The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Friar's Tale

Whilom ther was dwellynge in my contree
     1301
And erchedeken, a man of heigh degree,
     1302
That boldely dide execucioun
     1303
In punysshynge of fornicacioun,
     1304
Of wicchecraft, and eek of bawderye,
     1305
Of difamacioun, and avowtrye,
     1306
Of chirche reves, and of testamentz,
     1307
Of contractes and of lakke of sacramentz,
     1308
Of usure, and of symonye also.
     1309
But certes, lecchours dide he grettest wo;
     1310
They sholde syngen if that they were hent;
     1311
And smale tytheres weren foule yshent,
     1312
If any persoun wolde upon hem pleyne.
     1313
Ther myghte asterte hym no pecunyal peyne.
     1314
For smale tithes and for smal offrynge
     1315
He made the peple pitously to synge.
     1316
For er the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,
     1317
They weren in the erchedeknes book.
     1318
Thanne hadde he, thurgh his jurisdiccioun,
     1319
Power to doon on hem correccioun.
     1320
He hadde a somonour redy to his hond;
     1321
A slyer boye nas noon in engelond;
     1322
For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
     1323
That taughte hym wel wher that hym myghte availle.
     1324
He koude spare of lecchours oon or two,
     1325
To techen hym to foure and twenty mo.
     1326
For thogh this somonour wood were as an hare,
     1327
To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;
     1328
For we been out of his correccioun.
     1329
They han of us no jurisdiccioun,
     1330
Ne nevere shullen, terme of alle hir lyves. --
     1331
Peter! so been the wommen of the styves,
     1332
Quod the somonour, yput out of oure cure!
     1333
Pees! with myschance and with mysaventure! Page  90
     1334
Thys seyde oure hoost, and lat hym telle his tale.
     1335
Now telleth forth, thogh that the somonour gale;
     1336
Ne spareth nat, myn owene maister deere. --
     1337
This false theef, this somonour, quod the frere,
     1338
Hadde alwey bawdes redy to his hond,
     1339
As any hauk to lure in engelond,
     1340
That tolde hym al the secree that they knewe;
     1341
For hire acqueyntace was nat come of newe.
     1342
They weren his approwours prively.
     1343
He took hymself a greet profit therby;
     1344
His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.
     1345
Withouten mandement a lewed man
     1346
He koude somne, on peyne of cristes curs,
     1347
And they were glade for to fille his purs,
     1348
And make hym grete feestes atte nale.
     1349
And right as judas hadde purses smale,
     1350
And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
     1351
His maister hadde but half his duetee.
     1352
He was, if I shal yeven hym his laude,
     1353
A theef, and eek a somnour, and baude.
     1354
He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,
     1355
That, wheither that sir robert or sir huwe,
     1356
Or jakke, or rauf, or whoso that it were
     1357
That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.
     1358
Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent;
     1359
And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,
     1360
And somne hem to chapitre bothe two,
     1361
And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
     1362
Thanne wolde he seye, freend, I shal for thy sake
     1363
Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake;
     1364
Thee thar namoore as in this cas travaille.
     1365
I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle.
     1366
Certeyn he knew of briberyes mo
     1367
Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
     1368
For in this world nys dogge for the bowe
     1369
That kan an hurt deer from an hool yknowe
     1370
Bet than this somnour knew a sly lecchour,
     1371
Or an avowtier, or a paramour.
     1372
And for that was the fruyt of al his rente,
     1373
Therfore on it he sette al his entente.
     1374
And so bifel that ones on a day
     1375
This somnour, evere waityng on his pray,
     1376
Rood for to somne an old wydwe, a ribibe,
     1377
Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.
     1378
And happed that he saugh bifore hym ryde
     1379
A gay yeman, under a forest syde,
     1380
A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
     1381
He hadde upon a courtepy of grene,
     1382
An hat upon his heed with frenges blake.
     1383
Sire, quod this somnour, hayl, and wel atake!
     1384
Welcome, quod he, and every good felawe!
     1385
Wher rydestow, under this grene-wode shawe?
     1386
Seyde this yeman, wiltow fer to day?
     1387
This somnour hym answerde and seyde, nay;
     1388
Heere faste by, quod he, is myn entente
     1389
To ryden, for to reysen up a rente
     1390
That longeth to my lordes duetee.
     1391
Artow thanne a bailly? ye, quod he.
     1392
He dorste nat, for verray filthe and shame
     1393
Seye that he was a somonour, for the name.
     1394
Depardieux, quod this yeman, deere broother,
     1395
Thou art a bailly, and I am another.
     1396
I am unknowen as in this contree;
     1397
Of thyn aqueyntance I wolde praye thee,
     1398
And eek of bretherhede, if that yow leste.
     1399
I have gold and silver in my cheste;
     1400
If that thee happe to comen in oure shire,
     1401
Al shal be thyn, right as thou wolt desire.
     1402
Grantmercy, quod this somonour, by my feith!
     1403
Everych on ootheres hand his trouthe leith,
     1404
For to be sworne bretheren til they deye.
     1405
In daliance they ryden forth and pleye.
     1406
This somonour, which that was as ful of jangles,
     1407
As ful of venym been thise waryangles,
     1408
And evere enqueryng upon every thyng,
     1409
Brother, quod he, where is now youre dwellyng
     1410
Another day if that I sholde yow seche?
     1411
This yeman hym answerde in softe speche,
     1412
Brother, quod he, fer in the north contree,
     1413
Where-as I hope som tyme I shal thee see.
     1414
Er we departe, I shal thee so wel wisse
     1415
That of myn hous ne shaltow nevere mysse.
     1416
Now, brother, quod this somonour, I yow preye,
     1417
Teche me, whil that we ryden by the weye,
     1418
Syn that ye been a baillif as am I,
     1419
Som subtiltee, and tel me feithfully
     1420
In myn office how that I may moost wynne;
     1421
And spareth nat for conscience ne synne,
     1422
But as my brother tel me, how do ye.
     1423
Now, by my trouthe, brother deere, seyde he,
     1424
As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale,
     1425
My wages been ful streite and ful smale.
     1426
My lord is hard to me and daungerous,
     1427
And myn office is ful laborous,
     1428
And therfore by extorcions I lyve.
     1429
For sothe, I take al that men wol me yive. Page  91
     1430
Algate,by gleyghte or by violence,
     1431
Fro yeer to yeer I wynne al my dispence.
     1432
I kan no bettre telle, feithfully.
     1433
Now certes, quod this somonour, so fare I.
     1434
I spare nat to taken, God it woot,
     1435
But if it be to hevy or to hoot.
     1436
What I may gete in conseil prively,
     1437
No maner conscience of that have I.
     1438
Nere myn extorcioun, I myghte nat lyven,
     1439
Ne of swiche japes wol I nat be shryven.
     1440
Stomak ne conscience ne knowe I noon;
     1441
I shrewe thise shrifte-fadres everychoon.
     1442
Wel be we met, by God and by seint jame!
     1443
But, leeve brother, tel me thanne thy name,
     1444
Quod this somonour. In this meene while
     1445
This yeman gan a litel for to smyle.
     1446
Brother, quod he, wiltow that I thee telle?
     1447
I am a feend; my dwellyng is in helle,
     1448
And heere I ryde aboute my purchasyng,
     1449
To wite wher men wol yeve me any thyng.
     1450
My purchas is th' effect of al my rente.
     1451
Looke how thou rydest for the same entente,
     1452
To wynne good, thou rekkest nevere how;
     1453
Right so fare I, for ryde wolde I now
     1454
Unto the worldes ende for a preye.
     1455
Al! quod this somonour, benedicite! sey ye?
     1456
I wende ye were a yeman trewely.
     1457
Ye han a mannes shap as wel as I;
     1458
Han ye a figure thanne determinat
     1459
In helle, ther ye been in youre estat?
     1460
Nay, certeinly, quod he, ther have we noon;
     1461
But whan us liketh, we kan take us oon,
     1462
Or elles make yow seme we been shape
     1463
Somtyme lyk a man, or lyk an ape,
     1464
Or lyk an angel kan I ryde or go.
     1465
It is no wonder thyng thogh it be so;
     1466
A lowsy jogelour kan deceyve thee,
     1467
And pardee, yet kan I moore craft than he.
     1468
Why, quod this somonour, ryde ye thanne or goon
     1469
In sondry shap, and nat alwey in oon?
     1470
For we, quod he, wol us swiche formes make
     1471
As moost able is oure preyes for to take.
     1472
What maketh yow to han al this labour?
     1473
Ful many a cause, leeve sire somonour,
     1474
Seyde this feend, but alle thyng hath tyme.
     1475
The day is short, and it is passed pryme,
     1476
And yet ne wan I nothyng in this day.
     1477
I wol entende to wynnyng, if I may,
     1478
And nat entende oure wittes to declare.
     1479
For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare
     1480
To understonde, althogh I tolde hem thee.
     1481
But, for thou axest why labouren we --
     1482
For somtyme we been goddes instrumentz,
     1483
And meenes to doon his comandementz,
     1484
Whan that hym list, upon his creatures,
     1485
In divers art and in diverse figures.
     1486
Withouten hym we have no myght, certayn,
     1487
If that hym list stonden ther-agayn.
     1488
And somtyme, at oure prayere, han we leve
     1489
Oonly the body and nat the soule greve;
     1490
Witnesse on job, whom that we diden wo.
     1491
And somtyme han we myght of bothe two,
     1492
This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.
     1493
And somtyme be we suffred for to seke
     1494
Upon a man, and doon his soule unreste,
     1495
And nat his body, and al is for the beste.
     1496
Whan he withstandeth oure temptacioun,
     1497
It is a cause of his savacioun,
     1498
Al be it that it was nat oure entente
     1499
He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde hym hente.
     1500
And somtyme be we servant unto man,
     1501
As to the erchebisshop seint dunstan,
     1502
And to the apostles servent eek was I.
     1503
Yet tel me, quod the somonour, feithfully,
     1504
Make ye yow newe bodies thus alway
     1505
Of elementz? the feend answerde, nay.
     1506
Somtyme we feyne, and somtyme we aryse
     1507
With dede bodyes, in ful sondry wyse,
     1508
And speke as renably and faire and wel
     1509
As to the phitonissa dide samuel.
     1510
(and yet wol som men seye it was nat he;
     1511
I do no fors of youre dyvynytee.)
     1512
But o thyng warne I thee, I wol nat jape, --
     1513
Thou wolt algates wite how we been shape;
     1514
Thou shalt herafterward, my brother deere,
     1515
Come there thee nedeth nat of me to leere.
     1516
For thou shalt, by thyn owene experience,
     1517
Konne in a chayer rede of this sentence
     1518
Bet than virgile, while he was on lyve,
     1519
Or dant also. Now lat us ryde blyve,
     1520
For I wole holde compaignye with thee
     1521
Til it be so that thou forsake me.
     1522
Nay, quod this somonour, that shal nat bityde!
     1523
I am a yeman, knowen is ful wyde;
     1524
My trouthe wol I holde, as in this cas.
     1525
For though thou were the devel sathanas,
     1526
My trouthe wol I holde to my brother,
     1527
As I am sworn, and ech of us til oother,
     1528
For to be trewe brother in this cas;
     1529
And bothe we goon abouten oure purchas. Page  92
     1530
Taak thou thy part, what that men wol thee yive,
     1531
And I shal myn; thus may we bothe lyve.
     1532
And if that any of us have moore than oother,
     1533
Lat hym be trewe, and parte it with his brother.
     1534
I graunte, quod the devel, by my fey.
     1535
And with that word they ryden forth hir wey.
     1536
And right at the entryng of the townes ende,
     1537
To which this somonour shoop hym for to wende,
     1538
They saugh a cart that charged was with hey,
     1539
Which that a cartere droof forth in his wey.
     1540
Deep was the wey, for which the carte stood.
     1541
The cartere smoot, and cryde as he were wood,
     1542
Hayt, brok! hayt, scot! what spare ye for the stones?
     1543
The feend, quod he, yow fecche, body and bones,
     1544
As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,
     1545
So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!
     1546
The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey!
     1547
This somonour seyde, heere shal we have a pley.
     1548
And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,
     1549
Ful prively, and rowned in his ere:
     1550
Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith!
     1551
Herestow nat how that the cartere seith?
     1552
Hent it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,
     1553
Bothe hey and cart, and eek his caples thre.
     1554
Nay, quod the devel, God woot, never a deel!
     1555
It is nat his entente, trust me weel.
     1556
Axe hym thyself, it thou nat trowest me;
     1557
Or elles stynt a while, and thou shalt see.
     1558
This cartere thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
     1559
And they bigonne to drawen and to stoupe.
     1560
Heyt! now, quod he, ther jhesu crist yow blesse,
     1561
And al his handwerk, bothe moore and lesse!
     1562
That was wel twight, myn owene lyard boy.
     1563
I pray God save thee, and seinte loy!
     1564
Now is my cart out of the slow, pardee!
     1565
Lo, brother, quod the feend, what tolde I thee?
     1566
Heere may ye se, myn owene deere brother,
     1567
The carl spak oo thing, but he thoghte another.
     1568
Lat us go forth abouten oure viage;
     1569
Heere wynne I nothyng upon cariage.
     1570
Whan that they coomen somwhat out of towne,
     1571
This somonour to his brother gan to rowne:
     1572
Brother, quod he, heere woneth an old rebekke,
     1573
That hadde almoost as lief to lese hire nekke
     1574
As for to yeve a peny of hir good.
     1575
I wole han twelf pens, though that she be wood,
     1576
Or I wol sompne hire unto oure office;
     1577
And yet, God woot, of hire knowe I no vice.
     1578
But for thou kanst nat, as in this contree,
     1579
Wynne thy cost, taak heer ensample of me.
     1580
This somonour clappeth at the wydwes gate.
     1581
Com out, quod he, thou olde virytrate!
     1582
I trowe thou hast som frere or preest with thee.
     1583
Who clappeth? seyde this wyf, benedicitee!
     1584
God save you, sire, what is youre sweete wille?
     1585
I have, quod he, of somonce here a bille;
     1586
Up peyne of cursyng, looke that thou be
     1587
To-morn bifore the erchedeknes knee,
     1588
T' answere to the court of certeyn thynges.
     1589
Now, lord, quod she, crist jhesu, kyng of kynges,
     1590
So wisly helpe me, as I ne may.
     1591
I have been syk, and that ful many a day.
     1592
I may nat go so fer, quod she, ne ryde,
     1593
But I be deed, so priketh it in my syde.
     1594
May I nat axe a libel, sire somonour,
     1595
And answere there by my procuratour
     1596
To swich thyng as men wole opposen me?
     1597
Yis, quod this somonour, pay anon, lat se,
     1598
Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquite.
     1599
I shal no profit han therby but lite;
     1600
My maister hath the profit, and nat I.
     1601
Com of, and lat me ryden hastily;
     1602
Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarye.
     1603
Twelf pens! quod she, now, lady seinte marie
     1604
So wisly help me out of care and synne,
     1605
This wyde world thogh that I sholde wynne,
     1606
Ne have I nat twelf pens withinne myn hoold.
     1607
Ye knowen wel that I am povre and oold;
     1608
Kithe youre almesse on me povre wrecche.
     1609
Nay thanne, quod he, the foule feend me fecche
     1610
If I th' excuse, though thou shul be spilt!
     1611
allas! quod she, God woot, I have no gilt.
     1612
Pay me, quod he, or by the swete seinte anne,
     1613
As I wol bere awey thy newe panne
     1614
For dette which thou owest me of old. Page  93
     1615
Whan that thou madest thyn housbonde cokewold,
     1616
I payde at hoom for thy correccioun.
     1617
Thou lixt! quod she, by my savacioun,
     1618
Ne was I nevere er now, wydwe ne wyf,
     1619
Somoned unto youre court in al my lyf;
     1620
Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe!
     1621
Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe
     1622
Yeve I thy body and my panne also!
     1623
And whan the devel herde hire cursen so
     1624
Upon hir knees, he seyde in this manere,
     1625
Now, mabely, myn owene mooder deere,
     1626
Is this youre wyl in ernest that ye seye?
     1627
The devel, quod she, so fecche hym er he deye,
     1628
And panne and al, but he wol hym repente!
     1629
Nay, olde stot, that is nat myn entente,
     1630
Quod this somonour, for to repente me
     1631
For any thyng that I have had of thee.
     1632
I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth!
     1633
Now, brother, quod the devel, be nat wrooth;
     1634
Thy body and this panne been myne by right.
     1635
Thow shalt with me to helle yet to-nyght,
     1636
Where thou shalt knowen of oure privetee
     1637
Moore than a maister of dyvynytee.
     1638
And with that word this foule feend hym hente;
     1639
Body and soule he with the devel wente
     1640
Where as that somonours han hir heritage.
     1641
And god, that maked after his ymage
     1642
Mankynde, save and gyde us, alle and some,
     1643
And leve thise somonours goode men bicome!
     1644
Lordynges, I koude han toold yow, quod this frere,
     1645
Hadde I had leyser for this somonour heere,
     1646
After the text of crist, poul, and john,
     1647
And of oure othere doctours many oon,
     1648
Swiche peynes that youre hertes myghte agryse,
     1649
Al be it so no tonge may it devyse,
     1650
Thogh that I myghte a thousand wynter telle
     1651
The peynes of thilke cursed hous of helle.
     1652
But for to kepe us fro that cursed place,
     1653
Waketh, and preyeth jhesu for his grace
     1654
So kepe us from the temptour sathanas.
     1655
Herketh this word! beth war, as in this cas:
     1656
The leoun sit in his awayt alway
     1657
To sle the innocent, if that he may.
     1658
Disposeth ay youre hertes to withstonde
     1659
The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.
     1660
He may nat tempte yow over youre myght,
     1661
For crist wol be youre champion and knyght.
     1662
And prayeth that thise somonours hem repente
     1663
Of hir mysdedes, er that the feend hem hente!
     1664