The canterbury tales, p.87
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.87

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  The seconde condicioun of verray confession is that it be hastily doon; for certes, if a man hadde a deedly wounde, evere the lenger that he taried to warisshe998 himself, the moore wolde it corrupte and haste him to his deeth, and eek the wounde wolde be the wors for to hele. | And right so fareth sinne that longe time is in a man unshewed999. | Certes, a man oghte hastily shewen hise sinnes for manye causes, as for drede of deeth, that cometh ofte sodeinly, and no certein1000 what time it shal be, ne in what place; and eek the drecchinge of o sinne draweth in another; [1000] | and eek the lenger that he tarieth, the ferther he is fro Crist. And if he abide to his laste day, scarsly may he shriven him or remembre him of hise sinnes or repenten him, for the grevous maladye of his deeth. | And forasmuche as he ne hath nat in his lif herkned Jesu Crist whanne he hath spoken, he shal crye to Jesu Crist at his laste day, and scarsly wol he herkne him. | And understond that this condicioun moste han foure thinges. Thy shrift moste be purveyed1003 bifore and avised, for wikked haste dooth no profit; and that a man konne shrive him of hise sinnes, be it of pride, or of envye, and so forth, with the speces and circumstances; | and that he have comprehended in his minde the nombre and the greetnesse of hise sinnes, and how longe that he hath lein in sinne; | and eek that he be contrit of hise sinnes, and in stedefast purpos, by the grace of God, nevere eft to falle in sinne; and eek that he drede1005 and countrewaite himself that he fle the occasiouns of sinne to whiche he is enclined. [1005] | Also, thow shalt shrive thee of alle thy sinnes to o man, and nat a parcel1006 to o man and a parcel to another – that is to understonde, in entente to departe thy confessioun as for shame or drede, for it nis but stranglinge of thy soule. | For certes, Jesu Crist is entierly al good; in him nis noon imperfeccioun, and therefore, outher he foryeveth al parfitly, or never a deel1007. | I seye nat that if thow be assigned to the penitauncer1008 for certein sinne that thow art bounde to shewen him al the remenaunt of thy sinnes of whiche thow hast be shriven of thy curaat, but if it like to thee of thin humilitee; this is no departinge of shrifte. | Ne I seye nat, theras I speke of divisioun of confessioun, that if thow have licence for to shrive thee to a discreet and an honeste preest where thee liketh and by licence of thy curaat, that thow ne mayst wel shrive thee to him of alle thy sinnes; | but lat no blotte be bihinde1010, lat no sinne ben untoold, as fer as thow hast remembraunce. [1010] | And whan thow shalt be shriven to thy curaat, telle him eek alle the sinnes that thow hast doon sin thow were last yshriven; this is no wikked entente of divisioun of shrifte. |

  Also, the verray shrifte axeth certeine condiciouns. First, that thow shrive thee by thy free wil, noght constreined, ne for shame of folk, ne for maladye, ne swiche thinges; for it is resoun that he that trespaseth by his free wil, that by his free wil he confesse his trespas, | and that noon oother man telle his sinne, but he himself. Ne he shal nat naite1013 ne denye his sinne, ne wratthe him again the preest for his amonestinge to leve sinne. | The seconde condicioun is that thy shrift be laweful; that is to seyn, that thow that shrivest thee, and eek the preest that hereth thy confessioun, ben verraily in the feith of Holy Chirche, | and that a man ne be nat despeired of the mercy of Jesu Crist, as Caim1015 or Judas. [1015] | And eek a man moot accusen himself of his owene trespas, and nat another, but he shal blame and witen1016 himself and his owene malice of his sinne, and noon oother. | But nathelees, if that another man be occasioun or enticere of his sinne, or the estaat1017 of a persone be swich thurgh which his sinne is agregged, or elles that he may nat pleinly shriven him but he telle the persone with which he hath sinned, thanne may he telle it, | so that his entente ne be nat to bakbite the persone but oonly to declaren his confessioun. | Thow ne shalt nat eek make no lesinges1019 in thy confessioun, for humilitee – paraventure, to seyn that thow hast doon sinnes of whiche that thow were nevere gilty. | For Seint Augustin seyth, ‘if thow, bicause of thin humilitee, makest lesinges on thyself, thogh thow ne were nat in sinne biforn, yet artow thanne in sinne thurgh thy lesinges.’ [1020] | Thow most eek shewe thy sinne by thin owene propre mouth, but thow be woxe1021 dombe, and nat by no lettre, for thow that hast doon the sinne, thou shalt have the shame therfore. | Thow shalt nat eek peinte1022 thy confessioun by faire subtile wordes, to covere the moore thy sinne, for thanne bigilestow thyself, and nat the preest. Thow most tellen it pleinly, be it nevere so foul ne so horrible. | Thow shalt eek shrive thee to a preest that is discreet to conseille1023 thee, and eek thow shalt nat shrive thee for veine glorye, ne for ypocrisye, ne for no cause but oonly for the doute of Jesu Crist and the heele of thy soule. | Thow shalt nat eek renne to the preest sodeinly to tellen him lightly1024 thy sinne, as whoso telleth a jape or a tale, but avisely, and with greet devocioun. | And generally, shrive thee ofte. If thow ofte falle, ofte thow arise by confessioun. [1025] | And though thow shrive thee ofter than ones of sinne of which thow hast be shriven, it is the moore merite. And as seyth Seint Augustin, thow shalt have the moore lightly1026 relessing and grace of God, bothe of sinne and of peine. | And certes, ones a yeere, atte leeste wey, it is laweful for to ben housled1027; for certes, ones a yeere alle thinges renovellen. |

  Now have I toold yow of verray confessioun, that is the seconde partie of penitence. |

  [The Third Part of Penitence: Satisfaction]

  The thridde partie of penitence is satisfaccioun, and that stant1029 moost generally in almesse and in bodily peine. | Now ben ther thre manere of almesses: contricioun of herte, where a man offreth himself to God; another is to han pitee of defaute1030 of hise neighebores; and the thridde is in yevinge of good conseil and comfort, goostly and bodily, where men han nede, and namely in sustenaunce of mannes foode. [1030] | And tak kepe that a man hath nede of thise thinges generally: he hath nede of foode; he hath nede of clothing and herberwe1031; he hath nede of charitable conseil and visitinge in prisone and in maladye, and sepulture of his dede body. | And if thow mayst nat visite the nedeful with thy persone, visite him by thy message and by thy yiftes. | Thise ben general almesses or werkes of charitee, of hem that han temporel richesses or discrecioun in conseilinge. Of thise werkes shaltow heren at the day of doome. | Thise almesses shaltow doon of thine owene propre thinges, and hastily1034, and prively, if thow mayst; | but nathelees, if thow mayst nat doon it prively, thow shalt nat forbere1035 to doon almesse, though men seen it, so that it be nat doon for thank of the world but oonly for thank of Jesu Crist. [1035] | For, as witnesseth Seint Mathew, capitulo quinto, ‘A citee may nat ben hid that is set on a montaine, ne men lighte nat a lanterne and put it under a busshel, but men sette it on a candelstikke to yeve light to the men in the hous. | Right so shal youre light lighten1037 bifore men, that they may seen youre goode werkes and glorifye youre fader that is in hevene.’ |

  Now as to speken of bodily peine, it stant in preyeres, in wakinges, in fastinges, in vertuouse techinges of orisons1038. | And ye shul understonde that orisouns or preyeres is for to seyn a pitous1039 wil of herte that redresseth it in God, and expresseth it by word outward, to remoeven harmes, and to han thinges espirituel and durable, and somtime temporel thinges, of whiche orisouns, certes, in the orison of the Pater noster hath Jesu Crist enclosed moost thinges. | Certes, it is privileged of thre thinges in his dignitee, for which it is moore digne1040 than any oother preyere, for that Jesu Crist himself maked it; [1040] | and it is short, for it sholde be koud1041 the moore lightly, and for to withholden it the moore esily in herte, and helpen himself the ofter with the orisoun; | and for a man sholde be the lasse wery to seyen it, and for a man may nat excusen him to lerne it, it is so short and so esy; and for it comprehendeth in itself alle goode preyeres. | The exposicioun of this holy preyere, that is so excellent and digne, I bitake1043 to thise maistres of theologye, save thus muchel wol I seyn, that whan thow prayest that God sholde foryeve thee thy giltes as thow foryevest hem that agilten to thee, be ful wel war that thow ne be nat out of charitee. | This holy orisoun amenuseth1044 eek venial sinne, and therfore it aperteneth specially to penitence. | This preyere moste be trewely seid, and in
verray feith, and that men preye to God ordinatly1045, and discreetly, and devoutly; and alwey a man shal putten his wil to be subget to the wille of God. [1045] | This orisoun moste eek ben seid with greet humblesse and ful pure, honestly1046, and nat to the anoyaunce of any man or womman. It moste eek ben continued with the werkes of charitee. | It availeth eek again the vices of the soule, for, as seyth Seint Jerome, ‘by fastinge ben saved the vices of the flessh, and by preyere the vices of the soule.’ | After this, thow shalt understonde that bodily peine stant in wakinge1048, for Jesu Crist seyth, ‘Waketh and preyeth, that ye ne entre in wikked temptacioun.’ |

  Ye shul understanden also that fastinge stant in thre thinges: in forberinge of1049 bodily mete and drinke, and in forberinge of worldly jolitee, and in forberinge of deedly sinne. This is to seyn that a man shal kepen him fro deedly sinne with al his might. | And thow shalt understanden eek that God ordeined fastinge, and to fastinge apertenen1050 foure thinges: [1050] | largenesse1051 to povre folk; gladnesse of herte espirituel; nat to ben angry ne anoyed ne grucche for he fasteth, and also resonable houre for to ete by mesure – that is for to seyn, a man shal nat ete in untime, ne sitte the lenger at his table to ete for he fasteth. |

  Thanne shaltow understonde that bodily peine stant in discipline1052, or techinge, by word, or by writinge, or in ensample; also in weringe of heires, or of stamin, or of haubergeons on hire naked flessh, for Cristes sake, and swiche manere penaunces. | But war thee wel that swiche manere penaunces on thy flessh ne make thee nat bitter or angry or anoyed of1053 thyself, for bettre is to caste awey thin heire than for to caste awey the swetenesse of Jesu Crist. | And therfore seyth Seint Paul: ‘Clothe yow, as they that ben chosen of God, in herte of misericorde, debonairetee1054, suffraunce, and swich manere of clothinge,’ of whiche Jesu Crist is moore apaied than of heires, or haubergeouns, or hauberkes. | Thanne is discipline1055 eek in knokkinge of thy brest, in scourginge with yerdes, in knelinges, in tribulaciouns, [1055] | in suffringe paciently wronges that ben doon to thee, and eek in pacient suffraunce1056 of maladies, or lesinge of worldly catel, or of wif, or of child, or othere freendes. |

  Thanne shaltow understonde whiche thinges destourben1057 penaunce, and this is in foure maneres: that is, drede, shame, hope, and wanhope, that is desperacioun. | And for to speke first of drede, for which he weneth that he may suffre no penaunce: | theragains1059 is remedye for to thinke that bodily penaunce is but short and litel at regard of the peine of helle that is so cruel, and so long that it lasteth withouten ende. | Now, again1060 the shame that a man hath to shriven him – and namely thise ypocrites that wolden ben holden so parfite that they han no nede to shriven hem – [1060] | agains that shame sholde a man thinke that, by wey of1061 resoun, that he that hath nat ben shamed to doon foule thinges, certes, him oghte nat ben ashamed to do faire thinges, and that is confessiouns. | A man sholde eek thinke that God seeth and woot alle hise thoghtes and alle hise werkes; to him may no thing ben hid ne covered. | Men sholden eek remembren hem of the shame that is to come at the day of doome to hem that ben nat penitent and shriven in this present lif. | For alle the creatures in hevene, in erthe, and in helle, shullen seen apertly1064 al that they hiden in this world. | Now, for to speken of the hope of hem that ben necligent and slowe to shriven hem, that stant in two maneres. [1065] | That oon is that he hopeth for to live longe, and for to purchacen1066 muche richesse for his delit, and thanne he wol shriven him; and as he seyth, him semeth thanne timely inough to come to shrifte. | Another is of surquidrye1067 that he hath in Cristes mercy. | Agains the firste vice, he shal thinke that oure lif is in no sikernesse1068, and eek that alle the richesses in this world ben in aventure, and passen as a shadwe on the wal. | And as seyth Seint Gregorye, that it aperteneth to the grete rightwisnesse of God that nevere shal the peine stinte of hem that nevere wolde withdrawen hem fro sinne, hir thankes1069, but ay continue in sinne. For thilke perpetuel wil to do sinne shul they han perpetuel peine. | Wanhope is in two maneres: the firste wanhope is in the mercy of Crist; that oother1070 is that they thinken that they ne mighte nat longe persevere in goodnesse. [1070] | The firste wanhope comth of that he demeth1071 that he hath sinned so greetly, and so ofte, and so longe lein in sinne, that he shal nat be saved. | Certes, agains that cursed wanhope sholde he thinke that the passion of Jesu Crist is moore strong for to unbinde than sinne is strong for to binde. | Agains the seconde wanhope he shal thinke that as ofte as he falleth, he may arise again by penitence, and though he nevere so longe have lein in sinne, the mercy of Crist is alwey redy to receiven him to mercy. | Agains the wanhope that he demeth that he sholde nat longe persevere in goodnesse, he shal thinke that the feblesse of the devel may nothing doon but if men wol suffren1074 him; | and eek he shal han strengthe of the help of God, and of al Holy Chirche, and of the proteccioun of aungels, if him list1075. [1075] |

  Thanne shal men understonde what is the fruit of penaunce. And after the word of Jesu Crist, it is the endelees blisse of hevene, | ther joye hath no contrarioustee1077 of wo ne grevaunce; ther alle harmes ben passed of this present lif; theras is the sikernesse fro the peine of helle; theras is the blisful compaignye that rejoisen hem everemo, everich of otheres joye; | theras the body of man, that whilom was foul and derk, is moore cleer than the sonne; theras the body that whilom was sik, freele1078, and feble, and mortal, is inmortal, and so strong, and so hool, that ther may no thing apeiren it; | theras ne is neither hunger, thurst, ne coold, but every soule replenissed1079 with the sighte of the parfit knowinge of God. | This blisful regne1080 may men purchace by poverte espirituel, and the glorye by lowenesse, the plentee of joye by hunger and thurst, and the reste by travaille, and the lif by deeth and mortificacioun of sinne. [1080] |


  Here taketh the makere of this book his leve.

  Now preye I to hem alle that herkne this litel tretis1081 or rede, that if ther be anything in it that liketh hem, that therof they thanken oure lord Jesu Crist, of whom procedeth al wit and al goodnesse. | And if ther be anything that displese hem, I preye hem also that they arrette it to1082 the defaute of min unkonninge, and nat to my wil, that wolde ful fain have seid bettre if I hadde had konninge. | For oure book seyth, ‘Al that is writen, is writen for oure doctrine,’ and that is min entente. | Wherfore I biseke yow mekely, for the mercy of God, that ye preye for me, that Crist have mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes; | and namely of my translacions and enditinges1085 of worldly vanitees, the whiche I revoke in my retracciouns: [1085] | as is The Book of Troilus, The Book also of Fame, The Book of the xxv Ladies, The Book of the Duchesse, The Book of Seint Valentines day of the Parlement of Briddes, The Tales of Caunterbury, thilke that sownen into1086 sinne, | The Book of the Leoun, and many another book, if they were in my remembrance, and many a song and many a leccherous lay, that Crist for his grete mercy foryeve me the sinne. | But of the translacioun of Boece de Consolacione, and othere bookes of legendes of seintes, and omelies1088, and moralitee and devocioun, | that thanke I oure lord Jesu Crist and his blisful1089 moder, and alle the seintes of hevene, | bisekinge hem that they from hennesforth unto my lives ende sende me grace to biwaile my giltes, and to studye to1090 the savacioun of my soule, and graunte me grace of verray penitence, confessioun, and satisfaccioun to doon in this present lif, [1090] | thurgh the benigne grace of him that is king of kinges and preest over alle preestes, that boughte us with the precious blood of his herte, | so that I may ben oon of hem at the day of doome1092 that shulle be saved. Qui cum patre etc.

  Heere is ended the book of the Tales of Caunterbury compiled by Geffrey Chaucer, of whos soule Jesu Crist have mercy. Amen.

  Abbreviated References

  Alan of Lille, De Planctu Naturae ed. Nikolaus M. Häring (Spoleto, 1978).

  — The Plaint of Nature, tr. James J. Sheridan (Toronto, 1980).

  Albertano of Brescia, Liber consolationis et consilii ed. Thor Sundby, Chaucer Society (London, 1873).

  Albertano of Brescia, De amore dei Albertani mo
ralissimi opus de loquendi ac tacendi modo, necnon et de quamplurimis notatum dignissimis… (Coni [Cuneo], 1507) (De amore et dilectione dei et proximi, ff. 25r–62v).

  Albertano of Brescia, Liber de doctrina dicendi et tacendi ed. and (Italian) tr. Paola Navone (Florence, 1998).

  Anel Geoffrey Chaucer, Anelida and Arcite.

  AnM Annuale Mediaevale.

  Apocryphal NT The Apocryphal New Testament, ed. Montague Rhodes James (Oxford, 1924).

  Archiv Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen.

  Astrol Geoffrey Chaucer, A Treatise on the Astrolabe.

  AV The Holy Bible (Authorized King James Version).

  Avianus Fabulae, in Minor Latin Poets, ed. J. Wight Duff and Arnold M. Duff (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1934; rev. edn 1935), pp. 669–749.

  Bächtold-Stäubli E. Hoffmann-Krayer and Hanns Bächtold-Stäubli, eds., Handwö rterbuch des deutschen Aberglaubens, 10 vols. (Berlin, 1927–42).

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