Prologue to The Canterbury Tales


Written Text

Original Old English

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,

And bathed every veyne in swich licour

Of which vertu 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 Nature 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.

Translated

When that April with her showers sweet,

The drought of March has pierced to the root,

And bathed every vein in such liquid

Whose virtue engenders the flower;

When the west wind with his sweet breath

Has inspired in every wood a shrub-lang

The tender crops, and the young sun

Has in the Ram (zodiac) run half his course,

And small birds make melody,

That sleep all the night with open eye,

So Nature stirs them in their hearts,

Then people long to go on pilgrimages,

And religious travelers to seek strange shores,

To distant shrines, known in various lands;

And specially, from every countries end

Of England, to Canterbury they travel,

The holy blissful martyr to seek,

That has helped them when they were sick.