The Canterbury Tales Project (see also Geoffrey Chaucer)
Back to the Knight/The Squire/The Yeoman
79: With hym ther was his sone, a yong squier,
80: A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
81: With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
82: Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
83: Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
84: And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
85: And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
86: In flaundres, in artoys, and pycardie,
87: And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
88: In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
89: Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
90: Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
91: Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
92: He was as fressh as is the month of may.
93: Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
94: Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
95: He koude songes make and wel endite,
96: Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
97: So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale
98: He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
99: Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
100: And carf biforn his fader at the table.
The physical description of the Squire illustrates him as if he was a Roman statue, or taken from a chivalric romance. Chaucer describes his "lokkes crulle (curly) as they were leyd in presse", average height, great strength, youth ("Of twenty yeer of age he was"), bravery and cleverness. The author illustrates Squire's youth "as fressh as is the month of may", which echoes the description of Aurelius in the Franklin's tale. The dress of the squire is colorful, embroidered with flowers, short with large sleeves. He is very talented, too, as Chaucer makes plain in three lines set aside in the poem to the squire's skills - horsemanship, jousting, sketching, dancing, song and poetry.
The physical illustration of Squire is carefully surrounded by sexual references. The author tells us in his poem that the young character is "a lovere and a lusty bacheler", who loves so hotly that he sleeps at night "namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale" (which was commonly supposed not to sleep, as it can be heard singing all night). Chaucer uses meadows, fresh flowers, and squire's songs as the metaphors to represent the character's sexual image that hides under the portrait of the candidate for a knight. Chaucer also refers to the object of squire's chivalry, his lady.
The strange thing about Squire's sexuality and his character as a whole is its neutrality. He is illustrated as powerful and effective young knight. It seems however that he is lifeless, like a stone or still statue. The squire's physical characteristics strongly hit the reader's mind, yet not much is understood about Squire. Chaucer even portrays him in a morally neutral manner, he leaves the judgement of the squire to the reader. The squire is a victim of Chaucer's prejudice portraits, where some characters get detailed representation while others get brief, basic treatment.
The squire's character is ironically a wonderful example of young men who in the middle ages devoted their lives to become powerful knights. They were suppose to be "the finest" as many policemen are called today. However, it seems that Chaucer also wanted to illustrate the character's another side of personality. This side is the squire's sexuality and attitudes to women. As a candidate for a knight, the squire should show his tendency to think about becoming someone very important and honored. The main character, on the other hand, seems to be interested more in things like song writing and sexuality that don't belong in the battle field.
Translation to modern English from www.fordham.edu:
With him there was his son, a youthful squire,
A lover and a lusty bachelor,
With locks well curled, as if they'd laid in press.
Some twenty years of age he was, I guess.
In stature he was of an average length,
Wondrously active, aye, and great of strength.
He'd ridden sometime with the cavalry
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardy,
And borne him well within that little space
In hope to win thereby his lady's grace.
Prinked out he was, as if he were a mead,
All full of fresh-cut flowers white and red.
Singing he was, or fluting, all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gown, with sleeves both long and wide.
Well could be sit on horse, and fairly ride.
He could make songs and words thereto indite,
Joust, and dance too, as well as sketch and write.
So hot he loved that, while night told her tale,
He slept no more than does a nightingale.
Courteous he, and humble, willing and able,
And carved before his father at the table.