The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Monk's Prologue

Whan ended was my tale of melibee,
     1889
And of prudence and hire benignytee,
     1890
Oure hooste seyde, as I am feithful man,
     1891
And by that precious corpus madrian,
     1892
I hadde levere than a barel ale
     1893
That goodelief, my wyf, hadde herd this tale!
     1894
For she nys no thyng of swich pacience
     1895
As was this melibeus wyf prudence.
     1896
By goddes bones! whan I bete my knaves,
     1897
She bryngeth me forth the grete clobbed staves,
     1898
And crieth, -- slee the dogges everichoon,
     1899
And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon! --
     1900
And if that any neighebor of myne
     1901
Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
     1902
Or be so hardy to hire to trespace,
     1903
Whan she comth hoom she rampeth in my face,
     1904
And crieth, -- false coward, wrek thy wyf!
     1905
By corpus bones, I wol have thy knyf,
     1906
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne! --
     1907
Fro day to nyght right thus she wol bigynne.
     1908
-- allas! -- she seith, -- that evere I was shape
     1909
To wedden a milksop, or a coward ape,
     1910
That wol been overlad with every wight!
     1911
Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right! --
     1912
This is my lif, but if that I wol fighte;
     1913
And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
     1914
Or elles I am but lost, but if that I
     1915
Be lik a wilde leoun, fool-hardy.
     1916
I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
     1917
Som neighebor, and thanne go my way;
     1918
For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
     1919
Al be it that I dar nat hire withstonde,
     1920
For she is byg in armes, by my feith:
     1921
That shal he fynde that hire mysdooth or seith, --
     1922
But lat us passe awey fro this mateere.
     1923
My lord, the monk, quod he, by myrie of cheere,
     1924
For ye shul telle a tale trewely.
     1925
Loo, rouchestre stant heer faste by!
     1926
Ryde forth, myn owene lord, brek nat oure game.
     1927
But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name.
     1928
Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun john,
     1929
Or daun thomas, or elles daun albon?
     1930
Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn?
     1931
I vowe to god, thou hast a ful fair skyn;
     1932
It is a gentil pasture ther thow goost.
     1933
Thou art nat lyk a penant or a goost:
     1934
Upon my feith, thou art som officer,
     1935
Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
     1936
For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
     1937
Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom;
     1938
No povre cloysterer, ne no novts,
     1939
But a governour, wily and wys,
     1940
And therwithal of brawnes and of bones,
     1941
A wel farynge persone for the nones.
     1942
I pray to god, yeve hym confusioun
     1943
That first thee broghte unto religioun!
     1944
Thou woldest han been a tredefowel aright. Page  189
     1945
Haddestow as greet a leeve, as thou hast myght,
     1946
To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
     1947
Thou haddest bigeten ful many a creature.
     1948
Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope?
     1949
God yeve me sorwe, but, and I were a pope,
     1950
Nat oonly thou, but every myghty man,
     1951
Though he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
     1952
Sholde have a wyf; for al the world is lorn!
     1953
Religioun hath take up al the corn
     1954
Of tredyng, and we borel men been shrympes.
     1955
Of fieble trees ther comen wrecched ympes.
     1956
This maketh that oure heires been so sklendre
     1957
And feble that they may nat wel engendre.
     1958
This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
     1959
Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
     1960
Of venus peiementz than mowe we;
     1961
God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
     1962
But be nat wrooth, my lord, though that I pleye.
     1963
Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye!
     1964
This worthy monk took al in pacience,
     1965
And seyde, I wol doon al my diligence,
     1966
As fer as sowneth into honestee,
     1967
To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.
     1968
And if yow list to herkne hyderward,
     1969
I wol yow seyn the lyf of seint edward;
     1970
Or ellis, first, tragedies wol I telle,
     1971
Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
     1972
Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storei,
     1973
As olde bookes maken us memorie,
     1974
Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee,
     1975
And is yfallen out of heigh degree
     1976
Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly.
     1977
And they ben versified communely
     1978
Of six feet, which men clepen exametrron.
     1979
In prose eek been endited many oon,
     1980
And eek in meetre, in many a sondry wyse.
     1981
Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise.
     1982
Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere.
     1983
But first I yow biseeke in this mateere,
     1984
Though I by ordre telle nat thise thynges,
     1985
Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
     1986
After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
     1987
But tellen hem som bifore and som bihynde,
     1988
As it now comth unto my remembraunce,
     1989
Have me excused of myn ignoraunce.
     1990