The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  General Prologue Page 2

page General Prologue: Page 2

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But natheles, whyl I have tyme and space,
Er that I ferther in this tale pace,
Me thinketh it acordaunt to resoun,
To telle yow al the condicioun
Of ech of hem, so as it semed me,
40And whiche they weren, and of what degree;
And eek in what array that they were inne:
And at a knight than wol I first biginne.
But before I begin my story, I should probably tell you all about the twenty-nine people in this group—who they were, what they did for a living, and what they were all wearing. I’ll start by telling you about the knight.
A KNIGHT ther was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the tyme that he first bigan
To ryden out, he loved chivalrye,
Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisye.
Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
And therto hadde he riden (no man ferre)
As wel in Cristendom as hethenesse,
50And ever honoured for his worthinesse.
There was an honorable KNIGHT, who had devoted his life to chivalry, truth, and justice. He had fought for his king in many wars throughout Europe and the Middle East and had won many awards for his bravery.
At Alisaundre he was, whan it was wonne;
Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
Aboven alle naciouns in Pruce.
In Lettow hadde he reysed and in Ruce,
No Cristen man so ofte of his degree.
In Gernade at the sege eek hadde he be
Of Algezir, and riden in Belmarye.
At Lyeys was he, and at Satalye,
Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See
60At many a noble aryve hadde he be.
At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
And foughten for our feith at Tramissene
In listes thryes, and ay slayn his foo.
This ilke worthy knight had been also
Somtyme with the lord of Palatye,
Ageyn another hethen in Turkye:
And evermore he hadde a sovereyn prys.
And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
And of his port as meke as is a mayde.
70He never yet no vileinye ne sayde
In al his lyf, unto no maner wight.
He was a verray parfit gentil knight.
But for to tellen yow of his array,
His hors were gode, but he was nat gay.
Of fustian he wered a gipoun
Al bismotered with his habergeoun;
For he was late y-come from his viage,
And wente for to doon his pilgrimage.
This knight had been there and done it all. He had helped conquer the city of Alexandria in Egypt in 1365 and had dined with royalty in Prussia on many occasions. He’d fought in Lithuania and Russia more times than any other Christian knight. He’d been at the siege of Algeciras in Grenada, Spain, and had conquered enemies in North Africa and Eastern Europe. He’d been all over the Mediterranean Sea. He’d been in fifteen battles—three of them against the heathens of Algeria—and he’d never lost once. This knight had even fought with the pagan king of Istanbul in Turkey against another non-Christian. Despite his huge success and his noble lineage, he was practical, self-disciplined, and humble. Never had he said anything bad about another person. He truly was the most perfect knight in every way possible. Now, to tell you about his clothes. He rode fine quality horses, but he didn’t wear flashy clothes. He wore a simple cotton shirt that had stains all over it from the chain mail he’d worn in the war he’d won just before starting out on the pilgrimage to Canterbury.