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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
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, [faith. 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
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
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. What I 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
To winnen good, thou rekkest never how,
Right so fare I, for riden wol I now
Unto the worldes ende for a praye.
A, quod this Sompnour, benedicite,what say ye?
I wend ye were a yeman trewely.
Ye have a mannes shape as wel as I.
ye than a figure determinat In helle, ther
ye ben in your estat ? Nay certainly, quod he, ther have we non, But whan us liketh we can take us on, Or elles make you wene that we ben shape Somtime like a man, or like an ape; Or like an angel can I ride or go; It is no wonder thing though it be so, A lousy jogelour can deceiven thee, And parde yet can I more craft than he.
Why, quod the Sompnour, ride ye than or gon In sondry shape, and not alway in on?
For we, quod he, wol us swiche forme make, As most is able our preye for to take.
What maketh you to han al this labour?
many a cause, leve sire Sompnour,
Saide this fend. But alle thing hath time;
The day is short, and it is passed prime,
And yet ne wan I nothing in this day;
I wol entend to winning, if I may,
And not entend our thinges to declare:
For, brother min, thy wit is al to bare
To understand, although I told hem thee.
But for thou axest, why labouren we:
For somtime we be Goddes instruments,
And menes to don bis commandements,
Whan that him list, upon his creatures,
In divers actes and in divers figures;
Withouten him we have no might certain,
If that him list to stonden theragain.
And somtime at our praiere han we leve,
Only the body, and not the soule to greve:
Witnesse on Job, whom that we diden wo,
And somtime han we might on bothe two,
This is to sain, on soule and body eke.
And somtime be we suffered for to seke
Upon a man, and don his soule unreste
And not his body, and all is for the beste.
Whan he withstandeth our temptation,
It is a cause of his salvation,
Al be it that it was not our entente
He shuld be sauf, but that we wold him hente,
And somtime be we servants unto man,
As to the archebishop Seint Dunstan,
And to the apostle servant eke was I.
Yet tell me, quod this Sompnour, faithfully,
Make ye you newe bodies thus alway
Of elements? The fend answered, nay:
Somtime we feine, and somtime we arise
With dede bodies, in ful sondry wise,
And speke as renably, and faire, and wel,
As to the Phitonesse did Samuel:
And yet wol som men say it was not he.
I do no force of
But o thing warne I thee, I wol not jape,
Thou wolt algates wete how we be shape:
Thou shalt hereafterward, my brother dere,
Come, wher thee nedeth not of me to lere,
For thou shalt by thin owen experience
Conne in a chaiere rede of this sentence,
Bet than Virgile, while he was on live,
Or Dant also. Now let us riden blive,