Page images

To riden out, he loved chevalrie,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordès' werre, (a)
And thereto hadde he ridden, no man ferre, (6)
As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse,
And ever honoured for his worthinesse.

At Alisandre he was whan it was wonne.
Full often time he hadde the bord (c) begonne (d)
Aboven allè nations in Pruce.
In Lettowe hadde he reysed (e) and in Ruce,
No cristen man so ofte of his degre.
In Gernade at the siege eke hadde he be
Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie.
At Leyès was he, and at Satalie,
Whan they were wonne; and in the Gretè see
At many a noble armee hadde he be.
At mortal batailles hadde he ben fiftene,
And foughten for our faith at Tramissène
In listės thries, and ay slain his fo.

This ilkè worthy knight hadde ben also
Somtime with the Lord of Palatie,
Agen another hethen in Turkie:
And evermore he hadde a sovereine pris. (f)
And though that he was worthy he was wise,
And of his port as meke as is a mayde.
He never yet no vilanie ne sayde
In alle his lif, unto no manere wight.
He was a veray parfit gentil knight.

But for to tellen you of his araie,
His hors was good, but he ne was not gaie.
Of fustian he wered a gipon, (g)
Alle besmotred (h) with his habergeon, (i)
For he was late ycome fro his viage,
And wentè for to don his pilgrimage.

(a) War.

(6) Farther. (c) (d) Been placed at the head of the table. (e) Travelled. (f) Praise. (g) Wore a short cassock. (h) Smutted. (i) Coat of mail.

With him ther was his sone a young Squier,
A lover and a lusty bacheler,
With lockés crull (a) as they were laide in presse.
Of twenty yere of age he was I gesse.
Of his stature he was of even lengthe,
And wonderly deliver, (b) and grete of strengthe.
And he hadde be somtime in chevachie, (c)
In Flaundres, in Artois, and in Picardie,
And borne him wel, as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his ladie's grace.

Embrouded (d) was he, as it were a mede
Alle ful of freshe flourès, white and rede.
Singing he was, or floyting (e) alle the day,
He was as freshe, as is the moneth of May. .
Short was his goune, with slevès long and wide,
Wel coude he sitte on hors, and fayrè ride.
He coudè songès make, and wel endite,
Juste and eke dance, and wel pourtraie and write.
So hote he loved, that by nightertale (f)
He slep no more than doth the nightingale.

Curteis he was, lowly, and servisable,
And carf (g) before his fader at the table.

A Yeman hadde he, and servantes no mo
At that time, for him luste (h) to ride so;
And he was cladde in cote and hode of grene.
A shefe of peacock arwes bright and kene
Under his belt he bare ful thriftily.
Well coude he dresse his takel (i) yemanly :
His arwes (k) drouped not with fetheres lowe.
And in his hond he bare a mighty bowe.

A not-hed (1) hadde he, with a broune visage.
Of wood-craft coude (m) he wel alle the usage.
Upon his arme he bare a gaie bracer, (n)
And by his side a swerd and a bokeler,

(a) Curled. (6) Nimble. (c) Horse skirmishing. (d) Embroidered. (e) Playing the flute. (f) Nighttime. (8) Carved. (h) It pleased him. (i) Tackle. (k) Arrow. (1) A bullet-head.

(m) Knew (n) Armour for the arm,

And on that other side a gaie daggère,
Harneised wel, and sharpe as point of spere :
A Cristofre on his brest of silver shene.
An horne he bare, the baudrik was of grene,
A forster was he sothely as I gesse.

Ther was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hire smiling was full simple and coy;
Hire gretest othe n'as but by Seint Eloy ;
And she was cleped (a) Madame Eglentine.
Ful wel she sange the service devine,
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely;
And Frenche she spake ful fayre and fetisly, (6)
After the scole of Stratford attè Bowe,
For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe.
At metè was she wele ytaughte withalle;
She lette no morsel from her lippès falle,
Ne wette hire fingres in hire sauce depe.
Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe,
Thattè no drope ne fell upon hire brest.
In curtesie was sette ful moche hire lest. (c)
Hire over-lippè wiped she so clene,
That in hire cuppe was no ferthing (d) sene
Of gresè, whan she dronken hadde hire draught.
Ful semély after hire mete she raught. (e)
And sikerly she was of grete disport,
And ful plesant, and amiable of port,
And peined (f) hire to contrefeten (g) chere
Of court, and ben estatelich of manère,
And to ben holden digne (h) of reverence.

But for to speken of hire conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous,
She wolde wepe if that she saw a mous
Caughte in a trappe, if it were ded or bledde.
Of smalé houndès hadde she, that she fedde
With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel brede.
But sore wept she if on of hem were dede,

(a) Called. (d) Smallest spot. (g) To imitate.

(6) Neatly,

(e) Rose. (h) Worthy.

(c) Her pleasure. (f) Took pains.

Or if men smote it with a yerdè (a) smert : ()
And all was conscience and tendre herte.

Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was;
Hire nose tretis; (c) hire eyen grey as glas ;
Hire mouth ful smale, and therto soft and red;
But sikerly she hadde a fayre forehed,
It was almost a spannè brode I trowe;
For hardily she was not undergrowe. (d)

Ful fetise (e) was hire cloke, as I was ware.
Of smale corall aboute hire arm she bare
A pair of bedès, gauded all with grene ;
And thereon heng a broche of gold ful shene,
On whiche was first ywriten a crouned A,
And after, Amor vincit omnia.
Another Nonne also with hire hadde she,
That was hire chapelleine, and Preestès thre.

A Monk ther was, a fayre for the maistrie,
An outrider, that loved venerie; (f)
A manly man, to ben an abbot able.
Ful many a deinté hors hadde he in stable :
And whan he rode, men might his bridel here
Gingèling in a whistling wind as clere,
And eke as loude, as doth the chapell belle,
Ther as this lord was keeper of the celle.

The reule of Seint Maure and of Seint Beneit,
Because that it was olde and somdele streit,
This ilkè monk lette oldè thingés pace,
And held after the newè worlde the trace.
He yave (g) not of the text a pulled hen,
That saith, that hunters ben not holy men
Ne that a monk, whan he is rekkeles, (h)
Is like to a fish that is waterles;

(a) Stick. (b) Smartly, adv. (c) Straight. (d) Of low stature. (e) Neat.

(f) Hunting (g) Gave. (h) Mr Tyrrwhit supposes, that this should be righelles, s. e. out of the rules by which the monks were bound.

This is to say, a monk out of his cloistre.
This ilkè text held he not wroth an oistre.
And I say his opinion was good.
What shulde he studie, and make himselven wood, (a)
Upon a book in cloistre alway to pore,
Or swinken (6) with his hondès, and laboure,
As Austin bit ? (c) how shal the world be served ?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therfore he was a prickasoure (d) a right:
Greihoundes he hadde as swift as foul of flight:
Of pricking and of hunting for the hare
Was all his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.

I saw his sleves purfiled (e) at the hond
With gris, (f) and that the finest of the lond.
And for to fasten his hood under his chinne,
He hadde of gold ywrought a curious pinne;
A love-knotte in the greter end ther was.
His hed was balled, and shone as any glas,
And eke his face, as it hadde ben anoint.
He was a lord ful fat and in good point.
His eyen stepe, (g) and rolling in his hed,
That stemed as a forneis of a led.
His botes souple, his hors in gret estat,
Now certainly he was a fayre prelat.
He was not pale as a forpined gost.
A fat swan loved he best of any rost.
His palfrey was as brown as is a bery.

A Frere ther was, a wanton and a mery,
A Limitour, a ful solempné man.
In all the ordres foure is non that can (h)
So moche of daliance and fayre langage.
He hadde ymade ful many a mariage
Of yongè wimmen, at his owen cost.
Until his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel beloved, and familier was he
With frankeleins over all in his contrée,

(a) Mad. (6) Toil. (c) Biddeth. (d) Hard rider. (e) Wrought on the edge.

(S) A fine kind of fur. (g) Deep in the head,

(h) Knew

« PreviousContinue »