« PreviousContinue »
That were of lawe expert and curious :
Of which ther was a dosein in that hous,
Worthy to ben stewardes of rent and lond
Of any lord that is in Englelond,
To maken him live by his propre good,
In honour detteles, (a) but if he were wood,
Or live as scarsly, as him list desire;
And able for to helpen all a shire
In any cas that mighte fallen or happe;
And yet this manciple sette hir aller cappe. (b)
The Revè was a slendre colerike man,
His berde was shave as neighe as ever he can.
His here was by his erès round yshorne.
His top was docked like a preest beforne
Ful longè were his leggès, and ful lene,
Ylike a staff, ther was no calf ysene.
Wel coude he kepe a garner and a binne :
Ther was non auditour coude on him winne.
Wel wiste he by the drought, and by the rain,
The yelding (c) of his seed, and of his grain.
His lordès shepe, his nete (d) and his deirie,
His swine, his hors, his store, and his pultrie,
Were holly in this revès (e) gouerning,
And by his covenant yave he rekening,
Sin that his lord was twenty yere of age;
Ther coude no man bring him in arerage.
Ther n'as baillif, ne herde, ne other hine,
That he ne knew his sleight and his covine: (f)
They were adradde (g) of him as of the deth.
His wonning was ful fayre upon an heth,
With grené trees yshadewed was his place.
He coudé better than his lord pourchase.
Ful riche he was ystored privily.
His lord wel coude he plesen subtilly,
To yeve and lene him of his owen good,
And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood.
(a) Free from debt. (c) Returns. (d) Cows. contrivances (g) Afraid.
(6) Made a fool of them all. (e) Steward. (f) Secret
In youth he lerned hadde a good mistere : (a)
He was a wel good wright, a carpentere.
This revè sate upon a right good stot, (6)
That was all pomelee (c) grey, and hightè Scot.
A long surcote of perse upon he hade,
And by his side he bare a rusty blade.
Of Norfolk was this reve, of which I tell,
Beside a toun, men clepen Baldeswell.
Tucked he was, as is a frere, aboute,
And ever he rode the hinderest of the route.
A Sompnour was ther with us in that place,
That had a fire-red cherubinnės (d) face,
For sausèfleme (e) he was, with eyen narwe. (S)
As hote he was, and likerous as a sparwe,
With scalled browès blake, and pilled berd:
Of his visage children were sore aferd.
Ther n'as quiksilver, litarge, ne brimston,
Boras, ceruse, ne oile of tartre non,
Ne ointment that woldè clense or bite,
That him might helpen of his whelkès (g) white,
Ne of the knobbès sitting on his chekes.
Wel loved he garlike, onions, and lekes,
And for to drinke strong win as rede as blood.
Than wolde he speke, and crie as he were wood.
And whan that he wel dronken had the win,
Than wold he speken no word but Latin.
A fewè termès coude he, two or three,
That he had lerned out of som decree;
No wonder is, he herd it all the day.
And eke ye knowen wel, how that a jay
Can clepen watte, as wel as can the pope.
But who so wolde in other thing him grope,
Than hadde he spent all his philosophie,
Ay, Questio quid juris, wolde he crie.
(a) Trade, occupation. (6) Horse, beast. (d) Cherub's face. (e) Red pimpled face. close.
He was a gentil harlot (a) and a kind ;
A better felaw shulde a man not find.
He woldè suffre for a quart of wine,
A good felaw to have his concubine
A twelve month, and excuse him at the full.
Ful prively a finch eke coude he pull.
And if he found owhere a good felawe,
He woldè techen him to have non awe
In swiche a cas of the archedekenes curse;
But if a mannès soule were in his purse;
For in his purse he shulde ypunished be.
Purse is the archédekens helle, said he.
But wel I wote, he lied right in dede:
Of cursing ought eche gilty man him drede.
For curse wol sle right as assoiling saveth,
And also ware him of a significavit.
In danger hadde he at his owen gise
The yongè girlès of the diocise,
And knew hir conseil, and was of hir rede. (6)
A gerlond hadde he sette upon his hede,
As gret as it were for an alèstake : (c)
A bokeler hadde he made him of a cake.
With him ther rode a gentil Pardonere (d)
Of Rouncevall, (e) his frend and his compere,
That streit was comen from the court of Romè.
Ful loude he sang, Come hither, lovè, to me.
This sompnour bare to him a stiff burdoun, f)
Was never trompe of half so gret a soun.
This pardoner had here as yelwe (8) as wax,
But smoth it heng, as doth a strike of flax :
By unces (h) heng his lokkės that he hadde,
And therwith he his shulders overspradde.
(a) The name harlot was anciently given to men as well as women, and without any bad signification,
(0) Advised. (c) An alehouse sign. (d) Vide a former note. (e) Supposed by Stevens to be Runceval Hall, in Oxford. (f) Sang the bass. (g) Yellow. (h) Ounces.
Ful thinne it lay, by culpons (a) on and on,
But hode, for jolite, ne wered he non,
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
Him thought he rode al of the newe get,
Dishevele, sauf his cappe, he rode all bare.
Swiche glaring eyen hadde he, as an hare.
A vernicle hadde he sewed upon his cappe.
His wallet lay beforne him in his lappe,
Bret-ful (6) of pardon come from Rome al hote.
A vois he hadde, as smale as hath a gote,
No berd hadde he, ne never non shulde have,
As smothe it was as it were newè shave;
I trowe he were a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, fro Berwike unto Ware,
Ne was ther swiche an other pardonere.
For in his male (c) he hadde a pilwebere, (d)
Which, as he saidè, was oure ladies veil :
He saide, he hadde a gobbet (e) of the seyl (f)
Thatte seint Peter had, whan that he went
Upon the see, till Jesu Crist him hent, (g)
He had a crois of laton (h) ful of stones,
And in a glas he haddè piggès bones.
But with these relikes, wbanne that he fond
A pourè persone dwelling up on lond,
Upon a day he gat him more moneie
Than that the persone gat in monethes tweie.
And thus with fained flattering and japes, (i)
He made the persone, and the peple, his apes. (k)
But trewely to tellen attè last,
He was in churche a noble ecclesiast.
Wel coude he rede a lesson or a storie,
But alderbest (1) he sang an offertorie : (m)
For wel he wistè, whan that song was songe,
He mustè preche, and wel afile (n) his tonge,
(a) Shreds. (b) Brimful. (c) Budget. (d) Case. (e) Morsel
(g) Assisted, took. (h) A mixed metal of the colour of brass.
(i) Tricks. (k) Dupes.
(m) Part of the mass. (n) Polish.
To winné silver, as he right wel coude :
Therfore he sang the merrier and loude.
This prologue is in Chaucer's broad and favourite style in his riper years. As a specimen of another manner, the description of the Temple of Mars, the figure of the god, and the portraits of the King of Thrace and of India, are selected from Palamon and Arcite :
. . * * a forrest
In which there wonneth nether man ne best :
With knotty knarry barrein treys old,
Of stubbys shape, and hideous to behold,
In which ther was a rombyll and a swough (a)
As though a storm shulde burstein every bough,
And downward from a hill, under a bent, (6)
There stode the temple' of Mars armipotent,
Wrought all of burnyd (c) stele : of which th' entre
Was long, and streight, and gastly for to se:
And therout came such a rage and avyse (d)
That it made al the gatys for to ryse. (e)
The northern light in at the doris shone,
For window on the wall ne was ther none,
Throgh which men mightin any light dissern.
The dore was al of adamant eterne,
Yclenchid overthwart and endelong,
With iron tough, for to makin it strong.
Every pillar the tempyl to sustene
Was tonne grete (f) of yren bright and shene.
The dismal group of figures assembled in this terrific abode are worthy of the harbourage. The
(a) Sound (6) Precipice (c) Burnished. (d) Noise. (e) “ It strained the doors ; almost forced them from their hinges."
(J) A great tun; a tun weight.