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And curteis, as a man of your estat,
In compagnie we wiln have no debat:
Telleth your tale, and let the Sompnour be.
Nay, quod the Sompnour, let him say by me
What so him list; whan it cometh to my lot,
By God I shal him quiten every grot.
I shal him tellen which a gret honour
It is to be a flatering limitour,
And eke of many another maner crime,
Which nedeth not rehersen at this time,
And his office I shal him tell ywis.
Our hoste answered; pees, no more of this.
And afterward he said unto the Frere,
Tell forth your tale, min owen maister dere.
THE FRERES TALE.
WHILOM ther was dwelling in my contree An archedeken, a man of high degree, That boldely did execution
In punishing of fornication,
Of witchecraft, and eke of bauderie,
Of defamation, and avouterie,
Of chirche-reves, and of testaments,
Of contracts, and of lack of sacraments,
Of usure, and of simonie also;
But certes lechours did he gretest wo;
They shulden singen, if that they were hent;
And smale titheres weren foule yshent,
If any persone wold upon hem plaine,
Ther might astert hem no pecunial peine.
For smale tithes, and smale offering,
He made the peple pitously to sing;
For er the bishop hent hem with his crook
They weren in the archedekens book;
Than had he thurgh his jurisdiction
Power to don on hem correction.
He had a Sompnour redy to his hond,
A slier boy was non in Englelond;
For subtilly he had his espiaille,
That taught him wel wher it might ought availle.
He coude spare of lechours on or two,
To techen him to foure and twenty mo.
For though this Sompnour wood be as an hare,
To tell his harlotrie I wol not spare,
For we ben out of hir correction,
They han of us no jurisdiction,
Ne never shul have, terme of all hir lives.
Peter, so ben the women of the stives,
Quod this Sompnour, yput out of our cure.
Pees, with mischance and with misaventure,
Our hoste said, and let him tell his tale.
Now telleth forth, and let the Sompnour gale,
Ne spareth not, min owen maister dere.
This false theef, this Sompnour, quod the frere,
Had alway baudes redy to his hond,
As any hauke to lure in Englelond,
That told him all the secree that they knewe,
For hir acquaintance was not come of newe;
They weren his approvers prively.
He tooke himself a gret profit therby:
His maister knew not alway what he wan.
Withouten mandement, a lewed man
He coude sompne, up peine of Cristes curse,
And they were inly glad to fille his purse,
And maken him gret festes at the nale.
And right as Judas hadde purses smale
And was a theef, right swiche a theef was he,
His master hadde but half his duetee.
He was (if I shal yeven him his laud)
A theef, and eke a Sompnour, and a baud,
He had eke wenches at his retenue,
That whether that sire Robert or sire Hue,
Or Jakke, or Rauf, or who so that it were
That lay by hem, they told it in his ere.
Thus was the wenche and he of on assent.
And he wold fecche a feined mandement,
And sompne hem to the chapitre bothe two,
And pill the man, and let the wenche go.
Than wold he say; frend, I shal for thy sake
Do strike thee out of our lettres blake;
Thee thar no more as in this cas travaille;
I am thy frend ther I may thee availle.
Certain he knew of briboures many mo,
Than possible is to tell in yeres two:
For in this world n'is dogge for the bowe,
That can an hurt dere from an hole yknowe,
Bet than this Sompnour knew a slie lechour,
Or an avoutrer, or a paramour:
And for that was the fruit of all his rent,
Therfore on it he set all his entent.
And so befell, that ones on a day
This Sompnour, waiting ever on his pray,
Rode forth to sompne a widewe, an old ribibe,
Feining a cause, for he wold han a bribe.
And happed that he saw beforn him ride
A gay yeman under a forest side:
A bow he bare, and arwes bright and kene,
He had upon a courtepy of grene,
An hat upon his hed with frenges blake.
Sire, quod this Sompnour, haile and wel atake.
Welcome, quod he, and every good felaw; Whider ridest thou under this grene shaw? (Saide this yeman) wolt thou fer to-day? This Sompnour him answerd, and saide, nay. Here faste by (quod he) is min entent To riden, for to reisen up a rent, That longeth to my lordes duetee.
A, art thou than a baillif? Ye, quod he. (He dorste not for veray filth and shame Say that he was a Sompnour, for the name.) De par dieux, quod this yeman, leve brother, Thou art a baillif, and I am another.
I am unknowen, as in this contree,
Of thin acquaintance I wol prayen thee,
And eke of brotherhed, if that thee list.
I have gold and silver lying in my chist;
If that thee hap to come in to our shire,
Al shal be thin, right as thou wolt desire.
Grand mercy, quod this Sompnour, by my
Everich in others hond his trouthe laith,
For to be sworne brethren til they dey.
In daliaunce they riden forth and pley.
This Sompnour, which that was as ful of jangles,
As ful of venime ben thise wariangles,
And ever enquering upon every thing,
Brother, quod he, wher is now your dwelling,
Another day if that I shuld you seche?
This yeman him answerd in softe speche;
Brother, quod he, fer in the North contree,
Wheras I hope somtime I shal thee see.
Or we depart I shal thee so wel wisse,
That of min hous ne shalt thou never misse.
Now brother, quod this Sompnour, I you pray,
Teche me, while that we riden by the way,
(Sith that ye ben a baillif as am I)
Som subtiltee, and tell me faithfully
In min office how I may moste winne.
And spareth not for conscience or for sinne,
But, as my brother, tell me how do ye.
Now by my trouthe, brother min, said he,
As I shal tellen thee a faithful tale.
My wages ben ful streit and eke ful smale;
My lord is hard to me and dangerous,
And min office is ful laborious;
And therfore by extortion I leve,
Forsoth I take all that men wol me yeve.
Algates by sleighte or by violence
Fro yere to yere I win all my dispence;
I can no better tellen faithfully.
Now certes, (quod this Sompnour) so fare I;
I spare not to taken, God it wote,
But if it be to hevy or to hote.
may gete in conseil prively,
No maner conscience of that have I.
N'ere min extortion, I might not liven,
Ne of swiche japes wol I not be shriven.
Stomak ne conscience know I non;
I shrew thise shrifte-faders everich on.
Wel be we met by God and by Seint Jame.
But leve brother, tell me than thy name,
Quod this Sompnour. Right in this mene while
This yeman gan a litel for to smile.
Brother, quod he, wolt thou that I thee telle? I am a fend, my dwelling is in helle, And here I ride about my pourchasing, To wote wher men wol give me any thing. My pourchas is th'effect of all my rente. Loke how thou ridest for the same entente