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235

THE COKES PROLOGE.

HE Cook of Londone, whil the Reeve spak,

THE

For joye he thought he clawed him on the bak ;1 'Ha, ha!' quod he, 'for Cristes passioun,

This meller hath a scharp conclusioun

Upon his argument of herburgage.
Wel seyde Salomon in his langage,
Ne bryng nat every man into thyn hous,
For herburgage by night is perilous.
Wel aught a man avised for to be
Whom that he brought into his pryvyté.
I pray to God so gyf my body care,
Gif ever, siththen I highte Hogge of Ware,
Herd I a better miller set a-werke;
He hadde a jape of malice in the derke.
But God forbede that we stynten heere,
And therfore if ye vouchesauf to heere
A tale of me that am a pover man,
I wol yow telle as wel as I kan

A litel jape that fel in oure cité.'

Oure Host answerde and seyde, 'I graunt it the. Now telle on, Roger, and loke it be good;

For many a pastey hastow lete blood,

3

And many a Jakk of Dover hastow sold,
That hath be twyes hoot and twyes cold.
Of many a pylgrym hastow Cristes curs;
For thy persly they faren yet the wors,
That they have eten with the stubbil goos;
For in thy schoppe is many a flye loos.
Now tell on, gentil Roger by thy name,
But yit I pray the be nought wroth for game;

1 For the joy he experienced in his mind, he could scarcely forbear clapping the reeve on the back.

2 Ecclus. xi. 31.

3 Tyrwhitt does not understand this line. Jack means the fish called pike or luce, and Dover may have been celebrated for them.

A man may seye ful sothe in game and pley."
'Thow saist ful soth,' quod Roger, 'by my fey!
But soth play quad play, as the Flemyng saith ;2
And therfore, Herry Baillif, by thy faith,
Be thou nat wroth, or we departe her,
Though that my tale be of an hostyler.
But natheles I wol not telle it yit,
But or we departe it schal be quyt.'
And therwithal he lowh and made chere,
And seyde his tale, as ye schal after heere.

A

THE COKES TALE.

PRENTYS dwelled whilom in oure citee,
And of a craft of vitaillers was he;
Gaylard he was, as goldfynch in the schawe,
Broun as a bery, and a propre felawe,
With lokkes blak, and kempt ful fetously.
Dauncen he cowde wel and prately,
That he was cleped Perkyn Revellour.3
He was as ful of love and paramour
As is the honycombe of hony swete;
Wel were the wenche that mighte him meete.
At
bridale wold he
every
and hoppe ;*
He loved bet the taverne than the schoppe.
For whan ther eny rydyng was in Cheepe,
Out of the schoppe thider wolde he lepe,
And tyl he hadde al that sight i-seyn,
And daunced wel, he nold nat come ageyn;

synge

1 This line, as well as the next but two, is omitted in MS. Harl., which reads by my faith in the ensuing line, to make it rhyme with that which follows.-W.

2 Play in earnest is bad play.

Tyrwhitt quotes Sir John Harring

ton to the same purpose-'Soth bourde is no bourde.'

3 See ante, p. 220, note 2.

4 This and the following line are omitted in MS. Harl.-W.

5 There were sometimes justs in Cheapside.-Holingshed, vol. ii. p.

348. But perhaps any procession may be meant.-T.

And gadred him a meyné of his sort,
To hoppe and synge, and make such disport.
And ther they setten stevene for to meete,
To pleyen atte dys in such a strete,
For in the toun ne was ther no prentys
That fairer cowde caste a peyre dys
Than Perkyn couthe, and therto he was free
Of his dispence, in place of pryvyté.
That fand his mayster wel in his chaffare,
For often tyme he fond his box ful bare.
For such a joly prentys revelour,
That haunteth dys, revel, or paramour,
His maister schal it in his schoppe abye,
Al have he no part of the mynstralcye.
For thefte and ryot be convertyble,
Al can they pley on giterne or rubible.
Revel and trouthe, as in a lowe degré,
They ben ful wroth al day,' as ye may see.
This joly prentys with his mayster bood,
Til he was oute neygh of his prentyshood,
Al were he snybbyd bothe erly and late,
And som tyme lad with revel into Newgate.
But atte laste his mayster him bythought
Upon a day, whan he his papyr2 sought,
Of a proverbe, that saith this same word,
Wel bette is roten appul out of hord,
Than that it rote al the remenaunt.
So fareth it by a ryotous servaunt;
It is ful lasse harm to late him pace,

Than he schend al the servauntes in the place.
Therfore his mayster gaf him acquitaunce,

3

And bad him go, with sorwe and with meschaunce.

1 The meaning is not obvious. It may be, theft and riot are convertible terms (always accompany one another), however pleasant and gay they may appear outwardly; while, on the other hand, revelry and truth (or honesty) are every day seen to be at enmity, particularly in persons of low degree, who have not the means of maintaining the expense.

2 His account books. 3 The MS. Harl. reads acqueyntaunce.-W.

And thus the joly prentys had his leve.
Now let hym ryot al the night or leve.
And for ther is no thef withowten a lowke,
'That helpeth him to wasten and to sowke
Of that he bribe can, or borwe may,
Anon he sent his bedde and his aray
Unto a compere of his owen sort,
That loved dis, and revel, and disport;
And had a wyf, that held for contenaunce2

A schoppe, and swyved for hire sustenaunce.3

[Fye theron, it is so foule, I wil nowe telle no forther, For schame of the harlotrie that seweth after ;

A velany it were thare of more to spelle,

Bot of a knyht and his sonnes my tale I wil forthe telle.]

THE COKES TALE OF GAMELYN.

[IN the Harleian and other good MSS., the tale of Gamelyn is inserted in this place; and it is retained in this edition as a curious specimen of a species of composition long popular among the Anglo-Saxon peasantry. In such rude ballads as this, it was their delight to celebrate the prowess of their outlawed countrymen, who, in the fastnesses of the extensive forests which then covered the northern parts of the island, set at nought the authority of their Norman conquerors, bid defiance to the odious forest laws, and wreaked their vengeance upon the Norman prelates who had been intruded into the sees and abbeys in the place of the rightful Saxon occupants. To this

1 The last seven lines are omitted in MS. Harl., but they are evidently genuine.-W.

2 As a blind to save appearances.

3 Here The Cokes Tale ends abruptly. It seems probable, as Tyrwhitt supposes, that Chaucer's more mature judgment convinced him that two such tales as the Miller's and the Reeve's were sufficient at a time; and that he intended to cancel the Coke's prologue and tale, and to proceed at once to The Man of Lawes Prologue.

national feeling is to be attributed the extraordinary popularity of Robin Hood, Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and other bold outlaws of the same stamp, among whom must be classed Gamelyn. Indeed, he is associated, under the name of 'young Gamwel,' with the heroic Earl of Huntingdon, in the ballad of Robin Hood and the Stranger, in Ritson's collection. In all these poems the grand merit of the hero is his daring contempt of the law, a trait by no means characteristic of the Saxons, but the result of their peculiar position as a brave and powerful, though conquered, people, governed by a foreign aristocracy.

The verse of this tale is that of the other spurious pieces which have been interpolated to supply deficiencies in The Canterbury Tales, and is never used by Chaucer. It is extremely irregular, but the rhythm or cadence resembles that of the verse much used by Surrey, and is obtained by employing an equal number of accented syllables in every line, while the unaccented ones are added or omitted, almost ad libitum; and by making an unvarying pause or cæsura at the middle of every verse.

Though possessed of great merit, and displaying much of the quaint humour so congenial to the English mind, this tale has none of the characteristics of Chaucer's manner; and the fact that when the host of the Tabard, in the prologue to The Manciple's Tale, calls upon the cook to perform his part of the agreement, he makes no reference to his having already told a tale, is decisive against its genuineness. If a conjecture may be hazarded, it seems not improbable that the poet had selected it to form the groundwork of a tale which he intended to put into the mouth of the yeoman or some other of his lower personages; and that, being found among his loose papers after his death, it was here introduced to fill a vacant space, by the person who arranged the tales in their present order. If this be so, it is a curious fact that Chaucer's great successor should have confirmed his judgment of its capabilities by selecting it as the foundation of the comedy of As you Like it.]

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