The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

  General Prologue Page 5

page General Prologue: Page 5

Original Text

Modern Text

A MONK ther was, a fair for the maistrye
An out-rydere, that lovede venerye;
A manly man, to been an abbot able.
Ful many a deyntee hors hadde he in stable:
And, whan he rood, men mighte his brydel here
170Ginglen in a whistling wind as clere,
And eek as loude as dooth the chapel-belle,
Ther as this lord was keper of the celle.
The reule of seint Maure or of seint Beneit,
By-cause that it was old and som-del streit,
This ilke monk leet olde thinges pace,
And held after the newe world the space.
He yaf nat of that text a pulled hen,
That seith, that hunters been nat holy men;
Ne that a monk, whan he is cloisterlees,
180Is lykned til a fish that is waterlees;
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloistre.
But thilke text held he nat worth an oistre;
And I seyde, his opinioun was good.
What sholde he studie, and make him-selven wood,
Upon a book in cloistre alwey to poure,
Or swinken with his handes, and laboure,
As Austin bit? How shal the world be served?
Lat Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therfore he was a pricasour aright;
190Grehoundes he hadde, as swifte as fowel in flight;
Of priking and of hunting for the hare
Was al his lust, for no cost wolde he spare.
I seigh his sleves purfiled at the hond
With grys, and that the fyneste of a lond;
And, for to festne his hood under his chin,
He hadde of gold y-wroght a curious pin:
A love-knotte in the gretter ende ther was.
His heed was balled, that shoon as any glas,
And eek his face, as he had been anoint.
200He was a lord ful fat and in good point;
His eyen stepe, and rollinge in his heed,
That stemed as a forneys of a leed;
His botes souple, his hors in greet estat.
Now certeinly he was a fair prelat;
He was nat pale as a for-pyned goost.
A fat swan loved he best of any roost.
His palfrey was as broun as is a berye.
There was also a MONK, a splendid chap, who inspected his monastery’s lands. He was a man’s man who loved to hunt and who might one day become the head of his monastery. He kept many elegant horses, and when he rode them you could hear their bridle bells jingle as clearly as the bells of his monastery. He liked all things modern and new and didn’t care for old things, especially St. Benedict’s rule that monks should live simply and devote themselves to prayer and work. He didn’t give a damn for the notion that says monks can’t be hunters or anything but churchmen. I myself agreed with him. Why should he drive himself crazy reading books and working inside all the time? How is that going to accomplish anything useful? To hell with St. Augustine’s stupid rules. Instead, the monk was a horseman, and he kept fast greyhounds. He loved to go hunting, and his favorite catch was a fine fat swan. He spared no expense pursuing this hobby. It was therefore no surprise to see that the finest fur lined the cuffs of his sleeves or that he used a fancy golden pin to fasten his hood. In fact, it appeared to be a love knot, a symbol of enduring love. He had a shiny bald head and his face seemed to glisten. His eyes rolled about in his head and seemed to burn like fire. His brown horse was well groomed, his boots were well worn, and his skin looked healthy, not pale like a ghost’s. Indeed, he was a fine-looking churchman.