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

The Canterbury Tales

The Monk's Prologue

 Whan ended was my tale of Melibee,
1890 And of Prudence and hire benignytee,
 Oure Hooste seyde, "As I am feithful man,
 And by that precious corpus Madrian,
 I hadde levere than a barel ale
 That Goodelief, my wyf, hadde herd this tale!
 For she nys no thyng of swich pacience
 As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.
 By Goddes bones, whan I bete my knaves,
 She bryngeth me forth the grete clobbed staves,
 And crieth, `Slee the dogges everichoon,
1900 And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon!'
 "And if that any neighebor of myne
 Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
 Or be so hardy to hire to trespace,
 Whan she comth hoom she rampeth in my face,
 And crieth, `False coward, wrek thy wyf!
 By corpus bones, I wol have thy knyf,
 And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne!'
 Fro day to nyght right thus she wol bigynne.
 `Allas,' she seith, `that evere I was shape
1910 To wedden a milksop, or a coward ape,
 That wol been overlad with every wight!
 Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right!'
 "This is my lif, but if that I wol fighte;
 And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
 Or elles I am but lost, but if that I
 Be lik a wilde leoun, fool-hardy.
 I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
 Som neighebor, and thanne go my way;
 For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
1920 Al be it that I dar nat hire withstonde,
 For she is byg in armes, by my feith:
 That shal he fynde that hire mysdooth or seith --
 But lat us passe awey fro this mateere.
 "My lord, the Monk," quod he, "be myrie of cheere,
 For ye shul telle a tale trewely.
 Loo, Rouchestre stant heer faste by!
 Ryde forth, myn owene lord, brek nat oure game.
 But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name.
 Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun John,
1930 Or daun Thomas, or elles daun Albon?
 Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn?
 I vowe to God, thou hast a ful fair skyn;
 It is a gentil pasture ther thow goost.
 Thou art nat lyk a penant or a goost:
 Upon my feith, thou art som officer,
 Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
 For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
 Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom;
 No povre cloysterer, ne no novys,
1940 But a governour, wily and wys,
 And therwithal of brawnes and of bones
 A wel farynge persone for the nones.
 I pray to God, yeve hym confusioun
 That first thee broghte unto religioun!
 Thou woldest han been a tredefowel aright.
 Haddestow as greet a leeve as thou hast myght
 To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
 Thou haddest bigeten ful many a creature.
 Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope?
1950 God yeve me sorwe, but, and I were a pope,
 Nat oonly thou, but every myghty man,
 Though he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
 Sholde have a wyf; for al the world is lorn!
 Religioun hath take up al the corn
 Of tredyng, and we borel men been shrympes.
 Of fieble trees ther comen wrecched ympes.
 This maketh that oure heires been so sklendre
 And feble that they may nat wel engendre.
 This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
1960 Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
 Of Venus paiementz than mowe we;
 God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
 But be nat wrooth, my lord, though that I pleye.
 Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye!"
 This worthy Monk took al in pacience,
 And seyde, "I wol doon al my diligence,
 As fer as sowneth into honestee,
 To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.
 And if yow list to herkne hyderward,
1970 I wol yow seyn the lyf of Seint Edward;
 Or ellis, first, tragedies wol I telle,
 Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
 Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,
 As olde bookes maken us memorie,
 Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee,
 And is yfallen out of heigh degree
 Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly.
 And they ben versified communely
 Of six feet, which men clepen exametron.
1980 In prose eek been endited many oon,
 And eek in meetre in many a sondry wyse.
 Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise.
 "Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere.
 But first I yow biseeke in this mateere,
 Though I by ordre telle nat thise thynges,
 Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
 After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
 But tellen hem som bifore and som bihynde,
 As it now comth unto my remembraunce,
1990 Have me excused of myn ignoraunce."

Next: The Monk's Tale