The canterbury tales, p.81
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.81

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  [The Second Part of Penitence: Confession]

  The seconde partie316 of penitence is confessioun, that is signe of contricioun. | Now shul ye understonde what is confessioun, and wheither it oghte nedes be doon or noon, and whiche thinges ben convenable317 to verray confessioun. |

  First shaltow understonde that confession is verray shewinge of sinnes to the preest. | This is to seyn, ‘verray’, for he moste confesse him of alle the condiciouns319 that bilongen to his sinne, as ferforth as he kan. | Al moot320 be seid, and nothing excused, ne hid, ne forwrapped, and nat avaunte him of hise goode werkes. [320] | And forther over, it is necessarye to understonde whennes321 that sinnes springen, and how they encressen, and whiche they ben. |

  Of the springinge322 of sinnes seyth Seint Paul in this wise: that ‘right as by a man sinne entred first into this world, and thurgh that sinne deth, right so thilke deth entred into alle men that sinneden.’ | And this man was Adam, by whom sinne entred into this world whan he brak the comaundementz of God. | And therfore, he that first was so mighty that he sholde nat have died, bicam swich oon that he moste nedes die, wheither he wolde or noon, and al his progenye in this world, that in thilke man sinneden. | Looke that in th’estat of innocence, whan Adam and Eve naked weren in Paradis, and nothing325 ne hadden shame of hir nakednesse, [325] | how that the serpent, that was moost wily of alle othere bestes that God hadde maked, seide to the womman, ‘Why comaunded God to yow ye sholde nat eten of every tree in Paradis?’ | The womman answerde: ‘Of the fruit’, quod she, ‘of the trees in Paradis we feden us, but soothly, of the fruit of the tree that is in the middel of Paradis, God forbad us for to ete, ne nat touche it, lest paraventure we sholde dien.’ | The serpent seide to the womman, ‘Nay, nay, ye shul nat dien of deth; for sothe, God woot that what day that ye eten therof, youre eyen shulle opene and ye shul ben as goddes, knowinge good and harm.’ | The womman thanne saugh that the tree was good to feding, and fair to the eyen, and delitable to sighte. She took of the fruit of the tree and eet329 it, and yaf to hire housbonde, and he eet, and anon the eyen of hem bothe opnede. | And whan that they knewe that they were naked, they sowed of figge-leves a maner of breches to hiden hire membres330. [330] | Here may ye seen that dedly sinne hath, first, suggestioun of the feend, as sheweth heere by331 the naddre, and afterward, the delit of the flessh, as sheweth heere by Eve, and after that, the consentinge of resoun, as sheweth heere by Adam. | For truste wel, though so were that the feend tempted Eve (that is to seyn, the flessh), and the flessh hadde delit in the beautee of the fruit deffended332, yet certes, til that reson (that is to seyn, Adam) consented to the eting of the fruit, yet stood he in the estaat of innocence. | Of thilke Adam toke we thilke sinne original, for of him flesshly descended be we alle, and engendred of vile and corrupt matere. | And whan the soule is put in oure body, right anoon is contract334 original sinne; and that that was erst but oonly peine of concupiscence is afterward bothe peine and sinne. | And therfore be we alle born sones of wratthe and of dampnacioun perdurable335, if it nere baptesme that we receiven, which binimeth us the culpe; but for sothe the peine dwelleth with us as to temptacioun (which peine highte concupiscence). [335] | And this concupiscence, whan it is wrongfully disposed or ordeined in man, it maketh him coveite, by coveitise of flessh, flesshly sinne, by sighte of hise eyen as to erthely thinges, and eek coveitise of heynesse336 by pride of herte. |

  Now, as to speke of the firste coveitise, that is concupiscence, after337 the lawe of oure membres, that weren lawefulliche ymaked and by rightful jugement of God, | I seye, forasmuche as man is nat obeisaunt to God, that is his lord, therfore is the flessh to him desobeisaunt338 thurgh concupiscence, which that is cleped norissinge of sinne and occasioun of sinne. | Therfore al the while that a man hath in him the peine of concupiscence, it is impossible but he be tempted som time, and moeved in his flessh to sinne, | and this thing may nat faile as longe as he liveth. It may wel wexe feble and faile by vertu of baptesme, and by the grace of God thurgh penitence, [340] | but fully ne shal it nevere quenche341, that he ne shal som time be moeved in himself, but if he were al refreided by siknesse, or by malefice of sorcerye, or colde drinkes. | For lo, what seyth Seint Paul: ‘The flessh coveiteth again342 the spirit, and the spirit again the flessh; they ben so contrarye, and so striven, that a man may nat alwey do as he wolde.’ | The same Seint Paul, after his grete penaunce343 in water and in londe – in water by night and by day in gret peril and in gret peine; in londe, in famine and thurst, in coold and clothlees, and ones stoned almoost to the deth | – yet seide he: ‘Allas, I kaitif344 man, who shal delivere me fro the prison of my kaitif body?’ | And Seint Jerom, whan he longe time hadde woned345 in desert, whereas he ne hadde no compaig-nye but of wilde bestes, whereas he ne hadde no mete but herbes, and water to his drinke, ne no bed but the naked erthe, for which his flessh was blak as an Ethiopen for hete, and ney destroyed for cold [345] | – yet seide he that the brenninge of lecherye boiled in al his body. | Wherfore I woot wel sikerly347 that they ben deceived that seyn that they ne be nat tempted in hir body. | Witnesse on Seint Jame the apostel, that seyth that every wight is tempted in his owene concupiscence; that is to seyn, that everich348 of us hath matere and occasioun to be tempted of the norissinge of sinne that is in his body. | And therfore seyth Seint John the evaungelist: ‘If that we seyn that we be withoute sinne, we deceive us selve, and trouthe is nat in us.’ |

  Now shal ye understonde in what manere that sinne wexeth350 and encresceth in man. The firste thing is thilke norissinge of sinne of which I spak biforn, thilke flesshly concupiscence. [350] | And after that comth the subjeccioun of the devel – this is to seyn, the develes bely351, with which he bloweth in man the fir of flesshly concupiscence. | And after that, a man bithinketh him352 wheither he wol doon, or no, thilke thing to which he is tempted. | And thanne, if that a man withstonde and waive353 the firste entisinge of his flessh and of the feend, thanne is it no sinne; and if so be that he do nat so, thanne feeleth he anoon a flawmbe of delit. | And thanne is it good to be war and kepe him354 wel, or elles he wole falle anon into consentinge of sinne, and thanne wol he do it, if he may have time and place. | And of this matere seyth Moises by355 the devel in this manere: ‘The feend seyth, “I wol chace and pursue the man by wikked suggestioun, and I wol hente him by moevinge or stiringe of sinne, and I wol departe my prise or my preye by deliberacioun, and my lust shal ben acompliced in delit. I wol drawe my swerd in consentinge” [355] | (for certes, right as a swerd departeth356 a thing in two peces, right so consentinge departeth God fro man) “and thanne wol I sle him with min hand in dede of sinne” – thus seyth the feend.’ | For certes, thanne is a man al deed in soule. And thus is sinne acompliced by temptacioun, by delit, and by consentinge, and thanne is the sinne cleped actuel357. |

  For sothe, sinne is in two maneres: outher358 it is venial or dedly sinne. Soothly, whan man loveth any creature moore than Jesu Crist oure creatour, thanne is it dedly sinne, and venial sinne is it if man love Jesu Crist lasse than him oghte. | For sothe, the dede of this venial sinne is ful perilous, for it amenuseth359 the love that men sholde han to God moore and moore. | And therfore if a man charge360 himself with manye swiche venial sinnes, certes, but if so be that he som time descharge him of hem by shrifte, they mowe ful lightly amenuse in him al the love that he hath to Jesu Crist. [360] | And in this wise skippeth361 venial into dedly sinne; for certes, the moore that a man chargeth his soule with venial sinnes, the moore is he enclined to falle into dedly sinne. | And therfore lat us nat be necligent to deschargen us of venial sinnes, for the proverbe seyth that manye smale maken a greet. | And herkne this ensample: a greet wawe363 of the see comth somtime with so greet a violence that it drencheth the ship. And the same harm doon somtime the smale dropes of water, that entren thurgh a litel crevace into the thurrok and in the botme of the ship, if men be so necligent that they ne descharge hem nat bitime. | And therfore, althogh ther be a difference bitwixe thise two causes of drenchinge, algates the ship is dre
int364. | Right so fareth it somtime of dedly sinne and of anoyouse365 veniale sinnes, whan they multiplye in a man so gretly that thilke worldly thing that he loveth, thurgh which he sinneth venially, is as gret in his herte as the love of God, or moore. [365] | And therfore, the love of every thing that is nat biset366 in God, ne doon principally for Goddes sake, althogh that a man love it lasse than God, yet is it venial sinne, | and dedly sinne whan the love of any thing weyeth in the herte of man as muche367 as the love of God, or moore. | ‘Dedly sinne’, as seyth Seint Augustin, ‘is whan a man turneth his herte fro God, which that is verray soverein bountee that may nat chaunge, and yeveth his herte to thing that may chaunge and flitte368.’ | And certes, that is every thing save God of hevene. For sooth is, that if a man yeve his love, the which that he oweth al to God with al his herte, unto a creature, certes, as muche of his love as he yeveth to thilke creature, so muche he bireveth369 fro God. | And therfore dooth he sinne, for he that is dettour to God ne yeldeth nat to God al his dette – that is to seyn, al the love of his herte. [370] |

  Now sith371 man understondeth generally which is venial sinne, thanne is it covenable to tellen specially of sinnes whiche that many a man, peraventure, ne demeth hem nat sinnes, and ne shriveth him nat of the same thinges, and yet nathelees they been sinnes | soothly, as thise clerkes writen. This is to seyn, that at every time that man eteth or drinketh moore than suffiseth to372 the sustenaunce of his body, in certein he dooth sinne. | And eek whan he speketh moore than nedeth, it is sinne; eek whan he herkneth nat benignly373 the compleinte of the povere; | eek whan he is in heele374 of body, and wol nat faste whan oother folk fasten, withouten cause resonable; eek whan he slepeth moore than nedeth; or whan he comth by thilke encheson to late to chirche, or to othere werkes of charite; | eek whan he useth375 his wif withoute soverein desir of engendrure, to the honour of God, or for the entente to yelde to his wif the dette of his body; [375] | eek whan he wol nat visite the sike and the prisoner, if he may; eek if he love wif, or child, or oother worldly thing, moore than reson requireth; eek if he flatere or blandise376 moore than him oghte for any necessitee; | eke if he amenuse or withdrawe the almesse377 of the povre; eke if he apparaileth his mete moore deliciously than nede is, or ete to hastily by likerousnesse; | eek if he tale vanitees378 at chirche, or at Goddes service, or that he be a talkere of idel wordes of folye or of vileinye, for he shal yelde acounte of it at the day of dome; | eek whan he biheteth379 or assureth to do thinges that he may nat parfourne; eek whan that he by lightnesse or folye misseyeth or scorneth his neighebore; | eek whan he hath any wikked suspecioun of thing ther380 he ne woot of it no soothfastnesse. [380] | Thise thinges, and mo withoute nombre, ben sinnes, as seyth Seint Augustin. |

  Now shal men understonde that, al be it so that noon erthely man may eschewe382 alle venial sinnes, yet may he refreine him by the brenninge love that he hath to oure lord Jesu Crist, and by preyeres, and confessioun, and othere goode werkes, so that it shal but litel greve. | For, as seyth Seint Augustin, ‘if a man love God in swich manere that al that evere he dooth is in the love of God or for the love of God – verraily, for he brenneth in the love of God, | looke how muche that a drope of water that falleth in a furneis ful of fir anoyeth384 or greveth, so muche anoyeth a venial sinne unto a man that is parfit in the love of Jesu Crist.’ | Men may also refreine venial sinne by receivinge worthily of the precious body of Jesu Crist, [385] | by receivinge eek of holy water, by almes-dede386, by general confession of Confiteor at masse and at complin, and by blessinge of bisshopes and of preestes, and by othere goode werkes. |

  [On the Seven Deadly Sins and their Offspring, with Circumstances and Types]

  [On Pride]

  Now is it bihovely387 thing to telle whiche ben deedly sinnes; that is to seyn, chieftaines of sinnes. Alle they renne in o lees, but in diverse maneres. Now ben they cleped chieftaines, forasmuche as they ben chief and spring of alle othere sinnes. | Of the roote of thise sevene sinnes thanne is pride the general roote of alle harmes, for of this roote springen certein braunches, as ire, envye, accidie388 or slewthe, avarice (or coveitise, to commune understondinge), glotonye, and lecherye. | And everich of thise chief sinnes hath hise braunches and hise twigges, as shal be declared in hire chapitres folwinge. |

  And thogh so be that no man kan outrely390 telle the nombre of the twigges, and of the harmes that comen of pride, yet wol I shewe a partie of hem, as ye shul understonde. [390] | Ther is inobedience391, avauntinge, ypocrisye, despit, arrogance, impudence, swellinge of herte, insolence, elacioun, inpacience, strif, contumacye, presumpcioun, irreverence, pertinacye, veineglorye, and many another twig that I kan nat declare. | Inobedient is he that desobeyeth, for despit392, to the comandementz of God, and to hise sovereins, and to his goostly fader. | Avantour is he that bosteth of the harm or of the bountee393 that he hath doon. | Ypocrite is he that hideth to shewe him swich as he is, and sheweth him swich as he noght is. | Despitous395 is he that hath desdein of his neighebore – that is to seyn, of his evene Cristen – or hath despit to doon that him oghte to do. [395] | Arrogant is he that thinketh that he hath thilke bountees in him that he hath nat, or weneth that he sholde have hem by hise desertes, or elles he demeth396 that he be that he nis nat. | Impudent is he that for his pride hath no shame of hise sinnes. | Swellinge of herte is whan a man rejoiseth him of harm that he hath doon. | Insolent is he that despiseth in his jugement alle oothere folk as to regard of399 his value, and of his konninge, and of his spekinge, and of his beringe. | Elacioun400 is whan he ne may neither suffre to have maister ne felawe. [400] | Inpacient is he that wol nat ben ytaught ne undernome of401 his vice, and by strif werreyeth trouthe witingly, and deffendeth his folye. | Contumax402 is he that thurgh his indignacioun is agains everich auctoritee or power of hem that ben hise sovereins. | Presumpcioun is whan a man undertaketh an emprise403 that him oghte nat do, or elles that he may nat do, and that is called surquidye. Irreverence is whan men do nat honour theras hem oghte to doon, and waiten to be reverenced. | Pertinacye is whan a man deffendeth his folye and trusteth to muche to his owene wit. | Veineglorye is for to have pompe and delit in his temporel heynesse405, and glorifye him in worldly estaat. [405] | Janglinge406 is whan a man speketh to muche biforn folk, and clappeth as a mille, and taketh no kepe what he seyth. |

  And yet is ther a privee spice of pride that waiteth407 first to be salewed er he wole salewe, al be he lasse worthy than that oother is, paraventure; and eek he waiteth or desireth to sitte, or elles to goon above him in the weye, or kisse pax, or ben encensed, or goon to offringe biforn his neighebore, | and swiche semblable408 thinges, agains his duetee, paraventure, but that he hath his herte and his entente in swich a proud desir to be magnified and honoured biforn the peple. |

  Now ben ther two maneres of pride: that oon of hem is withinne the herte of man, and that oother is withoute. | Of whiche, soothly, thise forseide thinges, and mo than I have seid, apertenen to pride that is in the herte of man, and that othere speces of pride ben withoute. [410] | But natheles, that oon of thise speces of pride is signe of that oother, right as the gaye levesel411 atte taverne is signe of the win that is in the celer. | And this is in manye thinges, as in speche and contenaunce412, and in outrageous array of clothing. | For certes, if ther ne hadde be no sinne in clothing, Crist wolde nat so soone have noted and spoken of the clothing of thilke riche man in the gospel. | And, as seyth Seint Gregorye, that ‘precious clothing is cowpable414 for the derthe of it, and for his softenesse, and for his straungenesse and degisynesse, and for the superfluitee or for the inordinat scantnesse of it.’ | Allas, may man nat seen as in oure dayes the sinful costlewe415 array of clothinge, and namely in to muche superfluitee or elles in to desordinat scantnesse? [415] |

  As to the firste sinne, that is in superfluitee of clothinge, which that maketh it so deere, to harm of the peple | – nat oonly the cost of embrawdinge417, the degise endentinge or barringe, owndinge, palinge, windinge or bendinge, and semblable wast of clooth in vanitee, | but ther
is also costlewe furringe in hire gownes; so muche pownsoninge418 of chisel to maken holes, so muche dagginge of sheris; | forth with419 the superfluitee in lengthe of the forseide gownes trailinge in the dong and in the mire, on horse and eek on foote, as wel of man as of womman, that al thilke trailinge is verraily as in effect wasted, consumed, thredbare, and roten with donge, rather than it is yeven to the povere, to gret damage of the forseide povere folk, | and that in sondry wise. This is to seyn, that the moore that clooth is wasted, the moore moot it coste to the peple for the scarsnesse. [420] | And forther over, if so be that they wolde yeve swich pownsoned and dagged clothinge to the povere folk, it is nat convenient421 to were for hir estaat, ne suffisant to beete hire necessitee, to kepe hem fro the distemperance of the firmament. | Upon that oother side, to speke of the horrible disordinat422 scantnesse of clothing, as ben thise kutted sloppes or hanselins, that thurgh hire shortnesse ne covere nat the shameful membres of man, to wikked entente. | Allas, somme of hem shewen the shap and the boce423 of hire horrible swollen membres, that semeth lik the maladye of hirnia, in the wrappinge of hire hoses, | and eek the buttokes of hem, that faren as it were the hindre part424 of a she-ape in the fulle of the moone. | And mooreover the wrecched swollen membres that they shewe thurgh degisinge425, in departinge of hire hoses in whit and reed, semeth that half hire shameful privee membres weren flayn. [425] | And if so be that they departen hire hoses in othere colours, as is whit and blew, or whit and blak, or blak and reed, and so forth, | thanne semeth it as by variaunce of colour that half the partie of hire privee membres ben corrupt427 by the fir of Seint Antony, or by cancre, or oother swich meschaunce. | Of the hindre part of hire buttokes it is ful horrible for to see, for certes, in that partie of hire body theras they purgen hire stinkinge ordure, | that foule partie shewe they to the peple proudly, in despit of honestetee429, which honestetee that Jesu Crist and hise frendes observede to shewen in hir live. | Now, as of the outrageous array of wommen, God woot that thogh the visages of somme of hem seme ful chaast and debonaire430, yet notifye they in hire array of atir likerousnesse and pride. [430] | I sey nat that honestetee431 in clothinge of man or womman is uncovenable, but certes, the superfluitee or desordinat scantitee of clothinge is reprevable. | Also, the sinne of aornement432 or of apparaille is in thinges that apertenen to ridinge, as in to manye delicat horses that ben holden for delit, that ben so faire, fatte, and costlewe, | and also many a vicious knave that is sustened bicause of hem, in to curious433 harneis, as in sadeles, in crouperes, peitrels, and bridles covered with precious clothing and riche barres and plates of gold and of silver. | For which God seyth by Zakarye the prophete: ‘I wol confounde the rideres of swiche horses.’ | Thise folk taken litel reward of435 the ridinge of Goddes sone of hevene, and of his harneis, whan he rood upon the asse, and ne hadde noon oother harneis but the povere clothes of hise disciples; ne we ne rede nat that evere he rood on oother beest. [435] | I speke this for the sinne of superfluitee, and nat for resonable honestetee, whan reson it requireth. |

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