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The eye of the day chaucer

16/11/2021 Client: muhammad11 Deadline: 2 Day

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Geoffrey Chaucer

T H E C A N T E R B U RY TA L E S

Translated into Modern English by Nevill Coghill

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Contents

INTRODUCTION: Chaucer’s Life – Chaucer’s Works

The Canterbury Tales

[GROUP A]

THE PROLOGUE

THE KNIGHT’S TALE

Words between the Host and the Miller

THE MILLER’S TALE

The Reeve’s Prologue

THE REEVE’S TALE

The Cook’s Prologue

THE COOK’S TALE

[GROUP B]

Introduction to the Man of Law’s Tale

The Man of Law’s Prologue

THE MAN OF LAW’S TALE

Epilogue to the Man of Law’s Tale

THE SHIPMAN’S TALE

Words of the Host to the Shipman and the Prioress

The Prioress’s Prologue

THE PRIORESS’S TALE

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Words of the Host to Chaucer

CHAUCER’S TALE OF SIR TOPAZ

The Host stops Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Topaz

CHAUCER’S TALE OF MELIBEE (in synopsis)

Words of the Host to the Monk

THE MONKS TALE

(Lucifer, Adam, Samson, Hercules, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Zenobia, King Peter of Spain, King Peter of Cyprus, Bernabo Visconti of Lombardy, Count Ugolino of Pisa, Nero, Holofernes, King Antiochus the Illustrious, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Croesus)

Words of the Knight and the Host

THE NUN’S PRIEST’S TALE

Words of the Host to the Nun’s Priest

[GROUP C]

THE PHYSICIAN’S TALE

Words of the Host to the Physician and to the Pardoner

The Pardoner’s Prologue

THE PARDONER’S TALE

[GROUP D]

The Wife of Bath’s Prologue

Words between the Summoner and the Friar

THE WIFE OF BATH’S TALE

The Friar’s Prologue

THE FRIAR’S TALE

The Summoner’s Prologue

THE SUMMONER’S TALE

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[GROUP E]

The Clerk’s Prologue

THE CLERK’S TALE

Chaucer’s Envoy to the Clerk’s Tale

The Merchant’s Prologue

THE MERCHANT’S TALE

Epilogue to the Merchant’s Tale

[GROUP F]

The Squire’s Prologue

THE SQUIRE’S TALE

Words of the Franklin to the Squire and of the Host to the Franklin

The Franklin’s Prologue

THE FRANKLIN’S TALE

[GROUP G]

The Second Nun’s Prologue

THE SECOND NUN’S TALE

The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue

THE CANON’S YEOMAN’S TALE

[GROUP H]

The Manciple’s Prologue

THE MANCIPLE’S TALE

[GROUP I]

The Parson’s Prologue

THE PARSON’S TALE (in synopsis)

Chaucer’s Retractions

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NOTES

Follow Penguin

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PENGUIN CLASSICS

THE CANTERBURY TALES

Geoffrey Chaucer was born in London, the son of a vintner, in about 1342. He is known to have been a page to the Countess of Ulster in 1357, and Edward III valued him highly enough to pay a part of his ransom in 1360, after he had been captured fighting in France.

It was probably in France that Chaucer’s interest in poetry was first aroused. Certainly he soon began to translate the long allegorical poem of courtly love, the Roman de la Rose. His literary experience was further increased by visits to the Italy of Boccaccio on the King’s business, and he was well-read in several languages and on many topics, such as astronomy, medicine, physics and alchemy.

Chaucer rose in royal employment, and became a knight of the shire for Kent (1385–6) and a Justice of the Peace. A lapse of favour during the temporary absence of his steady patron, John of Gaunt (to whom he was connected by his marriage), gave him time to begin organizing his unfinished Canterbury Tales. Later his fortunes revived, and at his death in 1400 he was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The order of his works is uncertain, but they include The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, Troilus and Criseyde and a translation of Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae.

Professor Nevill Coghill held many appointments at Oxford University, where he was Merton Professor of English Literature from 1957 to 1966, and later became Emeritus Fellow of Exeter and Merton Colleges. He was born in 1899 and educated at Haileybury and Exeter College, Oxford, and served in the Great War after 1917. He wrote several books on English Literature, and had a keen interest in drama, particularly Shakespearean. For many years he was a strong supporter of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, and produced plays in London and Oxford. The book of the musical play, Canterbury Tales, which ran at the Phoenix Theatre, London, from 1968 to 1973 was co-written by Nevill Coghill in collaboration with Martin Starkie who first conceived the idea and

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presented the original production. His translation of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde into modern English is also published in the Penguin Classics. Professor Coghill, who died in November 1980, will perhaps be best remembered for this translation which has become an enduring bestseller.

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FOR

Richard Freeman Brian Ball

Glynne Wickham Peter Whillans Graham Binns

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… I have translated some parts of his works, only that I might perpetuate his memory, or at least refresh it, amongst my countrymen. If I have altered him anywhere for the better, I must at the same time acknowledge, that I could have done nothing without him… .

JOHN DRYDEN on translating Chaucer Preface to the Fables

1700

And such as Chaucer is, shall Dryden be.

ALEXANDER POPE Essay on Criticism

1711

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Introduction

I

Chaucer’s Life

Geoffrey Chaucer was born about the year 1342; the exact date is not known. His father, John, and his grandfather, Robert, had associations with the wine trade and, more tenuously, with the Court. John was Deputy Butler to the King at Southampton in 1348. Geoffrey Chaucer’s mother is believed to have been Agnes de Copton, niece of an official at the Mint. They lived in London in the parish of St Martin’s-in-the-Vintry, reasonably well-to-do but in a humbler walk of life than that to be adorned so capably by their brilliant son.

It is thought that Chaucer was sent for his early schooling to St Paul’s Almonry. From there he went on to be a page in the household of the Countess of Ulster, later Duchess of Clarence, wife of Lionel the third son of Edward III. The first mention of Geoffrey Chaucer’s existence is in her household accounts for 1357. She had bought him a short cloak, a pair of shoes, and some parti-coloured red and black breeches.

To be a page in a family of such eminence was a coveted position. His duties as a page included making beds, carrying candles, and running errands. He would there have acquired the finest education in good manners, a matter of great importance not only in his career as a courtier but also in his career as a poet. No English poet has so mannerly an approach to his reader.

As a page he would wait on the greatest in the land. One of these was the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt; throughout his life he was Chaucer’s most faithful patron and protector.

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In 1359 Chaucer was sent abroad, a soldier in the egg, on one of those intermittent forays into France that made up so large a part of the Hundred Years’ War. He was taken prisoner near Rheims and ransomed in the following year; the King himself contributed towards his ransom. Well- trained and intelligent pages did not grow on every bush.

It is not known for certain when Chaucer began to write poetry, but it is reasonable to believe that it was on his return from France. The elegance of French poetry and its thrilling doctrines of Amour Courtois* seem to have gone to his impressionable, amorous, and poetical heart. He set to work to translate the gospel of that kind of love and poetry, the Roman de la Rose, a thirteenth-century French poem begun by Guillaume de Lorris and later completed by Jean de Meun.

Meanwhile he was promoted as a courtier. In 1367 he was attending on the King himself and was referred to as Dilectus Valettus noster… our dearly beloved Valet. It was towards that year that Chaucer married. His bride was Philippa de Roet, a lady in attendance on the Queen, and sister to Catherine Swynford, third wife of John of Gaunt.

Chaucer wrote no poems to her, so far as is known. It was not in fashion to write poems to one’s wife. It could even be debated whether love could ever have a place in marriage; the typical situation in which a ‘courtly lover’ found himself was to be plunged in a secret, an illicit, and even an adulterous passion for some seemingly unattainable and pedestalized lady. Before his mistress a lover was prostrate, wounded to death by her beauty, killed by her disdain, obliged to an illimitable constancy, marked out for her dangerous service. A smile from her was in theory a gracious reward for twenty years of painful adoration. All Chaucer’s heroes regard love when it comes upon them as the most beautiful of absolute disasters, an agony as much desired as bemoaned, ever to be pursued, never to be betrayed.

This was not in theory the attitude of a husband to his wife. It was for a husband to command, for a wife to obey. The changes that can be rung on these antitheses are to be seen throughout The Canterbury Tales. If we may judge by the Knight’s Tale and the Franklin’s Tale Chaucer thought that love and marriage were perhaps compatible after all, provided that the lover remained his wife’s ‘servant’ after marriage, in private at least. If we

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read the Wife of Bath’s Prologue we shall see that she thought little of wives that did not master their husbands. What solution to these problems was reached by Geoffrey and Philippa Chaucer he never revealed. He only once alludes to her, or seems to do so, when in The House of Fame he compares the timbre of her voice awaking him in the morning to that of an eagle. His maturest work is increasingly ironical about women considered as wives; what the Wife of Bath and the Merchant have to say of them is of this kind. The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and the Merchant’s Tale are perhaps his two most astounding performances. By the time he wrote them Philippa had long been dead. It is in any case by no means certain that these two characters utter Chaucer’s private convictions; they are speaking for themselves. One can only say that Chaucer was a great enough writer to lend them unanswerable thoughts and language, to think and speak on their behalf.

The King soon began to employ his beloved valet on important missions abroad. The details of most of these are not known, but appear to have been of a civilian and commercial nature, dealing with trade relations. We can infer that Chaucer was trustworthy and efficient.

Meanwhile Chaucer was gratifying and extending his passion for books. He was a prodigious reader and had the art of storing what he read in an almost faultless memory. He learnt in time to read widely in Latin, French, Anglo-Norman, and Italian. He made himself a considerable expert in contemporary sciences, especially in astronomy, medicine, psychology, physics, and alchemy. There is, for instance, in The House of Fame a long and amusing account of the nature of sound-waves. The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale (one of the best) shows an intimate but furiously contemptuous knowledge of alchemical practice. In literary and historical fields his favourites seem to have been Vergil, Ovid, Statius, Seneca, and Cicero among the ancients, and the Roman de la Rose with its congeners and the works of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch among the moderns. He knew the Fathers of the Church and quotes freely and frequently from every book in the Bible and Apocrypha.

Two journeys on the King’s business took Chaucer to Italy: the first in 1372 to Genoa, the second in 1378 to Milan. It has always been supposed that these missions were what first brought him in contact with that

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Renaissance dawn which so glorified his later poetry. While he never lost or disvalued what he had learnt from French culture, he added some of the depth of Dante and much of the splendour of Boccaccio, from whom came, amongst other things, the stories of Troilus and Criseyde and the Knight’s Tale. Chaucer’s power to tell a story seems to have emerged at this time and to derive from Italy.

Meanwhile he was rising by steady promotions in what we should now call the Civil Service, that is in his offices as a courtier. In 1374 he became Comptroller of customs and subsidies on wools, skins, and hides at the Port of London: in 1382 Comptroller of petty customs, in 1385 Justice of the Peace for the county of Kent, in 1386 Knight of the Shire. He was now in some affluence.

But in December 1386 he was suddenly deprived of all his offices. John of Gaunt had left England on a military expedition to Spain and was replaced as an influence on young King Richard II by the Duke of Gloucester. Gloucester had never been a patron of the poet, and filled his posts with his own supporters. We may be grateful to him for this, because he set Chaucer at leisure thereby. It is almost certain that the poet then began to set in order and compose The Canterbury Tales.

In 1389 John of Gaunt returned and Chaucer was restored to favour and office. He was put in charge of the repair of walls, ditches, sewers, and bridges between Greenwich and Woolwich, and of the fabric of St George’s Chapel at Windsor. The office of Sub-Forester of North Petherton (probably a sinecure) was given him. The daily pitcher of wine allowed him by Edward III in 1374 became, under Richard II, an annual tun. Henry Bolingbroke presented him with a scarlet robe trimmed with fur. Once more he had met with that cheerful good luck which is so happily reflected in his poetry.

He felt himself to be growing old, however; he complained that the faculty of rhyming had deserted him. No one knows when he put his last touch to The Canterbury Tales. He never finished them.

He died on the twenty-fifth of October 1400 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. A fine tomb, erected by an admirer in the fifteenth century, marks his grave and was the first of those that are gathered into

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what we now know as the Poets’ Corner. The Father of English Poetry lies in his family vault.*

II

Chaucer’s Works

The order in which Chaucer’s works were written is not known exactly or for certain. Some have been lost, if we are to believe the lists Chaucer gives of his poems in The Prologue to the Legend of Good Women and the ‘retracciouns’ appended by him to The Parson’s Tale. His main surviving poems are:

Before 1372 part at least of his translation of the Roman de la Rose, The Book of the Duchess (1369/70?) and the ABC of the Virgin. Between 1372 and 1382, The House of Fame, The Parliament of Fowls, and most probably a number of stories – or preliminary versions of stories – that were later included in The Canterbury Tales, the idea for which does not seem to have come to him until about 1386. Among these I incline to place The Second Nun’s Tale, The Clerk of Oxford’s Tale, The Man of Law’s Tale, Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee, and The Knight’s Tale. These seem to indicate that he passed through a phase of poetic piety (The Second Nun’s Tale, The Clerk of Oxford’s Tale, The Man of Law’s Tale, and the Tale of Melibee), qualified by an ever-increasing range of subject-matter, increasingly tinged with irony, and enlivened by passages of that rich naturalistic conversation in rhymed verse which it was one of Chaucer’s peculiar powers to invent.

Between 1380 and 1385 appeared the matchless Troilus and Criseyde and the translation of Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophiae. The latter is the main basis for most of Chaucer’s philosophical speculations, especially those on tragedy and predestination, which underlie its twin Troilus and Criseyde.

This poem, the most poignant love-story in English narrative poetry, is also one of the most amusing. It is his first great masterpiece, yet for all its humour can stand comparison with any tragic love-story in the world. Its psychological understanding is so subtle and its narrative line so skilfully

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ordered that it has been called our first novel. It appears to have given some offence to Queen Anne of Bohemia (Richard’s wife) because it seemed to imply that women were more faithless than men in matters of love. Chaucer was bidden to write a retraction and so in the following year (1386) he produced a large instalment of The Legend of the Saints of Cupid (all female), which is also known as The Legend of Good Women. He never finished it. His disciple Lydgate said later that it encumbered his wits to think of so many good women.

From 1386 or 1387 onwards he was at work on The Canterbury Tales. There are some 84 MSS and early printed editions by Caxton, Pynson, Wynkyn de Worde, and Thynne.

These manuscripts show that Chaucer left ten fragments of varying size of this great poem. Modern editors have arranged these in what appears to be the intended sequence, inferred from dates and places mentioned in the ‘end-links’, as the colloquies of the pilgrims between tales are called. For convenience these manuscript fragments are numbered in Groups from A to I; Group B can be subdivided into two, making ten Groups in all.

If we may trust the Prologue, Chaucer intended that each of some thirty pilgrims should tell two tales on the way to Canterbury and two on the way back. He never completed this immense project, and what he wrote was not finally revised even so far as it went. There are also one or two minor inconsistencies which a little revision could have rectified.

In this rendering I have followed the accepted order first worked out by Furnivall (1868) and later confirmed by Skeat (1894). It makes a reasonably continuous and consistent narrative of a pilgrimage that seems to have occupied five days (16 to 20 April) and that led to the outskirts of Canterbury. At that point Chaucer withdrew from his task with an apology for whatever might smack of sin in his work.

The idea of a collection of tales diversified in style to suit their tellers and unified in form by uniting the tellers in a common purpose is Chaucer’s own. Collections of stories were common at the time, but only Chaucer hit on this simple device for securing natural probability, psychological variety, and a wide range of narrative interest.

In all literature there is nothing that touches or resembles the Prologue. It is the concise portrait of an entire nation, high and low, old and young,

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male and female, lay and clerical, learned and ignorant, rogue and righteous, land and sea, town and country, but without extremes. Apart from the stunning clarity, touched with nuance, of the characters presented, the most noticeable thing about them is their normality. They are the perennial progeny of men and women. Sharply individual, together they make a party.

The tales these pilgrims tell come from all over Europe, many of them from the works of Chaucer’s near contemporaries. Some come from further afield, from the ancients, from the Orient. They exemplify the whole range of contemporary European imagination, then particularly addicted to stories, especially to stories that had some sharp point and deducible maxim, moral, or idea. Almost every tale ends with a piece of proverbial or other wisdom derived from it and with a general benediction on the company.

One of the few tales believed to be his own invention is that of the Canon’s Yeoman; some have imagined it to be a personal revenge taken by him upon some alchemist who had duped him; be that as it may, it is one of the best of the tales. It was not considered the function of a teller of stories in the fourteenth century to invent the stories he told, but to present and embellish them with all the arts of rhetoric for the purposes of entertainment and instruction. Chaucer’s choice of story ranges from what he could hear – such as tales of low life in oral circulation, like the Miller’s Tale, that are known as fabliaux – to what he had read in Boccaccio or other classic masters or in the lives of saints. To quote Dryden once more, ‘’Tis sufficient to say, according to the proverb, that here is God’s plenty.’

The present version of this master-work is intended for those who feel difficulty in reading the original, yet would like to enjoy as much of that ‘plenty’ as the translator has been able to convey in a more modern idiom.

NEVILL COGHILL

Exeter College Oxford

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[G R O U P A ]

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The Prologue

When in April the sweet showers fall And pierce the drought of March to the root, and all The veins are bathed in liquor of such power As brings about the engendering of the flower, When also Zephyrus with his sweet breath Exhales an air in every grove and heath Upon the tender shoots, and the young sun His half-course in the sign of the Ram has run, And the small fowl are making melody That sleep away the night with open eye (So nature pricks them and their heart engages) Then people long to go on pilgrimages And palmers long to seek the stranger strands Of far-off saints, hallowed in sundry lands, And specially, from every shire’s end Of England, down to Canterbury they wend To seek the holy blissful martyr,* quick To give his help to them when they were sick.

It happened in that season that one day In Southwark, at The Tabard, as I lay Ready to go on pilgrimage and start For Canterbury, most devout at heart, At night there came into that hostelry Some nine and twenty in a company Of sundry folk happening then to fall In fellowship, and they were pilgrims all That towards Canterbury meant to ride. The rooms and stables of the inn were wide; They made us easy, all was of the best.

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And, briefly, when the sun had gone to rest, I’d spoken to them all upon the trip And was soon one with them in fellowship, Pledged to rise early and to take the way To Canterbury, as you heard me say.

But none the less, while I have time and space, Before my story takes a further pace, It seems a reasonable thing to say What their condition was, the full array Of each of them, as it appeared to me, According to profession and degree, And what apparel they were riding in; And at a Knight I therefore will begin. There was a Knight, a most distinguished man, Who from the day on which he first began To ride abroad had followed chivalry, Truth honour, generousness and courtesy. He had done nobly in his sovereign’s war And ridden into battle, no man more, As well in Christian as in heathen places, And ever honoured for his noble graces.

When we took Alexandria,* he was there. He often sat at table in the chair Of honour, above all nations, when in Prussia. In Lithuania he had ridden, and Russia, No Christian man so often, of his rank. When, in Granada, Algeciras sank Under assault, he had been there, and in North Africa, raiding Benamarin; In Anatolia he had been as well And fought when Ayas and Attalia fell, For all along the Mediterranean coast He had embarked with many a noble host. In fifteen mortal battles he had been And jousted for our faith at Tramissene

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Thrice in the lists, and always killed his man. This same distinguished knight had led the van Once with the Bey of Balat, doing work For him against another heathen Turk; He was of sovereign value in all eyes. And though so much distinguished, he was wise And in his bearing modest as a maid. He never yet a boorish thing had said In all his life to any, come what might; He was a true, a perfect gentle-knight.

Speaking of his equipment, he possessed Fine horses, but he was not gaily dressed. He wore a fustian tunic stained and dark With smudges where his armour had left mark; Just home from service, he had joined our ranks To do his pilgrimage and render thanks.

He had his son with him, a fine young Squire, A lover and cadet, a lad of fire With locks as curly as if they had been pressed. He was some twenty years of age, I guessed. In stature he was of a moderate length, With wonderful agility and strength. He’d seen some service with the cavalry In Flanders and Artois and Picardy And had done valiantly in little space Of time, in hope to win his lady’s grace. He was embroidered like a meadow bright And full of freshest flowers, red and white. Singing he was, or fluting all the day; He was as fresh as is the month of May. Short was his gown, the sleeves were long and wide; He knew the way to sit a horse and ride. He could make songs and poems and recite, Knew how to joust and dance, to draw and write. He loved so hotly that till dawn grew pale

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He slept as little as a nightingale. Courteous he was, lowly and serviceable, And carved to serve his father at the table.

There was a Yeoman with him at his side, No other servant; so he chose to ride. This Yeoman wore a coat and hood of green, And peacock-feathered arrows, bright and keen And neatly sheathed, hung at his belt the while – For he could dress his gear in yeoman style, His arrows never drooped their feathers low – And in his hand he bore a mighty bow. His head was like a nut, his face was brown. He knew the whole of woodcraft up and down. A saucy brace was on his arm to ward It from the bow-string, and a shield and sword Hung at one side, and at the other slipped A jaunty dirk, spear-sharp and well-equipped. A medal of St Christopher he wore Of shining silver on his breast, and bore A hunting-horn, well slung and burnished clean, That dangled from a baldrick of bright green. He was a proper forester, I guess.

There also was a Nun, a Prioress, Her way of smiling very simple and coy. Her greatest oath was only ‘By St Loy!’ And she was known as Madam Eglantyne. And well she sang a service, with a fine Intoning through her nose, as was most seemly, And she spoke daintily in French, extremely, After the school of Stratford-atte-Bowe; French in the Paris style she did not know. At meat her manners were well taught withal; No morsel from her lips did she let fall, Nor dipped her fingers in the sauce too deep; But she could carry a morsel up and keep

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The smallest drop from falling on her breast. For courtliness she had a special zest, And she would wipe her upper lip so clean That not a trace of grease was to be seen Upon the cup when she had drunk; to eat, She reached a hand sedately for the meat. She certainly was very entertaining, Pleasant and friendly in her ways, and straining To counterfeit a courtly kind of grace, A stately bearing fitting to her place, And to seem dignified in all her dealings. As for her sympathies and tender feelings, She was so charitably solicitous She used to weep if she but saw a mouse Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bleeding. And she had little dogs she would be feeding With roasted flesh, or milk, or fine white bread. And bitterly she wept if one were dead Or someone took a stick and made it smart; She was all sentiment and tender heart. Her veil was gathered in a seemly way, Her nose was elegant, her eyes glass-grey; Her mouth was very small, but soft and red, Her forehead, certainly, was fair of spread, Almost a span across the brows, I own; She was indeed by no means undergrown. Her cloak, I noticed, had a graceful charm. She wore a coral trinket on her arm, A set of beads, the gaudies tricked in green,* Whence hung a golden brooch of brightest sheen On which there first was graven a crowned A, And lower, Amor vincit omnia.

Another Nun, the secretary at her cell, Was riding with her, and three Priests as well.

A Monk there was, one of the finest sort

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Who rode the country; hunting was his sport. A manly man, to be an Abbot able; Many a dainty horse he had in stable. His bridle, when he rode, a man might hear Jingling in a whistling wind as clear, Aye, and as loud as does the chapel bell Where my lord Monk was Prior of the cell. The Rule of good St Benet or St Maur As old and strict he tended to ignore; He let go by the things of yesterday And took the modern world’s more spacious way. He did not rate that text at a plucked hen Which says that hunters are not holy men And that a monk uncloistered is a mere Fish out of water, flapping on the pier, That is to say a monk out of his cloister. That was a text he held not worth an oyster; And I agreed and said his views were sound; Was he to study till his head went round Poring over books in cloisters? Must he toil As Austin bade and till the very soil? Was he to leave the world upon the shelf? Let Austin have his labour to himself.

This Monk was therefore a good man to horse; Greyhounds he had, as swift as birds, to course. Hunting a hare or riding at a fence Was all his fun, he spared for no expense. I saw his sleeves were garnished at the hand With fine grey fur, the finest in the land, And on his hood, to fasten it at his chin He had a wrought-gold cunningly fashioned pin; Into a lover’s knot it seemed to pass. His head was bald and shone like looking-glass; So did his face, as if it had been greased. He was a fat and personable priest;

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His prominent eyeballs never seemed to settle. They glittered like the flames beneath a kettle; Supple his boots, his horse in fine condition. He was a prelate fit for exhibition, He was not pale like a tormented soul. He liked a fat swan best, and roasted whole. His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.

There was a Friar, a wanton one and merry, A Limiter,* a very festive fellow. In all Four Orders* there was none so mellow, So glib with gallant phrase and well-turned speech. He’d fixed up many a marriage, giving each Of his young women what he could afford her. He was a noble pillar to his Order. Highly beloved and intimate was he With County folk within his boundary, And city dames of honour and possessions; For he was qualified to hear confessions, Or so he said, with more than priestly scope; He had a special licence from the Pope. Sweetly he heard his penitents at shrift With pleasant absolution, for a gift. He was an easy man in penance-giving Where he could hope to make a decent living; It’s a sure sign whenever gifts are given To a poor Order that a man’s well shriven, And should he give enough he knew in verity The penitent repented in sincerity. For many a fellow is so hard of heart He cannot weep, for all his inward smart. Therefore instead of weeping and of prayer One should give silver for a poor Friar’s care. He kept his tippet stuffed with pins for curls, And pocket-knives, to give to pretty girls. And certainly his voice was gay and sturdy,

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For he sang well and played the hurdy-gurdy. At sing-songs he was champion of the hour. His neck was whiter than a lily-flower But strong enough to butt a bruiser down. He knew the taverns well in every town And every innkeeper and barmaid too Better than lepers, beggars and that crew, For in so eminent a man as he It was not fitting with the dignity Of his position, dealing with a scum Of wretched lepers; nothing good can come Of commerce with such slum-and-gutter dwellers, But only with the rich and victual-sellers. But anywhere a profit might accrue Courteous he was and lowly of service too. Natural gifts like his were hard to match. He was the finest beggar of his batch, And, for his begging-district, paid a rent; His brethren did no poaching where he went. For though a widow mightn’t have a shoe, So pleasant was his holy how-d’ye-do He got his farthing from her just the same Before he left, and so his income came To more than he laid out. And how he romped, Just like a puppy! He was ever prompt To arbitrate disputes on settling days (For a small fee) in many helpful ways, Not then appearing as your cloistered scholar With threadbare habit hardly worth a dollar, But much more like a Doctor or a Pope. Of double-worsted was the semi-cope Upon his shoulders, and the swelling fold About him, like a bell about its mould When it is casting, rounded out his dress. He lisped a little out of wantonness

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To make his English sweet upon his tongue. When he had played his harp, or having sung, His eyes would twinkle in his head as bright As any star upon a frosty night. This worthy’s name was Hubert, it appeared.

There was a Merchant with a forking beard And motley dress; high on his horse he sat, Upon his head a Flemish beaver hat And on his feet daintily buckled boots. He told of his opinions and pursuits In solemn tones, he harped on his increase Of capital; there should be sea-police (He thought) upon the Harwich–Holland ranges; He was expert at dabbling in exchanges. This estimable Merchant so had set His wits to work, none knew he was in debt, He was so stately in administration, In loans and bargains and negotiation. He was an excellent fellow all the same; To tell the truth I do not know his name.

An Oxford Cleric, still a student though, One who had taken logic long ago, Was there; his horse was thinner than a rake, And he was not too fat, I undertake, But had a hollow look, a sober stare; The thread upon his overcoat was bare. He had found no preferment in the church And he was too unworldly to make search For secular employment. By his bed He preferred having twenty books in red And black, of Aristotle’s philosophy, Than costly clothes, fiddle or psaltery. Though a philosopher, as I have told, He had not found the stone for making gold. Whatever money from his friends he took

30

He spent on learning or another book And prayed for them most earnestly, returning Thanks to them thus for paying for his learning. His only care was study, and indeed He never spoke a word more than was need, Formal at that, respectful in the extreme, Short, to the point, and lofty in his theme. A tone of moral virtue filled his speech And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.

A Serjeant at the Law who paid his calls, Wary and wise, for clients at St Paul’s* There also was, of noted excellence. Discreet he was, a man to reverence, Or so he seemed, his sayings were so wise. He often had been Justice of Assize By letters patent, and in full commission. His fame and learning and his high position Had won him many a robe and many a fee. There was no such conveyancer as he; All was fee-simple to his strong digestion, Not one conveyance could be called in question. Though there was nowhere one so busy as he, He was less busy than he seemed to be. He knew of every judgement, case and crime Ever recorded since King William’s time. He could dictate defences or draft deeds; No one could pinch a comma from his screeds And he knew every statute off by rote. He wore a homely parti-coloured coat, Girt with a silken belt of pin-stripe stuff; Of his appearance I have said enough.

There was a Franklin* with him, it appeared; White as a daisy-petal was his beard. A sanguine man, high-coloured and benign, He loved a morning sop of cake in wine.

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