The Parson’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

ParsT 1 By that the Maunciple hadde his tale al ended,
ParsT 2 The sonne fro the south lyne was descended
ParsT 3 So lowe that he nas nat, to my sighte,
ParsT 4 Degrees nyne and twenty as in highte.
ParsT 5 Foure of the clokke it was tho, as I gesse,
ParsT 6 For ellevene foot, or litel moore or lesse,
ParsT 7 My shadwe was at thilke tyme, as there
ParsT 8 Of swiche feet as my lengthe parted were
ParsT 9 In sixe feet equal of proporcioun.
ParsT 10 Therwith the moones exaltacioun —
ParsT 11 I meene Libra — alwey gan ascende
ParsT 12 As we were entryng at a thropes ende;
ParsT 13 For which oure Hoost, as he was wont to gye,
ParsT 14 As in this caas, oure joly compaignye,
ParsT 15 Seyde in this wise: “Lordynges everichoon,
ParsT 16 Now lakketh us no tales mo than oon.
ParsT 17 Fulfilled is my sentence and my decree;
ParsT 18 I trowe that we han herd of ech degree;
ParsT 19 Almoost fulfild is al myn ordinaunce.
ParsT 20 I pray to God, so yeve hym right good chaunce,
ParsT 21 That telleth this tale to us lustily.
ParsT 22 “Sire preest,” quod he, “artow a vicary?
ParsT 23 Or arte a person? Sey sooth, by thy fey!
ParsT 24 Be what thou be, ne breke thou nat oure pley;
ParsT 25 For every man, save thou, hath toold his tale.
ParsT 26 Unbokele and shewe us what is in thy male;
ParsT 27 For trewely, me thynketh by thy cheere
ParsT 28 Thou sholdest knytte up wel a greet mateere.
ParsT 29 Telle us a fable anon, for cokkes bones!”
ParsT 30 This Persoun answerde, al atones,
ParsT 31 “Thou getest fable noon ytoold for me,
ParsT 32 For Paul, that writeth unto Thymothee,
ParsT 33 Repreveth hem that weyven soothfastnesse
ParsT 34 And tellen fables and swich wrecchednesse.
ParsT 35 Why sholde I sowen draf out of my fest,
ParsT 36 Whan I may sowen whete, if that me lest?
ParsT 37 For which I seye, if that yow list to heere
ParsT 38 Moralitee and vertuous mateere,
ParsT 39 And thanne that ye wol yeve me audience,
ParsT 40 I wol ful fayn, at Cristes reverence,
ParsT 41 Do yow plesaunce leefful, as I kan.
ParsT 42 But trusteth wel, I am a Southren man;
ParsT 43 I kan nat geeste ‘rum, ram, ruf,’ by lettre,
ParsT 44 Ne, God woot, rym holde I but litel bettre;
ParsT 45 And therfore, if yow list — I wol nat glose —
ParsT 46 I wol yow telle a myrie tale in prose
ParsT 47 To knytte up al this feeste and make an ende.
ParsT 48 And Jhesu, for his grace, wit me sende
ParsT 49 To shewe yow the wey, in this viage,
ParsT 50 Of thilke parfit glorious pilgrymage
ParsT 51 That highte Jerusalem celestial.
ParsT 52 And if ye vouche sauf, anon I shal
ParsT 53 Bigynne upon my tale, for which I preye
ParsT 54 Telle youre avys; I kan no bettre seye.
ParsT 55 “But nathelees, this meditacioun
ParsT 56 I putte it ay under correccioun
ParsT 57 Of clerkes, for I am nat textueel;
ParsT 58 I take but the sentence, trusteth weel.
ParsT 59 Therfore I make protestacioun
ParsT 60 That I wol stonde to correccioun.”
ParsT 61 Upon this word we han assented soone,
ParsT 62 For, as it seemed, it was for to doone —
ParsT 63 To enden in som vertuous sentence,
ParsT 64 And for to yeve hym space and audience,
ParsT 65 And bade oure Hoost he sholde to hym seye
ParsT 66 That alle we to telle his tale hym preye.
ParsT 67 Oure Hoost hadde the wordes for us alle;
ParsT 68 “Sire preest,” quod he, “now faire yow bifalle!
ParsT 69 Telleth,” quod he, “youre meditacioun.
ParsT 70 But hasteth yow; the sonne wole adoun;
ParsT 71 Beth fructuous, and that in litel space,
ParsT 72 And to do wel God sende yow his grace!
ParsT 73 Sey what yow list, and we wol gladly heere.”
ParsT 74 And with that word he seyde in this manere.