THE PROLOGUE TO THE NUN’S PRIEST’S TALE
Hold!” cried the knight. “Good sir, no more of this,
What you have said is right enough, and is
Very much more; a little heaviness
Is plenty for the most of us, I guess.
For me, I say it’s saddening, if you please,
As to men who’ve enjoyed great wealth and ease,
To hear about their sudden fall, alas!
But the contrary’s joy and great solace,
As when a man has been in poor estate
And he climbs up and waxes fortunate,
And there abides in all prosperity.
Such things are gladsome, as it seems to me,
And of such things it would be good to tell.”
“Yea,” quoth our host, “and by Saint Paul’s great bell,
You say the truth; this monk, his clapper’s loud.
He spoke how ‘Fortune covered with a cloud’
I know not what, and of a ‘tragedy,’
As now you heard, and gad! no remedy
It is to wail and wonder and complain
That certain things have happened, and it’s pain.
As you have said, to hear of wretchedness.
Sir monk, no more of this, so God you bless!
Your tale annoys the entire company;
Such talking is not worth a butterfly;
For in it is no sport nor any game.
Wherefore, sir monk, Don Peter by your name,
I pray you heartily tell us something else,
For truly, but for clinking of the bells
That from your bridle hang on either side,
By Heaven’s king, Who for us all has died,
I should, ere this, have fallen down for sleep,
Although the mud had never been so deep;
Then had your story all been told in vain.
For certainly, as all these clerks complain,
‘Whenas a man has none for audience,
It’s little help to speak his evidence.’
And well I know the substance is in me
To judge of things that well reported be.
Sir, tell a tale of hunting now, I pray.”
“Nay,” said this monk, “I have no wish to play;
Now let another tell, as I have told.”
Then spoke our host out, in rude speech and bold,
And said he unto the nun’s priest anon:
“Come near, you priest, come hither, you Sir John,
Tell us a thing to make our hearts all glad;
Be blithe, although you ride upon a jade.
What though your horse may be both foul and lean?
If he but serves you, why, don’t care a bean;
Just see your heart is always merry. So.”
“Yes, sir,” said he, “yes, host, so may I go,
For, save I’m merry, I know I’ll be blamed.”
And right away his story has he framed,
And thus he said unto us, every one,
This dainty priest, this goodly man, Sir John.