The Plowman's Tale

The Plowman's Tale

A Story by Kelsey

On the pilgrimage to Canterbury in Chaucer's 'The Canterbury Tales' the pilgrims make a deal with the innkeeper to play a game and whoever wins gets a free meal paid by everyone. This is the Plowman's Tale that I had to write for my English class. If it i


The Plowman’s Tale

     There were three plowmen
     All were known as honest gentlemen.
     They sat upon a nearby hill
     And watched the other plowmen till.
5           "Look there!" one man cried,
     "Three cows standing side-by-side!"
     The two men looked to the east
     And saw the outline of the large beasts.
     "To whose field do they belong?"
10          "To none! Let us claim them, it will not be wrong."
     The last man pointed and said,
     "I think they are the property of the man in the shed."
     And there upon another hill, there
     Sat another man with long silver hair.
15  The first man laughed and shook his head.
     "He is old and nearly dead!
     See his staff in his withered hand?
     He cannot even travel unassisted across the land!"
     Again, the last man tried to protest,
20          But his argument was not the strongest.
     And so the three agreed on a plan
     To steal the cows from the old man.
     They would return, one-by-one, at night
     And steal them by starlight.
25  They would then take them to their own land
     And celebrate by drinking wine passed by hand.
     When the planning was finally done,
     The three plowmen left the hill one by one.
     Two men delighted --
30          One heavy-hearted.

     When day was through
     The three men met as they had promised to do.
     The first man smiled and showed them the wine,
     "I brought this for victory time!"
35  He set it down upon the grass
     Along with two cups made of glass.
     He turned to his friends and asked,
     "Who is first at this task?"
     When neither responded, he let out a sigh.
40          "If you both are afraid, then it shall be I."
     With a haughty grin he climbed down the hill
     To the old man's cow he intended to steal.
     It grew darker the farther he would walk.
     Out of fear of the dark, he started to talk.
45          After a time, he knew he was near,
     For he could smell the waste of the steer.
     As he made to slip the loop of rope around the head of the beast
     He heard something moving behind him on slow feet.
     Before he could turn to face the threat,
50          A heavy blow and his head met.
     After a while the two men pondered
     As to where their friend had wandered.
     The last man wondered aloud
     Where his foolish friend could be found.
55          Perhaps the whole plan had been a jest
     And they should leave before night's rest.
     Finally, the second man made his way down the slope,
     For he had not given up hope.
     The last man sat as his friend faded into the night
60          And he was left wishing for bright sunlight.
     His mind was not focused on bovine
     As he unstoppered and took a swig of wine.
     The second man's pace slowed the darker it got --
     He couldn't believe it had become so unbearably hot.
65          It wasn't much longer until he smelled manure,
     But it did not call to him with much allure.
     Just as he saw the shadow of the best
     He heard someone moving on slow feet.
     "Who's there?" he cried,
70          But in his throat, the words died.
     As he met the same fate as his friend
     And he was laid out in the end
     The old man was smiling as he lowered his staff
     And let out a mighty laugh.
75          In the darkness on top of the hill
     The last man sat unnaturally still.
     He listened intently for another guffaw,
     But all he heard was a night bird's call.
80          He raised the bottle shakily to his lips
     And didn't hesitate to take a few more sips.
     Up the hill came the old man
     His staff held tightly in his hand
     The last man got to his feet
85          And briefly considered retreat.
     Instead, he kept his feet firmly planted on the ground
     As the old man made a rasping sound.
     Gasping for breath as he approached,
     The man hoped he wouldn't croak.
90          The old man raised his staff and held it high.
     "Are you the next one to die?"
     The last man clenched his hands into fists.
     "What is the meaning of this?"
     The old man raised his eyebrows.
95          "Did you and your friends not attempt to steal my cows?"
     The last man nodded but said,
     "Is that any reason to strike them dead?
     Their sin was not great -- their actions were not done out of hate."
100 "No, they did it out of greed.
     Stealing from an old man something they do not even need.
     Why, then, do you defend their actions so strongly?
     When, all your life, they treated you so wrongly?
     They used you and talked behind your back,
105         Yet you defend their names and faulty honor when it under attack.
      You should thank me!
      Thanking me upon bended knee!"
      The old man lowered his staff and grinned.
      "You did not assist in this sin.
110         Why? What prevented you?"
      "I did not want to."
      "Is that your only reply?"
      The last man lifted the bottle to his lips and raised it to the sky.
      The old man leaned against his walking stick
115         And watched him carefully for a trick.
     The man handed him the wine
     The old man accepted and asked, “Do you apologize for your crime?”
     The man laughed in face,
     “Old man, I know my place.
120         I did not commit any crime,
     And so I tell you at this time:
     I am guiltless, my friend!
     I wish these accusations to end!
     You have your cattle and your revenge.
125        It is my friends who need to be avenged.
     I should cut your throat, you old goat.”
     The old man raised his staff,
     But this time did not laugh.
130        He struck him hard across the chest
     And the man fell down gasping for breath.
     “Respect your elders.” The old man said.
     The young man shook his head –
     Not to argue, but in dread.
135        “In youth we are so blissfully ignorant
      Of what is good and what isn’t.”
     He offered him his hand
     And helped him up from the land.
     “Grow up. Grow wise. Grow up to live as best you are able.”
140        He looked up at the sky of sable
     Before turning away
     And moving back the way he’d came.
     The young man called out to him,
     “Why not finish me on a whim?”
145        The old man turned to smile at him.
     “Because you are not like them.”

© 2008 Kelsey

Author's Note

I had to write this for my English class. This is NOT written by Chaucer, do not even try to accuse me of copyright. Thanks.

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Added on April 16, 2008




I'm 22-years-old. I am a Christian writer-singer girl who enjoys fried chicken, the color green, and the ability to dance about ridiculously in the rain. I hope you enjoy my writing (new and old!). more..

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