The Clerk's Prologue

An Interlinear Translation

The Middle English text is from Larry D. Benson., Gen. ed., The Riverside Chaucer,
Houghton Mifflin Company; used with permission of the publisher.


(How to use the interlinear translations.)



Heere folweth the Prologe of the Clerkes Tale of Oxenford


1         "Sire Clerk of Oxenford," oure Hooste sayde,
                "Sir Clerk of Oxford," our Host said,
2         "Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde
                "You ride as demure and quiet as does a maid
3         Were newe spoused, sittynge at the bord;
                Who is just married, sitting at the banquet table;
4         This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word.
                This day I heard not one word from your tongue.
5         I trowe ye studie aboute som sophyme;
                I suppose you are thinking about some logical problem;
6         But Salomon seith `every thyng hath tyme.'
                But Solomon says `every thing has its time.'

7         "For Goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere!
                "For God's sake, cheer up!
8         It is no tyme for to studien heere.
                It is no time to study here.
9         Telle us som myrie tale, by youre fey!
                Tell us some merry tale, by your faith!
10         For what man that is entred in a pley,
                For whatever man is entered in a game,
11         He nedes moot unto the pley assente.
                He of necessity must assent unto the rules.
12         But precheth nat, as freres doon in Lente,
                But preach not, as friars do in Lent,
13         To make us for oure olde synnes wepe,
                To make us weep for our old sins,
14         Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.
                And let not thy tale put us to sleep.
15         "Telle us som murie thyng of aventures.
                "Tell us some merry thing of adventures.
16         Youre termes, youre colours, and youre figures,
                Your technical terms, your figures of speech, and your rhetorical devices,
17         Keepe hem in stoor til so be ye endite
                Keep them in reserve until it so be that you compose
18         Heigh style, as whan that men to kynges write.
                High style, as when men write to kings.
19         Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, we yow preye,
                Speak so plainly at this time, we pray of you,
20         That we may understonde what ye seye."
                That we can understand what you say."
21         This worthy clerk benignely answerde:
                This worthy clerk graciously answered:
22         "Hooste," quod he, "I am under youre yerde;
                "Host," said he, "I am under your authority;
23         Ye han of us as now the governance,
                You have the governance of us now,
24         And therfore wol I do yow obeisance,
                And therefore will I obey you,
25         As fer as resoun axeth, hardily.
                So far as reason demands, indeed.
26         I wol yow telle a tale which that I
                I will tell you a tale which I
27         Lerned at Padowe of a worthy clerk,
                Learned at Padua from a worthy clerk,
28         As preved by his wordes and his werk.
                As was proven by his words and his work.
29         He is now deed and nayled in his cheste;
                He is now dead and nailed in his coffin;
30         I prey to God so yeve his soule reste!
                I pray to God to give his soul rest.

31         "Fraunceys Petrak, the lauriat poete,
                "Francis Petrarch, the laureate poet,
32         Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete
                Was called this clerk, whose sweet rhetoric
33         Enlumyned al Ytaille of poetrie,
                Illuminated all Italy with poetry,
34         As Lynyan dide of philosophie,
                As Lynyan did with philosophy,
35         Or lawe, or oother art particuler;
                Or law, or other specialized field of study;
36         But Deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer,
                But Death, that will not allow us to remain here,
37         But as it were a twynklyng of an ye,
                But as if it were a twinkling of an eye,
38         Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
                Has slain them both, and we all shall die.

39         "But forth to tellen of this worthy man
                "But forth to tell of this worthy man
40         That taughte me this tale, as I bigan,
                That taught me this tale, as I began,
41         I seye that first with heigh stile he enditeth,
                I say that first with high style he composes,
42         Er he the body of his tale writeth,
                Before he writes the body of his tale,
43         A prohemye, in the which discryveth he
                A proem, in which he describes
44         Pemond and of Saluces the contree,
                Piedmont and the country of Saluces,
45         And speketh of Apennyn, the hilles hye,
                And speaks of the Apennines, the high hills,
46         That been the boundes of West Lumbardye,
                That are the boundaries of West Lombardy,
47         And of Mount Vesulus in special,
                And of Mount Vesulus in particular,
48         Where as the Poo out of a welle smal
                Where the Po out of a small well
49         Taketh his firste spryngyng and his sours,
                Takes its first springing and its source,
50         That estward ay encresseth in his cours
                That eastward ever increases in its course
51         To Emele-ward, to Ferrare, and Venyse,
                Toward Emelia, to Ferrara, and Venice,
52         The which a long thyng were to devyse.
                Which would be a long thing to relate.
53         And trewely, as to my juggement,
                And truly, as to my judgment,
54         Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent,
                It seems to me a thing irrelevant,
55         Save that he wole conveyen his mateere;
                Save that he wishes to introduce his subject matter;
56         But this his tale, which that ye may heere."
                But this is his tale, which you may hear."


Heere endeth the Tale of the Clerk of Oxenford.


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Last modified: May 7, 2006
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Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (