The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Canones Yeomans Tale

When ended was the lif of seynt Cecile,

Ere we had fully riden fyve myle,

At Boughtoun under Blee us gan oertake

A man, that clothèd was in clothes blake,

And under that he ware a white array,

His hackeney, that was a dapple grey,

So swet, that it was wonder for to see,

It semèd he hadde prickèd myles three.

The hors eek that his Yeoman rode upon,

So swet, that scarcely further might he gon.

Aboute the brestplate stood the fome ful hye,

He was with fome as flekkèd as a pye.

A bagge twofold on his crupper lay,

It semèd that he caried litel array,

Al light for summer rode this worthy man.

And in myn herte to wonder I bigan

What that he was, til that I understood,

How that his cloke was sowed unto his hood;

For which when long I had avysèd me,

I demèd him som canoun for to be.

His hat heng at his back doun by a lace,

For he hadde riden more than trot or pace,

He had i-prickèd like as he were wood.

A docke-leef he had under his hood

For sweat, and for to kepe his hed from hete.

But it was joye for to see him swete;

His forhed droppèd as a stillatorie

Were ful of plantayn and of peritorie.

And when that he was com, he gan to crie,

“God save,” quoth he, “this joly companye!

Fast have I prickèd,” quoth he, “for your sake

Bycause that I wolde you overtake,

To ryden in this mery companye.”

His Yeoman eek was ful of curtesye,
And seide, “Sirs, now in the morning tyde
Out of your ostelry I saw you ryde,
And warnèd heer my lord and my soverayn,
Which that to ryden with you is ful fayn,
For his disport; he loveth daliaúnce.”
“Frend, God be thankèd for thine ácqueyntánce,”
Oure Host answerde, “for certes it wolde seme
Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme;
He is ful jocund also dare I leye;
Can he not telle a mery tale or tweye,
With which he may delite this companye?”

“Who, sir? my lord? Yea, yea, withoute lye,
He can of merthe and eek of jolitee
Ynough for al; also, sir, truste me,
If ye him knewe that as wel as I,
Ye wolde wonder how wel and thriftily
He coude werke, and that in sondry wise.
He hath taken on him many an enterprise,
Which were ful hard for al this companye
To bringe aboute, but only by studie.
Though homely as he rides amonges you,
If ye him knew, ye wold be glad enow,
Ye never wolde for-go his ácqueyntaúnce
For moche good, I dare lay in balaunce
Al that I have in my possessioun.
He is a man of high discression,
I warne you wel, he is a lerned man.”

“Wel,” quoth our Ost, “I pray thee, tel then,
Is he a clerk, or no? tel what he is.”
“Nay, he is gretter than a clerk I wis,”
Sayde the Yeoman, “and in wordes fewe,
Ost, of his craft somwhat I wil you shewe.
I say, my lord can such a subtiltee,
(But al his craft ye may nought wit of me,
And somwhat helpe I yet to his workynge),
That al this ground on which we be ridynge
Til that we come to Caunterbury toun,
He coude al clene turnen up so doun,
And pave it al of silver and of gold.”

And whan this Yeoman hadde thus i-told
Unto oure Ost, he seyde, “Bencite!
This thing is wonder merveylous to me,
Syn that this lord is of so high prudénce,
Bycause of which men shuld him reverence,
That of his worship recketh he so light
His over cote it is not worth a myte
For suche a man; that ye may see and know
It is al filthy and to-tore also.
Why is thy lord so slottish, I thee preye,
And yet hath power better clothes to buy,
If that his might accorde with thy speche?
Telle me that, and that I thee biseche.”

“Why?” quoth this Yeoman, “wherto axe ye me?
God help me so, for he shal never thee,
(But I wol nought avowe what I say,
And therfor kep it secret I you pray)
He is too wys in faith, as to my thought.
That which is over-don, it wil be naught,
As clerkes say, too much is naught at al;
Wherfore in that a fool I may him call.
For when a man hath over-greet a wit,
Ful ofte him happeth to mysusen it;
So doth my lord, and that me greveth sore.
God it amende, I can say now nomore.”
“Care not for that, good Yeoman,” quoth oure Ost,
“Since of the cunnyng of thy lord thou knowest,
Tel how he doth, I pray thee hertily,
Since that he is so crafty and so sly.
Where dwellen ye, if ye may tellen me?”
“In the suburbes of a toun,” quoth he,
“Lurking in secrets and in lanes blynde,
Wher as the robbours and the theves by kynde
Holden their privy fearful residence,
As men that dare not shewen their presénce;
So faren we, if I shal say the sothe.”
“Now,” quoth oure Ost, “yet let me talke to thee;
Why art thou so discoloured on thy face?”
“Peter!” quoth he, “God yield me of his grace,
I am so uséd in the fyr to blowe,
That it hath chaungéd al my colour I trowe;
I am not wont in no miroúr to prie,
But labour sore, and lerne to multiplie.
We blonder ever, and gaze into the fyr,
And for al that we faile of oure desire,
For ever we lacken oure conclusioún.
To moche folk we bring but illusioún,
And borrow gold, be it a pound or tuo,
Or ten or twelve, or many sommes mo,
And make them thinken at the leaste weye,
That of a single pound we can make tweye.
Yet is it fals; and ay we have good hope
It for to do, and after it we grope.
But that sciénce is so far us bifore,
We never can, although we had it sworn,
It overtake, it slideth away so fast;
It wol us make beggers atte last.”

Whil this Yeoman was thus in his talkyng,
This Canoun drew him near and herd al thing
Which that this Yeoman spak, for suspicioún
Of mennes speche ever had this Canoún;
For Cato saith, that he that guilty is,
Demeth al thing be spoke of him, I wis;
By-cause of that he gan so nigh to ride
That al these words he herd right at his syde;
And thus he sayd unto his Yeoman tho;
“Hold now thy pees, and speke no wordes mo;
For if thou do, thou shalt it deere abye:
Thow slaundrest me here in this companye,
And eek discoverest that thou shuldest hide.”
“Yea,” quoth oure Ost, “tel on, what so bytyde,
Of alle this thretnyng reck thee nought a myte.”
“In faith,” quoth he, “no more do I but lite.”
And whan this Canoun saw it wold not be,
But this Yeoman wolde telle his privitee,
He fled away for very sorrow and shame.
“A!” quoth this Yeoman, “here shal rise a game;
Al that I know anon now wil I telle,
Since he is gon; the foule feend him quelle!
For never wil I meete him far or neere
For peny nor for pound, I wol it swere.
He that me broughte first unto that game,
Ere that he deye, sorrow have he and shame!
For it is ernest to me, by my faith;
That fele I wel, what-so that any saith;
And yet for al my smart, and al my greef,
For al my sorrow, and labour, and mescheef,
I coude never leve it in no wise.
Now wolde God my wyt might wel suffise
To tellen al that longeth to that art;
But nonetheles, yet wil I telle you part;
Since that my lord is gon, I wol nought spare,
Such thing as that I knowe, I wol declare.

“With this Canoún I duelléd have seven yer
But to his science am I never near;
Al that I hadde, I have y-lost therby,
And God wot, so hath many mo than I.
Though I was wont to be right fresh and gay
Of clothing, and of other good array,
Now may I were an hose upon myn heed;
And where my colour was both fressh and red,
Now it is wan, and of a leden hewe,
(Who-so it useth, sore shal he rewe);
And of my toil, yet blinking is myn eye;
Such ávantáge it is to multiplie!
That slippery science hath me made so bare,
That I have no good, wher that ever I fare;
And yet I am endetted so therby
Of gold, that I have borrowed trewely,
That whil I lyve shal I it paye never;
Lat every man be war by me for ever,
What maner man that casteth eyes thereon,
If he continue, I holde his thrift is gon:
So help me God, therby shal he not wynne,
But empte his purs, and make his wittes thynne.
And when he, thurgh his madnes and folye,
Hath lost his owne good in jeopardie,
Than he exciteth other men therto,
To lose their good, as he himself hath do.
For unto shrewes joy it is and ese
To have their felawes in peyne and in desese.
Thus was I once ytaught and by a clerk;
No care for that; I wil speke of oure werk.
Whan we be ther where we shul exercise
Oure elvish craft, we seme wondrous wyse,
Oure termes be so lerned and so queynte.
I blowe the fyr til that myn herte feynte.
What shulde I tellen ech proporcioun
Of thinges which we werken up and doun,
To take fyve or six ounces, may wel be,
Of silver, or som other quantitee?
And busy me to telle you the names
Of orpiment, burnt bones, iron squames,
That into poudre grounden be ful smal?
And in an erthen pot how put is al,
And salt y-put in, and also pepper,
With al these poudres that I speke of heere,
And wel i-covered with a lamp of glas?
And of moche other thing what that ther was?
And of the pot and glass and fastening,
That of the aier mighte passe no thing?
And of the esy fyr, and smert also,
Which that was made? and of the care and wo,
That we hadde in oure maters sublimynge,
And in amalgamynge, and calcinynge
Of quyksilver, y-clept mercury crude?
For alle oure sleightes we can nought conclude
Oure orpiment, and sublyment mercurie,
Oure grounde litarge eek on the porfurye,
Of ech of these of ounces a certayn
Not helpeth us, oure laboure is in vayn.
Nor yet our spirits and their ascencioun,
Ne eek our maters that lie fixed adoun,
Can in oure werkyng us no thing avayle;
For lost is al oure labour and travayle,
And al the cost on twenty devel way
Is lost also, which we upon it lay.
Ther is also ful many another thing,
That is to oure craft appértenýng,
Though I by ordre them reherse not can,
Bycause that I am no lerned man,
Yet wil I telle them, as they come to mynde,
Though I can not them set right in their kind;
As sal armoniak, verdegres, boras;
And sondry vessels made of erthe and glas,
Oure urinals and oure descensories,
Viols, croslets, and sublimatories,
Concurbites, and álembikes eeke,
And othere suche, not worthe a greene leeke,
It needeth not to réhersen them alle;
And watres rubifying, and boles galle,
Arsenek, sal armoniak, and brimstoon.
And herbes coude I telle eek many a one,
As egrimoigne, valirian, and lunarie,
And other suche, if that me list to tarie;
Oure lampes brennyng bothe night and day,
To bringe aboute oure craft if that we may;
Oure fournies eek of calcinacioun,
And of our watres albificacioun,
Unslekked lym, chalk, and glayre of an ey,
Poudres dyvers and asshes, dong, and cley,
Ceréd poketts, sal petre, vitriole;
And dyvers fyres made of woode and cole;
Salt tartre, alcaly, and salt preparat,
And combust materes, and coagulat;
Cley made with hors or mannes hair, and oyle
Of tartre, alym, glas, barm, wort, and argoyle,
Resalgar, and oure maters enbibing;
And eek of oure maters encorporing,
And of oure silver citrinacioun,
Our cementynge and fermentacioun,
Oure yngottes, testes, and ful many mo.
I wol you telle as was me taught also
The foure spirits, and the bodies al
By ordre, as often herd I my lord call.
The firste spirit quyksilver callèd is;
The secound orpiment; the thridde I wis
Sal armoniac, and the ferthe bremstoon.
The bodies seven, eek, lo heer anon.
Sol gold, is and Luna silver we declare;
Mars yron, Mercurie is quyksilver;
Saturnus leed, and Jubitur is tyn,
And Venus coper, by my fathers kyn.

“This cursed craft who so wil exercise,
He shal no good have that may him suffise;
For al the good he spendeth theraboute
He lose shal, therof have I no doute.
Who-so that list to shewen his folye,
Let him come forth and lerne multiplie;
And every man that hath ought in his cofre,
Let him appere, and waxe a philosófre,
And though that craft so easy is to lere.
Nay, nay, God wot, al be he monk or frere,
Prest or canoun, or eny other wight
Though he sit at his book bothe day and night
In lernyng of this elvish nice lore,
Al is in vayn, he lerneth nothing more
To teach a foolish man this subtiltee,
Fy, spek not therof, for it wil not be.
If he know letters wel, if he know none,
As in effect, he shal fynd it al one;
For bothe two, by my salvacioún,
Concluden in multiplicacioún
The same alike when they have al y-do;
This is to sayn, thay fayle bothe two.
Yet forgat I to make réhersáyle
Of watres corosif, and of lymayle,
And of bodýes mollificacioun,
And also of their enduracioun,
Oyles ablucioun, and metal fusible,
To tellen al, wold passen eny bible
That ever is; wherfore, as for the best,
Of alle these names now wil I me rest:
For, as I trowe, I have you told enough
To reyse a feend, al loke he never so rough.
A, nay, let be; the philosophre stoon,
Elixir clept, we seeken it each one,
For had we him, then were we sure y-nough;
But unto God of heven I make avow,
For al oure craft, when we have al y-do,
And al oure sleight, he wol not come us to.
He hath i-made us spende moche good,
For sorrow of which almost we waxen wood,
But that good hope crepeth in oure herte,
Supposing ever, though we sore smerte,
To be relievèd by him after-ward.
Such súpposing and hope is sharp and hard.
I warne you wel it is to seken ever.
That future time hath made men dissevere,
In trust thereof, from al that ever they hadde.
Yet of that art thay never wexe sadde,
For unto them it is a bitter swete;
So semeth it; for had thay but a sheete
In which thay mighte wrappe them for the night,
And eek a cloke to walke inne by day-light,
They wolde them selle, and spenden on this craft;
Thay can nought stinte, til no thing be laft.
And evermore, wher ever that they gon,
Men may them knowe by smellyng of brem-stoon;
For al the world thay stynken as a goat;
Their savour is so rammyssh and so hot,
That though a man fro them a myle be,
The savour wil infecte him, truste me.
Lo, thus by smellyng and by thred-bare array,
If that men list, this folk they knowe may.
And if a man wil aske them privily,
Why thay be clothèd so unthriftily,
Right there anon thay whisper in his eere,
And say, that if thay ever espièd were,
Men wold them slee, bycause of their science;
Lo, thus this folk bytrayen innocence.
Passe over this, I go my tale unto.
Ere that the pot be on the fyr y-do
Of metals with a certeyn quantitee,
My lord them tempreth, and no man but he;
(Now he is gon, I dar say boldely)
For as men sayn, he can do craftily;
Although I wot wel he hath such a name,
And yet ful ofte he renneth into shame;

“And wit ye how? ful ofte it happeth so,
The pot to-breketh, and farwel, al is go.
These metals be of so gret violence,
Oure walles may not make them résistence,
But if thay were wrought of lime and stoon;
Thay piercen so, that thurgh the wal thay gon;
And some of them wil synken into the grounde,
(Thus have we lost by tymes many a pounde),
And some are skatered al the floor aboute;
Some lepe into the roof, withouten doute.
Though that the feend nought in oure sight him shewe,
I trowe that he with us be ever mo.
In helle, wher that he is lord and sire,
There never was suche wo or anger or ire.
As when oure pot is broke, as I have sayd,
Every man chideth, and thinketh him ill paid.
Som sayd it was too long on the fyr-makyng;
Some sayde nay, it was on the blowyng;
(Than was I feard, for that was myn office).
‘Straw!’ quod the third, ‘ye been fools I wis,
It was nought tempred as it oughte be.’
‘Nay,’ quoth the ferthe, ‘stynt and herken me;
Bycause oure fyr was nought of beech y-made,
That is the cause, non other to be sayd.’
I can not telle wherein it runneth wrong,
But wel I wot gret stryf is us among.
‘What?’ quoth my lord, “ther is no more to doon,
Of these periles I wil be ware eftsoon.
I am right certeyn, that the pot was crasèd.
Be as be may, be ye no thing amasèd.
As usage is, let swoope the floor up soon;
Pluk up your hertes and be glad and boon.’
The remnaunt on an heep i-swopèd was,
And on the floor y-cast a canevas,
And al this remnaunt in a syve i-throwe,
And sifted, and y-plukkèd many a throwe.
‘In faith,’ quoth one, ‘somwhat of oure metal
Yet is ther heer, though that we have nought al.
And though this thing myshappèd hath as now,
Another tyme it may be wel y-now.
Us moste putte oure good in áventúre.
A marchaunt, truly, may not ay endure,
Truste me wel, in his prosperitee,
Som tyme his good is drownèd in the see,
And som tyme cometh it sauf unto the londe.’
‘Pees!’ quoth my lord, ‘now I will take in hond
To bringe oure craft al in a better game,
If I no not, sirs, let me have the blame;
Ther was defaulte in som what, wel I wot.’
Another sayde, the fyr was over hot.
But be it hot or cold, I dar say this,
That we concluden evermor amys;
We faile of that which that we wolden have,
And in oure madnesse evermore we rave.
And when we be together every one,
Every man semeth a Salamon.
But al thing which that shineth as the gold,
Is nought gold, as that I have herde told;
Nor every appel that is fair at eye,
Is always good, what so men clappe or crye.
Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us.
He that semeth the wisest, by Jesus!
Is most fool, when it cometh to the preef;
And he that semeth trewest is a theef.
That shul ye knowe, ere that I from you wende,
When that I of my tale have made an ende.

“Ther is a canoun of religioun
Amonges us, wold infecte al a toun,
Though it as gret were as was Niniveh,
Rome, Alisaundre, Troye, or other three,
His sleight and eek his infinite falsnesse
Ther coude no man writen, as I gesse,
Though that he mighte lyven a thousand yeer;
Nor in this world of falsheed is his peer,
For in his termes he wol him so wynde,
And speke his wordes in so sly a kynde,
Whan he comune shal with eny wight,
That he wil make him mazèd anon right,
Save he a feend be, as himselven ís.
Ful many a man hath he bygiled ere this,
And wil, if that he lyve may a while;
And yet men ryde and go ful many a myle
Him for to seeke, and have his áqueintaúnce,
Nought knowyng of his false governaunce.
And if you list to geve me audience,
I wil it tellen here in youre presence.
But, worshipful canoúns religious,
Pray deme not that I slaunder youre hous,
Although my tale now of a canoun be,
In every ordre som shrewe is, pardee;
And God forbede that al a companye
Be blamèd for a singuler mannes folýe.
To slaunder you is no thing myn entent,
But to correcten that is amiss i-ment.
This tale was not only told for you,
But eek for other mo; ye wot wel how
That among Cristes ápostelles twelve
Ther was no traytour but Judas himselve;
Than why shulde al the remenaunt have a blame,
That giltless were? to you I say the same.
Save only this, if ye wil herken me,
If any Judas in youre convent be,
Remove him out betimes, I you bid,
For fere that shame or loss may causen drede.
And be no thing displesèd, I you pray,
But in this case now herken what I say.”

In Londoun was a prest, a chappelyn,
That had ydwellèd many a yer therin.
Which was so plesaunt and so servisable
Unto the lodging, wher he was at table,
That they wolde suffre him no thing for to pay
For bord or clothing, went he never so gay;
And spending silver had he right y-nough;
No more of that; I wol procede as now,
And telle forth my tale of the canoún,
That broughte this prest to confusion.

This false canoun cam upon a day
Unto the prestes chambre wher he lay,
Biseching him to lend him a certeyn
Of gold, and he wold quyt it him ageyn.
“Lend me a mark,” quoth he, “but dayes three,
And at my day I wil it paye thee.
And if so be, that thou me fynde lie,
Another day honge me up on high.”
This prest him gave a mark, and that anon,
And this canoun him thankid ofte then,
And took his leve, and wente forth his wey;
And atte third day brought hym his money,
And to the prest he gave his gold agayn,
Wherof this prest was wonder glad and fayn.
“Certes,” quoth he, “no thing annoyeth me
To lend a man a noble, or tuo, or three,
Or what thing were in my possessioun,
When he so trewe is of condicioun,
That in no wise he breke wil his day;
To such a man I never can say nay.”
“What?” quoth this canoun, “shold I be untrewe?
Nay, that same thing to me were somwhat newe.
Trothe is a thing that I wil ever kepe,
Unto that day in which that I shal crepe
Into my grave, and else God it forbede!
Bilieve that as certeyn as your crede.
God thank I, and in good tyme be it sayd,
That ther was never man yet evel payd
For gold or silver that to me he lent,
Nor never falshed in myn hert I ment.
And, sir,” quoth he, “now to speak privily,
Since ye so goodly have been unto me,
/w And shewed to me so gret gentilesse,
Som-what, to quyte with youre kyndenesse,
I wil you shewe, and if you lust to here
I wil you teche pleynly the manére,
How I can werken in philosophie.
Tak thou good heed, ye shul seen wel with eye,
That I wol do a wonder ere I go.”
“Yea?” quoth the prest, “yea, sir, and wil ye so?
Mary! therof I pray you hertily.”

“At youre comaundement, sir, trewely.”
Quoth the canoun, “and else God it forgive!”
Lo, how this theef coude thus his servise give.
Ful soth it is that such profred servíse
Stynketh, as witnessen the old and wise;
And that ful soon I wil it verifye
In this canoun, root of al treccherie,
That evermor delit hath and gladnesse
(Such feendly thoughtes in his hert have place)
How Cristes people he may to meschief bringe:
God kepe us from his fals dissemblynge!
What wiste this priest with whom that he delte?
Nor of his comyng harm he no thing felte.
O sely priest, o innocent of mind,
With greed of money anon thou shalt be blind;
O graceless, ful blynd is thy conceyt,
No thing art thou now ware of the deceyt,
Which that this fox i-shapen hath to thee,
His wily wrenches now thou maist not flee,
Wherfor to go to the conclusioun,
That réferreth to thy confusion,
Unhappy man, anon I wil me hie
To tellen thin unwit and thy folýe,
And eek the falsnesse of that other wretche,
As far forth as my connyng wil it stretche.

This canoun was my lord, ye wolde weene;
Sir Ost, in faith, and by the heven queene,
It was another canoun, and not he,
That can an hundred fold more subtiltee.
He hath bitrayèd folkes many a tyme;
Of his falsness it dullith me to ryme.
And ever when I speke of this falshede,
For shame of him my cheekes wexen red;
And now they have bygonne for to glowe,
Though redness have I noon, right wel I knowe,
In my viságe, for the fumes diverse
Of metals, which ye have me herd reherse,
Consumed and wasted have al my reednesse.
Now tak heed of this canouns cursednesse.

“Sir,” quoth he to the priest, “let your man goon
For quyksilver, that we it have anon:
And let him bringen ounces tuo or three;
And when he cometh, as faste shul ye see
A wonder thing, which ye saw never ere this.”
“Sir,” quoth the priest, “it shal be doon, I wis.”
He bad his servaunt fetchen him his thinges,
And he al redy was at his biddynges,
And went him forth, and com anon agayn
With his quyksilver, shortly for to sayn,
And took these ounces three to the canoun;
And he it layde faire and wel adoun,
And bad the servaunt coles for to bringe,
That he anon might go to his werkynge.
The coles weren right anon i- fett,
And this canoun took out a crosselett,
Out of his bosom, and shewed it to the priest.
“This instrument,” quoth he, “which that thou seest,
Tak in thin hond, and put thiself therinne
Of this quyksilver an ounce, and here bygynne
In the name of Crist to wax a philosophre.
Ther be ful fewe, to whiche that I wolde profre
To shewe them thus moche of my science;
For ye shul see heer by experience,
That this quiksilver I wil mortifye,
Right in youre sight anon, withouten lye,
And make it as good silver and as fyn
As ther is any in youre purs or myn,
Or else wher; and make it malleable;
And else holde me fals and unable
Amonges folk for ever to appeere.
I have a powder heer that cost me deere,
Shal make al good, for it is cause of al
My connyng, which that I you shewe shal.
Send out youre man, and let him be theroute;
And shut the dore, whils we be aboute
Oure privitee, that no man us aspye,
Whiles we werken in this philosophie.”
Al, as he bad, fulfilléd was in dede.
This ilke servaunt anon right out is sped,
And then his master shut the dore anon,
And to their labour speedily thay goon.

This priest, at this cursed canouns biddyng,
Upon the fyr anon he sette this thing,
And blew the fyr, and busied him ful fast;
And this canoun into the crosslet cast
A powder, I knew not wherof it was
I-made, either of chalk, either of glas,
Or som what else, that was nought worthy a flye
To blynde with this priest; and bad him ply
These coles for to couch them al above
The crosslet; for “in token I thee love,”
Quoth this canoun, “thou with thin handes tuo
Shal werken al thing which that shal be do.”
“Graunt mercy,” quoth the priest, and was ful glad,
And couched the coles as the canoun bad.
And whil he busy was, this feendly wretche,
This false canoun (the foule feend him fetche!)
Out of his bosom took a false cole,
In which ful subtilly was made an hole,
And therin put was of silver metál
An ounce, and stoppéd was withoute fayle
This hole with wax, to kepe the metal in.
And understond ye, that this false gyn
Was not made there, but it was made bifore;
And other thinges I shal telle more
Here after-ward, Which that he with him broughte.
Ere he com there, to bigyle him he thought,
And so he dede, ere thay two wente awaye;
Til he had cheated him, he did not stay.
It dulleth me, when that I of him speke;
On his falsnesse fayn wold I me wreke,
If I wist how, but he is heer and there,
He is so variant, he bideth no where.

But take ye heed now, sirs, for Goddes love.
He took this cole of which I spak above,
And in his hond he bare it privily,
And whiles the prieste couchéd bysily
The coles, as I tolde you ere this,
This canoun sayde, “Freend, ye do amys;
This is not couchéd as it oughte be,
But soon I shal amenden it,” quoth he.
“Now let me meddle therwith but a while,
For of you have I pitee, by seint Gile!
Ye be right hot, I see wel how ye swete;
Have heer a cloth and wype away the wete.”
And whiles that this priest him wypéd has,
This canoun took his cole, I curse his face!
And layd it doun above on the myd-ward,
Of the crosslet, and blew wel afterward,
Til that the coles gonne faste brenne.
“Now geve us drinke,” quoth the canoun thenne,
“Now soon al shal be wel, I undertake.
Sitte we doun, and let us mery make.”
And when that now the canounes false cole
Was brent, al the metál out of the hole
Into the crosselet anon fel adoun;
And so it moste needes by resoún;
Since it so even aboven couchéd was;
But therof wist the priest no thing, allas!
He deméd alle the coles weren goode,
For of the sleight he no thing understood.

And whan this alchemister saw his tyme,
“Rys up, sir priest,” quoth he, “and stonde by me;
And for I wot wel ingot have ye noon,
Go, walke forth, and brynge me a chalk-stoon;
For I wol make it of the same shap,
That is an ingot, if I may have hap.
And bringe with you a bolle too or a panne
Ful of water, and ye shul wel see thanne
How that oure besyness shal happe and preve.
And yit, for ye shul have no mysbileeve
Nor wrong conceyt of me in youre absence,
I wil nought be out of youre owne presénce,
But go with you, and come with you agayn.”
The chambur dore, shortly for to sayn,
Thay opened and shutte, and wente forth their weye,
And forth with them they caryèd the keye,
And comen agayn withouten eny delay.
What shuld I tary al the longe day?
He took the chalk, and shope it in the wise
Of an ingot, as I shal you devyse;
I say, he took out of his owne sleeve
A bar of silver (evel mot he thrive!)
When silver was but of an unce of weight.
And take ye heed now of his cursed slight;
He shope his ingot in lengthe and eek in brede
Like to this bar, withouten eny drede;
So sleighly, that the prest it nought aspyde;
And in his sleeve agayn he gan it hyde;
And fro the fyr he took up his mateére,
And into the ingot put it with mery cheere;
And into the watir-vessel he it cast,
Whan that him list, and bad this prest as faste,
“Lok what there is; put in thin hond and grope;
Thou fynde ther some silver shalt, I hope.”
What devel of helle shold it else be?
Shavyng of silver, silver is, pardee!

He putte his hond in and tok oute then
The silver fyn, and glad in every veyne
Was this prest, whan he saw that it was so.
“A! Goddes blessyng, and his modres also,
And alle saintes, have ye, sir canoún.”
Seyde the prest, “and I their malisoun.
But, if ye vouchesauf to teche me
This nobil craft and this sobtilitee,
I wil be youre in al that ever I may.”
Quoth this canoún, “Yet wil I make assay
The secound tyme, that ye may taken heede,
And be expert of this, and in your neede
Another day to assay in myn absence
This discipline, and this crafty science;
Let take another unce,” quoth he tho,
“Of quyksilver, withouten wordes mo,
And do therwith as ye have doon er this
With that other, which that now silver is.”
The prest him busyeth in al that he can
To do as this canoún, this cursed man,
Comaunded him, and faste blew the fyr,
Al for to come to theffect of his desyr.
And this canoún right in the mene-while
Al redy was this prest eft to bygile,
And for a countenaunce in his hond bar
An holow stikke (tak keep and be war),
In thende of which an unce and nothing more
Of silver metal put was, as bifore
Was in his cole, and stoppèd with wex wel
For to kepe in his metal every del.
And whil the prest was in his besynesse,
This canoun with his stikke gan him dresse
To him anon, and cast his pouder in,
As he dede ere, (the devel out of his skyn
Him turne, I pray to God, for his falshede!
For he was ever fals in word and deede).
And with this stikke above the crosselet,
That was y-made holow and counterfete,
He styred the coles, til to melt began
The wex agaynst the fyr, as every man,
But it a fool be, wot wel that it doth,
And al that in the hole was out goth,
And into the croslet hastily it fel.
Now, goode sirs, what wil ye better than wel?
Whan that this prest thus was begiled agayn,
Supposyng not but truthe, soth to sayn,
He was so glad, that I can nought expresse
In no maner his myrthe and his gladnesse,
And to the canoun profred he eft soone
Body and good. “Yea,” quoth the canoun,“soone,
Though pore I be, crafty thou shalt me fynde;
I warne thee, yet is ther more byhynde.
Is ther any coper herinne?” quoth he.
“Yea, sir,” quoth this priest, “I trowe wel ther be.”
“Else go by thou some and that anon.”
“Now I wil go, good sir, and bringe it soone.”
He went his way, and cam with this coper;
And this canoun took in his hondes there,
And of that coper weyed out but an ounce.
Too simple is my tongue for to pronounce,
As minister of my witt, the doublenesse
Of this canoun, root of al cursednesse.
He semèd frendly to them that knew him nought,
But he was fiendly bothe in werk and thought.
It werieth me to telle of his falsnesse;
And nontheles yit wil I it expresse,
To that entent men may be war therby,
And for no other cause trewely.

He put this unce of coper in the crosselet,
And on the fyr at once he hath it set,
And cast in pouder, and made the prest to blowe,
And in his worching for to stoupe lowe,
As he dede ere, and al was but a jape;
Right as he list the prest he made his ape.
And afterward the ingot in he cast,
And in the panne putte it atte last
Of water, and in he put his owne hond.
And in his sleeve, as ye byforen-hond
Herd telle, the silver barre lay adoun;
He sleyghly took it out, this cursed canoún,
(Unwitynge this prest of his false craft),
And in the pannes botme he hath it laft;
And in the water feleth to and fro.
And wonder privily took up also
The coper barre, (nought knowyng this prest)
And hidde it, and then caught him by the brest,
And to him spak, and thus sayde in his game;
“Stoupe ye doun! by God, ye be to blame;
Helpe ye me now, as I dede you whil ere;
Put in your hond, and loke what is ther.”
This prest took up this silver barre anon.
And thenne sayde the canoun, let us goon
With these thre barres whiche that we have wrought,
To som goldsmyth, and wit if it be ought.
For by my faith I wolde, for myn hood,
Be told that they were silver fyn and good,
And that at once provèd shal it be.”
Unto the goldsmith with these barres three
Thay went, and putte these barres in assay
To fyr and hammer; might no man say nay
But that thay weren as they oughte be.

This sotted prest, who was gladder than he?
Was never brid gladder agayn the day;
Nor nightyngale in the sesoún of May
Was never noon, that liste better to synge;
Nor lady lustier in carolynge;
Or for to speke of love and wommanhede,
No knyght in armes to do an hardy deede
In hope to stonden in his lady grace,
Than hadde this prest this wikked craft to chace,
And to the canoun thus he spak and seyde;
“For the love of God, that for us alle deyde,
And as I may deserve it unto you,
What shal this réceyt coste? telle me now.”
“By oure lady,”quoth the canoun, “it is deere,
I warne you wel, for, save I and a freere,
In Engelond ther can no man it make.”
“No care.” quoth he; “now, sir, for Goddes sake,
What shal I paye? telle me, I pray.”
“I-wis,” quoth he, “it is ful dere I say.
Sir, at a word, if that ye lust it have,
ye shul paye fourty pound, so God me save;
And but for frendshipe that ye dede ere this
To me, ye shulde paye more, i-wys.”
This prest the somme of fourty pound anon
Of nobles fette, and took them every oon
To this canoún, for this cursèd receyt.
Al his werkyng was but fraude and deceyt.

“Sir prest,” he seyde, “I wolde not that I lose
Aught of my craft, I wold it were kept close;
And as ye love me, kepe it secré.
For if men knewen al my sotiltee,
By God, men wolden have so gret envýe
To me, bycause of my philosophie,
I shulde be deed, ther were non other weye.”
“God it forbede,” he answerde, “what ye seye.
Yet had I rather spenden al the good
Which that I have, (and eke my herte blood)
Than that ye shulde fallen in such meschief.”
“For your good wil, sir, have ye right good preef,”
Quoth the canoun, “and far wel graunt mercy.”
He went his way, and never the prest him sey
After this day; and when that this prest sholde
Maken assay, at such tyme as he wolde,
Of this receyt, far wel, it wold not be.
Lo, thus byjapèd and biguiled was he;
Thus maketh he his introduccioun
To bringe folk to their destruccioun.

Consider, sirs, how that in ech astaat
Bitwixe men and gold ther is debaat,
So fer that golde scarce there is none.
This multiplying blindeth so many oon,
That in good faith I trowe that it be
The cause grettest of swich scarsetee.
Philosophres speken so mistyly
In this craft, that men conne not come therby,
For any witt that men have now on dayes.
They may wel chateren, as doon these jayes,
And in their termes sette lust and peyne,
But to their purpos shul thay never atteyne.
A man may lightly lerne, if he have ought,
To multiplie and bringe his good to nought.
Lo, such a lucre is in this lusty game;
A mannes mirthe it wil torne into shame.
And empte also the grete and hevy purses,
And maken folk to purchacen the curses
Of them, that have their good therto i-lent.
O, fy! for shame, thay that have ben brent,
Allas! can thay not flee the fyres hete?
Ye that it usen, I counsel ye it let,
Lest ye lose al; for bet than never is late;
Never to thrive, were too long a date.
Though ye prowl ay, ye shul it never fynde;
Ye be as bolde as hors which that is blynde,
He blundreth forth, and peril thinketh noon;
He is as bold to runne agaynst a stoon,
As for to go busides in the sey;
So fare ye that multiplie, I sey.
If that youre eyen can nought see aright,
Loke that youre mynde lakke nought his sight.
For though ye loke never so brode and stare,
Ye shul nought wynne a mite in that matére,
But al your gold and silver shal ye waste.
Withdrawe the fyr, lest it brenne too faste;
Medle no more with that art, I mene;
For if ye do, youre thift is gon ful clene.
And right as now I wil you tellen heere
What philosóphres sey in this mateére.

Lo, thus saith Arnold of the Newe-toun,
As his Rosárie maketh mencioun,
He saith right thus, withouten eny lye;
Ther may no man Mercúry mortifye,
But it be with his brother knowleching.
Lo, how that he, which that first sayd this thing,
Of philosóphres fader was Hermes;
He saith, how that the dragoun douteles
He dyeth nought, but-if that he be slayn
With his brother. And that is for to sayn,
By the dragoun, Mercúry, and noon other
He understood, and brimstoon be his brother,
That out of Sol and Luna were i-drawe.
“And therefore,” sayde he, “take heed to my sawe;
Let no man besy him this art to seche,
But-if that he thentencioun and speche
Of philosóphres understonde can;
And if he do, he is a foolish man.
For this sciéns, and this connyng,” quoth he,
“Is of the Secret of secrets, pardee.”
Also ther was a disciple of Plato,
That on a tyme sayde his maister to,
As his book Senior wil bere witnesse,
And this was his demaunde in sothfastnesse:
“Tel me the name of thilke privy stoon.”
And Plato answered unto him anon,
“Take the stoon that titanos men name.”
“Which is that?” quoth he. “Magnasia is the same.”
Sayde Plato. “Ye, sir, and is it thus?
That is ignotum per ignotius.
What is magnasia, good sir, I you pray?”
“It is a water that is maad, I say,
Of elementes foure,” quoth Plato.
“Telle me the roote, good sir,” quoth he tho,
“Of that water, if that it be your wille.”
“Nay, nay,” quoth Plato, “not with mine wil.
The philosóphres sworn were every oon,
That thay sholde not discovere it unto noon,
Nor in no book it write in no manére;
For unto Crist it is so leef and deere,
That he wil not that it discovered be,
But when it liketh to his deitee
Man to enspire, and eek for to defende
Whom that him liketh; lo, this is the ende.”

Than thus conclude I, since God on high
Wil not that philosóphres signify,
How that a man shal come unto this stoon,
I counsel for the beste, let it goon.
For who-so maketh God his adversarie,
As for to werke a thing in contrarie
Unto his wil, certes shal never thrive,
Though that he multiplie through al his lyve.
And there a point: my tale is endid so
To each true man God sende wele for wo.

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:37