Canterbury Tales

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Tale of Sir Thopas The Tale of Sir Thopas

Tale of Sir Thopas

The Tale of Sir Thopas

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The Tale of Sir Thopas

Now listen, lordings, with delight,
And I will tell you true and right
Of mirth and merry game;
All of a fair and noble knight,
Alike in tournament and fight;
Sir Thopas was his name.

In distant country born was he -
In Flanders, far beyond the sea;
Popering was the place;
His father stood in high degree,
Holding the land in sovereignty,
As was God`s will and grace.

A doughty life Sir Thopas led;
White was his face as wheaten bread,
His lips as red as rose;
His skin like scarlet dye was red,
And if the simple truth be said,
He had a comely nose.

His beard and hair, of saffron shade,
Down to his girdle gently swayed;
Cordovan were his shoes;
His robe was of a fine brocade -
Full many pence for that he paid -
His stockings came from Bruges.

And he could hunt the fleet wild deer,
And hawk by riverside or mere,
Holding a goshawk gray;
Good archer was he, as I hear,
And none at wrestling was his peer
To bear the ram away.

In bower was many a maiden bright
That mourned for love of him by night
When better were repose;
But he was chaste, no lecherous wight,
And sweet alike of smell and sight
As is the wild red rose.

And so it happened on a day,
And this is true, as I can say,
Forth would Sir Thopas ride;
He climbed upon a charger gray,
Within his hand a lance did sway;
A sword was at his side.

He pricks along through forest fair
Where many a wild beast had its lair,
Yea, bucks and hares as well;
And north and east as he did bear
He almost met a mishap there
As I shall straight way tell.

Herbs great and small grew in that dale;
Ginger nor licorice did fail,
Nor cloves among the rest;
And nutmeg fit to put in ale,
(Whether the draft be new or stale)
Or lay aside in chest.

Birds sang, I cannot tell you Nay:
The sparrowhawk and popinjay,
Till it was joy to hear.
The throstle-cock made merry lay,
The wood dove sitting on the spray
Sang very loud and clear.

When Thopas heard the throstle sing
Love-longing in his heart did spring;
Like madman off he rides;
His fair steed from the galloping
Sweats like a rag that ye could wring;
All bloody are his sides.

Thopas was weary too at last,
Over the soft grass pricking fast
With heart at fiery heat,
And on the ground himself he cast,
To rest his steed; and good repast
To give him there to eat.

"O holy Mary, ben`cite!
What ails this love to fetter me
And thus in thralldom keep?
By God, all night I dreamed," said he,
"An elf-queen should my sweetheart be,
Beneath my robe to sleep.

"An elf-queen will I love, indeed;
No woman of an earthly breed
Were wife for me to take
In town;
All other women I forsake,
And to an elf-queen will I make
My way by dale and down!"

To saddle with alacrity
He climbed - past stile and stone spurred he,
Seeking this queen to marry;
Till riding long and constantly,
He found in hidden secrecy
The countryland of Faery
So wild;
For in that land would none agree
To ride with him for company -
No, neither wife nor child.

Until a mighty giant came;
That bore Sir Elephant for name,
A man of dangerous deed;
"By Termagant," did he exclaim,
"Young knight, spur hence, or I will maim
And quickly slay thy steed
With mace.
Here lives of Faeryland the queen;
With harp and pipe and tambourine
She dwelleth in this place."

"As I may thrive," replied the knight,
"Tomorrow, armored for the fight,
I swear to meet with thee;
And par ma foi, I hope and swear,
By grace of this good lance I bear,
To pay thee bitterly;
Thy head
Or belly, ere the prime of day
This point shall pierce, for if I may
Here will I leave thee dead!"

Back then Sir Thopas drew full fast,
And stones at him this giant cast
Out of a cruel staff-sling;
But Thopas safely from that place
Escaped, and all through God`s good grace,
And deft maneuvering.

Still listen, lords, unto my tale -
As merry as any nightingale -
And I will whisper plain
How, pricking over hill and dale
Lean-shanked Sir Thopas did not fail
To come to town again.

His merry men commanded he
Great sport to make for him, and glee,
For he must needs go fight
A giant fierce whose heads were three
For love and joyous ecstasy
Of one that shone full bright.

"Bring in my minstrels!" rang his call,
"To sing me ballads, one and all,
While quickly now I arm me;
And let mt hear romances fall
Of king and pope and cardinal,
And love-sick lays to charm me!"

They fetched him wine was sweet and good,
And mead in bowl of maplewood,
And royal spicery;
And finest gingerbread for food;
And licorice and cummin stood
All sugared, fair to see.

And next his white flesh he put on,
Of finest woven, clearest lawn,
Some breeches and a shirt;
A quilted tunic next he wore,
And then a coat of mail, the more
To keep his heart from hurt.

And over that a hawberk fine,
All wrought by Jews with rich design,
Of strong plate forged aright;
And then his surcoat did he wear,
As white as any lily fair,
In which he meant to fight.

His shield was gold, all shining red,
And on it showed a great boar`s head
And a carbuncle as well;
And there he swore, by ale and bread,
The giant now should soon be dead,
No matter what befell.

Boiled leather were his greaves beneath,
Of ivory his longsword`s sheath,
His helm of latten bright;
His saddle of a fine whale bone;
His bridle like the sunshine shone,
Or like the fair moonlight.

His spear of finest cypress wrought
Boded hard battles to be fought,
The head was sharply ground;
His horse was all a dapple gray,
And ambled gently on the way,
And would not jerk or pound
Around.
Lo now, my lords, I end a fit;
If ye will any more of it
To tell it I am bound.

The Second Fit

Now hold your tongues, par charitee,
Both knight and gracious lady free,
And listen to my story;
For I will tell of chivalry,
Of ladies sighing grievously,
Of knights and battles gory.

Men speak of high romance to read -
Horn Child and Ypotis, indeed,
Of Bevis and Sir Guy;
Of Sir Libeux and Pleyndamour,
And yet Sir Thopas bears the flower
For royal knighthood high.

His good steed now this knight bestrode,
And forth upon his way he glowed
Like spark cast from the flame;
Upon his crest he bore a tower,
And in it stuck a lily flower;
God keep his flesh from shame.

And, being an adventurous knight,
At no house would he deign t`alight,
But slept within his hood;
His helm was pillow for his head,
And close at hand his charger fed
On herbage green and good.

Himself drank water of the well,
As did the knight Sir Percivel,
So worthy neath his garb,
Till on a day -

Here The Host Stops
Chaucer`s Tale Of Sir Thopas

"No more of this, sir, for God`s dignity!"
Shouted our Landlord, "for thou makest me
So weary with thine utter silliness
That, as I hope that God my soul will bless,
Mine ears are aching with thy worthless drivel!
Cast all such cursed rhyming to the devil!
Well may men call it doggerel!" cried he.

"Why so?" said I. "Why wilt thou hinder me,
And stop my tale and let the others go,
Since I recite the best rhyme that I know?"

"Because, by God, to tell thee in a word,
Thy filthy rhyming is not worth a turd;
I tell thee thou dost waste our time," he swore.
"Sir, in conclusion, thou shalt rhyme no more!
But let us see if thou canst tell instead
Some lay, or something cast in prose," he said,
"That gives us mirth or doctrine in some fashion."

"Gladly," I made reply, "by God`s sweet passion!
I will relate a little thing in prose
That ought to please you well, as I suppose,
Or ye are hard to suit, for certainty.
It is a moral, virtuous homily,
Though various men give various versions, too,
That tell it, as I shall explain to you.
As thus: ye know how each evangelist
That tells us of the pain of Jesus Christ
Writes not in all things as the others do;
Yet none the less, all of their tales are true,
And as to meaning, all of them agree,
Though in detail they show diversity.
For when they tell the piteous pain He bore
Some will write less, and some of them write more -
Matthew, I mean, and Mark and Luke and John -
Yet doubtless in their meaning they are one.
And therefore, sirs, as to my speech I say
That if ye think I veer in any way -
That is, if I shall tell you somewhat more
Of proverbs than ye may have heard before
Included in this little treatise here,
To make what I shall say more strong and clear -
And though the words I use are not the same
As ye have heard, yet put me not in blame
Too much for that, for ye shall find, indeed,
My meaning and the meaning ye may read
Within the treatise whence I draw this merry
Tale that I tell you, will not greatly vary.
And therefore listen well to what I say.
And let me tell my tale in full, I pray.

And Here Begins


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