The canterbury tales, p.35
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.35

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  ‘Why’, quod this somnour, ‘ride ye thanne or goon1469

  1470 In sondry shap1470, and nat alwey in oon?’

  ‘For we’, quod he, ‘wol us swiche formes make

  As moost able1472 is oure preyes for to take.’

  ‘What maketh yow to han al this labour?’

  ‘Ful many a cause, leve sire somnour,’

  1475 Seide this feend, ‘but alle thing hath time.

  The day is short, and it is passed prime1476,

  And yet ne wan I nothing in this day.

  I wol entende to1478 winning, if I may,

  And nat entende oure wittes to declare1479;

  1480 For, brother min, thy witte is al to bare

  To understonde, althogh I tolde hem thee1481.

  But for thow axest1482 why labouren we:

  For1483 somtime we been Goddes instrumentz

  And meenes1484 to doon his comandementz,

  1485 Whan that him list, upon his creatures,

  In divers art1486 and in diverse figures.

  Withouten him we have no might, certain,

  If that him list to stonden theragain1488.

  And somtime at oure preyere han we leve

  1490 Oonly the body and nat the soule greve1490;

  Witnesse on Job, whom that we diden wo.

  And somtime han we might of bothe two:

  This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.

  And somtime be we suffred for to seke

  1495 Upon a man and do his soule unreste,

  And nat his body, and al is for the beste,

  Whan he withstandeth oure temptacioun;

  It is a cause of his savacioun,

  Al be it1499 that it was nat oure entente

  1500 He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde him hente1500.

  And somtime be we servant unto man,

  As to the erchebisshop1502 Seint Dunstan;

  And to the apostles servant eek was I.’

  ‘Yet tel me’, quod the somnour, ‘feithfully,

  1505 Make ye yow newe bodyes thus alway

  Of elementz?’ The feend answerde ‘Nay.

  Somtime we feine1507, and somtime we arise

  With dede bodies in ful sondry wise,

  And speke as renably1509 and faire and wel

  1510 As to the Phitonissa dide Samuel.

  (And yet wol som men seye it was nat he –

  I do no fors of youre divinitee.)1512

  But o thing warne I thee, I wol nat jape:1513

  Thow wolt algates1514 wite how we be shape;

  1515 Thow shalt herafterwardes, my brother deere,

  Come there1516 thee nedeth nat of me to lere!

  For thow shalt, by thin owene experience,

  Konne in a chaier rede of this sentence1518

  Bet than Virgile whil he was on live,

  1520 Or Dant also. Now lat us ride blive1520,

  For I wol holde compaignye with thee

  Til it be so that thow forsake me.’

  ‘Nay,’ quod this somnour, ‘that shal nat bitide!

  I am a yeman, knowen is ful wide;

  1525 My trouthe wol I holde as in this cas.

  For though thow were the devel Sathanas1526,

  My trouthe wol I holde to thee, my brother,

  As I am sworn, and ech of us til oother,

  For to be trewe brother in this cas.

  1530 And bothe we goon abouten oure purchas1530;

  Taak thow thy part1531, what that men wol thee yeve,

  And I shal min; thus may we bothe live.

  And if that any of us have moore than oother,

  Lat him be trewe, and parte1534 it with his brother.’

  1535 ‘ I graunte,’ quod the devel, ‘by my fey1535!’

  And with that word they riden forth hir wey,

  And right at th’entring of the tounes ende

  To which this somnour shoop him1538 for to wende,

  They saugh a cart that charged1539 was with hey,

  1540 Which that a cartere droof forth in his wey.

  Deep1541 was the wey, for which the carte stood;

  This cartere smoot and cride as he were wood.

  ‘Hait1543, Brok, hait, Scot! What, spare ye for the stones?

  The feend’, quod he, ‘yow fecche, body and bones,

  1545 As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,1545

  So muchel wo as I have with yow tholed1546!

  The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey!’

  This somnour seide, ‘Heer shul we have a pley1548!’

  And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,1549

  1550 Ful prively, and rowned1550 in his ere:

  ‘Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith!

  Herestow nat how that the cartere seyth?

  Hent1553 it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,

  Bothe hey and cart, and eek his caples1554 thre.’

  1555 ‘ Nay,’ quod the devel, ‘God woot, never a del1555!

  It is nat his entente, trust thow me wel.

  Axe him thyself, if thow nat trowest me,

  Or ellis stint1558 a while and thow shalt se.’

  This cartere thakketh1559 his hors upon the croupe,

  1560 And they bigonne to drawen and to stoupe1560.

  ‘Heit1561, now,’ quod he, ‘ther Jesu Crist yow blesse,

  And al his handwerk1562, bothe moore and lesse!

  That was wel twight1563, min owene liard boy!

  I pray God save thee, and Seinte Loy.

  1565 Now is my cart out of the slow1565, pardee!’

  ‘Lo, brother,’ quod the feend, ‘what tolde I thee?

  Heer may ye se, min owene deere brother,

  The carl1568 spak o thing, but he thoghte another.

  Lat us go forth abouten oure viage1569;

  1570 Heere winne I nothing upon cariage1570.’

  Whan that they comen somwhat out of toune,

  This somnour to his brother gan to roune1572:

  ‘Brother,’ quod he, ‘here woneth1573 an old rebekke,

  That hadde almoost as leef to lese1574 hir nekke

  1575 As for to yeve a peny of hir good.

  I wol han twelf pens, thogh that she be wood1576,

  Or I wol somne hire unto oure office –

  And yet, God wot, of hire knowe I no vice.

  But for1579 thow kanst nat as in this contree

  1580 Winne thy cost, taak heer ensample of me.’

  This somnour clappeth1581 at the widwes gate.

  ‘Com out,’ quod he, ‘thow olde viritrate1582!

  I trowe thow hast som frere or preest with thee.’

  ‘Who clappeth?’ seide this wif, ‘benedicite!

  1585 God save yow, sire; what is youre swete wille?’

  ‘I have’, quod he, ‘of somonance a bille1586.

  Up peine of cursing1587, looke that thow be

  To-morn bifore the erchedeknes knee1588

  T’answere to the court of certein thinges.’

  1590 ‘ Now, Lord,’ quod she, ‘Crist Jesu, king of kinges,

  So wysly helpe me, as I ne may1591!

  I have been sik, and that ful many a day;

  I may nat go so fer,’ quod she, ‘ne ride,

  But I be deed1594, so priketh it in my side.

  1595 May I nat axe a libel1595, sire somnour,

  And answere there by my procuratour1596

  To swich thing1597 as men wole opposen me?’

  ‘Yis,’ quod this somnour, ‘pay anon – lat see –

  Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquite1599.

  1600 I shal no profit han therby but lite1600.

  My maister hath the profit, and nat I.

  Com of1602, and lat me riden hastily;

  Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarye.’

  ‘Twelf pens!’ quod she, ‘Now, lady Seinte Marye

  1605 So wysly help me out of care and sinne,

  This wide world thogh that I sholde winne,

  Ne have I nat twelf pen
s withinne min hoold1607.

  Ye knowen wel that I am povre and oold;

  Kithe1609 youre almesse on me, povre wrecche.’

  1610 ‘ Nay, thanne’, quod he, ‘the foule feend me fecche,

  If I th’excuse, though thow shul be spilt1611!’

  ‘Allas,’ quod she, ‘God woot, I have no gilt!’

  ‘Pay me,’ quod he, ‘or by the swete Seinte Anne,

  As I wol bere awey thy newe panne

  1615 For dette which thow owest me of oold,

  Whan that thow madest thin housbonde cokewold1616;

  I paide at hom for thy correccioun1617.’

  ‘Thow lixt1618!’ quod she, ‘By my savacioun,

  Ne was I nevere er now, widwe ne wif,

  1620 Somoned unto youre court in al my lif,

  Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe.

  Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe1622

  Yeve I thy body, and my panne also!’

  And whan the devel herde hire cursen so

  1625 Upon hir knees, he seide in this manere:

  ‘Now, Mabely, min owene moder dere,

  Is this youre wil in ernest that ye seye?’

  ‘The devel’, quod she, ‘so fecche him er he deye,

  And panne and al, but he wol1629 him repente!’

  1630 ‘ Nay, olde stot1630, that is nat min entente,’

  Quod this somnour, ‘for to repente me

  For anything that I have had of thee.

  I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth1633!’

  ‘Now, brother,’ quod the devel, ‘be noght wrooth1634:

  1635 Thy body and this panne been mine by right.

  Thow shalt with me to helle yet tonight,

  Wher thow shalt knowen of oure privetee1637

  Moore than a maister of divinitee1638.’

  And with that word this foule feend him hente;

  1640 Body and soule he with the devel wente

  Wheras that somnours han hir heritage.1641

  And God, that maked after his image

  Mankinde, save and gide us, alle and some1643,

  And leve1644 thise somnours goode men bicome!

  1645 Lordinges, I koude han tolde yow – quod this Frere –

  Hadde I had leiser1646 for this Somnour heere,

  After1647 the text of Crist, Poul and John,

  And of oure othere doctours many oon,

  Swich peines that youre hertes mighte agrise1649;

  1650 Albeit so no tonge may it devise1650,

  Thogh that I mighte a thousand winter1651 telle

  The peines of thilke cursed hous of helle.

  But for to kepe us fro that cursed place,

  Waketh and preyeth Jesu for his grace;

  1655 So kepe us fro the temptour1655 Sathanas.

  Herketh1656 this word – beth war, as in this cas:

  ‘The leoun sit in his await1657 alway

  To sle1658 the innocent, if that he may.

  Disposeth ay youre hertes to withstonde

  1660 The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.’1660

  He may nat tempte yow over youre might,

  For Crist wol be youre champion and knight.

  And prayeth that thise somnoures hem repente

  Of hir misdedes, er that the feend hem hente!

  Heere endeth the Freres Tale.


  The Prologe of the Somonours Tale.

  1665 This Somnour1665 in his stiropes hye stood;

  Upon this Frere his herte was so wood1666

  That lik an aspen leef he quook1667 for ire.

  ‘Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘but o1668 thing I desire:

  I yow biseke that, of youre curteisye,

  1670 Sin ye han herd this false Frere lie,

  As suffreth me1671 I may my tale telle!

  This Frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,

  And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;

  Freres and feendes been but lite asonder.

  1675 For, pardee, ye han ofte time herd telle

  How that a frere ravisshed was to helle

  In spirit ones by a visioun,

  And as an aungel ladde1678 him up and doun

  To shewen him the peines that ther were,

  1680 In al the place saugh he nat a frere;

  Of oother folk he saugh inowe1681 in wo.

  Unto this aungel spak the frere tho:

  “Now, sire,” quod he, “han freres swich a grace1683,

  That noon of hem shal come to this place?”

  1685 “Yis1685,” quod this aungel, “many a milioun!”

  And unto Sathanas1686 he ladde him doun.

  “And now hath Sathanas”, seyth he, “a tail

  Brodder1688 than of a carrik is the sail.

  Hold up thy tail, thow Sathanas!” quod he,

  1690 “Shewe forth thin ers1690, and lat the frere se

  Where is the nest of freres in this place.”

  And er that half a furlong wey of space,1692

  Right so as bees out swarmen from an hive,

  Out of the develes ers ther gonne drive1694

  1695 Twenty thousand freres on a route,1695

  And thurghout helle swarmeden aboute,

  And comen again as faste as they may gon

  And in his ers they crepten everychon;

  He clapte his tail again1699 and lay ful stille.

  1700 This frere, whan he looked hadde his fille

  Upon the tormentz of this sory place,

  His spirit God restored, of his grace,

  Unto his body again, and he awook.

  But nathelees for fere yet he quook,

  1705 So was the develes ers ay in his minde;

  That is his heritage of verray kinde.1706

  God save yow alle, save this cursed Frere!

  My prologe wol I ende in this manere.’


  Heere biginneth the Somonour his Tale.

  Lordinges, ther is in Yorkshire, as I gesse,

  1710 A mersshy1710 contree called Holdernesse,

  In which ther wente a limitour1711 aboute

  To preche, and eek to begge, it is no doute1712.

  And so bifel that on a day this frere

  Hadde preched at a chirche in his manere,

  1715 And specially, aboven every thing,

  Excited1716 he the peple in his preching

  To trentals1717, and to yeve for Goddes sake

  Wherwith men mighten holy houses make,

  Theras1719 divine service is honoured –

  1720 Nat theras it is wasted and devoured,

  Ne ther it nedeth nat for to be yeve1721,

  As to possessioners1722, that mowen live,

  Thanked be God, in wele1723 and habundaunce!

  ‘Trentals’, seide he, ‘deliveren fro penaunce1724

  1725 Hir freendes soules, as wel olde as yonge,

  Ye, whan that they been hastily ysonge –

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