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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Clerk's Prologue

Heere folweth the Prologe of the Clerkes Tale of Oxenford.

       "Sire Clerk of Oxenford," oure Hooste sayde,
"Ye ryde as coy and stille as dooth a mayde,
Were newe spoused, sittynge at the bord.
This day ne herde I of youre tonge a word.
5I trowe ye studie about som sophyme;
But Salomon seith, `every thyng hath tyme.'
       For Goddes sake, as beth of bettre cheere;
It is no tyme for to studien heere,
Telle us som myrie tale, by youre fey!
10For what man that is entred in a pley,
He nedes moot unto the pley assente;
But precheth nat as freres doon in Lente,
To make us for oure olde synnes wepe,
Ne that thy tale make us nat to slepe.
15       Telle us som murie thyng of aventures;
Youre termes, youre colours, and youre figures,
Keepe hem in stoor, til so be that ye endite
Heigh style, as whan that men to kynges write.
Speketh so pleyn at this tyme, we yow preye,
20That we may understonde what ye seye."
       This worthy clerk benignely answerde,
"Hooste," quod he, "I am under youre yerde.
Ye han of us as now the governance;
And therfore wol I do yow obeisance
25As fer as resoun axeth, hardily.
I wol yow telle a tale, which that I
Lerned at Padwe of a worthy clerk,
As preved by his wordes and his werk.
He is now deed, and nayled in his cheste;
30I prey to God so yeve his soule reste.
       Fraunceys Petrark, the lauriat poete,
Highte this clerk, whos rethorike sweete
Enlumyned al Ytaille of poetrie,
As Lynyan dide of philosophie,
35Or lawe, or oother art particuler.
But deeth, that wol nat suffre us dwellen heer
But as it were a twynklyng of an eye,
Hem bothe hath slayn, and alle shul we dye.
       But forth to tellen of this worthy man,
40That taughte me this tale as I bigan,
I seye, that first with heigh stile he enditeth
Er he the body of his tale writeth,
A prohemye in the which discryveth he
Pemond, and of Saluces the contree,
45And speketh of Apennyn, the hilles hye,
That been the boundes of Westlumbardye;
And of Mount Vesulus in special,
Where as the Poo out of a welle smal
Taketh his firste spryngyng and his sours,
50That estward ay encresseth in his cours
To Emele-ward, to Ferrare, and Venyse;
The which a long thyng were to devyse.
And trewely, as to my juggement,
Me thynketh it a thyng impertinent,
55Save that he wole conveyen his mateere;
But this his tale, which that ye may heere."



Next:
The Clerk's Tale, First Part (ll. 57-196)