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The Canterbury Tales Prologue in Middle English

 

A reading of the Canterbury Tales Prologue in Middle English accompanied by the text in "phonetic" spelling so that one can easily learn it. Below the same extract is printed in the authentic Middle English version. Translation is also provided.

 

 

 

 Whan that Aprill with his shoures sote

 The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote,

 And bathed euery veyne in swich licour,

 Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

 Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth

 Inspired hath in euery holt and heeth

 The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

 Hath in the Ram his halfe course yronne,

 And smale fowles maken melodye,

 That slepen al the niȝt with open ye

 So priketh hem Nature in hir corages

 Than longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

 And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,

 To ferne halwes, couthe in sondry londes;

 And specially, from euery shires ende

 Of Engelond to Caunterbury they wende,

 The holy blissful martir for to seke,

 That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seke.

 

Modern translation:

When April with its sweet showers has pierced the drought of March to the root, and bathed every vein in such liquor from whose power the flower is engendred; when Zephyr [the west wind] also, with his sweet breath has blown [into life] in every wood and heath the tender crops, and the young sun has run his half-course in the sign of the Ram [Aries], and small fowls make melody, who sleep all night with open eye - so Nature stimulates them in their hearts - THEN people long to go on pilgrimages, and palmers [i.e. pilgrims carrying palm leaves] to seek strange coastlines, to distant saints [i.e., holy places], known in various lands; and specially, from every shire's end [i.e. the border of every county] in England, to Canterbury they journey, to seek the holy blissful martyr [Thomas à Becket] who helped them when they were sick.

 

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