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The Canterbury Tales

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A yerd she hadde, enclosed al aboute
With stikkes, and a drye dich with-oute,
In which she hadde a cok, hight Chauntecleer,
In al the land of crowing nas his peer.
His vois was merier than the mery orgon
On messe-dayes that in the chirche gon;
Wel sikerer was his crowing in his logge,
Than is a clokke, or an abbey orlogge.
By nature knew he ech ascencioun
Of equinoxial in thilke toun;
For whan degrees fiftene were ascended,
Thanne crew he, that it mighte nat ben amended.
His comb was redder than the fyn coral,
And batailed, as it were a castel-wal.
His bile was blak, and as the Ieet it shoon;
Lyk asur were his legges, and his toon;
His nayles whytter than the lilie flour,
And lyk the burned gold was his colour.
This old woman had fenced-in her front yard and surrounded it with a dry ditch. In the yard she kept a rooster named Chanticleer. Chanticleer’s comb was redder than the reddest coral and stuck up high into the air like a castle wall. He had a beak as black as obsidian, blue feet and toes, white claws, and feathers that burned with the color of gold. This rooster was better at crowing than any other rooster around. He had a clear, strong crow that was just as beautiful as the sound of a pipe organ playing in church at mass. He was also more dependable than any clock, even the clocks in the church abbeys. Instinct told him about the daily movements of the sun and the moon and the stars, and he’d keep in time with all of them, even if they moved only slightly.





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This gentil cok hadde in his governaunce
Sevene hennes, for to doon al his plesaunce,
Whiche were his sustres and his paramours,
And wonder lyk to him, as of colours.
Of whiche the faireste hewed on hir throte
Was cleped faire damoysele Pertelote.
Curteys she was, discreet, and debonaire,
And compaignable, and bar hir-self so faire,
Sin thilke day that she was seven night old,
That trewely she hath the herte in hold
Of Chauntecleer loken in every lith;
He loved hir so, that wel was him therwith.
But such a Ioye was it to here hem singe,
Whan that the brighte sonne gan to springe,
In swete accord, ‘my lief is faren in londe.’
For thilke tyme, as I have understonde,
Bestes and briddes coude speke and singe.
Now, this cock had a harem of seven hens for his pleasure. These hens were both his sisters and his lovers and looked very much like him. The most beautiful of them all was the fair damsel Pertelote. Pertelote was modest, polite, and easy to get along with, and she was so charming that Chanticleer had been completely smitten with her since she was only a week old. He loved her through and through, and it was a pleasure to hear them singing “My love has gone away” together in harmony every morning when the sun came up—for back then, birds and animals could talk and sing, you know.

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