The Canterbury Tales: The Summoner's Tale

Heere bigynneth the Somonour his Tale

45 Lordynges, ther is in Yorkshire, as I gesse, A mersshy contree called holdernesse, In which ther wente a lymytour aboute, To preche, and eek to begge, it so no doute. And so bifel that on a day this frere 50 Hadde preched at a chirche in his manere, And specially, aboven every thyng, Excited he the peple in his prechyng To trentals, and to yeve, for Goddes sake, Wherwith men myghte hooly houses make, 55 Ther as divine servyce is honoured, Nat ther as it is wasted and devoured, Ne ther it nedeth nat for to be yive, As to possessioners, that mowen lyve, Thanked be God, in wele and habundaunce. 60 "Trentals," seyde he, "deliveren fro penaunce Hir freendes soules, as wel olde as yonge, - Ye, whan that they been hastily ysonge, Nat for to holde a preest holy and gay - He syngeth nat but o masse in a day. 65 Delivereth out," quod he, "anon the soules! Ful hard it is with flesshhook or with oules To been yclawed, or to brenne or bake. Now spede yow hastily, for Cristes sake!" And whan this frere had seyd al his entente, 70 With qui cum patre forth his wey he wente. Whan folk in chirche had yeve him what hem leste, He wente his wey, no lenger wolde he reste, With scrippe and tipped staf, ytukked hye, In every hous he gan to poure and prye, 75 And beggeth mele and chese, or elles corn. His felawe hadde a staf tipped with horn, A peyre of tables al of yvory, And a poyntel polysshed fetisly, And wrooth the names alwey, as he stood, 80 Of alle folk that yaf hym any good, Ascaunces that he wolde for hem preye. "Yif us a busshel whete, malt, or reye, A goddes kechyl, or a trype of chese, Or elles what yow lyst, we may nat cheese; 85 A goddes halfpeny, or a masse peny, Or yif us of youre brawn, if ye have eny; A dagon of youre blanket, leeve dame, Oure suster deere, - lo! Heere I write youre name, - Bacon or beef, or swich thyng as ye fynde." 90 A sturdy harlot wente ay hem bihynde, That was hir hostes man, and bar a sak, And what men yaf hem, leyde it on his bak. And whan that he was out at dore, anon He planed awey the names everichon 95 That he biforn had writen in his tables; He served hem with nyfles and with fables. "Nay, ther thou lixt, thou Somonour!" quod the Frere. "Pees," quod oure Hoost, "for Cristes mooder deere! Tel forth thy tale, and spare it nat at al." 100 "So thryve I," quod this Somonour, "so I shal!" So longe he wente, hous by hous, til he Cam til an hous ther he was wont to be Refresshed moore than in an hundred placis. Syk lay the goode man whos that the place is; 105 Bedrede upon a couche lowe he lay. "Deus hic!" quod he, "O Thomas, freend, good day!" Seyde this frere, curteisly and softe. "Thomas," quod he, "God yelde yow! Ful ofte Have I upon this bench faren ful weel; 110 Heere have I eten many a myrie meel." And fro the bench he droof awey the cat, And leyde adoun his potente and his hat, And eek his scrippe, and sette hym softe adoun. His felawe was go walked into toun 115 Forth with his knave, into that hostelrye Where as he shoop hym thilke nyght to lye. "O deere maister," quod this sike man, "How han ye fare sith that March bigan? I saugh yow noght this fourtenyght or moore." 120 "God woot," quod he, "laboured have I ful soore, And specially, for thy savacion Have I seyd many a precious orison, And for oure othere freendes, God hem blesse! I have to day been at youre chirche at messe, 125 And seyd a sermon after my symple wit, Nat al after the text of hooly writ; For it is hard to yow, as I suppose, And therfore wol I teche yow al the glose. Glosynge is a glorious thyng, certeyn, 130 For lettre sleeth, so as we clerkes seyn. There have I taught hem to be charitable, And spende hir good ther it is resonable; And there I saugh oure dame. A! where is she?" "Yond in the yerd I trowe that she be," 135 Seyde this man, "and she wol come anon." "Ey, maister, welcome be ye, by Seint John!" Seyde this wyf, "How fare ye, hertely?" The frere ariseth up ful curteisly, And hire embraceth in his armes narwe, 140 And kiste hire sweete, and chirketh as a sparwe With his lyppes: "Dame," quod he, "right weel, As he that is youre servent every deel, Thanked be God, that yow yaf soule and lyf! Yet saugh I nat this day so fair a wyf 145 In al the chirche, God so save me!" "Ye, God amende defautes, sire," quod she. "Algates, welcome be ye, by my fey!" "Graunt mercy, dame, this have I founde alwey. But of youre grete goodnesse, by youre leve, 150 I wolde prey yow that ye nat yow greve, I wole with Thomas speke a litel throwe. Thise curatz been ful necligent and slowe To grope tendrely a conscience In shrift; in prechyng is my diligence, 155 And studie in Petres wordes and in Poules. I walke, and fisshe Cristen mennes soules, To yelden Jhesu Crist his propre rente; To sprede his word is set al myn entente." "Now, by youre leve, o deere sire," quod she 160 "Chideth him weel, for seinte Trinitee! He is as angry as a pissemyre, Though that he have al that he kan desire, Though I hym wrye a-nyght and make hym warm, And over hym leye my leg outher myn arm, 165 He groneth lyk oure boor, lith in oure sty. Oother desport right noon of hym have I; I may nat plese hym in no maner cas." "O Thomas, je vous dy, Thomas! Thomas! This maketh the feend; this moste ben amended. 170 Ire is a thyng that hye God defended, And therof wol I speke a word or two." "Now, maister," quod the wyf, er that I go, What wol ye dyne? I wol go theraboute." "Now dame," quod he," now je vous dy sanz doute, 175 Have I nat of a capon but the lyvere, And of youre softe breed nat but a shyvere, And after that a rosted pigges heed - But that I nolde no beest for me were deed - Thanne hadde I with yow hoomly suffisaunce. 180 I am a man of litel sustenaunce; My spirit hath his fostryng in the bible. The body is ay so redy and penyble To wake, that my stomak is destroyed. I prey yow, dame, ye be nat anoyed, 185 Though I so freendly yow my conseil shewe. By god! I wolde nat telle it but a fewe." "Now, sire," quod she, "but o word er I go. My child is deed withinne thise wykes two, Soone after that ye wente out of this toun." 190 "His deeth saugh I by revelacioun," Seide this frere, "at hoom in oure dortour. I dar wel seyn that, er that half an hour After his deeth, I saugh hym born to blisse In myn avision, so God me wisse! 195 So didde oure sexteyn and oure fermerer, That han been trewe freres fifty yeer; They may now - God be thanked of his loone! - Maken hir jubilee and walke allone. And up I roos, and al oure covent eke, 200 With many a teere trillyng on my cheke, Withouten noyse or claterynge of belles; Te Deum was oure song, and nothyng elles, Save that to Crist I seyde an orison, Thankynge hym of his revelacion. 205 For, sire and dame, trusteth me right weel, Oure orisons been moore effectueel, And moore we seen of Cristes secree thynges, Than burel folk, although they weren kynges. We lyve in poverte and in abstinence, 210 And burell folk in richesse and despence Of mete and drynke, and in hir foul delit. We han this worldes lust al in despit. Lazar and Dives lyveden diversly, And divers gerdon hadden they therby. 215 Whoso wol preye, he moot faste and be clene, And fatte his soule, and make his body lene. We fare as seith th'apostle; clooth and foode Suffisen us, though they be nat ful goode. The clennesse and the fastynge of us freres 220 Maketh that crist accepteth oure preyeres. Lo, Moyses fourty dayes and fourty nyght Fasted, er that the heighe God of myght Spak with hym in the mountayne of Synay. With empty wombe, fastynge many a day, 225 Receyved he the lawe that was writen With Goddes fynger; and Elye, wel ye witen, In mount Oreb, er he hadde any speche With hye God, that is oure lyves leche, He fasted longe, and was in contemplaunce. 230 Aaron, that hadde the temple in governaunce, And eek the othere preestes everichon, Into the temple whan they sholde gon To preye for the peple, and do servyse, They nolden drynken in no maner wyse 235 No drynke which that myghte hem dronke make, But there in abstinence preye and wake, Lest that they deyden. Taak heede what I seye! But they be sobre that for the peple preye, War that - I seye namoore, for it suffiseth. 240 Oure Lord Jhesu, as hooly writ devyseth, Yaf us ensample of fastynge and preyeres - Therfore we mendynantz, we sely freres - Been wedded to poverte and continence, To charite, humblesse, and abstinence, 245 To persecucioun for rightwisnesse, To wepynge, misericorde, and clennesse. And therfore may ye se that oure preyeres - I speke of us, we mendynantz, we freres - Been to the hye God moore acceptable 250 Than youres, with youre feestes at the table. Fro Paradys first, if I shal nat lye, Was man out chaced for his glotonye; And chaast was man in paradys, certeyn. But herkne now, Thomas, what I shal seyn. 255 I ne have no text of it, as I suppose, But I shal fynde it in a maner glose, That specially oure sweete Lord Jhesus Spak this by freres, whan he seyde thus: 'Blessed be they that povere in spirit been.' 260 And so forth al the gospel may ye seen, Wher it be likker oure professioun, Or hirs that swymmen in possessioun. Fy on hire pompe and on hire glotonye! And for hir lewednesse I hem diffye. 265 My thynketh they been lyk Jovinyan, Fat as a whale, and walkynge as a swan, Al vinolent as botel in the spence. Hir preyere is of ful greet reverence, Whan they for soules seye the psalm of Davit; 270 Lo, 'buf!' they seye, 'cor meum eructavit!' Who folweth Cristes gospel and his foore, But we that humble been, and chaast, and poore, Werkeris of Goddes word, nat auditours? Therfore, right as an hauk up at a sours 275 Up springeth into th'eir, right so prayeres Of charitable and chaste bisy freres Maken hir sours to Goddes eres two. Thomas! Thomas! So moote I ryde or go, And by that lord that clepid is seint Yve, 280 Nere thou oure brother, sholdestou nat thryve. In our chapitre prayer we day and nyght To Crist, that he thee sende heele and myght Thy body for to weelden hastily." "God woot," quod he, "nothyng therof feele I! 285 As help me Crist, as I in fewe yeres, Have spent upon diverse manere freres Ful many a pound; yet fare I never the bet. Certeyn, my good have I almoost biset. Farwel, my gold, for it is al ago!" 290 The frere answerde, "O Thomas, dostow so? What nedeth yow diverse freres seche? What nedeth hym that hath a parfit leche To sechen othere leches in the toun? Youre inconstance is youre confusioun. 295 Holde ye thanne me, or elles oure covent, To praye for yow been insufficient? Thomas, that jape nys nat worth a myte. Youre maladye is for we han to lyte. A! yif that covent half a quarter otes! 300 A! yif that covent foure and twenty grotes! A! yif that frere a peny, and lat hym go! Nay, nay, Thomas, it may no thyng be so! What is a ferthyng worth parted in twelve? Lo, ech thyng that is oned in himselve 305 Is moore strong than whan it is toscatered. Thomas, of me thou shalt nat been yflatered; Thou woldest han oure labour al for noght. The hye god, that al this world hath wroght, Seith that the werkman worthy is his hyre. 310 Thomas, noght of youre tresor I desire As for myself, but that al oure covent To preye for yow is ay so diligent, And for to buylden Cristes owene chirche. Thomas, if ye wol lernen for to wirche, 315 Of buyldynge up of chirches may ye fynde, If it be good, in Thomas lyf of Inde. Ye lye heere ful of anger and of ire, With which the devel set youre herte afyre, And chiden heere the sely innocent, 320 Youre wyf, that is so meke and pacient. And therfore, Thomas, trowe me if thee leste, Ne stryve nat with thy wyf, as for thy beste; And ber this word awey now, by thy feith, Touchynge swich thyng, lo, what the wise seith: 325 Withinne thyn hous ne be thou no leon; To thy subgitz do noon oppression, Ne make thyne aqueyntances nat to flee. - And, Thomas, yet eft-soones I charge thee, Be war from hire that in thy bosom slepeth; 330 War fro the serpent that so slily crepeth Under the gras, and styngeth subtilly. Be war, my sone, and herkne paciently, That twenty thousand men han lost hir lyves For stryvyng with hir lemmans and hir wyves. 335 Now sith ye han so hooly and meke a wyf, What nedeth yow, Thomas, to maken stryf? Ther nys, ywys, no serpent so cruel, Whan man tret on his tayl, ne half so fel, As womman is, whan she hath caught an ire; 340 Vengeance is thanne al that they desire. Ire is a synne, oon of the grete of sevene, Abhomynable unto the God of hevene; And to hymself it is destruccion. This every lewed viker or person 345 Kan seye, how ire engendreth homycide. Ire is, in sooth, executour of pryde. I koude of ire seye so muche sorwe, My tale sholde laste til to-morwe. And therfore preye I God, bothe day and nyght, 350 An irous man, God sende hym litel myght! It is greet harm and certes greet pitee To sette an irous man in heigh degree. Whilom ther was an irous potestat, As seith Senek, that, durynge his estaat, 355 Upon a day out ryden knyghtes two, And as Fortune wolde that it were so, That oon of hem cam hoom, that oother noght. Anon the knyght bifore the juge is broght, That seyde thus, 'Thou hast thy felawe slayn, 360 For which I deme thee to the deeth, certayn.' And to another knyght comanded he, 'Go lede hym to the deeth, I charge thee.' And happed, as they wente by the weye Toward the place ther he sholde deye, 365 The knyght cam which men wenden had be deed. Thanne thoughte they it were the beste reed To lede hem bothe to the juge agayn. They seiden, 'Lord, the knyght ne hath nat slayn His felawe; heere he standeth hool alyve.' 370 'Ye shul be deed,' quod he, 'so moot I thryve! That is to seyn, bothe oon, and two, and thre!' And to the firste knyght right thus spak he, 'I dampned thee; thou most algate be deed. And thou also most nedes lese thyn heed, 375 For thou art cause why thy felawe deyth.' And to the thridde knyght right thus he seith, 'Thou hast nat doon that I comanded thee.' And thus he dide doon sleen hem alle thre. "Irous cambises was eek dronkelewe, 380 And ay delited hym to been a shrewe. And so bifel, a lord of his meynee, That loved vertuous moralitee, Seyde on a day bitwix hem two right thus: 'A lord is lost, if he be vicius; 385 And dronkenesse is eek a foul record Of any man, and namely in a lord. Ther is ful many an eye and many an ere Awaityng on a lord, and he noot where. For goddes love, drynk moore attemprely! 390 Wyn maketh man to lesen wrecchedly His mynde and eek his lymes everichon.' 'The revers shaltou se,' quod he, 'anon, And preve it by thyn owene experience, That wyn ne dooth to folk no swich offence. 395 Ther is no wyn bireveth me my myght Of hand ne foot, ne of myne eyen sight.' And for despit he drank ful muchel moore, An hondred part, than he hadde don bifoore; And right anon this irous, cursed wrecche 400 Leet this knyghtes sone bifore hym fecche, Comandynge hym he sholde bifore hym stonde. And sodeynly he took his bowe in honde, And up the streng he pulled to his ere, And with an arwe he slow the child right there. 405 'Now wheither have I a siker hand or noon?' Quod he; 'Is al my myght and mynde agon? Hath wyn bireved me myn eyen sight?' What sholde I telle th'answere of the knyght? His sone was slayn, ther is namoore to seye. 410 Beth war, therfore, with lordes how ye pleye. Syngeth Placebo, and 'I shal, if I kan,' But if it be unto a povre man. To a povre man men sholde his vices telle, But nat to a lord, thogh he sholde go to helle. 415 Lo irous Cirus, thilke Percien, How he destroyed the ryver of Gysen, For that an hors of his was dreynt therinne, Whan that he wente Babiloigne to wynne. He made that the ryver was so smal 420 That wommen myghte wade it over al. Lo, what seyde he that so wel teche kan? 'Ne be no felawe to an irous man, Ne with no wood man walke by the weye, Lest thee repente;' I wol no ferther seye. 425 "Now, Thomas, leeve brother, lef thyn ire; Thou shalt me fynde as just as is a squyre. Hoold nat the develes knyf ay at thyn herte - Thyn angre dooth thee al to soore smerte - But shewe to me al thy confessioun." 430 "Nay," quod the sike man, "by Seint Symoun! I have be shryven this day at my curat. I have hym toold hoolly al myn estat; Nedeth namoore to speken of it," seith he, "But if me list, of myn humylitee." 435 "Yif me thanne of thy gold, to make oure cloystre," Quod he, "for many a muscle and many an oystre, Whan othere men han ben ful wel at eyse, Hath been oure foode, our cloystre for to reyse. And yet, God woot, unnethe the fundement 440 Parfourned is, ne of our pavement Nys nat a tyle yet withinne oure wones. By God! we owen fourty pound for stones. "Now help, Thomas, for hym that harwed helle! For elles moste we oure bookes selle. 445 And if yow lakke oure predicacioun, Thanne goth the world al to destruccioun. For whoso wolde us fro this world bireve, So God me save, Thomas, by youre leve, He wolde bireve out of this world the sonne. 450 For who kan teche and werchen as we konne? And that is nat of litel tyme," quod he, "But syn Elye was, or Elise, Han freres been - that fynde I of record - In charitee, ythanked be oure Lord! 455 Now Thomas, help, for seinte charitee!" And doun anon he sette hym on his knee. This sike man wax wel ny wood for ire; He wolde that the frere had been on-fire, With his false dissymulacioun. 460 "Swich thyng as is in my possessioun," Quod he, "that may I yeve yow, and noon oother. Ye sey me thus, how that I am youre brother?" "Ye, certes," quod the frere, "trusteth weel. I took oure dame oure lettre with oure seel." 465 "Now wel," quod he, "and somwhat shal I yive Unto youre hooly covent whil I lyve; And in thyn hand thou shalt it have anon, On this condicion, and oother noon, That thou departe it so, my deere brother, 470 That every frere have also muche as oother. This shaltou swere on thy professioun, Withouten fraude or cavillacioun." "I swere it," quod this frere, "by my feith!" And therwithal his hand in his he leith, 475 "Lo, heer my feith; in me shal be no lak." "Now thanne, put in thyn hand doun by my bak," Seyde this man, "and grope wel bihynde. Bynethe my buttok there shaltow fynde A thyng that I have hyd in pryvetee." 480 "A!" thoghte this frere, "That shal go with me!" And doun his hand he launcheth to the clifte, In hope for to fynde there a yifte. And whan this sike man felte this frere Aboute his tuwel grope there and heere, 485 Amydde his hand he leet the frere a fart, Ther nys no capul, drawynge in a cart, That myghte have lete a fart of swich a soun. The frere up stirte as dooth a wood leoun, - "A! false cherl," quod he, "for Goddes bones! 490 This hastow for despit doon for the nones. Thou shalt abye this fart, if that I may!" His meynee, whiche that herden this affray, Cam lepynge in and chaced out the frere; And forth he gooth, with a ful angry cheere, 495 And fette his felawe, ther as lay his stoor. He looked as it were a wilde boor; He grynte with his teeth, so was he wrooth. A sturdy paas doun to the court he gooth, Wher as ther woned a man of greet honour, 500 To whom that he was alwey confessour. This worthy man was lord of that village. This frere cam as he were in a rage, Where as this lord sat etyng at his bord; Unnethes myghte the frere speke a word, 505 Til atte laste he seyde, "God yow see!" This lord gan looke, and seide, "Benedicitee! What, frere John, what maner world is this? I se wel that som thyng ther is amys; Ye looken as the wode were ful of thevys. 510 Sit doun anon, and tel me what youre grief is, And it shal been amended, if I may." "I have," quod he, "had a despit this day, God yelde yow, adoun in youre village, That in this world is noon so povre a page 515 That he nolde have abhomynacioun Of that I have receyved in youre toun. And yet ne greveth me nothyng so soore, As that this olde cherl with lokkes hoore Blasphemed hath oure hooly covent eke." 520 "Now, maister," quod this lord, "I yow biseke, - " "No maister, sire," quod he, "but servitour, Thogh I have had in scole that honour. God liketh nat that 'Raby' men us calle, Neither in market ne in youre large halle." 525 "No fors," quod he, "but tel me al youre grief." "Sire," quod this frere, "and odious meschief This day bityd is to myn ordre and me, And so, per consequens, to ech degree Of hooly chirche - God amende it soone! 530 "Sire," quod the lord, "ye woot what is to doone. Distempre yow noght, ye be my confessour; Ye been the salt of the erthe and the savour. For Goddes love, youre pacience ye holde! Tel me youre grief." And he anon hym tolde, 535 As ye han herd biforn - ye woot wel what. The lady of the hous ay stille sat Til she had herd what the frere sayde. "Ey, Goddes mooder," quod she, "Blisful mayde! Is ther oght elles? telle me feithfully." 540 "Madame," quod he, "how thynke ye herby?" "How that me thynketh?" quod she, "So God me speede, I seye, a cherl hath doon a cherles dede. What shold I seye? God lat hym nevere thee! His sike heed is ful of vanytee; 545 I holde hym in a manere frenesye." "Madame," quod he, "by god, I shal nat lye But in on oother wyse may be wreke, I shal disclaundre hym over al ther I speke, This false blasphemour, that charged me 550 To parte that wol nat departed be, To every man yliche, with meschaunce!" The lord sat stille as he were in a traunce, And in his herte he rolled up and doun, "How hadde this cherl ymaginacioun 555 To shewe swich a probleme to the frere? Nevere erst er now herde I of swich mateere. I trowe the devel putte it in his mynde. In ars-metrike shal ther no man fynde, Biforn this day, of swich a question. 560 Who sholde make a demonstracion That every man sholde have yliche his part As of the soun or savour of a fart? O nyce, proude cherl, I shrewe his face! Lo, sires," quod the lord, "with harde grace! 565 Who evere herde of swich a thyng er now? To every man ylike, tel me how? It is an inpossible, it may nat be. Ey, nyce cherl, God lete him nevere thee! The rumblynge of a fart, and every soun, 570 Nis but of eir reverberacioun, And evere it wasteth litel and litel awey. Ther is no man kan deemen, by my fey, If that it were departed equally. What, lo, my cherl, lo, yet how shrewedly 575 Unto my confessour to-day he spak! I holde hym certeyn a demonyak! Now ete youre mete, and lat the cherl go pleye; Lat hym go honge hymself a devel weye!" The wordes of the lordes squier and his kervere for departynge of the fart on twelve Now stood the lordes squier at the bord, 580 That karf his mete, and herde word by word Of alle thynges whiche I have yow sayd. "My lord," quod he, "be ye nat yvele apayd, I koude telle, for a gowne-clooth, To yow, sire frere, so ye be nat wrooth, 585 How that this fart sholde evene deled be Among youre covent, if it lyked me." "Tel," quod the lord, "and thou shalt have anon A gowne-clooth, by God and by Seint John!" "My lord," quod he, "whan that the weder is fair, 590 Withouten wynd or perturbynge of air, Lat brynge a cartwheel heere into this halle; But looke that it have his spokes alle, - Twelve spokes hath a cartwheel comunly. And bryng me thanne twelve freres. Woot ye why? 595 For thrittene is a covent, as I gesse. Youre confessour heere, for his worthynesse, Shal parfoune up the nombre of his covent, Thanne shal they knele doun, by oon assent, And to every spokes ende, in this manere, 600 Ful sadly leye his nose shal a frere. Youre noble confessour - there God hym save! - Shal holde his nose upright under the nave. Thanne shal this cherl, with bely stif and toght As any tabour, hyder been ybroght; 605 And sette hym on the wheel right of this cart. Upon the nave, and make hym lete a fart. And ye shul seen, up peril of my lyf, By preeve which that is demonstratif, That equally the soun of it wol wende, 610 And eke the stynk, unto the spokes ende. Save that this worthy man, youre confessour, By cause he is a man of greet honour, Shal have the firste fruyt, as resoun is. The noble usage of freres yet is this, 615 The worthy men of hem shul first be served; And certeinly he hath it well disserved. He hath to-day taught us so muche good With prechyng in the pulpit the he stood, That I may vouche sauf, I sey for me, 620 He hadde the firste smel of fartes thre; And so wolde al his covent hardily, He bereth hym so faire and hoolily." The lord, the lady, and ech man, save the frere, Seyde that Jankyn spak, in this matere, 625 As wel as Euclide dide or Ptholomee. Touchynge the cherl, they seyde, subtiltee And heigh wit made hym speken as he spak; He nys no fool, ne no demonyak. And Jankyn hath ywonne a newe gowne. - 630 My tale is doon; we been almost at towne.

Heere endeth the Somonours Tale.

The Summoner's Prologue | The Clerk's Prologue

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