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Ah, Freedom is a noble thing!
Freedom makes man to have liking!
Freedom all solace to man gives;
He lives at ease that freely lives.
A noble heart may have none ease,
Na else naught that may him please,
If Freedom fail'th; for free liking
Is yearned owre all other thing.
Na he that aye has lived free
May not know well the property,
The anger, na the wretched doom
That is coupled to foul thirldom.
But, if he had assayed it,

Then all perquer he should it wit;
And should think freedom more to prize
Than all the gold in world that is.


1. PROLOGUE TO THE CANTERBURY TALES. Whanne that April with his showers sote The drought of March hath pierced to the root, And bathed every vein in such liquor, Of which virtue engendered is the flower; When Zephyrus eké with his sotè breath Inspired hath in every holt and heath The tender croppes; and the young sun Hath in the Ram his halfè course yrun; And smallè fowles maken melody, That sleepen allè night with open eye,

(So pricketh them nature in their corage)
Then longen folk to go on pilgrimage;
And palmers for to seeken strangè strands,
To servé hallows couth in sundry lands;
And specially from every shiris end
Of England, to Canterbury they wend,
The holy blissful martyr for to seek,

That them hath holpen, when that they were sick.
Befell that in that season on a day
In Southwark at the Tabbard as I lay,
Ready to wenden on my pilgrimage
To Canterbury, with devout corage,
At night were come into that hostelry
Full nine and twenty in a company
Of sundry folk, by aventure yfall
In fellowship; and pilgrims were they all,
That toward Canterbury woulden ride.

The chambers and the stables weren wide,
And well we weren easé at the best:

And shortly when the sunné was one to rest,
So I had spoken with them every one,
That I was of their fellowship anon;
And madé forward early for to rise,
To take our way there as I did devise.

But nathless, while that I have time and space,
Ere that I further in this talè pace,
Methinketh it accordant to reason
To tell you allè the condition

Of each of them, so as it seemed to me,
And which they weren, and of what degree,
And eke in what array that they were in:
And at a knight then will I first begin.


I rose anon, and thought I wouldè
Into the wood, to hear the birdès sing,
When that the misty vapour was agone,
And clear and fairè was the morroning;
The dew also like silver in shining

Upon the leaves at any balmè sweet,
Till fiery Titan with his persant heat
Had dried up the lusty liquor new

Upon the herbès in the greenè mead;
And that the flow'rs of many divers hue,
Upon her stalkès 'gannè for to spreal,
And for to 'splayè out her leaves in brede
Against the sun, gold-burned in his sphere,
That downè to them cast his beames clear.
And by a river forth I 'gan costay

Of water clear as beryl or crystal, Till at the last I found a little way Toward a park, enclosed with a wall In compass round, and by a gatè small, Whoso that wouldè, freely mightè gone Into this park walled with greenè stone. And in I went to hear the birdes song, Which on the branches, both in plain and vaie, So loudè sang that all the woodè rung Like as it should shiver in pieces smiale, And as methoughtè that the nightingale With so great might her voicè 'gan out-wrest Right as her heartè for love wouldé brest.

Therè saw I ekè the fresh hawthorn,

In white motley, that so sootè doth smell,
Ash, fir and oak, with many a young acorn,
And many a tree mo than I can tell;
And, me before, I saw a little well
That had its coursè, as I 'gan behold,
Under a hill, with quické streamés cold.
The gravel gold: the water pure as glass;
The bankes round the well environing;
And softé as velvet the youngé grass,

That thereupon lustily came springing,
The suit of trees abouté compassing
Her shadow casté, closing the well round,
And all the herbés growing on the ground.




Thus it befel upon a night
When there was naught but starre light,
She was vanish'd right as her list,
That no wight but herselfe wist,
And that was at midnight tide;
The world was still on every side.
With open head, and foot all bare
His heare to spread, she 'gan to fare :
Upon the clothes girt she was,
And speecheless upon the grass
She glode forth as an adder doth.



So thick the boughis and the leavis green
Beshaded all the alleys that there were.
And, midst of every herbere, might be seen
The sharpé, greené, sweeté, juniper,

Growing so fair, with branches here and there,
That, as it seemed to a life without,

The boughis spread the arbour all about.

And therewith cast I down mine eyes again,
Where as I saw, walking under the tower

Full secretly new comen her to playen,

The fairest or the freshest youngé flower
That e'er I saw, methought, before that hour;

For which sudden abate, anon astart
The blood of all my body to my heart.
And when she walked had a little thraw

Under the sweeté, greené boughis bent,
Her fair fresh face, as white as ony snaw,
She turned has, and forth her wayis went.
But tho began mine aches and torment,
To sene her part and follow I na might;
Methought the day was turned into night.

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