Page images


Ther nas no dore that he nolde heve of harre,1
Or breke it at a rennyng with his heed.
His berd, as any sowe or fox, was reed,
And therto brood, as though it were a spade.
Upon the cope2 right of his nose he hade
A werte, and thereon stood a toft of herys, 555
Reed as the brustles of a sowes erys;
His nosethirlės blakė were and wyde;
A swerd and a bokeler bar he by his syde;
His mouth as wyde was as a greet forneys,
He was a janglere and a goliardeys,'
And that was moost of synne and harlotries.
Wel koude he stelen corn and tollen thries,*
And yet he hadde a thombe of golde, pardee,
A whit cote and a blew hood wered he.
A baggepipe wel koude he blowe and sowne,
And therwithal he broghte us out of towne.


A gentil MAUNCIPLE was ther of a temple,
Of which achatours" myghte take exemple
For to be wise in byynge of vitaille;
For, wheither that he payde or took by taille,'
Algates he wayted' so in his achaat10
That he was ay biforn11 and in good staat.
Now is nat that of God a ful fair grace
That swich a lewed 12 mannės wit shal pace
The wisdom of an heepe of lerned men?
Of maistrės hadde he mo than thriės ten,
That weren of lawe expert and curious,
Of wiche ther weren a duszeyne in that hous
Worthy to been stywardes of rente and lond
Of any lord that is in Engelond,

To maken hym lyve by his propre good13
In honour dettelees,14 but he were wood,"
Or lyve as scarsly as hym list desire;
And able for to helpen al a shire


1 Heave off its hinges. Loud and ribald jester.



In any caas that myghte falle or happe;
And yet this Manciple sette hir aller cappe.18

• Buyers.

8 Always.

11 Before.

13 On his own means.

The REVE was a sclendré colerik man His berd was shave as ny as ever he kan; His heer was by his erys round y-shorn, His top was doked lyk a preest biforn, Ful longé were his legges and ful lene, Y-lyk a staf, ther was no calf y-sene. Wel koude he kepe a gerner and a bynne, Ther was noon auditour koude on him wynne. Wel wiste he, by the droghte and by the reyn, The yeldynge of his seed and of his greyn. His lordės sheepe, his neet," his dayerye, His swyn, his hors, his stoor, 18 and his pultrye, Was hoolly in this revés governyng, And by his covenant yaf the rekenyng


15 Mad.

17 Cattle.



600 2 Tip.

4 Millers were allowed as toll a certain proportion of the grain in payment for the grinding. This miller tolled thrice, i. e. took three times the legal quantity of grain.

12 Ignorant.

14 Without debts.

An allusion to the proverb "An honest miller has a thumb of gold." The line may be ironical, he stole corn, he tolled thrice, and yet was honest enough for a miller. The proverb itself is ambiguous, and the passage obscure.


7 Tally, i. e. charged the goods. • Watched. 10 Buying.

16 Outwitted them all. 18 Farm stock.

Syn that his lord was twenty yeer of age;
Ther koude no man brynge hym in arrerage.
There nas baillif, ne hierde, 19 nor oother
hyne, 20

That he ne knew his sleighte and his covyne;21
They were adrad of hym as of the deeth.
His wonyng22 was ful faire upon an heeth,
With grene trees y-shadwed was his place.
He koudė bettrẻ than his lord purchase.
Ful riche he was a-stored 23 pryvely,
His lord wel koude he plesen subtilly
To yeve and lene24 hym of his owene good
And have a thank, and yet a gowne and



In youthe he lerned hadde a good myster, 25
He was a wel good wrighte, a carpenter.
This Revė sat upon a ful good stot,28
That was al pomely 27 grey, and highte Scot;
A long surcote of pers upon he hade,
And by his syde he baar a rusty blade.
Of Northfolk was this Reve of which I telle,
Biside a toun men clepen Baldeswelle.
Tukked he was as is a frere, aboute
And ever he rood the hyndreste" of oure route.




A SOMONOUR was ther with us in that place, That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnės face, For sawcèfleem30 he was, with eyen narwe. As hoot he was, and lecherous, as a sparwe, With scaled browės blake and piled32 berd,— Of his visage children were aferd.

19 Herdsman. 21 Trickery and 23 Stocked. 26 Cob.

Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge,33 ne brymstoon,
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of Tartre noon,
Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
That hym myghte helpen of the whelkes's

29 Hindermost. 32 Patchy. 35 Blotches.


Nor of the knobbės sittynge on his chekes.
Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eke lekes,634
And for to drynken strong wyn, reed as blood;
Thanne wolde he speke, and crie as he were

And whan that he wel dronken hadde the wyn,

Than wolde he speke no word but Latyn.
A fewė termes37 hadde he, two or thre,
That he had lerned out of som decree,-
No wonder is, he herde it al the day,
And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
Kan clepen WATTE38 as wel as kan the pope.
But whoso koude in oother thyng hym grope,
Thanne hadde he spent all his philosophie;
Ay Questio quid juris wolde he crie.
He was a gentil harlot 40 and a kynde;
A bettre felawe sholdė men noght fynde.
A gerland" hadde he set upon his heed,


24 Give and lend. 27 Dappled.

30 Pimpled.

33 White lead.



39 645


20 Hind, servant. 22 Dwelling.

25 Craft.

28 Blue.

31 Scabby.
34 Borax.

36 Crazy.

38 Can call Wat, or Walter. 40 Fellow, knave.

37 Legal phrases.

39 Test, examine.

41 On the ale stake, a pole projecting horizontally from the front of the tavern, hung an ivy-bush; the usual sign of an inn. A Garland, made of three hoops and decorated with ribbons was often hung from the ale stake, in addition to the bush.

As greet as it were for an ale stake;
A bokeleer hadde he maad him of a cake.1

With hym ther rood a gentil PARDONER Of Rouncivale,2 his freend and his compeer, 670 That streight was comen fro the court of Rome.


Ful loude he soong Com hider, love to me!
This Somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun,'
Was never trompe of half so greet a soun.
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;'
By ounces henge his lokkės that he hadde,
And therwith he his shuldres overspradde.
But thynne it lay by colpons oon and oon;
But hood, for jolitee, ne wered he noon,
For it was trussed up in his walet.
Hym thoughte he rood al of the newė jet;
Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare,
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe; 685
His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe
Bret-ful of pardon, comen from Rome al


A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot;
But of his craft, fro Berwyk unto Ware
Ne was ther swich another pardoner,
For in his male' he hadde a pilwe-beer, 10
Which that, he seydė, was oure lady veyl;
He seyde he hadde a gobet11 of the seyl
That Seinté Peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til Jhesu Crist hym hente.12
He hadde a croys of latoun, 13 ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde piggės bones.
But with thise relikės, whan that he fond
A pouré person dwellynge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthės tweye;
And thus with feyned flaterye and japes14 705
He made the person and the peple his apes.
But, trewěly to tellen atté laste,


He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste;
Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
But alderbest he song an Offertorie;
For wel he wistė whan that song was songe,
He mosté preche, and wel affile his tonge
To wynnė silver, as he ful wel koude;
Therefore he song the murierly 15 and loude.

Now have I toold you shortly, in a clause, 715 The staat, tharray, the nombre, and eek the

[ocr errors]




[blocks in formation]

Whan we were in that hostelrie alyght;
And after wol I telle of our viage
And al the remenaunt of oure pilgrimage.

But first, I pray yow of youre curteisye, 725 That ye narette it nat my vileynye,17 Thogh that I pleynly speke in this mateere To telle yow hir wordes and hir cheere, 18 Ne thogh I speke hir wordes proprely;19 For this ye knowen al-so wel as I, Whoso shal telle a tale after a man, He moote reherce, as ny as ever he kan, Everich a word, if it be in his charge, Al speke he never so rudéliche20 or large; Or ellis he moot telle his tale untrewe, Or feyné thyng, or fynde wordės newe. He may nat spare, althogh he were his brother; He moot as wel seye o word as another. Crist spak hymself ful brode in hooly writ, And wel ye woot no vileynye is it.

Also I prey yow to foryeve it me Al have I nat set folk in hir degree


Eek Plato seith, whoso that kan hym rede, "The wordės moote be cosyn to the dede.'



Heere in this tale, as that they sholdė stonde; My wit is short, ye may wel understonde.

Greet chiere made oure hoost us everichon, And to the soper sette he us anon,

And served us with vitaille at the beste:
Strong was the wyn and wel to drynke us

leste. 21


17 Impute it not to my coarseness.

19 Literally, exactly.
21 Pleased.
23 Inn.


A semely man OUR HOOSTE was with-alle For to han been a marchal in an halle. A large man he was, with eyen stepe,


A fairer burgeys is ther noon in Chepe;22
Boold of his speche, and wys and well y-taught,
And of manhod hym lakkede right naught.
Eek therto he was right a myrie man,

And after soper pleyen he bigan,

And spak of myrthe amonges othere thynges,
Whan that we hadde maad our rekenynges; 760
And seyde thus: "Now, lordynges, trewėly,
Ye been to me right welcome, hertely;
For by my trouthe, if that I shal nat lye,
I ne saugh this yeer so myrie a compaignye
At ones in this herberwe23 as is now;
Fayn wolde I doon yow myrthe, wiste I how.
And of a myrthe I am right now bythoght,
To doon yow ese, and it shal coste noght.

24 Pay.


"Ye goon to Canterbury-God yow speede, The blisful martir quité yow youre meede!24 770 And, wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye, Ye shapen yow to talen25 and to pleye; For trewely confort ne myrthe is noon To ride by the weye doumb as a stoon; And therfore wol I maken yow disport, As I seyde erste, and doon yow som confort. And if you liketh alle, by oon assent, Now for to stonden at my juggėment, And for to werken as I shal yow seye, To-morwė, whan ye riden by the weye, Now, by my fader soule, that is deed, But ye be myrie, smyteth of myn heed!

20 Freely.



18 Behavior.

22 Cheapside in London. 25 Prepare to tell stories.

Hoold up youre hond, withouten moore speche." Oure conseil was nat longe for to seche;


Us thoghte it was noght worth to make it wys,1

And graunted hym withouten moore avys,2 And bad him seye his verdit, as hym leste. "Lordynges," quod he, now herkneth for the beste;


But taak it nought, I prey yow, in desdeyn; 789 This is the poynt, to speken short and pleyn, That ech of yow, to shorte with your weye, In this viáge shal telle tales tweye,—

To Caunterburyward, I mean it so,

And homward he shal tellen otherė two,Of aventures that whilom han bifalle.


And which of yow that bereth hym beste of alle,
That is to seyn, that telleth in this caas
Tales of best senténce and most solaas,3
Shal have a soper at oure aller cost,
Heere in this place, sittynge by this post,
Wha that we come agayn fro Caunterbury.
And, for to make yow the moorė mury,
I wol myselven gladly with yow ryde
Right at myn owene cost, and be youre gyde;
And whoso wole my juggėment withseye
Shal paye al that we spenden by the weye.
And if ye vouche-sauf that it be so



Tel me anon, withouten wordes mo,
And I wol erly shape me therefore."

This thyng was graunted, and oure othės



With ful glad herte, and preyden hym also
That he would vouche-sauf for to do so,
And that he wolde been oure governour,
And of our talės juge and réportour,
And sette a soper at a certeyn pris,
And we wol reuled been at his devys
In heigh and lough; and thus, by oon assent,
We been acorded to his juggement.
And therupon the wyn was fet anon;
We dronken, and to resté wente echon,
Withouten any lenger taryynge.
Amorwė, whan that day gan for to sprynge,
Up roos oure Hoost and was oure aller cok,
And gadrede us togidre alle in a flok,
And forth we riden, a little moore than paas,5
Unto the warteryng of Seint Thomas;"
And there oure Hoost bigan his hors areste
And seydė, "Lordynges, herkneth, if yow leste:
Ye woot youre forward' and I it yow recorde.
If even-song and morwe-song accorde,
Lat se now who shal telle the firstė tale.
As ever mote I drynke wyn or ale,
Whoso be rebel to my juggement
Shal paye for all that by the wey is spent!
Now draweth cut, er that we ferrer twynne."
He which that hath the shorteste shal bigynne.






[blocks in formation]


Sire Knyght," quod he, "my mayster and my lord,

Now draweth cut, for that is myn accord. Cometh neer," quod he, "my lady Prioresse, 839 And ye sire Clerk, lat be your shamefastnesse, Ne studieth noght; ley hond to, every man."

Anon to drawen every wight bigan,
And, shortly for to tellen as it was,
Were it by áventure, or sort, or cas, 10
The sothe is this, the cut fil to the knyght,
Of which ful blithe and glad was every wyght:
And telle he moste his tale, as was resoun,"
By foreward 12 and by composicioun,


As he han herd; what nedeth wordes mo?
And whan this goode man saugh that it was so,
As he that wys was and obedient

To kepe his foreward by his free assent,
He seydė, "Syn I shal bigynne the game,
What, welcome be the cut, a Goddės name! 854
Now lat us ryde, and herkneth what I seye."
And with that word we ryden forth oure weye;
And he bigan with right a myrie cheere
His tale anon, and seyde in this manėre.





Thise riotoures thre, of whiche I telle, Longe erst er prime13 rong of any belle, Were set hem in a taverne for to drynke; And as they sat they herde a belle clynke Biforn a cors, was carried to his grave. That oon of hem gan callen to his knave:14 Go bet," quod he, "and axe redily15 What cors is this that passeth heer forby, And looke that thou reporte his name weel." "Sire," quod this boy, "it nedeth never a deel, It was me toold er ye cam heere two houres; 671 He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres, And sodeynly he was y-slayn to-nyght, For-dronke, as he sat on his bench upright; Ther cam a privee theef, men clepeth Deeth,675 That in this contree al the peple sleeth, And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo, And wente his wey withouten wordės mo. He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence, 16 And maister, er ye come in his presence, Me thynketh that it were necessarie For to be war of swich an adversarie; Beth redy for to meete hym evermoore;



Thus taughte me my dame; I sey na-moore." By Seinte Marie!" seyde this taverner, 685 "The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this



Henne" over a mile, withinne a greet village, Bothe man and womman, child, and hyne, is and page;

I trowe his habitacioun be there;

To been avysed1o greet wysdom it were, 690 11 Right.

10 Chance, destiny or luck.

12 Agreement.

13 In general the interval between 6 and 9 A. M. More specifically, one of the seven stated times or hours of devotion. From the ringing of the bell, it refers here to the canonical hour for service.

14 Boy.

15 Quickly. 16 Probably the plague of 1348-9, the earliest of the four great plagues in the 14th century. 18 Hind.

19 Forewarned.

17 Hence.

[ocr errors]

Er that he dide a man a dishonour."


"Ye, Goddės armés!" quod this riotour, "Is it swich peril with hym for to meete? I shal hym seke by weye and eek by strete; I make avow to Goddės dignė1 bones Herkneth, felawės, we thre been al ones, Lat ech of us holde up his hand til oother, And ech of us bicomen otherės brother, And we wol sleen this false traytour, Deeth; He shal be slayn, he that so manye sleeth, By Goddės dignitee, er it be nyght!"



Togidres han thise thre hir trouthės2 plight To lyve and dyen ech of hem for oother, As though he were his owene y-borẻ brother; And up they stirte, al dronken, in this rage; And forth they goon towardės that villáge Of which the taverner hadde spoke biforn; And many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn, And Cristės blessed body they to-rente, Deeth shal be deed, if that they may hym




Whan they han goon nat fully half a mile, Right as they wolde han troden over a stile, An oold man and a poure with hem mette; This oldė man ful mekély hem grette And seyed thus: "Now, lordes, God yow see!" The proudeste of thise riotoures three Answerde agayn, "What, carl with sory grace, Why artow al for-wrapped, save thy face? Why lyvestow so longe in so greet age?"


This olde man gan looke in his visage, And seyde thus: "For I ne kan nat fynde A man, though that I walked into Ynde, Neither in citee, ne in no village, That wolde chaunge his youthẻ for myn age; And therfore moot I han myn age stille, As longé tyme as it is Goddes wille. Ne Deeth, allas! ne wol nat han my lyf; Thus walke I, lyk a restėless kaityf, And on the ground which is my moodrės3




I knokke with my staf, erly and late,
And seye, 'Leeve mooder, leet me in!
Lo, how I vanysshe, flessh and blood and skyn;
Allas! whan shul my bones been at reste?
Móoder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste
That in my chambré longé tyme hath be,
Ye, for an heyrė-clowt10 to wrappé me!'
But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked" is my face.
"But, sires, to yow it is no curteisye
To speken to an old man vileynye,
But he trespasse in word, or elles in dede.
In Hooly Writ ye may your self wel rede,
Agayns an oold man, hoor upon his heed,
Ye sholde arise; wherfore I yeve yow reed,12
Ne dooth unto an oold man noon harm now,
Namoore than ye wolde men did to yow
In age, if that ye so longe abyde.
And God be with yow, where ye go or ryde;
I moote go thider as I have to go."


[blocks in formation]




Dear Mother. 12 Advice.



Nay, olde cherl, by God, thou shalt nat so!" Seyde this oother hasardour13 anon; "Thou partest nat so lightly, by Seint John! Thou spak right now of thilké traytour, Deeth, That in this contree alle oure freendės sleeth; Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his espye, 755 Telle where he is, or thou shalt it abye,14 By God and by the hooly sacrement! For soothly, thou art oon of his assent To sleen us yongė folk, thou false theef!" "Now, sires," quod he, “if that ye so be leef To fynde Deeth, turne up this croked wey, For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey, Under a tree, and there he wole abyde; Noght for youre boost he wole him no thyng



Se ye that ook? Right there ye shal hym fynde.


God save yow that boghte agayn mankynde, And yow amende!" thus seyde this oldė man; And everich of thise riotourės ran


Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde,
Of floryns fyne, of gold y-coyned rounde,
Wel ny a seven busshels, as hem thoughte.
No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte,
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
For that the floryns been so faire and brighte,
That doun they set hem by this precious hoord.
The worste of hem he spak the firste word.
Bretheren," quod he, "taak kepė what I
My wit is greet, though that I bourde15 and



This tresor hath Fortúne unto us yeven
In myrthe and jolitee oure lyf to lyven,
And lightly as it comth so wol we spende.
Ey, Goddes precious dignitee! who wendel
To-day, that we sholde hav so faire a grace?
But myghte this gold be caried fro this place
Hoom to myn hous, or ellės unto youres,
(For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures),
Thanne were we in heigh felicitee.


But trewėly, by day it may nat bee;


Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge,
And for oure owenė tresor doon us honge.
This tresor moste y-caried be by nyghte
As wisely and as slyly as it myghte.
Wherfore, I rede that cut" among us all
Be drawe, and let se wher the cut wol falle;
And he that hath the cut with hertė blithe
Shal renne to the towne, and that ful swythe,"
And brynge us breed and wyn ful privély,
And two of us shul kepen subtilly

This tresor wel; and if he wol nat tarie,
Whan it is nyght we wol this tresor carie,
By oon assent, where as us thynketh best."
That oon of hem the cut broghte in his fest19
And bad hem drawe and looke where it wol

And it fil on the yongeste of hem alle,
And forth toward the toun he wente anon;
And al so soonė as that he was gon,
That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother:

13 Gambler.

15 Jest.

17 Lot.


18 Quickly.




14 Pay for.

16 Weemed, know. 19 Fist.


"Thow knowest wel thou art my sworne brother
Thy profit wol I telle thee anon;
Thou woost wel that oure felawe is agon,
And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee,
That shal departed been among us thre;
But natheless, if I kan shape it so

That it departed were among us two,

Hadde I nat doon a freendės torn to thee?" 815 That ooth nswerde, "I noot how that may

be; He woot how that the gold is with us tweye; What shal we doon, what shal we to hym seye?" "Shal it be conseil?" seyde the firtse shrewe,1 "And I shal tellen thee in wordės fewe What we shal doon, and bryngen it wel aboute."



"I graunte," quod that oother, "out of doute, That by my trouthe I shal thee nat biwreye.' Now," quod the firste, "thou woost wel we be tweye, And two of us shul strenger be than oon. Looke whan that he is set, and right anoon Arys, as though thou woldest with hym pleye, And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydės tweye, Whil that thou strogelst with hym as in game, And with thy daggere looke thou do the same; And thanne shal al this gold departed be, My deere freend, bitwixen me and thee. Thanne may we bothe oure lustės all fulfille, And pleye at dees2 right at oure owene wille." And thus acorded been thise shrewės tweye, 835 To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye. This yongeste, which that wente unto the toun,


Ful oft in herte he rolleth up and doun
The beautee of thise floryns newe and brighte;
"O Lord,"quod he, "if so were that I myghte 840
Have al this tresor to myself allone,

Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone3
Of God, that sholde lyve so murye as I!"
And atté laste the feend, oure enemy,

Putte in his thought that he sholde poyson beye, 4


With which he myghtė sleen his felawes tweye;
For-why the feend foond hym in swich lyvynge,
That he hadde leve hym to sorwe brynge,
For this was outrėly his fulle entente
To sleen hem bothe and never to repente.
And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
Into the toun, unto a pothecarie,
And preydė hym that he hym wolde selle
Som poysoun, that he myghte his rattės




And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe,"
That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde y-slawe,
And fayn he wolde wreke hym,8 if he myghte
On vermyn, that destroyed hym by nyghte.
The pothecarie answerde, "And thou shalt

1 Rascal. Utterly.

8 Avenge himself.


A thyng that, al so God my soulė save,
In al this world ther nis no creätúre,
That eten or dronken hath of this confiture,
Noght but the montance of a corn of whete,
That he ne shal his lif anon forlete;10

[blocks in formation]


Buy. 10 Give up.

[blocks in formation]

"Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie,


And afterward we wol his body berie;"
And with that word it happed hym, par cas, 885
To take the botel ther the poysoun was,
And drank and yaf his felawe drynke also,
For which anon they storven bothe two.
But certes, I suppose that Avycen12
Wroot never in no Canón, 13 ne in no fen
Mo wonder signės of empoisonyng
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir endyng.
Thus ended been thise homycidės two,
And eek the false empoysonere also.

O cursed synne of alle cursednesse!
O traytorous homycide! O wikkednesse!
O glotonye, luxúrie, and hasardrye!11
Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileynye,
And othės grete, of usage and of pride!
Allas! mankyndé, how may it bitide
That to thy Creatour which that thee wroghte,
And with his precious hertė-blood thee boghte,
Thou art so fals and so unkynde, allas!


Now, goode men, God foryeve yow youre

And ware yow fro the synne of avarice.
Myn hooly pardoun may you alle warice.15

To you, my purse, and to noon other wyght
Compleyne I, for ye be my lady dere!
I am so sory now that ye been light;

For, certès, but ye make me hevy chere, Me were as leef be leyd upon my bere, Forwiche unto your mercy thus I crye,Beth hevy ageyn, or allės mot I dye!






11 Planned.

12. e., Avicenna (980-1037), a celebrated Arabian physician.

13 A section in The Canon, Avicenna's work on medicine, is called (from an Arabic word) a fen. No more wonderful signs of poisoning are described in the Canon of Medicine, or in any fen, or part of that book;-not even the fen which specifically treats of poisons. 14 Gambling. 15 Heal.

« PreviousContinue »