The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Sompnoures Tale

This Sompnour in his styrop up he stood,

Upon the Frere his herte was so wood,

That lyk an aspen leef he quok for ire.

“Lordyngs,” quod he, “but oon thing I desire;

I yow biseke, that of your curtesye,

Syn ye han herd this false Frere lye,

As suffrith me I may my tale telle.

This Frere bosteth that he knowith helle,

And, God it wot, that is litil wonder,

Freres and feendes been but litel asonder.

For, pardy, ye han often tyme herd telle,

How that a frere ravyscht was to helle

In spirit ones by a visioun,

And as an aungel lad him up and doun,

To schewen him the peynes that ther were,

In al the place saugh he not a frere,

Of other folk he saugh y-nowe in wo.

Unto this aungel spak this frere tho:

‘Now, sire,’ quod he, ‘han freres such a grace,

That noon of hem schal comen in this place?’

‘Yis,’ quod this aungil, “many a mylioun.’

And unto Sathanas he lad him doun.

‘And now hath Sathanas,’ saith he, ‘a tayl

Broder than of a carrik is the sayl.’

‘Hold up thy tayl, thou Sathanas,’ quod he,

‘Schew forth thyn ars, and let the frere se

Wher is the nest of freres in this place.’

And er than half a forlong way of space,

Right so as bees swarmen out of an hyve,

Out of the develes ers thay gonne dryve,

Twenty thousand freres on a route,

And thorughout helle swarmed al aboute,

And comen ayeine, as fast as thay maye goon,

And in his ers thay crepen everichoon.

He clappid his tayle agayn, and lay ful stille.

This frere, whan he loked had his fille

Upon the torment of this sory place,

His spirit God restored of his grace

Unto his body agayn, and he awook;

But natheles for fere yit he quook,

So was the develes ers yit in his mynde,

That is his heritage of verray kynde.

God save yow alle, save this cursed Frere;

My proloug wol I ende in this manere.”

Lordyngs, ther is in Engelond, I gesse,
A mersschly lond called Holdernesse,
In which ther went a lymytour aboute
To preche, and eek to begge, it is no doubte.
And so bifel it on a day this frere
Hadde preched at a chirch in his manere,
And specially aboven every thing
Excited he the poepul in his preching
To trentals, and to yive for Goddis sake,
Wherwith men mighten holy houses make,
Ther as divine servys is honoured,
Nought ther as it is wasted and devoured;
Neither it needeth not for to be yive,
As to possessioneres, that mow lyve,
Thanked be God, in wele and abundaunce.
“Trentals,” sayd he, “delyvereth fro penaunce
Her frendes soules, as wel eld as yonge,
Ye, whanne that thay hastily ben songe,
Nought for to hold a prest jolif and gay,
He syngith not but oon masse in a day.
Delyverith out anon,” quod he, “the soules.
Ful hard it is, with fleischhok or with oules
To ben y-clawed, or brend, or i-bake;
Now speed yow hastily for Cristes sake.”
And whan this frere hadde sayd al his entente,
With qui cum patre, forth his way he wente.
Whan folk in chirch had yive him what hem leste,
He went his way, no lenger wold he reste,
With scrip and pyked staf, y- touked hye;
In every hous he gan to pore and prye,
And beggyde mele or chese, or ellis corn.
His felaw had a staf typped with horn,
A payr of tablis al of yvory,
And a poyntel y-polischt fetisly,
And wroot the names alway as he stood
Of alle folk that yaf him eny good,
Ascaunce that he wolde for hem preye.
“Yif us a busshel whet, or malt, or reye,
A Goddes kichil, or a trip of chese,
Or elles what yow list, we may not chese;
A Goddes halpeny, or a masse peny;
Or yif us of youre braune, if ye have eny,
A dagoun of your blanket, leeve dame,
Oure suster deer — lo! her I write your name —
Bacoun or beef, or such thing as we fynde.”
A stourdy harlot ay went hem byhynde,
That was her hostis man, and bar a sak,
And what men yaf hem, layd it on his bak.
And whan that he was out atte dore, anoon
He planed out the names everychoon,
That he biforn hadde writen in his tablis;
He served hem with nyfles and with fablis.

“Nay, ther thou lixt, thou Sompnour,” sayde the Frere.
“Pees,” quod our host, “for Cristes moder deere,
Tel forth thy tale, and spare it not at al.”
“So thrive I,” quod the Sompnour, “so I schal!”
So long he wente hous by hous, til he
Cam til an hous, ther he was wont to be
Refresshid mor than in an hundrid placis.
Syk lay the housbond man, whos that the place is,
Bedred upon a couche lowe he lay.
Deus hic,” quod he, “O Thomas, frend, good day!”
Sayde this frere al curteysly and softe.
“O Thomas, God yeld it yow, ful ofte
Have I upon this bench i-fare ful wel,
Her have I eten many a mery mel.”
And fro the bench he drof away the cat,
And layd adoun his potent and his hat,
And eek his scrip, and set him soft adoun;
His felaw was go walkid in the toun
Forth with his knave, into the ostelrye,
Wher as he schop him thilke night to lye.

“O deere maister,” quod the seeke man,
“How have ye fare siththe March bygan?
I saygh yow nought this fourtenight or more.”

“God wot,” quod he, “labord have I ful sore;
And specially for thy salvacioun
Have I sayd many a precious orisoun,
And for myn other frendes, God hem blesse.
I have to day ben at your chiche at messe,
And sayd a sermoun after my simple wit,
Nought al after the text of holy wryt.
For it is hard for yow, as I suppose,
And therfor wil I teche yow ay the glose.
Glosyng is a ful glorious thing certayn,
For letter sleth, so as we clerkes sayn.
Ther have I taught hem to be chariteable,
And spend her good ther it is reasonable;
And there I seigh our dame, wher is she?”
“Yond in the yerd I trowe that sche be,”
Sayde this man, “and sche wil come anoon.”

“Ey, mayster, welcome be ye, by seint Johan!”
Sayde this wyf, “how fare ye hertily?”
The frere ariseth up ful curteysly,
And her embracith in his armes narwe,
And kist her swete, and chirkith as a sparwe
With his lippes: “Dame,” quod he, “right wel,
As he that is your servaunt everydel.
Thankyd be God, that yow yaf soule and lif,
Yit saugh I not this day so fair a wyf
In al the chirche, God so save me.”

“Ye, God amend defautes, sir,” quod sche,
“Algates welcome be ye, by my fay.”
“Graunt mercy, dame; this have I found alway.
But of your grete goodnes, by youre leve,
I wolde pray yow that ye yow not greeve,
I wil with Thomas speke a litel throwe;
These curates ben ful negligent and slowe
To grope tendurly a conscience.
In schrift and preching is my diligence,
And study in Petres wordes and in Poules,
I walk and fissche Cristen menne soules,
To yelde Jhesu Crist his propre rent;
To spreden his word is al myn entent.”

“Now, by your leve, a deere sir,” quod sche,
“Chyd him right wel for seinte Trinite.
He is as angry as a pissemyre,
Though that he have al that he can desire,
Though I him wrye on night, and make him warm,
And over him lay my leg other myn arm,
He groneth lik our boor, that lith in sty.
Othir disport of him right noon have I,
I may please him in no maner caas.”

“O Thomas, je vous dy, Thomas, Thomas,
This makth the feend, this moste ben amendid.
Ire is a thing that highe God defendid,
And therof wold I speke a word or tuo.”

“Now, maister,” quod the wyf, “er that I go,
What wil ye dine? I will go theraboute.”
“Now, dame.” quod he, “je vous dy saunz doute,
Have I not of a capoun but the lyvere,
And of your softe brede but a schivere,
And after that a rostyd pigges heed,
(But that I wolde for me no best were deed)
Than had I with yow homly suffisaunce.
I am a man of litel sustinaunce.
My spirit hath his fostryng on the Bible.
The body is ay so redy and so penyble
To wake, that my stomak is destroyed.
I pray yow, dame, that ye be not anoyed,
For I so frendly yow my counseil schewe;
By God! I nolde not telle it but a fewe.”

“Now, sir,” quod sche, “but o word er I go.
My child is deed withinne thise wykes tuo,
Soon after that ye went out of this toun.”

“His deth saugh I by revelacioun,”
Sayde this frere, “at hoom in oure dortour.
I dar wel sayn, er that half an hour
After his deth, I seigh him born to blisse
In myn ayvsioun, so God me wisse.
So did our sextein, and our fermerere,
That had ben trewe freres many a yere;
Thay may now, God be thanked of his lone,
Maken her jubilé, and walk alloone.
But up I roos, and al our covent eeke,
With many a teere trilling on my cheeke,
Te Deum was our song, and nothing ellis,
Withouten noys or clateryng of bellis,
Save that to Crist I sayd an orisoun,
Thankyng him of my revelacioun.
For, sire and dame, trustith me right wel,
Our orisouns ben more effectuel,
And more we se of Goddis secré thinges,
Than borel folk, although that thay ben kinges.
We lyve in povert and in abstinence,
And borel folk in riches and dispence
Of mete and drink, and in her ful delyt.
We han this worldes lust al in despyt.
Lazar and Dives lyveden diversely.
And divers guerdoun hadde thay thereby.
Who-so wol praye, he muste faste, and be clene,
And fatte his soule, and make his body lene.
We faren, as saith thapostil; cloth and foode
Sufficeth us, though that thay ben not goode.
The clennes and the fastyng of us freres
Makith that Crist acceptith oure prayeres.
Lo, Moyses fourty dayes and fourty night
Fasted, er that the highe God of might
Spak with him in the mount of Synay;
With empty wombe fastyng many a day,
Receyved he the lawe, that was writen
With Goddis fynger; and Eli, wel ye witen,
In mount Oreb, or he had any speche
With highe God, that is oure lyves leche,
He fastid, and was in contemplacioun.
Aron, that hadde the temple in governacioun,
And eek the other prestes everychoon,
Into the temple whan thay schulden goon
To preye for the people, and doon servise,
Thay nolden drinken in no maner wise
No drynke, which that dronke might hem make,
But ther in abstinence prey and wake,
Lest that they diden; tak heed what I saye —
But thay ben sobre that for the pepul praye —
War that I say — no mor; for it suffisith.
Oure Lord Jhesu, as oure lore devysith,
Yaf us ensampil of fastyng and prayeres;
Therfore we mendivantz, we sely freres,
Ben wedded to povert and to continence,
To charité, humblesse, and abstinence,
To persecucioun for rightwisnesse,
To wepyng, misericord, and clennesse.
And therfor may ye seen that oure prayeres
(I speke of us, we mendeaunts, we freres)
Ben to the hihe God more acceptable
Than youres, with your festis at your table.
Fro Paradis first, if I schal not lye,
Was man out chaced for his glotonye,
And chast was man in Paradis certeyn.
But now herk, Thomas, what I schal the seyn,
I ne have no tixt of it, as I suppose,
But I schal fynd it in a maner glose;
That specially our swete Lord Jhesus
Spak this by freres, whan he sayde thus,
Blessed be thay that pover in spirit ben.
And so forth in the gospel ye maye seen,
Whether it be likir oure professioun,
Or heris that swymmen in possessioun.
Fy on her pomp, and on her glotenye,
And on her lewydnesse! I hem defye.
Me thinkith thay ben lik Jovynian,
Fat as a whal, and walken as a swan;
Al vinolent as botel in the spence.
Her prayer is of ful gret reverence;
Whan thay for soules sayn the Psalm of David,
Lo, boef thay say, Cor meum eructavit.
Who folwith Cristes gospel and his lore
But we, that humble ben, and chast, and pore,
Workers of Goddes word, not auditours?
Therfor right as an hauk upon a sours
Upspringeth into thaer, right so prayeres
Of charitabil and chaste busy freres
Maken our sours to Goddis eeres tuo.
Thomas, Thomas, so mote I ryde or go,
And by that Lord that clepid is seint Ive,
Ner thou oure brother, schuldestow never thrive.
In oure chapitre pray we day and night
To Crist, that he the sende hele and might
Thy body for to welden hastily.”

“God wot,” quod he, “thereof nought feele I,
As help me Crist, as I in fewe yeeres
Have spendid upon many diveris freres
Ful many a pound, yet fare I never the bet;
Certeyn my good have I almost byset.
Farewel my gold, for it is almost ago.”
The frere answerd, “O Thomas, dostow so?
What needith yow dyverse freres seche?
What needith him that hath a parfyt leche
To sechen othir leches in the toun?
Youre inconstance is youre confusioun.
Helde ye than me, or elles oure covent,
To praye for yow insufficient?
Thomas, that jape is not worth a myte;
Youre malady is for we have to lite
A!-yive that covent half a quarter otes;
A! yive that covent four and twenty grotes;
A! yive that frere a peny, and let him go;
Nay, nay, Thomas, it may nought be so.
What is a ferthing worth depart in tuelve?
Lo, ech thing that is ooned in himselve
Is more strong than whan it is to-skatrid.
Thomas, of me thou schalt not ben y-flatrid,
Thow woldist have our labour al for nought.
The hihe God, that al this world hath wrought
Saith, that a werkman is worthy his hyre.
Thomas, nought of your tresor I desire
As for myself, but for that oure covent
To praye for yow is ay so diligent;
And for to buylden Cristes holy chirche.
Thomas, if ye wil lerne for to wirche,
Of buyldying up of chirches may ye fynde
If it be good, in Thomas lyf of Ynde.
Ye lye her ful of anger and of ire,
With which the devel set your hert on fuyre,
And chyden her the holy innocent
Your wyf, that is so meke and pacient.
And therfor trow me, Thomas, if thou list,
Ne stryve nought with thy wyf, as for thi best
And ber this word away now by thy faith,
Touchinge such thing, lo, the wise man saith,
Withinne thin hous be thou no lyoun;
To thy subjects do noon oppressioun;
Ne make thyn acqueyntis fro the fle.
And yit, Thomas, eftsons I charge the,
Be war for ire that in thy bosom slepith,
War for the serpent, that so slely crepith
Under the gras, and styngith prively;
Be war, my sone, and werk paciently,
For twenty thousend men han lost her lyves
For stryvyng with her lemmans and her wyves.
Now syns ye han so holy and meeke a wif,
What nedith yow, Thomas, to make strif?
Ther nys, i-wis, no serpent so cruel,
When men trede on his tail, ne half so fel,
As womman is, when sche hath caught an ire:
Vengeans is thanne al that thay desire.
Schortly may no man, by rym and vers
Tellen her thoughtes, thay ben so dyvers.
Ire is a sinne, oon the grete of sevene,
Abhominable to the God of hevene,
And to himself it is destruccioun.
This every lewed vicory or parsoun
Can say, how ire engendrith homicide;
Ire is in soth executour of pride.
I couthe of ire seyn so moche sorwe,
My tale schulde laste til to morwe.
Ire is the grate of synne, as saith the wise,
To fle therfro ech man schuld him devyse.
And therfor pray I God bothe day and night,
An irous man God send him litil might.
It is greet harm, and also great pité,
To set an irous man in high degré.

“Whilom ther was an irous potestate,
As seith Senek, that duryng his estaat
Upon a day out riden knightes tuo;
And, as fortune wolde right as it were so,
That oon of hem cam home, that other nought.
Anoon the knight bifore the juge is brought,
That sayde thus, Thou hast thy felaw slayn,
For which I deme the to deth certayn
And to anothir knight comaundid he,
Go, lede him to the deth, I charge the.
And happed, as thay wente by the weye
Toward the place ther he schulde deye,
The knight com, which men wend hadde be deed.
Than thoughten thay it were the beste reed
To lede hem bothe to the juge agayn.
Thay sayden, Lord, the knight hath not slayn
His felaw; lo, heer he stont hool on lyve.
Ye schal be deed, quod he, so mote I thrive!
That is to sayn, bothe oon, tuo, and thre.
And to the firste knyght right thus spak he;
I deme the, thou most algate be deed.
Than thoughte thay it were the beste rede,
To lede him forth into a fair mede.
And, quod the juge, also thou most lese thin heed,
For thou art cause why thy felaw deyth.
And to the thridde felaw thus he seith;
Thou hast nought doon that I comaundid the.
And thus let don sle hem alle thre.
Irous Cambises was eek dronkelewe,
And ay delited him to ben a schrewe;
And so bifel, a lord of his meigné,
That loved vertues, and eek moralité,
Sayd on a day bitwix hem tuo right thus,
A lord is lost, if he be vicious;
An irous man is lik a frentik best,
In which ther is of wisdom noon arrest;
And dronkenes is eek a foul record
Of any man, and namly of a lord.
Ther is ful many an eyghe and many an eere
Awaytand on a lord, and he not where.
For Goddes love, drynk more attemperelly:
Wyn makith man to lese wrecchedly
His mynde, and eek his lymes everichoon.
The revers schaltow seen quod he, anoon,
And prove it by thin owne experience,
That wyn ne doth to folk non such offence.
Ther is no won byreveth me my wight
Of hond, of foot, ne of myn eyghe sight.
And for despyt he dronke moche more
An hundrid part than he hadde doon byfore;
And right anoon, this irous cursid wrecche
Let this knightes sone anoon biforn him fecche,
Comaundyng hem thay schulde biforn him stonde;
And sodeinly he took his bowe on honde,
And up the streng he pullede to his eere,
And with an arwe he slough the child right there.
Now whethir have I a sikur hond or noon?
Quod he, Is al my mynde and might agoon?
Hath wyn byrevyd me myn eye sight?
What schuld I telle the answer of the knight?
His sone was slayn, ther is no more to saye.
Be war therfor with lordes how ye playe,
Syngith Placebo, and I schal if I can.
But-if it be unto a pore man;
To a pore man men schuld his vices telle,
But not to a lord, they he schulde go to helle.
Lo, irous Cirus thilke Percien,
How he destruyede the ryver of Gysen,
For that an hors of his was dreynt therinne,
Whan that he wente Babiloyne to wynne:
He made that the ryver was so smal,
That wommen mighte wade it overal.
Lo, what sayde he, that so wel teche can?
Ne be no felaw to an irous man,
Ne with no wood man walke by the waye,
Lest the repent. I wel no lenger saye.
Now, Thomas, leve brother, leve thin ire,
Thow schalt me fynde as just as is a squire;
Thyn anger doth the al to sore smerte,
Hald not the develes knyf ay at thyn herte,
But schewe to me al thy confessioun.”

“Nay,” quod this syke man, “by seynt Symoun,
I have ben schriven this day of my curate:
I have him told holly al myn estate.
Nedith no more to speken of it, saith he,
But if me list of myn humilité.”

“Yif me than of thy good to make our cloyster,”
Quod he, “for many a muscle and many an oyster
Hath ben oure foode, our cloyster to arreyse.
Whan other men han ben ful wel at eyse;
And yit, God wot, unnethe the foundement
Parformed is, ne of oure pavyment
Is nought a tyle yit withinne our wones;
By God, we owe yit fourty pound for stones.
Now help, Thomas, for him that harewed helle,
Or elles moote we oure bookes selle;
And yif yow lakke oure predicacioun,
Thanne goth the world al to destruccioun.
For who- so wold us fro the world byreve,
So God me save, Thomas, by youre leve,
He wolde byreve out of this world the sonne.
For who can teche and werken as we conne?
And this is not of litel tyme,” quod he,
“But siththen Elye was her, or Elisee,
Han freres ben, fynde I of record,
In charite, i-thanked be oure Lord.
Now, Thomas, help for seynte Charité.”
Adoun he sette him anoon on his kne.

This sike man wex wel neigh wood for ire,
He wolde that the frere had ben on fuyre
With his fals dissimulacioun.
“Such thing as is in my possessioun,”
Quod he, “that may I yeve yow and noon other;
Ye sayn me thus, how that I am your brother.”
“Ye certes,” quod the frere, “trusteth wel;
I took our dame the letter, under our sel.”
“Now wel,” quod he, “and somewhat schal I yive
Unto your holy convent whils that I lyve;
And in thyn hond thou schalt it have anoon,
On this condicioun, and other noon,
That thou depart it so, my deere brother,
That every frere have as moche as other,
Thys schaltow swere on thy professioun,
Withouten fraude or cavillacioun.”
“I swere it,” quod this frere, “upon my faith.”
And therwith his hond in his he laith;
“Lo her myn hond, in me schal be no lak.”
“Now thanne, put thyn hond doun at my bak,”
Sayde this man, “and grop wel byhynde,
Bynethe my buttok, there schaltow fynde
A thing, that I have hud in priveté.”
“A!” thought this frere, “that schal go with me.”
And doun his hond he launchede to the clifte,
In hope for to fynde ther a yifte.
And whan this syke man felte this frere
Aboute his tuel grope ther and heere,
Amyd his hond he leet the freere a fart;
Ther is no capul drawyng in a cart
That might have let a fart of such a soun.
The frere upstart, as doth a wood lyoun:
“A! false cherl,” quod he, “for Goddes bones!
This hastow in despit don for the noones;
Thou schalt abye this fart, if that I may.”

His meyné, which that herd of this affray,
Com lepand in, and chased out the frere.
And forth he goth with a foul angry cheere,
And fat his felaw, there as lay his stoor;
He lokid as it were a wylde boor,
And grynte with his teeth, so was he wroth.
A stordy paas doun to the court he goth,
Wher as ther wonyd a man of gret honour,
To whom that he was alway confessour;
This worthy man was lord of that village.
This frere com, as he were in a rage,
Wher that this lord sat etyng at his bord:
Unnethe mighte the frere speke a word,
Til atte last he sayde, “God yow se!”
This lord gan loke, and sayde, Benedicite!
What, frere Johan! what maner world is this?
I se right wel that som thing is amys;
Ye loke as though the woode were ful of thevys.
Sit doun anoon, and tel me what your gref is,
And it schal ben amendit, if that I may.”

“I have,” quod he, “had a despit to day,
God yelde yow, odoun in youre vilage,
That in this world is noon so pore a page,
That he nold have abhominacioun
Of that I have receyved in youre toun;
And yet ne grevith me no thing so sore,
As that this elde cherl, with lokkes hore,
Blasphemed hath our holy convent eeke.”
“Now, maister,” quod this lord, “I yow biseke.”
“No maister, sir,” quod he, “but servitour,
Though I have had in scole such honour.
God likith not that Raby men us calle,
Neither in market, neyther in your large halle.”
“No fors,” quod he, “tellith me al your greef.”
This frere sayde, “Sire, an odious meschief
This day bytid is to myn ordre and to me,
And so par consequens to ech degré
Of holy chirche, God amend it soone!”
“Sir,” quod the lord, “ye wot what is to doone;
Distempre yow nought, ye ben my confessour,
Ye ben the salt of therthe, and savyour:
For Goddes love, youre pacience ye holde;
Tel me your greef.” And he anoon him tolde
As ye had herd bifore, ye wot wel what.
The lady of that hous ay stille sat,
Til sche had herd what the frere sayde.
“Ey Goddes moodir!” quod she, “blisful mayde!
Is ther ought elles? tel me faithfully.”
“Madame,” quod he, “how think ye yow therby?”
“How that me thynkith?” quod sche; “so God me speede!
I say, a cherl hath doon a cherles deede.
What schuld I say? God let him never the!
His syke heed is full of vanyté.
I hold him in a maner frenesye.”
“Madame,” quod he, “I-wis I schal not lye,
But I in othir wise may be a wreke,
I schal defame him overal wher I speke;
The false blasfememour, that chargide me
To parten that wil not departed be,
To every man y-liche, with meschaunce!”

The lord sat stille, as he were in a traunce,
And in his hert he rollid up and doun,
“How hadde this cherl ymaginacioun
To schewe such a probleme to the frere?
Never erst er now herd I of such matiere;
I trowe the devel put it in his mynde.
In arsmetrik schal ther no man fynde
Biforn this day of such a questioun.
Who schulde make a demonstracioun,
That every man schuld have alyk his part
As of a soun or savour of a fart?
O nyce proude cherl, I schrew his face!
Lo, sires,” quod the lord, with harde grace,
“Who ever herde of such a thing er now?
To every man y-like? tel me how.
It is impossible, it may not be.
Ey, nyce cherl, God let him never the!
The romblyng of a fart, and every soun,
Nis but of aier reverberacioun,
And ever it wastith lyte and lyt away;
Ther nys no man can deme, by my fay,
If that it were departed equally.
What, lo, my cherl, what, lo, how schrewedly
Unto my confessour to day he spak!
I hold him certeinly demoniak.
Now etith your mete, and let the cherl go play,
Let him go honge himself on devel way!”

Now stood the lordes squier at the bord,
That carf his mete, and herde word by word
Of al this thing, which that I of have sayd.
“My lord,” quod he, “be ye nought evel payd,
I couthe telle for a gowne-cloth
To yow, sir frere, so that ye be not worth,
How that this fart even departed schulde be
Among your covent, if I comaunded be.
“Tell,” quod the lord, “and thou schalt have anoon
A goune-cloth, by God, and by Seint Johan!”
“My lord,” quod he, “whan that the wedir is fair,
Withoute wynd, or pertourbyng of ayr,
Let bring a carte whel her into this halle,
But loke that it have his spokes alle;
Twelf spokes hath a cart whel comunly;
And bring me twelve freres, wit ye why?
For threttene is a covent as I gesse;
Your noble confessour, her God him blesse,
Schal parfourn up the nombre of this covent.
Thanne schal they knele doun by oon assent,
And to every spokes ende in this manere
Ful sadly lay his nose schal ech a frere;
Your noble confessour ther, God him save,
Schal hold his nose upright under the nave.
Than schal this churl, with bely stif and tought
As eny tabor, hider ben y-brought;
And sette him on the whele of this cart
Upon the nave, and make him lete a fart,
And ye schul seen, up peril of my lif,
By verray proef that is demonstratif,
That equally the soun of it wol wende,
And eek the stynk, unto the spokes ende;
Save that this worthy man, your confessour,
(Bycause he is a man of gret honour)
Schal have the firste fruyt, as resoun is.
The noble usage of freres is this,
The worthy men of hem first schal be served.
And certeynly he hath it wel deserved;
He hath to day taught us so mochil good,
With preching in the pulpit ther he stood,
That I may vouchesauf, I say for me,
He hadde the firste smel of fartes thre;
And so wold al his covent hardily,
He berith him so fair and holily.”

The lord, the lady, and ech man, sauf the frere,
Sayde that Jankyn spak in his matiere
As wel as Euclide, or elles Phtolomé.
Touchand the cherl, thay sayde that subtilté
And high wyt made him speken as he spak;
He nas no fool, ne no demoniak.
And Jankyn hath i-wonne a newe goune;
My tale is don, we ben almost at toune.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52