Previous Previous:
From The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, lines 1-39:
A Canon and his Yeoman catch up with the pilgrims
Librarius Homepage
© Librarius
All rights reserved.

From The Canterbury Tales:
The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue
lines 40-130: The Yeoman explains his master's craft

40        "Freend, for thy warnyng God yeve thee good chaunce!"
Thanne seyde oure Hoost, "for certein it wolde seme
Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme.
He is ful jocunde also, dar I leye!
Can he oght telle a myrie tale or tweye,
45With which he glade may his compaignye?"
       "Who, sire? My lord? Ye, ye, withouten lye,
He kan of murthe and eek of jolitee
Nat but ynough: also, sire, trusteth me,
And ye hym knewe as wel as do I,
50Ye wolde wondre how wel and craftily
He koude werke, and that in sondry wise.
He hath take on hym many a greet emprise,
Which were ful hard for any that is heere
To brynge aboute, but they of hym it leere.
55As hoomly as he rit amonges yow,
If ye hym knewe, it wolde be for youre prow.
Ye wolde nat forgoon his aqueyntaunce
For muchel good, I dar leye in balaunce
Al that I have in my possessioun.
60He is a man of heigh discrecioun;
I warne yow wel, he is a passyng man."
40       "Friend, for your warning, God give you good chance,"
Said then our host, "for truly it would seem
Your lord is wise, and so I may well deem;
He is right jocund also, I dare lay.
Can he a merry tale tell, on the way,
45Wherewith to gladden this our company?"
"Who, sir? My lord? Yea, yea, without a lie,
He knows of mirth and of all jollity
Not but enough; and also, sir, trust me,
If you but knew him as well as do I,
50You'd wonder much how well and craftily
He can behave, and that in different wise.
He's taken on him many an enterprise
That were right hard for anyone that's here
Unless he learned it to effect, I fear.
55As plainly as he rides, here among you,
It would be to your profit if you knew
Him well; you'd not give up his acquaintance
For much of wealth, I dare lay in balance
All that I have of goods in my possession.
60He is a man of wondrous high discretion,
I warn you well, he's a surpassing man."
       "Wel," quod oure Hoost, "I pray thee tel me than,
Is he a clerk, or noon? telle what he is."
       "Nay, he is gretter than a clerk, ywis,"
65Seyde this yeman, and in wordes fewe,
Hoost, of his craft somwhat I wol yow shewe.
       I seye, my lord kan swich subtilitee --
But al his craft ye may nat wite at me,
And somwhat helpe I yet to his wirkyng --
70That al this ground on which we been ridyng,
Til that we come to Caunterbury toun,
He koude al clene turne it up-so-doun,
And pave it al of silver and of gold."
       "Well," said our host, "then pray tell, if you can,
Is he a clerk, or not? Tell what he is."
       "Nay, he is greater than a clerk, ywis,"
65This yeoman said, "and briefly, if you'll wait,
Host, of his craft a little I'll relate.
"I say, my lord has so much subtlety
But all his art you cannot learn from me,
And yet I help by working at his side,
70That all this pleasant land through which we ride,
From here right into Canterbury town,
Why, he could turn it all clean upside-down
And pave it all with silver and with gold."
       And whan this yeman hadde this tale ytold
75Unto oure Hoost, he seyde, "Benedicitee!
This thyng is wonder merveillous to me,
Syn that thy lord is of so heigh prudence,
By cause of which men sholde hym reverence,
That of his worshipe rekketh he so lite.
80His overslope nys nat worth a myte,
As in effect, to hym, so moot I go!
It is al baudy and totore also.
Why is thy lord so sluttissh, I the preye,
And is of power bettre clooth to beye,
85Of that his dede accorde with thy speche?
Telle me that, and that I thee biseche."
       "Why?" quod this yeman, "wherto axe ye me?
God help me so, for he shal nevere thee!
(But I wol nat avowe that I seye,
90And therfore keepe it secree, I yow preye.)
He is to wys, in feith, as I bileeve.
That that is overdoon, it wol nat preeve
Aright, as clerkes seyn; it is a vice.
Wherfore in that I holde hym lewed and nyce.
95For whan a man hath over-greet a wit,
Ful oft hym happeth to mysusen it.
So dooth my lord, and that me greveth soore;
God it amende! I kan sey yow namoore."
       And when this yeoman had this story told
75Unto our host, our host said: "Ben' cite!
This thing is wondrous marvelous to me,
Since your lord is a man of such science,
For which men should hold him in reverence,
That of his dignity his care's so slight;
80His over-garment is not worth a mite
For such a man as he, so may I go!
It is all dirty and it's torn also.
Why is your lord so slovenly, pray I,
And yet has power better clothes to buy,
85If but his deeds accord well with your speech?
Tell me that, sir, and that I do beseech."
       "Why?" asked this yeoman, "Why ask this of me?
God help me, wealthy he will never be!
But I will, not stand back of what I say,
90And therefore keep it secret, I you pray.
He is too wise, in faith, as I believe;
That which is overdone, as I conceive,
Won't turn out right, clerks say, and that's a vice.
In that, I hold him ignorantly nice.
95For when a man has overmuch of wit,
It often happens he misuses it;
So does my lord, and this thing grieves me sore.
May God amend it, I can say no more."
       "Ther-of no fors, good yeman," quod oure Hoost;
100"Syn of the konnyng of thy lord thow woost,
Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?"
       "In the suburbes of a toun," quod he,
105Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,
Wheras this robbours and thise theves by kynde
Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
As they that dar nat shewen hir presence;
So faren we, if I shal seye the sothe."
110       "Now," quod oure Hoost, "yit lat me talke to the.
Why artow so discoloured of thy face?"
       "Peter! quod he, "God yeve it harde grace,
I am so used in the fyr to blowe
That it hath chaunged my colour, I trowe.
115I am nat wont in no mirour to prie,
But swynke soore and lerne multiplie.
We blondren evere and pouren in the fir,
And for al that we faille of oure desir,
For evere we lakken oure conclusioun.
120To muchel folk we doon illusioun,
And borwe gold, be it a pound or two,
Or ten, or twelve, or manye sommes mo,
And make hem wenen, at the leeste weye,
That of a pound we koude make tweye.
125Yet is it fals, but ay we han good hope
It for to doon, and after it we grope.
But that science is so fer us biforn,
We mowen nat, although we hadden it sworn,
It overtake, it slit awey so faste.
130It wole us maken beggers atte laste."
       May God amend it, I can say no more."
100"Since of the learning of your lord you boast,
Tell how he works, I pray you heartily,
Since he's so clever and withal so sly.
Where do you dwell, if you may tell it me?"
       "Within the suburbs of a town," said he,
105"Lurking in corners and in alleys blind,
Wherein these thieves and robbers, every kind,
Have all their privy fearful residence,
As those who dare not show men their presence;
So do we live, if I'm to tell the truth."
110       "Now," said our host, "Let me go on, forsooth.
Why are you so discoloured in the face?"
       "Peter!" cried he. "God give it evil grace!
I am so wont upon the fire to blow
That it has changed my colour, as I trow.
115I'm not wont in a mirror, sir, to pry,
But I work hard to learn to multiply.
We stir and mix and stare into the fire,
But for all that we fail of our desire,
And never do we come to our conclusion.
120To many folk we bring about illusion,
And borrow gold, perhaps a pound or two,
Or ten, or twelve, or any sum will do,
And make them think, aye, at the least, it's plain,
That from a pound of gold we can make twain!
125It is all false, but yet we have great hope
That we can do it, and after it we grope.
But that science is so far us before,
We never can, in spite of all we swore,
Come up with it, it slides away so fast;
130And it will make us beggars at the last."

Next Next:
From The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue, lines 131-145:
The Canon tries to silence his Yeoman