Legends and Sagas
The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at sacred-texts.com
The Canterbury Tales
The Tale of Sir Thopas Listeth, lordes, in good entent,
And I wol telle verrayment
Of myrthe and of solas,
Al of a knyght was fair and gent
In bataille and in tourneyment;
His name was sire Thopas.
Yborn he was in fer contree,
In Flaundres, al biyonde the see,
720 At Poperyng, in the place.
His fader was a man ful free,
And lord he was of that contree,
As it was Goddes grace.
Sire Thopas wax a doghty swayn;
Whit was his face as payndemayn,
His lippes rede as rose;
His rode is lyk scarlet in grayn,
And I yow telle in good certayn
He hadde a semely nose.
730 His heer, his berd was lyk saffroun,
That to his girdel raughte adoun;
His shoon of cordewane.
Of Brugges were his hosen broun,
His robe was of syklatoun,
That coste many a jane.
He koude hunte at wilde deer,
And ride an haukyng for river
With grey goshauk on honde;
Therto he was a good archeer;
740 Of wrastlyng was ther noon his peer,
Ther any ram shal stonde.
Ful many a mayde, bright in bour,
They moorne for hym paramour,
Whan hem were bet to slepe;
But he was chaast and no lechour,
And sweete as is the brembul flour
That bereth the rede hepe.
And so bifel upon a day,
For sothe, as I yow telle may,
750 Sire Thopas wolde out ride.
He worth upon his steede gray,
And in his hand a launcegay,
A long swerd by his side.
He priketh thurgh a fair forest,
Therinne is many a wilde best,
Ye, bothe bukke and hare;
And as he priketh north and est,
I telle it yow, hym hadde almest
Bitid a sory care.
760 Ther spryngen herbes grete and smale,
The lycorys and the cetewale,
And many a clowe-gylofre;
And notemuge to putte in ale,
Wheither it be moyste or stale,
Or for to leye in cofre.
The briddes synge, it is no nay,
The sparhauk and the papejay,
That joye it was to heere;
The thrustelcok made eek hir lay,
770 The wodedowve upon the spray
She sang ful loude and cleere.
Sire Thopas fil in love-longynge,
Al whan he herde the thrustel synge,
And pryked as he were wood.
His faire steede in his prikynge
So swatte that men myghte him wrynge;
His sydes were al blood.
Sire Thopas eek so wery was
For prikyng on the softe gras,
780 So fiers was his corage,
That doun he leyde him in that plas
To make his steede som solas,
And yaf hym good forage.
"O Seinte Marie, benedicite!
What eyleth this love at me
To bynde me so soore?
Me dremed al this nyght, pardee,
An elf-queene shal my lemman be
And slepe under my goore.
790 "An elf-queene wol I love, ywis,
For in this world no womman is
Worthy to be my make
Alle othere wommen I forsake,
And to an elf-queene I me take
By dale and eek by downe!"
Into his sadel he clamb anon,
And priketh over stile and stoon
An elf-queene for t' espye,
800 Til he so longe hath riden and goon
That he foond, in a pryve woon,
The contree of Fairye
For in that contree was ther noon
That to him durste ride or goon,
Neither wyf ne childe;
Til that ther cam a greet geaunt,
His name was sire Olifaunt,
A perilous man of dede.
810 He seyde, "Child, by Termagaunt,
But if thou prike out of myn haunt,
Anon I sle thy steede
Heere is the queene of Fayerye,
With harpe and pipe and symphonye,
Dwellynge in this place."
The child seyde, "Also moote I thee,
Tomorwe wol I meete with thee,
Whan I have myn armoure;
820 And yet I hope, par ma fay,
That thou shalt with this launcegay
Abyen it ful sowre.
Shal I percen, if I may,
Er it be fully pryme of day,
For heere thow shalt be slawe."
Sire Thopas drow abak ful faste;
This geant at hym stones caste
Out of a fel staf-slynge.
830 But faire escapeth child Thopas,
And al it was thurgh Goddes gras,
And thurgh his fair berynge.
Yet listeth, lordes, to my tale
Murier than the nightyngale,
For now I wol yow rowne
How sir Thopas, with sydes smale,
Prikyng over hill and dale,
Is comen agayn to towne.
His myrie men comanded he
840 To make hym bothe game and glee,
For nedes moste he fighte
With a geaunt with hevedes three,
For paramour and jolitee
Of oon that shoon ful brighte.
"Do come," he seyde, "my mynstrales,
And geestours for to tellen tales,
Anon in myn armynge,
Of romances that been roiales,
Of popes and of cardinales,
850 And eek of love-likynge."
They fette hym first the sweete wyn,
And mede eek in a mazelyn,
And roial spicerye
Of gyngebreed that was ful fyn,
And lycorys, and eek comyn,
With sugre that is trye.
He dide next his white leere
Of cloth of lake fyn and cleere,
A breech and eek a sherte;
860 And next his sherte an aketoun,
And over that an haubergeoun
For percynge of his herte;
And over that a fyn hawberk,
Was al ywroght of Jewes werk,
Ful strong it was of plate;
And over that his cote-armour
As whit as is a lilye flour,
In which he wol debate.
His sheeld was al of gold so reed,
870 And therinne was a bores heed,
A charbocle bisyde;
And there he swoor on ale and breed
How that the geaunt shal be deed,
Bityde what bityde!
His jambeux were of quyrboilly,
His swerdes shethe of yvory,
His helm of latoun bright;
His sadel was of rewel boon,
His brydel as the sonne shoon,
880 Or as the moone light.
His spere was of fyn ciprees,
That bodeth werre, and nothyng pees,
The heed ful sharpe ygrounde;
His steede was al dappull gray,
It gooth an ambil in the way
Ful softely and rounde
Loo, lordes myne, heere is a fit!
If ye wol any moore of it,
890 To telle it wol I fonde.
Now holde youre mouth, par charitee,
Bothe knyght and lady free,
And herkneth to my spelle;
Of bataille and of chivalry,
And of ladyes love-drury
Anon I wol yow telle.
Men speken of romances of prys,
Of Horn child and of Ypotys,
Of Beves and sir Gy,
900 Of sir Lybeux and Pleyndamour --
But sir Thopas, he bereth the flour
Of roial chivalry!
His goode steede al he bistrood,
And forth upon his wey he glood
As sparcle out of the bronde;
Upon his creest he bar a tour,
And therinne stiked a lilie flour --
God shilde his cors fro shonde!
And for he was a knyght auntrous,
910 He nolde slepen in noon hous,
But liggen in his hoode;
His brighte helm was his wonger,
And by hym baiteth his dextrer
Of herbes fyne and goode.
Hymself drank water of the well,
As dide the knyght sire Percyvell
So worly under wede,
Til on a day --
"Namoore of this, for Goddes dignitee,"
920 Quod oure Hooste, "for thou makest me
So wery of thy verray lewednesse
That, also wisly God my soule blesse,
Myne eres aken of thy drasty speche.
Now swich a rym the devel I biteche!
This may wel be rym dogerel," quod he.
"Why so?" quod I, "why wiltow lette me
Moore of my tale than another man,
Syn that it is the beste rym I kan?"
"By God," quod he, "for pleynly, at a word,
930 Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord!
Thou doost noght elles but despendest tyme.
Sire, at o word, thou shalt no lenger ryme.
Lat se wher thou kanst tellen aught in geeste,
Or telle in prose somwhat, at the leeste,
In which ther be som murthe or som doctryne."
"Gladly," quod I, "by Goddes sweete pyne!
I wol yow telle a litel thyng in prose
That oghte liken yow, as I suppose,
Or elles, certes, ye been to daungerous.
940 It is a moral tale vertuous,
Al be it told somtyme in sondry wyse
Of sondry folk, as I shal yow devyse.
"As thus: ye woot that every Evaungelist
That telleth us the peyne of Jhesu Crist
Ne seith nat alle thyng as his felawe dooth;
But nathelees hir sentence is al sooth,
And alle acorden as in hire sentence,
Al be ther in hir tellyng difference.
For somme of hem seyn moore, and somme seyn lesse,
950 Whan they his pitous passioun expresse --
I meene of Mark, Mathew, Luc, and John --
But doutelees hir sentence is al oon.
Therfore, lordynges alle, I yow biseche,
If that yow thynke I varie as in my speche,
As thus, though that I telle somwhat moore
Of proverbes than ye han herd bifoore
Comprehended in this litel tretys heere,
To enforce with th' effect of my mateere;
And though I nat the same wordes seye
960 As ye han herd, yet to yow alle I preye
Blameth me nat; for, as in my sentence,
Shul ye nowher fynden difference
Fro the sentence of this tretys lyte
After the which this murye tale I write.
And therfore herkneth what that I shal seye,
And lat me tellen al my tale, I preye."
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