Ne that a monk, whan he is recchelees,
Is likned til a fissh that is waterlees,—
This is to seyn, a monk out of his cloystre.
But thilke text heeld he nat worth an oystre;

from Geoffrey Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales (General Prologue) on Rap Genius

Meaning

(= Nor that a Monk, when he is careless [about the rules] / Is likened to a fish out of water / That is to say, a monk out his cloisters / But that text he held was not worth an oyster.)

‘Fissh that is waterlees’ and ‘oystere’ were both commonplace symbols for worthlessness, but again, the Monk’s values are given in terms of edible animals. Chaucer spends too much time on the Monk’s dismissal of religious texts for us to see the Monk as merely progressive: he is definitely out of kilter with his calling.

It’s less easy to see whether or not the Monk represents an indictment of the whole Monastic order, as it existed in Chaucer’s England.

To help improve the meaning of these lyrics, visit “The Canterbury Tales (General Prologue)” by Geoffrey Chaucer and leave a comment on the lyrics box