The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

The Prologue to the Canterbury Tales Text Explained

1- Whan that Aprill with his shoures (showers) soote (sweet)
When April, with its sweet-smelling showers

2- The drought (dryness) of March hath perced (pierced) to the roote,
Has pierced (penetrated) the drought of March to the root,

3- And bathed every veyne (vein of plants) in swich (such) licour (liquid)
And bathed every vein (of the plants) in such liquid

4- Of which vertu ( power) engendred (produced) is the flour (flower),
By which power the flower is created;

5- Whan Zephirus (the West Wind) eek (also) with his sweete breeth
When the West Wind also with its sweet breath,

6- Inspired (Breathed into) hath in every holt (woodland) and heeth (uncultivated land with grass)
In every wood and field has breathed life into

7- The tendre croppes (shoots, new leaves), and the yonge sonne (sun)
The tender new leaves and the young sun

8- Hath in the Ram (Aries) his halve cours yronne (run),
Has run half its course in Aries,

9- And smale foweles (birds) maken melodye,
And small fowls make melody,

10- That slepen al the nyght with open ye (eye)
Those that sleep all the night with open eyes

11- (so priketh (incite) hem (them) Nature in hir corages, (their hearts)
(So Nature incites them in their hearts),

12- Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
Then folk long to go on pilgrimages,

13- And palmeres (pilgrims) for to seken straunge strondes, (strands, shores)
And professional pilgrims to seek foreign shores,

14- To ferne halwes (faraway shrines), kowthe (known) in sondry londes (various lands);
To distant shrines known in various lands

15- And specially from every shires ende
And specially from every shire’s end

16- Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende (wend, to travel),
Of England to Canterbury they travel,

17- The hooly blisful martir for to sekeseek,
To seek the holy blessed martyr,

18- That hem hath holpen (has helped them) whan that they were seeke (sick).
Who helped them when they were sick.

19- Bifil (It befell) that in that seson on a day,
It happened that in that season on one day,

20- In Southwerk at the Tabard as I lay
In Southwark at the Tabard Inn, as I lay

21- Redy to wenden (go), journey on my pilgrymage
Ready to go on my pilgrimage

22- To Caunterbury with ful devout corage (heart),
To Canterbury, with a very devout spirit,

23- At nyght was come into that hoste (inn)
At night had come into that hostelry

24- Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
Well, nine and twenty in a company

25- Of sondry folk (various kinds of people), by aventure (chance) yfalle (fell)
Of various sorts of people, by chance fallen

26- In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
In fellowship, and they were all pilgrims,

27- That toward Caunterbury wolden (would) ryde.
Who intended to ride toward Canterbury.

28- The chambres (rooms) and the stables weren wyde (spacious),
The bedrooms and the stables were spacious,

29- And wel we weren esed (made comfortable) atte (at the) beste.
And we were well accommodated in the best way.

30- And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste (set in the west),
And in brief, when the sun was (gone) to rest,

31- So hadde I spoken with hem everichon (every one)
I had so spoken with everyone of them

32- That I was of hir felaweshipe anon (immediately),
That I was of their fellowship straightway,

33- And made forward (agreement) erly for to ryse,
And made agreement to rise early,

34- To take oure wey ther as I yow devyse (describe).
To take our way where I (will) tell you.

35- But natheless (nonetheless), whil I have tyme and space,
But nonetheless, while I have time and opportunity,

36- Er (Before) that I ferther in this tale pacego (proceed),
Before I proceed further in this tale,

37- Me thynketh it (It seems to me) acordaunt (according) to resoun
It seems to me in accord with reason

38- To telle yow al the condicioun
To tell you all the circumstances

39- Of ech of hem (each of them), so as it semed me,
Of each of them, as it seemed to me,

40- And whiche they weren, and of what degree (social standing),
And who they were, and of what social rank,

41- And eek (also) in what array (clothes), that they were inne;
And also what clothing that they were in;

42- And at a knyght than wol (will) I first bigynne.
And at a knight, then will I first begin.


43- A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
A KNIGHT there was, and that (one was) a worthy man,

44- That fro the tyme that he first bigan
Who from the time that he first began

45- To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
To ride out, he loved chivalry,

46- Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
Fidelity and good reputation, generosity and courtesy.

47- Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre (war),
He was very worthy in his lord’s war,

48- And therto (for this purpose) hadde he riden, no man ferre (farther),
And for that, he had ridden, no man farther,

49- As wel in Cristendom as in hethenesse,
As well in Christendom as in heathen lands,

50- And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
And (was) ever honored for his worthiness;

51- At Alisaundre (Alexandria, Egyptian seaport) he was whan it was wonne.
He was at Alexandria when it was won.

52- Ful ofte tyme he hade the bord (sat at the head of the table) bigonne (start)
He had sat very many times in the place of honor,

53- Aboven alle nacions (nations) in Pruce (Prussia, the former German state);
Above (knights of) all nations in Prussia;

54- In Lettow (Lithuania, in Europe) hadde he reysed (military expeditions,traveled) and in Ruce (Russia),
He had campaigned in Lithuania and in Russia,

55- No Cristen man so ofte of his degree.
No Christian man of his rank so often.

56- In Grenade (Grenada, Spain) at the seege (siege- military operation ) eek (also) hadde he be
Also, he had been in Grenada at the siege

57- Of Algezir (Algeciras, a city in Morroco) , and riden in Belmarye (Benmarin, a city in Morocco).
Of Algeciras and had ridden in Morocco.

58- At Lyeys (Ayas in Turkey) was he and at Satalye (Antalya in Turkey)
He was at Ayash and at Atalia,

59- Whan they were wonne; and in the Grete See (Mediterranean)
When they were won, and in the Mediterranean

60- At many a noble armee (armed expedition) hadde he be.
He had been at many a noble expedition.

61- At mortal batailles (battles) hadde he been fiftene,
He had been at fifteen mortal battles,

62- And foughten for oure feith at Tramyssene (Tlemcen in Algeria)
And fought for our faith at Tlemcen

63- In lystes (lists of formal duels) thries, and ayalways slayn his foo.
Three times in formal duels, and each time slain his foe.

64- This ilke (same) worthy knyght hadde been also
This same worthy knight had also been

65- Somtyme with the lord of Palatye( Balat in Turkey)
At one time, with the lord of Balat

66- Agayn (Against) another hethen in Turkye.
Against another heathen in Turkey;

67- And everemoore he hadde a sovereyn prys (an excellent reputation).
And evermore, he had an outstanding reputation

68- And though that he were worthy, he was wys (wise),
And although he was brave, he was prudent,

69- And of his port (manner) as meeke as is a mayde.
And of his deportment as meek as is a maid.

70- He nevere yet no vileynye (rudeness, evi) l ne sayde
He never said any rude words.

71- In al his lyf unto no maner wight (any person).
In all his life unto any sort of person.

72- He was a verray (truly), parfit (perfect) gentil knyght.
He was a truly perfect, noble knight.

73- But, for to tellen yow of his array,
But to tell you of his clothing,

74- His hors (horses) were goode, but he was nat ga (not gaily).
His horses were good, but he was not gaily dressed.

75- Of fustian (coarse cloth) he wered a gypon (tunic, loose piece of clothing covering the body down to the knees)
He wore a tunic of coarse cloth

76- Al bismotered (rust stained) with his Habergeon (by his coat of mail- a defensive garment of metal scales or chain),
All stained (with rust) by his coat of mail,

77- For he was late ycome from his viage (military voyage),
For he had recently come (back) from his expedition,

78- And wente for to doon (do or perform) his pilgrymage.
And went to do his pilgrimage.


79- Withh hym ther was his sone, a yong squier (young knight),
With him there was his son, a young SQUIRE,

80- A lovyere and a lusty (healthy and strong) bacheler, (1st degree of knighthood),
A lover and a lively bachelor,

81- With lokkes crulle (curly) as if they were leyd (laid) in presse (curling press instrument for curling the hairs).
With locks curled as if they had been laid in a curler.

82- Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
He was twenty years of age, I guess.

83- Of his stature he was of evene lengthe (medium height),
Of his stature, he was of moderate height,

84- And wonderly (wonderfully) delyvere (agile), and of greet strengthe.
And wonderfully agile, and of great strength.

85- And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie (mounted expedition)
And he had been for a time on a cavalry expedition

86- In Flaundres (in Belgium), in Artoys (city of France), and Pycardie (France),
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardy,

87- And born (carried) hym (himself) weel (well) , as of so litel space (for such a short time- young age),
And conducted himself well, for so little a space of time,

88- In hope to stonden (win) in his lady grace.
In the hope to stand in his lady’s good graces.

89- Embrouded was he, as it were a meede (meadow)
He was embroidered as if it were a mead

90- Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
All full of fresh flowers, white and red.

91- Syngynge he was, or floytynge (playing the Flute), al the day;
Singing he was, or fluting, all the day;

92- He was as fressh as is the month of May.
He was as fresh as is the month of May.

93- Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
His gown was short, with long and wide sleeves.

94- Wel koude (knew, how to) he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
He well knew how to sit on the horse and handsomely ride.

95- He koude (knew) songes make and wel endite (compose words),
He knew how to make songs and compose (the words),

96- Juste ( to Joust- to fight on horses) and eek (also) daunce, and weel Purtreye (draw, paint) and write.
Joust and also dance, and draw and write.

97- So hoote (hotly) he lovede that by nyghtertale (at night time).
He loved so passionately that at nighttime

98- He slepte namoore (no longer) than dooth (does) a nyghtyngale.
He slept no more than does a nightingale.

99- Curteis he was, lowely (humble), and Servysable (attentive),
Courteous he was, humble, and willing to serve,

100 -And carf (carved meat) biforn (before) his fader (father) at the table.
And carved before his father at the table.