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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘The Canterbury Pilgrims’

By Percy MacKaye (1875–1956)

  • [The scene is at the Tabard Inn; the persons are the pilgrims well known to us from Chaucer’s Prologue to the Canterbury Tales.]

  • KNIGHT—I am returning from the Holy Land

    And go to pay my vows at Canterbury.

    This is my son.
    Chaucer—Go you to Canterbury

    As well, Sir Squire?

    [The Squire, putting down his flute, sighs deeply.]
    Knight—My son, the gentleman

    Accosts thee!
    Squire—Noble gentleman—Ah me!

    [He turns away.]

    Chaucer[follows him]—My dearest heart and best beloved foe,

    Why liketh you to do me all this woe?

    What have I done that grieveth you, or said,

    Save that I love and serve you, high and low?

    And whilst I live I will do ever so.

    Wherefore, my sweet, do not that I be dead;

    For good and fair and gentle as ye be,

    It were great wonder if but that ye had

    A thousand thousand servants, good and bad:

    The most unworthiest servant—I am he!

    Squire—Sir, by my lady’s grace, you are a poet

    And lover, like myself. We shall be brothers.

    But pardon, sir, those verses are not yours.

    Dan Chaucer wrote them. Ah, sir, know you Chaucer?

    Chaucer—Twelve stone of him!
    Squire—Would I did! Is he not

    An amorous divinity? Looks he

    Like pale Leander, or some ancient god?

    Chaucer—Sooth, he is like old Bacchus round the middle.

    Squire—How acts he when in love? What feathers wears he?

    Doth he sigh oft? What lady doth he serve?


    [At a smile from Chaucer, he starts back and looks at him in awe: then hurries to the Knight.Chaucer walks among the pilgrims, talking with them severally.]

    Miller[to Franklin]—Ten gallon ale? God’s arms! I take thee.
    Man of Law—What’s

    The wager?
    Franklin—Yonder door; this miller here

    Shall break it, at a running, with his head.

    The door is oak. The stakes ten gallon ale.

    Shipman—Ho, then, I bet the miller shall be drunk.

    Merchant—What bet?
    Shipman—Twelve crown upon the miller.

    [At the door appears the Prioress, accompanied by a Nun and her three priests, one of whom, Joannes, carries a little pup.The Host hurries up with a reverence.]

    Host—Welcome, my lady dear. Vouchsafe to enter

    Poor Harry Bailey’s inn.
    Host[to a serving-boy]—Knave, show

    My lady Prioress to the blue chamber

    Where His Majesty, King Richard, slept.

    Mark, Paulus, stay! have you the little hound

    Joannes—Yes, my lady.
    Prioress—Carry him before,

    But carefully.

    Miller[to Yeoman]—Here, nut-head, hold my hood.

    Yeoman—Wilt try bareheaded?
    Franklin—Ho, for a skull!

    Miller, thou art as tough a knot as e’er

    The Devil tied. By God, mine ale is spilled.

    [The priests and Prioress have just reached the door left front, which the Miller is preparing to ram.]

    Ploughman—The door is locked.
    Joannes—But, sir, the Prioress—

    Shipman—Heigh! Clear the decks!

    [The Miller, with clenched fists and head doubled over, runs for the door.]
    Parson—Run, Robin.
    Guild-Men[rise from their dice]—Ho!

    [With a crash, the Miller’s head strikes the door and splits it.At the shock, he rebounds against Joannes, and reaching to save himself from falling, seizes the puppy.]

    Miller—A twenty devils!

    Guild-Men[all but the Weaver, clambering over the table]—Come on!
    Ploughman[to the Miller]—What aileth thee?

    Miller—The priest hath bit my hand.
    Joannes—Sweet sir, the puppy—

    It was the puppy, sir.
    Miller—Wring me its neck.

    Prioress—Alas, Joannes—help!
    Miller—By Corpus bones!

    Give me the cur.
    Prioress—St. Loy! Will no one help?

    Chaucer—Madame, what may I do?
    Prioress—My little hound—

    The churl—My little hound! The churl will hurt it.

    If you would fetch to me my little hound—

    Chaucer—Madame, I’d fetch you Cerberus from hell.

    Miller—Lo, masters! See a dog’s neck-wrung!
    Chaucer[breaking through the crowd, seizes the Miller by the throat]—Which dog’s?

    Miller—Leave go!—’Sdeath! Take the whelp, a devil’s name.

    Chaucer—Kneel! Ask grace of this lady here.
    Miller[sullenly]—What lady?

    Chaucer—Of her whom gentles call St. Charity

    In every place and time.—

    [Turns then towards Prioress.]
    What other name

    This lady bears, I have not yet been honored

    With knowing.—Kneel!
    Miller[morosely; kneels]—Lady, I axe your pardon.

    Chaucer—Madame, your little hound is safe.
    Prioress[nestles the little hound with tender effusiveness; then turns shyly to Chaucer]—Merci!

    My name is Madame Eglantine.

    [Hurries out, left.]
    Chaucer[aside]—Hold, Geoffrey!

    Yon beastie’s quaking side thumped not as thine

    Thumps now. And wilt thou ape a little hound?

    Ah, Madame Eglantine, unless ye be

    To me, as well as him, St. Charity!

    Franklin—Who is the man?
    Miller—The Devil, by his eye.

    They say King Richard hath to court a wrastler

    Can grip ten men. I guess that he be him.

    Cook—Ho! milksop of a miller!
    Miller[seizing him]—Say it twice;

    Cook—Nay, thou art a bull at bucking doors.

    Franklin—Let ribs be hoops for twenty gallon ale

    And stop your wind-bags. Come.
    Miller[with a grin, follows the Franklin]—By Corpus bones!

    Shipman—Twelve crown.
    Merchant—Twelve, say you? See my man of law.

    Weaver[springs to his feet]—The throw is mine!
    Dyer—A lie! When we were away

    You changed the dice!
    Weaver—My throw was cinq and three.

    Dyer—A lie! Have it in your gullet!

    [Draws his knife.They fight.]
    Carpenter—Part them!

    Host—Harrow! Dick Weaver, hold! Fie, Master Dyer,

    Here’s not a dyeing stablishment; we want

    No crimson cloth—Clap hands now: Knave, more ale.

    Chaucer[to the Doctor]—If then, as by hypothesis, this cook

    Hath broke his nose, it follows first that we

    Must calculate the ascendent of his image.

    Doctor—Precisely! Pray proceed. I am fortunate

    To have met a fellow-doctor at this inn.

    Chaucer—Next, treating him by magic natural,

    Provide him well with old authorities,

    As Esculapius, Diescorides,

    Damascien, Constantinus, Averrois,

    Hippocrates, Serapion, Razis,

    Bernardus, Galienus, Gilbertinus—

    Doctor—But, sir, the fellow cannot read—
    Chaucer—Why, true;

    Then there remains but one sure remedy,

    Thus: bid him, fasting, when the moon is wane,

    And Venus rises in the house of Pisces,

    To rub it nine times with a herring’s tail.

    Doctor—Yea, Pisces is a fish.—I thank you, sir.

    [He hurries off to the Cook, whose nose he has patched.]

    Host[to the Reeve, who enters]—God save thee, Osewold! What’s o’clock? Thou looks’t

    As puckered as a pear at Candlemas.

    Reeve—There be too many fold i’ the world; and none

    Is ripe till he be rotten.

    [Sits at table.]
    Penny’orth ale!

    Squire—My lord, father!
    Knight—Well, son?
    Squire[looking at Chaucer]—Sir, saw you ever

    So knightly, sweet, and sovereign a man,

    With eyes so glad and shrewdly innocent?

    O, when I laid my hand in his, and looked

    Into his eyes, meseemed I rode on horse

    Into the April open fields, and heard

    The larks upsinging in the sun. Sir, have

    You guessed who ’tis?
    Knight—To judge him by his speech,

    Some valiant officer.
    Squire—Nay, I have guessed.