The Canterbury Tales, by Geoffrey Chaucer

The Prologue of the Pardoners Tale.

Here folweth the Prologe of the Pardoners Tale.

Radix malorum est Cupiditas: Ad Thimotheum, sexto.

‘Lordings,’ quod he, ‘in chirches whan I preche,


I peyne me to han an hauteyn speche,

And ringe it out as round as gooth a belle,

For I can al by rote that I telle.

My theme is alwey oon, and ever was —

Radix malorum est Cupiditas.”


 First I pronounce whennes that I come,

And than my bulles shewe I, alle and somme.

Our lige lordes seel on my patente,


That shewe I first, my body to warente,

That no man be so bold, ne preest ne clerk,


Me to destourbe of Cristes holy werk;

And after that than telle I forth my tales,

Bulles of popes and of cardinales,

Of patriarkes, and bishoppes I shewe;

And in Latyn I speke a wordes fewe,


To saffron with my predicacioun,

And for to stire men to devocioun.

Than shewe I forth my longe cristal stones,


Y-crammed ful of cloutes and of bones;

Reliks been they, as wenen they echoon.


Than have I in latoun a sholder-boon

Which that was of an holy Iewes shepe.

“Good men,” seye I, “tak of my wordes kepe;

If that this boon be wasshe in any welle,

If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swelle


That any worm hath ete, or worm y-stonge,

Tak water of that welle, and wash his tonge,

And it is hool anon; and forthermore,


Of pokkes and of scabbe, and every sore

Shal every sheep be hool, that of this welle


Drinketh a draughte; tak kepe eek what I telle.

If that the good-man, that the bestes oweth,

Wol every wike, er that the cok him croweth,

Fastinge, drinken of this welle a draughte,

As thilke holy Iewe our eldres taughte,


His bestes and his stoor shal multiplye.

And, sirs, also it heleth Ialousye;

For, though a man be falle in Ialous rage,


Let maken with this water his potage,

And never shal he more his wyf mistriste,


Though he the sooth of hir defaute wiste;

Al had she taken preestes two or three.

346. E. Hn. Hl. hem; rest men.   350. E. omits I by accident.   352. E. Hl. Pt. Ln. Good; E. Hn. Cp. Goode.   Hn. I seye; rest say I, saie I.   366. E. Hn. sire; rest sires, sirs.

 Heer is a miteyn eek, that ye may see.

He that his hond wol putte in this miteyn,

He shal have multiplying of his greyn,


Whan he hath sowen, be it whete or otes,

So that he offre pens, or elles grotes.

 Good men and wommen, o thing warne I yow,


If any wight be in this chirche now,

That hath doon sinne horrible, that he


Dar nat, for shame, of it y-shriven be,

Or any womman, be she yong or old,

That hath y-maad hir housbond cokewold,

Swich folk shul have no power ne no grace

To offren to my reliks in this place.


And who-so findeth him out of swich blame,

He wol com up and offre in goddes name,

And I assoille him by the auctoritee


Which that by bulle y-graunted was to me.”

377. E. Hn. Goode; rest And.   382. Cp. Ln. Hl. ymaad; Pt. made; E. Hn. ymaked.   385. E. fame; rest blame.   386. Hn. He; rest They.   E. on; Hn. a; rest in.   387. E. Hl. hem; rest him or hym.

 By this gaude have I wonne, yeer by yeer,


An hundred mark sith I was Pardoner.

I stonde lyk a clerk in my pulpet,

And whan the lewed peple is doun y-set,

I preche, so as ye han herd bifore,

And telle an hundred false Iapes more.


Than peyne I me to strecche forth the nekke,

And est and west upon the peple I bekke,

As doth a dowve sitting on a berne.


Myn hondes and my tonge goon so yerne,

That it is Ioye to see my bisinesse.


Of avaryce and of swich cursednesse

Is al my preching, for to make hem free

To yeve her pens, and namely un-to me.

For my entente is nat but for to winne,

And no-thing for correccioun of sinne.


I rekke never, whan that they ben beried,

Though that her soules goon a-blakeberied!

For certes, many a predicacioun


Comth ofte tyme of yvel entencioun;

Som for plesaunce of folk and flaterye,


To been avaunced by ipocrisye,

And som for veyne glorie, and som for hate.

For, whan I dar non other weyes debate,

Than wol I stinge him with my tonge smerte

In preching, so that he shal nat asterte


To been defamed falsly, if that he

Hath trespased to my brethren or to me.

For, though I telle noght his propre name,


Men shal wel knowe that it is the same

By signes and by othere circumstances.


Thus quyte I folk that doon us displesances;

Thus spitte I out my venim under hewe

Of holynesse, to seme holy and trewe.

395. the] Cm. myn; Cp. Ln. Hl. my.   405. E. Hl. omit that.

 But shortly myn entente I wol devyse;

I preche of no-thing but for coveityse.


Therfor my theme is yet, and ever was —

Radix malorum est cupiditas.”

Thus can I preche agayn that same vyce


Which that I use, and that is avaryce.

But, though my-self be gilty in that sinne,


Yet can I maken other folk to twinne

From avaryce, and sore to repente.

But that is nat my principal entente.

I preche no-thing but for coveityse;

Of this matere it oughte y-nogh suffyse.

425. E. Hn. theme; rest teme (teem).


 Than telle I hem ensamples many oon

Of olde stories, longe tyme agoon:

For lewed peple loven tales olde;


Swich thinges can they wel reporte and holde.

What? trowe ye, the whyles I may preche,


And winne gold and silver for I teche,

That I wol live in povert wilfully?

Nay, nay, I thoghte it never trewely!

For I wol preche and begge in sondry londes;

I wol not do no labour with myn hondes,


Ne make baskettes, and live therby,

Because I wol nat beggen ydelly.

I wol non of the apostles counterfete;


I wol have money, wolle, chese, and whete,

Al were it yeven of the povrest page,


Or of the povrest widwe in a village,

Al sholde hir children sterve for famyne.

Nay! I wol drinke licour of the vyne,

And have a Ioly wenche in every toun.

But herkneth, lordings, in conclusioun;


Your lyking is that I shal telle a tale.

Now, have I dronke a draughte of corny ale,

By god, I hope I shal yow telle a thing


That shal, by resoun, been at your lyking.

For, though myself be a ful vicious man,


A moral tale yet I yow telle can,

Which I am wont to preche, for to winne.

Now holde your pees, my tale I wol beginne.

439. E. Pt. the whiles; Cm. that whilis that; Cp. Ln. whiles that; Hl. whiles; Hn. that whiles.   449. Hl. prestes (for povrest).

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