The General Prologue - The Salior

There was a sailor, living far out west;
For aught I know, he was of Dartmouth town.
He sadly rode a hackney, in a gown,
Of thick rough cloth falling to the knee.
A dagger hanging on a cord had he(5)
About his neck, and under arm, and down.
The summer’s heat had burned his visage brown;
And certainly he was a good fellow.
Full many a draught of wine he’d drawn, I trow,
Of Bordeaux vintage, while the trader slept.(10)
Nice conscience was a thing he never kept.
If that he fought and got the upper hand,
By water he sent them home to every land.
But as for craft, to reckon well his tides,
His currents and the dangerous watersides,(15)
His harbours, and his moon, his pilotage,
There was none such from Hull to far Carthage.
Hardy, and wise in all things undertaken,
By many a tempest had his beard been shaken.
He knew well all the havens, as they were,(20)
From Gottland to the Cape of Finisterre,
And every creek in Brittany and Spain;
His vessel had been christened Madeleine.


  1. This characterizes the sailor as a ruthless victor: whenever he beats someone in battle he forces them to walk the plank rather than showing them "nice conscious" or mercy.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. Bordeaux is a province of France that produces wine. Here, the narrator says that the Sailor drank a Bordeaux trader's wine while he slept. This action would endear the sailor to Chaucer's audience as England was engaged in the Hundred Years War against France at the time.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff