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The Canterbury Tales

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This thing was graunted, and our othes swore
With ful glad herte, and preyden him also
That he wold vouche-sauf for to do so,
And that he wolde been our governour,
And of our tales Iuge and reportour,
And sette a soper at a certeyn prys;
And we wold reuled been at his devys,
In heigh and lowe; and thus, by oon assent,
We been acorded to his Iugement.
And ther-upon the wyn was fet anon;
We dronken, and to reste wente echon,
With-outen any lenger taryinge.
We all loved the idea and promised that we’d follow the rules of the bet and asked him to come with us to Canterbury and be the judge of the contest. We all ordered some wine and drank a toast, then immediately went to bed.


A-morwe, whan that day bigan to springe,
Up roos our host, and was our aller cok,
And gadrede us togidre, alle in a flok,
And forth we riden, a litel more than pas,
Unto the watering of seint Thomas.
And there our host bigan his hors areste,
And seyde; ‘Lordinges, herkneth, if yow leste.
Ye woot your forward, and I it yow recorde.
If even-song and morwe-song acorde,
Lat se now who shal telle the firste tale.
As ever mote I drinke wyn or ale,
Who-so be rebel to my Iugement
Shal paye for al that by the weye is spent.
Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twinne;
He which that hath the shortest shal biginne.
Sire knight,’ quod he, ‘my maister and my lord,
Now draweth cut, for that is myn acord.
Cometh neer,’ quod he, ‘my lady prioresse;
And ye, sir clerk, lat be your shamfastnesse,
Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man.’
Our host got up the next morning at dawn and woke all of us up. We set out at a normal walking pace and rode to a stream where a lot of pilgrims on the way to Canterbury stop for a rest. Our host stopped his horse and said to us, “Gentlemen, your attention please. Remember our agreement from last night? Well, let’s find out who’s going to tell the first story. Remember that I’ll be the judge and that anyone who disagrees with me will have to pay the cost of the entire trip for everyone from here on out. Now, let’s draw straws before we go any further, and whoever gets the shortest straw will go first. Mr. Knight, my good man, I’ve decided that you’ll draw first, so please take a straw. Come on over, madame Prioress. And now you, Mr. Clerk—come on, don’t be shy! Come on, everyone, grab a straw.”