The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue

“HOLD!” cried the knight. “Good sir, no more of this,

What you have said is right enough, and is

Very much more; a little heaviness

Is plenty for the most of us, I guess.

For me, I say it’s saddening, if you please,(5)

As to men who’ve enjoyed great wealth and ease,

To hear about their sudden fall, alas,

But the contrary’s joy and great solace,

As when a man has been in poor estate

And he climbs up and waxes fortunate,(10)

And there abides in all prosperity.

Such things are gladsome, as it seems to me,

And of such things it would be good to tell.”

“Yea, quoth our host, “and by Saint Paul’s great bell,

You say the truth; this monk, his clapper’s loud.(15)

Sir monk, no more of this, so God you bless!

Your tale annoys the entire company;

Sir, tell a tale of hunting now, I pray.”

Such things are gladsome, as it seems to me,

And of such things it would be good to tell.”(20)

“Nay,” said this monk, “I have no wish to play;

Now let another tell, as I have told.”

Then spoke our host out, in rude speech and bold,

And said he unto the nun’s priest anon:

“Come near, you priest, come hither, you Sir John,(25)

Tell us a thing to make our hearts all glad;

Be blithe, although you ride upon a jade.

What though your horse may be both foul and lean?

If he but serves you, why, don’t care a bean;

Just see your heart is always merry. So.”(30)

“Yes, sir,” said he, “yes, host, so may I go,

For, save I’m merry, I know I’ll be blamed.”

And right away his story has he framed,

And thus he said unto us, every one,

This dainty priest, this goodly man, Sir John.(35)

Footnotes

  1. In this context the host is referring to the Nun's Priest's horse. Jade is a derogatory term for a horse of inferior breed. It has connotations of an animal that is pathetic, ill-conditioned, worn-out, worthless, stupid, or ill-tempered. Often it was used to refer to donkeys. Riding a "jade" would reflect badly on someone's social status or disposition. Thus, this is a veiled insult towards the Nun's Priest.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. In the original order of the Canterbury Tales, "The Nun's Priest's Prologue" comes after the "Monk's Tale." The Monk's tale consists of 17 short, tragic stories based on historical events. Though the Monk claims that he has 100 stories to tell, the Knight stops him here because his stories were too sad. This once again establishes the Knight as the arbitrator and leader of the pilgrims, and demonstrates Chaucer's favorable attitude towards him.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor