Great American Novels, Ranked by How Much We Hate Them
Prologue to the Nun’s Priest’s Tale
THE PROLOGUE OF THE NONNE PREESTES TALE.
|THIS IS THE PROLOGUE TO THE TALE TOLD BY THE PRIEST WHO WAS TRAVELING WITH THE PRIORESS.|
‘Ho!’ quod the knight, ‘good sir, na-more of this,
That ye han seyd is right y-nough, y-wis,
And mochel more; for litel hevinesse
Is right y-nough to mochel folk, I gesse.
I seye for me, it is a greet disese
Wher-as men han ben in greet welthe and ese,
To heren of hir sodeyn fal, allas!
And the contrarie is Ioie and greet solas,
As whan a man hath been in povre estaat,
10And clymbeth up, and wexeth fortunat,
And ther abydeth in prosperitee,
Swich thing is gladsom, as it thinketh me,
And of swich thing were goodly for to telle.’
‘Ye,’ quod our hoste, ‘by seint Poules belle,
Ye seye right sooth; this monk, he clappeth loude,
He spak how “fortune covered with a cloude”
I noot never what, and als of a “Tragedie”
Right now ye herde, and parde! no remedie
It is for to biwaille, ne compleyne
20That that is doon, and als it is a peyne,
As ye han seyd, to here of hevinesse.
“Wait,” said the Knight. “
I can’t take any more of this
The monk has just narrated 17 edifying vignettes about noble figures who tragically “fall” to disgrace.I can’t take any more of this, sir. I’m sure what you’re saying is true enough, but I think we’ve heard enough depressing stories to last us for a while. I certainly know it’s hard for me to hear about wealthy people who live the good life suddenly losing everything they have! Now, it’s nice to hear stories about poor people who hit a run of good luck and become more prosperous. That kind of story is much better to hear and tell.” “Yes!” said our Host. “By Saint Paul’s bell, you’re absolutely right! This Monk is going on and on about other people’s bad luck and how life is a great tragedy. There’s nothing we can do about it, he says—whatever will be, will be. It’s a pain in the butt to hear about all this misery.
Sir monk, na-more of this, so God yow blesse!
Your tale anoyeth al this companye;
Swich talking is nat worth a boterflye;
For ther-in is ther no desport ne game.
Wherfor, sir Monk, or dan Piers by your name,
I preye yow hertely, telle us somwhat elles,
For sikerly, nere clinking of your belles,
That on your brydel hange on every syde,
30By heven king, that for us alle dyde,
I sholde er this han fallen doun for slepe,
Although the slough had never been so depe;
Than had your tale al be told in vayn.
For certeinly, as that thise clerkes seyn,
“Wher-as a man may have noon audience,
Noght helpeth it to tellen his sentence.”
|“Mr. Monk, God bless you, but I can’t take any more of this! Your story is killing us. Hearing it is a waste of time because there’s nothing to be gained by it. So Brother Peter—that’s your name, right?—I’m begging you, please tell us a different story. God only knows that last story of yours was so boring that I would’ve fallen asleep and fallen right off my horse into the gutter if it weren’t for the jangling of those bells on your horse’s bridle. Then everything you said would’ve been for nothing because I wouldn’t have been around to hear it! It’s just like the old saying, ‘If no one’s listening, it ain’t worth talking.’|