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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Canterbury Tales

The Clerk's Prologue

 "Sire Clerk of Oxenford," oure Hooste sayde,
 "Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde
 Were newe spoused, sittynge at the bord;
 This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word.
 I trowe ye studie aboute som sophyme;
 But Salomon seith `every thyng hath tyme.'
 "For Goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere!
 It is no tyme for to studien heere.
 Telle us som myrie tale, by youre fey!
10 For what man that is entred in a pley,
 He nedes moot unto the pley assente.
 But precheth nat, as freres doon in Lente,
 To make us for oure olde synnes wepe,
 Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.
 "Telle us som murie thyng of aventures.
 Youre termes, youre colours, and youre figures,
 Keepe hem in stoor til so be ye endite
 Heigh style, as whan that men to kynges write.
 Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, we yow preye,
20 That we may understonde what ye seye."
 This worthy clerk benignely answerde:
 "Hooste," quod he, "I am under youre yerde;
 Ye han of us as now the governance,
 And therfore wol I do yow obeisance,
 As fer as resoun axeth, hardily.
 I wol yow telle a tale which that I
 Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk,
 As preved by his wordes and his werk.
 He is now deed and nayled in his cheste;
30 I prey to God so yeve his soule reste!
 "Fraunceys Petrak, the lauriat poete,
 Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete
 Enlumyned al Ytaille of poetrie,
 As Lynyan dide of philosophie,
 Or lawe, or oother art particuler;
 But Deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer,
 But as it were a twynklyng of an ye,
 Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
 "But forth to tellen of this worthy man
40 That taughte me this tale, as I bigan,
 I seye that first with heigh stile he enditeth,
 Er he the body of his tale writeth,
 A prohemye, in the which discryveth he
 Pemond and of Saluces the contree,
 And speketh of Apennyn, the hilles hye,
 That been the boundes of West Lumbardye,
 And of Mount Vesulus in special,
 Where as the Poo out of a welle smal
 Taketh his firste spryngyng and his sours,
50 That estward ay encresseth in his cours
 To Emele-ward, to Ferrare, and Venyse,
 The which a long thyng were to devyse.
 And trewely, as to my juggement,
 Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent,
 Save that he wole conveyen his mateere;
 But this his tale, which that ye may heere."

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