The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Monk's Prologue

Whan ended was my tale of melibee,
And of prudence and hire benignytee,
Oure hooste seyde, as I am feithful man,
And by that precious corpus madrian,
I hadde levere than a barel ale
That goodelief, my wyf, hadde herd this tale!
For she nys no thyng of swich pacience
As was this melibeus wyf prudence.
By goddes bones! whan I bete my knaves,
She bryngeth me forth the grete clobbed staves,
And crieth, -- slee the dogges everichoon,
And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon! --
And if that any neighebor of myne
Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
Or be so hardy to hire to trespace,
Whan she comth hoom she rampeth in my face,
And crieth, -- false coward, wrek thy wyf!
By corpus bones, I wol have thy knyf,
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne! --
Fro day to nyght right thus she wol bigynne.
-- allas! -- she seith, -- that evere I was shape
To wedden a milksop, or a coward ape,
That wol been overlad with every wight!
Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right! --
This is my lif, but if that I wol fighte;
And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
Or elles I am but lost, but if that I
Be lik a wilde leoun, fool-hardy.
I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
Som neighebor, and thanne go my way;
For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
Al be it that I dar nat hire withstonde,
For she is byg in armes, by my feith:
That shal he fynde that hire mysdooth or seith, --
But lat us passe awey fro this mateere.
My lord, the monk, quod he, by myrie of cheere,
For ye shul telle a tale trewely.
Loo, rouchestre stant heer faste by!
Ryde forth, myn owene lord, brek nat oure game.
But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name.
Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun john,
Or daun thomas, or elles daun albon?
Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn?
I vowe to god, thou hast a ful fair skyn;
It is a gentil pasture ther thow goost.
Thou art nat lyk a penant or a goost:
Upon my feith, thou art som officer,
Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom;
No povre cloysterer, ne no novts,
But a governour, wily and wys,
And therwithal of brawnes and of bones,
A wel farynge persone for the nones.
I pray to god, yeve hym confusioun
That first thee broghte unto religioun!
Thou woldest han been a tredefowel aright. Page  189
Haddestow as greet a leeve, as thou hast myght,
To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
Thou haddest bigeten ful many a creature.
Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope?
God yeve me sorwe, but, and I were a pope,
Nat oonly thou, but every myghty man,
Though he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
Sholde have a wyf; for al the world is lorn!
Religioun hath take up al the corn
Of tredyng, and we borel men been shrympes.
Of fieble trees ther comen wrecched ympes.
This maketh that oure heires been so sklendre
And feble that they may nat wel engendre.
This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
Of venus peiementz than mowe we;
God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
But be nat wrooth, my lord, though that I pleye.
Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye!
This worthy monk took al in pacience,
And seyde, I wol doon al my diligence,
As fer as sowneth into honestee,
To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.
And if yow list to herkne hyderward,
I wol yow seyn the lyf of seint edward;
Or ellis, first, tragedies wol I telle,
Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storei,
As olde bookes maken us memorie,
Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee,
And is yfallen out of heigh degree
Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly.
And they ben versified communely
Of six feet, which men clepen exametrron.
In prose eek been endited many oon,
And eek in meetre, in many a sondry wyse.
Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise.
Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere.
But first I yow biseeke in this mateere,
Though I by ordre telle nat thise thynges,
Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
But tellen hem som bifore and som bihynde,
As it now comth unto my remembraunce,
Have me excused of myn ignoraunce.