The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

Part I

At sarray, in the land of tartarye,
     9
Ther dwelte a kyng that werreyed russye,
     10
Thurgh which ther dyde many a doughty man.
     11
This noble kyng was cleped cambyuskan,
     12
Which in his tyme was of so greet renoun
     13
That ther was nowher in no regioun
     14
So excellent a lord in alle thyng.
     15
Hym lakked noght that longeth to a king.
     16
As of the secte of which that he was born
     17
He kepte his lay, to which that he was sworn;
     18
And therto he was hardy, wys, and riche,
     19
And pitous and just, alwey yliche;
     20
Sooth of this word, benigne, and honurable;
     21
Of his corage as any centre stable;
     22
Yong, fressh, and strong, in armes desirous
     23
As any bacheler of al his hous.
     24
A fair persone he was and fortunat,
     25
And kepte alwey so wel roial estat
     26
That ther was nowher swich another man.
     27
This noble kyng, this tartre cambyuskan,
     28
Hadde two sones on elpheta his wyf,
     29
Of whiche the eldeste highte algarsyf,
     30
That oother sone was cleped cambalo.
     31
A doghter hadde this worthy kyng also,
     32
That yongest was, and highte canacee.
     33
But for to telle yow al hir beautee,
     34
It lyth nat in my tonge, n' yn my konnyng;
     35
I dar nat undertake so heigh a thyng.
     36
Myn englissh eek is insufficient.
     37
It moste been a rethor excellent,
     38
That koude his colours longynge for that art,
     39
If he sholde hire discryven every part.
     40
I am noon swich, I moot speke as I kan.
     41
And so bifel that whan this cambyuskan
     42
Hath twenty wynter born his diademe,
     43
As he was wont fro yeer to yeer, I deme,
     44
He leet the feeste of his nativitee
     45
Doon cryen thurghout sarray his citee,
     46
The laste idus of march, after the yeer.
     47
Phebus the sonne ful joly was and cleer;
     48
For he was neigh his exaltacioun
     49
In martes face, and in his mansioun
     50
In aries, the colerik hoote signe.
     51
Ful lusty was the weder benigne,
     52
For which the foweles, agayn the sonne sheene,
     53
What for the sesoun and the yonge grene,
     54
Ful loude songen hire affecciouns.
     55
Hem semed han geten hem protecciouns
     56
Agayn the swerd of wynter, keene and coold.
     57
This cambyuskan, of which I have yow toold,
     58
In roial vestiment sit on his deys,
     59
With diademe, ful heighe in his paleys,
     60
And halt his feeste so solempne and so ryche
     61
That in this world ne was ther noon it lyche;
     62
Of which if I shal tellen al th' array,
     63
Thanne wolde it occupie a someres day;
     64
And eek it nedeth nat for to devyse
     65
At every cours the ordre of hire servyse.
     66
I wol nat tellen of hir strange sewes,
     67
Ne of hir swannes, ne of hire heronsewes.
     68
Eek in that lond, as tellen knyghtes olde,
     69
Ther is som mete that is ful deynte holde,
     70
That in this lond men recche of it but smal;
     71
Ther nys no man that may reporten al.
     72
I wol nat taryen yow, for it is pryme, Page  129
     73
And for it is no fruyt, but los of tyme;
     74
Unto my firste I wole have my recours.
     75
And so bifel that after the thridde cours,
     76
Whil that this kyng sit thus in his nobleye,
     77
Herknynge his mynstralles hir thynges pleye
     78
Biforn hym at the bord deliciously,
     79
In at the halle dore al sodeynly
     80
Ther cam a knyght upon a steede of bras,
     81
And in his hand a brood mirour of glas.
     82
Upon his thombe he hadde of gold a ryng,
     83
And by his syde a naked swerd hangyng;
     84
And up he rideth to the heighe bord.
     85
In al the halle ne was ther spoken a word
     86
For merveille of this knyght; hym to biholde
     87
Ful bisily they wayten, yonge and olde.
     88
This strange knyght, that cam thus sodeynly,
     89
Al armed, save his heed, ful richely,
     90
Saleweth kyng and queene and lordes alle,
     91
By ordre, as they seten in the halle,
     92
With so heigh reverence and obeisaunce,
     93
As wel in speche as in his contenaunce,
     94
That gawayn, with his olde curteisye,
     95
Though he were comen ayeyn out of fairye,
     96
Ne koude hym nat amende with a word.
     97
And after this, biforn the heighe bord,
     98
He with a manly voys seide his message,
     99
After the forme used in his langage,
     100
Withouten vice of silable or of lettre;
     101
And, for his tale sholde seme the bettre,
     102
Accordant to his wordes was his cheere,
     103
As techeth art of speche hem that it leere.
     104
Al be it that I kan nat sowne his stile,
     105
Ne kan nat clymben over so heigh a style,
     106
Yet seye I this, as to commune entente,
     107
Thus muche smounteth al that evere he mente,
     108
If it so be that I have it in mynde.
     109
He seyde, the kyng of arabe and of inde,
     110
My lige lord, on this solempne day
     111
Saleweth yow, as he best kan and may,
     112
And sendeth yow, in honour of youre feeste,
     113
By me, that am al redy at youre heeste,
     114
This steede of bras, that esily and weel
     115
Kan in the space of o day natureel --
     116
This is to seyn, in foure and twenty houres --
     117
Wher-so yow lyst, in droghte or elles shoures,
     118
Beren youre body into every place
     119
To which youre herte wilneth for to pace;
     120
Withouten wem of yow, thurgh foul or fair;
     121
Or, if yow lyst to fleen as hye in the air
     122
As dooth an egle whan hym list to soore,
     123
This same steede shal bere yow evere moore,
     124
Withouten harm, til ye be ther yow leste,
     125
Though that ye slepen on his bak or reste,
     126
And turne ayeyn with writhyng of a pyn.
     127
He that it wroghte koude ful many a gyn.
     128
He wayted many a constellacion
     129
Er he had doon this operacion,
     130
And knew ful many a seel and many a bond.
     131
This mirour eek, that I have in myn hond,
     132
Hath swich a myght that men may in it see
     133
Whan ther shal fallen any adversitee
     134
Unto youre regne or to youreself also,
     135
And openly who is your freend or foo.
     136
And over al this, if any lady bright
     137
Hath set hire herte on any maner wight,
     138
If he be fals, she shal his tresoun see,
     139
His newe love, and al his subtiltee,
     140
So openly that ther shal no thyng hyde.
     141
Wherfore, ageyn this lusty someres tyde,
     142
This morour and this ryng, that ye may see,
     143
He hath sent to my lady canacee,
     144
Youre excellente doghter that is heere.
     145
The vertu of the ryng, if ye wol heere,
     146
Is this, that if hire lust it for to were
     147
Upon his thombe, or in hir purs it bere,
     148
Ther is no fowel that fleeth under the hevene
     149
That she ne shal wel understonde his stevene,
     150
And knowe his menyng openly and pleyn,
     151
And answere hym in his langage ageyn;
     152
And every gras that groweth upon roote
     153
She shal eek knowe, and whom it wol do boote,
     154
Al be his wondes never so depe and wyde.
     155
This naked swerd, that hangeth by my syde,
     156
Swich verty hath that, what man so ye smyte,
     157
Thurgh out his armure it wole kerve an byte,
     158
Were it as thikke as is a branched ook;
     159
And what man that is wounded with the strook
     160
Shal never be hool til that yow list, of grace,
     161
To stroke hym with the plat in thilke place
     162
Ther he is hurt; this is as muche to seyn,
     163
Ye moote with the platte swerd ageyn
     164
Stroke hym in the wounde, and it wol close.
     165
This is a verray sooth, withouten glose;
     166
It failleth nat whils it is in youre hoold.
     167
And whan this knyght hath thus his tale toold,
     168
He rideth out of halle, and doun he lighte.
     169
His steede, which that shoon as sonne brighte,
     170
Stant in the court as stille as any stoon.
     171
This knyght is to his chambre lad anoon,
     172
And is unarmed, and to mete yset.
     173
The presentes been ful roially yfet, --
     174
This is to seyn, the swerd and the mirour,
     175
And born anon into the heighe tour
     176
With certeine officers ordeyned therfore;
     177
And unto canacee this ryng is bore
     178
Solempnely, ther she sit at the table. Page  130
     179
But sikerly, withouten any fable,
     180
The hors of bras, that may nat be remewed,
     181
It stant as it were to the ground yglewed.
     182
Ther may no man out of the place it dryve
     183
For noon engyn of wyndas or polyve;
     184
And cause why? for they kan nat the craft.
     185
And therfore in the place they han it laft,
     186
Til that the knyght hath taught hem the manere
     187
To voyden hym, as ye shal after heere.
     188
Greet was the prees that swarmeth to and fro
     189
To gauren on this hors that stondeth so;
     190
For it so heigh was, and so brood and long,
     191
So wel proporcioned for to been strong,
     192
Right as it were a steede of lumbardye;
     193
Therwith so horsly, and so quyk of ye,
     194
As it a gentil poilleys courser were.
     195
For certes, fro his tayl unto his ere,
     196
Nature ne art ne koude hym nat amende
     197
In no degree, as al the peple wende.
     198
But everemoore hir mooste wonder was
     199
How that it koude gon, and was of bras;
     200
It was of fairye, as the peple semed.
     201
Diverse folk diversely they demed;
     202
As many heddes, as manye wittes ther been.
     203
They murmureden as dooth a swarm of been,
     204
And maden skiles after hir fantasies,
     205
Rehersynge of thise olde poetries,
     206
And seyden it was lyk the pegasee,
     207
The hors that hadde wynges for to flee;
     208
Or elles it was the grekes hors synon,
     209
That broghte troie to destruccion,
     210
As man moun in thise olde geestes rede.
     211
Myn herte, quod oon, is everemoore in drede;
     212
I trowe som men of armes been therinne,
     213
That shapen hem this citee for to wynne.
     214
It were right good that al swich thyng were knowe.
     215
Another rowned to his felawe lowe,
     216
And seyde, he lyeth, for it is rather lyk
     217
An apparence ymaad by som magyk,
     218
As jogelours pleyen at thise feestes grete.
     219
Of sondry doutes thus they jangle and trete,
     220
As lewed peple demeth comunly
     221
Of thynges that been maad moore subtilly
     222
Than they kan in hire lewednesse comprehende;
     223
They demen gladly to the badder ende.
     224
And somme of hem wondred on the mirour,
     225
That born was up into the maister-tour,
     226
Hou men myghte in it swiche thynges se.
     227
Another answerde, and seyde it myghte wel be
     228
Naturelly, by composiciouns
     229
Of anglis and of slye reflexiouns,
     230
And seyde that in rome was swich oon
     231
They speken of alocen and vitulon,
     232
And aristotle, that writen in hir lyves
     233
Of queynte mirours and of perspectives,
     234
As knowen they that han hire bookes herd.
     235
And oother folk han wondred on the swerd
     236
That wolde percen thurghout every thyng,
     237
And fille in speche of thelophus the kyng,
     238
And of achilles with his queynte swerd
     239
For he koude with it bothe heele and dere.
     240
Right in swich wise as men may with the swerd
     241
Of which right now ye han youreselven herd.
     242
They speken of sondry hardyng of metal,
     243
And speke of medicynes therwithal,
     244
And how and whanne it sholde yharded be,
     245
Which is unknowe, algates unto me.
     246
Tho speeke they of canacees ryng,
     247
And seyden alle that swich an wonder thyng
     248
Of craft of rynges herde they nevere noon,
     249
Save that he moyses and kyng salomon
     250
Hadde a name of konnyng in swich art.
     251
Thus seyn the peple, and drawen hem apart.
     252
But nathelees somme seiden that it was
     253
Wonder to maken of fern-asshen glas,
     254
And yet nys glas nat lyk asshen of fern;
     255
But, for they han yknowen it so fern,
     256
Therfore cesseth hir janglyng and hir wonder.
     257
As soore wondren somme on cause of thonder,
     258
On ebbe, on flood, on gossomer, and on myst,
     259
And alle thyng, til that the cause is wyst.
     260
Thus jangle they, and demen, and devyse,
     261
Til that the kyng gan fro the bord aryse.
     262
Phebus hath laft the angle meridional,
     263
And yet ascendynge was the beest roial,
     264
The gentil leon, with his aldiran,
     265
Whan that this tartre knyg, this cambyuskan,
     266
Roos fro his bord, ther as he sat ful hye.
     267
Toforn hym gooth the loude mynstralcye,
     268
Til he cam to his chambre of parementz,
     269
Ther as they sownen diverse instrumentz,
     270
That it is lyk an hevene for the heere.
     271
Now dauncen lusty venus children deere,
     272
For in the fyssh hir lady sat ful hye,
     273
And looketh on hem with a freendly ye.
     274
This noble kyng is set upon his trone.
     275
This strange knyght is fet to hym ful soone,
     276
And on the daunce he gooth with canacee.
     277
Heere is the revel and the jolitee
     278
That is nat able a dul man to devyse.
     279
He moste han knowen love and his servyse,
     280
And been a feestlych man as fressh as may,
     281
That sholde yow devysen swich array. Page  131
     282
Who koude telle yow the forme of daunces
     283
So unkouthe, and swiche fresshe contenaunces,
     284
Swich subtil lookyng and disymulynges
     285
For drede of jalouse meenes aperceyvynges?
     286
No man but launcelot, and he is deed.
     287
Therfore I passe of al this lustiheed;
     288
I sey namoore, but in this jolynesse
     289
I lete hem, til men to the soper dresse.
     290
The styward bit the spices for the hye,
     291
And eek the wyn, in al this melodye.
     292
The usshers and the squiers been ygoon,
     293
The spices and the wyn is come anoon.
     294
They ete and drynke; and whan this hadde and ende,
     295
Unto the temple, as reson was, they wende.
     296
The service doon, they soupen al by day.
     297
What nedeth yow rehercen hire array?
     298
Ech man woot wel that at a kynges feeste
     299
Hath plentee to the meeste and to the leeste,
     300
And deyntees mo than been in my knowyng.
     301
At after-soper gooth this noble kyng
     302
To seen this hors of bras, with al a route
     303
Of lordes and of ladyes hym aboute.
     304
Swich wondryng was ther on this hors of bras
     305
That syn the grete sege of troie was,
     306
Theras men wondreden on an hors also,
     307
Ne was ther swich a wondryng as was tho.
     308
But fynally the kyng axeth this knyght
     309
The vertu of this courser and the myght,
     310
And preyde hym to telle his governaunce.
     311
This hors anoon bigan to trippe and daunce,
     312
Whan that this knyght leyde hand upon his reyne,
     313
And seyde, sire, ther is namoore to seyne,
     314
But, whan yow list to ryden anywhere,
     315
Ye mooten trille a pyn, stant in his ere,
     316
Which I shal telle yow bitwix us two.
     317
Ye moote nempne hym to what place also,
     318
Or to what contree, that yow list to ryde.
     319
And whan ye come ther as yow list abyde,
     320
Bidde hym descende, and trille another pyn,
     321
For therin lith th' effect of al the gyn,
     322
And he wol doun descende and doon youre wille,
     323
And in that place he wol abyde stille.
     324
Though al the world the contrarie hadde yswore,
     325
He shal nat thennes been ydrawe ne ybore.
     326
Or, if yow liste bidde hym thennes goon,
     327
Trille this pyn, and he wol vanysshe anoon
     328
Out of the sighte of every maner wight,
     329
And come agayn, be it by day or nyght,
     330
Whan that yow list to clepen hym ageyn
     331
In swich a gyse as I shal to yow seyn
     332
Bitwixe yow and me, and that ful soone.
     333
Ride whan yow list, ther is namoore to doone.
     334
Enformed whan the kyng was of that knyght,
     335
And hath conceyved in his wit aright
     336
The manere and the forme of al this thyng,
     337
Ful glad and blithe, this noble doughty kyng
     338
Repeireth to his revel as biforn.
     339
The brydel is unto the tour yborn
     340
And kept among his jueles leeve and deere,
     341
The hors vanysshed, I noot in what manere,
     342
Out of hir sighte; ye gete namoore of me.
     343
But thus I lete in lust and jolitee
     344
This cambyuskan his lordes festeiynge,
     345
Til wel ny the day bigan to sprynge.
     346
Explicit prima pars.