The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Canon Yeoman's Tale

Part I

With this chanoun I dwelt have seven yeer,
     720
And of his science am I never the neer.
     721
Al that I hadde I have lost therby,
     722
And, God woot, so hath many mo than I.
     723
Ther I was wont to be right fressh and gay
     724
Of clothyng and of oother good array,
     725
Now may I were an hose upon myn heed;
     726
And wher my colour was bothe fressh and reed
     727
Now is it wan and of a leden hewe --
     728
Whoso it useth, soore shal he rewe! --
     729
And of my swynk yet blered is myn ye.
     730
Lo! which avantage is to multiplie!
     731
That slidynge science hath me maad so bare
     732
That I have no good, wher that evere I fare;
     733
And yet I am endetted so therby,
     734
Of gold that I have borwed, trewely,
     735
That whil I lyve I shal it quite nevere.
     736
Lat every man be war by me for evere!
     737
What maner man that casteth hym therto,
     738
If he continue, I holde his thrift ydo.
     739
For so helpe me god, therby shal he nat wynne,
     740
But empte his purs, and make his wittes thynne.
     741
And whan he, thurgh his madnesse and folye,
     742
Hath lost his owene good thurgh jupartye,
     743
Thanne he exciteth oother folk therto,
     744
To lesen hir good, as he hymself hath do.
     745
For unto shrewes joye it is and ese
     746
To have hir felawes in peyne and disese.
     747
Thus was I ones lerned of a clerk.
     748
Of that no charge, I wol speke of oure werk.
     749
Whan we been there as we shul exercise
     750
Oure elvysshe craft, we semen wonder wise,
     751
Oure termes been so clerigal and so queynte.
     752
I blowe the fir til that myn herte feynte.
     753
What sholde I tellen ech proporcion
     754
Of thynges whiche that we werche upon
     755
As on fyve or sixe ounces, may wel be,
     756
Of silver, or som oother quantitee --
     757
And bisye me to telle yow the names Page  216
     758
Of orpyment, brent bones, iren squames,
     759
That into poudre grounden been ful smal;
     760
And in an erthen pot how put is al,
     761
And salt yput in, and also papeer,
     762
Biforn thise poudres that I speke of heer;
     763
And wel ycovered with a lampe of glas;
     764
And of muche oother thyng which that ther was;
     765
And of the pot and glasses enlutyng,
     766
That of the eyr myghte passe out nothyng;
     767
And of the esy fir, and smart also,
     768
Which that was maad, and of the care and wo
     769
That we hadde in oure matires sublymyng,
     770
And in amalgamyng and calcenyng
     771
Of quyksilver, yclept mercurie crude?
     772
For alle oure sleightes we kan nat conclude.
     773
Oure orpyment and sublymed mercurie,
     774
Oure grounden litarge eek on the porfurie,
     775
Of ech of thise of ounces a certeyn --
     776
Noght helpeth us, oure labour is in veyn.
     777
Ne eek oure spirites ascencioun,
     778
Ne oure materes that lyen al fix adoun,
     779
Mowe in oure werkyng no thyng us availle,
     780
For lost is al oure labour and travaille;
     781
And al the cost, a twenty devel waye,
     782
Is lost also, which we upon it laye.
     783
Ther is also ful many another thyng
     784
That is unto oure craft apertenyng.
     785
Though I by ordre hem nat reherce kan,
     786
By cause that I am a lewed man,
     787
Yet wol I telle hem as they come to mynde,
     788
Thogh I ne kan nat sette hem in hir kynde:
     789
As boole armonyak, verdegrees, boras,
     790
And sondry vessels maad of erthe and glas,
     791
Oure urynales and oure descensories,
     792
Violes, crosletz, and sublymatories,
     793
Cucurbites and alambikes eek,
     794
And othere swiche, deere ynough a leek.
     795
Nat nedeth it for to reherce hem alle, --
     796
Watres rubifyng, and boles galle,
     797
Arsenyk, sal armonyak and brymstoon;
     798
And herbes koude I telle eek many oon,
     799
As egremoyne, valerian, and lunarie,
     800
And othere swiche, if that me liste tarie;
     801
Oure lampes brennyng bothe nyght and day,
     802
To brynge aboute oure purpos, if we may;
     803
Oure fourneys eek of calcinacioun,
     804
And of watres albificacioun;
     805
Unslekked lym,chalk, and gleyre of an ey,
     806
Poudres diverse, asshes, donge, pisse, and cley,
     807
Cered pokkets, sal peter, vitriole,
     808
And diverse fires maad of wode and cole;
     809
Sal tartre, alkaly, and sal preparat,
     810
And combust materes and coagulat;
     811
Cley maad with hors of mannes heer, and oille
     812
Of tartre, alum glas, berme, wort, and argoille,
     813
Resalgar, and oure materes enbibyng,
     814
And eek of oure materes encorporyng,
     815
And of oure silver citrinacioun,
     816
Oure cementyng and fermentacioun,
     817
Oure yngottes, testes, and many mo.
     818
I wol yow telle, as was me taught also,
     819
The foure spirites and the bodies sevene,
     820
By ordre, as ofte I herde my lord hem nevene.
     821
The firste spirit quyksilver called is,
     822
The seconde orpyment, the thridde, ywis,
     823
Sal armonyak, and the ferthe brymstoon.
     824
The bodyes sevene eek, lo! hem heere anoon:
     825
Sol gold is, and luna silver we threpe,
     826
Mars ire, mercurie quyksilver we clepe,
     827
Saturnus leed, and juppiter is tyn,
     828
And venus coper, by my fader kyn!
     829
This cursed craft whoso wole excercise,
     830
He shal no good han that hym may suffise;
     831
For al the good he spendeth theraboute
     832
He lese shal; therof have I no doute.
     833
Whoso that listeth outen his folie,
     834
Lat hym come forth and lerne multiplie;
     835
And every man that oght hath in his cofre,
     836
Lat hym appiere, and wexe a philosophre.
     837
Ascaunce that craft is so light to leere?
     838
Nay, nay, God woot, al be he monk or frere,
     839
Preest or chanoun, or any oother wyght,
     840
Though he sitte at his book bothe day and nyght
     841
In lernyng of this elvysshe nyce loore,
     842
Al is in veyn, and parde! muchel moore.
     843
To lerne a lewed man this subtiltee --
     844
Fy! spek nat therof, for it wol nat bee;
     845
And konne he letterure, or konne he noon,
     846
As in effect, he shal fynde it al oon.
     847
For bothe two, by my savacioun,
     848
Concluden in multiplicacioun
     849
Ylike wel, whan they han al ydo;
     850
This is to seyn, they faillen bothe two.
     851
Yet forgat I to maken rehersaille
     852
Of watres corosif, and of lymaille,
     853
And of bodies mollificacioun,
     854
And also of hire induracioun;
     855
Oilles, ablucions, and metal fusible, --
     856
To tellen al wolde passen any bible
     857
That owher is; wherfore, as for beste,
     858
Of alle thise names now wol I me reste.
     859
For, as I trowe, I have yow toold ynowe
     860
To reyse a feend, al looke he never so rowe.
     861
A!nay! lat be; the philosophres stoon,
     862
Elixer clept, we sechen faste echoon;
     863
For hadde we hym, thanne were we siker ynow. Page  217
     864
But unto God of hevene I make avow,
     865
For al oure craft, whan we han al ydo,
     866
And al oure sleighte, he wol nat come us to.
     867
He hath ymaad us spenden muchel good,
     868
For sorwe of which almoost we wexen wood,
     869
But that good hope crepeth in oure herte,
     870
Supposynge evere, though we sore smerte,
     871
To be releeved by hym afterward.
     872
Swich supposyng and hope is sharp and hard;
     873
I warne yow wel, it is to seken evere.
     874
That futur temps hath maad men to dissevere,
     875
In trust therof, from al that evere they hadde.
     876
Yet of that art they kan nat wexen sadde,
     877
For unto hem it is a bitter sweete, --
     878
So semeth it, -- for nadde they but a sheete,
     879
Which that they myghte wrappe hem inne a-nyght,
     880
And a brat to walken inne by daylyght,
     881
They wolde hem selle and spenden on this craft.
     882
They kan nat stynte til no thyng be laft.
     883
And everemoore, where that evere they goon
     884
Men may hem knowe by smel of brymstoon.
     885
For al the world they stynken as a goot;
     886
Hir savour is so rammyssh and so hoot
     887
That though a man from hem a mile be,
     888
The savour wole infecte hym, trusteth me.
     889
And thus by smel, and by threedbare array,
     890
If that men liste, this folk they knowe may.
     891
And if a man wole aske hem pryvely
     892
Why they been clothed so unthriftily,
     893
They right anon wol rownen is his ere,
     894
And seyn that if that they espied were,
     895
Men wolde hem slee by cause of hir science.
     896
Lo, thus this folk bitrayen innocence!
     897
Passe over this; if go my tale unto.
     898
Er that the pot be on the fir ydo,
     899
Of metals with a certeyn quantitee,
     900
My lord hem tempreth, and no man be he --
     901
Now he is goon, I dar seyn boldely --
     902
For, as men seyn, he kan doon craftily.
     903
Algate I woot wel he hath swich a name,
     904
And yet ful ofte he renneth in a blame.
     905
And wite ye how? ful ofte it happeth so,
     906
The pot tobreketh, and farewel, al is go!
     907
Thise metals been of so greet violence,
     908
Oure walles mowe nat make hem resistence,
     909
But if they weren wroght of lym and stoon;
     910
They percen so, and thurgh the wal they goon.
     911
And somme of hem synken into the ground --
     912
Thus han we lost by tymes many a pound --
     913
And somme are scatered al the floor aboute;
     914
Somme lepe into the roof. Withouten doute,
     915
Though that the feend noght in oure sighte hym shewe,
     916
I trowe he with us be, that ilke shrewe!
     917
In helle, where that he lord is and sire,
     918
Nis ther moore wo, ne moore rancour ne ire.
     919
Whan that oure pot is broke, as I have sayd,
     920
Every man chit, and halt hym yvele apayd.
     921
Somme seyde it was long on the fir makyng;
     922
Somme seyde nay, it was on the blowyng, --
     923
Thanne was I fered, for that was myn office.
     924
Straw! quod the thridde, ye been lewed and nyce.
     925
It was nat tempred as it oghte be.
     926
Nay, quod the fourthe, stynt and herkne me.
     927
By cause oure fir ne was nat maad of beech,
     928
That is the cause, and oother noon, so theech!
     929
I kan nat telle wheron it was long,
     930
But wel I woot greet strif is us among.
     931
What, quod my lord, ther is namoore to doone;
     932
Of thise perils I wol be war eftsoone.
     933
I am right siker that the pot was crased.
     934
Be as be may, be ye no thyng amased;
     935
As usage is, lat swepe the floor as swithe,
     936
Plukke up youre hertes, and beeth glad and blithe.
     937
The mullok on an heep ysweped was,
     938
And on the floor ycast a canevas,
     939
And al this mullok in a syve ythrowe,
     940
And sifted, and ypiked mayn a throwe.
     941
Pardee, quod oon, somwhat of oure metal
     942
Yet is ther heere, though that we han nat al.
     943
Although this thyng myshapped have as now,
     944
Another tyme it may be well ynow.
     945
Us moste putte oure good in aventure.
     946
A marchant, pardee, may nat ay endure,
     947
Trusteth me wel, in his prosperitee.
     948
Somtyme his good is drowned in the see,
     949
And somtyme comth it sauf unto the londe.
     950
Pees! quod my lord, the nexte tyme I wol fonde
     951
To bryngen oure craft al in another plite,
     952
And but I do, sires, lat me han the wite.
     953
Ther was defaute in somwhat, wel I woot,
     954
Another seyde the fir was over-hoot, --
     955
But, be it hoot or coold, I dar seye this,
     956
That we concluden everemoore amys.
     957
We faille of that which that we wolden have,
     958
And in oure madnesse everemoore we rave.
     959
And whan we been togidres everichoon,
     960
Every man semeth a salomon.
     961
But al thyng which that shineth as the gold
     962
Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told;
     963
Ne every appul that is fair at eye Page  218
     964
Ne is nat good, what so men clappe or crye.
     965
Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us:
     966
He that semeth the wiseste, by jhesus!
     967
Is moost fool, whan it cometh to the preef;
     968
And he that semeth trewest is the theef.
     969
That shul ye knowe, er that I fro yow wende,
     970
By that I of my tale have maad an ende.
     971
Explicit prima pars.

Et sequitur pars secunda.

Ther is a chanoun of religioun
     972
Amounges us, wolde infecte al a toun,
     973
Thogh it as greet were as was nynyvee,
     974
Rome, alisaundre, troye, and othere three.
     975
His sleightes and his infinite falsnesse
     976
Ther koude no man writen, as I gesse,
     977
Though that he myghte lyve a thousand yeer.
     978
In al this world of falshede nis his peer;
     979
For in his termes he wol hym so wynde,
     980
And speke his wordes in so sly a kynde,
     981
Whanne he commune shal with any wight,
     982
That he wol make hym doten anonright,
     983
But it a feend be, as hymselven is.
     984
Ful many a man hath he bigiled er this,
     985
And wole, if that he lyve may a while;
     986
And yet men ride and goon ful many a mile
     987
Hym for to seke and have his aqueyntaunce,
     988
Noght knowynge of his false governaunce.
     989
And if yow list to yeve me audience,
     990
I wol it tellen heere in youre presence.
     991
But worshipful chanons religious,
     992
Ne demeth nat that I sclaundre youre hous,
     993
Although that my tale of a chanoun bee.
     994
Of every ordre som shrewe is, pardee,
     995
And God forbede that al a compaignye
     996
Sholde rewe o singuleer mannes folye.
     997
To sclaundre yow is no thyng myn entente,
     998
But to correcten that is mys I mente.
     999
This tale was nat oonly toold for yow
     1000
But eek for othere mo; ye woot wel how
     1001
That among cristes apostelles twelve
     1002
Ther nas no traytour but judas hymselve.
     1003
Thanne why sholde al the remenant have a blame
     1004
That giltlees were? by yow I seye the same,
     1005
Save oonly this, if ye wol herke me:
     1006
If any judas in youre covent be,
     1007
Remoeveth hym bitymes, I yow rede,
     1008
If shame or los may causen any drede.
     1009
And beeth no thyng displesed, I yow preye,
     1010
But in this cas herkneth what I shal seye.
     1011
In londoun was a preest, an annueleer,
     1012
That therinne dwelled hadde mayn a yeer,
     1013
Which was so plesaunt and se servysable
     1014
Unto the wyf, where as he was at table,
     1015
That she wolde suffre hym no thyng for to paye
     1016
For bord ne clothyng, wente he never so gaye;
     1017
And spendyng silver hadde he right ynow.
     1018
Therof no fors; I wol procede as now,
     1019
And telle forth my tale of the chanoun
     1020
That broghte this preest to confusioun.
     1021
This false chanon cam upon a day
     1022
Unto this preestes chambre, wher he lay,
     1023
Bisechynge hym to lene hym a certeyn
     1024
Of gold, and he wolde quite it hym ageyn.
     1025
Leene me a marc, quod he, but dayes three,
     1026
And at my day I wol it quiten thee.
     1027
And if so be that thow me fynde fals,
     1028
Another day do hange me by the hals!
     1029
This preest hym took a marc, and that as swithe,
     1030
And this chanoun hym thanked ofte sithe,
     1031
And took his leve, and wente forth his weye,
     1032
And at the thridee day broghte his moneye,
     1033
And to the preest he took his gold agayn,
     1034
Wherof this preest was wonder glad and fayn.
     1035
Certes, quod he, no thyng anoyeth me
     1036
To lene a man a noble, or two, or thre,
     1037
Or what thyng were in my possessioun,
     1038
Whan he so trewe is of condicioun
     1039
That in no wise he breke wole his day;
     1040
To swich a man I kan never seye nay.
     1041
What! quod this chanoun, sholde I be untrewe?
     1042
Nay, that were thyng yfallen al of newe.
     1043
Trouthe is a thyng that I wol evere kepe
     1044
Unto that day in which that I shal crepe
     1045
Into my grave, and ellis God forbede.
     1046
Bileveth this as siker as your crede.
     1047
God thanke I, and in good tyme be it sayd,
     1048
That ther was nevere man yet yvele apayd
     1049
For gold ne silver that he to me lente,
     1050
Ne nevere falshede in myn herte I mente.
     1051
And sire, quod he, now of my pryvetee,
     1052
Syn ye so goodlich han been unto me,
     1053
And kithed to me so greet gentillesse,
     1054
Somwhat to quyte with youre kyndenesse
     1055
I wol yow shewe, and if yow list to leere,
     1056
I wol yow teche pleynly the manere
     1057
Yow I kan werken in philosophie.
     1058
Taketh good heede, ye shul wel seen at ye
     1059
That I wol doon a maistrie er I go.
     1060
Ye, quod the preest, ye, sire, and wol ye so?
     1061
Marie! therof I pray yow hertely. Page  219
     1062
At youre comandement, sire, trewely,
     1063
Quod the chanoun, and ellis God forbeede!
     1064
Loo, how this theef koude his service beede!
     1065
Ful sooth it is that swich profred servyse
     1066
Stynketh, as witnessen thise olde wyse,
     1067
And that, ful soone I wol it verifie
     1068
In this chanoun, roote of al trecherie,
     1069
That everemoore delit hath and gladnesse --
     1070
Swiche feendly thoghtes in his herte impresse --
     1071
How cristes peple he may to meschief brynge.
     1072
God kepe us from his false dissymulynge!
     1073
Noght wiste this preest with whom that he delte,
     1074
Ne of his harm comynge he no thyng felte.
     1075
O sely preest! o sely innocent!
     1076
With coveitise anon thou shalt be blent!
     1077
O gracelees, ful blynd is thy conceite,
     1078
No thyng ne artow war of the deceite
     1079
Which that this fox yshapen hath to thee!
     1080
His wily wrenches thou ne mayst nat flee.
     1081
Wherfore, to go to the conclusion,
     1082
That refereth to thy confusion,
     1083
Unhappy man, anon I wol me hye
     1084
To tellen thyn unwit and thy folye,
     1085
And eek the falsnesse of that oother wrecche,
     1086
As ferforth as that my konnyng wol strecche.
     1087
This chanon was my lord, ye wolden weene?
     1088
Sire hoost, in feith, and by the hevenes queene,
     1089
It was another chanoun, and nat hee,
     1090
That kan an hundred foold moore subtiltee.
     1091
He hath bitrayed folkes many tyme;
     1092
Of his falsnesse it dulleth me to ryme.
     1093
Evere whan that I speke of his falshede,
     1094
For shame of hym my chekes wexen rede.
     1095
Algates they bigynnen for to glowe,
     1096
For reednesse have I noon, right wel I knowe,
     1097
In my visage; for fumes diverse
     1098
Of metals, whiche ye han herd me reherce,
     1099
Consumed and wasted han my reednesse.
     1100
Now taak heede of this chanons cursednesse!
     1101
Sire, quod he to the preest, lat youre man gon
     1102
For quyksilver, that we it hadde anon;
     1103
And lat hym bryngen ounces two or three;
     1104
And whan he comth, as faste shal ye see
     1105
A wonder thyng, which ye saugh nevere er this.
     1106
Sire, quod the preest, it shal be doon, ywis.
     1107
He bad his servant fecchen hym this thyng,
     1108
And he al redy was at his biddyng,
     1109
And wente hym forth, and cam anon agayn
     1110
With this quyksilver, shortly for to sayn,
     1111
And took thise ounces thre to the chanoun;
     1112
And he hem leyde faire and wel adoun,
     1113
And bad the servant coles for to brynge,
     1114
That he anon myghte go to his werkynge.
     1115
The coles right anon weren yfet,
     1116
And this chanoun took out a crosselet
     1117
Of his bosom, and shewed it to the preest.
     1118
This instrument, quod he, which that thou seest,
     1119
Taak in thy hand, and put thyself therinne
     1120
Of this quyksilver an ounce, and heer bigynne,
     1121
In name of crist, to wexe a philosofre.
     1122
Ther been ful fewe to whiche I wolde profre
     1123
To shewen hem thus muche of my science.
     1124
For ye shul seen heer, by experience,
     1125
That this quyksilver I wol mortifye
     1126
Right in youre sighte anon, withouten lye,
     1127
And make it as good silver and as fyn
     1128
As ther is any in youre purs or myn,
     1129
Or elleswhere, and make it malliable;
     1130
And elles holdeth me fals and unable
     1131
Amonges folk for evere to appeere.
     1132
I have poudre heer, that coste me deere,
     1133
Shal make al good, for it is cause of al
     1134
My konnyng, which that I yow shewen shal.
     1135
Voyde youre man, and lat hym be theroute,
     1136
And shette the dore, whils we been aboute
     1137
Oure pryvetee, that no man us espie,
     1138
Whils that we werke in this philosophie.
     1139
Al as he bad fulfilled was in dede.
     1140
This ilke servant anonright out yede
     1141
And his maister shette the dore anon,
     1142
And to hire labour spedily the gon.
     1143
This preest, at this cursed chanons biddyng,
     1144
Upon the fir anon sette this thyng,
     1145
And blew the fir, and bisyed hym ful faste.
     1146
And this chanoun into the crosselet caste
     1147
A poudre, noot I wherof that it was
     1148
Ymaad, outher of chalk, outher of glas,
     1149
Or somwhat elles, was nat worth a flye,
     1150
To blynde with this preest; and bad hym hye
     1151
The coles for to couchen al above
     1152
The crosselet. For in tokenyng I thee love,
     1153
Quod this chanoun, thyne owene handes two
     1154
Shul werche al thyng which that shal heer be do.
     1155
Graunt mercy, quod the preest, and was ful glad,
     1156
And couched coles as that the chanoun bad.
     1157
And while he bisy was, this feendly wrecche,
     1158
This false chanoun -- the foule feend hym fecche! --
     1159
Out of his bosom took a bechen cole,
     1160
In which ful subtilly was maad an hole, Page  220
     1161
And therinne put was of silver lemaille
     1162
An ounce, and stopped was, withouten faille,
     1163
This hole with wex, to kepe the lemaille in.
     1164
And understondeth that this false gyn
     1165
Was nat maad ther, but it was maad bifore;
     1166
And othere thynges I shal tellen moore
     1167
Herafterward, whiche that he with hym broghte.
     1168
Er he cam there, hym to bigile he thoghte,
     1169
And so he dide, er that they wente at wynne;
     1170
Til he had terved hym, koude he nat blynne.
     1171
It dulleth me whan that I of hym speke.
     1172
On his falshede fayn wolde I me wreke,
     1173
If I wiste how, but he is heere and there;
     1174
He is so variaunt, be abit nowhere.
     1175
But taketh heed now, sires, for goddes love!
     1176
He took his cole of which I spak above,
     1177
And in his hand he baar it pryvely.
     1178
And whiles the preest couched bisily
     1179
The coles, as I tolde yow er this,
     1180
This chanoun seyde, freend, ye doon amys.
     1181
This is nat couched as it oghte be;
     1182
But soone I shal amenden it, quod he.
     1183
Now lat me medle therwith but a while,
     1184
For of yow have I pitee, by seint gile!
     1185
Ye been right hoot; I se wel how ye swete.
     1186
Have heere a clooth, and wipe awey the wete.
     1187
And whiles that the preest wiped his face,
     1188
This chanoun took his cole -- with sory grace! --
     1189
And leyde it above upon the myddeward
     1190
Of the crosselet, and blew wel afterward,
     1191
Til that the coles gonne faste brenne.
     1192
Now yeve us drynke, quod the chanoun thenne;
     1193
As swithe al shal be wel, I undertake.
     1194
Sitte we doun, and lat us myrie make.
     1195
And whan that this chanounes bechen cole
     1196
Was brent, al the lemaille out of the hole
     1197
Into the crosselet fil anon adoun;
     1198
And as it moste nedes, by resoun,
     1199
Syn it so even aboven it couched was.
     1200
But therof wiste the preest nothyng, alas!
     1201
He demed alle the coles yliche good;
     1202
For of that sleighte he nothyng understood.
     1203
And whan this alkamystre saugh his tyme,
     1204
Ris up, quod he, sire preest, and stondeth by me;
     1205
And for I woot wel ingot have ye noon,
     1206
Gooth, walketh forth, and brynge us a chalk stoon;
     1207
For I wol make it of the same shap
     1208
That is an ingot, if I may han hap.
     1209
And bryngeth eek with yow a bolle or a panne
     1210
Ful of water, and ye shul se wel thanne
     1211
How that oure bisynesse shal thryve and preeve.
     1212
And yet, for ye shul han no mysbileeve
     1213
New wrong conceite of me in youre absence,
     1214
I ne wol nat been out of youre presence,
     1215
But go with yow, and come with yow ageyn.
     1216
The chambre dore, shortly for to seyn,
     1217
They opened and shette, and wente hir weye.
     1218
And forth with hem they carieden the keye,
     1219
And coome agayn withouten any delay.
     1220
What sholde I tarien al the longe day?
     1221
He took the chalk, and shoop it in the wise
     1222
Of an ingot, as I shal yow devyse.
     1223
I seye, he took out of his owene sleeve
     1224
A teyne of silver -- yvele moot he cheeve! --
     1225
Which that ne was nat but an ounce of weighte.
     1226
And taaketh heede now of his cursed sleighte!
     1227
He shoop his ingot, in lengthe and in breede
     1228
Of this teyne, withouten any drede,
     1229
So slyly that the preest it nat espide,
     1230
And in his sleve agayn he gan it hide,
     1231
And fro the fir he took up his mateere,
     1232
And in th' yngot putte it with myrie cheere,
     1233
And in the water-vessel he it caste,
     1234
Whan that hym luste, and bad the preest as faste,
     1235
Loke what ther is, put in thyn hand and grope.
     1236
Thow fynde shalt ther silver, as I hope.
     1237
What, devel of helle! sholde it elles be?
     1238
Shaving of silver silver is, pardee!
     1239
He putte his hand in and took up a teyne
     1240
Of silver fyn, and glad in every veyne
     1241
Was this preest, whan he saugh that it was so.
     1242
Goddes blessyng, and his moodres also,
     1243
And alle halwes, have ye, sire chanoun,
     1244
Seyde the preest, and I hir malisoun,
     1245
But, and ye vouche-sauf to techen me
     1246
This noble craft and this subtilitee,
     1247
I wol be youre in al that evere I may.
     1248
Quod the chanoun, yet wol I make assay
     1249
The seconde tyme, that ye may taken heede
     1250
And been expert of this, and in youre neede
     1251
Another day assaye in myn absence
     1252
This disciplyne and this crafty science.
     1253
Lat take another ounce, quod he tho,
     1254
Of quyksilver, withouten wordes mo,
     1255
And do therwith as ye han doon er this
     1256
With that oother, which that now silver is.
     1257
This preest hym bisieth in al that he kan
     1258
To doon as this chanoun, this cursed man,
     1259
Comanded hym, and faste he blew the fir,
     1260
For to come to th' effect of his desir.
     1261
And this chanon, right in the meene while, Page  221
     1262
Al redy was this preest eft to bigile,
     1263
And for a contenaunce in his hand he bar
     1264
An holwe stikke -- taak kep and be war! --
     1265
In the ende of which an ounce, and namoore,
     1266
Of silver lemaille put was, as bifore
     1267
Was in his cole, and stopped with wex weel
     1268
For to kepe in his lemaille every deel.
     1269
And whil this preest was in his bisynesse,
     1270
This chanoun with his stikke gan hym dresse
     1271
To hym anon, and his poudre caste in
     1272
As he dide er -- the devel out of his skyn
     1273
Hym terve, I pray to god, for his falshede!
     1274
For he was evere fals in thoght and dede --
     1275
And with this stikke, above the crosselet,
     1276
That was ordeyned with that false jet
     1277
He stired the coles til relente gan
     1278
The wex agayn the fir, as every man,
     1279
But it a fool be, woot wel it moot nede,
     1280
And al that in the stikke was out yede,
     1281
And in the crosselet hastily it fel.
     1282
Now, good sires, what wol ye bet than wel?
     1283
Whan that this preest thus was bigiled ageyn,
     1284
Supposynge noght but treuthe, sooth to seyn,
     1285
He was so glad that I kan nat expresse
     1286
In no manere his myrthe and his gladnesse;
     1287
And to the chanoun he profred eftsoone
     1288
Body and good. Ye, quod the chanoun soone,
     1289
Though poure I be, crafty thou shalt me fynde.
     1290
I warne thee, yet is ther moore bihynde.
     1291
Is ther any coper herinne? seyde he.
     1292
Ye, quod the preest, sire, I trowe wel ther be.
     1293
Elles go bye us som, and that as swithe;
     1294
Now, goode sire, go forth thy wey and hy the.
     1295
He wente his wey, and with the coper cam,
     1296
And this chanon it in his handes nam,
     1297
And of that coper weyed out but an ounce.
     1298
Al to symple is my tonge to pronounce,
     1299
As ministre of my wit, the doublenesse
     1300
Of this chanoun, roote of alle cursednesse!
     1301
He semed freendly to hem that knewe hym noght,
     1302
But he was feendly bothe in werk and thoght.
     1303
It weerieth me to telle of his falsnesse,
     1304
And nathelees yet wol I it expresse,
     1305
To th' entente that men may be war therby,
     1306
And for noon oother cause, trewely.
     1307
He putte this ounce of coper in the crosselet,
     1308
And on the fir as swithe he hath it set,
     1309
And caste in poudre, and made the preest to blowe,
     1310
And in his werkyng for to stoupe lowe,
     1311
As he dide er, -- and al nas but a jape;
     1312
Right as hym liste, the preest he made his ape!
     1313
And afterward in the ingot he it caste,
     1314
And in the panne putte it at the laste
     1315
Of water, and in he putte his owene hand,
     1316
And in his sleve (as ye biforen-hand
     1317
Herde me telle) he hadde a silver teyne.
     1318
He slyly took it out, this cursed heyne,
     1319
Unwityng this preest of his false craft,
     1320
And in the pannes botme he hath it laft;
     1321
And in the water rombled to and fro,
     1322
And wonder pryvely took up also
     1323
The coper teyne, noght knowynge this preest,
     1324
And hidde it, and hym hente by the breest,
     1325
And to hym spak, and thus seyde in his game:
     1326
Stoupeth adoun, by god, ye be to balme!
     1327
Helpeth me now, as I dide yow whileer;
     1328
Putte in youre hand, and looketh what is theer.
     1329
This preest took up this silver teyne anon,
     1330
And thanne seyde the chanoun, lat us gon
     1331
With thise thre teynes, whiche that we han wroght,
     1332
To som goldsmyth, and wite if they been oght.
     1333
For, by my feith, I nolde, for myn hood,
     1334
But if that they were silver fyn and good,
     1335
And that as swithe preeved it shal bee.
     1336
Unto the goldsmyth with thise teynes three
     1337
They wente, and putte thise teynes in assay
     1338
Fo fir and hamer; myghte no man seye nay,
     1339
But that they weren as hem oghte be.
     1340
This sotted preest, who was gladder than he?
     1341
Was nevere brid gladder agayn the day,
     1342
Ne nyghtyngale, in the sesoun of may,
     1343
Was nevere noon that luste bet to synge;
     1344
Ne lady lustier in carolynge,
     1345
Or for to speke of love and wommanhede,
     1346
Ne knyght in armes to doon an hardy dede,
     1347
To stonden in grace of his lady deere,
     1348
Than hadde this preest this soory craft to leere.
     1349
And to the chanoun thus he spak and seyde:
     1350
For love of god, that for us alle deyde,
     1351
And as I may deserve it unto yow,
     1352
What shal this receite coste? telleth now!
     1353
By oure lady, quod this chanon, it is deere,
     1354
I warne yow wel; for save I and a frere,
     1355
In engelond ther kan no man it make.
     1356
No fors, quod he, now, sire, for goddes sake,
     1357
What shal I paye? telleth me, I preye.
     1358
Ywis, quod he, it is ful deere, I seye.
     1359
Sire, at o word, if that thee list it have,
     1360
Ye shul paye fourty pound, so God me save! Page  222
     1361
And nere the freendshipe that ye dide er this
     1362
To me, ye sholde paye moore, ywis.
     1363
This preest the somme of fourty pound anon
     1364
Of nobles fette, and took hem everichon
     1365
To this chanoun, for this ilke receite.
     1366
Al his werkyng nas but fraude and deceite.
     1367
Sire preest, he seyde, I kepe han no loos
     1368
Of my craft, for I wolde it kept were cloos;
     1369
And, as ye love me, kepeth it secree.
     1370
For, and men knewen al my soutiltee,
     1371
By god, they wolden han so greet envye
     1372
To me, by cause of my philosophye,
     1373
I sholde be deed; ther were noon oother weye.
     1374
God it forbeede, quod the preest, what sey ye?
     1375
Yet hadde I levere spenden al the good
     1376
Which that I have, and elles wexe I wood,
     1377
Than that ye sholden falle in swich mescheef.
     1378
For youre good wyl, sire, have ye right good preef,
     1379
Quod the chanoun, and farwel, grant mercy!
     1380
He wente his wey, and never the preest hym sy
     1381
After that day; and whan that this preest shoolde
     1382
Maken assay, at swich tyme as he wolde,
     1383
Of this receit, farwel! it wolde nat be.
     1384
Lo, thus byjaped and bigiled was he!
     1385
Thus maketh he his introduccioun,
     1386
To brynge folk to hir destruccioun.
     1387
Considereth, sires, how that, in ech estaat,
     1388
Bitwixe men and gold ther is debaat
     1389
So ferforth that unnethes is ther noon.
     1390
This multiplying blent so many oon
     1391
That in good feith I trowe that it bee
     1392
The cause grettest of swich scarsetee.
     1393
Philosophres speken so mystily
     1394
In this craft that men kan nat come therby,
     1395
For any wit that men han now-a-dayes.
     1396
They mowe wel chiteren as doon thise jayes,
     1397
And in hir termes sette hir lust and peyne,
     1398
But to hir purpos shul they nevere atteyne.
     1399
A man may lightly lerne, if he have aught,
     1400
To multiplie, and brynge his good to naught!
     1401
Lo! swich a lucre is in this lusty game,
     1402
A mannes myrthe it wol turne unto grame,
     1403
And empten also grete and hevye purses,
     1404
And maken folk for to purchacen curses
     1405
Of hem that han hir good therto ylent.
     1406
O! fy, for shame! they that han been brent,
     1407
Allas! kan they nat flee the fires heete?
     1408
Ye that it use, I rede ye it leete,
     1409
Lest ye lese al; for bet than nevere is late.
     1410
Nevere to thryve were to long a date.
     1411
Though ye prolle ay, ye shul it nevere fynde.
     1412
Ye been as boold as is bayard the blynde,
     1413
That blondreth forth, and peril casteth noon.
     1414
He is as boold to renne agayn a stoon
     1415
As for to goon bisides in the weye.
     1416
So faren ye that multiplie, I seye.
     1417
If that youre eyen kan nat seen aright,
     1418
Looke that youre mynde lakke noght his sight.
     1419
For though ye looken never so brode and stare,
     1420
Ye shul nothyng wynne on that chaffare,
     1421
But wasten al that ye may rape and renne.
     1422
Withdraweth the fir, lest it to faste brenne;
     1423
Medleth namoore with that art, I mene,
     1424
For if ye doon, youre thrift is goon ful clene.
     1425
And right as swithe I wol yow tellen heere
     1426
What philosophres seyn in this mateere.
     1427
Lo, thus seith arnold of the newe toun,
     1428
As his rosarie maketh mencioun;
     1429
He seith right thus, withouten any lye:
     1430
Ther may no man mercurie mortifie
     1431
But it be with his brother knowlechyng.
     1432
How be that he which that first seyde this thyng
     1433
Of philosophres fader was, hermes --
     1434
He seith how that the dragon, doutelees,
     1435
Ne dyeth nat, but if that he be slayn
     1436
With his brother; and that is for to sayn,
     1437
By the dragon, mercurie, and noon oother
     1438
He understood, and brymstoon by his brother,
     1439
That out of sol and luna were ydrawe.
     1440
And therfore, seyde he, -- taak heede to my sawe --
     1441
Lat no man bisye hym this art for to seche,
     1442
But if that he th' entencioun and speche
     1443
Of philosophres understonde kan;
     1444
And if he do, he is a lewed man.
     1445
For this science and this konnyng, quod he,
     1446
Is of the secree of secrees, pardee.
     1447
Also ther was a disciple of plato,
     1448
That on a tyme seyde his maister to,
     1449
As his book senior wol bere witnesse,
     1450
And this was his demande in soothfastnesse:
     1451
Telle me the name of the privee stoon?
     1452
And plato answerde unto hym anoon,
     1453
Take the stoon that titanos men name.
     1454
Which is that? quod he. Magnasia is the same,
     1455
Seyde plato. Ye, sire, and is it thus?
     1456
This is ignotum per ignocius.
     1457
What is magnasia, good sire, I yow preye?
     1458
It is a water that is maad, I seye,
     1459
Of elementes foure, quod plato.
     1460
Telle me the roote, good sire, quod he tho,
     1461
Of that water, if it be youre wil.
     1462
Nay, nay, quod plato, certein, that I nyl.
     1463
The philosophres sworn were everychoon Page  223
     1464
That they sholden discovere it unto noon,
     1465
Ne in no book it write in no manere.
     1466
For unto crist it is so lief and deere
     1467
That he wol nat that it discovered bee,
     1468
But where it liketh to his deitee
     1469
Men for t' enspire, and eek for to deffende
     1470
Whom that hym liketh; lo, this is the ende.
     1471
Thanne conclude I thus, sith that God of hevene
     1472
Ne wil nat that the philosophres nevene
     1473
How that a man shal come unto this stoon,
     1474
I rede, as for the beste, lete it goon.
     1475
For whoso maketh God his adversarie,
     1476
As for to werken any thyng in contrarie
     1477
Of his wil, certes, never shal he thryve,
     1478
Thogh that he multiplie terme of his lyve.
     1479
And there a poynt; for ended is my tale.
     1480
God sende every trewe man boote of his bale!
     1481