The Clerk’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

ClT 1 “Sire Clerk of Oxenford,” oure Hooste sayde,
ClT 2 “Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde
ClT 3 Were newe spoused, sittynge at the bord;
ClT 4 This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word.
ClT 5 I trowe ye studie aboute som sophyme;
ClT 6 But Salomon seith ‘every thyng hath tyme.’
ClT 7 “For Goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere!
ClT 8 It is no tyme for to studien heere.
ClT 9 Telle us som myrie tale, by youre fey!
ClT 10 For what man that is entred in a pley,
ClT 11 He nedes moot unto the pley assente.
ClT 12 But precheth nat, as freres doon in Lente,
ClT 13 To make us for oure olde synnes wepe,
ClT 14 Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.
ClT 15 “Telle us som murie thyng of aventures.
ClT 16 Youre termes, youre colours, and youre figures,
ClT 17 Keepe hem in stoor til so be ye endite
ClT 18 Heigh style, as whan that men to kynges write.
ClT 19 Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, we yow preye,
ClT 20 That we may understonde what ye seye.”
ClT 21 This worthy clerk benignely answerde:
ClT 22 “Hooste,” quod he, “I am under youre yerde;
ClT 23 Ye han of us as now the governance,
ClT 24 And therfore wol I do yow obeisance,
ClT 25 As fer as resoun axeth, hardily.
ClT 26 I wol yow telle a tale which that I
ClT 27 Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk,
ClT 28 As preved by his wordes and his werk.
ClT 29 He is now deed and nayled in his cheste;
ClT 30 I prey to God so yeve his soule reste!
ClT 31 “Fraunceys Petrak, the lauriat poete,
ClT 32 Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete
ClT 33 Enlumyned al Ytaille of poetrie,
ClT 34 As Lynyan dide of philosophie,
ClT 35 Or lawe, or oother art particuler;
ClT 36 But Deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer,
ClT 37 But as it were a twynklyng of an ye,
ClT 38 Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
ClT 39 “But forth to tellen of this worthy man
ClT 40 That taughte me this tale, as I bigan,
ClT 41 I seye that first with heigh stile he enditeth,
ClT 42 Er he the body of his tale writeth,
ClT 43 A prohemye, in the which discryveth he
ClT 44 Pemond and of Saluces the contree,
ClT 45 And speketh of Apennyn, the hilles hye,
ClT 46 That been the boundes of West Lumbardye,
ClT 47 And of Mount Vesulus in special,
ClT 48 Where as the Poo out of a welle smal
ClT 49 Taketh his firste spryngyng and his sours,
ClT 50 That estward ay encresseth in his cours
ClT 51 To Emele-ward, to Ferrare, and Venyse,
ClT 52 The which a long thyng were to devyse.
ClT 53 And trewely, as to my juggement,
ClT 54 Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent,
ClT 55 Save that he wole conveyen his mateere;
ClT 56 But this his tale, which that ye may heere.”