The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - HTML preview

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Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas




WHEN said was this miracle, every man

As sober* was, that wonder was to see,                         *serious

Till that our Host to japen* he began,                   *talk lightly

And then *at erst* he looked upon me,              *for the first time*

And saide thus; "What man art thou?" quoth he;

"Thou lookest as thou wouldest find an hare,

For ever on the ground I see thee stare.


"Approache near, and look up merrily.

Now ware you, Sirs, and let this man have place.

He in the waist is shapen as well as I; <2>

This were a puppet in an arm t'embrace

For any woman small and fair of face.

He seemeth elvish* by his countenance,                  *surly, morose

For unto no wight doth he dalliance.


"Say now somewhat, since other folk have said;

Tell us a tale of mirth, and that anon."

"Hoste," quoth I, "be not evil apaid,*                   *dissatisfied

For other tale certes can* I none,                                *know

Eut of a rhyme I learned yore* agone."                             *long

"Yea, that is good," quoth he; "now shall we hear

Some dainty thing, me thinketh by thy cheer."*       *expression, mien




The First Fit*                                                    *part


Listen, lordings, in good intent,

And I will tell you verrament*                                  *truly

Of mirth and of solas,*                                *delight, solace

All of a knight was fair and gent,*                             *gentle

In battle and in tournament,

His name was Sir Thopas.


Y-born he was in far country,

In Flanders, all beyond the sea,

At Popering <2> in the place;

His father was a man full free,

And lord he was of that country,

As it was Godde's grace. <3>

Sir Thopas was a doughty swain,

White was his face as paindemain, <4>

His lippes red as rose.

His rode* is like scarlet in grain,                         *complexion

And I you tell in good certain

He had a seemly nose.


His hair, his beard, was like saffroun,

That to his girdle reach'd adown,

His shoes of cordewane:<5>

Of Bruges were his hosen brown;

His robe was of ciclatoun,<6>

That coste many a jane.<7>


He coulde hunt at the wild deer,

And ride on hawking *for rivere*                         *by the river*

With gray goshawk on hand: <8>

Thereto he was a good archere,

Of wrestling was there none his peer,

Where any ram <9> should stand.


Full many a maiden bright in bow'r

They mourned for him par amour,

When them were better sleep;

But he was chaste, and no lechour,

And sweet as is the bramble flow'r

That beareth the red heep.*                                        *hip


And so it fell upon a day,

For sooth as I you telle may,

Sir Thopas would out ride;

He worth* upon his steede gray,                                *mounted

And in his hand a launcegay,*                              *spear <10>

A long sword by his side.


He pricked through a fair forest,

Wherein is many a wilde beast,

Yea, bothe buck and hare;

And as he pricked north and east,

I tell it you, him had almest                                   *almost

Betid* a sorry care.                                          *befallen


There sprange herbes great and small,

The liquorice and the setewall,*                             *valerian

And many a clove-gilofre, <12>

And nutemeg to put in ale,

Whether it be moist* or stale,                                     *new

Or for to lay in coffer.


The birdes sang, it is no nay,

The sperhawk* and the popinjay,**           *sparrowhawk **parrot <13>

That joy it was to hear;

The throstle-cock made eke his lay,

The woode-dove upon the spray

She sang full loud and clear.


Sir Thopas fell in love-longing

All when he heard the throstle sing,

And *prick'd as he were wood;*                            *rode as if he

His faire steed in his pricking                              were mad*

So sweated, that men might him wring,

His sides were all blood.


Sir Thopas eke so weary was

For pricking on the softe grass,

So fierce was his corage,*                        *inclination, spirit

That down he laid him in that place,

To make his steed some solace,

And gave him good forage.


"Ah, Saint Mary, ben'dicite,

What aileth thilke* love at me                                    *this

To binde me so sore?

Me dreamed all this night, pardie,

An elf-queen shall my leman* be,                              *mistress

And sleep under my gore.*                                        *shirt


An elf-queen will I love, y-wis,*                            *assuredly

For in this world no woman is

Worthy to be my make*                                             *mate

In town;

All other women I forsake,

And to an elf-queen I me take

By dale and eke by down." <14>


Into his saddle he clomb anon,

And pricked over stile and stone

An elf-queen for to spy,

Till he so long had ridden and gone,

That he found in a privy wonne*                                  *haunt

The country of Faery,

So wild;

For in that country was there none

That to him durste ride or gon,

Neither wife nor child.


Till that there came a great giaunt,

His name was Sir Oliphaunt,<15>

A perilous man of deed;

He saide, "Child,* by Termagaunt, <16>                       *young man

*But if* thou prick out of mine haunt,                          *unless

Anon I slay thy steed

With mace.

Here is the Queen of Faery,

With harp, and pipe, and symphony,

Dwelling in this place."


The Child said, "All so may I the,*                             *thrive

To-morrow will I meete thee,

When I have mine armor;

And yet I hope, *par ma fay,*                             *by my faith*

That thou shalt with this launcegay

Abyen* it full sore;                                        *suffer for

Thy maw*                                                         *belly

Shall I pierce, if I may,

Ere it be fully prime of day,

For here thou shalt be slaw."*                                   *slain


Sir Thopas drew aback full fast;

This giant at him stones cast

Out of a fell staff sling:

But fair escaped Child Thopas,

And all it was through Godde's grace,

And through his fair bearing. <17>


Yet listen, lordings, to my tale,

Merrier than the nightingale,

For now I will you rown,*                                      *whisper

How Sir Thopas, with sides smale,*                         *small <18>

Pricking over hill and dale,

Is come again to town.


His merry men commanded he

To make him both game and glee;

For needes must he fight

With a giant with heades three,

For paramour and jollity

Of one that shone full bright.

"*Do come,*" he saide, "my minstrales                         *summon*

And gestours* for to telle tales.                       *story-tellers

Anon in mine arming,

Of romances that be royales, <19>

Of popes and of cardinales,

And eke of love-longing."


They fetch'd him first the sweete wine,

And mead eke in a maseline,*                            *drinking-bowl

And royal spicery;                                   of maple wood <20>

Of ginger-bread that was full fine,

And liquorice and eke cumin,

With sugar that is trie.*                                      *refined


He didde,* next his white lere,**                        *put on **skin

Of cloth of lake* fine and clear,                           *fine linen

A breech and eke a shirt;

And next his shirt an haketon,*                               *cassock

And over that an habergeon,*                             *coat of mail

For piercing of his heart;


And over that a fine hauberk,*                           *plate-armour

Was all y-wrought of Jewes'* werk,                          *magicians'

Full strong it was of plate;

And over that his coat-armour,*                      *knight's surcoat

As white as is the lily flow'r, <21>

In which he would debate.*                                       *fight


His shield was all of gold so red

And therein was a boare's head,

A charboucle* beside;                                   *carbuncle <22>

And there he swore on ale and bread,

How that the giant should be dead,

Betide whatso betide.


His jambeaux* were of cuirbouly, <23>                            *boots

His sworde's sheath of ivory,

His helm of latoun* bright,                                      *brass

His saddle was of rewel <24> bone,

His bridle as the sunne shone,

Or as the moonelight.


His speare was of fine cypress,

That bodeth war, and nothing peace;

The head full sharp y-ground.

His steede was all dapple gray,

It went an amble in the way

Full softely and round

In land.


Lo, Lordes mine, here is a fytt;

If ye will any more of it,

To tell it will I fand.*                                           *try


The Second Fit


Now hold your mouth for charity,

Bothe knight and lady free,

And hearken to my spell;*                                    *tale <25>

Of battle and of chivalry,

Of ladies' love and druerie,*                               *gallantry

Anon I will you tell.


Men speak of romances of price*                          * worth, esteem

Of Horn Child, and of Ipotis,

Of Bevis, and Sir Guy, <26>

Of Sir Libeux, <27> and Pleindamour,

But Sir Thopas, he bears the flow'r

Of royal chivalry.


His goode steed he all bestrode,

And forth upon his way he glode,*                                *shone

As sparkle out of brand;*                                        *torch

Upon his crest he bare a tow'r,

And therein stick'd a lily flow'r; <28>

God shield his corse* from shand!**                       *body **harm


And, for he was a knight auntrous,*                       *adventurous

He woulde sleepen in none house,

But liggen* in his hood,                                           *lie

His brighte helm was his wanger,*                         *pillow <29>

And by him baited* his destrer**                     *fed **horse <30>

Of herbes fine and good.


Himself drank water of the well,

As did the knight Sir Percivel, <31>

So worthy under weed;

Till on a day -   .  .