The General Prologue - The Squire

With him there was his son, a youthful squire,
A lover and a lusty bachelor,
With locks well curled, as if they’d laid in press.
Some twenty years of age he was, I guess.
In stature he was of an average length,(5)
Wondrously active, aye, and great of strength.
He’d ridden sometime with the cavalry
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardy,
And borne him well within that little space
In hope to win thereby his lady’s grace.(10)
Embroidered was he, like a meadow bed
All full of freshest flowers, white and red.
Singing he was, or fluting, all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gown, with sleeves both long and wide.(15)
Well could he sit on horse, and fairly ride.
He could make songs and words thereto indite,
Joust, and dance too, as well as sketch and write.
So hot he loved that, while night told her tale,
He slept no more than does a nightingale.(20)
Courteous he, and humble, willing and able,
And carved before his father at the table.

Footnotes

  1. Though the narrator finds little military talent to focus on in his description, he still reveals affection for the squire. The narrator seems especially impressed with the squire’s ability to obey his father.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. The narrator highlights non-military talents when he describes the Squire. In juxtaposing the chivalric description of the Knight with this description of his son, the narrator suggests that the squire has few military attributes and is not quite cut out for knighthood the way his father is. In this way Chaucer reveals details about the characters without having to directly state them.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. Here the narrator lists basic abilities of a knight rather than impressive characteristics of an exceptional soldier. In pointing out these average traits, the narrator damns the squire with faint praise.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. White and red are a reference to Saint George’s cross, a red cross on a white background that crusaders adopted on their flags. Saint George was the warrior saint. If this squire is “embroidered” “white and red” it means that he bears the cross of Saint George on his uniform.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. This means that the Squire is wearing a tunic with a red and white cross on it. However, the syntax of this description metaphorically “embroiders” the squire himself with “red and white,” making the squire synonymous with the symbol he wears.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Flanders, Artois, and Picardy are provinces in Northern France. This reference suggests that the Squire has been on military expeditions. However, it also shows that he has not gone as far as his father, the Knight. Whereas the previous description focused on the honor, chivalry, and military prowess of the Knight, this description focuses more on the youth, strength, and beauty of the young squire.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. “Lusty” here means joyful, cheerful, and lively. The narrator uses this word to refer back to the images of Spring in the general prologue. While we have moved away from the randy birds, we still have a lusty, youthful character who embodies the abundance and growth of Spring.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. In the military order of the feudal system, a squire is a knight’s attendant who ranks just below the knight. A squire was usually a young man of good birth who would eventually rise to the position of a knight. The “his” here refers to the Knight that the Narrator has just introduced. The squire is his son.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Editor