Sacred Texts  Legends and Sagas  England  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book on Kindle

Tales from Chaucer, by Charles Cowden Clarke, [1833], at

p. 1

The Prologue

IN that pleasant season of the year when the April showers and the soft west wind make the grass and the flowers to spring up in every mead and heath, and birds welcome the shining days, it is the custom with people from all parts of the country to set forth on pilgrimages to foreign lands, and more especially to pay their vows at the shrine raised in Canterbury to the holy martyr St. Thomas à Becket.

At this time of the year, I, Geoffrey Chaucer, the writer of these Tales, was remaining at the sign of the Tabard, in Southwark, ready to set forth on my pilgrimage to Canterbury. In the evening a company of about nine and twenty persons, bound on the same errand, had assembled in the inn, with all of whom I had made acquaintance before sunset and had agreed to journey in their company the following day. Before I enter upon my tale, the reader may desire to know what were the character, condition, and exterior accomplishments of my fellow-travellers. These, as they appeared to me, I supply as follows.

The first in order was a worthy Knight, a worshipper from his youth of chivalrous and all gallant deeds, a lover of truth and honour, frankness and courtesy. He had served with renown in his Lord's wars against the Heathen, the Russian, and the Turk, had fought in fifteen

p. 2

battles, and in three tilting matches had slain his foe. With all these rough and unchamber-like accomplishments, he was in his demeanour and address as meek as a young maiden. No villainous or injurious speech was ever heard to pass his lips—in short, he was a perfect knight of gentle blood. As regards his furniture and equipment, he rode a good and serviceable horse, which had become staid and somewhat the worse from hard campaigning. His dress was a short fustian cassock, or gaberdine, soiled and fretted with his armour, for he had newly arrived from foreign travel, and was proceeding straight to the shrine of our holy martyr at Canterbury.

He was accompanied by his son, a youth about twenty years of age, who acted as his Squire. The person of this young man was tall and well-proportioned, of great strength and activity. Being a bachelor and a lover, he was delicately attentive to his external appearance. His hair, which flowed in rich and natural curls upon his shoulders, was carefully disposed. Hoping to win his lady's favour, he had behaved with bravery in three several expeditions—in Flanders, in Artois, and in Picardy. His gown, which was short, with long open sleeves, was as fresh and gay as a spring meadow embroidered with flowers. Singing and piping all day long, he was as cheerful as the month of May. In addition to all these graces, he was a fine horseman, a tasteful writer of songs, excelled in the tournament and the dance, could write and draw with ease and elegance, and, what is esteemed a principal accomplishment in a squire of high degree, he was worthy to carve at table before his father. Courteous,

p. 3

humble, and dutiful was this fair young man, and withal so devoted to his lady-love that he would outwatch the doting nightingale.

One other attendant, and no more, had our Knight upon the present occasion, a Yeoman, dressed in a green coat and hood. He had a head like a nut, * and a face of the same colour. In his hand he carried a sturdy bow, and at his side under his belt a sheaf of bright sharp arrows, winged with peacock feathers. His arm was defended by a bracer; on one side hung a sword and buckler, and on the other a well-appointed dagger, keen as a spear. At his breast hung a silver ornament, also a horn, the girdle or baldrick of which was green. He was a thorough forester, and skilful in all manner of woodcraft.

There was also in our company a Nun, a Prioress, called Madam Eglantine, a demure and simply-smiling lady, whose sharpest speech was, "By Saint Eloi!" She could chaunt by heart the whole of the divine service, sweetly twanging it through her nose. She was mistress of the French language, as it is spoken at the school of Stratford-le-Bow, but the French of Paris was to her unknown. Her conduct at meals was precisely well-bred and delicate, all her anxiety being to display a courteous and stately deportment, and to be regarded in return with esteem and reverence. So charitable and piteous was her nature that a dead or bleeding mouse in a trap would wring her heart. She kept several little dogs, which were

p. 4

pampered with roast meat, milk, and the finest bread. Bitterly would she take on if one were ill-used or dead. In short, she was all conscience and tender heart.

To speak of her features: her nose was long but well-shaped; her eyes light and grey as glass; her mouth delicately small, soft, and red; and her forehead fair and broad. For dress she wore a neatly-made cloak and a carefully-crimped neckerchief; on her arm was a pair of beads of small coral, garnished with green, from which depended a handsome gold brooch with a great A engraved upon it, and underneath the motto, "Amor vincit omnia." (Love overcomes all things.)

In her train was another Nun, who acted as her chaplain, also three priests.

The next in succession was a Monk, one well calculated to rule his order. He was a bold rider and fond of hunting. A manly man, and worthy to have been an abbot. Many a capital horse had he in stall, and as he rode along one could hear his bridle jingling in the whistling wind like the distant chapel bells. *

Our Monk set but little store by the strict regulations of the good old saints, holding rather with modern opinions. For instance, he cared not the value of a straw for that one which denies that a monk can be a hunter and at the same time a holy man, or that out of his cloister he is like a fish out of water. And, indeed, there is some reason in his objection, for, as he would say, "Why

p. 5

should he pore all day over his books till his brain is turned, or apply himself to handicraft labour as St. Augustin ordains? Let St. Augustin stick to his day-labour!" For himself, he was a good hard rider outright, and kept his greyhounds, which were as swift as swallows before rain. Coursing was his sole pleasure, and to gratify it he spared no cost.

I noticed that his sleeves were embroidered with the finest grey fur, and his hood fastened under his chin with a curiously chased gold clasp, at one end of which was wrought a true lover's knot. His head was bald and shone like glass; his face too seemed as though it had been anointed. His eyes were deeply set, and kept rolling in his head, which glowed and steamed like a furnace. He had anything but the air of a mortified and ghostly father, indeed a roast swan was his favourite dish. A fine and stately horse, as brown as a berry, and boots supple and without a wrinkle, completed the equipment of this choice specimen of a prelate.

There was a Friar, a limiter, * who, though in appearance a solemn man, was a wanton and merry wag. No man in all the four orders of brotherhood was such an adept in dalliance and smooth speech. Many a young girl had he joined in wedlock free of expense. He was the very prop and stay of his order. He was a favourite with all the country round, and especially cherished by the good dames of the town, for being a licenciate,  he was, by his own account, as great in hearing confession as a curate. Sweetly would he dispense the duties of shrift,  and pleasant

p. 6

was his absolution. Whenever he expected a handsome pittance the penance he enjoined was always light, for it is a sign a man has been well shriven when he makes presents to a poor convent.

His tippet was constantly stored with articles of cutlery and knick-knacks, which he distributed among the good wives in his perambulations. To these pleasant qualities, which made him everywhere a welcome guest, he added the grace of being a performer on the lute and a merry singer. In figure he was as well made and strong as a champion of wrestlers, and the skin of his neck was as white as the lady-lily. He was better acquainted with all the taverns, tapsters, and hostlers in the town than with the strolling beggars, the sick, and the miserable: for a man of his worth and calling it was more convenient as well as befitting that he should cultivate the acquaintance of the rich, and dispensers of good things, than with the diseased and the mendicant. Wherever he spied a chance of profit or advantage there did he direct all his courtesy and humbly ply his services. He was the expertest beggar in the convent, and obtained a grant that none of the brethren should cross him in his haunts, for if a widow had barely a shoe to her foot, so sweet to her ear was his, "As it was in the beginning," etc., that he would extort a farthing from her before his departure. Of him it might be said that "the labourer was of more worth than his hire." On settling days he was a man of importance, not like a cloisterer, or poor scholar with his threadbare cloak, but rather as master of the order, or even like the pope himself.

He wore a short cloak of double-woven worsted, round

p. 7

as a lady's dress, uncrushed. He would lisp in his speech from wantonness, or to give effect to his English, and while he was singing his eyes would twinkle like the stars in a frosty night. The name of this worthy limiter was Hubert.

There was a Merchant with a forked beard, and dressed in a motley suit, with a Flemish beaver hat. His boots were of the best manufacture, neatly clasped. He sat high upon his horse, and delivered his opinions in a solemn tone, always sounding forth the increase of his winnings. He was for having the sea securely guarded, for the benefit of trade, between Middleburgh and Orwell. His skill and knowledge in the various exchanges of money were remarkable, and so prudently did he order his bargains and speculations that he was esteemed a man of credit and substance.

There was a Clerk, or student, of Oxford also, who was deeply skilled in logic. His horse was as lean as a rake, and he himself was not overfed, but looked hollow and staidly sober. His surtout cloak was of the threadbare class; for he had hitherto obtained no living, and not being a man of the world he was unfit for an office. He had rather have at his bed's head twenty books of Aristotle and his philosophy than the costliest wardrobe and furniture. Though a philosopher, however, he had not yet discovered the golden secret of science, but all that he could scrape from his friends was forthwith spent in books of learning. Fervently would he pray for the souls of those who would assist him to purchase instruction, for study was the sole care of his life. In conversation he never uttered a word more than was necessary,

p. 8

and that was said with a modest propriety, shortly and quickly, and full of meaning. His discourse was pregnant with morality, and he as gladly afforded as received instruction.

A Sergeant-at-Law, cautious and shrewd, who had been often at consultation, was there also. A prudent and deferential man. He had been frequently appointed justice of assize by patent and commission. Many were the fees and robes with which he had been presented on account of his great legal knowledge and renown. There was no purchaser like him, and his dealings were above suspicion. He was the busiest of men, and yet he seemed more busy than he was. He had at his fingers' ends all the terms, cases, and judgments from the time of the Conquest, and in his indictments the man was clever that could detect a flaw. He knew all the statutes by heart. He rode in a plain coat of mixed cloth, fastened with a narrow-striped silken girdle.

A country gentleman, commonly called a Franklin, was in our company. He had a fresh-coloured, rosy face, and a beard as white as a daisy. A sop in wine was his favourite morning beverage, for he was a true son of Epicurus, believing that the most perfect happiness consisted in perfect enjoyment. He possessed a noble mansion, and was the most hospitable of entertainers. He dined at quality hours—always after one o'clock—and so plenteously stored was his table that his house may be said to have snowed meat and drink—fish, flesh, and fowl, and of these the daintiest. His suppers were furnished according to the season. Many a fat partridge had he in his preserve, and stewed bream or pike was a common

p. 9

dish at his board. Ill befel his cook if the sauce were too pungent, or his dinner not punctually served. He kept open house, and the dining table in hall remained covered the whole day.

He had been at several times justice of the peace, sheriff, steward of the hundred court, and knight of the shire. Among all the country gentlemen round there was not his compeer. At his girdle, which was as white as morning milk, hung a dagger and a silken purse.

A Haberdasher and a Carpenter, a Weaver, a Dyer, and a worker of Tapestry, members of a solemn and large fraternity, were all clothed in the same costume. Their furniture was all spick and span new. Their knives were not of the common description, mounted with brass, but wrought with pure silver. Their girdles and pouches also were equally costly. Each seemed to be of the respectable class of burgesses who take the uppermost seats * in the Guildhall. Their grave and sensible demeanour befitted them for the office of aldermen. They were men of landed estate and wealthy in cattle, and this their wives had no objection to, for it is a fine thing to be styled "Madam," and to walk, with your train supported like a queen, in the first ranks to church.

The company had a Cook with them upon this occasion. He was the man of all others to tell you a draught of London ale out of a hundred. No one could match him in roasting and boiling; his made-dishes, potted beef, raised pies, and blanc-mangers were absolutely eminent.

There was a Shipman, or merchantman too, a west-countryman; I think he came from Dartmouth: he rode

p. 10

upon a hack—as well as he was able—and wore a gown of coarse stuff, which carne down as low as his knee, also a dagger suspended by a lace from his neck under his arm. The hot summer had made his face all brown—he was a fine, hearty-looking fellow. Many and many a cask of wine had he brought from Bourdeaux while the merchants were fast asleep in their beds. He was not remarkable for tenderness of conscience, seeing that if he were engaged at sea, and had got the upper-hand, he always sent his prisoners home by water* But for skill in reckoning his tides, for knowing all the currents, shallows, and sandbanks, the exact place of the sun, the age of the moon, and for the complete art of piloting, there was not his equal between Hull and Carthage. He was a brave and prudent man, whose beard many a tempest had shaken. He was intimate with every harbour from Gothland to Cape Finisterre, and every creek in Spain and Brittany. His ship was called the Magdalen.

There was a Doctor of Physic with us. No one was like him for discoursing on medicine and surgery, for he was well grounded in astronomy. He kept his patients principally by his magic, and could render them fortunate by the ascendant of his images. He was a skilful practitioner, and knew the cause of every malady; whether it were cold, heat, moisture, or drouth; where it originated, and from what humour; the cause and root of his complaint being discovered, he would quickly set the

p. 11

patient on his legs again. His apothecaries were ever at his beck and call, to pour in their drugs and electuaries—for they played into each others’ hands. Their friendship was of long standing. He was well read in the old authors—Esculapius, Dioscorides, and Rufus; Old Galen, Halius, and Hippocrates, and a host besides. He was very measured and exact in his diet, avoiding superfluity, and always selecting that which was most nourishing and digestible. His Bible he studied but little. His dress was a rose-coloured Persian, lined with thin silk, or taffeta, yet he was but easy in his circumstances. He carefully laid by all his gains during the pestilence, for gold is well known to be a cordial in medicine; gold therefore he held in especial reverence.

A good Wife of Bath made one of our company. She was unfortunately rather deaf, and had lost some of her teeth. She carried on a trade in clothmaking, which excelled the manufacturers of Ypres and Ghent. No wife in all the parish could take precedence of her at mass, and if one ever so presumed she was wrath out of all charity. The kerchiefs which adorned her head on Sundays were of the finest web, and I dare swear weighed a pound. Her hose were of a brilliant scarlet, gartered up without a wrinkle, and her shoes tight and new. She had been ever esteemed a worthy woman, and had accompanied to church five husbands in her time. Having thrice travelled to Jerusalem, crossing many a strange river, and having visited Rome, Saint James's, * Cologne, with its three kings, and passed through Galicia, she had a world of intelligence to communicate by the way. Her dress

p. 12

consisted of a spruce neckerchief, a hat as broad as a target, a mantle wrapping her fair large hips, and on her feet was a pair of sharp spurs. She rode upon an ambling pony. In company she took her share in the laugh, and would display her remedies for all complaints in love: she could play a good hand at that game.

There was also a religious man, who was a poor village Parson, yet was he rich in holy thought and works, as well as in learning—a faithful preacher of the gospel of Christ, full of gentleness and diligence, patient in adversity, and forbearing. So far was he from distressing for his tithes, that he disbursed his offerings and almost his whole substance among his poor parishioners. A pittance sufficed him. The houses in his parish were situate far asunder, yet neither wind and rain nor storm and tempest could keep him from his duty, but with staff in hand would he visit the remotest, great and small, rich and poor. This noble example he kept before his flock—that first he himself performed what he afterwards preached, joining this figure with his admonition, "If gold will rust, what will not iron do?" For if a priest in whom we confide become tarnished, a wonder if the frail layman keep himself unpolluted. The priest should set an example of purity to his flock, for how shameful a sight is a foul shepherd and cleanly sheep!

He did not let out his benefice to hire, and desert his flock to run up to London for the purpose of seeking promotion, but steadily kept home, and guarded well the fold. He was the true shepherd, and no hireling. Moreover, holy and virtuous as he was, he turned an eye of pity upon the sinful man, mingling his lecture with discretion

p. 13

and benignity. It was the business of his life, by good example, to lead his fellow-creatures gently to heaven. The obstinate and stiff-necked, however, whether in high or low estate, were sure to receive from him a severe rebuke. A better priest I know not, far or near. He craved neither pomp nor reverence, or betrayed any affected scrupulousness of conscience, but the doctrine of Christ and his apostles he taught with simplicity, first following it himself.

He had a brother with him, a Ploughman, who had ill his time scattered many a load of dung: a thorough hard labourer, living in peace and perfect charity with all men. Above all things, and at all times, he best loved his God and Creator, and then his neighbor as himself. When it lay in his power he would finish a job of threshing for a poor man without hire. He paid his tithes fairly and punctually, both of his produce and live stock. He was dressed in a tabard, * and rode upon a mare. There were also a Reeve,  and a Miller, a Summoner,  a Pardoner, § a Manciple,  and myself.

The Miller was a hardy churl, brawny and large of bone. He always bore away the prize ram in wrestling matches. He was short shouldered, broad and stubby. Massive indeed was the door that he could not heave

p. 14

from its hinges or crack with the butting of his head. His beard was sandy, like a fox or a sow, and cut broad and square in the shape of spade. He had a wart on his nose, adorned with a tuft, red as the bristles of a hog's ear. His nostrils were wide and black, his mouth gaped like a furnace. He was a roaring, roystering madcap, who upon occasion would try the strength of his conscience by filching his customers’ corn and giving them false tales. * Yet, withal, he had "a thumb of gold," as the old saying goes respecting honest millers, and I believe was no worse than his brethren. He wore a white coat with a blue hood, and a sword and buckler at his side. He was a performer on the bag-pipe, and with it marshalled us out of town.

There was a gentle Manciple, who was a pattern to all caterers and purchasers of provision, for whether he paid in ready money or went upon credit, he always so managed his accounts as to have a surplus of cash in hand. Now this appears to me like a special gift from heaven, that an ignorant man of this stamp should be able to outwit a whole bevy of learned clerks. He had more than thirty masters, acute in the law, a dozen of whom were fit to be stewards to any noblemen in the land, and keep his estate free from debt and encumbrance (if he had the brains to let them) or assist him to live frugally as he might desire, and even to order and arrange the public affairs of a county—yet was this manciple a match for them all.

p. 15

The Reeve was a slender choleric man; his beard was close shaven like stubble, and hair cropped round his ears, with a fore-lock like a priest. His legs were long and straight as a pike, without a hint of calf. He was an excellent manager of a granary, and no auditor could catch him tripping in his accounts. He could give a shrewd guess what would be the produce of the land after rain or drouth. He had been bailiff to his lord from the year of his coming of age, consequently had the care and accounting of his whole stock. He was alive to all the tricks and contrivances of the labourers and other bailiffs, so that they stood in awe of him as they would of death himself. He had a handsome house upon a heath "bosomed high" in green trees: and, in short, was better provided than his master, for he had secretly amassed considerable property, which he would upon occasion artfully lend to his lord in his necessities, and thus confer an easy obligation out of his own superfluity. In his youth he had learned a handicraft, and was a good carpenter and wheelwright. Our Reeve rode a well-conditioned dapple-grey stallion that he used to call Scot. He wore a long surtout of light blue, and a rusty sword at his side. I heard that the town of Baldswell in Norfolk was his birthplace. His dress was tucked up all round like a friar's, and he always kept in the rear of our company.

There was a Summoner with us whose face was like one of the fiery cherubim, for it was studded with red-hot carbuncles. He had small puckered eyes, scurfy brows, and a black, scanty beard. The children were frightened at the sight of him. No lotion or ointment

p. 16

could rid his cheeks of those filthy knobs and excrescences. His favourite food and beverage were garlic, leeks, and onions, and the strongest bodied red wine: then would he shout and rave like a madman, speaking nothing but Latin—he had caught up a few terms out of some law decree—and no wonder, for he heard nothing else all day, and every one knows that a jay can speak what he has been taught as well as the pope himself; but let any one try him a little farther and he would find his philosophy quite spent. "Questio quid juris?" would then be his answer. He was, however, a kind fellow in his way, and would, for a quart of wine or so, wink at his neighbors' delinquencies. But if he found one with a good warm purse, he would tell him he need not care for the archdeacon's malediction—just as if a man's soul were in his purse; for in purse he should be punished. "The purse," would he say, "is the archdeacon's hell": in all which I pronounce him to be an arch deceiver; since the guilty man should ever stand in awe of a curse, which will destroy the soul, as absolution will preserve it. Of the "significavit* also let him beware.

He contrived to make himself acquainted with all the cabals and little arrangements of the young folks in the diocese, and kept them upon their good behaviour. He had surmounted that extraordinary head of his with a garland large enough for an alehouse sign at a fair; a spacious cake also seemed to serve the two purposes of buckler and provender.

A gentle Pardoner rode also with this wight—his friend and compeer. He was originally from Ronceveaux,

p. 17

The Host
Click to enlarge

The Host

and had now newly arrived from the court of Rome. The burthen of the song, "Come hither, love, to me," was constantly running in his head, which he shouted at the full stretch of his lungs, the Summoner all the while accompanying him with a stiff bass, as if it had been a double clarion. This Pardoner had smooth yellow hair, which hung by ounces about him, like a strike of flax, overspreading his shoulders. In the gaiety of his heart he wore no hood, but kept it packed up in his wallet; so he rode with his head bare, save and except a cap, in which was fastened a vernicle. * He prided himself upon his sitting on horseback, as being after the newest fashion. Before him lay his wallet stuffed with pardons, all hot from Rome. He had a full glaring eye like a hare's, a sneaking voice like a goat's, and a chin which never owned the inheritance of a beard.

And now to speak of his profession. If you were to search from Ware to Berwick-upon-Tweed you would not meet with such another pardoner. Among his relics he could produce a pillow-covering, which he pronounced to be the Virgin Mary's veil; a small piece of the seal which St. Peter had with him when he walked upon the sea; a brazen cross set with brilliants; and some pig's bones in a glass. With these relics he would make in one day more money among the poor country people than the parson would in two months. Thus with his flattery and his falsities he made fools of both priest and people.

Notwithstanding all this, however, I must acknowledge

p. 18

that he was a famous churchman. He read the service with dignity and emphasis, though he shone to greater advantage at the offertory, * for he knew that the sermon would then succeed, in which it behoved him to polish up his tongue for the purpose of procuring a handsome collection afterwards, wherein he was successful. Therefore, in the anticipation of it he would sing like a blackbird after rain.

Thus have I related to you briefly the list, the calling, the array, and the purport of that assembly's being collected at the above-mentioned inn in Southwark, called the Tabard, adjoining the Bell. And now it behoves me to inform you of certain arrangements we made that night; after which I shall proceed to describe our journey and the remainder of our pilgrimage.

In the first place, however, let me here apologise for any improprieties I may hereafter commit in relating each man's tale, since it is my design to rehearse them as nearly as I can recollect according to the style and manner in which they were delivered by the narrator.

Our host set before us at supper an excellent entertainment; the food and the wine were of the best quality. He was a comely man, large in person, with sunken eyes, and worthy to have been created marshal in a hall. The whole ward of Cheap cannot boast a fairer citizen. Bold and manly, plain and sensible in speech, at the same time merry withal, he thus addressed the company after we had all paid our reckonings. "Now, my masters, permit me to welcome you heartily to your inn, for, by my truth, I have not this year seen so honourable a company as is

p. 19

now assembled beneath this roof. Fain would I contribute to your amusement were it in my power. In proof of which a thought has just struck me, which will cost you nothing. You are all about to journey to Canterbury—God and the blessed martyr reward you!—well, as you travel along, you will be for whiling the way with gossip and glee, for truly there is little comfort in journeying as dumb as a stone. If, therefore, you will abide by my judgment, and proceed to-morrow as I shall direct, by the spirit of my father which is in heaven, whip off my head I do not make you a merry company. Without more ado, hold up your hands if you agree to my proposal." Our consent was not long to seek, seeing that there was no occasion for much deliberation; we therefore granted him his terms, and bade him speak on.

"To come to the point then, my masters: each of you on his way to and from Canterbury shall relate two adventures, and whoso shall acquit himself the best—that is, in tales of most mirth and judgment shall have a supper here at the general expense upon your return from Canterbury. And to contribute to your entertainment, I will myself ride with you at my own cost, and be your guide. Furthermore, let me make a condition that whoever shall call my judgment in question he shall bear the whole cost of the journey. If you grant me my conditions, say so at once, and I will early prepare for my undertaking."

We cheerfully bound ourselves to abide by his terms, at the same time engaging him to be our governor, to sit in judgment upon the merits of our stories, also to provide our supper at a stated price per head, and that we would

p. 20

[paragraph continues] —both high and low—be ruled by his decision. All this, and the wine at the same time having been discussed, without longer delay we all went to roost.

At day-spring up rose our host, and was chanticleer to the whole company, collecting us together in a flock, and forth we rode at a walking pace to the watering place of St. Thomas, when he drew up his horse and said, "My masters, you bear in mind your covenant. Now let us see who shall tell the first tale, and, so sure as I drink ale or wine, whoever shall rebel against my judgment shall pay all the costs of the journey. Before we proceed farther, draw lots, and let him who draws the shortest begin."

"Sir Knight," said he, "my lord and master, be pleased to draw: and come you near, my Lady Prioress: and you, Sir Clerk, oblige us by laying aside your bashfulness and your studying: so—every man lay hand."

After each had drawn, the lot fell upon the Knight, to the satisfaction of the whole company. •

When this worthy man found he must abide by the general convenant, he said, "Since I am fated to begin this sport, in Heaven's name welcome be the lot. Let us ride on, and listen to my tale."

With cheerful countenance he then began, and said as you shall hear.





3:* In the original, it is not-hed. This may mean either a "head like a nut," as Tyrwhitt has interpreted it, and which seems appropriate to the character of the man described; or knotte-hed, a name given to the knob at the end of a staff, and which term still survives in the north of England.

4:* It was the fashion in those days to hang bells to the horses’ bridles. In the Faery Queene the caparison of a lady's steed is thus described:

"Her wanton palfrey all was overspred
 With tinsell trappings, woven like a wave,
 Whose bridle rung with golden bels and bosses brave."
                                        B. i. canto ii. stanza xiii.

5:* One licensed to beg alms for his convent, within a certain district.

5:† One licensed by the pope to hear confessions.

5:‡ Confession.

9:* The raised floor at the end of the hall was called a dais.

10:* This passage, which in the original appears to be rather obscure, I think is intended to convey a sly little irony, for the poet, after saying,

"Of nice conscience toke he no kepe,"


"If that he faught and hadde the higher hand,
 By water he sent hem home to every land."

In other words I conceive the meaning to be, that he drowned his prisoners.

11:* St. James's of Compostella, in Spain.

13:* A jacket without sleeves; worn in the first instance by noblemen in the wars: in later times, by heralds, and was their coat of arms in service. From Chaucer's having clad the ploughman in such a garment, he probably meant to convey the hint that it was a cast-off dress.

13:† A steward or bailiff.

13:‡ An officer employed to summon delinquents to appear in the ecclesiastical courts; now called an apparitor.

13:§ A seller of pardons or indulgences from the pope.

13:¶ An officer who has the care of purchasing victuals for an inn or court. The office still subsists in several colleges as well as inns of court.

14:* The old term for reckoning is a "tale."

"And every shepherd tells his tale
 Under the hawthorn in the dale."

16:* The beginning of the sentence of excommunication.

17:* A picture of Jesus Christ in miniature. It was usual with persons returning from pilgrimages to bring with them certain tokens of the several places which they had visited. The Pardoner, therefore, had this vernicle in his cap in token of his visit to Rome, where in the church of St. Peter was preserved the miniature in question, miraculously imprinted upon a handkerchief.

18:* That portion of the Roman Catholic service which immediately precedes the blessing of the bread and wine. It is always sung.

Next: The Knight's Tale