Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
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Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
 
The Canterbury Tales
The Monk’s Prologue
 
The mery wordes of the Host to the Monk.

WHAN ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence and hir benignitee,
Our hoste seyde, ‘as I am faithful man,
And by the precious corpus Madrian,
I hadde lever than a barel ale        5
That goode lief my wyf hadde herd this tale!
For she nis no-thing of swich pacience
As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.
By goddes bones! whan I bete my knaves,
She bringth me forth the grete clobbed staves,        10
And cryeth, “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 hir to trespace,        15
Whan she comth hoom, she rampeth in my face,
And cryeth, “false coward, wreek thy wyf,
By corpus bones! I wol have thy knyf,
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spinne!”
Fro day to night right thus she wol biginne;—        20
“Allas!” she seith, “that ever I was shape
To wedde a milksop or a coward ape,
That wol be overlad with every wight!
Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right!”
This is my lyf, but-if that I wol fighte;        25
And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
Or elles I am but lost, but-if that I
Be lyk a wilde leoun fool-hardy.
I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
Som neighebor, and thanne go my wey.        30
For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
Al be it that I dar nat hir withstonde,
For she is big in armes, by my feith,
That shal he finde, that hir misdooth or seith.
But lat us passe awey fro this matere.        35
  My lord the Monk,’ quod he, ‘be mery of chere;
For ye shul telle a tale trewely.
Lo! Rouchestre stant heer faste by!
Ryd forth, myn owene lord, brek nat our game,
But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat your name,        40
Wher shal I calle yow my lord dan Iohn,
Or dan Thomas, or elles dan Albon?
Of what hous be ye, by your fader kin?
I vow to god, thou hast a ful fair skin,
It is a gentil pasture ther thou goost;        45
Thou art nat lyk a penaunt 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;        50
No povre cloisterer, ne no novys,
But a governour, wyly and wys.
And therwithal of brawnes and of bones
A wel-faring persone for the nones.
I pray to god, yeve him confusioun        55
That first thee broghte un-to religioun;
Thou woldest han been a trede-foul aright.
Haddestow as greet a leve, as thou hast might
To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
Thou haddest bigeten many a creature.        60
Alas! why werestow so wyd a cope?
God yeve me sorwe! but, and I were a pope,
Not only thou, but every mighty man,
Thogh he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
Sholde have a wyf; for al the world is lorn!        65
Religioun hath take up al the corn
Of treding, and we borel men ben shrimpes!
Of feble trees ther comen wrecched impes.
This maketh that our heires been so sclendre
And feble, that they may nat wel engendre.        70
This maketh that our wyves wol assaye
Religious folk, for ye may bettre paye
Of Venus payements than mowe we;
God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
But be nat wrooth, my lord, for that I pleye;        75
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 souneth in-to honestee,
To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.        80
And if yow list to herkne hiderward,
I wol yow seyn the lyf of seint Edward;
Or elles first Tragedies wol I telle
Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,        85
As olde bokes maken us memorie,
Of him that stood in greet prosperitee
And is y-fallen out of heigh degree
Into miserie, and endeth wrecchedly.
And they ben versifyed comunly        90
Of six feet, which men clepe exametron.
In prose eek been endyted many oon,
And eek in metre, in many a sondry wyse.
Lo! this declaring oughte y-nough suffise.
  Now herkneth, if yow lyketh for to here;        95
But first I yow biseke in this matere,
Though I by ordre telle nat thise thinges,
Be it of popes, emperours, or kinges,
After hir ages, as men writen finde,
But telle hem som bifore and som bihinde,        100
As it now comth un-to my remembraunce;
Have me excused of myn ignoraunce.’

Explicit.
 
 
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