The Canterbury Tales: General Prologue

Original Text: 
Based on The Canterbury Tales, ed. John Matthews Manly (London: Harrap, 1929), to judge from the annotations. PR 1866 M3 Robarts Library. The Poetical Works of Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1933), may also be an influence.
Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury
2The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
4Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
6Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
12Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
15And specially, from every shires ende
16Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
21Redy to wenden on my pilgrymage
23At nyght were come into that hostelrye
26In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
27That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde.
28The chambres and the stables weren wyde,
30And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,
32That I was of hir felaweshipe anon,
35But nathelees, whil I have tyme and space,
36Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
39Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
41And eek in what array that they were inne;
42And at a Knyght than wol I first bigynne.
43A Knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
44That fro the tyme that he first bigan
45To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
49As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
50And evere honóured for his worthynesse.
53Aboven alle nacions in Pruce.
61At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
63In lyste thries, and ay slayn his foo.
73But for to tellen yow of his array,
78And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
79With hym ther was his sone, a yong Squiér,
82Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
90Al ful of fresshe floures whyte and reede.
92He was as fressh as is the month of May.
94Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde;
99Curteis he was, lowely and servysáble,
103And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
108And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
110Of woodecraft wel koude he al the uságe.
118Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
121And she was cleped madame Eglentyne.
122Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
127At mete wel y-taught was she with-alle:
128She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
130Wel koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe
133Hire over-lippe wyped she so clene
135Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte.
138And ful plesáunt and amyable of port,
140Of court, and been estatlich of manere,
141And to ben holden digne of reverence.
146Of smale houndes hadde she, that she fedde
148But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed,
150And al was conscience and tendre herte.
155It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe;
158Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar
161On which ther was first write a crowned A,
163Another Nonne with hire hadde she,
167A manly man, to been an abbot able.
169And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
171And eek as loude, as dooth the chapel belle,
180Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees,--
181This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre.
183And I seyde his opinioun was good.
185Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,
190Grehoundes he hadde, as swift as fowel in flight;
195And for to festne his hood under his chyn
197A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
198His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
204Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat.
206A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
207His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.
212He hadde maad ful many a mariage
213Of yonge wommen at his owene cost.
215Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
217And eek with worthy wommen of the toun;
218For he hadde power of confessioun,
221Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
222And plesaunt was his absolucioun.
223He was an esy man to yeve penaunce
228He wiste that a man was répentaunt;
229For many a man so hard is of his herte
231Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyéres
232Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres.
234And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves.
235And certeinly he hadde a murye note:
238His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys;
239Ther-to he strong was as a champioun.
240He knew the tavernes wel in every toun,
243For unto swich a worthy man as he
245To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce;
252He was the beste beggere in his hous;
254Noon of his brethren cam ther in his haunt;]
255For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho,
261For there he was nat lyk a cloysterer
262With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scolér,
267To make his Englissh sweete upon his tonge;
268And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe,
269His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght
270As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght.
272A Marchant was ther with a forked berd,
274Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bevere hat;
279Bitwixe Middelburgh and Orewelle.
282Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
285For sothe he was a worthy man with-alle,
287A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also,
289As leene was his hors as is a rake,
290And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
293For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
297Of Aristotle and his philosophie,
299But al be that he was a philosophre,
302On bookes and on lernynge he it spente,
303And bisily gan for the soules preye
306Noght o word spak he moore than was neede;
310And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.
313Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
314Discreet he was, and of greet reverence--
318For his science and for his heigh renoun,
319Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
323Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
326That from the tyme of kyng William were falle.
332Of his array telle I no lenger tale.
341An housholdere, and that a greet, was he;
348Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke,
356Stood redy covered al the longe day.
363An Haberdasshere, and a Carpenter,
369But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel
376And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente,
377And elles certeyn were they to blame.
384Wel koude he knowe a draughte of Londoun ale.
387But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me,
391For aught I woot he was of Dertemouthe.
395Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
396The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun;
399Fro Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman sleep.
401If that he faught and hadde the hyer hond,
403But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes,
407Hardy he was and wys to undertake;
408With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake.
409He knew alle the havenes, as they were,
413With us ther was a Doctour of Phisik;
414In all this world ne was ther noon hym lik,
415To speke of phisik and of surgerye;
418In houres, by his magyk natureel.
419Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent
420Of his ymáges for his pacient.
421He knew the cause of everich maladye,
423And where they engendred and of what humour.
427Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
429For ech of hem made oother for to wynne,
438For it was of no superfluitee,
439But of greet norissyng and digestíble.
451In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon
453And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she
456I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
457That on a Sonday weren upon hir heed.
458Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
460Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
462Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve,
471Upon an amblere esily she sat,
472Y-wympled wel, and on hir heed an hat
475And on hire feet a paire of spores sharpe.
479A good man was ther of religioun,
481But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk.
482He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
483That Cristes Gospel trewely wolde preche;
485Benygne he was, and wonder diligent,
486And in adversitee ful pacient;
488Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes,
489But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
490Unto his povre parisshens aboute,
492He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce.
493Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder,
497Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
499That first he wroghte and afterward he taughte.
501And this figure he added eek therto,
502That if gold ruste, what shal iren doo?
503For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
506A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
507Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive
508By his clennesse how that his sheep sholde lyve.
509He sette nat his benefice to hyre
510And leet his sheep encombred in the myre,
511And ran to Londoun, unto Seinte Poules,
514But dwelte at hoom and kepte wel his folde,
515So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie;
516He was a shepherde, and noght a mercenarie.
517And though he hooly were and vertuous,
520But in his techyng díscreet and benygne.
522By good ensample, this was his bisynesse.
523But it were any persone obstinat,
524What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
526A bettre preest I trowe that nowher noon ys.
530He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve.
534Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee.
535God loved he best, with al his hoole herte,
537And thanne his neighebor right as hymselve.
539For Cristes sake, for every povre wight,
540Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.
541His tithes payede he ful faire and wel,
544Ther was also a Reve and a Millere,
545A Somnour and a Pardoner also,
546A Maunciple, and myself,--ther were namo.
548Ful byg he was of brawn and eek of bones.
549That proved wel, for over-al, ther he cam,
550At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram.
555And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
558Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
560A swerd and a bokeler bar he by his syde.
565And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
566A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
568And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.
574That he was ay biforn and in good staat.
575Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace,
577The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?
582Of any lord that is in Engelond,
586And able for to helpen al a shire
587In any caas that myghte falle or happe;
592His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn.
593Ful longe were his legges and ful lene,
597Wel wiste he, by the droghte and by the reyn,
599His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
601Was hoolly in this reves governyng;
609With grene trees shadwed was his place.
610He koude bettre than his lord purchace;
612His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly,
614And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood.
620And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
622Biside a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.
630Of his visage children were aferd.
633Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
635Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes.
636Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes,
637And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood.
639And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
640Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn.
641A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,
642That he had lerned out of som decree,--
643No wonder is, he herde it al the day;
644And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
647Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophie;
651He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn
653A twelf month, and excuse hym atte fulle;
655And if he foond owher a good felawe,
656He wolde techen him to have noon awe,
658But if a mannes soule were in his purs;
660"Purs is the erchedekenes helle," seyde he.
661But wel I woot he lyed right in dede.
662Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede,
668A gerland hadde he set upon his heed,
670A bokeleer hadde he maad him of a cake.
674Ful loude he soong, "Com hider, love, to me!"
676Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
680And therwith he his shuldres overspradde.
683For it was trussed up in his walét.
686Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.
688His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe,
689Bret-ful of pardoun, comen from Rome al hoot.
690A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.
691No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have,
692As smothe it was as it were late y-shave;
693I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
695Ne was ther swich another pardoner;
702And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
706Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
707And thus with feyned flaterye and japes
709But trewely to tellen atte laste,
713For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
715To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;
717Now have I toold you shortly, in a clause,
719Why that assembled was this compaignye
720In Southwerk, at this gentil hostelrye
722But now is tyme to yow for to telle
724Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght;
725And after wol I telle of our viage
726And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.
727But first, I pray yow, of youre curteisye,
729Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere,
733Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,
737Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,
738Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
742And wel ye woot no vileynye is it.
745Also I prey yow to foryeve it me,
747Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde;
748My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.
749Greet chiere made oure Hoost us everichon,
750And to the soper sette he us anon,
751And served us with vitaille at the beste:
754For to been a marchal in an halle.
757Boold of his speche, and wys, and well y-taught,
758And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
760And after soper pleyen he bigan,
761And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
762Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges;
764Ye been to me right welcome, hertely;
765For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
766I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye
768Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how;
769And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght,
770To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght.
771"Ye goon to Canterbury--God yow speede,
773And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye,
775For trewely confort ne myrthe is noon
776To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon;
777And therfore wol I maken yow disport,
778As I seyde erst, and doon yow som confort.
779And if you liketh alle, by oon assent,
780For to stonden at my juggement,
781And for to werken as I shal yow seye,
782To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye,
785Hoold up youre hond, withouten moore speche."
790"Lordynges," quod he, "now herkneth for the beste;
791But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn;
792This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn,
795To Caunterbury-ward, I mene it so,
796And homward he shal tellen othere two,
798And which of yow that bereth hym beste of alle,
799That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas
802Heere in this place, sittynge by this post,
803Whan that we come agayn fro Caunterbury.
804And, for to make yow the moore mury,
805I wol myselven gladly with yow ryde,
806Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde;
808Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
809And if ye vouche-sauf that it be so,
810Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo,
813With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also
814That he wolde vouche-sauf for to do so,
815And that he wolde been oure governour,
816And of our tales juge and réportour,
817And sette a soper at a certeyn pris;
820We been acorded to his juggement.
822We dronken, and to reste wente echon,
823Withouten any lenger taryynge.
824Amorwe, whan that day gan for to sprynge,
826And gadrede us togidre alle in a flok;
829And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste,
832If even-song and morwe-song accorde,
833Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
835Whoso be rebel to my juggement
836Shal paye for all that by the wey is spent.
838He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne.
839Sire Knyght," quod he, "my mayster and my lord
840Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord.
841Cometh neer," quod he, "my lady Prioresse.
844Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
845And, shortly for to tellen as it was,
848Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght;
849And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
851As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo?
852And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,
853As he that wys was and obedient
854To kepe his foreward by his free assent,
855He seyde, "Syn I shal bigynne the game,
856What, welcome be the cut, a Goddes name!
857Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye."
858And with that word we ryden forth oure weye;
859And he bigan with right a myrie cheere
860His tale anon, and seyde in this manére.


1] Bold-faced vowels indicate syllables that, though frequently silent today, may have been sounded in Chaucer's time. (In the original printed edition of RPO, these vowels had a dot accent over them.)
THE CANTERBURY TALES are extant in 84 MSS., of which 55 are complete or nearly so. The earliest were written near the beginning of the 15th century. The two earliest editions are those of Caxton (ca. 1478 and ca. 1484). The Canterbury Tales are a series of twenty-four stories, supposed to be related by members of a band of pilgrims on their way to the shrine of St. Thomas at Canterbury. A general Prologue and a number of head-links and end-links describe the pilgrims and narrate the effect of the tales and the events of the journey; but there are gaps in the sequence, and the number of stories planned is not completed. For the gallery of portraits in the General Prologue no literary parallel has been found. Some of them have been shown pretty clearly to be in some measure drawn from actual persons; others are rather representatives of a class; taken in all they give a broad and vivid picture of contemporary society. There is some evidence that the Prologue was written in 1387. Some of the tales were written previously and some considerably later.
shoures soote: showers sweet. Back to Line
3] And bathed the veins of every plant in such moisture, by the power of which the flower is brought forth. Back to Line
5] Zephirus: the west wind. Back to Line
7] croppes: shoots.
the yonge sonne: the sun which has recently entered on its annual course through the signs of the zodiac. The year was then said to begin at the vernal equinox. Back to Line
8] Has run through his half-course in the sign of Aries. In the introduction to the Man of Law's Tale (C.T., B, 5, 6) we are told that the date was April 18. The present passage must mean that the sun had completed the second half of his course in Aries, which sign he entered on March 12 and left on April 11. Back to Line
9] foweles: birds. Back to Line
10] ye: eye. Back to Line
11] Nature so incites them in their hearts. Back to Line
13] straunge strondes: foreign shores. Back to Line
14] ferne-halwes: distant or ancient shrines (O.E. halga, a saint. Cf. hallowe'en). kowthe: known. Back to Line
17] martir: Thomas A Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, murdered 1170, canonized 1173. Back to Line
18] Who has helped them when they were sick. Note the identical rhyme, allowable in Middle English and in French. Back to Line
19] Bifil: it befell. Back to Line
20] As I lodged at the Tabard Inn in Southwark (on the south bank of the Thames, opposite London). Back to Line
22] corage: heart. Back to Line
24] Wel nyne and twenty: fully twenty-nine. Including Chaucer but not the Host, thirty-one pilgrims are mentioned in the Prologue. It has been suggested that Preestes thre, at line 164, is a scribe's mistake. If there was only one Nun's Priest the number of the pilgrims would be just twenty-nine. Back to Line
25] by aventure y-falle In felaweshipe: by chance fallen into association. Back to Line
29] esed atte beste: made comfortable in the best manner. Back to Line
31] everychon: everyone. Back to Line
33] made forward: (we) made an agreement. Back to Line
34] ther ... devyse: to that place of which I am telling you. Back to Line
37] It seems to me in accordance with reason. Back to Line
38] condicioun: character. Back to Line
40] And of what sort they were and of what rank. Back to Line
46] fredom: generosity. Back to Line
47] his lordes werre: his feudal lord's war, i.e. the king's service in the French wars. Back to Line
48] thereto: besides that. ferre: farther. Back to Line
51] Alisaundre: Alexandria, captured from the Turks in 1365. Back to Line
52] He had often sat at the head of the table above the representation of all nations among the knights of the Teutonic Order in Prussia, during their campaigns against the heathen. Back to Line
54] He had made military expeditions in Lithuania and Russia. Back to Line
55] degree: rank. Back to Line
56] Gernade: Granada. Back to Line
57] Algezir: Algeciras, taken from the Moors in 1344. Belmarye: Benmarin, Moorish kingdom in Africa. Back to Line
58] Lyeys: Ayas in Armenia, taken from the Turks in 1367. Satalye. Adalia on coast of Asia Minor, taken from the Turks in 1361. Back to Line
59] Grete See: the Mediterranean. Back to Line
60] armee: armed expedition, armada. The reading of some MSS., aryve, translated as "landing," is doubtful, since the word occurs nowhere else. Back to Line
62] Tramyssene: Tlemçen, a former kingdom in Western Algeria. Back to Line
64] ilke: same. Back to Line
65] lord of Palatye: ruler of Balat in Asia Minor; probably a Turk in league with the Christians. Back to Line
66] Ygayn: against. Back to Line
67] sovereyn prys: supreme renown. Back to Line
68] Though he was excellent (i.e. brave) he was also prudent. Back to Line
69] port: bearing. Back to Line
70] vileynye: discourtesy. Back to Line
71] unto no maner wight: to any kind of man. Back to Line
72] He was a true, perfect, noble knight. verray is an adjective modifying knight, not an adverb modifying perfect. Back to Line
74] gay: gaily dressed. Back to Line
75] fustian: coarse cloth. gypon: tunic, shirt. Back to Line
76] All soiled by his hauberk or coat of mail. Back to Line
77] For he had lately come from his journey (and had not taken time to procure fresh clothes before going on pilgrimage, perhaps as the result of a vow made in peril. The squire, who was in gay clothes, had perhaps met him in London). Back to Line
80] lovyere: lover (Southern form). bacheler: candidate for knighthood. Back to Line
81] lokkes crulle: curled locks. as: as if. Back to Line
83] event lengthe: medium height. Back to Line
84] delyvere: active, agile. Back to Line
85] chyvachie: cavalry raid. Back to Line
86] Artoys, Pycardie: provinces of northern France. The Bishop of Norwich had led an expedition into these districts in 1382. Back to Line
87] as of so little space: considering that his time of service had been so short. Back to Line
88] lady: lady's (a feminine noun without genitive ending). Back to Line
89] Embroidered were his clothes as if he were a meadow. Back to Line
91] floytynge: playing on the flute or possibly whistling. Back to Line
93] This was the latest fashion of the time. Back to Line
95] He could compose songs, both the music and the words. Back to Line
96] Juste: joust. purtreye: draw or paint. Back to Line
97] nyghtertale: night-time. Back to Line
98] sleep: slept. Back to Line
100] carf: carved. Carving was a gentleman's accomplishment and a regular duty of a squire. Back to Line
101] Yeman: yeoman, servant of the next degree above a groom. he: the Knight. namo: no more. Back to Line
102] hym lifte ryde to: it pleased him to ride so. Back to Line
104] a sheer of pecock arwes: a sheaf of arrows with peacock's feathers. Back to Line
105] thriftily: carefully. Back to Line
106] Well could he prepare his equipment in a yeoman-like manner. Back to Line
107] fetheres lowe: feathers of which the pinnules lie so close to the rib (low) that they do not properly support the arrow in the air but cause it to droop and fall short. Back to Line
109] not-heed: cropped head, with hair cut short. Back to Line
111] bracir: arm-guard. A heavy leather glove to protect the arm and sleeve from the friction of the bow-string. Back to Line
112] bokeler: buckler, small embossed shield. Back to Line
113] that oother: the other That is here the old neuter article. Back to Line
114] Harneised: equipped. Back to Line
115] Christophere: image of St. Christopher, used as a protection against danger. sheene: bright. Back to Line
116] bawdryk: baldric, a belt worn over one shoulder and under the opposite arm, supporting the horn. Back to Line
117] forster: forester. Back to Line
119] coy: quiet, modest. Back to Line
120] seinte Loy: St. Eligins or Eloi, Bishop of Noyon. He was a skilled goldsmith and noted for his beauty and courtesy. Back to Line
123] Entuned in hir nose. The recitative parts of the church service were nasally intoned to avoid straining the throat. (Manly). semely: becomingly. Back to Line
124] fetisly: skilfully, properly. Back to Line
125] Strafford atte Bowe: the reference is to the Benedictine nunnery of St. Leonards at Bromley, near Stratford at Bow, east of London. Manly has shown the probability that Madame Eglentyne was drawn from one of the nuns of this convent. Back to Line
126] The implication is clearly that her French was provincial. French of Paris was considered the standard French. Back to Line
129] depe: deeply. Back to Line
131] brist: breast. Back to Line
132] list: pleasure. Back to Line
134] no ferthing sene: no small fragment visible. Back to Line
136] raughte: reached. These are the points of good table manners emphasized in the rules of deportment. Back to Line
137] sikerly: certainly. desport: mirth, good humour. Back to Line
139] And took pains to imitate courtly behaviour and to be stately in bearing. Back to Line
142] conscience: sensibility. Back to Line
143] pitous: compassionate. Back to Line
144] saugh: saw. Back to Line
145] bledde: were bleeding. Back to Line
147] wastel breed: bread made of fine flour. Back to Line
149] men Smoot it: anyone smote it. with a yerde smerte: with a rod, sharply. Back to Line
151] wympul: cloth covering forehead, neck, and sides of the face. semyly ... pynched: neatly pleated. Back to Line
152] tretys: well-formed. Back to Line
153] thereto: in addition. Back to Line
154] sikerly: certainly. Back to Line
156] hardily: certainly. undergrowe: under-grown. Back to Line
157] fetys: well-made. was war: was aware, observed. Back to Line
159] peire of bedes: set of prayer-beads. gauded al with grene: having every eleventh bead or gaud green. The other beads (O.E. bed, prayer) marked the Ave Marias, the gauds (L. gaudia), the Paternoster. Back to Line
160] heng: hung. sheene: bright. Back to Line
162] Amor vincit omnia: Love conquers all things (cf. Vergil, Eclogues, X, 69). But nothing in the description of the Prioress or in her subsequent tale indicates that earthly love is meant. Back to Line
164] chapeleyne: a sort of private secretary. Preestes thre. See 1. 24 and note. Back to Line
165] a fair for the maistrie: an extremely fine one; for the maistrie is an adverbial phrase modifying fair. Back to Line
166] outridere: an officer whose duty it was to inspect the estates of the monastery. venerie: hunting. Back to Line
168] deyntee: dainty, i.e. fine, choice. Back to Line
170] als: as. Back to Line
172] Where this lord was ruler of a subordinate monastery (celle). Back to Line
173] St. Benedict founded the Benedictine order in 529 in Italy. St. Maurus, his disciple, introduced it into France. The reule is the famous Benedictine rule for the conduct of monasteries. Back to Line
174] somdel streit: somewhat narrow, strict. Back to Line
175] ilke: same. leet: let. olde thynges: in loose apposition with 1. 173. pace: pass by. Back to Line
176] The line perhaps means "and held his course according to the new fashion". Back to Line
177] He gave (i.e., cared) not a plucked hen for that text. Back to Line
178] St. Jerome says that we do not find in the Bible a single pious hunter. (Manly). Back to Line
179] recchelees: reckless, careless, undisciplined, vagabond. Back to Line
182] thilke: that same. Back to Line
184] What: why. wood: mad. Back to Line
186] swynke: work. Back to Line
187] Austyn: St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430), and author of a famous monastic rule. hit: biddeth. How ... served? Who shall carry on the business of the world? Back to Line
188] swynk: labour. Back to Line
189] a prikasour aright: truly a hard rider. Back to Line
191] prikyng: hard riding or tracking a hare by its footprints. Back to Line
192] lust: pleasure. Back to Line
193] seigh: saw. y-purfiled: bordered, trimmed. Back to Line
194] grys: gray fur. Back to Line
196] curious: elaborate. Back to Line
199] enoynt: anointed. Back to Line
200] in good poynt: in good condition (from French en bon point, cf. embonpoint, plumpness). Back to Line
201] stepe: large, prominent. Back to Line
202] That (i.e., his eyes) gleamed like a furnace under a cauldron. Back to Line
203] estaat: condition. Back to Line
205] forpyned: tormented. Back to Line
208] Frere: friar. wantowne: unrestrained, free, gay. Back to Line
209] limitour: licensed to beg within certain limits. solimpne: important, impressive. Back to Line
210] ordres foure. See note on Piers the Plowman, 55. kan: knows. Back to Line
211] So much of gossip and flattery. Back to Line
214] post: cf. the phrase, "a pillar of the church". Back to Line
216] frankeleyns: landholders, country squires. See note on 1. 331. Back to Line
219] curát: parish priest. Back to Line
220] licenciat: licensed by the Pope, through his order, to hear confession and give absolution in all places. Back to Line
224] Where he knew that he would receive a good gift. Back to Line
225] povre: poor. yive: give. Back to Line
226] y-shryve: shriven, absolved. Back to Line
227] For if the man gave the friar durst assert. Back to Line
230] him soore smerte: it may pain him sorely. Back to Line
233] typet: tippet, cape. farsed: stuffed. Back to Line
236] rote: a kind of fiddle. Back to Line
237] For songs he absolutely carried off the prize. Back to Line
241] hostiler: inn-keeper. tappestere: barmaid. Later tapster is masculine. Back to Line
242] Better than a leper or a female beggar. Back to Line
244] It was unfitting, considering his official position. Back to Line
246] honest: becoming. avaunce: be profitable. Back to Line
247] poraille: poor people. Back to Line
248] vitaille: victuals. Back to Line
249] ther as: where. Back to Line
250] lowely of servyse: humble in offering his services. Back to Line
251] vertuous: efficient, capable. Back to Line
253] Lines 253-54 are found only in a few MSS., one of which, the Hengwrt, is among the best. The lines sound like Chaucer's and fit their context, but he may have cancelled them. They mean that the Friar paid a certain rent for the exclusive privilege of begging within his assigned limits. Back to Line
256] In principio: the first fourteen verses of the Gospel of St. John, beginning In principio erat verbum, popularly regarded as having a magical power and often recited by friars on their rounds. Back to Line
257] ferthyng: very small gift, possibly the coin. Back to Line
258] What he got irregularly (picked up by begging) was much more than his regular income. This was a proverbial expression with a suggestion of dishonesty; or the line may possibly mean: "What he got by begging was much more than the rent which he paid for that privilege" (with reference to 252a and 252b). Back to Line
259] He could frolic, romp, or dally amorously as if he were a puppy. Back to Line
260] love-dayes: days appointed for settling disputes out of court. Back to Line
263] Maister: a master of arts. Back to Line
264] semycope: short cape. Back to Line
265] presse: clothes-press or possibly the mould of the bell. Back to Line
266] lipsed: lisped. wantownesse: affectation. Back to Line
271] cleped: called. Back to Line
273] motteleye: parti-coloured cloth. Back to Line
275] fetisly: neatly. Back to Line
276] resons: opinions. solémpnely: impressively. Back to Line
277] Talking always about the increase of his profit. Back to Line
278] He wished that the sea should be guarded, whatever might happen, between Middelburgh (in the Netherlands) and Orwell (near Harwich, in Essex). Middelburgh was the staple port for wool between and 1388, a fact which has helped scholars to date this Prologue. Back to Line
280] He could sell French crowns (icus, i.e. shields) at a profit. This was, however, forbidden by law to private traders. Back to Line
281] his wit bisette: employed his judgment, intellect. Back to Line
283] So dignified was he in his behaviour when making bargains and gains or arrangements for borrowing or lending money. Back to Line
284] Chevyssaunce sometimes means usury, which was forbidden. Back to Line
286] I noot: I do not know. Chaucer professes ignorance because of his insinuations against the merchant's character; or, perhaps, through the condescension of a court poet. Back to Line
288] Who had long attended lectures in logic. Back to Line
291] holwe: hollow. ther-to: in addition. Back to Line
292] overeste courtepy: outermost short coat. Back to Line
294] have office: accept a secular office. Back to Line
295] Hym was lévere: he preferred. Back to Line
296] Twenty bookes. This is rather his desire than a fact. Few wealthy persons owned as many, and the Clerk was poor. Back to Line
298] fithele: fiddle. sautrye: psaltery, a stringed instrument like a zither. Back to Line
300] In this line Chaucer jestingly takes the word philosophre in the sense of alchemist. Back to Line
301] hente: get. Back to Line
304] yaf: gave. scoleye: study. Back to Line
305] cure: care. Back to Line
307] in forme and reverence: formally and respectfully. Back to Line
308] hy sentence: lofty meaning. Back to Line
309] His speech was tending towards righteousness. Back to Line
311] A Sergeant of the Lawe: one of the highest rank in the legal profession below that of judge, specially appointed by the king after at least 16 years of study and practice of the law. There were only about twenty of these sergeants when Chaucer wrote, and Manly has found some evidence that he was here describing one Thomas Pynchbek. war: wary. Back to Line
312] Parvys: perhaps the porch of St. Pauls where the lawyers met their clients. Back to Line
315] swich: such. Back to Line
316] Justice in assise: special temporary judge in the assizes or county courts. Pynchbek often held this position between 1376 and 1388. Back to Line
317] By letters patent and by full commission, giving him authority over all kinds of cases. Back to Line
320] Pynchbek was known as a great buyer of land. Back to Line
321] He was able to make his title as absolute as if it were held in fee simple (unrestricted possession). Back to Line
322] infect: ilidated. Back to Line
324] nas: for ne was (double negative). Back to Line
325] He had (in mind) accurately all the cases and judgments since the Norman Conquest. Back to Line
327] Moreover he could compose and draw up a document. Back to Line
328] pynche at: find fault with. Is there a pun on Pynchbek's name? Back to Line
329] koude he pleyn by rote: he knew fully by heart. Back to Line
330] medlee cote: coat of mixed weave. Back to Line
331] ceint: girdle. Back to Line
333] Frankeleyn: a large landholder, ranking next below a baron. If the Sergeant of the Law is Thomas Pynchbek, the Frankeleyn, who was in his compaignye, may be John Bussy or Bushy, who lived in Lincolnshire, near Pynchbek, and held the offices here said to have been held by the Frankeleyn. Back to Line
334] berd: beard. dayesye: daisy. Back to Line
335] complexioun: temperament, physical and mental make-up, which was thought to depend on the combination of the four humours -- blood, phlegm, choler (red bile), melancholy (black bile). sangwyn: characterized by the predominance of blood, hence ruddy, vigorous, fond of pleasure, optimistic. Back to Line
336] In the morning he liked a piece of fine bread soaked in wine. Back to Line
337] delit: delight. wone: custom. Back to Line
338] Epicurus: the Greek philosopher (d. 270 B.C.), in popular legend an advocate of sensual pleasure. Back to Line
339] pleyn: full. Back to Line
340] parfit: perfect. Back to Line
342] Seint Julian: the patron saint of hospitality. Back to Line
343] after oon: according to one standard. Back to Line
344] envyvned: stored with wine. Back to Line
345] bake mete: meat pies. Back to Line
346] plentevous: plenteous. Back to Line
347] snewed: snowed. Back to Line
349] After: according to. Back to Line
350] soper: supper. Back to Line
351] muwe: mew, coop for fattening fowls. Originally a cage where hawks were confined while moulting. Back to Line
352] breem: bream. luce: pike. stewe: fishpond. Back to Line
353] but if: unless. Back to Line
354] Poynaunt: poignant, pungent. geere: gear, utensils. Back to Line
355] table dormant: permanent table instead of a removable table on trestles. Back to Line
357] sessiouns: of the justices of the peace. Back to Line
358] knyght of the shire: member of Parliament for his county. Back to Line
359] anlaas: dagger. gipser: pouch. Back to Line
360] heng: hung. Back to Line
361] countour: accountant, auditor. Back to Line
362] vauasour: at this time, a substantial landholder (sometimes defined as one who holds land not of the king but of one of his vassals). Back to Line
364] Webbe: weaver (O.E. webba). Tapycer: weaver of tapestry. Back to Line
365] in o lyveree: in one livery. Back to Line
366] Of a distinguished and large gild. Since they were of different trades this would be one of the purely social and religious gilds. Back to Line
367] Their apparel was freshly and newly trimmed. Back to Line
368] chaped: mounted. Back to Line
370] everydeel: every part. Back to Line
371] burgeys: burgess, townsman. Back to Line
372] yeldehall: guildhall, town hall. deys: dais, platform. Back to Line
373] Everich: everyone, each one. kan: knows. Back to Line
374] shaply: adapted, fit. Back to Line
375] catel: property. rente: income. Back to Line
378] y-cleped: called. Back to Line
379] vigilies: celebrations on the eve of a festival or saint's day. Back to Line
380] roialliche Y-bore: royally borne. Back to Line
381] for the nones: for the occasion (to cook their meals). Originally for then anes or (ones), "for the once", from O.E. dat. Þæm and adverb {a_}nes, treated as a noun in dat. case. Later, for the nonce. Back to Line
382] marybones: marrowbones. Back to Line
383] poudre-marchant tart: sharp flavouring powder. galyngale: spice made from root of an English sedge. Back to Line
385] sethe: boil. Back to Line
386] mortreux: stews. Back to Line
388] mormal: ulcer. Back to Line
389] blankmanger: creamed chicken. Back to Line
390] wonynge fer by weste: dwelling far westward. Dertemouthe: Dartmouth, in Devonshire, then an important sea-port. Back to Line
392] rouncy: anag or a heavy cart-horse. as he kouthe: as well as he could. Back to Line
393] faldyng: coarse woolen cloth. Back to Line
394] laas: lace, cord. Back to Line
397] a good felawe: good company or possibly a rascal. Back to Line
398] He had stolen many a draught of wine while on the way home from Bordeaux or he had carried off many a load of Bordeaux wine while the merchant was asleep. Back to Line
400] keep: heed. Back to Line
402] He made them walk the plank. Back to Line
404] stremes: currents. hym bisides: near him. Back to Line
405] herberwe: harbour. moone: phases of the moon, which determine the tides. lode-manage: pilotage. Cf. lode-star, lodestone. Back to Line
406] Hulle: Hull in Yorkshire. Cartage: probably Cartagena in Spain. Back to Line
410] Gootlond: island of Gotland, off Sweden. Back to Line
411] cryke: creek, i.e. inlet. Britaigne: Brittany. Back to Line
412] Maudelayne: a vessel from Dartmouth called the Magdaleyne paid customs duties in 1379 and 1391. Back to Line
416] astronomye: astrology. Back to Line
417] He cared for his patient very diligently in the astrological hours by means of his knowledge of natural magic. He could well predict or determine a favourable ascendant (the time when any heavenly body is rising above the horizon) for making talismans to cure his patient. Back to Line
422] By whichever one of the four humours it was caused. Illness was thought to arise from excess of one of the four humours. See the note on 1. 335. Back to Line
424] verray: true. Cf. 1. 72 and note. Back to Line
425] The cause yknowe: the cause being known, i.e. when he had diagnosed the case. Back to Line
426] boote: remedy. Back to Line
428] letuaries: electuaries, syrups. Back to Line
430] newe to bigynne: late in beginning, of recent date. Back to Line
431] Esculapius: Aesculapius, god of medicine; or a treatise attributed to him. Back to Line
432] De{"y}scorides: Dioscorides, Greek writer on materia medica c. 50 A.D. Rufus of Ephesus wrote on the parts of the human body (2nd century A.D.). Back to Line
433] Ypocras: Hippocrates of Cos, born c. 460 B.C., founder of Greek medicine. Haly: Persian physician, d. 994. Galyen: Galen, famous Roman physician of 2nd century A.D. Back to Line
434] Serapion, Razis, Avycen: Arabian physicians, the last-named author of the Canon of Medicine (11th century). Back to Line
435] Averrois: famous Arab physician and philosopher (12th century). Damascien: perhaps John of Damascus (A.D. 676-754). Constantyn: Constantinus Afer, monk of Carthage, founder of medical school at Salerno. Back to Line
436] Bernard Gordon, a Scot, professor of medicine at Montpellier ca. 1300. Gatesden (John) of Merton College, Oxford, physician to Edward II, died 1361. Gilbertyn: Gilbertus Anglicus (end of 13th century). Back to Line
437] mesurable: moderate. Back to Line
440] Apparently in reference to the saying: "Ubi tres medici, duo athei." Cf. the beginning of Sir Thomas Browne's Religio Medici (1642), where he refers to "the general scandal of my profession". Back to Line
441] sangwyn: red. pers: blue. Back to Line
442] taffata ... sendal: varieties of thin silk. Back to Line
443] esy of dispence: moderate in expenditure. Back to Line
444] pestilence: the Black Death of 1348-9 or the later plagues of 1362, 1369, and 1376. Back to Line
445] cordial: remedy for the heart (because gold is the most precious metal). Gold was actually used in prescriptions. Back to Line
446] Ironical. Back to Line
447] biside Bathe: "Just outside the north gate of the city ... lay the church and parish known as 'St. Michael's Without' or 'St. Michael's juxta Bathon', a suburb largely given over to weaving." (Manly). Back to Line
448] som-deel deef: somewhat deaf (on account of a blow on the ear received in a quarrel with her fifth husband. See the Wife of Bath's Prologue, C.T., D, 666 ff.). scathe: a pity. Back to Line
449] haunt: practice. Back to Line
450] Ypres and Gaunt (Ghent), centres of the Flemish wool-trade. Back to Line
452] offrynge: offertory. Back to Line
454] out of alle charitee: driven beyond the limits of Christian forbearance. Back to Line
455] coverchiefs: head-coverings, kerchiefs. Back to Line
459] moyste: soft, pliable. Back to Line
461] at chirche dore: the marriage ceremony was held in the church-porch, the nuptial mass at the altar. Back to Line
463] Withouten: besides. Back to Line
464] as nowthe: at present. Back to Line
465] Jerusalem: pronounced here Jérsalem, as it is sometimes spelled. Back to Line
466] strem: stream. Back to Line
467] Boloigne, the shrine of the Blessed Virgin at Boulogne-sur-mer in France. Back to Line
468] At the shrine of St. James of Compostella in Galicia (Spain) and at that of the three kings at Cologne. Back to Line
469] koude: knew a great deal about. Back to Line
470] Gat-tothed: with gaps between her teeth. Either a sign that she would be a great traveller or that she was bold and lascivious. Back to Line
473] targe: shield. Back to Line
474] foot-mantel: riding skirt. Back to Line
476] carpe: talk. Back to Line
477] remedies of love: a jesting allusion to Ovid's Remedia Amoris. Back to Line
478] She knew all the tricks of the game. From a common French phrase of the time. Elle sçait toute la vielle danse is said of an old duenna in the Roman de la Rose, 3946. Back to Line
480] poore Person: poor parson, parish-priest. Back to Line
484] parisshens: parishioners. Back to Line
487] y-preved ofte sithes: proved often-times. Back to Line
491] offrýng: voluntary contributions of the parishioners. substaunce: income from his benefice. Back to Line
494] ne latte nat: ceased, omitted not. Back to Line
495] meschief: mishap. Back to Line
498] yaf: gave. Back to Line
500] the gospel: Matthew, v, 19. tho: those. Back to Line
504] lewed man: ignorant man or layman (see note on Piers the Plowman, 69). Back to Line
505] keep: heed. Back to Line
512] chaunterie for soules: an endowment for a priest to sing mass daily for the repose of a soul. Cf. Piers the Plowman, 80-83. Back to Line
513] Or to be retained by a guild as their chaplain. Back to Line
518] despitous: scornful. Back to Line
519] daungerous: haughty, domineering. digne: disdainful. Back to Line
521] by fairnesse: by leading a good life. Back to Line
525] snibben: snub, rebuke. for the nonys: to suit the occasion. See note on 1. 381. Back to Line
527] waited after: watched for, looked for. Back to Line
528] spiced conscience: a conscience that is highly seasoned, i.e. over-sophisticated, insincere. Back to Line
529] apostles: genitive case. Back to Line
531] was his brother. The relative is omitted. Back to Line
532] y-lad: led, carried. fother: load. Back to Line
533] swynkere: worker. Back to Line
536] thogh him gamed or smerte: though he felt pleasure or pain (impersonal construction with dative), i.e., in all circumstances. Back to Line
538] dyke: dig ditches. Back to Line
542] his propre swynk: his own labour. catel: property. Back to Line
543] tabard: labourer's loose coat, smock. mere: mare. Persons of quality usually did not ride on mares. Back to Line
547] for the nones: here apparently used as an intensive, very, exceedingly. Contrast lines 379, 523, 547-8. That proved fortunate, for wherever he came he would win the prize (a ram) at wrestling. Back to Line
551] a thikke knarre: a thickset fellow. Back to Line
552] nolde heve of harre: would not heave off its hinge. Back to Line
553] rennyng: running. Back to Line
554] berd: beard. Back to Line
556] cop: top. Back to Line
557] werte: wart. Back to Line
559] nosethirles: nostrils. Back to Line
561] forneys: furnace. Back to Line
562] janglere: loud talker. goliardeys: jester, teller of ribald stories. Back to Line
563] And that: i.e., his talk. harlotries: scurrilities. Back to Line
564] tollen thries: take thrice the amount of corn to which he was entitled for grinding it. He had a a thumb of gold: he was an honest miller (who, according to the proverb, has a thumb of gold) -- an ironical remark. But Pollard suggests that the meaning is "And yet he did not need to cheat, for he was so skilful in testing flour with his thumb that he could make a fortune honestly." Back to Line
567] sowne: sound. Back to Line
569] Maunciple of a temple: caterer of one of the Inns of Court. Back to Line
570] achetours: purchasers. Back to Line
571] byynge: buying. vitaille: victuals, provisions. Back to Line
572] by taille: by tally, on credit. Back to Line
573] At all events he was so watchful in his buying that he always came out ahead and in good condition. Back to Line
576] lewed: ignorant. Back to Line
578] maistres: masters, the Benchers of the Temple. Back to Line
579] curious: skilful. Back to Line
580] duszeyne: dozen. Back to Line
581] stywardes of rente and lond: managers of estates. Back to Line
583] his propre good: his own income. Back to Line
584] but if he were wood: unless he were mad. Back to Line
585] Or live as economically as it pleased him to desire. Back to Line
588] jette hir aller cappe: set the caps of them all, made fools of them. Altering the tilt of a man's hat may make him look ridiculous. hir aller: of them all (aller, gen. plu., O.E. ealra). Back to Line
589] Reve: officer of a manor, often exercising the functions of bailiff or steward. colerik: characterized by predominance of choler or red bile; hot tempered. See note on 1. 335. Back to Line
590] ny: nigh, close. Back to Line
591] Close-cropped hair was a sign of servile station. Cf. 1. 109. A reeve was originally a representative of the serfs of a manor. Back to Line
594] y-sene: visible. Back to Line
595] kepe: watch, guard. gerner: garner, granary. Back to Line
596] No auditor of the estate could get the better of him (detect him in dishonesty). Back to Line
598] neet: cattle. Back to Line
600] hors: horses. stoor: farm stock. Back to Line
602] yaf: he gave. Back to Line
603] See note on 1. 621. Back to Line
604] No one could prove him to be in arrears. Back to Line
605] bailiff: originally a superior officer to a reeve, here his subordinate. hierde: shepherd (the word is Old English. Cf. Scottish herd). hyne: hind, servant. Back to Line
606] Whose trickery and deceit he did not know. Back to Line
607] adrad: afraid. the deeth: death. Cf. French la mort. But possibly the reference is to the Black Death, the plague. Back to Line
608] wonyng: dwelling. Back to Line
611] He had secretly stored up a fortune. Back to Line
613] By giving and lending him his own property (purposely ambiguous). Back to Line
615] myster: trade (Old French mestier, Modern French métier, Lat. ministerium). Back to Line
616] carpenter: this is the occasion of a quarrel with the Miller, who tells a tale at the expense of a carpenter. Back to Line
617] stot: stallion. Back to Line
618] pomely grey: dappled gray. Scot: a common name for horses in Norfolk, where the reeve lived (I. 619). Back to Line
619] surcote of pers: surcoat, upper coat, of blue. Back to Line
621] Baldeswelle: modern Bawdswell in Norfolk. This village belonged to the estate of the Earl of Pembroke. The second earl went abroad in 1369, soon after he came of age (cf. line 601) and remained there most of this time until his death in 1375. During the minority of his heir some of his estates were mismanaged and an investigation was held in 1386. Chaucer had been surety for the custodian of others of the estates since 1378 and was probably familiar with the details. It seems likely that this Reeve was drawn from an actual official of the Pembroke estate who was suspected of dishonesty. Back to Line
623] Tukked: his long coat was tucked into his girdle. as is a frere: it is thought that Friar Tuck in the Robin Hood ballads derived his name from this method of dress. Back to Line
624] hyndreste of our route: hindmost of our company (owing to cowardice, craftiness, or dislike of the Miller, who "broghte us out of towne" with a bag-pipe, doubtless riding first). Back to Line
625] Somonour: Summoner, apparitor or constable of an ecclesiastical court, which dealt with cases of adultery, witchcraft, slander, sacrilege, usury, simony, neglect of tithes, contracts and the sacraments, and wills. These officers were often reputed to be corrupt blackmailers. Back to Line
626] The cherubim were depicted with faces red as fire. Back to Line
627] sawcefleem: afflicted with salsum phlegma, a skin disease; pimpled. eyen narwe: because the eyelids were swollen. Back to Line
628] sparwe: sparrow. Back to Line
629] scaled: scabby. piled: scanty, with hair falling out. Possibly he was afflicted with a form of leprosy. Back to Line
631] lytarge: litharge, protoxide of lead. Back to Line
632] Boras: borax. ceruce: white lead. oille of tartre: cream of tartar. Back to Line
634] whelkes: pimples. Back to Line
638] Thanne: then. wood: mad. Back to Line
645] clepen "Watte": call out "Walter", as parrots cry "Poll". Back to Line
646] If anyone should test him further, then his philosophy (learning) was all spent. Back to Line
648] Questio quid juris: the question is, what portion of the law applies in this case -- a phrase often heard by the Summoner in court. Back to Line
649] harlot: rascal. Back to Line
650] bettre felawe: better companion. Back to Line
652] Goodfelawe: this term was so often applied to priests who broke the law of celibacy that it came to mean a rascal, a disreputable person. Back to Line
654] And he could secretly indulge in the same sin. Back to Line
657] erchedekenes curs: the excommunication pronounced by the archdeacon, the head of the ecclesiastical court. Back to Line
659] By paying a fine or a bribe. Back to Line
663] Excommunication will damn just as absolution will save. If ironical, this would imply agreement with Wycliffe's opinion that excommunication and absolution are of no importance in themselves. But if that is the implication it is very covertly expressed. Back to Line
664] war him: let the sinner beware. Significavit: a writ of excommunication ordering the offender to be imprisoned by the civil authorities. Back to Line
665] In daunger: in his control. at his owene gise: in his own way, at his mercy. Back to Line
666] girles: young people of both sexes. Back to Line
667] Conseil: secrets. al hir reed: the adviser of them all. Back to Line
669] ale-stake: a pole projecting above the door of an ale-house. A garland or bush hanging from it was the sign of a drinking-place. Back to Line
671] Pardoner: a dispenser of papal indulgences or commutations of penance in return for a money payment for charitable purposes. Some unauthorized pardoners carried forged papal licenses, exhibited bogus relics, and offered to sell absolution. Back to Line
672] Rouncivale: the hospital of the Blessed Mary of Rouncivalle, near Charing Cross, a cell or subordinate house of the convent of Our Lady of Roncesvalles in Navarre. In 1382 and 1387 unauthorized sales of pardons were made by persons professing to collect for the hospital. Back to Line
673] Note the rhyme Rome-tó me. Back to Line
675] burdoun: burden, bass part (Old French bourdon). Back to Line
677] wex: wax. Back to Line
678] strike of flex: hank of flax. Back to Line
679] ounces: small bunches. Back to Line
681] by colpons: in bundles (Old French colpon, modern coupon). Back to Line
682] for jolitee: for smartness. Back to Line
684] Him thoughte: it seemed to him. newe jet: new fashion. Back to Line
685] Dischevelee: with loose hair. Back to Line
687] vernycle: a copy of the handkerchief of St. Veronica preserved in St. Peter's at Rome. Said to have been lent to Christ as he was going to Calvary and to bear the impress of his face. Back to Line
694] Berwyk, in Northumberland at Scottish border, extreme northern English town. Ware, in Hertfordshire, first town of importance north of London. Back to Line
696] mak: bag. pilwe-beer: pillow-case. Back to Line
697] Lady: Lady's. See note on 1. 88. Back to Line
698] gobet: piece. Back to Line
699] wente: walked. Back to Line
700] hente: caught hold of. See Matthew, xiv, 28-31. Back to Line
701] A cross made of mixed metal set with stones. Back to Line
703] relikes. In his cynical confession, Pardoner's Prologue, C.T., C, 345-390, the Pardoner describes his bogus relics more fully and explains how he wins money by exhibiting them to the people. Back to Line
704] person: parson. up on lond: far inland. Back to Line
705] Pope Urban V in a bull of 1369 declared that some pardoners made their collections at church on feast-days, thus depriving the priests of the offerings usually made to them. Back to Line
708] made ... his apes: made fools of them. Back to Line
710] ecclesiaste: preacher. The Pardoner's Tale is a specimen of one of his sermons. Back to Line
711] lessoun: an appointed portion of the Bible. storie: a series of extracts covering a story of the Bible or the life of a saint. Back to Line
712] alderbest: best of all (O.E. ealra betst). offertorie: that part of the Mass that follows the creed and precedes or accompanies the collection. Back to Line
714] affik: make smooth. Back to Line
716] murierly: more merrily. Back to Line
718] Thestaat: the rank. Tharray: the dress. Back to Line
721] the Belle: an inn which has not been identified. Back to Line
723] baren us: conducted ourselves. Back to Line
728] That you should not ascribe it to my ill-breeding (see note on 1. 70). Back to Line
730] cheere: appearance or bearing. Back to Line
731] proprely: literally, exactly. Back to Line
732] at-so wel: just as well. Back to Line
734] He must repeat as closely as ever he can. Back to Line
735] Everich a: every single. Back to Line
736] Although he speak never so roughly and coarsely. Back to Line
739] althogh he were his brother: although the original speaker were his brother. Back to Line
740] He must say one word as well as another, must omit nothing. Back to Line
741] brode: plainly. Back to Line
743] whoso kan hym rede: if anyone can read him. "Few scholars in western Europe in the Fourteenth Century could read Greek" (Manly). Back to Line
744] cosyn: cousin. Quoted from Plato's Timaeus, 29 B. He doubtless obtained it from Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy, III, prose 12. See his translation. Back to Line
746] Al: although. hir degre: their due order of precedence (which, of course, would have been dull and monotonous; in irony). Back to Line
752] us leste: tt pleased us. Back to Line
753] The Host's name was Herry Bailey (C.T.,A,4358). Henri Bayliff, ostyler, was a controller of the subsidy for Southwark in 1380-81. Henry Bailly, probably the same person, represented Southwark in parliament in 1376-7 and 1378-9 and was often tax collector, assessor, or coroner between 1377 and 1394. Back to Line
755] stepe: prominent. Back to Line
756] burgeys: townsman. Chepe: Cheapside. Back to Line
759] Eek thereto: besides. Back to Line
763] lordynges: sirs. Back to Line
767] herberwe: lodging, inn. Back to Line
772] quite yow youre meede: give you your reward. Back to Line
774] You plan to tell tales and to jest. Back to Line
783] fader: father's (gen. without ending in noun of relationship). Back to Line
784] But: unless. yeve: give. heed: head. Back to Line
786] Conseil: intention. for to seche: to be sought, lacking. It did not take us long to make up our minds. Back to Line
787] It seemed to us not worth while to deliberate on the matter. Back to Line
788] graunted: we granted. avys: consideration. Back to Line
789] him leste: it pleased him. Back to Line
793] to shorte with oure weye: to shorten our way with. oure: implying that he will accompany them. The reading your in some MSS. is probably a scribal change. Back to Line
794] tales tweye: that this plan was changed is evident from C. T., line 25, when the pilgrims are approaching Canterbury and the Host says to the Parson "For every man, save thou, hath toold his tale" (not "his tales"). After The Parson's Tale the work ends without any account of the arrival at Canterbury or of the return journey. Back to Line
797] aventures: occurrences. whilom: formerly. Back to Line
800] sentence: content. solaas: entertainment. Back to Line
801] It oure aller cost: at the expense of us all. Back to Line
807] withseye: gainsay. Back to Line
811] shape me therfore: prepare myself for it. Back to Line
812] swore: sworn or we swore. Back to Line
818] devys: direction. Back to Line
819] In heigh and lough: in all respects. Back to Line
821] fet: fetched. Back to Line
825] was oure aller cok: was the cock or waker of us all. Back to Line
827] a litel moore than paas: at a little more than a foot-pace. Back to Line
828] the wateryng of Seint Thomas: a brook used for watering horses, about a mile and a half from the Tabard Inn. Back to Line
830] if you leste: if it please you. Back to Line
831] foreward: agreement. it yow recorde: recall it to you. Back to Line
834] mote: may. Back to Line
837] Draweth cut: draw lots. ferrer twinne: farther depart. Back to Line
842] shamefastnesse: shyness. Back to Line
843] Ne studieth noght: do not fall into abstraction. Back to Line
846] aventure, or sort, or cas: "Perhaps the three nearest equivalents that we can propose for these words are 'luck, fate, and chance'" (Pollard). Back to Line
847] fil: fell. Back to Line
850] foreward and composicioun: agreement and compact. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
Publication Notes: 
Caxton's print.
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: