Prologue to The Canterbury Tales

Written Text

Original Old English
Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
So priketh hem Nature in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

When that April with her showers sweet,
The drought of March has pierced to the root,
And bathed every vein in such liquid
Whose virtue engenders the flower;
When the west wind with his sweet breath
Has inspired in every wood a shrub-lang
The tender crops, and the young sun
Has in the Ram (zodiac) run half his course,
And small birds make melody,
That sleep all the night with open eye,
So Nature stirs them in their hearts,
Then people long to go on pilgrimages,
And religious travelers to seek strange shores,
To distant shrines, known in various lands;
And specially, from every countries end
Of England, to Canterbury they travel,
The holy blissful martyr to seek,
That has helped them when they were sick.