This is part of an online version of the eBook edition that I recently produced of Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale. This page provides The Pardoner’s Tale in Middle English.
For other versions see the below links:
The Pardoner’s Tale in Middle English
The Pardoner’s Tale in Modern English
Description of the Pardoner from the General Prologue
With him ther rood a gentil Pardoner
With him there rode a gentle Pardoner
Of Rouncival, his freend and his compeer, 670
Of Rouncivale, his friend and his companion,
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome.
That had come straight from the court of Rome
Ful loude he song, ‘Com hider, love, to me.’
Loudly he sang, “Come here, love, to me”
This somnour bar to him a stif burdoun,
This Summoner sang for him the bass,
Was never trompe of half so greet a soun.
There was never a trumpet that made half that sound.
This pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex, 675
This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax,
But smothe it heng, as dooth a strike of flex;
But smooth it hung, as does a strip of flax
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
His locks weighed ounces on his head
And ther-with he his shuldres overspradde;
And there over his shoulders they spread
But thinne it lay, by colpons oon and oon;
Very thin it lay, by shreds one and one,
But hood, for Iolitee, ne wered he noon, 680
But for vanity, he did not wear a hood,
For it was trussed up in his walet.
For it was trussed up in his wallet.
Him thoughte, he rood al of the newe Iet;
He thought he was of the latest fashion
Dischevele, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
With his hair loose, except for his cap, he rode bareheaded.
Swiche glaringe eyen hadde he as an hare.
Such bright eyes he had, like a hare,
A vernicle hadde he sowed on his cappe. 685
An icon had he sown upon hic cap,
His walet lay biforn him in his lappe,
His wallet lay before him in his lap,
Bret-ful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot.
Brimful of pardon come from Rome all hot,
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.
A voice he had as small as has a goat.
No berd hadde he, ne never sholde have,
No beard had he, nor should he ever have one,
As smothe it was as it were late y-shave; 690
As smooth it was as if he’d just had a shave
I trowe he were a gelding or a mare.
I think he was a gelding or a mare
But of his craft, fro Berwik into Ware,
But of his craft, from Berwick to Ware,
Ne was ther swich another pardoner.
Never was there such another pardoner
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
For in his bag he had a pillowcase,
Which that, he seyde, was our lady veyl: 695
Which, he said, was our Lady’s veil
He seyde, he hadde a gobet of the seyl
He said, he had a section of the sail
That sëynt Peter hadde, whan that he wente
That Saint Peter had, when he went
Up-on the see, til Iesu Crist him hente.
Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ took hold of him.
He hadde a croys of latoun, ful of stones,
He had a cross of copper full of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones. 700
And in a glass he had pig’s bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
But with these relics, when he found
A povre person dwelling up-on lond,
A poor parson dwelling on the land,
Up-on a day he gat him more moneye
In one day he got more money
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye.
Than the parson got in two months;
And thus, with feyned flaterye and Iapes, 705
And thus with fake flattering and jests,
He made the person and the peple his apes.
He made the parson and the people his apes.
But trewely to tellen, atte laste,
But finally to tell truly,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste.
He was in church a noble priest.
Wel coude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
Well could he read a lesson or a story,
But alderbest he song an offertorie; 710
But best of all he sang an offertory:
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
For well he knew, when that song was sung,
He moste preche, and wel affyle his tonge,
He must preach, and polish his tongue well,
To winne silver, as he ful wel coude;
To win silver, as he could very well:
Therefore he song so meriely and loude.
Therefore he sang full merrily and loud.
Introduction to The Pardoner’s Tale
Our Hoste gan to swere as he were wood,
Our host began to swear as if he were mad;
‘Harrow!’ quod he, ‘by nayles and by blood!.
“Alas!” he said, “by the nails and blood of Christ,
This was a fals cherl and a fals Iustyse!
This was a cursed thief, a false justice.
As shamful deeth as herte may devyse 290
As shameful death as the heart can devise
Come to thise Iuges and hir advocats!
Should come to these judges and their advocates.
Algate this sely mayde is slayn, allas!
Nevertheless this innocent maid is slain, alas!
Allas! to dere boghte she beautee!
Alas! She bought her beauty too dearly.
Wherfore I seye al day, as men may see,
Therefore I say, that all day man may see
That yiftes of fortune or of nature 295
That gifts of fortune and of nature
Ben cause of deeth to many a creature.
Are the cause of death to many a creature.
Hir beautee was hir deeth, I dar wel sayn;
Her beauty was her death, I dare well say;
Allas! so pitously as she was slayn!
Alas! So mercilessly was she slain.
Of bothe yiftes that I speke of now
Of both gifts, that I speak of now
Men han ful ofte more harm than prow. 300
Men have often more harm than profit,
But trewely, myn owene mayster dere,
But truly, my own dear master,
This is a pitous tale for to here.
This was a piteous tale to hear;
But natheles, passe over, is no fors;
But nonetheless, let’s go on; it is no matter.
I prey to god, so save thy gentil cors,
I pray to God to save your gentle body,
And eek thyne urinals and thy Iordanes, 305
And also your urine bottles, and your medicine bottles,
Thyn Ypocras, and eek thy Galianes,
Your Hippocras, and also your Galliens,
And every boist ful of thy letuarie;
And every box full of your medicine,
God blesse hem, and our lady seinte Marie!
God bless them, and our Lady Saint Mary.
So mot I theen, thou art a propre man,
So may I thrive, you are a proper man,
And lyk a prelat, by seint Ronyan! 310
And like a prelate, by Saint Ronan;
Seyde I nat wel? I can nat speke in terme;
Did I not speak well? Can I not speak in set form?
But wel I woot, thou doost my herte to erme,
But I well know you make my heart to grieve,
That I almost have caught a cardiacle.
So that I have almost caught heartache:
By corpus bones! but I have triacle,
By the body of the Lord, unless I have a remedy,
Or elles a draught of moyste and corny ale, 315
Or else a draught of moist and corny ale,
Or but I here anon a mery tale,
Or unless I hear soon a merry tale,
Myn herte is lost for pitee of this mayde.
My heart will break for pity of this maid.
Thou bel amy, thou Pardoner,’ he seyde,
You good friend, you Pardoner,” he said,
‘Tel us som mirthe or Iapes right anon.’
“Tell us some mirth of jokes now.”
‘It shall be doon,’ quod he, ‘by seint Ronyon! 320
“It shall be done,” he said, “by Saint Ronan.
But first,’ quod he, ‘heer at this ale-stake
But first,” he said, “here at this ale-house sign
I wol both drinke, and eten of a cake.’
I will both drink, and bite on a cake.”
But right anon thise gentils gonne to crye,
But just then the gentlefolk began to cry,
‘Nay! lat him telle us of no ribaudye;
“Nay, let him tell us of no ribaldry.
Tel us som moral thing, that we may lere 325
Tell us some moral thing, so that we may learn
Som wit, and thanne wol we gladly here.’
Some wisdom, and then we will gladly hear.”
‘I graunte, y-wis,’ quod he, ‘but I mot thinke
“I will surely grant this,” he said; “but I must think
Up-on som honest thing, whyl that I drinke.
Upon some honest thing while I drink.”
Prologue to The Pardoner’s Tale
‘Lordings,’ quod he, ‘in chirches whan I preche,
Lords (said he), in church when I preach
I peyne me to han an hauteyn speche, 330
I take pains to have loud speech,
And ringe it out as round as gooth a belle,
And let it ring out, as round as does a bell,
For I can al by rote that I telle.
For I know all by rote that I tell.
My theme is alwey oon, and ever was—
My theme is always one, and ever was;
“Radix malorum est Cupiditas.”
Greed is the root of all evils.
First I pronounce whennes that I come, 335
First I pronounce where it is that I have come,
And than my bulles shewe I, alle and somme.
And then my bulls I show all and some;
Our lige lordes seel on my patente,
Our liege lord’s seal on my patent,
That shewe I first, my body to warente,
That I show first, for the protection of my body,
That no man be so bold, ne preest ne clerk,
That no man is bold enough, neither priest nor clerk,
Me to destourbe of Cristes holy werk; 340
To put me off Christ’s holy work.
And after that than telle I forth my tales,
And after that then I tell forth my tales.
Bulles of popes and of cardinales,
Bulls of popes, and of cardinals,
Of patriarkes, and bishoppes I shewe;
Of patriarchs, and of bishops I show,
And in Latyn I speke a wordes fewe,
And in Latin I speak words a few,
To saffron with my predicacioun, 345
To savour with my sermon,
And for to stire men to devocioun.
And to stir men to devotion
Than shewe I forth my longe cristal stones,
Then I show forth my long crystal stones,
Y-crammed ful of cloutes and of bones;
Crammed full of fragments and of bones;
Reliks been they, as wenen they echoon.
Relics they are, my listeners think each one to be.
Than have I in latoun a sholder-boon 350
Then have I in brass a shoulder-bone
Which that was of an holy Iewes shepe.
Which was of a holy Jew’s sheep.
“Good men,” seye I, “tak of my wordes kepe;
“Good men,” I say, “take heed of my words;
If that this boon be wasshe in any welle,
If this bone is washed in any well,
If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swelle
If cow, or calf, or sheep, or ox swell-up
That any worm hath ete, or worm y-stonge, 355
That any worm has eaten, or worm stung,
Tak water of that welle, and wash his tonge,
Take water of that well, and wash his tongue,
And it is hool anon; and forthermore,
And it will be well soon; and furthermore
Of pokkes and of scabbe, and every sore
Of pox, and of scab, and every sore
Shal every sheep be hool, that of this welle
Shall every sheep be cured, that of this well
Drinketh a draughte; tak kepe eek what I telle. 360
Drinks a draught; take heed of what I tell.
If that the good-man, that the bestes oweth,
“If the farmer, who owns the beasts,
Wol every wike, er that the cok him croweth,
Will every week, before the cock crows,
Fastinge, drinken of this welle a draughte,
Fasting, drink of this well a draught,
As thilke holy Iewe our eldres taughte,
As this holy Jew taught our elders,
His bestes and his stoor shal multiplye. 365
His beasts and his store-house shall multiply.
And, sirs, also it heleth Ialousye;
And, Sirs, also it heals jealousy;
For, though a man be falle in Ialous rage,
For though a man be fallen in a jealous rage,
Let maken with this water his potage,
If he makes with this water his pottage,
And never shal he more his wyf mistriste,
Then never shall he mistrust his wife again,
Though he the sooth of hir defaute wiste; 370
Though he truly knew of her sin;
Al had she taken preestes two or three.
Even if she has had two or three priests.
Heer is a miteyn eek, that ye may see.
Here is a mitten also, that you can see;
He that his hond wol putte in this miteyn,
He who puts his hand in this mitten,
He shal have multiplying of his greyn,
He shall have a multiplying of his grain,
Whan he hath sowen, be it whete or otes, 375
When he has sown, be it wheat or oats,
So that he offre pens, or elles grotes.
So that he can make pence, or even groats.
Good men and wommen, o thing warne I yow,
And, men and women, one thing I warn you of;
If any wight be in this chirche now,
If any person in this church now
That hath doon sinne horrible, that he
Has done a horrible sin, so that he
Dar nat, for shame, of it y-shriven be, 380
Dare not for shame confess it;
Or any womman, be she yong or old,
Or any woman, be she young or old,
That hath y-maad hir housbond cokewold,
That has made her husband cuckold,
Swich folk shul have no power ne no grace
Such folk shall have no power or grace
To offren to my reliks in this place.
To take up the offer of my relics in this place.
And who-so findeth him out of swich blame, 385
And those who find themselves without blame,
He wol com up and offre in goddes name,
He will come up and take the offer in God’s name;
And I assoille him by the auctoritee
And I will absolve him by the authority
Which that by bulle y-graunted was to me.”
Which has been granted to me by the bull.”
By this gaude have I wonne, yeer by yeer,
By these tricks have I won year after year
An hundred mark sith I was Pardoner. 390
A hundred marks, since I was a pardoner.
I stonde lyk a clerk in my pulpet,
I stand like a clerk in my pulpit,
And whan the lewed peple is doun y-set,
And when the ignorant people sit down,
I preche, so as ye han herd bifore,
I preach as you have just heard,
And telle an hundred false Iapes more.
And I tell them a hundred deceits more.
Than peyne I me to strecche forth the nekke, 395
Then I pain myself to stretch forth my neck,
And est and west upon the peple I bekke,
And east and west to the people I call,
As doth a dowve sitting on a berne.
As does a dove, sitting on a barn;
Myn hondes and my tonge goon so yerne,
My hands and my tongue go so briskly,
That it is Ioye to see my bisinesse.
That it is a joy to see my business.
Of avaryce and of swich cursednesse 400
Of avarice and such wikedness
Is al my preching, for to make hem free
Is all my preaching, for in order to make them free
To yeve her pens, and namely un-to me.
To give their pennies, and especially unto me.
For my entente is nat but for to winne,
For my intent is not to win their souls,
And no-thing for correccioun of sinne.
And not at all for the correction of sin.
I rekke never, whan that they ben beried, 405
I never care, when they are buried,
Though that her soules goon a-blakeberied!
Even though their souls go blackberry picking.
For certes, many a predicacioun
For certainly many preachings
Comth ofte tyme of yvel entencioun;
Are often inspired by evil motives;
Som for plesaunce of folk and flaterye,
Some to please people, or to flatter them,
To been avaunced by ipocrisye, 410
And they are advanced by hypocrisy;
And som for veyne glorie, and som for hate.
And some for pride, and some for hate.
For, whan I dar non other weyes debate,
For, when I dare not otherwise debate,
Than wol I stinge him with my tonge smerte
Then will I sting him with my tongue sharply
In preching, so that he shal nat asterte
In preaching, so that he shall not escape
To been defamed falsly, if that he 415
Being falsely defamed, if he
Hath trespased to my brethren or to me.
Has offended my brethren or me.
For, though I telle noght his propre name,
For, although I don’t tell his proper name,
Men shal wel knowe that it is the same
Men shall know well who it is
By signes and by othere circumstances.
By signs, and by other circumstances.
Thus quyte I folk that doon us displesances; 420
Thus I am revenged on folk that do us disservice.
Thus spitte I out my venim under hewe
Thus I spit out my venom, under hue
Of holynesse, to seme holy and trewe.
Of holyness, to seem holy and true.
But shortly myn entente I wol devyse;
But, in short my intent I will explain,
I preche of no-thing but for coveityse.
I preach of nothing but of greed.
Therfor my theme is yet, and ever was— 425
Therefore my theme is yet, and ever was, —
“Radix malorum est cupiditas.”
Greed is the root of all evils.
Thus can I preche agayn that same vyce
Thus can I preach against the same vice
Which that I use, and that is avaryce.
That I use, and that is avarice.
But, though my-self be gilty in that sinne,
But although I am guilty of that sin,
Yet can I maken other folk to twinne 430
Yet can I make other folk depart
From avaryce, and sore to repente.
From avarice, and they repent of it.
But that is nat my principal entente.
But that is not my principal intent;
I preche no-thing but for coveityse;
I preach only of greed.
Of this matere it oughte y-nogh suffyse.
Of this matter that ought to be enough.
Than telle I hem ensamples many oon 435
Then I will tell them many examples,
Of olde stories, longe tyme agoon:
Of old stories from long ago;
For lewed peple loven tales olde;
For unlearned people love old tales;
Swich thinges can they wel reporte and holde.
Such things they can better remember and recall.
What? trowe ye, the whyles I may preche,
What? Do you think, that while I preach
And winne gold and silver for I teche, 440
And win gold and silver because I teach,
That I wol live in povert wilfully?
That I will live in poverty willfully?
Nay, nay, I thoghte it never trewely!
No, no, I truly never thought of doing that.
For I wol preche and begge in sondry londes;
For I will preach and beg in sundry lands;
I wol not do no labour with myn hondes,
I will not do any labour with my hands,
Ne make baskettes, and live therby, 445
Nor make baskets for a living,
Because I wol nat beggen ydelly.
Because I will not idly beg.
I wol non of the apostles counterfete;
I will not imitate any of the apostles;
I wol have money, wolle, chese, and whete,
I will have money, wool, and cheese, and wheat,
Al were it yeven of the povrest page,
Even if it were given by the poorest page,
Or of the povrest widwe in a village, 450
Or by the poorest widow in a village:
Al sholde hir children sterve for famyne.
Even should her children starve from famine.
Nay! I wol drinke licour of the vyne,
No, I will drink the liquor of the vine,
And have a Ioly wenche in every toun.
And have a jolly wench in every town.
But herkneth, lordings, in conclusioun;
But listen, gentlemen, in conclusion;
Your lyking is that I shal telle a tale. 455
Your liking is, that I shall tell a tale
Now, have I dronke a draughte of corny ale,
Now I have drunk a draught of corny ale,
By god, I hope I shal yow telle a thing
By God, I hope I shall you tell a thing
That shal, by resoun, been at your lyking.
That shall by reason be to your liking;
For, though myself be a ful vicious man,
For though I myself am a very vicious man,
A moral tale yet I yow telle can, 460
A moral tale yet I can tell you,
Which I am wont to preche, for to winne.
Which I often preach for winnings.
Now holde your pees, my tale I wol beginne.
Now hold your peace, my tale I will begin.
The Pardoner’s Tale
In Flaundres whylom was a companye
In Flanders there was a company
Of yonge folk, that haunteden folye,
Of young folk, that lived in folly,
As ryot, hasard, stewes, and tavernes, 465
Such as riot, gambling, brothels, and taverns;
Wher-as, with harpes, lutes, and giternes,
Where with lutes, harps, and guitars,
They daunce and pleye at dees bothe day and night,
They dance and play at dice both day and night,
And ete also and drinken over hir might,
And eat also, and drink over their limit;
Thurgh which they doon the devel sacrifyse
Through which they do the devil sacrifice
With-in that develes temple, in cursed wyse, 470
Within the devil’s temple, in a cursed way,
By superfluitee abhominable;
By abominable excess.
Hir othes been so grete and so dampnable,
Their oaths are so great and so damnable,
That it is grisly for to here hem swere;
That it is dreadful to hear them swear.
Our blissed lordes body they to-tere;
Our blissful Lord’s body they tore to pieces;
Hem thoughte Iewes rente him noght y-nough; 475
They thought that the Jews had not rent him enough,
And ech of hem at otheres sinne lough.
Each of them at the other’s sin laughed.
And right anon than comen tombesteres
And soon in came dancing girls
Fetys and smale, and yonge fruytesteres,
Dainty and small, and young fruit-girls.
Singers with harpes, baudes, wafereres,
Singers with harps, revellers, cake-sellers,
Whiche been the verray develes officeres 480
Which are the very devil’s officers,
To kindle and blowe the fyr of lecherye,
To kindle and blow the fire of lechery,
That is annexed un-to glotonye;
That is an element of gluttony.
The holy writ take I to my witnesse,
The Holy Writ take I to my witness,
That luxurie is in wyn and dronkenesse.
That luxury is in wine and drunkenness.
Lo, how that dronken Loth, unkindely, 485
Lo, how that drunken Lot unnaturally
Lay by his doghtres two, unwitingly;
Lay by his two daughters unwittingly,
So dronke he was, he niste what he wroghte.
So drunk he was he knew not what he did.
Herodes, (who-so wel the stories soghte),
Herod, who the histories so well examine,
Whan he of wyn was replet at his feste,
When he was full of wine at his feast,
Right at his owene table he yaf his heste 490
Right at his own table gave his command
To sleen the Baptist Iohn ful giltelees.
To slay the innocent John the Baptist
Senek seith eek a good word doutelees;
Seneca says a good word, there is no doubt:
He seith, he can no difference finde
He says he can find no difference
Bitwix a man that is out of his minde
Between a man that is out of his mind,
And a man which that is dronkelewe, 495
And a man who is a drunkard:
But that woodnesse, y-fallen in a shrewe,
But that madness, falling on one who is evil-tempered,
Persevereth lenger than doth dronkenesse.
Lasts longer than drunkenness.
O glotonye, ful of cursednesse,
O gluttony, full of all cursedness;
O cause first of our confusioun,
O cause first of our confusion,
O original of our dampnacioun, 500
The origin of our damnation,
Til Crist had boght us with his blood agayn!
Until Christ bought us with his blood again!
Lo, how dere, shortly for to sayn,
Look, how dear, to say in short,
Aboght was thilke cursed vileinye;
Was this first villainy atoned for:
Corrupt was al this world for glotonye!
Corrupt was all this world because of gluttony.
Adam our fader, and his wyf also, 505
Adam our father, and his wife also,
Fro Paradys to labour and to wo
From Paradise, to labour and to woe,
Were driven for that vyce, it is no drede;
Were driven out because of that vice, there is no doubt.
For whyl that Adam fasted, as I rede,
For while Adam fasted, as I have read,
He was in Paradys; and whan that he
He was in Paradise; and when that he
Eet of the fruyt defended on the tree, 510
Ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree,
Anon he was out-cast to wo and peyne.
Then he was cast out into woe and pain.
O glotonye, on thee wel oghte us pleyne!
O gluttony! Well should we complain of you.
O, wiste a man how many maladyes
Oh! If a man knew how many maladies
Folwen of excesse and of glotonyes,
Follow from excess and gluttony,
He wolde been the more mesurable 515
He would be more moderate
Of his diete, sittinge at his table.
Of his diet, sitting at his table.
Allas! the shorte throte, the tendre mouth,
Alas! The short throat, the tender mouth,
Maketh that, Est and West, and North and South,
Makes that east and west, north and south,
In erthe, in eir, in water men to-swinke
In earth, in air, in water, men labour
To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drinke! 520
To get a glutton dainty meat and drink.
Of this matere, o Paul, wel canstow trete,
Of this matter, O Paul! Well do you treat
‘Mete un-to wombe, and wombe eek un-to mete,
Meat to the belly, and belly to meat,
Shal god destroyen bothe,’ as Paulus seith.
God shall destroy both, as Paul says.
Allas! a foul thing is it, by my feith,
Alas! a foul thing is it, by my faith,
To seye this word, and fouler is the dede, 525
To say this word, and fouler is the deed,
Whan man so drinketh of the whyte and rede,
When man drinks of the white and red wine,
That of his throte he maketh his privee,
That he makes of his throat a privy
Thurgh thilke cursed superfluitee.
Through this cursed excess
The apostel weping seith ful pitously,
The apostle says, weeping with greaty pity,
‘Ther walken many of whiche yow told have I, 530
There walk many, of which I have told you, —
I seye it now weping with pitous voys,
I say it now weeping with piteous voice, —
That they been enemys of Cristes croys,
That they are enemies of Christ’s cross;
Of whiche the ende is deeth, wombe is her god.’
Of which the end is death; belly is their God.
O wombe! O bely! O stinking cod,
O womb, O belly, stinking is your bag,
Fulfild of donge and of corrupcioun! 535
Filled full of dung and corruption;
At either ende of thee foul is the soun.
At either end of you the sound is foul.
How greet labour and cost is thee to finde!
What a great effort and cost it is to supply you!
Thise cokes, how they stampe, and streyne, and grinde,
These cookes how they stamp, and strain, and grind,
And turnen substaunce in-to accident,
And turn the inner reality into appearance,
To fulfille al thy likerous talent! 540
To fulfill all your greedy desire!
Out of the harde bones knokke they
Out of the hard bones they knock
The mary, for they caste noght a-wey
The marrow, for they throw nothing away
That may go thurgh the golet softe and swote;
That may go through the gullet soft and sweet
Of spicerye, of leef, and bark, and rote
Of spicery and leaves, of bark and root,
Shal been his sauce y-maked by delyt, 545
Shall his sauce be made with delight,
To make him yet a newer appetyt.
To make him have a newer appetite.
But certes, he that haunteth swich delyces
But, indeed, he that frequents such delicacies
Is deed, whyl that he liveth in tho vyces.
Is dead while that he lives in those vices.
A lecherous thing is wyn, and dronkenesse
A lecherous thing is wine, and drunkenness
Is ful of stryving and of wrecchednesse. 550
Is full of striving and of wretchedness.
O dronke man, disfigured is thy face,
O drunken man! Disfigured is your face,
Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace,
Sour is your breath, foul are you to embrace:
And thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun
And through your drunken nose the sound seems,
As though thou seydest ay ‘Sampsoun, Sampsoun’;
As though you said, Samson! Samson!
And yet, god wot, Sampsoun drank never no wyn. 555
And yet, God knows, Samson never drank wine.
Thou fallest, as it were a stiked swyn;
You fall as if you were a stuck pig;
Thy tonge is lost, and al thyn honest cure;
Your tongue is lost, and all your honest care;
For dronkenesse is verray sepulture
For drunkenness is the tomb
Of mannes wit and his discrecioun.
Of man’s wit and his discretion.
In whom that drinke hath dominacioun, 560
In those over whom drink has domination,
He can no conseil kepe, it is no drede.
He can no counsel keep, it is no doubt.
Now kepe yow fro the whyte and fro the rede,
Now keep from the white and from the red,
And namely fro the whyte wyn of Lepe,
And especially from the white wine of Lepe,
That is to selle in Fish-strete or in Chepe.
That is sold in Fish Street and in Cheap.
This wyn of Spayne crepeth subtilly 565
This wine of Spain creeps subtly —
In othere wynes, growing faste by,
In other wines growing next to it,
Of which ther ryseth swich fumositee,
Of which there rises such vapours,
That whan a man hath dronken draughtes three,
That when a man has drunk three draughts,
And weneth that he be at hoom in Chepe,
And even though he is at home in Cheap,
He is in Spayne, right at the toune of Lepe, 570
He is in Spain, right at the town of Lepe,
Nat at the Rochel, ne at Burdeux toun;
Not at La Rochelle, not at Bordeaux town;
And thanne wol he seye, ‘Sampsoun, Sampsoun.’
And then he will say, Samson! Samson!
But herkneth, lordings, o word, I yow preye,
But listen, gentlemen, one word, I pray you,
That alle the sovereyn actes, dar I seye,
That all the sovereign acts, I dare say,
Of victories in the olde testament, 575
Of victories in the Old Testament,
Thurgh verray god, that is omnipotent,
Through God that is omnipotent,
Were doon in abstinence and in preyere;
Were done in abstinence and in prayer:
Loketh the Bible, and ther ye may it lere.
Look in the Bible, and there you might learn it.
Loke, Attila, the grete conquerour,
Look at Attila, the great conqueror,
Deyde in his sleep, with shame and dishonour, 580
Died in his sleep, with shame and dishonour,
Bledinge ay at his nose in dronkenesse;
Bleeding from his nose in drunkennes:
A capitayn shoulde live in sobrenesse.
A captain should live in soberness
And over al this, avyseth yow right wel
And above all this, consider you think well on
What was comaunded un-to Lamuel—
What was commanded to Lemuel;
Nat Samuel, but Lamuel, seye I—- 585
Not Samuel, but Lemuel, I say.
Redeth the Bible, and finde it expresly
Read the Bible, and find it expressly
Of wyn-yeving to hem that han Iustyse.
Of wine giving to them that have justice.
Na-more of this, for it may wel suffyse.
No more of this, for it may well suffice.
And now that I have spoke of glotonye,
And, now that I have spoken of gluttony,
Now wol I yow defenden hasardrye. 590
Now will I forbid gambling to you.
Hasard is verray moder of lesinges,
Gambling the very mother of lies,
And of deceite, and cursed forsweringes,
And of deceit, and cursed forswearings:
Blaspheme of Crist, manslaughtre, and wast also
Blasphemy of Christ, manslaughter, and waste also
Of catel and of tyme; and forthermo,
Of property and of time, and furthermore
It is repreve and contrarie of honour 595
If is a reproach, and contrary of honour,
For to ben holde a commune hasardour.
To be known as a common gambler.
And ever the hyër he is of estaat,
And the higher he is in estate,
The more is he holden desolaat.
The more he is held to be worthless.
If that a prince useth hasardrye,
If a price gambles,
In alle governaunce and policye 600
In all governance and plicy
He is, as by commune opinoun,
He is, by common opinion,
Y-holde the lasse in reputacioun.
His reputation suffers.
Stilbon, that was a wys embassadour,
Chilon, who was a wise ambassador,
Was sent to Corinthe, in ful greet honour,
Was sent to Corinth with great honour
Fro Lacidomie, to make hir alliaunce. 605
From Lacedemon, to make an alliance;
And whan he cam, him happede, par chaunce,
And when he came, it happened to him, by chance,
That alle the grettest that were of that lond,
That all the greatest men of that land,
Pleyinge atte hasard he hem fond.
He found playing games of chance.
For which, as sone as it mighte be,
Because of this, as soon might be,
He stal him hoom agayn to his contree, 610
He stole himself home again to his own country
And seyde, ‘ther wol I nat lese my name;
And said there, “I will not lose my name,
Ne I wol nat take on me so greet defame,
Nor will I take such a great reproach,
Yow for to allye un-to none hasardours.
For you to ally yourself to gamblers.
Sendeth othere wyse embassadours;
Send some other wise ambassadors,
For, by my trouthe, me were lever dye, 615
For, by my truth, I would rather die
Than I yow sholde to hasardours allye.
Than I should ally you to gamblers.
For ye that been so glorious in honours
For you, that are so glorious in honours,
Shul nat allyen yow with hasardours
Shall not be allied to any gamblers,
As by my wil, ne as by my tretee.’
Not by my will, nor by my treaty.”
This wyse philosophre thus seyde he. 620
This wise philosopher thus spoke.
Loke eek that, to the king Demetrius
Look also how to King Demetrius
The king of Parthes, as the book seith us,
The King of Parthia, as the book tells us,
Sente him a paire of dees of gold in scorn,
Sent a pair of golden dice in scorn,
For he hadde used hasard ther-biforn;
For he had used gambling before:
For which he heeld his glorie or his renoun 625
Becuase of this he held his glory and renown
At no value or reputacioun.
At no value or reputation.
Lordes may finden other maner pley
Lords may find other manner of play
Honeste y-nough to dryve the day awey.
Honest enough to drive the day away.
Now wol I speke of othes false and grete
Now will speak of great false oaths
A word or two, as olde bokes trete. 630
A word or two, as the old books treat of them.
Gret swering is a thing abhominable,
Great swearing is an abominable thing,
And false swering is yet more reprevable.
And false swearing is more reprovable.
The heighe god forbad swering at al,
The high God forbade all swearing;
Witnesse on Mathew; but in special
Witness in Matthew: but especially
Of swering seith the holy Ieremye, 635
Of swearing says the holy Jeremiah,
‘Thou shalt seye sooth thyn othes, and nat lye,
You should swear truthfully your oaths, and not lie:
And swere in dome, and eek in rightwisnesse;’
And swear in judgement and also in righteousness;
But ydel swering is a cursednesse.
But idle swearing is a wickedness.
Bihold and see, that in the firste table
Behold and see, there on the first tablet
Of heighe goddes hestes honurable, 640
Of high God’s honourable commandments,
How that the seconde heste of him is this—
How that the second best of his is this,
‘Tak nat my name in ydel or amis.’
Take not my name in vain or amiss.
Lo, rather he forbedeth swich swering
Lo, sooner he forbids such swearing,
Than homicyde or many a cursed thing;
More than homicide, or many a cursed thing;
I seye that, as by ordre, thus it stondeth; 645
I say that as by order it stands thus;
This knowen, that his hestes understondeth,
This he knows that understands his commandments,
How that the second heste of god is that.
How that the second commandment of God is that.
And forther over, I wol thee telle al plat,
And furthermore, I will tell you plainly,
That vengeance shal nat parten from his hous,
That vengeance shall not leave from this house,
That of his othes is to outrageous. 650
That of his oaths is outrageous.
‘By goddes precious herte, and by his nayles,
“By God’s precious heart, and by his nails,
And by the blode of Crist, that it is in Hayles,
And by the blood of Christ, that is in Hales,
Seven is my chaunce, and thyn is cink and treye;
Seven is my chance, and yours is give and three:
By goddes armes, if thou falsly pleye,
By God’s arms, if you play falsely,
This dagger shal thurgh-out thyn herte go’— 655
This dagger shall go through your heart.”
This fruyt cometh of the bicched bones two,
This fruit comes from two cursed dice,
Forswering, ire, falsnesse, homicyde.
Forswearing, anger, falseness, and homicide.
Now, for the love of Crist that for us dyde,
Now, for the love of Christ who died for us,
Leveth your othes, bothe grete and smale;
Leave your oaths, bothe great and small.
But, sirs, now wol I telle forth my tale. 660
But, Sirs, now will I tell you my tale.
Thise ryotoures three, of whiche I telle,
These three rioters, of which I tell,
Longe erst er pryme rong of any belle,
Long before any bell rang prime,
Were set hem in a taverne for to drinke;
Had established themselves in a tavern to drink;
And as they satte, they herde a belle clinke
And as they sat, they heard a bell clink
Biforn a cors, was caried to his grave; 665
Before a corpse, that was carried to the grave.
That oon of hem gan callen to his knave,
So one of them called to his servant,
‘Go bet,’ quod he, ‘and axe redily,
“Go quickly,” he said, “and ask readily
What cors is this that passeth heer forby;
What corpse is this, that passes by here;
And look that thou reporte his name wel.’
And look that you report his name well.”
‘Sir,’ quod this boy, ‘it nedeth never-a-del. 670
“Sir,” said the boy, “it needs no whit;
It was me told, er ye cam heer, two houres;
It was told to me before you came here two hours ago;
He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres;
He was, indeed, an old friend of yours,
And sodeynly he was y-slayn to-night,
And suddenly he was slain last night;
For-dronke, as he sat on his bench upright;
Completely drunk as he sat on his bench upright,
Ther cam a privee theef, men clepeth Deeth, 675
There came a thief, men call Death,
That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
That in this country slays all the people,
And with his spere he smoot his herte a-two,
And with his spear he smote his heart in two,
And wente his wey with-outen wordes mo.
And went his way without any more words.
He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence:
He has slain a thousand by this pestilence;
And, maister, er ye come in his presence, 680
And, master, before you come in his presence,
Me thinketh that it were necessarie
I think that it is most necessary
For to be war of swich an adversarie:
To beware of such an adversary;
Beth redy for to mete him evermore.
Be ready to meet him at anytime.
Thus taughte me my dame, I sey na-more.’
Thus my mother taught me; I say no more.”
‘By seinte Marie,’ seyde this taverner, 685
“By Saint Mary,” said the taverner,
‘The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer,
“The child speaks truly, for has slain this year,
Henne over a myle, with-in a greet village,
Here a mile away, within a great village,
Both man and womman, child and hyne, and page.
Both man and woman, child, and hind, and page;
I trowe his habitacioun be there;
I think his home is there;
To been avysed greet wisdom it were, 690
It is wise to be on one’s guard,
Er that he dide a man a dishonour.’
Unless he dishonours a man.”
‘Ye, goddes armes,’ quod this ryotour,
“Yes, God’s arms,” said this rioter,
‘Is it swich peril with him for to mete?
“Is it such peril to meet him?
I shal him seke by wey and eek by strete,
I shall seek him, by stile and also by street.
I make avow to goddes digne bones! 695
I make a vow, by God’s worthy bones.”
Herkneth, felawes, we three been al ones;
Listen, fellows, we three be all at one:
Lat ech of us holde up his hond til other,
Let each of us hold his hand to the other,
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother,
And each of us become the other’s brother,
And we wol sleen this false traytour Deeth;
And we will slay this false traitor Death;
He shal be slayn, which that so many sleeth, 700
He shall be slain, he that so many slays,
By goddes dignitee, er it be night.’
By God’s dignity, before it is night.”
Togidres han thise three her trouthes plight,
Together these three swore themselves to each other
To live and dyen ech of hem for other,
To live and die each one of them for the other
As though he were his owene y-boren brother.
As though he were his own sworn brother.
And up they sterte al dronken, in this rage, 705
And they started up, all drunken, in this rage,
And forth they goon towardes that village,
And they went forth towards that village
Of which the taverner had spoke biforn,
Of which the taverner had spoken before,
And many a grisly ooth than han they sworn,
And many a dreadful oath they swore,
And Cristes blessed body they to-rente—
And Christ’s blessed body they tore to pieces;
‘Deeth shal be deed, if that they may him hente.’ 710
“Death shall be dead, if we can catch him.”
Whan they han goon nat fully half a myle,
When they had gone not quite half a mile,
Right as they wolde han troden over a style,
Just as they were about to climb over a stile,
An old man and a povre with hem mette.
An old poor man met them.
This olde man ful mekely hem grette,
This old man greeted them very meekly,
And seyde thus, ‘now, lordes, god yow see!’ 715
And said thus; “Now, lords, look on graciously!”
The proudest of thise ryotoures three
The proudest of these three rioters
Answerde agayn, ‘what? carl, with sory grace,
Answered him; “What? Churl, with sorry grace,
Why artow al forwrapped save thy face?
Why are you all closely wrapt up except for your face?
Why livestow so longe in so greet age?’
Why do you live so long to so great an age?”
This olde man gan loke in his visage, 720
This old man looked at his visage,
And seyde thus, ‘for I ne can nat finde
And said thus; “Because I cannot find
A man, though that I walked in-to Inde,
A man, although I walked to India,
Neither in citee nor in no village,
Neither in a city, nor in a village,
That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
That would change his youth for my age;
And therfore moot I han myn age stille, 725
And therefore I must have my age still
As longe time as it is goddes wille.
For as long as it is God’s will.
Ne deeth, allas! ne wol nat han my lyf;
And Death, alas! he will not have my life.
Thus walke I, lyk a restelees caityf,
Thus I walk like a miserable wreth,
And on the ground, which is my modres gate,
And on the ground, which is my mother’s gate,
I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late, 730
I knock with my staff, early and late,
And seye, “leve moder, leet me in!
And say to her, ‘Dear mother, let me in.
Lo, how I vanish, flesh, and blood, and skin!
Lo, how I wane, flesh, and blood, and skin;
Allas! whan shul my bones been at reste?
Alas! when shall my bones be at rest?
Moder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste,
Mother, with you I would exchange my chest,
That in my chambre longe tyme hath be, 735
That in my chamber has been for a long time,
Ye! for an heyre clout to wrappe me!”
Yes, even for a hairycloth To wrap myself in.’
But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
But yet to me she will not do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked is my face.
And therefore my face is pale and withered.
But, sirs, to yow it is no curteisye
But, Sirs, it is not courteous of you
To speken to an old man vileinye, 740
To speak villainy to an old man,
But he trespasse in worde, or elles in dede.
Except if he trespass in word or in deed.
In holy writ ye may your-self wel rede,
In Holy Writ you may read for yourselves;
“Agayns an old man, hoor upon his heed,
If you meet an old man, grey upon his head,
Ye sholde aryse;” wherfor I yeve yow reed,
Ye should arise:’ therefore I advise you,
Ne dooth un-to an old man noon harm now, 745
Nor do to an old man no harm now,
Na-more than ye wolde men dide to yow
No more than you would a man do to you
In age, if that ye so longe abyde;
In your old age, if you may live that long.
And god be with yow, wher ye go or ryde.
And God be with you, where you go or ride
I moot go thider as I have to go.’
I must go on as time is pressing.”
‘Nay, olde cherl, by god, thou shall nat so,’ 750
“No, old churl, by God you shall not do so,”
Seyde this other hasardour anon;
Said this other gambler then;
‘Thou partest nat so lightly, by seint Iohn!
“You shall not part so lightly, by Saint John.
Thou spak right now of thilke traitour Deeth,
You spoke just now of that traitor Death,
That in this contree alle our frendes sleeth.
That in this country all our friends slays;
Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his aspye, 755
Have here my pledge, as you are his spy;
Tel wher he is, or thou shalt it abye,
Tell where he is, or you shall suffer for it,
By god, and by the holy sacrament!
By God and by the holy sacrament;
For soothly thou art oon of his assent,
Foor truly you are in league with him
To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!’
To slay us young folk, you false thief.”
‘Now, sirs,’ quod he, ‘if that yow be so leef 760
“Now, Sirs,” said he, “if it is that you so desire
To finde Deeth, turne up this croked wey,
To find Death, turn up this crooked way,
For in that grove I lafte him, by my fey,
For in that grove I left him, by my faith,
Under a tree, and ther he wol abyde;
Under a tree, and there he will abide;
Nat for your boost he wol him no-thing hyde.
Nor will he hide anything from your boasting.
See ye that ook? right ther ye shul him finde. 765
Do you see that oak? There there you shall find him.
God save yow, that boghte agayn mankinde,
God save you, that bought again mankind,
And yow amende!’—thus seyde this olde man.
And made amends for you!” Thus said this old man;
And everich of thise ryotoures ran,
And each of these rioters ran,
Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde
Until they came to the tree, and there they found
Of florins fyne of golde y-coyned rounde 770
Of fine florins, of round gold coins,
Wel ny an eighte busshels, as hem thoughte.
Nearly seven bushels they thought.
No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte,
After that they no longer sought after Death;
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
Beat each of them was so glad of that sight,
For that the florins been so faire and brighte,
For the florins were so fair and bright,
That doun they sette hem by this precious hord. 775
That they sat down by the precious hoard.
The worste of hem he spake the firste word.
The youngest of them spoke the first word:
‘Brethren,’ quod he, ‘tak kepe what I seye;
“Brethren,” he said, “heed what I will say;
My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye.
My wit great, although I joke and play
This tresor hath fortune un-to us yiven,
This treature Fortune has given to us
In mirthe and Iolitee our lyf to liven, 780
To live our life in mirth and happiness;
And lightly as it comth, so wol we spende.
And as easily as it comes, so will we spend it.
Ey! goddes precious dignitee! who wende
Hey! God’s precious dignity! Who thought
To-day, that we sholde han so fair a grace?
That today we should have so fair a grace?
But mighte this gold be caried fro this place
For if this gold is carried from this place
Hoom to myn hous, or elles un-to youres— 785
Home to my house, or otherwise to yours
For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures—
(For I know that this gold is ours),
Than were we in heigh felicitee.
Then we will be in great happiness.
But trewely, by daye it may nat be;
But truly by the day it may not be;
Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge,
Men would say that we were great thieves,
And for our owene tresor doon us honge. 790
And for our own treasure have us hanged.
This tresor moste y-caried be by nighte
This treasure must be carried by night,
As wysly and as slyly as it mighte.
As wisely and as slyly as might be.
Wherfore I rede that cut among us alle
Therefore I advise, that we cut lots between us all
Be drawe, and lat se wher the cut wol falle;
Draw, and lets see where the cut will fall:
And he that hath the cut with herte blythe 795
And he that has the cut, with happy heart
Shal renne to the toune, and that ful swythe,
Shall run into the town, and so very quickly,
And bringe us breed and wyn ful prively.
And bring us bread and wine very secretly:
And two of us shul kepen subtilly
And the other two shall keep carefully
This tresor wel; and, if he wol nat tarie,
This treasure: and if he does not delay,
Whan it is night, we wol this tresor carie 800
When it is night, we will this treasure carry,
By oon assent, wher-as us thinketh best.’
By one agreement, to where we think it best.”
That oon of hem the cut broughte in his fest,
Then one them the lots held in his fist,
And bad hem drawe, and loke wher it wol falle;
And asked them to draw, and look to where it would fall;
And it fil on the yongeste of hem alle;
And it fell on the youngest of them all;
And forth toward the toun he wente anon. 805
And off toward the town he went then.
And al-so sone as that he was gon,
And as soon as he was gone,
That oon of hem spak thus un-to that other,
One of them spoke as follows unto the other;
‘Thou knowest wel thou art my sworne brother,
“You know well that you are my sworn brother,
Thy profit wol I telle thee anon.
I will tell you now what will be to your advantage.
Thou woost wel that our felawe is agon; 810
You know well that our fellow is gone,
And heer is gold, and that ful greet plentee,
And here is gold, and that there’s lots of it,
That shal departed been among us three.
That shall be divided among us three.
But natheles, if I can shape it so
But nonetheless, if I could contrive it so
That it departed were among us two,
That it were divided amongst us two,
Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?’ 815
Would I not have done a friend’s good turn for you?”
That other answerde, ‘I noot how that may be;
The other answered, “I know not how that may be;
He woot how that the gold is with us tweye,
He knows well that the gold is with us two.
What shal we doon, what shal we to him seye?’
What shall we do? What shall we say to him?”
‘Shal it be conseil?’ seyde the firste shrewe,
“Can we speak secretly?” said the first wretch;
‘And I shal tellen thee, in wordes fewe, 820
“And I shall tell you in just a few words
What we shal doon, and bringe it wel aboute.’
What we shall do, and I’ll bring it about as well.”
‘I graunte,’ quod that other, ‘out of doute,
“I grant,” said the other, “without doubt,
That, by my trouthe, I wol thee nat biwreye.’
That by my truth I will not betray you.”
‘Now,’ quod the firste, ‘thou woost wel we be tweye,
“Now,” said the first, “you know well that we be two,
And two of us shul strenger be than oon. 825
And two of us will be stronger than one.
Look whan that he is set, and right anoon
Look; when he sits down, you then
Arys, as though thou woldest with him pleye;
Get up, as though you play with him;
And I shal ryve him thurgh the sydes tweye
And I shall stab him through both sides,
Whyl that thou strogelest with him as in game,
While you wrestle with him as if playing;
And with thy dagger look thou do the same; 830
And with your dagger make sure you do the same.
And than shal al this gold departed be,
And then shall all his gold be divided,
My dere freend, bitwixen me and thee;
My dear friend, between you and me:
Than may we bothe our lustes al fulfille,
Then may we both our pleasures fulfill,
And pleye at dees right at our owene wille.’
And play at dice as much as we like.”
And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye 835
And thus these two wretches agreed
To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.
To slay the third, as you have heard me say.
This yongest, which that wente un-to the toun,
The youngest, who had gone to the town,
Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun
Kept rolling up and down in his heart
The beautee of thise florins newe and brighte.
The beauty of those florins so new and bright.
‘O lord!’ quod he, ‘if so were that I mighte 840
“O Lord!” he said, “if were that I might
Have al this tresor to my-self allone,
Have all this treasure to myself alone,
Ther is no man that liveth under the trone
There is no man that lives under the throne
Of god, that sholde live so mery as I!’
Of God, that would be as merry as I.”
And atte laste the feend, our enemy,
And in the end the fiend our enemy
Putte in his thought that he shold poyson beye, 845
Put in his mind, that he should buy poison,
With which he mighte sleen his felawes tweye;
With which he might slay his two fellows.
For-why the feend fond him in swich lyvinge,
And this was because, the fiend found him living such a bad life,
That he had leve him to sorwe bringe,
That permission was given to bring him to sorrow.
For this was outrely his fulle entente
For this was completely his full intention
To sleen hem bothe, and never to repente. 850
To slay both of them, and never to repent.
And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
And he went forth, no longer would he wait,
Into the toun, un-to a pothecarie,
Into the town to an apothecary he goes,
And preyed him, that he him wolde selle
And asked him to sell him
Som poyson, that he mighte his rattes quelle;
Some poison, that he might kill his rats,
And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe, 855
And also there was a polecat in his hedge,
That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde y-slawe,
That, he said, his capons had slain:
And fayn he wolde wreke him, if he mighte,
And so he might wreak revenge,
On vermin, that destroyed him by nighte.
On the vermin that destroyed him by night.
The pothecarie answerde, ‘and thou shalt have
The apothecary answered, “You shall have
A thing that, al-so god my soule save, 860
A thing, that as surely God save my soul,
In al this world ther nis no creature,
In all this world there is no creature
That ete or dronke hath of this confiture
That eat or drink of this mixture,
Noght but the mountance of a corn of whete,
Not even the morsel of a corn of wheat,
That he ne shal his lyf anon forlete;
That he shall not immediately lay down his life;
Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse whyle 865
Yes, die he will, and in less time
Than thou wolt goon a paas nat but a myle;
Than it would take you to quickly go a mile:
This poyson is so strong and violent.’
This poison is so strong and violent.”
This cursed man hath in his hond y-hent
This cursed man had taken in his hand
This poyson in a box, and sith he ran
This poison in a box, and swift he ran
In-to the nexte strete, un-to a man, 870
Into the next street, to a man
And borwed [of] him large botels three;
And borrowed of him three large bottles;
And in the two his poyson poured he;
And in two of them he poured the poison;
The thridde he kepte clene for his drinke.
The third he kept clean for his own drink,
For al the night he shoop him for to swinke
For all night he worked at his purpose
In caryinge of the gold out of that place. 875
Of carrying the gold away from that place.
And whan this ryotour, with sory grace,
And then this rioter, with sorry grace,
Had filled with wyn his grete botels three,
Had filled with wine his three great bottles,
To his felawes agayn repaireth he.
And returned again to his fellows.
What nedeth it to sermone of it more?
What needs it to sermonise more of this?
For right as they had cast his deeth bifore, 880
For, just as they had plotted his death before,
Right so they han him slayn, and that anon.
Just so they had him soon slain.
And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon,
And when it was done, thus spoke one;
‘Now lat us sitte and drinke, and make us merie,
“Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry,
And afterward we wol his body berie.’
And afterward we will his body bury.”
And with that word it happed him, par cas, 885
And with that word he happened by chance
To take the botel ther the poyson was,
To take a bottle where the poison was,
And drank, and yaf his felawe drinke also,
And drank, and gave his fellow drink also,
For which anon they storven bothe two.
For which then they both both died.
But, certes, I suppose that Avicen
But certainly I suppose that Avicenna
Wroot never in no canon, ne in no fen, 890
Wrote never in no rule-book, nor in no chapter,
Mo wonder signes of empoisoning
More wonderous signs of poisoning,
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir ending.
Than had these two wretches before their end.
Thus ended been thise homicydes two,
These two murderers ended,
And eek the false empoysoner also.
And also the false poisoner as well.
O cursed sinne, ful of cursednesse! 895
O cursed sin, full of all cursedness!
O traytours homicyde, o wikkednesse!
O traiterous homicide! O wickedness!
O glotonye, luxurie, and hasardrye!
O gluttony, luxury, and gambling!
Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileinye
You blasphemer of Christ with impiety,
And othes grete, of usage and of pryde!
And great oaths, of habit and of pride!
Allas! mankinde, how may it bityde, 900
Alas! Mankind, how may it happen,
That to thy creatour which that thee wroghte,
That to your Creator, which made you,
And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte,
And with his precious heart-blood bought you,
Thou art so fals and so unkinde, allas!
You are so false and so unnatural, alas!
Now, goode men, god forgeve yow your trespas,
Now, good men, God forgive you your trespass,
And ware yow fro the sinne of avaryce. 905
And keep you from the sin of avarice.
Myn holy pardoun may yow alle waryce,
My holy pardon may heal you all,
So that ye offre nobles or sterlinges,
As long as you offer gold nobles or silver sterlings,
Or elles silver broches, spones, ringes.
Or else silver brooches, spoons, or rings.
Boweth your heed under this holy bulle!
Bow your head under this holy bull.
Cometh up, ye wyves, offreth of your wolle! 910
Come up, you wives, and offer of your free-will;
Your name I entre heer in my rolle anon;
Your names I will enter in my roll then;
In-to the blisse of hevene shul ye gon;
Into the bliss of heaven shall you go;
I yow assoile, by myn heigh power,
I absolve you by my high power,
Yow that wol offre, as clene and eek as cleer
You that will offer, as clean and even as clear
As ye were born; and, lo, sirs, thus I preche. 915
As you were born. Lo, Sirs, thus I preach;
And Iesu Crist, that is our soules leche,
And Jesus Christ, that is our soul’s healer,
So graunte yow his pardon to receyve;
So grant you his pardon to receive;
For that is best; I wol yow nat deceyve.
For that is best, I will not deceive.
But sirs, o word forgat I in my tale,
But, Sirs, one word I forgot in my tale;
I have relikes and pardon in my male, 920
I have relics and pardon in my bag,
As faire as any man in Engelond,
As fair as any man in England,
Whiche were me yeven by the popes hond.
Which were given to me by the Pope’s hand.
If any of yow wol, of devocioun,
If any of you will through devotion
Offren, and han myn absolucioun,
Offer me something, and have my absolution,
Cometh forth anon, and kneleth heer adoun, 925
Come forth now, and kneel down here
And mekely receyveth my pardoun:
And meekly receive my pardon.
Or elles, taketh pardon as ye wende,
Or else take pardon, as you go,
Al newe and fresh, at every tounes ende,
All new and fresth at the end of every town,
So that ye offren alwey newe and newe
So that you offer, always new and new,
Nobles and pens, which that be gode and trewe. 930
Nobles and pence which are good and true.
It is an honour to everich that is heer,
It is an honour to everyone that is here,
That ye mowe have a suffisant pardoneer
That you have a suitable pardoner
Tassoille yow, in contree as ye ryde,
To absolve you in the countryside as you ride,
For aventures which that may bityde.
In case some adventures might happen.
Peraventure ther may falle oon or two 935
For perhaps there may fall one or two
Doun of his hors, and breke his nekke atwo.
Down off his horse, and break his neck in two.
Look which a seuretee is it to yow alle
Look, what a security it is to you all,
That I am in your felaweship y-falle,
That I have fallen into your fellowship,
That may assoille yow, bothe more and lasse,
That I may absolve you for sins both great and small,
Whan that the soule shal fro the body passe, 940
When the soul shall from the body pass.
I rede that our hoste heer shal biginne,
I advise that our Host should begin,
For he is most envoluped in sinne.
For he is most enveloped in sin.
Com forth, sir hoste, and offre first anon,
Come forth, Sir Host, and offer first now,
And thou shalt kisse the reliks everichon,
And you shall kiss the relics every one,
Ye, for a grote! unbokel anon thy purs.’ 945
Yes, for a groat; unbuckle now your purse.
‘Nay, nay,’ quod he, ‘than have I Cristes curs!
“No, no,” he said, “then I will have damnation!
Lat be,’ quod he, ‘it shal nat be, so theech!
Let it be,” he said, “it shall not be, so may I thrive.
Thou woldest make me kisse thyn old breech,
You would make me kiss your old underpants,
And swere it were a relik of a seint,
And swear it were a relic of a saint,
Thogh it were with thy fundement depeint! 950
Though it were stained by your bottom.
But by the croys which that seint Eleyne fond,
But, by the cross which Saint Helen found,
I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond
I would that I had your balls in my hand,
In stede of relikes or of seintuarie;
Instead of relics, or a sanctuary.
Lat cutte hem of, I wol thee helpe hem carie;
Let me cut them off, I will help you carry them;
Thay shul be shryned in an hogges tord.’ 955
They shall be enshrined in a hog’s turd.”
This pardoner answerde nat a word;
The Pardoner answered not one word;
So wrooth he was, no word ne wolde he seye.
So angry was he, no word would he say.
‘Now,’ quod our host, ‘I wol no lenger pleye
“Now,” said our Host, “I will no longer play
With thee, ne with noon other angry man.’
With thee, nor with no other angry man.”
But right anon the worthy knight bigan, 960
But right then the worthy Knight began
Whan that he saugh that al the peple lough,
(When he saw that all the people laughed),
‘Na-more of this, for it is right y-nough;
“No more of this, for it is right enough.
Sir pardoner, be glad and mery of chere;
Sir Pardoner, be merry and glad of cheer;
And ye, sir host, that been to me so dere,
And you, Sir Host, that are so dear to me,
I prey yow that ye kisse the pardoner. 965
I pray that you kiss the Pardoner;
And pardoner, I prey thee, drawe thee neer,
And, Pardoner, I pray you to draw yourself near,
And, as we diden, lat us laughe and pleye.’
And as we did before, let us laugh and play.”
Anon they kiste, and riden forth hir weye.
Then they kissed, and rode forth on their way.
The Pardoner’s Tale in Middle English
The Pardoner’s Tale in Modern English