Golden as saffron was his hair,
Golden his beard that stretched so fair
Down to his girdle strong.
From Cordova his shoes they name,
His hosen brown from Brugge came,
Of silk his robe full long.
In hunting none might by him stand,
And oft he rode with hawk on hand,
For him did maidens sigh.
But of their longing they took no good,
Forth he rode to the green wood
His fortune to espy.
And it befell upon a day,
The flowers sprang in the woods so gay,
The birds their lays were singing.
His steed was of the dapple grey,
His bridle, like the Milky Way,
With silver bells was ringing.
Then pricked he through the verdant wood,
He rode as softly as he could
For high adventure thirsting.
Green grass below, green leaves above,
Filled full his heart with ardent love,
Till it was nigh to bursting.
Then tired he lay upon the grass
To give his horse a breathing space,
And dreamed of love’s sweet sway.
“An elf queen must my lady be,
No other worthy is of me
In all the land, I say.”
Now is he risen and got to horse,
For he would seek his love perforce,
Where’er she may be kept.
Then over hill and over down,
Through meadows green and moorlands brown,
His peerless charger stept.
The birds sang loud, there is no doubt,
Some sang in tune and some sang out;
The throstle and the jay.
The flowerets sprang about his feet,
Arrayed in their garb so neat,
With every colour gay.
When the birdies thus did sing,
Sir Thopas fell in love-longing,
And spurred his gallant steed.
The sweat ran down his sides amain,
To any gentle heart ’twas pain
To see him thus to bleed.
The larks on high trilled out their song,
And some sang right and some sang——
“Stop, for Heaven’s sake!” cried the Host at this point. “I’m tired out by this story. Never in my life did I hear worse doggerel.”
I must say I was offended by this remark. “Well,” I said, “you have let everyone else finish. Why should I be prevented from going on? I’m doing the best I can.” “Are you?” said Harry Bailey. “Then I think you had better try some other sort of story. Perhaps in prose you might manage to be improving, even if you could not amuse us. This is sheer waste of time.” “All right,” I answered, “I will tell you a prose tale. It is an old one and told with variations, but just as we do not accuse the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, of untruth because their accounts of Christ’s life differ, so you must not blame me if my tale is not like other versions.” Then I told my tale. It was a very virtuous one about Melibeus and his good wife Prudence. It was full of quotations from the classics, and I fear it was rather long, for I noticed that towards the end many of the company began to yawn, and the Shipman started whispering to his neighbour and tittering. So perhaps, as it was not exactly a success, I will not repeat it here.