1. ♫ CHAUCER
Click on red arrow for simultaneous sound track with text
han that aprill with his shoures soote
D.H. Lawrence said 'Trust not the teller, trust the tale'. Chaucer,
who is the consummate rhetorician, the consummate poet,
presents himself in the text as a naif pilgrim, a foolish persona -
as do Dante and Langland so that we may learn along with them
Gospel truths, rather than worldly criminality. He writes a
palinode that seems to celebrate that worldliness - with much
laughter. Pilgrims, for instance, invalidated their pilgrimage
if they rode on horseback or dressed in bright clothing or carried
weapons, only a staff being allowed in self defense. Then he turns
it inside out or the right way round, with the ideal Parson's Sermon
and his own palinode.
Medieval rhetoricians advised beginning poems, as Ovid, had with the
Creation of the World, thought to be on 25 March. The Canterbury Tales
is like the earlier motet, 'Sumer is i cumin in', balancing Natura naturans,
with Easter, blending profanity and sanctity:
life in the Canterbury Tales:
honour corruption villainy holiness
riding in fragrance of sunlight (side by side
all in a singing wonder of blossoming yes
riding) to him who died that death should be dead
humblest and proudest eagerly wandering
(equally all alive in miraculous day)
merrily moving through sweet forgiveness of spring
(over the under the gift of the sky
knight and ploughman pardoner wife and nun
merchant frère clerk somnour miller and reve
and Geoffrey and all) come up from the never of when
come into the now of forever come riding alive
down while crylessly drifting through vast most
nothing’s own nothing children go of dust.
Chaucer creates this panorama of English social classes, fractalling
them into their Tales with multiplying voices, as M.M. Bakhtin
noted was true of Dosteivsky's novels, and which also play off
Boccaccio's and Chaucer's knowledge of Terence's Comedies,
performed in Rome's redlight district, Southwark's Tabard Inn
being in London's similar redlight district.
Thus the General Prologue not only echoes Wyclif's Gospel in
Middle English, it also serves as the rack of masks for a Terentian
play, and as a rather deliberately chaotic Table of Contents to The
When Chaucer comes eventually to tell his Tale it will be such
doggerel that he is shut up by the other pilgrims and made to
tell one better. He then narrates a very moral and boring allegory
of Melibee and Prudence whose daughter has been raped
and killed. His alter ego is the Tabard Inn's Host who fictionally
preempts Chaucer's role as Master of Ceremonies, thus temporarily
absolving Geoffrey of moral responsibility for the Tales. But wait
until his Retraction!
Schema, Canterbury Tales
2. ♫ KNIGHT
knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To riden out, he loved chivalrie,Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
At Alisaundre he was whan it was wonne.
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle nacions in pruce;
In lettow hadde he reysed and in ruce,
No cristen man so ofte of his degree.
In gernade at the seege eek hadde he be
Of algezir, and riden in belmarye.
At lyeys was he and at satalye,
Whan they were wonne; and in the grete see
At many a noble armee hadde he be.
At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
And foughten for oure feith at tramyssene
In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo.
This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also
Somtyme with the lord of palatye
Agayn another hethen in turkye.
And everemoore he hadde a sovereyn prys;
And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
And of his port as meeke as is a mayde.
He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
In al his lyf unto no maner wight.
He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.
But, for to tellen yow of his array,
His hors were goode, but he was nat gay.
Of fustian he wered a gypon
Al bismotered with his habergeon,
For he was late ycome from his viage,
And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.
Terry Jones of Monty Python fame brilliantly discussed
Chaucer's Knight, in his book of that title, seeing in him
a mercenery condottiere, like Sir John Hawkwood,
Gianni Acuto, who is frescoed in Florence's Duomo as a
statue (he had asked for a statue in marble, the
Florentines cheated him), and whom Chaucer knew.
The Knight's campaigns also mirror those of Henry
Bolingbroke in exile, who would return as 'Albion's
Conqueror', to become King Henry IV. Chaucer
presents him also as a Lollard Knight, like his friend
Sir Lewis Clifford, noble but living the Gospel as
Wyclif taught it.
The Knight's Tale will be a carefully plotted, and
double plotted, classical/Boethian/Boccaccian Tale
that functions like a windrose, a mandala, to the
Canterbury Tales, of two Theban brother knights,
Palamon and Arcite, both in love with Emily, one
who wins the tournament but dies, the other who
loses the tournament and yet wins his bride.
If one accepts the Lollard framework the text, like
Dante's Commedia, becomes even more brilliant.
There are the worldly characters, admired by the
'naif' version of Chaucer and presumably ourselves,
whose cupidity for wealth, power, fame, reverence,
ends in disaster, while the more humble despised
poor characters, especially women, are eventually
saved from disaster
3. ♫ SQUIRE
ith hym ther was his sone, a yong squier,
A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
In flaundres, in artoys, and pycardie,
And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
He was as fressh as is the month of may.
Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
He koude songes make and wel endite,
Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale.
He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
And carf biforn his fader at the table.
Chaucer's Squire is the adolescent - as in the African ex-slave Terence's plays -
which Dante Boccaccio, Chaucer and Shakespeare knew well. His campaigns
are more local ones, including the terrible 'Crusade' the Bishop of Norwich
waged in the Lowlands. Chaucer needs to be performed, that we hear the
music of the songs and instruments mentioned here, along with those of
birds, already invoked in the opening of the Canterbury Tales, of Nature
The Squire's Tale will be an exotic Far Eastern tale of magical beasts and
a love story.
4. ♫ YEOMAN
yeman hadde he and servantz namo
At that tyme, for hym liste ride so,
And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene,
Under his belt he bar ful thriftily,
(wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly:
His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe)
And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
A not heed hadde he, with a broun visage.
Of wodecraft wel koude he al the usage.
Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
And on that oother syde a gay daggere
Harneised wel and sharp as point of spere;
A cristopher on his brest of silver sheene.
An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene;
A forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.
Chaucer's work here is unfinished and we get no miniature
and no tale for the Knight and Squaier's Yeoman - though
such a green-clad Yeoman does appear in a Tale. From such
garb and skills come tha tales of Robin Hood. St Christopher,
from the legend that he bore the Christ Child across a ford,
was the patron saint of travellers.
5. ♫ PRIORESS
her was also a nonne, a prioresse,
That of hir smylyng was ful symple and coy;
Hire gretteste ooth was but by seinte loy;
And she was cleped madame eglentyne.
Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of stratford atte bowe,
For frenssh of parys was to hire unknowe.
At mete wel ytaught was she with alle:
She leet no morsel from hir lippes falle,
Ne wette hir fyngres in hir sauce depe;
Wel koude she carie a morsel and wel kepe
That no drope ne fille upon hire brest.
In curteisie was set ful muchel hir lest.
Hir over-lippe wyped she so clene
That in hir coppe ther was no ferthyng sene
Of grece, whan she dronken hadde hir draughte.
Ful semely after hir mete she raughte.
And sikerly she was of greet desport,
And ful plesaunt, and amyable of port,
And peyned hire to countrefete cheere
Of court, and to been estatlich of manere,
And to ben holden digne of reverence.
But, for to speken of hire conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous
She wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous
Kaught in a trappe, if it were deed or bledde.
Of smale houndes hadde she that she fedde
With rosted flessh, or milk and wastel-breed.
But soore wepte she if oon of hem were deed,
Or if men smoot it with a yerde smerte;
And al was conscience and tendre herte.
Ful semyly hir wympul pynched was,
Hir nose tretys, hir eyen greye as glas,
Hir mouth ful smal, and therto softe and reed;
But sikerly she hadde a fair forheed;
It was almoost a spanne brood, I trowe;
For, hardily, she was nat undergrowe.
Ful fetys was hir cloke, as I was war.
Of smal coral aboute hire arm she bar
A peire of bedes, gauded al with grene,
And theron heng a brooch of gold ful sheene,
On which ther was first write a crowned a,
And after amor vincit omnia.
Do not be taken in by Chaucer's faux gentrification of the Prioress. The Gospel
tells us that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. We shall find in her Tale
the most visious racist anti-semitism. See http://www.umilta.net/Prioress.html,
Norwich, Lincoln and York all had had genocidal pogroms of their Jewish
communities, Norwich and Lincoln over such supposed boy martyrs who could,
instead, have been victims of clergy abuse. Norwich Cathedral was built with
Jewish funds. See http://www.umilta.net/judaism.html
6. ♫ SECOND NUN
nother nonne with hire hadde she,
hat was hir chapeleyne, and preestes thre.
Unlike the Prioress the obscured Second Nun and their Priest will tell
the best salvific Tales, the Second Nun's of Saint Cecilia. The English
Cardinal Adam Easton, who was fluent in Hebrew, had her basilica,
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere in Rome, and for this also Julian of Norwich
emphasized that woman saint. Chaucer and his wife were made citizens
of Norwich and thus knew its Benedictine Cathedral Priory with its oversight
of the nuns of Benedictine Carrow Abbey, who in turn had oversight
of the anchorhold at St Julian's Church on the River Wensum, where
Julian of Norwich wrote her Showing of Love with its knowledge of
Hebrew and its revocation of St Cecilia. All three, Chaucer, Easton
and Julian are cognisant of Dante's writings. The Ellesmere illuminator
is thus correct in giving them fine miniatures.
♫ The Second Nun's Tale is of the Golden Legend of St Cecilia, whose basilica
in Trastevere as the dwelling of the Norwich Benedictine Cardinal Adam
Easton, who defended first Pope Urban VI, who imprisoned him, and then
Saint Birgitta's canonization, and whose writings are reflected in those of
Julian of Norwich.
♫ The Nuns' Priest's Tale is marvelous hyperbole, pulling out all organ's
epic and biblical stops to tell a barnyard fable - but with a moral, not
to trust in flattery, that in vanity mortal danger lies and 'mordre wil oute!'.
7. ♫ MONK
monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie,
An outridere, that lovede venerie,
A manly man, to been an abbot able.
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable,
And whan he rood, men myghte his brydel heere
Gynglen in a whistlynge wynd als cleere
And eek as loude as dooth the chapel belle.
Ther as this lord was kepere of the celle,
The reule of seint maure or of seint beneit,
By cause that it was old and somdel streit
This ilke monk leet olde thynges pace,
And heeld after the newe world the space.
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
That seith that hunters ben nat hooly men,
Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees, --
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre.
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre;
And I seyde his opinion was good.
What sholde he studie and make hymselven wood,
Upon a book in cloystre alwey to poure,
Or swynken with his handes, and laboure,
As austyn bit? how shal the world be served?
Lat austyn have his swynk to hym reserved!
Therfore he was a prikasour aright:
Grehoundes he hadde as swift as fowel in flight;
Of prikyng and of huntyng for the hare
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond
With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
And, for to festne his hood under his chyn,
He hadde of gold ywroght a ful curious pyn;
A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
And eek his face, as he hadde been enoynt.
He was a lord ful fat and in good poynt;
His eyen stepe, and rollynge in his heed,
That stemed as a forneys of a leed;
His bootes souple, his hors in greet estaat.
Now certeinly he was a fair prelaat;
He was nat pale as a forpyned goost.
A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.
Here Chaucer jokingly presents himself as falling all over himself in
praising the monk for his hunting, his 'venerie' (punning on lust and
hunting), when the monk should be chaste, in work, study, prayer, and
is forbidden to go on pilgrimage, eserved since the Council of Whitby,
only for lay people. The gold love knot especially gives the game away,
especially in the way it echoes the Prioress' golden brooch, saying in
Latin, 'Love conquers all'. We are in the world of Boccaccio's Decameron,
not that of St Benedict's and St Augustine's monastic Rules.
His Tales will be all of Tragedies, not Terentian or Christian Comedies.
8. ♫ FRIAR
frere ther was, a wantowne and a merye,
A lymytour, a ful solempne man.
In alle the ordres foure is noon that kan
So muchel of daliaunce and fair langage.
He hadde maad ful many a mariage
Of yonge wommen at his owene cost.
Unto his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel biloved and famulier was he
With frankeleyns over al in his contree,
And eek with worthy wommen of the toun;
For he hadde power of confessioun,
As seyde hymself, moore than a curat,
For of his ordre he was licenciat.
Ful swetely herde he confessioun,
And plesaunt was his absolucioun:
He was an esy man to yeve penaunce,
Ther as he wiste to have a good pitaunce.
For unto a povre ordre for to yive
Is signe that a man is wel yshryve;
For if he yaf, he dorste make avaunt,
He wiste that a man was repentaunt;
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
He may nat wepe, althogh hym soore smerte.
Therfore in stede of wepynge and preyeres
Men moote yeve silver to the povre freres.
His typet was ay farsed ful of knyves
And pynnes, for to yeven faire wyves.
And certeinly he hadde a murye note:
Wel koude he synge and pleyen on a rote;
Of yeddynges he baar outrely the pris.
His nekke whit was as the flour-de-lys;
Therto he strong was as a champioun.
He knew the tavernes wel in every toun
And everich hostiler and tappestere
Bet than a lazar or a beggestere;
For unto swich a worthy man as he
Acorded nat, as by his facultee,
To have with sike lazars aqueyntaunce.
It is nat honest, it may nat avaunce,
For to deelen with no swich poraille,
But al with riche and selleres of vitaille.
And over al, ther as profit sholde arise,
Curteis he was and lowely of servyse.
Ther nas no man nowher so vertuous.
He was the beste beggere in his hous;
(and yaf a certeyne ferme for the graunt;
Noon of his bretheren cam ther in his haunt;)
For thogh a wydwe hadde noght a sho,
So plesaunt was his in principio,
Yet wolde he have a ferthyng, er he wente.
His purchas was wel bettre than his rente.
And rage he koude, as it were right a whelp.
In love-dayes ther koude he muchel help,
For ther he was nat lyk a cloysterer
With a thredbare cope, as is a povre scoler,
But he was lyk a maister or a pope.
Of double worstede was his semycope,
That rounded as a belle out of the presse.
Somwhat he lipsed, for his wantownesse,
To make his englissh sweete upon his tonge;
And in his harpyng, whan that he hadde songe,
His eyen twynkled in his heed aryght,
As doon the sterres in the frosty nyght.
This worthy lymytour was cleped huberd.
Again, Chaucer is satirizing, in a Lollard way, ecclesiasts, this time the Friars of the
four mendicant or begging Orders, Franciscan, Dominican, Augustinian and Carmelite,
here in talking of the Friar's lechery, his clergy abuse as he goes a'begging. Francis
would have visited lepers and embraced them. this Friar Huberd is praised by the
'naif' Chaucer for avoiding them like the plague. Not one of these ecclesiasts, Prioress,
Second Nun, their Priest, Monk, Friar, Clerk, Summoner, Pardoner, Canon and his
Yeoman, should be on horseback nor on pilgrimage.
9. ♫ MERCHANT
marchant was ther with a forked berd,
In mottelee, and hye on horse he sat;
Upon his heed a flaundryssh bever hat,
His bootes clasped faire and fetisly.
His resons he spak ful solempnely,
Sownynge alwey th' encrees of his wynnyng.
He wolde the see were kept for any thyng
Bitwixe middelburgh and orewelle.
Wel koude he in eschaunge sheeldes selle.
This worthy man ful wel his wit bisette:
Ther wiste no wight that he was in dette,
So estatly was he of his governaunce
With his bargaynes and with his chevyssaunce.
For sothe he was a worthy man with alle,
But, sooth to seyn, I noot how men hym calle.
Pilgrims were required to pay up all their debts before setting
forth. This merchant, instead, is using his absence on pilgrimage
as an excuse not to pay his debts. He certainly would not want
a Brexit, his brisk trade being between England and the Continent-
10. ♫ CLERK
clerk ther was of oxenford also,
That unto logyk hadde longe ygo.
As leene was his hors as is a rake,
And he nas nat right fat, I undertake,
But looked holwe, and therto sobrely.
Ful thredbare was his overeste courtepy;
For he hadde geten hym yet no benefice,
Ne was so worldly for to have office.
For hym was levere have at his beddes heed
Twenty bookes, clad in blak or reed,
Of aristotle and his philosophie,
Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrie.
But al be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre;
But al that he myghte of his freendes hente,
On bookes and on lernynge he it spente,
And bisily gan for the soules preye
Of hem that yaf hym wherwith to scoleye.
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede,
Noght o word spak he moore than was neede,
And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence;
Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.
The Clerk and his Tale are ideal, not satire, though he is improbably
on horseback and on pilgrimage. He has, like myself, spent all his
money on books, and, hopefully like myself, is happiest when
teaching and when learning. His tale comes to us by way of Petrarch
and Boccaccio and is likewise their ideal Tale telling, rather than
His tale 'quits' the Wife of Bath's lengthy Prologue in which she tells
of her marriage to a Clerk of Oxenforde (clerks could not or should
not marry), and in which he praises an impossibly obedient wife from
whom her husband separates her two children, I had to break off
in tears reading this tale which I had known as a child and which
shaped my own marriage to a Walter who never forgave me for
being a woman and bearing him children. Do not expect 'fairy tale'
endings in life! The Clerk's Tale retells the story shared by Petrarch
and Boccaccio and which is Boccaccio's Retraction to the Decameron.
David Wallace gave a brilliant discourse in Siena at the New Chaucer
Society on Italian marriage cassone and their ways of teaching wives
masochistic obedience with such tales.
♫ The Clerk's Tale of The Canterbury Tales.
11. ♫ MAN OF LAW
sergeant of the lawe, war and wys,
That often hadde been at the parvys,
Ther was also, ful riche of excellence.
Discreet he was and of greet reverence --
He semed swich, his wordes weren so wise.
Justice he was ful often in assise,
By patente and by pleyn commissioun.
For his science and for his heigh renoun,
Of fees and robes hadde he many oon.
So greet a purchasour was nowher noon:
Al was fee symple to hym in effect;
His purchasyng myghte nat been infect.
Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
And yet he semed bisier than he was.
In termes hadde he caas and doomes alle
That from the tyme of kyng william were falle.
Therto he koude endite, and make a thyng,
Ther koude no wight pynche at his writyng;
And every statut koude he pleyn by rote.
He rood but hoomly in a medlee cote.
Girt with a ceint of silk, with barres smale;
Of his array telle I no lenger tale.
He is an expert lawyer, though law is negative in its mode of
profiting of its clients. He will tell one of the ideal Tales.
12. ♫ FRANKLIN
The Franklin is an Epicurean, enjoying food and life,
and who will tell a Tale of marital and gender equality.
His patron saint is St Julian, the saint of hospitality (who
mistakenly murdered his parents to whom his wife had
13. ♫ GILDSMEN AND THEIR WIVES
n haberdasshere and a carpenter,
A webbe, a dyere, and a tapycer, --
And they were clothed alle in o lyveree
Of a solempne and a greet fraternitee.
Ful fressh and newe hir geere apiked was;
Hir knyves were chaped noght with bras
But al with silver; wroght ful clene and weel
Hire girdles and hir pouches everydeel.
Wel semed ech of hem a fair burgeys
To sitten in a yeldehalle on a deys.
Everich, for the wisdom that he kan,
Was shaply for to been an alderman.
For catel hadde they ynogh and rente,
And eek hir wyves wolde it wel assente;
And elles certeyn were they to blame.
It is ful fair to been ycleped madame,
And goon to vigilies al bifore,
And have a mantel roialliche ybore.
The pilgrimage fraternity lack images and Tales. Margery Kempe was
a member of Lynn's Guild of the Holy Trinity. In Tuscany where I now
live, everyone belongs to some such organization, going to Mass, sharing
meals, praying for each other, in solidarity.
14. ♫ COOK
cook they hadde with hem for the nones
To boille the chiknes with the marybones,
And poudre-marchant tart and galyngale.
Wel koude he knowe a draughte of londoun ale.
He koude rooste, and sethe, and broille, and frye,
Maken mortreux, and wel bake a pye.
But greet harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That on his shyne a mormal hadde he.
For blankmanger, that made he with the beste.
The Cook is an infernal and diseased character, making one doubt if
one wants to eat the promised banquet if it is prepared by him. Even
his horse regards his gangrenous leg with disgust. He will tell a Tale
so depraved of a rioteous apprentice it is left unfinished.
15. ♫ SHIPMAN
shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste;
For aught I woot, he was of dertemouthe.
He rood upon a rounce, as he kouthe,
In a gowne of faldyng to the knee.
A daggere hangynge on a laas hadde he
Aboute his nekke, under his arm adoun.
The hoote somer hadde maad his hewe al broun;
And certeinly he was a good felawe.
Ful many a draughte of wyn had he ydrawe
Fro burdeux-ward, whil that the chapmen sleep.
Of nyce conscience took he no keep.
If that he faught, and hadde the hyer hond,
By water he sente hem hoom to every lond.
But of his craft to rekene wel his tydes,
His stremes, and his daungers hym bisides,
His herberwe, and his moone, his lodemenage,
Ther nas noon swich from hulle to cartage.
Hardy he was and wys to undertake;
With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake.
He knew alle the havenes, as they were,
Fro gootlond to the cape of fynystere,
And every cryke in britaigne and in spayne.
His barge ycleped was the maudelayne.
The Shipman is another nasty character, who steals wine from the
barrels on shipboard, and who is a law unto his own (as ship captains
still are today), and makes those who defy his orders walk the plank.
He is expert on sea channels and tides.
16. ♫ PHYSICIAN
ith us ther was a doctour of phisik;
In al this world ne was the noon hym lik,
To speke of phisik and of surgerye
For he was grounded in astronomye.
He kepte his pacient a ful greet deel
In houres by his magyk natureel.
Wel koude he fortunen the ascendent
Of his ymages for his pacient.
He knew the cause of everich maladye,
Were it of hoot, or coold, or moyste, or drye,
And where they engendred, and of what humour.
He was a verray, parfit praktisour:
The cause yknowe, and of his harm the roote,
Anon he yaf the sike man his boote.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries
To sende hym drogges and his letuaries,
For ech of hem made oother for to wynne --
Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne.
Wel knew he the olde esculapius,
And deyscorides, and eek rufus,
Olde ypocras, haly, and galyen,
Serapion, razis, and avycen,
Averrois, damascien, and constantyn,
Bernard, and gatesden, and gilbertyn.
Of his diete mesurable was he,
For it was of no superfluitee,
But of greet norissyng and digestible.
His studie was but litel on the bible.
In sangwyn and in pers he clad was al,
Lyned with taffata and with sendal;
And yet he was but esy of dispence;
He kepte that he wan in pestilence.
For gold in phisik is a cordial,
Therefore he lovede gold in special.
The Physician, an expert in many medical texts but not in the Bible,
loving gold, improbably rides all the way to Canterbury examining
the urine of a patient in a glass bottle. His Tale, like the Monk's will
be of a pagan tragedy. 'Physician, heal thyself!'
17. ♫ WIFE OF BATH
good wif was ther of biside bathe,
But she was somdel deef, and that was scathe.
Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt,
She passed hem of ypres and of gaunt.
In al the parisshe wif ne was ther noon
That to the offrynge bifore hire sholde goon;And if ther dide, certeyn so wrooth was she,
That she was out of alle charitee.
Hir coverchiefs ful fyne weren of ground;
I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound
That on a sonday weren upon hir heed.
Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed,
Ful streite yteyd, and shoes ful moyste and newe.
Boold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe.
She was a worthy womman al hir lyve:
Housbondes at chirche dore she hadde fyve,
Withouten oother compaignye in youthe, --
But therof nedeth nat to speke as nowthe.
And thries hadde she been at jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a straunge strem;
At rome she hadde been, and at boloigne,
In galice at seint-jame, and at coloigne.
She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye.
Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
Upon an amblere esily she sat,
Ywympled wel, and on hir heed an hat
As brood as is a bokeler or a targe;
A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large,
And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe.
In felaweshipe wel koude she laughe and carpe.
Of remedies of love she knew per chaunce,
For she koude of that art the olde daunce.
The Wife of Bath is a fictional and satirical form of Birgitta of Sweden who
carried out these pilgrimages to Compostela, Cologne, Rome and Jerusalem,
then was copied in real life by Margery Kempe. These two women were
defending the Catholic Church from its detractors. Lollard Chaucer seeks
to undo their devotion by presenting the Wife as hypocritical. To do so he
also falsifies Jerome who was supported by Roman ladies and who praised
them where they were not lecherous. The Wife is a wonderful fictional character
taking shape from characters in Terence's plays. 'Remedies of Love' refers
to Ovid's poem on that topic.
green= St Brigida of Fiesole
red= Guthrithyr of Iceland
yellow= Margaret of Jerusalem and Beverley
. . . = St Birgitta whom Margery Kempe copies
blue= Margery Kempe
The Wife of Bath's Tale, like Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and like
the court of Marie de Champagne with Andreas Capellanus' satirical
Art of Courtly Love, is based on the courtly game of King Arthur and
Queen Guinevere, in those texts. But it also does a long way in the
generation of 'Me, too', to explaining why women internalize oppression
against their own kind, in support of their oppressors. Paper topic. The
Wife of Bath's Tale and Justice Kavanagh might be too close to the bone.
Alice had married a Clerk of Oxenford (Clerks could not marry), and the
Clerk will tell a tale 'quitting' hers, celebrating a good obedient fair young
♫ 'The Wife's Tale' in The Canterbury Tales
See also http://www.umilta.net/duchess.html
18. ♫ PARSON
good man was ther of religioun,
And was a povre persoun of a toun,
But riche he was of hooly thoght and werk.
He was also a lerned man, a clerk,
That cristes gospel trewely wolde preche;
His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.
Benygne he was, and wonder diligent,
And in adversitee ful pacient,
And swich he was ypreved ofte sithes.
Ful looth were hym to cursen for his tithes,
But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute,
Unto his povre parisshens aboute
Of his offryng and eek of his substaunce.
He koude in litel thyng have suffisaunce.
Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer asonder,
But he ne lefte nat, for reyn ne thonder,
In siknesse nor in meschief to visite
The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lite,
Upon his feet, and in his hand a staf.
This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf,
That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte.
Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte,
And this figure he added eek therto,
That if gold ruste, what shal iren do?
For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste,
No wonder is a lewed man to ruste;
And shame it is, if a prest take keep,
A shiten shepherde and a clene sheep.
Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive,
By his clennesse, how that his sheep sholde lyve.
He sette nat his benefice to hyre
And leet his sheep encombred in the myre
And ran to londoun unto seinte poules
To seken hym a chaunterie for soules,
Or with a bretherhed to been withholde;
But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde,
So that the wolf ne made it nat myscarie;
He was a shepherde and noght a mercenarie.
And though he hooly were and vertuous,
He was to synful men nat despitous,
Ne of his speche daungerous ne digne,
But in his techyng discreet and benygne.
To drawen folk to hevene by fairnesse,
By good ensample, this was his bisynesse.
But it were any persone obstinat,
What so he were, of heigh or lough estat,
Hym wolde he snybben sharply for the nonys.
A bettre preest I trowe that nowher noon ys.
He waited after no pompe and reverence,
Ne maked him a spiced conscience,
But cristes loore and his apostles twelve
He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve.
The Parson and his brother the Ploughman, like the Clerk, the
Second Nun and the Nuns' Priest, and, in part, the Knight, are ideal
Canterbury Tales' characters for their humility and consequent
poverty. 'If gold shall rust what then shall iron do?' The red garb
here of the Parson signifies not sin but Christ's blood washing away
all sin. The term 'Canterbury Tale' was synonomous with 'lie'.
Following the Parson's penitential Sermon, rather than Tale,
Chaucer himself repents, even of the Canterbury Tales,
deconstructing his text, or rather turning it the right way round,
just as Brunetto Latino in the Tesoretto likewise repented of his
Tesoretto within his text during his confession to a Friar at
HEARING THE PARSON'S SERMON
Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy of God, that ye preye
for me that crist have mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes;/ and
namely of my translacions and enditynges of worldly vanitees, the
whiche I revoke in my retracciouns:/ as is the book of Troilus;
the ♫ book also of Fame ; the book of the ♫ xxv. Ladies; the ♫
book of the duchesse; the book of seint valentynes day of the parlement
of briddes; the ♫ tales of counterbury, thilke that sownen into synne;/
the book of the Leoun; and many another book, if they were in my
remembrance, and many a song and many a lecherous lay, for Crist
for hi grete mercy foryeve me the synne./ But of the translacion of
Boece de Consolacione, and othere bookes of legendes of seitnes,
and omelies, and moralitee and devocion,/ that thanke I oure lord
Jhesu Crist and his blisful mooder, and alle the seintes of hevene,
bisekynge hem that they from hennes forth unto my lyves ende
sende me grace to biwayle my giltes, and to studie to the salvacioun
of my soule, and graunte me grace of verray penitence, confessioun
and satisfaccioun to doon in this present lyf, thurgh the benigne
grace of hym that is kyng of kynges and preest over alle preestes,
that boghte us with the precious blood of his herte; so that is may
been oon of hem at the day of doom that shulle be saved. Qui cum
patre et spiritu sancto vivit et regnat deus per omnia secula. Amen.
19. ♫ PLOUGHMAN
ith hym ther was a plowman, was his brother,
That hadde ylad of dong ful many a fother;
A trewe swynkere and a good was he,
Lyvynge in pees and parfit charitee.
God loved he best with al his hoole herte
At alle tymes, thogh him gamed or smerte,
And thanne his neighebor right as hymselve.
He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve,
For cristes sake, for every povre wight,
Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.
His tithes payde he ful faire and wel,
Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel.
In a tabard he rood upon a mere.
Ther was also a reve, and a millere,
A somnour, and a pardoner also,
A maunciple, and myself -- ther were namo.
The Ploughma lacks both image and tale, but reflects that
other great Lollard poem of fourteenth-century England,
Piers Plowman. St Birgitta of Sweden had had a vision in which
she saw that if King Magnus would refuse to reform, Christ as
Ploughman would come and plow under Sweden with the
Black Death. Which happened.
Hia ideal figure is then followed by several rascals, the
miller leading the pilgrimage, the reeve at the rear, the
summoner and the pardoner, the manciple, and Chaucer
himself. All in rhetorical disorder, for us as readers and
hearers, to learn how to sort sheep from goats.
he millere was a stout carl for the nones;
Ful byg he was of brawn, and eek of bones.
That proved wel, for over al ther he cam,
At wrastlynge he wolde have alwey the ram.
He was short-sholdred, brood, a thikke knarre;
Ther was no dore that he nolde heve of harre,
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
His berd as any sowe or fox was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cop right of his nose he hade
A werte, and theron stood a toft of herys,
Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
His nosethirles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and bokeler bar he by his syde.
His mouth as greet was as a greet forneys.
He was a janglere and a goliardeys,
And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries;
And yet he hadde a thombe of gold, pardee.
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne,
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.
The Miller with his bagpipes leads the procession. Musically and iconographically
bagpipes are at the very lowest end of the Pythagorean spectrum and would not
be played at all on a proper pilgrimage. This is rather like Casella's catawauling in
Purgatorio, singing a love song solo, composed by Dante, instead of the hundredfold
pilgrims singing the pilgrim psalm 113, In exitu Israel de Aegypto.
He will tell a ribald tale against a carpenter, undoing the Annunciation to Mary,
bethrothed to the carpenter Joseph.
21. ♫ MANCIPLE
gentil maunciple was ther of a temple,
Of which achatours myghte take exemple
For to be wise in byynge of vitaille;
For wheither that he payde or took by taille,
Algate he wayted so in his achaat
That he was ay biforn and in good staat.
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace
That swich a lewed mannes wit shal pace
The wisdom of an heep of lerned men?
Of maistres hadde he mo than thries ten,
That weren of lawe expert and curious,
Of which ther were a duszeyne in that hous
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in engelond,
To make hym lyve by his propre good
In honour dettelees (but if he were wood),
Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire;
And able for to helpen al a shire
In any caas that myghte falle or happe;
And yet this manciple sette hir aller cappe.
The Manciple here upsets the order and his Tale is of little value. He provisions a
group of lawyers collegially, such as in the Inner Temple, and this reflects back
to the Man of Law.
22. ♫ REEVE
he reve was a sclendre colerik man.
His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan;
His heer was by his erys ful round yshorn
His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn
Ful longe were his legges and ful lene,
Ylyk a staf, ther was no calf ysene.
Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne;
Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne.
Wel wiste he by the droghte and by the reyn
The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn.
His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye,
His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye
Was hoolly in this reves governynge,
And by his covenant yaf the rekenynge,
Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age.
Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage.
Ther nas baillif, ne hierde, nor oother hyne,
That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne;
They were adrad of hym as of the deeth.
His wonyng was ful faire upon an heeth;
With grene trees yshadwed was his place.
He koude bettre than his lord purchace.
Ful riche he was astored pryvely:
His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly,
To yeve and lene hym of his owene good,
And have a thank, and yet a cote and hood.
In youthe he hadde lerned a good myster;
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
This reve sat upon a ful good stot,
That was al pomely grey and highte scot.
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
Of northfolk was this reve of which I telle,
Biside a toun men clepen baldeswelle.
Tukked he was as is a frere aboute,
And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.
The Reeve is the contrary to the Miller, at the tail end where he leads,
lean, where he is stout, a norherner where he is not, but neither is a
savoury character and his tale, against a miller, with Cambridge students,
is even worse than the Miller's about an Oxford student against a carpenter.
Between them they break up the attempt at civility with the Knight.
23. ♫ SUMMONER
somonour was ther with us in that place,
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face,
For saucefleem he was, with eyen narwe.
As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe,
With scalled browes blake and piled berd.
Of his visage children were aferd.
Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon,
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon;
Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
That hym myghte helpen of his whelkes white,
Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes.
Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes,
And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;
Thanne wolde he speke and crie as he were wood.
And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,
Thanne wolde he speke no word but latyn.
A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,
That he had lerned out of som decree --
No wonder is, he herde it al the day;
And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
Kan clepen watte as wel as kan the pope.
But whoso koude in oother thyng hym grope,
Thanne hadde he spent al his philosophie;
Ay questio quid iuris wolde he crie.
He was a gentil harlot and a kynde;
A bettre felawe sholde men noght fynde.
He wolde suffre for a quart of wyn
A good felawe to have his concubyn
A twelf month, and excuse hym atte fulle;
Ful prively a fynch eek koude he pulle.
And if he foond owher a good felawe,
He wolde techen him to have noon awe
In swich caas of the ercedekenes curs,
But if a mannes soule were in his purs;
For in his purs he sholde ypunysshed be.urs is the ercedekenes helle, seyde he.
But wel I woot he lyed right in dede;
Of cursyng oghte ech gilty man him drede,
For curs wol slee right as assoillyng savith,
And also war hym of a significavit.
In daunger hadde he at his owene gise
The yonge girles of the diocise,
And knew hir conseil, and was al hir reed.
A gerland hadde he set upon his heed
As greet as it were for an ale-stake.
A bokeleer hadde he maad hym of a cake.
Like the Cook, the Summoner is ill and is medicating himself with poisons
as if against venereal disease. He has snatched the garland of an ale stake
and uses, nonsensibly, a cake as a shield. In the Ellesmere illumination he
hands to us a Summons with its wax seal to appear at the Archdeacon's court.
The 'garlic, onions and also leeks' was the diet of the Israelites in slavery in
Egypt to which they wished to return, rebelling against Moses' manna.
24. ♫ PARDONER
ith hym ther rood a gentil pardoner
Of rouncivale, his freend and his compeer,
That streight was comen fro the court of rome.
Ful loude he soong com hider, love, to me!
This somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun;
Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
This pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
And therwith he his shuldres overspradde;
But thynne it lay, by colpons oon and oon.
But hood, for jolitee, wered he noon,
For it was trussed up in his walet.
Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet;
Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare.
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe.
His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe,
Bretful of pardoun, comen from rome al hoot.
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.
No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have;
As smothe it was as it were late shave.
I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
But of his craft, fro berwyk into ware,
Ne was ther swich another pardoner
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
Which that he seyde was oure lady veyl:
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That seint peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til jhesu crist hym hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A povre person dwellynge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
And thus, with feyned flaterye and japes,
He made the person and the peple his apes.
But trewely to tellen atte laste,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste.
Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
But alderbest he song an offertorie;
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
He moste preche and wel affile his tonge
To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;
Therefore he song the murierly and loude.
|Just as the lay Miller and the Reeve were
each othersì contraries,
though each must work together to reap and grind the wheat for
bread, the same is true of these ecclesiasts, one summoning, the
other pardoning what has been sown and reaped. The Pardoner
is a hugely Lollard caricature of what has corrupted Christ's
Church, the sale of false relics, and the sale of false pardons.
Even the image of Christ on the Pardoner's pilgrim, though
scarlet hat, makes him a travesty of Christ's Atonement through
His Crucifixion. While Miller and Reeve oppose each other,
Summoner and Pardoner are 'queer' bedfellows. The
Summoner's Tale is of selling one's soul to the Devil, the
Pardoner's Tale is of how the lust of gold leads to a triple
murdering, a travesty in every of the Crucifixion beneath a
Th' estaat, th' array, the nombre, and eek the cause
♫ 25. ow have I toold you soothly, in a clause,
Why that assembled was this compaignyeIn southwerk at this gentil hostelrye
That highte the tabard, faste by the belle.But now is tyme to yow for to telle
How that we baren us that ilke nyght,Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght;
And after wol I telle of our viageAnd al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.
But first I pray yow, of youre curteisye,That ye n' arette it nat my vileynye,
Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere,To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere,
Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely.For this ye knowen al so wel as I,
Whoso shal telle a tale after a man,He moot reherce as ny as evere he kan
Everich a word, if it be in his charge,Al speke he never so rudeliche and large,
Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.
He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother;He moot as wel seye o word as another.
Crist spak hymself ful brode in hooly writ,And wel ye woot no vileynye is it.
Eek plato seith, whoso that kan hym rede,The wordes moote be cosyn to the dede.
Also I prey yow to foryeve it me,Al have I nat set folk in hir degree
Heere in this tale, as that they sholde stonde.My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.
Greet chiere made oure hoost us everichon,And to the soper sette he us anon.
He served us with vitaille at the beste;Strong was the wyn, and wel to drynke us leste.
semely man oure hooste was withalleFor to han been a marchal in an halle.
A large man he was with eyen stepe --A fairer burgeys is ther noon in chepe --
Boold of his speche, and wys, and wel ytaught,And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
Eek therto he was right a myrie man,
And after soper pleyen he bigan,
And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
Whan that we hadde maad oure rekenynges,
And seyde thus: now, lordynges, trewely,
Ye been to me right welcome, hertely;
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
I saugh nat this yeer so myrie a compaignye
Atones in this herberwe as is now.
Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how.
And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght,
To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght.
Ye goon to caunterbury -- God yow speede,
The blisful martir quite yow youre meede!
And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye,
Ye shapen yow to talen and to pleye;
For trewely, confort ne myrthe is noon
To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon;
And therfore wol I maken yow disport,
As I seyde erst, and doon yow som confort.
And if yow liketh alle by oon assent
For to stonden at my juggement,And for to werken as I shal yow seye,
To-morwe, whan ye riden by the weye,
Now, by my fader soule that is deed,
But ye be myrie, I wol yeve yow myn heed!
Hoold up youre hondes, withouten moore speche.
Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche.
Us thoughte it was noght worth to make it wys,
And graunted hym withouten moore avys,
And bad him seye his voirdit as hym leste.
Lordynges, quod he, now herkneth for the beste;
But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn.
This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn,
That ech of yow, to shorte with oure weye,
In this viage shal telle tales tweye
To caunterbury-ward, I mene it so,
And homward he shal tellen othere two,
Of aventures that whilom han bifalle.
And which of yow that bereth hym best of alle,That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas
Tales of best sentence and moost solaas,
Shal have a soper at oure aller cost
Heere in this place, sittynge by this post,
Whan that we come agayn fro caunterbury.
And for to make yow the moore mury,
I wol myselven goodly with yow ryde,
Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde,
And whoso wole my juggement withseye
Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
And if ye vouche sauf that it be so,
Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo,
And I wol erly shape me therfore.This thyng was graunted, and oure othes swore
With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also
That he wolde vouche sauf for to do so,
And that he wolde been oure governour,
And oure tales juge and reportour,
And sette a soper at a certeyn pris,
And we wol reuled been at his devys
In heigh and lough; and thus by oon assent
We been acorded to his juggement.
And therupon the wyn was fet anon;We dronken, and to reste wente echon,
Withouten any lenger taryynge.Amorwe, whan that day bigan to sprynge,
Up roos oure hoost, and was oure aller cok,And gradrede us togidre alle in a flok,
And forth we riden a litel moore than paasUnto the wateryng of seint thomas;
And there oure hoost bigan his hors aresteAnd seyde, lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste.
Ye woot youre foreward, and I it yow recorde.
If even-song and morwe-song accorde,Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
As evere mote I drynke wyn or ale,
Whoso be rebel to my juggement
Shal paye for al that by the wey is spent.
Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne;
He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne.
Sire knyght, quod he, my mayster and my lord,
Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord.
Cometh neer, quod he, my lady prioresse.
And ye, sire clerk, lat be youre shamefastnesse,
Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man!
Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
And shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,
The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knyght,
Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght,
And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,
By foreward and by composicioun,
As ye han herd; what nedeth wordes mo?
And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,
As he that wys was and obedient
To kepe his foreward by his free assent,
He seyde, syn I shal bigynne the game,
What, welcome be the cut, a goddes name!
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye.
And with that word we ryden forth oure weye,
And he bigan with right a myrie cheereHis tale anon, and seyde as ye may heere.
Chaucer now tells us of this Dungeons and Dragons game these
pilgrims are about to undertake - where the Chaos factor will
run rampant, and which is engineered by the Host of the
Tabard Inn in Soutwark, the puppet master of whom Chaucer is,
behind the scenes, likewise the puppet master.
Further chaos will be introduced with the Canon and his
Sorceror's Apprentice Yeoman later in the Tales. Then
resolved with the flight and freedom of that Apprentice,
and with him our own if we read the text aright.