The Canterbury Tales In Plain and Simple English (Digital Download)
Journey with Pilgrims: Tales of Love, Humor, and Beyond

Discover the magic of Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales"—a tapestry of narratives brimming with love, humor, history, and spirituality. It's not just a book; it's a vibrant journey with a diverse group of pilgrims. As they travel from London to Canterbury, they regale each other with stories, participating in a contest with a tempting prize: a free meal upon their return. But the real allure lies in the tales themselves.

Comprising over 17,000 lines, this masterwork, written between 1387 and 1400, showcases Chaucer's genius in its full splendor. However, the beauty of Middle English, while rich and evocative, can pose challenges to the contemporary reader.

Fear not, for BookCaps brings to you a modern translation of this epic. Now, the charm, wit, and wisdom of "The Canterbury Tales" can be relished without linguistic barriers. Unveil the tales and join the journey, as vibrant and relevant today as they were centuries ago!



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Excerpt From The Canterbury Tales In Plain and Simple English

The Prologue  

WHEN that Aprilis, with his showers swoot,
The drought of March hath pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such licour,
Of which virtue engender'd is the flower;
When Zephyrus eke with his swoote breath
Inspired hath in every holt and heath
The tender croppes and the younge sun
Hath in the Ram his halfe course y-run,
And smalle fowles make melody,
That sleepen all the night with open eye,
(So pricketh them nature in their corages);
Then longe folk to go on pilgrimages,
And palmers for to seeke strange strands,
To ferne hallows couth in sundry lands;
And specially, from every shire's end
Of Engleland, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful Martyr for to seek,
That them hath holpen, when that they were sick.


When the sweet showers of April

Have soaked down through the drought of March,

Washing every shoot with such sweet liquid

That all the flowers start to bloom;

When the sweet breezes blow

Through every field and forest, encouraging

The tender crops, and the young sun

Has run his course halfway through the Ram,

And the small birds sing

Which sleep all night with eyes open

(This is the nature in their hearts)

The people long to go on pilgrimages,

Seeking out foreign lands,

Distant shrines in diverse countries,

And especially from every corner

Of England they go to Canterbury,

Looking for the sweet holy martyr

Who had helped them when they were sick.


Befell that, in that season on a day,
In Southwark at the Tabard as I lay,
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury with devout corage,
At night was come into that hostelry
Well nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry folk, by aventure y-fall who had by chance fallen
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all, into company.

That toward Canterbury woulde ride.
The chamber, and the stables were wide,
And well we weren eased at the best.
And shortly, when the sunne was to rest,
So had I spoken with them every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made forword early for to rise,
To take our way there as I you devise.


Now it happened that one day in that season,

As I stayed at the Tabard in Southwark,

Ready to go on my pilgrimage

To Canterbury in great high spirits,

At night there came into that inn

A group of twenty-nine

Diverse people, who had by chance

Fallen in with each other, and they were all pilgrims,

That wanted to ride to Canterbury.

The rooms and stables there were spacious,

And we were well served with fine food and drink,

And by the time the sun had set

I had spoken to each of them and had

Become one of their fellowship,

And we all agreed that we would get up early

To go on our way, as I shall describe.


But natheless, while I have time and space,
Ere that I farther in this tale pace,
Me thinketh it accordant to reason,
To tell you alle the condition
Of each of them, so as it seemed me,
And which they weren, and of what degree;
And eke in what array that they were in:
And at a Knight then will I first begin.


But before that, while I have time and space,

Before I carry on with my story,

I think it would make sense

To tell you how each of them

Appeared to me,

And who they were, and of what rank,

And also their appearance: 

And I shall start with a knight.


A KNIGHT there was, and that a worthy man,
That from the time that he first began
To riden out, he loved chivalry,
Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy.
Full worthy was he in his Lorde's war,
And thereto had he ridden, no man farre,

As well in Christendom as in Heatheness,
And ever honour'd for his worthiness
At Alisandre he was when it was won.
Full often time he had the board begun
Above alle nations in Prusse.
In Lettowe had he reysed, and in Russe,
No Christian man so oft of his degree.
In Grenade at the siege eke had he be
Of Algesir, and ridden in Belmarie.
At Leyes was he, and at Satalie,
When they were won; and in the Greate Sea
At many a noble army had he be.
At mortal battles had he been fifteen,
And foughten for our faith at Tramissene.
In listes thries, and aye slain his foe.
This ilke worthy knight had been also
Some time with the lord of Palatie,
Against another heathen in Turkie:
And evermore he had a sovereign price

And though that he was worthy he was wise,
And of his port as meek as is a maid.
He never yet no villainy ne said
In all his life, unto no manner wight.
He was a very perfect gentle knight.
But for to telle you of his array,
His horse was good, but yet he was not gay.
Of fustian he weared a gipon,
Alle besmotter'd with his habergeon,

For he was late y-come from his voyage,
And wente for to do his pilgrimage.


There was a knight, he was a good man,

Who from the time that he first

Rode out was in love with chivalry,

Truth and honour, freedom and courtesy.

He was a great fighter on the Crusades,

And to fight for his Lord he had ridden farther

Than any man, in Christendom or heathen lands,

And was always respected for his goodness.

He was at Alexandria when it was captured.

Many times he had been placed at the head of the table

Above knights of any other country, in Prussia.

He had travelled in Lithuania and Russia,

No Christian man had done that more.

He was also at the siege of Algesir,

In Granada, and he had ridden in Belmarie.

He was at Leyes and at Satelie,

When they were captured; and he had joined

Many noble armies all around the Mediterranean.

He had been in fifteen great battles,

and fought for the Christians at Tramissene.

He had fought in three jousts, and each time killed his enemy.

This same good knight had also

Fought alongside the Lord of Palestine

Against some other heathens in Turkey:

And he was always held in high esteem.

Although he was great he was wise,

And carried himself with the modesty of a girl.

He never undertook a bad thing

in his whole life, in any way at all.

He was the model of a perfect gentle knight.

To tell you how he was dressed,

He had a good horse, but he was not showy.

He wore a short jacket of coarse cloth,

Stained by his armour,

And he had recently returned from abroad,

To go on his pilgrimage.


With him there was his son, a younge SQUIRE,
A lover, and a lusty bacheler,
With lockes crulle as they were laid in press.
Of twenty year of age he was I guess.
Of his stature he was of even length,
And wonderly deliver, and great of strength.

And he had been some time in chevachie,
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie,
And borne him well, as of so little space,
In hope to standen in his lady's grace.
Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead
All full of freshe flowers, white and red.
Singing he was, or fluting all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gown, with sleeves long and wide.
Well could he sit on horse, and faire ride.
He coulde songes make, and well indite,
Joust, and eke dance, and well pourtray and write.
So hot he loved, that by nightertale

He slept no more than doth the nightingale.
Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable,
And carv'd before his father at the table.


With him was his son, a young squire,

A lusty young single fellow,

With his hair carefully curled,

I imagine about twenty years old.

He was very tall,

Wonderfully nimble and very strong;

He had at one time fought with the cavalry

In Flanders, Artois and Picardy,

And acquitted himself well in a very short time,

Hoping to win his lady's favour.

He wore embroidered clothes, he looked like a field

Full of fresh flowers, red and white.

He was always singing or playing his flute;

He was as fresh as the month of May.

He wore a short gown

With long wide sleeves.

He had a good seat on his horse, he rode well.

He could write songs and recite poetry,

Joust and dance, paint and write.

He was such an ardent lover that at night

He got no more sleep than the nightingale.

He was polite, humble and hard working,

Carving his father's meat at table.


A YEOMAN had he, and servants no mo'
At that time, for him list ride so it pleased him so to ride
And he was clad in coat and hood of green.
A sheaf of peacock arrows bright and keen
Under his belt he bare full thriftily.
Well could he dress his tackle yeomanly:
His arrows drooped not with feathers low;
And in his hand he bare a mighty bow.
A nut-head  had he, with a brown visiage:
Of wood-craft coud he well all the usage:

Upon his arm he bare a gay bracer,

And by his side a sword and a buckler,
And on that other side a gay daggere,
Harnessed well, and sharp as point of spear:
A Christopher on his breast of silver sheen.
An horn he bare, the baldric was of green:
A forester was he soothly as I guess.


He had a yeoman, and no other servants,

For that was his style at that time,

Who wore a green cloak and hood.

He carried a quiver of arrows tipped with peacock feathers

Carefully tucked into his belt.

He was dressed in the true Yeoman style:

His arrows were not shabby with common feathers,

And he carried a great bow in his hands.

He had a head like a nut, with a brown face,

And he knew all about woodcraft:

On his arm he carried a bright shield,

And at his side a sword and belt,

And on the other side a handsome dagger,

In a fine sheath, as sharp as a spear:

He wore a silver St.Christopher on his chest.

He carried a horn hung from a green strap:

I could certainly see he was a forester.


There was also a Nun, a PRIORESS,
That of her smiling was full simple and coy;
Her greatest oathe was but by Saint Loy;
And she was cleped Madame Eglentine.

Full well she sang the service divine,
Entuned in her nose full seemly;
And French she spake full fair and fetisly
After the school of Stratford atte Bow,
For French of Paris was to her unknow.
At meate was she well y-taught withal;
She let no morsel from her lippes fall,
Nor wet her fingers in her sauce deep.
Well could she carry a morsel, and well keep,
That no droppe ne fell upon her breast.
In courtesy was set full much her lest.
Her over-lippe wiped she so clean,
That in her cup there was no farthing seen

Of grease, when she drunken had her draught;
Full seemely after her meat she raught:

And sickerly she was of great disport,

And full pleasant, and amiable of port,
And pained her to counterfeite cheer
Of court, and be estately of mannere,
And to be holden digne of reverence.
But for to speaken of her conscience,
She was so charitable and so pitous,
She woulde weep if that she saw a mouse
Caught in a trap, if it were dead or bled.
Of smalle houndes had she, that she fed
With roasted flesh, and milk, and wastel bread.

But sore she wept if one of them were dead,
Or if men smote it with a yarde smart:
And all was conscience and tender heart.
Full seemly her wimple y-pinched was;
Her nose tretis; her eyen gray as glass;
Her mouth full small, and thereto soft and red;
But sickerly she had a fair forehead.
It was almost a spanne broad I trow;
For hardily she was not undergrow.

Full fetis was her cloak, as I was ware.
Of small coral about her arm she bare
A pair of beades, gauded all with green;
And thereon hung a brooch of gold full sheen,
On which was first y-written a crown'd A,
And after, Amor vincit omnia.
Another Nun also with her had she,
That was her chapelleine, and PRIESTES three.


There was also a nun, a prioress,

Who smiled openly and sweetly;

Her worst oath was to swear by St Loy;

And she was called Madam Eglentine.

She sang divine service perfectly,

Singing through her nose tunefully;

She spoke French beautifully and accurately

After the style of the school of Stratford at Bow,

For she did not know Parisian French.

She had beautiful table manners;

She didn't let any crumbs fall from her lips,

Nor would she get her fingers covered in sauce.

She could hold her food so daintily and well

That not a drop would fall on her breast.

She took great pleasure in good manners.

She wiped her top lip so clean

That not a speck of grease could be seen

On her cup when she had drunk;

She always reached for her food politely,

And she was certainly amiable,

Very pleasant and she carried herself cheerfully,

And she took pains to behave

In a courtly manner, and be dignified,

And to be worthy of respect.

She was so charitable and full of pity

That she would weep if she saw a mouse

Caught in a trap, if it was dead or bleeding.

She had small dogs, that she fed

On roast meat, milk and the finest white bread,

And she wept terribly if one of them died,

Or if a man struck it with a stick:

She was all conscience and tender heart.

Her wimple was beautifully styled;

her nose was well shaped, her eyes grey as glass;

Her mouth was small and soft and red;

But she certainly had a lovely forehead.

I think it was almost a hand's width across;

She certainly wasn't  small.

Her cloak, I could see, was very neat,

And around her arm she wore a bracelet

Of a pair of green coral beads;

And from it hung a shiny gold brooch,

On which was written a A with a crown over it,

Followed by, “Love conquers all."

She had another nun with her also,

Who was her chaplain, and also three priests.


A MONK there was, a fair for the mast'ry,

An out-rider, that loved venery;
A manly man, to be an abbot able.
Full many a dainty horse had he in stable:
And when he rode, men might his bridle hear
Jingeling in a whistling wind as clear,
And eke as loud, as doth the chapel bell,
There as this lord was keeper of the cell.
The rule of Saint Maur and of Saint Benet,
Because that it was old and somedeal strait
This ilke monk let olde thinges pace,
And held after the newe world the trace.
He gave not of the text a pulled hen,
That saith, that hunters be not holy men:
Ne that a monk, when he is cloisterless;
Is like to a fish that is waterless;
This is to say, a monk out of his cloister.
This ilke text held he not worth an oyster;
And I say his opinion was good.
Why should he study, and make himselfe wood

Upon a book in cloister always pore,
Or swinken with his handes, and labour,
As Austin bid? how shall the world be served?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therefore he was a prickasour aright:
Greyhounds he had as swift as fowl of flight;
Of pricking and of hunting for the hare

Was all his lust, for no cost would he spare.
 I saw his sleeves purfil'd at the hand
With gris, and that the finest of the land.

And for to fasten his hood under his chin,
He had of gold y-wrought a curious pin;
A love-knot in the greater end there was.
His head was bald, and shone as any glass,
And eke his face, as it had been anoint;
He was a lord full fat and in good point;
His eyen steep, and rolling in his head,

That steamed as a furnace of a lead.
His bootes supple, his horse in great estate,
Now certainly he was a fair prelate;
He was not pale as a forpined ghost;

A fat swan lov'd he best of any roast.
His palfrey was as brown as is a berry.


There was a monk there, more handsome than the rest,

A horseman, who loved hunting;

A man's man, and a competent abbot.

He had many fine horses in his stable:

And when he rode, men could hear his bridle

Jingling in the whistling breeze as clear

And loud as the chapel bell,

In the monastery this lord ruled over.

The rules of St Maurus and St Benedictine,

Which were old and somewhat strict,

This same monk didn't care for,

He liked the modern world.

He didn't give a damn for the text

Which said that monks can't be hunters,

Or the saying that a monk out of his cloister

Is like a fish out of water;

That's what they say about a monk in the world,

But he didn't think those words were worth an oyster,

And I say that his opinion was right.

Why should he study, and drive himself mad,

Always poring over books in the cloisters,

Or ruining his hands with labour,

As St Augustine ordered? What good will that do?

Let St Augustine keep that grief for himself.

So instead that monk was a fine horseman;

He had greyhounds who were as fast as birds in flight;

Riding and hunting hares

Was all he cared for, and he spared no expense.

I saw that his sleeves were trimmed with

The finest fur that could be had,

And to fasten his hood under his chin

He had a strange pin made of gold;

It had a love knot in its larger end.

He was bald and his head shone like a mirror,

And so did his face, as if it had been polished;

He was a portly Lord, full figured;

His eyes were deep-set in his head,

And they flashed like lead smelting furnaces.

His boots were supple, his horse well kitted out,

He certainly was a handsome churchman;

He wasn't pale like a starving ghost;

His favourite meat was a fat roast swan.

His horse was brown as a berry.


A FRIAR there was, a wanton and a merry,
A limitour, a full solemne man.
In all the orders four is none that can
So much of dalliance and fair language.
He had y-made full many a marriage
Of younge women, at his owen cost.
Unto his order he was a noble post;
Full well belov'd, and familiar was he
With franklins over all in his country,
And eke with worthy women of the town:
For he had power of confession,
As said himselfe, more than a curate,
For of his order he was licentiate.
Full sweetely heard he confession,
And pleasant was his absolution.
He was an easy man to give penance,
There as he wist to have a good pittance:

For unto a poor order for to give get good payment
Is signe that a man is well y-shrive.
For if he gave, he durste make avant,

He wiste that the man was repentant.
For many a man so hard is of his heart,
He may not weep although him sore smart.
Therefore instead of weeping and prayeres,
Men must give silver to the poore freres.
His tippet was aye farsed full of knives

And pinnes, for to give to faire wives;
And certainly he had a merry note:
Well could he sing and playen on a rote;
Of yeddings he bare utterly the prize.
His neck was white as is the fleur-de-lis.
Thereto he strong was as a champion,
And knew well the taverns in every town.
And every hosteler and gay tapstere,
Better than a lazar or a beggere,
For unto such a worthy man as he
Accordeth not, as by his faculty,
To have with such lazars acquaintance.
It is not honest, it may not advance,
As for to deale with no such pouraille,
But all with rich, and sellers of vitaille.
And ov'r all there as profit should arise,

Courteous he was, and lowly of service;
There n'as no man nowhere so virtuous.
He was the beste beggar in all his house:
And gave a certain farme for the grant,
None of his bretheren came in his haunt.
For though a widow hadde but one shoe,
So pleasant was his In Principio,
Yet would he have a farthing ere he went;
His purchase was well better than his rent.
And rage he could and play as any whelp,
In lovedays; there could he muchel help.
For there was he not like a cloisterer,
With threadbare cope as is a poor scholer;
But he was like a master or a pope.
Of double worsted was his semicope,
That rounded was as a bell out of press.
Somewhat he lisped for his wantonness,
To make his English sweet upon his tongue;
And in his harping, when that he had sung,
His eyen twinkled in his head aright,
As do the starres in a frosty night.
This worthy limitour  was call'd Huberd.


There was a friar, jolly and lusty,

A licensed beggar, a very dignified man.

There was no religious person

Who was so good at backchat and fair speech.

He had married off many young women, to his regret.

He was an ornament to his order;

He was much liked and well known

To all the men of his region,

And also the good women of the town:

For he gave the best confessions,

He said himself, better than a curate,

For his position allowed him.

He listened sweetly to confessions

And gave easy punishments.

He knew the best way to go about it,

How to get himself well paid

For leading men to forgiveness.

For he  often liked to say

That he knew when a man was repentant,

For many men are so hard

That they won't weep even if they're suffering,

So instead of weeping or praying,

They have to give the poor friars silver.

His cloak was full of fine

Jewellery, to give to pretty women;

He certainly had a fine voice:

He could sing and play from memory,

And he was the finest singer.

His neck was as white as a lily,

Though he was strong as a prizefighter,

And well known in all the taverns.

He knew every landlord and barman

Better than he knew lepers or beggars,

For a man of his high station

Would not want, in his position,

To hang out with lepers.

It certainly wouldn't be profitable

To hang around with such dregs,

He preferred the rich and merchants,

And anyone from whom he could get a profit.

He was polite and obsequious,

And nobody knew a better man.

He was the best beggar of his order,

And he paid a good fee for his license to beg;

Non of his fellows could match him.

A widow might have next to nothing,

But his reading of scripture was so lovely

She would give him a farthing before he left;

He always got more than he gave,

So he could romp around like a puppy,

And on festival days he was much involved,

And he was not like some monk then,

With a threadbare cloak like some poor scholar,

But he was like a lord or a pope.

His short cloak was fine and thick,

Swelling like a new-cast bell.

He affected a lisp in his indulgence,

To make his language sound sweeter;

When he sang along to the harp

His eyes twinkled in his head

Like stars on a frosty night.

This good begging friar was called Hubert.


A MERCHANT was there with a forked beard,
In motley, and high on his horse he sat,
Upon his head a Flandrish beaver hat.
His bootes clasped fair and fetisly.
His reasons aye spake he full solemnly,
Sounding alway th' increase of his winning.
He would the sea were kept for any thing
Betwixte Middleburg and Orewell
Well could he in exchange shieldes sell
This worthy man full well his wit beset;
There wiste no wight that he was in debt,
So estately was he of governance

With his bargains, and with his chevisance.
For sooth he was a worthy man withal,
But sooth to say, I n'ot how men him call.


There was a merchant with a forked beard,

Wearing jester's clothes, sat on a high horse,

Wearing a Dutch fur hat on his head.

His boots were snug and well fitting.

He always spoke in a serious tone,

Letting everyone know how successful he was.

He was obsessed with the protection of the sea-routes

Between England and Holland,

For dealing in foreign exchange

Was the good man's main business;

Nobody guessed that he was in debt,

Because he managed his affairs so smoothly,

With his dealing and his contracts,

And after all he was a good man,

But I must admit I never discovered his name.


A CLERK there was of Oxenford also,
That unto logic hadde long y-go.
As leane was his horse as is a rake,
And he was not right fat, I undertake;
But looked hollow, and thereto soberly.
Full threadbare was his overest courtepy,
For he had gotten him yet no benefice,
Ne was not worldly, to have an office.
For him was lever have at his bed's head
Twenty bookes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle, and his philosophy,
Than robes rich, or fiddle, or psalt'ry.
But all be that he was a philosopher,
Yet hadde he but little gold in coffer,
But all that he might of his friendes hent,
On bookes and on learning he it spent,
And busily gan for the soules pray
Of them that gave him wherewith to scholay
Of study took he moste care and heed.
Not one word spake he more than was need;
And that was said in form and reverence,
And short and quick, and full of high sentence.
Sounding in moral virtue was his speech,
And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.


There was also a clerk from Oxford,

Who had devoted his life to logic.

His horse was thin as a rake,

And I can tell you he wasn't much fatter;

He looked thin and ill,

And his topcoat was very threadbare,

For he had no real position;

He was too dreamy to get a post.

He would rather have at his bedside

Twenty books bound in red or black leather,

About Aristotle and his philosophy,

Than rich clothes, or a fiddle or ornaments.

For all that he was a philosopher

He had no money in the bank,

But everything he got from his friends

He spent on books and education,

And he prayed fervently for the souls

Of those who gave him money for study,

For that was what he cared about most.

He never said an unnecessary word,

Always speaking to the point,

Briefly and full of high meaning.

What he said was full of moral virtue,

And he loved to learn and loved to teach.


A SERGEANT OF THE LAW, wary and wise,
That often had y-been at the Parvis,
There was also, full rich of excellence.
Discreet he was, and of great reverence:
He seemed such, his wordes were so wise,
Justice he was full often in assize,
By patent, and by plein commission;
For his science, and for his high renown,
Of fees and robes had he many one.
So great a purchaser was nowhere none.
All was fee simple to him, in effect
His purchasing might not be in suspect
Nowhere so busy a man as he there was
And yet he seemed busier than he was.
In termes had he case' and doomes all
That from the time of King Will. were fall.
Thereto he could indite, and make a thing
There coulde no wight pinch at his writing.
And every statute coud he plain by rote
He rode but homely in a medley coat,
Girt with a seint of silk, with barres small;
Of his array tell I no longer tale.


There was a Sergeant of the Law, clever and suspicious,

Who often plied his trade at St.Paul's,

He was full of good virtues.

He was discreet, and very pious:

He seemed so good and spoke so well

That he had often served as a trial judge,

Commissioned with full authority;

Because of his knowledge and fame

He was given many fees and had many robes.

Nobody made money like he did.

He had plenty of lands,

He bought so much that no-one thought

There could be anyone busier than him,

Though he pretended to be busier than he was.

He knew all the laws which had been passed

Since the Norman conquest,

And he could quote them and construct a case

That nobody would be able to bring down,

Knowing every law by heart.

He had no great style in his patchwork cloak,

With a silken sash and small clasps;

That's all I'll say about his clothes.


A FRANKELIN was in this company;

White was his beard, as is the daisy.
Of his complexion he was sanguine.
Well lov'd he in the morn a sop in wine.
To liven in delight was ever his won,
For he was Epicurus' owen son,
That held opinion, that plein delight
Was verily felicity perfite.
An householder, and that a great, was he;
Saint Julianhe was in his country.
His bread, his ale, was alway after one;
A better envined man was nowhere none;

Withoute bake-meat never was his house,
Of fish and flesh, and that so plenteous,
It snowed in his house of meat and drink,
Of alle dainties that men coulde think.
After the sundry seasons of the year,
So changed he his meat and his soupere.
Full many a fat partridge had he in mew,

And many a bream, and many a luce in stew

Woe was his cook, his sauce were
Poignant and sharp, and ready all his gear.
His table dormant in his hall alway
Stood ready cover'd all the longe day.
At sessions there was he lord and sire.
Full often time he was knight of the shire

An anlace, and a gipciere all of silk,
Hung at his girdle, white as morning milk.
A sheriff had he been, and a countour
Was nowhere such a worthy vavasour.


There was also a Franklin in the group;

His beard was as white as daisies.

He had a ruddy complexion.

He loved to dip his bread in wine for breakfast.

He really did live for pleasure,

He was a true epicurean,

Who thought that great pleasure

Was the most perfect thing on earth.

He was a great landowner;

In his region he was thought of like St Julian.

He always insisted one tried his bread and beer;

Nobody had a better wine cellar;

His house was never lacking in cooked meat,

He had so much meat and fish that

It was as if it was snowing meat and drink in his house,

Every dainty a man could think of.

At the different times of year

He would have different meats and meals.

He had many fat partridges in cages,

And many bream and pike in his fishpond;

His cook was in trouble unless his sauce was

Tasty and sharp, and he had to be always ready.

His table was fixed in his hallway,

Always ready for a meal throughout the day.

He was the greatest man in his district.

And many times he had been a member of Parliament.

A dagger and a silk purse,

White as new milk hung from his belt.

He had been a sheriff and the county treasurer;

There wasn't a landowner to match him.



Were with us eke, cloth'd in one livery,
Of a solemn and great fraternity.
Full fresh and new their gear y-picked was;
Their knives were y-chaped not with brass,

But all with silver wrought full clean and well,
Their girdles and their pouches every deal.
Well seemed each of them a fair burgess,
To sitten in a guild-hall, on the dais.
Evereach, for the wisdom that he can,

Was shapely for to be an alderman.
For chattels hadde they enough and rent,
And eke their wives would it well assent:
And elles certain they had been to blame.
It is full fair to be y-clep'd madame,
And for to go to vigils all before,
And have a mantle royally y-bore.


There were also a haberdasher, a carpenter, a weaver, a dyer and a tapestry maker,

All dressed in the same uniform,

Of their great and respected guild.

Their gear was all fresh and spruce;

Their knives did not have brass hilts,

But were well made of shining silver,

And every part of their belts and purses

Made them look like a good townsman,

Who would sit in a Guildhall at the high table.

Each one knew that he was

Suitable to be an alderman.

They had enough property and money coming in from rent,

And also their wives would be very pleased about it:

And they certainly would have been unhappy otherwise.

It is nice to be addressed as madame,

And to be at the forefront of processions,

Wearing  the noblest of clothes.


A COOK they hadde with them for the nones,
To boil the chickens and the marrow bones,
And powder merchant tart and galingale.
Well could he know a draught of London ale.
He could roast, and stew, and broil, and fry,
Make mortrewes, and well bake a pie.
But great harm was it, as it thoughte me,
That, on his shin a mormal hadde he.
For blanc manger, that made he with the best.


They had a cook with them for the occasion,

To boil the chicken and the marrow bones,

And to season their tarts with ginger.

He was a good judge of London ale.

He could roast and stew, boil and fry,

Brew up a good broth and bake excellent pies.

I thought it was a great shame that

He has a nasty ulcer on his leg,

For his blancmange could match any man’s.


A SHIPMAN was there, wonned far by West:

 For ought I wot, he was of Dartemouth.
He rode upon a rouncy, as he couth,
All in a gown of falding to the knee.
A dagger hanging by a lace had he
About his neck under his arm adown;
The hot summer had made his hue all brown;
And certainly he was a good fellaw.
Full many a draught of wine he had y-draw
From Bourdeaux-ward, while that the chapmen sleep;
Of nice conscience took he no keep.
If that he fought, and had the higher hand,
By water he sent them home to every land.
But of his craft to reckon well his tides,
His streames and his strandes him besides,
His herberow, his moon, and lodemanage,
There was none such, from Hull unto Carthage;
Hardy he was, and wise, I undertake:
With many a tempest had his beard been shake.
He knew well all the havens, as they were,
From Scotland to the Cape of Finisterre,
And every creek in Bretagne and in Spain:
His barge y-cleped was the Magdelain.


There was a shipman, who lived far in the West,

For I knew that he had come from Dartmouth.

He rode upon an old hack, what he could afford,

Wearing a long gown of coarse cloth.

He had a dagger hanging on a piece of string,

Around his neck and under his arm;

The hot summer had given him a good tan;

And he certainly was a good chap.

He had helped himself to many a drink from

The barrels of Bordeaux, whilst tradesmen slept;

He didn’t let his conscience bother him much.

If he had to fight, and triumphed,

He would drown his prisoners,

But he knew all the tides,

The rivers and spits,

The harbours and channels, and he could read the moon,

Nobody could match him, from Carthage to Hull;

He was very strong, and I think also wise:

He had ridden out many a storm.

He knew all the best shelters

From Scotland to Cape Finisterre,

And every creek in Brittany and Spain:

His ship was called The Magdalene.


With us there was a DOCTOR OF PHYSIC;
In all this worlde was there none him like
To speak of physic, and of surgery:
For he was grounded in astronomy.
He kept his patient a full great deal
In houres by his magic natural.
Well could he fortune the ascendent
Of his images for his patient,.
He knew the cause of every malady,
Were it of cold, or hot, or moist, or dry,
And where engender'd, and of what humour.
He was a very perfect practisour
The cause y-know, and of his harm the root,
Anon he gave to the sick man his boot
Full ready had he his apothecaries,
To send his drugges and his lectuaries,
For each of them made other for to win
Their friendship was not newe to begin.
Well knew he the old Esculapius,
And Dioscorides, and eke Rufus;
Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien;
Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen;
Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin;
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin.

Of his diet measurable was he,
For it was of no superfluity,
But of great nourishing, and digestible.
His study was but little on the Bible.
In sanguine and in perse he clad was all
Lined with taffeta, and with sendall,
And yet he was but easy of dispense:
He kept that he won in the pestilence.
For gold in physic is a cordial;
Therefore he loved gold in special.


There was also a doctor of medicine,

And there was nobody in the world like him

In knowledge of medicine and of surgery:

He also knew astronomy.

He treated his pateients at different times

Dpeending when the medicine would be strongest.

He could tell by the movement of the stars

What treatment would suit the patient best.

He knew the cause of every illness,

Whether it was cold, hot, moist or dry,

And where it came from and what it affected.

He was an excellent practitioner,

And once he knew the cause he could at once

Provide the sick man with a remedy;

He had his chemists ready to provide

Any drugs or medicine he needed,

For their mutual benefit,

For they had a longstanding relationship.

He knew all the work of old Escalpius,

And Dioscorides, and also Rufus;
Old Hippocras, Hali, and Gallien;
Serapion, Rasis, and Avicen;
Averrois, Damascene, and Constantin;
Bernard, and Gatisden, and Gilbertin.

He ate a balanced diet,

In which nothing was taken excessively,

But it was all very noursishing and easy to digest.

He didn’t bother with much Bible study.

He was dressed all in red and blue,

Lined with taffeta and fine silk,

But he spent very little money,

Keeping the money he earned during the plague,

For gold is a very fine medicine,

And so he loved it best of all.


A good WIFE was there OF beside BATH,
But she was somedeal deaf, and that was scath.
Of cloth-making she hadde such an haunt,
She passed them of Ypres, and of Gaunt.
In all the parish wife was there none,
That to the off'ring before her should gon,
And if there did, certain so wroth was she,
That she was out of alle charity
Her coverchiefs were full fine of ground
I durste swear, they weighede ten pound
That on the Sunday were upon her head.
Her hosen weren of fine scarlet red,
Full strait y-tied, and shoes full moist and new
Bold was her face, and fair and red of hue.
She was a worthy woman all her live,
Husbands at the church door had she had five,
Withouten other company in youth;
But thereof needeth not to speak as nouth.
And thrice had she been at Jerusalem;
She hadde passed many a strange stream
At Rome she had been, and at Bologne,
In Galice at Saint James,  and at Cologne;
She coude much of wand'rng by the Way.
Gat-toothed was she, soothly for to say.
Upon an ambler easily she sat,
Y-wimpled well, and on her head an hat
As broad as is a buckler or a targe.
A foot-mantle about her hippes large,
And on her feet a pair of spurres sharp.
In fellowship well could she laugh and carp
Of remedies of love she knew perchance
For of that art she coud the olde dance.


There was a housewife from near Bath,

Who sadly was deaf in both ears.

She was so good at making cloth,

She outdid those from Ypres and even Ghent.

There was no good wife in the whole parish

Who would give to charity ahead of her,

And indeed if they did she would be so angry

She would quite forget her charitable temper.

Her headcloths  were of the finest workmanship;

I daresay the ones she wore wrapped round her head

On Sunday weighed about ten pounds.

Her stockings were the best deep scarlet,

Tied round tight, and her shoes were soft and new.

She had a pretty, determined face, which was very red.

She’d been a good woman all her life,

Having been married to five different husbands,

Not to mention the company she kept when young;

But we needn’t go mentioning that, I’m sure.

She’d made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times,

And crossed over many foreign rivers;

She’d been to Rome, and Bolougne,

And  Santiago in Spain and at Cologne.

She could tell many tales of her wanderings:

And I can tell you she was bucktoothed.

She sat comfortably on a walking horse,

With a large wimple covered by a hat

As wide as a shield or a target;

She had a rug tucked round her plump buttocks,

And a pair of sharp spurs on her feet.

In company she enjoyed a laugh a joke.

She knew all about the game of love,

Having learned its rules long ago.


A 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.

Benynge 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 gosple 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 witholde;

But dwelt 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 Hise apostles twelve

He taughte, but first he folwed it hymselve.


There was a good religious man there,

He was the poor parson of a town,

But he was rich in holy thoughts and works.

He was also an educated man, a scholar.

He tried to preach Christ's gospel truly;

He devoutly taught his parishioners.

He was kind and very hard-working,

And very patient in the face of adversity,

And he had proven this many times.

He would not curse people to try and get his tax,

But would actually give, there is no doubt,

To his poor parishioners

Some of his income, even some of his property.

He could manage himself with very little.

He had a large parish, with the houses scattered wide But he never failed, whatever the weather,

To visit the sick or sinful, or any others,

The farthest away, however poor they were,

Going on foot, carrying a stick in his hand.

In this way he gave his flock a fine example,

That he did first and then taught afterwards;

He taught them the text from the gospel,

And to it he added this metaphor:

If gold will rust, what will happen to iron?

If the priest whom we trust is wicked,

Is it any wonder his parishioners misbehave?

It is shameful if the priest is greedy,

A shitty shepherd looking after clean sheep.

The priest ought to set a good example

Through his chastity, showing his flock how to live.

He never rented out his church lands,

To leave his sheep wallowing in the mud,

Running up to London, to St Paul’s,

To get himself a better position,

Nor did he join some secret brotherhood,

He stayed at home and looked after his flock so well

That no wolf could never lead them astray;

He was a shepherd, not a mercenary.

Although he was wholly and virtuous,

He did not despise sinful men,

He didn't look down on them or preach too much,

He just taught them politely and kindly.

He wanted to show people the gentle path to heaven,

Through his good example, that was his business.

But if anybody carried on sinning,

Whoever he was, rich or poor,

He would certainly give him a sharp rebuke.

I believe there never was a better priest.

He didn't want ceremony and worship,

Nor did he ever try to behave badly,

He just taught the law of Christ and his twelve Apostles,

But firstly he followed it himself.


With 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 hym-selve.

He wolde thresshe, and therto dyke and delve,

For Cristes sake, for every povre wight

Withouten hire, if it lay in his myght.

Hise tithes payed he ful faire and wel,

Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel.

In a tabard he rood, upon a mere.


With him there was his brother, a ploughman,

Who had loaded many carts with dung,

He was a hard and loyal worker,

Who lived in peace and was very kind.

He loved God most of all with the whole of his heart,

At all times, although it might damage or wound him,

And then he loved his neighbour as much as himself.

He would thresh and dig and shift,

For every poor person, for the sake of Christ,

Without asking for payment, if he could manage it.

He paid his tax in full and on time,

For his labour and and on his property.

He wore a sleeveless coat and rode a mare.


Ther was also a REVE and a MILLERE,


A MAUNCIPLE, and myself - ther were namo.

The 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 thereon stood a toft of herys,

Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;

Hise 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.


A reeve and a miller were also there;

A summoner, manciple and pardoner,

And those were the whole company, apart from myself.

The miller was a strong present, it should be known,

He was very muscular and heavily built;

This was always proved in wrestling tournaments

When he would win the prize of a ram.

He was thickset, broad and heavy,

There was no door he couldn't lift off its hinges,

Or break through it by running at head down.

His beard was as red as a sow or fox,

And broad as a spade.

Right on top of his nose he had

A wart, from which a tuft of hair grew,

As red as the bristles in a pig's ear;

His nostrils were black and broad.

He carried a sword and belt at his side.

His mouth was the size of a great oven.

He was a joker and could recite poetry,

Though it was mostly about sin and obscene things.

He would steal corn, and charge three times the fair price;

He certainly had the Midas touch.

He wore a white coat with a blue hood;

He could play the bagpipes very well,

And he paged us out of town with them.


A 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 whiche ther weren a duszeyne in that hous

Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond

Of any lord that is in Engelond,

To maken 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.


There was a Manciple from one of the temples,

Whom buyers might regard as an example,

In the matter of buying foodstuffs;

For whether he paid or took it on credit,

He always knew the time to buy,

So he always made a profit, he did well.

Now isn’t it proof of the goodness of God

That such a vulgar man could outwit

A whole crowd of educated men?

No more than thirty people could compete with him,

And they were all experts in the law,

And there were a dozen in his place

Who were fit to run the business affairs

Of any lord of England,

And help him live off his own wealth,

Honourably, debt-free (unless he was mad),

Or to live as frugally as he wished,

For these men could have run a whole county,

Under any circumstances at all;

But this manciple could easily outwit them.


The 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 shadwed 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,

Bisyde a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.

Tukked he was as is a frere aboute,

And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route.


The Reeve was a skinny irritable man,

With his beard shaved as close as he could get it;

His hair was cut close to his ears,

And the top was cut like that of a priest.

He had very long skinny legs

Like sticks, they went straight down.

He knew how to manage a granary and a store,

No auditor could ever trip him up.

He knew, by observing the sun and the rain,

How much seed and grain he could harvest.

His lord’s sheep, cattle and dairy cows,

His pigs, horses, stores and poultry,

Were all at this reeve’s command,

And by arrangement he had kept the books

Since this lord was twenty years old,

And no-one had ever found irregularities.

No bailiff, shepherd or servant could cheat him,

He always knew what they were up to;

They were afraid of him as death itself.

He had a fine cottage on a heath,

Shaded by green trees.

He actually was wealthier than his lord,

He had amassed a great secret fortune;

He knew how to keep his lord happy,

By giving or lending him his own goods,

And so he got thanks, but also wealth.

When young he had trained in a good trade,

And he had been a skilful workman as a carpenter.

The reeve sat on a good trotting horse,

All dapple grey, called Scot.

He had a long topcoat of blue,

And he carried a rusty sword at his side.

This reeve I’m talking of was from Norfolk,

Next to a town named Baldeswelle.

His coat was tightly belted like a friar’s habit,

And he always rode at the back of our procession.


A 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,

Than 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-monthe, 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.

"Purs is the erchedekenes 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 him 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 him of a cake.


There was a summoner with us there,

With a bright red cherubic face,

Covered in pimples with narrow eyes.

He was as hot tempered and lecherous as a sparrow,

With black scabby eyebrows and a threadbare beard;

His face could frighten children.

No mercury, sulphur, lyes,

Borax, ceruse, or oil of tartar,

No ointment that could clean or scrub,

Would get rid of his white pimples

Or the great boils on his cheeks.

He loved garlic, onions and leeks,

And to drink strong wine, blood-red;

Then he would speak and shout as if mad.

And after he'd had a good drink,

He would speak nothing but Latin.

He had a few phrases, two or three,

That he had learned from some document;

No wonder, as he heard them all day,

And everyone knows that a jay bird

Can give a good imitation of the pope.

But if you tried to investigate him further,

You'd find that was his limit;

He'd cry out, "Questio quid juris".

He was a courteous scoundrel and a kind one;

Nobody could imagine a better companion;

In exchange for a quart of wine

He'd let another chap have his tart

For a year, stepping right out of the way

(Though secretly he'd make sure he still got plenty).

And if he met up with some good fellow,

He would teach him never to be afraid

Of the curse of any archdeacon,

Unless he kept his soul inside his purse,

For it was his purse which would take the punishment.

"Archdeacons hit your purse like devils," he said,

But I know full well he was lying;

Every guilty man should dread being cursed

(Curses can kill just as absolution saves),

And also he should look out for excommunication orders.

He had power over all of

The young girls in his diocese,

And knew what they thought, he was their confidant.

He put a garland on his head

That was the size of a tavern sign;

He had made himself a sword belt out of bread.


With 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 hise 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 come 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, from 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 Jesu 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 persoun dwellyng 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 persoun 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;

Therfore he song the murierly and loude.


With him there rode a noble pardoner

Of Roncesvalles, his friend and equal:

He had come straight from Rome.

He sang loudly, "Come here to me, love,"

And the summoner came in with a strong bass;

No trumpet was ever half as loud.

This pardoner's hair was yellow as wax,

But it hung straight down as threads:

It hung down behind in clumps,

Spreading over his shoulders,

But it was thin and stringy.

But he was a merry chap and wore no hood,

Keeping it packed in his luggage.

He thought he was following the latest fashion,

With his hair loose and head bear apart from his cap.

He had shining eyes, bright like a hare's,

And a "Veronica cloth" sewn into his cap.

He carried his bag in front of him on his lap,

Stuffed full of pardons, brought fresh from Rome.

His voice was like a bleating goat,

And he had no beard, nor ever would have,

His face was as smooth as if he'd just shaved;

I think he was either a gelding or a mare.

But in his job, from Berwick all the way to Ware,

There was no pardoner so successful;

In his bag he had a pillow case,

Which he said was the veil of Our Lady:

He said he had a fragment of the sail

Which St.Peter had, when he sailed on the sea,

Until Jesus called him.

He had a brass cross set with stones,

And some pig bones in a bottle.

With these relics, when he found

Some simple parson in the countryside,

He made more money from him in one day

Than the parson could make in two months:

So, with false flatery and jokes,

He made a monkey out of the parson and his flock.

But, to sum up the whole business truthfully,

He was a fine pious man in church.

He was expert at reading a lesson or a parable,

But he was best when he sang for the offertory,

For he was well aware, when that song was sung,

That he should preach, and with his smooth tongue

Get as much silver from the congregation as he could;

So he sang out merrily and loud.


Now have I toold you shortly in a clause,

Th'estaat, th'array, the nombre, and eek the cause

Why that assembled was this compaignye

In 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 viage

And all 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 also 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 or large,

Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe,

Or feyne thyng, or fynde wordes newe.

He may nat spare, al thogh 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 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.


Now I have told you briefly, in a few words,

The rank, order and number, and the reason

That all these people assembled

In Southwark, at this fine hostelry

Known as the Tabard Inn, close by the Bell.

But now the time has come for me to tell

Of what we did with ourselves on that first night

When we all met up at the inn.

Afterwards I'll begin telling you

The story of our pilgrimage.

But first, I beg you, politely indulge me,

Don't think that I am being vulgar

When I address the matter plainly,

Telling you what they said and how they enjoyed themselves;

Even though I will be using their exact words.

For you know this as well as I do:

That when somebody repeats a story told by a man, 

He must try to remember as closely as possible

Every single word, if he can,

However rude or vulgar they might be,

Or otherwise he will be telling an untrue story,

Making things up, putting words in their mouths.

He shouldn't spare them, even if he were talking of his brother;

He must report him word for word.

Christ himself spoke very plainly in the holy book,

And you know very well there's nothing bad there.

Also Plato says, to those who can read,

“The words must be matching to the deeds."

I also beg you to forgive me

If I have not put people in their proper place

Here in this story, as they ought to be.

I'm not that clever, as you will see.


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.

A semely man OURE HOOSTE was withalle

For to been a marchal in an halle.

A large man he was, with eyen stepe -

A fairer burgeys was ther noon in Chepe -

Boold of his speche, and wys, and well 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 our 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 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 hond, withouten moore speche."


Our host provided a warm welcome for everyone,

And settled us down to supper at once.

He served us with the finest foods,

The wine was strong and everyone liked it.

Our host was a very elegant man,

For he had worked in elegant places.

He was a large man, with piercing eyes,

There wasn't a better citizen in Cheapside;

He spoke openly, and was wise, and well educated,

And he wasn't lacking anything that goes to make up a man.

He was also a very jolly man,

And after supper he began some fun,

And spoke of mirth amongst other things,

When we had all paid our bills,

And said, “Now my Lords, truly

I give you all a hearty welcome;

I give you my word, and that's no lie,

That I haven't had a group in this inn this year,

Ready for fun, who were as merry as you.

I can see you want some sport, and I know how to provide it.

Just now I have thought of great entertainment,

To pass your time, and it will cost nothing.

You are going to Canterbury; may God speed you,

And may the holy martyr listen to your prayers!

I am sure, as you go on your journey,

You will have fun and tell tales,

For truly there is no comfort or fun

Riding along dumb as stones;

And so I will set up a game,

As I just said, that will entertain you.

And if you will all agree unanimously

To allow yourselves to be judged by me,

And to do what I tell you,

Tomorrow, when you go follow the way,

I swear on the soul of my dead father

That if you're not jolly, you can cut off my head!

No more speech, put up your hand if you agree."


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 who so 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."


It didn't take us long to decide,

We thought there was no reason to disagree,

And without further debate we told him

To tell us his idea, as he wished.

“Lords," he said, “now listen carefully;

And don't sneer at my idea, I pray.

I will speak briefly and to the point;

To make our journey seem shorter, each of you

In this company shall tell two stories as we

Make our way to Canterbury; and each of you

Will tell two more as we come home,

About things that have happened in the past.

And whoever acquits himself the best,

That is to say, who tells us the best

Stories, and the most amusing,

Will have a supper at the expense of the others,

Sitting right here in this room,

When we come back from Canterbury.

And to make sure you enjoy yourselves

I will gladly ride with you myself

At my own expense, and I will be your guide.

But anyone who disagrees with my judgement

Will pay for everything we spend along the way.

If you agree to this

Tell me at once, with no more discussion,

And I will make sure I'm ready early tomorrow.


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 of our 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.


His wish was granted and we swore oaths

Very gladly, and also asked him

That he would do as he suggested

And be our leader,

And be the judge of our tales,

And arrange that supper at a set price,

And that we would follow his plan

In every respect; and so unanimously

We accepted his rule over us.

At that the wine was fetched at once

And we drank to it and went off to bed

Without any further ado.


Amorwe, whan that day bigan to sprynge,

Up roos oure Hoost, and was oure aller cok,

And gadrede us to gidre alle in a flok,

And forth we riden, a litel moore than paas

Unto the wateryng of Seint Thomas;

And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste

And 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, Sir 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 cheere

His tale anon, and seyde as ye may heere.


Next morning at daybreak

Our host got up and woke us all

And gathered us together in a group,

And out we rode at a jog trot,

Until we reached St Thomas' well;

And there our host pulled up his horse

And said, “Lords, listen if you please.

You know the agreement, and I'll remind you.

If what you said last night stands good,

Let's now decide who will tell the first tale.

I swear by my hope that I will always drink wine and beer

That whoever disagrees with my judgement

Will pay for everything we spend on the way.

Now let's draw straws before we go farther,

And whoever draws the longest one will begin.

Sir Knight," he said, “my master and my lord,

You draw first, that's my decision.

Come here," he said, “my lady prioress,

And you, Sir Clerk, drop your shyness,

No more discussion, everyone draw lots!"

At once everyone drew a straw,

And to cut a long story short it happened,

Whether by chance or luck or design,

The truth is, the Knight drew the short straw,

Which everyone else was very pleased with.

So he had to tell his story first as we'd agreed,

According to what we had sworn to before,

As I've told you, what more need I say?

And when this good man saw what had happened,

As he was wise and obedient,

He said, to keep his promise he had freely given,

“Since it's me to start the game,

Why, I thank God for letting me win the cut!

Now let's ride on, and listen to what I say."

When he said that we carried on our way,

And he began at once to tell very merrily

His story, as you will hear.
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