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The Nun's Priest's Tale

The Tales
The Prologue of the Nonnes Preestes Tale.
The Prologue of the Nun's Priest's Tale.

2767        "Hoo!" quod the Knyght, "good sire, namoore of this!
                    "Whoa!" said the Knight, "good sire, no more of this!
2768        That ye han seyd is right ynough, ywis,
                    What you have said is quite enough, indeed,
2769        And muchel moore; for litel hevynesse
                    And much more; for a little sadness
2770        Is right ynough to muche folk, I gesse.
                    Is quite enough for many people, I guess.
2771        I seye for me, it is a greet disese,
                    I say for myself, it is a great distress,
2772        Whereas men han been in greet welthe and ese,
                    When men have been in great wealth and ease,
2773        To heeren of hire sodeyn fal, allas!
                    To hear of their sudden fall, alas!
2774        And the contrarie is joye and greet solas,
                    And the contrary is joy and great comfort,
2775        As whan a man hath been in povre estaat,
                    As when a man has been in a poor condition,
2776        And clymbeth up and wexeth fortunat,
                    And climbs up and becomes fortunate,
2777        And there abideth in prosperitee.
                    And there remains in prosperity.
2778        Swich thyng is gladsom, as it thynketh me,
                    Such a thing is pleasing, as it seems to me,
2779        And of swich thyng were goodly for to telle."
                    And of such a thing it would be good to tell."
2780        "Ye," quod oure Hooste, "by Seint Poules belle!
                    "Yea," said our Host, "by Saint Paul's bell! [1]
2781        Ye seye right sooth; this Monk he clappeth lowde.
                    You say the very truth; this Monk he chatters noisily [2].
2782        He spak how Fortune covered with a clowde
                    He spoke [3] of how Fortune [4] covered with a cloud
2783        I noot nevere what; and als of a tragedie
                    I know not what; and also of a tragedy
2784        Right now ye herde, and pardee, no remedie
                    Just now you heard, and by God, no remedy
2785        It is for to biwaille ne compleyne
                    Is it to bewail or lament
2786        That that is doon, and als it is a peyne,
                    That which is done, and also it is a pain,
2787        As ye han seyd, to heere of hevynesse.
                    As you have said, to hear of sadness.
2788        "Sire Monk, namoore of this, so God yow blesse!
                    "Sir Monk, no more of this, as God may you bless!
2789        Youre tale anoyeth al this compaignye.
                    Your tale annoys all this company.
2790        Swich talkyng is nat worth a boterflye,
                    Such talking is not worth a butterfly,
2791        For therinne is ther no desport ne game.
                    For in it there is no pleasure nor amusement.

Quick check 1    Focus question 1     vocabulary list

2792        Wherfore, sire Monk, daun Piers by youre name,
                    Therefore, Sir Monk, dan Piers [5] by your name,
2793        I pray yow hertely telle us somwhat elles;
                    I pray you earnestly tell us something else;
2794        For sikerly, nere clynkyng of youre belles
                    For truly, were it not for the clinking of your bells
2795        That on youre bridel hange on every syde,
                    That on your bridle [6] hang on every side,
2796        By hevene kyng that for us alle dyde,
                    By heaven's King who for us all died [7],
2797        I sholde er this han fallen doun for sleep,
                    I should before this have fallen down because of sleepiness,
2798        Althogh the slough had never been so deep;
                    Although the mud had never been so deep;
2799        Thanne hadde your tale al be toold in veyn.
                    Then had your tale been told all in vain.
2800        For certeinly, as that thise clerkes seyn,
                    For certainly, as these clerks [8] say,
2801        Whereas a man may have noon audience,
                    Where a man may have no hearers,
2802        Noght helpeth it to tellen his sentence.
                    It is no use to tell his opinion.
2803        "And wel I woot the substance is in me,
                    "And well I know the capacity of appreciation is in me,
2804        If any thyng shal wel reported be.
                    If any thing shall be well told.
2805        Sir, sey somwhat of huntyng, I yow preye."
                    Sir, say something about hunting, I you pray."
2806        "Nay," quod this Monk, "I have no lust to pleye.
                    "Nay," said this Monk, "I have no desire to play.
2807        Now lat another telle, as I have toold."
                    Now let another tell, as I have told."
2808        Thanne spak oure Hoost with rude speche and boold,
                    Then spoke our Host with rude speech and bold,
2809        And seyde unto the Nonnes Preest anon,
                    And said unto the Nun's Priest straightway,
2810        "Com neer, thou preest, com hyder, thou sir John!
                    "Come near, thou priest, come hither, thou sir John!
2811        Telle us swich thyng as may oure hertes glade.
                    Tell us such thing as may our hearts gladden.
2812        Be blithe, though thou ryde upon a jade.
                    Be happy, though thou ride upon a nag.
2813        What thogh thyn hors be bothe foul and lene?
                    What if thy horse be both poor and lean?
2814        If he wol serve thee, rekke nat a bene.
                    If he will serve thee, care not a bean.
2815        Looke that thyn herte be murie everemo."
                    See that thy heart be merry evermore."
2816        "Yis, sir," quod he, "yis, Hoost, so moot I go,
                    "Yes indeed, sir," said he, "yes indeed, Host, as I may I prosper,
2817        But I be myrie, ywis I wol be blamed."
                    Unless I be merry, indeed I will be blamed."
2818        And right anon his tale he hath attamed,
                    And right away his tale he has begun,
2819        And thus he seyde unto us everichon,
                    And thus he said unto us every one,
2820        This sweete preest, this goodly man sir John.
                   This sweet priest, this goodly man sir John.

The Nun's Priest's Tale. [9]
Heere bigynneth the Nonnes Preestes Tale of the Cok and Hen,
Chauntecleer and Pertelote

2821         A povre wydwe, somdeel stape in age,
                      A poor widow, somewhat advanced in age,
2822         Was whilom dwellyng in a narwe cotage,
                      Was once dwelling in a small cottage,
2823         Biside a grove, stondynge in a dale.
                      Beside a grove, standing in a dale.
2824         This wydwe, of which I telle yow my tale,
                      This widow, of whom I tell you my tale,
2825         Syn thilke day that she was last a wyf
                      Since that same day that she was last a wife
2826         In pacience ladde a ful symple lyf,
                      In patience led a very simple life,
2827         For litel was hir catel and hir rente.
                      For little was her possessions and her income.
2828         By housbondrie of swich as God hire sente
                      By husbandry of such as God sent her
2829         She foond hirself and eek hir doghtren two.
                      She provided for herself and also her two daughters.
2830         Thre large sowes hadde she, and namo,
                      She had three large sows, and no more,
2831         Three keen, and eek a sheep that highte Malle.
                      Three cows, and also a sheep that is called Malle.
2832         Ful sooty was hire bour and eek hir halle,
                      Full sooty was her bedchamber and also her hall,
2833         In which she eet ful many a sklendre meel.
                      In which she ate very many a scanty meal.
2834         Of poynaunt sauce hir neded never a deel.
                      She needed not a bit of spicy sauce.
2835         No deyntee morsel passed thurgh hir throte;
                      No dainty morsel passed through her throat;
2836         Hir diete was accordant to hir cote.
                      Her diet was such as her farm produced.
2837         Repleccioun ne made hire nevere sik;
                      Overeating never made her sick;
2838         Attempree diete was al hir phisik,
                      Moderate diet was all her medical treatment,
2839         And exercise, and hertes suffisaunce.
                      And exercise, and a contented heart.
2840         The goute lette hire nothyng for to daunce,
                      The gout [10] not at all prevented her from dancing,
2841         N' apoplexie shente nat hir heed.
                      And apoplexy [11] harmed not her head.
2842         No wyn ne drank she, neither whit ne reed;
                      No wine she drank, neither white nor red;
2843         Hir bord was served moost with whit and blak --
                      Her board was provided mostly with white and black --
2844         Milk and broun breed, in which she foond no lak,
                      Milk and dark bread, in which she found no lack,
2845         Seynd bacoun, and somtyme an ey or tweye,
                      Broiled bacon, and sometimes an egg or two,
2846         For she was, as it were, a maner deye.
                      For she was, as it were, a sort of dairywoman.

Quick check 3    Focus question 6      Focus question 7     Vocabulary list

2847         A yeerd she hadde, enclosed al aboute
                      She had a yard, enclosed all around
2848         With stikkes, and a drye dych withoute,
                      With sticks, and a dry ditch outside it,
2849         In which she hadde a cok, hight Chauntecleer.
                      In which she had a cock, called Chauntecleer.
2850         In al the land, of crowyng nas his peer.
                      In all the land, there was not his peer in crowing.
2851         His voys was murier than the murie orgon
                      His voice was merrier than the merry organ
2852         On messe-dayes that in the chirche gon.
                      That goes in the church on mass-days.
2853         Wel sikerer was his crowyng in his logge
                      Well, more accurate was his crowing in his lodge
2854         Than is a clokke or an abbey orlogge.
                      Than is a clock or an abbey timepiece.
2855         By nature he knew ech ascencioun
                      By nature he knew (the hour of) each ascension
2856         Of the equynoxial in thilke toun;
                      Of the celestial equator in that same town; [12]
2857         For whan degrees fiftene weren ascended,
                      For when degrees fifteen were ascended,
2858         Thanne crew he that it myghte nat been amended.
                      Then he crowed so that it could not be improved.
2859         His coomb was redder than the fyn coral,
                      His comb was redder than the fine coral,
2860         And batailled as it were a castel wal;
                      And notched with battlements as if it were a castle wall;
2861         His byle was blak, and as the jeet it shoon;
                      His beak was black, and it shone like the jet stone;
2862         Lyk asure were his legges and his toon;
                      Like lapis lazuli were his legs and his toes;
2863         His nayles whitter than the lylye flour,
                      His nails whiter than the lily flower,
2864         And lyk the burned gold was his colour.
                      And like the burnished gold was his color.
2865         This gentil cok hadde in his governaunce
                      This gentle [13] cock had in his governance
2866         Sevene hennes for to doon al his plesaunce,
                      Seven hens to do all his pleasure,
2867         Whiche were his sustres and his paramours,
                      Which were his sisters and his concubines,
2868         And wonder lyk to hym, as of colours;
                      And wonderfully like him, in their colors;
2869         Of whiche the faireste hewed on hir throte
                      Of which the fairest colored on her throat
2870         Was cleped faire damoysele Pertelote.
                      Was called fair demoiselle Pertelote.
2871         Curteys she was, discreet, and debonaire,
                      Courteous she was, discreet, and gracious,
2872         And compaignable, and bar hyrself so faire
                      And companionable, and bore herself so fair
2873         Syn thilke day that she was seven nyght oold
                      Since that same day that she was seven nights old
2874         That trewely she hath the herte in hoold
                      That truly she has in possession the heart
2875         Of Chauntecleer, loken in every lith;
                      Of Chauntecleer, locked in her every limb (completely);
2876         He loved hire so that wel was hym therwith.
                      He loved her so that he was happy because of that.

But swich a joye was it to here hem synge,
                      But such a joy it was to hear them sing,
2878         Whan that the brighte sonne gan to sprynge,
                      When the bright sun began to spring,
2879         In sweete accord, "My lief is faren in londe!" --
                      In sweet harmony, "My love has gone to the country!" [14]
2880         For thilke tyme, as I have understonde,
                      For in that same time, as I have understood,
2881         Beestes and briddes koude speke and synge.
                      Beasts and birds could speak and sing [15].
2882         And so bifel that in a dawenynge,
                      And so befell that in a dawning,
2883         As Chauntecleer among his wyves alle
                      As Chauntecleer among all his wives
2884         Sat on his perche, that was in the halle,
                      Sat on his perch, that was in the hall,
2885         And next hym sat this faire Pertelote,
                      And next to him sat this fair Pertelote,
2886         This Chauntecleer gan gronen in his throte,
                      This Chauntecleer began to groan in his throat,
2887         As man that in his dreem is drecched soore.
                      As one that in his dream is deeply troubled.
2888         And whan that Pertelote thus herde hym roore,
                      And when Pertelote thus heard him roar,
2889         She was agast and seyde, "Herte deere,
                      She was aghast and said, "Dear heart,
2890         What eyleth yow, to grone in this manere?
                      What ails you, to groan in this manner?
2891         Ye been a verray sleper; fy, for shame!"
                      You are a true (sound) sleeper; fie, for shame!"
2892         And he answerde, and seyde thus: "Madame,
                      And he answered, and said thus: "Madame,
2893         I pray yow that ye take it nat agrief.
                      I pray you that you take it not amiss.
2894         By God, me mette I was in swich meschief
                      By God, I dreamed I was in such mischief
2895         Right now that yet myn herte is soore afright.
                      Right now that yet my heart is grievously frightened.
2896         Now God," quod he, "my swevene recche aright,
                      Now God," said he, "interpret my dream correctly [16],
2897         And kepe my body out of foul prisoun!
                      And keep my body out of foul prison!
2898         Me mette how that I romed up and doun
                      I dreamed how I roamed up and down
2899         Withinne our yeerd, wheer as I saugh a beest
                      Within our yard, where I saw a beast
2900         Was lyk an hound, and wolde han maad areest
                      Was like a hound, and would have seized
2901         Upon my body, and wolde han had me deed.
                      Upon my body, and would have had me dead.
2902         His colour was bitwixe yelow and reed,
                      His color was between yellow and red,
2903         And tipped was his tayl and bothe his eeris
                      And tipped was his tail and both his ears
2904         With blak, unlyk the remenant of his heeris;
                      With black, unlike the rest of his hair;
2905         His snowte smal, with glowynge eyen tweye.
                      His snout small, with two glowing eyes.
2906         Yet of his look for feere almoost I deye;
                      Yet for fear of his look I almost die;
2907         This caused me my gronyng, doutelees."
                      This caused my groaning, doubtless."

2908         "Avoy!" quod she, "fy on yow, hertelees!
                      "Shame!" said she, "fie on you, coward!
2909         Allas," quod she, "for, by that God above,
                      Alas," said she, "for, by that God above,
2910         Now han ye lost myn herte and al my love!
                      Now have you lost my heart and all my love!
2911         I kan nat love a coward, by my feith!
                      I can not love a coward, by my faith!
2912         For certes, what so any womman seith,
                      For certainly, whatever any woman says,
2913         We alle desiren, if it myghte bee,
                      We all desire, if it might be,
2914         To han housbondes hardy, wise, and free,
                      To have husbands hardy, wise, and generous,
2915         And secree -- and no nygard, ne no fool,
                      And secret -- and no miser, nor no fool,
2916         Ne hym that is agast of every tool,
                      Nor him who is afraid of every weapon,
2917         Ne noon avauntour, by that God above!
                      Nor any boaster [17], by that God above!
2918         How dorste ye seyn, for shame, unto youre love
                      How dare you say, for shame, unto your love
2919         That any thyng myghte make yow aferd?
                      That any thing might make you afraid?
2920         Have ye no mannes herte, and han a berd?
                      Have you no man's heart, and have a beard?
2921         Allas! And konne ye been agast of swevenys?
                      Alas! And can you be frightened of dreams?
2922         Nothyng, God woot, but vanitee in sweven is.
                      Nothing, God knows, but foolishness is in dreams.
2923         Swevenes engendren of replecciouns,
                      Dreams are produced by overeating,
2924         And ofte of fume and of complecciouns,
                      And often by stomach vapors [18] and by the mixture of bodily humors,
2925         Whan humours been to habundant in a wight.
                      When humors are too abundant in a person.
2926         Certes this dreem, which ye han met to-nyght,
                      Certainly this dream, which you have dreamed to-night,
2927         Cometh of the greete superfluytee
                      Comes of the great superfluity
2928         Of youre rede colera, pardee,
                      Of your red choleric humor [19], indeed,
2929         Which causeth folk to dreden in hir dremes
                      Which causes folk in their dreams to be afraid
2930         Of arwes, and of fyr with rede lemes,
                      Of arrows, and of fire with red flames,
2931         Of rede beestes, that they wol hem byte,
                      Of red beasts, (fearing) that they will bite them,
2932         Of contek, and of whelpes, grete and lyte;
                      Of strife, and of dogs, big and little;
2933         Right as the humour of malencolie
                      Right as the humor of melancholy
2934         Causeth ful many a man in sleep to crie
                      Causes very many a man in sleep to cry
2935         For feere of blake beres, or boles blake,
                      For fear of black bears, or black bulls,
2936         Or elles blake develes wole hem take.
                      Or else black devils will take them.
2937         Of othere humours koude I telle also
                      Of other humors could I tell also
2938         That werken many a man sleep ful wo;
                      That cause many a man much woe (in) sleep;
2939         But I wol passe as lightly as I kan.
                      But I will pass over as lightly as I can.

Quick Check    Focus question 11     Vocabulary list

2940         "Lo Catoun, which that was so wys a man,
                      "Lo Cato, who was so wise a man,
2941         Seyde he nat thus, `Ne do no fors of dremes'?
                      Said he not thus, `Attach no importance to dreams'? [20]
2942         "Now sire," quod she, "whan we flee fro the bemes,
                      "Now sir," said she, "when we fly from the beams,
2943         For Goddes love, as taak som laxatyf.
                      For God's love, take some laxative.
2944         Up peril of my soule and of my lyf,
                      Upon peril of my soul and of my life,
2945         I conseille yow the beste -- I wol nat lye --
                      I counsel you the best -- I will not lie --
2946         That bothe of colere and of malencolye
                      That both of choler and of melancholy
2947         Ye purge yow; and for ye shal nat tarie,
                      You purge yourself; and so that you shall not delay,
2948         Though in this toun is noon apothecarie,
                      Though in this town is no apothecary,
2949         I shal myself to herbes techen yow
                      I shall myself guide you to herbs
2950         That shul been for youre hele and for youre prow;
                      That shall be for your health and for your benefit;
2951         And in oure yeerd tho herbes shal I fynde
                      And in our yard I shall find those herbs
2952         The whiche han of hire propretee by kynde
                      The which by nature have the power
2953         To purge yow bynethe and eek above.
                      To purge you beneath and also above.
2954         Foryet nat this, for Goddes owene love!
                      Forget not this, for God's own love!
2955         Ye been ful coleryk of compleccioun;
                      You are dominated by the choleric humor;
2956         Ware the sonne in his ascencioun
                      Beware the sun when it is high in the sky
2957         Ne fynde yow nat repleet of humours hoote.
                      And do not find yourself with an excess of hot humors.
2958         And if it do, I dar wel leye a grote,
                      And if there be an excess, I dare well bet four pence,
2959         That ye shul have a fevere terciane,
                      That you shall have a fever recurring every three days,
2960         Or an agu that may be youre bane.
                      Or an ague that may be your death.
2961         A day or two ye shul have digestyves
                      A day or two you shall have digestives
2962         Of wormes, er ye take youre laxatyves
                      Of worms, before you take your laxatives
2963         Of lawriol, centaure, and fumetere,
                      Of spurge laurel, centaury, and fumitory,
2964         Or elles of ellebor, that groweth there,
                      Or else of hellebore, that grows there,
2965         Of katapuce, or of gaitrys beryis,
                      Of caper-spurge, or of rhamnus,
2966         Of herbe yve, growyng in oure yeerd, ther mery is;
                      Of ground ivy, growing in our yard, where it is pleasant;
2967         Pekke hem up right as they growe and ete hem yn.
                      Peck them up right as they grow and eat them in.
2968         Be myrie, housbonde, for youre fader kyn!
                      Be merry, husband, for your father's kin!
2969         Dredeth no dreem; I kan sey yow namoore."
                      Dread no dream; I can say you no more."

Quick check     Focus question 12    Focus question 13   Focus question 14


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