The canterbury tales, p.34
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.34

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  And certes, sire, thogh noon auctoritee1208

  Were in no book, ye gentils1209 of honour

  1210 Seyn that men sholde an old wight doon favour,

  And clepe him fader, for youre gentilesse;

  And auctours1212 shal I finden, as I gesse.

  ‘Now ther ye seye that I am foul and old,

  Thanne drede yow noght to been a cokewold1214.

  1215 For filthe and elde, also mote I thee1215,

  Been grete wardeins1216 upon chastitee.

  ‘But nathelees, sin I knowe youre delit1217,

  I shal fulfille youre worldly appetit.

  Chees now’, quod she, ‘oon of thise thinges tweye:

  1220 To han me foul and old til that I deye,

  And be to yow a trewe humble wif,

  And nevere yow displese in al my lif,

  Or elles ye wol han me yong and fair,

  And take youre aventure1224 of the repair

  1225 That shal be to youre hous bicause of me,

  Or in som oother place, may wel be.

  Now chees yourselven, wheither1227 that yow liketh.’

  This knight aviseth him1228, and soore siketh,

  But atte laste he seide in this manere:

  1230 ‘My lady and my love, and wif so deere,

  I putte me in youre wise governaunce1231.

  Cheseth youreself which may be moost plesaunce1232,

  And moost honour to yow and me also.

  I do no fors1234 the wheither of the two,

  1235 For as yow liketh, it suffiseth1235 me.’

  ‘Thanne have I gete of yow maistrye1236,’ quod she,

  ‘Sin I may chese and governe as me lest1237?’

  ‘Ye, certes, wif,’ quod he, ‘I holde it best.’

  ‘Kis me,’ quod she, ‘we be no lenger wrothe1239.

  1240 For, by my trouthe, I wol be to yow bothe –

  This is to seyn, ye, bothe fair and good.

  I pray to God that I mote sterven wood1242,

  But I to yow be also1243 good and trewe

  As evere was wif, sin that the world was newe.

  1245 And but I be1245 to-morn as fair to sene

  As any lady, emperice or queene,

  That is bitwix the est and eek the west,

  Do with my lif and deth right as yow lest.

  Cast up1249 the curtin; looke how that it is.’

  1250 And whan the knight saugh verraily al this,

  That she so fair was, and so yong therto,

  For joye he hente1252 hire in his armes two.

  His herte bathed in a bath of blisse;

  A thousand time a-rewe1254 he gan hir kisse,

  1255 And she obeyed him in every thing

  That mighte do him plesance or liking.

  And thus they live unto hir lives ende

  In parfit joye – and Jesu Crist us sende

  Housbondes meke, yonge, and fressh abedde,

  1260 And grace t’overbide1260 hem that we wedde.

  And eek I praye Jesu shorte1261 hir lives

  That noght wol be governed by hir wives,

  And olde and angry nigardes of dispence1263,

  God sende hem soone verray pestilence1264!

  Heere endeth the Wives Tale of Bathe.


  The Prologe of the Freres Tale.

  1265 This worthy limitour1265, this noble Frere,

  He made alwey a maner louring cheere1266

  Upon the Somnour1267, but for honestee

  No vileins word as yet to him spak he.

  But atte laste he seide unto the Wif:

  1270 ‘Dame,’ quod he, ‘God yeve1270 yow right good lif!

  Ye han heer touched, also mote I thee,

  In scole-matere1272 greet difficultee.

  Ye han seid muche thing1273 right wel, I seye.

  But dame, here as we riden by the weye,

  1275 Us nedeth nat to speken but of game1275,

  And lete auctoritees1276, on Goddes name,

  To preching and to scoles of clergye1277.

  But if it like to this compaignye,

  I wol yow of a somnour telle a game1279.

  1280 Pardee, ye may wel knowe by the name

  That of a somnour may no good be said –

  I praye that noon of yow be ivel apaid1282.

  A somnour is a rennere1283 up and doun

  With mandementz1284 for fornicacioun,

  1285 And is ybet1285 at every tounes ende.’

  Oure Hoost tho spak: ‘A, sire, ye sholde be hende1286

  And curteis, as a man of youre estaat!

  In compaignye we wol no debaat.

  Telleth youre tale, and lat the Somnour be!’

  1290 ‘ Nay,’ quod the Somnour, ‘lat him seye to me

  Whatso him list1291; whan it comth to my lot,

  By God, I shal him quiten1292 every grot!

  I shal him tellen which a gret honour

  It is to be a flateringe limitour,

  1295 And of many another manere crime

  Which nedeth nat rehercen at this time,

  And his office I shal him telle, iwys!’1297

  Oure Hoost answerde, ‘Pees, namoore of this!’

  And after this he seide unto the Frere:

  1300 ‘Tel forth youre tale, leeve1300 maister deere.’


  Heere biginneth the Freres Tale.

  Whilom ther was dwellinge in my contree

  An erchedekene, a man of heigh degree,

  That boldely dide execucioun1303

  In punisshinge of fornicacioun,

  1305 Of wicchecraft1305, and eek of bawderye,

  Of diffamacioun1306 and avoutrye,

  Of chirche reves1307, and of testamentz,

  Of contractes, and of lakke of sacramentz1308,

  Of usure, and of simonye also.

  1310 But certes, lecchours dide he grettest wo;

  They sholde singen1311 if that they were hent.

  And smales weren foule yshent1312,

  If any persone1313 wolde upon hem pleine.

  Ther mighte asterte him1314 no pecunial peine;

  1315 For smale tithes and for smal offringe

  He made the peple pitously1316 to singe.

  For er1317 the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,

  They weren in the erchedekenes book,

  And thanne hadde he, thurgh his jurisdiccioun,

  1320 Power to doon on hem correccioun1320.

  He hadde a somnour redy to his hond;

  A slyer boy1322 nas noon in Engelond.

  For subtilly he hadde his espiaille1323

  That taughte him wher that him mighte availle1324.

  1325 He koude spare1325 of lecchours oon or two

  To techen him to1326 foure and twenty mo.

  For theigh1327 this somnour wood were as an hare,

  To telle his harlotrye1328 I wol nat spare;

  For we been out of his correccioun1329.

  1330 They han of us no jurisdiccioun,

  Ne nevere shullen1331, terme of alle hir lives.

  ‘Peter! so been wommen of the stives1332’,

  Quod the Somnour, ‘yput out of oure cure1333!’

  ‘Pees,1334 with mischaunce and with misaventure!’

  1335 – Thus seide oure Hoost – ‘ and lat him telle his tale.

  Now telleth forth, thogh that the Somnour gale1336;

  Ne spareth nat, min owene maister deere.’

  This false theef, this somnour, – quod the Frere –

  Hadde alwey baudes1339 redy to his hond

  1340 As any hauk to lure1340 in Engelond,

  That tolde him al the secree1341 that they knewe,

  For hir aqueintance was nat come of newe1342;

  They weren hise approwours1343 prively.

  He took himself a greet profit therby;

  1345 His maister knewe nat alwey what he wan1345.

  Withouten mandement a lewed man1346

e koude somne1347, on peine of Cristes curs,

  And they were glade for to fille his purs

  And make him grete festes atte nale1349.

  1350 And right as Judas hadde purses smale

  And was a theef, right swich a theef was he.

  His maister hadde but half his duetee1352.

  He was, if I shal yeven him his laude1353,

  A theef, and eek a somnour, and a baude.

  1355 He hadde eek wenches at his retenue1355

  That, wheither that Sir Robert or Sir Hewe,

  Or Jakke, or Rauf, or whoso that it were

  That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.

  Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent1359.

  1360 And he wolde fecche a feined1360 mandement,

  And somne hem to chapitre1361 bothe two,

  And pile1362 the man and lete the wenche go.

  Thanne wolde he seye: ‘Freend, I shal for thy sake

  Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake.1364

  1365 Thee thar1365 namoore as in this cas travaille;

  I am thy freend, ther1366 I thee may availle.’

  Certein he knew of briberies1367 mo

  Than possible is to telle in yeres two.

  For in this world nis1369 dogge for the bowe

  1370 That kan an hurt deer from an hool iknowe

  Bet than this somnour knewe a sly lecchour,

  Or an avouter1372 or a paramour.

  And for that was the fruit of al his rente1373,

  Therfore on it he sette al his entente1374.

  1375 And so bifel that ones on a day,

  This somnour, evere waiting on his pray1376,

  Rood for to somne an old widwe, a ribibe1377,

  Feininge1378 a cause, for he wolde bribe;

  Happed1379 that he saugh bifore him ride

  1380 A gay1380 yeman under a forest side.

  A bowe he bar, and arwes bright and kene;

  He hadde upon a courtepy1382 of grene,

  An hat upon his heed with frenges1383 blake.

  ‘Sire,’ quod this somnour, ‘Hail, and wel atake1384!’

  1385 ‘ Welcome,’ quod he, ‘and every good felawe!

  Where ridestow under this grene-wode shawe1386?’

  Seide this yeman, ‘Wiltow fer1387 today?’

  This somnour him answerde and seide ‘Nay;

  Here faste by’, quod he, ‘is min entente

  1390 To riden, for to reisen up1390 a rente

  That longeth to my lordes duetee1391.’

  ‘Artow thanne a bailly1392?’ ‘Ye,’ quod he.

  He dorste nat1393, for verray filthe and shame,

  Seye that he was a somnour, for the name.

  1395 ‘Depardieux1395,’ quod this yeman, ‘ deere brother,

  Thow art a bailly, and I am another.

  I am unknowen as in this contree;

  Of1398 thin aqueintance I wolde praye thee,

  And eek of bretherhede, if that yow leste.1399

  1400 I have gold and silver in my cheste;

  If that thee happe1401 to comen in oure shire,

  Al shal be thin1402, right as thow wolt desire.’

  ‘Graunt mercy1403,’ quod this somnour, ‘by my feith!’

  Everich1404 in ootheres hond his trouthe leyth

  1405 For to be sworn bretheren til they deye.

  In daliaunce1406 they riden forth and pleye.

  This somnour, which that was as ful of jangles1407

  As ful of venim been thise wariangles1408,

  And evere enquering upon1409 every thing,

  1410 ‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘where is now youre dwelling,

  Another day if that I sholde yow seche1411?’

  This yeman him answerde in softe speche:

  ‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘fer in the north contree,

  Whereas I hope som time I shal thee see.

  1415 Er we departe1415, I shal thee so wel wisse

  That of min hous ne shaltow nevere misse.’1416

  ‘Now, brother,’ quod this somnour, ‘I yow preye,

  Teche me, whil that we riden by the weye –

  Sin that ye been a baillif as am I –

  1420 Som subtiltee1420, and tel me feithfully

  In min office how I may moost winne;

  And spareth nat for conscience ne sinne,

  But as my brother tel me how do ye1423.’

  ‘Now, by my trouthe, brother deere,’ seide he,

  1425 ‘ As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale1425:

  My wages been ful streite1426 and eke ful smale.

  My lord is hard to me and daungerous1427,

  And min office is ful laborous,

  And therfore by extorcions I live;

  1430 For sothe, I take al that men wol me yeve.

  Algate1431, by sleighte, or by violence,

  Fro yeer to yeer I winne al my dispence1432.

  I kan no bettre tellen, feithfully.’

  ‘Now, certes,’ quod this somnour, ‘so fare I1434!

  1435 I spare nat to taken, God it woot1435,

  But if it be to hevy or to hoot1436.

  What I may gete in conseil1437 prively,

  No manere conscience1438 of that have I.

  Nere min extorcioun1439, I mighte nat liven.

  1440 Ne of swich japes1440 wol I nat be shriven;

  Stomak1441 ne conscience ne knowe I noon.

  I shrewe1442 thise shrifte-fadres everychon!

  Wel be we met, by God and by Seint Jame!

  But, leeve brother, tel me thanne thy name,’

  1445 Quod this somnour. In this mene-while,

  This yeman gan a litel for to smile.

  ‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘woltow that I thee telle?

  I am a feend1448; my dwelling is in helle.

  And here I ride aboute my purchasing1449,

  1450 To wite wher1450 men wol yeve me anything.

  My purchas is th’effect of al my rente.1451

  Looke how thow ridest for the same entente1452,

  To winne good1453 – thow rekkest nevere how –

  Right so fare I, for ride I wolde right now

  1455 Unto the worldes ende for a preye.’

  ‘A,’ quod this somnour, ‘benedicite!1456 what sey ye?

  I wende1457 ye were a yeman, trewely;

  Ye han a mannes shape as wel as I.

  Han ye a figure thanne determinat1459

  1460 In helle, ther ye been in youre estat1460?’

  ‘Nay, certeinly,’ quod he, ‘ther have we noon.

  But whan us liketh we kan take us oon,

  Or elles make yow seme we ben shape.

  Somtime lik a man, or lik an ape,

  1465 Or lik an aungel kan I ride or go.

  It is no wonder thing1466 thogh it be so;

  A lousy jogelour1467 kan deceive thee,

  And pardee, yet kan I moore craft1468 than he.’

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