The Hengwrt ms of Chaucer's Canterbury tales
Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400., Furnivall, Frederick James, 1825-1910.
Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 560]

[5c. THE TALE.]

Ther is a Chanon / of Religioun
Amonges vs / wolde enfecte al a toun
Thogh it as greet ware / as was Niniue
Rome Alisaundre / Troye and other thre
His sleightes / and his infinite falsnesse
Ther cowthe no man / writen as I gesse
Thogh that he myghte / lyven a þousand yeer
In al this world / of falsnesse nis his peer [Lichfield MS folio 177b]
ffor in his termes / he wol him so wynde
And speke his wordes / in so sligh a kynde
Whan he commune shal / with eny wight
What. he wol make him / dote anon right
But it the feend be / as him self is
fful many a man / hath he begiled er this
And wole ȝif that he may / lyuen a while
And ȝit men riden / and goon ful many a myle
Him for to seke / and haue aqueyntance
Nought knowynge / of his fals gouernance
And ȝif ȝe lust / to ȝeue me audience
I wol it telle / here in ȝoure presence
But worschipeful Chanon / Religious
Ne demeth not / þat I sclaundre ȝoure hous
Al thogh my tale / of a chanon be
Of euery ordre / som shrewe is parde
And god forbede / that al a companye
Shulde rewe / a singuler mannes folie
To sclaundre ȝow / is not myn entent
But to correcten / þat is wis ywent Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 561]
This tale was not oonly / told for ȝow
But eke for other mo / ȝe woot wel how
That amonges / cristes aposteles twelue
Ther was no traitour / but Iudas him selue
Than why sholde þe remenant / alle haue blame
That gilteles were / by ȝow sey I the same
Sauf only this / ȝif ȝe wole herkne me
Ȝif any Iudas / in ȝoure couent be
Remeweth him by tyme / I ȝow rede
Ȝif shame or losse / may causen any drede
And beth no þing displesed / I ȝow pray
But in this caas / herkeneth what I say
IN london was a preest / an aunueler
That þerynne dwelled / had many a ȝeer
which was so plesant / and so seruisable
Vn to the wyf / where he was at table
That she wolde suffre him / no þing for to paie
ffor bord noþer clothing wente he neuere so gaye
And spending siluer / hadde he right ynowȝ [Lichfield MS folio 178a]
Ther-of no force / I wol procede as now
And telle forth my tale / of the Chanon
That broghte þis preest/ to confusion
¶ This false Chanon / com vpon a day
Vn-to the prestes chambre / there he lay
Besechinge him / to lene him a certeyn
Of gold / and he wolde. quit him a-geyn
Leneth me a marc / quod he but dayes thre
And at my day / I wol it quite the
And ȝif so be / þou fynde me fals
Another day / hange me by the hals
This prest him toke / a marc & þat as swithe
And this Chanon / him thanked ofte sithe
And toke his leue / and wente forth his weye
And atte thridde day / brouȝte his moneye
And to the preest / he took þis gold ageyn
Ther-of þis preest / was glad and fayn Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 562]
Certes quod he / no þing anoyeth me
To lene a man a noble / or two or þre
Or what thing were / in my possession
whan he so trewe is / of condicion
That in no wise / he breke wol his day
To swich a man / I can neuere say nay
What quod þis Chanon / shulde I be vntrewe
Nay that were þing / fallen al of newe
Truthe is a thing / that I wol euere kepe
Vn to the day / in which þat I shal crepe
In to my graue / and ellis god forbede
Beleeueth þis / as siker as the crede
God thanke I / and in good tyme be it sayd
That ther was neuere man ȝit euel appayd
ffor gold ne siluer / that he to me lente
Ne neuere falshede / in myn herte I mente
And sire quod he / now of my priuite
Syn ȝe so goodly / haue ben to me
And kythed to me / so gret gentilnesse
Somwhat to quiten with / ȝoure kyndenesse
I wol ȝow shewe / and ȝif ȝow lust to lere [Lichfield MS folio 178b]
I shal it shewe / to ȝow anon right here
How I can worchen / in philosophie
Taketh good heede / ȝe schul wel seen at yȝe
That I wol done / a maystrie or I goo
Ȝee quod the preest / ȝee sire and wol ȝe so
Marie ther of / I pray ȝow hertely
At ȝoure commaundement/ sire trewely
Quod the Chanon / and ellis god forbede
Loo how þis theef / couthe his seruice bede
fful soth it is / þat such profred seruice
Stinketh / as witnessen thise olde wise
And that ful sone / I wol it verifie
In this Chanon that is / roote of al treccherie
That eueremore / delite hath and gladnesse
Suche feendly thouȝtes / in his herte empresse Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 563]
How cristes peple / he may to mescheef bringe
God kepe vs / from his fals dissimulinge
What wiste this preest / with whom þat he delte
Ne of his harme comynge / no thing he felte
O sely preest / o sely Innocent
With couetise anoon / þou shalt be blent
O graceles / ful blynd is þi conceyt
No þing artow war / of the deceyt
Which that þis fox / shapen hath to the
His wily wrenches / þou mayst not flee
Wherfore to go / to the conclusion
That referreth / to þi confusion
Vnhappy man / anoon I wol me hie
To telle thyn vnwitte / and þi folie
And eke the falsnes / of þat other wrecche
As ferforth / as my connynge wol strecche
This Chanon was my lord / ȝe wolde wene
Sire ofte in feith / and by the heuene quene
It was a nother Chanon / and nouȝt he
That can an hundred fold more sotiltee
He hath betrayed folc many tyme
Of his falsnesse / it dulleth me to Ryme
Euere whan I speke of his falshede
ffor shame of him / my chekes wexe rede
Algates þei begonne / for to glowe [Lichfield MS folio 179a]
ffor reednesse haue I now / right wel y-knowe
In my visage / for fumes diuerse
Of metalles whiche / ȝe han herd me reherse
Consumed and wasted / han my reednesse
Now take heede of this / Chanons cursednesse
¶ Sire quod he to the preest / lat ȝoure man goon
ffor quicsiluer / that we it hadde anoon
And lat him bringe / vnces two or three
And whan he cometh / as faste shull ȝe see
A wonder þing / which ȝe say neuere ar this
Sire quod the preest / it shal be done ywis Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 564]
He bad his seruant / fecchen him þis þing
And he al redy / was at his bidding
And wente him forth / and com anoon ageyn
with this quicsiluer / shortly for to seyn
And toke thise vnces thre / to the Chanoun
And he it leide / fayre and wel adoun
And bad the seruaunt / coles for to bringe
That he anoon / myghte go to his worchinge
The coles right anoon / were yfette
And this Chanon / toke out a crosselette
Of his bosome / and shewed it the preest
This Instrument quod he / which þat þou seest
Tak in thin hond / and put þi self þerynne
Of þis quic siluer an vnce / and here begynne
In the name of crist to wexe a philosophre
Ther ben ful fewe / whiche þat I wolde profre
To shewe hem thus moche / of my science
ffor ȝe shull see / here by experience
That þis quicsiluer / I wol mortefie
Right in ȝoure sight / anon withoute lie
And make it as good siluer / and as fyn
As ther is eny in ȝoure purs / or in myn
Or elliswhere / and make it malleable
And ellis hold me / fals and vnable
Amonges folc / euere to appere
I haue a powder here / þat coste me dere
Shal make al gold / for it is cause of all
My cunnynge / which that I ȝow shewe shall [Lichfield MS folio 179b]
Voydeth ȝoure man / and lat him be þer oute
And shitte the dore / whiles we ben aboute
Oure priuete / that no man // vs espie
1whiles we werken / in this philosophie1*. [[1_1 over an erasure]]
Al as he bad / fulfilled was in dede
This ilke seruaunt / anoon right out ȝede
And his mayster / shette the dore anoon
And to her labour / speedly they goon Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 565]
This preest/ at this cursed chanons biddyng
Vpon the fire / anoon sette this thyng
And blewe þe fire / and besied him ful faste
And þis chanon / in to the crosselet caste
A powder not I wher of / that it was
Ymade / outher of chalk / or of glas
Or somwhat ellis / was not worth a flie
To blynde with þis preest / and bad him hie
The coles for to cowche / al aboue
The crosselet / for in tokene that I the loue
Quod this Chanon / thyn hondes two
Shull werke al þinge / which as shall be do
Grauntmercy quod the preest / and was ful glad
And couched coles / as the Chanon bad
And whiles he besy was / þis feendly wrecche
This fals Chanon / þe foule feend him fecche
Out of his bosome / took a bechen cole
In which ful sotilly / was maad an hole
And ther Inne put was / of siluer lymayle
An ounce / and stopped was withoute fayle
This hole with wex / to kepe the lymayle in
And vnderstondeth / þat þis false gin
Was not maad there/. but it was maad bifore
And oþere thinges / as I shall telle more
Here afterward / which þat he with him brouȝte
Ar he com there / to begile him he thouȝte
And so dide / or þey wente a twynne
Til he had torned him / coude he not blynne
It dulleth me / whan þat I of him speke
On his falshede I fayn wolde me awreke
Ȝif I wiste how / but he is here and there [Lichfield MS folio 180a]
He is so variant / he abideth nowhere
But taketh heede / now sires for goddes loue
He toke his cole / of which I spak aboue
And in his hond / he bar it priuely
And whiles þe preest/ couched besily Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 566]
The coles / as I tolde ȝow er this
This chanon seide / freend ȝe done amis
This is not couched / as it ouȝte be
But sone I shal / amenden it quod he
Now lat me medle with it / but a while
ffor of ȝow haue I pite / by seint Gile
Ȝe be right hoot / .I see wel how ȝe swete
haue here a cloth / and wype a-wey the wete
And whiles þe preest / him wyped haas
This Chanon toke his cole / I shrewe his faas
And leyde it vpon / aboue the midward
Of the crosselet / and blewe wel afterward
Til that the coles / gonne faste brenne
Now ȝeue vs drynke / quod the Chanon thenne
As swithe / al shal be wel I vndertake
Sitte we doun / and lat vs mery make
And whan the Chanons / bechen cole
was brent / al þe lymayle out at þe hole
In to the crosselet / anoon fil adoun
And so it muste / nedes by resoun
Syn it so euene / aboue couched was
But ther-of wiste / no þing þe preest allas
He demede alle the coles lyche goode
ffor of the sleighte / no þing he vnderstoode
And whan þis Alkamystre / sagh his tyme
Riseth vp sire prest / and stondeth by me
And for I woot wel / Ingot haue ȝe noon
Goth walketh forth / and bring a chalk stoon
ffor I wol make it / of the same shappe
That is an Ingot / ȝif I may haue happe
And bringe with ȝow / a bolle or a panne
fful of water / and see shull ȝe thanne
How þat oure besynesse / shal happe & preue
And ȝit for ȝe shul haue / no misbileue [Lichfield MS folio 180b]
Ne wrong conceyt of me / in ȝoure absence
I wol not ben / out of ȝoure presence Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 567]
But go with ȝow / and come with ȝow a-geyn
The chambre dore / shortly for to seyn
They opened and shette / and wente forth her weye
And forth with hem / þei caried the keye
And comen ageyn / withoute eny delay
What sholde I tarie / al þe longe day
He took þe chalk / and shoop it in the wise
Of an Ingot / as .I shal ȝow deuise
I say he took out / of his owne sleue
A teyne of siluer / euele mote he cheue
which þat was / but an ounce of weighte
And taketh heede now / of þis cursed sleighte
he shoop his Ingot / in lengthe and brede
Of the teyne / withoute eny drede
So slighly / þat þe prest it not espide
And [in] his sleue / ageyn he gan it hide
And from þe fire / took vp þe matere
And in to the Ingot / it putte with mery chere
And in to the water vessel he it caste
whan þat him liste / and bad the preest as faste
loke what there is / put in thyn hand and grope
Thou shalt fynde there / siluer as I hope
what deuel of helle / shulde it ellis be
Shauyng of siluer / siluer is parde
he putte in his hond / and toke vp a teyne
Of siluer fyn / and glad euery veyne
[glad] was þis preest / whan he sagh it was so
Goddes blessing / and his modres also
And alle halwes / haue ȝe sire Chanon
Seide the preest / and I her malison
But and ȝe vouchesauf/ to teche me
This noble craft / and þis sotilte
I wol be ȝoure in al þat euere I may
Quod the Chanon / ȝit wol I make assay
The secounde tyme / that ȝe may take hede
And ben expert of this / and in ȝoure nede Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 568]
Another day / in myn absence [Lichfield MS folio 181a]
This discipline / and þis crafty science
¶ Lat take anoþer ounce quod he tho
Of quik siluer / withoute wordes mo
And do therwith / as ȝe haue done er þis
With þat other / þat now siluer is
This preest him besieth / in al þat he can
To done as þis Chanon / þis cursed man
Commaundeth him / an faste blew þe fire
ffor to come to the effecte / of his desire
And this chanon / right in þe mene while
Al redy was / þis preest eft to begile
And for a countenance / in his hond he bar
An holgh stikke / take hede and be war
In þe ende of which / an ounce and no more
Of siluer lymayle / put was al bifore
As was his cole / and stopped with wax wel
ffor to kepe in / his lymayle euerydeel
And whiles þis preest/ was in his besynesse
This Chanon with his stikke / gan him dresse
To him anoon . and his pouder cast In
As he dide er / þe deuel out of his skyn
him torne / I pray to god / for his falshede
ffor he was euere fals / in word and dede
And with his stikke / aboue þe crosse[le]tte
That was ordeined / with þat false gette
He stereth the coles / til relente gan
The wax a-geyn the fire / as euery man
But it a fool be / woot wel and moot nede
And al that in the hole was / out ȝede
And in to the crosselet / hastely it fel
The preest supposed / no þing but wel
But besied him faste / and was wonder fayn
Supposinge noght but trouthe / sothe for to sayn
He was so glad / I can it not expresse
In no manere / his merthe and his gladnesse Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 569]
And to the Chanon / he profred eft sone
Body and good / ȝe quod the Chanon sone
Thogh pouere I be / crafty þou shalt me fynde
I warne the / ȝit is ther more behynde [Lichfield MS folio 181b]
Is ther ony coper / here-ynne seide he
Ȝe sire quod the preest / I trowe ther be
Ellis go bye som / and þat asswithe
Now sire go forth þi way / and hythe
He wente his way / and with þis coper he cam
And this chanon / in hand it nam
And of þat coper / weyed out but an ounce
Al to symple is my tunge / to pronounce
his monstre / and his witte . þe doublenesse
Of this chanon / rote of cursednesse
He semede freendly / to hem that knewe him noght
But he was feendly / bothe in werk and thoght
It werieth me to telle / of his falsnesse
And natheles / ȝit wole I it expresse
To that entente / þat men may be war þer by
And for noon other cause trewely
He putte this ounce of coper / in þe crosselet
And on the fire / asswithe he hath it set
And caste in pouder / and made þe preest to blowe
And in his worching / for to stoupe lowe
As he dide erst / and al was but a iape
Right as him liste / þe preest he made his ape
And afterward / in to the Ingot he it caste
And in the panne / putte it atte laste
Of water / and in he putte his owne hand
And in his sleue / as ȝe bifore hand
herde me telle / he had a siluer teyne
he slighly toke it out/ þis cursed heyne
Vnwetinge þis preest of his false craft
And in the pannes botme / he hath it laft
And in the water/ rombleth to and fro
And wonder priuely / took it vp also Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 570]
The coper teyne / not knowynge þis preest
And hidde it / and hente him by the breest
And to him spak / and thus seide in his game
Stoupeth a doun / by god ȝe be to blame
helpeth me now / as I dide ȝow whiler
Put in ȝoure hand / and loketh what is ther
This preest took vp / þis siluer teyne anoon [Lichfield MS folio 182a]
And þan seide the chanon / lat vs goon
And thise thre teynes / whiche as we haue wroght
To som goldsmyth / to wete ȝif it be ouȝt
ffor by my faith / I nolde for myn hood
But ȝif þei were siluer fyn and good
And þat asswithe / preued shall it be
[Vnto þe goldsmyth with þise teynes þree [MS Reg. 18 C ii folio 172b] ]
They wente and pitte þise teynes in assay
To fyr and hamer myȝte no man sey nay
But þei were as hem oghte be]
This sottid preest / who was gladder þan he
Was neuere brid / gladder ageyn the day
Ne nightyngale / in þe seson of May
Was neuere noon / that liste better synge
Ne lady lustyer / in carolynge
And for to speke of Loue / and womanhede
Ne knyght in armes / to done an hardy dede
To stonde in grace / of his lady dere
Than hadde þis preest/ þis craft for to lere
And to þe Chanon / þus he spak and seide
ffor þe loue of god / þat for vs alle deyde
And as I may / deserue it vn-to ȝow
What shal þis Receyt coste / telleth now
By oure lady quod the Chanon / it is dere
I warne ȝow forsothe / sauf I and a frere
In Engelond / ther can no man it make
No fors quod he / now sire for goddes sake
What shal I paye / telle me I þe pray
ywis quod he / it is ful dere I say Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 571]
Sire at oo word / ȝif þat ȝe lest it haue
Ȝe shull paie fourty pound / so god me saue
And ne were the frendshipe / þat ȝe dide er this
To me / ȝe shulde paie more ywis
This preest þe somme / of fourty pound anoon
Of nobles fette / and toke hem euerychoon
To þis Chanon / for this ilke receyt
Al his worching was fraude and deceyt
Sire preest he seide / I kepe to haue no loos
Of my craft / for I wolde it were kept cloos
And as ȝe loue me / kepeth it secree
ffor and men knewe / al my sotilte
By god men wolde haue so greet envie
To me by cause / of my philosophie [Lichfield MS folio 182b]
I shulde be ded / ther were noon oþer weye
God forbede quod þe preest/ what seyȝe
Ȝit had I leuere spenden al the good
which þat I haue / and elles wexe I wood
Than þat ȝe shulde / falle in such meschief
ffor ȝoure good wil / sire haue ȝe right good preef
Quod the Chanon / and sire fare wel graunt mercy
He wente his way / and neuere þe preest him sey
After þat day / and whan þis preest sholde
Maken assay / at such tyme as he wolde
Of þis Receyt/ fare wel it wolde not be
Loo þus byiaped / and bygiled was he
¶ Thus maketh he / his introduction
To bringe folk / to her destruction
Considereth sires / how þat in eche astate
Betwixe men and gold ther is debate
So ferforth / þat vnnethes is þer oon
This multiplying/ blendeth so many oon
That in good feith / I trowe þat it be
The cause grettest / of þis grete scarste
Thise philosophres / speken so mistily
In þis craft / þat men can not come þerby Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 572]
ffor eny witte / þat men haue now a dayes
They may wel chitren / and ianglen as done iayes
And in her termes / sette lust and peyne
But to her purpos / shul thei neuere atteyne
A man may lightly lerne / ȝif he haue oght
To multiplie / and bringe his good to noght
Loo such a lucre / is in þis lusty game
A mannes merthe / it wol torne al to grame
And empten also / grete and heuy purses
And make folk / to purchace curses
Of hem þat han þer to / her good ylent
O fy for shame / þei þat haue be brent
Allas can þei not flee / þe fires hete
Ȝe þat it vsen / I rede that ȝe lete
Lest ȝe lesen al / for bet þan neuere is late
Neuere to thryue / were to long a date
Thogh ȝe prolle ay / ȝe shull it neuere fynde [Lichfield MS folio 183a]
Ȝe ben as bolde / as is bayard the blynde
That blundreth forth / and perile casteth he noon
he is as bold / to renne ageyn a stoon
As for to go besides / in the weye
So fare ȝe / þat multiplie I seye
Ȝif þat oure eyen / can not seen a-right
Loke þat ȝoure mynde / lakke noght his sight
ffor thogh ȝe loke / neuere so brode and stare
Ȝe shull not wynne / a myte in þat chaffare
But wasten al / þat ȝe may rappe and renne
Withdrawe the fire / lest it to faste brenne
Medleth no more / with þat art I mene
ffor ȝif ȝe done / ȝoure thrifte is goon ful clene
And as swithe / I wol ȝow telle here
what þat the philosophres / seyn in þis matere
Loo thus seith Arnold / of the newe toun
As his Rosarie / maketh mencioun
He seith right thus / without eny lye
Ther may no man / mercurie mortifie Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 573]
But it be with / his brotheres knowelechyng
How þat he / which first seide this thyng
Of philosophres / fader was hermes
He seith how þat / the dragon douteles
Ne dyeth not / but ȝif he be slayn
With his brother / and þat is for to sayn
By the dragon / mercurie and noon other
He vnderstood / þat bremston were his brother
That out of sol / and luna were y-drawe
And þerfore seide he / take hede to my sawe
lat no man besie him / this art for to seche
But he / that the entencion and speche
Of philosophres / vnderstonde can
And ȝif he do / he is a lewed man
ffor þis science / and þis cunnynge quod he
Is of þe secre / of secrees parde
Also þer was a disciple of plato
That on a tyme / saide his maister to
As his book sonier / wol bere witnesse
And this was his demande / in sothfastnesse [Lichfield MS folio 183b]
Tel me the name / of the priue stoon
And plato answerde / vn to him anoon
Tak the stoon / that titanos men name
which is þat quod he / Magnesia is þe same
His disciple seide / ȝe sire and is it thus
This is ignotum / per ignotius
What is magnesia / good sire I pray
It is a water / that is mad I say
Of elementes foure / quod plato
Tel me the Roche / goode sire quod he tho
Of that water / ȝif it be ȝoure wille
Nay nay quod plato / certeyn þat I nylle
The philosophres / were sworn ecchon
That þei shulde discouere it/ to no mon
Ne in no book / it write in no manere
ffor vn to god / it was so leef and dere Page  [unnumbered] [6-text p 574]
That he wol not / þat it discouered be
But where it liketh / to his deyte
Man to enspire / and eke for to defende
whom that him liketh / loo þis is þe ende
¶ Than conclude I thus / syn þat god of heuene
wol not / that the philosophres nevene
how that a man / shal come vn to þis stoon
I rede as for the beste / lat it goon
ffor who so maketh god his aduersarie
And for to worche eny thing in contrarie
Vn to his wil; certes neuere shal he thryve
Thogh þat he multiplie / terme of his lyve
And there a poynt for ended is my tale
God sende euery trewe man bote of his bale
Prologus ¶ Thus endeth the tale of the Chanons yoman /] [Lichfield extract ends]