The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

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Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus - The Prologue

"No more of this, for Godde's dignity!"
Quoth oure Hoste; "for thou makest me
So weary of thy very lewedness,* *stupidity, ignorance <1>
That, all so wisly* God my soule bless, *surely
Mine eares ache for thy drafty* speech. *worthless <2>
Now such a rhyme the devil I beteche:* *commend to
This may well be rhyme doggerel," quoth he.
"Why so?" quoth I; "why wilt thou lette* me *prevent
More of my tale than any other man,
Since that it is the best rhyme that I can?"* *know
"By God!" quoth he, "for, plainly at one word,
Thy drafty rhyming is not worth a tord:
Thou dost naught elles but dispendest* time. *wastest
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme.
Let see whether thou canst tellen aught *in gest,* *by way of
Or tell in prose somewhat, at the least, narrative*
In which there be some mirth or some doctrine."
"Gladly," quoth I, "by Godde's sweete pine,* *suffering
I will you tell a little thing in prose,
That oughte like* you, as I suppose, *please
Or else certes ye be too dangerous.* *fastidious
It is a moral tale virtuous,
*All be it* told sometimes in sundry wise *although it be*
By sundry folk, as I shall you devise.
As thus, ye wot that ev'ry Evangelist,
That telleth us the pain* of Jesus Christ, *passion
He saith not all thing as his fellow doth;
But natheless their sentence is all soth,* *true
And all accorden as in their sentence,* *meaning
All be there in their telling difference;
For some of them say more, and some say less,
When they his piteous passion express;
I mean of Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;
But doubteless their sentence is all one.
Therefore, lordinges all, I you beseech,
If that ye think I vary in my speech,
As thus, though that I telle somedeal more
Of proverbes, than ye have heard before
Comprehended in this little treatise here,
*T'enforce with* the effect of my mattere, *with which to
And though I not the same wordes say enforce*
As ye have heard, yet to you all I pray
Blame me not; for as in my sentence
Shall ye nowhere finde no difference
From the sentence of thilke* treatise lite,** *this **little
After the which this merry tale I write.
And therefore hearken to what I shall say,
And let me tellen all my tale, I pray."
Notes to the Prologue to Chaucer's Tale of Meliboeus.

1. Chaucer crowns the satire on the romanticists by making the very landlord of the Tabard cry out in indignant disgust against the stuff which he had heard recited — the good Host ascribing to sheer ignorance the string of pompous platitudes and prosaic details which Chaucer had uttered.

2. Drafty: worthless, vile; no better than draff or dregs; from the Anglo-Saxon, "drifan" to drive away, expel.

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