7.4 The Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas, and the Host's Interruption

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."


Sir Thopas

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;
                  In town;
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;
                  So wild;
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.
                  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
                  Thy maw
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.

The 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.
                  In land.
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."