Click here for more information. The book includes a linking commentary on the chosen texts, together with a comprehensive line-for-line glossary that makes it an approachable and accessible introduction to Chaucer. I have been teaching Chaucer for forty years and I have always felt it was hard to catch the essence of his wit and wisdom. This short book of extracts is another attempt to get to him - my favourite poet. He has published six collections of poetry, including Gunpowder , winner of the Whitbread Prize for Poetry, and Farmers Cross A courtier, a trade emissary and diplomat, he fought in the Hundred Years War and was captured and ransomed; his marriage into the family of John of Gaunt ensured his influence in political society.
For more than a decade, he was engaged on his most famous work of all, The Canterbury Tales , until his death around ; there is no record of the precise date or the circumstances of his demise, despite vivid and colourful speculation. 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; Hire nose tretys, her eyen greye as glas, Hir mouth ful smal and ther-to 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 ther-on heng a brooch of gold ful sheene, On which ther was first write a crowned A, And after, Amor vincit omnia. Another Nonne with hire hadde she, That was hire chapeleyne, and Preestes thre. A Monk ther was, a fair for the maistrie, An outridere, that lovede venerie; A manly man, to been an abbot able. The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit, By-cause that it was old and som-del 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 opinioun was good. How shal the world be served? Lat Austyn have his swynk to him 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. 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. 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 swetely herde he confessioun, And plesaunt was his absolucioun.
His typet was ay farsed full 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; Ther-to he strong was as a champioun. 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 certeyn ferme for the graunt, Noon of his brethren 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 whelpe. 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. A Marchant was ther with a forked berd, In motteleye, and hye on horse he sat; Upon his heed a Flaundryssh bevere hat; His bootes clasped faire and fetisly. He wolde the see were kept for any thing 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 gouvernaunce, 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. A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also, That unto logyk hadde longe y-go. As leene was his hors as is a rake, And he nas nat right fat, I undertake, But looked holwe, and ther-to sobrely. 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 wher-with to scoleye.
Of studie took he moost cure and moost heede. Sownynge in moral vertu was his speche; And gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche. A 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.
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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. Ther-to 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. A Frankeleyn was in his compaignye. Whit was his berd as is the dayesye; Of his complexioun he was sangwyn. Wel loved he by the morwe a sop in wyn; To lyven in delit was evere his wone, For he was Epicurus owene sone, That heeld opinioun that pleyn delit Was verraily felicitee parfit.
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An housholdere, and that a greet, was he; Seint Julian he was in his contree. His breed, his ale, was alweys after oon; A bettre envyned man was nowher noon. Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous, Of fissh and flessh, and that so plentevous, It snewed in his hous of mete and drynke, Of alle deyntees that men koude thynke, After the sondry sesons of the yeer; So chaunged he his mete and his soper. Ful many a fat partrich hadde he in muwe, And many a breem and many a luce in stuwe. Wo was his cook but if his sauce were Poynaunt and sharp, and redy al his geere.
His table dormant in his halle alway Stood redy covered al the longe day. At sessiouns ther was he lord and sire; Ful ofte tyme he was knyght of the shire. An anlaas, and a gipser al of silk, Heeng at his girdel, whit as morne milk. A shirreve hadde he been, and a countour; Was nowher such a worthy vavasour. 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. It is ful fair to been y-cleped Madame, And goon to vigilies al bifore, And have a mantel roialliche y-bore. A 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. 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.
A Shipman was ther, wonynge fer by weste; For aught I woot he was of Dertemouthe. He rood upon a rouncy, 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 hadde he y-drawe Fro Burdeux-ward, whil that the chapman 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 lode-menage, Ther nas noon swich from Hulle to Cartage.
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Hardy he was and wys to undertake; With many a tempest hadde his berd been shake. His barge y-cleped was the Maudelayne. With us ther was a Doctour of Phisik; In all this world ne was ther 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. He knew the cause of everich maladye, Were it of hoot, or cold, or moyste, or drye, And where they engendred and of what humour. He was a verray, parfit praktisour; The cause y-knowe, and of his harm the roote, Anon he yaf the sike man his boote.
Ful redy hadde he his apothecaries To sende him drogges and his letuaries; For ech of hem made oother for to wynne, Hir frendshipe nas nat newe to bigynne.
Two New Books by Peter G. Beidler for Students, Readers, and Teachers of Chaucer
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; Therfore he lovede gold in special. A Good Wif was ther of biside Bathe, But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe. Of clooth-makyng she hadde swich an haunt She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt.
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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 y-teyd, 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 ther-of nedeth nat to speke as nowthe. She koude muchel of wandrynge by the weye. Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye.
Upon an amblere esily she sat, Y-wympled 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 hire feet a paire of spores sharpe. A good man was ther of religioun, And was a povre Person 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 y-preved ofte sithes. 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 doo? 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.
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.
With hym ther was a Plowman, was his brother, That hadde y-lad 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 payede he ful faire and wel, Bothe of his propre swynk and his catel.
In a tabard he rood upon a mere. 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 nas 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; His nosethirles blake were and wyde.
A swerd and a 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.
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 The Reve was a sclendre colerik man. His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan; His heer was by his erys round y-shorn; His top was dokked lyk a preest biforn.
Ful longe were his legges and ful lene, Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene. 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.
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His lordes sheep, his neet, his dayerye, His swyn, his hors, his stoor, and his pultrye, Was hoolly in this reves governyng; And by his covenant yaf the rekenyng Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age; There koude no man brynge hym in arrerage. There 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 fair upon an heeth; With grene trees shadwed was his place.
He koude bettre than his lord purchace; Ful riche he was a-stored 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. Tukked he was as is a frere, aboute. And evere he rood the hyndreste of oure route. A Somonour was ther with us in that place, That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face, For sawcefleem he was, with eyen narwe. As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe, With scaled 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.