9 Pages

"Canterbury Tales"-First and Second Days

H ERE, then, they are assembled on a perfect morn-ing of English spring, with London streets awakening to life behind them, and the open road in front. Think of the dayspring from on high, the good brown earth and tender foliage, smoke curling up from cottage chimneys, pawing steeds, barking dogs, the cheerful stirrup - cup; every rider's face set to the journey after his individual mood, when at last the Host had successfully gathered his flock-

That is, to the little brook which now runs underground near the second milestone on the Old Kent Road, remembered only in the name of St. Thomas' Road and the Thomas a Becket Tavern. Up to this point the party had been enlivened by the Miller's bagpipe, and Professor Raleigh has justly pointed out how many musicians there are in Chaucer's company: the Squire; the Prioress with her psalms, "en tuned in her nose full seem ely "; the Friar, who could sing so well to his own harp; the Pardoner, with his II Come hither, love, to me," and the Summoner, who accompanied him in so "stiff" a bass. By St. Thomas' watering, however, either the Miller is out of breath or the party are out of patience, for here the Host reins up, and reminds them

of their promise to tell tales on the way. They draw cuts, and the longest straw (whether by chance or by Boniface's sleight of hand) falls to the one man with whom none other would have disputed for precedence. The Knight, with ready courtesy, welcomed the choice "in God's name," and rode on, bidding the company /I hearken what I say." Let us not inquire too closely how far every word was audible to the whole thirty, as they clattered and splashed along. We may always be sure that enough was heard to keep the general interest alive, and it may be charitably hoped that the two nuns were among those who caught least.