Fragment IX (Group H)

The Manciple's Tale

PROLOGUE

Do you know where there stands a little town That they call by the name Bob-up-and-down That's under Blean, down Canterbury way? That's where our Host began to joke and play, Declaring, "What, sirs! Dun is in the mire! 5 Is there no man for charity or hire Who will awake our friend who lags behind? With ease a thief might rob and bind him. Mind The way he naps! For cock's bones, look at how He's almost falling off his horse right now! 10 Is that a London cook, bad luck be sent? Have him come forth, he knows his punishment; For, by my faith, he'll tell for us a tale, Be it not worth in hay enough to bale. Wake up, you Cook! May woe come straight from God," 15 He said. "What's ailing you, all day to nod? Did you have fleas all night, or are you boozy? Or did you labor all night with a floozy And that's why now you can't hold up your head?" This Cook, completely pale, no trace of red, 20 Said to our Host, "God bless my soul, I don't Know why I feel so heavy, but I want To go to sleep more than I'd want as mine A gallon drawn from Cheapside's finest wine." "Well," said the Manciple, "if it will ease 25 You some, Sir Cook, and no one else displease Who rides along here in this company-- And if our Host should, by his courtesy, Desire it--I'll excuse you from your tale. For in good faith, you're looking very pale; 30 Your eyes have got a dazed look, too, I think, And well I know your breath's a sour stink. You've shown quite well you're in an unfit way; You'll get no praise from me, that's safe to say. See how he's yawning, look, this drunken soul, 35 As though at once he'd swallow us in whole. Keep shut your mouth, man, by your father's kin! The devil of hell stick his foot therein! Your curst breath will infect us one and all. Fie, stinking swine! May evil you befall! 40 Consider, sirs, this lusty man before us: Now, sweet sir, would you do some jousting for us? For that, I think, the shape you're in is fine! You've drunk what I believe they call ape-wine, That's when a man starts playing with a straw." 45 This made the Cook so angry that we saw Him nodding at the Manciple his head For lack of speech. His horse then threw him, spread Him out; they had to lift him off the grass. A fine cook's show of horsemanship! Alas, 50 He should have stuck to ladling! Before They got this Cook upon his horse once more, They had to do much shoving to and fro To lift him, which entailed much care and woe, So heavy was this sorry, pallid ghost. 55 And to the Manciple then spoke our Host: "Because this man is under domination Of that which he has drunk, by my salvation I know that he would lewdly tell his tale. For be it wine or old or newborn ale 60 That he has drunk, he's speaking nasally, He's wheezing too, and has a cold. And he Will also have more than enough to do To keep him and his nag out of the slough; If yet again he tumbles off, adrift, 65 Then we'll all have enough to do to lift His heavy, drunken carcass to the mount. So tell your tale, for he's of no account. "Yet, Manciple, in faith, it's bad advice So freely to reproach him for his vice. 70 Another day may come along for sure When he will get you back as with a lure; He'll speak, I mean, of what seem little things Like finding errors in your reckonings, Which wouldn't look good if it came to light." 75 "No, that could cause real trouble! Well he might," Said the Manciple, "bring me to the snare. I'd rather wind up paying for the mare On which he rides than have him with me strive. No, I'll not make him mad, as I may thrive! 80 I only spoke in jest. Do you know what? It happens that here in this gourd I've got A draught of wine, indeed of ripest grape. Now right away you'll see a clever jape, I'll have this Cook drink of it if I may. 85 On pain of death he will not tell me nay." And certainly, to tell what came to pass, The Cook drank deeply from this gourd, alas! Why did he need it, having drunk enough? And when into this gourd he'd blown a puff, 90 He passed the gourd back to the Manciple. With that the Cook was happy, fanciful, And thanked him as much as his wits allowed. Our Host broke out in laughter great and loud, And said, "I well can see it's necessary, 95 Wherever we may go, good drink to carry, For it will turn both rancor and distress To peace and love, and many a wrong redress. "O Bacchus, now may blessed be your name That you can turn the serious into game! 100 Worship and thanks be to your deity! Enough on that, no more to hear from me; Tell us your tale now, Manciple, I pray." "Well, sir," said he, "pay heed to what I say."

Top | The Manciple's Tale | Contents | Title Page