Original Text

Modern Text

Faire in the sond, to bathe hir merily,
Lyth Pertelote, and alle hir sustres by,
Agayn the sonne; and Chauntecleer so free
450Song merier than the mermayde in the see;
For Phisiologus seith sikerly,
How that they singen wel and merily.
And so bifel that, as he caste his yë,
Among the wortes, on a boterflye,
He was war of this fox that lay ful lowe.
No-thing ne liste him thanne for to crowe,
But cryde anon, ‘cok, cok,’ and up he sterte,
As man that was affrayed in his herte.
For naturelly a beest desyreth flee
460Fro his contrarie, if he may it see,
Though he never erst had seyn it with his yë.
Well, Pertelote was happily sunbathing in the sand, and Chanticleer was singing away, more happily than a mermaid (for the naturalist Physiologus tells us that mermaids sing very happily). And as he was singing, a butterfly caught his eye, which then made him notice the fox lying low in the bushes. Surprised, Chanticleer choked, sputtered out a “cok, cok,” and instinctively started to run away.
This Chauntecleer, whan he gan him espye,
He wolde han fled, but that the fox anon
Seyde, ‘Gentil sire, allas! wher wol ye gon?
Be ye affrayed of me that am your freend?
Now certes, I were worse than a feend,
If I to yow wolde harm or vileinye.
I am nat come your counseil for tespye;
But trewely, the cause of my cominge
470Was only for to herkne how that ye singe.
For trewely ye have as mery a stevene
As eny aungel hath, that is in hevene;
Therwith ye han in musik more felinge
Than hadde Boece, or any that can singe.
My lord your fader (God his soule blesse!)
And eek your moder, of hir gentilesse,
Han in myn hous y-been, to my gret ese;
And certes, sire, ful fayn wolde I yow plese.
But for men speke of singing, I wol saye,
480So mote I brouke wel myn eyen tweye,
Save yow, I herde never man so singe,
As dide your fader in the morweninge;
Certes, it was of herte, al that he song.
And for to make his voys the more strong,
He wolde so peyne him, that with bothe his yën
He moste winke, so loude he wolde cryen,
And stonden on his tiptoon ther-with-al,
And strecche forth his nekke long and smal.
And eek he was of swich discrecioun,
490That ther nas no man in no regioun
That him in song or wisdom mighte passe.
I have wel rad in daun Burnel the Asse,
Among his vers, how that ther was a cok,
For that a preestes sone yaf him a knok
Upon his leg, whyl he was yong and nyce,
He made him for to lese his benefyce.
But certeyn, ther nis no comparisoun
Bitwix the wisdom and discrecioun
Of youre fader, and of his subtiltee.
500Now singeth, sire, for seinte charitee,
Let see, conne ye your fader countrefete?’
This Chauntecleer his winges gan to bete,
As man that coude his tresoun nat espye,
Chanticleer was going to fly away, but the fox immediately said, “Hey wait, mister, where are you going? Don’t be afraid. I’m a friend. Honestly, I’d be pretty evil if I intended to hurt you. I just wanted to listen to you sing because you have the voice of an angel. You also have more feeling for music than any other singer. In fact, you sound just like your father, who was an excellent singer too. He would sing from the heart and so powerfully that he’d have to close his eyes and stand on his tiptoes and crane his slender neck to crow the notes. He was so proud of his ability to sing. I once read a story about how a boy broke a rooster’s leg and how that rooster took his revenge years later when he decided not to wake the boy up on a very important day. That rooster was very clever, but he wasn’t nearly as wise as your father. Yes, I know your mother and father—God bless him!—and have entertained them at my house before. I was hoping I could have you over sometime too. Now, would you please sing for me, sing like your father?” Chanticleer was so flattered that he began to beat his wings, not recognizing the treachery in the fox’s voice.