The canterbury tales, p.76
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.76
 

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  As ferforth as my konning1087 may strecche.

  This chanoun was my lord, ye wolden wene1088?

  Sire Hoost, in feith, and by the hevenes queene,

  1090 It was another chanoun, and nat he,

  That kan1091 an hundred fold moore subtiltee.

  He hath bitrayed folkes many time;

  Of his falsnesse it dulleth1093 me to rime.

  Evere whan that I speke of his falshede,

  1095 For shame of him my chekes wexen rede

  – Algates1096 they biginnen for to glowe,

  For reednesse1097 have I noon, right wel I knowe,

  In my visage, for fumes1098 diverse

  Of metals, which ye han herd me reherce1099,

  1100 Consumed and wasted han my reednesse.

  Now tak heed of this chanons cursednesse!

  ‘Sire,’ quod he to the preest, ‘lat youre man goon

  For quiksilver1103, that we it hadde anoon;

  And lat him bringen ounces two or three;

  1105 And whan he comth, as faste1105 shul ye see

  A wonder thing, which ye sey1106 nevere er this.’

  ‘Sire,’ quod the preest, ‘it shal be doon, iwys.’

  He bad his servant fecchen him this thing,

  And he al redy was at his bidding,

  1110 And wente him forth, and cam anon again1110

  With this quiksilver, shortly for to sayn,

  And took1112 thise ounces thre to the chanoun;

  And he hem leide faire1113 and wel adoun,

  And bad the servant coles1114 for to bringe,

  1115 That he anon mighte go to his werkinge.

  The coles right anon weren yfet1116,

  And this chanoun took out a crosselet1117

  Of his bosom, and shewed it to the preest.

  ‘This instrument’, quod he, ‘which that thowseest,

  1120 Taak in thin honde, and put thyself therinne

  Of this quiksilver an ounce, and heer biginne,

  In name of Crist, to wexe a philosofre1122.

  Ther been ful fewe to whiche I wolde profre

  To shewen hem thus muche of my science,

  1125 For ye shul seen heer, by experience,

  That this quiksilver I wol mortifye1126

  Right in youre sighte anon, withouten lie,

  And make it as good silver and as fin

  As ther is any in youre purs, or min,

  1130 Or elleswher, and make it malliable –

  And elles holdeth me fals and unable1131

  Amonges folk for evere to appeere!

  I have a poudre heer, that coste me deere,

  Shal1134 make al good, for it is cause of al

  1135 My konning, which that I yow shewen shal.

  Voideth1136 youre man, and lat him be theroute,

  And shette1137 the dore whiles we been aboute

  Oure privetee1138, that no man us espye

  Whils that we werke in this philosophye.’

  1140 Al as he bad fulfilled was in dede:

  This ilke servant anon-right out yede1141,

  And his maister shette the dore anon,

  And to hir labour spedily they gon.

  This preest, at this cursed chanons bidding,

  1145 Upon the fir anon sette this thing,

  And blew the fir, and bisied him ful faste.

  And this chanoun into the crosselet caste

  A poudre – noot I wherof1148 that it was

  Ymaad, outher of chalk, outher1149 of glas,

  1150 Or somwhat elles was1150 nat worth a flye,

  To blinde with this preest – and bad him hie1151

  The coles for to couchen1152 al above

  The crosselet, ‘for, in tokening I thee love1153,’

  Quod this chanoun, ‘thine owene handes two

  1155 Shul werche al thing which shal here be do1155.’

  ‘Graunt merci,’1156 quod the preest, and was fulglad,

  And couched coles as the chanoun bad.

  And whil he bisy was, this feendly1158 wrecche,

  This false chanoun – the foule feend him fecche! –

  1160 Out of his bosom took a bechen cole1160,

  In which ful subtilly1161 was maad an hole,

  And therinne put was of silver limaille1162

  An ounce, and stopped was, withouten faille1163,

  This hole with wex, to kepe the limaille in.

  1165 And understondeth that this false gin1165

  Was nat maad ther, but it was maad bifore;

  And othere thinges I shal tellen moore

  Herafterward, which that he with him broghte.

  Er he cam ther, him to bigile1169 he thoghte;

  1170 And so he dide, er that they wente atwinne1170.

  Til he had terved1171 him koude he nat blinne.

  It dulleth1172 me whan that I of him speke;

  On his falshede fain wolde I me wreke1173

  If I wiste how, but he is here and ther;

  1175 He is so variaunt, he abit nowher.1175

  But taketh heed now, sires, for Goddes love:

  He took his cole, of which I spak above,

  And in his hand he baar1178 it prively,

  And whils the preest couched bisily

  1180 The coles, as I tolde yow er this,

  This chanoun seide, ‘Freend, ye doon amis.

  This is nat couched as it oghte be.

  But soone I shal amenden it,’ quod he.

  ‘Now lat me medle therwith1184 but a while,

  1185 For of yow have I pitee, by Seint Gile!

  Ye been right hoot – I se wel how ye swete1187.

  Have here a clooth, and wipe awey the wete.’

  And whils that the preest wiped his face,

  This chanoun took his cole, with sory grace1189!

  1190 And leide it above, upon the middeward1190

  Of the crosselet, and blew wel afterward,

  Til that the coles gonne faste brenne1192.

  ‘Now yeve us drinke,’ quod the chanoun thenne,

  ‘As swithe1194 al shal be wel, I undertake.

  1195 Sitte we doun, and lat us mirye make.’

  And whan that this chanounes bechen cole

  Was brent, al the lemaille out of the hole

  Into the crosselet fil anon adoun

  – And so it moste nedes1199, by resoun,

  1200 Sin it so evene above1200 it couched was.

  But therof wiste the preest nothing, allas!

  He demed alle the coles iliche1202 good,

  For of that sleighte1203 he nothing understood.

  And whan this alkamistre1204 saugh his time,

  1205 ‘Ris up,’ quod he, ‘sire preest, and stondeth by me,

  And for I woot wel ingot have ye noon,

  Goth walketh forth, and bring us a chalk-stoon,1207

  For I wol make it of the same shap

  That is an ingot, if I may han hap1209.

  1210 And bringeth eek with yow a bolle1210 or a panne

  Ful of water, and ye shul se wel thanne

  How that oure bisinesse shal thrive1212 and preve.

  And yet, for1213 ye shul han no misbileve

  Ne wrong conceite1214 of me in youre absence,

  1215 I ne wol nat been out of youre presence,

  But go with yow and come with yow agein.’

  The chambre-dore, shortly for to seyn,

  They opened and shette, and wente hir weye,

  And forth with hem they carieden the keye,

  1220 And come again withouten any delay.

  What1221 sholde I taryen al the longe day?

  He took the chalk, and shoop1222 it in the wise

  Of an ingot, as I shal yow devise1223.

  I seye, he took out of his owene sleve

  1225 A teine1225 of silver – ivele moot he cheve! –

  Which that ne was nat but an ounce of weighte.

  And taak heed now of his cursed sleighte:

  He shoop his ingot in lengthe and e
ek in brede1228

  Of this teine, withouten any drede1229,

  1230 So slyly that the preest it nat espide1230,

  And in his sleve again he gan it hide,

  And fro the fir he took up his matere,

  And in th’ingot putte it with mirye cheere1233,

  And in the water-vessel he it caste

  1235 Whan that him liste; and bad the preest as faste,1235

  ‘Look what ther is – put in thin hand and grope!

  Thow finde shalt ther silver, as I hope.’

  What, devel of helle, sholde it elles be?

  Shaving of silver silver is, pardee!

  1240 He putte his hand in and took up a teine

  Of silver fin, and glad in every veine

  Was this preest, whan he sey1242 it was so.

  ‘Goddes blessing, and his modres also,

  And alle halwes1244, have ye, sire chanoun!’

  1245 Seide this preest, ‘and I hir malisoun1245,

  But –1246 and ye vouchesauf to techen me

  This noble craft and this subtilitee –

  I wol be youre, in al that evere I may.’

  Quod the chanoun, ‘Yet wol I make assay1249

  1250 The seconde time, that ye may taken hede

  And been expert of1251 this, and in youre nede

  Another day assaye in min absence

  This discipline1253 and this crafty science.

  Lat take another ounce’, quod he tho,

  1255 ‘Of quiksilver, withouten wordes mo,

  And do therwith as ye han doon er this

  With that oother, which that now silver is.’

  This preest him bisieth in al that he kan

  To doon as this chanoun, this cursed man,

  1260 Comaunded him, and faste1260 he blew the fir

  For to come to th’effect of his desir.

  And this chanoun, right in the mene-while,

  Al redy was the preest eft1263 to bigile;

  And for a countenance1264 in his hande he bar

  1265 An holwe1265 stikke – taak keep and be war! –

  In the ende of which an ounce, and namoore,

  Of silver limaille put was, as bifore

  Was in his cole, and stopped with wex weel1268,

  For to kepe in his limaille every deel1269.

  1270 And whil this preest was in his bisinesse1270,

  This chanoun with his stikke gan him dresse1271

  To him anon, and his poudre caste in,

  As he dide er1273 – the devel out of his skin

  Him terve1274, I pray to God, for his falshede!

  1275 For he was evere fals in thoght and dede –

  And with his stikke, above the crosselet,

  That was ordeined1277 with that false get,

  He stired the coles til relente1278 gan

  The wex again the fir1279, as every man,

  1280 But it a fool be, woot wel it moot nede,1280

  And al that in the stikke was out yede1281,

  And in the crosselet hastilich it fel.

  Now, gode sires, what wol ye bet than wel1283?

  Whan that this preest thus was bigiled agein,

  1285 Supposinge noght but trouthe, sooth to seyn,

  He was so glad that I kan nat expresse

  In no manere his mirthe and his gladnesse;

  And to the chanoun he profred1288 eftsone

  Body and good1289. ‘Ye,’ quod the chanoun sone,

  1290 ‘Thogh povre I be, crafty1290 thow shalt me finde,

  I warne1291 thee; yet is ther moore bihinde.

  Is ther any coper herinne1292?’ seide he.

  ‘Ye,’ quod the preest, ‘sire, I trowe wel ther be.’

  ‘– Elles go bye1294 us som, and that as swithe!

  1295 Now, goode sire, go forth thy wey, and hie the1295.’

  He wente his wey, and with the coper cam,

  And this chanoun it in hise handes nam1297,

  And of that coper weyed out but an ounce.

  Al to simple is my tonge to pronounce1299,

  1300 As ministre of my wit1300, the doublenesse

  Of this chanoun, roote of al cursednesse!

  He semed freendly to hem that knewe him noght,

  But he was feendly1303, bothe in werke and thoght.

  It werieth1304 me to telle of his falsnesse,

  1305 And nathelees, yet wol I it expresse,

  To th1306’entente that men may be war therby,

  And for noon oother cause, trewely.

  He putte the ounce of coper in the crosselet,

  And on the fir as swithe1309 he hath it set,

  1310 And caste in poudre, and made the preest to blowe,

  And in his werking for to stoupe1311 lowe,

  As he dide er – and al nas but a jape1312;

  Right as him liste, the preest he made his ape1313!

  And afterward, in th’ingot he it caste,

  1315 And in the panne putte it at the laste

  Of water, and in he putte his owene hond,

  And in his sleve (as ye biforenhond

  Herde me telle) he hadde a silver teine1318.

  He slyly took it out, this cursed heine1319,

  1320 Unwiting1320 this preest of his false craft,

  And in the pannes botme he hath it laft1321,

  And in the water rumbled1322 to and fro,

  And wonder prively1323 took up also

  The coper teine, noght knowing this preest,

  1325 And hidde it, and him hente1325 by the breest,

  And to him spak, and thus seide in his game1326:

  ‘Stoupeth adoun – by God, ye be to blame! –

  Helpeth me now, as I dide yow whil-er1328.

  Putte in youre hand, and looketh what is ther.’

  1330 This preest took up this silver teine anon;

  And thanne seide the chanoun, ‘Lat us gon

  With thise thre teines, which that we han wroght,

  To som goldsmith, and wite1333 if they been oght.

  For, by my feith, I nolde1334, for min hood,

  1335 But if that they were silver fin and good,

  And that as swithe preved it shal be.’

  Unto the goldsmith with thise teines thre

  They wente, and putte1338 thise teines in assay

  To fir and hamer; mighte no man seye nay1339,

  1340 But that they weren as hem oghte be.

  This sotted1341 preest, who was gladder than he?

  Was nevere brid gladder again the day,

  Ne nightingale in the sesoun of May

  Was nevere noon that liste bet to singe,

  1345 Ne lady lustier1345 in carolinge,

  Or for to speke of love and wommanhede,

  Ne knight in armes to doon an hardy1347 dede,

  To stonde in grace1348 of his lady deere,

 
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