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The Canterbury Tales: The Cook’s Tale

Prologue to The Cook’s Tale

THE Cook of London, while the Reeve thus spake,
For joy he laugh’d and clapp’d him on the back:
“Aha!” quoth he, “for Christes passion,
This Miller had a sharp conclusion,
Upon this argument of herbergage.* *lodging
Well saide Solomon in his language,
Bring thou not every man into thine house,
For harbouring by night is perilous.
*Well ought a man avised for to be* *a man should take good heed*
Whom that he brought into his privity.
I pray to God to give me sorrow and care
If ever, since I highte* Hodge of Ware, *was called
Heard I a miller better *set a-work*; *handled
He had a jape* of malice in the derk. *trick
But God forbid that we should stinte* here, *stop
And therefore if ye will vouchsafe to hear
A tale of me, that am a poore man,
I will you tell as well as e’er I can
A little jape that fell in our city.”

Our Host answer’d and said; “I grant it thee.
Roger, tell on; and look that it be good,
For many a pasty hast thou letten blood,
And many a Jack of Dover<1> hast thou sold,
That had been twice hot and twice cold.
Of many a pilgrim hast thou Christe’s curse,
For of thy parsley yet fare they the worse.
That they have eaten in thy stubble goose:
For in thy shop doth many a fly go loose.
Now tell on, gentle Roger, by thy name,
But yet I pray thee be not *wroth for game*; *angry with my jesting*
A man may say full sooth in game and play.”
“Thou sayst full sooth,” quoth Roger, “by my fay;
But sooth play quad play,<2> as the Fleming saith,
And therefore, Harry Bailly, by thy faith,
Be thou not wroth, else we departe* here, *part company
Though that my tale be of an hostelere.* *innkeeper
But natheless, I will not tell it yet,
But ere we part, y-wis* thou shalt be quit.”<3> *assuredly
And therewithal he laugh’d and made cheer,<4>
And told his tale, as ye shall after hear.

Notes to the Prologue to The Cook’s Tale

1. Jack of Dover: an article of cookery. (Transcriber’s note:
suggested by some commentators to be a kind of pie, and by
others to be a fish)

2. Sooth play quad play: true jest is no jest.

3. It may be remembered that each pilgrim was bound to tell
two stories; one on the way to Canterbury, the other returning.

4. Made cheer: French, “fit bonne mine;” put on a pleasant

The Cook’s Tale

A prentice whilom dwelt in our city,
And of a craft of victuallers was he:
Galliard* he was, as goldfinch in the shaw**, *lively **grove
Brown as a berry, a proper short fellaw:
With lockes black, combed full fetisly.* *daintily
And dance he could so well and jollily,
That he was called Perkin Revellour.
He was as full of love and paramour,
As is the honeycomb of honey sweet;
Well was the wenche that with him might meet.
At every bridal would he sing and hop;
He better lov’d the tavern than the shop.
For when there any riding was in Cheap,<1>
Out of the shoppe thither would he leap,
And, till that he had all the sight y-seen,
And danced well, he would not come again;
And gather’d him a meinie* of his sort, *company of fellows
To hop and sing, and make such disport:
And there they *sette steven* for to meet *made appointment*
To playen at the dice in such a street.
For in the towne was there no prentice
That fairer coulde cast a pair of dice
Than Perkin could; and thereto *he was free *he spent money liberally
Of his dispence, in place of privity.* where he would not be seen*
That found his master well in his chaffare,* *merchandise
For oftentime he found his box full bare.
For, soothely, a prentice revellour,
That haunteth dice, riot, and paramour,
His master shall it in his shop abie*, *suffer for
All* have he no part of the minstrelsy. *although
For theft and riot they be convertible,
All can they play on *gitern or ribible.* *guitar or rebeck*
Revel and truth, as in a low degree,
They be full wroth* all day, as men may see. *at variance

This jolly prentice with his master bode,
Till he was nigh out of his prenticehood,
All were he snubbed* both early and late, *rebuked
And sometimes led with revel to Newgate.
But at the last his master him bethought,
Upon a day when he his paper<2> sought,
Of a proverb, that saith this same word;
Better is rotten apple out of hoard,
Than that it should rot all the remenant:
So fares it by a riotous servant;
It is well lesse harm to let him pace*, *pass, go
Than he shend* all the servants in the place. *corrupt
Therefore his master gave him a quittance,
And bade him go, with sorrow and mischance.
And thus this jolly prentice had his leve*: *desire
Now let him riot all the night, or leave*. *refrain
And, for there is no thief without a louke,<3>
That helpeth him to wasten and to souk* *spend
Of that he bribe* can, or borrow may, *steal
Anon he sent his bed and his array
Unto a compere* of his owen sort, *comrade
That loved dice, and riot, and disport;
And had a wife, that held *for countenance* *for appearances*
A shop, and swived* for her sustenance. *prostituted herself<4>

(Chaucer did not finish this tale.)

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