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Copy of the canterbury tales

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    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 />