Verse > Anthologies > Harvard Classics > English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray
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   English Poetry I: From Chaucer to Gray.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
1. The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales
 
Lines 801–858
 
Geoffrey Chaucer (1340(?)–1400)
 
 
Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury.
And for to make yow the more mery,
I wol my-selven gladly with yow ryde,
Right at myn owne cost, and be your gyde.
And who-so wol my jugement withseye 1        805
Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
And if ye vouche-sauf that it be so,
Tel me anon, with-outen wordes mo,
And I wol erly shape 2 me therfore.’
  This thing was graunted, and our othes swore        810
With ful glad herte, and preyden him also
That he wold vouche-sauf for to do so,
And that he wolde been our governour,
And of our tales juge and reportour,
And sette a soper at a certeyn prys;        815
And we wold reuled been at his devys, 3
In heigh and lowe; and thus, by oon assent,
We been acorded to his jugement.
And ther-up-on the wyn was fet 4 anoon;
We dronken, and to reste wente echoon,        820
With-outen any lenger taryinge.
A-morwe, whan that day bigan to springe,
Up roos our host, and was our aller cok, 5
And gadrede us togidre, alle in a flok,
And forth we riden, a litel more than pas, 6        825
Unto the watering 7 of seint Thomas.
And there our host bigan his hors areste, 8
And seyde; ‘Lordinges, herkneth if yow leste.
Ye woot your forward, 9 and I it yow recorde. 10
If even-song and morwe-song acorde,        830
Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
As evere mote 11 I drinke wyn or ale,
Who-so be rebel to my jugement
Shal paye for al that by the weye is spent.
Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twinne; 12        835
He which that hath the shortest shal biginne.’
‘Sire knight,’ quod he, ‘my maister and my lord,
Now draweth cut, for that is myn acord.
Cometh neer,’ quod he, ‘my lady prioresse;
And ye, sir clerk, lat be your shamfastnesse,        840
Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man.’
  Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
And shortly for to tellen, as it was,
Were it by aventure, or sort, 13 or cas, 14
The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knight,        845
Of which ful blythe and glad was every wight;
And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
By forward 15 and by composicioun, 16
As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo?
And whan this goode man saugh 17 it was so,        850
As he that wys was and obedient
To kepe his forward by his free assent,
He seyde: ‘Sin I shal biginne the game,
What, welcome be the cut, a 18 Goddes name!
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.’        855
  And with that word we riden forth our weye;
And he bigan with right a mery chere
His tale anon, and seyde in this manere.
 
Note 1. Judgment. [back]
Note 2. Fetched. [back]
Note 3. Cock of us all; i. e., waked us. [back]
Note 4. Walking. [back]
Note 5. Watering-place. [back]
Note 6. To pull up. [back]
Note 7. Agreement. [back]
Note 8. Recall. [back]
Note 9. May. [back]
Note 10. Depart further. [back]
Note 11. Fate. [back]
Note 12. Chance. [back]
Note 13. Agreement. [back]
Note 14. Saw. [back]
Note 15. In. [back]
Note 16. In. [back]
Note 17. Somewhat advanced. [back]
Note 18. Once upon a time. [back]
 

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