The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

CYT 554 Whan ended was the lyf of Seinte Cecile,
CYT 555 Er we hadde riden fully fyve mile,
CYT 556 At Boghtoun under Blee us gan atake
CYT 557 A man that clothed was in clothes blake,
CYT 558 And undernethe he hadde a whyt surplys.
CYT 559 His hakeney, that was al pomely grys,
CYT 560 So swatte that it wonder was to see;
CYT 561 It semed as he had priked miles three.
CYT 562 The hors eek that his yeman rood upon
CYT 563 So swatte that unnethe myghte it gon.
CYT 564 Aboute the peytrel stood the foom ful hye;
CYT 565 He was of foom al flekked as a pye.
CYT 566 A male tweyfoold on his croper lay;
CYT 567 It semed that he caried lite array.
CYT 568 Al light for somer rood this worthy man,
CYT 569 And in myn herte wondren I bigan
CYT 570 What that he was til that I understood
CYT 571 How that his cloke was sowed to his hood,
CYT 572 For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me,
CYT 573 I demed hym som chanoun for to be.
CYT 574 His hat heeng at his bak doun by a laas,
CYT 575 For he hadde riden moore than trot or paas;
CYT 576 He hadde ay priked lik as he were wood.
CYT 577 A clote-leef he hadde under his hood
CYT 578 For swoot and for to keep his heed from heete.
CYT 579 But it was joye for to seen hym swete!
CYT 580 His forheed dropped as a stillatorie
CYT 581 Were ful of plantayne and of paritorie.
CYT 582 And whan that he was come, he gan to crye,
CYT 583 “God save,” quod he, “this joly compaignye!
CYT 584 Faste have I priked,” quod he, “for youre sake,
CYT 585 By cause that I wolde yow atake,
CYT 586 To riden in this myrie compaignye.”
CYT 587 His yeman eek was ful of curteisye,
CYT 588 And seyde, “Sires, now in the morwe-tyde
CYT 589 Out of youre hostelrie I saugh yow ryde,
CYT 590 And warned heer my lord and my soverayn,
CYT 591 Which that to ryden with yow is ful fayn
CYT 592 For his desport; he loveth daliaunce.”
CYT 593 “Freend, for thy warnyng God yeve thee good chaunce,”
CYT 594 Thanne seyde oure Hoost, “for certein it wolde seme
CYT 595 Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme.
CYT 596 He is ful jocunde also, dar I leye!
CYT 597 Can he oght telle a myrie tale or tweye,
CYT 598 With which he glade may this compaignye?”
CYT 599 “Who, sire? My lord? Ye, ye, withouten lye,
CYT 600 He kan of murthe and eek of jolitee
CYT 601 Nat but ynough; also, sire, trusteth me,
CYT 602 And ye hym knewe as wel as do I,
CYT 603 Ye wolde wondre how wel and craftily
CYT 604 He koude werke, and that in sondry wise.
CYT 605 He hath take on hym many a greet emprise,
CYT 606 Which were ful hard for any that is heere
CYT 607 To brynge aboute, but they of hym it leere.
CYT 608 As hoomly as he rit amonges yow,
CYT 609 If ye hym knewe, it wolde be for youre prow.
CYT 610 Ye wolde nat forgoon his aqueyntaunce
CYT 611 For muchel good, I dar leye in balaunce
CYT 612 Al that I have in my possessioun.
CYT 613 He is a man of heigh discrecioun;
CYT 614 I warne yow wel, he is a passyng man.”
CYT 615 “Wel,” quod oure Hoost, “I pray thee, tel me than,
CYT 616 Is he a clerk, or noon? Telle what he is.”
CYT 617 “Nay, he is gretter than a clerk, ywis,”
CYT 618 Seyde this Yeman, “and in wordes fewe,
CYT 619 Hoost, of his craft somwhat I wol yow shewe.
CYT 620 “I seye, my lord kan swich subtilitee —
CYT 621 But al his craft ye may nat wite at me,
CYT 622 And somwhat helpe I yet to his wirkyng —
CYT 623 That al this ground on which we been ridyng,
CYT 624 Til that we come to Caunterbury toun,
CYT 625 He koude al clene turnen up-so-doun,
CYT 626 And pave it al of silver and of gold.”
CYT 627 And whan this Yeman hadde this tale ytold
CYT 628 Unto oure Hoost, he seyde, “Benedicitee!
CYT 629 This thyng is wonder merveillous to me,
CYT 630 Syn that thy lord is of so heigh prudence,
CYT 631 By cause of which men sholde hym reverence,
CYT 632 That of his worshipe rekketh he so lite.
CYT 633 His overslope nys nat worth a myte,
CYT 634 As in effect, to hym, so moot I go,
CYT 635 It is al baudy and totore also.
CYT 636 Why is thy lord so sluttissh, I the preye,
CYT 637 And is of power bettre clooth to beye,
CYT 638 If that his dede accorde with thy speche?
CYT 639 Telle me that, and that I thee biseche.”
CYT 640 “Why?” quod this Yeman, “wherto axe ye me?
CYT 641 God help me so, for he shal nevere thee!
CYT 642 (But I wol nat avowe that I seye,
CYT 643 And therfore keepe it secree, I yow preye.)
CYT 644 He is to wys, in feith, as I bileeve.
CYT 645 That that is overdoon, it wol nat preeve
CYT 646 Aright, as clerkes seyn; it is a vice.
CYT 647 Wherfore in that I holde hym lewed and nyce.
CYT 648 For whan a man hath over-greet a wit,
CYT 649 Ful oft hym happeth to mysusen it.
CYT 650 So dooth my lord, and that me greveth soore;
CYT 651 God it amende! I kan sey yow namoore.”
CYT 652 “Ther-of no fors, good Yeman,” quod oure Hoost;
CYT 653 “Syn of the konnyng of thy lord thow woost,
CYT 654 Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
CYT 655 Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
CYT 656 Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?”
CYT 657 “In the suburbes of a toun,” quod he,
CYT 658 “Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,
CYT 659 Whereas thise robbours and thise theves by kynde
CYT 660 Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
CYT 661 As they that dar nat shewen hir presence;
CYT 662 So faren we, if I shal seye the sothe.”
CYT 663 “Now,” quod oure Hoost, “yit lat me talke to the.
CYT 664 Why artow so discoloured of thy face?”
CYT 665 “Peter!” quod he, “God yeve it harde grace,
CYT 666 I am so used in the fyr to blowe
CYT 667 That it hath chaunged my colour, I trowe.
CYT 668 I am nat wont in no mirour to prie,
CYT 669 But swynke soore and lerne multiplie.
CYT 670 We blondren evere and pouren in the fir,
CYT 671 And for al that we faille of oure desir,
CYT 672 For evere we lakken oure conclusioun.
CYT 673 To muchel folk we doon illusioun,
CYT 674 And borwe gold, be it a pound or two,
CYT 675 Or ten, or twelve, or manye sommes mo,
CYT 676 And make hem wenen, at the leeste weye,
CYT 677 That of a pound we koude make tweye.
CYT 678 Yet is it fals, but ay we han good hope
CYT 679 It for to doon, and after it we grope.
CYT 680 But that science is so fer us biforn,
CYT 681 We mowen nat, although we hadden it sworn,
CYT 682 It overtake, it slit awey so faste.
CYT 683 It wole us maken beggers atte laste.”
CYT 684 Whil this Yeman was thus in his talkyng,
CYT 685 This Chanoun drough hym neer and herde al thyng
CYT 686 Which this Yeman spak, for suspecioun
CYT 687 Of mennes speche evere hadde this Chanoun.
CYT 688 For Catoun seith that he that gilty is
CYT 689 Demeth alle thyng be spoke of hym, ywis.
CYT 690 That was the cause he gan so ny hym drawe
CYT 691 To his Yeman, to herknen al his sawe.
CYT 692 And thus he seyde unto his Yeman tho:
CYT 693 “Hoold thou thy pees and spek no wordes mo,
CYT 694 For if thou do, thou shalt it deere abye.
CYT 695 Thou sclaundrest me heere in this compaignye,
CYT 696 And eek discoverest that thou sholdest hyde.”
CYT 697 “Ye,” quod oure Hoost, “telle on, what so bityde.
CYT 698 Of al his thretyng rekke nat a myte!”
CYT 699 “In feith,” quod he, “namoore I do but lyte.”
CYT 700 And whan this Chanon saugh it wolde nat bee,
CYT 701 But his Yeman wolde telle his pryvetee,
CYT 702 He fledde awey for verray sorwe and shame.
CYT 703 “A!” quod the Yeman, “heere shal arise game;
CYT 704 Al that I kan anon now wol I telle.
CYT 705 Syn he is goon, the foule feend hym quelle!
CYT 706 For nevere heerafter wol I with hym meete
CYT 707 For peny ne for pound, I yow biheete.
CYT 708 He that me broghte first unto that game,
CYT 709 Er that he dye, sorwe have he and shame!
CYT 710 For it is ernest to me, by my feith;
CYT 711 That feele I wel, what so any man seith.
CYT 712 And yet, for al my smert and al my grief,
CYT 713 For al my sorwe, labour, and meschief,
CYT 714 I koude nevere leve it in no wise.
CYT 715 Now wolde God my wit myghte suffise
CYT 716 To tellen al that longeth to that art!
CYT 717 But nathelees yow wol I tellen part.
CYT 718 Syn that my lord is goon, I wol nat spare;
CYT 719 Swich thyng as that I knowe, I wol declare.