Up start the Pardoner, and that anon; "Now, Dame," quoth he, "by God and by Saint John, Ye are a noble preacher in this case. I was about to wed a wife, alas! What? should I bie* it on my flesh so dear? *suffer for Yet had I lever* wed no wife this year." *rather "Abide,"* quoth she; "my tale is not begun *wait in patience Nay, thou shalt drinken of another tun Ere that I go, shall savour worse than ale. And when that I have told thee forth my tale Of tribulation in marriage, Of which I am expert in all mine age, (This is to say, myself hath been the whip), Then mayest thou choose whether thou wilt sip Of *thilke tunne,* that I now shall broach. *that tun* Beware of it, ere thou too nigh approach, For I shall tell examples more than ten: Whoso will not beware by other men, By him shall other men corrected be: These same wordes writeth Ptolemy; Read in his Almagest, and take it there." "Dame, I would pray you, if your will it were," Saide this Pardoner, "as ye began, Tell forth your tale, and spare for no man, And teach us younge men of your practique." "Gladly," quoth she, "since that it may you like. But that I pray to all this company, If that I speak after my fantasy, To take nought agrief* what I may say; *to heart For mine intent is only for to play.
Now, Sirs, then will I tell you forth my tale. As ever may I drinke wine or ale I shall say sooth; the husbands that I had Three of them were good, and two were bad The three were goode men, and rich, and old *Unnethes mighte they the statute hold* *they could with difficulty In which that they were bounden unto me. obey the law* Yet wot well what I mean of this, pardie.* *by God As God me help, I laugh when that I think How piteously at night I made them swink,* *labour But, *by my fay, I told of it no store:* *by my faith, I held it They had me giv'n their land and their treasor, of no account* Me needed not do longer diligence To win their love, or do them reverence. They loved me so well, by God above, That I *tolde no dainty* of their love. *cared nothing for* A wise woman will busy her ever-in-one* *constantly To get their love, where that she hath none. But, since I had them wholly in my hand, And that they had me given all their land, Why should I take keep* them for to please, *care But* it were for my profit, or mine ease? *unless I set them so a-worke, by my fay, That many a night they sange, well-away! The bacon was not fetched for them, I trow, That some men have in Essex at Dunmow. I govern'd them so well after my law, That each of them full blissful was and fawe* *fain To bringe me gay thinges from the fair. They were full glad when that I spake them fair, For, God it wot, I *chid them spiteously.* *rebuked them angrily* Now hearken how I bare me properly.
Ye wise wives, that can understand, Thus should ye speak, and *bear them wrong on hand,* *make them For half so boldely can there no man believe falsely* Swearen and lien as a woman can. (I say not this by wives that be wise, *But if* it be when they them misadvise.)* *unless* *act unadvisedly A wise wife, if that she can* her good, *knows Shall *beare them on hand* the cow is wood, *make them believe* And take witness of her owen maid Of their assent: but hearken how I said. "Sir olde kaynard, is this thine array? Why is my neigheboure's wife so gay? She is honour'd *over all where* she go'th, *wheresoever I sit at home, I have no *thrifty cloth.* *good clothes* What dost thou at my neigheboure's house? Is she so fair? art thou so amorous? What rown'st* thou with our maid? benedicite, *whisperest Sir olde lechour, let thy japes* be. *tricks And if I have a gossip, or a friend (Withoute guilt), thou chidest as a fiend, If that I walk or play unto his house. Thou comest home as drunken as a mouse, And preachest on thy bench, with evil prefe:* *proof Thou say'st to me, it is a great mischief To wed a poore woman, for costage:* *expense And if that she be rich, of high parage;* * birth Then say'st thou, that it is a tormentry To suffer her pride and melancholy. And if that she be fair, thou very knave, Thou say'st that every holour* will her have; *whoremonger She may no while in chastity abide, That is assailed upon every side. Thou say'st some folk desire us for richess, Some for our shape, and some for our fairness, And some, for she can either sing or dance, And some for gentiless and dalliance, Some for her handes and her armes smale: Thus goes all to the devil, by thy tale; Thou say'st, men may not keep a castle wall That may be so assailed *over all.* *everywhere* And if that she be foul, thou say'st that she Coveteth every man that she may see; For as a spaniel she will on him leap, Till she may finde some man her to cheap;* *buy And none so grey goose goes there in the lake, (So say'st thou) that will be without a make.* *mate And say'st, it is a hard thing for to weld *wield, govern A thing that no man will, *his thankes, held.* *hold with his goodwill* Thus say'st thou, lorel,* when thou go'st to bed, *good-for-nothing And that no wise man needeth for to wed, Nor no man that intendeth unto heaven. With wilde thunder dint* and fiery leven** * stroke **lightning Mote* thy wicked necke be to-broke. *may Thou say'st, that dropping houses, and eke smoke, And chiding wives, make men to flee Out of their owne house; ah! ben'dicite, What aileth such an old man for to chide? Thou say'st, we wives will our vices hide, Till we be fast,* and then we will them shew. *wedded Well may that be a proverb of a shrew.* *ill-tempered wretch Thou say'st, that oxen, asses, horses, hounds, They be *assayed at diverse stounds,* *tested at various Basons and lavers, ere that men them buy, seasons Spoones, stooles, and all such husbandry, And so be pots, and clothes, and array,* *raiment But folk of wives make none assay, Till they be wedded, — olde dotard shrew! — And then, say'st thou, we will our vices shew. Thou say'st also, that it displeaseth me, But if * that thou wilt praise my beauty, *unless And but* thou pore alway upon my face, *unless And call me faire dame in every place; And but* thou make a feast on thilke** day *unless **that That I was born, and make me fresh and gay; And but thou do to my norice* honour, *nurse And to my chamberere* within my bow'r, *chamber-maid And to my father's folk, and mine allies;* *relations Thus sayest thou, old barrel full of lies. And yet also of our prentice Jenkin, For his crisp hair, shining as gold so fine, And for he squireth me both up and down, Yet hast thou caught a false suspicioun: I will him not, though thou wert dead to-morrow. But tell me this, why hidest thou, *with sorrow,* *sorrow on thee!* The keyes of thy chest away from me? It is my good* as well as thine, pardie. *property What, think'st to make an idiot of our dame? Now, by that lord that called is Saint Jame, Thou shalt not both, although that thou wert wood,* *furious Be master of my body, and my good,* *property The one thou shalt forego, maugre* thine eyen. *in spite of What helpeth it of me t'inquire and spyen? I trow thou wouldest lock me in thy chest. Thou shouldest say, 'Fair wife, go where thee lest; Take your disport; I will believe no tales; I know you for a true wife, Dame Ales.'* *Alice We love no man, that taketh keep* or charge *care Where that we go; we will be at our large. Of alle men most blessed may he be, The wise astrologer Dan* Ptolemy, *Lord That saith this proverb in his Almagest: 'Of alle men his wisdom is highest, That recketh not who hath the world in hand. By this proverb thou shalt well understand, Have thou enough, what thar* thee reck or care *needs, behoves How merrily that other folkes fare? For certes, olde dotard, by your leave, Ye shall have [pleasure] right enough at eve. He is too great a niggard that will werne* *forbid A man to light a candle at his lantern; He shall have never the less light, pardie. Have thou enough, thee thar* not plaine** thee *need **complain Thou say'st also, if that we make us gay With clothing and with precious array, That it is peril of our chastity. And yet, — with sorrow! — thou enforcest thee, And say'st these words in the apostle's name: 'In habit made with chastity and shame* *modesty Ye women shall apparel you,' quoth he, 'And not in tressed hair and gay perrie,* *jewels As pearles, nor with gold, nor clothes rich.' After thy text nor after thy rubrich I will not work as muchel as a gnat. Thou say'st also, I walk out like a cat; For whoso woulde singe the catte's skin Then will the catte well dwell in her inn;* *house And if the catte's skin be sleek and gay, She will not dwell in house half a day, But forth she will, ere any day be daw'd, To shew her skin, and go a caterwaw'd.* *caterwauling This is to say, if I be gay, sir shrew, I will run out, my borel* for to shew. *apparel, fine clothes Sir olde fool, what helpeth thee to spyen? Though thou pray Argus with his hundred eyen To be my wardecorps,* as he can best *body-guard In faith he shall not keep me, *but me lest:* *unless I please* Yet could I *make his beard,* so may I the. *make a jest of him*
"Thou sayest eke, that there be thinges three, *thrive Which thinges greatly trouble all this earth, And that no wighte may endure the ferth:* *fourth O lefe* sir shrew, may Jesus short** thy life. *pleasant **shorten Yet preachest thou, and say'st, a hateful wife Y-reckon'd is for one of these mischances. Be there *none other manner resemblances* *no other kind of That ye may liken your parables unto, comparison* But if a silly wife be one of tho?* *those Thou likenest a woman's love to hell; To barren land where water may not dwell. Thou likenest it also to wild fire; The more it burns, the more it hath desire To consume every thing that burnt will be. Thou sayest, right as wormes shend* a tree, *destroy Right so a wife destroyeth her husbond; This know they well that be to wives bond."
Lordings, right thus, as ye have understand, *Bare I stiffly mine old husbands on hand,* *made them believe* That thus they saiden in their drunkenness; And all was false, but that I took witness On Jenkin, and upon my niece also. O Lord! the pain I did them, and the woe, 'Full guilteless, by Godde's sweete pine;* *pain For as a horse I coulde bite and whine; I coulde plain,* an'** I was in the guilt, *complain **even though Or elles oftentime I had been spilt* *ruined Whoso first cometh to the nilll, first grint;* *is ground I plained first, so was our war y-stint.* *stopped They were full glad to excuse them full blive* *quickly Of things that they never *aguilt their live.* *were guilty in their lives* Of wenches would I *beare them on hand,* *falsely accuse them* When that for sickness scarcely might they stand, Yet tickled I his hearte for that he Ween'd* that I had of him so great cherte:** *though **affection I swore that all my walking out by night Was for to espy wenches that he dight:* *adorned Under that colour had I many a mirth. For all such wit is given us at birth; Deceit, weeping, and spinning, God doth give To women kindly, while that they may live. *naturally And thus of one thing I may vaunte me, At th' end I had the better in each degree, By sleight, or force, or by some manner thing, As by continual murmur or grudging,* *complaining Namely* a-bed, there hadde they mischance, *especially There would I chide, and do them no pleasance: I would no longer in the bed abide, If that I felt his arm over my side, Till he had made his ransom unto me, Then would I suffer him do his nicety.* *folly And therefore every man this tale I tell, Win whoso may, for all is for to sell; With empty hand men may no hawkes lure; For winning would I all his will endure, And make me a feigned appetite, And yet in bacon* had I never delight: *i.e. of Dunmow That made me that I ever would them chide. For, though the Pope had sitten them beside, I would not spare them at their owen board, For, by my troth, I quit* them word for word *repaid As help me very God omnipotent, Though I right now should make my testament I owe them not a word, that is not quit* *repaid I brought it so aboute by my wit, That they must give it up, as for the best Or elles had we never been in rest. For, though he looked as a wood* lion, *furious Yet should he fail of his conclusion. Then would I say, "Now, goode lefe* tak keep** *dear **heed How meekly looketh Wilken oure sheep! Come near, my spouse, and let me ba* thy cheek *kiss Ye shoulde be all patient and meek, And have a *sweet y-spiced* conscience, *tender, nice* Since ye so preach of Jobe's patience. Suffer alway, since ye so well can preach, And but* ye do, certain we shall you teach* *unless That it is fair to have a wife in peace. One of us two must bowe* doubteless: *give way And since a man is more reasonable Than woman is, ye must be suff'rable. What aileth you to grudge* thus and groan? *complain Is it for ye would have my [love] alone? Why, take it all: lo, have it every deal,* *whit Peter! shrew* you but ye love it well *curse For if I woulde sell my *belle chose*, *beautiful thing* I coulde walk as fresh as is a rose, But I will keep it for your owen tooth. Ye be to blame, by God, I say you sooth." Such manner wordes hadde we on hand.
Now will I speaken of my fourth husband. My fourthe husband was a revellour; This is to say, he had a paramour, And I was young and full of ragerie,* *wantonness Stubborn and strong, and jolly as a pie.* *magpie Then could I dance to a harpe smale, And sing, y-wis,* as any nightingale, *certainly When I had drunk a draught of sweete wine. Metellius, the foule churl, the swine, That with a staff bereft his wife of life For she drank wine, though I had been his wife, Never should he have daunted me from drink: And, after wine, of Venus most I think. For all so sure as cold engenders hail, A liquorish mouth must have a liquorish tail. In woman vinolent* is no defence,** *full of wine *resistance This knowe lechours by experience. But, lord Christ, when that it rememb'reth me Upon my youth, and on my jollity, It tickleth me about mine hearte-root; Unto this day it doth mine hearte boot,* *good That I have had my world as in my time. But age, alas! that all will envenime,* *poison, embitter Hath me bereft my beauty and my pith:* *vigour Let go; farewell; the devil go therewith. The flour is gon, there is no more to tell, The bran, as I best may, now must I sell. But yet to be right merry will I fand.* *try Now forth to tell you of my fourth husband, I say, I in my heart had great despite, That he of any other had delight; But he was quit,* by God and by Saint Joce: *requited, paid back I made for him of the same wood a cross; Not of my body in no foul mannere, But certainly I made folk such cheer, That in his owen grease I made him fry For anger, and for very jealousy. By God, in earth I was his purgatory, For which I hope his soul may be in glory. For, God it wot, he sat full oft and sung, When that his shoe full bitterly him wrung.* *pinched There was no wight, save God and he, that wist In many wise how sore I did him twist. He died when I came from Jerusalem, And lies in grave under the *roode beam:* *cross* Although his tomb is not so curious As was the sepulchre of Darius, Which that Apelles wrought so subtlely. It is but waste to bury them preciously. Let him fare well, God give his soule rest, He is now in his grave and in his chest.
Now of my fifthe husband will I tell: God let his soul never come into hell. And yet was he to me the moste shrew;* *cruel, ill-tempered That feel I on my ribbes all *by rew,* *in a row And ever shall, until mine ending day. But in our bed he was so fresh and gay, And therewithal so well he could me glose,* *flatter When that he woulde have my belle chose, Though he had beaten me on every bone, Yet could he win again my love anon. I trow, I lov'd him better, for that he Was of his love so dangerous* to me. *sparing, difficult We women have, if that I shall not lie, In this matter a quainte fantasy. Whatever thing we may not lightly have, Thereafter will we cry all day and crave. Forbid us thing, and that desire we; Press on us fast, and thenne will we flee. With danger* utter we all our chaffare;** *difficulty **merchandise Great press at market maketh deare ware, And too great cheap is held at little price; This knoweth every woman that is wise. My fifthe husband, God his soule bless, Which that I took for love and no richess, He some time was *a clerk of Oxenford,* *a scholar of Oxford* And had left school, and went at home to board With my gossip,* dwelling in oure town: *godmother God have her soul, her name was Alisoun. She knew my heart, and all my privity, Bet than our parish priest, so may I the.* *thrive To her betrayed I my counsel all; For had my husband pissed on a wall, Or done a thing that should have cost his life, To her, and to another worthy wife, And to my niece, which that I loved well, I would have told his counsel every deal.* *jot And so I did full often, God it wot, That made his face full often red and hot For very shame, and blam'd himself, for he Had told to me so great a privity.* *secret And so befell that ones in a Lent (So oftentimes I to my gossip went, For ever yet I loved to be gay, And for to walk in March, April, and May From house to house, to heare sundry tales), That Jenkin clerk, and my gossip, Dame Ales, And I myself, into the fieldes went. Mine husband was at London all that Lent; I had the better leisure for to play, And for to see, and eke for to be sey* *seen Of lusty folk; what wist I where my grace* *favour Was shapen for to be, or in what place? *appointed Therefore made I my visitations To vigilies,* and to processions, *festival-eves To preachings eke, and to these pilgrimages, To plays of miracles, and marriages, And weared upon me gay scarlet gites.* *gowns These wormes, nor these mothes, nor these mites On my apparel frett* them never a deal** *fed **whit And know'st thou why? for they were used* well. *worn Now will I telle forth what happen'd me: I say, that in the fieldes walked we, Till truely we had such dalliance, This clerk and I, that of my purveyance* *foresight I spake to him, and told him how that he, If I were widow, shoulde wedde me. For certainly, I say for no bobance,* *boasting Yet was I never without purveyance* *foresight Of marriage, nor of other thinges eke: I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leek, That hath but one hole for to starte* to, *escape And if that faile, then is all y-do.* *done [*I bare him on hand* he had enchanted me *falsely assured him* (My dame taughte me that subtilty); And eke I said, I mette* of him all night, *dreamed He would have slain me, as I lay upright, And all my bed was full of very blood; But yet I hop'd that he should do me good; For blood betoken'd gold, as me was taught. And all was false, I dream'd of him right naught, But as I follow'd aye my dame's lore, As well of that as of other things more.] But now, sir, let me see, what shall I sayn? Aha! by God, I have my tale again. When that my fourthe husband was on bier, I wept algate* and made a sorry cheer,** *always **countenance As wives must, for it is the usage; And with my kerchief covered my visage; But, for I was provided with a make,* *mate I wept but little, that I undertake* *promise To churche was mine husband borne a-morrow With neighebours that for him made sorrow, And Jenkin, oure clerk, was one of tho:* *those As help me God, when that I saw him go After the bier, methought he had a pair Of legges and of feet so clean and fair, That all my heart I gave unto his hold.* *keeping He was, I trow, a twenty winter old, And I was forty, if I shall say sooth, But yet I had always a colte's tooth. Gat-toothed* I was, and that became me well, *see note I had the print of Sainte Venus' seal. [As help me God, I was a lusty one, And fair, and rich, and young, and *well begone:* *in a good way* For certes I am all venerian* *under the influence of Venus In feeling, and my heart is martian;* *under the influence of Mars Venus me gave my lust and liquorishness, And Mars gave me my sturdy hardiness.] Mine ascendant was Taure,* and Mars therein: *Taurus Alas, alas, that ever love was sin! I follow'd aye mine inclination By virtue of my constellation: That made me that I coulde not withdraw My chamber of Venus from a good fellaw. [Yet have I Marte's mark upon my face, And also in another privy place. For God so wisly* be my salvation, *certainly I loved never by discretion, But ever follow'd mine own appetite, All* were he short, or long, or black, or white, *whether I took no keep,* so that he liked me, *heed How poor he was, neither of what degree.] What should I say? but that at the month's end This jolly clerk Jenkin, that was so hend,* *courteous Had wedded me with great solemnity, And to him gave I all the land and fee That ever was me given therebefore: But afterward repented me full sore. He woulde suffer nothing of my list.* *pleasure By God, he smote me ones with his fist, For that I rent out of his book a leaf, That of the stroke mine eare wax'd all deaf. Stubborn I was, as is a lioness, And of my tongue a very jangleress,* *prater And walk I would, as I had done beforn, From house to house, although he had it sworn:* *had sworn to For which he oftentimes woulde preach prevent it And me of olde Roman gestes* teach *stories How that Sulpitius Gallus left his wife And her forsook for term of all his For nought but open-headed* he her say** *bare-headed **saw Looking out at his door upon a day. Another Roman told he me by name, That, for his wife was at a summer game Without his knowing, he forsook her eke. And then would he upon his Bible seek That ilke* proverb of Ecclesiast, *same Where he commandeth, and forbiddeth fast, Man shall not suffer his wife go roll about. Then would he say right thus withoute doubt: "Whoso that buildeth his house all of sallows,* *willows And pricketh his blind horse over the fallows, And suff'reth his wife to *go seeke hallows,* *make pilgrimages* Is worthy to be hanged on the gallows." But all for nought; I *sette not a haw* *cared nothing for* Of his proverbs, nor of his olde saw; Nor would I not of him corrected be. I hate them that my vices telle me, And so do more of us (God wot) than I. This made him wood* with me all utterly; *furious I woulde not forbear* him in no case. *endure Now will I say you sooth, by Saint Thomas, Why that I rent out of his book a leaf, For which he smote me, so that I was deaf. He had a book, that gladly night and day For his disport he would it read alway; He call'd it Valerie, and Theophrast, And with that book he laugh'd alway full fast. And eke there was a clerk sometime at Rome, A cardinal, that highte Saint Jerome, That made a book against Jovinian, Which book was there; and eke Tertullian, Chrysippus, Trotula, and Heloise, That was an abbess not far from Paris; And eke the Parables* of Solomon, *Proverbs Ovide's Art, and bourdes* many one; *jests And alle these were bound in one volume. And every night and day was his custume (When he had leisure and vacation From other worldly occupation) To readen in this book of wicked wives. He knew of them more legends and more lives Than be of goodde wives in the Bible. For, trust me well, it is an impossible That any clerk will speake good of wives, (*But if* it be of holy saintes' lives) *unless Nor of none other woman never the mo'. Who painted the lion, tell it me, who? By God, if women haddde written stories, As clerkes have within their oratories, They would have writ of men more wickedness Than all the mark of Adam may redress The children of Mercury and of Venus, Be in their working full contrarious. Mercury loveth wisdom and science, And Venus loveth riot and dispence.* *extravagance And for their diverse disposition, Each falls in other's exaltation. As thus, God wot, Mercury is desolate In Pisces, where Venus is exaltate, And Venus falls where Mercury is raised. Therefore no woman by no clerk is praised. The clerk, when he is old, and may not do Of Venus' works not worth his olde shoe, Then sits he down, and writes in his dotage, That women cannot keep their marriage. But now to purpose, why I tolde thee That I was beaten for a book, pardie.
Upon a night Jenkin, that was our sire,* *goodman Read on his book, as he sat by the fire, Of Eva first, that for her wickedness Was all mankind brought into wretchedness, For which that Jesus Christ himself was slain, That bought us with his hearte-blood again. Lo here express of women may ye find That woman was the loss of all mankind. Then read he me how Samson lost his hairs Sleeping, his leman cut them with her shears, Through whiche treason lost he both his eyen. Then read he me, if that I shall not lien, Of Hercules, and of his Dejanire, That caused him to set himself on fire. Nothing forgot he of the care and woe That Socrates had with his wives two; How Xantippe cast piss upon his head. This silly man sat still, as he were dead, He wip'd his head, and no more durst he sayn, But, "Ere the thunder stint* there cometh rain." *ceases Of Phasiphae, that was queen of Crete, For shrewedness* he thought the tale sweet. *wickedness Fy, speak no more, it is a grisly thing, Of her horrible lust and her liking. Of Clytemnestra, for her lechery That falsely made her husband for to die, He read it with full good devotion. He told me eke, for what occasion Amphiorax at Thebes lost his life: My husband had a legend of his wife Eryphile, that for an ouche* of gold *clasp, collar Had privily unto the Greekes told, Where that her husband hid him in a place, For which he had at Thebes sorry grace. Of Luna told he me, and of Lucie; They bothe made their husbands for to die, That one for love, that other was for hate. Luna her husband on an ev'ning late Empoison'd had, for that she was his foe: Lucia liquorish lov'd her husband so, That, for he should always upon her think, She gave him such a manner* love-drink, *sort of That he was dead before it were the morrow: And thus algates* husbands hadde sorrow. *always Then told he me how one Latumeus Complained to his fellow Arius That in his garden growed such a tree, On which he said how that his wives three Hanged themselves for heart dispiteous. "O leve* brother," quoth this Arius, *dear "Give me a plant of thilke* blessed tree, *that And in my garden planted shall it be." Of later date of wives hath he read, That some have slain their husbands in their bed, And let their *lechour dight them* all the night, *lover ride them* While that the corpse lay on the floor upright: And some have driven nails into their brain, While that they slept, and thus they have them slain: Some have them given poison in their drink: He spake more harm than hearte may bethink. And therewithal he knew of more proverbs, Than in this world there groweth grass or herbs. "Better (quoth he) thine habitation Be with a lion, or a foul dragon, Than with a woman using for to chide. Better (quoth he) high in the roof abide, Than with an angry woman in the house, They be so wicked and contrarious: They hate that their husbands loven aye." He said, "A woman cast her shame away When she cast off her smock;" and farthermo', "A fair woman, but* she be chaste also, *except Is like a gold ring in a sowe's nose. Who coulde ween,* or who coulde suppose *think The woe that in mine heart was, and the pine?* *pain And when I saw that he would never fine* *finish To readen on this cursed book all night, All suddenly three leaves have I plight* *plucked Out of his book, right as he read, and eke I with my fist so took him on the cheek, That in our fire he backward fell adown. And he up start, as doth a wood* lion, *furious And with his fist he smote me on the head, That on the floor I lay as I were dead. And when he saw how still that there I lay, He was aghast, and would have fled away, Till at the last out of my swoon I braid,* *woke "Oh, hast thou slain me, thou false thief?" I said "And for my land thus hast thou murder'd me? Ere I be dead, yet will I kisse thee." And near he came, and kneeled fair adown, And saide", "Deare sister Alisoun, As help me God, I shall thee never smite: That I have done it is thyself to wite,* *blame Forgive it me, and that I thee beseek."* *beseech And yet eftsoons* I hit him on the cheek, *immediately; again And saidde, "Thief, thus much am I awreak.* *avenged Now will I die, I may no longer speak."
But at the last, with muche care and woe We fell accorded* by ourselves two: *agreed He gave me all the bridle in mine hand To have the governance of house and land, And of his tongue, and of his hand also. I made him burn his book anon right tho.* *then And when that I had gotten unto me By mast'ry all the sovereignety, And that he said, "Mine owen true wife, Do *as thee list,* the term of all thy life, *as pleases thee* Keep thine honour, and eke keep mine estate; After that day we never had debate. God help me so, I was to him as kind As any wife from Denmark unto Ind, And also true, and so was he to me: I pray to God that sits in majesty So bless his soule, for his mercy dear. Now will I say my tale, if ye will hear. —
The Friar laugh'd when he had heard all this: "Now, Dame," quoth he, "so have I joy and bliss, This is a long preamble of a tale." And when the Sompnour heard the Friar gale,* *speak "Lo," quoth this Sompnour, "Godde's armes two, A friar will intermete* him evermo': *interpose Lo, goode men, a fly and eke a frere Will fall in ev'ry dish and eke mattere. What speak'st thou of perambulation?* *preamble What? amble or trot; or peace, or go sit down: Thou lettest* our disport in this mattere." *hinderesst "Yea, wilt thou so, Sir Sompnour?" quoth the Frere; "Now by my faith I shall, ere that I go, Tell of a Sompnour such a tale or two, That all the folk shall laughen in this place." "Now do, else, Friar, I beshrew* thy face," *curse Quoth this Sompnour; "and I beshrewe me, But if* I telle tales two or three *unless Of friars, ere I come to Sittingbourne, That I shall make thine hearte for to mourn: For well I wot thy patience is gone." Our Hoste cried, "Peace, and that anon;" And saide, "Let the woman tell her tale. Ye fare* as folk that drunken be of ale. *behave Do, Dame, tell forth your tale, and that is best." "All ready, sir," quoth she, "right as you lest,* *please If I have licence of this worthy Frere." "Yes, Dame," quoth he, "tell forth, and I will hear."
Notes to the Prologue to the Wife of Bath's Tale
1. Among the evidences that Chaucer's great work was left incomplete, is the absence of any link of connexion between the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, and what goes before. This deficiency has in some editions caused the Squire's and the Merchant's Tales to be interposed between those of the Man of Law and the Wife of Bath; but in the Merchant's Tale there is internal proof that it was told after the jolly Dame's. Several manuscripts contain verses designed to serve as a connexion; but they are evidently not Chaucer's, and it is unnecessary to give them here. Of this Prologue, which may fairly be regarded as a distinct autobiographical tale, Tyrwhitt says: "The extraordinary length of it, as well as the vein of pleasantry that runs through it, is very suitable to the character of the speaker. The greatest part must have been of Chaucer's own invention, though one may plainly see that he had been reading the popular invectives against marriage and women in general; such as the 'Roman de la Rose,' 'Valerius ad Rufinum, De non Ducenda Uxore,' ('Valerius to Rufinus, on not being ruled by one's wife') and particularly 'Hieronymus contra Jovinianum.' ('Jerome against Jovinianus') St Jerome, among other things designed to discourage marriage, has inserted in his treatise a long passage from 'Liber Aureolus Theophrasti de Nuptiis.' ('Theophrastus's Golden Book of Marriage')."
2. A great part of the marriage service used to be performed in the church-porch.
3. Jesus and the Samaritan woman: John iv. 13.
4. Dan: Lord; Latin, "dominus." Another reading is "the wise man, King Solomon."
5. Defended: forbade; French, "defendre," to prohibit.
6. Dart: the goal; a spear or dart was set up to mark the point of victory.
7. "But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour." — 2 Tim. ii 20.
8. Jesus feeding the multitude with barley bread: Mark vi. 41, 42.
9. At Dunmow prevailed the custom of giving, amid much merry making, a flitch of bacon to the married pair who had lived together for a year without quarrel or regret. The same custom prevailed of old in Bretagne.
10. "Cagnard," or "Caignard," a French term of reproach, originally derived from "canis," a dog.
11. Parage: birth, kindred; from Latin, "pario," I beget.
12. Norice: nurse; French, "nourrice."
13. This and the previous quotation from Ptolemy are due to the Dame's own fancy.
14. (Transcriber's note: Some Victorian censorship here. The word given in [brackets] should be "queint" i.e. "cunt".)
15. Women should not adorn themselves: see I Tim. ii. 9.
16. Cherte: affection; from French, "cher," dear.
17. Nicety: folly; French, "niaiserie."
18. Ba: kiss; from French, "baiser."
19. Peter!: by Saint Peter! a common adjuration, like Marie! from the Virgin's name.
20. St. Joce: or Judocus, a saint of Ponthieu, in France.
21. "An allusion," says Mr Wright, "to the story of the Roman sage who, when blamed for divorcing his wife, said that a shoe might appear outwardly to fit well, but no one but the wearer knew where it pinched."
22. Vigilies: festival-eves; see note 33 to the Prologue to the Tales.
23. Bobance: boasting; Ben Jonson's braggart, in "Every Man in his Humour," is named Bobadil.
24. "I hold a mouse's wit not worth a leek, That hath but one hole for to starte to" A very old proverb in French, German, and Latin.
25. The lines in brackets are only in some of the manuscripts.
26. Gat-toothed: gap-toothed; goat-toothed; or cat- or separate toothed. See note 41 to the prologue to the Tales.
27. Sempronius Sophus, of whom Valerius Maximus tells in his sixth book.
28. The tract of Walter Mapes against marriage, published under the title of "Epistola Valerii ad Rufinum."
29. "Ars Amoris."
30. All the mark of Adam: all who bear the mark of Adam i.e. all men.
31. The Children of Mercury and Venus: those born under the influence of the respective planets.
32. A planet, according to the old astrologers, was in "exaltation" when in the sign of the Zodiac in which it exerted its strongest influence; the opposite sign, in which it was weakest, was called its "dejection." Venus being strongest in Pisces, was weakest in Virgo; but in Virgo Mercury was in "exaltation."
33. Intermete: interpose; French, "entremettre."
In olde dayes of the king Arthour, Of which that Britons speake great honour, All was this land full fill'd of faerie;* *fairies The Elf-queen, with her jolly company, Danced full oft in many a green mead This was the old opinion, as I read; I speak of many hundred years ago; But now can no man see none elves mo', For now the great charity and prayeres Of limitours,* and other holy freres, *begging friars That search every land and ev'ry stream As thick as motes in the sunne-beam, Blessing halls, chambers, kitchenes, and bowers, Cities and burghes, castles high and towers, Thorpes* and barnes, shepens** and dairies, *villages **stables This makes that there be now no faeries: For *there as* wont to walke was an elf, *where* There walketh now the limitour himself, In undermeles* and in morrowings**, *evenings **mornings And saith his matins and his holy things, As he goes in his limitatioun.* *begging district Women may now go safely up and down, In every bush, and under every tree; There is none other incubus but he; And he will do to them no dishonour.
And so befell it, that this king Arthour Had in his house a lusty bacheler, That on a day came riding from river: And happen'd, that, alone as she was born, He saw a maiden walking him beforn, Of which maiden anon, maugre* her head, *in spite of By very force he reft her maidenhead: For which oppression was such clamour, And such pursuit unto the king Arthour, That damned* was this knight for to be dead *condemned By course of law, and should have lost his head; (Paraventure such was the statute tho),* *then But that the queen and other ladies mo' So long they prayed the king of his grace, Till he his life him granted in the place, And gave him to the queen, all at her will To choose whether she would him save or spill* *destroy The queen thanked the king with all her might; And, after this, thus spake she to the knight, When that she saw her time upon a day. "Thou standest yet," quoth she, "in such array,* *a position That of thy life yet hast thou no surety; I grant thee life, if thou canst tell to me What thing is it that women most desiren: Beware, and keep thy neck-bone from the iron* *executioner's axe And if thou canst not tell it me anon, Yet will I give thee leave for to gon A twelvemonth and a day, to seek and lear* *learn An answer suffisant* in this mattere. *satisfactory And surety will I have, ere that thou pace,* *go Thy body for to yielden in this place." Woe was the knight, and sorrowfully siked;* *sighed But what? he might not do all as him liked. And at the last he chose him for to wend,* *depart And come again, right at the yeare's end, With such answer as God would him purvey:* *provide And took his leave, and wended forth his way.
He sought in ev'ry house and ev'ry place, Where as he hoped for to finde grace, To learne what thing women love the most: But he could not arrive in any coast, Where as he mighte find in this mattere Two creatures *according in fere.* *agreeing together* Some said that women loved best richess, Some said honour, and some said jolliness, Some rich array, and some said lust* a-bed, *pleasure And oft time to be widow and be wed. Some said, that we are in our heart most eased When that we are y-flatter'd and y-praised. He *went full nigh the sooth,* I will not lie; *came very near A man shall win us best with flattery; the truth* And with attendance, and with business Be we y-limed,* bothe more and less. *caught with bird-lime And some men said that we do love the best For to be free, and do *right as us lest,* *whatever we please* And that no man reprove us of our vice, But say that we are wise, and nothing nice,* *foolish For truly there is none among us all, If any wight will *claw us on the gall,* *see note * That will not kick, for that he saith us sooth: Assay,* and he shall find it, that so do'th. *try For be we never so vicious within, We will be held both wise and clean of sin. And some men said, that great delight have we For to be held stable and eke secre,* *discreet And in one purpose steadfastly to dwell, And not bewray* a thing that men us tell. *give away But that tale is not worth a rake-stele.* *rake-handle Pardie, we women canne nothing hele,* *hide Witness on Midas; will ye hear the tale? Ovid, amonges other thinges smale* *small Saith, Midas had, under his longe hairs, Growing upon his head two ass's ears; The whiche vice he hid, as best he might, Full subtlely from every man's sight, That, save his wife, there knew of it no mo'; He lov'd her most, and trusted her also; He prayed her, that to no creature She woulde tellen of his disfigure. She swore him, nay, for all the world to win, She would not do that villainy or sin, To make her husband have so foul a name: She would not tell it for her owen shame. But natheless her thoughte that she died, That she so longe should a counsel hide; Her thought it swell'd so sore about her heart That needes must some word from her astart And, since she durst not tell it unto man Down to a marish fast thereby she ran, Till she came there, her heart was all afire: And, as a bittern bumbles* in the mire, *makes a humming noise She laid her mouth unto the water down "Bewray me not, thou water, with thy soun'" Quoth she, "to thee I tell it, and no mo', Mine husband hath long ass's eares two! Now is mine heart all whole; now is it out; I might no longer keep it, out of doubt." Here may ye see, though we a time abide, Yet out it must, we can no counsel hide. The remnant of the tale, if ye will hear, Read in Ovid, and there ye may it lear.* *learn
This knight, of whom my tale is specially, When that he saw he might not come thereby, That is to say, what women love the most, Within his breast full sorrowful was his ghost.* *spirit But home he went, for he might not sojourn, The day was come, that homeward he must turn. And in his way it happen'd him to ride, In all his care,* under a forest side, *trouble, anxiety Where as he saw upon a dance go Of ladies four-and-twenty, and yet mo', Toward this ilke* dance he drew full yern,** *same **eagerly The hope that he some wisdom there should learn; But certainly, ere he came fully there, Y-vanish'd was this dance, he knew not where; No creature saw he that bare life, Save on the green he sitting saw a wife, A fouler wight there may no man devise.* *imagine, tell Against* this knight this old wife gan to rise, *to meet And said, "Sir Knight, hereforth* lieth no way. *from here Tell me what ye are seeking, by your fay. Paraventure it may the better be: These olde folk know muche thing." quoth she. My leve* mother," quoth this knight, "certain, *dear I am but dead, but if* that I can sayn *unless What thing it is that women most desire: Could ye me wiss,* I would well *quite your hire."* *instruct "Plight me thy troth here in mine hand," quoth she, *reward you* "The nexte thing that I require of thee Thou shalt it do, if it be in thy might, And I will tell it thee ere it be night." "Have here my trothe," quoth the knight; "I grant." "Thenne," quoth she, "I dare me well avaunt,* *boast, affirm Thy life is safe, for I will stand thereby, Upon my life the queen will say as I: Let see, which is the proudest of them all, That wears either a kerchief or a caul, That dare say nay to that I shall you teach. Let us go forth withoute longer speech Then *rowned she a pistel* in his ear, *she whispered a secret* And bade him to be glad, and have no fear.
When they were come unto the court, this knight Said, he had held his day, as he had hight,* *promised And ready was his answer, as he said. Full many a noble wife, and many a maid, And many a widow, for that they be wise, — The queen herself sitting as a justice, — Assembled be, his answer for to hear, And afterward this knight was bid appear. To every wight commanded was silence, And that the knight should tell in audience, What thing that worldly women love the best. This knight he stood not still, as doth a beast, But to this question anon answer'd With manly voice, that all the court it heard, "My liege lady, generally," quoth he, "Women desire to have the sovereignty As well over their husband as their love And for to be in mast'ry him above. This is your most desire, though ye me kill, Do as you list, I am here at your will." In all the court there was no wife nor maid Nor widow, that contraried what he said, But said, he worthy was to have his life. And with that word up start that olde wife Which that the knight saw sitting on the green.
"Mercy," quoth she, "my sovereign lady queen, Ere that your court departe, do me right. I taughte this answer unto this knight, For which he plighted me his trothe there, The firste thing I would of him requere, He would it do, if it lay in his might. Before this court then pray I thee, Sir Knight," Quoth she, "that thou me take unto thy wife, For well thou know'st that I have kept* thy life. *preserved If I say false, say nay, upon thy fay."* *faith This knight answer'd, "Alas, and well-away! I know right well that such was my behest.* *promise For Godde's love choose a new request Take all my good, and let my body go." "Nay, then," quoth she, "I shrew* us bothe two, *curse For though that I be old, and foul, and poor, I n'ould* for all the metal nor the ore, *would not That under earth is grave,* or lies above *buried But if thy wife I were and eke thy love." "My love?" quoth he, "nay, my damnation, Alas! that any of my nation Should ever so foul disparaged be. But all for nought; the end is this, that he Constrained was, that needs he muste wed, And take this olde wife, and go to bed.
Now woulde some men say paraventure That for my negligence I do no cure* *take no pains To tell you all the joy and all th' array That at the feast was made that ilke* day. *same To which thing shortly answeren I shall: I say there was no joy nor feast at all, There was but heaviness and muche sorrow: For privily he wed her on the morrow; And all day after hid him as an owl, So woe was him, his wife look'd so foul Great was the woe the knight had in his thought When he was with his wife to bed y-brought; He wallow'd, and he turned to and fro. This olde wife lay smiling evermo', And said, "Dear husband, benedicite, Fares every knight thus with his wife as ye? Is this the law of king Arthoures house? Is every knight of his thus dangerous?* *fastidious, niggardly I am your owen love, and eke your wife I am she, which that saved hath your life And certes yet did I you ne'er unright. Why fare ye thus with me this firste night? Ye fare like a man had lost his wit. What is my guilt? for God's love tell me it, And it shall be amended, if I may." "Amended!" quoth this knight; "alas, nay, nay, It will not be amended, never mo'; Thou art so loathly, and so old also, And thereto* comest of so low a kind, *in addition That little wonder though I wallow and wind;* *writhe, turn about So woulde God, mine hearte woulde brest!"* *burst "Is this," quoth she, "the cause of your unrest?" "Yea, certainly," quoth he; "no wonder is." "Now, Sir," quoth she, "I could amend all this, If that me list, ere it were dayes three, *So well ye mighte bear you unto me.* *if you could conduct But, for ye speaken of such gentleness yourself well As is descended out of old richess, towards me* That therefore shalle ye be gentlemen; Such arrogancy is *not worth a hen.* *worth nothing Look who that is most virtuous alway, *Prive and apert,* and most intendeth aye *in private and public* To do the gentle deedes that he can; And take him for the greatest gentleman. Christ will,* we claim of him our gentleness, *wills, requires Not of our elders* for their old richess. *ancestors For though they gave us all their heritage, For which we claim to be of high parage,* *birth, descent Yet may they not bequeathe, for no thing, To none of us, their virtuous living That made them gentlemen called to be, And bade us follow them in such degree. Well can the wise poet of Florence, That highte Dante, speak of this sentence:* *sentiment Lo, in such manner* rhyme is Dante's tale. *kind of 'Full seld'* upriseth by his branches smale *seldom Prowess of man, for God of his goodness Wills that we claim of him our gentleness;' For of our elders may we nothing claim But temp'ral things that man may hurt and maim. Eke every wight knows this as well as I, If gentleness were planted naturally Unto a certain lineage down the line, Prive and apert, then would they never fine* *cease To do of gentleness the fair office Then might they do no villainy nor vice. Take fire, and bear it to the darkest house Betwixt this and the mount of Caucasus, And let men shut the doores, and go thenne,* *thence Yet will the fire as fair and lighte brenne* *burn As twenty thousand men might it behold; *Its office natural aye will it hold,* *it will perform its On peril of my life, till that it die. natural duty* Here may ye see well how that gentery* *gentility, nobility Is not annexed to possession, Since folk do not their operation Alway, as doth the fire, lo, *in its kind* *from its very nature* For, God it wot, men may full often find A lorde's son do shame and villainy. And he that will have price* of his gent'ry, *esteem, honour For* he was boren of a gentle house, *because And had his elders noble and virtuous, And will himselfe do no gentle deedes, Nor follow his gentle ancestry, that dead is, He is not gentle, be he duke or earl; For villain sinful deedes make a churl. For gentleness is but the renomee* *renown Of thine ancestors, for their high bounte,* *goodness, worth Which is a strange thing to thy person: Thy gentleness cometh from God alone. Then comes our very* gentleness of grace; *true It was no thing bequeath'd us with our place. Think how noble, as saith Valerius, Was thilke* Tullius Hostilius, *that That out of povert' rose to high Read in Senec, and read eke in Boece, There shall ye see express, that it no drede* is, *doubt That he is gentle that doth gentle deedes. And therefore, leve* husband, I conclude, *dear Albeit that mine ancestors were rude, Yet may the highe God, — and so hope I, — Grant me His grace to live virtuously: Then am I gentle when that I begin To live virtuously, and waive* sin. *forsake
"And whereas ye of povert' me repreve,* *reproach The highe God, on whom that we believe, In wilful povert' chose to lead his life: And certes, every man, maiden, or wife May understand that Jesus, heaven's king, Ne would not choose a virtuous living. *Glad povert'* is an honest thing, certain; *poverty cheerfully This will Senec and other clerkes sayn endured* Whoso that *holds him paid of* his povert', *is satisfied with* I hold him rich though he hath not a shirt. He that coveteth is a poore wight For he would have what is not in his might But he that nought hath, nor coveteth to have, Is rich, although ye hold him but a knave.* *slave, abject wretch *Very povert' is sinne,* properly. *the only true poverty is sin* Juvenal saith of povert' merrily: The poore man, when he goes by the way Before the thieves he may sing and play Povert' is hateful good, and, as I guess, A full great *bringer out of business;* *deliver from trouble* A great amender eke of sapience To him that taketh it in patience. Povert' is this, although it seem elenge* *strange Possession that no wight will challenge Povert' full often, when a man is low, Makes him his God and eke himself to know Povert' a spectacle* is, as thinketh me *a pair of spectacles Through which he may his very* friendes see. *true And, therefore, Sir, since that I you not grieve, Of my povert' no more me repreve.* *reproach "Now, Sir, of elde* ye repreve me: *age And certes, Sir, though none authority* *text, dictum Were in no book, ye gentles of honour Say, that men should an olde wight honour, And call him father, for your gentleness; And authors shall I finden, as I guess. Now there ye say that I am foul and old, Then dread ye not to be a cokewold.* *cuckold For filth, and elde, all so may I the,* *thrive Be greate wardens upon chastity. But natheless, since I know your delight, I shall fulfil your wordly appetite. Choose now," quoth she, "one of these thinges tway, To have me foul and old till that I dey,* *die And be to you a true humble wife, And never you displease in all my life: Or elles will ye have me young and fair, And take your aventure of the repair* *resort That shall be to your house because of me, — Or in some other place, it may well be? Now choose yourselfe whether that you liketh.
This knight adviseth* him and sore he siketh,** *considered **sighed But at the last he said in this mannere; "My lady and my love, and wife so dear, I put me in your wise governance, Choose for yourself which may be most pleasance And most honour to you and me also; I *do no force* the whether of the two: *care not For as you liketh, it sufficeth me." "Then have I got the mastery," quoth she, "Since I may choose and govern as me lest."* *pleases "Yea, certes wife," quoth he, "I hold it best." "Kiss me," quoth she, "we are no longer wroth,* *at variance For by my troth I will be to you both; This is to say, yea, bothe fair and good. I pray to God that I may *sterve wood,* *die mad* But* I to you be all so good and true, *unless As ever was wife since the world was new; And but* I be to-morrow as fair to seen, *unless As any lady, emperess or queen, That is betwixt the East and eke the West Do with my life and death right as you lest.* *please Cast up the curtain, and look how it is."
And when the knight saw verily all this, That she so fair was, and so young thereto, For joy he hent* her in his armes two: *took His hearte bathed in a bath of bliss, A thousand times *on row* he gan her kiss: *in succession* And she obeyed him in every thing That mighte do him pleasance or liking. And thus they live unto their lives' end In perfect joy; and Jesus Christ us send Husbandes meek and young, and fresh in bed, And grace to overlive them that we wed. And eke I pray Jesus to short their lives, That will not be governed by their wives. And old and angry niggards of dispence,* *expense God send them soon a very pestilence!
Notes to the Wife of Bath's Tale
1. It is not clear whence Chaucer derived this tale. Tyrwhitt thinks it was taken from the story of Florent, in the first book of Gower's "Confessio Amantis;" or perhaps from an older narrative from which Gower himself borrowed. Chaucer has condensed and otherwise improved the fable, especially by laying the scene, not in Sicily, but at the court of our own King Arthur.
2. Limitours: begging friars. See note 18 to the prologue to the Tales.
3. Thorpes: villages. Compare German, "Dorf,"; Dutch, "Dorp."
4. Undermeles: evening-tides, afternoons; "undern" signifies the evening; and "mele," corresponds to the German "Mal" or "Mahl," time.
5. Incubus: an evil spirit supposed to do violence to women; a nightmare.
6. Where he had been hawking after waterfowl. Froissart says that any one engaged in this sport "alloit en riviere."
7. Nice: foolish; French, "niais."
8. Claw us on the gall: Scratch us on the sore place. Compare, "Let the galled jade wince." Hamlet iii. 2.
9. Hele: hide; from Anglo-Saxon, "helan," to hide, conceal.
10. Yern: eagerly; German, "gern."
11. Wiss: instruct; German, "weisen," to show or counsel.
12. Dante, "Purgatorio", vii. 121.
13. "Cantabit vacuus coram latrone viator" — "Satires," x. 22.
14. In a fabulous conference between the Emperor Adrian and the philosopher Secundus, reported by Vincent of Beauvais, occurs the passage which Chaucer here paraphrases: — "Quid est Paupertas? Odibile bonum; sanitas mater; remotio Curarum; sapientae repertrix; negotium sine damno; possessio absque calumnia; sine sollicitudinae felicitas." (What is Poverty? A hateful good; a mother of health; a putting away of cares; a discoverer of wisdom; business without injury; ownership without calumny; happiness without anxiety)
15. Elenge: strange; from French "eloigner," to remove.
THE FRIAR'S TALE.
This worthy limitour, this noble Frere, He made always a manner louring cheer* *countenance Upon the Sompnour; but for honesty* *courtesy No villain word as yet to him spake he: But at the last he said unto the Wife: "Dame," quoth he, "God give you right good life, Ye have here touched, all so may I the,* *thrive In school matter a greate difficulty. Ye have said muche thing right well, I say; But, Dame, here as we ride by the way, Us needeth not but for to speak of game, And leave authorities, in Godde's name, To preaching, and to school eke of clergy. But if it like unto this company, I will you of a Sompnour tell a game; Pardie, ye may well knowe by the name, That of a Sompnour may no good be said; I pray that none of you be *evil paid;* *dissatisfied* A Sompnour is a runner up and down With mandements* for fornicatioun, *mandates, summonses* And is y-beat at every towne's end." Then spake our Host; "Ah, sir, ye should be hend* *civil, gentle And courteous, as a man of your estate; In company we will have no debate: Tell us your tale, and let the Sompnour be." "Nay," quoth the Sompnour, "let him say by me What so him list; when it comes to my lot, By God, I shall him quiten* every groat! *pay him off I shall him telle what a great honour It is to be a flattering limitour And his office I shall him tell y-wis". Our Host answered, "Peace, no more of this." And afterward he said unto the frere, "Tell forth your tale, mine owen master dear."
Notes to the Prologue to the Friar's tale
1. On the Tale of the Friar, and that of the Sompnour which follows, Tyrwhitt has remarked that they "are well engrafted upon that of the Wife of Bath. The ill-humour which shows itself between these two characters is quite natural, as no two professions at that time were at more constant variance. The regular clergy, and particularly the mendicant friars, affected a total exemption from all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, except that of the Pope, which made them exceedingly obnoxious to the bishops and of course to all the inferior officers of the national hierarchy." Both tales, whatever their origin, are bitter satires on the greed and worldliness of the Romish clergy.
Whilom* there was dwelling in my country *once on a time An archdeacon, a man of high degree, That boldely did execution, In punishing of fornication, Of witchecraft, and eke of bawdery, Of defamation, and adultery, Of churche-reeves,* and of testaments, *churchwardens Of contracts, and of lack of sacraments, And eke of many another manner* crime, *sort of Which needeth not rehearsen at this time, Of usury, and simony also; But, certes, lechours did he greatest woe; They shoulde singen, if that they were hent;* *caught And smale tithers were foul y-shent,* *troubled, put to shame If any person would on them complain; There might astert them no pecunial pain. For smalle tithes, and small offering, He made the people piteously to sing; For ere the bishop caught them with his crook, They weren in the archedeacon's book; Then had he, through his jurisdiction, Power to do on them correction.
He had a Sompnour ready to his hand, A slier boy was none in Engleland; For subtlely he had his espiaille,* *espionage That taught him well where it might aught avail. He coulde spare of lechours one or two, To teache him to four and twenty mo'. For, — though this Sompnour wood* be as a hare, — *furious, mad To tell his harlotry I will not spare, For we be out of their correction, They have of us no jurisdiction, Ne never shall have, term of all their lives.
"Peter; so be the women of the stives,"* *stews Quoth this Sompnour, "y-put out of our cure."* *care
"Peace, with mischance and with misaventure," Our Hoste said, "and let him tell his tale. Now telle forth, and let the Sompnour gale,* *whistle; bawl Nor spare not, mine owen master dear."
This false thief, the Sompnour (quoth the Frere), Had always bawdes ready to his hand, As any hawk to lure in Engleland, That told him all the secrets that they knew, — For their acquaintance was not come of new; They were his approvers* privily. *informers He took himself at great profit thereby: His master knew not always what he wan.* *won Withoute mandement, a lewed* man *ignorant He could summon, on pain of Christe's curse, And they were inly glad to fill his purse, And make him greate feastes at the nale.* *alehouse And right as Judas hadde purses smale,* *small And was a thief, right such a thief was he, His master had but half *his duety.* *what was owing him* He was (if I shall give him his laud) A thief, and eke a Sompnour, and a bawd. And he had wenches at his retinue, That whether that Sir Robert or Sir Hugh, Or Jack, or Ralph, or whoso that it were That lay by them, they told it in his ear. Thus were the wench and he of one assent; And he would fetch a feigned mandement, And to the chapter summon them both two, And pill* the man, and let the wenche go. *plunder, pluck Then would he say, "Friend, I shall for thy sake Do strike thee out of oure letters blake;* *black Thee thar* no more as in this case travail; *need I am thy friend where I may thee avail." Certain he knew of bribers many mo' Than possible is to tell in yeare's two: For in this world is no dog for the bow, That can a hurt deer from a whole know, Bet* than this Sompnour knew a sly lechour, *better Or an adult'rer, or a paramour: And, for that was the fruit of all his rent, Therefore on it he set all his intent.
And so befell, that once upon a day. This Sompnour, waiting ever on his prey, Rode forth to summon a widow, an old ribibe, Feigning a cause, for he would have a bribe. And happen'd that he saw before him ride A gay yeoman under a forest side: A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen, He had upon a courtepy* of green, *short doublet A hat upon his head with fringes blake.* *black "Sir," quoth this Sompnour, "hail, and well o'ertake." "Welcome," quoth he, "and every good fellaw; Whither ridest thou under this green shaw?"* shade Saide this yeoman; "wilt thou far to-day?" This Sompnour answer'd him, and saide, "Nay. Here faste by," quoth he, "is mine intent To ride, for to raisen up a rent, That longeth to my lorde's duety." "Ah! art thou then a bailiff?" "Yea," quoth he. He durste not for very filth and shame Say that he was a Sompnour, for the name. "De par dieux," quoth this yeoman, "leve* brother, *dear Thou art a bailiff, and I am another. I am unknowen, as in this country. Of thine acquaintance I will praye thee, And eke of brotherhood, if that thee list.* *please I have gold and silver lying in my chest; If that thee hap to come into our shire, All shall be thine, right as thou wilt desire." "Grand mercy,"* quoth this Sompnour, "by my faith." *great thanks Each in the other's hand his trothe lay'th, For to be sworne brethren till they dey.* *die In dalliance they ride forth and play.
This Sompnour, which that was as full of jangles,* *chattering As full of venom be those wariangles,* * butcher-birds And ev'r inquiring upon every thing, "Brother," quoth he, "where is now your dwelling, Another day if that I should you seech?"* *seek, visit This yeoman him answered in soft speech; Brother," quoth he, "far in the North country, Where as I hope some time I shall thee see Ere we depart I shall thee so well wiss,* *inform That of mine house shalt thou never miss." Now, brother," quoth this Sompnour, "I you pray, Teach me, while that we ride by the way, (Since that ye be a bailiff as am I,) Some subtilty, and tell me faithfully For mine office how that I most may win. And *spare not* for conscience or for sin, *conceal nothing* But, as my brother, tell me how do ye." Now by my trothe, brother mine," said he, As I shall tell to thee a faithful tale: My wages be full strait and eke full smale; My lord is hard to me and dangerous,* *niggardly And mine office is full laborious; And therefore by extortion I live, Forsooth I take all that men will me give. Algate* by sleighte, or by violence, *whether From year to year I win all my dispence; I can no better tell thee faithfully." Now certes," quoth this Sompnour, "so fare* I; *do I spare not to take, God it wot, *But if* it be too heavy or too hot. *unless* What I may get in counsel privily, No manner conscience of that have I. N'ere* mine extortion, I might not live, *were it not for For of such japes* will I not be shrive.** *tricks **confessed Stomach nor conscience know I none; I shrew* these shrifte-fathers** every one. *curse **confessors Well be we met, by God and by St Jame. But, leve brother, tell me then thy name," Quoth this Sompnour. Right in this meane while This yeoman gan a little for to smile.
"Brother," quoth he, "wilt thou that I thee tell? I am a fiend, my dwelling is in hell, And here I ride about my purchasing, To know where men will give me any thing. *My purchase is th' effect of all my rent* *what I can gain is my Look how thou ridest for the same intent sole revenue* To winne good, thou reckest never how, Right so fare I, for ride will I now Into the worlde's ende for a prey."
"Ah," quoth this Sompnour, "benedicite! what say y'? I weened ye were a yeoman truly. *thought Ye have a manne's shape as well as I Have ye then a figure determinate In helle, where ye be in your estate?"* *at home "Nay, certainly," quoth he, there have we none, But when us liketh we can take us one, Or elles make you seem* that we be shape *believe Sometime like a man, or like an ape; Or like an angel can I ride or go; It is no wondrous thing though it be so, A lousy juggler can deceive thee. And pardie, yet can I more craft* than he." *skill, cunning "Why," quoth the Sompnour, "ride ye then or gon In sundry shapes and not always in one?" "For we," quoth he, "will us in such form make. As most is able our prey for to take." "What maketh you to have all this labour?" "Full many a cause, leve Sir Sompnour," Saide this fiend. "But all thing hath a time; The day is short and it is passed prime, And yet have I won nothing in this day; I will intend* to winning, if I may, *apply myself And not intend our thinges to declare: For, brother mine, thy wit is all too bare To understand, although I told them thee. *But for* thou askest why laboure we: *because* For sometimes we be Godde's instruments And meanes to do his commandements, When that him list, upon his creatures, In divers acts and in divers figures: Withoute him we have no might certain, If that him list to stande thereagain.* *against it And sometimes, at our prayer have we leave Only the body, not the soul, to grieve: Witness on Job, whom that we did full woe, And sometimes have we might on both the two, — This is to say, on soul and body eke, And sometimes be we suffer'd for to seek Upon a man and do his soul unrest And not his body, and all is for the best, When he withstandeth our temptation, It is a cause of his salvation, Albeit that it was not our intent He should be safe, but that we would him hent.* *catch And sometimes be we servants unto man, As to the archbishop Saint Dunstan, And to th'apostle servant eke was I." "Yet tell me," quoth this Sompnour, "faithfully, Make ye you newe bodies thus alway Of th' elements?" The fiend answered, "Nay: Sometimes we feign, and sometimes we arise With deade bodies, in full sundry wise, And speak as reas'nably, and fair, and well, As to the Pythoness did Samuel: And yet will some men say it was not he. I *do no force of* your divinity. *set no value upon* But one thing warn I thee, I will not jape,* jest Thou wilt *algates weet* how we be shape: *assuredly know* Thou shalt hereafterward, my brother dear, Come, where thee needeth not of me to lear.* *learn For thou shalt by thine own experience *Conne in a chair to rede of this sentence,* *learn to understand Better than Virgil, while he was alive, what I have said* Or Dante also. Now let us ride blive,* *briskly For I will holde company with thee, Till it be so that thou forsake me." "Nay," quoth this Sompnour, "that shall ne'er betide. I am a yeoman, that is known full wide; My trothe will I hold, as in this case; For though thou wert the devil Satanas, My trothe will I hold to thee, my brother, As I have sworn, and each of us to other, For to be true brethren in this case, And both we go *abouten our purchase.* *seeking what we Take thou thy part, what that men will thee give, may pick up* And I shall mine, thus may we bothe live. And if that any of us have more than other, Let him be true, and part it with his brother." "I grante," quoth the devil, "by my fay." And with that word they rode forth their way, And right at th'ent'ring of the towne's end, To which this Sompnour shope* him for to wend,** *shaped **go They saw a cart, that charged was with hay, Which that a carter drove forth on his way. Deep was the way, for which the carte stood: The carter smote, and cried as he were wood,* *mad "Heit Scot! heit Brok! what, spare ye for the stones? The fiend (quoth he) you fetch body and bones, As farforthly* as ever ye were foal'd, *sure So muche woe as I have with you tholed.* *endured The devil have all, horses, and cart, and hay." The Sompnour said, "Here shall we have a prey," And near the fiend he drew, *as nought ne were,* *as if nothing Full privily, and rowned* in his ear: were the matter* "Hearken, my brother, hearken, by thy faith, *whispered Hearest thou not, how that the carter saith? Hent* it anon, for he hath giv'n it thee, *seize Both hay and cart, and eke his capels* three." *horses "Nay," quoth the devil, "God wot, never a deal,* whit It is not his intent, trust thou me well; Ask him thyself, if thou not trowest* me, *believest Or elles stint* a while and thou shalt see." *stop The carter thwack'd his horses on the croup, And they began to drawen and to stoop. "Heit now," quoth he; "there, Jesus Christ you bless, And all his handiwork, both more and less! That was well twight,* mine owen liart,** boy, *pulled **grey I pray God save thy body, and Saint Loy! Now is my cart out of the slough, pardie." "Lo, brother," quoth the fiend, "what told I thee? Here may ye see, mine owen deare brother, The churl spake one thing, but he thought another. Let us go forth abouten our voyage; Here win I nothing upon this carriage."
When that they came somewhat out of the town, This Sompnour to his brother gan to rown; "Brother," quoth he, "here wons* an old rebeck, *dwells That had almost as lief to lose her neck. As for to give a penny of her good. I will have twelvepence, though that she be wood,* *mad Or I will summon her to our office; And yet, God wot, of her know I no vice. But for thou canst not, as in this country, Winne thy cost, take here example of me." This Sompnour clapped at the widow's gate: "Come out," he said, "thou olde very trate;* *trot I trow thou hast some friar or priest with thee." "Who clappeth?" said this wife; "benedicite, God save you, Sir, what is your sweete will?" "I have," quoth he, "of summons here a bill. Up* pain of cursing, looke that thou be *upon To-morrow before our archdeacon's knee, To answer to the court of certain things." "Now Lord," quoth she, "Christ Jesus, king of kings, So wis1y* helpe me, *as I not may.* *surely *as I cannot* I have been sick, and that full many a day. I may not go so far," quoth she, "nor ride, But I be dead, so pricketh it my side. May I not ask a libel, Sir Sompnour, And answer there by my procuratour To such thing as men would appose* me?" *accuse "Yes," quoth this Sompnour, "pay anon, let see, Twelvepence to me, and I will thee acquit. I shall no profit have thereby but lit:* *little My master hath the profit and not I. Come off, and let me ride hastily; Give me twelvepence, I may no longer tarry."
"Twelvepence!" quoth she; "now lady Sainte Mary So wisly* help me out of care and sin, *surely This wide world though that I should it win, No have I not twelvepence within my hold. Ye know full well that I am poor and old; *Kithe your almes* upon me poor wretch." *show your charity* "Nay then," quoth he, "the foule fiend me fetch, If I excuse thee, though thou should'st be spilt."* *ruined "Alas!" quoth she, "God wot, I have no guilt." "Pay me," quoth he, "or, by the sweet Saint Anne, As I will bear away thy newe pan For debte, which thou owest me of old, — When that thou madest thine husband cuckold, — I paid at home for thy correction." "Thou liest," quoth she, "by my salvation; Never was I ere now, widow or wife, Summon'd unto your court in all my life; Nor never I was but of my body true. Unto the devil rough and black of hue Give I thy body and my pan also." And when the devil heard her curse so Upon her knees, he said in this mannere; "Now, Mabily, mine owen mother dear, Is this your will in earnest that ye say?" "The devil," quoth she, "so fetch him ere he dey,* *die And pan and all, but* he will him repent." *unless "Nay, olde stoat,* that is not mine intent," *polecat Quoth this Sompnour, "for to repente me For any thing that I have had of thee; I would I had thy smock and every cloth." "Now, brother," quoth the devil, "be not wroth; Thy body and this pan be mine by right. Thou shalt with me to helle yet tonight, Where thou shalt knowen of our privity* *secrets More than a master of divinity."
And with that word the foule fiend him hent.* *seized Body and soul, he with the devil went, Where as the Sompnours have their heritage; And God, that maked after his image Mankinde, save and guide us all and some, And let this Sompnour a good man become. Lordings, I could have told you (quoth this Frere), Had I had leisure for this Sompnour here, After the text of Christ, and Paul, and John, And of our other doctors many a one, Such paines, that your heartes might agrise,* *be horrified Albeit so, that no tongue may devise,* — *relate Though that I might a thousand winters tell, — The pains of thilke* cursed house of hell *that But for to keep us from that cursed place Wake we, and pray we Jesus, of his grace, So keep us from the tempter, Satanas. Hearken this word, beware as in this case. The lion sits *in his await* alway *on the watch* To slay the innocent, if that he may. Disposen aye your heartes to withstond The fiend that would you make thrall and bond; He may not tempte you over your might, For Christ will be your champion and your knight; And pray, that this our Sompnour him repent Of his misdeeds ere that the fiend him hent.* *seize
Notes to the Friar's Tale
1. Small tithers: people who did not pay their full tithes. Mr Wright remarks that "the sermons of the friars in the fourteenth century were most frequently designed to impress the ahsolute duty of paying full tithes and offerings".
2. There might astert them no pecunial pain: they got off with no mere pecuniary punishment. (Transcriber's note: "Astert" means "escape". An alternative reading of this line is "there might astert him no pecunial pain" i.e. no fine ever escaped him (the archdeacon))
3. A dog for the bow: a dog attending a huntsman with bow and arrow.
4. Ribibe: the name of a musical instrument; applied to an old woman because of the shrillness of her voice.
5. De par dieux: by the gods.
6. See note 12 to the Knight's Tale.
7. Wariangles: butcher-birds; which are very noisy and ravenous, and tear in pieces the birds on which they prey; the thorn on which they do this was said to become poisonous.
8. Medieval legends located hell in the North.
9. The Pythoness: the witch, or woman, possesed with a prophesying spirit; from the Greek, "Pythia." Chaucer of course refers to the raising of Samuel's spirit by the witch of Endor.
10. Dante and Virgil were both poets who had in fancy visited Hell.
11. Tholed: suffered, endured; "thole" is still used in Scotland in the same sense.
12. Capels: horses. See note 14 to the Reeve's Tale.
13. Liart: grey; elsewhere applied by Chaucer to the hairs of an old man. So Burns, in the "Cotter's Saturday Night," speaks of the gray temples of "the sire" — "His lyart haffets wearing thin and bare."
14. Rebeck: a kind of fiddle; used like "ribibe," as a nickname for a shrill old scold.
15. Trot; a contemptuous term for an old woman who has trotted about much, or who moves with quick short steps.
16. In his await: on the watch; French, "aux aguets."
THE SOMPNOUR'S TALE.
The Sompnour in his stirrups high he stood, Upon this Friar his hearte was so wood,* *furious That like an aspen leaf he quoke* for ire: *quaked, trembled "Lordings," quoth he, "but one thing I desire; I you beseech, that of your courtesy, Since ye have heard this false Friar lie, As suffer me I may my tale tell This Friar boasteth that he knoweth hell, And, God it wot, that is but little wonder, Friars and fiends be but little asunder. For, pardie, ye have often time heard tell, How that a friar ravish'd was to hell In spirit ones by a visioun, And, as an angel led him up and down, To shew him all the paines that there were, In all the place saw he not a frere; Of other folk he saw enough in woe. Unto the angel spake the friar tho;* *then 'Now, Sir,' quoth he, 'have friars such a grace, That none of them shall come into this place?' 'Yes' quoth the angel; 'many a millioun:' And unto Satanas he led him down. 'And now hath Satanas,' said he, 'a tail Broader than of a carrack is the sail. Hold up thy tail, thou Satanas,' quoth he, 'Shew forth thine erse, and let the friar see Where is the nest of friars in this place.' And *less than half a furlong way of space* *immediately* Right so as bees swarmen out of a hive, Out of the devil's erse there gan to drive A twenty thousand friars *on a rout.* *in a crowd* And throughout hell they swarmed all about, And came again, as fast as they may gon, And in his erse they creeped every one: He clapt his tail again, and lay full still. This friar, when he looked had his fill Upon the torments of that sorry place, His spirit God restored of his grace Into his body again, and he awoke; But natheless for feare yet he quoke, So was the devil's erse aye in his mind; That is his heritage, *of very kind* *by his very nature* God save you alle, save this cursed Frere; My prologue will I end in this mannere.
Notes to the Prologue to the Sompnour's Tale
1. Carrack: A great ship of burden used by the Portuguese; the name is from the Italian, "cargare," to load
2. In less than half a furlong way of space: immediately; literally, in less time than it takes to walk half a furlong (110 yards).
Lordings, there is in Yorkshire, as I guess, A marshy country called Holderness, In which there went a limitour about To preach, and eke to beg, it is no doubt. And so befell that on a day this frere Had preached at a church in his mannere, And specially, above every thing, Excited he the people in his preaching To trentals, and to give, for Godde's sake, Wherewith men mighte holy houses make, There as divine service is honour'd, Not there as it is wasted and devour'd, Nor where it needeth not for to be given, As to possessioners, that may liven, Thanked be God, in wealth and abundance. "Trentals," said he, "deliver from penance Their friendes' soules, as well old as young, Yea, when that they be hastily y-sung, — Not for to hold a priest jolly and gay, He singeth not but one mass in a day. "Deliver out," quoth he, "anon the souls. Full hard it is, with flesh-hook or with owls* *awls To be y-clawed, or to burn or bake: Now speed you hastily, for Christe's sake." And when this friar had said all his intent, With qui cum patre forth his way he went, When folk in church had giv'n him what them lest;* *pleased He went his way, no longer would he rest, With scrip and tipped staff, *y-tucked high:* *with his robe tucked In every house he gan to pore* and pry, up high* *peer And begged meal and cheese, or elles corn. His fellow had a staff tipped with horn, A pair of tables* all of ivory, *writing tablets And a pointel* y-polish'd fetisly,** *pencil **daintily And wrote alway the names, as he stood; Of all the folk that gave them any good, Askaunce* that he woulde for them pray. *see note "Give us a bushel wheat, or malt, or rey,* *rye A Godde's kichel,* or a trip** of cheese, *little cake **scrap Or elles what you list, we may not chese;* *choose A Godde's halfpenny, or a mass penny; Or give us of your brawn, if ye have any; A dagon* of your blanket, leve dame, *remnant Our sister dear, — lo, here I write your name,— Bacon or beef, or such thing as ye find." A sturdy harlot* went them aye behind, *manservant That was their hoste's man, and bare a sack, And what men gave them, laid it on his back And when that he was out at door, anon He *planed away* the names every one, *rubbed out* That he before had written in his tables: He served them with nifles* and with fables. — *silly tales
"Nay, there thou liest, thou Sompnour," quoth the Frere. "Peace," quoth our Host, "for Christe's mother dear; Tell forth thy tale, and spare it not at all." "So thrive I," quoth this Sompnour, "so I shall." —
So long he went from house to house, till he Came to a house, where he was wont to be Refreshed more than in a hundred places Sick lay the husband man, whose that the place is, Bed-rid upon a couche low he lay: *"Deus hic,"* quoth he; "O Thomas friend, good day," *God be here* Said this friar, all courteously and soft. "Thomas," quoth he, "God *yield it you,* full oft *reward you for* Have I upon this bench fared full well, Here have I eaten many a merry meal." And from the bench he drove away the cat, And laid adown his potent* and his hat, *staff And eke his scrip, and sat himself adown: His fellow was y-walked into town Forth with his knave,* into that hostelry *servant Where as he shope* him that night to lie. *shaped, purposed
"O deare master," quoth this sicke man, "How have ye fared since that March began? I saw you not this fortenight and more." "God wot," quoth he, "labour'd have I full sore; And specially for thy salvation Have I said many a precious orison, And for mine other friendes, God them bless. I have this day been at your church at mess,* *mass And said sermon after my simple wit, Not all after the text of Holy Writ; For it is hard to you, as I suppose, And therefore will I teach you aye the glose.* *gloss, comment Glosing is a full glorious thing certain, For letter slayeth, as we clerkes* sayn. *scholars There have I taught them to be charitable, And spend their good where it is reasonable. And there I saw our dame; where is she?" "Yonder I trow that in the yard she be," Saide this man; "and she will come anon." "Hey master, welcome be ye by Saint John," Saide this wife; "how fare ye heartily?"
This friar riseth up full courteously, And her embraceth *in his armes narrow,* *closely And kiss'th her sweet, and chirketh as a sparrow With his lippes: "Dame," quoth he, "right well, As he that is your servant every deal.* *whit Thanked be God, that gave you soul and life, Yet saw I not this day so fair a wife In all the churche, God so save me," "Yea, God amend defaultes, Sir," quoth she; "Algates* welcome be ye, by my fay." *always "Grand mercy, Dame; that have I found alway. But of your greate goodness, by your leave, I woulde pray you that ye not you grieve, I will with Thomas speak *a little throw:* *a little while* These curates be so negligent and slow To grope tenderly a conscience. In shrift* and preaching is my diligence *confession And study in Peter's wordes and in Paul's; I walk and fishe Christian menne's souls, To yield our Lord Jesus his proper rent; To spread his word is alle mine intent." "Now by your faith, O deare Sir," quoth she, "Chide him right well, for sainte charity. He is aye angry as is a pismire,* *ant Though that he have all that he can desire, Though I him wrie* at night, and make him warm, *cover And ov'r him lay my leg and eke mine arm, He groaneth as our boar that lies in sty: Other disport of him right none have I, I may not please him in no manner case." "O Thomas, *je vous dis,* Thomas, Thomas, *I tell you* This *maketh the fiend,* this must be amended. *is the devil's work* Ire is a thing that high God hath defended,* *forbidden And thereof will I speak a word or two." "Now, master," quoth the wife, "ere that I go, What will ye dine? I will go thereabout." "Now, Dame," quoth he, "je vous dis sans doute, Had I not of a capon but the liver, And of your white bread not but a shiver,* *thin slice And after that a roasted pigge's head, (But I would that for me no beast were dead,) Then had I with you homely suffisance. I am a man of little sustenance. My spirit hath its fost'ring in the Bible. My body is aye so ready and penible* *painstaking To wake,* that my stomach is destroy'd. *watch I pray you, Dame, that ye be not annoy'd, Though I so friendly you my counsel shew; By God, I would have told it but to few." "Now, Sir," quoth she, "but one word ere I go; My child is dead within these weeke's two, Soon after that ye went out of this town."
"His death saw I by revelatioun," Said this friar, "at home in our dortour.* *dormitory I dare well say, that less than half an hour Mter his death, I saw him borne to bliss In mine vision, so God me wiss.* *direct So did our sexton, and our fermerere,* *infirmary-keeper That have been true friars fifty year, — They may now, God be thanked of his love, Make their jubilee, and walk above. And up I rose, and all our convent eke, With many a teare trilling on my cheek, Withoute noise or clattering of bells, Te Deum was our song, and nothing else, Save that to Christ I bade an orison, Thanking him of my revelation. For, Sir and Dame, truste me right well, Our orisons be more effectuel, And more we see of Christe's secret things, Than *borel folk,* although that they be kings. *laymen* We live in povert', and in abstinence, And borel folk in riches and dispence Of meat and drink, and in their foul delight. We have this worlde's lust* all in despight** * pleasure **contempt Lazar and Dives lived diversely, And diverse guerdon* hadde they thereby. *reward Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean, And fat his soul, and keep his body lean We fare as saith th' apostle; cloth* and food *clothing Suffice us, although they be not full good. The cleanness and the fasting of us freres Maketh that Christ accepteth our prayeres. Lo, Moses forty days and forty night Fasted, ere that the high God full of might Spake with him in the mountain of Sinai: With empty womb* of fasting many a day *stomach Received he the lawe, that was writ With Godde's finger; and Eli, well ye wit,* *know In Mount Horeb, ere he had any speech With highe God, that is our live's leech,* *physician, healer He fasted long, and was in contemplance. Aaron, that had the temple in governance, And eke the other priestes every one, Into the temple when they shoulde gon To praye for the people, and do service, They woulde drinken in no manner wise No drinke, which that might them drunken make, But there in abstinence pray and wake, Lest that they died: take heed what I say — But* they be sober that for the people pray — *unless Ware that, I say — no more: for it sufficeth. Our Lord Jesus, as Holy Writ deviseth,* *narrates Gave us example of fasting and prayeres: Therefore we mendicants, we sely* freres, *simple, lowly Be wedded to povert' and continence, To charity, humbless, and abstinence, To persecution for righteousness, To weeping, misericorde,* and to cleanness. *compassion And therefore may ye see that our prayeres (I speak of us, we mendicants, we freres), Be to the highe God more acceptable Than youres, with your feastes at your table. From Paradise first, if I shall not lie, Was man out chased for his gluttony, And chaste was man in Paradise certain. But hark now, Thomas, what I shall thee sayn; I have no text of it, as I suppose, But I shall find it in *a manner glose;* *a kind of comment* That specially our sweet Lord Jesus Spake this of friars, when he saide thus, 'Blessed be they that poor in spirit be' And so forth all the gospel may ye see, Whether it be liker our profession, Or theirs that swimmen in possession; Fy on their pomp, and on their gluttony, And on their lewedness! I them defy. Me thinketh they be like Jovinian, Fat as a whale, and walking as a swan; All vinolent* as bottle in the spence;** *full of wine **store-room Their prayer is of full great reverence; When they for soules say the Psalm of David, Lo, 'Buf' they say, Cor meum eructavit. Who follow Christe's gospel and his lore* *doctrine But we, that humble be, and chaste, and pore,* *poor Workers of Godde's word, not auditours?* *hearers Therefore right as a hawk *upon a sours* *rising* Up springs into the air, right so prayeres Of charitable and chaste busy freres *Make their sours* to Godde's eares two. *rise* Thomas, Thomas, so may I ride or go, And by that lord that called is Saint Ive, *N'ere thou our brother, shouldest thou not thrive;* *see note * In our chapiter pray we day and night To Christ, that he thee sende health and might, Thy body for to *wielde hastily.* *soon be able to move freely*
"God wot," quoth he, "nothing thereof feel I; So help me Christ, as I in fewe years Have spended upon *divers manner freres* *friars of various sorts* Full many a pound, yet fare I ne'er the bet;* *better Certain my good have I almost beset:* *spent Farewell my gold, for it is all ago."* *gone The friar answer'd, "O Thomas, dost thou so? What needest thou diverse friars to seech?* *seek What needeth him that hath a perfect leech,* *healer To seeken other leeches in the town? Your inconstance is your confusioun. Hold ye then me, or elles our convent, To praye for you insufficient? Thomas, that jape* it is not worth a mite; *jest Your malady is *for we have too lite.* *because we have Ah, give that convent half a quarter oats; too little* And give that convent four and twenty groats; And give that friar a penny, and let him go! Nay, nay, Thomas, it may no thing be so. What is a farthing worth parted on twelve? Lo, each thing that is oned* in himselve *made one, united Is more strong than when it is y-scatter'd. Thomas, of me thou shalt not be y-flatter'd, Thou wouldest have our labour all for nought. The highe God, that all this world hath wrought, Saith, that the workman worthy is his hire Thomas, nought of your treasure I desire As for myself, but that all our convent To pray for you is aye so diligent: And for to builde Christe's owen church. Thomas, if ye will learne for to wirch,* *work Of building up of churches may ye find If it be good, in Thomas' life of Ind. Ye lie here full of anger and of ire, With which the devil sets your heart on fire, And chide here this holy innocent Your wife, that is so meek and patient. And therefore trow* me, Thomas, if thee lest,** *believe **please Ne strive not with thy wife, as for the best. And bear this word away now, by thy faith, Touching such thing, lo, what the wise man saith: 'Within thy house be thou no lion; To thy subjects do none oppression; Nor make thou thine acquaintance for to flee.' And yet, Thomas, eftsoones* charge I thee, *again Beware from ire that in thy bosom sleeps, Ware from the serpent, that so slily creeps Under the grass, and stingeth subtilly. Beware, my son, and hearken patiently, That twenty thousand men have lost their lives For striving with their lemans* and their wives. *mistresses Now since ye have so holy and meek a wife, What needeth you, Thomas, to make strife? There is, y-wis,* no serpent so cruel, *certainly When men tread on his tail nor half so fell,* *fierce As woman is, when she hath caught an ire; Very* vengeance is then all her desire. *pure, only Ire is a sin, one of the greate seven, Abominable to the God of heaven, And to himself it is destruction. This every lewed* vicar and parson *ignorant Can say, how ire engenders homicide; Ire is in sooth th' executor* of pride. *executioner I could of ire you say so muche sorrow, My tale shoulde last until to-morrow. And therefore pray I God both day and ight, An irous* man God send him little might. *passionate It is great harm, and certes great pity To set an irous man in high degree.
"Whilom* there was an irous potestate,** *once **judge As saith Senec, that during his estate* *term of office Upon a day out rode knightes two; And, as fortune would that it were so, The one of them came home, the other not. Anon the knight before the judge is brought, That saide thus; 'Thou hast thy fellow slain, For which I doom thee to the death certain.' And to another knight commanded he; 'Go, lead him to the death, I charge thee.' And happened, as they went by the way Toward the place where as he should dey,* *die The knight came, which men weened* had been dead *thought Then thoughte they it was the beste rede* *counsel To lead them both unto the judge again. They saide, 'Lord, the knight hath not y-slain His fellow; here he standeth whole alive.' 'Ye shall be dead,' quoth he, 'so may I thrive, That is to say, both one, and two, and three.' And to the firste knight right thus spake he: 'I damned thee, thou must algate* be dead: *at all events And thou also must needes lose thine head, For thou the cause art why thy fellow dieth.' And to the thirde knight right thus he sayeth, 'Thou hast not done that I commanded thee.' And thus he did do slay them alle three.
Irous Cambyses was eke dronkelew,* *a drunkard And aye delighted him to be a shrew.* *vicious, ill-tempered And so befell, a lord of his meinie,* *suite That loved virtuous morality, Said on a day betwixt them two right thus: 'A lord is lost, if he be vicious. [An irous man is like a frantic beast, In which there is of wisdom *none arrest*;] *no control* And drunkenness is eke a foul record Of any man, and namely* of a lord. *especially There is full many an eye and many an ear *Awaiting on* a lord, he knows not where. *watching For Godde's love, drink more attemperly:* *temperately Wine maketh man to lose wretchedly His mind, and eke his limbes every one.' 'The reverse shalt thou see,' quoth he, 'anon, And prove it by thine own experience, That wine doth to folk no such offence. There is no wine bereaveth me my might Of hand, nor foot, nor of mine eyen sight.' And for despite he dranke muche more A hundred part* than he had done before, *times And right anon this cursed irous wretch This knighte's sone let* before him fetch, *caused Commanding him he should before him stand: And suddenly he took his bow in hand, And up the string he pulled to his ear, And with an arrow slew the child right there. 'Now whether have I a sicker* hand or non?'** *sure **not Quoth he; 'Is all my might and mind agone? Hath wine bereaved me mine eyen sight?' Why should I tell the answer of the knight? His son was slain, there is no more to say. Beware therefore with lordes how ye play,* *use freedom Sing placebo; and I shall if I can, *But if* it be unto a poore man: *unless To a poor man men should his vices tell, But not t' a lord, though he should go to hell. Lo, irous Cyrus, thilke* Persian, *that How he destroy'd the river of Gisen, For that a horse of his was drowned therein, When that he wente Babylon to win: He made that the river was so small, That women mighte wade it *over all.* *everywhere Lo, what said he, that so well teache can, 'Be thou no fellow to an irous man, Nor with no wood* man walke by the way, *furious Lest thee repent;' I will no farther say.