The General Prologue - The Manciple

There was a manciple from an inn of court,
To whom all buyers might quite well resort
To learn the art of buying food and drink;
For whether he paid cash or not, I think
That he so knew the markets, when to buy,(5)
He never found himself left high and dry.
Now is it not of God a full fair grace
That such a vulgar man has wit to pace
The wisdom of a crowd of learned men?
Of masters had he more than three times ten,(10)
Who were in law expert and curious;
Whereof there were a dozen in that house
Fit to be stewards of both rent and land
Of any lord in England who would stand
Upon his own and live in manner good,(15)
In honour, debtless (save his head were wood),
Or live as frugally as he might desire;
These men were able to have helped a shire
In any case that ever might befall;
And yet this manciple outguessed them all.(20)


  1. In Chaucer's time "vulgar" referred to the common man, someone who spoke the vernacular. The term did not yet carry the negative connotation that we now associate with it. Here he is simply showing that this common man is so clever that he can keep up with the wisdom of a crowd of learned men.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. The "Inns of Court" are four institutions that are responsible for legal education in London. A Manciple is an officer or public servant who is in charge of buying food and provisions for a college, Inn of Court, monastery etc.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff