The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Canon Yeoman's Prologue

Whan ended was the lyf of seinte cecile,
     554
Er we hadde riden fully fyve mile,
     555
A tboghtoun under blee us gan atake
     556
A man that clothed was in clothes blake,
     557
And under-nethe he hadde a whyt surplys.
     558
His hakeney, that wasal pomely grys,
     559
So swatte that it wonder was to see;
     560
It semed as he had priked miles three.
     561
The hors eek that his yeman rood upon
     562
So swatte that sunnethe myghte it gon.
     563
Aboute the peytrel sood the foom ful hye;
     564
He was of foom al flekked a a pye.
     565
A male tweyfoold on his croper lay;
     566
It semed that he caried lite array.
     567
Al light for somer rood this worthy man,
     568
And in myn herte wondren I bigan
     569
What that he was, til that I understood
     570
How that his cloke was sowed to his good;
     571
For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me,
     572
I demed hym som chanoun for to be.
     573
His hat heeng at his bak doun by a laas,
     574
For he hadde riden moore than trot or paas;
     575
He hadde ay priked lik as he were wood.
     576
A clote-leef he hadde under his hood Page  214
     577
For swoot, and for to keep his heed from heete.
     578
But it was joye for to seen hym swete!
     579
His forheed dropped as a stillatorie,
     580
Were ful of plantayne and of paritorie.
     581
And whan that he was come, he ban to crye,
     582
God save, quod he, this joly compaignye!
     583
Faste have I priked,!quod he, for youre sake,
     584
By cause that I woldeyow atake,
     585
To riden in this myrie compaignye.
     586
His yeman eek was ful of curteisye,
     587
And seyde, sires, now in the morwe-tyde
     588
Out of youre hostelrie I saugh yow ryde,
     589
And warned heer my lord and my soverayn,
     590
Which that to ryden with yow is ful fayn
     591
For his desport; he loveth daliaunce.
     592
freend, for thy warnyng God yeve thee good chaunce!
     593
Thanne seyde oure hoost, for certein it wolde seme
     594
Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme.
     595
He is ful jocunde also, dar I leye!
     596
Can he oght telle a myrie tale or tweye,
     597
With which he glade may his compaignye?
     598
Who, sire? my lord? ye, ye, withouten lye,
     599
He kan of murthe and eek of jolitee
     600
Nat but ynough: also, sire, trusteth me,
     601
And ye hym knewe as wel as do I,
     602
Ye wolde wondre how wel and craftily
     603
He koude werke, and that in sondry wise.
     604
He hath take on hym many a greet emprise,
     605
Which were ful hard for any that is heere
     606
To brynge aboute, but they of hym it leere.
     607
As hoomly as he rit amonges yow,
     608
If ye hym kniewe, it wolde be for youre prow.
     609
Ye wolde nat forgoon his aqueyntaunce
     610
For muchel good, I dar leye in balaunce
     611
Al that I have in my possessioun.
     612
He is a man of heigh discrecioun;
     613
I warne yow wel, he is a passyng man.
     614
Wel, quod oure hoost, I pray thee tel me than,
     615
Is he a clerk, or noon? telle what he is.
     616
Nay, he is gretter than a clerk, ywis,
     617
Seyde this yeman, and in wordes fewe,
     618
Hoost, of his craft somwhat I wol yow shewe.
     619
I seye, my lord kan swich subtilitee --
     620
But al his craft ye may nat wite at me,
     621
And somwhat helpe I yet to his wirkyng --
     622
That al this ground on which we been ridyng,
     623
Til that we come to caunterbury toun,
     624
He koude al clene turne it up-so-doun,
     625
And pave it al of silver and of gold.
     626
And whan this yeman hadde this tale ytold
     627
Unto oure hoost, he seyde, benedicitee!
     628
This thyng is wonder merveillous to me,
     629
Syn that thy lord is of so heigh prudence,
     630
By cause of which men sholde hym reverence,
     631
That of his worshipe rekketh he so lite.
     632
His overslope nys nat worth a myte,
     633
As in effect, to hym, so moot I go!
     634
It is al baudy and totore also.
     635
Why is thy lord so sluttissh, I the preye,
     636
And is of power bettre clooth to beye,
     637
Of that his dede accorde with thy speche?
     638
Telle me that, and that I thee biseche.
     639
Why? quod this yeman, wherto axe ye me?
     640
God help me so, for he shal nevere thee!
     641
(but I wol nat avowe that I seye,
     642
And therfore keepe it secree, I yow preye.)
     643
He is to wys, in feith, as I bileeve.
     644
That that is overdoon, it wol nat preeve
     645
Aright, as clerkes seyn; it is a vice.
     646
Wherfore in that I holde hym lewed and nyce.
     647
For whan a man hath over-greet a wit,
     648
Ful oft hym happeth to mysusen it.
     649
So doothy my lord, and that me greveth soore;
     650
God it amende! I kan sey yow namoore.
     651
Ther-of no fors, good yeman, quod oure hoost;
     652
Syn of the konnyng of thy lord thow woost,
     653
Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
     654
Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
     655
Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?
     656
In the suburbes of a toun, quod he,
     657
Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,
     658
Wheras this robbours and thise theves by kynde
     659
Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
     660
As they that dar nat shewen hir presence;
     661
So faren we, if I shal seye the sothe.
     662
Now, quod oure hoost, yit lat me talke to the.
     663
Why artow so discoloured of thy face?
     664
Peter! quod he, God yeve it harde grace,
     665
I am so used in the fyr to blowe
     666
That it hath chaunged my colour, I trowe.
     667
I am nat wont in no mirour to prie,
     668
But swynke soore and lerne multiplie.
     669
We blondren evere and pouren in the fir,
     670
And for al that we faille of oure desir,
     671
For evere we lakken oure conclusioun.
     672
To muchel folk we doon illusioun,
     673
And borwe gold, be it a pound or two,
     674
Or ten, or twelve, or manye sommes mo,
     675
And make hem wenen, at the leeste weye,
     676
That of a pound we koude make tweye.
     677
Yet is it fals, but ay we han good hope Page  215
     678
It for to doon, and after it we grope.
     679
But that science is so fer us biforn,
     680
We mowen nat, although we hadden it sworn,
     681
It overtake, it slit awey so faste.
     682
It wole us maken beggers atte laste.
     683
Whil this yeman was thus in his talkyng,
     684
This chanoun drough hym neer, and herde al thyng
     685
Which that this yeman spak, for suspecioun
     686
Of mennes speche evere hadde this chanoun.
     687
For catoun seith that he that gilty is
     688
Demeth alle thyng be spoke of hym, ywis.
     689
That was the cause he gan so ny hym drawe
     690
To his yeman, to herknen al his sawe.
     691
And thus he seyde unto his yeman tho:
     692
Hoold thou thy pees, and spek no wordes mo,
     693
For if thou do, thou shalt it deere abye.
     694
Thou sclaundrest me heere in this compaignye,
     695
And eek discoverest that thou sholdest hyde.
     696
Ye, quod oure hoost, telle on, what bityde.
     697
Of al his thretyng rekke nat a myte!
     698
In feith, quod he, namoore I do but lyte.
     699
And whan this chanon saugh it wolde nat bee,
     700
But his yeman wolde telle his pryvetee,
     701
He fledde awey for verray sorwe and shame.
     702
A! quod the yeman, heere shal arise game;
     703
Al that I kan anon now wol I telle.
     704
Syn he is goon, the foule feend hym quelle!
     705
For nevere heerafter wol I with hym meete
     706
For peny ne for pound, I yow biheete.
     707
He that me broghte first unto that game,
     708
Er that he dye, sorwe have he and shame!
     709
For it is ernest to me, by me feith;
     710
That feele I wel, what so any man seith.
     711
And yet, for al my smert and al my grief,
     712
For al my sorwe, labour, and meschief,
     713
I koude nevere leve it in no wise.
     714
Now wolde God my wit myghte suffise
     715
To tellen al that longeth to that art!
     716
But nathelees yow wol I tellen part.
     717
Syn that my lord is goon, I wol nat spare;
     718
Swich thyng as that I knowe, I wol declare.
     719