Topics Geoffrey Chaucer Quotations
Geoffrey Chaucer was an English author, poet, philosopher, bureaucrat (courtier), and diplomat. Chaucer is best known as the author of The Canterbury Tales. He is sometimes credited with being the first author to demonstrate the artistic legitimacy of the vernacular English language, rather than French or Latin.
- The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne.
Th’ assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye, alwey that slit so yerne;
Al this mene I be love.
- Parlement of Foules, l. 1-4
- For out of olde feldes, as men seith,
Cometh al this new corn fro yeer to yere;
And out of olde bokes, in good feith,
Cometh al this newe science that men lere.
- Parlement of Foules, l. 22-25
- Soun is noght but air ybroken,
And every speche that is spoken,
Loud or privee, foul or fair,
In his substaunce is but air;
For as flaumbe is but lighted smoke,
Right so soun is air ybroke.
- The House of Fame, bk. 2, l. 257-62
- For I am shave as neigh as any frere.
But yit I praye unto youre curteisye:
Beeth hevy again, or elles moot I die.
- The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse, l. 19–21
Troilus and Criseyde (1385)
- Ye knowe eek, that in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Eek for to winne love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry ben usages.
- Book 2, l. 22-28
- For which he wex a litel red for shame,
Whan he the peple upon him herde cryen,
That to beholde it was a noble game,
How sobreliche he caste doun his yen.
Criseyda gan al his chere aspyen,
And let so softe it in her herte sinke
That to herself she seyde, “Who yaf me drinke?”
- Book 2, l. 645-651
- Or as an ook comth of a litel spir,
So thorugh this lettre, which that she hym sente,
Encressen gan desir, of which he brente.
- Book 2, l. 1335-37
- The earliest known near-usage in English of the proverb "Great oaks from little acorns grow".
- It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.
- Book 3, l. 764
- For of fortunes sharp adversitee
The worst kynde of infortune is this,
A man to han ben in prosperitee,
And it remembren, whan it passed is.
- Book 3, l. 1625-1628
- Oon ere it herde, at tothir out it wente.
- Book 4, l. 434
- And for ther is so gret diversite
In Englissh and in writyng of oure tonge,
So prey I God that non myswrite the,
Ne the mysmetre for defaute of tonge;
And red wherso thow be, or elles songe,
That thow be understonde, God I biseche!
- Book 5, l. 1793-1798
- O yonge fresshe folkes, he or she,
In which that love up-groweth with your age,
Repeyreth hoom fro worldly vanitee,
And of your herte up-casteth the visage
To thilke God that after his image
Yow made, and thynketh al nis but a faire
This world, that passeth sone as floures faire.
- Book 5, l. 1835-1841
The Canterbury Tales
- Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swych licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
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.
- General Prologue, l. 1-12.
- And of his port as meke as is a mayde.
- General Prologue, l. 69
- He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.
- General Prologue, l. 72
- He coude songes make, and wel endite.
- General Prologue, l. 95
- Ful weel she soong the service dyvyne,
Entuned in hir nose ful semely,
And Frenssh she spak ful faire and fetisly,
After the scole of Stratford atte Bowe,
For Frenssh of Parys was to hire unknowe.
- General Prologue, l. 122-126
- A Clerk ther was of Oxenforde also.
- General Prologue, l. 287
- For him was lever han at his beddes hed
A twenty bokes, clothed in black or red,
Of Aristotle, and his philosophie,
Than robes riche, or fidel, or sautrie.
But all be that he was a philosophre,
Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre.
- General Prologue, l. 295-300
- Of studie took he most cure and most hede.
Noght o word spak he more than was nede,
And that was seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quik, and ful of hy sentence.
Souninge in moral vertu was his speche,
And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.
- General Prologue, l. 305 - 310
- Nowher so bisy a man as he ther nas,
And yet he semed bisier than he was.
- About the Sergeant of Law
- General Prologue, l. 323-324
- His studie was but litel on the Bible.
- General Prologue, l. 440
- For gold in phisike is a cordial;
Therefore he loved gold in special.
- General Prologue, l. 445
- Wide was his parish, and houses fer asonder.
- General Prologue, l. 493
- This noble ensample to his shepe he yaf,—
That first he wrought, and afterwards he taught.
- General Prologue, l. 498
- But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve,
He taught; but first he folwed it himselve.
- General Prologue, l. 529
- And yet he had a thomb of gold parde.
- General Prologue, l. 565; referencing the proverb, "Every honest miller has a golden thumb."
- Who so shall telle a tale after a man,
He moste reherse, as neighe as ever he can,
Everich word, if it be in his charge,
All speke he never so rudely and so large;
Or elles he moste tellen his tale untrewe,
Or feinen thinges, or finden wordes newe.
- General Prologue, l. 733
- For May wol have no slogardie a-night.
The seson priketh every gentil herte,
And maketh him out of his slepe to sterte.
- General Prologue, l. 1044
- The smylere with the knyf under the cloke.
- The Knight's Tale, l. 1141
- And therfore, at the kynges court, my brother,
Ech man for hymself, ther is noon oother.
- The Knight's Tale, l. 1181-1182
- Thanne is it wysdom, as it thynketh me,
To maken vertu of necessitee.
- The Knight's Tale, l. 2183-84
- What is this world? what asketh men to have?
Now with his love, now in his colde grave
Allone, withouten any compaignye.
- The Knight's Tale, l. 2777-2779
- This world nys but a thurghfare ful of wo,
And we been pilgrymes, passynge to and fro;
Deeth is an ende of every worldly soore.
- The Knight's Tale, l. 2847-2849
- Men sholde wedden after hir estat,
For youthe and elde is often at debat.
- The Miller's Tale, l. 121-122
- The gretteste clerkes been noght wisest men.
- The Reeve's Tale, l. 134
- Forbede us thing, and that desiren we;
Preesse on us faste, and thanne wol we flee.
With daunger oute we al oure chaffare:
Greet prees at market maketh dere ware,
And too greet chepe is holden at litel pris.
- The Wife of Bath's Prologue, l. 525-529
- Allas! allas! that evere love was synne!
- The Wife of Bath's Prologue, l. 614
- For thogh we slepe, or wake, or rome, or ryde,
Ay fleeth the tyme; it nyl no man abyde.
- The Clerk's Tale, l. 62-63
- Ther nis no werkman, whatsoevere he be,
That may bothe werke wel and hastily.
- The Merchant's Tale, l. 1832-1833
- Therfore bihoveth hire a ful long spoon
That shal ete with a feend.
- The Squire's Tale, l. 594-95
- Love is a thyng as any spirit free.
Wommen, of kynde, desiren libertee,
And nat to been constreyned as a thral;
And so doon men, if I sooth seyen shal.
- The Franklin's Tale, l. 767-770
- Ful wys is he that kan hymselven knowe!
- The Monk's Tale, l. 3329
- Mordre wol out, that se we day by day.
- The Nun's Priest's Tale, l. 232
- But yet that holden this tale a folly,
As of a fox, or of a cock and hen,
Taketh the morality, good men.
For Saint Paul saith that all that written is,
To our doctrine it is y-writ, ywis;
Taketh the fruit, and let the chaff be still.
- The Nun's Priest's Tale, l. 672-677
- Certes, they been lyk to houndes, for an hound whan he comth by the roser, or by other bushes, though he may nat pisse, yet wole he heve up his leg and make a contenaunce to pisse.
- The Parson's Tale, sect. 77
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