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The Canterbury Tales
Geoffery Chaucer

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Translation of "The Nun's Priest's Tale" courtesy Gerard NeCastro, University of Maine at Machias.


The Nun's Priest's Tale

Here begins the Nun's Priest's Tale of the Cock and the Hen, Chanticleer and Pertelote.

A widow, poor and somewhat advanced in years, dwelt once in a little cottage that stood in a dale beside a grove. Since the day she was last a wife, this widow of whom I tell this tale had lived patiently and simply; for her goods and earnings were small. By managing carefully what God sent, she provided for herself and her two daughters; she had three large sows and no more, three cows and a sheep named Molly. Her bedroom and living area, where she ate many slender meals, were rather sooty; she never needed a bit of pungent sauce, nor did a dainty morsel ever pass her throat; her diet was in keeping with her livestock shed. Overeating never was the cause of any sickness; her only treatment was a temperate diet, with exercise and heart's content. The gout never kept her from dancing, nor did the apoplexy bother her head. She drank neither red wine nor white; her table was served for the most part with white and black--milk and brown bread, of which she found no lack, with broiled bacon and at times an egg or two, for she was a kind of dairy woman. [2846]

She had a yard enclosed all around with sticks and a dry ditch, and in it she had a cock, who was called Chanticleer. In all the land there was no match for his crowing; his voice was merrier than the merry organ that goes in church on mass-days. More trusty was his crowing in his yard than a clock or an abbey timepiece; he knew by nature each coming of the hour in that place for when each fifteen degrees were ascended1, then he crowed so well that it could not he bettered. His comb was redder than fine coral and crenellated like a castle-wall. His black bill shone like jet; his legs and toes were like azure; his nails, whiter than the lily flower; and his hue, like burnished gold. To do all his pleasure, this noble cock had in his governance seven hens, his sisters and paramours, and very much like him in their markings; of these the one with the fairest hue on her throat was named lovely Mademoiselle Pertelote. [2870]



1 fifteen degrees were ascended The time was measured by the movement of the sun, each of the twenty four hours being fifteen degrees.
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