The Prologue to and Tale of Sir Thopas, and the Host's interruption
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.
The Prologue to Sir Thopas
Bihoold the murye wordes of the Hoost to Chaucer
691 Whan seyd was al this miracle, every man
When all this miracle was told, every man
692 As sobre was that wonder was to se,
Was so sober that it was wonderful to see,
693 Til that oure Hooste japen tho bigan,
Until our Host then began to joke
694 And thanne at erst he looked upon me,
And then for the first time he looked at me,
695 And seyde thus: "What man artow?" quod he;
And said thus: "What sort of man art thou?" said he;
696 "Thou lookest as thou woldest fynde an hare,
"Thou lookest as if thou would track a hare,
697 For evere upon the ground I se thee stare.
For ever upon the ground I see thee stare.
698 "Approche neer, and looke up murily.
" Approach nearer, and look up merrily.
699 Now war yow, sires, and lat this man have place!
Now make way, sirs, and let this man have room!
700 He in the waast is shape as wel as I;
He in the waist is shaped as well as I;
701 This were a popet in an arm t' enbrace
This would be a little doll in an arm to embrace
702 For any womman, small and fair of face.
For any woman, small and fair of face.
703 He semeth elvyssh by his contenaunce,
He seems otherworldly in his behavior,
704 For unto no wight dooth he daliaunce.
For unto no person is he sociable:
705 "Sey now somwhat, syn oother folk han sayd;
"Say something now, since other folk have spoken;
706 Telle us a tale of myrthe, and that anon."
Tell us a tale of mirth, and that right now."
707 "Hooste," quod I, "ne beth nat yvele apayd,
"Host," said I, "be not displeased,
708 For oother tale certes kan I noon,
For certainly I know no other tale,
709 But of a rym I lerned longe agoon."
Except for a riming romance I learned long ago."
710 "Ye, that is good," quod he; "now shul we heere
"Yes, that is good," said he; "now we shall hear
711 Som deyntee thyng, me thynketh by his cheere."
Some dainty thing, it seems to me from his appearance."
Heere bigynneth Chaucers Tale of Thopas
The First Fit
712 Listeth, lordes, in good entent,
Listen, my lords, with good will,
713 And I wol telle verrayment
And I will tell truly
714 Of myrthe and of solas,
Of mirth and of pleasure,
715 Al of a knyght was fair and gent
All about a knight who was fair and gentle
716 In bataille and in tourneyment;
In battle and in tournament;
717 His name was sire Thopas.
His name was sir Thopas.
718 Yborn he was in fer contree,
He was born in a distant land,
719 In Flaundres, al biyonde the see,
In Flanders, far beyond the sea,
720 At Poperyng, in the place.
At Popering, in that place.
721 His fader was a man ful free,
His father was a very noble man,
722 And lord he was of that contree,
And he was lord of that country,
723 As it was Goddes grace.
Since it was God's will.
724 Sire Thopas wax a doghty swayn;
Sir Thopas grew up to be a doughty lad;
725 Whit was his face as payndemayn,
White was his face as fine white bread,
726 His lippes rede as rose;
His lips red as a rose;
727 His rode is lyk scarlet in grayn,
His complexion is like scarlet deeply dyed,
728 And I yow telle in good certayn
And I tell you in true certainty
729 He hadde a semely nose.
He had a seemly nose.
730 His heer, his berd was lyk saffroun,
His hair, his beard was like saffron,
731 That to his girdel raughte adoun;
That to his girdle reached down;
732 His shoon of cordewane.
His shoes of Cordovan leather.
733 Of Brugges were his hosen broun,
Of Bruges were his brown stockings,
734 His robe was of syklatoun,
His robe was of silk woven with gold,
735 That coste many a jane.
That cost many a half-penny.
736 He koude hunte at wilde deer,
He knew how to hunt for wild animals,
737 And ride an haukyng for river
And ride a-hawking for water-fowl
738 With grey goshauk on honde;
With grey gos-hawk on hand;
739 Therto he was a good archeer;
Moreover he was a good archer;
740 Of wrastlyng was ther noon his peer,
In wrestling there was no one his peer,
741 Ther any ram shal stonde.
Where any ram shall stand (as a prize).
742 Ful many a mayde, bright in bour,
Very many a maid, bright in bed-chamber,
743 They moorne for hym paramour,
They mourn for him passionately,
744 Whan hem were bet to slepe;
When it would be better for them to sleep;
745 But he was chaast and no lechour,
But he was chaste and no lecher,
746 And sweete as is the brembul flour
And sweet as is the dog rose
747 That bereth the rede hepe.
That bears the red hip.
748 And so bifel upon a day,
And it so happened upon a day,
749 For sothe, as I yow telle may,
In truth, as I can tell you,
750 Sire Thopas wolde out ride.
Sir Thopas wanted to ride out.
751 He worth upon his steede gray,
He mounted upon his gray steed,
752 And in his hand a launcegay,
And in his hand a light lance,
753 A long swerd by his side.
A long sword by his side.
754 He priketh thurgh a fair forest,
He spurs through a fair forest,
755 Therinne is many a wilde best,
In which is many a wild best,
756 Ye, bothe bukke and hare;
Yea, both buck and hare;
757 And as he priketh north and est,
And as he spurs north and east,
758 I telle it yow, hym hadde almest
I tell it you, to him had almost
759 Bitid a sory care.
Happened a grievous misfortune.
760 Ther spryngen herbes grete and smale,
There spring herbs large and small,
761 The lycorys and the cetewale,
The licorice and the zedoary,
762 And many a clowe-gylofre;
And many a clove-gillyflower;
763 And notemuge to putte in ale,
And nutmeg to put in ale,
764 Wheither it be moyste or stale,
Whether it be new or old,
765 Or for to leye in cofre.
Or to lay in a clothes press.
766 The briddes synge, it is no nay,
The birds sing, it can not be denied,
767 The sparhauk and the papejay,
The sparrow hawk and the parrot,
768 That joye it was to heere;
That it was joy to hear;
769 The thrustelcok made eek hir lay,
The male thrush made also her lay,
770 The wodedowve upon the spray
The wood-pigeon upon the branch
771 She sang ful loude and cleere.
She sang very loud and clear.
772 Sire Thopas fil in love-longynge,
Sir Thopas fell in a yearning for love,
773 Al whan he herde the thrustel synge,
As soon as he heard the thrush sing,
774 And pryked as he were wood.
And spurred as if he were crazy.
775 His faire steede in his prikynge
His fair steed in his spurring
776 So swatte that men myghte him wrynge;
So sweated that one could wring him;
777 His sydes were al blood.
His sides were all blood.
778 Sire Thopas eek so wery was
Sir Thopas also so weary was
779 For prikyng on the softe gras,
For spurring on the soft grass,
780 So fiers was his corage,
So fierce was his heart,
781 That doun he leyde him in that plas
That down he laid him in that place
782 To make his steede som solas,
To give his steed some rest,
783 And yaf hym good forage.
And gave him good dry fodder.
784 "O Seinte Marie, benedicite!
"O Saint Mary, bless me!
785 What eyleth this love at me
What does this love have against me
786 To bynde me so soore?
To bind me so painfully?
787 Me dremed al this nyght, pardee,
I dreamed all this night, by God,
788 An elf-queene shal my lemman be
An elf-queen shall be my sweetheart
789 And slepe under my goore.
And sleep under my cloak.
790 "An elf-queene wol I love, ywis,
"An elf-queen will I love, indeed,
791 For in this world no womman is
For in this world no woman is
792 Worthy to be my make
Worthy to be my mate
793 In towne;
794 Alle othere wommen I forsake,
All other women I forsake,
795 And to an elf-queene I me take
And to an elf-queen I betake nyself,
796 By dale and eek by downe!"
By dale and also by hill!"
797 Into his sadel he clamb anon,
Into his saddle he climbed at once,
798 And priketh over stile and stoon
And spurs over stile and stone
799 An elf-queene for t' espye,
An elf-queen for to see,
800 Til he so longe hath riden and goon
Until he so long had ridden and walked
801 That he foond, in a pryve woon,
That he found, in a secret place,
802 The contree of Fairye
The country of Fairy
803 So wilde;
804 For in that contree was ther noon
For in that country there was no one
805 That to him durste ride or goon,
Who dared ride or go on foot at him,
806 Neither wyf ne childe;
Neither woman nor child;
807 Til that ther cam a greet geaunt,
Until there came a big giant,
808 His name was sire Olifaunt,
His name was sir Olifaunt,
809 A perilous man of dede.
A perilous man of deeds.
810 He seyde, "Child, by Termagaunt,
He said, "Child, by Termagaunt,
811 But if thou prike out of myn haunt,
Unless thou spur out of my territory,
812 Anon I sle thy steede
At once I will slay thy steed
813 With mace.
814 Heere is the queene of Fayerye,
Here is the queen of Fairyland,
815 With harpe and pipe and symphonye,
With harp and pipe and hurdy-gurdy,
816 Dwellynge in this place."
Dwelling in this place."
817 The child seyde, "Also moote I thee,
The child said, "As I may prosper,
818 Tomorwe wol I meete with thee,
Tomorrow will I meet with thee,
819 Whan I have myn armoure;
When I have my armor;
820 And yet I hope, par ma fay,
And yet I trust, by my faith,
821 That thou shalt with this launcegay
That thou shalt by means of this light lance
822 Abyen it ful sowre.
Very bitterly pay for it.
823 Thy mawe
824 Shal I percen, if I may,
Shall I pierce, if I can,
825 Er it be fully pryme of day,
Ere it be fully prime of day (9 a.m.),
826 For heere thow shalt be slawe."
For here thou shalt be slain."
827 Sire Thopas drow abak ful faste;
Sir Thopas drew back very fast;
828 This geant at hym stones caste
This giant threw stones at him
829 Out of a fel staf-slynge.
Out of a terrible staff-sling.
830 But faire escapeth child Thopas,
But child Thopas safely escapes,
831 And al it was thurgh Goddes gras,
And it was all due to God's grace,
832 And thurgh his fair berynge.
And due to his fair bearing.
IThe Second Fit]
833 Yet listeth, lordes, to my tale
Yet listen, gentlemen, to my tale
834 Murier than the nightyngale,
Merrier than the nightingale,
835 For now I wol yow rowne
For now I will you tell
836 How sir Thopas, with sydes smale,
How sir Thopas, with slender waist,
837 Prikyng over hill and dale,
Spurring over hill and dale,
838 Is comen agayn to towne.
Is come again to town.
839 His myrie men comanded he
His merry men commanded he
840 To make hym bothe game and glee,
To make him both amusement and delight,
841 For nedes moste he fighte
For by necessity he must fight
842 With a geaunt with hevedes three,
With a giant with three heads,
843 For paramour and jolitee
For love and pleasure
844 Of oon that shoon ful brighte.
Of one who shone very bright.
845 "Do come," he seyde, "my mynstrales,
"Do come," he said, "my musicians,
846 And geestours for to tellen tales,
And story tellers to tell tales,
847 Anon in myn armynge,
Right now in my arming,
848 Of romances that been roiales,
Of romances that are royal,
849 Of popes and of cardinales,
Of popes and of cardinals,
850 And eek of love-likynge."
And also of the joys of love."
851 They fette hym first the sweete wyn,
They fetched him first the sweet wine,
852 And mede eek in a mazelyn,
And mead also in a maple drinking bowl,
853 And roial spicerye
And royal delicacies
854 Of gyngebreed that was ful fyn,
Of gingerbread that was very fine,
855 And lycorys, and eek comyn,
And licorice, and also cumin,
856 With sugre that is trye.
With sugar that is excellent.
857 He dide next his white leere
He put on next to his white flesh
858 Of cloth of lake fyn and cleere,
Of linen cloth fine and clear,
859 A breech and eek a sherte;
A pair of trousers and also a shirt;
860 And next his sherte an aketoun,
And next to his shirt a quilted jacket,
861 And over that an haubergeoun
And over that a chain-mail shirt
862 For percynge of his herte;
To prevent piercing of his heart;
863 And over that a fyn hawberk,
And over that a fine plate armor,
864 Was al ywroght of Jewes werk,
Which was all wrought with jewelers' work,
865 Ful strong it was of plate;
Very strong it was of iron plate;
866 And over that his cote-armour
And over that his surcoat
867 As whit as is a lilye flour,
As white as is a lily flour,
868 In which he wol debate.
In which he will dispute.
869 His sheeld was al of gold so reed,
His shield was all of gold so red,
870 And therinne was a bores heed,
And on that was a boar's head,
871 A charbocle bisyde;
Beside a carbuncle (red gem);
872 And there he swoor on ale and breed
And there he swore on ale and bread
873 How that the geaunt shal be deed,
How the giant shall be dead,
874 Bityde what bityde!
Whatever may happen!
875 His jambeux were of quyrboilly,
His leg guards were of hardened leather,
876 His swerdes shethe of yvory,
His sword's sheath of ivory,
877 His helm of latoun bright;
His helm of bright brass;
878 His sadel was of rewel boon,
His saddle was of ivory,
879 His brydel as the sonne shoon,
His bridle shone like the sun,
880 Or as the moone light.
Or like the moon light.
881 His spere was of fyn ciprees,
His spear was of fine cypress,
882 That bodeth werre, and nothyng pees,
That foretells war, and nothing of peace,
883 The heed ful sharpe ygrounde;
The head ground very sharp;
884 His steede was al dappull gray,
His steed was all dapple gray,
885 It gooth an ambil in the way
It goes at a slow walk on the way
886 Ful softely and rounde
Very softly and easily
887 In londe.
888 Loo, lordes myne, heere is a fit!
Lo, my lords, here is a fit!
889 If ye wol any moore of it,
If you want to hear any more of it,
890 To telle it wol I fonde.
To tell it will I try
The [Third] Fit
891 Now holde youre mouth, par charitee,
Now hold your mouth, for kindness, please,
892 Bothe knyght and lady free,
Both knight and noble lady,
893 And herkneth to my spelle;
And hearken to my tale;
894 Of bataille and of chivalry,
Of battle and of chivalry,
895 And of ladyes love-drury
And of ladies' passionate love
896 Anon I wol yow telle.
Right now I will you tell.
897 Men speken of romances of prys,
Men speak of excellent romances,
898 Of Horn child and of Ypotys,
Of Horn child and of Ypotys,
899 Of Beves and sir Gy,
Of Bevis of Hampton and sir Guy of Watwick,
900 Of sir Lybeux and Pleyndamour --
Of sir Lybeux Desconus and Pleyndamour --
901 But sir Thopas, he bereth the flour
But sir Thopas, he bears the flower
902 Of roial chivalry!
Of royal chivalry!
903 His goode steede al he bistrood,
His good steed he mounted
904 And forth upon his wey he glood
And forth upon his way he glided
905 As sparcle out of the bronde;
Like a spark out of the burning log;
906 Upon his creest he bar a tour,
Upon his top of his helmet he bore a tower,
907 And therinne stiked a lilie flour --
And in that stuck a lily flower --
908 God shilde his cors fro shonde!
God protect his body from shame!
909 And for he was a knyght auntrous,
And because he was a knight errent,
910 He nolde slepen in noon hous,
He would not sleep in any house,
911 But liggen in his hoode;
But lie in his hood;
912 His brighte helm was his wonger,
His bright helm was his pillow,
913 And by hym baiteth his dextrer
And by him his war-horse grazes
914 Of herbes fyne and goode.
On herbs fine and good.
915 Hymself drank water of the well,
He himself drank water of the well,
916 As dide the knyght sire Percyvell
As did the knight sir Perceval
917 So worly under wede,
So worthy in his armor,
918 Til on a day --
Until on a day --
Heere the Hoost stynteth Chaucer of his Tale of Thopas.
919 "Namoore of this, for Goddes dignitee,"
"No more of this, for God's dignity,"
920 Quod oure Hooste, "for thou makest me
Said our Host, "for thou makest me
921 So wery of thy verray lewednesse
So weary of thy true ignorance
922 That, also wisly God my soule blesse,
That, as surely as God may bless my soul,
923 Myne eres aken of thy drasty speche.
My ears ache from thy crappy speech.
924 Now swich a rym the devel I biteche!
Now such a rime I commit to the devil!
925 This may wel be rym dogerel," quod he.
This may well be doggerel verse," said he.
926 "Why so?" quod I, "why wiltow lette me
"Why so?" said I, "why wilt thou prevent me
927 Moore of my tale than another man,
From telling more of my tale than another man,
928 Syn that it is the beste rym I kan?"
Since it is the best rime I know?"
929 "By God," quod he, "for pleynly, at a word,
"By God," said he, "for plainly, at one word,
930 Thy drasty rymyng is nat worth a toord!
Thy crappy riming is not worth a turd!
931 Thou doost noght elles but despendest tyme.
Thou dost nothing else but waste time.
932 Sire, at o word, thou shalt no lenger ryme.
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rime.
933 Lat se wher thou kanst tellen aught in geeste,
Let's see whether thou can tell anything in alliterative verse,
934 Or telle in prose somwhat, at the leeste,
Or tell something in prose, at the least,
935 In which ther be som murthe or som doctryne."
In which there may be some mirth or some doctrine."
936 "Gladly," quod I, "by Goddes sweete pyne!
"Gladly," said I, "by God's sweet pain!
937 I wol yow telle a litel thyng in prose
I will you tell a little thing in prose
938 That oghte liken yow, as I suppose,
That ought to please you, as I suppose,
939 Or elles, certes, ye been to daungerous.
Or else, certainly, you are too hard to please.
940 It is a moral tale vertuous,
It is a virtuous moral tale,
941 Al be it told somtyme in sondry wyse
Although it is told sometimes in various ways
942 Of sondry folk, as I shal yow devyse.
By various folk, as I shall tell you.
943 "As thus: ye woot that every Evaungelist
"As thus: you know that every Evangelist
944 That telleth us the peyne of Jhesu Crist
Who tells us of the pain of Jesus Christ
945 Ne seith nat alle thyng as his felawe dooth;
Does not say everything as his fellow does;
946 But nathelees hir sentence is al sooth,
But nonetheless their essential meaning is all true,
947 And alle acorden as in hire sentence,
And all agree in their meaning,
948 Al be ther in hir tellyng difference.
Although there may be a difference in their telling.
949 For somme of hem seyn moore, and somme seyn lesse,
For some of them say more, and some say less,
950 Whan they his pitous passioun expresse --
When they His piteous passion express --
951 I meene of Mark, Mathew, Luc, and John --
I mean of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John --
952 But doutelees hir sentence is al oon.
But doubtless their essential meaning is all the same.
953 Therfore, lordynges alle, I yow biseche,
Therefore, gentlemen, I beseech you,
954 If that yow thynke I varie as in my speche,
If you think I vary as in my speech,
955 As thus, though that I telle somwhat moore
As thus, though I tell something more
956 Of proverbes than ye han herd bifoore
Of proverbs than you have heard before
957 Comprehended in this litel tretys heere,
Comprehended in this little treatise here,
958 To enforce with th' effect of my mateere;
With which to strengthen the effect of my matter;
959 And though I nat the same wordes seye
And though I do not say the same words
960 As ye han herd, yet to yow alle I preye
As you have heard, yet to you all I pray
961 Blameth me nat; for, as in my sentence,
Blame not me; for, in my essential meaning,
962 Shul ye nowher fynden difference
You shall nowhere find difference
963 Fro the sentence of this tretys lyte
From the meaning of that little treatise
964 After the which this murye tale I write.
In imitation of which this merry tale I write.
965 And therfore herkneth what that I shal seye,
And therefore hearken what I shall say,
966 And lat me tellen al my tale, I preye."
And let me tell all my tale, I pray."
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