Prologue to the
Master-Cook's Tale



This is what might be called a parody or imitation of the verses of Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the earliest and the greatest of our English poets. It looks difficult to read, but you wilt find it comes quite easily if you say it aloud, remembering that where there is an accent over the end of a word, that word is pronounced as two syllables - not one. "SnailÚs", for instance, would be spoken as "snai-les," and so on.

WITH US there rade a Maister-Cook that came
From the Rochelle which is neere Angouleme.
Littel hee was, but rounder than a topp,
And his small berd hadde dipped in manie a soppe,
His honde was smoother than beseemeth mann's,
And his discoorse was all of marzipans,
Of tripes of Caen, or Burdeux snailes swote,
And Seinte Menhoulde wher cooken pigges-foote.
To Thoulouse and to Bress and Carcasson
For pyes and fowles and chesnottes hadde hee wonne,
Of hammes of Thuringie colde hee prate,
And well hee knew what Princes hadde on plate
At Christmas-tide, from Artois to Gascogne.

Lordinges, quod hee, manne liveth nat alone
By bred, but meates rost and seethed, and broth,
And purchasable deinties, on mine othe.
Honey and hote gingere well liketh hee,
And whales-flesch mortred with spicerie.
For, lat be all how man denie or carpe,"
Him thries a daie his honger maketh sharpe,
And setteth him at boorde with hawkes eyne,
Snuffing what dish is set beforne to deyne,
Nor, till with meate he all--to fill to brim,
None other matter nowher mooveth him.
Lat holie Seintes sterve as bookes boast,
Most mannes soule is in his bellie most.
For, as man thinketh in his hearte is hee,
But, as hee eateth so his thought shall bee.
And Holie Fader's self (with reveraunce)
Oweth to Cooke his port and his presaunce.
Wherebye it cometh past disputison
Cookes over alle men have dominion,
Which follow them as schippe her gouvernail.
Enoff of wordes-beginneth heere my tale: