The Cook's Tale

Once an apprentice dwelt within our town, 4365 Learning the victuals trade. He was as brown As any berry. Blithely he'd cavort Like a finch in the wood. Well-built and short, With locks coal black and very neatly kept, At dancing he so well, so blithely leapt, 4370 That he was known as Perkin Reveler. He was as full of love, this victualer, As is the beehive full of honey sweet, And lucky were the wenches he would meet. At every wedding he would sing and hop; 4375 He loved the tavern better than the shop. When there was a procession in Cheapside, Out of the shop immediately he hied, And till he'd seen it all, and took a turn At dancing, he would not again return; 4380 And there would gather many of his sort To dance and sing and otherwise disport; And they would make appointments too to meet And play at dice at such-and-such a street, For there was no apprentice in the town 4385 Who better rattled dice and threw them down Than Perkin Reveler. And he was free In what he spent--his master easily Had learnt this in the shop, for that is where He often found his box completely bare. 4390 For surely when a prentice takes to vice Like parties, paramours, and games of dice, His master in the shop shall be the one Who pays though having no part in the fun. Although a prentice play guitar or fiddle, 4395 Theft and riotous living differ little; Truth and revel, in one of low degree, Will always be at odds, as men may see. Now with his master this blithe lad remained Until in victuals nearly fully trained, 4400 Though often chided--more than once he made The trip to Newgate while musicians played. Then finally one day his master thought, When Perkin his indenture paper sought, About an old proverb, the words that say: 4405 "A rotten apple's better thrown away Before it spoils the barrel." That is true When dealing with a bad apprentice too; Less harm is done to let him go apace Before he ruins all others in the place. 4410 And so his master gave him his acquittance, And bade him go with sorry luck: "Good riddance!" And so this jolly prentice left. Let him Now revel all the night if that's his whim. And as there is no thief without ally 4415 To help embezzle, squander, or come by All he can steal or borrow in some way, He sent his bed and clothes without delay To a compeer, a chap of his own sort Who loved to dice, to revel and disport, 4420 And had a wife who kept, for public view, A shop, but for her livelihood would screw. (Unfinished by Chaucer)

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