The General Prologue - The General Prologue

WHEN APRIL with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower;
When Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,(5)
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and the young sun
Into the Ram one half his course has run,
And many little birds make melody
That sleep through all the night with open eye(10)
(So Nature pricks them on to ramp and rage)—
Then do folk long to go on pilgrimage,
And palmers to go seeking out strange strands,
To distant shrines well known in sundry lands.
And specially from every shire’s end(15)
Of England they to Canterbury wend,
The holy blessed martyr there to seek
Who helped them when they lay so ill and weak.
Befell that, in that season, on a day
In Southwark, at the Tabard, as I lay(20)
Ready to start upon my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, full of devout courage,
There came at nightfall to that hostelry
Some nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry persons who had chanced to fall(25)
In fellowship, and pilgrims were they all
That toward Canterbury town would ride.
The rooms and stables spacious were and wide,
And well we there were eased, and of the best.
And briefly, when the sun had gone to rest,(30)
So had I spoken with them, every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon,
And made agreement that we’d early rise
To take our way, as to you I’ll devise.
But nonetheless, whilst I have time and space,(35)
Before yet farther in this tale I pace,
It seems to me accordant with reason
To inform you of the state of every one
Of all of these, as it appeared to me,
And who they were, and what was their degree,(40)
And also what array they all were in;
And with a knight thus will I first begin.