The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

Part I

At sarray, in the land of tartarye,
Ther dwelte a kyng that werreyed russye,
Thurgh which ther dyde many a doughty man.
This noble kyng was cleped cambyuskan,
Which in his tyme was of so greet renoun
That ther was nowher in no regioun
So excellent a lord in alle thyng.
Hym lakked noght that longeth to a king.
As of the secte of which that he was born
He kepte his lay, to which that he was sworn;
And therto he was hardy, wys, and riche,
And pitous and just, alwey yliche;
Sooth of this word, benigne, and honurable;
Of his corage as any centre stable;
Yong, fressh, and strong, in armes desirous
As any bacheler of al his hous.
A fair persone he was and fortunat,
And kepte alwey so wel roial estat
That ther was nowher swich another man.
This noble kyng, this tartre cambyuskan,
Hadde two sones on elpheta his wyf,
Of whiche the eldeste highte algarsyf,
That oother sone was cleped cambalo.
A doghter hadde this worthy kyng also,
That yongest was, and highte canacee.
But for to telle yow al hir beautee,
It lyth nat in my tonge, n' yn my konnyng;
I dar nat undertake so heigh a thyng.
Myn englissh eek is insufficient.
It moste been a rethor excellent,
That koude his colours longynge for that art,
If he sholde hire discryven every part.
I am noon swich, I moot speke as I kan.
And so bifel that whan this cambyuskan
Hath twenty wynter born his diademe,
As he was wont fro yeer to yeer, I deme,
He leet the feeste of his nativitee
Doon cryen thurghout sarray his citee,
The laste idus of march, after the yeer.
Phebus the sonne ful joly was and cleer;
For he was neigh his exaltacioun
In martes face, and in his mansioun
In aries, the colerik hoote signe.
Ful lusty was the weder benigne,
For which the foweles, agayn the sonne sheene,
What for the sesoun and the yonge grene,
Ful loude songen hire affecciouns.
Hem semed han geten hem protecciouns
Agayn the swerd of wynter, keene and coold.
This cambyuskan, of which I have yow toold,
In roial vestiment sit on his deys,
With diademe, ful heighe in his paleys,
And halt his feeste so solempne and so ryche
That in this world ne was ther noon it lyche;
Of which if I shal tellen al th' array,
Thanne wolde it occupie a someres day;
And eek it nedeth nat for to devyse
At every cours the ordre of hire servyse.
I wol nat tellen of hir strange sewes,
Ne of hir swannes, ne of hire heronsewes.
Eek in that lond, as tellen knyghtes olde,
Ther is som mete that is ful deynte holde,
That in this lond men recche of it but smal;
Ther nys no man that may reporten al.
I wol nat taryen yow, for it is pryme, Page  129
And for it is no fruyt, but los of tyme;
Unto my firste I wole have my recours.
And so bifel that after the thridde cours,
Whil that this kyng sit thus in his nobleye,
Herknynge his mynstralles hir thynges pleye
Biforn hym at the bord deliciously,
In at the halle dore al sodeynly
Ther cam a knyght upon a steede of bras,
And in his hand a brood mirour of glas.
Upon his thombe he hadde of gold a ryng,
And by his syde a naked swerd hangyng;
And up he rideth to the heighe bord.
In al the halle ne was ther spoken a word
For merveille of this knyght; hym to biholde
Ful bisily they wayten, yonge and olde.
This strange knyght, that cam thus sodeynly,
Al armed, save his heed, ful richely,
Saleweth kyng and queene and lordes alle,
By ordre, as they seten in the halle,
With so heigh reverence and obeisaunce,
As wel in speche as in his contenaunce,
That gawayn, with his olde curteisye,
Though he were comen ayeyn out of fairye,
Ne koude hym nat amende with a word.
And after this, biforn the heighe bord,
He with a manly voys seide his message,
After the forme used in his langage,
Withouten vice of silable or of lettre;
And, for his tale sholde seme the bettre,
Accordant to his wordes was his cheere,
As techeth art of speche hem that it leere.
Al be it that I kan nat sowne his stile,
Ne kan nat clymben over so heigh a style,
Yet seye I this, as to commune entente,
Thus muche smounteth al that evere he mente,
If it so be that I have it in mynde.
He seyde, the kyng of arabe and of inde,
My lige lord, on this solempne day
Saleweth yow, as he best kan and may,
And sendeth yow, in honour of youre feeste,
By me, that am al redy at youre heeste,
This steede of bras, that esily and weel
Kan in the space of o day natureel --
This is to seyn, in foure and twenty houres --
Wher-so yow lyst, in droghte or elles shoures,
Beren youre body into every place
To which youre herte wilneth for to pace;
Withouten wem of yow, thurgh foul or fair;
Or, if yow lyst to fleen as hye in the air
As dooth an egle whan hym list to soore,
This same steede shal bere yow evere moore,
Withouten harm, til ye be ther yow leste,
Though that ye slepen on his bak or reste,
And turne ayeyn with writhyng of a pyn.
He that it wroghte koude ful many a gyn.
He wayted many a constellacion
Er he had doon this operacion,
And knew ful many a seel and many a bond.
This mirour eek, that I have in myn hond,
Hath swich a myght that men may in it see
Whan ther shal fallen any adversitee
Unto youre regne or to youreself also,
And openly who is your freend or foo.
And over al this, if any lady bright
Hath set hire herte on any maner wight,
If he be fals, she shal his tresoun see,
His newe love, and al his subtiltee,
So openly that ther shal no thyng hyde.
Wherfore, ageyn this lusty someres tyde,
This morour and this ryng, that ye may see,
He hath sent to my lady canacee,
Youre excellente doghter that is heere.
The vertu of the ryng, if ye wol heere,
Is this, that if hire lust it for to were
Upon his thombe, or in hir purs it bere,
Ther is no fowel that fleeth under the hevene
That she ne shal wel understonde his stevene,
And knowe his menyng openly and pleyn,
And answere hym in his langage ageyn;
And every gras that groweth upon roote
She shal eek knowe, and whom it wol do boote,
Al be his wondes never so depe and wyde.
This naked swerd, that hangeth by my syde,
Swich verty hath that, what man so ye smyte,
Thurgh out his armure it wole kerve an byte,
Were it as thikke as is a branched ook;
And what man that is wounded with the strook
Shal never be hool til that yow list, of grace,
To stroke hym with the plat in thilke place
Ther he is hurt; this is as muche to seyn,
Ye moote with the platte swerd ageyn
Stroke hym in the wounde, and it wol close.
This is a verray sooth, withouten glose;
It failleth nat whils it is in youre hoold.
And whan this knyght hath thus his tale toold,
He rideth out of halle, and doun he lighte.
His steede, which that shoon as sonne brighte,
Stant in the court as stille as any stoon.
This knyght is to his chambre lad anoon,
And is unarmed, and to mete yset.
The presentes been ful roially yfet, --
This is to seyn, the swerd and the mirour,
And born anon into the heighe tour
With certeine officers ordeyned therfore;
And unto canacee this ryng is bore
Solempnely, ther she sit at the table. Page  130
But sikerly, withouten any fable,
The hors of bras, that may nat be remewed,
It stant as it were to the ground yglewed.
Ther may no man out of the place it dryve
For noon engyn of wyndas or polyve;
And cause why? for they kan nat the craft.
And therfore in the place they han it laft,
Til that the knyght hath taught hem the manere
To voyden hym, as ye shal after heere.
Greet was the prees that swarmeth to and fro
To gauren on this hors that stondeth so;
For it so heigh was, and so brood and long,
So wel proporcioned for to been strong,
Right as it were a steede of lumbardye;
Therwith so horsly, and so quyk of ye,
As it a gentil poilleys courser were.
For certes, fro his tayl unto his ere,
Nature ne art ne koude hym nat amende
In no degree, as al the peple wende.
But everemoore hir mooste wonder was
How that it koude gon, and was of bras;
It was of fairye, as the peple semed.
Diverse folk diversely they demed;
As many heddes, as manye wittes ther been.
They murmureden as dooth a swarm of been,
And maden skiles after hir fantasies,
Rehersynge of thise olde poetries,
And seyden it was lyk the pegasee,
The hors that hadde wynges for to flee;
Or elles it was the grekes hors synon,
That broghte troie to destruccion,
As man moun in thise olde geestes rede.
Myn herte, quod oon, is everemoore in drede;
I trowe som men of armes been therinne,
That shapen hem this citee for to wynne.
It were right good that al swich thyng were knowe.
Another rowned to his felawe lowe,
And seyde, he lyeth, for it is rather lyk
An apparence ymaad by som magyk,
As jogelours pleyen at thise feestes grete.
Of sondry doutes thus they jangle and trete,
As lewed peple demeth comunly
Of thynges that been maad moore subtilly
Than they kan in hire lewednesse comprehende;
They demen gladly to the badder ende.
And somme of hem wondred on the mirour,
That born was up into the maister-tour,
Hou men myghte in it swiche thynges se.
Another answerde, and seyde it myghte wel be
Naturelly, by composiciouns
Of anglis and of slye reflexiouns,
And seyde that in rome was swich oon
They speken of alocen and vitulon,
And aristotle, that writen in hir lyves
Of queynte mirours and of perspectives,
As knowen they that han hire bookes herd.
And oother folk han wondred on the swerd
That wolde percen thurghout every thyng,
And fille in speche of thelophus the kyng,
And of achilles with his queynte swerd
For he koude with it bothe heele and dere.
Right in swich wise as men may with the swerd
Of which right now ye han youreselven herd.
They speken of sondry hardyng of metal,
And speke of medicynes therwithal,
And how and whanne it sholde yharded be,
Which is unknowe, algates unto me.
Tho speeke they of canacees ryng,
And seyden alle that swich an wonder thyng
Of craft of rynges herde they nevere noon,
Save that he moyses and kyng salomon
Hadde a name of konnyng in swich art.
Thus seyn the peple, and drawen hem apart.
But nathelees somme seiden that it was
Wonder to maken of fern-asshen glas,
And yet nys glas nat lyk asshen of fern;
But, for they han yknowen it so fern,
Therfore cesseth hir janglyng and hir wonder.
As soore wondren somme on cause of thonder,
On ebbe, on flood, on gossomer, and on myst,
And alle thyng, til that the cause is wyst.
Thus jangle they, and demen, and devyse,
Til that the kyng gan fro the bord aryse.
Phebus hath laft the angle meridional,
And yet ascendynge was the beest roial,
The gentil leon, with his aldiran,
Whan that this tartre knyg, this cambyuskan,
Roos fro his bord, ther as he sat ful hye.
Toforn hym gooth the loude mynstralcye,
Til he cam to his chambre of parementz,
Ther as they sownen diverse instrumentz,
That it is lyk an hevene for the heere.
Now dauncen lusty venus children deere,
For in the fyssh hir lady sat ful hye,
And looketh on hem with a freendly ye.
This noble kyng is set upon his trone.
This strange knyght is fet to hym ful soone,
And on the daunce he gooth with canacee.
Heere is the revel and the jolitee
That is nat able a dul man to devyse.
He moste han knowen love and his servyse,
And been a feestlych man as fressh as may,
That sholde yow devysen swich array. Page  131
Who koude telle yow the forme of daunces
So unkouthe, and swiche fresshe contenaunces,
Swich subtil lookyng and disymulynges
For drede of jalouse meenes aperceyvynges?
No man but launcelot, and he is deed.
Therfore I passe of al this lustiheed;
I sey namoore, but in this jolynesse
I lete hem, til men to the soper dresse.
The styward bit the spices for the hye,
And eek the wyn, in al this melodye.
The usshers and the squiers been ygoon,
The spices and the wyn is come anoon.
They ete and drynke; and whan this hadde and ende,
Unto the temple, as reson was, they wende.
The service doon, they soupen al by day.
What nedeth yow rehercen hire array?
Ech man woot wel that at a kynges feeste
Hath plentee to the meeste and to the leeste,
And deyntees mo than been in my knowyng.
At after-soper gooth this noble kyng
To seen this hors of bras, with al a route
Of lordes and of ladyes hym aboute.
Swich wondryng was ther on this hors of bras
That syn the grete sege of troie was,
Theras men wondreden on an hors also,
Ne was ther swich a wondryng as was tho.
But fynally the kyng axeth this knyght
The vertu of this courser and the myght,
And preyde hym to telle his governaunce.
This hors anoon bigan to trippe and daunce,
Whan that this knyght leyde hand upon his reyne,
And seyde, sire, ther is namoore to seyne,
But, whan yow list to ryden anywhere,
Ye mooten trille a pyn, stant in his ere,
Which I shal telle yow bitwix us two.
Ye moote nempne hym to what place also,
Or to what contree, that yow list to ryde.
And whan ye come ther as yow list abyde,
Bidde hym descende, and trille another pyn,
For therin lith th' effect of al the gyn,
And he wol doun descende and doon youre wille,
And in that place he wol abyde stille.
Though al the world the contrarie hadde yswore,
He shal nat thennes been ydrawe ne ybore.
Or, if yow liste bidde hym thennes goon,
Trille this pyn, and he wol vanysshe anoon
Out of the sighte of every maner wight,
And come agayn, be it by day or nyght,
Whan that yow list to clepen hym ageyn
In swich a gyse as I shal to yow seyn
Bitwixe yow and me, and that ful soone.
Ride whan yow list, ther is namoore to doone.
Enformed whan the kyng was of that knyght,
And hath conceyved in his wit aright
The manere and the forme of al this thyng,
Ful glad and blithe, this noble doughty kyng
Repeireth to his revel as biforn.
The brydel is unto the tour yborn
And kept among his jueles leeve and deere,
The hors vanysshed, I noot in what manere,
Out of hir sighte; ye gete namoore of me.
But thus I lete in lust and jolitee
This cambyuskan his lordes festeiynge,
Til wel ny the day bigan to sprynge.
Explicit prima pars.