The Monk’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

MkT 1889 Whan ended was my tale of Melibee,
MkT 1890 And of Prudence and hire benignytee,
MkT 1891 Oure Hooste seyde, “As I am feithful man,
MkT 1892 And by that precious corpus Madrian,
MkT 1893 I hadde levere than a barel ale
MkT 1894 That Goodelief, my wyf, hadde herd this tale!
MkT 1895 For she nys no thyng of swich pacience
MkT 1896 As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.
MkT 1897 By Goddes bones, whan I bete my knaves,
MkT 1898 She bryngeth me forth the grete clobbed staves,
MkT 1899 And crieth, ‘Slee the dogges everichoon,
MkT 1900 And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon!’
MkT 1901 “And if that any neighebor of myne
MkT 1902 Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
MkT 1903 Or be so hardy to hire to trespace,
MkT 1904 Whan she comth hoom she rampeth in my face,
MkT 1905 And crieth, ‘False coward, wrek thy wyf!
MkT 1906 By corpus bones, I wol have thy knyf,
MkT 1907 And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne!’
MkT 1908 Fro day to nyght right thus she wol bigynne.
MkT 1909 ‘Allas,’ she seith, ‘that evere I was shape
MkT 1910 To wedden a milksop, or a coward ape,
MkT 1911 That wol been overlad with every wight!
MkT 1912 Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right!’
MkT 1913 “This is my lif, but if that I wol fighte;
MkT 1914 And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
MkT 1915 Or elles I am but lost, but if that I
MkT 1916 Be lik a wilde leoun, fool-hardy.
MkT 1917 I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
MkT 1918 Som neighebor, and thanne go my way;
MkT 1919 For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
MkT 1920 Al be it that I dar nat hire withstonde,
MkT 1921 For she is byg in armes, by my feith:
MkT 1922 That shal he fynde that hire mysdooth or seith —
MkT 1923 But lat us passe awey fro this mateere.
MkT 1924 “My lord, the Monk,” quod he, “be myrie of cheere,
MkT 1925 For ye shul telle a tale trewely.
MkT 1926 Loo, Rouchestre stant heer faste by!
MkT 1927 Ryde forth, myn owene lord, brek nat oure game.
MkT 1928 But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name.
MkT 1929 Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun John,
MkT 1930 Or daun Thomas, or elles daun Albon?
MkT 1931 Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn?
MkT 1932 I vowe to God, thou hast a ful fair skyn;
MkT 1933 It is a gentil pasture ther thow goost.
MkT 1934 Thou art nat lyk a penant or a goost:
MkT 1935 Upon my feith, thou art som officer,
MkT 1936 Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
MkT 1937 For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
MkT 1938 Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom;
MkT 1939 No povre cloysterer, ne no novys,
MkT 1940 But a governour, wily and wys,
MkT 1941 And therwithal of brawnes and of bones
MkT 1942 A wel farynge persone for the nones.
MkT 1943 I pray to God, yeve hym confusioun
MkT 1944 That first thee broghte unto religioun!
MkT 1945 Thou woldest han been a tredefowel aright.
MkT 1946 Haddestow as greet a leeve as thou hast myght
MkT 1947 To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
MkT 1948 Thou haddest bigeten ful many a creature.
MkT 1949 Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope?
MkT 1950 God yeve me sorwe, but, and I were a pope,
MkT 1951 Nat oonly thou, but every myghty man,
MkT 1952 Though he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
MkT 1953 Sholde have a wyf; for al the world is lorn!
MkT 1954 Religioun hath take up al the corn
MkT 1955 Of tredyng, and we borel men been shrympes.
MkT 1956 Of fieble trees ther comen wrecched ympes.
MkT 1957 This maketh that oure heires been so sklendre
MkT 1958 And feble that they may nat wel engendre.
MkT 1959 This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
MkT 1960 Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
MkT 1961 Of Venus paiementz than mowe we;
MkT 1962 God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
MkT 1963 But be nat wrooth, my lord, though that I pleye.
MkT 1964 Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye!”
MkT 1965 This worthy Monk took al in pacience,
MkT 1966 And seyde, “I wol doon al my diligence,
MkT 1967 As fer as sowneth into honestee,
MkT 1968 To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.
MkT 1969 And if yow list to herkne hyderward,
MkT 1970 I wol yow seyn the lyf of Seint Edward;
MkT 1971 Or ellis, first, tragedies wol I telle,
MkT 1972 Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
MkT 1973 Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,
MkT 1974 As olde bookes maken us memorie,
MkT 1975 Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee,
MkT 1976 And is yfallen out of heigh degree
MkT 1977 Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly.
MkT 1978 And they ben versified communely
MkT 1979 Of six feet, which men clepen exametron.
MkT 1980 In prose eek been endited many oon,
MkT 1981 And eek in meetre in many a sondry wyse.
MkT 1982 Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise.
MkT 1983 “Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere.
MkT 1984 But first I yow biseeke in this mateere,
MkT 1985 Though I by ordre telle nat thise thynges,
MkT 1986 Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
MkT 1987 After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
MkT 1988 But tellen hem som bifore and som bihynde,
MkT 1989 As it now comth unto my remembraunce,
MkT 1990 Have me excused of myn ignoraunce.”