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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Canterbury Tales

The Pardoner's Tale

 In Flaundres whilom was a compaignye
 Of yonge folk that haunteden folye,
 As riot, hasard, stywes, and tavernes,
 Where as with harpes, lutes, and gyternes,
 They daunce and pleyen at dees bothe day and nyght,
 And eten also and drynken over hir myght,
 Thurgh which they doon the devel sacrifise
470 Withinne that develes temple in cursed wise
 By superfluytee abhomynable.
 Hir othes been so grete and so dampnable
 That it is grisly for to heere hem swere.
 Oure blissed Lordes body they totere --
 Hem thoughte that Jewes rente hym noght ynough --
 And ech of hem at otheres synne lough.
 And right anon thanne comen tombesteres
 Fetys and smale, and yonge frutesteres,
 Syngeres with harpes, baudes, wafereres,
480 Whiche been the verray develes officeres
 To kyndle and blowe the fyr of lecherye,
 That is annexed unto glotonye.
 The hooly writ take I to my witnesse
 That luxurie is in wyn and dronkenesse.
 Lo, how that dronken Looth, unkyndely,
 Lay by his doghtres two, unwityngly;
 So dronke he was, he nyste what he wroghte.
 Herodes, whoso wel the stories soghte,
 Whan he of wyn was repleet at his feeste,
490 Right at his owene table he yaf his heeste
 To sleen the Baptist John, ful giltelees.
 Senec seith a good word doutelees;
 He seith he kan no difference fynde
 Bitwix a man that is out of his mynde
 And a man which that is dronkelewe,
 But that woodnesse, yfallen in a shrewe,
 Persevereth lenger than doth dronkenesse.
 O glotonye, ful of cursednesse!
 O cause first of oure confusioun!
500 O original of oure dampnacioun,
 Til Crist hadde boght us with his blood agayn!
 Lo, how deere, shortly for to sayn,
 Aboght was thilke cursed vileynye!
 Corrupt was al this world for glotonye.
 Adam oure fader, and his wyf also,
 Fro Paradys to labour and to wo
 Were dryven for that vice, it is no drede.
 For whil that Adam fasted, as I rede,
 He was in Paradys; and whan that he
510 Eet of the fruyt deffended on the tree,
 Anon he was out cast to wo and peyne.
 O glotonye, on thee wel oghte us pleyne!
 O, wiste a man how manye maladyes
 Folwen of excesse and of glotonyes,
 He wolde been the moore mesurable
 Of his diete, sittynge at his table.
 Allas, the shorte throte, the tendre mouth,
 Maketh that est and west and north and south,
 In erthe, in eir, in water, men to swynke
520 To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drynke!
 Of this matiere, O Paul, wel kanstow trete:
 "Mete unto wombe, and wombe eek unto mete,
 Shal God destroyen bothe," as Paulus seith.
 Allas, a foul thyng is it, by my feith,
 To seye this word, and fouler is the dede,
 Whan man so drynketh of the white and rede
 That of his throte he maketh his pryvee
 Thurgh thilke cursed superfluitee.
 The apostel wepyng seith ful pitously,
530 "Ther walken manye of whiche yow toold have I --
 I seye it now wepyng, with pitous voys --
 They been enemys of Cristes croys,
 Of whiche the ende is deeth; wombe is hir god!"
 O wombe! O bely! O stynkyng cod,
 Fulfilled of dong and of corrupcioun!
 At either ende of thee foul is the soun.
 How greet labour and cost is thee to fynde!
 Thise cookes, how they stampe, and streyne, and grynde,
 And turnen substaunce into accident
540 To fulfille al thy likerous talent!
 Out of the harde bones knokke they
 The mary, for they caste noght awey
 That may go thurgh the golet softe and swoote.
 Of spicerie of leef, and bark, and roote
 Shal been his sauce ymaked by delit,
 To make hym yet a newer appetit.
 But, certes, he that haunteth swiche delices
 Is deed, whil that he lyveth in tho vices.
 A lecherous thyng is wyn, and dronkenesse
550 Is ful of stryvyng and of wrecchednesse.
 O dronke man, disfigured is thy face,
 Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace,
 And thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun
 As though thou seydest ay "Sampsoun, Sampsoun!"
 And yet, God woot, Sampsoun drank nevere no wyn.
 Thou fallest as it were a styked swyn;
 Thy tonge is lost, and al thyn honeste cure,
 For dronkenesse is verray sepulture
 Of mannes wit and his discrecioun.
560 In whom that drynke hath dominacioun
 He kan no conseil kepe; it is no drede.
 Now kepe yow fro the white and fro the rede,
 And namely fro the white wyn of Lepe
 That is to selle in Fysshstrete or in Chepe.
 This wyn of Spaigne crepeth subtilly
 In othere wynes, growynge faste by,
 Of which ther ryseth swich fumositee
 That whan a man hath dronken draughtes thre,
 And weneth that he be at hoom in Chepe,
570 He is in Spaigne, right at the toune of Lepe --
 Nat at the Rochele, ne at Burdeux toun --
 And thanne wol he seye "Sampsoun, Sampsoun!"
 But herkneth, lordynges, o word, I yow preye,
 That alle the sovereyn actes, dar I seye,
 Of victories in the Olde Testament,
 Thurgh verray God, that is omnipotent,
 Were doon in abstinence and in preyere.
 Looketh the Bible, and ther ye may it leere.
 Looke, Attilla, the grete conquerour,
580 Deyde in his sleep, with shame and dishonour,
 Bledynge ay at his nose in dronkenesse.
 A capitayn sholde lyve in sobrenesse.
 And over al this, avyseth yow right wel
 What was comaunded unto Lamuel --
 Nat Samuel, but Lamuel, seye I;
 Redeth the Bible, and fynde it expresly
 Of wyn-yevyng to hem that han justise.
 Namoore of this, for it may wel suffise.
 And now that I have spoken of glotonye,
590 Now wol I yow deffenden hasardrye.
 Hasard is verray mooder of lesynges,
 And of deceite, and cursed forswerynges,
 Blaspheme of Crist, manslaughtre, and wast also
 Of catel and of tyme; and forthermo,
 It is repreeve and contrarie of honour
 For to ben holde a commune hasardour.
 And ever the hyer he is of estaat,
 The moore is he yholden desolaat.
 If that a prynce useth hasardrye,
600 In alle governaunce and policye
 He is, as by commune opinioun,
 Yholde the lasse in reputacioun.
 Stilboun, that was a wys embassadour,
 Was sent to Corynthe in ful greet honour
 Fro Lacidomye to make hire alliaunce.
 And whan he cam, hym happede, par chaunce,
 That alle the gretteste that were of that lond,
 Pleyynge atte hasard he hem fond.
 For which, as soone as it myghte be,
610 He stal hym hoom agayn to his contree,
 And seyde, "Ther wol I nat lese my name,
 Ne I wol nat take on me so greet defame,
 Yow for to allie unto none hasardours.
 Sendeth othere wise embassadours;
 For, by my trouthe, me were levere dye
 Than I yow sholde to hasardours allye.
 For ye, that been so glorious in honours,
 Shul nat allyen yow with hasardours
 As by my wyl, ne as by my tretee."
620 This wise philosophre, thus seyde hee.
 Looke eek that to the kyng Demetrius
 The kyng of Parthes, as the book seith us,
 Sente him a paire of dees of gold in scorn,
 For he hadde used hasard ther-biforn;
 For which he heeld his glorie or his renoun
 At no value or reputacioun.
 Lordes may fynden oother maner pley
 Honest ynough to dryve the day awey.
 Now wol I speke of othes false and grete
630 A word or two, as olde bookes trete.
 Gret sweryng is a thyng abhominable,
 And fals sweryng is yet moore reprevable.
 The heighe God forbad sweryng at al,
 Witnesse on Mathew; but in special
 Of sweryng seith the hooly Jeremye,
 "Thou shalt swere sooth thyne othes, and nat lye,
 And swere in doom and eek in rightwisnesse";
 But ydel sweryng is a cursednesse.
 Bihoold and se that in the firste table
640 Of heighe Goddes heestes honurable,
 Hou that the seconde heeste of hym is this:
 "Take nat my name in ydel or amys."
 Lo, rather he forbedeth swich sweryng
 Than homycide or many a cursed thyng;
 I seye that, as by ordre, thus it stondeth;
 This knoweth, that his heestes understondeth,
 How that the seconde heeste of God is that.
 And forther over, I wol thee telle al plat
 That vengeance shal nat parten from his hous
650 That of his othes is to outrageous.
 "By Goddes precious herte," and "By his nayles,"
 And "By the blood of Crist that is in Hayles,
 Sevene is my chaunce, and thyn is cynk and treye!"
 "By Goddes armes, if thou falsly pleye,
 This daggere shal thurghout thyn herte go!" --
 This fruyt cometh of the bicched bones two,
 Forsweryng, ire, falsnesse, homycide.
 Now, for the love of Crist, that for us dyde,
 Lete youre othes, bothe grete and smale.
660 But, sires, now wol I telle forth my tale.
 Thise riotoures thre of whiche I telle,
 Longe erst er prime rong of any belle,
 Were set hem in a taverne to drynke,
 And as they sat, they herde a belle clynke
 Biforn a cors, was caried to his grave.
 That oon of hem gan callen to his knave:
 "Go bet," quod he, "and axe redily
 What cors is this that passeth heer forby;
 And looke that thou reporte his name weel."
670 "Sire," quod this boy, "it nedeth never-a-deel;
 It was me toold er ye cam heer two houres.
 He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres,
 And sodeynly he was yslayn to-nyght,
 Fordronke, as he sat on his bench upright.
 Ther cam a privee theef men clepeth Deeth,
 That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
 And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo,
 And wente his wey withouten wordes mo.
 He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence.
680 And, maister, er ye come in his presence,
 Me thynketh that it were necessarie
 For to be war of swich an adversarie.
 Beth redy for to meete hym everemoore;
 Thus taughte me my dame; I sey namoore."
 "By Seinte Marie!" seyde this taverner,
 "The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer,
 Henne over a mile, withinne a greet village,
 Bothe man and womman, child, and hyne, and page;
 I trowe his habitacioun be there.
690 To been avysed greet wysdom it were,
 Er that he dide a man a dishonour."
 "Ye, Goddes armes!" quod this riotour,
 "Is it swich peril with hym for to meete?
 I shal hym seke by wey and eek by strete,
 I make avow to Goddes digne bones!
 Herkneth, felawes, we thre been al ones;
 Lat ech of us holde up his hand til oother,
 And ech of us bicomen otheres brother,
 And we wol sleen this false traytour Deeth.
700 He shal be slayn, he that so manye sleeth,
 By Goddes dignitee, er it be nyght!"
 Togidres han thise thre hir trouthes plight
 To lyve and dyen ech of hem for oother,
 As though he were his owene ybore brother.
 And up they stirte, al dronken in this rage,
 And forth they goon towardes that village
 Of which the taverner hadde spoke biforn.
 And many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn,
 And Cristes blessed body they torente --
710 Deeth shal be deed, if that they may hym hente!
 Whan they han goon nat fully half a mile,
 Right as they wolde han troden over a stile,
 An oold man and a povre with hem mette.
 This olde man ful mekely hem grette,
 And seyde thus, "Now, lordes, God yow see!"
 The proudeste of thise riotoures three
 Answerde agayn, "What, carl, with sory grace!
 Why artow al forwrapped save thy face?
 Why lyvestow so longe in so greet age?"
720 This olde man gan looke in his visage,
 And seyde thus: "For I ne kan nat fynde
 A man, though that I walked into Ynde,
 Neither in citee ne in no village,
 That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
 And therfore moot I han myn age stille,
 As longe tyme as it is Goddes wille.
 Ne Deeth, allas, ne wol nat han my lyf.
 Thus walke I, lyk a restelees kaityf,
 And on the ground, which is my moodres gate,
730 I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late,
 And seye `Leeve mooder, leet me in!
 Lo how I vanysshe, flessh, and blood, and skyn!
 Allas, whan shul my bones been at reste?
 Mooder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste
 That in my chambre longe tyme hath be,
 Ye, for an heyre clowt to wrappe me!'
 But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
 For which ful pale and welked is my face.
 "But, sires, to yow it is no curteisye
740 To speken to an old man vileynye,
 But he trespasse in word or elles in dede.
 In Hooly Writ ye may yourself wel rede:
 `Agayns an oold man, hoor upon his heed,
 Ye sholde arise;' wherfore I yeve yow reed,
 Ne dooth unto an oold man noon harm now,
 Namoore than that ye wolde men did to yow
 In age, if that ye so longe abyde.
 And God be with yow, where ye go or ryde!
 I moot go thider as I have to go."
750 "Nay, olde cherl, by God, thou shalt nat so,"
 Seyde this oother hasardour anon;
 "Thou partest nat so lightly, by Seint John!
 Thou spak right now of thilke traytour Deeth.
 That in this contree alle oure freendes sleeth.
 Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his espye,
 Telle where he is or thou shalt it abye,
 By God and by the hooly sacrement!
 For soothly thou art oon of his assent
 To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!"
760 "Now, sires," quod he, "if that yow be so leef
 To fynde Deeth, turne up this croked wey,
 For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey,
 Under a tree, and there he wole abyde;
 Noght for youre boost he wole him no thyng hyde.
 Se ye that ook? Right there ye shal hym fynde.
 God save yow, that boghte agayn mankynde,
 And yow amende!" Thus seyde this olde man;
 And everich of thise riotoures ran
 Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde
770 Of floryns fyne of gold ycoyned rounde
 Wel ny an eighte busshels, as hem thoughte.
 No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte,
 But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
 For that the floryns been so faire and brighte,
 That doun they sette hem by this precious hoord.
 The worste of hem, he spak the firste word.
 "Bretheren," quod he, "taak kep what that I seye;
 My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye.
 This tresor hath Fortune unto us yiven
780 In myrthe and joliftee oure lyf to lyven,
 And lightly as it comth, so wol we spende.
 Ey, Goddes precious dignitee! Who wende
 To-day that we sholde han so fair a grace?
 But myghte this gold be caried fro this place
 Hoom to myn hous, or elles unto youres --
 For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures --
 Thanne were we in heigh felicitee.
 But trewely, by daye it may nat bee.
 Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge,
790 And for oure owene tresor doon us honge.
 This tresor moste ycaried be by nyghte
 As wisely and as slyly as it myghte.
 Wherfore I rede that cut among us alle
 Be drawe, and lat se wher the cut wol falle;
 And he that hath the cut with herte blithe
 Shal renne to the town, and that ful swithe,
 And brynge us breed and wyn ful prively.
 And two of us shul kepen subtilly
 This tresor wel; and if he wol nat tarie,
800 Whan it is nyght, we wol this tresor carie,
 By oon assent, where as us thynketh best."
 That oon of hem the cut broghte in his fest,
 And bad hem drawe and looke where it wol falle;
 And it fil on the yongeste of hem alle,
 And forth toward the toun he wente anon.
 And also soone as that he was gon,
 That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother:
 "Thow knowest wel thou art my sworen brother;
 Thy profit wol I telle thee anon.
810 Thou woost wel that oure felawe is agon.
 And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee,
 That shal departed been among us thre.
 But nathelees, if I kan shape it so
 That it departed were among us two,
 Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?"
 That oother answerde, "I noot hou that may be.
 He woot that the gold is with us tweye;
 What shal we doon? What shal we to hym seye?"
 "Shal it be conseil?" seyde the firste shrewe,
820 "And I shal tellen in a wordes fewe
 What we shal doon, and brynge it wel aboute."
 "I graunte," quod that oother, "out of doute,
 That, by my trouthe, I wol thee nat biwreye."
 "Now," quod the firste, "thou woost wel we be tweye,
 And two of us shul strenger be than oon.
 Looke whan that he is set, that right anoon
 Arys as though thou woldest with hym pleye,
 And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydes tweye
 Whil that thou strogelest with hym as in game,
830 And with thy daggere looke thou do the same;
 And thanne shal al this gold departed be,
 My deere freend, bitwixen me and thee.
 Thanne may we bothe oure lustes all fulfille,
 And pleye at dees right at oure owene wille."
 And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye
 To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.
 This yongeste, which that wente to the toun,
 Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun
 The beautee of thise floryns newe and brighte.
840 "O Lord!" quod he, "if so were that I myghte
 Have al this tresor to myself allone,
 Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone
 Of God that sholde lyve so murye as I!"
 And atte laste the feend, oure enemy,
 Putte in his thought that he sholde poyson beye,
 With which he myghte sleen his felawes tweye;
 For-why the feend foond hym in swich lyvynge
 That he hadde leve him to sorwe brynge.
 For this was outrely his fulle entente,
850 To sleen hem bothe and nevere to repente.
 And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
 Into the toun, unto a pothecarie,
 And preyde hym that he hym wolde selle
 Som poyson, that he myghte his rattes quelle;
 And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe,
 That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde yslawe,
 And fayn he wolde wreke hym, if he myghte,
 On vermyn that destroyed hym by nyghte.
 The pothecarie answerde, "And thou shalt have
860 A thyng that, also God my soule save,
 In al this world ther is no creature
 That eten or dronken hath of this confiture
 Noght but the montance of a corn of whete,
 That he ne shal his lif anon forlete;
 Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse while
 Than thou wolt goon a paas nat but a mile,
 This poysoun is so strong and violent."
 This cursed man hath in his hond yhent
 This poysoun in a box, and sith he ran
870 Into the nexte strete unto a man,
 And borwed [of] hym large botelles thre,
 And in the two his poyson poured he;
 The thridde he kepte clene for his drynke.
 For al the nyght he shoop hym for to swynke
 In cariynge of the gold out of that place.
 And whan this riotour, with sory grace,
 Hadde filled with wyn his grete botels thre,
 To his felawes agayn repaireth he.
 What nedeth it to sermone of it moore?
880 For right as they hadde cast his deeth bifoore,
 Right so they han hym slayn, and that anon.
 And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon:
 "Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie,
 And afterward we wol his body berie."
 And with that word it happed hym, par cas,
 To take the botel ther the poyson was,
 And drank, and yaf his felawe drynke also,
 For which anon they storven bothe two.
 But certes, I suppose that Avycen
890 Wroot nevere in no canon, ne in no fen,
 Mo wonder signes of empoisonyng
 Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir endyng.
 Thus ended been thise homycides two,
 And eek the false empoysonere also.
 O cursed synne of alle cursednesse!
 O traytours homycide, O wikkednesse!
 O glotonye, luxurie, and hasardrye!
 Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileynye
 And othes grete, of usage and of pride!
900 Allas, mankynde, how may it bitide
 That to thy creatour, which that the wroghte
 And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte,
 Thou art so fals and so unkynde, allas?
 Now, goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas,
 And ware yow fro the synne of avarice!
 Myn hooly pardoun may yow alle warice,
 So that ye offre nobles or sterlynges,
 Or elles silver broches, spoones, rynges.
 Boweth youre heed under this hooly bulle!
910 Cometh up, ye wyves, offreth of youre wolle!
 Youre names I entre heer in my rolle anon;
 Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gon.
 I yow assoille, by myn heigh power,
 Yow that wol offre, as clene and eek as cleer
 As ye were born. -- And lo, sires, thus I preche.
 And Jhesu Crist, that is oure soules leche,
 So graunte yow his pardoun to receyve,
 For that is best; I wol yow nat deceyve.
 But, sires, o word forgat I in my tale:
920 I have relikes and pardoun in my male,
 As faire as any man in Engelond,
 Whiche were me yeven by the popes hond.
 If any of yow wole, of devocion,
 Offren and han myn absolucion,
 Com forth anon, and kneleth heere adoun,
 And mekely receyveth my pardoun;
 Or elles taketh pardoun as ye wende,
 Al newe and fressh at every miles ende,
 So that ye offren, alwey newe and newe,
930 Nobles or pens, whiche that be goode and trewe.
 It is an honour to everich that is heer
 That ye mowe have a suffisant pardoneer
 T' assoille yow in contree as ye ryde,
 For aventures whiche that may bityde.
 Paraventure ther may fallen oon or two
 Doun of his hors and breke his nekke atwo.
 Looke which a seuretee is it to yow alle
 That I am in youre felaweshipe yfalle,
 That may assoille yow, bothe moore and lasse,
940 Whan that the soule shal fro the body passe.
 I rede that oure Hoost heere shal bigynne,
 For he is moost envoluped in synne.
 Com forth, sire Hoost, and offre first anon,
 And thou shalt kisse the relikes everychon,
 Ye, for a grote! Unbokele anon thy purs."
 "Nay, nay!" quod he, "thanne have I Cristes curs!
 Lat be," quod he, "it shal nat be, so theech!
 Thou woldest make me kisse thyn olde breech,
 And swere it were a relyk of a seint,
950 Though it were with thy fundement depeint!
 But, by the croys which that Seint Eleyne fond,
 I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond
 In stide of relikes or of seintuarie.
 Lat kutte hem of, I wol thee helpe hem carie;
 They shul be shryned in an hogges toord!"
 This Pardoner answerde nat a word;
 So wrooth he was, no word ne wolde he seye.
 "Now," quod oure Hoost, "I wol no lenger pleye
 With thee, ne with noon oother angry man."
960 But right anon the worthy Knyght bigan,
 Whan that he saugh that al the peple lough,
 "Namoore of this, for it is right ynough!
 Sire Pardoner, be glad and myrie of cheere;
 And ye, sire Hoost, that been to me so deere,
 I prey yow that ye kisse the Pardoner.
 And Pardoner, I prey thee, drawe thee neer,
 And, as we diden, lat us laughe and pleye."
 Anon they kiste, and ryden forth hir weye.

Next: The Shipman's Tale