The Parson's Prologue
Heere folweth the Prologe of the Persouns Tale.
1         By that the Maunciple hadde his tale al ended,
By the time that the Manciple had his tale all ended,
2         The sonne fro the south lyne was descended
The sun from the meridian was descended
3         So lowe that he nas nat, to my sighte,
So low that he was not, to my sight,
4         Degrees nyne and twenty as in highte.
More than nine and twenty degrees in altitude.
5         Foure of the clokke it was tho, as I gesse,
Four of the clock it was then, as I suppose,
6         For ellevene foot, or litel moore or lesse,
For eleven feet, or little more or less,
7         My shadwe was at thilke tyme, as there
My shadow was there at that same time,
8         Of swiche feet as my lengthe parted were
Of such feet as if my height were divided
9         In sixe feet equal of proporcioun.
Into six feet equal in size.
10         Therwith the moones exaltacioun --
Therewith the moon's exaltation --
11         I meene Libra -- alwey gan ascende
I mean Libra -- steadily ascended
12         As we were entryng at a thropes ende;
As we were entering at edge of a village;
13         For which oure Hoost, as he was wont to gye,
For which our Host, since he was accustomed to guide,
14         As in this caas, oure joly compaignye,
On this occasion, our jolly company,
15         Seyde in this wise: "Lordynges everichoon,
Said in this manner: "Gentlemen, every one,
16         Now lakketh us no tales mo than oon.
Now we lack no tales more than one.
17         Fulfilled is my sentence and my decree;
Fulfilled is my plan and my decree;
18         I trowe that we han herd of ech degree;
I believe that we have heard from each social class;
19         Almoost fulfild is al myn ordinaunce.
Almost fulfilled is all my governance.
20         I pray to God, so yeve hym right good chaunce,
I pray to God, give right good luck to him,
21         That telleth this tale to us lustily.
Who tells this tale to us pleasingly.
22         "Sire preest," quod he, "artow a vicary?
"Sire priest," said he, "art thou a vicar?
23         Or arte a person? Sey sooth, by thy fey!
Or art thou a parson? Tell the truth, by thy faith!
24         Be what thou be, ne breke thou nat oure pley;
Be whatever thou may be, break thou not our rules;
25         For every man, save thou, hath toold his tale.
For every man, save thou, has told his tale.
26         Unbokele and shewe us what is in thy male;
Unbuckle and show us what is in thy bag;
27         For trewely, me thynketh by thy cheere
For truly, it seems to me from your appearance
28         Thou sholdest knytte up wel a greet mateere.
Thou shouldest well conclude a long discourse.
29         Telle us a fable anon, for cokkes bones!"
Tell us a fictional tale right now, for cock's bones!"
30         This Persoun answerde, al atones,
This Parson answered, immediately,
31         "Thou getest fable noon ytoold for me,
"Thou gettest no fiction told by me,
32         For Paul, that writeth unto Thymothee,
For Paul, who writes unto Timothy,
33         Repreveth hem that weyven soothfastnesse
Reproves them that abandon truthfulness
34         And tellen fables and swich wrecchednesse.
And tell fictional tales and such wretched things.
35         Why sholde I sowen draf out of my fest,
Why should I sow chaff out of my fist,
36         Whan I may sowen whete, if that me lest?
When I can sow wheat, if I so wish?
37         For which I seye, if that yow list to heere
For which I say, if you want to hear
38         Moralitee and vertuous mateere,
Morality and virtuous subject matter,
39         And thanne that ye wol yeve me audience,
And providing that you will give me your attention,
40         I wol ful fayn, at Cristes reverence,
I will very gladly, to Christ's reverence,
41         Do yow plesaunce leefful, as I kan.
Provide you with permissible pleasure, insofar as I can.
42         But trusteth wel, I am a Southren man;
But trust well, I am a Southern man;
43         I kan nat geeste `rum, ram, ruf,' by lettre,
I can not recite `rum, ram, ruf,' letter by letter,
44         Ne, God woot, rym holde I but litel bettre;
And, God knows, rime I consider but little better;
45         And therfore, if yow list -- I wol nat glose --
And therefore, if you wish -- I will not deceive you --
46         I wol yow telle a myrie tale in prose
I will yow tell a merry tale in prose
47         To knytte up al this feeste and make an ende.
To conclude all this festivity and make an end.
48         And Jhesu, for his grace, wit me sende
And Jesus, for his grace, send me wit
49         To shewe yow the wey, in this viage,
To show you the way, in this journey,
50         Of thilke parfit glorious pilgrymage
Of that same perfect glorious pilgrimage
51         That highte Jerusalem celestial.
That is called Jerusalem celestial.
52         And if ye vouche sauf, anon I shal
And if you agree, I shall right now
53         Bigynne upon my tale, for which I preye
Begin my tale, for which I pray you
54         Telle youre avys; I kan no bettre seye.
To tell your decision; I can say nothing better.
55         "But nathelees, this meditacioun
"But nonetheless, this meditation
56         I putte it ay under correccioun
I put it ever subject to correction
57         Of clerkes, for I am nat textueel;
By clerks, for I am not learned in texts;
58         I take but the sentence, trusteth weel.
I take from them only the meaning, trust well.
59         Therfore I make protestacioun
Therefore I make this declaration
60         That I wol stonde to correccioun."
That I will be subject to correction."
61         Upon this word we han assented soone,
Upon this word we have quickly assented,
62         For, as it seemed, it was for to doone --
For, as it seemed, it was the best to do --
63         To enden in som vertuous sentence,
To end in some virtuous subject matter,
64         And for to yeve hym space and audience,
And to give him time and attention,
65         And bade oure Hoost he sholde to hym seye
And told our Host he should to him say
66         That alle we to telle his tale hym preye.
That we all pray him to tell his tale.
67         Oure Hoost hadde the wordes for us alle;
Our Host had the words for us all;
68         "Sire preest," quod he, "now faire yow bifalle!
"Sire priest," said he, "now may good fortune come to you!
69         Telleth," quod he, "youre meditacioun.
Tell," said he, "your meditation.
70         But hasteth yow; the sonne wole adoun;
But make haste; the sun is about to go down;
71         Beth fructuous, and that in litel space,
Be fruitful, and that in little time,
72         And to do wel God sende yow his grace!
And to do well God send you his grace!
73         Sey what yow list, and we wol gladly heere."
Say what you wish, and we will gladly hear."
74         And with that word he seyde in this manere.
And with that word he said in this manner.
The Prologue ends