Poetry Sunday: Prologue to the Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Long, long ago, I was a freshman in college and one of my required courses was English literature. Early in that course, the name of Chaucer came up and, inevitably, "The Canterbury Tales." Our teacher was a big fan and one of her requirements was that we learn and recite from memory the prologue to the tales in the Middle English in which it was written. I'm sure I have forgotten much of what I learned in college but I can still recite most of that prologue!

The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.


  1. I think that the only reason that Chaucer appeared on Earth was to torment students for centuries to come. He was joined later by Shakespeare!

    1. I may be in the minority here (a position with which I am very familiar) but I actually quite enjoyed Chaucer and Shakespeare.

  2. I majored in cultural anthropology in college, and took a linguistics class. It was one of my favorite classes in my major. I am intrigued by how much our language has changed over the years. Through these stories we peek into the life of some 600 years ago, something that should interest me. These Tales are a masterpiece, but for most of us, we have to read it in a modern English translation. And translations always lose something in the translation. I'm not one of those to have the patience to wade through either this or Shakespeare, something I really should do now that I am semi retired.

    1. That's interesting. I came close to majoring in cultural anthropology myself but in the end went the sociology route instead. But I did take a couple of courses in the field and it has always fascinated me.

  3. That's a mouthful! I'd never be able to memorize that....but then memorizing lines, poems, etc. has never been my thing. Even when I manage to get something memorized, I seem to forget it a few weeks later. ;D

  4. I think our teachers must have been related because mine was a huge Chaucer fan, and I can still recite most of that prologue! And-- like you-- I enjoyed Chaucer and Shakespeare. (I can still recite large chunks of Shakespeare, too.)

    1. I wonder if English literature teachers still require such memorization. I thought it was silly at the time, but now I'm so glad they made me do it. Like you, I still have bits of Shakespeare rattling around in my brain. Chaucer and Shakespeare - not bad companions for my consciousness!

  5. I remember having to memorize the prologue when I was a senior in high school. Funny how those words, despite their quirky characters, stick in your mind after...well, after quite a number of years.


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