Part 12 out of 19
For every mortal manne's power is
But like a bladder full of wind, y-wis;* *certainly
For with a needle's point, when it is blow',
May all the boast of it be laid full low."
"Full wrongfully begunnest thou," quoth he,
"And yet in wrong is thy perseverance.
Know'st thou not how our mighty princes free
Have thus commanded and made ordinance,
That every Christian wight shall have penance,* *punishment
But if that he his Christendom withsay,* *deny
And go all quit, if he will it renay?"* *renounce
"Your princes erren, as your nobley* doth," *nobility
Quoth then Cecile, "and with a *wood sentence* *mad judgment*
Ye make us guilty, and it is not sooth:* *true
For ye that knowe well our innocence,
Forasmuch as we do aye reverence
To Christ, and for we bear a Christian name,
Ye put on us a crime and eke a blame.
"But we that knowe thilke name so
For virtuous, we may it not withsay."
Almach answered, "Choose one of these two,
Do sacrifice, or Christendom renay,
That thou may'st now escape by that way."
At which the holy blissful faire maid
Gan for to laugh, and to the judge said;
"O judge, *confused in thy nicety,* *confounded in thy folly*
Wouldest thou that I reny innocence?
To make me a wicked wight," quoth she,
"Lo, he dissimuleth* here in audience; *dissembles
He stareth and woodeth* in his advertence."** *grows furious **thought
To whom Almachius said, "Unsely* wretch, *unhappy
Knowest thou not how far my might may stretch?
"Have not our mighty princes to me given
Yea bothe power and eke authority
To make folk to dien or to liven?
Why speakest thou so proudly then to me?"
"I speake not but steadfastly," quoth she,
Not proudly, for I say, as for my side,
We hate deadly* thilke vice of pride. *mortally
"And, if thou dreade not a sooth* to hear, *truth
Then will I shew all openly by right,
That thou hast made a full great leasing* here. *falsehood
Thou say'st thy princes have thee given might
Both for to slay and for to quick* a wight, -- *give life to
Thou that may'st not but only life bereave;
Thou hast none other power nor no leave.
"But thou may'st say, thy princes have thee maked
Minister of death; for if thou speak of mo',
Thou liest; for thy power is full naked."
"Do away thy boldness," said Almachius tho,* *then
"And sacrifice to our gods, ere thou go.
I recke not what wrong that thou me proffer,
For I can suffer it as a philosopher.
"But those wronges may I not endure,
That thou speak'st of our goddes here," quoth he.
Cecile answer'd, "O nice* creature, *foolish
Thou saidest no word, since thou spake to me,
That I knew not therewith thy nicety,* *folly
And that thou wert in *every manner wise* *every sort of way*
A lewed* officer, a vain justice. *ignorant
"There lacketh nothing to thine outward eyen
That thou art blind; for thing that we see all
That it is stone, that men may well espyen,
That ilke* stone a god thou wilt it call. *very, selfsame
I rede* thee let thine hand upon it fall, *advise
And taste* it well, and stone thou shalt it find; *examine, test
Since that thou see'st not with thine eyen blind.
"It is a shame that the people shall
So scorne thee, and laugh at thy folly;
For commonly men *wot it well over all,* *know it everywhere*
That mighty God is in his heaven high;
And these images, well may'st thou espy,
To thee nor to themselves may not profite,
For in effect they be not worth a mite."
These wordes and such others saide she,
And he wax'd wroth, and bade men should her lead
Home to her house; "And in her house," quoth he,
"Burn her right in a bath, with flames red."
And as he bade, right so was done the deed;
For in a bath they gan her faste shetten,* *shut, confine
And night and day great fire they under betten.* *kindled, applied
The longe night, and eke a day also,
For all the fire, and eke the bathe's heat,
She sat all cold, and felt of it no woe,
It made her not one droppe for to sweat;
But in that bath her life she must lete.* *leave
For he, Almachius, with full wick' intent,
To slay her in the bath his sonde* sent. *message, order
Three strokes in the neck he smote her tho,* *there
The tormentor,* but for no manner chance *executioner
He might not smite her faire neck in two:
And, for there was that time an ordinance
That no man should do man such penance,* *severity, torture
The fourthe stroke to smite, soft or sore,
This tormentor he durste do no more;
But half dead, with her necke carven* there *gashed
He let her lie, and on his way is went.
The Christian folk, which that about her were,
With sheetes have the blood full fair y-hent; *taken up
Three dayes lived she in this torment,
And never ceased them the faith to teach,
That she had foster'd them, she gan to preach.
And them she gave her mebles* and her thing, *goods
And to the Pope Urban betook* them tho;** *commended **then
And said, "I aske this of heaven's king,
To have respite three dayes and no mo',
To recommend to you, ere that I go,
These soules, lo; and that *I might do wirch* *cause to be made*
Here of mine house perpetually a church."
Saint Urban, with his deacons, privily
The body fetch'd, and buried it by night
Among his other saintes honestly;
Her house the church of Saint Cecilie hight;* *is called
Saint Urban hallow'd it, as he well might;
In which unto this day, in noble wise,
Men do to Christ and to his saint service.
Notes to the Nun's Priest's Tale
1. This Tale was originally composed by Chaucer as a separate
work, and as such it is mentioned in the "Legend of Good
Women" under the title of "The Life of Saint Cecile". Tyrwhitt
quotes the line in which the author calls himself an "unworthy
son of Eve," and that in which he says, "Yet pray I you, that
reade what I write", as internal evidence that the insertion of the
poem in the Canterbury Tales was the result of an afterthought;
while the whole tenor of the introduction confirms the belief
that Chaucer composed it as a writer or translator -- not,
dramatically, as a speaker. The story is almost literally
translated from the Life of St Cecilia in the "Legenda Aurea."
2. Leas: leash, snare; the same as "las," oftener used by
3. The nativity and assumption of the Virgin Mary formed the
themes of some of St Bernard's most eloquent sermons.
4. Compare with this stanza the fourth stanza of the Prioress's
Tale, the substance of which is the same.
5. "But he answered and said, it is not meet to take the
children's bread, and cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord:
yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their master's
table." -- Matthew xv. 26, 27.
6. See note 1.
7. These are Latin puns: Heaven's lily - "Coeli lilium"; The way
of blind - "Caeci via"; Heaven and Lia - from "Coeli", heaven,
and "Ligo," to bind; Heaven and Leos - from Coeli and "Laos,"
(Ionian Greek) or "Leos" (Attic Greek), the people. Such
punning derivations of proper names were very much in favour
in the Middle Ages. The explanations of St Cecilia's name are
literally taken from the prologue to the Latin legend.
8. This passage suggests Horace's description of the wise man,
who, among other things, is "in se ipse totus, teres, atque
rotundus." ("complete in himself, polished and rounded") --
Satires, 2, vii. 80.
9. Louting: lingering, or lying concealed; the Latin original has
"Inter sepulchra martyrum latiantem" ("hiding among the tombs
10. The fourteen lines within brackets are supposed to have
been originally an interpolation in the Latin legend, from which
they are literally translated. They awkwardly interrupt the flow
of the narration.
11. Engine: wit; the devising or constructive faculty; Latin,
12. Cold: wretched, distressful; see note 22 to the Nun's Priest's
13. Corniculere: The secretary or registrar who was charged
with publishing the acts, decrees and orders of the prefect.
14. "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I
have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown
of righteousness" -- 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8.
15. Did him to-beat: Caused him to be cruelly or fatally beaten;
the force of the "to" is intensive.
THE CANON'S YEOMAN'S TALE. <1>
WHEN ended was the life of Saint Cecile,
Ere we had ridden fully five mile, <2>
At Boughton-under-Blee us gan o'ertake
A man, that clothed was in clothes black,
And underneath he wore a white surplice.
His hackenay,* which was all pomely-gris,** *nag **dapple-gray
So sweated, that it wonder was to see;
It seem'd as he had pricked* miles three. *spurred
The horse eke that his yeoman rode upon
So sweated, that unnethes* might he gon.** *hardly **go
About the peytrel <3> stood the foam full high;
He was of foam, as *flecked as a pie.* *spotted like a magpie*
A maile twyfold <4> on his crupper lay;
It seemed that he carried little array;
All light for summer rode this worthy man.
And in my heart to wonder I began
What that he was, till that I understood
How that his cloak was sewed to his hood;
For which, when I had long advised* me, *considered
I deemed him some Canon for to be.
His hat hung at his back down by a lace,* *cord
For he had ridden more than trot or pace;
He hadde pricked like as he were wood.* *mad
A clote-leaf* he had laid under his hood, * burdock-leaf
For sweat, and for to keep his head from heat.
But it was joye for to see him sweat;
His forehead dropped as a stillatory* *still
Were full of plantain or of paritory.* *wallflower
And when that he was come, he gan to cry,
"God save," quoth he, "this jolly company.
Fast have I pricked," quoth he, "for your sake,
Because that I would you overtake,
To riden in this merry company."
His Yeoman was eke full of courtesy,
And saide, "Sirs, now in the morning tide
Out of your hostelry I saw you ride,
And warned here my lord and sovereign,
Which that to ride with you is full fain,
For his disport; he loveth dalliance."
"Friend, for thy warning God give thee good chance,"* *fortune
Said oure Host; "certain it woulde seem
Thy lord were wise, and so I may well deem;
He is full jocund also, dare I lay;
Can he aught tell a merry tale or tway,
With which he gladden may this company?"
"Who, Sir? my lord? Yea, Sir, withoute lie,
He can* of mirth and eke of jollity *knows
*Not but* enough; also, Sir, truste me, *not less than*
An* ye him knew all so well as do I, *if
Ye would wonder how well and craftily
He coulde work, and that in sundry wise.
He hath take on him many a great emprise,* *task, undertaking
Which were full hard for any that is here
To bring about, but* they of him it lear.** *unless **learn
As homely as he rides amonges you,
If ye him knew, it would be for your prow:* *advantage
Ye woulde not forego his acquaintance
For muche good, I dare lay in balance
All that I have in my possession.
He is a man of high discretion.
I warn you well, he is a passing* man." *surpassing, extraordinary
Well," quoth our Host, "I pray thee tell me than,
Is he a clerk,* or no? Tell what he is." *scholar, priest
"Nay, he is greater than a clerk, y-wis,"* *certainly
Saide this Yeoman; "and, in wordes few,
Host, of his craft somewhat I will you shew,
I say, my lord can* such a subtlety *knows
(But all his craft ye may not weet* of me, *learn
And somewhat help I yet to his working),
That all the ground on which we be riding
Till that we come to Canterbury town,
He could all cleane turnen up so down,
And pave it all of silver and of gold."
And when this Yeoman had this tale told
Unto our Host, he said; "Ben'dicite!
This thing is wonder marvellous to me,
Since that thy lord is of so high prudence,
Because of which men should him reverence,
That of his worship* recketh he so lite;** *honour **little
His *overest slop* it is not worth a mite *upper garment*
As in effect to him, so may I go;
It is all baudy* and to-tore also. *slovenly
Why is thy lord so sluttish, I thee pray,
And is of power better clothes to bey,* *buy
If that his deed accordeth with thy speech?
Telle me that, and that I thee beseech."
"Why?" quoth this Yeoman, "whereto ask ye me?
God help me so, for he shall never the* *thrive
(But I will not avowe* that I say, *admit
And therefore keep it secret, I you pray);
He is too wise, in faith, as I believe.
Thing that is overdone, it will not preve* *stand the test
Aright, as clerkes say; it is a vice;
Wherefore in that I hold him *lewd and nice."* *ignorant and foolish*
For when a man hath over great a wit,
Full oft him happens to misusen it;
So doth my lord, and that me grieveth sore.
God it amend; I can say now no more."
"Thereof *no force,* good Yeoman, "quoth our Host; *no matter*
"Since of the conning* of thy lord, thou know'st, *knowledge
Tell how he doth, I pray thee heartily,
Since that be is so crafty and so sly.* *wise
Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?"
"In the suburbes of a town," quoth he,
"Lurking in hernes* and in lanes blind, *corners
Where as these robbers and these thieves by kind* *nature
Holde their privy fearful residence,
As they that dare not show their presence,
So fare we, if I shall say the soothe."* *truth
"Yet," quoth our Hoste, "let me talke to thee;
Why art thou so discolour'd of thy face?"
"Peter!" quoth he, "God give it harde grace,
I am so us'd the hote fire to blow,
That it hath changed my colour, I trow;
I am not wont in no mirror to pry,
But swinke* sore, and learn to multiply. <5> *labour
We blunder* ever, and poren** in the fire, *toil **peer
And, for all that, we fail of our desire
For ever we lack our conclusion
To muche folk we do illusion,
And borrow gold, be it a pound or two,
Or ten or twelve, or many summes mo',
And make them weenen,* at the leaste way, *fancy
That of a pounde we can make tway.
Yet is it false; and aye we have good hope
It for to do, and after it we grope:* *search, strive
But that science is so far us beforn,
That we may not, although we had it sworn,
It overtake, it slides away so fast;
It will us make beggars at the last."
While this Yeoman was thus in his talking,
This Canon drew him near, and heard all thing
Which this Yeoman spake, for suspicion
Of menne's speech ever had this Canon:
For Cato saith, that he that guilty is, <6>
Deemeth all things be spoken of him y-wis;* *surely
Because of that he gan so nigh to draw
To his Yeoman, that he heard all his saw;
And thus he said unto his Yeoman tho* *then
"Hold thou thy peace,and speak no wordes mo':
For if thou do, thou shalt *it dear abie.* *pay dearly for it*
Thou slanderest me here in this company
And eke discoverest that thou shouldest hide."
"Yea," quoth our Host, "tell on, whatso betide;
Of all his threatening reck not a mite."
"In faith," quoth he, "no more do I but lite."* *little
And when this Canon saw it would not be
But his Yeoman would tell his privity,* *secrets
He fled away for very sorrow and shame.
"Ah!" quoth the Yeoman, "here shall rise a game;* *some diversion
All that I can anon I will you tell,
Since he is gone; the foule fiend him quell!* *destroy
For ne'er hereafter will I with him meet,
For penny nor for pound, I you behete.* *promise
He that me broughte first unto that game,
Ere that he die, sorrow have he and shame.
For it is earnest* to me, by my faith; *a serious matter
That feel I well, what so any man saith;
And yet for all my smart, and all my grief,
For all my sorrow, labour, and mischief,* *trouble
I coulde never leave it in no wise.
Now would to God my witte might suffice
To tellen all that longeth to that art!
But natheless yet will I telle part;
Since that my lord is gone, I will not spare;
Such thing as that I know, I will declare."
Notes to the Prologue to the Canon's Yeoman's Tale
1. "The introduction," says Tyrwhitt, "of the Canon's
Yeoman to tell a Tale at a time when so many of the original
characters remain to be called upon, appears a little
extraordinary. It should seem that some sudden resentment
had determined Chaucer to interrupt the regular course of his
work, in order to insert a satire against the alchemists. That
their pretended science was much cultivated about this time,
and produced its usual evils, may fairly be inferred from the
Act, which was passed soon after, 5 H. IV. c. iv., to make it
felony 'to multiply gold or silver, or to use the art of
multiplication.'" Tyrwhitt finds in the prologue some colour
for the hypothesis that this Tale was intended by Chaucer to
begin the return journey from Canterbury; but against this
must be set the fact that the Yeoman himself expressly speaks
of the distance to Canterbury yet to be ridden.
2. Fully five mile: From some place which the loss of the
Second Nun's Prologue does not enable us to identify.
3. Peytrel: the breast-plate of a horse's harness; French,
4. A maile twyfold: a double valise; a wallet hanging across
the crupper on either side of the horse.
5. Multiply: transmute metals, in the attempt to multiply gold
and silver by alchemy.
6. "Conscius ipse sibi de se putat omnia dici" ("The
conspirator believes that everything spoken refers to himself")
-- "De Moribus," I. i. dist. 17.
THE TALE. <1>
With this Canon I dwelt have seven year,
And of his science am I ne'er the near* *nearer
All that I had I have lost thereby,
And, God wot, so have many more than I.
Where I was wont to be right fresh and gay
Of clothing, and of other good array
Now may I wear an hose upon mine head;
And where my colour was both fresh and red,
Now is it wan, and of a leaden hue
(Whoso it useth, sore shall he it rue);
And of my swink* yet bleared is mine eye; *labour
Lo what advantage is to multiply!
That sliding* science hath me made so bare, *slippery, deceptive
That I have no good,* where that ever I fare; *property
And yet I am indebted so thereby
Of gold, that I have borrow'd truely,
That, while I live, I shall it quite* never; *repay
Let every man beware by me for ever.
What manner man that casteth* him thereto, *betaketh
If he continue, I hold *his thrift y-do;* *prosperity at an end*
So help me God, thereby shall he not win,
But empty his purse, and make his wittes thin.
And when he, through his madness and folly,
Hath lost his owen good through jupartie,* *hazard <2>
Then he exciteth other men thereto,
To lose their good as he himself hath do'.
For unto shrewes* joy it is and ease *wicked folk
To have their fellows in pain and disease.* *trouble
Thus was I ones learned of a clerk;
Of that no charge;* I will speak of our work. *matter
When we be there as we shall exercise
Our elvish* craft, we seeme wonder wise, *fantastic, wicked
Our termes be so *clergial and quaint.* *learned and strange
I blow the fire till that mine hearte faint.
Why should I tellen each proportion
Of thinges, whiche that we work upon,
As on five or six ounces, may well be,
Of silver, or some other quantity?
And busy me to telle you the names,
As orpiment, burnt bones, iron squames,* *scales <3>
That into powder grounden be full small?
And in an earthen pot how put is all,
And, salt y-put in, and also peppere,
Before these powders that I speak of here,
And well y-cover'd with a lamp of glass?
And of much other thing which that there was?
And of the pots and glasses engluting,* *sealing up
That of the air might passen out no thing?
And of the easy* fire, and smart** also, *slow **quick
Which that was made? and of the care and woe
That we had in our matters subliming,
And in amalgaming, and calcining
Of quicksilver, called mercury crude?
For all our sleightes we can not conclude.
Our orpiment, and sublim'd mercury,
Our ground litharge* eke on the porphyry, *white lead
Of each of these of ounces a certain,* *certain proportion
Not helpeth us, our labour is in vain.
Nor neither our spirits' ascensioun,
Nor our matters that lie all fix'd adown,
May in our working nothing us avail;
For lost is all our labour and travail,
And all the cost, a twenty devil way,
Is lost also, which we upon it lay.
There is also full many another thing
That is unto our craft appertaining,
Though I by order them not rehearse can,
Because that I am a lewed* man; *unlearned
Yet will I tell them as they come to mind,
Although I cannot set them in their kind,
As sal-armoniac, verdigris, borace;
And sundry vessels made of earth and glass; <4>
Our urinales, and our descensories,
Phials, and croslets, and sublimatories,
Cucurbites, and alembikes eke,
And other suche, *dear enough a leek,* *worth less than a leek*
It needeth not for to rehearse them all.
Waters rubifying, and bulles' gall,
Arsenic, sal-armoniac, and brimstone,
And herbes could I tell eke many a one,
As egremoine,* valerian, and lunary,** *agrimony **moon-wort
And other such, if that me list to tarry;
Our lampes burning bothe night and day,
To bring about our craft if that we may;
Our furnace eke of calcination,
And of waters albification,
Unslaked lime, chalk, and *glair of an ey,* *egg-white
Powders diverse, ashes, dung, piss, and clay,
Seared pokettes,<5> saltpetre, and vitriol;
And divers fires made of wood and coal;
Sal-tartar, alkali, salt preparate,
And combust matters, and coagulate;
Clay made with horse and manne's hair, and oil
Of tartar, alum, glass, barm, wort, argoil,* *potter's clay<6>
Rosalgar,* and other matters imbibing; *flowers of antimony
And eke of our matters encorporing,* *incorporating
And of our silver citrination, <7>
Our cementing, and fermentation,
Our ingots,* tests, and many thinges mo'. *moulds <8>
I will you tell, as was me taught also,
The foure spirits, and the bodies seven,
By order, as oft I heard my lord them neven.* *name
The first spirit Quicksilver called is;
The second Orpiment; the third, y-wis,
Sal-Armoniac, and the fourth Brimstone.
The bodies sev'n eke, lo them here anon.
Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe* *name <9>
Mars iron, Mercury quicksilver we clepe;* *call
Saturnus lead, and Jupiter is tin,
And Venus copper, by my father's kin.
This cursed craft whoso will exercise,
He shall no good have that him may suffice;
For all the good he spendeth thereabout,
He lose shall, thereof have I no doubt.
Whoso that list to utter* his folly, *display
Let him come forth and learn to multiply:
And every man that hath aught in his coffer,
Let him appear, and wax a philosopher;
Ascaunce* that craft is so light to lear.** *as if **learn
Nay, nay, God wot, all be he monk or frere,
Priest or canon, or any other wight;
Though he sit at his book both day and night;
In learning of this *elvish nice* lore, * fantastic, foolish
All is in vain; and pardie muche more,
Is to learn a lew'd* man this subtlety; *ignorant
Fie! speak not thereof, for it will not be.
And *conne he letterure,* or conne he none, *if he knows learning*
As in effect, he shall it find all one;
For bothe two, by my salvation,
Concluden in multiplication* *transmutation by alchemy
Alike well, when they have all y-do;
This is to say, they faile bothe two.
Yet forgot I to make rehearsale
Of waters corrosive, and of limaile,* *metal filings
And of bodies' mollification,
And also of their induration,
Oiles, ablutions, metal fusible,
To tellen all, would passen any Bible
That owhere* is; wherefore, as for the best, *anywhere
Of all these names now will I me rest;
For, as I trow, I have you told enough
To raise a fiend, all look he ne'er so rough.
Ah! nay, let be; the philosopher's stone,
Elixir call'd, we seeke fast each one;
For had we him, then were we sicker* enow; *secure
But unto God of heaven I make avow,* *confession
For all our craft, when we have all y-do,
And all our sleight, he will not come us to.
He hath y-made us spende muche good,
For sorrow of which almost we waxed wood,* *mad
But that good hope creeped in our heart,
Supposing ever, though we sore smart,
To be relieved by him afterward.
Such supposing and hope is sharp and hard.
I warn you well it is to seeken ever.
That future temps* hath made men dissever,** *time **part from
In trust thereof, from all that ever they had,
Yet of that art they cannot waxe sad,* *repentant
For unto them it is a bitter sweet;
So seemeth it; for had they but a sheet
Which that they mighte wrap them in at night,
And a bratt* to walk in by dayelight, *cloak<10>
They would them sell, and spend it on this craft;
They cannot stint,* until no thing be laft. *cease
And evermore, wherever that they gon,
Men may them knowe by smell of brimstone;
For all the world they stinken as a goat;
Their savour is so rammish and so hot,
That though a man a mile from them be,
The savour will infect him, truste me.
Lo, thus by smelling and threadbare array,
If that men list, this folk they knowe may.
And if a man will ask them privily,
Why they be clothed so unthriftily,* *shabbily
They right anon will rownen* in his ear, *whisper
And sayen, if that they espied were,
Men would them slay, because of their science:
Lo, thus these folk betrayen innocence!
Pass over this; I go my tale unto.
Ere that the pot be on the fire y-do* *placed
Of metals, with a certain quantity
My lord them tempers,* and no man but he *adjusts the proportions
(Now he is gone, I dare say boldely);
For as men say, he can do craftily,
Algate* I wot well he hath such a name, *although
And yet full oft he runneth into blame;
And know ye how? full oft it happ'neth so,
The pot to-breaks, and farewell! all is go'.* *gone
These metals be of so great violence,
Our walles may not make them resistence,
*But if* they were wrought of lime and stone; *unless*
They pierce so, that through the wall they gon;
And some of them sink down into the ground
(Thus have we lost by times many a pound),
And some are scatter'd all the floor about;
Some leap into the roof withoute doubt.
Though that the fiend not in our sight him show,
I trowe that he be with us, that shrew;* *impious wretch
In helle, where that he is lord and sire,
Is there no more woe, rancour, nor ire.
When that our pot is broke, as I have said,
Every man chides, and holds him *evil apaid.* *dissatisfied*
Some said it was *long on* the fire-making; *because of <11>*
Some saide nay, it was on the blowing
(Then was I fear'd, for that was mine office);
"Straw!" quoth the third, "ye be *lewed and **nice, *ignorant **foolish
It was not temper'd* as it ought to be." *mixed in due proportions
"Nay," quoth the fourthe, "stint* and hearken me; *stop
Because our fire was not y-made of beech,
That is the cause, and other none, *so the'ch.* *so may I thrive*
I cannot tell whereon it was along,
But well I wot great strife is us among."
"What?" quoth my lord, "there is no more to do'n,
Of these perils I will beware eftsoon.* *another time
I am right sicker* that the pot was crazed.** *sure **cracked
Be as be may, be ye no thing amazed.* *confounded
As usage is, let sweep the floor as swithe;* *quickly
Pluck up your heartes and be glad and blithe."
The mullok* on a heap y-sweeped was, *rubbish
And on the floor y-cast a canevas,
And all this mullok in a sieve y-throw,
And sifted, and y-picked many a throw.* *time
"Pardie," quoth one, "somewhat of our metal
Yet is there here, though that we have not all.
And though this thing *mishapped hath as now,* *has gone amiss
Another time it may be well enow. at present*
We muste *put our good in adventure; * *risk our property*
A merchant, pardie, may not aye endure,
Truste me well, in his prosperity:
Sometimes his good is drenched* in the sea, *drowned, sunk
And sometimes comes it safe unto the land."
"Peace," quoth my lord; "the next time I will fand* *endeavour
To bring our craft *all in another plight,* *to a different conclusion*
And but I do, Sirs, let me have the wite;* *blame
There was default in somewhat, well I wot."
Another said, the fire was over hot.
But be it hot or cold, I dare say this,
That we concluden evermore amiss;
We fail alway of that which we would have;
And in our madness evermore we rave.
And when we be together every one,
Every man seemeth a Solomon.
But all thing, which that shineth as the gold,
It is not gold, as I have heard it told;
Nor every apple that is fair at eye,
It is not good, what so men clap* or cry. *assert
Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us.
He that the wisest seemeth, by Jesus,
Is most fool, when it cometh to the prefe;* *proof, test
And he that seemeth truest, is a thief.
That shall ye know, ere that I from you wend;
By that I of my tale have made an end.
There was a canon of religioun
Amonges us, would infect* all a town, *deceive
Though it as great were as was Nineveh,
Rome, Alisandre,* Troy, or other three. *Alexandria
His sleightes* and his infinite falseness *cunning tricks
There coulde no man writen, as I guess,
Though that he mighte live a thousand year;
In all this world of falseness n'is* his peer. *there is not
For in his termes he will him so wind,
And speak his wordes in so sly a kind,
When he commune shall with any wight,
That he will make him doat* anon aright, *become foolishly
But it a fiende be, as himself is. fond of him*
Full many a man hath he beguil'd ere this,
And will, if that he may live any while;
And yet men go and ride many a mile
Him for to seek, and have his acquaintance,
Not knowing of his false governance.* *deceitful conduct
And if you list to give me audience,
I will it telle here in your presence.
But, worshipful canons religious,
Ne deeme not that I slander your house,
Although that my tale of a canon be.
Of every order some shrew is, pardie;
And God forbid that all a company
Should rue a singular* manne's folly. *individual
To slander you is no thing mine intent;
But to correct that is amiss I meant.
This tale was not only told for you,
But eke for other more; ye wot well how
That amonges Christe's apostles twelve
There was no traitor but Judas himselve;
Then why should all the remenant have blame,
That guiltless were? By you I say the same.
Save only this, if ye will hearken me,
If any Judas in your convent be,
Remove him betimes, I you rede,* *counsel
If shame or loss may causen any dread.
And be no thing displeased, I you pray;
But in this case hearken what I say.
In London was a priest, an annualere, <12>
That therein dwelled hadde many a year,
Which was so pleasant and so serviceable
Unto the wife, where as he was at table,
That she would suffer him no thing to pay
For board nor clothing, went he ne'er so gay;
And spending silver had he right enow;
Thereof no force;* will proceed as now, *no matter
And telle forth my tale of the canon,
That brought this prieste to confusion.
This false canon came upon a day
Unto the prieste's chamber, where he lay,
Beseeching him to lend him a certain
Of gold, and he would quit it him again.
"Lend me a mark," quoth he, "but dayes three,
And at my day I will it quite thee.
And if it so be that thou find me false,
Another day hang me up by the halse."* *neck
This priest him took a mark, and that as swithe,* *quickly
And this canon him thanked often sithe,* *times
And took his leave, and wente forth his way;
And at the thirde day brought his money;
And to the priest he took his gold again,
Whereof this priest was wondrous glad and fain.* *pleased
"Certes," quoth he, *"nothing annoyeth me* *I am not unwiling*
To lend a man a noble, or two, or three,
Or what thing were in my possession,
When he so true is of condition,
That in no wise he breake will his day;
To such a man I never can say nay."
"What," quoth this canon, "should I be untrue?
Nay, that were *thing y-fallen all of new!* *a new thing to happen*
Truth is a thing that I will ever keep,
Unto the day in which that I shall creep
Into my grave; and elles God forbid;
Believe this as sicker* as your creed. *sure
God thank I, and in good time be it said,
That there was never man yet *evil apaid* *displeased, dissatisfied*
For gold nor silver that he to me lent,
Nor ever falsehood in mine heart I meant.
And Sir," quoth he, "now of my privity,
Since ye so goodly have been unto me,
And kithed* to me so great gentleness, *shown
Somewhat, to quite with your kindeness,
I will you shew, and if you list to lear,* *learn
I will you teache plainly the mannere
How I can worken in philosophy.
Take good heed, ye shall well see *at eye* *with your own eye*
That I will do a mas'try ere I go."
"Yea," quoth the priest; "yea, Sir, and will ye so?
Mary! thereof I pray you heartily."
"At your commandement, Sir, truely,"
Quoth the canon, "and elles God forbid."
Lo, how this thiefe could his service bede!* *offer
Full sooth it is that such proffer'd service
Stinketh, as witnesse *these olde wise;* *those wise folk of old*
And that full soon I will it verify
In this canon, root of all treachery,
That evermore delight had and gladness
(Such fiendly thoughtes *in his heart impress*) *press into his heart*
How Christe's people he may to mischief bring.
God keep us from his false dissimuling!
What wiste this priest with whom that he dealt?
Nor of his harm coming he nothing felt.
O sely* priest, O sely innocent! *simple
With covetise anon thou shalt be blent;* *blinded; beguiled
O graceless, full blind is thy conceit!
For nothing art thou ware of the deceit
Which that this fox y-shapen* hath to thee; *contrived
His wily wrenches* thou not mayest flee. *snares
Wherefore, to go to the conclusioun
That referreth to thy confusion,
Unhappy man, anon I will me hie* *hasten
To telle thine unwit* and thy folly, *stupidity
And eke the falseness of that other wretch,
As farforth as that my conning* will stretch. *knowledge
This canon was my lord, ye woulde ween;* *imagine
Sir Host, in faith, and by the heaven's queen,
It was another canon, and not he,
That can* an hundred fold more subtlety. *knows
He hath betrayed folkes many a time;
Of his falseness it doleth* me to rhyme. *paineth
And ever, when I speak of his falsehead,
For shame of him my cheekes waxe red;
Algates* they beginne for to glow, *at least
For redness have I none, right well I know,
In my visage; for fumes diverse
Of metals, which ye have me heard rehearse,
Consumed have and wasted my redness.
Now take heed of this canon's cursedness.* *villainy
"Sir," quoth he to the priest, "let your man gon
For quicksilver, that we it had anon;
And let him bringen ounces two or three;
And when he comes, as faste shall ye see
A wondrous thing, which ye saw ne'er ere this."
"Sir," quoth the priest, "it shall be done, y-wis."* *certainly
He bade his servant fetche him this thing,
And he all ready was at his bidding,
And went him forth, and came anon again
With this quicksilver, shortly for to sayn;
And took these ounces three to the canoun;
And he them laide well and fair adown,
And bade the servant coales for to bring,
That he anon might go to his working.
The coales right anon weren y-fet,* *fetched
And this canon y-took a crosselet* *crucible
Out of his bosom, and shew'd to the priest.
"This instrument," quoth he, "which that thou seest,
Take in thine hand, and put thyself therein
Of this quicksilver an ounce, and here begin,
In the name of Christ, to wax a philosopher.
There be full few, which that I woulde proffer
To shewe them thus much of my science;
For here shall ye see by experience
That this quicksilver I will mortify,<13>
Right in your sight anon withoute lie,
And make it as good silver, and as fine,
As there is any in your purse, or mine,
Or elleswhere; and make it malleable,
And elles holde me false and unable
Amonge folk for ever to appear.
I have a powder here that cost me dear,
Shall make all good, for it is cause of all
My conning,* which that I you shewe shall. *knowledge
Voide* your man, and let him be thereout; *send away
And shut the doore, while we be about
Our privity, that no man us espy,
While that we work in this phiosophy."
All, as he bade, fulfilled was in deed.
This ilke servant right anon out yede,* *went
And his master y-shut the door anon,
And to their labour speedily they gon.
This priest, at this cursed canon's biddIng,
Upon the fire anon he set this thing,
And blew the fire, and busied him full fast.
And this canon into the croslet cast
A powder, I know not whereof it was
Y-made, either of chalk, either of glass,
Or somewhat elles, was not worth a fly,
To blinden* with this priest; and bade him hie** *deceive **make haste
The coales for to couchen* all above lay in order
The croslet; "for, in token I thee love,"
Quoth this canon, "thine owen handes two
Shall work all thing that here shall be do'."
*"Grand mercy,"* quoth the priest, and was full glad, *great thanks*
And couch'd the coales as the canon bade.
And while he busy was, this fiendly wretch,
This false canon (the foule fiend him fetch),
Out of his bosom took a beechen coal,
In which full subtifly was made a hole,
And therein put was of silver limaile* *filings
An ounce, and stopped was withoute fail
The hole with wax, to keep the limaile in.
And understande, that this false gin* *contrivance
Was not made there, but it was made before;
And other thinges I shall tell you more,
Hereafterward, which that he with him brought;
Ere he came there, him to beguile he thought,
And so he did, ere that they *went atwin;* *separated*
Till he had turned him, could he not blin.* *cease <14>
It doleth* me, when that I of him speak; *paineth
On his falsehood fain would I me awreak,* *revenge myself
If I wist how, but he is here and there;
He is so variant,* he abides nowhere. *changeable
But take heed, Sirs, now for Godde's love.
He took his coal, of which I spake above,
And in his hand he bare it privily,
And while the prieste couched busily
The coales, as I tolde you ere this,
This canon saide, "Friend, ye do amiss;
This is not couched as it ought to be,
But soon I shall amenden it," quoth he.
"Now let me meddle therewith but a while,
For of you have I pity, by Saint Gile.
Ye be right hot, I see well how ye sweat;
Have here a cloth, and wipe away the wet."
And while that the prieste wip'd his face,
This canon took his coal, -- *with sorry grace,* -- *evil fortune
And layed it above on the midward attend him!*
Of the croslet, and blew well afterward,
Till that the coals beganne fast to brenn.* *burn
"Now give us drinke," quoth this canon then,
"And swithe* all shall be well, I undertake. *quickly
Sitte we down, and let us merry make."
And whenne that this canon's beechen coal
Was burnt, all the limaile out of the hole
Into the crosselet anon fell down;
And so it muste needes, by reasoun,
Since it above so *even couched* was; *exactly laid*
But thereof wist the priest no thing, alas!
He deemed all the coals alike good,
For of the sleight he nothing understood.
And when this alchemister saw his time,
"Rise up, Sir Priest," quoth he, "and stand by me;
And, for I wot well ingot* have ye none; *mould
Go, walke forth, and bring me a chalk stone;
For I will make it of the same shape
That is an ingot, if I may have hap.
Bring eke with you a bowl, or else a pan,
Full of water, and ye shall well see than* *then
How that our business shall *hap and preve* *succeed*
And yet, for ye shall have no misbelieve* *mistrust
Nor wrong conceit of me, in your absence,
I wille not be out of your presence,
But go with you, and come with you again."
The chamber-doore, shortly for to sayn,
They opened and shut, and went their way,
And forth with them they carried the key;
And came again without any delay.
Why should I tarry all the longe day?
He took the chalk, and shap'd it in the wise
Of an ingot, as I shall you devise;* *describe
I say, he took out of his owen sleeve
A teine* of silver (evil may he cheve!**) *little piece **prosper
Which that ne was but a just ounce of weight.
And take heed now of his cursed sleight;
He shap'd his ingot, in length and in brede* *breadth
Of this teine, withouten any drede,* *doubt
So slily, that the priest it not espied;
And in his sleeve again he gan it hide;
And from the fire he took up his mattere,
And in th' ingot put it with merry cheer;
And in the water-vessel he it cast,
When that him list, and bade the priest as fast
Look what there is; "Put in thine hand and grope;
There shalt thou finde silver, as I hope."
What, devil of helle! should it elles be?
Shaving of silver, silver is, pardie.
He put his hand in, and took up a teine
Of silver fine; and glad in every vein
Was this priest, when he saw that it was so.
"Godde's blessing, and his mother's also,
And alle hallows,* have ye, Sir Canon!" *saints
Saide this priest, "and I their malison* *curse
But, an'* ye vouchesafe to teache me *if
This noble craft and this subtility,
I will be yours in all that ever I may."
Quoth the canon, "Yet will I make assay
The second time, that ye may take heed,
And be expert of this, and, in your need,
Another day assay in mine absence
This discipline, and this crafty science.
Let take another ounce," quoth he tho,* *then
"Of quicksilver, withoute wordes mo',
And do therewith as ye have done ere this
With that other, which that now silver is. "
The priest him busied, all that e'er he can,
To do as this canon, this cursed man,
Commanded him, and fast he blew the fire
For to come to th' effect of his desire.
And this canon right in the meanewhile
All ready was this priest eft* to beguile, *again
and, for a countenance,* in his hande bare *stratagem
An hollow sticke (take keep* and beware); *heed
Of silver limaile put was, as before
Was in his coal, and stopped with wax well
For to keep in his limaile every deal.* *particle
And while this priest was in his business,
This canon with his sticke gan him dress* *apply
To him anon, and his powder cast in,
As he did erst (the devil out of his skin
Him turn, I pray to God, for his falsehead,
For he was ever false in thought and deed),
And with his stick, above the crosselet,
That was ordained* with that false get,** *provided **contrivance
He stirr'd the coales, till relente gan
The wax against the fire, as every man,
But he a fool be, knows well it must need.
And all that in the sticke was out yede,* *went
And in the croslet hastily* it fell. *quickly
Now, goode Sirs, what will ye bet* than well? *better
When that this priest was thus beguil'd again,
Supposing naught but truthe, sooth to sayn,
He was so glad, that I can not express
In no mannere his mirth and his gladness;
And to the canon he proffer'd eftsoon* *forthwith; again
Body and good. "Yea," quoth the canon soon,
"Though poor I be, crafty* thou shalt me find; *skilful
I warn thee well, yet is there more behind.
Is any copper here within?" said he.
"Yea, Sir," the prieste said, "I trow there be."
"Elles go buy us some, and that as swithe.* *swiftly
Now, goode Sir, go forth thy way and hie* thee." *hasten
He went his way, and with the copper came,
And this canon it in his handes name,* *took <15>
And of that copper weighed out an ounce.
Too simple is my tongue to pronounce,
As minister of my wit, the doubleness
Of this canon, root of all cursedness.
He friendly seem'd to them that knew him not;
But he was fiendly, both in work and thought.
It wearieth me to tell of his falseness;
And natheless yet will I it express,
To that intent men may beware thereby,
And for none other cause truely.
He put this copper in the crosselet,
And on the fire as swithe* he hath it set, *swiftly
And cast in powder, and made the priest to blow,
And in his working for to stoope low,
As he did erst,* and all was but a jape;** *before **trick
Right as him list the priest *he made his ape.* *befooled him*
And afterward in the ingot he it cast,
And in the pan he put it at the last
Of water, and in he put his own hand;
And in his sleeve, as ye beforehand
Hearde me tell, he had a silver teine;* *small piece
He silly took it out, this cursed heine* *wretch
(Unweeting* this priest of his false craft), *unsuspecting
And in the panne's bottom he it laft* *left
And in the water rumbleth to and fro,
And wondrous privily took up also
The copper teine (not knowing thilke priest),
And hid it, and him hente* by the breast, *took
And to him spake, and thus said in his game;
"Stoop now adown; by God, ye be to blame;
Helpe me now, as I did you whilere;* *before
Put in your hand, and looke what is there."
This priest took up this silver teine anon;
And thenne said the canon, "Let us gon,
With these three teines which that we have wrought,
To some goldsmith, and *weet if they be aught:* *find out if they are
For, by my faith, I would not for my hood worth anything*
*But if* they were silver fine and good, *unless
And that as swithe* well proved shall it be." *quickly
Unto the goldsmith with these teines three
They went anon, and put them in assay* *proof
To fire and hammer; might no man say nay,
But that they weren as they ought to be.
This sotted* priest, who gladder was than he? *stupid, besotted
Was never bird gladder against the day;
Nor nightingale in the season of May
Was never none, that better list to sing;
Nor lady lustier in carolling,
Or for to speak of love and womanhead;
Nor knight in arms to do a hardy deed,
To standen in grace of his lady dear,
Than had this priest this crafte for to lear;
And to the canon thus he spake and said;
"For love of God, that for us alle died,
And as I may deserve it unto you,
What shall this receipt coste? tell me now."
"By our Lady," quoth this canon, "it is dear.
I warn you well, that, save I and a frere,
In Engleland there can no man it make."
*"No force,"* quoth he; "now, Sir, for Godde's sake, *no matter
What shall I pay? telle me, I you pray."
"Y-wis,"* quoth he, "it is full dear, I say. *certainly
Sir, at one word, if that you list it have,
Ye shall pay forty pound, so God me save;
And n'ere* the friendship that ye did ere this *were it not for
To me, ye shoulde paye more, y-wis."
This priest the sum of forty pound anon
Of nobles fet,* and took them every one *fetched
To this canon, for this ilke receipt.
All his working was but fraud and deceit.
"Sir Priest," he said, "I keep* to have no los** *care **praise <16>
Of my craft, for I would it were kept close;
And as ye love me, keep it secre:
For if men knewen all my subtlety,
By God, they woulde have so great envy
To me, because of my philosophy,
I should be dead, there were no other way."
"God it forbid," quoth the priest, "what ye say.
Yet had I lever* spenden all the good *rather
Which that I have (and elles were I wood*), *mad
Than that ye shoulde fall in such mischief."
"For your good will, Sir, have ye right good prefe,"* *results of your
Quoth the canon; "and farewell, grand mercy." *experiments*
He went his way, and never the priest him sey * *saw
After that day; and when that this priest should
Maken assay, at such time as he would,
Of this receipt, farewell! it would not be.
Lo, thus bejaped* and beguil'd was he; *tricked
Thus made he his introduction
To bringe folk to their destruction.
Consider, Sirs, how that in each estate
Betwixte men and gold there is debate,
So farforth that *unnethes is there none.* *scarcely is there any*
This multiplying blint* so many a one, *blinds, deceive
That in good faith I trowe that it be
The cause greatest of such scarcity.
These philosophers speak so mistily
In this craft, that men cannot come thereby,
For any wit that men have how-a-days.
They may well chatter, as do these jays,
And in their termes set their *lust and pain,* *pleasure and exertion*
But to their purpose shall they ne'er attain.
A man may lightly* learn, if he have aught, *easily
To multiply, and bring his good to naught.
Lo, such a lucre* is in this lusty** game; *profit **pleasant
A manne's mirth it will turn all to grame,* *sorrow <17>
And empty also great and heavy purses,
And make folke for to purchase curses
Of them that have thereto their good y-lent.
Oh, fy for shame! they that have been brent,* *burnt
Alas! can they not flee the fire's heat?
Ye that it use, I rede* that ye it lete,** *advise **leave
Lest ye lose all; for better than never is late;
Never to thrive, were too long a date.
Though ye prowl aye, ye shall it never find;
Ye be as bold as is Bayard the blind,
That blunders forth, and *peril casteth none;* *perceives no danger*
He is as bold to run against a stone,
As for to go beside it in the way:
So fare ye that multiply, I say.
If that your eyen cannot see aright,
Look that your minde lacke not his sight.
For though you look never so broad, and stare,
Ye shall not win a mite on that chaffare,* *traffic, commerce
But wasten all that ye may *rape and renn.* *get by hook or crook*
Withdraw the fire, lest it too faste brenn;* *burn
Meddle no more with that art, I mean;
For if ye do, your thrift* is gone full clean. *prosperity
And right as swithe* I will you telle here *quickly
What philosophers say in this mattere.
Lo, thus saith Arnold of the newe town, <18>
As his Rosary maketh mentioun,
He saith right thus, withouten any lie;
"There may no man mercury mortify,<13>
But* it be with his brother's knowledging." *except
Lo, how that he, which firste said this thing,
Of philosophers father was, Hermes;<19>
He saith, how that the dragon doubteless
He dieth not, but if that he be slain
With his brother. And this is for to sayn,
By the dragon, Mercury, and none other,
He understood, and Brimstone by his brother,
That out of Sol and Luna were y-draw.* *drawn, derived
"And therefore," said he, "take heed to my saw. *saying
Let no man busy him this art to seech,* *study, explore
*But if* that he th'intention and speech *unless
Of philosophers understande can;
And if he do, he is a lewed* man. *ignorant, foolish
For this science and this conning,"* quoth he, *knowledge
"Is of the secret of secrets <20> pardie."
Also there was a disciple of Plato,
That on a time said his master to,
As his book, Senior, <21> will bear witness,
And this was his demand in soothfastness:
"Tell me the name of thilke* privy** stone." *that **secret
And Plato answer'd unto him anon;
"Take the stone that Titanos men name."
"Which is that?" quoth he. "Magnesia is the same,"
Saide Plato. "Yea, Sir, and is it thus?
This is ignotum per ignotius. <22>
What is Magnesia, good Sir, I pray?"
"It is a water that is made, I say,
Of th' elementes foure," quoth Plato.
"Tell me the roote, good Sir," quoth he tho,* *then
"Of that water, if that it be your will."
"Nay, nay," quoth Plato, "certain that I n'ill.* *will not
The philosophers sworn were every one,
That they should not discover it to none,
Nor in no book it write in no mannere;
For unto God it is so lefe* and dear, *precious
That he will not that it discover'd be,
But where it liketh to his deity
Man for to inspire, and eke for to defend'* *protect
Whom that he liketh; lo, this is the end."
Then thus conclude I, since that God of heaven
Will not that these philosophers neven* *name
How that a man shall come unto this stone,
I rede* as for the best to let it gon. *counsel
For whoso maketh God his adversary,
As for to work any thing in contrary
Of his will, certes never shall he thrive,
Though that he multiply term of his live. <23>
And there a point;* for ended is my tale. *end
God send ev'ry good man *boot of his bale.* *remedy for his sorrow*
Note to the Canon's Yeoman's Tale
1. The Tale of the Canon's Yeoman, like those of the Wife of
Bath and the Pardoner, is made up of two parts; a long
general introduction, and the story proper. In the case of the
Wife of Bath, the interruptions of other pilgrims, and the
autobiographical nature of the discourse, recommend the
separation of the prologue from the Tale proper; but in the
other cases the introductory or merely connecting matter
ceases wholly where the opening of "The Tale" has been
marked in the text.
2. Jupartie: Jeopardy, hazard. In Froissart's French, "a jeu
partie" is used to signify a game or contest in which the
chances were exactly equal for both sides.
3. Squames: Scales; Latin, "squamae."
4. Descensories: vessels for distillation "per descensum;" they
were placed under the fire, and the spirit to be extracted was
Croslets: crucibles; French, "creuset.".
Cucurbites: retorts; distilling-vessels; so called from their
likeness in shape to a gourd -- Latin, "cucurbita."
5. Seared pokettes: the meaning of this phrase is obscure; but
if we take the reading "cered poketts," from the Harleian
manuscript, we are led to the supposition that it signifies
receptacles -- bags or pokes -- prepared with wax for some
process. Latin, "cera," wax.
6. Argoil: potter's clay, used for luting or closing vessels in
the laboratories of the alchemists; Latin, "argilla;" French,
7. Citrination: turning to a citrine colour, or yellow, by
chemical action; that was the colour which proved the
8. Ingots: not, as in its modern meaning, the masses of metal
shaped by pouring into moulds; but the moulds themslves into
which the fused metal was poured. Compare Dutch,
"ingieten," part. "inghehoten," to infuse; German,
"eingiessen," part. "eingegossen," to pour in.
9. Threpe: name; from Anglo-Saxon, "threapian."
10. Bratt: coarse cloak; Anglo-Saxon, "bratt." The word is
still used in Lincolnshire, and some parts of the north, to
signify a coarse kind of apron.
11. Long on: in consequence of; the modern vulgar phrase "all
along of," or "all along on," best conveys the force of the
words in the text.
12. Annualere: a priest employed in singing "annuals" or
anniversary masses for the dead, without any cure of souls;
the office was such as, in the Prologue to the Tales, Chaucer
praises the Parson for not seeking: Nor "ran unto London,
unto Saint Poul's, to seeke him a chantery for souls."
13. Mortify: a chemical phrase, signifying the dissolution of
quicksilver in acid.
14. Blin: cease; from Anglo-Saxon, "blinnan," to desist.
15. Name: took; from Anglo-Saxon, "niman," to take.
Compare German, "nehmen," "nahm."
16. Los: praise, reputataion. See note 5 to Chaucer's tale of
17. Grame: sorrow; Anglo-Saxon, "gram;" German, "Gram."
18. Arnaldus Villanovanus, or Arnold de Villeneuve, was a
distinguished French chemist and physician of the fourteenth
century; his "Rosarium Philosophorum" was a favourite text-book
with the alchemists of the generations that succeeded.
19. Hermes Trismegistus, counsellor of Osiris, King of
Egypt, was credited with the invention of writing and
hieroglyphics, the drawing up of the laws of the Egyptians,
and the origination of many sciences and arts. The
Alexandrian school ascribed to him the mystic learning which
it amplified; and the scholars of the Middle Ages regarded
with enthusiasm and reverence the works attributed to him --
notably a treatise on the philosopher's stone.
20. Secret of secrets: "Secreta Secretorum;" a treatise, very
popular in the Middle Ages, supposed to contain the sum of
Aristotle's instructions to Alexander. Lydgate translated about
half of the work, when his labour was interrupted by his death
about 1460; and from the same treatise had been taken most
of the seventh book of Gower's "Confessio Amantis."
21. Tyrwhitt says that this book was printed in the "Theatrum
Chemicum," under the title, "Senioris Zadith fi. Hamuelis
tabula chymica" ("The chemical tables of Senior Zadith, son
of Hamuel"); and the story here told of Plato and his disciple
was there related of Solomon, but with some variations.
22. Ignotum per ignotius: To explain the unknown by the
23. Though he multiply term of his live: Though he pursue the
alchemist's art all his days.
THE MANCIPLE'S TALE.
WEET* ye not where there stands a little town, *know
Which that y-called is Bob-up-and-down, <1>
Under the Blee, in Canterbury way?
There gan our Hoste for to jape and play,
And saide, "Sirs, what? Dun is in the mire.<2>
Is there no man, for prayer nor for hire,
That will awaken our fellow behind?
A thief him might full* rob and bind *easily
See how he nappeth, see, for cocke's bones,
As he would falle from his horse at ones.
Is that a Cook of London, with mischance? <3>
Do* him come forth, he knoweth his penance; *make
For he shall tell a tale, by my fay,* *faith
Although it be not worth a bottle hay.
Awake, thou Cook," quoth he; "God give thee sorrow
What aileth thee to sleepe *by the morrow?* *in the day time*
Hast thou had fleas all night, or art drunk?
Or had thou with some quean* all night y-swunk,** *whore **laboured
So that thou mayest not hold up thine head?"
The Cook, that was full pale and nothing red,
Said to Host, "So God my soule bless,
As there is fall'n on me such heaviness,
I know not why, that me were lever* sleep, *rather
Than the best gallon wine that is in Cheap."
"Well," quoth the Manciple, "if it may do ease
To thee, Sir Cook, and to no wight displease
Which that here rideth in this company,
And that our Host will of his courtesy,
I will as now excuse thee of thy tale;
For in good faith thy visage is full pale:
Thine eyen daze,* soothly as me thinketh, *are dim
And well I wot, thy breath full soure stinketh,
That sheweth well thou art not well disposed;
Of me certain thou shalt not be y-glosed.* *flattered
See how he yawneth, lo, this drunken wight,
As though he would us swallow anon right.
Hold close thy mouth, man, by thy father's kin;
The devil of helle set his foot therein!
Thy cursed breath infecte will us all:
Fy! stinking swine, fy! foul may thee befall.
Ah! take heed, Sirs, of this lusty man.
Now, sweete Sir, will ye joust at the fan?<4>
Thereto, me thinketh, ye be well y-shape.
I trow that ye have drunken wine of ape,<5>
And that is when men playe with a straw."
And with this speech the Cook waxed all wraw,* *wrathful
And on the Manciple he gan nod fast
For lack of speech; and down his horse him cast,
Where as he lay, till that men him up took.
This was a fair chevachie* of a cook: *cavalry expedition
Alas! that he had held him by his ladle!
And ere that he again were in the saddle
There was great shoving bothe to and fro
To lift him up, and muche care and woe,
So unwieldy was this silly paled ghost.
And to the Manciple then spake our Host:
"Because that drink hath domination
Upon this man, by my salvation
I trow he lewedly* will tell his tale. *stupidly
For were it wine, or old or moisty* ale, *new
That he hath drunk, he speaketh in his nose,
And sneezeth fast, and eke he hath the pose <6>
He also hath to do more than enough
To keep him on his capel* out of the slough; *horse
And if he fall from off his capel eftsoon,* *again
Then shall we alle have enough to do'n
In lifting up his heavy drunken corse.
Tell on thy tale, of him *make I no force.* *I take no account*
But yet, Manciple, in faith thou art too nice* *foolish
Thus openly to reprove him of his vice;
Another day he will paraventure
Reclaime thee, and bring thee to the lure; <7>
I mean, he speake will of smalle things,
As for to *pinchen at* thy reckonings, *pick flaws in*
That were not honest, if it came to prefe."* *test, proof
Quoth the Manciple, "That were a great mischief;
So might he lightly bring me in the snare.
Yet had I lever* paye for the mare *rather
Which he rides on, than he should with me strive.
I will not wrathe him, so may I thrive)
That that I spake, I said it in my bourde.* *jest
And weet ye what? I have here in my gourd
A draught of wine, yea, of a ripe grape,
And right anon ye shall see a good jape.* *trick
This Cook shall drink thereof, if that I may;
On pain of my life he will not say nay."
And certainly, to tellen as it was,
Of this vessel the cook drank fast (alas!
What needed it? he drank enough beforn),
And when he hadde *pouped in his horn,* *belched*
To the Manciple he took the gourd again.
And of that drink the Cook was wondrous fain,
And thanked him in such wise as he could.
Then gan our Host to laughe wondrous loud,
And said, "I see well it is necessary
Where that we go good drink with us to carry;
For that will turne rancour and disease* *trouble, annoyance
T'accord and love, and many a wrong appease.
O Bacchus, Bacchus, blessed be thy name,
That so canst turnen earnest into game!
Worship and thank be to thy deity.
Of that mattere ye get no more of me.
Tell on thy tale, Manciple, I thee pray."
"Well, Sir," quoth he, "now hearken what I say."
Notes to the Prologue to the Manciple's Tale
1. Bob-up-and-down: Mr Wright supposes this to be the village of
Harbledown, near Canterbury, which is situated on a hill, and near
which there are many ups and downs in the road. Like Boughton,
where the Canon and his Yeoman overtook the pilgrims, it stood on
the skirts of the Kentish forest of Blean or Blee.
2. Dun is in the mire: a proverbial saying. "Dun" is a name for an
ass, derived from his colour.
3. The mention of the Cook here, with no hint that he had already
told a story, confirms the indication given by the imperfect
condition of his Tale, that Chaucer intended to suppress the Tale
altogether, and make him tell a story in some other place.
4. The quintain; called "fan" or "vane," because it turned round like
5. Referring to the classification of wine, according to its effects on
a man, given in the old "Calendrier des Bergiers," The man of
choleric temperament has "wine of lion;" the sanguine, "wine of
ape;" the phlegmatic, "wine of sheep;" the melancholic, "wine of
sow." There is a Rabbinical tradition that, when Noah was planting
vines, Satan slaughtered beside them the four animals named; hence
the effect of wine in making those who drink it display in turn the
characteristics of all the four.
6. The pose: a defluxion or rheum which stops the nose and
obstructs the voice.
7. Bring thee to his lure: A phrase in hawking -- to recall a hawk to
the fist; the meaning here is, that the Cook may one day bring the
Manciple to account, or pay him off, for the rebuke of his
THE TALE. <1>
When Phoebus dwelled here in earth adown,
As olde bookes make mentioun,
He was the moste lusty* bacheler *pleasant
Of all this world, and eke* the best archer. *also
He slew Python the serpent, as he lay
Sleeping against the sun upon a day;
And many another noble worthy deed
He with his bow wrought, as men maye read.
Playen he could on every minstrelsy,
And singe, that it was a melody
To hearen of his cleare voice the soun'.
Certes the king of Thebes, Amphioun,
That with his singing walled the city,
Could never singe half so well as he.
Thereto he was the seemlieste man
That is, or was since that the world began;
What needeth it his features to descrive?
For in this world is none so fair alive.
He was therewith full fill'd of gentleness,
Of honour, and of perfect worthiness.
This Phoebus, that was flower of bach'lery,
As well in freedom* as in chivalry, *generosity
For his disport, in sign eke of victory
Of Python, so as telleth us the story,
Was wont to bearen in his hand a bow.
Now had this Phoebus in his house a crow,
Which in a cage he foster'd many a day,
And taught it speaken, as men teach a jay.
White was this crow, as is a snow-white swan,
And counterfeit the speech of every man
He coulde, when he shoulde tell a tale.
Therewith in all this world no nightingale
Ne coulde by an hundred thousand deal* *part
Singe so wondrous merrily and well.
Now had this Phoebus in his house a wife;
Which that he loved more than his life.
And night and day did ever his diligence
Her for to please, and do her reverence:
Save only, if that I the sooth shall sayn,
Jealous he was, and would have kept her fain.
For him were loth y-japed* for to be; *tricked, deceived
And so is every wight in such degree;
But all for nought, for it availeth nought.
A good wife, that is clean of work and thought,
Should not be kept in none await* certain: *observation
And truely the labour is in vain
To keep a shrewe,* for it will not be. *ill-disposed woman
This hold I for a very nicety,* *sheer folly
To spille* labour for to keepe wives; *lose
Thus writen olde clerkes in their lives.
But now to purpose, as I first began.
This worthy Phoebus did all that he can
To please her, weening, through such pleasance,
And for his manhood and his governance,
That no man should have put him from her grace;
But, God it wot, there may no man embrace
As to distrain* a thing, which that nature *succeed in constraining
Hath naturally set in a creature.
Take any bird, and put it in a cage,
And do all thine intent, and thy corage,* *what thy heart prompts
To foster it tenderly with meat and drink
Of alle dainties that thou canst bethink,
And keep it all so cleanly as thou may;
Although the cage of gold be never so gay,
Yet had this bird, by twenty thousand fold,
Lever* in a forest, both wild and cold, *rather
Go eate wormes, and such wretchedness.
For ever this bird will do his business
T'escape out of his cage when that he may:
His liberty the bird desireth aye. <2>
Let take a cat, and foster her with milk
And tender flesh, and make her couch of silk,
And let her see a mouse go by the wall,
Anon she weiveth* milk, and flesh, and all, *forsaketh
And every dainty that is in that house,
Such appetite hath she to eat the mouse.
Lo, here hath kind* her domination, *nature
And appetite flemeth* discretion. *drives out
A she-wolf hath also a villain's kind
The lewedeste wolf that she may find,
Or least of reputation, will she take
In time when *her lust* to have a make.* *she desires *mate
All these examples speak I by* these men *with reference to
That be untrue, and nothing by women.
For men have ever a lik'rous appetite
On lower things to perform their delight
Than on their wives, be they never so fair,
Never so true, nor so debonair.* *gentle, mild
Flesh is so newefangled, *with mischance,* *ill luck to it*
That we can in no thinge have pleasance
That *souneth unto* virtue any while. *accords with
This Phoebus, which that thought upon no guile,
Deceived was for all his jollity;
For under him another hadde she,
A man of little reputation,
Nought worth to Phoebus in comparison.
The more harm is; it happens often so,
Of which there cometh muche harm and woe.
And so befell, when Phoebus was absent,
His wife anon hath for her leman* sent. *unlawful lover
Her leman! certes that is a knavish speech.
Forgive it me, and that I you beseech.
The wise Plato saith, as ye may read,
The word must needs accorde with the deed;
If men shall telle properly a thing,
The word must cousin be to the working.
I am a boistous* man, right thus I say. *rough-spoken, downright
There is no difference truely
Betwixt a wife that is of high degree
(If of her body dishonest she be),
And any poore wench, other than this
(If it so be they worke both amiss),
But, for* the gentle is in estate above, *because
She shall be call'd his lady and his love;
And, for that other is a poor woman,
She shall be call'd his wench and his leman:
And God it wot, mine owen deare brother,
Men lay the one as low as lies the other.
Right so betwixt a *titleless tyrant* *usurper*
And an outlaw, or else a thief errant, *wandering
The same I say, there is no difference
(To Alexander told was this sentence),
But, for the tyrant is of greater might
By force of meinie* for to slay downright, *followers
And burn both house and home, and make all plain,* *level
Lo, therefore is he call'd a capitain;
And, for the outlaw hath but small meinie,
And may not do so great an harm as he,
Nor bring a country to so great mischief,
Men calle him an outlaw or a thief.
But, for I am a man not textuel, *learned in texts
I will not tell of texts never a deal;* *whit
I will go to my tale, as I began.
When Phoebus' wife had sent for her leman,
Anon they wroughten all their *lust volage.* *light or rash pleasure*
This white crow, that hung aye in the cage,
Beheld their work, and said never a word;
And when that home was come Phoebus the lord,
This crowe sung, "Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo!"
"What? bird," quoth Phoebus, "what song sing'st thou now?
Wert thou not wont so merrily to sing,
That to my heart it was a rejoicing
To hear thy voice? alas! what song is this?"
"By God," quoth he, "I singe not amiss.
Phoebus," quoth he, "for all thy worthiness,
For all thy beauty, and all thy gentleness,
For all thy song, and all thy minstrelsy,
*For all thy waiting, bleared is thine eye* *despite all thy watching,
With one of little reputation, thou art befooled*
Not worth to thee, as in comparison,
The mountance* of a gnat, so may I thrive; *value
For on thy bed thy wife I saw him swive."
What will ye more? the crow anon him told,
By sade* tokens, and by wordes bold, *grave, trustworthy
How that his wife had done her lechery,
To his great shame and his great villainy;
And told him oft, he saw it with his eyen.
This Phoebus gan awayward for to wrien;* *turn aside
Him thought his woeful hearte burst in two.
His bow he bent, and set therein a flo,* *arrow
And in his ire he hath his wife slain;
This is th' effect, there is no more to sayn.
For sorrow of which he brake his minstrelsy,
Both harp and lute, gitern* and psaltery; *guitar
And eke he brake his arrows and his bow;
And after that thus spake he to the crow.
"Traitor," quoth he, "with tongue of scorpion,
Thou hast me brought to my confusion;
Alas that I was wrought!* why n'ere** I dead? *made **was not
O deare wife, O gem of lustihead,* *pleasantness
That wert to me so sad,* and eke so true, *steadfast
Now liest thou dead, with face pale of hue,
Full guilteless, that durst I swear y-wis!* *certainly
O rakel* hand, to do so foul amiss *rash, hasty
O troubled wit, O ire reckeless,
That unadvised smit'st the guilteless!
O wantrust,* full of false suspicion! *distrust <3>
Where was thy wit and thy discretion?
O! every man beware of rakelness,* *rashness
Nor trow* no thing withoute strong witness. *believe
Smite not too soon, ere that ye weete* why, *know
And *be advised* well and sickerly** *consider* *surely
Ere ye *do any execution *take any action
Upon your ire* for suspicion. upon your anger*
Alas! a thousand folk hath rakel ire
Foully fordone, and brought them in the mire.
Alas! for sorrow I will myself slee* *slay
And to the crow, "O false thief," said he,
"I will thee quite anon thy false tale.
Thou sung whilom* like any nightingale, *once on a time
Now shalt thou, false thief, thy song foregon,* *lose
And eke thy white feathers every one,
Nor ever in all thy life shalt thou speak;
Thus shall men on a traitor be awreak. *revenged
Thou and thine offspring ever shall be blake,* *black
Nor ever sweete noise shall ye make,
But ever cry against* tempest and rain, *before, in warning of
In token that through thee my wife is slain."
And to the crow he start,* and that anon, *sprang
And pull'd his white feathers every one,
And made him black, and reft him all his song,
And eke his speech, and out at door him flung
Unto the devil, *which I him betake;* *to whom I commend him*
And for this cause be all crowes blake.
Lordings, by this ensample, I you pray,
Beware, and take keep* what that ye say; *heed
Nor telle never man in all your life
How that another man hath dight his wife;
He will you hate mortally certain.
Dan Solomon, as wise clerkes sayn,
Teacheth a man to keep his tongue well;
But, as I said, I am not textuel.
But natheless thus taughte me my dame;
"My son, think on the crow, in Godde's name.
My son, keep well thy tongue, and keep thy friend;
A wicked tongue is worse than is a fiend:
My sone, from a fiend men may them bless.* *defend by crossing
My son, God of his endeless goodness themselves
Walled a tongue with teeth, and lippes eke,
For* man should him advise,** what he speak. *because **consider
My son, full often for too muche speech
Hath many a man been spilt,* as clerkes teach; *destroyed
But for a little speech advisedly
Is no man shent,* to speak generally. *ruined
My son, thy tongue shouldest thou restrain
At alle time, *but when thou dost thy pain* *except when you do
To speak of God in honour and prayere. your best effort*
The firste virtue, son, if thou wilt lear,* *learn
Is to restrain and keepe well thy tongue;<4>
Thus learne children, when that they be young.
My son, of muche speaking evil advis'd,
Where lesse speaking had enough suffic'd,
Cometh much harm; thus was me told and taught;
In muche speeche sinne wanteth not.
Wost* thou whereof a rakel** tongue serveth? *knowest **hasty
Right as a sword forcutteth and forcarveth
An arm in two, my deare son, right so
A tongue cutteth friendship all in two.
A jangler* is to God abominable. *prating man
Read Solomon, so wise and honourable;
Read David in his Psalms, and read Senec'.
My son, speak not, but with thine head thou beck,* *beckon, nod
Dissimule as thou wert deaf, if that thou hear
A jangler speak of perilous mattere.
The Fleming saith, and learn *if that thee lest,* **if it please thee*
That little jangling causeth muche rest.
My son, if thou no wicked word hast said,
*Thee thar not dreade for to be bewray'd;* *thou hast no need to
But he that hath missaid, I dare well sayn, fear to be betrayed*
He may by no way call his word again.
Thing that is said is said, and forth it go'th, <5>
Though him repent, or be he ne'er so loth;
He is his thrall,* to whom that he hath said *slave
A tale, *of which he is now evil apaid.* *which he now regrets*
My son, beware, and be no author new
Of tidings, whether they be false or true; <6>
Whereso thou come, amonges high or low,
Keep well thy tongue, and think upon the crow."
Notes to the Manciple's Tale
1. "The fable of 'The Crow,' says Tyrwhitt, "which is the
subject of the Manciple's Tale, has been related by so many
authors, from Ovid down to Gower, that it is impossible to
say whom Chaucer principally followed. His skill in new
dressing an old story was never, perhaps, more successfully
2. See the parallel to this passage in the Squire's Tale, and
note 34 to that tale.
3. Wantrust: distrust -- want of trust; so "wanhope," despair -
- want of hope.
4. This is quoted in the French "Romance of the Rose," from
Cato "De Moribus," 1. i., dist. 3: "Virtutem primam esse puta
compescere linguam." ("The first virtue is to be able to
control the tongue")
5. "Semel emissum volat irrevocabile verbum." ("A word once
uttered flies away and cannot be called back") -- Horace,
Epist. 1., 18, 71.
6. This caution is also from Cato "De Moribus," 1. i., dist.
12: "Rumoris fuge ne incipias novus auctor haberi." ("Do not
pass on rumours or be the author of new ones")
THE PARSON'S TALE.
By that the Manciple his tale had ended,
The sunne from the south line was descended
So lowe, that it was not to my sight
Degrees nine-and-twenty as in height.
Four of the clock it was then, as I guess,
For eleven foot, a little more or less,
My shadow was at thilke time, as there,
Of such feet as my lengthe parted were
In six feet equal of proportion.
Therewith the moone's exaltation,* *rising
*In meane* Libra, gan alway ascend, *in the middle of*
As we were ent'ring at a thorpe's* end. *village's
For which our Host, as he was wont to gie,* *govern
As in this case, our jolly company,
Said in this wise; "Lordings every one,
Now lacketh us no more tales than one.
Fulfill'd is my sentence and my decree;
I trow that we have heard of each degree.* from each class or rank
Almost fulfilled is mine ordinance; in the company
I pray to God so give him right good chance
That telleth us this tale lustily.
Sir Priest," quoth he, "art thou a vicary?* *vicar
Or art thou a Parson? say sooth by thy fay.* *faith
Be what thou be, breake thou not our play;
For every man, save thou, hath told his tale.
Unbuckle, and shew us what is in thy mail.* *wallet
For truely me thinketh by thy cheer
Thou shouldest knit up well a great mattere.
Tell us a fable anon, for cocke's bones."
This Parson him answered all at ones;
"Thou gettest fable none y-told for me,
For Paul, that writeth unto Timothy,
Reproveth them that *weive soothfastness,* *forsake truth*
And telle fables, and such wretchedness.
Why should I sowe draff* out of my fist, *chaff, refuse
When I may sowe wheat, if that me list?
For which I say, if that you list to hear
Morality and virtuous mattere,
And then that ye will give me audience,
I would full fain at Christe's reverence
Do you pleasance lawful, as I can.
But, truste well, I am a southern man,
I cannot gest,* rom, ram, ruf, <1> by my letter; *relate stories
And, God wot, rhyme hold I but little better.
And therefore if you list, I will not glose,* *mince matters
I will you tell a little tale in prose,
To knit up all this feast, and make an end.
And Jesus for his grace wit me send
To shewe you the way, in this voyage,
Of thilke perfect glorious pilgrimage, <2>
That hight Jerusalem celestial.
And if ye vouchesafe, anon I shall
Begin upon my tale, for which I pray
Tell your advice,* I can no better say. *opinion
But natheless this meditation
I put it aye under correction
Of clerkes,* for I am not textuel; *scholars
I take but the sentence,* trust me well. *meaning, sense
Therefore I make a protestation,
That I will stande to correction."
Upon this word we have assented soon;
For, as us seemed, it was *for to do'n,* *a thing worth doing*
To enden in some virtuous sentence,* *discourse
And for to give him space and audience;
And bade our Host he shoulde to him say
That alle we to tell his tale him pray.
Our Hoste had. the wordes for us all:
"Sir Priest," quoth he, "now faire you befall;
Say what you list, and we shall gladly hear."
And with that word he said in this mannere;
"Telle," quoth he, "your meditatioun,
But hasten you, the sunne will adown.
Be fructuous,* and that in little space; *fruitful; profitable
And to do well God sende you his grace."
Notes to the Prologue to the Parson's Tale
1. Rom, ram, ruf: a contemptuous reference to the alliterative
poetry which was at that time very popular, in preference even,
it would seem, to rhyme, in the northern parts of the country,
where the language was much more barbarous and unpolished
than in the south.
2. Perfect glorious pilgrimage: the word is used here to signify
the shrine, or destination, to which pilgrimage is made.
THE TALE. <1>
[The Parson begins his "little treatise" -(which, if given at
length, would extend to about thirty of these pages, and which
cannot by any stretch of courtesy or fancy be said to merit the
title of a "Tale") in these words: --]
Our sweet Lord God of Heaven, that no man will perish, but
will that we come all to the knowledge of him, and to the
blissful life that is perdurable [everlasting], admonishes us by
the prophet Jeremiah, that saith in this wise: "Stand upon the
ways, and see and ask of old paths, that is to say, of old
sentences, which is the good way, and walk in that way, and ye
shall find refreshing for your souls," <2> &c. Many be the
spiritual ways that lead folk to our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the
reign of glory; of which ways there is a full noble way, and full
convenable, which may not fail to man nor to woman, that
through sin hath misgone from the right way of Jerusalem
celestial; and this way is called penitence. Of which men should
gladly hearken and inquire with all their hearts, to wit what is
penitence, and whence it is called penitence, and in what
manner, and in how many manners, be the actions or workings
of penitence, and how many species there be of penitences, and
what things appertain and behove to penitence, and what things
[Penitence is described, on the authority of Saints Ambrose,
Isidore, and Gregory, as the bewailing of sin that has been
wrought, with the purpose never again to do that thing, or any
other thing which a man should bewail; for weeping and not
ceasing to do the sin will not avail -- though it is to be hoped
that after every time that a man falls, be it ever so often, he may
find grace to arise through penitence. And repentant folk that
leave their sin ere sin leave them, are accounted by Holy Church
sure of their salvation, even though the repentance be at the last
hour. There are three actions of penitence; that a man be
baptized after he has sinned; that he do no deadly sin after
receiving baptism; and that he fall into no venial sins from day
to day. "Thereof saith St Augustine, that penitence of good and
humble folk is the penitence of every day." The species of
penitence are three: solemn, when a man is openly expelled
from Holy Church in Lent, or is compelled by Holy Church to
do open penance for an open sin openly talked of in the
country; common penance, enjoined by priests in certain cases,
as to go on pilgrimage naked or barefoot; and privy penance,
which men do daily for private sins, of which they confess
privately and receive private penance. To very perfect penitence
are behoveful and necessary three things: contrition of heart,
confession of mouth, and satisfaction; which are fruitful
penitence against delight in thinking, reckless speech, and
wicked sinful works.
Penitence may be likened to a tree, having its root in contrition,
biding itself in the heart as a tree-root does in the earth; out of
this root springs a stalk, that bears branches and leaves of
confession, and fruit of satisfaction. Of this root also springs a
seed of grace, which is mother of all security, and this seed is
eager and hot; and the grace of this seed springs of God,
through remembrance on the day of judgment and on the pains
of hell. The heat of this seed is the love of God, and the desire
of everlasting joy; and this heat draws the heart of man to God,
and makes him hate his sin. Penance is the tree of life to them
that receive it. In penance or contrition man shall understand
four things: what is contrition; what are the causes that move a
man to contrition; how he should be contrite; and what
contrition availeth to the soul. Contrition is the heavy and
grievous sorrow that a man receiveth in his heart for his sins,
with earnest purpose to confess and do penance, and never
more to sin. Six causes ought to move a man to contrition: 1.
He should remember him of his sins; 2. He should reflect that
sin putteth a man in great thraldom, and all the greater the
higher is the estate from which he falls; 3. He should dread the
day of doom and the horrible pains of hell; 4. The sorrowful
remembrance of the good deeds that man hath omitted to do
here on earth, and also the good that he hath lost, ought to
make him have contrition; 5. So also ought the remembrance of
the passion that our Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins; 6.
And so ought the hope of three things, that is to say,
forgiveness of sin, the gift of grace to do well, and the glory of
heaven with which God shall reward man for his good deeds. --
All these points the Parson illustrates and enforces at length;
waxing especially eloquent under the third head, and plainly
setting forth the sternly realistic notions regarding future
punishments that were entertained in the time of Chaucer:-] <3>
Certes, all the sorrow that a man might make from the
beginning of the world, is but a little thing, at retard of [in
comparison with] the sorrow of hell. The cause why that Job
calleth hell the land of darkness; <4> understand, that he calleth
it land or earth, for it is stable and never shall fail, and dark, for
he that is in hell hath default [is devoid] of light natural; for
certes the dark light, that shall come out of the fire that ever
shall burn, shall turn them all to pain that be in hell, for it
sheweth them the horrible devils that them torment. Covered
with the darkness of death; that is to say, that he that is in hell
shall have default of the sight of God; for certes the sight of
God is the life perdurable [everlasting]. The darkness of death,
be the sins that the wretched man hath done, which that disturb
[prevent] him to see the face of God, right as a dark cloud doth
between us and the sun. Land of misease, because there be three
manner of defaults against three things that folk of this world
have in this present life; that is to say, honours, delights, and
riches. Against honour have they in hell shame and confusion:
for well ye wot, that men call honour the reverence that man
doth to man; but in hell is no honour nor reverence; for certes
no more reverence shall be done there to a king than to a knave
[servant]. For which God saith by the prophet Jeremiah; "The
folk that me despise shall be in despite." Honour is also called
great lordship. There shall no wight serve other, but of harm
and torment. Honour is also called great dignity and highness;
but in hell shall they be all fortrodden [trampled under foot] of
devils. As God saith, "The horrible devils shall go and come
upon the heads of damned folk;" and this is, forasmuch as the
higher that they were in this present life, the more shall they be
abated [abased] and defouled in hell. Against the riches of this
world shall they have misease [trouble, torment] of poverty, and
this poverty shall be in four things: in default [want] of treasure;
of which David saith, "The rich folk that embraced and oned
[united] all their heart to treasure of this world, shall sleep in the
sleeping of death, and nothing shall they find in their hands of
all their treasure." And moreover, the misease of hell shall be in
default of meat and drink. For God saith thus by Moses, "They
shall be wasted with hunger, and the birds of hell shall devour
them with bitter death, and the gall of the dragon shall be their
drink, and the venom of the dragon their morsels." And
furthermore, their misease shall be in default of clothing, for
they shall be naked in body, as of clothing, save the fire in
which they burn, and other filths; and naked shall they be in
soul, of all manner virtues, which that is the clothing of the soul.
Where be then the gay robes, and the soft sheets, and the fine
shirts? Lo, what saith of them the prophet Isaiah, that under
them shall be strewed moths, and their covertures shall be of
worms of hell. And furthermore, their misease shall be in default
of friends, for he is not poor that hath good friends: but there is
no friend; for neither God nor any good creature shall be friend
to them, and evereach of them shall hate other with deadly hate.
The Sons and the daughters shall rebel against father and
mother, and kindred against kindred, and chide and despise each