The little child, they bore to the abbey, singing sad songs of lamentation. His mother swooned by the bier. When mass had been said over him the abbot sprinkled him with holy water and made ready to bear him out to burial. Yet when the drops of blessed water touched him, once again the child sang his Alma Redemptoris Mater. At this the abbot, all amazed, charged him to say why, when to all seeming he was already dead, he still sang in this fashion. Then said the child, “When I should have died, the Mother of God came to me and placed a grain on my tongue, and by her grace I sing thus happily in her honour until the grain be taken from me, and then in heaven she will receive my soul, never leaving me, because in life I loved and worshipped her always.”
The abbot and his cloister marvelled to hear this miracle. Then the abbot took away the grain, and they bore the little body and laid it in a clear marble tomb with honour befitting so noble a martyr.
O blessed Hugh, whom wicked Jews also slew, pray for us weak people that Mary, Mother of God, may grant us grace. Amen.
* * * * *
The effect of the Prioress’s tale was to make the whole company silent and wondrously solemn for a while, so feelingly had she told the story of the miracle; but at length our Host began his joking again. He looked round the party and caught sight of me. “What man are you?” he asked. “You look nowhere but upon the ground as though you would find a hare there. Come here, good sir, be cheerful. Make way!” he cried to the others, “let this man pass. I swear he is no stripling, his waist is as large as mine. He ought to be a gallant man and fond of company, but he rides alone, and is so silent that I suspect the elves have bewitched him.” The company laughed. “Tell us your tale,” said Harry Bailey to me again, “and let it be a merry one.” “Good host,” I answered humbly, “I know few tales. All that I can offer is a ballad I learned long ago.” “That’s good!” said the Host. “Begin. It’s a jolly tale, I’ll wager.” This is the tale I told:
CHAUCER’S RIME OF SIR THOPAS [*]
[Footnote: The ballad that Chaucer tells is a parody of the worn-out poems of chivalrous adventure, in which the knight rides on endless quests. These poems were still popular in Chaucer’s day.]
Listen, lords and ladies gay,
I will sing my roundelay,
A song both gay and witty.
Sir Thopas was the knight yclept,
As bold a wight as ever stept,
The hero of my ditty.
Now he was born in Poperhinge,
The child of many a fond longing,
Upon a summer’s day.
His father’s house was in the square,
And he a powerful lordling there
In Flanders, miles away.
His skin was white as white could be,
Like lilies from the deep valley,
His lips were blushing roses.
His cheeks were pink and fair to see,
And (on my troth) possessed he,
The seemliest of noses.