The Pardoner’s Tale in Modern English

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 and Middle English

 

Description of the Pardoner from the General Prologue

 

With him there rode a gentle Pardoner

Of Rouncivale, his friend and his companion,     670

That had come straight from the court of Rome

Loudly he sang, “Come here, love, to me”

This Summoner sang for him the bass,

There was never a trumpet that made half that sound.

This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax,     675

But smooth it hung, as does a strip of flax

His locks weighed ounces on his head

And there over his shoulders they spread

Very thin it lay, by shreds one and one,

But for vanity, he did not wear a hood,     680

For it was trussed up in his wallet.

He thought he was of the latest fashion

With his hair loose, except for his cap, he rode bareheaded.

Such bright eyes he had, like a hare,

An icon had he sown upon hic cap,     685

His wallet lay before him in his lap,

Brimful of pardon come from Rome all hot,

A voice he had as small as has a goat.

No beard had he, nor should he ever have one,

As smooth it was as if he’d just had a shave     690

I think he was a gelding or a mare

But of his craft, from Berwick to Ware,

Never was there such another pardoner

For in his bag he had a pillowcase,

Which, he said, was our Lady’s veil     695

He said, he had a section of the sail

That Saint Peter had, when he went

Upon the sea, till Jesus Christ took hold of him.

He had a cross of copper full of stones,

And in a glass he had pig’s bones.     700

But with these relics, when he found

A poor parson dwelling on the land,

In one day he got more money

Than the parson got in two months;

And thus with fake flattering and jests,     705

He made the parson and the people his apes.

But finally to tell truly,

He was in church a noble priest.

Well could he read a lesson or a story,

But best of all he sang an offertory:     710

For well he knew, when that song was sung,

He must preach, and polish his tongue well,

To win silver, as he could very well:

Therefore he sang full merrily and loud.

 

 

 

Introduction to The Pardoner’s Tale

 

Our host began to swear as if he were mad;

“Alas!” he said, “by the nails and blood of Christ,

This was a cursed thief, a false justice.

As shameful death as the heart can devise     290

Should come to these judges and their advocates.

Nevertheless this innocent maid is slain, alas!

Alas! She bought her beauty too dearly.

Therefore I say, that all day man may see

That gifts of fortune and of nature     295

Are the cause of death to many a creature.

Her beauty was her death, I dare well say;

Alas! So mercilessly was she slain.

Of both gifts, that I speak of now

Men have often more harm than profit,     300

But truly, my own dear master,

This was a piteous tale to hear;

But nonetheless, let’s go on; it is no matter.

I pray to God to save your gentle body,

And also your urine bottles, and your medicine bottles,     305

Your Hippocras, and also your Galliens,

And every box full of your medicine,

God bless them, and our Lady Saint Mary.

So may I thrive, you are a proper man,

And like a prelate, by Saint Ronan;     310

Did I not speak well? Can I not speak in set form?

But I well know you make my heart to grieve,

So that I have almost caught heartache:

By the body of the Lord, unless I have a remedy,

Or else a draught of moist and corny ale,     315

Or unless I hear soon a merry tale,

My heart will break for pity of this maid.

You good friend, you Pardoner,” he said,

“Tell us some mirth of jokes now.”

“It shall be done,” he said, “by Saint Ronan.     320

But first,” he said, “here at this ale-house sign

I will both drink, and bite on a cake.”

But just then the gentlefolk began to cry,

“Nay, let him tell us of no ribaldry.

Tell us some moral thing, so that we may learn     325

Some wisdom, and then we will gladly hear.”

“I will surely grant this,” he said; “but I must think

Upon some honest thing while I drink.”

 

 

 

Prologue to The Pardoner’s Tale

 

Lords (said he), in church when I preach

I take pains to have loud speech,     330

And let it ring out, as round as does a bell,

For I know all by rote that I tell.

My theme is always one, and ever was;

Greed is the root of all evils.

First I pronounce where it is that I have come,     335

And then my bulls I show all and some;

Our liege lord’s seal on my patent,

That I show first, for the protection of my body,

That no man is bold enough, neither priest nor clerk,

To put me off Christ’s holy work.     340

And after that then I tell forth my tales.

Bulls of popes, and of cardinals,

Of patriarchs, and of bishops I show,

And in Latin I speak words a few,

To savour with my sermon,     345

And to stir men to devotion

Then I show forth my long crystal stones,

Crammed full of fragments and of bones;

Relics they are, my listeners think each one to be.

Then have I in brass a shoulder-bone     350

Which was of a holy Jew’s sheep.

“Good men,” I say, “take heed of my words;

If this bone is washed in any well,

If cow, or calf, or sheep, or ox swell-up

That any worm has eaten, or worm stung,     355

Take water of that well, and wash his tongue,

And it will  be well soon; and furthermore

Of pox, and of scab, and every sore

Shall every sheep be cured, that of this well

Drinks a draught; take heed of what I tell.     360

“If the farmer, who owns the beasts,

Will every week, before the cock crows,

Fasting, drink of this well a draught,

As this holy Jew taught our elders,

His beasts and his store-house shall multiply.     365

And, Sirs, also it heals jealousy;

For though a man be fallen in a jealous rage,

If he makes with this water his pottage,

Then never shall he mistrust his wife again,

Though he truly knew of her sin;     370

Even if she has had two or three priests.

Here is a mitten also, that you can see;

He who puts his hand in this mitten,

He shall have a multiplying of his grain,

When he has sown, be it wheat or oats,     375

So that he can make pence, or even groats.

And, men and women, one thing I warn you of;

If any person in this church now

Has done a horrible sin, so that he

Dare not for shame confess it;     380

Or any woman, be she young or old,

That has made her husband cuckold,

Such folk shall have no power or grace

To take up the offer of my relics in this place.

And those who find themselves without blame,     385

He will come up and take the offer in God’s name;

And I will absolve him by the authority

Which has been granted to me by the bull.”

By these tricks have I won year after year

A hundred marks, since I was a pardoner.     390

I stand like a clerk in my pulpit,

And when the ignorant people sit down,

I preach as you have just heard,

And I tell them a hundred deceits more.

Then I pain myself to stretch forth my neck,     395

And east and west to the people I call,

As does a dove, sitting on a barn;

My hands and my tongue go so briskly,

That it is a joy to see my business.

Of avarice and such wikedness     400

Is all my preaching, for in order to make them free

To give their pennies, and especially unto me.

For my intent is not to win their souls,

And not at all for the correction of sin.

I never care, when they are buried,     405

Even though their souls go blackberry picking.

For certainly many preachings

Are often inspired by evil motives;

Some to please people, or to flatter them,

And they are advanced by hypocrisy;     410

And some for pride, and some for hate.

For, when I dare not otherwise debate,

Then will I sting him with my tongue sharply

In preaching, so that he shall not escape

Being falsely defamed, if he     415

Has offended my brethren or me.

For, although I don’t tell his proper name,

Men shall know well who it is

By signs, and by other circumstances.

Thus I am revenged on folk that do us disservice.     420

Thus I spit out my venom, under hue

Of holyness, to seem holy and true.

But, in short my intent I will explain,

I preach of nothing but of greed.

Therefore my theme is yet, and ever was, —     425

Greed is the root of all evils.

Thus can I preach against the same vice

That I use, and that is avarice.

But although I am guilty of that sin,

Yet can I make other folk depart     430

From avarice, and they repent of it.

But that is not my principal intent;

I preach only of greed.

Of this matter that ought to be enough.

Then I will tell them many examples,     435

Of old stories from long ago;

For unlearned people love old tales;

Such things they can better remember and recall.

What? Do you think, that while I preach

And win gold and silver because I teach,     440

That I will live in poverty willfully?

No, no, I truly never thought of doing that.

For I will preach and beg in sundry lands;

I will not do any labour with my hands,

Nor make baskets for a living,     445

Because I will not idly beg.

I will not imitate any of the apostles;

I will have money, wool, and cheese, and wheat,

Even if it were given by the poorest page,

Or by the poorest widow in a village:     450

Even should her children starve from famine.

No, I will drink the liquor of the vine,

And have a jolly wench in every town.

But listen, gentlemen, in conclusion;

Your liking is, that I shall tell a tale     455

Now I have drunk a draught of corny ale,

By God, I hope I shall you tell a thing

That shall by reason be to your liking;

For though I myself am a very vicious man,

A moral tale yet I can tell you,     460

Which I often preach for winnings.

Now hold your peace, my tale I will begin.

 

 

The Pardoner’s Tale

 

In Flanders there was a company

Of young folk, that lived in folly,

Such as riot, gambling, brothels, and taverns;     465

Where with lutes, harps, and guitars,

They dance and play at dice both day and night,

And eat also, and drink over their limit;

Through which they do the devil sacrifice

Within the devil’s temple, in a cursed way,     470

By abominable excess.

Their oaths are so great and so damnable,

That it is dreadful to hear them swear.

Our blissful Lord’s body they tore to pieces;

They thought that the Jews had not rent him enough,     475

Each of them at the other’s sin laughed.

And soon in came dancing girls

Dainty and small, and young fruit-girls.

Singers with harps, revellers, cake-sellers,

Which are the very devil’s officers,     480

To kindle and blow the fire of lechery,

That is an element of gluttony.

The Holy Writ take I to my witness,

That luxury is in wine and drunkenness.

Lo, how that drunken Lot unnaturally     485

Lay by his two daughters unwittingly,

So drunk he was he knew not what he did.

Herod, who the histories so well examine,

When he was full of wine at his feast,

Right at his own table gave his command     490

To slay the innocent John the Baptist

Seneca says a good word, there is no doubt:

He says he can find no difference

Between a man that is out of his mind,

And a man who is a drunkard:     495

But that madness, falling on one who is evil-tempered,

Lasts longer than drunkenness.

O gluttony, full of all cursedness;

O cause first of our confusion,

The origin of our damnation,     500

Until Christ bought us with his blood again!

Look, how dear, to say in short,

Was this first villainy atoned for:

Corrupt was all this world because of gluttony.

Adam our father, and his wife also,     505

From Paradise, to labour and to woe,

Were driven out because of that vice, there is no doubt.

For while Adam fasted, as I have read,

He was in Paradise; and when that he

Ate of the forbidden fruit of the tree,     510

Then he was cast out into woe and pain.

O gluttony! Well should we complain of you.

Oh! If a man knew how many maladies

Follow from excess and gluttony,

He would be more moderate     515

Of his diet, sitting at his table.

Alas! The short throat, the tender mouth,

Makes that east and west, north and south,

In earth, in air, in water, men labour

To get a glutton dainty meat and drink.     520

Of this matter, O Paul! Well do you treat

Meat to the belly, and belly to meat,

God shall destroy both, as Paul says.

Alas! a foul thing is it, by my faith,

To say this word, and fouler is the deed,     525

When man drinks of the white and red wine,

That he makes of his throat a privy

Through this cursed excess

The apostle says, weeping with greaty pity,

There walk many, of which I have told you, —     530

I say it now weeping with piteous voice, —

That they are enemies of Christ’s cross;

Of which the end is death; belly is their God.

O womb, O belly, stinking is your bag,

Filled full of dung and corruption;     535

At either end of you the sound is foul.

What a great effort and cost it is to supply you!

These cookes how they stamp, and strain, and grind,

And turn the inner reality into appearance,

To fulfill all your greedy desire!     540

Out of the hard bones they knock

The marrow, for they throw nothing away

That may go through the gullet soft and sweet

Of spicery and leaves, of bark and root,

Shall his sauce be made with delight,     545

To make him have a newer appetite.

But, indeed, he that frequents such delicacies

Is dead while that he lives in those vices.

A lecherous thing is wine, and drunkenness

Is full of striving and of wretchedness.     550

O drunken man! Disfigured is your face,

Sour is your breath, foul are you to embrace:

And through your drunken nose the sound seems,

As though you said, Samson! Samson!

And yet, God knows, Samson never drank wine.     555

You fall as if you were a stuck pig;

Your tongue is lost, and all your honest care;

For drunkenness is the tomb

Of man’s wit and his discretion.

In those over whom drink has domination,     560

He can no counsel keep, it is no doubt.

Now keep from the white and from the red,

And especially from the white wine of Lepe,

That is sold in Fish Street and in Cheap.

This wine of Spain creeps subtly —     565

In other wines growing next to it,

Of which there rises such vapours,

That when a man has drunk three draughts,

And even though he is at home in Cheap,

He is in Spain, right at the town of Lepe,     570

Not at La Rochelle, not at Bordeaux town;

And then he will say, Samson! Samson!

But listen, gentlemen, one word, I pray you,

That all the sovereign acts, I dare say,

Of victories in the Old Testament,     575

Through God that is omnipotent,

Were done in abstinence and in prayer:

Look in the Bible, and there you might learn it.

Look at Attila, the great conqueror,

Died in his sleep, with shame and dishonour,     580

Bleeding from his nose in drunkennes:

A captain should live in soberness

And above all this, consider you think well on

What was commanded to Lemuel;

Not Samuel, but Lemuel, I say.     585

Read the Bible, and find it expressly

Of wine giving to them that have justice.

No more of this, for it may well suffice.

And, now that I have spoken of gluttony,

Now will I forbid gambling to you.     590

Gambling the very mother of lies,

And of deceit, and cursed forswearings:

Blasphemy of Christ, manslaughter, and waste also

Of property and of time, and furthermore

If is a reproach, and contrary of honour,     595

To be known as a common gambler.

And the higher he is in estate,

The more he is held to be worthless.

If a price gambles,

In all governance and plicy     600

He is, by common opinion,

His reputation suffers.

Chilon, who was a wise ambassador,

Was sent to Corinth with great honour

From Lacedemon, to make an alliance;     605

And when he came, it happened to him, by chance,

That all the greatest men of that land,

He found playing games of chance.

Because of this, as soon might be,

He stole himself home again to his own country     610

And said there, “I will not lose my name,

Nor will I take such a great reproach,

For you to ally yourself to gamblers.

Send some other wise ambassadors,

For, by my truth, I would rather die     615

Than I should ally you to gamblers.

For you, that are so glorious in honours,

Shall not be allied to any gamblers,

Not by my will, nor by my treaty.”

This wise philosopher thus spoke.     620

Look also how to King Demetrius

The King of Parthia, as the book tells us,

Sent a pair of golden dice in scorn,

For he had used gambling before:

Becuase of this he held his glory and renown     625

At no value or reputation.

Lords may find other manner of play

Honest enough to drive the day away.

Now will speak of great false oaths

A word or two, as the old books treat of them.     630

Great swearing is an abominable thing,

And false swearing is more reprovable.

The high God forbade all swearing;

Witness in Matthew: but especially

Of swearing says the holy Jeremiah,     635

You should swear truthfully your oaths, and not lie:

And swear in judgement and also in righteousness;

But idle swearing is a wickedness.

Behold and see, there on the first tablet

Of high God’s honourable commandments,     640

How that the second best of his is this,

Take not my name in vain or amiss.

Lo, sooner he forbids such swearing,

More than homicide, or many a cursed thing;

I say that as by order it stands thus;     645

This he knows that understands his commandments,

How that the second commandment of God is that.

And furthermore, I will tell you plainly,

That vengeance shall not leave from this house,

That of his oaths is outrageous.     650

“By God’s precious heart, and by his nails,

And by the blood of Christ, that is in Hales,

Seven is my chance, and yours is give and three:

By God’s arms, if you play falsely,

This dagger shall go through your heart.”     655

This fruit comes from two cursed dice,

Forswearing, anger, falseness, and homicide.

Now, for the love of Christ who died for us,

Leave your oaths, bothe great and small.

But, Sirs, now will I tell you my tale.     660

These three rioters, of which I tell,

Long before any bell rang prime,

Had established themselves in a tavern to drink;

And as they sat, they heard a bell clink

Before a corpse, that was carried to the grave.     665

So one of them called to his servant,

“Go quickly,” he said, “and ask readily

What corpse is this, that passes by here;

And look that you report his name well.”

“Sir,” said the boy, “it needs no whit;     670

It was told to me before you came here two hours ago;

He was, indeed, an old friend of yours,

And suddenly he was slain last night;

Completely drunk as he sat on his bench upright,

There came a thief, men call Death,     675

That in this country slays all the people,

And with his spear he smote his heart in two,

And went his way without any more words.

He has slain a thousand by this pestilence;

And, master, before you come in his presence,     680

I think that it is most necessary

To beware of such an adversary;

Be ready to meet him at anytime.

Thus my mother taught me; I say no more.”

“By Saint Mary,” said the taverner,     685

“The child speaks truly, for has slain this year,

Here a mile away, within a great village,

Both man and woman, child, and hind, and page;

I think his home is there;

It is wise to be on one’s guard,     690

Unless he dishonours a man.”

“Yes, God’s arms,” said this rioter,

“Is it such peril to meet him?

I shall seek him, by stile and also by street.

I make a vow, by God’s worthy bones.”     695

Listen, fellows, we three be all at one:

Let each of us hold his hand to the other,

And each of us become the other’s brother,

And we will slay this false traitor Death;

He shall be slain, he that so many slays,     700

By God’s dignity, before it is night.”

Together these three swore themselves to each other

To live and die each one of them for the other

As though he were his own sworn brother.

And they started up, all drunken, in this rage,     705

And they went forth towards that village

Of which the taverner had spoken before,

And many a dreadful oath they swore,

And Christ’s blessed body they tore to pieces;

“Death shall be dead, if we can catch him.”     710

When they had gone not quite half a mile,

Just as they were about to climb over a stile,

An old poor man met them.

This old man greeted them very meekly,

And said thus; “Now, lords, look on graciously!”     715

The proudest of these three rioters

Answered him; “What? Churl, with sorry grace,

Why are you all closely wrapt up except for your face?

Why do you live so long to so great an age?”

This old man looked at his visage,     720

And said thus; “Because I cannot find

A man, although I walked to India,

Neither in a city, nor in a village,

That would change his youth for my age;

And therefore I must have my age still     725

For as long as it is God’s will.

And Death, alas! he will not have my life.

Thus I walk like a miserable wreth,

And on the ground, which is my mother’s gate,

I knock with my staff, early and late,     730

And say to her, ‘Dear mother, let me in.

Lo, how I wane, flesh, and blood, and skin;

Alas! when shall my bones be at rest?

Mother, with you I would exchange my chest,

That in my chamber has been for a long time,     735

Yes, even for a hairycloth To wrap myself in.’

But yet to me she will not do that grace,

And therefore my face is pale and withered.

But, Sirs, it is not courteous of you

To speak villainy to an old man,     740

Except if he trespass in word or in deed.

In Holy Writ you may read for yourselves;

If you meet an old man, grey upon his head,

Ye should arise:’ therefore I advise you,

Nor do to an old man no harm now,     745

No more than you would a man do to you

In your old age, if you may live that long.

And God be with you, where you go or ride

I must go on as time is pressing.”

“No, old churl, by God you shall not do so,”     750

Said this other gambler then;

“You shall not part so lightly, by Saint John.

You spoke just now of that traitor Death,

That in this country all our friends slays;

Have here my pledge, as you are his spy;     755

Tell where he is, or you shall suffer for it,

By God and by the holy sacrament;

Foor truly you are in league with him

To slay us young folk, you false thief.”

“Now, Sirs,” said he, “if it is that you so desire     760

To find Death, turn up this crooked way,

For in that grove I left him, by my faith,

Under a tree, and there he will abide;

Nor will he hide anything from your boasting.

Do you see that oak? There there you shall find him.     765

God save you, that bought again mankind,

And made amends for you!” Thus said this old man;

And each of these rioters ran,

Until they came to the tree, and there they found

Of fine florins, of round gold coins,     770

Nearly seven bushels they thought.

After that they no longer sought after Death;

Beat each of them was so glad of that sight,

For the florins were so fair and bright,

That they sat down by the precious hoard.     775

The youngest of them spoke the first word:

“Brethren,” he said, “heed what I will say;

My wit great, although I joke and play

This treature Fortune has given to us

To live our life in mirth and happiness;     780

And as easily as it comes, so will we spend it.

Hey! God’s precious dignity! Who thought

That today we should have so fair a grace?

For if this gold is carried from this place

Home to my house, or otherwise to yours     785

(For I know that this gold is ours),

Then we will be in great happiness.

But truly by the day it may not be;

Men would say that we were great thieves,

And for our own treasure have us hanged.     790

This treasure must be carried by night,

As wisely and as slyly as might be.

Therefore I advise, that we cut lots between us all

Draw, and lets see where the cut will fall:

And he that has the cut, with happy heart     795

Shall run into the town, and so very quickly,

And bring us bread and wine very secretly:

And the other two shall keep carefully

This treasure: and if he does not delay,

When it is night, we will this treasure carry,     800

By one agreement, to where we think it best.”

Then one them the lots held in his fist,

And asked them to draw, and look to where it would fall;

And it fell on the youngest of them all;

And off toward the town he went then.     805

And as soon as he was gone,

One of them spoke as follows unto the other;

“You know well that you are my sworn brother,

I will tell you now what will be to your advantage.

You know well that our fellow is gone,     810

And here is gold, and that there’s lots of it,

That shall be divided among us three.

But nonetheless, if I could contrive it so

That it were divided amongst us two,

Would I not have done a friend’s good turn for you?”     815

The other answered, “I know not how that may be;

He knows well that the gold is with us two.

What shall we do? What shall we say to him?”

“Can we speak secretly?” said the first wretch;

“And I shall tell you in just a few words     820

What we shall do, and I’ll bring it about as well.”

“I grant,” said the other, “without doubt,

That by my truth I will not betray you.”

“Now,” said the first, “you know well that we be two,

And two of us will be stronger than one.     825

Look; when he sits down, you then

Get up, as though you play with him;

And I shall stab him through both sides,

While you wrestle with him as if playing;

And with your dagger make sure you do the same.     830

And then shall all his gold be divided,

My dear friend, between you and me:

Then may we both our pleasures fulfill,

And play at dice as much as we like.”

And thus these two wretches agreed     835

To slay the third, as you have heard me say.

The youngest, who had gone to the town,

Kept rolling up and down in his heart

The beauty of those florins so new and bright.

“O Lord!” he said, “if were that I might     840

Have all this treasure to myself alone,

There is no man that lives under the throne

Of God, that would be as merry as I.”

And in the end the fiend our enemy

Put in his mind, that he should buy poison,     845

With which he might slay his two fellows.

And this was because, the fiend found him living such a bad life,

That permission was given to bring him to sorrow.

For this was completely his full intention

To slay both of them, and never to repent.     850

And he went forth, no longer would he wait,

Into the town to an apothecary he goes,

And asked him to sell him

Some poison, that he might kill his rats,

And also there was a polecat in his hedge,     855

That, he said, his capons had slain:

And so he might wreak revenge,

On the vermin that destroyed him by night.

The apothecary answered, “You shall have

A thing, that as surely God save my soul,     860

In all this world there is no creature

That eat or drink of this mixture,

Not even the morsel of a corn of wheat,

That he shall not immediately lay down his life;

Yes, die he will, and in less time     865

Than it would take you to quickly go a mile:

This poison is so strong and violent.”

This cursed man had taken in his hand

This poison in a box, and swift he ran

Into the next street, to a man     870

And borrowed of him three large bottles;

And in two of them he poured the poison;

The third he kept clean for his own drink,

For all night he worked at his purpose

Of carrying the gold away from that place.     875

And then this rioter, with sorry grace,

Had filled with wine his three great bottles,

And returned again to his fellows.

What needs it to sermonise more of this?

For, just as they had plotted his death before,     880

Just so they had him soon slain.

And when it was done, thus spoke one;

“Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry,

And afterward we will his body bury.”

And with that word he happened by chance     885

To take a bottle where the poison was,

And drank, and gave his fellow drink also,

For which then they both both died.

But certainly I suppose that Avicenna

Wrote never in no rule-book, nor in no chapter,     890

More wonderous signs of poisoning,

Than had these two wretches before their end.

These two murderers ended,

And also the false poisoner as well.

O cursed sin, full of all cursedness!     895

O traiterous homicide! O wickedness!

O gluttony, luxury, and gambling!

You blasphemer of Christ with impiety,

And great oaths, of habit and of pride!

Alas! Mankind, how may it happen,     900

That to your Creator, which made you,

And with his precious heart-blood bought you,

You are so false and so unnatural, alas!

Now, good men, God forgive you your trespass,

And keep you from the sin of avarice.     905

My holy pardon may heal you all,

As long as you offer gold nobles or silver sterlings,

Or else silver brooches, spoons, or rings.

Bow your head under this holy bull.

Come up, you wives, and offer of your free-will;     910

Your names I will enter in my roll then;

Into the bliss of heaven shall you go;

I absolve you by my high power,

You that will offer, as clean and even as clear

As you were born. Lo, Sirs, thus I preach;     915

And Jesus Christ, that is our soul’s healer,

So grant you his pardon to receive;

For that is best, I will not deceive.

But, Sirs, one word I forgot in my tale;

I have relics and pardon in my bag,     920

As fair as any man in England,

Which were given to me by the Pope’s hand.

If any of you will through devotion

Offer me something, and have my absolution,

Come forth now, and kneel down here     925

And meekly receive my pardon.

Or else take pardon, as you go,

All new and fresth at the end of every town,

So that you offer, always new and new,

Nobles and pence which are good and true.     930

It is an honour to everyone that is here,

That you have a suitable pardoner

To absolve you in the countryside as you ride,

In case some adventures might happen.

For perhaps there may fall one or two     935

Down off his horse, and break his neck in two.

Look, what a security it is to you all,

That I have fallen into your fellowship,

That I may absolve you for sins both great and small,

When the soul shall from the body pass.     940

I advise that our Host should begin,

For he is most enveloped in sin.

Come forth, Sir Host, and offer first now,

And you shall kiss the relics every one,

Yes, for a groat; unbuckle now your purse.     945

“No, no,” he said, “then I will have damnation!

Let it be,” he said, “it shall not be, so may I thrive.

You would make me kiss your old underpants,

And swear it were a relic of a saint,

Though it were stained by your bottom.     950

But, by the cross which Saint Helen found,

I would that I had your balls in my hand,

Instead of relics, or a sanctuary.

Let me cut them off, I will help you carry them;

They shall be enshrined in a hog’s turd.”     955

The Pardoner answered not one word;

So angry was he, no word would he say.

“Now,” said our Host, “I will no longer play

With thee, nor with no other angry man.”

But right then the worthy Knight began     960

(When he saw that all the people laughed),

“No more of this, for it is right enough.

Sir Pardoner, be merry and glad of cheer;

And you, Sir Host, that are so dear to me,

I pray that you kiss the Pardoner;     965

And, Pardoner, I pray you to draw yourself near,

And as we did before, let us laugh and play.”

Then they kissed, and rode forth on their way.

 

The Pardoner’s Tale in Middle English

The Pardoner’s Tale in Modern and Middle English

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