The Canterbury tales
The Second Nun's Prologue
The ministre and norice unto vices
Which that men clepe in englissh ydelnesse,
That porter of the gate is of delices,
To eschue, and by hire contrarie hire oppresse,
That is to seyn, by leveful bisynesse,
Wel oghten we to doon al oure entente,
Lest that the feend thurgh ydelnesse us hente.
For he that with his thousand cordes slye
Continuelly us waiteth to biclappe,
Whan he may man in ydelnesse espye,
He kan so lightly cache hym in his trappe,
Til that a man be hent right by the lappe,
He nys nat war the feend hath hym in honde.
Wel oghte us werche, and ydelnesse withstonde.
And though men dradden nevere for to dye,
Yet seen men wel by resoun, doutelees,
That ydelnesse is roten slogardye,
Of which ther nevere comth no good n' encrees,
And syn that slouthe hire holdeth in a lees
Oonly to slepe, and for to ete and drynke,
And to devouren al that othere swynke,
And for to putte us fro swich ydelnesse,
That cause is of so greet confusioun,
I have heer doon my feithful bisynesse
After the legende, in translacioun
Right of thy glorious lif and passioun,
Thou with thy gerland wroght with rose and lilie, --
Thee meene I, mayde and martyr, seint cecile.
Invocacio ad mariam
And thow that flour of birgines art alle,
Of whom that bernard list so wel to write,
To thee at my bigynnyng first I calle;
Thou confort of us wrecches, do me endite
Thy maydens deeth, that wan thurgh hire merite
The eterneel lyf, and of the feend victorie,
As man may after reden in hire storie.
Thow mayde and mooder, doghter of thy sone,
Thow welle of mercy, synful soules cure,
In whom that God for bountee chees to wone,
Thow humble, and heigh over every creature,
Thow nobledest so ferforth oure nature,
That no desdeyn the makere hadde of kynde
His sone in blood and flessh to clothe and wynde.
Withinne the cloistre blisful of thy sydis
Took mannes shap the eterneel love and pees,
That of the tryne compas lord and gyde is,
Whom erthe and see and hevene, out of relees,
Ay heryen; and thou, virgine wemmelees,
Baar of thy body -- and dweltest mayden pure --
The creatour of every creature.
Assembled is in thee magnificence
With mercy, goodnesse, and with swich pitee
That thou, that art the sonne of excellence
Nat oonly helpest hem that preyen thee,
But often tyme, of thy benygnytee,
Ful frely, er that men thyn help biseche,
Thou goost biforn, and art hir lyves leche.
Now help, thow meeke and blisful faire mayde,
Me, flemed wrecche, in this desert of galle;
Thynk on the womman cananee, that sayde
That whelpes eten somme of the crommes alle
That from hir lordes table been yfalle;
And though that I, unworthy sone of eve,
Be synful, yet accepte my bileve.
And, for that teith is deed withouten werkis,
So for to werken yif me wit and space,
That I be quit fro thennes that most derk is!
O thou, that art so fair and ful of grace,
Be myn advocat in that heighe place Page 208
Theras withouten ende is songe osanne,
Thow cristes mooder, doghter deere of anne!
And of thy light my soule in prison lighte,
That troubled is by the contagioun
Of my body, and also by the wighte
Of erthely lust and fals affeccioun;
O havene of refut, o salvacioun
Of hem that been in sorwe and in distresse,
Now help, for to my werk I wol me dresse.
Yet preye I yow that reden that I write,
Foryeve me that I do no diligence
This ilke storie subtilly to endite,
For bothe have I the wordes and sentence
Of hym that at the seintes reverence
The storie wroot, and folwen hire legende,
And pray yow that ye wole my wek amende.
interpretacio nominis Cecilie quam ponit Frater Jacobus Januensis in legenda
First wolde I yow the name of seint cecilie
Expowne, as men may in hir storie see.
It is to seye in englissh hevenes lilie,
For pure chaastnesse of virginitee;
Or, ofr she whitnesse hadde of honestee,
And grene of conscience, and of good fame
The soote savour, lilie was hir name.
Or cecilie is to seye the wey to blynde,
For she ensample was by good techynge;
Or elles cecile, as I writen fynde,
Is joyned, by a manere conjoynynge
Of hevene and lia; and heere, in figurynge,
The hevene is set for thoght of hoolynesse,
And lia for hire lastynge bisynesse.
Cecile may eek be seyd in this manere,
Wantynge of blyndnesse, for hir grete light
Of sapience, and for hire thewes cleere;
Or elles, loo, this maydens name bright
Of hevene and leos comth, for which by right
Men myghte hire wel the hevene of peple calle,
Ensample of goode and wise werkes alle.
For leos peple in englissh is to seye,
And right as men may in the hevene see
The sonne and moone and sterres every weye,
Right so men goostly in this mayden free
Seyen of feith the magnanymytee,
And eek the cleernesse hool of sapience,
And sondry werkes, brighte of excellence.
And right so as thise philosophres write
That hevene is swift and round and eek brennynge,
Right so was faire cecilie the white
Ful swift and bisy evere in good werkynge,
And round and hool in good perseverynge,
And brennynge evere in charite ful brighte.
Now have I yow declared what she highte.
The Second Nun's Tale
This mayden bright cecilie, as hir lif seith,
Was comen of romayns, and of noble kynde,
And from hir cradel up fostred in the feith
Of crist, and bar his gospel in hir mynde.
She nevere cessed, as I writen fynde,
Of hir preyere, and God to love and drede,
Bisekynge hym to kepe hir maydenhede.
And whan this mayden sholde unto a man
Ywedded be, that was ful yong of age,
Which that ycleped was valerian,
And day was comen of hir marriage,
She, ful devout and humble in hir corage,
Under hir robe of gold, that sat ful faire,
Hadde next hire flessh yclad hire in an haire.
And whil the organs maden melodie,
To God allone in herte thus sang she:
O lord, my soule and eek my body gye
Unwemmed, lest that it confounded be.
And, for his love that dyde upon a tree, Page 209
Every seconde and thridde day she faste,
Ay biddynge in hire orisons ful faste.
The nyght cam, and to bedde moste she gon
With hire housbonde, as ofte is the manere,
And pryvely to hym she seyde anon,
O sweete and wel biloved spouse deere,
Ther is a conseil, and ye wolde it heere,
Which that right fayn I wolde unto yow seye,
So that ye swere ye shul it nat biwreye.
Valerian gan faste unto hire swere
That for no cas, ne thyng that myghte be,
He sholde nevere mo biwreyen here;
And thanne at erst to hym thus seyde she:
I have an aungel which that loveth me,
That with greet love, wher so I wake or sleepe,
Is redy ay my body for to kepe.
And if that he may feelen, out of drede,
That ye me touche, or love in vileynye,
He right anon wol sle yow with the dede,
And in youre yowthe thus ye shullen dye;
And if that ye in clene love me gye,
He wol yow loven as me, for youre clennesse,
And shewen yow his joye and his brightnesse.
Valerian, corrected as God wolde,
Answerde agayn, if I shal trusten thee,
Lat me that aungel se, and hym biholde;
And if that it a verray angel bee,
Thanne wol I doon as thou hast prayed me;
And if thou love another man, for sothe
Right with this swerd thanne wol I sle yow bothe.
Cecile answerde anon-right in this wise:
If that yow list, the angel shul ye see,
So that ye trowe on crist and yow baptize.
Gooth forth to via apia, quod shee,
That fro this toun ne stant but miles three,
And to the povre folkes that ther dwelle,
Sey hem right thus, as that I shal yow telle.
Telle hem that I, cecile, yow to hem sente,
To shewen yow the goode urban the olde,
For secree nedes and for good entente.
And whan that ye seint urban han biholde,
Telle hym the wordes whiche I to yow tolde;
And whan that he hath purged yow fro synne,
Thanne shul ye se that angel, er ye twynne.
Valerian is to the place ygon,
And right as hym was taught by his lernynge,
He foond this hooly olde urban anon
Among the seintes buryeles lotynge.
And he anon, withouten tariynge,
Dide his message; and whan that he it tolde,
Urban for joye his handes gan up holde.
The teeris from his eyen leet he falle.
Almyghty lord, o jhesu crist, quod he,
Sower of chaast conseil, hierde of us alle,
The fruyt of thilke seed of chastitee
That thou hast sowe in cecile, taak to thee!
Lo, lyk a bisy bee, withouten gile,
Thee serveth ay thyn owene thral cecile.
For thilke spouse that she took but now
Ful lyk a fiers leoun, she sendeth heere,
As meke as evere was any lomb, to yow!
And with that word anon ther gan appeere
An oold man, clad in white clothes cleere,
That hadde a book with lettre of gold in honde,
And gan bifore valerian to stonde.
Valerian as deed fil doun for drede
Whan he hym saugh, and he up hente hym tho,
And on his book right thus he gan to rede:
O lord, o feith, o god, withouten mo,
O cristendom, and fader of alle also,
Aboven alle and over alle everywhere.
Thise wordes al with gold ywriten were.
Whan this was rad, thanne seyde this olde man,
Leevestow this thyng or no? sey ye or nay.
I leeve al this thyng, quod valerian,
For sother thyng than this, I dar wel say,
Under the hevene no wight thynke may.
Tho vanysshed the olde man, he nyste where,
And pope urban hym cristned right there.
Valerian gooth hoom and fynt cecilie
Withinne his chambre with an angel stonde.
This angel hadde of roses and of lilie
Corones two, the which he bar in honde;
And first to cecile, as I understonde,
He yaf that oon, and after gan he take
That oother to valerian, hir make.
With body clene and with unwemmed though
Kepeth ay wel thise corones, quod he;
Fro paradys to yow have I hem broght,
Ne nevere mo ne shal they roten bee,
Ne lese hir soote savour, trusteth me; Page 210
Ne nevere wight shal seen hem with his ye,
But he be chaast and hate vileynye.
And thow, valerian, for thow so soone
Assentedest to good conseil also,
Sey what thee list, and thou shalt han thy boone.
I have a brother,quod valerian tho,
That in this world I love no man so.
I pray yow that my brother may han grace
To knowe the trouthe, as I do in this place.
The angel seyde,god liketh thy requeste,
And bothe, with the palm of martirdom,
Ye shullen come unto his blisful feste.
And with that word tiburce his brother coom.
And whan that he the savour undernoom,
Which that the roses and the lilies caste,
Withinne his herte he gan to wondre faste,
And seyde,i wondre, this tyme of the yeer
Whennes that soote savour cometh so
Of rose and lilies that I smelle heer.
For though I hadde hem in myne handes two.
The savour myghte in me no depper go.
The sweete smel that in myn herte I fynde
Hath chaunged me al in another kynde.
Valerian seyde: two corones han we,
Snow white and rose reed, that shynen cleere,
Whiche that thyne eyen han no myght to see;
And as thou smellest hem thurgh my preyere,
So shaltow seen hem,leeve brother deere,
If it so be thou wolt, withouten slouthe,
Bileve aright and knowen verray troughe,
Tiburce answerde, seistow this to me
In soothnesse, or in dreem I herkne this?
In dremes, quod valerian, han we be
Unto this tyme, brother myn, ywis.
But now at erst in trouthe oure dwellyng is.
How woostow this? quod tiburce, and in what wyse?
Quod valerian, that shal I thee devyse.
The aungel of God hath me the trouthe ytaught
Which thou shalt seen, if that thou wolt reneye
The ydoles and be clene, and elles naught.
And of the myracle of thise corones tweye
Seint ambrose in his preface list to seye;
Solempnely this noble doctour deere
Commendeth it, and seith in this manere:
The palm of martirdom for to receyve,
Seinte cecile, fulfild of goddes yifte,
The world and eek hire chambre gan she weyve;
Witnesse tyburces and valerians shrifte,
To whiche God of his bountee wolde shifte
Corones two of floures wel smellynge,
And make his angel hem the corones brynge.
The mayde hath broght thise men to blisse above;
The world hath wist what it is worth, certeyn,
Devocioun of chastitee to love.
Tho shewed hym cecile al open and pleyn
That alle ydoles nys but a thyng in veyn,
For they been dombe, and therto they been deve,
And charged hym his ydoles for to leve.
Whoso that troweth nat this, a beest he is,
Quod tho tiburce, if that I shal nat lye.
And she gan kisse his brest, that herde this,
And was ful glad he koude trouthe espye.
This day I take thee for myn allye,
Seyde this blisful faire mayde deere,
And after that, she seyde as ye may heere:
Lo, right so as the love of crist, quod she,
Made me thy brotheres wyf, right in that wise
Anon for myn allye heer take I thee,
Syn that thou wolt thyne ydoles despise.
Go with thy brother now, and thee baptise,
And make thee clene, so that thou mowe biholde
The angels face of which thy brother tolde.
Tiburce answerde and seyde, brother deere,
First el me whider I shal, and to what man?
To whom? quod he, com forth with right good cheere,
I wol thee lede unto the pope urban.
Til urban?brother myn valerian,
Quod tho tiburce, woltow me thider lede?
Me thynketh that it were a wonder dede.
Ne menestow nat urban,quod he tho,
That is so ofte dampned to be deed,
And woneth in halkes alwey to and fro,
And dar nat ones putte forth his heed?
Men sholde hym brennen in a fyr so reed
If he were founde, or that men myghte hym spye,
And we also, to bere hym compaignye; Page 211
And whil we seken thile divinitee
That is yhid in hevene pryvely,
Algate ybrend in this world shul we bel
To whom cecile answerde boldely,
Men myghten dreden wel and skilfully
This lyf to lese, myn owene deere brother,
If this were lyvynge oonly and noon oother.
But ther is bettre lif in oother place,
That nevere shal be lost, ne drede thee noght,
Which goddes sone us tolde thurgh his grace.
That fadres sone hath alle thyng ywroght,
And al that wroght is with a skilful though,
The goost, that fro the fader gan procede,
Hath sowled hem, withouten any drede.
By word and by myracle heigh goodes sone
Whan he was in this world, declared heere
That ther was oother lyf ther men may wone.
To whom answerde tiburce,o suster deere,
Ne seydestow right now in this manere,
Ther nys but o god, lord in soothfastnesse?
And now of three how maystow bere witnesse?
That shal I telle,quod she, er I go.
Right as a man hath sapiences three,
Memorie, engyn, and intellect also,
So in o beynge of divinitee,
Thre persones may ther wright wel bee.
Tho gan she hym ful bisily to preche
Of cristes come, and of his peynes teche,
And manye pointes of his passioun;
How goddes sone in this world was withholde
To doon mankynde pleyn remissioun,
That was ybounde in synne and cares colde,
Al this thyng she unto tiburce tolde.
And after this, tiburce in good entente
With valerian to pope urban he wente,
That thanked god, and with glad herte light
He cristned hyn, and made hym in that place
Parfit in his lernynge, goddes knyght.
And after this, tiburce gat swich grace
That every day he saugh, in tyme and space,
The aungel of god; and every maner boone
That he God axed, it was sped ful soone.
If were ful hard by ordre for to seyn
How manye wondres jhesus for hem wroghte;
But atte laste, to tellen short and pleyn,
The sergeantz of the toun of rome hem soghte,
And hem biforn almache, the prefect, broghte,
Which hem apposed, and knew al hire entente,
And to the ymage of juppiter hem sente,
And seyde, whoso wol nat sacrifise,
Swape of his heed; this my sentence heer.
Anon thise martirs that I yow devyse,
Oon maximus, that was an officer
Of the prefectes, and his corniculer,
Hem hente, and whan he forth the seintes ladde,
Hymself he weep for pitee that he hadde.
Whan maximus had herd the seintes loore,
He gat hym of the tormentoures leve,
And ladde hem to his hous withoute moore,
And with hir prechyng, er that it were eve,
They gonnen fro the tormentours to reve,
And fro maxime, and fro his fold echone,
The false feith, to trowe in God allone.
Cecile cam, whan it was woxen nyght,
With preestes that hem cristned alle yfeere;
And afterward, whan day was woxen light,
Cecile hem seyde with a ful stedefast cheere,
Now, christes owene knyghtes leeve and deere,
Cast alle awey the werkes of derknesse,
And armeth yow in armure of brightnesse.
Ye han for sothe ydoon a greet bataille,
Youre cours is doon, youre feith han ye conserved.
Gooth to the corone of lif that may nat faille;
The rightful juge, which that ye han served,
Shal yeve it yow, as ye han it deserved.
And whan this thyng was seyd as I devyse,
Men ledde hem forth to doon the sacrefise.
But whan they weren to the place broght
To tellen shortly the conclusioun,
They nolde encense ne sacrifise right noght,
But on hir knees they setten hem adoun
With humble herte and sad devocioun,
And losten bothe hir hevedes in the place.
Hir soules wenten to the kyng of grace.
This maximus, that saugh this thyng bityde,
With pitous teeris tolde it anonright,
That he hir soules saugh to hevene glyde
With aungels ful of cleernesse and of light,
And with his word converted many a wight;
For which almachius dide hym so tobete
With whippe of leed, til he his lif gan lete. Page 212
Cecile hym took and buryed hym anon
By tiburce and valerian softely
Withinne hire buriyng place, under the stoon;
And after this, almachius hastily
Bad his ministres fecchen openly
Cecile, so that she myghte in his presence
Doon sacrifice, and juppiter encense.
But they, converted at hir wise loore,
Wepten ful soore, and yaven ful credence
Unto hire word, and cryden moore and moore,
Crist, goddes sone, withouten difference,
Is verray God -- this is al oure sentence --
That hath so good a servant hym to serve.
This with o voys we trowen, thogh we sterve!
Almachius, that herde of this doynge,
Bad fecchen cecile, that he myghte hire see,
And alderfirst, lo! this was his axynge.
What maner womman artow? tho quod he.
I am a gentil womman born, quod she.
I axe thee, quod he, though it thee greeve,
Of thy religioun and of thy bileeve.
Ye han bigonne youre questioun folily,
Quod she, that wolden two answers conclude
In o demande; ye axed lewedly.
Almache answerde unto that similitude,
Of whennes comth thyn answeryng so rude?
Of whennes? quod she, whan that she was freyned,
Of conscience and of good feith unfeyned.
Almachius seyde, ne takestow noon heede
Of my power? and she answerde hym this:
Youre myght, quod she, ful litel is to dreede.
For every mortal mannes power nys
But lyk a bladdre ful of wynd ywys.
For with nedles poynt, whan it is blowe,
May al the boost of it be leyd ful lowe.
Ful wrongfully bigonne thow, quod he,
And yet in wrong is thy perserveraunce.
Wostow nat how oure myghty princes free
Han thus comanded and maad ordinaunce,
That every cristen wight shal han penaunce
But if that he his cristendom withseye,
And foon al quit, if he wole it reneye?
Yowre princes erren, as youre nobleye dooth,
Quod tho cecile, and with a wood sentence
Ye make us gilty, and it is nat sooth.
For ye, that knowen wel oure innocence,
For as muche as we doon a reverence
To crist, and for we berre a cristen name,
Ye putte on us a cryme, and eek a blame.
But we that knowen thilke name so
For vertuous, we may it nat withseye.
Almache answerde, chees oon of thise two:
Do sacrifice, or cristendom reneye,
That thou mowe now escapen by that weye.
At which the hooly blisful faire mayde
Gan for to laughe, and to juge sayde:
O juge, confus in thy nycetee,
Woltow that I reneye innocence,
To make me a wikked wight? quod shee.
Lo, he dissymuleth heere in audience;
He stareth, and woodeth in his advertence!
To whom almachius, unsely wrecche,
Ne woostow nat how fer my myght may strecche?
Han noght oure myghty princes to me yiven,
Ye, bothe power and auctoritee
To maken folk to dyen or to lyven?
Why spekestow so proudly thanne to me?
I speke noght but stedfastly, quod she;
Nat prudly, for I seye, as for my syde,
We haten deedly thilke vice of pryde.
And if thou drede nat a sooth to heere,
Thanne wol I shewe al openly, by right,
That thou hast maad a ful gret lesyng heere.
Thou seyst thy princes han thee yeven myght
Bothe for to sleen and for to quyken a wight;
Thou, that ne mayst but oonly lyf bireve,
Thou hast noon oother power ne no leve.
But thou mayst seyn thy princes han thee maked
Ministre of deeth; for if thou speke of mo,
Thou lyest, for thy power is ful naked.
Do wey thy booldnesse, seyde almachius tho,
And sacrifice to oure goddes, er thou go!
Irecche nat what wrong that thou me profre,
For I kan suffre it as a philosophre;
But thilke wronges may I nat endure
That thou spekest of oure goddes heere, quod
Cecile answerde, o nyce creature!
Thou seydest no word syn thou spak to me
That I ne knew therwith thy nycetee;
And that thou were, in every maner wise,
A lewed officer and a veyn justise. Page 213
Ther lakketh no thyng to thyne outer yen
That thou n' art blynd; for thyng that we seen alle
That it is stoon, -- that men may wel espyen, --
That ilke stoon a God tho wolt it calle.
I rede thee, lat thyn hand upon it falle,
And taste it wel, and stoon thou shalt it fynde,
Syn that thou seest nat with thyne eyen blynde.
It is a shame that the peple shal
So scorne thee, and laughe at thy folye;
For communly men woot it wel overal
That myghty God is in his hevenes hye;
And thise ymages, wel thou mayst espye,
To thee ne to hemself mowen noght profite,
For in effect thy been nat worth a myte.
Thise wordes and swiche othere seyde she,
And he weex wroth, and bad men sholde hir lede
Hom til hir hous, and in hire hous, quod he,
Brenne hire right in a bath of flambes rede.
And as he bad, right so was doon the dede;
For in a bath they gonne hire faste shetten,
And nyght and day greet fyr they under betten.
The longe nyght, and eek a day also,
For al the fyr, and eek the bathes heete,
She sat al coold, and feelede no wo.
It made hire nat a drope for to sweete.
But in that bath hir lyf she moste lete,
For he almachius, with ful wikke entente,
To sleen hire in the bath his sonde sente.
Thre strokes in the nekke he smoot hire tho,
The tormentour, but for no maner chaunce
He myghte noght smyte al hir nekke atwo;
And for ther was that tyme an ordinaunce
That no man sholde doon man swich penaunce
The ferthe strook to smyten, softe or soore,
This tormentour ne dorste do namoore,
But half deed, with hir nekke ycorven there,
He lefte hir lye, and on his wey is went.
The cristen folk, which that aboute hire were,
With sheetes han the blood ful faire yhent.
Thre dayes lyved she in this torment,
And nevere cessed hem the feithe to teche
That she hadde fostred; hem she gan to preche,
And hem she yaf hir moebles and hir thyng,
And to the pope urban bitook hem tho,
And seyde, I axed this of hevene kyng,
To han respit thre dayes and namo,
To recomende to yow, er that I go,
Thise soules, lo! and that I myghte do werche
Heere of myn hous perpetuilly a cherche.
Seint urban, with his deknes, prively
The body fette, and buryed it by nyghte
Among his othere seintes honestly.
Hir hous the chirche of seint cecilie highte;
Seint urban halwed it, as he wel myghte;
In which, into this day, in noble wyse,
Men doon to crist and to his seint servyse.
The Canon Yeoman's Prologue
Whan ended was the lyf of seinte cecile,
Er we hadde riden fully fyve mile,
A tboghtoun under blee us gan atake
A man that clothed was in clothes blake,
And under-nethe he hadde a whyt surplys.
His hakeney, that wasal pomely grys,
So swatte that it wonder was to see;
It semed as he had priked miles three.
The hors eek that his yeman rood upon
So swatte that sunnethe myghte it gon.
Aboute the peytrel sood the foom ful hye;
He was of foom al flekked a a pye.
A male tweyfoold on his croper lay;
It semed that he caried lite array.
Al light for somer rood this worthy man,
And in myn herte wondren I bigan
What that he was, til that I understood
How that his cloke was sowed to his good;
For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me,
I demed hym som chanoun for to be.
His hat heeng at his bak doun by a laas,
For he hadde riden moore than trot or paas;
He hadde ay priked lik as he were wood.
A clote-leef he hadde under his hood Page 214
For swoot, and for to keep his heed from heete.
But it was joye for to seen hym swete!
His forheed dropped as a stillatorie,
Were ful of plantayne and of paritorie.
And whan that he was come, he ban to crye,
God save, quod he, this joly compaignye!
Faste have I priked,!quod he, for youre sake,
By cause that I woldeyow atake,
To riden in this myrie compaignye.
His yeman eek was ful of curteisye,
And seyde, sires, now in the morwe-tyde
Out of youre hostelrie I saugh yow ryde,
And warned heer my lord and my soverayn,
Which that to ryden with yow is ful fayn
For his desport; he loveth daliaunce.
freend, for thy warnyng God yeve thee good chaunce!
Thanne seyde oure hoost, for certein it wolde seme
Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme.
He is ful jocunde also, dar I leye!
Can he oght telle a myrie tale or tweye,
With which he glade may his compaignye?
Who, sire? my lord? ye, ye, withouten lye,
He kan of murthe and eek of jolitee
Nat but ynough: also, sire, trusteth me,
And ye hym knewe as wel as do I,
Ye wolde wondre how wel and craftily
He koude werke, and that in sondry wise.
He hath take on hym many a greet emprise,
Which were ful hard for any that is heere
To brynge aboute, but they of hym it leere.
As hoomly as he rit amonges yow,
If ye hym kniewe, it wolde be for youre prow.
Ye wolde nat forgoon his aqueyntaunce
For muchel good, I dar leye in balaunce
Al that I have in my possessioun.
He is a man of heigh discrecioun;
I warne yow wel, he is a passyng man.
Wel, quod oure hoost, I pray thee tel me than,
Is he a clerk, or noon? telle what he is.
Nay, he is gretter than a clerk, ywis,
Seyde this yeman, and in wordes fewe,
Hoost, of his craft somwhat I wol yow shewe.
I seye, my lord kan swich subtilitee --
But al his craft ye may nat wite at me,
And somwhat helpe I yet to his wirkyng --
That al this ground on which we been ridyng,
Til that we come to caunterbury toun,
He koude al clene turne it up-so-doun,
And pave it al of silver and of gold.
And whan this yeman hadde this tale ytold
Unto oure hoost, he seyde, benedicitee!
This thyng is wonder merveillous to me,
Syn that thy lord is of so heigh prudence,
By cause of which men sholde hym reverence,
That of his worshipe rekketh he so lite.
His overslope nys nat worth a myte,
As in effect, to hym, so moot I go!
It is al baudy and totore also.
Why is thy lord so sluttissh, I the preye,
And is of power bettre clooth to beye,
Of that his dede accorde with thy speche?
Telle me that, and that I thee biseche.
Why? quod this yeman, wherto axe ye me?
God help me so, for he shal nevere thee!
(but I wol nat avowe that I seye,
And therfore keepe it secree, I yow preye.)
He is to wys, in feith, as I bileeve.
That that is overdoon, it wol nat preeve
Aright, as clerkes seyn; it is a vice.
Wherfore in that I holde hym lewed and nyce.
For whan a man hath over-greet a wit,
Ful oft hym happeth to mysusen it.
So doothy my lord, and that me greveth soore;
God it amende! I kan sey yow namoore.
Ther-of no fors, good yeman, quod oure hoost;
Syn of the konnyng of thy lord thow woost,
Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?
In the suburbes of a toun, quod he,
Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,
Wheras this robbours and thise theves by kynde
Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
As they that dar nat shewen hir presence;
So faren we, if I shal seye the sothe.
Now, quod oure hoost, yit lat me talke to the.
Why artow so discoloured of thy face?
Peter! quod he, God yeve it harde grace,
I am so used in the fyr to blowe
That it hath chaunged my colour, I trowe.
I am nat wont in no mirour to prie,
But swynke soore and lerne multiplie.
We blondren evere and pouren in the fir,
And for al that we faille of oure desir,
For evere we lakken oure conclusioun.
To muchel folk we doon illusioun,
And borwe gold, be it a pound or two,
Or ten, or twelve, or manye sommes mo,
And make hem wenen, at the leeste weye,
That of a pound we koude make tweye.
Yet is it fals, but ay we han good hope Page 215
It for to doon, and after it we grope.
But that science is so fer us biforn,
We mowen nat, although we hadden it sworn,
It overtake, it slit awey so faste.
It wole us maken beggers atte laste.
Whil this yeman was thus in his talkyng,
This chanoun drough hym neer, and herde al thyng
Which that this yeman spak, for suspecioun
Of mennes speche evere hadde this chanoun.
For catoun seith that he that gilty is
Demeth alle thyng be spoke of hym, ywis.
That was the cause he gan so ny hym drawe
To his yeman, to herknen al his sawe.
And thus he seyde unto his yeman tho:
Hoold thou thy pees, and spek no wordes mo,
For if thou do, thou shalt it deere abye.
Thou sclaundrest me heere in this compaignye,
And eek discoverest that thou sholdest hyde.
Ye, quod oure hoost, telle on, what bityde.
Of al his thretyng rekke nat a myte!
In feith, quod he, namoore I do but lyte.
And whan this chanon saugh it wolde nat bee,
But his yeman wolde telle his pryvetee,
He fledde awey for verray sorwe and shame.
A! quod the yeman, heere shal arise game;
Al that I kan anon now wol I telle.
Syn he is goon, the foule feend hym quelle!
For nevere heerafter wol I with hym meete
For peny ne for pound, I yow biheete.
He that me broghte first unto that game,
Er that he dye, sorwe have he and shame!
For it is ernest to me, by me feith;
That feele I wel, what so any man seith.
And yet, for al my smert and al my grief,
For al my sorwe, labour, and meschief,
I koude nevere leve it in no wise.
Now wolde God my wit myghte suffise
To tellen al that longeth to that art!
But nathelees yow wol I tellen part.
Syn that my lord is goon, I wol nat spare;
Swich thyng as that I knowe, I wol declare.
The Canon Yeoman's Tale
With this chanoun I dwelt have seven yeer,
And of his science am I never the neer.
Al that I hadde I have lost therby,
And, God woot, so hath many mo than I.
Ther I was wont to be right fressh and gay
Of clothyng and of oother good array,
Now may I were an hose upon myn heed;
And wher my colour was bothe fressh and reed
Now is it wan and of a leden hewe --
Whoso it useth, soore shal he rewe! --
And of my swynk yet blered is myn ye.
Lo! which avantage is to multiplie!
That slidynge science hath me maad so bare
That I have no good, wher that evere I fare;
And yet I am endetted so therby,
Of gold that I have borwed, trewely,
That whil I lyve I shal it quite nevere.
Lat every man be war by me for evere!
What maner man that casteth hym therto,
If he continue, I holde his thrift ydo.
For so helpe me god, therby shal he nat wynne,
But empte his purs, and make his wittes thynne.
And whan he, thurgh his madnesse and folye,
Hath lost his owene good thurgh jupartye,
Thanne he exciteth oother folk therto,
To lesen hir good, as he hymself hath do.
For unto shrewes joye it is and ese
To have hir felawes in peyne and disese.
Thus was I ones lerned of a clerk.
Of that no charge, I wol speke of oure werk.
Whan we been there as we shul exercise
Oure elvysshe craft, we semen wonder wise,
Oure termes been so clerigal and so queynte.
I blowe the fir til that myn herte feynte.
What sholde I tellen ech proporcion
Of thynges whiche that we werche upon
As on fyve or sixe ounces, may wel be,
Of silver, or som oother quantitee --
And bisye me to telle yow the names Page 216
Of orpyment, brent bones, iren squames,
That into poudre grounden been ful smal;
And in an erthen pot how put is al,
And salt yput in, and also papeer,
Biforn thise poudres that I speke of heer;
And wel ycovered with a lampe of glas;
And of muche oother thyng which that ther was;
And of the pot and glasses enlutyng,
That of the eyr myghte passe out nothyng;
And of the esy fir, and smart also,
Which that was maad, and of the care and wo
That we hadde in oure matires sublymyng,
And in amalgamyng and calcenyng
Of quyksilver, yclept mercurie crude?
For alle oure sleightes we kan nat conclude.
Oure orpyment and sublymed mercurie,
Oure grounden litarge eek on the porfurie,
Of ech of thise of ounces a certeyn --
Noght helpeth us, oure labour is in veyn.
Ne eek oure spirites ascencioun,
Ne oure materes that lyen al fix adoun,
Mowe in oure werkyng no thyng us availle,
For lost is al oure labour and travaille;
And al the cost, a twenty devel waye,
Is lost also, which we upon it laye.
Ther is also ful many another thyng
That is unto oure craft apertenyng.
Though I by ordre hem nat reherce kan,
By cause that I am a lewed man,
Yet wol I telle hem as they come to mynde,
Thogh I ne kan nat sette hem in hir kynde:
As boole armonyak, verdegrees, boras,
And sondry vessels maad of erthe and glas,
Oure urynales and oure descensories,
Violes, crosletz, and sublymatories,
Cucurbites and alambikes eek,
And othere swiche, deere ynough a leek.
Nat nedeth it for to reherce hem alle, --
Watres rubifyng, and boles galle,
Arsenyk, sal armonyak and brymstoon;
And herbes koude I telle eek many oon,
As egremoyne, valerian, and lunarie,
And othere swiche, if that me liste tarie;
Oure lampes brennyng bothe nyght and day,
To brynge aboute oure purpos, if we may;
Oure fourneys eek of calcinacioun,
And of watres albificacioun;
Unslekked lym,chalk, and gleyre of an ey,
Poudres diverse, asshes, donge, pisse, and cley,
Cered pokkets, sal peter, vitriole,
And diverse fires maad of wode and cole;
Sal tartre, alkaly, and sal preparat,
And combust materes and coagulat;
Cley maad with hors of mannes heer, and oille
Of tartre, alum glas, berme, wort, and argoille,
Resalgar, and oure materes enbibyng,
And eek of oure materes encorporyng,
And of oure silver citrinacioun,
Oure cementyng and fermentacioun,
Oure yngottes, testes, and many mo.
I wol yow telle, as was me taught also,
The foure spirites and the bodies sevene,
By ordre, as ofte I herde my lord hem nevene.
The firste spirit quyksilver called is,
The seconde orpyment, the thridde, ywis,
Sal armonyak, and the ferthe brymstoon.
The bodyes sevene eek, lo! hem heere anoon:
Sol gold is, and luna silver we threpe,
Mars ire, mercurie quyksilver we clepe,
Saturnus leed, and juppiter is tyn,
And venus coper, by my fader kyn!
This cursed craft whoso wole excercise,
He shal no good han that hym may suffise;
For al the good he spendeth theraboute
He lese shal; therof have I no doute.
Whoso that listeth outen his folie,
Lat hym come forth and lerne multiplie;
And every man that oght hath in his cofre,
Lat hym appiere, and wexe a philosophre.
Ascaunce that craft is so light to leere?
Nay, nay, God woot, al be he monk or frere,
Preest or chanoun, or any oother wyght,
Though he sitte at his book bothe day and nyght
In lernyng of this elvysshe nyce loore,
Al is in veyn, and parde! muchel moore.
To lerne a lewed man this subtiltee --
Fy! spek nat therof, for it wol nat bee;
And konne he letterure, or konne he noon,
As in effect, he shal fynde it al oon.
For bothe two, by my savacioun,
Concluden in multiplicacioun
Ylike wel, whan they han al ydo;
This is to seyn, they faillen bothe two.
Yet forgat I to maken rehersaille
Of watres corosif, and of lymaille,
And of bodies mollificacioun,
And also of hire induracioun;
Oilles, ablucions, and metal fusible, --
To tellen al wolde passen any bible
That owher is; wherfore, as for beste,
Of alle thise names now wol I me reste.
For, as I trowe, I have yow toold ynowe
To reyse a feend, al looke he never so rowe.
A!nay! lat be; the philosophres stoon,
Elixer clept, we sechen faste echoon;
For hadde we hym, thanne were we siker ynow. Page 217
But unto God of hevene I make avow,
For al oure craft, whan we han al ydo,
And al oure sleighte, he wol nat come us to.
He hath ymaad us spenden muchel good,
For sorwe of which almoost we wexen wood,
But that good hope crepeth in oure herte,
Supposynge evere, though we sore smerte,
To be releeved by hym afterward.
Swich supposyng and hope is sharp and hard;
I warne yow wel, it is to seken evere.
That futur temps hath maad men to dissevere,
In trust therof, from al that evere they hadde.
Yet of that art they kan nat wexen sadde,
For unto hem it is a bitter sweete, --
So semeth it, -- for nadde they but a sheete,
Which that they myghte wrappe hem inne a-nyght,
And a brat to walken inne by daylyght,
They wolde hem selle and spenden on this craft.
They kan nat stynte til no thyng be laft.
And everemoore, where that evere they goon
Men may hem knowe by smel of brymstoon.
For al the world they stynken as a goot;
Hir savour is so rammyssh and so hoot
That though a man from hem a mile be,
The savour wole infecte hym, trusteth me.
And thus by smel, and by threedbare array,
If that men liste, this folk they knowe may.
And if a man wole aske hem pryvely
Why they been clothed so unthriftily,
They right anon wol rownen is his ere,
And seyn that if that they espied were,
Men wolde hem slee by cause of hir science.
Lo, thus this folk bitrayen innocence!
Passe over this; if go my tale unto.
Er that the pot be on the fir ydo,
Of metals with a certeyn quantitee,
My lord hem tempreth, and no man be he --
Now he is goon, I dar seyn boldely --
For, as men seyn, he kan doon craftily.
Algate I woot wel he hath swich a name,
And yet ful ofte he renneth in a blame.
And wite ye how? ful ofte it happeth so,
The pot tobreketh, and farewel, al is go!
Thise metals been of so greet violence,
Oure walles mowe nat make hem resistence,
But if they weren wroght of lym and stoon;
They percen so, and thurgh the wal they goon.
And somme of hem synken into the ground --
Thus han we lost by tymes many a pound --
And somme are scatered al the floor aboute;
Somme lepe into the roof. Withouten doute,
Though that the feend noght in oure sighte hym shewe,
I trowe he with us be, that ilke shrewe!
In helle, where that he lord is and sire,
Nis ther moore wo, ne moore rancour ne ire.
Whan that oure pot is broke, as I have sayd,
Every man chit, and halt hym yvele apayd.
Somme seyde it was long on the fir makyng;
Somme seyde nay, it was on the blowyng, --
Thanne was I fered, for that was myn office.
Straw! quod the thridde, ye been lewed and nyce.
It was nat tempred as it oghte be.
Nay, quod the fourthe, stynt and herkne me.
By cause oure fir ne was nat maad of beech,
That is the cause, and oother noon, so theech!
I kan nat telle wheron it was long,
But wel I woot greet strif is us among.
What, quod my lord, ther is namoore to doone;
Of thise perils I wol be war eftsoone.
I am right siker that the pot was crased.
Be as be may, be ye no thyng amased;
As usage is, lat swepe the floor as swithe,
Plukke up youre hertes, and beeth glad and blithe.
The mullok on an heep ysweped was,
And on the floor ycast a canevas,
And al this mullok in a syve ythrowe,
And sifted, and ypiked mayn a throwe.
Pardee, quod oon, somwhat of oure metal
Yet is ther heere, though that we han nat al.
Although this thyng myshapped have as now,
Another tyme it may be well ynow.
Us moste putte oure good in aventure.
A marchant, pardee, may nat ay endure,
Trusteth me wel, in his prosperitee.
Somtyme his good is drowned in the see,
And somtyme comth it sauf unto the londe.
Pees! quod my lord, the nexte tyme I wol fonde
To bryngen oure craft al in another plite,
And but I do, sires, lat me han the wite.
Ther was defaute in somwhat, wel I woot,
Another seyde the fir was over-hoot, --
But, be it hoot or coold, I dar seye this,
That we concluden everemoore amys.
We faille of that which that we wolden have,
And in oure madnesse everemoore we rave.
And whan we been togidres everichoon,
Every man semeth a salomon.
But al thyng which that shineth as the gold
Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told;
Ne every appul that is fair at eye Page 218
Ne is nat good, what so men clappe or crye.
Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us:
He that semeth the wiseste, by jhesus!
Is moost fool, whan it cometh to the preef;
And he that semeth trewest is the theef.
That shul ye knowe, er that I fro yow wende,
By that I of my tale have maad an ende.
Explicit prima pars.
Et sequitur pars secunda.
Ther is a chanoun of religioun
Amounges us, wolde infecte al a toun,
Thogh it as greet were as was nynyvee,
Rome, alisaundre, troye, and othere three.
His sleightes and his infinite falsnesse
Ther koude no man writen, as I gesse,
Though that he myghte lyve a thousand yeer.
In al this world of falshede nis his peer;
For in his termes he wol hym so wynde,
And speke his wordes in so sly a kynde,
Whanne he commune shal with any wight,
That he wol make hym doten anonright,
But it a feend be, as hymselven is.
Ful many a man hath he bigiled er this,
And wole, if that he lyve may a while;
And yet men ride and goon ful many a mile
Hym for to seke and have his aqueyntaunce,
Noght knowynge of his false governaunce.
And if yow list to yeve me audience,
I wol it tellen heere in youre presence.
But worshipful chanons religious,
Ne demeth nat that I sclaundre youre hous,
Although that my tale of a chanoun bee.
Of every ordre som shrewe is, pardee,
And God forbede that al a compaignye
Sholde rewe o singuleer mannes folye.
To sclaundre yow is no thyng myn entente,
But to correcten that is mys I mente.
This tale was nat oonly toold for yow
But eek for othere mo; ye woot wel how
That among cristes apostelles twelve
Ther nas no traytour but judas hymselve.
Thanne why sholde al the remenant have a blame
That giltlees were? by yow I seye the same,
Save oonly this, if ye wol herke me:
If any judas in youre covent be,
Remoeveth hym bitymes, I yow rede,
If shame or los may causen any drede.
And beeth no thyng displesed, I yow preye,
But in this cas herkneth what I shal seye.
In londoun was a preest, an annueleer,
That therinne dwelled hadde mayn a yeer,
Which was so plesaunt and se servysable
Unto the wyf, where as he was at table,
That she wolde suffre hym no thyng for to paye
For bord ne clothyng, wente he never so gaye;
And spendyng silver hadde he right ynow.
Therof no fors; I wol procede as now,
And telle forth my tale of the chanoun
That broghte this preest to confusioun.
This false chanon cam upon a day
Unto this preestes chambre, wher he lay,
Bisechynge hym to lene hym a certeyn
Of gold, and he wolde quite it hym ageyn.
Leene me a marc, quod he, but dayes three,
And at my day I wol it quiten thee.
And if so be that thow me fynde fals,
Another day do hange me by the hals!
This preest hym took a marc, and that as swithe,
And this chanoun hym thanked ofte sithe,
And took his leve, and wente forth his weye,
And at the thridee day broghte his moneye,
And to the preest he took his gold agayn,
Wherof this preest was wonder glad and fayn.
Certes, quod he, no thyng anoyeth me
To lene a man a noble, or two, or thre,
Or what thyng were in my possessioun,
Whan he so trewe is of condicioun
That in no wise he breke wole his day;
To swich a man I kan never seye nay.
What! quod this chanoun, sholde I be untrewe?
Nay, that were thyng yfallen al of newe.
Trouthe is a thyng that I wol evere kepe
Unto that day in which that I shal crepe
Into my grave, and ellis God forbede.
Bileveth this as siker as your crede.
God thanke I, and in good tyme be it sayd,
That ther was nevere man yet yvele apayd
For gold ne silver that he to me lente,
Ne nevere falshede in myn herte I mente.
And sire, quod he, now of my pryvetee,
Syn ye so goodlich han been unto me,
And kithed to me so greet gentillesse,
Somwhat to quyte with youre kyndenesse
I wol yow shewe, and if yow list to leere,
I wol yow teche pleynly the manere
Yow I kan werken in philosophie.
Taketh good heede, ye shul wel seen at ye
That I wol doon a maistrie er I go.
Ye, quod the preest, ye, sire, and wol ye so?
Marie! therof I pray yow hertely. Page 219
At youre comandement, sire, trewely,
Quod the chanoun, and ellis God forbeede!
Loo, how this theef koude his service beede!
Ful sooth it is that swich profred servyse
Stynketh, as witnessen thise olde wyse,
And that, ful soone I wol it verifie
In this chanoun, roote of al trecherie,
That everemoore delit hath and gladnesse --
Swiche feendly thoghtes in his herte impresse --
How cristes peple he may to meschief brynge.
God kepe us from his false dissymulynge!
Noght wiste this preest with whom that he delte,
Ne of his harm comynge he no thyng felte.
O sely preest! o sely innocent!
With coveitise anon thou shalt be blent!
O gracelees, ful blynd is thy conceite,
No thyng ne artow war of the deceite
Which that this fox yshapen hath to thee!
His wily wrenches thou ne mayst nat flee.
Wherfore, to go to the conclusion,
That refereth to thy confusion,
Unhappy man, anon I wol me hye
To tellen thyn unwit and thy folye,
And eek the falsnesse of that oother wrecche,
As ferforth as that my konnyng wol strecche.
This chanon was my lord, ye wolden weene?
Sire hoost, in feith, and by the hevenes queene,
It was another chanoun, and nat hee,
That kan an hundred foold moore subtiltee.
He hath bitrayed folkes many tyme;
Of his falsnesse it dulleth me to ryme.
Evere whan that I speke of his falshede,
For shame of hym my chekes wexen rede.
Algates they bigynnen for to glowe,
For reednesse have I noon, right wel I knowe,
In my visage; for fumes diverse
Of metals, whiche ye han herd me reherce,
Consumed and wasted han my reednesse.
Now taak heede of this chanons cursednesse!
Sire, quod he to the preest, lat youre man gon
For quyksilver, that we it hadde anon;
And lat hym bryngen ounces two or three;
And whan he comth, as faste shal ye see
A wonder thyng, which ye saugh nevere er this.
Sire, quod the preest, it shal be doon, ywis.
He bad his servant fecchen hym this thyng,
And he al redy was at his biddyng,
And wente hym forth, and cam anon agayn
With this quyksilver, shortly for to sayn,
And took thise ounces thre to the chanoun;
And he hem leyde faire and wel adoun,
And bad the servant coles for to brynge,
That he anon myghte go to his werkynge.
The coles right anon weren yfet,
And this chanoun took out a crosselet
Of his bosom, and shewed it to the preest.
This instrument, quod he, which that thou seest,
Taak in thy hand, and put thyself therinne
Of this quyksilver an ounce, and heer bigynne,
In name of crist, to wexe a philosofre.
Ther been ful fewe to whiche I wolde profre
To shewen hem thus muche of my science.
For ye shul seen heer, by experience,
That this quyksilver I wol mortifye
Right in youre sighte anon, withouten lye,
And make it as good silver and as fyn
As ther is any in youre purs or myn,
Or elleswhere, and make it malliable;
And elles holdeth me fals and unable
Amonges folk for evere to appeere.
I have poudre heer, that coste me deere,
Shal make al good, for it is cause of al
My konnyng, which that I yow shewen shal.
Voyde youre man, and lat hym be theroute,
And shette the dore, whils we been aboute
Oure pryvetee, that no man us espie,
Whils that we werke in this philosophie.
Al as he bad fulfilled was in dede.
This ilke servant anonright out yede
And his maister shette the dore anon,
And to hire labour spedily the gon.
This preest, at this cursed chanons biddyng,
Upon the fir anon sette this thyng,
And blew the fir, and bisyed hym ful faste.
And this chanoun into the crosselet caste
A poudre, noot I wherof that it was
Ymaad, outher of chalk, outher of glas,
Or somwhat elles, was nat worth a flye,
To blynde with this preest; and bad hym hye
The coles for to couchen al above
The crosselet. For in tokenyng I thee love,
Quod this chanoun, thyne owene handes two
Shul werche al thyng which that shal heer be do.
Graunt mercy, quod the preest, and was ful glad,
And couched coles as that the chanoun bad.
And while he bisy was, this feendly wrecche,
This false chanoun -- the foule feend hym fecche! --
Out of his bosom took a bechen cole,
In which ful subtilly was maad an hole, Page 220
And therinne put was of silver lemaille
An ounce, and stopped was, withouten faille,
This hole with wex, to kepe the lemaille in.
And understondeth that this false gyn
Was nat maad ther, but it was maad bifore;
And othere thynges I shal tellen moore
Herafterward, whiche that he with hym broghte.
Er he cam there, hym to bigile he thoghte,
And so he dide, er that they wente at wynne;
Til he had terved hym, koude he nat blynne.
It dulleth me whan that I of hym speke.
On his falshede fayn wolde I me wreke,
If I wiste how, but he is heere and there;
He is so variaunt, be abit nowhere.
But taketh heed now, sires, for goddes love!
He took his cole of which I spak above,
And in his hand he baar it pryvely.
And whiles the preest couched bisily
The coles, as I tolde yow er this,
This chanoun seyde, freend, ye doon amys.
This is nat couched as it oghte be;
But soone I shal amenden it, quod he.
Now lat me medle therwith but a while,
For of yow have I pitee, by seint gile!
Ye been right hoot; I se wel how ye swete.
Have heere a clooth, and wipe awey the wete.
And whiles that the preest wiped his face,
This chanoun took his cole -- with sory grace! --
And leyde it above upon the myddeward
Of the crosselet, and blew wel afterward,
Til that the coles gonne faste brenne.
Now yeve us drynke, quod the chanoun thenne;
As swithe al shal be wel, I undertake.
Sitte we doun, and lat us myrie make.
And whan that this chanounes bechen cole
Was brent, al the lemaille out of the hole
Into the crosselet fil anon adoun;
And as it moste nedes, by resoun,
Syn it so even aboven it couched was.
But therof wiste the preest nothyng, alas!
He demed alle the coles yliche good;
For of that sleighte he nothyng understood.
And whan this alkamystre saugh his tyme,
Ris up, quod he, sire preest, and stondeth by me;
And for I woot wel ingot have ye noon,
Gooth, walketh forth, and brynge us a chalk stoon;
For I wol make it of the same shap
That is an ingot, if I may han hap.
And bryngeth eek with yow a bolle or a panne
Ful of water, and ye shul se wel thanne
How that oure bisynesse shal thryve and preeve.
And yet, for ye shul han no mysbileeve
New wrong conceite of me in youre absence,
I ne wol nat been out of youre presence,
But go with yow, and come with yow ageyn.
The chambre dore, shortly for to seyn,
They opened and shette, and wente hir weye.
And forth with hem they carieden the keye,
And coome agayn withouten any delay.
What sholde I tarien al the longe day?
He took the chalk, and shoop it in the wise
Of an ingot, as I shal yow devyse.
I seye, he took out of his owene sleeve
A teyne of silver -- yvele moot he cheeve! --
Which that ne was nat but an ounce of weighte.
And taaketh heede now of his cursed sleighte!
He shoop his ingot, in lengthe and in breede
Of this teyne, withouten any drede,
So slyly that the preest it nat espide,
And in his sleve agayn he gan it hide,
And fro the fir he took up his mateere,
And in th' yngot putte it with myrie cheere,
And in the water-vessel he it caste,
Whan that hym luste, and bad the preest as faste,
Loke what ther is, put in thyn hand and grope.
Thow fynde shalt ther silver, as I hope.
What, devel of helle! sholde it elles be?
Shaving of silver silver is, pardee!
He putte his hand in and took up a teyne
Of silver fyn, and glad in every veyne
Was this preest, whan he saugh that it was so.
Goddes blessyng, and his moodres also,
And alle halwes, have ye, sire chanoun,
Seyde the preest, and I hir malisoun,
But, and ye vouche-sauf to techen me
This noble craft and this subtilitee,
I wol be youre in al that evere I may.
Quod the chanoun, yet wol I make assay
The seconde tyme, that ye may taken heede
And been expert of this, and in youre neede
Another day assaye in myn absence
This disciplyne and this crafty science.
Lat take another ounce, quod he tho,
Of quyksilver, withouten wordes mo,
And do therwith as ye han doon er this
With that oother, which that now silver is.
This preest hym bisieth in al that he kan
To doon as this chanoun, this cursed man,
Comanded hym, and faste he blew the fir,
For to come to th' effect of his desir.
And this chanon, right in the meene while, Page 221
Al redy was this preest eft to bigile,
And for a contenaunce in his hand he bar
An holwe stikke -- taak kep and be war! --
In the ende of which an ounce, and namoore,
Of silver lemaille put was, as bifore
Was in his cole, and stopped with wex weel
For to kepe in his lemaille every deel.
And whil this preest was in his bisynesse,
This chanoun with his stikke gan hym dresse
To hym anon, and his poudre caste in
As he dide er -- the devel out of his skyn
Hym terve, I pray to god, for his falshede!
For he was evere fals in thoght and dede --
And with this stikke, above the crosselet,
That was ordeyned with that false jet
He stired the coles til relente gan
The wex agayn the fir, as every man,
But it a fool be, woot wel it moot nede,
And al that in the stikke was out yede,
And in the crosselet hastily it fel.
Now, good sires, what wol ye bet than wel?
Whan that this preest thus was bigiled ageyn,
Supposynge noght but treuthe, sooth to seyn,
He was so glad that I kan nat expresse
In no manere his myrthe and his gladnesse;
And to the chanoun he profred eftsoone
Body and good. Ye, quod the chanoun soone,
Though poure I be, crafty thou shalt me fynde.
I warne thee, yet is ther moore bihynde.
Is ther any coper herinne? seyde he.
Ye, quod the preest, sire, I trowe wel ther be.
Elles go bye us som, and that as swithe;
Now, goode sire, go forth thy wey and hy the.
He wente his wey, and with the coper cam,
And this chanon it in his handes nam,
And of that coper weyed out but an ounce.
Al to symple is my tonge to pronounce,
As ministre of my wit, the doublenesse
Of this chanoun, roote of alle cursednesse!
He semed freendly to hem that knewe hym noght,
But he was feendly bothe in werk and thoght.
It weerieth me to telle of his falsnesse,
And nathelees yet wol I it expresse,
To th' entente that men may be war therby,
And for noon oother cause, trewely.
He putte this ounce of coper in the crosselet,
And on the fir as swithe he hath it set,
And caste in poudre, and made the preest to blowe,
And in his werkyng for to stoupe lowe,
As he dide er, -- and al nas but a jape;
Right as hym liste, the preest he made his ape!
And afterward in the ingot he it caste,
And in the panne putte it at the laste
Of water, and in he putte his owene hand,
And in his sleve (as ye biforen-hand
Herde me telle) he hadde a silver teyne.
He slyly took it out, this cursed heyne,
Unwityng this preest of his false craft,
And in the pannes botme he hath it laft;
And in the water rombled to and fro,
And wonder pryvely took up also
The coper teyne, noght knowynge this preest,
And hidde it, and hym hente by the breest,
And to hym spak, and thus seyde in his game:
Stoupeth adoun, by god, ye be to balme!
Helpeth me now, as I dide yow whileer;
Putte in youre hand, and looketh what is theer.
This preest took up this silver teyne anon,
And thanne seyde the chanoun, lat us gon
With thise thre teynes, whiche that we han wroght,
To som goldsmyth, and wite if they been oght.
For, by my feith, I nolde, for myn hood,
But if that they were silver fyn and good,
And that as swithe preeved it shal bee.
Unto the goldsmyth with thise teynes three
They wente, and putte thise teynes in assay
Fo fir and hamer; myghte no man seye nay,
But that they weren as hem oghte be.
This sotted preest, who was gladder than he?
Was nevere brid gladder agayn the day,
Ne nyghtyngale, in the sesoun of may,
Was nevere noon that luste bet to synge;
Ne lady lustier in carolynge,
Or for to speke of love and wommanhede,
Ne knyght in armes to doon an hardy dede,
To stonden in grace of his lady deere,
Than hadde this preest this soory craft to leere.
And to the chanoun thus he spak and seyde:
For love of god, that for us alle deyde,
And as I may deserve it unto yow,
What shal this receite coste? telleth now!
By oure lady, quod this chanon, it is deere,
I warne yow wel; for save I and a frere,
In engelond ther kan no man it make.
No fors, quod he, now, sire, for goddes sake,
What shal I paye? telleth me, I preye.
Ywis, quod he, it is ful deere, I seye.
Sire, at o word, if that thee list it have,
Ye shul paye fourty pound, so God me save! Page 222
And nere the freendshipe that ye dide er this
To me, ye sholde paye moore, ywis.
This preest the somme of fourty pound anon
Of nobles fette, and took hem everichon
To this chanoun, for this ilke receite.
Al his werkyng nas but fraude and deceite.
Sire preest, he seyde, I kepe han no loos
Of my craft, for I wolde it kept were cloos;
And, as ye love me, kepeth it secree.
For, and men knewen al my soutiltee,
By god, they wolden han so greet envye
To me, by cause of my philosophye,
I sholde be deed; ther were noon oother weye.
God it forbeede, quod the preest, what sey ye?
Yet hadde I levere spenden al the good
Which that I have, and elles wexe I wood,
Than that ye sholden falle in swich mescheef.
For youre good wyl, sire, have ye right good preef,
Quod the chanoun, and farwel, grant mercy!
He wente his wey, and never the preest hym sy
After that day; and whan that this preest shoolde
Maken assay, at swich tyme as he wolde,
Of this receit, farwel! it wolde nat be.
Lo, thus byjaped and bigiled was he!
Thus maketh he his introduccioun,
To brynge folk to hir destruccioun.
Considereth, sires, how that, in ech estaat,
Bitwixe men and gold ther is debaat
So ferforth that unnethes is ther noon.
This multiplying blent so many oon
That in good feith I trowe that it bee
The cause grettest of swich scarsetee.
Philosophres speken so mystily
In this craft that men kan nat come therby,
For any wit that men han now-a-dayes.
They mowe wel chiteren as doon thise jayes,
And in hir termes sette hir lust and peyne,
But to hir purpos shul they nevere atteyne.
A man may lightly lerne, if he have aught,
To multiplie, and brynge his good to naught!
Lo! swich a lucre is in this lusty game,
A mannes myrthe it wol turne unto grame,
And empten also grete and hevye purses,
And maken folk for to purchacen curses
Of hem that han hir good therto ylent.
O! fy, for shame! they that han been brent,
Allas! kan they nat flee the fires heete?
Ye that it use, I rede ye it leete,
Lest ye lese al; for bet than nevere is late.
Nevere to thryve were to long a date.
Though ye prolle ay, ye shul it nevere fynde.
Ye been as boold as is bayard the blynde,
That blondreth forth, and peril casteth noon.
He is as boold to renne agayn a stoon
As for to goon bisides in the weye.
So faren ye that multiplie, I seye.
If that youre eyen kan nat seen aright,
Looke that youre mynde lakke noght his sight.
For though ye looken never so brode and stare,
Ye shul nothyng wynne on that chaffare,
But wasten al that ye may rape and renne.
Withdraweth the fir, lest it to faste brenne;
Medleth namoore with that art, I mene,
For if ye doon, youre thrift is goon ful clene.
And right as swithe I wol yow tellen heere
What philosophres seyn in this mateere.
Lo, thus seith arnold of the newe toun,
As his rosarie maketh mencioun;
He seith right thus, withouten any lye:
Ther may no man mercurie mortifie
But it be with his brother knowlechyng.
How be that he which that first seyde this thyng
Of philosophres fader was, hermes --
He seith how that the dragon, doutelees,
Ne dyeth nat, but if that he be slayn
With his brother; and that is for to sayn,
By the dragon, mercurie, and noon oother
He understood, and brymstoon by his brother,
That out of sol and luna were ydrawe.
And therfore, seyde he, -- taak heede to my sawe --
Lat no man bisye hym this art for to seche,
But if that he th' entencioun and speche
Of philosophres understonde kan;
And if he do, he is a lewed man.
For this science and this konnyng, quod he,
Is of the secree of secrees, pardee.
Also ther was a disciple of plato,
That on a tyme seyde his maister to,
As his book senior wol bere witnesse,
And this was his demande in soothfastnesse:
Telle me the name of the privee stoon?
And plato answerde unto hym anoon,
Take the stoon that titanos men name.
Which is that? quod he. Magnasia is the same,
Seyde plato. Ye, sire, and is it thus?
This is ignotum per ignocius.
What is magnasia, good sire, I yow preye?
It is a water that is maad, I seye,
Of elementes foure, quod plato.
Telle me the roote, good sire, quod he tho,
Of that water, if it be youre wil.
Nay, nay, quod plato, certein, that I nyl.
The philosophres sworn were everychoon Page 223
That they sholden discovere it unto noon,
Ne in no book it write in no manere.
For unto crist it is so lief and deere
That he wol nat that it discovered bee,
But where it liketh to his deitee
Men for t' enspire, and eek for to deffende
Whom that hym liketh; lo, this is the ende.
Thanne conclude I thus, sith that God of hevene
Ne wil nat that the philosophres nevene
How that a man shal come unto this stoon,
I rede, as for the beste, lete it goon.
For whoso maketh God his adversarie,
As for to werken any thyng in contrarie
Of his wil, certes, never shal he thryve,
Thogh that he multiplie terme of his lyve.
And there a poynt; for ended is my tale.
God sende every trewe man boote of his bale!