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Of aventures that whilom han bifalle.


And which of yow that bereth him best of alle,

That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas

Tales of best sentence and most solas,

Schal han a soper at oure alther cost
Here in this place sittynge by this post,
Whan that we come ageyn from Caunterbury.
And for to maken you the more mery,
I wol myselven gladly with you ryde,
Right at myn owen cost, and be youre gyde.
And whoso wole my juggement withseie
Schal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
And if ye vouchesauf that it be so,



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We dronken, and to reste wente echoon,
Withouten eny lenger taryinge.

A morwe whan the day bigan to sprynge,
Up roos oure host, and was oure alther cok,

And gadrede us togidre alle in a flok,
And forth we riden a litel more than pass,
Unto the waterynge of seint Thomas.
And there oure host bigan his hors areste,
And seyde; "Lordes, herkneth if yow leste.
Ye woote youre forward, and I it you recorde.
If even-song and morwe-song accorde,
Lat se now who schal telle first a tale.

As evere moot I drinke wyn or ale,




Whoso be rebel to my juggement

Schal paye for al that by the weye is spent.

Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne ;


He which that hath the schorteste schal bygynne."

"Sire knight," quoth he, "my maister and my lord, Now draweth cut, for that is myn acord.

Cometh ner," quoth he, "my lady prioresse;
And ye, sir clerk, lat be youre schamefastnesse,
Ne studieth nat; ley hand to, every man."
Anon to drawen every wight bigan,

And schortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by aventure, or sort, or cas,

The soth is this, the cut fil to the knight,

Of which ful blithe and glad was every wight;
And telle he moste his tale as was resoun,

By forward and by composicioun,

As ye han herd; what needeth wordes moo?
And whan this goode man seigh that it was so,
As he that wys was and obedient
To kepe his forward by his fre assent,
He seyde: "Syn I schal bygynne the game,
What, welcome be thou cut, a Goddes name:
Now lat us ryde and herkneth what I seye.".

And with that word we riden forth oure weye;

And he bigan with right a merie chere
His tale anon, and seide in this manere.






(The numbers refer to lines.)

THE language of Chaucer exhibits the fusion of Teutonic and French elements. Dropping most of the Anglo-Saxon inflections, it passes from a synthetic to an analytic condition, in which the relations of words are expressed, not by different terminations, but by separate words. It is essentially modern, but the following peculiarities are to be noted. The plural of nouns is usually formed by the ending es, which is pronounced as a distinct syllable; but in words of more than one syllable, the ending is s. Instead of es, we sometimes meet with is and us. Some nouns which originally ended in an have en or n; as, asschen, ashes; been, bees; eyen, eyes. The possessive or genitive case, singular and plural, is usually formed by adding es; as, his lordes werre (wars); foxes tales. But en is sometimes used in the plural; as, his eyen sight. The dative case singular ends in e; as, holte, bedde. The adjective is inflected. After demonstrative and possessive adjectives and the definite article, the adjective takes the ending e; as, the yonge sonne; his halfe cours. But in adjectives of more than one syllable, this e is usually dropped. The plural of adjectives is formed by adding e; as, smale fowles. But adjectives of more than one syllable, and all adjectives in the predicate, omit the e. The comparative is formed by the addition of er, though the Anglo-Saxon form re is found in a few words; as, derre, dearer; ferre, farther. The personal pronouns are as follows:

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The present indicative plural of verbs ends in en or e; as, we loven or love. The infinitive ends in en or e; as, speken, speke, to speak. The present participle usually ends in yng or ynge. The past participle of strong verbs ends in en or e, and (as well as the past participle of weak verbs) is often preceded by the prefix y or i, answering to the Anglo-Saxon and modern German ge; as, ironne, yclept. The following negative forms deserve attention: nam, am not; nys, is not; nas, was not; nere, were not; nath, hath not; nadde, had not; nylle, will not; nolde, would not; nat, not, noot, knows not. Adverbs are formed from adjectives by adding e; as, brighte, brightly; deepe, deeply. Other peculiarities will be explained in the notes.

VERSIFICATION.—The prevailing metre in the Canterbury Tales is iambic pentameter in rhyming couplets. Occasionally there are eleven syllables in a line, and sometimes only nine. Short, unemphatic syllables are often slurred over; as,

"Sche gadereth flour | es par | ty white | and rede."

Words from the French usually retain their native pronunciation; that is, are accented on the last syllable. Final e is usually sounded as a distinct syllable except before h, a following vowel, in the personal pronouns oure, youre, hire, here, and in many polysyllables. The ed of the past indicative and past participle, and the es of the plural and of the genitive, form separate syllables.

In exemplification of the foregoing rules, the opening lines of the Prologue are here divided into their component iambics:

"Whan that | April | le, with | his schow | res swoote
The drought of Marche | hath per | ced to | the roote,
And bathed eve | ry veyne | in swich | licour,
Of which | vertue | engen | dred is | the flour;
Whan Zephirus | eek with | his swe | te breethe
Enspired hath | in every holte | and heethe
The tendre crop | pes, and | the yon | ge sonne
Hath in the Ram | his hal | fe cours | i-ronne,
And sma | le fow | les ma | ken me | lodie,
That slepen al | the night | with open eye,
So pri | keth hem | nature | in here | corages:
Thanne longen folk | to gon | on pilgrimages,
And palmers for | to see | ken straun | ge strondes,
To fer | ne hal | wes, couthe | in son | dry londes;
And specially | from eve | ry schi | res ende
Of En | gelond | to Caunt | terbury | they wende,
The holy blis | ful mar | tir for ❘ to seeke,

That hem | hath holp | en whan | that they | were seekę,”

1. Whan that


when. A frequent phrase in Chaucer.— Swoote

The final e is the sign of the plural.


2. Marche. Final e is silent before words beginning with h or a vowel. Roote. The e denotes the dative.

3. Swich such. A. S. swile, such; from swa, so, and lic, like. Retains French accent on the last syllable.

4. Vertue = power.

5. Eek also.



the possessive his.- Breethe.

in the following line.


7. Yonge sonne.


The final e denotes the definite declension with Final e for the dative. So with holte and heethe wood, grove.

The finale of yonge for the definite declension with The sun is called young, because it has not long entered upon its annual


8. Ram. The first constellation of the Zodiac, corresponding to the latter part of March and the first half of April. It is the part in April that the sun has run. - I-ronne, p. p. of ronne, to run. The prefixes i and y usually denote the past participle, and correspond to the A. S. ge. Cf. modern German.

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Final e denoting the plural. — Maken is a plural form, as

also slepen in the following line.

II. Priketh =

inciteth, prompteth. — Hem, here. See list of pronouns

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persons bearing palm-branches in token of having been

to the Holy Land. Straunge strondes

14. Ferne halwes, kouthe



= strange strands or foreign shores. old, or distant saints known, etc.

from the A. S. cunnan, to know. Cf. uncouth.



16. Wende go. The past tense is wente, English went.

17. The holy blisful martir, Thomas à Becket.

18. Holpen, p. p. helpen, to help.

19. Byfel it befell or chanced; an impers. verb.



Read a sketch of his

20. Tabard = a sleeveless jacket or coat, formerly worn by nobles in

It was the sign of a well-known inn in Southwark, London.
25. By aventure i-falle = by adventure, or chance fallen, etc.
29. Esed atte beste =
accommodated in the best manner.

tion for the A. S. at tham = at the.

31. Everychon = every one. 34. Ther as I yow devyse



Atte, contrac

where I describe to you.

Ther as =

35. Natheless nevertheless. A. S. na the laes = not the less.

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