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Chaucer's forte is description; much of his moral reflection is superfluous; none of his characteristic painting. His men and women are not mere ladies and gentlemen, like those who farnish apologies for Boccaccio's stories. They rise before us minutely traced, profusely varied, and strongly discriminated. Their features and casual manners seem to have an amusing congruity with their moral characters. He notices minute circumstances as if by chance; but every touch has its effect to our conception so distinctly, that we seem to live and travel with his personages throughout the journey.

What an intimate scene of English life in the fourteenth century do we enjoy in those tales, beyond what history displays by glimpses, through the stormy atmosphere of her scenes, or the antiquarian can discover by the cold light of his researches ! Our ancestors are restored to us, not as phantoms from the field of battle, or the scaffold, but in the full enjoyment of their social existence. After four hundred years

have closed over the mirthful features which formed the living originals of the poet's descriptions, his pages impress the fancy with the momentary credence that they are still alive ; as if Time had rebuilt his ruins, and were reacting the lost scenes of existence.

THE PROLOGUE

TO THE

CANTERBURY TALES.

W#anne that April with his shourès sotel
The droughte of March hath perced to the rote,
And bathed every veine in swiches licour,
Of whiche vertùe engendred is the four;
Whan Zephirus eke with his sotè brethe
Enspired hath in every holt and hethe
The tendre croppès, and the yongè sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfè cours yronne“,
And smalè foulès maken melodie,
That slepen allè night with open eye,
So priketh hem nature in hiró corages ? ;
Than longen folk to gon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken strangè strondes,
To servèhalweys9 couthe 10 in sondry londes;

i Sweet.

2 Root. 3 Such. 7 Inclination.

6 To keep

4 Run. 5 Them.

6 Their. 9 Holidays.

10 Known.

And specially, from every shirès ende
Of Englelond, to Canterbury they wende',
The holy blisful martyr for to seke,
That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke?

Befelle, that, in that seson on a day,
In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay,
Redy to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devoute corage,
At night was come into that hostelrie
Wel nine and twenty in a compagnie
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalles
In felawship, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Canterbury wolden* ride.
The chambres and the stables weren wide,
And wel we weren esed attè beste.

And shortly, whan the sonne was gon to reste,
So hadde I spoken with hem everich on,
That I was of hir felawship anon,
And madè forword erly for to rise,
To take oure way ther as I you devise.

But nátheles, while I have time and space,
Or that I forther in this talè pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to reson,
To tellen you alle the condition
Of eche of hem, so as it semed me,
And whiche they weren, and of what degre;
And eke in what araie that they were inne:
And at a knight than wol I firste beginne.

i Go.

* Sick.

3 Fallen.

4 Would.

5 Every one. 2 Farther. 3 4 Been placed at the head of the table. 5 Travelled. 6 Praise.

A Knight ther was, and that a worthy man, That fro the time that he firste began To riden out, he loved Chevalrie, Trouthe and honour, fredom and curtesie. Ful worthy was he in his lordès werre', And therto hadde he ridden, no man ferre, As wel in Cristendom as in Hethenesse, And ever honoured for his worthinesse.

At Alisandre he was whan it was wonne. Ful often time he hadde the bords begonne* Aboven allè nations in Pruce. In Lettowe hadde he reysed 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 listès thries, and ay slain his fo. This ilkè worthy knight hadde ben alsò Sometime with the Lord of Palatie, Agen another hethen in Turkie: And evermore he hadde a sovereine pris 6. 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 1 War.

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 gipòn',
Alle besmotred 2 with his habergeon,
For he was late ycome fro his viàge,
And wentè for to don his pilgrimage.

With him ther was his sone a yongè Squier,
A lover and a lusty bacheler,
With lockès crulle as they were laide in presse.
Of twenty yere of age he was I gesse.
Of his statùre he was of even lengthe,
And wonderly deliver, and grete of strengthe.
And he hadde be somtime in chevachie",
In Flaundres, in Artois, and in Picardie,
And borne him wel, as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his ladies grace.

Embrouded 7 was he, as it were a mede
Alle ful of fresshè flourès, white and rede.
Singing he was, or floyting 8 alle the day,
He was as fresshe, as is the moneth of May.
Short was his goune, with slevès long and wide.
Well coude he sitte on hors, and fayrè ride.
He coudè songès make, and wel endite,
Juste and eke dance, and wel pourtraie and write.

i Wore a short cassock. 2 Smutted. 3 Coat of mail. 4 Curled. 5 Nimble, 6 Horse skirmishing.

7 Embroidered. 8 Playing the flute.

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