FrT 1301 Whilom ther was dwellynge in my contree
FrT 1302 An erchedeken, a man of heigh degree,
FrT 1303 That boldely dide execucioun
FrT 1304 In punysshynge of fornicacioun,
FrT 1305 Of wicchecraft, and eek of bawderye,
FrT 1306 Of diffamacioun, and avowtrye,
FrT 1307 Of chirche reves, and of testamentz,
FrT 1308 Of contractes and of lakke of sacramentz,
FrT 1309 Of usure, and of symonye also.
FrT 1310 But certes, lecchours dide he grettest wo;
FrT 1311 They sholde syngen if that they were hent;
FrT 1312 And smale tytheres weren foule yshent,
FrT 1313 If any persoun wolde upon hem pleyne.
FrT 1314 Ther myghte asterte hym no pecunyal peyne.
FrT 1315 For smale tithes and for smal offrynge
FrT 1316 He made the peple pitously to synge,
FrT 1317 For er the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,
FrT 1318 They weren in the erchedeknes book.
FrT 1319 Thanne hadde he, thurgh his jurisdiccioun,
FrT 1320 Power to doon on hem correccioun.
FrT 1321 He hadde a somonour redy to his hond;
FrT 1322 A slyer boye nas noon in Engelond;
FrT 1323 For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
FrT 1324 That taughte hym wel wher that hym myghte availle.
FrT 1325 He koude spare of lecchours oon or two,
FrT 1326 To techen hym to foure and twenty mo.
FrT 1327 For thogh this Somonour wood were as an hare,
FrT 1328 To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;
FrT 1329 For we been out of his correccioun.
FrT 1330 They han of us no jurisdiccioun,
FrT 1331 Ne nevere shullen, terme of alle hir lyves.
FrT 1332 " Peter! so been wommen of the styves, "
FrT 1333 Quod the Somonour, " yput out of oure cure! "
FrT 1334 " Pees! with myschance and with mysaventure! "
FrT 1335 Thus seyde oure Hoost, " and lat hym telle his tale.
FrT 1336 Now telleth forth, thogh that the Somonour gale;
FrT 1337 Ne spareth nat, myn owene maister deere. "
FrT 1338 This false theef, this somonour, quod the Frere,
FrT 1339 Hadde alwey bawdes redy to his hond,
FrT 1340 As any hauk to lure in Engelond,
FrT 1341 That tolde hym al the secree that they knewe,
FrT 1342 For hire acqueyntance was nat come of newe.
FrT 1343 They weren his approwours prively.
FrT 1344 He took hymself a greet profit therby;
FrT 1345 His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.
FrT 1346 Withouten mandement a lewed man
FrT 1347 He koude somne, on peyne of Cristes curs,
FrT 1348 And they were glade for to fille his purs
FrT 1349 And make hym grete feestes atte nale.
FrT 1350 And right as Judas hadde purses smale,
FrT 1351 And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
FrT 1352 His maister hadde but half his duetee.
FrT 1353 He was, if I shal yeven hym his laude,
FrT 1354 A theef, and eek a somnour, and a baude.
FrT 1355 He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,
FrT 1356 That, wheither that sir Robert or sir Huwe,
FrT 1357 Or Jakke, or Rauf, or whoso that it were
FrT 1358 That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.
FrT 1359 Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent,
FrT 1360 And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,
FrT 1361 And somne hem to chapitre bothe two,
FrT 1362 And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
FrT 1363 Thanne wolde he seye, " Freend, I shal for thy sake
FrT 1364 Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake;
FrT 1365 Thee thar namoore as in this cas travaille.
FrT 1366 I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle. "
FrT 1367 Certeyn he knew of briberyes mo
FrT 1368 Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
FrT 1369 For in this world nys dogge for the bowe
FrT 1370 That kan an hurt deer from an hool yknowe
FrT 1371 Bet than this somnour knew a sly lecchour,
FrT 1372 Or an avowtier, or a paramour.
FrT 1373 And for that was the fruyt of al his rente,
FrT 1374 Therfore on it he sette al his entente.
FrT 1375 And so bifel that ones on a day
FrT 1376 This somnour, evere waityng on his pray,
FrT 1377 Rood for to somne an old wydwe, a ribibe,
FrT 1378 Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.
FrT 1379 And happed that he saugh bifore hym ryde
FrT 1380 A gay yeman, under a forest syde.
FrT 1381 A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
FrT 1382 He hadde upon a courtepy of grene,
FrT 1383 An hat upon his heed with frenges blake.
FrT 1384 " Sire, " quod this somnour, " hayl, and wel atake! "
FrT 1385 " Welcome, " quod he, " and every good felawe!
FrT 1386 Wher rydestow, under this grene-wode shawe? "
FrT 1387 Seyde this yeman, " Wiltow fer to day? "
FrT 1388 This somnour hym answerde and seyde, " Nay;
FrT 1389 Heere faste by, " quod he, " is myn entente
FrT 1390 To ryden, for to reysen up a rente
FrT 1391 That longeth to my lordes duetee. "
FrT 1392 " Artow thanne a bailly? " " Ye, " quod he.
FrT 1393 He dorste nat, for verray filthe and shame
FrT 1394 Seye that he was a somonour, for the name.
FrT 1395 " Depardieux, " quod this yeman, " deere broother,
FrT 1396 Thou art a bailly, and I am another.
FrT 1397 I am unknowen as in this contree;
FrT 1398 Of thyn aqueyntance I wolde praye thee,
FrT 1399 And eek of bretherhede, if that yow leste.
FrT 1400 I have gold and silver in my cheste;
FrT 1401 If that thee happe to comen in oure shire,
FrT 1402 Al shal be thyn, right as thou wolt desire. "
FrT 1403 " Grant mercy, " quod this somonour, " by my feith! "
FrT 1404 Everych in ootheres hand his trouthe leith,
FrT 1405 For to be sworne bretheren til they deye.
FrT 1406 In daliance they ryden forth and pleye.
FrT 1407 This somonour, which that was as ful of jangles
FrT 1408 As ful of venym been thise waryangles
FrT 1409 And evere enqueryng upon every thyng,
FrT 1410 " Brother, " quod he, " where is now youre dwellyng
FrT 1411 Another day if that I sholde yow seche? "
FrT 1412 This yeman hym answerde in softe speche,
FrT 1413 " Brother, " quod he, " fer in the north contree,
FrT 1414 Whereas I hope som tyme I shal thee see.
FrT 1415 Er we departe, I shal thee so wel wisse
FrT 1416 That of myn hous ne shaltow nevere mysse. "
FrT 1417 " Now, brother, " quod this somonour, " I yow preye,
FrT 1418 Teche me, whil that we ryden by the weye,
FrT 1419 Syn that ye been a baillif as am I,
FrT 1420 Som subtiltee, and tel me feithfully
FrT 1421 In myn office how that I may moost wynne;
FrT 1422 And spareth nat for conscience ne synne,
FrT 1423 But as my brother tel me, how do ye. "
FrT 1424 " Now, by my trouthe, brother deere, " seyde he,
FrT 1425 " As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale,
FrT 1426 My wages been ful streite and ful smale.
FrT 1427 My lord is hard to me and daungerous,
FrT 1428 And myn office is ful laborous,
FrT 1429 And therfore by extorcions I lyve.
FrT 1430 For sothe, I take al that men wol me yive.
FrT 1431 Algate, by sleyghte or by violence,
FrT 1432 Fro yeer to yeer I wynne al my dispence.
FrT 1433 I kan no bettre telle, feithfully. "
FrT 1434 " Now certes, " quod this Somonour, " so fare I.
FrT 1435 I spare nat to taken, God it woot,
FrT 1436 But if it be to hevy or to hoot.
FrT 1437 What I may gete in conseil prively,
FrT 1438 No maner conscience of that have I.
FrT 1439 Nere myn extorcioun, I myghte nat lyven,
FrT 1440 Ne of swiche japes wol I nat be shryven.
FrT 1441 Stomak ne conscience ne knowe I noon;
FrT 1442 I shrewe thise shrifte-fadres everychoon.
FrT 1443 Wel be we met, by God and by Seint Jame!
FrT 1444 But, leeve brother, tel me thanne thy name, "
FrT 1445 Quod this somonour. In this meene while
FrT 1446 This yeman gan a litel for to smyle.
FrT 1447 " Brother, " quod he, " wiltow that I thee telle?
FrT 1448 I am a feend; my dwellyng is in helle,
FrT 1449 And heere I ryde aboute my purchasyng,
FrT 1450 To wite wher men wol yeve me any thyng.
FrT 1451 My purchas is th' effect of al my rente.
FrT 1452 Looke how thou rydest for the same entente,
FrT 1453 To wynne good, thou rekkest nevere how;
FrT 1454 Right so fare I, for ryde wolde I now
FrT 1455 Unto the worldes ende for a preye. "
FrT 1456 " A! " quod this somonour, " benedicite! What sey ye?
FrT 1457 I wende ye were a yeman trewely.
FrT 1458 Ye han a mannes shap as wel as I;
FrT 1459 Han ye a figure thanne determinat
FrT 1460 In helle, ther ye been in youre estat? "
FrT 1461 " Nay, certeinly, " quod he, " ther have we noon;
FrT 1462 But whan us liketh we kan take us oon,
FrT 1463 Or elles make yow seme we been shape;
FrT 1464 Somtyme lyk a man, or lyk an ape,
FrT 1465 Or lyk an angel kan I ryde or go.
FrT 1466 It is no wonder thyng thogh it be so;
FrT 1467 A lowsy jogelour kan deceyve thee,
FrT 1468 And pardee, yet kan I moore craft than he. "
FrT 1469 " Why, " quod this somonour, " ryde ye thanne or goon
FrT 1470 In sondry shap, and nat alwey in oon? "
FrT 1471 " For we, " quod he, " wol us swiche formes make
FrT 1472 As moost able is oure preyes for to take. "
FrT 1473 " What maketh yow to han al this labour? "
FrT 1474 " Ful many a cause, leeve sire somonour, "
FrT 1475 Seyde this feend, " but alle thyng hath tyme.
FrT 1476 The day is short, and it is passed pryme,
FrT 1477 And yet ne wan I nothyng in this day.
FrT 1478 I wol entende to wynnyng, if I may,
FrT 1479 And nat entende oure wittes to declare.
FrT 1480 For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare
FrT 1481 To understonde, althogh I tolde hem thee.
FrT 1482 But, for thou axest why labouren we --
FrT 1483 For somtyme we been Goddes instrumentz
FrT 1484 And meenes to doon his comandementz,
FrT 1485 Whan that hym list, upon his creatures,
FrT 1486 In divers art and in diverse figures.
FrT 1487 Withouten hym we have no myght, certayn,
FrT 1488 If that hym list to stonden ther-agayn.
FrT 1489 And somtyme, at oure prayere, han we leve
FrT 1490 Oonly the body and nat the soule greve;
FrT 1491 Witnesse on Job, whom that we diden wo.
FrT 1492 And somtyme han we myght of bothe two --
FrT 1493 This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.
FrT 1494 And somtyme be we suffred for to seke
FrT 1495 Upon a man and doon his soule unreste
FrT 1496 And nat his body, and al is for the beste.
FrT 1497 Whan he withstandeth oure temptacioun,
FrT 1498 It is a cause of his savacioun,
FrT 1499 Al be it that it was nat oure entente
FrT 1500 He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde hym hente.
FrT 1501 And somtyme be we servant unto man,
FrT 1502 As to the erchebisshop Seint Dunstan,
FrT 1503 And to the apostles servant eek was I. "
FrT 1504 " Yet tel me, " quod the somonour, " feithfully,
FrT 1505 Make ye yow newe bodies thus alway
FrT 1506 Of elementz? " The feend answerde, " Nay.
FrT 1507 Somtyme we feyne, and somtyme we aryse
FrT 1508 With dede bodyes, in ful sondry wyse,
FrT 1509 And speke as renably and faire and wel
FrT 1510 As to the Phitonissa dide Samuel.
FrT 1511 (And yet wol som men seye it was nat he;
FrT 1512 I do no fors of youre dyvynytee.)
FrT 1513 But o thyng warne I thee, I wol nat jape:
FrT 1514 Thou wolt algates wite how we been shape;
FrT 1515 Thou shalt herafterward, my brother deere,
FrT 1516 Come there thee nedeth nat of me to leere,
FrT 1517 For thou shalt, by thyn owene experience,
FrT 1518 Konne in a chayer rede of this sentence
FrT 1519 Bet than Virgile, while he was on lyve,
FrT 1520 Or Dant also. Now lat us ryde blyve,
FrT 1521 For I wole holde compaignye with thee
FrT 1522 Til it be so that thou forsake me. "
FrT 1523 " Nay, " quod this somonour, " that shal nat bityde!
FrT 1524 I am a yeman, knowen is ful wyde;
FrT 1525 My trouthe wol I holde, as in this cas.
FrT 1526 For though thou were the devel Sathanas,
FrT 1527 My trouthe wol I holde to my brother,
FrT 1528 As I am sworn, and ech of us til oother,
FrT 1529 For to be trewe brother in this cas;
FrT 1530 And bothe we goon abouten oure purchas.
FrT 1531 Taak thou thy part, what that men wol thee yive,
FrT 1532 And I shal myn; thus may we bothe lyve.
FrT 1533 And if that any of us have moore than oother,
FrT 1534 Lat hym be trewe and parte it with his brother. "
FrT 1535 " I graunte, " quod the devel, " by my fey. "
FrT 1536 And with that word they ryden forth hir wey.
FrT 1537 And right at the entryng of the townes ende,
FrT 1538 To which this somonour shoop hym for to wende,
FrT 1539 They saugh a cart that charged was with hey,
FrT 1540 Which that a cartere droof forth in his wey.
FrT 1541 Deep was the wey, for which the carte stood.
FrT 1542 The cartere smoot and cryde as he were wood,
FrT 1543 " Hayt, Brok! Hayt, Scot! What spare ye for the stones?
FrT 1544 The feend, " quod he, " yow fecche, body and bones,
FrT 1545 As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,
FrT 1546 So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!
FrT 1547 The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey! "
FrT 1548 This somonour seyde, " Heere shal we have a pley. "
FrT 1549 And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,
FrT 1550 Ful prively, and rowned in his ere:
FrT 1551 " Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith!
FrT 1552 Herestow nat how that the cartere seith?
FrT 1553 Hent it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,
FrT 1554 Bothe hey and cart, and eek his caples thre. "
FrT 1555 " Nay, " quod the devel, " God woot, never a deel!
FrT 1556 It is nat his entente, trust me weel.
FrT 1557 Axe hym thyself, if thou nat trowest me;
FrT 1558 Or elles stynt a while, and thou shalt see. "
FrT 1559 This cartere thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
FrT 1560 And they bigonne to drawen and to stoupe.
FrT 1561 " Heyt! Now, " quod he, " ther Jhesu Crist yow blesse,
FrT 1562 And al his handwerk, bothe moore and lesse!
FrT 1563 That was wel twight, myn owene lyard boy.
FrT 1564 I pray God save thee, and Seinte Loy!
FrT 1565 Now is my cart out of the slow, pardee! "
FrT 1566 " Lo, brother, " quod the feend, " what tolde I thee?
FrT 1567 Heere may ye se, myn owene deere brother,
FrT 1568 The carl spak oo thing, but he thoghte another.
FrT 1569 Lat us go forth abouten oure viage;
FrT 1570 Heere wynne I nothyng upon cariage. "
FrT 1571 Whan that they coomen somwhat out of towne,
FrT 1572 This somonour to his brother gan to rowne:
FrT 1573 " Brother, " quod he, " heere woneth an old rebekke
FrT 1574 That hadde almoost as lief to lese hire nekke
FrT 1575 As for to yeve a peny of hir good.
FrT 1576 I wole han twelf pens, though that she be wood,
FrT 1577 Or I wol sompne hire unto oure office;
FrT 1578 And yet, God woot, of hire knowe I no vice.
FrT 1579 But for thou kanst nat, as in this contree,
FrT 1580 Wynne thy cost, taak heer ensample of me. "
FrT 1581 This somonour clappeth at the wydwes gate.
FrT 1582 " Com out, " quod he, " thou olde virytrate!
FrT 1583 I trowe thou hast som frere or preest with thee. "
FrT 1584 " Who clappeth? " seyde this wyf, " benedicitee!
FrT 1585 God save you, sire, what is youre sweete wille? "
FrT 1586 " I have, " quod he, " of somonce here a bille;
FrT 1587 Up peyne of cursyng, looke that thou be
FrT 1588 Tomorn bifore the erchedeknes knee
FrT 1589 T' answere to the court of certeyn thynges. "
FrT 1590 " Now, Lord, " quod she, " Crist Jhesu, kyng of kynges,
FrT 1591 So wisly helpe me, as I ne may.
FrT 1592 I have been syk, and that ful many a day.
FrT 1593 I may nat go so fer, " quod she, " ne ryde,
FrT 1594 But I be deed, so priketh it in my syde.
FrT 1595 May I nat axe a libel, sire somonour,
FrT 1596 And answere there by my procuratour
FrT 1597 To swich thyng as men wole opposen me? "
FrT 1598 " Yis, " quod this somonour, " pay anon -- lat se --
FrT 1599 Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquite.
FrT 1600 I shal no profit han therby but lite;
FrT 1601 My maister hath the profit and nat I.
FrT 1602 Com of, and lat me ryden hastily;
FrT 1603 Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarye. "
FrT 1604 " Twelf pens! " quod she, " Now, lady Seinte Marie
FrT 1605 So wisly help me out of care and synne,
FrT 1606 This wyde world thogh that I sholde wynne,
FrT 1607 Ne have I nat twelf pens withinne myn hoold.
FrT 1608 Ye knowen wel that I am povre and oold;
FrT 1609 Kithe youre almesse on me, povre wrecche. "
FrT 1610 " Nay thanne, " quod he, " the foule feend me fecche
FrT 1611 If I th' excuse, though thou shul be spilt! "
FrT 1612 " Allas! " quod she, " God woot, I have no gilt. "
FrT 1613 " Pay me, " quod he, " or by the sweete Seinte Anne,
FrT 1614 As I wol bere awey thy newe panne
FrT 1615 For dette which thou owest me of old.
FrT 1616 Whan that thou madest thyn housbonde cokewold,
FrT 1617 I payde at hoom for thy correccioun. "
FrT 1618 " Thou lixt! " quod she, " by my savacioun,
FrT 1619 Ne was I nevere er now, wydwe ne wyf,
FrT 1620 Somoned unto youre court in al my lyf;
FrT 1621 Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe!
FrT 1622 Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe
FrT 1623 Yeve I thy body and my panne also! "
FrT 1624 And whan the devel herde hire cursen so
FrT 1625 Upon hir knees, he seyde in this manere,
FrT 1626 " Now, Mabely, myn owene mooder deere,
FrT 1627 Is this youre wyl in ernest that ye seye? "
FrT 1628 " The devel, " quod she, " so fecche hym er he deye,
FrT 1629 And panne and al, but he wol hym repente! "
FrT 1630 " Nay, olde stot, that is nat myn entente, "
FrT 1631 Quod this somonour, " for to repente me
FrT 1632 For any thyng that I have had of thee.
FrT 1633 I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth! "
FrT 1634 " Now, brother, " quod the devel, " be nat wrooth;
FrT 1635 Thy body and this panne been myne by right.
FrT 1636 Thou shalt with me to helle yet tonyght,
FrT 1637 Where thou shalt knowen of oure privetee
FrT 1638 Moore than a maister of dyvynytee. "
FrT 1639 And with that word this foule feend hym hente;
FrT 1640 Body and soule he with the devel wente
FrT 1641 Where as that somonours han hir heritage.
FrT 1642 And God, that maked after his ymage
FrT 1643 Mankynde, save and gyde us, alle and some,
FrT 1644 And leve thise somonours goode men bicome!
FrT 1645 Lordynges, I koude han toold yow, quod this Frere,
FrT 1646 Hadde I had leyser for this Somnour heere,
FrT 1647 After the text of Crist, Poul, and John,
FrT 1648 And of oure othere doctours many oon,
FrT 1649 Swiche peynes that youre hertes myghte agryse,
FrT 1650 Al be it so no tonge may it devyse,
FrT 1651 Thogh that I myghte a thousand wynter telle
FrT 1652 The peynes of thilke cursed hous of helle.
FrT 1653 But for to kepe us fro that cursed place,
FrT 1654 Waketh and preyeth Jhesu for his grace
FrT 1655 So kepe us fro the temptour Sathanas.
FrT 1656 Herketh this word! Beth war, as in this cas:
FrT 1657 " The leoun sit in his awayt alway
FrT 1658 To sle the innocent, if that he may. "
FrT 1659 Disposeth ay youre hertes to withstonde
FrT 1660 The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.
FrT 1661 He may nat tempte yow over youre myght,
FrT 1662 For Crist wol be youre champion and knyght.
FrT 1663 And prayeth that thise somonours hem repente
FrT 1664 Of hir mysdedes, er that the feend hem hente!