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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Canterbury Tales

The Parson's Prologue

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

Next: The Parson's Tale