The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Nonne Prestes Tale

“Ho, sir!” quoth then the Knight, “no more of this;

That ye have said is right ynough I wis,

And moche mor; for litel hevynesse

Is right i-nough for moste folk, I gesse.

I say for me, it is a great disease,

Wher men have ben in grete welthe and ease,

To heren of their sudden fal, allas!

And the contraire is joye and gret solas;

As whan a man hath ben in pore estate,

And clymbith up, and wexeth fortunate,

And ther abydeth in prosperitee,

Such thing is gladsom, as it thinkith me,

And of such thing were goodly for to telle.”

“Yea,” quoth our Host, “by seinte Paules belle,

Ye say right soth; this monk hath clappid lowde;

How fortune was y-covered with a clowde,

I know not what, and also of tragedie

Right now ye herd; pardy! no remedye

It is for to bywayle or to compleyne

That which is doon; and also it is a peyne,

As ye have said, to here of hevynesse.

Sir monk, no more of this, so God you blesse;

Your tale anoyeth al this companie;

Such talking is nought worth a boterflye,

For therinne is there no disport ne game.

Wherfor, sir monk, dan Pieres by your name,

I pray yow hertly, tel us somewhat else;

For but for al the gingling of the bells

That on your bridil hong on every syde,

By hevens king, that for us alle dyde,

I shold ere this have fallen doun for sleep,

Although the slough had never ben so deep;

Than had your longe tale been told in vayn.

For certeynly, as these clerkes sayn,

Wher as a man may have no audience,

Nought helpith it to tellen his sentence.

And wel I know the substance is in me,

If eny thing shal wel reported be.

Sir, say somwhat of huntyng, I yow pray.”

“Nay,” quoth the Monk, “I have no lust to play;

Now let another telle, as I have told.”

Then spak our Ost with rude speche and bold,
And said unto the nonnes priest anon,
“Com near, thou priest, come near, thou sir Johan,
Tel us such things as may our hertes glade;
Be blithe, although thou ryde upon a jade.
What though thin hors be bothe foul and lene?
If he wil serve thee reck thee not a bene;
Look that thin hert be mery evermo.”
“Yis, sir, yis, Hoste,” quoth he, “so may I go,
But I be mery, count it me a sin.”
And right anon he did his tale beginne;
And thus he sayd unto us every one,
This sweete priest, this goodly man sir John.

A pore wydow, somwhat stooped in age,
Was whilom duellyng in a narrow cotáge,
Bisyde a grove, stondyng in a dale.
This wydowe, of which I telle yow my tale,
Syn that same day that she was last a wif,
In paciens ladde a ful symple lyf.
For litel was hir catel and hir rent;
By housbondry of such as God hir sent,
She fond hirself, and eek hir doughtres tuo.
Thre large sowes had she, and no mo,
Thre kyne, and eek a sheep tha highte Malle.
Ful sooty was hir bour, and eek hir halle,
In which she eet ful many a slender bit.
Of poynaunt sauce hir needid never a whit.
No deynte morsel passid thrugh hir throte;
Hir dyet was according to hir cote.
Repletion had made hir never sik;
Ful modest diet was al hir phisik,
And exercise, and labour and singyng.
The goute stayed hir not in hir daunsyng,
The apoplexie shooke not hir heed;
No wyne drank she, neither whit ne reed;
Hir bord was servyd most with whit and blak,
Milk and broun bred, in which she fond no lak,
Rost bacoun, and som tyme an egg or two;
And on her poore ferme she livèd so.
A yerd she had, enclosèd al aboute
With stikkes, and a drye ditch withoute,
In which she had a cok, hight Chaunteclere,
In al the lond of crowyng was none his peere.
His vois was merier than the mery orgon,
On masse dayes that in the chirche drone;
Wel surer was his crowyng in his cell,
Than is a clok, or yet an abbay bell,
By nature knew he ech ascension
Of all the houres that struck in thilke toun;
For when degrees fyftene were ascendid,
Thanne crew he wel, it might not be amendid.
His comb was redder than the fyn coral,
Embattled, as it were a castel wal.
His bill was blak, and lyke jet it shon;
Lik azure were his legges, and his tone;
His nayles whitter than the lily flour,
And lik the burnisht gold was his coloúr.
This gentil cok had in his governaunce
Seven hennes, for to do al his plesaúnce,
Which were his sustres and his paramoures,
And wonder lik to him, in there coloúres.
Of whiche the fairest coloured on hir throte,
Was clepèd fayre damysel Pertilote.
Curteys she was, discret, and debonaire,
And king in thoughte, and bar hirself ful faire,
Since the day that she was seven night old,
That she hath trewely the hert in hold
Of Chaunteclere lockèd in every limb;
He loved hir so, that wel it was with him.
But such a joye was it to here him synge,
Whan that the brighte sonne gan to springe,
In swete accord, “my love is gone and fledde.”
For at that tyme, as I have ever redde,
Bestis and briddes coude speke and synge.
And so byfel, that in a bright morning,
As Chaunteclere among his wyves alle
Sat on his perche, that was in the halle,
And next him sat this faire Pertelote,
This Chauntecler gan gronen in his throte,
As man that in his dreem is trobled sore.
And whan that Pertelot thus herd him rore,
She was agast, and sayde, “herte deere,
What aileth you to grone in this manére?
Ye be a verray sleper, fy for shame!”
And he answerd and sayde thus, “Madame,
I pray you, that ye take it nought in grief:
By God, me thought I was in such meschief
Right now, that yet myn hert is sore afright.
Now God,” quoth he, “my dreaming rede aright,
And keep my body out of foul prisoún
Me thought, how that I romèd up and doun
Withinne oure yerd, and that I saw a beest,
Was lik an hound, and wold have made arrest
Upon my body, and wold have me deed.
His colour was bitwixe yelow and reed;
And tippèd was his tail, and bothe his eeres
With blak, unlik the remnaunt of his heres.
His snowt was smal, with glowynge eyen tweye;
Yet of his look for fear almost I deye;
This causèd me my gronyng doubteles.”
“Away!” quoth she, “fy on you, herteless!
Allas,” quoth she, “for, by that God above,
Now have ye lost myn hert and al my love;
I can nought love a coward, by my feith.
For certes, what so eny womman seith,
We alle desiren, if it mighte be,
To have our housbondes, hardy, riche, and fre,
And secret, and no fool and no nigard,
Nor him that is agast of every swerd,
Nor boaster none, by that God above;
How dorst ye say for shame unto your love,
That any thing might make yow afeard?
Have ye no mannes hert, and have a berd?
Allas! and can ye be of dremes agast?
Nothing, God wot, but vanitee at last.
Dremes are engendred of repletións,
And often of fumes, and ill complexioúns,
Whan humours be abundaunt in a wight.
Certes this dreem, which ye have had to-night,
Cometh of the grete superfluitee
Of youre blod and red coloúr, pardé,
Which causeth folk to dremen in there dremes
Of arrows, and of fyr, with reede beemes,
Of rede bestis, that thay wil him byte,
Of contest, and of whelpis greet and lite;
Right as the humour of maléncolie
Causeth, in sleep, ful many a man to crye,
For fere of beres, or of bulles blake,
Or else blake develes wol him take.
Of other humours coude I telle also,
That wirken many a man in slep ful wo;
But I wil passe as lightly as I can.
Lo Cato, which that was so wis a man,
Sayde he nought thus, Care thou not of dremes?
Now, sir,” quoth she, “whan we flee fro thise beemes,
For Goddis love, tak thou som laxatyf;
On peril of my soule, and of my lyf,
I counsel you the best, I wil not lye,
That bothe of coloure, and of malencolye
Ye purge yow; and that ye may nouht tarye,
Though in this toun is non apotecarie,
I shal myself with herbes phisik you,
That shal be for youre helth I dar avow;
And in oure yerd the herbes shal I fynde,
The whiche have of her propretee by kynde
To purgen you bynethe, and eek above.
Forget not this, for Goddis owne love!
Ye be ful colerik of complexioún.
Beware the sonne in his ascensioún
Finde yow not replet in humours hote;
And if it do, I dar wel lay a grote,
That ye shal have a fever terciane,
Or elles an agu, that may be your bane.
A day or tuo ye shal have dígestives
Of wormes, ere ye take your laxatives,
Oflauriol, century, and fumitory,
Or elles of elder bery, that growith thereby,
Of catapus, or of dogwood berrys,
Of yvy in our yerd, that mery is;
Pike hem up right as thay growe, and et hem in.
Be mery, housbond, for your fader kyn!
Drede no dremes; I can say no more.”
“Madame,” quod he, “gramercy for your lore.
But natheles, as touching Dan Catoun,
That hath of wisdom such a gret renoun,
Though that he bad no dremes for to drede,
By God, men may in olde bookes rede
Of many a man, more of auctoritee
That ever Catoun was, so telle I the,
That say ful other wise in there sentence,
And have wel founden by experience,
That dremes be significacioüns,
As wel of joye, as tribulaciouns,
That folk enduren in this lif presént.
Ther nedeth make of this no argument;
The verray proof is shewid forth in dede.
One of the grettest authors that men rede,
Saith thus, that whilom two feláws are went
On pylgrimage in a ful good entente;
And happèd so, thay com into a toun,
Wher as ther was such congregacioun
Of people, and eek such lack of herbergage,
That thay fond nought as moche as one cotage,
In which that thay mighte bothe i-lodgèd be.
Wherfor thay musten of necessitee,
For that one night, parten there compaignye;
And ech of them goth to his hostelrye,
And took his lodging as it wolde falle.
The one of them was lodgèd in a stalle,
Fer in a yerd, with oxen of the plough;
That other man was lodgèd well ynough,
As was his áventúre, or his fortúne,
That us govérnith all and in comune.
And so bifel, that, long ere it were day,
This one dremed in his bed, ther as he lay,
How that his felaw gan upon him calle,
And sayd, ‘allas! for in an oxe stalle
This night I shal be murdrid where I lye.
Now help me, deere brother, or I dye;
In alle haste cum to me, and take my part.’
This man out of his slep for fear upstarte;
But whan that he was waked out of his sleep,
He tornèd him, and took of this no keep;
He thought his dreem was but a vanité.
Thus twies in his sleepe dremèd he.
And at the thridde time yet his felawe
Com, as he thought, and sayd, ‘I am now slawe;
Bihold my bloody woundes, deep and wyde
Arise up erly in the morning tyde,
And at the west gate of the toun,’ quoth he,
‘A carteful of donge there shalt thou see,
In which my body is hyd ful prively;
Arrest the cart and that right boldely.
My gold causèd my murdre, soth to sayn.’
And told him every poynt how he was slayn,
With a ful piteous face, pale of hewe.
And truste wel, his dreem he found ful trewe;
For on the morrow, sone as it was day,
To his feláwes inn he took the way;
And whan he cam ny to this oxe stalle,
After his felaw he bigan to calle.
The hostiller he answered him anon,
And sayde, ‘Sir, your felaw is agon,
As soone as day he went out of the toun.’
This man gan falle in a suspeccioún,
Remembring on his dremes as he laye,
And forth he goth, no longer wold he staye,
Unto the west gate of the toun, and found
A dong cart as it went to dong the ground,
That was arrayèd in the same wise
As ye have herd the deede man devise;
And with an hardy hert he gan to crie
Vengeaunce and justice for this felonye.
‘My felaw murdrid is this same night,
And in this carte he lieth gapying upright.
I crye out on the ministres,’ quoth he,
‘That shulde kepe and reule this citee;
Harrow! allas! her lieth my felaw slayn!’
What shold I more unto this tale sayn?
The peple upstert, and caste the cart to grounde,
And in the myddes of the dong thay founde
The dede man, that mordred was al newe.
O blisful God, thou art ful just and trewe!
Lo, how that thow betrayest mordre alday!
Mordre wil out, certes it is no nay.
Murder so lothsome is and abhominable
To God, that is so just and resonable,
That he wil never suffer it hidden be;
Though it abyde a yeer, or tuo, or thre,
Morder wil out, is my conclusioun.
And right anon, the mynistres of that toun
Have caught the carter, and have bete him so,
And eek the hostiller y-rackèd too,
That thay have told there wikkednes anon,
And were a-hangèd by the nekke-bone.
Here may ye see that men shal dremes drede.
And certes in the same book I rede,
Right in the nexte chaptre after this,
(I gabbe nought, may I have joye and blisse),
Tuo men that wold have passèd over see
For certeyn causes into a fer contree,
If that the wynd hadde not ben contrárie,
That made them in a citee for to tarie,
That stood ful mery upon an haven syde.
But on a day, aboute the even tyde,
The wynd gan chaunge, and blew as plesed them best.
Jolyf and glad they wenten unto rest,
And them bithought ful erly for to sayle;
But to the one man fel a gret mervayle.
The one of them in slepyng as he lay,
Dreméd a wonder dreme, before the day;
He thought a man stood by his beddes syde,
And him comaunded, that he shuld abyde,
And sayd him thus, ‘If thou to morrow wende,
Thow shalt be drowned; my tale is at an ende.’
He woke, and told that other the visión,
And prayèd him to stayen in the toun;
As for that day, he prayd him to abyde.
His felaw that lay by his beddis syde,
Gan for to laugh, and scornèd him ful fast.
‘No dreem,’ quoth he, ‘may make myn herte agaste,
That I wil stayen from myn owen thinges.
I sette not a straw by thy dremýnges,
For dremes be but vanitees and japes.
Men dremen every day of owles and apes,
And eke of many a fancy therwithal;
Men dreme of thinges that never happen or shal.
But since I see that thou wilt here abyde,
And thus wilt wasten wilfully thy tyde,
God wot I sory am; and have good day.’
And thus he took his leve, and went his way.
But ere he hadde half his cours i-sayled,
I know not why nor what meschaunce it ayled,
But casuelly the shippes bottom rent,
And ship and man under the watir went
In sight of other shippes ther byside,
That with him sailèd at the same tyde.

“And therfore, faire Pertelot so deere,
By such ensamples olde mayst thou hear
That no man sholde be so rekkeless
Of dremes, for I say thee douteless,
That many a dreem ful sore is for to drede.
Lo, in the lif of seint Kenelm, I rede,
That was Kenulphus sone, that noble king
Of Mercia, how Kenilm dremed a thing.
A litil, ere he was mordred, by traisoun,
He saw his murdre in a visioún.
His norice him expounded wisely
His dreme, and bad him kepe him as he may
Fro traisoun; but he was but seven yer old,
And therfore litel tale hath he us told
Of eny dreme, so holy was his hert.
By God, I hadde rather than my shert,
That ye had red his legend, as have I.
Dame Pertelot, I say you trewely,
Macrobius, that writ the visioún
In Affrik of the worthy Cipioún,
Affermeth dremes, and saith that thay be
Warnyng of thinges that men after see.
And forthermore, I pray bithink you wel
In the olde Testament, of Daniel,
If he held dremes to be as vanytee.
Rede eek of Joseph, and ther shal ye see
Whethir som tyme dremes ben (I say not alle)
Warnyng of thinges that shal after falle.
Think of Egiptes king, Dan Pharao,
His baker and his botiler also,
Whethir thay felte no effect, pardé.
He that wil rede of many a fer countré,
May find of dremes many a wondrous thing.
Lo Cresus, which that was of Lydes king,
Dreméd he not he sat upon a tree,
Which signifiéd he shuld hangéd be?
Lo here Andromacha, Ectóres wif,
That day that Ector shulde lose his lif,
She dremèd on the same night byforn,
How that the body of Ector schuld be torn,
If on that day he wente into batáyle;
She warnéd him, but it might nought availe;
He wente forth to fighte natheles,
And he was slayn anon of Achilles.
But thilke tale is al too long to telle,
And eek it is ny day, I may not duelle.
Shortly I say, as for conclusion,
That I shal have of this my visioun
Adversitee; and I say forthermore,
That I ne set by laxatifs no store,
For thay be venemous, wel know I it;
I them defye; I love them never a whit.

“Now let us speke of mirthe, and stay al this;
Madame Pertilot, so have I blis,
Of one thing God hath me sent large grace;
For when I see the beautee of your face,
Ye be so scarlet red about your eyen,
It makith al my drede for to dyen,
For, al so sure as In principio,
Mulier est hominis confusio.
(Madame, the sentence of this Latyn is,
Womman is mannes joye and mannes blis.)
For when I fiele a-night your softe syde,
Al be it that I may not on you ryde,
For that your perche is made so narrow, allas!
I am so ful of joye and of solás,
That I defye both vision and dreme.”
And with that word he flew doun fro the beem,
For it was day, and eek his hennes alle;
And with a chuk he gan them for to calle,
For he had found a corn, lay in the yard.
Royal he was, he was nomore aferd;
He fetherid Pertelote twenty tyme,
And trad as often, ere that it was prime.
He lokith as it were a grim lioún;
And on his toes he rometh up and doun,
Him deynèd not to set his foot to grounde.
He chukkith, whan he hath a corn i-founde,
And to him rennen then his wifes alle.

Thus royal, as a prince is in his halle,
Leve I this chaunteclere in his pastúre;
And after wil I telle his á ventúre.
Whan that the moneth in which the world bigan,
That highte March, whan God first makéd man,
Was complet, and y-passéd were also,
Since March bygan, tway monthes and dayes tuo,
Byfell that Chaunteclere in al his pride,
His seven wyves walkyng by his syde,
Cast up his eyen to the brighte sonne,
That in the signe of Taurus had i-ronne
Twenty degrees and one, and somwhat more;
He knew by nature, and no other lore,
That it was prime, and crew with blisful crie.
“The sonne,” he sayde, “is clomben up on hy
Twenty degrees and one, and more i-wis.
Madame Pertelot, my worldes blis,
Herken these blisful briddes how thay synge,
And see these fresshe floures how thay springe;
Ful is myn hert of revel and solaás.”
But sodeinly him fel a sorrowful case;
For ever the latter end of joye is wo.
God wot that worldly joye is soone go;
And if a writer coude faire endite,
He in a chronique safely might it write,
As for a soverayn notabilitee.

Now every wys man let him herken me;
This story is as trewe, I undertake,
As is the book of Launcelot the Lake,
That wommen hold in ful gret reverence.
Now wil I torne agayn to my sentence.
A fals fox, ful of sleight and iniquitee,
That in the grove had dwelt for yeres thre,
By destinee and fates ordinaunce,
Is broke the same night thorough the fence
Into the yerd, where Chaunteclere the faire
Was wont, and eek his wyves, to repaire;
And in a bed of wortes stille he lay,
Til it was passéd the morning of the day,
Waytyng his tyme on Chaunteclere to falle;
As gladly do these homicides alle,
That in awayte lye to murthre men.
O false mordrer lurkyng in thy den!
O newe Scariot, newe Genilon!
False dissembler, O Greke Sinon,
That broughtest Troye al utterly to sorrow!
O Chauntecler, accursèd be the morrow,
That thou into the yerd flew fro the bemes!
Thou were ful wel i-warnèd by thy dremes,
That thilke day was perilous to thee.
But what that God forwot most needes be,
After the opynyoun of certeyn clerkis.
Witnesse him, that redeth on there werkes,
In scoles there is altercacioún
In this matier, gret disputacioún,
And hath ben of an hundred thousend men.
But yit I can not sift it to the bran,
As can the holy doctor Augustýn,
Or Boece, or the bisshop Bradwardyn,
Whether that Goddis worthy foreknowing
Constraineth me needly to do a thing,
(By need I mene simple necessitee);
Or else if ful free choice be graunted me
To do that same thing, or to do it not,
Though God foreknew it, ere that it was wrought;
Or if his knowing never constreineth me,
Save by condicional necessitee.
I wil not have to do with such matére;
My tale is of a cok, as ye shal here,
That took his counseil of his wyf with sorrow,
To walken in the yerd upon the morrow,
When he had dremed the dreme, that I you tolde.
Wymmens counseiles be ful ofte colde:
Wommanns counseile brought us first to wo,
And made Adam fro paradys to go,
Although he was ful mery, and wel at ease.
But as I know not whom it might displease,
If I counséil of womman wolde blame,
Pas over, for I sayd it in my game.
Rede authors, wher thay trete of such matére,
And what thay say of wommen ye may here.
These be the cokkes wordes, and not myne,
I can no harme of no wommen divine.
Faire in the sand, to bathe hir merily,
Lieth Pertelot, and alle hir sustres by,
Beneath the sonne; and Chaunteclere so free
Sang merier than the mermayd in the see;
For Phisiologus seith certeynly,
How that thay syngen wel and merily.
And so byfel that as he cast his eye
Among the wortes on a boterflye,
He was war of this fox that lay ful lowe.
Not caréd he a whit thanne for to crowe,
But cryde anon, “cok, cok,” and up he stert,
As man that was affrayèd in his hert.
For naturelly a beest desireth flee
From his contrárie, if he may it see,
Though never bifore he had seen it with his eye.

This Chaunteclere, when he gan it aspye,
He wold have fled, but that the fox anon
Said, “Gentil sir, allas! why wol ye gon?
Be ye affrayd of me that am youre frend?
Now, certes, I were worse than eny feend,
If I to you wold harm or vilonye.
I am not come your counsail to espye.
But trewely the cause of my comýnge
Was only for to herken how ye singe,
For trewely ye have as mery a crie,
As eny aungel hath, that is on hy;
Therwith ye have of musik more felýnge,
Than had Boéce, or eny that can synge.
My lord your fader (God his soule blesse)
And eke youre moder of her gentilesse
Have in myn hous ibeen, to my gret ease;
And certes, sir, ful fayn wold I you please.
But for men speke of syngyng, I wol say,
So may I kepe wel myn eyen tway,
Save ye, I herde never man so synge,
As did your fadir in the morwenynge.
Certes out of his herte it was he song.
And for to make his vois the more strong,
He wold so striven, that with bothe his eyen
He moste wynke, so lowde he wolde crien,
And stonden on his typtoes therwithal,
And streche forth his necke long and smal.
And eek he was of such discressioún,
That ther was no man in no regioún
That him in song or wisdom mighte passe.
I have wel red in Dan Burnel the asse
Among his verses, how ther was a cok,
That when a prestes sone gave him a knok
Upon his leg, whil he was yong and nyce,
He made him for to lose his benefice.
But certeyn ther is no comparisoún
Betwix the wisdom and discressioún
Of youre fader, and of his subtiltee.
Now synge, sir, for seinte Charitee,
Let see, can ye your fader countrefete?”
This Chaunteclere his wynges gan to bete,
As man that coude his tresoun nought espye,
So was he ravyssht with his flaterie.
Allas! ye lordynges, many a fals flatoúr
Is in your hous, and many a fair lyér,
That pleasen you wel more, by my faith,
Than he that sothfastnesse unto you saith.
Rede ye Ecclesiast of flaterie;
Be war, ye lordes, of their treccherie.

This Chaunteclere stood highe upon his toes,
Strecching his necke, and held his eyen close,
And gan to crowe lowde for the nonce;
And Dan Russél the fox stert up at once,
And by the throte caughte Chaunteclere,
And on his bak toward the woode him bere.
For yit was there no man that him espied.
O desteny, that maist not be defied!
Allas, that Chaunteclere flew fro the beames!
Allas, his wif that rekkèd not of dremis!
And on a Friday fel al this meschaunce.
O Venus, that art goddesse of pleasaúnce,
Since that thy servant was this Chaunteclere,
And in thy service ever did his powere,
More for delit, than the world to multiplie,
Why woldst thou suffre him on thy day to dye?
O Gaufred, dere mayster soverayn,
That, when the worthy king Richard was slayn
With shot, compleynedist of his deth so sore,
Why had I nought thy cunning and thy lore,
The Friday for to chiden, as did ye?
(For on a Friday sothly slayn was he.)
Than wold I shewe you how I coude compleyne,
For Chauntecleres drede, and for his peyne.
Certis such cry and lamentacioún
Was never of ladies made, whan Ilioún
Was wonne, and Pirrus with his straighte swerd,
Whan he had caught kyng Priam by the berd,
Had slain hym as doth tellen Eneydos,
As maden alle the hennes in the close,
Whan thay had seyn of Chauntecler the sight.
But above al Dame Pertelote shright,
Ful lowder than did Hasdrubaldes wyf,
When that hir housebond hadde lost his lyf,
And that the Romayns had i-brent Cartáge,
She was so ful of torment and of rage,
That wilfully unto the fyr she stert,
And brend hirselven with a stedfast hert.
O woful hennes, right so crièd ye,
As, when that Nero brente the citee
Of Rome, cride the senatoures wyves,
For that there housbondes losten alle there lyves;
Withouten gilt this Nero hath them slayn.

Now wil I torne to my matér agayn.
The silly wydow, and hir doughtres tuo,
Herden these hennys crie and maken wo,
And out at dores starte thay anon,
And saw the fox toward the grove gon,
And bar upon his bak the cok away;
They criden, “Out! harrow and wayleway!
Ha, ha, the fox!” and after him thay ran,
And eek with staves many another man;
Ran Colle our dogge, and Talbot, and Garlond,
And Malkyn, with a distaf in hir hond;
Ran cow and calf, and eek the verray hogges
Were sore fered for berkyng of the dogges,
And showtyng of the men and wymmen eke,
Thay ronne that thay thought there herte breke.
Thay yelleden as feendes do in helle;
The duckes criden as men wold them kill;
The gees for fere flowen over the trees;
Out of the hyves cam the swarm of bees;
So hidous was the noyse, a bencite!
Certes Jacke Straw, and al his compaignie,
Ne maden shoutes never half so shrille,
When that thay wolden eny Flemyng kille,
As on that day was made upon the fox.
Of brass thay broughten hornes and of box,
Of horn and bone, in which thay blew and pooped,
And therwithal thay shrykèd and thay hooped:
It semèd as that heven itself shulde falle.

Now, goode men, I pray you herken alle;
Lo, how fortúne torneth sodeinly
The hope and pride eek of her enemy!
This cok that lay upon this foxes bak,
In al his drede, unto the fox he spak,
And saide, “Sir, if that I were as ye,
Yet shuld I sayn (so may God helpe me),
Turn ye agayn, ye proude cherles alle!
A verray pestilens upon you falle!
Now am I come unto this woodes syde,
For al your noyse, the cok shal heer abyde;
I wil him ete in faith, and that anon.”
The fox answerd, “In faith, it shal be doon.”
And whil he spak that word, al sodeinly
This cok brak from his mouth right spedily,
And hy upon a tree he flew anon.
And whan the fox saw that he was igone,
“Allas!” quoth he, “O Chaunteclere, allas!
I have to you,” quoth he, “y-don trespás,
Inasmoche as I makèd you afered,
Whan I you caught, and brought out of the yerd;
But, sir, I dede it in no wickid entent;
Com doun, and I shal telle you what I ment.
I shal say soth to you, God help me so.”
“Nay than,” quoth he, “I curse us bothe tuo.
And first I curse myself, bothe blood and bones,
If thou bigile me any ofter than once.
Thou shalt no more, thurgh thy flaterye,
Make me to synge and wynke with myn eye.
For he that wynkith, whan he sholde see,
Al wilfully, God let him cursèd be!”
“Nay,” quoth the fox, “but God give him meschaunce,
That is so undiscret of governaúnce,
That jangleth, when he sholde holde his pees.”

Lo, thus it is for to be rekkeless,
And negligent, and trust on flaterie.
But ye that holde this tale a folye,
As of a fox, or of a cok or hen,
Tak the moralitee therof, goode men.
For seint Poul saith, that al that writen is,
To oure doctrine it written is i-wys.
Take then the fruyt, and let the chaf be stille.

Now, goode God, if that it be thy wille,
And saith my lord, so make us alle good men;
And bring us alle to his hy blisse. Amen.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52