Canterbury Tales: Prologue to Melibeus

Author: Geoffrey Chaucer  | Date: 1380


No more of this, for God’s high dignity!"

Exclaimed our host, "For you, sir, do make me

So weary with your vulgar foolishness

That, as may God so truly my soul bless,

My two ears ache from all your worthless speech;

Now may such rhymes the devil have, and each!

This sort of thing is doggerel," said he.

"Why so?" I asked, "Why will you hinder me

In telling tales more than another man,

Since I have told the best rhyme that I can?"

"By God!" cried he, "now plainly, in a word,

Your dirty rhyming is not worth a turd;

You do naught else but waste and fritter time.

Sir, in one word, you shall no longer rhyme.

Let’s see if you can use the country verse,

Or tell a tale in prose- you might do worse-

Wherein there’s mirth or doctrine good and plain.’

"Gladly," said I, "by God’s sweet tears and pain,

I will relate a little thing in prose

That ought to please you, or so I suppose,

For surely, else, you’re contumelious.

It is a moral tale, right virtuous,

Though it is told, sometimes, in different wise

By different folk, as I shall you apprise.

As thus: You know that each evangelist

Who tells the passion of Lord Jesus Christ

Says not in all things as his fellows do,

But, nonetheless, each gospel is all true.

And all of them accord in their essence,

Howbeit there’s in telling difference.

For some of them say more and some say less

When they His piteous passion would express;

I mean now Mark and Matthew, Luke and John;

Yet, without doubt, their meaning is all one.

And therefore, masters all, I do beseech,

If you should think I vary in my speech,

As thus: That I do quote you somewhat more

Of proverbs than you’ve ever heard before,

Included in this little treatise here,

To point the morals out, as they appear,

And though I do not quite the same words say

That you have heard before, yet now, I pray,

You’ll blame me not; for in the basic sense

You will not find a deal of difference

From the true meaning of that tale polite

After the which this happy tale I write.

And therefore hearken now to what I say,

And let me tell you all my tale, I pray."

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Chicago: Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales: Prologue to Melibeus Original Sources, accessed July 15, 2024,

MLA: Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales: Prologue to Melibeus, Original Sources. 15 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Chaucer, G, Canterbury Tales: Prologue to Melibeus. Original Sources, retrieved 15 July 2024, from