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The Cook's Tale


1 With Care-never and Reckless this lesson he learns

2 With Impudent and with Ill-advised - such a gang were they named


3 Goldfinches are lively, happy creatures. See Canterbury Interlude, line 476 (note).

13 Cheapside was a busy London thoroughfare that served as a favorite site for processions and festivals, including the notorious "lords of misrule."

19-24 This interpolation with its alliteration and moralized personifications is reminiscent of Langland's Piers Plowman (e.g., B.4.16-21, 5.566-93, and 6.69-82). The playmate "Drawe-abak," as a companion to "Drynke-more," embodies the habit of drawing ale from a barrel.

31 The alliterative duo of Margot and Millicent might be taken as typical names for loose women.

32 When a powder-bag was untied, its contents were quickly dispersed.

36 Presumably a child, then as now, was not allowed to eat fish because of the small bones.

41-44 The anonymous reviser has thoroughly rewritten these boldface lines based on CT I, 4391-95.

48 mow not. MS: mow mow not.

53 woole. MS: wolle.

54 Though. MS: They.

58 When disorderly persons were conducted to the celebrated prison at Newgate, they were sometimes preceded by minstrels attracting more spectators to complete the criminal's disgrace.

85-86 The moralizing intentions of the reviser are clearly exposed in this couplet, which concluded Chaucer's fragment with the authentic reading: "And hadde a wyf that heeld for contenance / A shoppe, and swyved for hir sustenance."

90 Originally, a member of a religious order could plead "benefit of clergy" to be tried by an ecclesiastical rather than a secular court; later, a felon could plead exemption from his first conviction merely by virtue of the fact he could read. Since Perkyn Reveler had neglected his education, he could not escape execution.

(Bodley MS 686, fols. 54b-55b)

A prentys whilom dwelled in oure sitee,
And of a crafte of vitellers was he.
Gaylerd he was as gyldfynch in the shawe,
Broun as a bery, a propre short folawe
With lokkys blake y-kembed ful fetisly.
Dauncen he kowde so wel and jolyly
That he was cleped Perkyn Reveloure.
He was as ful of love and paramoure
As is the hyve ful of hony swete.
Wel was the wench that hym myght mete,
And at every bridale wolde he synge and hoppe.
He loved bet the taverne than he dede the shoppe,
For when ther was eny rydyng in Chepe,
Out of the shoppe theder wolde he lepe,
Til that he hedde al the sight y-seyn,
And daunced wel - he nold not come agayn -
And gadered hym a mayny of his sort
To hoppe and synge and make such disport.
With Rech-never and Recheles this lessoun he lerys 1
With Waste and with Wranglere, his owne pley-ferys,
With Lyght-honde and with Likorouse-mowth, with Unschamfast;
With Drynke-more and with Drawe-abak, her thryst is y-past,
With Malaperte and with Mysseavysed - such meyny they hight, 2
That wolle do but a lytull tylle her dyner be dyght.
Thus they stevyn whan they myght mete
To pley at the dyse in suche a prevey strete,
For in Londoun ther was none apprentyse
That feirer couth caste a scharpe peir of dyse
Than couthe Perkyn, and therto he was free,
Large of his dispence in place of prevytee
With Magot and with Mylsent, whan that he mette.
The bagge with the powder anon was unknette.
His purs was inperfit, he couthe not welle kepe:
"Yet let us be mery, while oure sire is aslepe!"
With pyes and with pykrels, with wynes moste swete,
With loche and with lamprey the childe myght not ete.
The tapster, the taverner, the koke was nedy,
Wolde clepe on Perkyn, for his purs was so redy -
And that fownde his Maister welle in his chaffare,
For every other day his boxe was lefte bare.
An unthryfty begynnyng, for yong or for olde,
A prentyse to be a reveloure and paramours to holde.
That bargeyn no man so sore schalle abye
As his Maister that hath no parte of his melodye.
For theft and ryot, they beth inconvertyble,
Alle-thogh he can pley on getern and rybible;
Ravelle and trouthe as in a lowe degree,
They mow not acorde; al day men it see.
When thy purs is penyles, where schalt thou have more,
Thou that wylt not the occupie no thyng therfore?
Revell ys ordeyned to hem that mow pay,
But prentise ne pore man, they mowe not away;
Evelle-sponne woole at the laste wolle come oute,
Though thou kepe it never so prevey in a lytelle cloute.
Thus the joly prentyse with his maister abode,
Tylle he was nye oute of his prenteshode,
Alle-thogh he were snybbyd both erly and late.
Yet sometyme he was ladde with revell to Newgate.
But at the laste as his Maister hym bethought
To over-se his papire and hym thorow sought
Uppon a proverbe that seith this same worde:
"Better ys rotten appulle out of an hurde
Than for to let hem rote alle the remenaunte."
And ryght so it fareth by a ryotes servaunte;
It is lasse harme for to let hym pace
Then for to schende al the servaunts in the place.
Even as a scabbed schepe in the folde
Alle a flocke wolle defyle, both yonge and olde,
Ryght even so a febel servaunt may
Distruye fourty of his felaws in a day.
Therfore his Maister gaffe hym acquytaunce
And bade hym goe with sorowe and meschaunce:
"Better ys betyme to voyde suche a clerke;
The lenger he abydeth, the wors is his werke.
He that his maister no profite wolle wynne,
Y holde hym better out of the hous than withynne."
And thus the joly prentys had leve;
Now let hym revell alle the nyght, or leve.
Ther ys no thiffe without a lowke
That helpeth hym to waste and to sowke,
Or that he brybe can or oght borowe may.
Anon he sent his bedde and alle his araye
Unto a compere of his owne sorte
That loved welle the dyse, ryot and disporte.
A wife he hadde that helde her contenaunce
A schoppe, and ever sche pleyed for his sustenaunce.
What thorowe hymselfe and his felawe that sought,
Unto a myschefe bothe they were broght.
The tone y-dampned to presoun perpetually,
The tother to deth for he couthe not of clergye.
   And therfore, yonge men, lerne while ye may
That with mony dyvers thoghtes beth prycked al the day.
Remembre you what myschefe cometh of mysgovernaunce.
Thus mowe ye lerne worschep and come to substaunce.
Thenke how grace and governaunce hath broght hem a boune,
Many pore mannys sonn, chefe state of the towne.
Ever rewle the after the beste man of name,
And God may grace the to come to the same.
Oure Host saugh wel that the bryght sonne
The arke of his artificial day hath y-ronne . . .
apprentice once; city
Merry; thicket; (see note)
well-proportioned; fellow
locks; combed; neatly
knew how
Peter (dim.)
wedding party
better; did
horse display; Cheapside; (see note)
 (see note)
 their thirst
 their; prepared
 dice; secret
 could; tricky
 spending; private places
 (see note)
 opened up; (see note)
 i.e., the master
 young pikes
 loach; eel-like fish; (see note)
 call; since
 (see note)
 pay for
 who; entertainment
guitar; fiddle
Revelry; honesty
 (see note)
 them who may
 don't move on
 Badly spun; unravel; (see note)
 securely; rag; (see note)
led; Newgate Prison; (see note)
thought to himself
 indenture contract; presently
 go away
 gave; document of discharge
 permission to leave
 leave off
thief; accomplice
Who; suck
for appearance; (see note)
 Whatever presently
 The one condemned
 The other; could not read; (see note)
 Who; agitated
 them a reward
 man's; highest office
 model yourself; reputation
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