Editors: George W. Tuma, Professor of English, and Dinah Hazell, Independent Scholar
Hosted by the English Department, San Francisco State University


Description of the Warrener in the General Prologue

and the Warrener's Prologue and Tale

E. D. Schragg


A WARYNER ther was, a sengle man
And of complexioun ne was he wan.
Ful rody both in nekkes flesh and chere,
He smyled oft and cleer bothe eyen were.
A thikke-herd scalpe he hadde upon his heed
As bright as any cokkes comb in deed,
For long and rede in colour were his heres
That loos yfastned were bihinde his eres.
But lest ye folyen by his mek fasoun,
A cok he was, ne never a capoun.
Swich heele had he liste him to go on foote;
No hors he neded, cam what may his note.
But natheles he rode a palfrey mare
He borwed so as not to semen bare.
A portreiture ay of sangwynitee
He was and spak of his felicitee
Bycause bifel that his ascencioun
With Venus in the signe of scorpioun
A frendly aspect hadde yiven him.
He was ne thikke in nouther nekke or lym,
Yet was his vois resounyng as a wawe,
That cometh from the depe of Neptuns mawe
And throndreth whan it meteth with the lond
And rumbleth alwey endelong the sond,
Algates shewed it a gentil herte,
That noon it never made for to sterte.
He was as leene as is at Oxenford
A clerk that never wolde eten his bord.
Ye was he leene as is a coltissh hors,
But thinketh me his lenesse was no fors,
For wommen soghte him alwey at the nones,
Our hoostes tappesteres, and the nonnes,
And also spak to him the Prioresse,
Al be she coy and ful of gentilesse,
For sikerly he was a digne man,
Al was his cope ymade of fustian.
But whan he speketh to the Bathes wyf,
She hadde intresse never, by my lyf!
. . .

The Prologe of the Waryners Tale

Whan that a silence fil withouten doute,
Our hooste gan to caste his eye aboute.
It liste him for to chesen oon biforn
An other cherlish pilgrim tok his torn.
Quod he, "Methinketh mony noon-tyde ales
Touchen the qualitee of somme tales."
Swich grucching fro the folk gan to aryse,
Me thoughte that he moste ageyn avyse
Or elles wolde he lese his governaunce
By cause of al her lesing her suffraunce.
"Foryeten ye," he axed everichon,
"That ye have al assented, al as oon,
My jugement to folwe in this caas
Or elles paye al that yspended was?"
Forwhy the murmure of the compaignye
Ful soone gan to lessen and wanie,
Forthy our hooste thoughte he moste ageyn
Haven the pilgrims ful in his demeyn.
"Sir Haberdasher, I chese thee," quod he.
"Mostow a tale or tweye have with thee
Of muchel solas ay that canstow telle."
But sitthe gan dissencioun to swelle
And wel nygh everich pilgrim gan to carpe
And pleyne to our hoost bothe loud and sharpe.
Sikerly ech was erly in his ale
And wolde atones tellen of his tale.

Than fynally the Prioresse spak
To govern ther our hooste hadde lak,
And everichones vois bicam ful low
In reverence, but I ne knew how
That she hadde audience, blood and bones.
They lystened gentilly at the nones
Soone after that she made a simple ple
For pacience by hir hand.  Quod she,

"Yf seeme that oure Herry us ameve
To pleyne on him somdel for tyrannye,
To thenken that he moot yvele preve,
Foryeveth me if that I contrairie.
Withouten glose, I clepe it vileinye,
Bycause the caas nys demonstratif,
Soth for to seyn, that been we al caitif.

Seyn ye that mosten we bedaffed been?
Have al oure othes now foryetten we?
He that foryeteth, ay may God hym seen,
If breketh he now that biforn swore he.
Biheeste is dette, so it seemeth me.
For ech and everichoon, we mooten nedes
Ful stonden by oure othes, by my bedes.

And so if list our lyfly companye,
And moost trewely our fair and semely hoost,
Now can we doon withouten ribaudye?
We goon on pilgrimage, blessed goost!
May thenne I profre, ful withouten boost,
Our warner for to tell the nexte tale?
Cum Sancto spiritu goon we withalle."

Whan noon in al the compaignye ageyn
Hir humble profryng but noght coude seyn,
And eek our hoost, his thankes, as he went,
He nodde and haf his hondes in assent,
The waryner, the gentil man he was,
He shewed never nillinge in this cas.
Right after that all dide his torn afferme,
He wilfully accepted thanne his terme
And cesed wispryng with the chapeleyne
For to procede full as that hym deyne.
He sat up hye in sadel, sipped meeth,
And spradde his nosethirles with his breeth.
If that I were to speke of his fasoun,
Me semed that he were at dulcarnoun.
"If lignes were conies," than seyd he,
"Ful esy wolde endyting of hem be.
For whan that tweye assemble on a leef,
Ful shortly wolde lignes make a sheef."
Than cracching somme finger on his cheke,
He stint bifore he gan agayn to speke.
"Of poesye," he seyde, "knowe I litel.
Rewde metres make my pencel,
And never moot I ryme for my conys
In my conynger, ei, never onis."
He smyled brode of dame Prioresse,
And than contynued his lyt processe.
"In my best wyse, as yow mighte suppose,
Ich wil yow telle a tale now in prose."

Heere bigynneth the Waryner his Tale

         Whilom, whan that good Kyng Arthour regned as sovereyne of all Engelond, now somme four hundred yeres ago, soght he endelong the lengthe and brede of Engelond after knyghtes for his round table at Camelot. He asked many a rude man after his lord, and semed it to somme that was Arthour's tale of Excalaber ful fantastyk. Therfor bifel hym eek that somme ne yaf him kyngly reverence.

         Arthour and his squyer cam by a streem that ran thurgh a grove, and therinne diden tweye knyghtes prive bataille. Whan that the black knyght with the redde cote-armure hadde quelled the quik knyght in grey and the kyng hym at his table hadde wold, the knyght seyd naught but "Noon may passe." Good Arthur moste nedes thenne debate the man and with Excalaber choppe off bothe armes and bothe legges, er that he cesed his manasinge.

         Fynally after ful many a mile, four worthy men answered Arthours callinge, and al were yfelaweshiped togidre. First and forward foond he Bedevere that was wys, lyk to Salamon, and coude determyne whether a womman was a wicche or nat with logik and engyn. Sithen were Lancelot the breem, Galahad the pure, and Robyn nat so the breem and pure. Therwithal was the round table bigonne.

         Soone, whan that the knyghtes of the round table bicam wery for to ete and drinke alday at Camelot, and wolde seken aventure lyk as knyghtes sholde, cam bifore hem an avisioun in the clowdes in the welken heigh. Goddes visage comaunded to hem the hooly greal for to seke. And aweye they wente.

         Prykinge her horses over hille and dale, the knyghtes and her kyng cam upon a castel, hye and derk, and from a tour at the angle of the walles ther cam a vois ful daungerous. Whan that Arthour axed after the greal, the cherlish man in the tour gan to scorne the digne men of the round table and seyde, "We have the greal withinne our walles." Arthour axed for to see it, and the cherl seyde, "I farte in your general quarter." Thanne quod Arthur, "I am Arthur, kyng of Engelonde, and we maken Goddes queste for the hooly greal. Lat us passe thurgh youre yate that we mighte see the blessed relik." But the cherl answered, "I wagge my privetee at Arthur kyng and his sely knyghtes." Ful wroth the men of the round table wente into the forest and, after wys Bedeveres devys, byldede a greet cony of wode on wheles, lyk unto the hors of Troy, and drowe it to the casteles yate. Unhappily the wightes therinne the storie als hadde yherd.

         Thanne the kyng and his knyghtes founden that the castel cherl hadde set her cappes and that ther was no greal, and they chose for to seke the hooly relik bi divers weyes. Robyn wente north, folwed by his mury minstrales al flouting and pleying on the cordes of her giternes and singing her litel roundel:
"Boldely boold sir Robyn wente forth from Camelot.
He was not affrayed to sterve, O boold sir Robyn.
He was ne at all affayed
For to sterve in grisly weyes,
Brem, bold, bold, brem sir Robyn."
Thurgh a derk wode they wente until they cam upon a geaunt with treye hedes that wolde Robyn slee, but that he hyed shortly thider. His minstrales founde newe wordes for to singe:
"Whan peril rered his foule hed,
Robyn torned his tayl and fledde."
With freendes lyk his minstrales, never neded he foos.

         Galahad wente est, and in the derknesse of a ploungy night, under cracchinge boughes and busshes, thurgh loppewebbes and stinkynge drast, he travailede ful aloon. Atte laste espyede he a tour, lyk to a bekene, with a gledy light of gold attop that shynede lyk as the hooly greal. Galahad stomblede up to the greet ook door and knokked with his drasty knokeles. Sitthe softely it opened, and a beautee alle in whyt bekned hym to folwe.

         Withinne this queynte castel wonden many yonge wommen all ywrapped in whyte.  Lyssa, that lat hym in, spak in their bihalve. "What hetestow?" Therto quod he, "Galahad the chaast." "Sir Galahad," seyde she, "wherfore thanne camestow to oure litel castel?" Quod he, "I seke the hooly greal that shyneth in your tour." "Thow hast erred," she tolde hym. "That is but our beken." He asked hir, "How bisie ye yourselven here?" "Good sir, we dwellen al aloon, al gerles bitwixe sixtene and nyntene and an half, with noon to keepe oure maydenheed sauf." "Erly moot I parte," seyde he the chaast, "for to finde the hooly greal." She preyed, "But sir, we neden disciplyne and compaignye of man, as bihoveth wightes lyk us."

         Thanne brast in Sir Lancelot and hente him by the shulder-boones.  He gan to chastise Galahad and ladde hym thurgh the greet ook door, as Lyssa and the gerles in whyt bisoughten of bothe that they sholde abyde. Lancelot hadde ycomen wel by times. Galahad ny heded the sereynes call.

         Good Arthour and his sad felawes, namely Bedevere, wente west and founde an elvish man that spak of the hooly greal. He tolde of a greet travaile to a caverne in the south that hadde a fiers beeste keepynge the gate. An enchauntour with tweye rammes hornes on his heede stode faste by to leden any maner wight to the caverne. Therby cam man to the vale of peril and the brigge of deth. Thanne within a wink, the elvish man made a vanisshinge as sodeinly as he apperede.

         Whan that Kyng Arthour and al his boold knyghtes were agayn yfelaweshiped togidre, they wente forth to sette her claime.  For tweye yeeres our knyghtes diden rome. They clustred hemselven around ful many a winter fyr, and autumpne stormes dide soken her surcotes and chiled her boones. Tweye somers founden hem withoute mirthe, and misese folwed hem wher that ever they wente.

        The enchauntour with the rammes hornes, ycleped Tim, dide appere in erly somer of the thridde yeer.  As they approchede, he shette leytes fro his hondes, brenning busshes, shewing al his prowesse, unto he deyned for to lede the knyghtes to the caverne. He warned them and seyde, "A beest fierser than any kepeth the greales hole." Sitthe shooken al the bolde men of the round table, but forth they wente to meete her doom. The openinge was a terrible sighte with mannes boons ystrawed about.  The tremblinge knyghtes helde her brethes, and Tim cryde, "The beeste appereth!"  "Wher?" axed Arthour, for he espyede him noght. "Ther," seyde Tim, thanne al dide see a cony-rabbet whyt as snow wiglinge his nose in the grene gras. "A rabbet?" axed Arthour, doutyng herof. And answerede Tim, "Ei, a terrible rabbet."

        "What thenne," axed Robyn, "doth he gnawe your toute?"  And he upsprong to dele with the dedly rabbet. Muche blood-shedinge folwede, and soone Sir Robyn lay deed bifore the hole.


Heere the wyf stynteth the waryneres
tale of the hooly greal

The Bathes wyf than noysed with a swough,
Whan that she fynally hadde had ynough.
"Sir waryner," quod she, "this tale of youres
Is hye fantasye wasting houres.
A cony-rabet queller?" seyde the wyf.
"I herde naught so fool in al my lyf.
A tour bretful of girles dressed in whyte"
Allas, wher lernedestow to endyte?
Kyng Arthour was a greet kyng, ei, indeed.
He never was so feble inwith his heed,
Nor wolde he choppe off al a mannes lemes
But that he wolde doon so in your dremes.
A knyght up on a tour with swich a tonge,
That semeth that moot his mouth been a gonge?
Namore of this folye can I stande,
It semeth me, I moot throwe up myn hande.
If pleseth al, and most dere Prioresse,
Sir waryner, I begge yow now to cesse.
Gramercy, for we moot yet riden fer . . ."
And forth she spak. How so, the waryner
Ne herede wherof liste her to pleyne,
For rouninges with lady chapeleyne.












Updated 11/5/02