The canterbury tales, p.56
The Canterbury Tales,
By Goddes armes, if thow falsly pleye,
655 This daggere shal thurghout thin herte go!’
This fruit cometh of the bicched bones656 two:
Forswering, ire, falsnesse, homicide.
Now, for the love of Crist that for us dide658,
Lete youre othes, bothe grete and smale659.
660 But sires, now wol I telle forth660 my tale.
Thise riotoures661 thre of which I telle,
Longe erst er662 prime rong of any belle,
Were set hem663 in a taverne to drinke.
And as they sat, they herde a belle clinke664
665 Biforn a cors665 was caried to his grave.
That oon of hem gan callen to his knave666:
‘Go bet667,’ quod he, ‘and axe redily
What cors is this, that passeth heer forby668;
And looke that thow reporte his name wel.’
670 ‘Sire,’ quod this boy, ‘it nedeth never a del670;
It was me told er ye cam heer two houres.
He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres,
And sodeinly he was yslain tonight,
Fordronke674, as he sat on his bench upright.
675 Ther cam a privee675 theef men clepeth Deeth,
That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
And with his spere he smoot677 his herte atwo,
And wente his wey withouten wordes mo.
He hath a thousand slain this pestilence679.
680 And maister, er ye come in his presence,
Me thinketh that it were necessarye681
For to be war of swich an adversarye.
Beth redy for to meete him everemoore683 –
Thus taughte me my dame684; I sey namoore.’
685 ‘By Seinte Marye!’ seide this taverner,
‘The child seyth sooth, for he hath slain this yer,
Henne687 over a mile, withinne a greet village,
Bothe man and womman, child, and hine688, and page.
I trowe his habitacioun be there.
690 To been avised690 greet wisdom it were,
Er that he dide a man a dishonour.’
‘Ye, Goddes armes,’ quod this riotour,
‘Is it swich peril with him for to meete?
I shal him seke by wey and eek by strete694,
695 I make avow to Goddes digne695 bones!
Herkneth, felawes, we thre been al ones:
Lat ech of us holde up his hand til697 oother,
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother,
And we wol sleen this false traitour Deeth!
700 He shal be slain, he that so manye sleeth,
By Goddes dignitee, er it be night!’
Togidres702 han thise thre hir trouthes plight,
To live and dien ech of hem for oother,
As thogh he were his owene ybore704 brother.
705 And up they stirte705, al dronken in this rage,
And forth they goon towardes that village
Of which the taverner hadde spoke biforn.
And many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn,
And Cristes blessed body they to-rente709;
710 Deeth shal be deed, if that they may him hente710!
Whan they han goon nat fully half a mile,
Right as they wolde han treden over a stile,
An old man and a povre713 with hem mette.
This olde man ful mekely hem grette714,
715 And seide thus: ‘Now lordes, God yow se715!’
The proudeste of thise riotoures thre
Answerde again, ‘What, carl717, with sory grace!
Why artow al forwrapped718 save thy face?
Why livestow so longe in so greet age?’
720 This olde man gan looke in his visage,
And seide thus: ‘For I ne kan nat finde
A man, thogh that I walked into Inde722,
Neither in citee ne in no village,
That wolde chaunge his youthe for min age.
725 And therfore moot I han725 min age stille,
As longe time as it is Goddes wille,
Ne deeth, allas, ne wol nat han my lif!
Thus walke I, lik a restelees caitif728,
And on the ground, which is my modres gate,
730 I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late,
And seye, “Leeve731 moder, leet me in!
Lo, how I vanisshe732, flessh and blood and skin!
Allas, whan shul my bones been at reste?
Moder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste
735 That in my chaumbre longe time hath be,
Ye, for an heire clowte736 to wrappe me!”
– But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked738 is my face.
‘But sires, to yow it is no curteisye
740 To speken to an old man vileinye740,
But he trespase741 in word or elles in dede.
In holy writ ye may yourself wel rede:
“Agains743 an old man, hoor upon his heed,
Ye sholde arise”; wherfore I yeve yow reed744,
745 Ne dooth unto an old man noon harm now,
Namoore than that ye wolde746 men dide to yow
In age, if that ye so longe abide747.
And God be with yow, wher748 ye go or ride!
I moot go thider as I have to go.’
750 ‘Nay, olde cherl, by God, thow shalt nat so!’
Seide this oother hasardour anon.
‘Thow partest nat so lightly752, by Seint John!
Thow spak right now of thilke traitour Deeth,
That in this contree alle oure freendes sleeth;
755 Have here my trouthe, as thow art his espye755.
Telle wher he is, or thow shalt it abye756,
By God and by the holy sacrament!
For soothly thow art oon of his assent758
To sleen us yonge folk, thow false theef!’
760 ‘Now, sires,’ quod he, ‘if that yow be so leef760
To finde deeth, turn up this croked wey,
For in that grove I lafte him, by my fey762,
Under a tree, and ther he wol abide;
Nat for youre boost he wol him nothing764 hide.
765 Se ye that ook?765 Right ther ye shal him finde.
God save yow, that boghte again766 mankinde,
And yow amende!’ – thus seide this olde man.
And everich768 of thise riotoures ran
Til they came to that tree, and ther they founde
770 Of florins fine of gold ycoined rounde
Wel ny771 an eighte busshels, as hem thoughte.
No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte,
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
For that the florins been so faire and brighte,
775 That doun they sette hem775 by this precious hoord.
The worste of hem he spak the firste word:
‘Bretheren,’ quod he, ‘taak kepe777 what I seye;
My wit778 is greet, thogh that I bourde and pleye.
This tresor hath Fortune unto us yeven,
780 In mirthe and jolitee oure lif to liven;
And lightly781 as it comth, so wol we spende.
Ey, Goddes precious dignitee, who wende782
Today that we sholde han so fair a grace?783
But mighte this gold be caried fro this place
785 Hoom to min hous – or ellis unto youres –
For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures –
Thanne were787 we in heigh felicitee.
But trewely by daye it may nat be.
Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge789,
790 And for oure owene tresor doon us honge790.
This tresor moste ycaried be by nighte,
As wisely792 and as slyly as it mighte.
Wherfore I rede that cut793 among us alle
Be drawe, and lat se wher the cut wol falle;
795 And he that hath the cut with herte blithe
Shal renne to the toune, and that ful swithe796,
And bringe us breed and win ful prively797.
And two of us shul kepen subtilly798
This tresor wel, and, if he wol nat tarye,
800 Whan it is night we wol this tresor carye
By801 oon assent wheras us thinketh best.’
That oon of hem the cut broghte in his fest802,
And bad hem drawe, and looke wher it wol falle;
And it fil804 on the yongeste of hem alle,
805 And forth toward the toun he wente anon.
And also soone as that he was agon,
That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother:
‘Thou knowest wel thow art my sworne brother;
Thy profit wol I telle thee anon.
810 Thow woost810 wel that oure felawe is agon,
And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee,
That shal departed812 been among us thre.
But nathelees, if I kan shape it813 so
That it departed were among us two,
815 Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?815’
That oother answerde, ‘I noot816 how that may be.
He woot wel that the gold is with us tweye;
What shal we doon? What shal we to him seye?’
‘Shal it be conseil819?’ seide the firste shrewe,
820 ‘And I shal tellen in a wordes fewe
What we shul doon, and bringe it wel aboute.’
‘I graunte,’ quod that oother, ‘out of doute,
That by my trouthe I wol thee nat biwreye823.’
‘Now,’ quod the firste, ‘thow woost wel we be tweye824,
825 And two of us shul strenger be than oon.
Looke whan that he is set826, that right anoon
Aris as though thow woldest with him pleye;
And I shal rive828 him thurgh the sides tweye
Whil that thow strogelest829 with him as in game,
830 And with thy daggere looke thow do the same.
And thanne shal al this gold departed be,
My deere freend, bitwixe me and thee.
Thanne may we bothe oure lustes833 al fulfille,
And pleye at dees right at oure owene wille.’
835 And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye
To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.
This yongeste, which that wente to the toun,
Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun838
The beautee of thise florins newe and brighte.
840 ‘O Lord,’ quod he, ‘if so were that I mighte
Have al this tresor to myself allone,
Ther is no man that liveth under the trone842
Of God that sholde live so mirye as I!’
And atte laste the feend844, oure enemy,
845 Putte in his thoght that he sholde poison beye,
With which he mighte sleen his felawes tweye,
For-why847 the feend foond him in swich livinge
That he hadde leve848 him to sorwe bringe.
For this was outrely849 his ful entente:
850 To sleen hem bothe, and nevere to repente.
And forth he goth – no lenger wolde he tarye –
Into the toun unto a pothecarye852,
And preyed853 him that he him wolde selle
Som poisoun, that he mighte his rattes quelle854,
855 And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe855,
That, as he seide, his capouns856 hadde yslawe,
And fain857 he wolde wreke him, if he mighte,
On vermin that destroyed858 him by nighte.
The pothecarye answerde, ‘And thow shalt have
860 A thing that, also860 God my soule save,
In al this world ther is no creature
That ete or dronke hath of this confiture862
Nat but the montaunce863 of a corn of whete,
That he ne shal his lif anoon forlete864.
865 Ye, sterve865 he shal, and that in lasse while
Than thow wolt goon a paas866 nat but a mile,
The poisoun is so strong and violent.’
This cursed man hath in his hond yhent868
This poisoun in a box, and sith869 he ran
870 Into the nexte strete unto a man,
And borwed of him large botels thre,
And in the two his poison poured he;
The thridde he kepte clene for his drinke,
For al the night he shoop him874 for to swinke
875 In carying of the gold out of that place.
And whan this riotour, with sory grace,
Hadde filled with win hise grete botels thre,
To hise felawes again repaireth878 he.
What nedeth it to sermone879 of it moore?
880 For right as they hadde cast880 his deeth bifore,
Right so they han him slain, and that anon.
And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon882:
‘Now lat us sitte and drinke, and make us merye,
And afterward we wol his body berye884.’
885 And with that word it happed him par cas885
To take the botel ther886 the poisoun was,
And drank, and yaf his felawe drinke also,
For which anon they storven888 bothe two.
But certes, I suppose that Avicen
890 Wroot nevere in no canon, n’in no fen890,
Mo wonder signes of empoisoning
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir ending.
Thus ended been thise homicides893 two,
And eek the false empoisonere also.
895 O cursed sinne of alle cursednesse!
O traitours homicide, O wikkednesse!
O glotonye, luxurye897, and hasardrye!
Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileinye898,
And othes grete, of usage899 and of pride!
900 Allas, mankinde, how may it bitide
That to thy Creatour, which that thee wroghte901,
And with his precious herte-blood the boghte902,
Thow art so fals and so unkinde903, allas?
Now goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas904,
905 And ware yow fro905 the sinne of avarice!
Min holy pardoun may yow alle warice906,
So that907 ye offre nobles or sterlinges,
Or elles silver broches, spones908, ringes.
Boweth youre heed under this holy bulle.
910 Com up, ye wives, offreth of youre wolle910;
Youre name I entre here in my rolle anon.
Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gon;
I yow assoille913 by min heigh power –
Yow that wol offre – as clene914 and eek as cler
915 As ye were born. – And lo, sires, thus I preche.
And Jesu Crist, that is oure soules leche916,
So graunte yow his pardoun to receive,
For that is best; I wol yow nat deceive.
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