The Canterbury Pilgrims eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 138 pages of information about The Canterbury Pilgrims.

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Thus spoke the Clerk; but, seeing us all look a little sad for the trials of patient Griselda, he suddenly burst into a merry song: 

Griselda’s dead, alack the day,
And buried in Italy far away,
    O! men beware. 
    And do not dare
To test your wives in spiteful play.

For patience, in these times more crude,
By modern matrons is eschewed,
    And wives to-day
    Are sterner clay,
And know the art of being rude.

You, wife, who would your husband rule,
Be not a weak obedient fool;
    By force or guile
    Or crafty wile,
O make him your subservient tool.

If you his purpose would deflect
In all your gayest raiment decked. 
    Throughout the town
    Walk up and down,
Till he your beauty will respect.

We joined in the Clerk’s song, and felt much cheered by its merry tune.

Then the Merchant told a tale of a wife who was the exact opposite of Griselda, and much more akin to the Wife of Bath.  Many of the company enjoyed it, and of a truth it was a good contrast to the Clerk’s tale.

After the Merchant’s tale we talked lightly to one another of men and matters until we reached the inn at Ospringe where we were lodged for the third night of our pilgrimage.

After supper the Yeoman told a tale [*] of the adventures of a lad named Gamelyn, and how at last he got the better of his unjust brother.

[Footnote:  The text of this tale was found amongst Chaucer’s papers.  It seems most suitable for the Yeoman to tell it, and as there is nothing in Chaucer to contradict this, we give it to the Yeoman here.]


A knight lay dying.  He summoned his neighbours to consult about the division of his property between his three sons.  The neighbours debated together and decided to give all to the two eldest sons, and nothing to Gamelyn the youngest, who was still a mere boy.  This division did not please the knight; so, rousing himself weak as he was, he gave his own decision in the matter.

“John, my eldest son, shall have as much land as he can plough with five ploughs.  Such was my father’s bequest to me.  My second son shall have five plough-lands too, for so much have I won with my own right hand.  But all my other possessions of land, of servants, and of goodly steeds, I bequeath to Gamelyn.  I beseech you, good neighbours all, see my wishes fulfilled!” Saying this, he died, but, as Gamelyn was too young to have the management of his property, all was given into the charge of his elder brother till Gamelyn was grown up.

This brother, however, was no true knight, and let all Gamelyn’s property fall into decay, and kept Gamelyn himself in his house rather as a servant than a brother, though in time Gamelyn grew so tall and strong that the man who dared to anger him was brave indeed.

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The Canterbury Pilgrims from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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