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And as I lay and lened and loked in the wateres,

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And somme chosen chaffare; 35 they cheven36 the bettere,

As it semeth to owre syght that suche men thryveth;

I slombred in a slepyng, it sweyved12 so merye. And somme murthes37 to make as mynstralles Thanne gan I to meten13 a merveilouse


That I was in a wildernesse, wist I never where;


And geten gold with here33 glee, giltles, I leve.39

As I bihelde into the est an hiegh to 15 the Ac iapers40 and iangelers,+1 Iudas chylderen,

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16 saw

23 planting

24 toiled

25 and won that which wasteful men expend in gluttony.

In this long allegorical poem, the poet with the daring of a reformer attacks what he thinks to be the abuses in church, state, and society. The prologue, of which the first 82 lines are here given, sets the key-note of the poem by a description of the suffering, weakness, and crimes of the world as seen by the poet in a vision. Then in Passus (Chapter) I, of which a few lines are given, the poet begins his narrative interpretation of his vision. Our text is the B-text as printed by Dr. Skeat.

Feynen hem42 fantasies and foles hem maketh, And han here witte at wille to worche, yif thei sholde;

That Poule precheth of hem I nel nought preve it here;

Qui turpiloquium loquitur is luciferes hyne.43 Bidders44 and beggeres fast aboute yede,45 With her belies and her bagges of bred ful ycrammed;


Fayteden46 for here fode, foughten atte ale;47 In glotonye, god it wote,48 gon hij to bedde, And risen with ribaudye50 tho roberdes knaves;51

Slepe and sori sleuthe52 seweth53 hem evre.54

Pilgrymes and palmers55 plighted hem togidere

To seke seynt Iames56 and seyntes in Rome. Thei went forth in here wey with many wise tales,

And hadden leve to lye al here lyf after.
I seigh somme that seiden thei had ysought


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And raughte87 with his ragman88 rynges and broches;

Thus they geven here golde, glotones to kepe.

Were the bischop yblisseds and worth bothe his eres,

More than to sey soth58 it semed bi here speche. Heremites on59 an heep, with hoked staves, Wenten to Walsyngham,* and here wenches after60; Grete lobyes61 and longe,62 that loth were to His seel90 shulde nought be sent to deceyve swynke,63 the peple.

Clotheden hem in copise to ben knowen fram Ac it is naught by91 the bischop that the boy92 othere;

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In tho daies Joon Baptist cam and prechid in the desert of Judee, and seide, Do ye penaunce, for the kyngdom of hevenes schal nygh. For this is he of whom it is seid bi Isaie the profete, seiynge, A vois of a crier in desert, Make ye redi the weyes of the Lord, make ye right the pathis of hym. And this Joon hadde clothing of camels heris, and a girdil of skyn aboute his leendis, and his mete was hony soukis1 and hony of the wode. Thanne Jerusalem wente out to hym, and al Judee, and al the countre aboute Jordan, and thei werun waischen of hym in Jordan, and knowlechiden her synnes.

But he sigh many of Farisies and of Saduces comynge to his baptem, and seide to hem, Generaciouns of eddris,2 who schewid to you to fle fro wrath that is to come? Therfor do ye worthi fruytis of penaunce. And nyle ye seies with ynne you, We han Abraham to fadir: for I seie to you that God is myghti to reise up of thes stones the sones of Abraham. And now the axe is putte to the root of the tre: therfor every tre that makith not good fruyt schal be kutte doun, and schal be cast in to the fire.


In those daies came John the Baptist, preaching in the wildernesse of Judea, and saying, Repent yee: for the kingdome of heaven is at hand. For this is he that was spoken of by the Prophet Esaias, saying, The voyce of one crying in the wildernesse, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camels haire, and a leatherne girdle about his loynes, and his meate was locusts and wilde honie. Then went out to him Hierusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordane. And were baptized of him in Jordane, confessing their sinnes.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his Baptisme, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meete for repentance. And thinke not to say within your selves, Wee have Abraham to our father: For I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is layd unto the roote of the trees: Therefore every tree which bringeth not foorth good fruite, is hewen downe, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto re

I waisch you in watyr in to penaunce: but he that schal come aftir me is stronger than I, whos schoon I am not worthi to bere: hepentance: but he that commeth after mee, is schal baptise you in the Holi Goost, and fier. Whos wenewynge clooth is in his hond, and he schal fulli clense his corn floor, and schal gadere his whete in to his berne; but the chaf he schal brenne with fier that mai not be quenchid.

Thanne Jhesus cam fro Galilee in to Jordan to Joon, to be baptisid of him. Jon forbede hym and seide, I owe to be baptisid of thee, and thou comest to me? But Jhesus answerid and seide to hym, Suffre now: for thus it fallith to us to fulfille alle rightfulnesse. Then Joon suffrid hym. And whanne Jhesus was baptisid, anon he wente up fro the watir: and lo, hevenes weren opened to hym, and he say the spirit of God comynge doun as a dowve, and comynge on him. And lo, a vois fro hevenes, seiynge, This is my loved sone, in whiche I have plesid to me. (Punctuation and capitalization modernized.)

1 honey-suckles (Wyclif, translating from the Vulgate, evidently mistook the meaning of the Latin locusta)

2 adders

8 will not ye to say 4 winnowing

mightier than I, whose shooes I am not worthy to beare, hee shall baptize you with the holy Ghost, and with fire. Whose fanne is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floore, and gather his wheate into the garner: but wil burne up the chaffe with unquenchable fire. Then commeth Jesus from Galilee to Jordane, unto John, to be baptized of him: But John forbade him, saying, I have need to bee baptized of thee, and commest thou to me?

And Jesus answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becommeth us to fulfill all righteousnesse. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when hee was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and loe, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. And loe, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Soone, in whom I am well pleased. (Verse numbering omitted.)


a long ah as in father: bathed [bahth-ed]. a short =ah without prolongation, as in aha: at [aht].

ai, ayah'ee (nearly equal to modern long i) day [dah'ee].

au, awah'oo (nearly equal to modern ou in house straunge [strahwnjë].


e long ai as in pair: bere [bearë]. e shorte as in ten: hem [hem].

e finale (pronounced as a very light separate syllable, like the final e in the Ger. man eine. So also is es of the plural.): soote [sohtë]. It is regularly elided before a following vowel, before he, his, him, hire (her), here (their), hem (them), and occasionally before other words beginning with h; also in hire, here, oure, etc. ea, ee our long a; eek [āke]. ei, ey=ah' ee (or our long i, aye): wey [wy]. eu, ew = French u: hewe [hü-e].

i longee (nearly): shires [sheer-es].

i shorti in pin: with [with].

o, oo long oa in oar: roote [nearly rōtë]. o shorto in not: [not].

oi, oyoo' ee (near equal to modern oi): floytinge [floiting].

ou, ow our oo in rood in words that in Mod. Eng. have taken the sound of ou in loud: hous [hoos].

ou, ow=oh' oo in words that now have the ō sound: soule, knowe [sōlë, knowë]. u long = French u (found only in French words): vertu [vehrtü].

u short u in pull: but [boot].

ck before a, o, u or any consonant.

s before e, i, y.

g hard in words not of French origin.

j before e, i in words of French origin. ghkh, like the German ch in nicht.

h initial omitted in unaccented he, his, him, hire, hem.

r = trilled.

soften sharp when final.

never sh or zh (vision has therefore three syllables, condicioun four, etc.).

tas at present; but final tion two syllables (si-oon).

The following may serve to illustrate the approximate pronunciation of a few lines, without attempting Mr. Skeat's finer distinctions, such as vahyn for veyne, etc. Note that ë is a separate syllable lightly pronounced, that u equals u in full, and ü is French u.

Whan that Ahpreelle with 'is shoorës sohtë The drookht of March hath persëd toh the rohtë,

And bahthëd evree vyne in swich lecoor
Of which vertü engendred is the floor;
Whan Zephirus aik with 'is swaitë braith
Inspeerëd hath in evry holt and haith
The tendre croopës, and the yungë sunnë
Hath in the Ram 'is halfë coors irunnë,
And smahlë foolës makhen melodeeë

That slaipen al the nikht with ohpen eeë,-
So priketh 'em nahtür in her corahgës,-
Than longen folk toh gohn on pilgrimahgës,
And palmerz for toh saiken strahwngë strondës,
Toh fernë halwës kooth in sondree londës;
And spesialee, from evree sheerës endë
Of Engëlond, toh Cahwnterberee thy wendë,
The hohlee blisful marteer for toh saikë,
That hem hath holpen whan that thy wair



heroic couplets: every two consecutive lines A large part of Chaucer's work is written in rhyming, and each line containing five iambic

feet, that is, five groups of two syllables each, with the accent on the second syllable of each foot; e. g.

And bath'led eve' ry veyn'in swich'li cour'

An extra syllable is often added at the end of the line: e. g.

Whan that April|le with his shou|res sooste Sometimes the first foot is shortened to one long syllable: e. g.

Twenty bolkes clad in blak] or reed]


We have followed, with a few changes, the text of The Canterbury Tales printed by Dr. th=th in thin or th in this, as in Mod. Eng. W. W. Skeat in the Clarendon Press Series, w sometimes oo as in herberw.

which is based on the Ellesmere MS.

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And bathed every veyne in swich licour5,
Of which vertus engendred is the flour?;
Whan Zephiruss eek9 with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt10 and heeth
The tendre croppes11, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne12,
And smale fowles13 maken melodye,
That slepen al the night with open yë14,
(So priketh hem 15 nature in hir16 corages17):
Than18 longen 19 folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seken20 straunge strondes21,
To ferne22 halwes23, couthe24 in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The holy blisful martir25 for to seke,

That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke26.

Bifel that, in that sesoun on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard 27 as I lay
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Caunterbury with ful devout corage28,
At night was come in-to that hostelrye
Wel29 nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
Of sondry folk, by aventure30 y-falle31

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19 Indicative plural of the verb "long".

20 seek

21 shores

22 distant

23 shrines 24 known

25 Thomas à Becket 26 sick

the second, or April, half of his 27 An inn (a tabard was course in that cona short coat).

stellation of the 28 heart zodiac called the 29 full Ram, i. e., about 30 chance April 11

31 fallen

13 birds

How ex

"I take unceasing delight in Chaucer. quisitely tender he is, and yet how perfectly free from the least touch of sickly melancholy or morbid drooping! The sympathy of the poet with the subjects of his poetry is particularly remarkable in Shakespeare and Chaucer; but what the first effects by a strong act of imagination and mental metamorphosis, the last does without any effort, merely by the inborn kindly joyousness of his nature. How well we seem to know Chaucer! How absolutely nothing do we know of Shakespeare!"-Coleridge. See also Dryden "On Chaucer" in the present volume.

In felawshipe, and pilgrims were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden ryde;
The chambres and the stables weren wyde,

And wel we weren esed32 atte beste.

And shortly, whan the sonne was to33 reste, 30
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon34,
That I was of hir felawshipe anon,
And made forward35 erly for to ryse,
To take our wey, ther as36 I yow devyse37.

But natheles, whyl I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thinketh it acordaunt 38 to resoun,
To telle yow al the condicioun


Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren39, and of what degree;
And eek in what array40 that they were inne:
And at a knight than wol I first biginne.

A Knight there was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To ryden out, he loved chivalrye,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisye.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre42,
And therto hadde he riden (no man ferre43)
As wel in cristendom as hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthinesse.
At Alisaundre44 he was, whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne45
Aboven alle naciouns in Pruce46.

In Lettow47 hadde he reysed 48 and in Ruce40, No cristen man so ofte of his degree50.

In Gernade51 at the sege eek hadde he be

Of Algezir52, and riden in Belmarye53.

At Lyeys54 was he, and at Satalye54


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