<br />Of nic conscïence took he no keep: sensitive c. / care<br />If that he fought and had the higher hand upper hand<br />400 By water he sent them home to every land.4<br />But of his craft to reckon well his tides, for his skill<br />His streams and his dangers him besides, currents<br />His harborow, his moon, his lodemenage sun's position / navigation<br />There was none such from Hull unto Cartháge.5<br />405 Hardy he was and wise to undertake.<br />With many a tempest had his beard been shake.<br />He knew all the havens as they were harbors<br />18 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 414: Astronomy = astrology. Medieval medicine was less the practice of an applied science than of magic<br />natural (white magic) including astrology.<br />2 415-18: These four lines are hard to render except by paraphrase: he treated his patient by "white magic" and<br />he knew how to cast horoscopes and calculate astronomically the best hours to treat his patient.<br />3 423: "When the cause and root of his illness were diagnosed".<br />4 428: They were old colleagues.<br />5 429-434: This list of classical, Arabic and other medieval authorities on medicine functions somewhat like<br />From Gothland to the Cape of Finisterre<br />And every creek in Brittany and Spain.<br />410 His barge y-clepd was the Maudlain. ship was called<br />The medical Doctor is also the best in his profession, and though his practice, typical of the period,<br />sounds to us more like astrology and magic than medicine, he makes a good living at it.<br />With us there was a DOCTOR of PHYSIC. medicine<br />In all this world ne was there none him like<br />To speak of physic and of surgery,<br />For he was grounded in astronomy:1 astrology<br />415 He kept his patïent a full great deal<br />In hours, by his magic natural.2<br />Well could he fórtunen the áscendent<br />Of his imáges for his patïent.<br />He knew the cause of every malady<br />420 Were it of hot or cold or moist or dry<br />And where engendered and of what humor. See Endpapers<br />He was a very perfect practiser.<br />The cause y-know, and of his harm the root,3 known / source<br />Anon he gave the sick man his boote. medicine, cure<br />His connections with the druggists<br />425 Full ready had he his apothecaries druggists<br />To send him drugs and his letuaries, medicines<br />For each of them made other for to win; to profit<br />Their friendship was not new to begin.4<br />Well knew he the old Esculapius<br />430 And Dioscorides and eke Rusus,5 also<br />CANTERBURY TALES 19<br />the list of the knight's battles, a deliberate exaggeration; here the result is mildly comic, intentionally.<br />1 438: Physicians were sometimes thought to tend towards atheism. Perhaps the rhyme here was just very<br />French. Or was meant to be comic; it could work in modern English if so regarded, with "digestible" pronounced<br />exaggeratedly to rime fully with modern "Bible."<br />2 443-4: A pun. Gold was used in some medications (physic); but physic is also the practice of medicine at<br />which much gold can be made, especially in time of plague (pestilence), and that is good for the heart (cordial).<br />Old Hippocras, Hali and Galen<br />Serapion, Rasis and Avicen,<br />Averrois, Damascene and Constantine,<br />Bernard and Gatesden and Gilbertine.<br />His personal habits; his appearance<br />435 Of his diet measurable was he moderate<br />For it was of no superfluity excess<br />But of great nourishing and digestible.<br />His study was but little on the Bible.1<br />In sanguine and in perse he clad was all In red & blue<br />440 Lind with taffeta and with sendall, silk<br />And yet he was but easy of dispense. thrifty spender<br />He kept what he won in pestilence. during plague<br />For gold in physic is a cordial, Because<br />Therefore he lovd gold in specïal.2 (Wife of Bath’s portrait begins on next page)<br />20 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 448: Ypres, Ghent (Gaunt): Famous cloth-making towns across the English Channel.<br />2 449-452: There was no woman in the whole parish who dared to get ahead of her in the line to<br />make their offering (in church). If anyone did, she was so angry that she had no charity (or patience)<br />left.<br />3 460: Weddings took place in the church porch, followed by Mass inside.<br />In the Wife of Bath we have one of only three women on the pilgrimage. Unlike the other<br />two she is not a nun, but a much-married woman, a widow yet again. Everything about her<br />is large to the point of exaggeration: she has been married five times, has been to Jerusalem<br />three times and her hat and hips are as large as her sexual appetite and her love of talk.<br />445 A good WIFE was there of besid Bath near<br />But she was somedeal deaf, and that was scath. somewhat d. / a pity<br />Of clothmaking she hadd such a haunt skill<br />She passd them of Ypres and of Gaunt.1 surpassed<br />In all the parish, wife ne was there none<br />450 That to the offering before her should gon.2 go<br />And if there did, certain so wroth was she<br />That she was out of all charity. patience<br />Her coverchiefs full fin were of ground; finely woven<br />I durst swear they weighdn ten pound I dare<br />455 That on a Sunday were upon her head.<br />Her hosn wern of fine scarlet red her stockings were<br />Full straight y-tied, and shoes full moist and new. supple<br />Bold was her face and fair and red of hue. color<br />She was a worthy woman all her life.<br />460 Husbands at church door she had had five,3<br />Withoutn other company in youth, not counting<br />But thereof needeth not to speak as nouth. now<br />And thrice had she been at Jerusalem. 3 times<br />She had passd many a strang stream. many a foreign<br />465 At Rom she had been and at Boulogne,<br />In Galicia at St James and at Cologne. [famous shrines]<br />(cont’d)<br />CANTERBURY TALES 21<br />1 467: "She knew plenty about travelling". Chaucer does not explain, and the reader is probably<br />not expected to ask, how the Wife managed to marry five husbands and be a renowned maker of cloth<br />while taking in pilgrimage as a kind of third occupation. Going to Jerusalem from England three times<br />was an extraordinary feat in the Middle Ages. This list is, like some of those already encountered, a<br />deliberate exaggeration, as is everything else about the Wife.<br />2 470: A wimple was a woman's cloth headgear covering the ears, the neck and the chin.<br />3 476: She was an old hand at this game.<br />4 486: "He was very reluctant to excommunicate a parishioner for not paying tithes," i.e. the tenth part of<br />one's income due to the Church.<br />She could much of wandering by the way.1 knew much<br />Gat-toothd was she, soothly for to say. Gap-toothed / truly<br />Upon an ambler easily she sat slow horse<br />470 Y-wimpled well,2 and on her head a hat<br />As broad as is a buckler or a targe, kinds of shield<br />A foot mantle about her hippes large, outer skirt<br />And on her feet a pair of spurs sharp.<br />In fellowship well could she laugh and carp. joke<br />475 Of remedies of love she knew perchance by experience<br />For she could of that art the old dance.3 she knew<br />The second good cleric we meet is more than good; he is near perfection. The priest of a small,<br />obscure and poor parish in the country. He has not forgotten the lowly class from which he came.<br />Unlike most of the other pilgrims, he is not physically described, perhaps because he is<br />such an ideal figure.<br />A good man was there of Religïon<br />And was a poor PARSON of a town, parish priest<br />But rich he was of holy thought and work.<br />480 He was also a learnd man, a clerk, a scholar<br />That Christ's gospel truly would preach.<br />His parishens devoutly would he teach. parishioners<br />Benign he was and wonder diligent wonderfully<br />And in adversity full patïent,<br />485 And such he was y-provd often sithes. times<br />Full loath was he to cursn for his tithes 4<br />But rather would he givn out of doubt<br />Unto his poor parishioners about<br />Of his offering and eke of his substance. also / possessions<br />490 He could in little thing have suffisance. enough<br />22 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 507-12: The "not" that goes with "set" also goes with "let" and "ran" (508-9). It was not uncommon for a<br />priest in a parish in the country to rent the parish to a poorer priest, and take off to London to look for a better job,<br />like saying mass every day for people who had died leaving money in their wills for that purpose (chantries for<br />souls), or doing the light spiritual work for a brotherhood or fraternity of the kind to which the guildsmen<br />belonged (see above 361-4). Our parson did not do this, but stayed in his parish and looked after his parishioners<br />(sheep, fold) like a good shepherd.<br />He ministers to his flock without any worldly ambition<br />Wide was his parish and houses far asunder<br />But he ne left not, for rain nor thunder did not fail<br />In sickness nor in mischief, to visit<br />The furthest in his parish, much and little, rich and poor<br />495 Upon his feet, and in his hand a stave. stick<br />This noble example unto his sheep he gave<br />That first he wrought and afterwards he taught: practiced<br />Out of the gospel he those words caught<br />And this figúre he added eke thereto: saying<br />500 "That if gold rust, what shall iron do?"<br />For if a priest be foul (in whom we trust)<br />No wonder is a lewd man to rust layman<br />And shame it is, if that a priest take keep, thinks about it<br />A shitn shepherd and a clean sheep. a dirty<br />He sets a good example and practises what he preaches<br />505 Well ought a priest example for to give<br />By his cleanness, how that his sheep should live.<br />He sette not his benefice to hire his parish<br />And let his sheep encumbred in the mire left (not)<br />And ran to London unto Saint Paul's ran (not)<br />510 To seekn him a chantry for souls<br />Or with a brotherhood to be withhold,1 hired<br />But dwelt at home, and kept well his fold,<br />So that the wolf ne made it not miscarry;<br />He was a shepherd and not a mercenary.<br />515 And though he holy were and virtuous,<br />He was to sinful men not despitous contemptuous<br />Nor of his speech daungerous nor digne, cold nor haughty<br />But in his teaching díscreet and benign.<br />To drawn folk to heaven with fairness<br />520 By good example, this was his busïness.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 23<br />1 527-8: "He taught Christ's doctrine and that of His twelve apostles, but first he practised it himself."<br />2 540: The phrase seems to mean "from the wages for his work (swink), and the value of his property<br />(chattel)" or possibly that he paid his tithes to the church partly in work, partly in kind.<br />But it were any person obstinate, But if<br />What so he were of high or low estate, Whether<br />Him would he snibbn sharply for the nons. rebuke / occasion<br />A better priest I trow there nowhere none is. I guess<br />525 He waited after no pomp and reverence did not expect<br />Nor makd him a spicd conscïence, oversubtle<br />But Christ's lore, and his apostles' twelve teaching<br />He taught, but first he followed it himself.1<br />His brother, the Plowman, probably the lowest in social rank on the pilgrimage is one of the<br />highest in spirituality, the perfect lay Christian, the secular counterpart of his cleric brother.<br />With him there was a PLOUGHMAN was his brother who was<br />530 That had y-laid of dung full many a fodder. spread / a load<br />A true swinker and a good was he, worker<br />Living in peace and perfect charity.<br />God loved he best with all his whol heart<br />At all tims, though him gamed or smart, pleased or hurt him<br />535 And then his neighbour right as himself.<br />He would thresh, and thereto dike and delve ditch & dig<br />For Christ's sake, with every poor wight person<br />Withoutn hire, if it lay in his might. Without pay<br />His tiths payd he full fair and well 10% of income<br />540 Both of his proper swink and his chattel.2<br />In a tabard he rode upon a mare. smock<br />We now come to a group of rogues and churls with whom the poet amusingly lumps himself.<br />You may well ask what some of these people are doing on a pilgrimage.<br />There was also a REEVE and a MILLÉR<br />A SUMMONER and a PARDONER also,<br />A MANCIPLE and myself, there were no more.<br />The Miller is a miller of other people's grain, who does not always give honest weight. He is a<br />big, brawny, crude man whose idea of fun is smashing doors down with his head or telling<br />vulgar stories.<br />24 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 550: "There was no door that he could not heave off its hinges (harre)."<br />2 563: A phrase hard to explain. It is sometimes said to allude to a saying that an honest miller had a thumb<br />of gold, i.e. there is no such thing as an honest miller. But the phrase "And yet" after the information that the<br />miller is a thief, would seem to preclude that meaning, or another that has been suggested: his thumb, held on the<br />weighing scale, produced gold.<br />3 567: A manciple was a buying agent for a college or, as here, for one of the Inns of Court, the Temple, an<br />association of lawyers, once the home of the Knights Templar. Clearly the meaning of the word "gentle" here as<br />with the Pardoner later, has nothing to do with good breeding or "gentle" birth. Presumably it does not mean<br />"gentle" in our sense either. Its connotations are hard to be sure of. See "ENDPAPERS."<br />545 The MILLER was a stout carl for the nones. strong fellow<br />Full big he was of brawn and eke of bones & also<br />That provd well, for over all there he came wherever<br />At wrestling he would have always the ram. prize<br />He was short-shouldered, broad, a thick knarre. rugged fellow<br />550 There was no door that he n'ould heave off harre1<br />Or break it at a running with his head.<br />His beard as any sow or fox was red,<br />And thereto broad as though it were a spade. And also<br />Upon the copright of his nose he had tip<br />555 A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs<br />Red as the bristles of a sow's ears.<br />His nostrils black were and wide.<br />A sword and buckler bore he by his side. shield<br />His mouth as great was as a great furnace.<br />560 He was a jangler and a goliardese talker & joker<br />And that was most of sin and harlotries. dirty talk<br />Well could he stealen corn and tolln thrice, take triple toll<br />And yet he had a thumb of gold pardee.2 by God<br />A white coat and a blue hood weard he.<br />565 A bagpipe well could he blow and sound<br />And therewithal he brought us out of town. with that<br />The Manciple is in charge of buying provisions for a group of Lawyers in London, but is<br />shrewder in his management than all of them put together.<br />A gentle MANCIPLE was there of a temple3<br />Of which achatours might take example buyers<br />For to be wise in buying of vitaille; victuals, food<br />570 For whether that he paid or took by taille by tally, on credit<br />Algate he waited so in his achate Always / buying<br />CANTERBURY TALES 25<br />1 576-583: He worked for more than thirty learned lawyers, at least a dozen of whom could manage the legal<br />and financial affairs of any lord in England, and who could show him how to live up to his rank (in honor) within<br />his income (debtless), unless he was mad; or how to live as frugally as he wished.<br />2 587: A reeve was a manager of a country estate.<br />That he was aye before and in good state. always ahead<br />Now is not that of God a full great grace<br />That such a lewd manne's wit shall pass uneducated / brains<br />575 The wisdom of a heap of learned men?<br />Of masters had he more than thric ten more than thirty<br />That were of law expért and curious skilled<br />Of which there were a dozen in that house<br />Worthy to be stewards of rent and land<br />580 Of any lord that is in England<br />To make him liv by his proper good on his own income<br />In honor debtless, but if he were wood, unless he was mad<br />Or live as scarcely as him list desire;1 frugally as he wished<br />And able for to helpn all a shire capable / county<br />585 In any case that might fall or hap. befall or happen<br />And yet this manciple set their aller cap. fooled all of them<br />The Reeve is the shrewd manager of a country estate. Old and suspicious, he is also a<br />choleric man, that is he has a short temper that matches his skinny frame.<br />The REEV. was a slender, choleric man.2 irritable<br />His beard was shaved as nigh as ever he can. as close<br />His hair was by his ears full round y-shorn, shorn, cut<br />590 His top was dockd like a priest beforn. shaved / in front<br />Full long were his leggs and full lean<br />Y-like a staff; there was no calf y-seen.<br />Well could he keep a garner and a bin; granary<br />There was no auditor could on him win. fault him<br />595 Well wist he by the drought and by the rain knew he<br />The yielding of his seed and of his grain.<br />His lord's sheep, his neat, his dairy, cattle<br />His swine, his horse, his store and his poultry "horse" is plur.<br />Was wholly in this Reev's governing,<br />600 And by his covenant gave the reckoning contract / account<br />Since that his lord was twenty years of age.<br />There could no man bring him in árrearáge. find / in arrears<br />There was no bailiff, herd nor other hine herdsman or worker<br />26 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 610-11: It is not clear whether the Reeve sometimes lends money to his master from his (i.e. the Reeve's)<br />resources or from his lord's own resources but giving the impression that the Reeve is the lender.<br />2 623: A Summoner was a man who delivered summonses for alleged public sinners to appear at the<br />Archdeacon's ecclesiastical court when accused of public immorality. The job offered opportunities for serious<br />abuse such as bribery, extortion, and especially blackmail of those who went with prostitutes, many of whom the<br />summoner used himself, and all of them in his pay. His disgusting physical appearance is meant to suggest his<br />wretched spiritual condition.<br />3 624: Medieval artists painted the faces of cherubs red. The summoner is of course less cherubic than<br />satanic, his appearance being evidence of his vices.<br />4 626: Sparrows were Venus's birds, considered lecherous presumably because they were so many.<br />That he ne knew his sleight and his covine. tricks & deceit<br />605 They were adread of him as of the death. the plague<br />Though he has made sure that no one takes advantage of him, he seems to have taken<br />advantage of his young lord.<br />His woning was full fair upon a heath: His dwelling<br />With green trees y-shadowed was his place.<br />He could better than his lord purchase.<br />Full rich he was astord privily. secretly<br />610 His lord well could he pleasn subtly<br />To give and lend him of his own good,1<br />And have a thank and yet a coat and hood. And get thanks<br />In youth he learnd had a good mystér: trade<br />He was a well good wright, a carpentér. very good craftsman<br />615 This Reev sat upon a well good stot very good horse<br />That was a pomely grey, and hight Scot. dappled / called<br />A long surcoat of perse upon he had overcoat of blue<br />And by his side he bore a rusty blade.<br />Of Norfolk was this Reeve of which I tell<br />620 Beside a town men clepn Baldswell. call<br />Tuckd he was, as is a friar, about, Rope-belted<br />And ever he rode the hindrest of our rout. hindmost / group<br />The unlovely Summoner, and his unsavory habits<br />A SUMMONER was there with us in that place 2<br />That had a fire-red cherubinn's face,3 cherub's<br />625 For saucfleme he was with eyen narrow. leprous / eyes<br />And hot he was and lecherous as a sparrow.4<br />CANTERBURY TALES 27<br />1 646: "The question is: What is the law?" This is a lawyer's phrase which the Summoner heard regularly in<br />the archdeacon's court.<br />2 652: "Secretly he would enjoy a girl himself" or "He could do a clever trick."<br />3 662: The writ of excommunication began with the word "Significavit."<br />With scald brows black, and pild beard, scaly / scraggly<br />Of his viság children were afeared.<br />There n'as quicksilver, litharge nor brimstone, was no<br />630 Boras, ceruse, nor oil of tartar none, [medications]<br />Nor ointment that would cleanse and bite<br />That him might helpn of his whelks white, boils<br />Nor of the knobbs sitting on his cheeks. lumps<br />Well loved he garlic, onion and eke leeks, & also<br />635 And for to drinkn strong wine red as blood;<br />Then would he speak and cry as he were wood. mad<br />And when that he well drunkn had the wine,<br />Then would he speak no word but Latin.<br />A few terms had he, two or three, knew<br />640 That he had learnd out of some decree.<br />No wonder is; he heard it all the day.<br />And eke you known well how that a jay also / jaybird<br />Can clepn "Wat" as well as can the Pope. call out<br />But whoso could in other things him grope, whoever / test<br />645 Then had he spent all his philosophy. learning<br />Aye, "Questio quid juris" would he cry.1 "What is the law?"<br />He was a gentle harlot, and a kind. rascal<br />A better fellow should men not find:<br />He would suffer for a quart of wine allow<br />650 A good fellow to have his concubine keep his mistress<br />A twelvemonth, and excuse him at the full. let him off<br />Full privily a finch eke could he pull.2 secretly<br />And if he found owhere a good fellow, anywhere<br />He would teachn him to have no awe<br />655 In such a case, of the archdeacon's curse,<br />But if a manne's soul were in his purse, Unless<br />For in his purse he should y-punished be.<br />"Purse is the archdeacon's hell," said he.<br />But well I wot, he lid right indeed. I know<br />660 Of cursing ought each guilty man to dread,<br />For curse will slay right as assoiling saveth absolution<br />And also 'ware him of "Significavit." 3 let him beware<br />28 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 664: girls probably meant "prostitutes," as it still can. See "Friars Tale," 1355 ff for further information on<br />the activities of summoners.<br />2 667: A tavern "sign" was a large wreath or broom on a pole. Acting the buffoon, the Summoner has also<br />turned a thin cake into a shield.<br />3 669: The Pardoner professes to give gullible people pardon for their sins in exchange for money, as well as a<br />view of his pretended holy relics which will bring them blessings. He too is physically repellent. His high voice<br />and beardlessness suggest that he is not a full man but something eunuch-like, again a metaphor for his sterile<br />spiritual state. His headquarters were at Rouncival near Charing Cross in London. See ENDPAPERS; and also<br />for "gentle".<br />4 672: The Pardoner's relationship to the Summoner is not obvious but appears to be sexual in some way. The<br />rhyme Rome / to me may have been forced or comic even in Chaucer's day; it is impossible or ludicrous today.<br />5 685: vernicle: a badge with an image of Christ's face as it was believed to have been imprinted on the veil of<br />Veronica when she wiped His face on the way to Calvary. Such badges were frequently sold to pilgrims.<br />In daunger had he, at his own guise In his power / disposal<br />The young girls of the diocese 1<br />665 And knew their counsel and was all their redde. secrets / adviser<br />A garland had he set upon his head<br />As great as it were for an alstake. tavern sign<br />A buckler had he made him of a cake.2 shield<br />With the disgusting Summoner is his friend, his singing partner and possibly his lover,<br />the even more corrupt Pardoner<br />With him there rode a gentle PARDONER 3<br />670 Of Rouncival, his friend and his compeer colleague<br />That straight was comn from the court of Rome. had come directly<br />Full loud he sang "Come hither love to me." 4<br />This Summoner bore to him a stiff burdoun. bass melody<br />Was never trump of half so great a sound. trumpet<br />675 This pardoner had hair as yellow as wax<br />But smooth it hung as does a strike of flax. hank<br />By ounces hung his locks that he had, By strands<br />And therewith he his shoulders overspread.<br />But thin it lay, by colpons, one by one, clumps<br />680 But hood, for jollity, weard he none,<br />For it was trussd up in his wallet: bag<br />Him thought he rode all of the new jet, fashion<br />Dishevelled; save his cap he rode all bare. W. hair loose<br />Such glaring eyen had he as a hare. eyes<br />685 A vernicle had he sewed upon his cap.5<br />CANTERBURY TALES 29<br />1 710: The offertory was that part of the Mass where the bread and wine were first offered by the priest. It was<br />also the point at which the people made their offerings to the parish priest, and to the Pardoner when he was there.<br />The prospect of money put him in good voice.<br />His wallet lay before him in his lap bag<br />Bretfull of pardons, come from Rome all hot. crammed<br />A voice he had as small as hath a goat. thin<br />No beard had he nor never should he have;<br />690 As smooth it was as it were late y-shave. recently shaved<br />I trow he were a gelding or a mare. guess<br />His "relics"<br />But of his craft, from Berwick unto Ware trade<br />Ne was there such another pardoner,<br />For in his mail he had a pillowber bag / pillowcase<br />695 Which that he said was Our Lady's veil. O.L's = Virgin Mary's<br />He said he had a gobbet of the sail piece<br />That Saint Peter had when that he went<br />Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ him hent. pulled him out<br />He had a cross of latten full of stones brass<br />700 And in a glass he hadd piggs' bones.<br />His skill in reading, preaching and extracting money from people<br />But with these "relics" when that he [had] found<br />A poor parson dwelling upon land, in the country<br />Upon one day he got him more money<br />Than that the parson got in months tway; two<br />705 And thus, with feignd flattery and japes tricks<br />He made the parson and the people his apes. fools, dupes<br />But truly, to telln at the last, the facts<br />He was in church a noble ecclesiast. churchman<br />Well could he read a lesson and a story.<br />710 But alderbest he sang an offertory 1 best of all<br />For well he wist when that song was sung knew<br />He must preach and well afile his tongue sharpen<br />To winne silver as he full well could. knew how<br />Therefore he sang the merrierly and loud.<br />This is the end of the portraits of the pilgrims.<br />30 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 726: "That you do not blame it on my bad manners." Villainy means conduct associated with villeins, the<br />lowest social class. This apologia by Chaucer (725-742) is both comic and serious: comic because it apologizes for<br />the way fictional characters behave as if they were real people and not Chaucer's creations; serious in that it shows<br />Chaucer sensitive to the possibility that part of his audience might take offence at some of his characters, their<br />words and tales, especially perhaps the parts highly critical of Church and churchmen, as well as the tales of<br />sexual misbehavior. Even the poet Dryden (in the Restoration!) and some twentieth-century critics have thought<br />the apology was needed.<br />715 Now have I told you soothly in a clause truly / briefly<br />Th'estate, th'array, the number, and eke the cause rank / condition<br />Why that assembled was this company<br />In Southwark at this gentle hostelry inn<br />That hight The Tabard, fast by The Bell. was called / close<br />720 But now is tim to you for to tell<br />How that we born us that ilk night conducted ourselves / same<br />When we were in that hostelry alight; dismounted<br />And after will I tell of our viage journey<br />And all the remnant of our pilgrimage.<br />The poet offers a comic apologia for the matter and language of some of the pilgrims.<br />725 But first I pray you of your courtesy<br />That you n'arrette it not my villainy 1 blame / bad manners<br />Though that I plainly speak in this matter<br />To tell you their words and their cheer, behavior<br />Not though I speak their words properly, exactly<br />730 For this you knowen all as well as I: as well<br />Whoso shall tell a tale after a man<br />He must rehearse as nigh as ever he can repeat as nearly<br />Ever each a word, if it be in his charge, Every / if he is able<br />All speak he ne'er so rudly and large, Even if / coarsely & freely<br />735 Or els must he tell his tale untrue<br />Or feign things or findn words new. invent things<br />He may not spare, although he were his brother. hold back<br />He may as well say one word as another.<br />Christ spoke himself full broad in Holy Writ very bluntly / Scripture<br />740 And well you wot no villainy is it. you know<br />Eke Plato sayeth, whoso can him read: Also / whoever<br />"The words must be cousin to the deed."<br />Also I pray you to forgive it me<br />All have I not set folk in their degree Although / social ranks<br />745 Here in this tale as that they should stand.<br />My wit is short, you may well understand. My intelligence<br />CANTERBURY TALES 31<br />1 747: "The Host had a warm welcome for every one of us." The Host is the innkeeper of The Tabard, Harry<br />Bailly.<br />After serving dinner, Harry Bailly, the fictional Host or owner of the Tabard Inn originates<br />the idea for the Tales:<br />Great cheer made our HOST us every one,1 welcome / for us<br />And to the supper set he us anon. quickly<br />He servd us with victuals at the best. the best food<br />750 Strong was the wine and well to drink us lest. it pleased us<br />A seemly man our Host was withall fit<br />For to be a marshall in a hall. master of ceremonies<br />A larg man he was with eyen steep prominent eyes<br />A fairer burgess was there none in Cheap. citizen / Cheapside<br />755 Bold of his speech and wise and well y-taught<br />And of manhood him lackd right naught.<br />Eke thereto he was right a merry man, And besides<br />And after supper playn he began joking<br />And spoke of mirth amongst other things,<br />760 (When that we had made our reckonings), paid our bills<br />And said thus: "Now, lordings, truly ladies and g'men<br />You be to me right welcome heartily,<br />For by my truth, if that I shall not lie,<br />I saw not this year so merry a company<br />765 At onc in this harbor as is now. this inn<br />Fain would I do you mirth, wist I how, Gladly / if I knew<br />And of a mirth I am right now bethought amusement<br />To do you ease, and it shall cost naught.<br />You go to Canterbury, God you speed.<br />770 The blissful martyr 'quit you your meed. give you reward<br />And well I wot, as you go by the way, I know / along the road<br />You shapn you to taln and to play; intend to tell tales & jokes<br />For truly, comfort nor mirth is none<br />To ridn by the way dumb as a stone;<br />775 And therefore would I makn you desport amusement for you<br />As I said erst, and do you some comfort. before<br />And if you liketh all by one assent if you please<br />For to standen at my judgment abide by<br />And for to workn as I shall you say,<br />780 Tomorrow when you ridn by the way,<br />32 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 781: "Now, by the soul of my dead father ..."<br />2 The host will be the Master of Ceremonies and judge. Anyone who revolts against the Host's rulings will<br />have to pay what the others spend along the way.<br />Now by my father's soul that is dead,1<br />But you be merry, I'll give you my head. If you're not<br />Hold up your hands withoutn mor speech."<br />Our counsel was not long for to seek. Our decision<br />The pilgrims agree to hear his idea<br />785 Us thought it was not worth to make it wise, not worthwhile / difficult<br />And granted him withoutn more advice, discussion<br />And bade him say his verdict as him lest. as pleased him<br />To pass the time pleasantly, every one will tell a couple of tales on the way out<br />and a couple on the way back.<br />"Lordings," quod he, "now hearkn for the best, Ladies & g'men<br />But take it not, I pray you, in disdain.<br />790 This is the point -- to speakn short and plain:<br />That each of you to shorten with our way<br />In this viage, shall telln tals tway journey / two<br />To Canterbury-ward, I mean it so, on the way to C.<br />And homeward he shall telln other two<br />795 Of áventures that whilom have befall. events / in past<br />The teller of the best tale will get a dinner paid for by all the others at Harry's inn, The Tabard,<br />on the way back from Canterbury. He offers to go with them as a guide<br />And which of you that bears him best of all,<br />That is to say, that telleth in this case<br />Tals of best senténce and most soláce, instruction / amusement<br />Shall have a supper at our aller cost at expense of all of us<br />800 Here in this place, sitting by this post<br />When that we come again from Canterbury.<br />And for to makn you the mor merry<br />I will myselfn goodly with you ride gladly<br />Right at mine own cost, and be your guide.<br />805 And whoso will my judgment withsay whoever / contradict<br />Shall pay all that we spendn by the way, 2 on the trip<br />CANTERBURY TALES 33<br />1 823: "He was the cock (rooster) for all of us." That is, he got us all up at cockcrow.<br />2 825-30: They set out at a gentle pace, and at the first watering place for the horses, (the watering of St.<br />Thomas) the Host says: "Ladies and gentlemen, listen please. You know (wot) your agreement (forward), and I<br />remind (record) you of it, if evening hymn and morning hymn agree," i.e. if what you said last night still holds this<br />morning.<br />And if you vouchesafe that it be so, agree<br />Tell me anon withouten words mo' now / more<br />And I will early shapn me therefore." prepare<br />They all accept, agreeing that the Host be MC, and then they go to bed.<br />810 This thing was granted and our oaths swore<br />With full glad heart, and prayd him also<br />That he would vouchsafe for to do so agree<br />And that he would be our governor<br />And of our tals judge and reporter,<br />815 And set a supper at a certain price,<br />And we will ruld be at his device direction<br />In high and low; and thus by one assent<br />We been accorded to his judgment. agreed<br />And thereupon the wine was fetched anon.<br />820 We dranken, and to rest went each one<br />Withoutn any longer tarrying.<br />The next morning they set out and draw lots to see who shall tell the first tale.<br />A-morrow, when the day began to spring<br />Up rose our Host, and was our aller cock,1<br />And gathered us together in a flock,<br />825 And forth we rode a little more than pace no great speed<br />Unto the watering of St Thomas.<br />And there our Host began his horse arrest, halt<br />And said: "Lordings, hearkn if you lest. if you please<br />You wot your forward (and I it you record) promise / remind<br />830 If evensong and morrowsong accord.2<br />Let see now who shall tell the first tale.<br />As ever may I drinkn wine or ale,<br />Whoso be rebel to my judgment Whoever is<br />Shall pay for all that by the way is spent.<br />835 Now drawth cut, ere that we further twinn; draw lots before we go<br />34 CANTERBURY TALES<br />He which that has the shortest shall begin.<br />Sir Knight," quod he, "my master and my lord, said he<br />Now drawth cut, for that is mine accord. draw lots / wish<br />Come near," quod he, "my lady Prioress.<br />840 And you, Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness, shyness<br />Nor study not. Lay hand to, every man."<br />They all draw lots. It falls to the Knight to tell the first tale<br />Anon to drawn every wight began person<br />And shortly for to telln as it was,<br />Were it by áventure or sort or cas, Whether by fate, luck or fortune<br />845 The sooth is this, the cut fell to the knight, The truth / the lot<br />Of which full blithe and glad was every wight. very happy / person<br />And tell he must his tale as was reason<br />By forward and by compositïon By promise & contract<br />As you have heard. What needeth words mo'? more<br />850 And when this good man saw that it was so,<br />As he that wise was and obedient<br />To keep his forward by his free assent, his agreement<br />He said: "Since I shall begin the game,<br />What! welcome be the cut, in God's name.<br />855 Now let us ride, and hearkn what I say."<br />And with that word we ridn forth our way<br />And he began with right a merry cheer with great good humor<br />His tale anon, and said as you may hear. at once<br />CANTERBURY TALES 35<br />ENDPAPERS / SPECIAL GLOSSARY<br />AUTHORITY, Auctoritee, Authors: The literate in the Middle Ages were remarkably bookish in<br />spite of or because of the scarcity of books. They had a great, perhaps inordinate, regard for<br />"authority," that is, established "authors": philosophers of the ancient world, classical poets, the<br />Bible, the Church Fathers, historians, theologians, etc. Citing an "authority" was then, as now, often<br />a substitute for producing a good argument, and then, as now, always useful to bolster an argument.<br />The opening line of the Wife of Bath's Prologue uses "authority" to mean something like<br />"theory"--what you find in books-- as opposed to "experience"--what you find in life.<br />CLERK: Strictly speaking a member of the clergy, either a priest or in the preliminary stages leading<br />up to the priesthood, called "minor orders." Learning and even literacy were largely confined to<br />such people, but anyone who who could read and write as well as someone who was genuinely<br />learned could be called a clerk. A student, something in between, was also a clerk. The Wife of<br />Bath marries for her fifth husband, a man who had been a clerk at Oxford, a student who had<br />perhaps had ideas at one time of becoming a cleric.<br />"CHURL, churlish": At the opposite end of the social scale and the scale of manners from "gentil"<br />(See below). A "churl" (OE "ceorl") was a common man of low rank. Hence the manners to be<br />expected from a person of such "low birth" were equally low and vulgar, "churlish." "Villain" and<br />"villainy" are rough equivalents also used by Chaucer.<br />COMPLEXION: See Humor below<br />COURTESY, Courteous, Courtoisie, etc.: Courtesy was literally conduct appropriate to the court<br />of the king or other worthy. This, no doubt, included our sense of "courtesy" but was wider in its<br />application, referring to the manners of all well bred people. The Prioress's concern to "counterfeit<br />cheer of court" presumably involves imitating all the mannerisms thought appropriate to courtiers.<br />Sometimes it is used to mean something like right, i.e. moral, conduct.<br />DAUN, Don: Sir. A term of respect for nobles or for clerics like the monk. The Wife of Bath<br />refers to the wise "king Daun Solomon," a place where it would be wise to leave the word<br />untranslated. But Chaucer uses it also of Gervase, the blacksmith in the "Miller's Tale." And Spenser<br />used it of Chaucer himself.<br />DAUNGER, Daungerous: These do not mean modern "danger" and "dangerous." "Daunger" (from<br />OF "daungier") meant power. The Summoner is said to have the prostitutes in his "daunger". In<br />romantic tales it is the power that a woman had over a man who was sexually attracted by her. She<br />36 CANTERBURY TALES<br />was his "Mistress" in the sense that she had power over him, often to refuse him the least sexual<br />favor. Hence "daungerous" was a word often used of a woman who was "hard-to-get" or<br />over-demanding or disdainful, haughty, aloof.<br />"GENTLE, Gentil, Gentilesse, Gentleness: "Gentilesse" (Gentleness) is the quality of being "gentil"<br />or "gentle" i.e. born into the upper class, and having "noble" qualities that were supposed to go with<br />noble birth. It survives in the word "gentleman" especially in a phrase like "an officer & a gentleman"<br />since officers traditionally were members of the ruling class. Chaucer seems to have had a healthy<br />sceptical bourgeois view of the notion that "gentilesse" went always with "gentle" birth. See the<br />lecture on the subject given by the "hag" in the Wife of Bath's Tale (1109-1176). But since "gentle"<br />is used also to describe the Tabard Inn and the two greatest scoundrels on the pilgrimage, the<br />Summoner and the Pardoner, one must suppose that it had a wide range of meanings, some of them<br />perhaps ironic.<br />HUMOR ( Lat. humor--fluid, moisture)./ COMPLEXION: Classical, medieval and Renaissance<br />physiologists saw the human body as composed of four fluids or humors: yellow bile, black bile,<br />blood and phlegm. Perfect physical health and intellectual excellence were seen as resulting from<br />the presence of these four humors in proper balance and combination.<br />Medieval philosophers and physiologists, seeing man as a microcosm, corresponded each bodily<br />humor to one of the four elements--fire, water , earth, air. As Antony says of Brutus in Julius Caesar<br />His life was gentle, and the elements<br />So mixed in him that Nature might stand up<br />And say to all the world "This was a man"<br />(V,v,73-75).<br />Pain or illness was attributed to an imbalance in these bodily fluids, and an overabundance of any<br />single humor was thought to give a person a particular personality referred to as "humor" or<br />"complexion." The correspondences went something like this:<br />Fire--Yellow or Red Bile (Choler)--Choleric, i.e. prone to anger<br />Earth-- Black Bile-- melancholic i.e. prone to sadness<br />Water-- Blood-- sanguine--inclined to cheerfulness, optimism<br />Air -- Phlegm -- phlegmatic--prone to apathy, slow<br />CANTERBURY TALES 37<br />Too much red bile or choler could make you have nightmares in which red things figured; with too<br />much black bile you would dream about black monsters. (See Nun's Priest's Tale, ll. 4120-26). "Of<br />his complexion he was sanguine" is said of the Franklin in the General Prologue. Similarly,<br />"The Reeve was a slender choleric man" (G.P. 589). The Franklin's "complexion" (i.e. humor) makes<br />him cheerful, and the Reeve's makes him cranky. A person's temperament was often visible in his<br />face, hence our modern usage of "complexion." Even when the physiological theory of humors had<br />long been abandoned, the word "humor" retained the meaning of "mood" or "personality." And we<br />still speak of being in a good or bad humor.<br />LORDINGS: Something like "Ladies and Gentlemen." The first citation in OED contrasts<br />"lordings" with "underlings." "Lordings" is used by both the Host and the Pardoner to address the<br />rest of the pilgrims, not one of whom is a lord, though the Host also calls them "lords."<br />NONES: For the Nones; For the Nonce: literally "for the once," "for the occasion" , but this meaning<br />often does not fit the context in Chaucer, where the expression is frequently untranslateable, and is<br />used simply as a largely meaningless tag, sometimes just for the sake of the rime.<br />PARDONER: The Church taught that one could get forgiveness for one's sins by confessing them<br />to a priest, expressing genuine regret and a firm intention to mend one's ways. In God's name the<br />priest granted absolution, and imposed some kind of penance for the sin. Instead of a physical<br />penance like fasting, one might obtain an "indulgence" by, say, going on pilgrimage, or giving money<br />to the poor or to another good cause like the building of a church.<br />There were legitimate Church pardoners licenced to collect moneys of this kind and to assure the<br />people in the name of the Church that their almsgiving entitled them to an "indulgence." Even with<br />the best of intentions, this practice was liable to abuse. For "where there is money there is muck,"<br />and illegitimate pardoners abounded in spite of regular Church prohibitions. They were sometimes,<br />presumably, helped by gullible or corrupt clerics for a fee or a share of the takings. Our Pardoner<br />tells ignorant people that if they give money to a good cause--which he somehow represents-- they<br />will be doing penance for their sins and can even omit the painful business of confession; that, in fact,<br />he can absolve them from their sins for money. This was, of course, against all Church law and<br />teaching.<br />SHREW: "Shrew, shrewed, beshrew" occur constantly in the Tales and are particularly difficult to<br />gloss. The reader is best off providing his own equivalent in phrases like "old dotard shrew' (291)<br />or "I beshrew thy face."<br />SILLY, Sely: Originally in Old English "saelig" = "blessed." By ME it still sometimes seems to retain<br />some of this sense. It also means something like "simple" , including perhaps "simpleminded" as in<br />38 CANTERBURY TALES<br />the case of the Carpenter John in the "Millers Tale." The Host's reference to the "silly maid" after<br />the Physician's Tale means something like "poor girl." and the "sely widow" of "Nuns Priests Tale"<br />is a "poor widow" in the same sense. The Wife of Bath refers to the genital organ of the male as "his<br />silly instrument."<br />SUMMONER: A man who delivered summonses for accused people to appear before an<br />ecclesiastical court for infringements of morals or of ecclesiastical laws. He operated in a society<br />where sin and crime were not as sharply differentiated as they are in our society. This inevitably led<br />to abuse. Our summoner abuses his position by committing the very sins he is supposed to be<br />chastising. The Friars Tale, about a summoner, gives more details of the abuses: using information<br />from prostitutes to blackmail clients; extracting money from others on the pretence that he had a<br />summons when he had none, etc.<br />SOLACE: Comfort, pleasure, often of a quite physical, indeed sexual, nature, though not<br />exclusively so.<br />WIT: Rarely if ever means a clever verbal and intellectual sally, as with us. It comes from the OE<br />verb "witan," to know, and hence as a noun it means "knowledge" or "wisdom" "understanding"<br />"comprehension," "mind," "intelligence" etc.<br />The Knight: his Portrait and his Tale<br />1<br />1 45-6: "He loved everything that pertained to knighthood: truth (to one's word), honor, magnanimity<br />(freedom), courtesy."<br />2 52-3: He had often occupied the seat of honor at the table of the Teutonic Knights in Prussia, where<br />badges awarded to distinguished crusaders read "Honneur vainc tout: Honor conquers all." Though the<br />campaigns listed below were real, and though it was perhaps just possible for one man to have been in them all,<br />the list is probably idealized. The exact geographical locations are of little interest today. This portrait is<br />generally thought to show a man of unsullied ideals; Terry Jones insists that the knight was a mere mercenary.<br />3 63: "In single combat (listes) three times, and always (ay) killed his opponent."<br />Here is the portrait of the Knight from the General Prologue<br />The Knight is the person of highest social standing on the pilgrimage though you would never<br />know it from his modest manner or his clothes. He keeps his ferocity for crusaders' battlefields<br />where he has distinguished himself over many years and over a wide geographical area. As the<br />text says, he is not "gay", that is, he is not showily dressed, but is still wearing the military<br />padded coat stained by the armor he has only recently taken off.<br />A KNIGHT there was and that a worthy man<br />That from the tim that he first began<br />45 To riden out, he lovd chivalry,<br />Truth and honóur, freedom and courtesy.1<br />Full worthy was he in his lord's war, lorde's = king's or God's<br />And thereto had he ridden--no man farre farther<br />As well in Christendom as Heatheness heathendom<br />50 And ever honoured for his worthiness.<br />His campaigns<br />At Alexandria he was when it was won. captured<br />Full often times he had the board begun table<br />Aboven all natïons in Prussia.2<br />In Lithow had he reisd and in Russia Lithuania / fought<br />55 No Christian man so oft of his degree. rank<br />In Gránad' at the siege eke had he be Granada / also<br />Of Algesir and ridden in Belmarie.<br />At Leys was he and at Satalie<br />When they were won, and in the Great Sea Mediterranean<br />60 At many a noble army had he be.<br />At mortal battles had he been fifteen<br />And foughten for our faith at Tramissene<br />In lists thric, and ay slain his foe.3 combat 3 times & always<br />This ilk worthy knight had been also same<br />2<br />1 64-67: The knight had fought for one Saracen or pagan leader against another, a common, if dubious,<br />practice. And ever more ... may mean he always kept the highest reputation or that he always came away with a<br />splendid reward or booty (prize)..<br />2 70-71: Notice quadruple negative: "ne, never, no ... no" used for emphasis, perhaps deliberately excessive<br />emphasis. It is not bad grammar. The four negatives remain in Ellesmer's slightly different version: "He never<br />yet no villainy ne said ... unto no manner wight"<br />3 74: "He (the Knight) was not fashionably dressed." horse was: most MSS read hors weere(n) = "horses<br />were." I have preferred the reading of MS Lansdowne.<br />4 75-78: The poor state of the knight's clothes is generally interpreted to indicate his pious anxiety to fulfill<br />a religious duty even before he has had a chance to change his clothes. Jones thinks it simply confirms that the<br />knight was a mercenary who had pawned his armor. voyage: MSS have viage. Blessed viage was the term often<br />used for the holy war of the crusades.<br />65 Sometim with the lord of Palatie<br />Against another heathen in Turkey,<br />And ever more he had a sovereign prize,1 always<br />His modest demeanor<br />And though that he was worthy he was wise, valiant / sensible<br />And of his port as meek as is a maid. deportment<br />70 Ne never yet no villainy he said rudeness<br />In all his life unto no manner wight.2 no kind of person<br />He was a very perfect gentle knight.<br />But for to tellen you of his array:<br />His horse was good; but he was not gay.3 well dressed<br />75 Of fustian he weard a gipoun coarse cloth / tunic<br />All besmotered with his habergeon, stained / mail<br />For he was late y-come from his voyáge, just come / journey<br />And went for to do his pilgrimáge.4<br />_____________________________________<br />To recapitulate what was said at the end of the General Prologue:<br />After serving dinner, Harry Bailly, the fictional Host, owner of the Tabard Inn, originates the<br />idea for the Tales: to pass the time pleasantly, every one will tell a couple of tales on the way<br />out and a couple on the way back. The teller of the best tale will get a dinner paid for by all the<br />others at Harry's inn, The Tabard, on the way back from Canterbury. He offers to go with them<br />as a guide. They all accept, agreeing that the Host be MC. The next morning they set out and<br />draw lots to see who shall tell the first tale.<br />3<br />The Host:<br />?Let see now who shall tell the first tale.<br />As ever may I drinkn wine or ale,<br />Whoso be rebel to my judgment Whoever is<br />Shall pay for all that by the way is spent.<br />835 Now drawth cut, ere that we further twinn; draw lots before we go<br />He which that has the shortest shall begin.<br />Sir Knight," quod he, "my master and my lord, said he<br />Now drawth cut, for that is mine accord. draw lots / wish<br />Come near," quod he, "my lady Prioress.<br />840 And you, Sir Clerk, let be your shamefastness, shyness<br />Nor study not. Lay hand to, every man."<br />They all draw lots.<br />Anon to drawn every wight began person<br />And shortly for to telln as it was,<br />Were it by áventure or sort or cas, Whether by fate, luck or fortune<br />845 The sooth is this, the cut fell to the knight, The truth / the lot<br />Of which full blithe and glad was every wight. very happy / person<br />And tell he must his tale as was reason<br />By forward and by compositïon By agreement & contract<br />As you have heard. What needeth words mo' ? more<br />850 And when this good man saw that it was so,<br />As he that wise was and obedient<br />To keep his forward by his free assent, his agreement<br />He said: "Since I shall begin the game,<br />What! welcome be the cut, in God's name.<br />855 Now let us ride, and hearkn what I say." and listen<br />And with that word we ridn forth our way<br />And he began with right a merry cheer with great good humor<br />His tale anon, and said as you may hear. at once<br />1<br />THE KNIGHT'S TALE<br />Introduction<br />Having drawn the lot to decide who is going to tell the first tale on the road to Canterbury, the<br />Knight proceeds to tell the longest of all the tales in verse. It is, at least on the surface, a<br />Romance; that is, in medieval terms, a tale of love and war, or as we might put it, sex and<br />violence. But the sex here is a matter of convention rather than act, and in no way erotic or earthy<br />as it is in other tales. The violence that we see is ordered and ritualistic, conducted according to<br />rule; the violence that we do not see but hear about, is perhaps less ordered and rule-bound.<br />There is not much "romance" in any modern sense of the word, and the tale appeals to something<br />other than to the softer emotions.<br />At the beginning we see quite clearly the connected topics of sex and force: Theseus has won<br />himself a bride by violence, and without a trace of erotic passion--just a war prize, as far as we<br />can see. He has conquered the Amazons, a race of single women warriors, and has taken their<br />leader as his wife; the violence is passed over as a sort of given, and we begin with the "lived<br />happily ever after" part; which is the wrong way to begin a romance, and one good reason for<br />wanting to label the tale in some other way.<br />This may seem overstated, because it is hard to detect any overt note of questioning within the<br />text itself. At first perhaps the critical question only lurks at the back of the mind, but the<br />accumulation of the rest of the tale brings it to the forefront: Is this tale really a romance designed<br />to entertain by celebrating love and valor? Or is it something more?<br />To begin at the beginning: on the way home from his victorious war against the Amazons, to live<br />happily ever after, Theseus, Duke of Athens, is shocked to hear of another conqueror's behavior:<br />the widows from another war (presumably there were no widows of Theseus's war) complain<br />piteously that Creon of Thebes will not allow them to bury their dead men, a nasty habit of<br />Creon's. So the conquering hero turns around, starts and finishes another widow-making war, so<br />CANTERBURY TALES 2<br />that even more widows can now live happily ever after, manless like Amazons. The act is at once<br />his homecoming gift to his bride, the manned and tamed Amazon, Hippolyta, who proceeds<br />obediently and placidly to Athens; and at the same time his sacrifice to the minotaur, War. For<br />inside that much-admired construction, The Knight's Tale, lurks a Minotaur, not Picasso's<br />version—lustful and savage but vital; this one is legal but lethal. It demands human sacrifice, a<br />fearful and equivocal attraction to men who make offerings by war and related cruelties. Theseus<br />feasts the monster once more, "sparing" only the lives of two young wifeless nobles whom he<br />throws into prison for life.<br />Where, unlikely enough, "romance" begins, in spite of stone walls and iron bars which do not a<br />prison make in that they do not subdue in the young knights the same drives that impel Theseus:<br />lust and war. Or perhaps more accurately the Lust for War, since the sexual lust in the tale is<br />largely conventional. This is no tale of Lancelot or Tristan who consummate their love as<br />frequently as adverse circumstance permits. The two young prisoners fall for Emily at the same<br />time, quite literally love at first sight, and promptly fall to battling over who shall possess this<br />female that one of them thinks is a goddess. And the tale has shown that a virgin or a goddess is<br />as good an excuse for a fight as a widow. Emily is not there to make love to, but to make war<br />over.<br />When they both get free, they know only one way to settle their dilemma: a bloody fight. And<br />when Theseus finds them fighting illegally in his territory, he knows one way to deal with the<br />problem: a sentence of death. But under pressure from the women, who think that being fought<br />over is touching, he decrees a LEGAL fight, a tournament, even more violent and bloody than<br />the one he has just stopped. The first move of this great expositor of The First Mover is always<br />violent. There is a lot of Fortitudo (physical Courage) but little Sapientia (Wisdom) in this ruler<br />who is taken as the ideal by so many critics. Surely we are to take ironically the concession to<br />Sapientia, his "moderation" at the opening of the tournament (1679-1706), when he forbids<br />pole-axe and shortsword, and allows only longsword and mace! And (real restraint) only one ride<br />with a sharp-ground spear, which, however, the fighter may continue to use if he is unhorsed. No<br />wonder the people cry out:<br />God save such a lord that is so good<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 3<br />He willeth no destruction of blood. (1705-06)<br />Indeed!<br />One critic interprets rather differently: "Acknowledging with true wisdom the limitations of<br />human control, Theseus eschews making the choice himself, [of Emily's husband]; not denying<br />or combatting the role of chance, he merely provides a civilized context within which it can<br />operate." [Jill Mann, "Chance and Destiny" in Cambridge Chaucer Companion, (Cambridge:<br />C.U.P., 1986), p. 88]. He is hardly a wise ruler who cannot even choose a husband for his ward,<br />unlike any Squire Paston; instead he leaves it to the "chance" outcome of a bloody tournament,<br />which is his very deliberate choice; this arrangement can hardly be called without irony a<br />"civilized context." It makes "civilization" consist in ordered violence which everyone can watch<br />on the holiday declared for the occasion. Is not part of Chaucer's comment on this "civilization"<br />the use of alliteration to describe the battle, a stylistic device he elsewhere dismisses as<br />uncivilized "rum, ram, ruf," fit only for describing a barnyard row or a murderous melee?<br />Professor J.A. Burrow makes the same curious claim about civilized conduct in the same book<br />(p. 121-2): "the tournament, the obsequies for Arcite, the parliament . . . represent man's attempts<br />to accommodate and civilize the anarchic and inescapable facts of aggression, death and love, as<br />social life requires." If there is, as Burrow claims, a political dimension to this "romance,"<br />conducting a war to seize a bride or to avenge a small group of widows for a sin that must have<br />struck a 14th-century English audience as venial—this sort of behavior hardly "manifests a<br />concern for matters of foreign relations" in any sense that most of us would accept, or which,<br />perhaps, one 14th-century soldier-poet-diplomat could accept.<br />Were the wars in which Geoffrey Chaucer himself had taken part--or his Knight narrator--any<br />better motivated than those of Theseus? Is this poem partly Chaucer's thoughtful response to<br />organized royal violence in his medieval world, particularly the wars of his own ruler, Edward<br />III?<br />If so, it might account in part for why he, a master of characterization, makes so little attempt in<br />this tale to make the characters anything other than representative. They do not, for example,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 4<br />have conversations; they make speeches, generally quite lengthy. The closest the young knights<br />get to normal conversation is when they quarrel over Emily: they hurl abuse, accusations and<br />challenges at each other, not so much a conversation as a flyting, the verbal equivalent of the<br />single combat or tournament. For Palamon and Arcite are semi-allegorical rather than realistic<br />characters. They are two Young Men smitten with Love for a Young Woman, as Young Men<br />should be in Romances. Although they are natural cousins and Sworn Brothers in a warrior class,<br />they quarrel over who shall have the Young Woman, and come to blows over the matter. An<br />attempt to arbitrate the dispute in a Trial by Combat is arranged by an Older and Wiser Knight,<br />Theseus. Arcite prays to his patron Mars to grant him Victory in the fight; Palamon prays to<br />Venus to win the Young Woman, and the Young Woman prays to be left alone. The prayers are<br />ritualistic and studied, the product or container of ideas rather than the passionate pleas of fully<br />realized characters.<br />The incompatibility of their prayers inevitably raises the question for Christian readers about the<br />outcome of competing requests by people who ask God for opposing things. Presumably even<br />God cannot grant every petition. And does He want to? Does He care? Does a just and wise<br />God rule this world at all?<br />What is mankind more unto you hold<br />Than is the sheep that rowketh in the fold (huddles)<br />For slain is man right as another beast . . .<br />What governance is in this prescience<br />That guiltless tormenteth innocence? (1307-14)<br />The plot is mildly absurd, a fact that occurs even to one of the characters for a moment; he sees<br />that he and his opponent are fighting like dogs over a bone which neither can win. And Theseus<br />has a moment of mockery of two men fighting over a woman who knows no more about their<br />dispute than "does a cuckoo or a hare." But for the most part this realization does not interfere<br />with the mechanical progress of the narrative. This is not lack of ingenuity on the part of a poet<br />who is capable of devilishly ingenious plots. Here the plot seems to function mostly to carry<br />something else — ideas or questions about Destiny, Fortune, free will, war, prayer, the existence<br />of God, the power of lust, the frailty of vows, and so on.<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 5<br />At one point Arcite glimpses something for a moment when he gets his desire to be let out of<br />prison and then laments it:<br />We knowen not what that we prayen here.<br />This realization does not dissuade him later from praying for Victory the night before the<br />tournament, although his previous wish has been granted without divine intervention, and he was<br />unhappy with it anyway. Earlier Palamon also had knelt to Venus and prayed in vain for release<br />from prison (1103 ff). Now, some years later, he too has escaped without any supernatural help,<br />but once more he prays to the same Venus to win the lady. And they all pray in temples whose<br />paintings show the influence of the gods to be almost universally malevolent. So, it would appear<br />that prayer is at best pointless, at worst harmful.<br />The gods Mars and Venus quarrel over what is to be the result of these prayers, and the case is<br />determined by an Older Wiser God, Saturn, who assures everybody that all will get what they<br />have asked for. The mirroring of the human situation in the "divine" is evident and not reassuring.<br />The gods seem to be nothing more than reflections of the minds of the humans involved—made<br />in the human image in fact, bickering and quarreling, and eventually solving the dilemma not with<br />Godlike wisdom but by a rather shabby trick or "an elegant sophism" depending on your point<br />of view.<br />Some readers take comfort from the speeches near the end of the tale by Theseus and his father<br />about the general benevolence of The First Mover, who sees to it that everything works out for<br />the best, even though we do not always see it. Others consider the speeches to be of the<br />post-prandial variety, full of sound and platitude, signifying nothing: "Every living thing must<br />die," and "Make virtue of necessity." This is not deep philosophy. But it allows the tale to end,<br />however shakily, as all romances should end — with the marriage of the knight and his princess,<br />who live happily ever after.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 6<br />Some notes on versification of this first tale (and others)<br />Some lines simply will not read smoothy in either modspell or old spelling, some only if the<br />modspell is so modified as to be grotesque: putting stress on the second syllable of lookíng or<br />upwárd, for example, as in line 2679 (see below). In some cases one cannot be sure how the<br />rhythm was meant to go, and so I have left words unmarked; readers will have to exercise to<br />their own judgement. In some place I have taken a chance and marked syllables even if the<br />stress seems a little awkward. Rigid consistency has not seemed appropriate. And the reader<br />is the final judge.<br />Stress & Pronunciation of Proper and common nouns:<br />Clearly the names of the protagonists could be spelled, stressed and pronounced in different<br />ways depending on metrical and other needs:<br />Arcite: 2 syllables in 1145 & 1032 (rhymes with quite) ;<br />3 syllables: Arcíta 1013,1112; 1152 Árcité. 2256 & 2258 have Arcita in MSS. The first has<br />stress on syllable #1 Árcita; the second on syllable #2 Arcíta.<br />Emily (1068), Emelia (1078)<br />Palamon 1031, Palamoun 1070 both reflecting the MSS<br />Sáturnus (2443); Satúrn 2450, and 2453 rhyming with to turn<br />Fortúne (915), Fórtune (925<br />1977: trees possibly has two syllables but I have not marked the word because that seems a<br />trifle grotesque; however, I have marked stubbs in the next line for two syllables because that<br />seems more acceptable.<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 7<br />1235-6: aventúre / dure; 1239-40: absénce / presénce<br />1241-2: able / changeable. Clearly the last syllable of changeable is stressed but I have not<br />marked it. In 2239 I marked the second syllable of victóry but did not do so six lines later when<br />víctory is equally possible in reading.<br />1609: I keep battail for rhyme with fail<br />1787-8: With some trepidation I have marked obstácles / mirácles to show how the stress<br />should go rather than as a guide for correct pronunciation.<br />1975 should have forést to have at least a half-rhyme with beast, but I have not marked it.<br />2039/40: old / would do not rhyme ; in Shakespeare's Venus & Adonis should rhymes with<br />cool'd<br />2321 & 2333-6: the word Queint recurs meaning both quenched and quaint (strange)2333. I<br />have kept queint / quaint at 2333-4, partly for the rhyme, and partly because of clear word play.<br />Even in mid line queint rather than quenched is kept because of the possiblility of further<br />wordplay causes me to keep.<br />2259: I have prayer rhyming with dear; the accent should come on the second syllable of<br />prayer, French fashion, as one might naturally do with the original spelling preyere. But I have<br />not marked it. Similarly with 2267. But in 2332 I have marked it.<br />2290: The necessary change from coroune to crown leaves an irremediable gap of one syllable.<br />2487/8: service/ rise I have made no attempt to mark the second syllable of service which<br />needs to be stressed. Similarly 2685 has unmarked request where the meter demands a stress on<br />the first syllable<br />2679: Lokynge upward upon this Emelye might be scanned rigidly with stresses on -ynge and<br />CANTERBURY TALES 8<br />-ward in strict iambic meter, and indeed if one does not do so, the line limps a bit. But who<br />would dare to do so even with Middle English spelling and pronunciation? Most will take the<br />limp or pronounce upon as 'pon or on (as I have done) , rather than stress two succeeding words<br />in a way that does such violence to our ideas of word stress. lookíng and upwárd are quite<br />impossible, in modern dress at any rate. obstácles / mirácles, above, are not much better.<br />2811-12: the ME divinistre / registre was probably pronounced French fashion with the stress<br />-ístre<br />2789-90: knighthood / kindred do not rhyme. There is no reasonable way to change this.<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 9<br />THE KNIGHT'S TALE<br />Part One<br />Theseus, duke of Athens, returns victorious from a war against the Amazons, with one of them<br />as his wife<br />Whilom, as old stories tellen us, W = Once upon a time<br />860 There was a duke that hight Theseus: was called<br />Of Athens he was lord and governor,<br />And in his tim such a conqueror<br />That greater was there none under the sun.<br />Full many a rich country had he won:<br />865 What with his wisdom and his chivalry,<br />He conquered all the reign of feminy, realm of Amazons<br />That whilom was y-clepd Scythia, once was called<br />And wedded the queen Hyppolita,<br />And brought her home with him in his country,<br />870 With much glory and great solemnity,<br />And eke her young sister Emily. also<br />And thus with victory and melody<br />Let I this noble duke to Athens ride,<br />And all his host in arms him beside.<br />875 And certs, if it n'ere too long to hear, certainly / weren't<br />I would have told you fully the mannér<br />How wonnen was the reign of feminy conquered / realm<br />By Theseus and by his chivalry,<br />And of the great battle, for the nones, on the occasion<br />880 Betwixen Athens and the Amazons,<br />And how besiegd was Hippolyta,<br />The fair, hardy Queen of Scythia,<br />And of the feast that was at their wedding,<br />And of the tempest at their home-coming.<br />885 But all that thing I must as now forbear.<br />I have, God wot, a larg field to ere, God knows / to plough<br />And weak be the oxen in my plough;<br />CANTERBURY TALES 10<br />The remnant of the tale is long enough.<br />I will not letten eke none of this rout; delay / this group<br />890 Let every fellow tell his tale about,<br />And let's see now who shall the supper win,<br />And where I left I will again begin.<br />The weeping widows of Thebes ask his intervention against Creon<br />This duke of whom I mak mentïon,<br />When he was comen almost to the town<br />895 In all his weal and in his most pride, success / great pride<br />He was 'ware as he cast his eye aside looked aside<br />Where that there kneeld in the high way<br />A company of ladies, tway and tway, two by two<br />Each after other, clad in cloths black.<br />900 But such a cry and such a woe they make<br />That in this world n'is creature living = ne is = is not<br />That heard such another waymenting; lamenting<br />And of this cry they would not ever stent stop<br />Till they the reins of his bridle hent. caught<br />905 "What folk be ye that at mine home-coming<br />Perturben so my feast with crying?" disturb<br />Quod Theseus. "Have you so great envy<br />Of mine honoúr, that thus complain and cry?<br />Or who has you misboden or offended? threatened<br />910 And telleth me if it may be amended<br />And why that you be clothd thus in black."<br />The eldest lady of them all spake,<br />When she had swoond with a deadly cheer, deathly look<br />That it was ruth for to see and hear. pitiful<br />915 She said: "Lord to whom Fortúne has given<br />Victory, and as a conqueror to liven,<br />Nought grieveth us your glory and your honour,<br />But we beseechen mercy and succour. help<br />Have mercy on our woe and our distress!<br />920 Some drop of pity, through thy gentleness,<br />Upon us wretched women let thou fall!<br />For certs, lord, there is none of us all certainly<br />That she n'ath been a duchess or a queen. hasn't been<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 11<br />1 926: Fortune was often portrayed as spinning a wheel on which people clung, some on the<br />way up, some on the way down, some totally "downcast," but only onr at the top, however briefly.<br />The wheel spins at Fortune's whim, so no one is assured of continual success.<br />2 933: "To starve" meant to die, not necessarily of hunger.<br />Now be we caitives, as it is well seen, outcasts<br />925 Thankd be Fortune and her fals wheel,<br />That no estate assureth to be well.1<br />Now certs, lord, to abiden your presénce, await<br />Here in this temple of the goddess Cleménce Mercy<br />We have been waiting all this fortnight. 2 weeks<br />930 Now help us, lord, since it is in thy might.<br />I, wretch, which that weep and wail thus,<br />Was whilom wife to King Cappaneus was once<br />That starved at Thebs--cursd be that day!2 Who died at<br />And all we that be in this array condition<br />935 And maken all this lamentatïon,<br />We losten all our husbands at that town,<br />While that the sieg thereabout lay.<br />And yet now old Creon, welaway! alas!<br />That lord is now of Thebs the city,<br />940 Fulfilled of ire and of iniquity-- of anger & evil<br />He, for despite and for his tyranny, spite<br />To do the dead bodies villainy dishonor<br />Of all our lords which that been y-slaw, husbands / slain<br />Has all the bodies on a heap y-draw,<br />945 And will not suffer them by no assent not allow<br />Neither to be y-buried nor y-brent, nor burned<br />But maketh hounds eat them in despite!" in spite<br />And with that word, withouten more respite, delay<br />They fellen gruf and crid piteously: prostrate<br />950 "Have on us wretched women some mercy,<br />And let our sorrow sink into thy heart!"<br />This gentle duke down from his courser start his horse / jumped<br />With heart piteous when he heard them speak.<br />Him thought that his heart would all to-break break apart<br />Theseus complies with their wish<br />CANTERBURY TALES 12<br />955 When he saw them so piteous and so mate, defeated (as in chess)<br />That whilom weren of so great estate. once were<br />And in his arms he them all up hent, lifted up<br />And them comfórteth in full good intent,<br />And swore his oath, as he was tru knight,<br />960 He would do so ferforthly his might do his best<br />Upon the tyrant Creon them to wreak, avenge<br />That all the people of Greec should speak<br />How Creon was of Theseus y-served by Theseus treated<br />As he that had his death full well deserved.<br />965 And right anon withouten more abode right away / delay<br />His banner he displayeth and forth rode<br />To Thebs-ward, and all his host beside. his army<br />No nearer Athens would he go nor ride walk nor ride<br />Nor take his eas fully half a day,<br />970 But onward on his way that night he lay, camped<br />And sent anon Hippolyta the queen,<br />And Emily her young sister sheen, shining, lovely<br />Unto the town of Athens there to dwell,<br />And forth he rides. There is no more to tell.<br />975 The red statue of Mars with spear and targe shield<br />So shineth in his whit banner large<br />That all the fields glittered up and down.<br />And by his banner borne is his penoun standard<br />Of gold full rich, in which there was y-beat hammered<br />980 The Minotaur, which that he won in Crete. he overcame<br />Thus rides this duke, thus rides this conqueror,<br />And in his host of chivalry the flower,<br />Till that he came to Thebs and alight dismounted<br />Fair in a field there as he thought to fight. intended to<br />After his victory over Creon, Theseus imprisons two wounded young Theban nobles<br />985 But shortly for to speaken of this thing,<br />With Creon which that was of Thebs king who was<br />He fought, and slew him manly as a knight<br />In plain bataille, and put the folk to flight. open battle<br />And by assault he won the city after,<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 13<br />1 1005-08: "Ransacking the heap of dead bodies, stripping them of their armor and clothes,<br />the pillagers were busy after the battle and defeat."<br />2 1013: Arcita: The names of some of the characters occur in more than one form, generally<br />to accommodate rime or rhythm: Arcite / Arcita, Emily / Emelia, Palamon / Palamoun<br />990 And rent adown both wall and spar and rafter, beam<br />And to the ladies he restored again<br />The bons of their husbands that were slain,<br />To do obséquies as was then the guise, the custom<br />But it were all too long for to devise describe<br />995 The great clamour and the waymenting lamentation<br />That the ladies made at the burning<br />Of the bodies, and the great honour<br />That Theseus, the noble conqueror,<br />Doth to the ladies when they from him went.<br />1000 But shortly for to tell is my intent.<br />When that this worthy duke, this Theseus,<br />Has Creon slain and wonn Thebs thus,<br />Still in that field he took all night his rest,<br />And did with all the country as him lest. as he pleased<br />1005 To ransack in the tass of bodies dead, heap<br />Them for to strip of harness and of weed, armor & clothes<br />The pillers diden busïness and cure pillagers<br />After the battle and discomfiture. 1 defeat<br />And so befell that in the tass they found, in the heap<br />1010 Through-girt with many a grievous bloody wound, shot through<br />Two young knights, lying by and by, side by side<br />Both in one arms wrought full richly; same coat of arms<br />Of which two, Arcíta hight that one, 2 one was called<br />And that other knight hight Palamon.<br />1015 Not fully quick nor fully dead they were; fully alive<br />But by their coat-armoúr and by their gear<br />The heralds knew them best in specïal noticed specially<br />As they that weren of the blood royál<br />Of Thebs, and of sisters two y-born.<br />1020 Out of the tass the pillers have them torn heap / pillagers<br />And have them carried soft unto the tent<br />Of Theseus, and he full soon them sent<br />CANTERBURY TALES 14<br />To Athens to dwellen in prison<br />Perpetually--them would he not ransom.<br />1025 And when this worthy duke has thus y-done,<br />He took his host and home he rides anon, army / promptly<br />With laurel crownd as a conqueror.<br />And there he lives in joy and in honoúr<br />Term of his life. What needeth words more?<br />Emily, Hippolyta's sister, walks in the spring garden<br />1030 And in a tower, in anguish and in woe,<br />Dwellen this Palamon and eke Arcite also<br />For evermore; there may no gold them quite. ransom<br />This passeth year by year and day by day,<br />Till it fell once in a morrow of May morning<br />1035 That Emily, that fairer was to seen<br />Than is the lily upon its stalk green,<br />And fresher than the May with flowers new<br />(For with the ros colour strove her hue;<br />I n'ot which was the fairer of them two) I don't know<br />1040 Ere it were day, as was her wont to do, her custom<br />She was arisen and already dight, dressed<br />For May will have no sluggardy a-night. lie-abeds<br />The season pricketh every gentle heart,<br />And maketh it out of its sleep to start,<br />1045 And saith, "Arise and do thine observánce."<br />This maketh Emily have rémembránce<br />To do honoúr to May and for to rise.<br />Y-clothed was she fresh for to devise: to perfection<br />Her yellow hair was braided in a tress<br />1050 Behind her back a yard long, I guess,<br />And in the garden at the sun uprist sunrise<br />She walketh up and down, and as her list as she pleased<br />She gathers flowers parti-white and red half and half<br />To make a subtle garland for her head,<br />1055 And as an angel heavenishly she sung.<br />Palamon falls in love with Emily on seeing her from his prison<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 15<br />The great tower that was so thick and strong<br />Which of the castle was the chief dungeon,<br />There as the knights weren in prison<br />(Of which I told you and tellen shall)<br />1060 Was even joinant to the garden wall adjoining<br />There as this Emily had her playing. diversion<br />Bright was the sun and clear in that morning,<br />And Palamon, this woeful prisoner,<br />As was his wont by leave of his jailor,<br />1065 Was risen and roamd in a chamber on high,<br />In which he all the noble city saw,<br />And eke the garden full of branches green, also<br />There as the fresh Emily the sheen the bright<br />Was in her walk and roamd up and down.<br />1070 This sorrowful prisoner, this Palamoun,<br />Goes in the chamber roaming to and fro,<br />And to himself complaining of his woe.<br />That he was born, full oft he said: "Alas!"<br />And so befell, by áventure or cas, chance or destiny<br />1075 That through a window thick of many a bar<br />Of iron great and square as any spar,<br />He cast his eye upon Emelia<br />And therewithal he blanched and crid "Ah!"<br />As though he stungen were unto the heart.<br />1080 And with that cry Arcite anon up start immediately<br />And said: "Cousin mine, what aileth thee<br />That art so pale and deadly on to see?<br />Why criedst thou? Who has thee done offence?<br />For God's love, take all in patïence<br />1085 Our prison, for it may none other be. imprisonment<br />Fortune has given us this adversity.<br />Some wicked aspect or disposition<br />Of Saturn, by some constellation,<br />Has given us this, although we had it sworn. like it or not<br />1090 So stood the heavens when that we were born.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 16<br />1 1086-91: "The conjunction of planets and stars at our birth, particularly the malignant<br />influence of Saturn, has destined our misfortune, whether we like it or not. So we must put up<br />with it."<br />2 1094: "You have a totally wrong idea about this."<br />3 1097: A common metaphor for love at first sight was the image of the god of Love<br />shooting the lover through the eye with his arrow.<br />We must endure it; this is the short and plain." 1<br />This Palamon answered and said again:<br />"Cousin, forsooth, of this opinïon<br />Thou hast a vain imaginatïon.2 wrong idea<br />1095 This prison causd me not for to cry,<br />But I was hurt right now throughout mine eye through<br />Into mine heart,3 that will my ban be. my death<br />The fairness of that lady that I see<br />Yond in the garden roaming to and fro<br />1100 Is cause of all my crying and my woe.<br />I n'ot whether she be woman or goddess, I don't know<br />But Venus is it soothly, as I guess."<br />And therewithal down on his knees he fell<br />And said: "Venus, if it be thy will<br />1105 You in this garden thus to transfigúre t. (yourself)<br />Before me, sorrowful, wretched crëatúre,<br />Out of this prison help that we may 'scape<br />And if so be my destiny be shape<br />By étern word to dien in prison,<br />1110 Of our lineage have some compassïon,<br />That is so low y-brought by tyranny."<br />His kinsman Arcite is also stricken by sight of Emily<br />And with that word Arcit gan espy<br />Whereas this lady roamd to and fro,<br />And with that sight her beauty hurt him so<br />1115 That if that Palamon was wounded sore,<br />Arcite is hurt as much as he or more.<br />And with a sigh he said piteously:<br />"The fresh beauty slays me suddenly<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 17<br />1 1125-7: "Are you saying this seriously or in jest?" "Seriously, I assure you, " said A. " I am in no mood for<br />joking."<br />Of her that roameth in the yonder place,<br />1120 And but I have her mercy and her grace, unless / favor<br />That I may see her at the least way,<br />I n'am but dead: there is no more to say." as good as dead<br />They quarrel<br />This Palamon, when he those words heard,<br />Despitously he lookd and answered: angrily<br />1125 "Whether sayst thou this in earnest or in play?" or in jest<br />"Nay," quod Arcite, "in earnest, by my fay. on my word<br />God help me so, me list full evil play." 1<br />This Palamon gan knit his brows tway: two<br />"It were to thee," quod he, "no great honour<br />1130 For to be false, nor for to be traitor<br />To me, that am thy cousin and thy brother<br />Y-sworn full deep, and each of us to other,<br />That never, for to dien in the pain, in torture<br />Till that the death departen shall us twain, part us two<br />1135 Neither of us in love to hinder other,<br />Nor in no other case, my lev brother, my dear<br />But that thou shouldst truly further me<br />In every case, as I shall further thee.<br />This was thine oath, and mine also, certáin.<br />1140 I wot right well thou darest it not withsayn. I know / deny<br />Thus art thou of my counsel out of doubt, you know my secret<br />And now thou wouldest falsely be about<br />To love my lady whom I love and serve,<br />And ever shall till that mine heart starve. die<br />1145 Now certs, false Arcite, thou shalt not so. certainly<br />I loved her first, and told to thee my woe<br />As to my counsel and my brother sworn my confidant<br />To further me, as I have told beforn.<br />For which thou art y-bounden as a knight<br />1150 To help me, if it lie in thy might,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 18<br />1 1155-59: Arcite is making a "theological" distinction: he says that he fell in love with a<br />woman; Palamon, however, did not know just now whether Emily was a woman or goddess, so his is a<br />kind of divine love!<br />2 1169: "A man has to love whether he wants to or not", literally "A man must love in spite<br />of his head."<br />Or els thou art false, I dare well sayn."<br />This Árcit full proudly spoke again:<br />"Thou shalt," quod he, "be rather false than I;<br />And thou art false, I tell thee, utterly.<br />1155 For par amour I loved her first ere thou. For, as a lover<br />What wilt thou say? Thou wistest not yet now just now didn't know<br />Whether she be a woman or goddess:<br />Thine is affectïon of holiness,<br />And mine is love as to creätúre, 1<br />1160 For which I told to thee mine áventúre,<br />As to my cousin and my brother sworn.<br />I pos that thou lovedest her beforn: Let's suppose<br />Wost thou not well the old clerk's saw, scholar's saying<br />That `Who shall give a lover any law?' Boeth. III, m 12<br />1165 Love is a greater law, by my pan, my head<br />Than may be give to any earthly man;<br />And therefore positive law and such decree man-made laws<br />Is broke alday for love in each degree. every day / all levels<br />A man must needs love, maugre his head:2<br />1170 He may not flee it though he should be dead,<br />Al be she maiden, widow, or else wife. Whether she is<br />One of them sees the absurdity of their quarrel<br />And eke it is not likely all thy life<br />To standen in her grace. No more shall I, her favor<br />For well thou wost thyselfen, verily you know well<br />1175 That thou and I be damnd to prison condemned<br />Perpetually; us gaineth no ransom. we won't get<br />We strive as did the hounds for the bone;<br />They fought all day, and yet their part was none;<br />There came a kite, while that they were so wroth bird of prey / angry<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 19<br />1 1201: Is the speaker here the Knight or Chaucer?<br />1180 That bore away the bone bitwixt them both.<br />And therefore, at the king's court, my brother,<br />Each man for himself. There is no other.<br />Love if thee list, for I love and aye shall. if you like / always<br />And soothly, lev brother, this is all. truly, dear brother<br />1185 Here in this prison must we endure<br />And ever each of us take his áventúre." chance<br />One of them is released<br />Great was the strife and long bitwixt them tway, two<br />If that I hadd leisure for to say;<br />But to th'effect. It happened on a day, To get on w. story<br />1190 To tell it you as shortly as I may,<br />A worthy duke that hight Perotheus, who was called<br />That fellow was unto duke Theseus friend<br />Since thilk day that they were children lit, that d. / little<br />Was come to Athens his fellow to visit,<br />1195 And for to play, as he was wont to do; amuse himself<br />For in this world he lovd no man so,<br />And he loved him as tenderly again.<br />So well they loved, as old books sayn,<br />That when that one was dead, soothly to tell, truth to tell<br />1200 His fellow went and sought him down in hell.<br />But of that story list me not to write.1 I don't want to<br />Duke Perotheus lovd well Arcite,<br />And had him known at Thebs year by year<br />And finally at request and prayer<br />1205 Of Perotheus, withouten any ransom<br />Duke Theseus him let out of prison<br />Freely to go where that him list overall, anywhere he liked<br />In such a guise as I you tellen shall. w. such condition<br />This was the forward, plainly for t'endite agreement / write<br />1210 Bitwixen Theseus and him Arcite:<br />That if so were that Arcite were y-found<br />Ever in his life, by day or night, one stound, for one hour<br />CANTERBURY TALES 20<br />In any country of this Theseus,<br />And he were caught, it was accorded thus: agreed<br />1215 That with a sword he should lose his head.<br />There was no other remedy nor redd, help<br />But took his leave, and homeward he him sped.<br />Let him beware; his neck lieth to wed. at risk<br />Arcite laments his release<br />How great a sorrow suffers now Arcite!<br />1220 The death he feeleth through his heart smite.<br />He weepeth, waileth, crieth piteously;<br />To slay himself he waiteth privily.<br />He said, "Alas, the day that I was born!<br />Now is my prison wors than beforn;<br />1225 Now is me shape eternally to dwell I am fated<br />Not in purgatóry, but in hell!<br />Alas, that ever I knew Perotheus,<br />For els had I dwelled with Theseus,<br />Y-fettered in his prison evermo'.<br />1230 Then had I been in bliss and not in woe.<br />Only the sight of her whom that I serve,<br />Though that I never her grac may deserve,<br />Would have sufficd right enough for me.<br />O dear cousin Palamon," quod he,<br />1235 "Thine is the victory of this áventúre:<br />Full blissfully in prison may'st thou dure. continue<br />In prison? Certs, nay, but Paradise!<br />Well has Fortúne y-turnd thee the dice,<br />That hast the sight of her, and I th'absénce.<br />1240 For possible is, since thou hast her presénce, It's possible<br />And art a knight, a worthy and an able,<br />That by some case, since Fortune is changeable,<br />Thou mayst to thy desire some time attain.<br />But I that am exild, and barrén<br />1245 Of all grace, and in so great despair all favor<br />That there n'is earth, nor water, fire, nor air,<br />Nor creäture that of them makd is,<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 21<br />1 1246: All material things were thought to be made up of the four elements: fire, water,<br />earth, and air.<br />That may me help or do comfórt in this. 1<br />Well ought I starve in wanhope and distress. die in despair<br />1250 Farewell my life, my lust and my gladness! my desire<br />Alas, why 'plainen folk so in commúne complain / often<br />On purveyance of God, or of Fortúne, providence<br />That giveth them full oft in many a guise many forms<br />Well better than they can themselves devise? much better<br />1255 Some man desireth for to have riches,<br />That cause is of his murder or great sickness;<br />And some man would out of his prison fain, gladly<br />That in his house is of his meinee slain. by his servants<br />Infinite harms be in this mattér.<br />1260 We witen not what thing we prayen here. We know not<br />We fare as he that drunk is as a mouse.<br />A drunken man wot well he has a house, knows well<br />But he n'ot which the right way is thither, doesn't know<br />And to a drunken man the way is slither. slippery<br />1265 And certs in this world so faren we.<br />We seeken fast after felicity,<br />But we go wrong full often, truly.<br />Thus may we sayen all, and namely I, especially I<br />That wend and had a great opinion thought & felt sure<br />1270 That if I might escapen from prison,<br />Then had I been in joy and perfect heal, happiness<br />Where now I am exíled from my weal. my good<br />Since that I may not see you, Emily,<br />I n'am but dead! There is no remedy!" I'm as good as dead<br />Palamon laments his imprisonment<br />1275 Upon that other sid Palamon,<br />When that he wist Arcit was a-gone, realized<br />Such sorrow maketh he that the great tower<br />Resoundeth of his yowling and [his] clamor.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 22<br />1 1279: "Even the great fetters on his shins." This rendering presumes that great goes with<br />fetters. It is also possible that the reference is to swollen shins.<br />2 1301-2: "He looked (as pale as) boxwood or cold ashes."<br />3 1308: "Does mankind mean anything more to you than sheep huddling in the fold?"<br />The pur fetters of his shins great 1 even the fetters<br />1280 Were of his bitter salt tears wet<br />"Alas!" quod he, "Arcita, cousin mine,<br />Of all our strife, God wot, the fruit is thine! God knows<br />Thou walkest now in Thebs at thy large, freely<br />And of my woe thou givest little charge. care<br />1285 Thou mayst, since thou hast wisdom and manhood,<br />Assemble all the folk of our kindred,<br />And make a war so sharp on this city<br />That by some áventure or some treaty chance or agreement<br />Thou mayst have her to lady and to wife<br />1290 For whom that I must needs lose my life.<br />For as by way of possibility,<br />Since thou art at thy large, of prison free, from prison<br />And art a lord, great is thine ádvantáge,<br />More than is mine, that starve here in a cage. die<br />1295 For I must weep and wail while that I live<br />With all the woe that prison may me give,<br />And eke with pain that love me gives also<br />That doubles all my torment and my woe!"<br />Therewith the fire of jealousy up start<br />1300 Within his breast, and hent him by the heart seized<br />So woodly that he like was to behold fiercely<br />The boxtree or the ashes dead and cold.2 boxwood<br />Then said he: "O cruel gods that govern<br />This world with binding of your word etern,<br />1305 And writen in the table of adamant hard rock<br />Your parliament and your eternal grant, decision / decree<br />What is mankind more unto your hold important<br />Than is the sheep that rowketh in the fold?3 huddles<br />For slain is man right as another beast, just like<br />1310 And dwelleth eke in prison and arrest<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 23<br />1 1314: "What kind of governing is this which knows even before they are created<br />(prescience) that innocent people are going to be tormented?"<br />2 1323-4: Who is speaking: Palamon, the Knight, or Chaucer?<br />3 1331: The goddess Juno was hostile to Thebes because her husband, Jupiter, had affairs with women<br />of Thebes.<br />And has sickness and great adversity,<br />And often times guiltlessly, pardee. by God<br />What governance is in this prescience<br />That guiltless tormenteth innocence? 1<br />1315 And yet increaseth this all my penánce, my pain<br />That man is bounden to his óbservánce,<br />For God's sake to letten of his will, control<br />Whereas a beast may all his lust fulfill, his desires<br />And when a beast is dead he has no pain,<br />1320 But man after his death must weep and 'plain, complain<br />Though in this world he hav care and woe.<br />Withouten doubt, it may standen so.<br />The answer of this let I to divins, 2 I leave to clerics<br />But well I wot that in this world great pine is. I know / suffering<br />1325 Alas, I see a serpent or a thief<br />That many a tru man has done mischíef,<br />Go at his large and where him list may turn. free & go where he likes<br />But I must be in prison through Saturn,<br />And eke through Juno, jealous and eke wood, angry<br />1330 That has destroyd well nigh all the blood<br />Of Thebes, with its waste walls wide! 3<br />And Venus slays me on that other side V = goddess of love<br />For jealousy and fear of him—Arcite!"<br />Now will I stint of Palamon a lite, stop / a while<br />1335 And let him in his prison still dwell,<br />And of Arcit forth I will you tell.<br />The summer passeth, and the nights long<br />Increasen double wise the pains strong<br />Both of the lover and the prisoner.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 24<br />1 1347-53: The question is a "demande d'amour," a puzzling query about love, and a favorite<br />medieval game. Supposedly conducted in a sort of ladies' lawcourt by Marie, Countess of Champagne and<br />others, it certainly became a literary game. Boccaccio's Filocolo has many. See also in Chaucer The<br />Franklin's Tale, 1621-22, and The Wife of Bath's Tale, 904-905.<br />1340 I n'ot which has the woefuller mistér: know not / situation<br />For shortly for to say, this Palamon<br />Perpetually is damnd to prison,<br />In chains and in fetters to be dead,<br />And Arcite is exíled upon his head on pain of death<br />1345 For evermore as out of that country,<br />Nor nevermore he shall his lady see.<br />Demande d'amour<br />You lovers ask I now this questïon:1<br />Who has the worse, Arcite or Palamon?<br />That one may seen his lady day by day,<br />1350 But in [a] prison must he dwell alway;<br />That other where him list may ride or go, he pleases / walk<br />But see his lady shall he nevermo'.<br />Now deemeth as you list, you that can, judge as you wish<br />For I will tell forth as I began.<br />End of Part One<br />Part Two<br />Arcite's love pains<br />1355 Whan that Arcite to Thebs comen was,<br />Full oft a day he swelt and said: "Alas!" was overcome<br />For see his lady shall he nevermo'.<br />And shortly to concluden all his woe,<br />So muchel sorrow had never creätúre<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 25<br />1 1376: "Hereos": a conflation and confusion between "eros," love and "heros," a hero, hence<br />the kind of extravagant lover's passion suffered by heroes in medieval romances. Its symptoms<br />include those just given above. (See also Damian in The Merchant's Tale, and Aurelius in The<br />Franklin's Tale). If it became bad enough, as with really big heroes like Tristan and Lancelot, it<br />could turn into a "manie," a madness which afflicted the "cell" of fantasy, i.e. the foremost of the<br />three divisions of the brain.<br />1360 That is or shall while that the world may dure. last<br />His sleep, his meat, his drink is him bereft, food / deprived of<br />That lean he waxed and dry as is a shaft. (So) that / stick<br />His eyen hollow and grisly to behold, grim<br />His hue fallow, and pale as ashes cold. color pallid<br />1365 And solitary he was and ever alone,<br />And wailing all the night, making his moan.<br />And if he heard song or instrument,<br />Then would he weep, he might not be stent. stopped<br />So feeble were his spirits and so low, also<br />1370 And changd so that no man could know<br />His speech nor his voice, though men it heard.<br />And in his gear for all the world he fared his behavior<br />Not only like the lover's malady<br />Of Hereos, but rather like manie, mania<br />1375 Engendred of humor meláncholic<br />Before, in his own cell fántastic.1<br />And shortly, turnd was all up-so-down<br />Both habit and eke disposicïon also<br />Of him, this woeful lover Daun Arcite. Lord A.<br />Inspired by a vision, Arcite goes to Athens in disguise<br />1380 What should I all day of his woe endite? continually / tell<br />When he endurd had a year or two<br />This cruel torment and this pain and woe<br />At Thebs in his country, as I said,<br />Upon a night in sleep as he him laid,<br />1385 Him thought how that the wingd god Mercury<br />Before him stood, and bade him to be merry.<br />His sleepy yard in hand he bore upright. sleep-inducing wand<br />A hat he wore upon his hairs bright.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 26<br />1 1394: "However much it hurts me."<br />2 1398: "I do not care if I die in her presence." starve = die<br />Arrayd was this god, as he took keep, as he noted<br />1390 As he was when that Argus took his sleep, overcome by sleep<br />And said him thus: "To Athens shalt thou wend. go<br />There is thee shapen of thy woe an end." destined<br />And with that word Arcit woke and start.<br />"Now truly, how sor that me smart," 1 however it may hurt<br />1395 Quod he, "to Athens right now will I fare.<br />Nor for the dread of death shall I not spare hold back<br />To see my lady that I love and serve.<br />In her presénce I reck not to starve."2 I don't care if<br />And with that word he caught a great mirróur,<br />1400 And saw that changd was all his coloúr,<br />And saw his visage all in another kind.<br />And right anon it ran him in his mind<br />That since his fac was so disfigúrd<br />Of malady the which he had endurd, From illness<br />1405 He might well, if that he bore him low, kept low profile<br />Live in Athens evermore unknow, unrecognized<br />And see his lady well nigh day by day.<br />And right anon he changd his array, clothes<br />And clad him as a poor laborer,<br />1410 And all alon, save only a squire<br />That knew his privity and all his case, secret<br />Which was disguisd poorly as he was, Who was<br />To Athens is he gone the next way. direct route<br />He takes a job<br />And to the court he went upon a day,<br />1415 And at the gate he proffered his servíce,<br />To drudge and draw what so men will devise. order<br />And shortly of this matter for to sayn,<br />He fell in office with a chamberlain got a job<br />The which that dwelling was with Emily. Who<br />1420 For he was wise, and could soon espy<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 27<br />Of every servant which that serveth her.<br />Well could he hewen wood and water bear,<br />For he was young and mighty for the nones, to be sure<br />And thereto he was strong and big of bones,<br />1425 To do what any wight can him devise. anybody wants<br />A year or two he was in this service,<br />Page of the chamber of Emily the bright,<br />And "Philostrat" said he that he hight. said his name was<br />But half so well-beloved a man as he<br />1430 Ne was there never in court of his degree. his rank<br />He was so gentle of conditïon<br />That throughout all the court was his renown.<br />They saiden that it were a charity it would be right<br />That Theseus would enhancen his degree, promote him<br />1435 And putten him in worshipful service, dignified<br />There as he might his virtue exercise. abilities<br />A promotion<br />And thus within a while his name is sprung,<br />Both of his deeds and his good tongue, good reputation<br />That Theseus has taken him so near,<br />1440 That of his chamber he made him a squire,<br />And gave him gold to maintain his degree. his rank<br />And eke men brought him out of his country,<br />From year to year, full privily his rent, secretly<br />But honestly and slyly he it spent<br />1445 That no man wondered how that he it had.<br />And three years in this wise his life he led,<br />And bore him so in peace and eke in war,<br />There was no man that Theseus hath more dear<br />And in this bliss let I now Arcite,<br />1450 And speak I will of Palamon a lite. a little<br />In darkness and horrible and strong prison<br />This seven year has sitten Palamon,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 28<br />Forpind, what for woe and for distress. tormented<br />Who feeleth double sore and heaviness<br />1455 But Palamon? that love distraineth so pains<br />That wood out of his wit he goes for woe. mad<br />And eke thereto he is a prisoner<br />Perpetually, not only for a year.<br />Who could rime in English properly<br />1460 His martyrdom? Forsooth, it am not I.<br />Therefore I pass as lightly as I may.<br />An escape<br />It fell that in the seventh year, of May<br />The third night, (as old books sayn<br />That all this story tellen mor plain)--<br />1465 Were it by áventure or destiny, by chance or<br />As when a thing is shapen it shall be, is fated<br />That soon after the midnight, Palamon,<br />By helping of a friend, broke his prison, with help of<br />And flees the city fast as he may go,<br />1470 For he had given his jailer drink so<br />Of a claret, made of a certain wine<br />With nárcotics and opium of Thebes fine,<br />That all that night, though that men would him shake,<br />The jailer slept; he might not awake.<br />1475 And thus he flees as fast as ever he may.<br />The night was short and fast by the day, near dawn<br />That needs cost he most himselfen hide. of necessity<br />And to a grove fast there beside<br />With dreadful foot then stalketh Palamon. full of dread<br />1480 For shortly, this was his opinïon,<br />That in that grove he would him hide all day,<br />And in the night then would he take his way<br />To Thebs-ward, his friends for to pray<br />On Theseus to help him to warrey. make war<br />1485 And shortly, either he would lose his life<br />Or winnen Emily unto his wife.<br />This is th'effect and his intent plain.<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 29<br />Arcite goes to the woods to celebrate May and sing a love lament<br />Now will I turn to Arcite again,<br />That little wist how nigh that was his care, knew / near / troubles<br />1490 Till that Fortúne had brought him in the snare.<br />The busy lark, messenger of day,<br />Salueth in her song the morrow grey, Greets<br />And fiery Phoebus riseth up so bright sun (god)<br />That all the orient laugheth of the light,<br />1495 And with his streams drieth in the greves branches<br />The silver dropps hanging on the leaves.<br />And Arcita, that in the court royál<br />With Theseus is squire principal,<br />Is risen and looketh on the merry day;<br />1500 And for to do his observánce to May,<br />Remembering on the point of his desire,<br />He on a courser startling as the fire horse lively as<br />Is riden into the fields him to play, amuse himself<br />Out of the court were it a mile or tway. about a mile or two<br />1505 And to the grove of which that I you told<br />By áventure his way he gan to hold to make his way<br />To maken him a garland of the greves branches<br />Were it of woodbine or of hawthorn leaves;<br />And loud he sang against the sunn sheen: bright sun<br />1510 "May, with all thy flowers and thy green,<br />Welcome be thou, fair fresh May,<br />In hope that I some green getten may."<br />Palamon, the escapee, is hiding in that wood<br />And from his courser with a lusty heart his horse<br />Into the grove full hastily he start,<br />1515 And in a path he roameth up and down<br />Thereas by áventure this Palamoun by chance<br />Was in a bush, that no man might him see,<br />For sore afeard of his death was he.<br />No thing ne knew he that it was Arcite.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 30<br />1 "God knows he would not have believed it", literally: "he would have believed it very little."<br />2 1523-4: "A man should always be ready, for it happens every day that people meet<br />unexpectedly."<br />3 1534-5: Friday is Venus's day (Lat. veneris dies; Ital. venerdi), and its weather apparently<br />was reputed to be especially unreliable.<br />1520 God wot he would have trowd it full lite.1 believed / little<br />But sooth is said, gone sithen many years, truth / many years ago<br />That "field hath eyen and the wood hath ears."<br />It is full fair a man to beat him even,<br />For alday meeten men at unset steven.2<br />1525 Full little wot Arcite of his fellow little knows<br />That was so nigh to hearken all his saw, near / hear his words<br />For in the bush he sitteth now full still.<br />When that Arcite had roamd all his fill,<br />And sungen all the roundel lustily, round song<br />1530 Into a study he fell suddenly,<br />As do these lovers in their quaint gears, odd ways<br />Now in the crop, now down in the briars, top<br />Now up, now down, as bucket in a well.<br />Right as the Friday, soothly for to tell,<br />1535 Now it shineth, now it raineth fast,3<br />Right so can gery Venus overcast changeable<br />The hearts of her folk right as her day<br />Is gereful; right so changeth she array. her state<br />Seld is the Friday all the week y-like. seldom<br />1540 When that Arcite had sung, he gan to sigh,<br />And set him down withouten any more: more ado<br />"Alas," quod he, "that day that I was bore. born<br />How long, Juno, through thy cruelty<br />Wilt thou warreyen Thebs the city? make war on<br />1545 Alas, y-brought is to confusïon<br />The blood royál of Cadme and Amphion-<br />Of Cadmus, which that was the first man<br />That Thebs built or first the town began, founded<br />And of the city first was crownd king.<br />1550 Of his lineage am I and his offspring,<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 31<br />1 1566: "My death was arranged before my (first?) shirt." The comparison seems inept.<br />2 1569-71: "I would not care a straw about all my other troubles if only I could do anything to<br />please you."<br />By very line, as of the stock royál.<br />And now I am so caitiff and so thrall, captive / enslaved<br />That he that is my mortal enemy,<br />I serve him as his squire poorly.<br />1555 And yet does Juno me well mor shame, still more<br />For I dare not beknow mine own name, use<br />But there as I was wont to hight Arcite, was called<br />Now hight I Philostrate, not worth a mite. I am called<br />Alas, thou fell Mars! Alas, Juno! cruel<br />1560 Thus has your ire our lineage all fordo, your anger / ruined<br />Save only me and wretched Palamon<br />That Theseus martyreth in prison.<br />And over all this, to slay me utterly,<br />Love has his fiery dart so burningly<br />1565 Y-stickd through my tru careful heart, full of care<br />That shapen was my death erst than my shirt.1<br />You slay me with your eyen, Emily.<br />You be the caus wherefore that I die.<br />Of all the remnant of mine other care<br />1570 Ne set I not the montance of a tare, amount of a weed<br />So that I could do ought to your pleasánce." 2 if I could<br />And with that word he fell down in a trance<br />A long time. And after he up start.<br />Palamon has heard everything. Another quarrel.<br />This Palamon, that thought that through his heart<br />1575 He felt a cold sword suddenly glide,<br />For ire he quoke. No longer would he bide. shook with anger<br />And when that he had heard Arcita's tale,<br />As he were wood, with face dead and pale, mad<br />He start him up out of the bushes thick<br />1580 And said: "Arcit, fals traitor wick, wicked<br />Now art thou hent, that lov'st my lady so, caught<br />CANTERBURY TALES 32<br />1 1609: "Art willing to fight a battle to vindicate your right to her."<br />For whom that I have all this pain and woe,<br />And art my blood, and to my counsel sworn,<br />As I full oft have told thee herebeforn,<br />1585 And hast bejapd here duke Theseus, fooled<br />And falsely changd hast thy nam thus.<br />I will be dead or els thou shalt die.<br />Thou shalt not love my lady Emily,<br />But I will love her only and no mo'; more, i.e. no one else<br />1590 For I am Palamon, thy mortal foe,<br />And though that I no weapon have in this place,<br />But out of prison am astart by grace,<br />I dread not that either thou shalt die, doubt not<br />Or thou ne shalt not loven Emily.<br />1595 Choose which thou wilt, or thou shalt not astart." escape<br />This Arcit with full despitous heart, furious<br />When he him knew and had his tal heard,<br />As fierce as lion pulld out his sword,<br />And said thus: "By God that sits above,<br />1600 N'ere it that thou art sick and wood for love, Were it not / mad<br />And eke that thou no weapon hast in this place, And also<br />Thou shouldest never out of this grov pace, walk<br />That thou ne shouldest dien of my hand. but die by<br />For I defy the surety and the bond<br />1605 Which that thou sayst that I have made to thee.<br />What, very fool, think well that love is free,<br />And I will love her, maugre all thy might. despite<br />They agree to a duel<br />But for as much as thou art a worthy knight,<br />And wilnest to darrein her by battail,1 to fight<br />1610 Have here my truth, tomorrow I will not fail,<br />Withouten witting of any other wight, knowledge / person<br />That here I will be founden as a knight,<br />And bringen harness right enough for thee, armor<br />And choose the best, and leave the worst to me.<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 33<br />1 1623-27: "O Cupid, [god of love], totally without love! O ruler [regne] who will tolerate no<br />partner. True is the saying that neither lover nor lord will share willingly [his thanks], as Arcite<br />and Palamon certainly find out."<br />1615 And meat and drink this night will I bring food<br />Enough for thee, and clothes for thy bedding.<br />And if so be that thou my lady win<br />And slay me in this wood where I am in,<br />Thou mayst well have thy lady as for me." far as I'm concerned<br />1620 This Palamon answered: "I grant it thee."<br />And thus they be departed till amorrow,<br />When each of them had laid his faith to borrow. pledged his word<br />O Cupid, out of all charity!<br />O regne, that would no fellow have with thee! ruler / partner<br />1625 Full sooth is said that lov nor lordship<br />Will not, his thanks, have no fellowship; willingly<br />Well finden that Arcite and Palamon.1<br />Arcite is riden anon unto the town, immediately<br />And on the morrow ere it were day's light,<br />1630 Full privily two harness has he dight, secured<br />Both suffisant and meet to darreine adequate to conduct<br />The battle in the field bitwixt them twain; two<br />And on his horse, alone as he was born,<br />He carrieth all this harness him beforn;<br />1635 And in the grove at time and place y-set<br />This Arcite and this Palamon be met.<br />To changen gan the color in their face,<br />Right as the hunter's in the regne of Thrace, realm, kingdom<br />That standeth at the gapp with a spear,<br />1640 When hunted is the lion or the bear,<br />And heareth him come rushing in the greves, bushes<br />And breaketh both the boughs and the leaves,<br />And thinks: "Here comes my mortal enemy.<br />Withouten fail he must be dead or I,<br />1645 For either I must slay him at the gap,<br />Or he must slay me if that me mishap." I'm unfortunate<br />So fard they in changing of their hue color<br />CANTERBURY TALES 34<br />1 1637 and 1647-8: These appear to mean that each knew the other to be a bear or lion in<br />strength and so each pales, like the hunter awaiting the onrush.<br />2 1663 ff: "Destiny, God's deputy, that carries out everywhere God's Providence, is so strong<br />that even if the whole world is determined against it, things will sometimes happen in one day<br />that will not occur again within a thousand years."<br />As far as ever each other of them knew. 1<br />There was no "Good day" nor no saluing, greeting<br />1650 But straight, withouten word or rehearsing,<br />Ever each of them helped to arm the other,<br />As friendly as he were his own brother.<br />And after that with sharp spears strong<br />They foinen each at other wonder long. thrust / v. long<br />1655 Thou mightest ween that this Palamon think<br />In his fighting were a wood lion, angry<br />And as a cruel tiger was Arcite.<br />As wild boars gonnen they to smite, began<br />That frothen white as foam, for ire wood. mad with anger<br />1660 Up to the ankle fought they in their blood.<br />And in this wise I let them fighting dwell,<br />And forth I will of Theseus you tell.<br />Fate intervenes in the form of Theseus who comes upon them while hunting<br />The destiny, minister general,<br />That executeth in the world overall Who carries out<br />1665 The purveyance that God has seen beforn,2 The Providence<br />So strong it is that, though the world had sworn<br />The contrary of a thing by yea or nay,<br />Yet sometimes it shall fallen on a day<br />That falls not eft within a thousand year. not again<br />1670 For certainly, our appetits here, passions<br />Be it of war, or peace, or hate, or love,<br />All is this ruld by the sight above.<br />This mean I now by mighty Theseus,<br />That for to hunten is so desirous,<br />1675 And namely at the great hart in May, especially / deer<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 35<br />That in his bed there dawneth him no day<br />That he n'is clad and ready for to ride<br />With hunt and horn and hounds him beside;<br />For in his hunting has he such delight<br />1680 That it is all his joy and appetite desire<br />To be himself the great hart's bane; killer<br />For after Mars he serveth now Diane. (goddess of hunting)<br />Clear was the day, as I have told ere this,<br />And Theseus, with all joy and bliss,<br />1685 With his Hippolyta the fair queen,<br />And Emelía clothed all in green,<br />On hunting be they ridden royally,<br />And to the grove that stood full fast by,<br />In which there was a hart, as men him told,<br />1690 Duke Theseus the straight way has hold,<br />And to this land he rideth him full right, clearing<br />For thither was the hart wont have his flight, accustomed<br />And over a brook, and so forth on his way.<br />This Duke will have a course at him or tway,<br />1695 With hounds such as that him list command. he chose<br />And when this Duke was come unto the land,<br />Under the sun he looketh, and anon<br />He was 'ware of Arcite and Palamon,<br />That foughten breme as it were bulls two. fiercely<br />1700 The bright swords wenten to and fro<br />So hideously that with the least stroke<br />It seemd as it would fell an oak.<br />But what they wer, nothing he ne wot. But who / he knew<br />This Duke his courser with the spurrs smote, horse<br />1705 And at a start he was bitwixt them two, suddenly<br />And pulld out a sword, and cried: "Whoa!<br />No more, on pain of losing of your head.<br />By mighty Mars, he shall anon be dead<br />That smiteth any stroke that I may see.<br />1710 But telleth me what mister men you be, kind of<br />That be so hardy for to fighten here, bold<br />Withouten judge or other officer,<br />As it were in a lists royally?" tournament arena<br />CANTERBURY TALES 36<br />1 1721: For saint charity, literally "for holy charity (or love)." The exclamation is<br />presumably an anachronism in the mouth of a pagan. But neither is it very Christian or<br />chivalrous, since his betrayal of his kinsman and fellow knight is about as vindictive as it well<br />could be.<br />Palamon reveals their identities<br />This Palamon answéred hastily<br />1715 And said: "Sir, what needeth words mo'?<br />We have the death deservd both two.<br />Two woeful wretches be we, two caitives, captives<br />That be encumbered of our own lives; of = by<br />And as thou art a rightful lord and judge,<br />1720 Ne give us neither mercy nor refuge;<br />But slay me first, for saint charity,1<br />But slay my fellow eke as well as me; also<br />Or slay him first, for though thou know'st it lite, little do you know it<br />This is thy mortal foe, this is Arcite,<br />1725 That from thy land is banished on his head, on pain of death<br />For which he has deservd to be dead;<br />For this is he that came unto thy gate,<br />And said that he hight Philostrate. was named<br />Thus has he japed thee full many a year, tricked<br />1730 And thou hast maked him thy chief squire;<br />And this is he that loveth Emily.<br />For since the day is come that I shall die,<br />I mak plainly my confessïon<br />That I am thilk woeful Palamon, I'm the same<br />1735 That has thy prison broken wickedly.<br />I am thy mortal foe, and it am I<br />That loveth so hot Emily the bright, so hotly<br />That I will dien present in her sight.<br />Wherefore I ask death and my juwise. sentence<br />1740 But slay my fellow in the sam wise,<br />For both have we deservd to be slain."<br />The Duke instantly sentences them, but the ladies intervene<br />This worthy Duke answered anon again<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 37<br />1 1761: "The heart of the truly noble (gentle) is easily moved to generosity (pity)." A famous<br />and favorite phrase of Chaucer's, used also in MerT 4, 1986; SquireT, V, 479; Leg. of Good<br />Women, Prol F, 503; Man Of Law's T. II, 660. For "gentle" see ENDPAPERS.<br />And said: "This is a short conclusïon.<br />Your own mouth by your confessïon<br />1745 Hath damnd you, and I will it record; condemned<br />It needeth not to pine you with the cord. torture with rope<br />You shall be dead, by mighty Mars the red."<br />The queen anon for very womanhood<br />Gan for to weep, and so did Emily,<br />1750 And all the ladies in the company.<br />Great pity was it, as it thought them all,<br />That ever such a chanc should befall;<br />For gentlemen they were of great estate, high rank<br />And nothing but for love was this debate;<br />1755 And saw their bloody wounds wide and sore,<br />And all crid, both less and more,<br />"Have mercy, lord upon us women all."<br />And on their bar knees adown they fall,<br />And would have kissed his feet there as he stood;<br />1760 Till at the last aslakd was his mood,<br />For pity runneth soon in gentle heart,1<br />And though he first for ir quoke and start, shook w. anger<br />He has considered shortly, in a clause, briefly<br />The trepass of them both, and eke the cause; offence / also<br />1765 And although that his ire their guilt accused,<br />Yet in his reason he them both excused,<br />As thus: He thought well that every man<br />Will help himself in love if that he can,<br />And eke deliver himself out of prison.<br />1770 And eke his heart had compassion<br />Of women, for they wepten ever in one. in unison<br />And in his gentle heart he thought anon,<br />And soft unto himself he said: "Fie<br />Upon a lord that will have no mercy<br />1775 But be a lion both in word and deed<br />To them that be in repentánce and dread,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 38<br />1 1796: maugre ...: "In spite of both their eyes", i.e. in spite of common sense.<br />2 1799: This line seems to mean: "There is no fool like a lover fool."<br />As well as to a proud despitous man<br />That will maintain what he first began. persist in<br />That lord has little of discretïon<br />1780 That in such case can no divisïon, knows no difference<br />But weigheth pride and humbless after one." humility as the same<br />And shortly, when his ire is thus agone, his anger<br />He gan to looken up with eyen light,<br />And spoke these sam words all on height: aloud<br />1785 "The God of Love, ah, benedicitee.<br />How mighty and how great a lord is he.<br />Against his might there gaineth no obstácles.<br />He may be cleped a god for his mirácles, called<br />For he can maken at his own guise his own whim<br />1790 Of every heart as that him list devise. as he chooses<br />Lo, here this Arcite and this Palamon,<br />That quitly weren out of my prison, had escaped<br />And might have lived in Thebs royally,<br />And wit I am their mortal enemy, (they) know<br />1795 And that their death lies in my might also,<br />And yet has Love, maugre their eyen two,1 despite<br />Brought them hither both for to die.<br />Now looketh, is not that a high folly?<br />Who may be a fool, but if he love?2<br />1800 Behold, for God's sake that sits above,<br />See how they bleed! Be they not well arrayed? Don't they / look good?<br />Thus has their lord, the God of Love, y-paid<br />Their wages and their fees for their service.<br />And yet they weenen for to be full wise they think<br />1805 That serven Love, for aught that may befall. anything<br />But this is yet the best game of all,<br />That she for whom they have this jollity fun (ironic)<br />Can them therefore as much thank as me. for that<br />She wot no more of all this hott fare, knows / fiery business<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 39<br />1810 By God, than wot a cuckoo or a hare.<br />But all must be assayd, hot and cold.<br />A man must be a fool, or young or old. either...or<br />I wot it by myself full yore agone, long ago<br />For in my time a servant was I one, a lover<br />1815 And therefore, since I know of lov's pain,<br />And wot how sore it can a man distrain, know / distress<br />As he that has been caught oft in his lass, snare<br />I you forgive all wholly this trespáss,<br />At réquest of the queen that kneeleth here,<br />1820 And eke of Emily my sister dear,<br />And you shall both anon unto me swear<br />That never more you shall my country dere, harm<br />Nor mak war upon me, night nor day,<br />But be my friends in all that you may.<br />1825 I you forgive this trespass everydeal."<br />And they him swore his asking fair and well,<br />And him of lordship and of mercy prayed.<br />Theseus orders a tournament to decide who shall have Emily<br />And he them granted grace, and thus he said:<br />"To speak of royal lineage and richessse, riches<br />1830 Though that she were a queen or a princess,<br />Each of you both is worthy, doubtless,<br />To wedden when time is. But, natheless--<br />I speak as for my sister Emily<br />For whom you have this strife and jealousy--<br />1835 You wot yourself she may not wedden two You know<br />At onc, though you fighten evermore. even if you<br />That one of you, al be him loath or lief, like it or not<br />He must go pipen in an ivy leef. whistle in the wind<br />This is to say, she may not now have both,<br />1840 Al be you never so jealous nor so wroth. Even if / angry<br />And forthy I you put in this degree, therefore / position<br />That each of you shall have his destiny<br />As him is shape, and hearken in what wise; decreed for him<br />Lo, here your end of that I shall devise: part / announce<br />CANTERBURY TALES 40<br />1 1853: "Completely armed and ready for the lists," i.e. for the place where the tournament<br />would take place.<br />21863-66: "And as sure as I hope for God's mercy, I will be a fair and just judge. I will make<br />no other arrangement with you (than this): one of you has to be killed or captured."<br />1845 My will is this, for plat conclusïon, plain<br />Withouten any replicatïon; contradiction<br />If that you liketh, take if for the best:<br />That each of you shall go where that him lest, he pleases<br />Freely, withouten ransom or danger,<br />1850 And this day fifty weeks, far or near,<br />Ever each of you shall bring a hundred knights<br />Armd for lists up at all rights,1 for tournament<br />All ready to darrein her by battail. claim by fight<br />And this behote I you withouten fail, promise<br />1855 Upon my truth and as I am a knight,<br />That whether of you both that has might, whichever<br />This is to say, that whether he or thou<br />May with his hundred as I spoke of now<br />Slay his contráry, or out of lists drive,<br />1860 Then shall I giv Emilia to wive<br />To whom that Fortune gives so fair a grace.<br />The lists shall I maken in this place,<br />And God so wisly on my soul rue, surely have mercy<br />As I shall even judg be and true. just judge<br />1865 You shall no other end with me maken,2<br />That one of you ne shall be dead or taken.<br />And if you thinketh this is well y-said,<br />Say your avis, and holdeth you apaid. agreement / satisfied<br />This is your end and your conclusïon."<br />1870 Who looketh lightly now but Palamon?<br />Who springeth up for joy but Arcite?<br />Who could tell or who could it endite<br />The joy that is maked in the place,<br />When Theseus has done so fair a grace?<br />1875 But down on knee went every manner wight,<br />And thanken him with all their heart and might,<br />And namly the Thebans often sithe. oftentimes<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 41<br />And thus with good hope and with heart blithe happy<br />They take their leave and homeward gan they ride<br />1880 To Thebs, with its old walls wide.<br />End of Part II<br />Part Three<br />The new stadium for the tournament<br />I trow men would deem it negligence I suspect / think<br />If I forget to tellen the dispence expenditure<br />Of Theseus, that goes so busily<br />To maken up the lists royally,<br />1885 That such a noble theatre as it was<br />I dare well sayen in this world there n'as. was not<br />The circúït a mil was about,<br />Walld of stone and ditchd all without. outside<br />Round was the shape in manner of compass,<br />1890 Full of degrees, the height of sixty pas, steps / paces<br />That when a man was set on one degree level<br />He letted not his fellow for to see. hindered not from<br />Eastward there stood a gate of marble white,<br />Westward right such another in th'opposite;<br />1895 And shortly to conclud, such a place In short<br />Was none in earth as in so little space.<br />For in the land there was no crafty man craftsman<br />That geometry or ars-metric can, knew g. or arithmetic<br />Nor portrayer, nor carver of imáges,<br />1900 That Theseus ne gave him meat and wages,<br />The theatre for to maken and devise.<br />And for to do his rite and sacrifice,<br />He eastward has, upon the gate above,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 42<br />1 1905: He had an altar and a chapel built<br />In worship of Venus, goddess of love,<br />1905 Done make an altar and an oratory.1<br />And on the gat westward, in memóry above the gate<br />Of Mars, he makd has right such another,<br />That cost largly of gold a fother. a pile<br />And northward in a turret on the wall,<br />1910 Of alabaster white and red coral,<br />An oratory rich for to see,<br />In worship of Diane of chastity, (goddess) of c.<br />Hath Theseus do wrought in noble wise. caused to be made<br />But yet had I forgotten to devise describe<br />1915 The noble carving and the portraitures,<br />The shape, the countenance, and the figúres,<br />That weren in these oratories three. chapels<br />The temple of Venus<br />First, in the temple of Venus mayst thou see,<br />Wrought on the wall, full piteous to behold,<br />1920 The broken sleeps and the sighs cold,<br />The sacred tears and the waymenting, lamentation<br />The fiery stroks of the desiring<br />That Lov's servants in this life endure,<br />The oaths that their covenants assure,<br />1925 Pleasance and Hope, Desire, Foolhardiness,<br />Beauty and Youth, Bawdery, Richesse, gaiety, wealth<br />Charms and Force, Leasings, Flattery, Magic / lies<br />Dispense, Business, and Jealousy, money<br />That wore of yellow golds a garland, marigolds<br />1930 And a cuckoo sitting on her hand;<br />Feasts, instruments, carols, dances, songs<br />Lust and array, and all the circumstances adornment<br />Of love, which that I reckoned and reckon shall,<br />By order weren painted on the wall,<br />1935 And more than I can make of mentïon.<br />For soothly all the Mount of Citheron,<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 43<br />1 1940 ff: All the instances cited in the following lines are meant to exemplify the claim that<br />nothing can compete with the power of Love. Idleness was the porter of the love garden in The<br />Romance of the Rose, a poem that Chaucer knew and probably translated. Echo died of<br />unrequited love for Narcissus. Solomon, famed for wisdom, was nevertheless, led into idolatry<br />through his lust for women; Hercules the strong was poisoned by a shirt sent to him by his<br />jealous wife. Medea , beautiful and good at "sleight," tricked her family for her lover Jason who<br />afterwards abandoned her; Circe enchanted the followers of Odysseus; "hardy" Turnus fought<br />Aeneas for Lavinia. Croesus was certainly rich and proud, but his love follies are not recorded.<br />Where Venus has her principal dwelling,<br />Was showd on the wall in portraying,<br />With all the garden and the lustiness.<br />1940 Not was forgotten the porter Idleness, 1<br />Nor Narcissus the fair of yore agon of long ago<br />Nor yet the folly of king Salomon,<br />Nor yet the great strength of Hercules,<br />Th'enchantments of Medea and Circes, Circe<br />1945 Nor of Turnus with the hardy fierce couráge,<br />The rich Croesus, caitiff in serváge. captive in slavery<br />Thus may you see that wisdom nor richesse, wealth<br />Beauty nor sleight, strength, hardiness, nor cleverness<br />Ne may with Venus hold champarty, partnership<br />1950 For as her list, the world then may she gie. as she wishes / rule<br />Lo, all these folk so caught were in her lass snare<br />Till they for woe full often said "Alas!"<br />Sufficeth here examples one or two, [of the paintings]<br />Although I could reckon a thousand more. And though<br />1955 The statue of Venus, glorious for to see,<br />Was naked, floating in the larg sea,<br />And from the navel down all covered was<br />With wavs green and bright as any glass.<br />A citole in her right hand hadd she, harp<br />1960 And on her head, full seemly for to see,<br />A rose garland, fresh and well smelling,<br />Above her head her dovs flickering. fluttering<br />Before her stood her sonn, Cupido.<br />Upon his shoulders wings had he two,<br />1965 And blind he was, as it is often seen;<br />A bow he bore, and arrows bright and keen.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 44<br />The temple of Mars<br />Why should I not as well eke tell you all also<br />The portraiture that was upon the wall<br />Within the temple of mighty Mars the red? [God of War]<br />1970 All painted was the wall in length and breadth<br />Like to the estres of the grisly place interior<br />That hight the great temple of Mars in Thrace, was called<br />In thilk cold frosty regïon In that<br />There as Mars has his sovereign mansïon. chief shrine<br />1975 First on the wall was painted a forest,<br />In which there dwelleth neither man nor beast,<br />With knotty, knarry, barren trees old, rough<br />Of stubbs sharp and hideous to behold,<br />In which there ran a rumble in a swough, sound / wind<br />1980 As though a storm should bursten every bough.<br />And downward on a hill under a bent grassy slope<br />There stood the temple of Mars armipotent, mighty in arms<br />Wrought all of burnd steel, of which th'entry burnished<br />Was long and strait and ghastly for to see, narrow<br />1985 And thereout came a rage and such a veze blast<br />That it made all the gat for to rese. shake<br />The northern light in at the doors shone,<br />For window on the wall ne was there none<br />Through which men mighten any light discern.<br />1990 The door was all of adamant etern, hard rock<br />Y-clenchd overthwart and endalong length and breadth<br />With iron tough; and for to make it strong<br />Every pillar the temple to sustain<br />Was tonne-great, of iron bright and sheen. barrel-thick / shining<br />1995 There saw I first the dark imagining plotting<br />Of Felony, and all the compassing, accomplishment<br />The cruel Ire, red as any gleed, Anger / hot coal<br />The pick-purse, and eke the pal Dread,<br />The smiler with the knife under the cloak,<br />2000 The shippen burning with the black smoke, barn<br />The treason of the murdering in the bed,<br />The open War with wounds all be-bled, bleeding<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 45<br />1 2017: Literally hoppesters are female dancers. "Dancing ships" or "ship's dancers" does not<br />make much sense here. The phrase is probably a result of Chaucer's mistranslation of an Italian<br />phrase that meant "ships of war."<br />Contest with bloody knife and sharp menáce.<br />All full of chirking was that sorry place. noises<br />2005 The slayer of himself yet saw I there;<br />His heart's blood has bathed all his hair;<br />The nail y-driven in the shode at night, into the head<br />The cold Death with mouth gaping upright. on his back<br />Amiddest of the temple sat Mischance, In the midst / Disaster<br />2010 With discomfórt and sorry countenance.<br />Yet saw I Woodness, laughing in his rage; Madness<br />Armd Complaint, Outhees, and fierce Outrage; outcries at crime<br />The carrion in the bush with throat y-carve, corpse / cut<br />A thousand slain and not of qualm y-starve, killed by plague<br />2015 The tyrant with the prey by force y-reft, seized<br />The town destroyd--there was nothing left.<br />Yet saw I burnt the shipps hoppesteres,1 ships of war<br />The hunter strangled with the wild bears, by the<br />The sow freten the child right in the cradle, mauling<br />2020 The cook y-scalded for all his long ladle.<br />Nought was forgotten by the infortúne of Marte: bad influence of Mars<br />The carter overridden with his cart;<br />Under the wheel full low he lay adown.<br />There were also of Mars's divisïon followers<br />2025 The barber and the butcher, and the smith<br />That forges sharp swords on his stith. anvil<br />And all above depainted in a tower<br />Saw I Conquest, sitting in great honoúr,<br />With the sharp sword over his head<br />2030 Hanging by a subtle twin's thread. slender<br />Depainted was the slaughter of Julius, Caesar<br />Of great Nero, and of Antonius. Mark Antony<br />Al be that thilk time they were unborn, Although at that<br />Yet was their death depainted therebeforn,<br />2035 By menacing of Mars, right by figúre. prefiguring<br />So was it showd in that portraiture,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 46<br />1 2051-55: Diana (Roman name for Greek goddess Artemis) has a number of different (and<br />conflicting) attributes all portrayed in this picture. She is the virgin huntress and goddess of<br />chastity, but also as Lucina, she is goddess of childbirth. As Luna she is goddess of the moon but<br />as Hecate or Prosperine (Persephone) she is a goddess of the underworld ruled by Pluto.<br />2 2062-64: Daphne (here called Dane) was transformed into a laurel tree by her father to<br />(continued...)<br />As is depainted in the stars above<br />Who shall be slain, or els dead for love.<br />Sufficeth one example in stories old;<br />2040 I may not reckon them all, though I would.<br />The statue of Mars upon a cart stood chariot<br />Armd, and lookd grim as he were wood. angry<br />And over his head there shinen two figúres<br />Of starrs that be clepd in scriptúres called in books<br />2045 That one Puella, that other Rubeus. divination figures<br />This god of arms was arrayd thus:<br />A wolf there stood before him at his feet,<br />With eyen red, and of a man he eat. ate<br />With subtle pencil painted was this story<br />2050 In rédouting of Mars and of his glory. reverence<br />The temple of Diana<br />Now to the temple of Diane the chaste goddess of chastity<br />As shortly as I can I will me haste,<br />To tell you all the descriptïon.<br />Depainted be the walls up and down<br />2055 Of hunting and of shamefast chastity.1 of modest<br />There saw I how woeful Calistopee, Callisto<br />When that Diane agrievd was with her,<br />Was turnd from a woman to a bear,<br />And after was she made the Lod-Star. pole star<br />2060 Thus was it painted, I can say you no farre. tell you no farther<br />Her son is eke a star, as men may see. [Boötes] is also<br />There saw I Dane y-turnd to a tree. Daphne<br />(I mean not the goddess Diane,<br />But Penneus' daughter which that hight Dane.2 who was called<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 47<br />(...continued)<br />escape the embraces of the god Apollo who was pursuing her.<br />1 2065-8: Actaeon was a hunter who looked at Diana while she was bathing in a pool and was<br />punished by her for this "crime" by being turned into a deer (hart), which was torn apart by his<br />own hounds.<br />2 2074: "Which I do not want to recall now."<br />2065 There saw I Actaeon a hart y-makd, turned into a deer<br />For vengeance that he saw Diane all naked:<br />I saw how that his hounds have him caught<br />And freten him, for that they knew him not.1 torn to pieces<br />Yet painted was little further more<br />2070 How Atalanta hunted the wild boar,<br />And Meleager, and many another more,<br />For which Diana wrought him care and woe. caused him<br />There saw I many another wonder story,<br />The which me list not draw into memóry.2<br />2075 This goddess on a hart full high sat, deer<br />With small hounds all about her feet,<br />And underneath her feet she had a moon;<br />Waxing it was, and should wan soon. Growing / fade<br />In gaudy green her statue clothd was, yellowish green(?)<br />2080 With bow in hand and arrows in a case;<br />Her eyen cast she full low adown<br />Where Pluto has his dark regïon. underworld<br />A woman trávailing was her beforn, in labor<br />But for her child so long was unborn, But because<br />2085 Full piteously Lucina gan she call, [L = goddess of childbirth]<br />And said: "Help, for thou mayst best of all."<br />Well could he paint lifelike that it wrought;<br />With many a florin he the hus bought. gold coin / colors<br />Now be these lists made, and Theseus,<br />2090 That all his great cost arrayd thus<br />The temples and the theatre everydeal,<br />When it was done him likd wonder well. it pleased him<br />But stint I will of Theseus a lite, stop / a little<br />And speak of Palamon and of Arcite.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 48<br />1 2100 ff: "Many believed that since the Creation there had never been in the world so select<br />a group of knights in the annals of chivalry."<br />2 2107 "And who would gladly have a surpassing name" (for chivalry). his thankes or their<br />thankes = gladly, with thanks.<br />3<br />(continued...)<br />The combatants arrive<br />2095 The day approacheth of their réturning,<br />That ever each should a hundred knights bring<br />The battle to darrein, as I you told. fight<br />And to Athens, their covenant for to hold, agreement<br />Has ever each of them brought a hundred knights,<br />2100 Well armd for the war at all rights; in every way<br />And sikerly there trowd many a man certainly / believed<br />That never sithen that the world began, since<br />As for to speak of knighthood of their hand,<br />As far as God has makd sea and land,<br />2105 N'as of so few so noble a company.1<br />For every wight that lovd chilvalry, every person<br />And would, his thanks, have a passant name,2<br />Has prayd that he might be of that game, sport<br />And well was him that thereto chosen was. pleased was he<br />2110 For if there fell tomorrow such a case,<br />You knowen well that every lusty knight<br />That loveth paramours and has his might, women<br />Were it in Engeland or elswhere,<br />They would, their thanks, wilnen to be there. w. gladly be there<br />2115 To fighten for a lady, ben'citee, bless us<br />It were a lusty sight for to see.<br />Palamon with his 100<br />And right so fard they with Palamon.<br />With him there wenten knights many a one<br />Some will be armed in a habergeon, 3 One / chainmail<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 49<br />3(...continued)<br />2119 ff: "Some" retains its old meaning of "one," "a certain one." The switch from past tense to<br />what looks like future is odd, but has no significance; the "future" should be read as past.<br />Presumably "will be armed" has the sense of "wishes (or chooses) to be armed," which still needs<br />to be read as a past tense: "One was armed in ..."<br />1 2125: "There is no new fashion (in arms) that has not been old." Since Chaucer has put his<br />characters in what seems to be medieval armor, perhaps this sentence is saying that he is aware<br />of the anachronism, as in 2033 above.<br />2 2134: "With bushy hairs in his prominent eyebrows."<br />3 2140: coat-armour: a garment worn over armor (harness), and embroidered with a<br />coat-of-arms."<br />2120 And in a breastplate and a light gipon; padded tunic<br />And some will have a pair of plats large Another<br />And some will have a Prussian shield or targe; light shield<br />Some will be armd on his leggs well,<br />And have an ax, and some a mace of steel-<br />2125 There is no new guise that it n'as old.1 fashion<br />Armd were they as I have you told,<br />Ever each after his opinïon. to his own taste<br />There mayst thou see coming with Palamon<br />Lygurge himself, the great king of Thrace.<br />2130 Black was his beard and manly was his face.<br />The circles of his eyen in his head, his eyeballs<br />They glowed betwixen yellow and red,<br />And like a griffon lookd he about, [part lion, part eagle]<br />With kempe hairs on his brows stout.2<br />2135 His limbs great, his brawns hard and strong, muscles<br />His shoulders broad, his arms round and long,<br />And as the guis was in his country, fashion<br />Full high upon a char of gold stood he, chariot<br />With four whit bulls in the traces.<br />2140 Instead of coat-armoúr over his harness,3 armor<br />With nails yellow and bright as any gold, studs<br />He had a bear's skin, coal-black for old. bearskin / with age<br />His long hair was combed behind his back;<br />As any raven's feather it shone for-black. deep black<br />2145 A wreath of gold, arm-great, of hug weight, thick as an arm<br />CANTERBURY TALES 50<br />Upon his head, set full of stons bright, gemstones<br />Of fin rubies and of diamonds.<br />About his char there went white alaunts, chariot / wolfhounds<br />Twenty and more, as great as any steer,<br />2150 To hunten at the lion or the deer,<br />And followed him with muzzle fast y-bound,<br />Collared of gold, and tourettes fild round. rings<br />A hundred lords had he in his rout, group<br />Armed full well, with hearts stern and stout.<br />Arcite's troop led by Emetrius<br />2155 With Árcita, in stories as men find,<br />The great Emetrius, the king of Ind,<br />Upon a steed bay trappd in steel, armed in<br />Covered in cloth of gold diapered well, elaborately patterned<br />Came riding like the god of arms, Mars.<br />2160 His coat-armour was of cloth of Tars, purple colored silk<br />Couched with pearls white and round and great; Set w.<br />His saddle was of burned gold new y-beat. burnished<br />A mantlet upon his shoulder hanging, cape<br />Bretful of rubies red as fire sparkling; covered with<br />2165 His crisp hair like rings was y-run, curly / falling<br />And that was yellow and glittered as the sun;<br />His nose was high, his eyen bright citron, lemon-colored<br />His lips round, his colour was sanguine ruddy<br />A few frakens in his face y-sprend, freckles / sprinkled<br />2170 Betwixen yellow and somdeal black y-mend; mingled<br />And as a lion he his looking cast. he glared<br />Of five and twenty year his age I cast. calculate<br />His beard was well begunn for to spring. to grow<br />His voice was as a trumpet thundering.<br />2175 Upon his head he weared of laurel green<br />A garland fresh and lusty for to seen.<br />Upon his hand he bore for his delight<br />An eagle tame, as any lily white.<br />A hundred lords had he with him there,<br />2180 All armd, save their heads, in all their gear,<br />Full richly in all manner things;<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 51<br />1 2195-6: "Men are still of the opinion that no one's intelligence, of whatever rank, could<br />improve upon it." Occupatio is the figure of speech used in the following lines, in which the<br />author says he will not tell about what he then proceeds to tell about.<br />For trusteth well that duks, earls, kings,<br />Were gathered in this noble company<br />For love and for increase of chivalry.<br />2185 About this king there ran on every part side<br />Full many a tam lion and leopard.<br />Theseus throws a feast for the occasion<br />And in this wise these lords all and some one and all<br />Be on the Sunday to the city come<br />About prime, and in the town alight. 9 am; dismounted<br />2190 This Theseus, this Duke, this worthy knight,<br />When he had brought them into his city,<br />And inned them, ever each at his degree, lodged / rank<br />He feasteth them and does so great laboúr<br />To easen them and do them all honoúr,<br />2195 That yet men weenen that no mann's wit men judge / wisdom<br />Of no estate ne could amenden it.1 any rank / improve<br />The minstrelcy, the service at the feast, music<br />The great gifts to the most and least,<br />The rich array of Theseus' paláce,<br />2200 Nor who sat first or last upon the dais,<br />What ladies fairest be and best dancing,<br />Or which of them can dancen best and sing,<br />Nor who most feelingly speaks of love,<br />What hawks sitten on the perch above,<br />2205 What hounds lien on the floor adown--<br />Of all this make I now no mentïon.<br />But all th'effect; that thinketh me the best. outcome<br />Now comes the point, and hearken if you lest. listen if y please<br />Palamon goes to the temple of Venus<br />The Sunday night, ere day began to spring,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 52<br />2210 When Palamon the lark heard sing,<br />Although it n'ere not day by hours two was not<br />Yet sang the lark; and Palamon right tho, then<br />With holy heart and with a high couráge, great devotion<br />He rose to wenden on his pilgrimáge<br />2215 Unto the blissful Cytherea benign,<br />I mean Venus honorable and digne, revered<br />And in her hour he walketh forth a pace [just before dawn]<br />Unto the lists where her temple was,<br />And down he kneeleth, and with humble cheer manner<br />2220 And heart sore, he said as you shall hear:<br />"Fairest of fair, O lady mine Venus,<br />Daughter of Jove and spouse to Vulcanus,<br />Thou gladder of the Mount of Citheron, joy<br />For thilk love thou haddest to Adon, that love / Adonis<br />2225 Have pity of my bitter tears smart, painful<br />And take mine humble prayer at thine heart.<br />Alas! I ne have no language to tell<br />Th'effect nor the torments of my hell.<br />My heart may my harms not bewray. show<br />2230 I am so cónfused that I cannot say<br />But "Mercy!" lady bright, that knowest well<br />My thoughts, and seest what harms that I feel.<br />Consider all this, and rue upon my sore, have pity<br />As wisly as I shall for evermore As surely<br />2235 Emforth my might, thy tru servant be, As much as I can<br />And holden war always with chastity.<br />That make I mine avow, so you me help.<br />I keep nought of arms for to yelp, don't care to boast<br />Nor I ask not tomorrow to have victóry,<br />2240 Nor renown in this cas, nor vain glory<br />Of prize of arms blown up and down, fame in arms trumpeted<br />But I would have fully possessïon<br />Of Emily, and die in thy service.<br />Find thou the manner how and in what wise.<br />2245 I reck not but it may better be I care not<br />To have victory of them, or they of me,<br />So that I have my lady in mine arms. Provided<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 53<br />1 2271: "unequal": Darkness and daylight were divided into twelve parts each. 1/12th of the<br />hours of darkness would be unequal to 1/12 of the hours of daylight except around the solstice.<br />This is a difficult line to scan metrically even with ME spelling.<br />For though so be that Mars is god of arms,<br />Your virtue is so great in heaven above Your power<br />2250 That, if you list, I shall well have my love. if you wish<br />Thy temple will I worship evermo',<br />And on thine altar, where I ride or go, wherever I r. or walk<br />I will do sacrifice and fires beet. kindle<br />And if you will not so, my lady sweet,<br />2255 Then pray I thee tomorrow with a spear<br />That Árcita me through the heart bere; thrust<br />Then reck I not, when I have lost my life,<br />Though that Arcíta win her to his wife.<br />This is th'effect and end of my prayer:<br />2260 Give me my love, thou blissful lady dear."<br />When th'orison was done of Palamon, the prayer<br />His sacrifice he did, and that anon, promptly<br />Full piteously, with all circumstánces, piously / rites<br />Al' tell I not as now his observánces. Although<br />2265 But at the last the statue of Venus shook,<br />And made a sign whereby that he took<br />That his prayer accepted was that day;<br />For though the sign showd a delay,<br />Yet wist he well that granted was his boon, knew he / prayer<br />2270 And with glad heart he went him home full soon.<br />Emily prays in the temple of Diana<br />The third hour unequal that Palamon1<br />Began to Venus' temple for to gon, to go<br />Up rose the sun, and up rose Emily,<br />And to the temple of Diane gan she hie. hasten<br />2275 Her maidens that she thither with her led<br />Full readily with them the fire they had,<br />Th'incense, the cloths, and the remnant all all the rest<br />That to the sacrific longen shall, belongs to<br />CANTERBURY TALES 54<br />1 2284-88: The meaning of this passage is obscure. Perhaps the narrator is saying that he will not be<br />like Actaeon (2303 below) watching a girl take her bath? What a man should be free to do is not clear.<br />The horns full of mead, as was the guise. custom<br />2280 There lackd naught to do her sacrifice.<br />Smoking the temple, full of cloths fair, Incensing / hangings<br />This Emily with heart debonair devout<br />Her body washed with water of a well.<br />(But how she did her rite I dare not tell,<br />2285 But it be any thing in general, Except in general?<br />And yet it were a game to hearen all. would be pleasant<br />To him that meaneth well it were no charge; problem<br />But it is good a man be at his large).1 to be free<br />Her bright hair was combed untressd all;<br />2290 A coroun of a green oak cerial crown of evergreen oak<br />Upon her head was set, full fair and meet. proper<br />Two firs on the altar gan she beet, kindle<br />And did her things as men may behold rites / read<br />In Stace of Thebes and other books old. "Thebaid" by Statius.<br />2295 When kindled was the fire, with piteous cheer pious(?) manner<br />Unto Diane she spoke as you may hear:<br />"O chast goddess of the woods green,<br />To whom both heaven and earth and sea is seen; visible<br />Queen of the regne of Pluto, dark and low, realm (of underworld)<br />2300 Goddess of maidens, that mine heart hast know<br />Full many a year, and wost what I desire, knowest<br />As keep me from thy vengeance and thine ire<br />That Actaeon abought cruelly. paid dearly for<br />Chaste goddess, well wost thou that I you know that<br />2305 Desire to be a maiden all my life,<br />Nor never will I be nor love nor wife. lover<br />I am, thou wost, yet of thy company<br />A maid, and love hunting and venery, the chase<br />And for to walken in the woods wild,<br />2310 And not to be a wife and be with child.<br />Not will I know company of man. I don't wish<br />Now help me, lady, since you may and can,<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 55<br />1 2313: She asks help from Diana who is also known as Luna, the moon goddess; as Hecate,<br />goddess of the underworld; and as Lucina, goddess of childbirth. See above 2051, note.<br />For those three forms that thou hast in thee.1<br />And Palamon, that has such love to me,<br />2315 And eke Arcite, that loveth me so sore, And also<br />This grace I pray thee withouten more, and no more<br />As send love and peace bitwixt them two,<br />And from me turn away their hearts so<br />That all their hott love and their desire,<br />2320 And all their busy torment and their fire<br />Be queint or turnd in another place. quenched<br />And if so be thou wilt not do me grace,<br />Or if my destiny be shapen so<br />That I shall needs have one of them two, must have<br />2325 As send me him that most desireth me.<br />Behold, goddess of clean chastity,<br />The bitter tears that on my cheeks fall.<br />Since thou art maid and keeper of us all,<br />My maidenhood thou keep and well conserve.<br />2330 And while I live, a maid I will thee serve."<br />The firs burn upon the altar clear,<br />While Emily was thus in her prayér,<br />But suddenly she saw a sight quaint, strange<br />For right anon one of the fires queint, quenched<br />2335 And quicked again, and after that anon And lit up<br />The other fire was queint and all agone,<br />And as it queint it made a whistling,<br />As do these wett brands in their burning, wet branches<br />And at the brands' end out ran anon<br />2340 As it were bloody dropps many a one.<br />For which so sore aghast was Emily<br />That she was well nigh mad, and gan to cry,<br />For she ne wist what it signified;<br />But only for the fear thus has she cried,<br />2345 And wept that it was pity for to hear. (in a way) that<br />And therewithal Diana gan appear,<br />With bow in hand, right as an hunteress,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 56<br />And said: "Daughter, stint thy heaviness. cease thy grief<br />Among the godds high it is affirmed,<br />2350 And by eternal word written and confirmed,<br />Thou shalt be wedded unto one of tho those<br />That have for thee so much care and woe,<br />But unto which of them I may not tell.<br />Farewell, for I ne may no longer dwell.<br />2355 The fires which that on mine altar burn<br />Shall thee declaren ere that thou go hence tell you before<br />Thine áventure of love as in this case." destiny<br />And with that word the arrows in the case<br />Of the goddess clatter fast and ring,<br />2360 And forth she went, and made a vanishing.<br />For which this Emily astond was, astonished<br />And said: "What amounteth this, alas?<br />I put me in thy protectïon,<br />Diana, and in thy dispositïon."<br />2365 And home she goes anon the next way. shortest way<br />This is th'effect, there is no more to say. the outcome<br />Arcite prays in the temple of Mars<br />The next hour of Mars following this,<br />Arcite unto the temple walkd is<br />Of fierc Mars, to do his sacrifice,<br />2370 With all the rits of his pagan wise. fashion<br />With piteous heart and high devotïon, pious<br />Right thus to Mars he said his orison: prayer<br />"O strong god, that in the regnes cold realms<br />Of Thrace honoúred art and lord y-hold, regarded as<br />2375 And hast in every regne and every land<br />Of arms all the bridle in thine hand, the control<br />And them fortúnest as thee list devise: reward / as you like<br />Accept of me my piteous sacrifice. pious<br />If so be that my youth may deserve,<br />2380 And that my might be worthy for to serve<br />Thy godhead, that I may be one of thine,<br />Then pray I thee to rue upon my pine, take pity / misery<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 57<br />1 2398: "And I know well that before she will show me any favor ..." The Chaucer<br />Glossary implies tht the form hote rather than Heete was used in Skeat. I could use it and float<br />for the preceding line.<br />2 "I will always work very hard to please you and (be) strong in your service"<br />For thilk pain and thilk hott fire that same<br />In which thou whilom burnedst for desire once<br />2385 When that thou usedest the beauty<br />Of fair, young, fresh Venus free,<br />And haddest her in arms at thy will,<br />Although thee once upon a time misfell, were unfortunate<br />When Vulcanus had caught thee in his lass, trap<br />2390 And found thee lying by his wife, alas.<br />For thilk sorrow that was in thine heart,<br />Have ruth as well upon my pains smart. pity / sharp<br />I am young and uncunning, as thou wost, inexperienced / know<br />And as I trow, with love offended most I think / afflicted<br />2395 That ever was any liv creätúre.<br />For she that does me all this woe endure causes me to<br />Ne recketh never whether I sink or fleet; float<br />And well I wot ere she me mercy heet,1 favor show<br />I must with strength win her in the place, in the lists<br />2400 And well I wot withouten help and grace I know<br />Of thee ne may my strength not avail.<br />Then help me, lord, tomorrow in my bataille,<br />For thilk fire that whilom burnd thee, For the same / once<br />As well as thilk fire now burneth me,<br />2405 And do that I tomorrow have victóry. grant that<br />Mine be the travail, and thine be the glory. work<br />Thy sovereign temple will I most honoúr<br />Of any place, and always most laboúr<br />In thy pleasánce and in thy crafts strong.2 To please you<br />2410 And in thy temple I will my banner hang,<br />And all the arms of my company,<br />And evermore until that day I die<br />Eternal fire I will before thee find. provide<br />And eke to this avow I will me bind: also / vow<br />2415 My beard, my hair, that hangeth long adown,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 58<br />That never yet ne felt offensïon<br />Of razor nor of shears, I will thee give;<br />And be thy tru servant while I live.<br />Now lord, have ruth upon my sorrows sore. pity<br />2420 Give me the victory. I ask no more."<br />The prayer stint of Árcita the strong. stopped<br />The rings on the temple door that hung<br />And eke the doors clatterd full fast,<br />Of which Arcíta somewhat him aghast. was afraid<br />2425 The fires burned upon the altar bright<br />That it gan all the temple for to light. so that<br />A sweet smell anon the ground up gave<br />And Árcita anon his hand up have, lifted up<br />And more incénse into the fire he cast,<br />2430 With other rits more, and at the last<br />The statue of Mars began his hauberk ring, to rattle its armor<br />And with that sound he heard a murmuring,<br />Full low and dim, that said thus: "Victóry!"<br />For which he gave to Mars honoúr and glory.<br />2435 And thus with joy and hop well to fare<br />Arcite anon unto his inn is fare, lodging has gone<br />As fain as fowl is of the bright sun. glad as bird<br />An argument among the gods<br />And right anon such strife there is begun<br />For thilk granting, in the heaven above Because of that<br />2440 Betwixt Venus, the goddéss of love,<br />And Mars, the stern god armipotent, powerful in arms<br />That Jupiter was busy it to stent, stop<br />Till that the pal Sáturnus the cold,<br />That knew so many of adventures old, events<br />2445 Found in his old experience an art trick<br />That he full soon has pleasd every part. (So) that / party<br />As sooth is said, eld has great advantáge; truth / old age<br />In eld is both wisdom and uságe; experience<br />Men may the old outrun but not outred. outwit<br />2450 Saturn anon, to stinten strife and dread, to stop<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 59<br />Albeit that it is against his kind, Although / his nature<br />Of all this strife he can remedy find.<br />Saturn settles the argument<br />"My dear daughter Venus," quod Satúrn, granddaughter<br />"My cours, that has so wid for to turn, orbit<br />2455 Has mor power than wot any man. than knows<br />Mine is the drenching in the sea so wan; drowning / pale<br />Mine is the prison in the dark cote; cell<br />Mine is the strangling and hanging by the throat,<br />The murmur and the churls' rébelling, peasants'<br />2460 The groining and the privy empoisoning. grumbling / secret<br />I do vengeánce and plain correctïon open<br />While I dwell in the sign of the lion. sign of Leo<br />Mine is the ruin of the high halls,<br />The falling of the towers and of the walls<br />2465 Upon the miner or the carpenter.<br />I slew Sampson, shaking the pillar;<br />And min be the maladis cold,<br />The dark treasons, and the casts old. plots<br />My looking is the father of pestilence. My glance<br />2470 Now weep no more, I shall do diligence take pains<br />That Palamon, that is thine own knight,<br />Shall have his lady as thou hast him hight. promised<br />Though Mars shall help his knight, yet natheless,<br />Betwixt you there must be some time peace,<br />2475 Al be you not of one complexïon, temperament<br />That causeth alday such divisïon. every day<br />I am thine ail, ready at thy will. grandfather<br />Weep now no more; I will thy lust fulfill." your wish<br />Now will I stinten of the gods above, stop (talking) about<br />2480 Of Mars and Venus, the goddéss of love,<br />And tell you as plainly as I can<br />The great effect for which that I began. result, ending<br />End of Part III<br />CANTERBURY TALES 60<br />Part Four<br />Preparations for the tournament<br />Great was the feast in Athens that day,<br />And eke the lusty season of that May also<br />2485 Made every wight to be in such pleasánce person<br />That all that Monday jousten they and dance,<br />And spenden it in Venus' high service.<br />But by the caus that they should rise Because<br />Early for to see the great fight,<br />2490 Unto their rest wenten they at night.<br />And on the morrow when the day gan spring,<br />Of horse and harness noise and clattering<br />There was in hostelris all about;<br />And to the palace rode there many a rout group<br />2495 Of lords upon steeds and palfreys. war horses / riding horses<br />There mayst thou see devising of harness, preparing<br />So uncouth and so rich, and wrought so well so unusual<br />Of goldsmithry, of broiding, and of steel, embroidery<br />The shields bright, testers, and trappúres, head armor / trappings<br />2500 Gold-hewn helms, hauberks, coat-armoúrs, gold-worked / mail coats<br />Lords in parments on their coursers, robes / horses<br />Knights of retinue and eke squires also<br />Nailing the spears and helmets buckling;<br />Gigging of shields, with lainers lacing: strapping / lanyards<br />2505 There as need was they wer no thing idle.<br />The foamy steeds on the golden bridle<br />Gnawing; and fast the armourers also<br />With file and hammer, pricking to and fro; spurring<br />Yeomen on foot and commons many a one Servants<br />2510 With short staves, thick as they may gon;<br />Pips, trumpets, nakers, clarions, drums / bugles<br />That in the battle blowen bloody sounds;<br />The palace full of people up and down,<br />Here three, there ten, holding their questïon, arguing<br />2515 Divining of these Theban knights two. speculating about<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 61<br />Some said thus, some said it shall be so;<br />Some held with him with the black beard,<br />Some with the bald, some with the thickly-haired;<br />Some said he lookd grim, and he would fight: "he"= this / that one<br />2520 "He has a sparth of twenty pound of weight." "battle axe<br />Thus was the hall full of divining conjectures<br />Long after that the sun began to spring.<br />Theseus announces the rules<br />The great Theseus, that of his sleep awakd<br />With minstrelsy and nois that was makd,<br />2525 Held yet the chambers of his palace rich, Still stayed in<br />Till that the Theban knights, both alike<br />Honoúred, were into the palace fet. fetched<br />Duke Theseus is at a window set,<br />Arrayed right as he were a god in throne;<br />2530 The people presseth thitherward full soon,<br />Him for to see and do high reverence,<br />And eke to hearken his hest and his senténce. order & judgement<br />A herald on a scaffold made a "Ho!"<br />Till all the noise of people was y-do. ceased<br />2535 And when he saw the people of noise all still,<br />Thus showd he the mighty duk's will:<br />"The lord has of his high discretïon<br />Considered that it were destructïon<br />To gentle blood to fighten in the guise the manner<br />2540 Of mortal battle now in this emprise; enterprise<br />Wherefore, to shapen that they shall not die, ensure<br />He will his first purpose modify:<br />No man, therefóre, on pain of loss of life,<br />No manner shot, nor pole-ax, nor short knife missile<br />2545 Into the lists send or thither bring,<br />Nor short-sword for to stoke with point biting, to stab<br />No man ne draw nor bear it by his side.<br />Nor no man shall unto his fellow ride<br />But one course with a sharp y-grounden spear.<br />2550 Foin, if him list, on foot, himself to were. Thrust if he likes / defend<br />CANTERBURY TALES 62<br />1 At the edge of the lists, the tournament place, stakes have been set up to serve as a kind of sideline; any<br />warrior captured and forced to the sideline is out of the fight.<br />And he that is at mischief shall be take, overcome / captured<br />And not slain, but be brought unto the stake surrender post<br />That shall ordaind be on either side;1 set up<br />But thither he shall by force, and there abide.<br />2555 And if so fall the chieftain be take befall / leader<br />On either side, or els slay his make, opponent<br />No longer shall the tourneying last.<br />God speed you: go forth and lay on fast.<br />With long sword and with maces fight your fill.<br />2560 Go now your way. This is the lord's will."<br />The voice of people touched the heaven,<br />So loud crid they with merry steven: voice<br />"God sav such a lord that is so good;<br />He willeth no destructïon of blood."<br />2565 Up go the trumpets and the melody,<br />And to the lists rideth the company,<br />By ordinance, throughout the city large, In order / through<br />Hangd with cloth of gold and not with serge.<br />Full like a lord this noble Duke gan ride,<br />2570 These two Thebans upon either side,<br />And after rode the Queen and Emily,<br />And after that another company<br />Of one and other after their degree. by rank<br />And thus they passen throughout the city, pass through<br />2575 And to the lists cam they betime, in good time<br />It was not of the day yet fully prime.<br />All spectators take their places and the tournament begins<br />mid-morning<br />When set was Theseus full rich and high,<br />Hippolyta the queen and Emily,<br />And other ladies in degrees about, ranks<br />2580 Unto the seats presseth all the rout, the crowd<br />And westward through the gats under Mart Mars<br />Arcite and eke the hundred of his part, party<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 63<br />With banner red is entered right anon.<br />And in that self moment Palamon same<br />2585 Is under Venus eastward in the place,<br />With banner white and hardy cheer and face. brave<br />In all the world, to seeken up and down,<br />So even without variatïon evenly matched<br />There n'er such companis tway; weren't two such<br />2590 For there was none so wis that could say<br />That any had of other advantáge<br />Of worthiness nor of estate nor age, Of bravery or rank<br />So even were they chosen for to guess;<br />And in two rings fair they them dress. they get ready<br />2595 When that their nams read were every one,<br />That in their number guil was there none, (So)that / cheating<br />Then were the gates shut and cried was loud:<br />"Do now your devoir, young knights proud." duty<br />The heralds left their pricking up and down. spurring<br />2600 Now ringen trumpets loud and clarion. bugle<br />There is no more to say, but east and west<br />In go the spears full sadly in the rest, tightly<br />In goes the sharp spur into the side,<br />There see men who can joust and who can ride.<br />2605 There shiveren shafts upon shields thick, spear shafts split<br />He feeleth through the heart-spoon the prick. He = One / breast bone<br />Up springen spears twenty foot on height,<br />Out go the swords as the silver bright,<br />The helmets they to-hewen and to-shred, "to" is intensive<br />2610 Out burst the blood with stern streams red, gushing<br />With mighty maces the bones they to-burst;<br />He through the thickest of the throng gan thrust. "He" = one<br />There stumble steeds strong and down goes all.<br />He rolleth under foot as does a ball, "He" = another<br />2615 He foineth on his feet with his truncheon, thrusts / shaft<br />And he him hurtleth with his horse adown,<br />He through the body is hurt and sithen take, & then captured<br />Maugre his head, and brought unto the stake, Against his will<br />As forward was; right there he must abide. agreement was<br />2620 Another led is on that other side.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 64<br />And some time does them Theseus to rest, makes them<br />Them to refresh and drinken if them lest. if they wish<br />Full oft a-day have thes Thebans two<br />Together met and wrought his fellow woe. caused<br />2625 Unhorsd has each other of them tway. two<br />There was no tiger in Vale of Galgophay,<br />When that her whelp is stole when it is lite, little<br />So cruel in the hunt as is Arcite,<br />For jealous heart, upon this Palamon.<br />2630 Ne in Belmary there n'is so fell lion, fierce<br />That hunted is or for his hunger wood, mad with hunger<br />Ne of his prey desireth so the blood,<br />As Palamon to slay his foe Arcite.<br />The jealous stroks on their helmets bite, angry blows<br />2635 Out runneth blood on both their sids red.<br />Palamon is captured<br />Some time an end there is of every deed,<br />For ere the sun unto the rest went, before sunset<br />The strong king Emetrius gan hent seized<br />This Palamon as he fought with Arcite,<br />2640 And made his sword deep in his flesh to bite,<br />And by the force of twenty is he take,<br />Unyolden, and y-drawen to the stake. Unyielding<br />And in the rescue of this Palamon,<br />The strong king Lygurge is born adown,<br />2645 And King Emetrius, for all his strength,<br />Is borne out of his saddle a sword's length,<br />So hit him Palamon ere he were take.<br />But all for naught: he brought was to the stake.<br />His hardy heart might him help naught;<br />2650 He must abid when that he was caught,<br />By force and eke by compositïon. and as agreed<br />Who sorroweth now but woeful Palamon,<br />That must no mor go again to fight?<br />Theseus announces the victor; Venus sulks; Saturn strikes<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 65<br />And when that Theseus hadd seen this sight,<br />2655 Unto the folk that foughten thus each one<br />He crid, "Whoa! No more, for it is done.<br />I will be tru judge and not party. partial<br />Arcite of Thebs shall have Emily,<br />That by his fortune has her fair y-won." fairly<br />2660 Anon there is a noise of people begun<br />For joy of this, so loud and high withall,<br />It seemd that the lists should fall.<br />What can now fair Venus do above?<br />What says she now? What does this queen of love,<br />2665 But weepeth so for wanting of her will, not getting her way<br />Till that her tears in the lists fell.<br />She said: "I am ashamd, doubtless."<br />Saturnus said: "Daughter, hold thy peace.<br />Mars has his will, his knight has all his boon. prayer<br />2670 And, by my head, thou shalt be easd soon."<br />The trumpers with the loud minstrelcy, trumpeters / music<br />The heralds that full loud yell and cry,<br />Be in their weal for joy of daun Arcite. Are glad<br />But hearken me, and stinteth noise a lite a little<br />2675 Which a miracle there befell anon! What a / shortly<br />This fierce Arcite has off his helm y-done, had doffed<br />And on a courser for to show his face, war-horse<br />He pricketh endalong the larg place, rides along / arena<br />Looking upward on this Emily,<br />2680 And she again him cast a friendly eye. towards him<br />For women, as to speaken in commune, generally<br />They follow all the favour of Fortúne,<br />And she was all his cheer as in his heart. joy<br />Out of the ground a Fury infernal start, shot<br />2685 From Pluto sent at request of Satúrn,<br />For which his horse for fear 'gan to turn<br />And leap aside, and foundered as he leaped. stumbled<br />And ere that Árcit may taken keep, before / act<br />He pight him on the pommel of his head, pitched / crown<br />2690 That in the place he lay as he were dead, (So) that<br />CANTERBURY TALES 66<br />1 2691: "His breast torn open by the bow at the front of the saddle" which he has somehow<br />struck in his fall.<br />2 2703: "Although this accident had occurred"<br />His breast to-bursten with his saddle-bow.1<br />As black he lay as any coal or crow,<br />So was the blood y-runnen in his face.<br />Anon he was y-borne out of the place,<br />2695 With heart sore to Theseus' palace.<br />Then was he carven out of his harness, cut / armor<br />And in a bed y-brought full fair and blive, quickly<br />For he was yet in memory and alive, still conscious<br />And always crying after Emily.<br />Activities after the tournament<br />2700 Duke Theseus with all his company<br />Is comen home to Athens his city<br />With all bliss and great solemnity.<br />Albeit that this áventure was fall,2 Although / accident<br />He would not discomforten them all. upset everyone<br />2705 Men said eke that Arcíte shall not die: moreover<br />"He shall be heald of his malady."<br />And of another thing they were as fain: glad<br />That of them all was there none y-slain,<br />Al were they sore y-hurt, and namely one, Although / especially<br />2710 That with a spear was thirld his breast bone. pierced<br />To other wounds and to broken arms<br />Some hadd salvs and some hadd charms; ointments / spells<br />Fermacies of herbs and eke save Concoctions / sage<br />They drank, for they would their limbs have. wante to keep<br />2715 For which this noble Duke, as he well can,<br />Comfórteth and honoúreth every man,<br />And mad revel all the long night<br />Unto the strang lords, as was right. foreign lords<br />Ne there was holden no discomfiting, disgrace<br />2720 But as a joust or as a tourneying,<br />For soothly there was no discomfiture, disgrace<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 67<br />1 2749-51: "thilke virtue": that power, ability ; in medieval medicine the "animal" power was<br />in the brain, the "natural" power in the liver. In this case the appropriate "virtue" was unable to<br />overcome the infection.<br />For falling n'is not but an áventure, only accidental<br />Nor to be led by force unto the stake,<br />Unyolden, and with twenty knights y-take, Unsurrendering<br />2725 One persón alone, withouten mo' unaided<br />And harried forth by arm, foot, and toe<br />And eke his steed driven forth with staves,<br />With footmen, both yeomen and eke knaves--<br />It n'as aretted him no villainy; held no disgrace<br />2730 There may no man clepen it cowardy. call it cowardice<br />For which anon Duke Theseus let cry-- caused to be announced<br />To stinten all rancour and envy-- stop<br />The gree as well of one side as of other, reward<br />And either side alike as other's brother,<br />2735 And gave them gifts after their degree, according to rank<br />And fully held a feast days three,<br />And cónveyd the kings worthily accompanied<br />Out of his town a journey largly. a full day's ride<br />And home went every man the right way,<br />2740 There was no more but "Farewell, have good day."<br />Of this battle I will no more endite,<br />But speak of Palamon and of Arcite.<br />Arcite's injury does not heal<br />Swelleth the breast of Árcite, and the sore<br />Encreaseth at his heart more and more;<br />2745 The clothered blood, for any leechcraft, despite doctoring<br />Corrupteth, and is in his bouk y-left, body<br />That neither vein-blood nor ventusing, blood letting / cupping<br />Nor drink of herbs may be his helping.<br />The virtue expulsíve or animal immune system<br />2750 From thilk virtue clepd natural<br />Ne may the venom voiden nor expell;1 poison overcome<br />The pips of his lungs began to swell,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 68<br />1 2775: wife: In Boccaccio's "Teseida," Chaucer's source for this tale, Arcite and Emily<br />marry after his victory.<br />And every lacert in his breast adown muscle<br />Is shent with venom and corruptïon. destroyed<br />2755 Him gaineth neither, for to get his life, It helps not<br />Vomit upward, nor downward laxative.<br />All is to-bursten thilk region; that part of body<br />Nature has now no dominatïon; no control<br />And certainly, where Nature will not work,<br />2760 Farewell, physic, go bear the man to church.<br />This all and sum: that Árcita must die, In short<br />For which he sendeth after Emily, sends for<br />And Palamon that was his cousin dear.<br />His last will and testament<br />Then said he thus, as you shall after hear:<br />2765 "Not may the woeful spirit in mine heart<br />Declare a point of all my sorrows smart Tell even a bit<br />To you, my lady, that I lov most;<br />But I bequeath the service of my ghost spirit<br />To you aboven every creätúre<br />2770 Since that my lif may no longer dure. last<br />Alas the woe! Alas the pains strong<br />That I for you have suffered, and so long!<br />Alas the death! Alas, mine Emily!<br />Alas, departing of our company! parting<br />2775 Alas, mine heart's queen! Alas, my wife!1<br />Mine heart's lady, ender of my life.<br />What is this world? What asketh man to have?<br />Now with his love, now in his cold grave<br />Alone, withouten any company.<br />2780 Farewell, my sweet foe, mine Emily,<br />And soft take me in your arms tway, two arms<br />For love of God, and hearken what I say:<br />I have here with my cousin Palamon<br />Had strife and rancour many a day agone<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 69<br />1 2813-14: "And I don't want to give the opinions of those who write about the afterworld" seems to be the<br />general meaning.<br />2785 For love of you, and for my jealousy.<br />And Jupiter so wise my soul gie guide<br />To speaken of a servant properly a lover<br />With all circumstances truly,<br />That is to sayen, truth, honoúr, knighthood,<br />2790 Wisdom, humbless, estate, and high kindred, rank<br />Freedom, and all that 'longeth to that art, generosity / belongs<br />So Jupiter have of my soul part,<br />As in this world right now ne know I none<br />So worthy to be loved as Palamon,<br />2795 That serveth you and will do all his life.<br />And if that ever you shall be a wife,<br />Forget not Palamon, the gentle man."<br />And with that word his speech to faile gan;<br />For from his feet up to his breast was come<br />2800 The cold of death that had him overcome.<br />And yet moreover, for in his arms two<br />The vital strength is lost and all ago;<br />Only the intellect withouten more,<br />That dwelld in his heart sick and sore,<br />2805 Gan failen when the heart felt death.<br />Duskd his eyen two and faild breath,<br />But on his lady yet he cast his eye.<br />His last word was: "Mercy, Emily."<br />His spirit changed house and went there<br />2810 As I came never, I can not tellen where; As I was never there<br />Therefore I stint, I am no divinister: I stop / no theologian<br />Of souls find I not in this register, this source?<br />Ne me ne list thilke opinions to tell I don't wish<br />Of them, though that they writen where they dwell.1<br />2815 Arcite is cold, there Mars his soul gie. guide<br />The mourning for Arcite. The funeral<br />Now will I speaken forth of Emily.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 70<br />1 2835-6: It is difficult to decide what to make of the sentiment expressed in these two lines<br />which seem singularly unapt at this point.<br />Shright Emily and howleth Palamon, Shrieked<br />And Theseus his sister took anon sister -in-law<br />Swooning, and bore her from the corpse away.<br />2820 What helpeth it to tarry forth the day take all day<br />To tellen how she wept both eve and morrow?<br />For in such cases women have such sorrow,<br />When that their husbands be from them a-go, gone<br />That for the mor part they sorrow so,<br />2825 Or els fall in such a malady,<br />That at the last certainly they die.<br />Infinite be the sorrows and the tears<br />Of old folk and folk of tender years<br />In all the town for death of this Theban;<br />2830 For him there weepeth both child and man.<br />So great weeping was there none, certáin,<br />When Hector was y-brought all fresh y-slain<br />To Troy. Alas, the pity that was there,<br />Cratching of cheeks, rending eke of hair: Scratching / also<br />2835 "Why wouldest thou be dead," these women cry,<br />"And haddest gold enough and Emily?" 1<br />No man might gladden Theseus<br />Saving his old father Egeus,<br />That knew this world's transmutatïon,<br />2840 As he had seen it change both up and down,<br />Joy after woe, and woe after gladness;<br />And showd them example and likeness:<br />"Right as there did never man," quod he,<br />"That he ne lived in earth in some degree,<br />2845 Right so there livd never man," he said,<br />"In all this world that some time he ne died.<br />This world n'is but a thoroughfare full of woe,<br />And we be pilgrims passing to and fro.<br />Death is an end of every worldy sore."<br />2850 And overall this yet said he muchel more<br />To this effect, full wisely to exhort<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 71<br />The people that they should them recomfort. take comfort<br />Duke Theseus with all his busy cure care<br />Casteth now wher that the sepultúre Considers / burial<br />2855 Of good Arcite may best y-makd be,<br />And eke most honourable in his degree.<br />And at the last he took conclusïon made decision<br />That there as first Arcite and Palamon there where<br />Hadd for love the battle them between,<br />2860 That in the self grov, sweet and green, self same<br />There as he had his amorous desires,<br />His cómplaint, and for love his hott fires, song of lament<br />He would make a fire in which the office rites<br />Funeral he might all accomplish, "funeral" is an adj.<br />2865 And let anon command to hack and hew promptly gave<br />The oaks old, and lay them in a row,<br />In colpons well arrayd for to burn. portions<br />His officers with swift feet they run<br />And ride anon at his commandment,<br />2870 And after this Theseus has y-sent<br />After a bier, and it all overspread Sent for<br />With cloth of gold, the richest that he had,<br />And of the sam suit he clad Arcite, material<br />Upon his hands two his glovs white,<br />2875 Eke on his head a crown of laurel green,<br />And in his hand a sword full bright and keen.<br />He laid him, bare the visage, on the bier. face uncovered<br />Therewith he wept that pity was to hear,<br />And for the people should see him all, so that all the people<br />2880 When it was day he brought him to the hall<br />That roareth of the crying and the sound. echoes with<br />Then came this woeful Theban Palamon,<br />With fluttery beard and ruggy ashy hairs, scraggly / rough<br />In cloths black, y-droppd all with tears,<br />2885 And passing other of weeping, Emily, surpassing<br />The ruefullest of all the company. saddest<br />In as much as the servic should be<br />The mor noble and rich in his degree, acc. to his rank<br />Duke Theseus let forth three steeds bring<br />CANTERBURY TALES 72<br />1 2919: Here begins what has been called the longest sentence in Chaucer's poetry and<br />perhaps the longest occupatio in English, a rhetorical feature as dear to Chaucer and to the<br />Middle Ages generally as the catalogue which it is also. Occupatio is the pretence that the<br />author does not have the time, space or talent to describe what he then sets out to describe. The<br />catalogue is self explaining, if not self justifying to modern taste.<br />2890 That trappd were in steel all glittering,<br />And covered with the arms of Daun Arcite. Sir A.<br />Upon these steeds that weren great and white,<br />There satten folk of which one bore his shield; There sat<br />Another his spear up in his hands held;<br />2895 The third bore with him his bow Turkish.<br />Of burned gold was the case and eke th' harness, burnished / armor<br />And ridden forth a pace with sorrowful cheer<br />Toward the grove, as you shall after hear.<br />The noblest of the Greeks that there were<br />2900 Upon their shoulders carrid the bier,<br />With slack pace, and eyen red and wet, slow march<br />Throughout the city by the master street, main street<br />That spread was all with black. And wonder high<br />Right of the sam is the street y-wry. covered<br />2905 Upon the right hand went old Egeus,<br />And on that other side Duke Theseus,<br />With vessels in their hands of gold full fine, refined<br />All full of honey, milk, and blood, and wine.<br />Eke Palamon with full great company And<br />2910 And after that came woeful Emily,<br />With fire in hand, as was that time the guise fashion<br />To do the office of funeral service.<br />High labour and full great apparreling<br />Was at the service and the fire-making,<br />2915 That with his green top the heaven raught, its / reached<br />And twenty fathom of breadth the arms straught, stretched<br />This is to say, the boughs were so broad.<br />Of straw first there was laid many a load.1<br />But how the fire was makd upon height,<br />2920 Nor eke the nams how the trees hight-- were called<br />As oak, fir, birch, asp, alder, holm, poplar,<br />Willow, elm, plane, ash, box, chestain, lind, laurer,<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 73<br />Maple, thorn, beech, hazel, yew, whippletree--<br />How they were felled shall not be told for me, by me<br />2925 Nor how the godds runnen up and down, [g. of the woods]<br />Disherited of their habitatïon<br />In which they wonden in rest and peace: used to live<br />Nymphs, fauns, and hamadryads; wood deities<br />Nor how the beasts and the birds all<br />2930 Fledden for fear when the wood was fall; felled<br />Nor how the ground aghast was of the light<br />That was not wont to see the sunn bright; accustomed<br />Nor how the fire was couchd first with stree laid w. straw<br />And then with dry sticks cloven a-three, cut in three<br />2935 And then with green wood and spicery, aromatic wood<br />And then with cloth of gold and with perry, jewelry<br />And garlands hanging full of many a flower,<br />The myrrh, th'incense with all so great savoúr,<br />Nor how Arcit lay among all this,<br />2940 Nor what richness about the body is,<br />Nor how that Emily, as was the guise, custom<br />Put in the fire of funeral service,<br />Nor how she swoond when men made the fire,<br />Nor what she spoke, nor what was her desire,<br />2945 Nor what jewels men in the fir cast<br />When that the fire was great and burnd fast,<br />Nor how some cast their shield and some their spear,<br />And of the vestments which that ther were,<br />And cupps full of milk and wine and blood<br />2950 Into the fire that burnt as it were wood; mad<br />Nor how the Greeks with a hug rout crowd<br />Thric riden all the fire about,<br />Upon the left hand, with a loud shouting,<br />And thric with their spears clattering,<br />2955 And thric how the ladies gan to cry,<br />And how that led was homeward Emily;<br />Nor how Arcite is burnt to ashes cold;<br />Nor how that lich-wak was y-hold wake for dead<br />All thilk night; nor how the Greeks play that night<br />2960 The wak-plays; ne keep I nought to say funeral games<br />CANTERBURY TALES 74<br />1 2962: "Nor who came off best, with least difficulty" (?)<br />Who wrestleth best naked with oil anoint,<br />Nor who that bore him best in no disjoint.1<br />I will not tellen all how that they gon go<br />Hom to Athens when the play is done,<br />2965 But shortly to the point then will I wend,<br />And maken of my long tale an end.<br />Theseus sends for Palamon and Emily<br />By process and by length of certain years, course of time<br />All stinted is the mourning and the tears ceased<br />Of Greeks by one general assent.<br />2970 Then seemd me there was a parliament I gather<br />At Athens, upon a certain point and case;<br />Among the which points y-spoken was<br />To have with certain countries álliance,<br />And have fully of Thebans obeïsance; submission<br />2975 For which noble Theseus anon<br />Let senden after gentle Palamon, Had P. sent for<br />Unwist of him what was the cause and why. Without telling<br />But in his black cloths sorrowfully<br />He came at his commandment in hie. in haste<br />2980 Then sent Theseus for Emily.<br />When they were set, and hushed was all the place,<br />And Theseus abiden has a space a while<br />Ere any word came from his wis breast, Before<br />His eyen set he there as was his lest, where he wished<br />2985 And with a sad viságe he sighd still,<br />And after that right thus he said his will:<br />His speech about Destiny<br />"The First Mover of the cause above,<br />When he first made the fair Chain of Love,<br />Great was th'effect, and high was his intent; result<br />2990 Well wist he why and what thereof he meant. knew he<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 75<br />1 3005-16: Every part is part of a whole, and is therefore imperfect. Only the perfect, i.e. God,<br />is whole and eternal. Nature itself derives directly from God, but each part of it is less perfect<br />because further removed from the great One. Everything imperfect is destined to die. But,<br />though each individual is perishable, the species itself has some kind of eternity.<br />For with that fair Chain of Love he bound<br />The fire, the air, the water, and the land<br />In certain bounds that they may not flee.<br />That sam Prince and that Mover," quod he,<br />2995 "Hath 'stablished in this wretched world adown below<br />Certain days and duratïon<br />To all that is engendred in this place,<br />Over the which day they may not pace, Past which<br />All may they yet those days well abridge, Although / shorten<br />3000 There needeth no authority to allege, cite authorities<br />For it is provd by experience,<br />But that me list declaren my senténce. I wish / opinion<br />Then may men by this order well discern<br />That thilk Mover stable is and etern.<br />3005 Then may men know, but it be a fool, except for<br />That every part deriveth from its whole,<br />For Nature has not taken its beginning<br />Of no part´y or cantle of a thing, part or bit<br />But of a thing that perfect is and stable,<br />3010 Descending so till it be córrumpable. corruptible<br />And therefore for his wis purveyance providence<br />He has so well beset his ordinance so ordered things<br />That species of things and progressïons<br />Shall enduren by successïons,<br />3015 And not etern, withouten any lie.<br />This mayst thou understand and see at eye.1<br />Lo, the oak that has so long a nourishing<br />From tim that it first beginneth spring,<br />And has so long a life, as you may see,<br />3020 Yet at the last wasted is the tree.<br />Consider eke how that the hard stone<br />Under our foot on which we ride and gon, and walk<br />Yet wasteth it as it lies by the way; wears away<br />CANTERBURY TALES 76<br />1<br />3027-3030: The passage states the obvious: that every man and woman must die, young or<br />old, king or servant. The awkward syntax is about as follows: "man and woman ... needs ...be<br />dead" ; must be repeats needs be, and he refers back to man and woman.<br />The broad river some time waxeth dry; becomes<br />3025 The great towns see we wane and wend; fade and disappear<br />Then may you see that all this thing has end.<br />Of man and woman see we well also<br />That needs, in one of thes terms two, periods<br />This is to say, in youth or else in age,<br />3030 He must be dead, the king as shall a page:1 He = everyone<br />Some in his bed, some in the deep sea, One ... another<br />Some in the larg field, as you may see. open field<br />There helpeth naught, all goes that ilk way. the same way<br />Then may I say that all this thing must die.<br />Destiny is the will of Jove<br />3035 What maketh this but Jupiter the king, Who causes this?<br />That is the Prince and cause of all thing,<br />Converting all unto his proper well its own source?<br />From which it is derivd, sooth to tell!<br />And here-against no creätúre alive against this<br />3040 Of no degree, availeth for to strive. any rank<br />Then is it wisdom, as it thinketh me, it seems to me<br />To maken virtue of necessity,<br />And take it well that we may not eschew, what we can't avoid<br />And namly what to us all is due.<br />3045 And whoso groucheth aught, he does folly, whoever complains<br />And rebel is to Him that all may gie. directs everything<br />And certainly a man has most honoúr<br />To dien in his excellence and flower,<br />When he is siker of his good name. sure<br />3050 Then has he done his friend nor him no shame;<br />And gladder ought his friend be of his death<br />When with honoúr up yielded is his breath,<br />Than when his name appalld is for age, dimmed<br />For all forgotten is his vassalage. service<br />KNIGHT'S TALE 77<br />3055 Then is it best, as for a worthy fame,<br />To dien when that he is best of name. at height of h. fame<br />He reminds them that Arcite died at the height of his fame<br />The contrary of all this is wilfulness.<br />Why grouchen we, why have we heaviness, complain<br />That good Arcite, of chivalry the flower,<br />3060 Departed is with duity and honour homage<br />Out of this foul prison of this life?<br />Why grouchen here his cousin and his wife<br />Of his welfare that loveth them so well?<br />Can he them thank? Nay, God wot, never a deal<br />3065 That both his soul and eke himself offend. who offend both ...<br />And yet they may their lusts not amend. their feelings<br />What may I conclude of this long serie, argument<br />But after woe I rede us to be merry, I advise<br />And thanken Jupiter of all his grace;<br />3070 And, er we departen from this place,<br />I red that we make of sorrows two suggest<br />One perfect joy, lasting evermo'.<br />And look now where most sorrow is herein,<br />There I will first amenden and begin.<br />Theseus wishes Palamon and Emily to marry<br />3075 "Sister," quod he, "this is my full assent,<br />With all th'advice here of my parliament:<br />That gentle Palamon, your own knight,<br />That serveth you with will and heart and might,<br />And ever has done since you first him knew,<br />3080 That you shall of your grace upon him rue take pity<br />And taken him for husband and for lord.<br />Lene me your hand, for this is our accord: Give<br />Let see now of your womanly pity.<br />He is a king's brother's son, pardee, by God<br />3085 And though he were a poor bachelor, knight<br />Since he has servd you so many year<br />And had for you so great adversity,<br />CANTERBURY TALES 78<br />1 3089: "Mercy is preferable to insisting on one's rights." The implication is that, by rights,<br />she should be married to a man of higher rank than Palamon.<br />It must be considered, 'lieveth me believe me<br />For gentle mercy aught to passen right.1<br />3090 Than said he thus to Palalmon the knight:<br />"I trow there needeth little sermoning I imagine / urging<br />To mak you assent unto this thing.<br />Come near and take your lady by the hand."<br />They marry and live happily ever after<br />Bitwixen them was made anon the bond<br />3095 That hight matrimony or marrïage, That is called<br />By all the council and the baronage.<br />And thus with all bliss and melody<br />Hath Palamon y-wedded Emily.<br />And God, that all this wid world has wrought, made<br />3100 Send him his love that has it dear abought; "him" = everyone<br />For now is Palamon in all weal, happiness<br />Living in bliss, in riches, and in heal, health<br />And Emily him loves so tenderly,<br />And he her serveth also gentilly,<br />3105 That never was there no word them between<br />Of jealousy or any other teen. vexation<br />Thus endeth Palamon and Emily,<br />And God save all this fair company.<br />Amen<br />The Miller's Portrait<br />The Miller’s Prologue<br />THE MILLER’S TALE<br />MILLER'S TALE 1<br />1 550: "There was no door that he could not heave off its hinges."<br />2 563: A phrase hard to explain. It is sometimes said to allude to a saying that an honest miller had a thumb<br />of gold, i.e. there is no such thing as an honest miller. But the phrase "And yet" after the information that the<br />miller is a thief, would seem to preclude that meaning, or another that has been suggested: his thumb, held on the<br />weighing scale, produced gold.<br />The Portrait of the pilgrim Miller from the General Prologue<br />The MILLER was a stout carl for the nones. strong fellow<br />Full big he was of brawn and eke of bones and also<br />That provd well, for over all there he came for, wherever<br />At wrestling he would have always the ram. prize<br />He was short-shouldered, broad, a thick knarre. rugged fellow<br />550 There was no door that he n'ould heave off harre 1 couldn't heave / the hinge<br />Or break it at a running with his head.<br />His beard as any sow or fox was red,<br />And thereto broad as though it were a spade. And also<br />Upon the copright of his nose he had tip<br />555 A wart, and thereon stood a tuft of hairs<br />Red as the bristles of a sow's ears.<br />His nosthirls black were and wide. nostrils<br />A sword and buckler bore he by his side. shield<br />His mouth as great was as a great furnace.<br />560 He was a jangler and a goliardese loud talker & joker<br />And that was most of sin and harlotries. & dirty talk<br />Well could he stealen corn and tolln thrice, take triple toll<br />And yet he had a thumb of gold pardee.2 by God<br />A white coat and a blue hood weard he.<br />565 A bagpipe well could he blow and sound<br />And therewithal he brought us out of town. And with that<br />CANTERBURY TALES 2<br />1 3118: "Telleth" (plural) is the polite form of the imperative singular here. It means "tell."<br />2 3124: In medieval mystery or miracle plays the biblical characters of Pontius Pilate and of<br />Herod were always represented as ranting loudly. Though all such plays that survive come from<br />after Chaucer's time, the tradition seems to have been already established.<br />PROLOGUE to the MILLER'S TALE<br />The Host is delighted with the success of his tale-telling suggestion: everyone<br />agrees that the Knight’s tale was a good one.<br />When that the knight had thus his tale y-told,<br />3110 In all the company ne was there young nor old there was nobody<br />That he ne said it was a noble story that didn't say<br />And worthy for to drawen to memory, keep in memory<br />And namely the gentles every one. especially the gentry<br />Our Host laughed and swore: "So may I gone! On my word!<br />3115 This goes aright. Unbuckled is the mail. bag<br />Let's see now who shall tell another tale,<br />For truly the game is well begun.<br />Now telleth you, sir Monk, if that you can,1<br />Somewhat to quit with the Knight's tale." something to match<br />3120 The Miller that fordrunken was all pale very drunk<br />So that unnethe upon his horse he sat. scarcely<br />He n'ould avalen neither hood nor hat wouldn't take off<br />N'abiden no man for his courtesy, Nor wait politely<br />But in Pilat's voice he gan to cry 2 a bullying voice<br />3125 And swore by arms, and by blood and bones:<br />"I can a noble tal for the nones I know / occasion<br />With which I will now quit the Knight's tale." requite, match<br />Our Host saw that he was drunk of ale<br />And said: "Abid, Robin, lev brother, Wait / dear<br />3130 Some better man shall tell us first another.<br />Abide, and let us worken thriftily."<br />"By God's soul," quod he, "that will not I,<br />For I will speak, or els go my way."<br />Our Host answered: "Tell on, a devil way. devil take you<br />MILLER'S TALE 3<br />1 The Reeve is angry because, as a onetime carpenter, he feels the tale is going to be directed<br />at him. He is probably right, and gets his revenge when his turn comes, by telling a tale where a<br />miller is the butt of the joke.<br />3135 Thou art a fool; thy wit is overcome."<br />"Now hearkeneth," quod the Miller, "all and some. listen / everyone<br />But first I make a protestatïon<br />That I am drunk; I know it by my sound<br />And therefore, if that I misspeak or say,<br />3140 Wit it the ale of Southwark, I you pray Blame<br />For I will tell a legend and a life<br />Both of a carpenter and of his wife,<br />How that a clerk hath set the wright's cap. fooled the worker<br />The Reeve, who has been a carpenter in his youth, suspects that this tale is going<br />to be directed at him<br />The Reeve answered and said: "Stint thy clap. Stop your chatter<br />3145 Let be thy lewd, drunken harlotry. 1<br />It is a sin and eke a great folly and also<br />T'apeiren any man or him defame To slander<br />And eke to bringen wivs in such fame. (bad) reputation<br />Thou may'st enough of other things sayn."<br />3150 This drunken Miller spoke full soon again<br />And said: "Lev brother Oswald, Dear<br />Who has no wife, he is no cuckold, betrayed husband<br />But I say not therefore that thou art one.<br />There be full good wivs — many a one,<br />3155 And ever a thousand good against one bad.<br />That know'st thou well thyself but if thou mad. unless thou art mad<br />Why art thou angry with my tal now?<br />I have a wife, pardee, as well as thou, by God<br />Yet, n'ould I for the oxen in my plough I would not<br />3160 Take upon me mor than enough<br />As deemen of myself that I were one. think / "one"= cuckold<br />I will believ well that I am none.<br />A husband shall not be inquisitive<br />CANTERBURY TALES 4<br />1 3162-6: A husband should not enquire about his wife's secrets or God's. Provided his wife<br />gives him all the sexual satisfaction he wants (God's foison, i.e. God's plenty), he should not<br />enquire into what else she may be doing.<br />2 3186: "Besides, you should not take seriously (make earnest) what was intended as a joke<br />(game)."<br />Of God's privity, nor of his wife. secrets, privacy<br />3165 So he may find God's foison there, Provided / G's plenty<br />Of the remnant needeth not enquire." 1<br />What should I mor say, but this Millér<br />He n'ould his words for no man forbear wouldn't restrain<br />But told his churl's tale. In his mannér, vulgar<br />3170 Methinketh that I shall rehearse it here. I think I'll retell<br />Once again the poet makes a mock apoplogy for the tale he is going to tell: he<br />has to tell the story as he has heard it from this rather vulgar fellow, a churl.<br />Those who do not like bawdy tales are given fair warning.<br />And therefore, every gentle wight I pray well bred person<br />Deem not, for God's lov, that I say Judge not<br />Of evil intent, but for I must rehearse because I must retell<br />Their tals all, be they better or worse,<br />3175 Or els falsen some of my mattér. falsify<br />And, therefore, whoso list it not to hear whoever wishes<br />Turn over the leaf and choose another tale,<br />For he shall find enough, great and small,<br />Of storial thing that toucheth gentleness of narratives / nobility<br />3180 And eke morality and holiness. also<br />Blameth not me if that you choose amiss. "Blameth"= Blame<br />The Miller is a churl; you know well this. low born man<br />So was the Reev eke and others mo' also / more<br />And harlotry they tolden both two. ribald tales<br />3185 Aviseth you and put me out of blame. Take care<br />And eke men shall not make earnest of game.2 seriousness of a joke<br />MILLER'S TALE 5<br />The Miller’s Tale<br />Introduction<br />The Miller's Tale is one of the great short stories in the English language and one<br />of the earliest. It is a fabliau, that is, a short merry tale, generally about people in<br />absurd and amusing circumstances, often naughty sexual predicaments. The<br />stories frequently involve a betrayed husband (the cuckold), his unfaithful wife,<br />and a cleric who is the wife's lover. Such tales were very popular in France (hence<br />the French term fabliau, pl. fabliaux).<br />The Miller calls his story a "legend and a life / Both of a carpenter and of his wife"<br />(3141-2). Legend and life both normally imply pious narratives, as in The Golden<br />Legend, a famous collection of lives of the saints. The Miller's story is not going<br />to be a pious tale about the most famous carpenter in Christian history, Joseph, or<br />his even more famous wife, Mary the mother of Christ. So there is a touch of<br />blasphemy about the Miller's phrase, especially as the mention of the triangle of<br />man, wife and clerk indicates that the story is going to be a fabliau. None of the<br />pilgims is bothered by this except the Reeve, who had been a carpenter in his<br />youth, according to the General Prologue. His remonstrations seems to be<br />personally rather than theologically motivated.<br />If you have read many French tales in a collection like that by R. Hellman and R.<br />O'Gorman, Fabliaux (N.Y., 1965), you will concede that Chaucer has raised this<br />kind of yarn-telling to an art that most of the French stories do not attain or even<br />aspire to. In most simple fabliaux names rarely matter, and the the plot always goes<br />thus: "There was this man who lived with his wife in a town, and there was this<br />priest . . ." Characters are indistinguishable from each other shortly after you have<br />read a few fabliaux.<br />By contrast the characters in The Miller's Tale—Absalom, Alison, John and<br />Nicholas—are very memorable, and the plot is deliciously intricate and drawn out<br />to an absurd and unnecessary complexity which is part of the joke. Even after<br />many readings the end still manages to surprise. These and other characters who<br />figure in Chaucer's elaborate plots have local habitations; they have names (often<br />CANTERBURY TALES 6<br />pretty distinctive names like Damian or Absalom); they have personalities, and<br />sometimes talk in quite distinctive ways, like the students with northern accents in<br />The Reeve's Tale.<br />There is no regional accent here, but Absalom's language when he is wooing<br />Alison (3698-3707) is a quaint mixture of the exotically Biblical, which goes with<br />his name, and the quaintly countrified, which goes with his home. He mixes scraps<br />of the biblical Song of Songs with mundane details of life in a small town. Alison's<br />response reverses the expected sexual roles; where he is dainty, she is blunt, not<br />so much daungerous as dangerous, even threatening to throw stones.<br />The Miller's Tale is the second of The Canterbury Tales coming immediately after<br />The Knight's Tale which it seems to parody, and before The Reeve's Tale which it<br />provokes. This kind of interaction between tales and tellers is one of the<br />distinguishing characteristics of Chaucer's collection that has often been<br />commented on.<br />At the opening of The Canterbury Tales the Knight draws the lot to tell the first<br />tale, a medieval romance which, like many others, tells of love and war. Set in a<br />distant time and place, his story involves two aristocratic young warriors in pursuit<br />of the same rather reluctant lady over whom they argue and fight with all the<br />elaborate motions of medieval courtly love and chivalry. One of them dies in the<br />fight, and the other gets the rather passive maiden as his prize.<br />The Miller's Tale, which immediately follows, is also about two young fellows<br />who are rivals for one girl. But there is no exotic locale here and no aristocratic<br />milieu. Instead we have a small English university town, where students lodge in<br />the houses of townspeople. The girl in question is no reluctant damsel, but the<br />young, pretty and discontented wife of an old carpenter in whose house Nicholas<br />the student (or "clerk") lodges. There is plenty of competition here too, but the<br />love talking is more country than courtly; the only battle is an uproarious exchange<br />of hot air and hot plowshare, and the principal cheeks kissed are not on the face.<br />Chaucer deliberately makes this wonderfully farcical tale follow immediately upon<br />the Knight's long, elegant story of aristocratic battle and romance, which he has<br />just shown he can write so well, even if he writes it aslant. He is, perhaps, implying<br />slyly that the titled people, the exotic locale, and the chivalric jousting of the The<br />Knight's Tale are really about much the same thing as the more homely antics of<br />MILLER'S TALE 7<br />the boyos and housewives of Oxford. The deliberate juxtaposition of the tales is<br />suggestive, but the reader must decide.<br />In a much-used translation of the Canterbury Tales from the early years of this<br />century, by Tatlock and Mackaye, The Miller's Tale is censored so heavily that the<br />reader is hard put to it to tell what is going on. Custom at that time and for long<br />afterward did not permit the bawdiness of the tale to be accepted "frankly," as we<br />would now put it. This squeamishness was not peculiar to the late Victorian<br />sensibility, however. Chaucer himself realized that some people of his own day<br />(like some in ours) might well take exception to the "frank" treatment of<br />adulterous sex. So, just before the tale proper begins, he does warn any readers of<br />delicate sensibility who do not wish to hear ribald tales, and invites them to "turn<br />over the leaf and choose another tale" of a different kind, for he does have some<br />pious and moral stories.<br />Along with the warning to the reader comes a kind of apologetic excuse: Chaucer<br />pretends that he was a real pilgrim on that memorable journey to Canterbury, and<br />that he is now simply and faithfully reproducing a tale told by another real pilgrim,<br />a miller by trade. Such fellows are often coarse, naturally, but Chaucer cannot<br />help that, he says. If he is to do his job properly, he must reproduce the tale<br />exactly, complete with accounts of naughty acts and churlish words. Of course,<br />nobody has given Chaucer any such job. There is no real miller; he is totally<br />Chaucer's creation—words, warts and all. Drunken medieval millers did not speak<br />in polished couplets, and a medieval reeve who brought up the rear of a mounted<br />procession of thirty people could not indulge in verbal sparring with someone who<br />headed up that same procession. We are clearly dealing with fiction in spite of<br />Chaucer's jocose attempt to excuse himself for telling entertaining indecorous<br />tales.<br />Another excuse and warning: it is only a joke, he says; one "should not make<br />earnest of game," a warning often neglected by solemn critics.<br />Some Linguistic Notes<br />Spelling:<br />Sometimes the same word occurs with and without pronounced -  :<br />CANTERBURY TALES 8<br />tubbes at line3626, but tubs at 3627; legges 3330; deare spouse 3610 but hoste<br />lief and dear 3501; carpenter occurs often, but its possessive consistently has and<br />-e- at the end: carpenter's; goode 3154 & good 3155; sweet 3206; sweete 3219;<br />young 3225, younge 3233.<br />Y-: y-told, has y-take, y-covered, y-clad. The words mean the same with or<br />without the y-<br />-en: withouten, I will not tellen; I shall saven. Again, the words mean the same<br />with or without the - (e)n.<br />Rhymes:<br />sail, counsel; Nicholas, rhymes with alas, was, solace, case;<br />likerous / mouse. wood, blood, flood 3507-8, 3518 (See also Stress below)<br />Stress:<br />Mostly míller, but millér (3167); certáin to rhyme with sayn and again(3495) but<br />cértain 3 times<br />MILLER'S TALE 9<br />1 3191-2: He had studied the Seven Liberal Arts: Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic (the<br />Trivium); the Quadrivium covered Arithmetic, Geometry, Music, Astrology. Then, as now, there<br />was little money in most of these; then, as now, the most profitable was probably astrology,<br />which then included genuine astronomy.<br />2 3199: M.E. hende (which I have rendered "handy") meant a variety of things, all relevant<br />to Nicholas: close at hand; pleasant; goodlooking; clever; and, as we shall see, handy, i.e. good<br />with his hands.<br />3 3200: "He knew about secret (derne) love and (sexual) pleasure (solace)".<br />THE MILLER'S TALE<br />Whilom there was dwelling at Oxenford Once upon a time<br />A rich gnof that guests held to board fellow who kept lodgers<br />And of his craft he was a carpenter. And by trade<br />3190 With him there was dwelling a poor scholar<br />Had learnd art, but all his fantasy all his attention<br />Was turnd for to learn astrology;1<br />And could a certain of conclusïons knew some<br />To deemen by interrogatïons judge by observation<br />3195 If that men askd him in certain hours<br />When that men should have drought or els showers,<br />Or if men askd him what shall befall.<br />Of everything, I may not reckon them all.<br />A pen portrait of Handy Nicholas, the lodger<br />This clerk was clepd Handy Nicholas.2 was called<br />3200 Of dern love he could and of solace 3<br />And thereto he was sly and full privy And also / secretive<br />And like a maiden meek for to see.<br />A chamber had he in that hostelry<br />Alone, withouten any company,<br />3205 Full fetisly y-dight with herbs soot nicely strewn / sweet<br />And he himself as sweet as is the root<br />Of liquorice or any setwale. (a spice)<br />His Almagest and books great and small, His astrology text<br />His astrolab longing for his art, belonging to<br />CANTERBURY TALES 10<br />1 3208-10: The Almagest was a standard text in astrology; an astrolabe was an instrument for<br />calculating the position of heavenly bodies, an early sextant. Augrim (algorithm) stones were<br />counters for use in mathematical calculations.<br />2 3216-7: "Angelus ad Virginem," the Angel to the Virgin (Mary), a religious song about the<br />Annunciation. "King's note" (3217) has not been satisfactorily explained.<br />3 3220: Supported by his friends and with his own earnings (from astrology?).<br />4 3226: "And he thought it likely he would become a cuckold (i.e. a betrayed husband)."<br />5 3227: Cato was the name given to the author of a Latin book commonly used in medieval<br />schools, which contained wise sayings like: People should marry partners of similar rank and<br />age.<br />3210 His augrim stons lying fair apart 1 algorithm stones<br />On shelvs couchd at his bedd's head, placed<br />His press y-covered with a falding red cupboard / red cloth<br />And all above there lay a gay sautry fine guitar<br />On which he made a-nights melody at night<br />3215 So sweetly that all the chamber rang<br />And "Angelus ad Virginem" he sang.2<br />And after that he sang the king's note.<br />Full often blessd was his merry throat.<br />And thus this sweet clerk his tim spent<br />3220 After his friends' finding and his rent.3<br />This carpenter had wedded new a wife<br />Which that he lovd mor than his life.<br />Of 18 years she was of age.<br />Jealous he was and held her narrow in cage, cooped up<br />3225 For she was wild and young and he was old<br />And deemed himself be like a cuckwold.4<br />He knew not Cato, for his wit was rude,5 uneducated<br />That bade a man should wed his similitude. one like himself<br />Men should wedden after their estate, according to status<br />3230 For youth and eld is often at debate, age / at odds<br />But since that he was fallen in the snare,<br />He must endure, as other folk, his care.<br />A pen portrait of Alison, the attractive young wife of the old carpenter<br />.<br />MILLER'S TALE 11<br />Fair was this young wife, and therewithal Pretty / & also<br />As any weasel her body gent and small. slim<br />3235 A ceint she weard, barrd all of silk belt / striped<br />A barmcloth eke as white as morning milk apron<br />Upon her lends, full of many a gore. hips / pleat<br />White was her smock and broiden all before embroidered<br />And eke behind and on her collar about And also<br />3240 Of coal black silk within and eke without.<br />The taps of her whit voluper cap<br />Were of the sam suit of her collar; same kind<br />Her fillet broad of silk and set full high. headband<br />And sikerly she had a likerous eye. seductive<br />3245 Full small y-pulld were her brows two well plucked<br />And those were bent and black as any sloe arched / berry<br />She was full mor blissful on to see<br />Than is the new pear-jennetting tree, early-ripening pear<br />And softer than the wool is of a wether. sheep<br />3250 And by her girdle hung a purse of leather her belt<br />Tasselled with silk and pearld with lattoun. beaded with brass<br />In all this world to seeken up and down<br />There is no man so wis that could thench imagine<br />So gay a popelot or such a wench. So pretty a doll / girl<br />3255 Full brighter was the shining of her hue complexion<br />Than in the Tower the noble forgd new. in the Mint the coin<br />But of her song, it was as loud and yern eager<br />As any swallow sitting on a barn.<br />Thereto she could skip and make a game Also / & play<br />3260 As any kid or calf following his dame. his mother<br />Her mouth was sweet as bragot or the meeth (sweet drinks)<br />Or hoard of apples laid in hay or heath. or heather<br />Wincing she was as is a jolly colt, Lively<br />Long as a mast and upright as a bolt.<br />3265 A brooch she bore upon her lower collar<br />As broad as is the boss of a buckeler. knob of a shield<br />Her shoes were lacd on her leggs high.<br />She was a primerole, a piggy's-eye (names of flowers)<br />For any lord to layen in his bed<br />CANTERBURY TALES 12<br />1 3278: "I will die (I spill) of suppressed (derne) desire for you, sweetheart (lemman)."<br />2 3281: "I will die, I declare to God."<br />3 3295-6: "Unless you are patient and discreet (privy), I know (I wot) well that I am as good<br />as dead."<br />3270 Or yet for any good yeoman to wed.<br />Handy Nick’s very direct approach to Alison<br />.<br />Now sir, and eft sir, so befell the case and again<br />That on a day this Handy Nicholas<br />Fell with this young wife to rage and play Began ... to flirt<br />While that her husband was at Osnay,<br />3275 As clerks be full subtle and full quaint; v. clever & ingenious<br />And privily he caught her by the quaint crotch<br />And said: "Y-wis, but if I have my will, Certainly, unless<br />For dern love of thee, lemman, I spill."1 secret / darling<br />And held her hard by the haunch bones<br />3280 And said: "Lemman, love me all at once sweetheart<br />Or I will die, all so God me save." 2<br />And she sprang as a colt does in the trave in the shafts<br />And with her head she wrid fast away twisted<br />And said: "I will not kiss thee, by my fay. faith<br />3285 Why, let be," quod she, "let be, Nicholas<br />Or I will cry out `Harrow!' and `Alas!' (Cries of alarm)<br />Do way your hands, for your courtesy." for your c. = please!<br />This Nicholas gan mercy for to cry forgiveness<br />And spoke so fair, and proffered him so fast, pressed her<br />3290 That she her love him granted at the last.<br />And swore her oath by Saint Thomas of Kent<br />That she would be at his commandment<br />When that she may her leisure well espy. see a good chance<br />"My husband is so full of jealousy<br />3295 That but you wait well and be privy, That unless / & be discreet<br />I wot right well I n'am but dead," quod she.3<br />"You must be full derne as in this case." v. secretive<br />"Nay, thereof care thee not," quod Nicholas.<br />MILLER'S TALE 13<br />1 3299-3300: "A student would have used his time badly if he could not fool a carpenter."<br />2 3312-13: This clerk -- the town dandy, surgeon barber and lay lawyer -- is not a student nor<br />a priest but a lay assistant to the pastor of the parish. Absalom or Absolon was an unusual name<br />for an Englishman in the 14th century. The biblical Absalom was a byword for male, somewhat<br />effeminate beauty, especially of his hair: "In all Israel there was none so much praised as<br />Absalom for his beauty. And when he polled his head ... he weighed the hair at two hundred<br />shekels." (II Sam. 14:25-6).<br />3 3317: "He had a pink complexion and goose-grey eyes." Goose-grey or glass-grey eyes were<br />generally reserved for heroines of romances.<br />4 A design cut into the shoe leather which resembled the windows of St Paul's cathedral, the<br />height of fashion, presumably.<br />"A clerk had litherly beset his while<br />3300 But if he could a carpenter beguile." 1<br />And thus they be accorded and y-swore agreed & sworn<br />To wait a time, as I have said before.<br />When Nicholas had done thus every deal<br />And thwackd her upon the lends well, patted her bottom<br />3305 He kissed her sweet and taketh his sautry guitar<br />And playeth fast and maketh melody.<br />Enter another admirer, the foppish parish assistant, Absalom or Absalon<br />Then fell it thus, that to the parish church<br />Of Christ's own works for to work<br />This good wife went upon a holy day.<br />3310 Her forehead shone as bright as any day,<br />So was it washd when she let her work. left<br />Now was there of that church a parish clerk<br />The which that was y-clepd Absalon.2 who was called<br />A pen portrait of Absalom, a man of many talents<br />Curled was his hair, and as the gold it shone,<br />3315 And strouted as a fan, large and broad. spread<br />Full straight and even lay his jolly shode. his neat hair parting<br />His rode was red, his eyen grey as goose.3 complexion / eyes<br />With Paul's windows carven on his shoes.4 St. Paul's<br />CANTERBURY TALES 14<br />1 3341: It was the custom at one or more points in the service for the clerk or altarboy to turn<br />to the congregation swinging the incense (censing) several times in their direction as a gesture of<br />respect and blessing.<br />In hosen red he went full fetisly. red stockings / stylishly<br />3320 Y-clad he was full small and properly neatly<br />All in a kirtle of a light waget. tunic of light blue<br />Full fair and thick be the points set. laces<br />And thereupon he had a gay surplice church vestment<br />As white as is the blossom upon the rise. bough<br />3325 A merry child he was, so God me save. lad / I declare<br />Well could he letten blood, and clip and shave, draw blood & cut hair<br />And make a charter of land or aquittance. or quitclaim<br />In twenty manner could he skip and dance 20 varieties<br />After the school of Oxenford tho In Oxford style there<br />3330 And with his leggs casten to and fro kick<br />And playen songs upon a small ribible. fiddle<br />Thereto he sang sometimes a loud quinible Also / treble<br />And as well could he play on a gitern. guitar<br />In all the town n'as brewhouse nor tavern there wasn't<br />3335 That he ne visited with his solace entertainment<br />Where any gaillard tapster was. pretty barmaid<br />But sooth to say, he was somedeal squeamish<br />Of farting, and of speech daungerous. fastidious<br />Absalom notices Alison in church<br />This Absalom that jolly was and gay & well dressed<br />3340 Goes with a censer on the holy day incense burner<br />Censing the wivs of the parish fast,1<br />And many a lovely look on them he cast<br />And namely on this carpenter's wife. especially<br />To look on her him thought a merry life. seemed to him<br />3345 She was so proper and sweet and likerous, pretty / seductive<br />I dare well say, if she had been a mouse<br />And he a cat, he would her hent anon. seize her at once<br />This parish clerk, this jolly Absalon,<br />MILLER'S TALE 15<br />1 3354: Either "For love's sake he intended to stay awake" or "For lovers he intended to<br />serenade."<br />2 3358: "Took up his position near a shuttered window."<br />3 3361: Addressing a carpenter's wife as "lady" was far more flattering in the 14th century<br />than it would be now.<br />4 3370: "This went on. What can I say?"<br />Hath in his heart such a love longing<br />3350 That of no wife ne took he no offering.<br />For courtesy, he said, he would none. would (take)<br />Absalom serenades Alison<br />The moon when it was night, full bright shone<br />And Absalom his gitern has y-take guitar<br />For paramours he thought for to wake;1<br />3355 And forth he goes, jolly and amorous,<br />Till he came to the carpenter's house<br />A little after the cocks had y-crow, had crowed<br />And dressed him up by a shot window 2<br />That was upon the carpenter's wall.<br />3360 He singeth in his voice gentle and small:<br />"Now, dear lady, if thy will be,3<br />I pray you that you will rue on me," have pity<br />Full well accordant to his giterning. w. guitar accompaniment<br />This carpenter awoke and heard him sing<br />3365 And spoke unto his wife and said anon:<br />"What, Alison, hear'st thou not Absalon<br />That chanteth thus under our bower's wall?" bedroom<br />“Yes, God wot, John. I hear it every deal.”<br />Absalom courts her by every means he can<br />3370 This passeth forth. What will you bet than well? 4<br />From day to day this jolly Absalon<br />So wooeth her that he is woe-begone.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 16<br />1 3384: Absalom seems rather miscast as Herod in a mystery play. Herod, like Pilate, is<br />always portrayed as a tyrant in such plays, and he rants, roars and threatens. His voice is never<br />"gentle and small." Hence Hamlet's later complaint about ham actors who "out-herod Herod."<br />See 3124 above.<br />2 3392-3: "The sly one who is nearby (nigh) causes the more distant beloved (the farr lev)<br />to become unloved." i.e. Absence makes the heart grow farther.<br />He waketh all the night and all the day, He stays awake<br />He combed his locks broad and made him gay. & dressed up<br />3375 He wooeth her by means and by brocage by proxies & agents<br />And swore he would be her own page. servant boy<br />He singeth, brocking as a nightingale. trilling<br />He sent her piment, mead and spicd ale flavored wine<br />And wafers piping hot out of the gleed out of the fire<br />3380 And for she was of town, he proffered meed; And because / money<br />For some folk will be wonn for richesse won by riches<br />And some for strokes, and some for gentleness. by beating<br />Sometimes to show his lightness and mastery agility & skill<br />He playeth Herods upon a scaffold high.1 stage<br />Absalom’s wooing is in vain: she loves Handy Nick<br />3385 But what availeth him as in this case?<br />So loveth she this Handy Nicholas<br />That Absalom may blow the buck's horn. whistle in wind<br />He ne had for his labor but a scorn. had not<br />And thus she maketh Absalom her ape<br />3390 And all his earnest turneth to a jape. joke<br />Full sooth is this provérb, it is no lie, v. true<br />Men say right thus: "Always the nigh sly near sly one<br />Maketh the farr leev to be loth." 2 farther beloved / hated<br />For though that Absalom be wood or wroth, mad or angry<br />3395 Because that he was farr from her sight farther<br />This nigh Nicholas stood in his light. closer N.<br />Now bear thee well, thou Handy Nicholas, be happy<br />For Absalom may wail and sing "Alas!"<br />Nicholas concocts an elaborate plan so that he can make love to Alison<br />MILLER'S TALE 17<br />And so befell it on a Saturday<br />3400 This carpenter was gone to Osnay<br />And Handy Nicholas and Alison<br />Accorded been to this conclusïon: Have agreed<br />That Nicholas shall shapen them a wile devise a trick<br />This silly jealous husband to beguile, to deceive<br />3405 And if so be this gam went aright,<br />She should sleepen in his arms all night,<br />For this was her desire and his also.<br />And right anon withouten words mo' more<br />This Nicholas no longer would he tarry<br />3410 But doth full soft unto his chamber carry<br />Both meat and drink for a day or tway, Both food & / two<br />And to her husband bade her for to say<br />If that he askd after Nicholas,<br />She should say she n'ist where he was; did not know<br />3415 Of all that day she saw him not with eye.<br />She trowd that he was in malady, She guessed / sick<br />For, for no cry her maiden could him call. maid<br />He n'ould answer, for nothing that might fall. would not / happen<br />This passeth forth all thilk Saturday all that<br />3420 That Nicholas still in his chamber lay<br />And ate and slept or did what him lest did w. pleased him<br />Till Sunday that the sunn goes to rest. sun<br />The carpenter, worried about Nick’s absence, sends a servant up to enquire<br />This silly carpenter has great marvel<br />Of Nicholas or what thing might him ail,<br />3425 And said: "I am adread, by St. Thomás,<br />It standeth not aright with Nicholas.<br />God shield that he died suddenly. God forbid<br />This world is now full tickle sikerly. unsure certainly<br />I saw today a corps borne to church<br />3430 That now on Monday last I saw him work."<br />“Go up," quod he unto his knave anon. servant lad, then<br />CANTERBURY TALES 18<br />1 3455-6: "Blessed is the illiterate man who knows (can) nothing but his belief [in God]."<br />"Clepe at his door, or knock with a stone. Call<br />Look how it is and tell me boldly."<br />This knav goes him up full sturdily.<br />3435 And at the chamber door while that he stood,<br />He cried and knockd as that he were wood: mad<br />"What! How? What do you, Master Nicholay?<br />How may you sleepen all the long day?"<br />But all for nought; he heard not a word.<br />3440 A hole he found full low upon a board he = boy<br />There as the cat was wont in for to creep, was accustomed<br />And at that hole he lookd in full deep<br />And at the last he had of him a sight.<br />This Nicholas sat ever gaping upright<br />3445 As he had kikd on the new moon. gaped<br />Adown he goes and told his master soon<br />In what array he saw this ilk man. condition / this same<br />The carpenter shakes his head at the excessive curiosity of intellectuals.<br />He is glad that he is just a simple working man<br />This carpenter to blessen him began bless himself<br />And said: "Help us, St. Fridswide. (an Oxford saint)<br />3450 A man wot little what shall him betide. knows / happen<br />This man is fall, with his astronomy,<br />In some woodness or in some agony. madness / fit<br />I thought aye well how that it should be. I always knew<br />Men should not know of God's privity. secrets<br />3455 Yea, blessd be always a lewd man an illiterate man<br />That nought but only his belief can. 1<br />So fared another clerk with astromy. astronomy<br />He walkd in the fields for to pry<br />Upon the stars, what there should befall—<br />3460 Till he was in a marlpit y-fall. claypit<br />He saw not that. But yet, by St. Thomás,<br />Me reweth sore of Handy Nicholas. It grieves me<br />MILLER'S TALE 19<br />1 3474: The carpenter's fine theological judgement diagnoses the symptoms as those of<br />someone who has succumbed to one of the two sins against the virtue of Hope, namely Despair.<br />He is wrong; Nicholas's defect is the other sin against Hope--Presumption.<br />2 3479-80: "`I make the sign of the cross [to protect] you from elves and [evil] creatures.'<br />Then he said the night prayer at once."<br />3 3483-6: The third and fourth lines of this "prayer" are pious gobbledygook of the carpenter's<br />creation, a version of some prayer he has heard or rather misheard. Pater Noster is Latin for Our<br />Father, the Lord’s Prayer, but white P.N. is obscure, as is verie. Soster for the more usual suster<br />may be an attempt at dialect usage.<br />He shall be rated of his studying, rebuked<br />If that I may, by Jesus, heaven's king.<br />With Robin’s help he breaks down the door to Nick’s room<br />3465 Get me a staff, that I may underspore, lever up<br />Whilst that thou, Robin, heavest up the door.<br />He shall out of his studying, as I guess."<br />And to the chamber door he gan him dress. he applied himself<br />His knav was a strong carl for the nonce strong fellow indeed<br />3470 And by the hasp he heaved it up at once.<br />On to the floor the door fell anon.<br />This Nicholas sat aye as still as stone stayed sitting<br />And ever gapd up into the air.<br />This carpenter wend he were in despair 1 thought he was<br />3475 And hent him by the shoulder mightily seized<br />And shook him hard and crid spitously: vehemently<br />"What Nicholay! What how! What! Look adown.<br />Awake and think on Christ's passïon.<br />I crouch thee from elvs and from wights." I bless / (evil) creatures<br />3480 Therewith the night-spell said he anonrights 2<br />On four halvs of the house about sides<br />And on the threshold of the door without.<br />"Jesus Christ, and Saint Benedict<br />Bless this house from every wicked wight,<br />3485 For the night's verie, the whit Pater Noster.<br />Where wentest thou, Saint Peter's soster?" 3 sister<br />CANTERBURY TALES 20<br />1 3512: A favorite medieval legend told how Christ, in the interval between His death on the<br />cross and His resurrection, went to Hell (or Limbo) to rescue from Satan's power the Old<br />Testament heroes and heroines from Adam and Eve onwards. This was the Harrowing of Hell.<br />Nicholas finally pretends to come to, and promises to tell the carpenter a secret in<br />strictest confidence<br />And at the last, this Handy Nicholas<br />Gan for to sigh sore and said: "Alas!<br />Shall all the world be lost eftsoons now?" right now<br />3490 This carpenter answered: "What sayest thou?<br />What, think on God, as we do, men that swink." work<br />This Nicholas answered: "Fetch me drink.<br />And after will I speak in privity privacy<br />Of certain things that toucheth me and thee. concern me<br />3495 I will tell it to no other man, certáin."<br />This carpenter goes down and comes again<br />And brought of mighty ale a larg quart<br />And when that each of them had drunk his part<br />This Nicholas his door fast shut<br />3500 And down the carpenter by him he sat<br />And said: "John, my host lief and dear, lief = beloved<br />Thou shalt upon thy truth swear to me here<br />That to no wight thou shall this counsel wray, no person / divulge<br />For it is Christ's counsel that I say,<br />3505 And if thou tell it man, thou art forlore, man=anyone / lost<br />For this vengeanc shalt thou have therefore<br />That if thou wray me, thou shalt be wood." betray me / go mad<br />"Nay, Christ forbid it for his holy blood,"<br />Quod then this silly man. "I am no labb. blabber<br />3510 And though I say, I am not lief to gab. not fond of gabbing<br />Say what thou wilt. I shall it never tell<br />To child nor wife, by Him that harrowed Hell." 1 i.e. by Christ<br />There is going to be a new Deluge like the biblical one, but Nicholas can save<br />only the carpenter and his wife -- IF John does as he is told<br />MILLER'S TALE 21<br />1 3527: "If you will follow advice and counsel."<br />2 3538 ff: A favorite character in medieval miracle plays was "Mrs Noah" who stubbornly<br />"Now, John," quod Nicholas, "I will not lie.<br />I have found in my astrology<br />3515 As I have lookd on the moon bright<br />That now on Monday next, at quarter night about 9 p.m.<br />Shall fall a rain, and that so wild and wood furious<br />That half so great was never Noah's flood.<br />This world," he said, "in less than an hour<br />3520 Shall all be drenched, so hideous is the shower. drowned<br />Thus shall mankind drench and lose their life."<br />This carpenter answered: "Alas, my wife!<br />And shall she drench? Alas, my Alison!"<br />For sorrow of this he fell almost adown<br />3525 And said: "Is there no remedy in this case?"<br />"Why, yes, 'fore God," quod Handy Nicholas, before God<br />"If thou wilt worken after lore and redde.1 by advice & counsel<br />Thou mayst not worken after thine own head.<br />For thus says Solomon that was full true:<br />3530 `Work all by counsel and thou shalt not rue.' by advice / regret<br />And if thou worken wilt by good counsel,<br />I undertake, withouten mast or sail,<br />Yet shall I saven her and thee and me.<br />Hast thou not heard how savd was Noë Noah<br />3535 When that Our Lord had warnd him before<br />That all the world with water should be lore?" lost<br />"Yes," quod this carpenter, "full yore ago." long ago<br />Nicholas gives John instructions on how to prepare for the Flood<br />"Hast thou not heard," quod Nicholas, "also<br />The sorrow of Noah with his fellowship and his family<br />3540 Ere that he might get his wife to ship? Before he could<br />Him had lever, I dare well undertake, He'd rather / I bet<br />At thilk time, than all his wethers black, At that time / sheep<br />That she had had a ship herself alone.2 to herself<br />CANTERBURY TALES 22<br />refuses to leave her cronies and her bottle of wine to go aboard the ark. She has to be dragged to<br />the ark, and she boxes Noah's ears for his pains. She is the quintessential shrew. Hence the idea<br />that Noah would have given all his prize sheep if she could have had a ship to herself.<br />And therefore, wost thou what is best to done? know you?/ to do<br />3545 This asketh haste, and of a hasty thing<br />Men may not preach or maken tarrying. or delay<br />Anon, go get us fast into this inn Quickly / house<br />A kneading trough or else a kimelin tub<br />For each of us; but look that they be large<br />3550 In which we mayen swim as in a barge.<br />And have therein victuals sufficient food enough<br />But for a day. Fie on the remnant! Never mind the rest!<br />The water shall aslake and go away slacken off<br />About prime upon the next day. About 9 a.m.<br />3555 But Robin may not wit of this, thy knave, not know / servant<br />Nor eke thy maiden Gill I may not save.<br />Ask not why, for though thou ask me<br />I will not tellen God's privity. secrets<br />Sufficeth thee, but if thy witts mad, unless you're mad<br />3560 To have as great a grace as Noah had.<br />Thy wife shall I well saven, out of doubt.<br />Go now thy way, and speed thee hereabout. busy yourself<br />But when thou hast for her and thee and me<br />Y-gotten us these kneading tubbes three, tubs<br />3565 Then shalt thou hang them in the roof full high,<br />That no man of our purveyance espy. preparations<br />And when thou thus hast done as I have said<br />And hast our victuals fair in them y-laid our supplies<br />And eke an axe to smite the cord a-two, And also / cut in two<br />3570 When that the water comes, that we may go<br />And break a hole on high upon the gable<br />Unto the garden-ward, over the stable<br />That we may freely passen forth our way<br />When that the great shower is gone away —-<br />3575 Then shalt thou swim as merry, I undertake,<br />As does the whit duck after her drake.<br />Then will I clepe: "How, Alison! How, John! I will call<br />MILLER'S TALE 23<br />Be merry, for the flood will pass anon." soon<br />And thou wilt say: "Hail, Master Nicholay.<br />3580 Good morrow. I see thee well, for it is day."<br />And then shall we be lords all our life<br />Of all the world, as Noah and his wife.<br />Further instructions on how to behave on the night of the Flood<br />But of one thing I warn thee full right:<br />Be well advisd on that ilk night that same<br />3585 That we be entered into shipp's board<br />That none of us ne speak not a word<br />Nor clepe nor cry, but be in his prayer call out<br />For it is God's own hest dear. solemn order<br />Thy wife and thou must hang far a-twin asunder<br />3590 For that betwixt you shall be no sin,<br />No more in looking than there shall in deed.<br />This ordinance is said. Go, God thee speed. This order is given<br />Tomorrow at night, when men be all asleep,<br />Into our kneading tubbs will we creep<br />3595 And sitten there, abiding God's grace. awaiting<br />Go now thy way, I have no longer space<br />To make of this no longer sermoning.<br />Men say thus: `Send the wise and say nothing.'<br />Thou art so wise, it needeth thee not teach.<br />3600 Go, save our lives, and that I thee beseech."<br />John tells the plans to his wife (who already knows). He installs the big tubs on<br />the house roof, and supplies them with food and drink<br />This silly carpenter goes forth his way.<br />Full oft he said: "Alas!" and "Welaway!" (cries of dismay)<br />And to his wife he told his privity<br />And she was 'ware and knew it bet than he aware / better<br />3605 What all this quaint cast was for to say. elaborate plot<br />But natheless, she fared as she would die, she acted<br />And said "Alas! Go forth thy way anon.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 24<br />1 3637: A "furlong way" is the time it takes to walk a furlong (1/8 of a mile)--about 2 or 3<br />minutes.<br />Help us to 'scape, or we be dead each one.<br />I am thy tru, very, wedded wife. thy loyal, faithful<br />3610 Go, dear spouse, and help to save our life."<br />Lo, which a great thing is affectïon. See what / feeling<br />Men may die of imaginatïon,<br />So deep may impressïon be take. be made<br />This silly carpenter beginneth quake. shake<br />3615 Him thinketh verily that he may see<br />Noah's flood come wallowing as the sea<br />To drenchen Alison, his honey dear. To drown<br />He weepeth, waileth, maketh sorry cheer.<br />He sigheth, with full many a sorry swough. sigh<br />3620 He goes and getteth him a kneading trough,<br />And after that a tub and kimelin, vat<br />And privily he sent them to his inn secretly / house<br />And hung them in the roof in privity. in secrecy<br />His own hand, he mad ladders three (With) his own<br />3625 To climben by the rungs and the stalks rungs & uprights<br />Unto the tubbs hanging in the balks, rafters<br />And them he victualled, both trough and tub, he supplied<br />With bread and cheese and good ale in a jub jug<br />Sufficing right enough as for a day.<br />3630 But ere that he had made all this array, before / ready<br />He sent his knave and eke his wench also servant boy & girl<br />Upon his need to London for to go. On his business<br />On the fateful night all three get into their separate tubs, and say their prayers<br />And on the Monday, when it drew to night,<br />He shut his door withouten candle light,<br />3635 And dressd all thing as it should be. prepared everything<br />And shortly up they clomben all three. climbed<br />They sitten still, well a furlong way.1 few minutes<br />"Now, Pater Noster, clum," said Nicholay. Our Father,<br />MILLER'S TALE 25<br />1 3638-9: "Pater Noster": the first words of the Latin version of the Lord's Prayer: Our Father.<br />The "Clum" is meaningless, possibly a corrupt version of the end of "in saecula saeculorum," a<br />common ending for prayers. Thus the whole prayer is ignorantly (and irreverently) reduced to<br />beginning and ending formulas.<br />And "Clum," quod John, and "Clum," said Alison.1<br />3640 This carpenter said his devotion<br />And still he sits and biddeth his prayer offers<br />Awaiting on the rain if he it hear.<br />The dead sleep, for weary busy-ness,<br />Fell on this carpenter, right (as I guess)<br />3645 About curfew time or little more. About nightfall<br />For travailing of his ghost he groaneth sore In agony of spirit<br />And eft he routeth, for his head mislay. also he snored<br />This is the moment that Nicholas and Alison have been waiting and planning for<br />Down off the ladder stalketh Nicholay slips<br />And Alison full soft adown she sped.<br />3650 Withouten words more, they go to bed<br />There as the carpenter is wont to lie. is accustomed<br />There was the revel and the melody.<br />And thus lie Alison and Nicholas<br />In busyness of mirth and of soláce enjoyment<br />3655 Till that the bell of lauds gan to ring bell for morning service<br />And friars in the chancel gan to sing. in the church<br />Absalom, thinking that the carpenter is absent, comes serenading again<br />This parish clerk, this amorous Absalon,<br />That is for love always so woe-begone,<br />Upon the Monday was at Oseney<br />3660 With company, him to disport and play,<br />And askd upon case a cloisterer by chance a monk<br />Full privily after John the carpenter, V. quietly about<br />And he drew him apart out of the church.<br />And said: "I n'ot; I saw him here not work I don't know<br />3665 Since Saturday; I trow that he be went I guess he's gone<br />CANTERBURY TALES 26<br />1 3689: "Dresses himself to the nines in all his finery."<br />For timber, there our abbot has him sent.<br />For he is wont for timber for to go<br />And dwellen at the grange a day or two; at outlying farm<br />Or els he is at his house certáin.<br />3670 Where that he be I cannot soothly sayn."<br />This Absalom full jolly was and light<br />And thought: "Now is time to wake all night,<br />For sikerly I saw him not stirring certainly<br />About his door, since day began to spring.<br />3675 So may I thrive, I shall at cock's crow On my word!<br />Full privily knocken at his window<br />That stands full low upon his bower's wall. bedroom wall<br />To Alison now will I tellen all<br />My love longing, for yet I shall not miss<br />3680 That at the least way I shall her kiss.<br />Some manner comfort shall I have parfay. in faith<br />My mouth has itchd all this long day.<br />That is a sign of kissing at the least.<br />All night me mette eke I was at a feast. I dreamed also<br />3685 Therefore I will go sleep an hour or tway, two<br />And all the night then will I wake and play." & have fun<br />When that the first cock has crowed anon<br />Up rist this jolly lover, Absalon riseth<br />And him arrayeth gay at point devise.1<br />3690 But first he cheweth grain and liquorice cardamom<br />To smellen sweet. Ere he had combed his hair,<br />Under his tongue a trulove he bare, spice he put<br />For thereby wend he to be gracious. hoped to be attractive<br />He roameth to the carpenter's house<br />3695 And he stands still under the shot window. shuttered<br />Unto his breast it rought, it was so low, reached<br />And soft he cougheth with a semi-sound. gentle sound<br />"What do you, honeycomb, sweet Alison?<br />MILLER'S TALE 27<br />1 3713: "The devil take you twenty times"<br />2 3715: The line might be read: "That tru love was e'er so ill beset."<br />My fair bird, my sweet cinnamon.<br />Awaketh, lemman mine, and speak to me.<br />Well little thinketh you upon my woe<br />That for your love I sweat where I go.<br />No wonder is though that I swelt and sweat.<br />I mourn as does the lamb after the teat.<br />3705 Ywis, lemman, I have such love longing Indeed, dear<br />That like a turtle true is my mourning. turtle-dove<br />I may not eat no mor than a maid."<br />Alison’s ungracious verbal response<br />"Go from the window, Jack Fool," she said.<br />"As help me God, it will not be `Compame'. `Come kiss me'(?)<br />3710 I love another (or else I were to blame)<br />Well bet than thee, by Jesus, Absalon. better<br />Go forth thy way, or I will cast a stone,<br />And let me sleep, a twenty devil way." 1<br />"Alas!" quod Absalom, "and Welaway!<br />3715 That tru love was e'er so evil beset. 2 so badly treated<br />Then, kiss me, since that it may be no bet, better<br />For Jesus' love, and for the love of me."<br />"Wilt thou then go thy way therewith?" quod she.<br />"Yea, certs, lemman," quod this Absalon. certainly, darling<br />3720 "Then make thee ready," quod she. "I come anon."<br />Her even more ungracious practical joke<br />And unto Nicholas she said still: quietly<br />"Now hush, and thou shalt laughen all thy fill."<br />This Absalom down set him on his knees<br />And said: "I am a lord at all degrees. in every way<br />3725 For after this I hope there cometh more.<br />CANTERBURY TALES 28<br />1 3726: "Darling, [grant me] your favor, and sweet bird, [grant me] your mercy." A line<br />parodying the love language of romances.<br />2 3753: "Alas, that I did not duck aside" (?)<br />Lemman, thy grace and, sweet bird, thine ore"1<br />The window she undoes, and that in haste.<br />"Have done," quod she. "Come off and speed thee fast,<br />Lest that our neighbours thee espy."<br />3730 This Absalom gan wipe his mouth full dry.<br />Dark was the night as pitch or as the coal<br />And at the window out she put her hole.<br />And Absalom, him fell nor bet nor worse, befell / better<br />But with his mouth he kissed her naked arse<br />3735 Full savorly, ere he was 'ware of this. aware<br />Aback he starts, and thought it was amiss,<br />For well he wist a woman has no beard. well he knew<br />He felt a thing all rough and long y-haired<br />And said: "Fie! Alas! What have I do?"<br />3740 "Tee hee," quod she, and clapt the window to.<br />And Absalom goes forth a sorry pace. with sad step<br />"A beard! a beard!" quod Handy Nicholas. "beard" also=joke<br />"By God's corpus, this goes fair and well." By God's body!<br />Absalom plots revenge for his humiliation<br />This silly Absalom heard every deal<br />3745 And on his lip he gan for anger bite<br />And to himself he said "I shall thee 'quite." repay you<br />Who rubbeth now? Who frotteth now his lips scrapes<br />With dust, with sand, with straw, with cloth, with chips<br />But Absalom that says full oft: "Alas!<br />3750 My soul betake I unto Satanas, I'll be damned<br />But me were lever than all this town," quod he, I had rather<br />Of this despite a-wreaken for to be. avenged for this shame<br />"Alas!" quod he "Alas! I n'ad y-blent." 2<br />His hot love is cold and all y-quenched. hot<br />3755 For from that time that he had kissed her arse<br />MILLER'S TALE 29<br />1 3756: "Curse": The intended word may be "cress," a weed.<br />2 3774: "He had more wool or flax on his distaff." A distaff was a stick, traditionally used by<br />women, to make thread from raw wool or flax. The phrase appears to mean either "He had other<br />things on his mind" or "He had other work to do."<br />3 3779-80: "Certainly, [even] if it were gold or an uncounted (untold) number of coins<br />(nobles) in a bag (poke) ..."<br />Of paramours he sett not a curse,1 lovers<br />For he was heald of his malady.<br />Full often paramours he gan defy denounce<br />And wept as does a child that is y-beat. beaten<br />3760 A soft pace he went over the street Quietly he went<br />Unto a smith men clepen Daun Gervase call<br />That in his forge smithd plough harness.<br />He sharpens share and coulter busily. (plough parts)<br />This Absalom knocks all easily<br />3765 And said: "Undo, Gervase, and that anon." open up<br />"What? Who art thou?" "It am I, Absalon."<br />"What, Absalon! What, Christ's sweet tree! cross<br />Why ris you so rathe. Hey, ben'citee! so early / bless you!<br />What aileth you? Some gay girl, God it wot, pretty girl<br />3770 Has brought you thus upon the viritot. on the prowl(?)<br />By Saint Neót, you wot well what I mean." you know<br />This Absalom ne raught not a bean did not care<br />Of all his play. No word again he gave. jesting<br />He hadd mor tow on his distaff 2<br />3775 Than Gervase knew, and said: "Friend so dear,<br />That hot coulter in the chimney here hot plough part<br />As lend it me. I have therewith to do. need of it<br />And I will bring it thee again full soon.<br />Gervas answered: "Certs, were it gold Certainly<br />3780 Or in a pok nobles all untold,3 bag coins uncounted<br />Thou shouldst it have, as I am tru smith.<br />Eh! Christ's foe! What will you do therewith?" What the devil will ...<br />"Thereof," quod Absalom, "be as be may.<br />I shall well tell it thee another day."<br />3785 And caught the coulter by the cold steel. cold handle<br />CANTERBURY TALES 30<br />Full soft out at the door he 'gan to steal<br />And went unto the carpenter's wall.<br />Absalom’s revenge<br />He cougheth first and knocketh therewithall also<br />Upon the window, right as he did ere. before<br />3790 This Alison answered: "Who is there<br />That knocketh so? I warrant it a thief." I'm sure it is<br />"Why, nay," quod he, "God wot, my sweet lief. God knows / love<br />I am thine Absalom, my darling.<br />Of gold," quod he, "I have thee brought a ring.<br />3795 My mother gave it me, so God me save.<br />Full fine it is, and thereto well y-grave. engraved<br />This will I given thee, if thou me kiss."<br />This Nicholas was risen for to piss<br />And thought he would amenden all the jape. improve the joke<br />3800 He should kiss his arse ere that he 'scape. He = Absalom<br />And up the window did he hastily<br />And out his arse he putteth privily<br />Over the buttock, to the haunch bone.<br />And therewith spoke this clerk, this Absalon:<br />3805 "Speak, sweet heart. I wot not where thou art." I know not<br />This Nicholas anon let fly a fart<br />As great as it had been a thunder dint clap<br />That with that stroke he was almost y-blint. blinded<br />But he was ready with his iron hot<br />3810 And Nicholas amid the arse he smote. he struck<br />Off goes the skin a handbreadth about.<br />The hot coulter burnd so his tout backside<br />That for the smart he weend for to die. from pain he expected<br />As he were wood, for woe he 'gan to cry As if mad<br />3815 "Help! Water! Water! Help! for God's heart."<br />The carpenter re-enters the story with a crash<br />This carpenter out of his slumber start<br />MILLER'S TALE 31<br />1 3821-3: "He found....floor": there was nothing between him and the ground below.<br />2 3830: A difficult line meaning, perhaps, "He had to take the responsibility for his injury (or<br />misfortune)" or "He had to take the blame."<br />3 3834-6: "He was so afraid of Noah's flood in his mind that in his foolishness he had bought<br />...."<br />And heard one cry "Water!" as he were wood. mad<br />And thought "Alas! Now cometh Noah's flood."<br />He set him up withouten words mo’ more<br />3820 And with his ax he smote the cord a-two cut<br />And down goes all—he found neither to sell<br />Nor bread nor ale, till he came to the cell bottom<br />Upon the floor,1 and there aswoon he lay.<br />Alison and Nicholas lie their way out of the predicament<br />Up starts her Alison, and Nicholay,<br />3825 And crid "Out!" and "Harrow!" in the street. (Cries of alarm)<br />The neighbours, both small and great<br />In runnen for to gauren on this man to gape<br />That aswoon lay, both pale and wan.<br />For with the fall he bursten had his arm,<br />3830 But stand he must unto his own harm,2<br />For when he spoke, he was anon bore down talked down<br />With Handy Nicholas and Alison. "With" = "By"<br />They tolden every man that he was wood; mad<br />He was aghast so of Noah's flood<br />3835 Through fantasy, that of his vanity<br />He had y-bought him kneading tubbs three 3<br />And had them hangd in the roof above<br />And that he prayd them for God's love<br />To sitten in the roof "par compagnie." for company<br />3840 The folk gan laughen at his fantasy.<br />Into the roof they kiken and they gape stare<br />And turnd all his harm into a jape joke<br />For whatso that this carpenter answered<br />CANTERBURY TALES 32<br />1 3847: Presumably a reference to the "town" versus "gown" loyalties in university towns.<br />Nicholas, a "clerk," is a member of the "gown," John the carpenter a member of the "town."<br />It was for naught. No man his reason heard.<br />3845 With oaths great he was so sworn adown<br />That he was holden wood in all the town. held to be mad<br />For every clerk anon right held with other.1<br />They said: "The man was wood, my lev brother." mad, my dear b.<br />And every wight gan laughen at this strife. person<br />The “moral” of the story<br />3850 Thus swivd was the carpenter's wife laid<br />For all his keeping and his jealousy.<br />And Absalom has kissed her nether eye lower<br />And Nicholas is scalded in the tout. on the bottom<br />This tale is done, and God save all the rout. this group<br />1<br />The Portrait, Prologue and Tale of the Reeve<br />2<br />THE REEVE'S TALE<br />Introduction<br />The Reeve's story is, as he himself says, a retaliatory response to the tale of the Miller.<br />Suspicious mind that he is, he always brings up the rear of the procession of pilgrims so that<br />he can see all the others. Not surprisingly, he suspects that the Miller's tale, in which an old<br />carpenter has been made to look foolish, is directed against himself. He is probably right; for<br />although he is not an old carpenter, he is old and has been a carpenter in his earlier years.<br />The Reeve's bawdy tale follows his sermonizing response to The Miller's Tale. The substance<br />of that sermon is in part that old men who are past doing naughty deeds have an ineradicable<br />urge to tell naughty tales. And they have other vices: boastfulness, lying, anger, greed. These<br />are also the vices of the miller and his wife in the tale he is about to tell, a naughty fabliau like<br />the pilgrim Miller's, and told with some of the same "churl's terms," that is, coarse words.<br />The Reeve's tale tells of two young Cambridge students with marked provincial accents who<br />set out to see that the arrogant and dishonest miller who grinds the college wheat does not<br />cheat them. They plan to watch everything he does, but he quietly lets their horse loose, and<br />while they chase it, he and his wife steal part of their flour. Because the students do not catch<br />the horse until near dark, they have to ask the miller for lodging for the night. He agrees (for<br />a fee), and celebrates his victory by getting tipsy. In the course of the night the sleepless<br />students get their revenge on the miller by entertaining his wife and daughter in bed.<br />Critics have busied themselves in finding differences between these first two tales, mostly to<br />the greater or lesser derogation of the Reeve's. Some even profess to find the Reeve's yarn<br />"darker," "more corrosive," "destructive," making too much earnest of game again, as is the<br />wont of scholars who fail to notice that in the sexual couplings or "swivings" of the tale a<br />good time seems to be had by all. Charges of rape move the story out of the region of<br />bedroom farce where it belongs and into that of realistic crime where it does not. The main<br />victim is the burly miller, whose only physical "punishment" is to miss the fun, and get a<br />bloody nose and a lump on his thick head. The carpenter in The Miller's Tale falls two floors<br />and breaks his arm. If one wants to be "realistic" about which tale is "darker" or "more<br />destructive," one might ask a carpenter how he would ply his trade with a broken arm.<br />But one should not get too realistic. "How many children had Malin McMiller?" is not an<br />appropriate question to ask of a fabliau. All the pilgrims, Chaucer tells us, laughed at the<br />pilgrim Miller's yarn. At the end of the Reeve's tale, we are told, the Cook cannot contain his<br />THE REEVE'S TALE 3<br />glee, and we assume that the Cook's hearer-response represents that of most of the pilgrims<br />as it does ours, except the most delicately sensitive.<br />I have said that the Miller's story seems to be a parody of the tale of the Knight which<br />precedes it. There is no question that in its turn, it provokes the response of the Reeve, which<br />in turn induces the unfinished tale of the Cook. In this, the first four-tale Fragment of the<br />Canterbury Tales, Chaucer makes a very successful effort to relate each tale after the first to<br />what has gone before it, something he does again more than once in the later tales. And very<br />satisfying this narrative architecture can be.<br />The tales of the Miller and the Reeve illustrate what wonderful variations can be wrought on<br />essentially the same material by a crafty artist. In each case a jealous husband is cuckolded<br />by students ("clerks") whom he has let into his house, and he gets physically hurt as well.<br />Both husbands are jealous, but John the carpenter's jealousy is simply stated as the inevitable<br />feeling of a "senex amans," a silly old man who has married a much younger woman. By<br />contrast, the possessiveness of Simon the Miller, which is dwelt on at humorous length,<br />threatens not the happiness of his wife, but the life and limb of would-be flirters, as he struts<br />before his "lady" on Sundays with an armory of swords and knives to protect her "honor" and<br />his. She is proudly the possession of the proud miller, unlike Alison, the unwilling captive of<br />an old carpenter.<br />The miller's pride is comic, of course, especially for what it consists in — the wife's "noble"<br />lineage: she is the bastard daughter of the local priest! And parents and grandparent have no<br />end of ambition for their (grand)daughter whose agricultural charms are painted in a few swift<br />strokes; she is "beef to the heels," as James Joyce would put it, but she has nice hair! There<br />is small-time, small-town snobbery in 14th-century Trumpington as later in<br />turn-of-the-century Dublin: always tuppence-halfpenny looking down on tuppence. But<br />Chaucer makes it a source of outright humor rather than pity, pathos or scalding satire. The<br />miller and his clerk-begotten wife think themselves and their child so much superior to their<br />neighbors that they have plans to marry the girl into the aristocracy, as is appropriate for a<br />daughter of Holy Church and the exalted House of Simkin!<br />In some ways the student-clerks would be considered their social superiors (the priest who<br />fathered the miller's wife is superior because he is a clerk), but the miller and his wife think<br />themselves superior in some ways to these clerks who are from an obscure town in the north<br />of England and who betray their origins in a provincial rustic accent and usage—features of<br />speech which Chaucer takes pains to depict as he does nowhere else in the Tales. (The details<br />of the students' dialect speech will be pointed out in the glosses to the text).<br />4 CANTERBURY TALES<br />These unsophisticated clerks may have heard lectures on philosophy or law, but Simon and<br />his wife have studied Applied Economics: How to Take Friends and Fleece the People; How<br />to Divert the Attention of the Client; How to Conceal the Skim off the Top; How to make<br />the Client pay for his Fleecing, etc. But they were absent for the lecture on Keeping Sober<br />until the Deal is Complete. Hence the failure to realize that if you get drunk on a combination<br />of ale and victory over the book-learned, you will have no control of the two-legged stallions<br />who will behave like the four-legged stallion which you released earlier to run after the mares<br />in the fen. (It is not accidental that the stallion is an old symbol of unbridled lust). How<br />ironically true the wife's words to the students at that point will prove to be later:<br />She said "Alas! Your horse goes to the fen<br />With wild mares as fast as he may go.<br />Unthank [bad luck] come on his hand that bound<br />him so<br />And he that better should have knit the rein.<br />Indeed.<br />And if either of these lusty young males knows how to compose a rustic aubade (a poem of<br />farewell after a night of love) it will not matter that it is spoken in the accents of Northumbria<br />not of Provence. The grateful female will respond by helping to recoup material losses. One<br />of the clerks does know how, and so they both return to Cambridge qualified to give lectures<br />on "Using your knowledge of literary conventions to best the rustic aristocracy for fun and<br />profit."<br />Their knowledge of natural philosophy does not allow them to take up the Miller's taunting<br />challenge to expand the size of the bedroom in order to avoid proximity with the Miller's<br />more private and prized possessions, his wife and daughter; but when that very proximity<br />expands their erotic imaginings, the knowledge of the philosophy of law comes in useful; it<br />provides for Alan a legal theory to justify his urge for sexual relief. No matter if it is a real<br />legal maxim or just a maxim for the moment; it is convincing, if you want to be convinced:<br />For, John, there is a law that says thus:<br />That if a man in one point be aggrieved,<br />That in another he shall be relieve<br />. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .<br />And since I shall have no amendment<br />Against my loss, I will have easment.<br />THE REEVE'S TALE 5<br />1 A reeve was a manager of a country estate.<br />The delicious melding of the legal and sexual meanings of "relieved" and "easement" is like<br />the coupling of Alan and Malin, and shows the value of a university education when one<br />needs a law to justify one's lust. A nice goliardic joke.<br />The Miller's humiliation at the end is directly related to his absurd pride set out at such length<br />at the beginning, and his reaction is correspondingly grotesque when he finds out what Alan<br />and his daughter have been doing all night: he lets out a howl of rage that his daughter, this<br />highly-descended girl, has been swived by an uplandish clerk with an uncouth accent and no<br />brains; now she is spoiled goods. His delusion of marrying her into "blood of ancestry" is<br />shattered. Her ancestral blood is that of her grandmother who has bequeathed to her only a<br />weakness for sweet-talking clerks with a lot of brass.<br />Here is the portrait of the Reeve from the General Prologue<br />The REEV. was a slender, choleric man.1 irritable<br />His beard was shaved as nigh as ever he can. as close<br />His hair was by his ears full round y-shorn, shorn, cut<br />590 His top was dockd like a priest beforn. shaved ... in front<br />Full long were his leggs and full lean<br />Y-like a staff; there was no calf y-seen.<br />Well could he keep a garner and a bin; granary<br />There was no auditor could on him win. fault him<br />595 Well wist he by the drought and by the rain knew<br />The yielding of his seed and of his grain.<br />His lord's sheep, his neat, his dairy, cattle<br />His swine, his horse, his store and his poultry "horse" is plur<br />Was wholly in this Reev's governing,<br />600 And by his covenant gave the reckoning contract / account<br />Since that his lord was twenty years of age.<br />There could no man bring him in árrearáge. find him in arrears<br />There was no bailiff, herd nor other hine herdsman / worker<br />That he ne knew his sleight and his covine. tricks & deceit<br />605 They were adread of him as of the death. the plague<br />6 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 "He had hoarded a lot secretly."<br />2 It is not clear whether the Reeve sometimes lends money to his master from his (i.e. the Reeve's)<br />resources or from his lord's own resources but giving the impression that the Reeve is the lender.<br />3<br />His woning was full fair upon a heath: His dwelling<br />With green trees y-shadowed was his place.<br />He could better than his lord purchase.<br />Full rich he was astord privily. 1 secretly<br />610 His lord well could he pleasn subtly<br />To give and lend him of his own good,2<br />And have a thank and yet a coat and hood. get thanks<br />In youth he learnd had a good mystér: trade<br />He was a well good wright, a carpentér. very good craftsman<br />615 This Reev sat upon a well good stot very good horse<br />That was a pomely grey, and hight Scot. dappled / & called<br />A long surcoat of perse upon he had overcoat of blue<br />And by his side he bore a rusty blade.<br />Of Norfolk was this Reeve of which I tell<br />620 Beside a town men clepn Baldswell. call<br />Tuckd he was, as is a friar, about, Rope-belted<br />And ever he rode the hindrest of our rout. hindmost / group<br />The Reeve is the only one with a grumpy response to the Miller's Tale<br />3855 When folk had laughd at this nic case<br />Of Absalom and handy Nicholas,<br />Divers folk diversly they said, Different<br />But for the most part they laughed and played, joked<br />Nor at this tale I saw no man him grieve<br />3860 But it were only Oswald the Reeve; Except for<br />Because he was of carpenter's craft, trade<br />A little ire is in his heart y-left. anger<br />He gan to grouch, and blamd it a lite. a little<br />"So theek," quod he, "full well could I thee quite3<br />REEVE'S PROLOGUE 7<br />So theek ... forage: "I declare that I could easily get even with you, and wipe a miller's eye if I chose to<br />tell a coarse tale (ribaldry), but I am old, and because of my age I don't care to (me list not) jest; greengrass<br />time is over, and all that is left is dying hay (forage)."<br />3865 With blearing of a proud miller's eye blinding<br />If that me list to speak of ribaldry; If I chose / vulgarity<br />But I am old. Me list not play for age. I don't wish<br />He bemoans the physical and moral frailties of old age<br />Grass time is done; my fodder is now foráge.<br />This whit top writeth my old years.<br />3870 My heart is also mowld as my hairs is as withered<br />But if I fare as doth an open erse, Unless / medlar<br />That ilk fruit is ever the longer the worse<br />Till it be rotten in mullock or in stree. in compost or straw<br />We old men, I dread, so far we—<br />3875 Till we be rotten can we not be ripe.<br />We hop always while that the world will pipe, play a tune<br />For in our will there sticketh ever a nail<br />To have a hoar head and a green tail whit hair<br />As hath a leek. For though our might be gone our virility<br />3880 Our will desireth folly ever in one; always<br />For when we may not do, then will we speak.<br />Yet in our ashes old is fire y-reak. raked<br />Four gleeds have we that I shall devise: hot coals<br />Avaunting, anger, lying, covetise; Boasting / greed<br />3885 These four sparkles 'longen unto Eld. sparks / old age<br />Our old limbs may well be unwield, unwieldy<br />But Will ne shall not fail—that is sooth. Desire / truth<br />And yet I have always a colt's tooth youthful taste<br />As many a year as it is passd hence<br />3890 Since that my tap of life began to run;<br />For sikerly when I was born, anon For, certainly<br />Death drew the tap of Life and let it go<br />And ever since has so the tap y-run<br />Till that almost all empty is the tun. barrel<br />3895 The stream of life now droppeth on the chimb, rim<br />The silly tongu may well ring and chime<br />Of wretchedness that passd is full yore. long ago<br />With old folk, save dotage is no more." senility<br />8 CANTERBURY TALES<br />The Host's annoyed response to the Reeve's moralizing<br />When that our Host had heard this sermoning,<br />3900 He gan to speak as lordly as a king.<br />He said: "What amounteth all this wit?<br />What! Shall we speak all day of Holy Writ! Scripture<br />The devil made a Reev for to preach,<br />Or of a souter, a shipman or a leech! shoemaker / doctor<br />3905 Say forth thy tale, and tarry not the time.<br />Lo Deptford, and it is halfway prime. nearly 9 a.m.<br />Lo Greenwich, where many a shrew is in. rogue<br />It were all time thy tal to begin."<br />In response to the Miller's tale the Reeve will tell a tale about a miller<br />"Now sirs," quod this Oswald the Reeve,<br />3910 "I pray you all that you not you grieve<br />Though I answér and somedeal set his hove, repay him<br />For lawful is with forc force off-shove.<br />This drunken Miller hath y-told us here<br />How that beguild was a carpenter,<br />3915 Peráventure in scorn for I am one. Perhaps<br />But by your leave, I shall him quit anon. repay<br />Right in his churl's terms will I speak. coarse language<br />I pray to God his neck may to-break.<br />He can well in my ey see a stalk,<br />3920 But in his own he cannot see a balk. beam<br />THE REEVE'S TALE<br />Portrait of a miller: a proud, well-armed thief<br />At Trumpington, not far from Cantbridge, Cambridge<br />There goes a brook, and over that a bridge,<br />Upon the which brook there stands a mill<br />And this is very sooth that I you tell. truth<br />3925 A miller was there dwelling many a day.<br />As any peacock he was proud and gay; gaudy<br />Pipen he could, and fish, and netts beat, Play bagpipes<br />And turn cups and well wrestle and shoot. And drink (?)<br />REEVE'S TALE 9<br />1<br />"He swore that nobody would lay a hand on him without paying for it promptly."<br />2 His name ...: "He was called Proud Simkin" (a form of Simon). Both forms of the name are used<br />the tale.<br />3 With her ...: He gave as her dowry a lot of money so that Simkin would marry her (an illegitimate).<br />4 For Simkin ...: "He wanted no woman as a wife who was not well brought up (y-nourished) and virgin (a<br />maid)--to accord with his social standing as a freeman."<br />And by his belt he bore a long panade, dagger<br />3930 And of a sword full trenchant was the blade; v. sharp<br />A jolly popper bore he in his pouch; short dagger<br />There was no man for peril durst him touch. dared<br />A Sheffield thwitel bore he in his hose. knife<br />Round was his face, and camus was his nose; snub<br />3935 As piled as an ap was his skull. As hairless<br />He was a market-beater at the full. a bully indeed<br />There durst no wight hand upon him lay nobody dared<br />That he ne swore he should anon abey.1<br />A thief he was forsooth of corn and meal, indeed<br />3940 And that a sly, and usant for to steal. and accustomed<br />His name was hoten Deinous Simkin.2 was called<br />His wife, equally proud<br />A wife he had, y-comen of noble kin:<br />The parson of the town her father was! parish priest<br />With her he gave full many a pan of brass,3<br />3945 For that Simkin should in his blood ally;<br />She was y-fostered in a nunnery, reared / convent<br />For Simkin would no wife, as he said, wanted<br />But she were well y-nourished and a maid, Unless / well-bred<br />To saven his estate of yeomanry.4<br />3950 And she was proud and pert as is a pie. magpie<br />A full fair sight was it upon them two: (to look) upon<br />On holy days before her would he go<br />With his tippet wound about his head, hood tip<br />And she came after in a gite of red, a gown<br />3955 And Simkin hadd hosen of the same. stockings<br />10 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 There durst ...: "Nobody dared call her anything but `My lady,'" a designation generally reserved for women<br />well above her social rank.<br />2 Algate: "At least they would like their wives to think so."<br />3 for she was ... bisemare: These lines seem to mean: "For one who was somewhat soiled (she was a bastard)<br />she was inordinately proud and full of scorn and haughtiness. She thought that a lady should hold herself<br />exclusive."<br />4 And strange...: "He made the conditions for marrying her very demanding." In the following lines the<br />sarcasm of the author is evident at the absurd ambitions of the priest for the granddaughter that he should not have<br />had, and his willingness to misappropriate church funds for her.<br />There durst no wight clepen her but "dame." 1<br />Was none so hardy that went by the way so bold<br />That with her durst rage or onc play dared flirt / joke<br />But if he would be slain of Simkin, Unless he wanted<br />3960 With panade, or with knife, or bodkin; dagger / blade<br />For jealous folk been perilous evermo' dangerous<br />(Algate they would their wivs wenden so).2 At least / think<br />And eke, for she was somedeal smoterlich, also / soiled<br />She was as digne as water in a ditch, as proud<br />3965 And full of hoker and of bismare.3<br />Her thought that "a lady" should her spare, be exclusive(?)<br />What for her kindred, and her nortelry manners<br />That she had learnd in the nunnery.<br />Their daughter<br />A daughter hadd they bitwixt them two<br />3970 Of twenty years, withouten any more,<br />Saving a child that was of half year age:<br />In cradle it lay and was a proper page. fine boy<br />This wench thick and well y-growen was, well developed<br />With camus nose, and eyen grey as glass, snub nose<br />3975 With buttocks broad, and breasts round and high,<br />But right fair was her hair, I will not lie.<br />The parson of the town, for she was fair, because / pretty<br />In purpose was to maken her his heir Intended<br />Both of his chattel and his messuage, goods / property<br />3980 And strange he made it of her marrïage.4<br />His purpose was for to bestow her high<br />REEVE'S TALE 11<br />1 "For which reason the head of the college complained and made a fuss."<br />Into some worthy blood of ancestry,<br />For Holy Church's goods must be despended spent<br />On Holy Church's blood that is descended;<br />3985 Therefore he would his holy blood honoúr,<br />Though that he Holy Church should devour.<br />The miller grinds corn for a Cambridge college<br />Great soken has this miller out of doubt Total monopoly<br />With wheat and malt of all the land about;<br />And namly there was a great college,<br />3990 Men clepe the Soler Hall of Cantebridge.<br />There was their wheat and eke their malt y-ground.<br />And on a day it happened in a stound, suddenly<br />Sick lay the manciple in a malady; steward<br />Men wenden wisly that he should die, thought for sure<br />3995 For which this miller stole both meal and corn<br />A hundred tims more than beforn,<br />For therebefore he stole but courteously,<br />But now he was a thief outrageously.<br />For which the warden chid and mad fare, 1<br />4000 But thereof set the miller not a tare; not a straw<br />He crackd boast, and swore it was not so. made boasts<br />Two students think they are a match for the cheating miller<br />Then were there young poor scholars two<br />That dwelten in the hall of which I say.<br />Testive they were and lusty for to play, Headstrong / eager<br />4005 And only for their mirth and revelry to amuse themselves<br />Upon the warden busily they cry college head<br />To give them leav but a little stound little time<br />To go to mill and see their corn y-ground,<br />And hardily they durst lay their neck surely / dared bet<br />4010 The miller should not steal them half a peck a measure<br />Of corn by sleight, nor by force them rieve; trickery / rob<br />And at the last the warden gave them leave.<br />John hight that one, and Alan hight that other; one was called J.<br />12 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 4023 ff: The speech of the North-of-England students is the first attempt in English to represent dialect. In<br />the marginal glosses that follow, the words that come after the equals sign are southern English equivalents of the<br />dialect forms in the text. Curiously, some of the dialect forms have become the standard: "has, fares, falls," etc.<br />2: "The teeth (wanges) in his head ache so constantly."<br />Of one town were they born that hight Strother, same town / called<br />4015 Far in the north I can not tell where.<br />This Alan maketh ready all his gear,<br />And on a horse the sack he casts anon;<br />Forth goes Alan the clerk and also John,<br />With good sword and with buckler by his side. shield<br />4020 John knew the way; he needed no guide;<br />And at the mill the sack adown he layeth.<br />Their Northern accents and their naive plan<br />Alan spoke first: "All hail, Simon, in faith.<br />How fares thy fair daughter and thy wife?"1 fares = fareth<br />"Alan, welcome!" quod Simkin, "by my life!<br />4025 And John also! How now, what do you here?"<br />"By God," quod John, "Simon, need has na peer: no equal<br />Him boes serve himself that has na swain, boes = behoves / servant<br />Or else he is a fool, as clerks sayn.<br />Our manciple, I hope he will be dead, steward<br />4030 Swa works aye the wanges in his head.2<br />And therefore is I come, and eke Alain, = am I / & also<br />To grind our corn and carry it hame again. = home<br />I pray you, speed us hethen that you may." = hence<br />"It shall be done," quod Simkin, "by my fay. faith<br />4035 What will you do while that it is in hand?"<br />"By God, right by the hopper will I stand,"<br />Quod John, "and see how the corn gaas in. = goth (goes)<br />Yet saw I never, by my father kin,<br />How that the hopper waggs til and fra." = waggeth to & fro<br />4040 Alan answered, "John, and wilt thou swa? = so<br />Then will I be beneath, by my crown, my head<br />And see how that the meal falls down = falleth<br />Into the trough; that sall be my desport. = shall<br />For John, in faith, I may be of your sort:<br />4045 I is as ill a miller as are ye." = I am as bad<br />REEVE'S TALE 13<br />1 As whilom ...: "As the mare said to the wolf once (whilom)." The hungry wolf, saying he wanted to buy the<br />mare's foal, was told that the price was written on its back leg. Trying to read it he was kicked hard, and the mare<br />made the remark cited.<br />The miller outwits the students with a trick<br />This miller smild of their nicety, simplicity<br />And thought, "All this is done but for a wile. ruse<br />They ween that no man may them beguile they think / fool<br />But by my thrift, yet shall I blear their eye, skill / blind<br />4050 For all the sleight in their philosophy. cleverness<br />The mor quaint creks that they make, clever ruses<br />The mor will I steal when I take.<br />Instead of flour yet will I give them bran.<br />The greatest clerks been not the wisest men,<br />4055 As whilom to the wolf thus spoke the mare.1 As once<br />Of all their art count I not a tare." their cleverness<br />Out at the door he goes full privily, secretly<br />When that he saw his tim softly. quietly<br />He looketh up and down till he hath found<br />4060 The clerks' horse there as it stood y-bound tied<br />Behind the mill, under a leafsel, leafy shade<br />And to the horse he goes him fair and well.<br />He strippeth off the bridle right anon,<br />And when the horse was loose, he 'ginneth gone started to go<br />4065 Toward the fen where wild mars run, marsh<br />And forth with "Weehee," through thick and thin.<br />The miller goes again; no word he said, goes (back)<br />But does his note and with the clerks he played, job / joked<br />Till that their corn was fair and well y-ground. well & truly<br />The students spend hours trying to catch their horse<br />4070 And when the meal is sackd and y-bound,<br />This John goes out and finds his horse away,<br />And gan to cry "Harrow!" and "Welaway! (cries of dismay)<br />Our horse is lost! Alan, for God's banes, = bones<br />Step on thy feet! Come off, man, all atanes! = at once<br />4075 Alas, our warden has his palfrey lorn!" has lost h. horse<br />This Alan all forgot both meal and corn;<br />14 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 "I am as fast, God knows (wat) as a roe [deer]."<br />All was out of his mind his husbandry. vigilance<br />"What, whilk way is he gaan?" he gan to cry. = which way / gone<br />The wife came leaping inward with a run;<br />4080 She said, "Alas, your horse goes to the fen<br />With wild mares, as fast as he may go.<br />Unthank come on his hand that bound him so, Bad luck<br />And he that better should have knit the rein!"<br />"Alas," quod John, "Alan, for Christ's pain,<br />4085 Lay down thy sword, and I will mine alswa. = also<br />I is full wight, God wat, as is a raa.1 = fast as a deer<br />By God's heart, he sal not scape us bathe. = shall / both<br />Why n'ad thou put the capil in the lathe? = horse in barn<br />Ill hail, by God, Alan, thou is a fonn." = Bad luck / fool<br />4090 These silly clerks have full fast y-run<br />Toward the fen, both Alan and eke John;<br />The miller uses their absence fruitfully<br />also<br />And when the miller saw that they were gone,<br />He half a bushel of their flour hath take<br />And bade his wife go knead it in a cake.<br />4095 He said: "I trow the clerks were afeard. I guess / suspicious<br />Yet can a miller make a clerk's beard outwit a clerk<br />For all his art. Yea, let them go their way. his learning<br />Lo, where he goes! Yea, let the children play.<br />They get him not so lightly, by my crown." head<br />4100 These silly clerks runnen up and down<br />With "Keep! Keep! Stand! Stand! Jossa! Warderer! Here! Behind!<br />Ga whistle thou, and I sall keep him here." = Go / shall<br />But shortly, till that it was very night,<br />They could not, though they did all their might,<br />4105 Their capil catch, he ran always so fast, = horse<br />Till in a ditch they caught him at the last.<br />The outwitted students have to stay the night<br />Weary and wet as beast is in the rain,<br />REEVE'S TALE 15<br />Comes silly John, and with him comes Alain.<br />"Alas," quod John, "the day that I was born!<br />4110 Now are we driven til hething and til scorn = to contempt<br />Our corn is stolen; men will us fools call,<br />Both the warden and our fellows all,<br />And namly the miller. Welaway!" especially / Alas<br />Thus 'plaineth John as he goes by the way complains<br />4115 Toward the mill, and Bayard in his hand. B: horse's name<br />The miller sitting by the fire he found,<br />For it was night, and further might they not; not (go)<br />But for the love of God they him besought<br />Of harbour and of ease, as for their penny. lodging / payment<br />4120 The miller said again: "If there be any,<br />Such as it is, yet shall you have your part.<br />My house is strait, but you have learnd art, small / liberal arts<br />You can by arguments make a place<br />A mil broad of twenty feet of space! out of<br />4125 Let's see now if this plac may suffice,<br />Or make it room with speech, as is your guise." roomy / custom<br />"Now Simon," said this John, "by Saint Cuthbert,<br />Ay is thou merry, and that is fair answéred. You're always joking<br />I have heard say men sal taa of twa things, = take 1 of 2<br />4130 Swilk as he finds, or taa swilk as he brings; = Such as / take such<br />But specially I pray thee, host dear,<br />Get us some meat and drink and make us cheer, welcome<br />And we will payen truly at the full.<br />With empty hand men may na hawks tulle. = lure no hawks<br />4135 Lo, here our silver, ready for to spend."<br />Supper and bed<br />This miller into town his daughter sends to village<br />For ale and bread, and roasted them a goose,<br />And bound their horse; it should no more go loose.<br />And in his own chamber them made a bed<br />4140 With sheets and with chalons fair y-spread blankets<br />Not from his own bed ten foot or twelve.<br />His daughter had a bed all by herself<br />Right in the sam chamber by and by. side by side<br />It might be no bet, and cause why? better<br />4145 There was no roomier harbour in the place. lodging<br />16 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 Heardest ....: "Did you ever before hear such a song? Listen, what a compline (they are singing) among<br />them all." Compline is the last part of the Divine Office for the day, sung in monastic houses just before retiring to<br />bed. The general tenor of the readings is to urge Christians to be sober and vigilant, "to have compunction in your<br />beds" (Ps. 4); and the prayers are for chaste thoughts!<br />2 Wha hearkened ...: "Who ever heard such an amazing thing"?<br />They suppen and they speak them to solace, & t. chat pleasantly<br />And drinken ever strong ale at the best.<br />About midnight wenten they to rest.<br />Well has this miller varnishd his head; slang:drunk deep<br />4150 Full pale he was fordrunken, and not red. quite drunk<br />He yexeth and he speaketh through the nose belches<br />As he were on the quakk or on the pose. hoarse or had a cold<br />To bed he goes, and with him goes his wife.<br />As any jay she light was and jolife, bird / jolly<br />4155 So was her jolly whistle well y-wet.<br />The cradle at her bedd's feet is set<br />To rocken, and to give the child to suck.<br />And when that drunken all was in the crock, all that was<br />To bedd went the daughter right anon.<br />4160 To bedd goes Alain and also John.<br />There was no more; them needed no dwale. sleeping draught<br />This miller hath so wisly bibbd ale drunk so much<br />That as a horse he snorteth in his sleep;<br />Nor of his tail behind he took no keep. no heed<br />4165 His wife him bore a burden, a full strong. kept harmony<br />Men might her routing hearen a furlong. snoring / 1/8 mile<br />The wench routeth eke, par company. in counterpoint<br />Alan plans to get some satisfaction<br />Alan the clerk, that heard this melody,<br />He pokd John and said: "Sleepest thou?<br />4170 Heardest thou ever slik a sang ere now? = such a song<br />Lo, swilk a compline is ymel them all. 1 such a<br />A wild fire upon their bodies fall!<br />Wha hearkened ever swilk a ferly thing? 2 = Who / amazing<br />Yea, they sal have the flower of ill ending! come to bad end<br />4175 This lang night there tids me na rest. = no rest for me<br />But yet, na force, all sal be for the best; = no matter / shall<br />REEVE'S TALE 17<br />1 Unhardy ...: "Gutless is luckless ..." i.e. fortune favors the brave.<br />For John," said he, "as ever mote I thrive, so help me!<br />If that I may, yon wench will I swive. that girl / tumble<br />Some easement has law y-shapen us; provided for us<br />4180 For John, there is a law that says thus:<br />That if a man in one point be aggrieved,<br />That in another he sal be relieved. = shall<br />Our corn is stolen soothly, 'tis na nay, truly / no denying<br />And we have had an ill fitt today, bad time<br />4185 And since I sal have naan amendment = shall have no<br />Against my loss, I will have easment. relief<br />By God's soul, it sal naan other be." = shall no<br />This John answéred, "Alan, avis thee! be careful<br />The miller is a perilous man," he said,<br />4190 "And if that he out of his sleep abraid, wakes<br />He might do us both a villainy." injury<br />Alan answéred, "I count him not a fly,"<br />And up he rist, and by the wench he crept. rose<br />This wench lay upright and fast slept, on her back<br />4195 Till he so nigh was ere she might espy so near<br />That it had been too lat for to cry;<br />And shortly for to say, they were at one.<br />Now play, Alain, for I will speak of John.<br />John decides to follow Alan's example.<br />This John lies still a furlong way or two, a few minutes<br />4200 And to himself he maketh ruth and woe. complaint & lament<br />"Alas," quod he, "this is a wicked jape. joke<br />Now may I say that I is but an ape. I am<br />Yet has my fellow somewhat for his harm:<br />He has the miller's daughter in his arm.<br />4205 He auntered him, and has his needs sped, ventured / satisfied<br />And I lie as a draf-sack in my bed. bran sack<br />And when this jape is told another day,<br />I sal be held a daff, a cokenay. nitwit, a coward<br />I will arise and aunter it, by my faith! risk it<br />4210 Unhardy is unsely, thus men saith." 1 unlucky<br />And up he rose, and softly he went<br />18 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 and gan: gan here is probably just a past tense marker like "did", rather than a short form of "began."<br />2 Eh, ...: "Bless me! Then I would have made a mistake!"<br />3 The "third cock" probably refers to the third crowing of the rooster around daybreak.<br />4 whereso ...: "Wherever I walk or ride (i.e. wherever I go) I am forever your devoted clerk, as sure as I hope<br />for heaven." Alan's farewell (in dialect) and Malin's response are parodies of the aube, aubade, or tagelied, the<br />genre poem of the dawn parting of aristocratic lovers. But the aristocrat would not refer to his lady as wight, and<br />neither one would ever use lemman, a very plebeian word for "lover." Also the aube rarely dealt with the details of<br />Unto the cradle, and in his hand it hent, took<br />And bore it soft unto his bedd's feet.<br />Soon after this the wife her routing leet, stopped snoring<br />4215 And gan awake, and went her out to piss, woke up<br />And came again, and gan her cradle miss,1 missed h. cradle<br />And gropd here and there, but she found none.<br />"Alas," quod she, "I had almost misgone; gone astray<br />I had almost gone to the clerk's bed.<br />4220 Eh! bencitee, then had I foul y-sped!" 2<br />And forth she goes till she the cradle found.<br />She gropeth always further with her hand,<br />And found the bed, and thought nought but good,<br />Becaus that the cradle by it stood;<br />4225 And n'ist where she was, for it was dark, didn't know<br />But fair and well she crept into the clerk,<br />And lies full still, and would have caught asleep.<br />Within a while this John the clerk up leaps After a while<br />And on this good wife he lays on sore. vigorously<br />4230 So merry a fitt ne had she not full yore: time / in a long while<br />He pricketh hard and deep as he were mad.<br />This jolly life have these two clerks led<br />Till that the third cock began to sing. 3<br />A dawn parting duet by Alan and Malyn<br />Alan waxed weary in the dawning, grew weary<br />4235 For he had swonken all the long night, labored<br />And said: "Farewell, Malin, sweet wight. creature<br />The day is come, I may no longer bide.<br />But evermore, whereso I go or ride, walk or ride<br />I is thyn own clerk, swa have I seel." 4<br />REEVE'S TALE 19<br />recovering stolen property.<br />4240 "Now, dear lemman," quod she, "go, farewell. dear lover<br />But ere thou go, one thing I will thee tell:<br />When that thou wendest homeward by the mill, as you go home<br />Right at the entry of the door behind<br />Thou shalt a cake of half a bushel find,<br />4245 That was y-makd of thine own meal,<br />Which that I helped my sir for to steal. my father<br />And, good lemman, God thee save and keep."<br />And with that word almost she 'gan to weep.<br />Alan returns to his own bed -- he thinks<br />Alan up rist and thought, "Ere that it daw[n], rose up<br />4250 I will go creep in by my fellow."<br />And found the cradle with his hand anon.<br />"By God," thought he, "all wrong I have misgone.<br />Mine head is toty of my swink tonight, dizzy from my work<br />That maketh me that I go not aright.<br />4255 I wot well by the cradle I have misgo; know / lost my way<br />Here lies the miller and his wife also."<br />And forth he goes (a twenty devil way!) damn it!<br />Unto the bed there as the miller lay.<br />He weened have creepen by his fellow John, He thought<br />4260 And by the miller in he crept anon,<br />And caught him by the neck and soft he spake.<br />He said: "Thou John, thou swin's-head, awake,<br />For Christ's soul, and hear a noble game:<br />For by that lord that calld is Saint Jame,<br />4265 As I have thric in this short night three times<br />Swivd the miller's daughter bolt upright, laid / on her back<br />While thou hast as a coward been aghast." scared<br />"Yea, fals harlot," quod the miller, "hast? wretch / have you?<br />Ah, fals traitor, fals clerk," quod he,<br />4270 "Thou shalt be dead, by God's dignity.<br />Who durst be so bold to disparáge dares / dishonor<br />My daughter, that is come of such lineáge?" noble line<br />A melee follows his mistake<br />20 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 "And he (Alan) in turn seized (hent) Simkin fiercely."<br />2 The wife thinks she is being assailed by at least one incubus, a wicked spirit (fiend) that supposedly came<br />upon women at night and impregnated them. Hence her prayer to the cross to repel this devil. Her use of the<br />compline prayer: In manus tuas: Into thy hands, O Lord ..., is definitely too late.<br />And by the throat-bowl [?] he caught Alain,<br />And he hent him despitously again,1 he = Alan<br />4275 And on the nose he smote him with his fist.<br />Down ran the bloody stream upon his breast.<br />And on the floor, with nose and mouth to-broke,<br />They wallow as do two piggs in a poke,<br />And up they go and down again anon,<br />4280 Till that the miller spurnd at a stone, tripped on<br />And down he fell backward upon his wife<br />That wist nothing of this nic strife, knew / violent<br />For she was fall asleep a little wight shortly before<br />With John the clerk that wakd had all night.<br />4285 And with the fall out of her sleep she braid. woke<br />"Help, holy cross of Bromholm!" she said.<br />"In manus tuas, Lord, to thee I call! Into thy hands<br />Awake, Simon, the fiend is on me fall! the devil<br />My heart is broken. Help! I n'am but dead! as good as dead<br />4290 There lies one on my womb and on my head! 2<br />Help, Simkin, for the fals clerks fight!"<br />This John starts up as fast as ever he might,<br />And graspeth by the walls to and fro<br />To find a staff; and she starts up also,<br />4295 And knew the estres bet than did this John, corners better<br />The wife joins the fight with unfortunate results<br />And by the wall a staff she found anon,<br />And saw a little shimmering of a light,<br />For at a hole in shone the moon bright<br />And by that light she saw them both two,<br />4300 But sikerly she n'ist who was who, didn't know<br />But as she saw a white thing in her eye,<br />And when she gan this whit thing espy,<br />She weened the clerk had weared a voluper, thought / nightcap<br />And with the staff she drew ay near and near, nearer & nearer<br />REEVE'S TALE 21<br />1 Him that ...: "He who does evil should not expect good; a deceiver shall be deceived himself."<br />2 This miller ...: This miller got the worst of his own "argument" about lodging. This is probably a reference<br />back to the miller's would-be clever response to the clerks' request for lodging: My house is small, but you are<br />book-learned, and so you can turn a small space into a large one by philosophical reasoning.<br />4305 And weened have hit this Alan at the full intended to hit<br />But smote the miller on the pild skull bare skull<br />That down he goes and cried: "Harrow! I die!" Help!<br />These clerks beat him well and let him lie,<br />And greythen them, and took their horse anon, got ready<br />4310 And eke their meal, and on their way they go[n], And also<br />And at the mill yet they took their cake,<br />Of half a bushel flour full well y-bake.<br />Summary and "moral"<br />Thus is this proud miller well y-beat,<br />And has y-lost the grinding of the wheat,<br />4315 And paid for the supper everydeal every bit<br />Of Alan and of John that beat him well;<br />His wife is swivd and his daughter als. laid / also<br />Lo, such it is a miller to be false! So much for<br />And therefore this provérb is said full sooth: truly<br />4320 Him thar not ween well that evil doth;1<br />A guiler shall himself beguild be.<br />And God, that sitteth high in majesty,<br />Save all this compani, great and small.<br />Thus have I quit the Miller in my tale. repaid<br />The Cook's Response<br />4325 The Cook of London, while the Reev spake<br />For joy he thought he clawed him on the back.<br />"Ha! Ha!" quod he, "for Christ's passïon,<br />This miller had a sharp conclusïon<br />Upon his argument of herbergage.2 lodging<br />4330 Well said Solomon in his language:<br />Ne bring not every man into thy house,<br />For harbouring by night is perilous.<br />22 CANTERBURY TALES<br />1 If ever ...: "Ever since I was christened Hodge of Ware." Hodge or Hogg seems to be a diminutive of Roger.<br />2 Sooth play, quad play ...: "A true jest is no jest" meaning "A joke that is really a home truth is not very<br />funny" or "If you can tell a joke with an edge to it, so can I." Why the proverb is attributed to a Fleming is not<br />clear.<br />Well ought a man avisd for to be careful<br />Whom that he brought into his privity. privacy<br />4335 I pray to God, so give me sorrow and care,<br />If ever since I hight Hodge of Ware,1 was named<br />Heard I a miller better set a-work.<br />He had a jape of malice in the dark. jest<br />But God forbidd that we stint here stop<br />4340 And therefore if you vouchsafe to hear if you care to<br />A tale of me that am a poor man,<br />I will you tell, as well as ever I can<br />A little jape that 'fell in our city." joke / befell<br />The Host cheerfully insults the Cook<br />Our Host answered and said "I grant it thee.<br />4345 Now tell on, Roger. Look that it be good,<br />For many a pasty hast thou letten blood drained?<br />And many a Jack of Dover hast thou sold pie (Dover = do over)<br />That has been twic hot and twic cold. reheated<br />Of many a pilgrim hast thou Christ's curse,<br />4350 For of thy parsley fare they yet the worse<br />That they have eaten with thy stubble goose,<br />For in thy shop is many a fly loose.<br />Now tell on gentle Roger, by thy name,<br />But yet I pray thee be not wrath for game. angry at a joke<br />4355 A man may say full sooth in game and play." truth<br />The Cook responds with the promise of a tale about an innkeeper<br />"Thou sayst full sooth," quod Roger, "by my fay, faith<br />But `Sooth play, quad play,' as the Fleming sayth. 2<br />And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith,<br />Be thou not wroth ere we departen here Don't be angry<br />4360 Though that my tale be of a hosteler. innkeeper<br />But natheless I will not tell it yet,<br />COOK'S PROLOGUE 23<br />But ere we part, y-wis, thou shalt be quit." indeed<br />And therewithal he laughed and mad cheer<br />And said his tale as you shall after hear.<br />The Cook starts his tale of Perkin Reveller, an apprentice more fond of dancing, dicing and<br />general revelry than of trade. The tale has all the appearance of yet another fabliau, but<br />it stops after about sixty lines and Chaucer apparently never finished it. As the marginal<br />note in the Hengwrt MS put it: "Of this Cook's tale maked Chaucer no more."<br />