PROLOGUE TO THE PERSOUNS TALE
Heere folweth the Prologe of the Persouns tale.
By that the Maunciple hadde his tale al ended,
The sonne fro the south lyne was descended
So lowe, that he nas nat to my sighte
Degrees nyne and twenty as in highte.
Ten of the clokke it was tho, as I gesse,
For ellevene foot, or litel moore or lesse,
My shadwe was at thilke tyme as there,
Of swiche feet as my lengthe parted were
In sixe feet equal of proporcioun.
Therwith the moones exaltacioun,
I meene Libra, alwey gan ascende,
As we were entryng at a thropes ende.
For which our Hoost, as he was wont to gye,
As in this caas, oure joly compaignye,
Seyde in this wise, 'Lordynges everichoon,
Now lakketh us no tales mo than oon,
Fulfilled is my sentence and my decree;
I trowe that we han herd of ech degree.
Almoost fulfild is al myn ordinaunce,
I pray to God, so yeve hym right good chaunce
That telleth this tale to us lustily!
'Sire preest,' quod he, 'artow a vicary,
Or arte a person? sey sooth by thy fey.
Be what thou be, ne breke thou nat oure pley;
For every man save thou hath toold his tale.
Unbokele and shewe us what is in thy male,
For trewely, me thynketh by thy cheere
Thou sholdest knytte up wel a greet mateere.
Telle us a fable anon, for Cokkes bones.'
This Persoun him answerede, al atones,
'Thou getest fable noon ytoold for me,
For Paul, that writeth unto Thymothee,
Repreveth hem that weyveth soothfastnesse,
And tellen fables, and swich wrecchednesse.
Why sholde I sowen draf out of my fest
Whan I may sowen whete, if that me lest?
For which I seye, if that yow list to heere,
Moralitee and vertuous mateere;
And thanne that ye wol yeve me audience,
I wol ful fayn, at Cristes reverence,
Do yow plesaunce leefful, as I kan.
But trusteth wel I am a southren man,
I kan nat geeste Rum, Ram, Ruf by lettre,
Ne, God woot, rym holde I but litel bettre,
And therfore if yow list, I wol nat glose,
I wol yow telle a myrie tale in prose
To knytte up al this feeste, and make an ende,
And Jesu, for his grace, wit me sende
To shewe yow the wey, in this viage,
Of thilke parfit glorious pilgrymage
That highte Jerusalem celestial.
And if ye vouchesauf, anon I shal
Bigynne upon my tale, for which I preye,
Telle youre avys, I kan no bettre seye.
But nathelees, this meditacioun
I putte it ay under correccioun
Of clerkes, for I am nat textueel;
I take but sentence, trusteth weel.
Therfore I make a protestacioun
That I wol stonde to correccioun.'
Upon this word we han assented soone;
For, as us semed, it was for to doone
To enden in som vertuous sentence,
And for to yeve hym space and audience;
Adn bede oure Hoost he sholde to hym seye
That alle we to telle his tale hym preye.
Oure Hoost hadde the wordes for us alle:
'Sire preest,' quod he, 'now faire yow bifalle,
Sey what yow list, and we wol gladly heere.'
And with that word he seyde in this manere,
'Telleth,' quod he, 'youre meditacioun;
But hasteth yow, the sonne wole adoun.
Beth fructuous, and that in litel space,
And to do wel God sende yow his grace.'