The General Prologue, lines 1-18, with translation:

1         Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
 :              When April with its sweet-smelling showers
2         The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
           
   Has pierced the drought of March to the root,
3         And bathed every veyne in swich licour
           
   And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid
4         Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
           
   By the power of which the flower is created;
5         Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
           
   When the West Wind also with its sweet breath,
6         Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
           
   In every holt and heath, has breathed life into
7         The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
           
   The tender crops, and the young sun
8         Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne,
           
   Has run its half course in Aries,
9         And smale foweles maken melodye,
           
   And small fowls make melody,
10         That slepen al the nyght with open ye
           
   Those that sleep all the night with open eyes
11         (So priketh hem Nature in hir corages),
           
   (So Nature incites them in their hearts),
12         Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
           
   Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,
13         And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
           
   And professional pilgrims (long) to seek foreign shores,
14         To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
           
   To (go to) distant shrines, known in various lands;
15         And specially from every shires ende
           
   And specially from every shire's end
16         Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
           
   Of England to Canterbury they travel,
17         The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
           
   To seek the holy blessed martyr,
18         That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.
           
   Who helped them when they were sick.

The interlinear translation of these lines (and the other
translations on this site) provide only a paraphrase of the
words. There is no way they can convey the metaphoric
force and allusive power of the lines. And of course a
line-by-line translation cannot provide much in the way
of explanation of technical words (such as the astronmical
references to the sun and the Ram in lines 7-8). For these
matters consult the glosses on the text pages and the explanatory
notes in The Riverside Chaucer or The Canterbury
Tales Complete
or a similar text.

Take your time on these lines to make sure you have a clear
idea of the meaning of each word.

Back to Lesson 1.


Last modified: Feb, 21, 2001
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Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (ldb@wjh.harvard.edu)