General Prologue to
The Canterbury Tales

By Geoffrey Chaucer

Edited by Jack Lynch

This is just the opening lines of the General Prologue, designed to introduce students to Chaucerian Middle English. The text itself is cobbled together from a number of public domain sources and minimally edited. I’ve regularized the use of uppercase letters a bit to aid comprehension. The notes are my own.

Whan that Aprill with his° shoures° soote° its — showers — sweet, fresh
The droghte° of March hath perced° to the roote, drought — pierced
And bathed every veyne in swich licour° such liquid
Of which vertu° engendred° is the flour;° power — created — flower
Whan Zephirus° eek° with his sweete breeth [5] the gentle west wind — also
Inspired° hath in every holt° and heeth breathed into — field
Tendre croppes,° and the yonge sonne shoots
Hath in the Ram° his halve cours yronne,° the constellation Aries — gone half its course
And smale foweles° maken melodye, birds
That slepen al the nyght with open ye° [10] eye
(So priketh° hem° nature in hir corages°); spurs — them — their hearts
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres° for to seken straunge strondes,° pilgrims — shores
To ferne halwes,° kowthe° in sondry londes; distant shrines — known — various
And specially from every shires ende [15]
Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.° has helped them when they were sick
Bifil° that in that seson on a day, it happened
In Southwerk at the Tabard° as I lay [20] Tabard Inn in Southwark, London
Redy to wenden° on my pilgrymage go
To Caunterbury with ful° devout corage,° very — hearts
At nyght was come into that hostelrye° inn
Wel nyne and twenty in a compaignye,
Of sondry folk, by aventure yfalle° [25] by chance fallen together
In felaweshipe, and pilgrimes were they alle,
That toward Caunterbury wolden° ryde. would
The chambres° and the stables weren wyde, bedrooms
And wel we weren esed atte beste.° taken care of
And shortly, whan the sonne was to reste,° [30] sun was about to go down
So hadde I spoken with hem everichon° every one
That I was of hir felaweshipe° anon,° their company — at once
And made forward° erly for to ryse, agreement
To take oure wey ther as I yow devyse.° describe to you
But nathelees,° whil I have tyme and space, [35] nevertheless
Er° that I ferther in this tale pace,° before — proceed
Me thynketh it acordaunt to° resoun it seems to me consistent with
To telle yow al the condicioun° nature, state
Of ech of hem,° so as it semed me, them
And whiche they weren, and of what degree,° [40] social rank
And eek° in what array° that they were inne; also — dress
And at a Knyght than wol I first bigynne.