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The Pardoner's Tale

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The wordes of the Host to the Phisicien and the Pardoner.

Our Hoste gan to swere as he were wood,
'Harrow!' quod he, 'by nayles and by blood!
This was a fals cherl and a fals Iustyse!
As shamful deeth as herte may devyse        290
Come to thise Iuges and hir advocats!
Algate this sely mayde is slayn, allas!
Allas! to dere boghte she beautee!
Wherfore I seye al day, as men may see,
That yiftes of fortune or of nature        295
Ben cause of deeth to many a creature.        (10)
Hir beautee was hir deeth, I dar wel sayn;
Allas! so pitously as she was slayn!
Of bothe yiftes that I speke of now
Men han ful ofte more harm than prow.        300
But trewely, myn owene mayster dere,
This is a pitous tale for to here.
But natheles, passe over, is no fors;
I prey to god, so save thy gentil cors,
And eek thyne urinals and thy Iordanes,        305
Thyn Ypocras, and eek thy Galianes,        (20)
And every boist ful of thy letuarie;
God blesse hem, and our lady seinte Marie!
So mot I theen, thou art a propre man,
And lyk a prelat, by seint Ronyan!        310
Seyde I nat wel? I can nat speke in terme;
But wel I woot, thou doost my herte to erme,
That I almost have caught a cardiacle.
By corpus bones! but I have triacle,
Or elles a draught of moyste and corny ale,        315
Or but I here anon a mery tale,        (30)
Myn herte is lost for pitee of this mayde.
Thou bel amy, thou Pardoner,' he seyde,
'Tel us som mirthe or Iapes right anon.'
'It shall be doon,' quod he, 'by seint Ronyon!        320
But first,' quod he, 'heer at this ale-stake
I wol both drinke, and eten of a cake.'

  But right anon thise gentils gonne to crye,
'Nay! lat him telle us of no ribaudye;
Tel us som moral thing, that we may lere        325
Som wit, and thanne wol we gladly here.'        (40)
'I graunte, y-wis,' quod he, 'but I mot thinke
Up-on som honest thing, whyl that I drinke.

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,        330
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,        335
And than my bulles shewe I, alle and somme.
Our lige lordes seel on my patente,
That shewe I first, my body to warente,        (10)
That no man be so bold, ne preest ne clerk,
Me to destourbe of Cristes holy werk;        340
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,        345
And for to stire men to devocioun.
Than shewe I forth my longe cristal stones,
Y-crammed ful of cloutes and of bones;        (20)
Reliks been they, as wenen they echoon.
Than have I in latoun a sholder-boon        350
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,        355
Tak water of that welle, and wash his tonge,
And it is hool anon; and forthermore,
Of pokkes and of scabbe, and every sore        (30)
Shal every sheep be hool, that of this welle
Drinketh a draughte; tak kepe eek what I telle.        360
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.        365
And, sirs, also it heleth Ialousye;
For, though a man be falle in Ialous rage,
Let maken with this water his potage,        (40)
And never shal he more his wyf mistriste,
Though he the sooth of hir defaute wiste;        370
Al had she taken preestes two or three.

  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,        375
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,        (50)
That hath doon sinne horrible, that he
Dar nat, for shame, of it y-shriven be,        380
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,        385
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."        (60)

  By this gaude have I wonne, yeer by yeer,
An hundred mark sith I was Pardoner.        390
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,        395
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,        (70)
That it is Ioye to see my bisinesse.
Of avaryce and of swich cursednesse        400
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,        405
Though that her soules goon a-blakeberied!
For certes, many a predicacioun
Comth ofte tyme of yvel entencioun;        (80)
Som for plesaunce of folk and flaterye,
To been avaunced by ipocrisye,        410
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        415
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        (90)
By signes and by othere circumstances.
Thus quyte I folk that doon us displesances;        420
Thus spitte I out my venim under hewe
Of holynesse, to seme holy and trewe.

  But shortly myn entente I wol devyse;
I preche of no-thing but for coveityse.
Therfor my theme is yet, and ever was—        425
"Radix malorum est cupiditas."
Thus can I preche agayn that same vyce
Which that I use, and that is avaryce.        (100)
But, though my-self be gilty in that sinne,
Yet can I maken other folk to twinne        430
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.

  Than telle I hem ensamples many oon        435
Of olde stories, longe tyme agoon:
For lewed peple loven tales olde;
Swich thinges can they wel reporte and holde.        (110)
What? trowe ye, the whyles I may preche,
And winne gold and silver for I teche,        440
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,        445
Because I wol nat beggen ydelly.
I wol non of the apostles counterfete;
I wol have money, wolle, chese, and whete,        (120)
Al were it yeven of the povrest page,
Or of the povrest widwe in a village,        450
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.        455
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.        (130)
For, though myself be a ful vicious man,
A moral tale yet I yow telle can,        460
Which I am wont to preche, for to winne.
Now holde your pees, my tale I wol beginne.

Here biginneth the Pardoners Tale.

In Flaundres whylom was a companye
Of yonge folk, that haunteden folye,
As ryot, hasard, stewes, and tavernes,        465
Wher-as, with harpes, lutes, and giternes,
They daunce and pleye at dees bothe day and night,
And ete also and drinken over hir might,        (140)
Thurgh which they doon the devel sacrifyse
With-in that develes temple, in cursed wyse,        470
By superfluitee abhominable;
Hir othes been so grete and so dampnable,
That it is grisly for to here hem swere;
Our blissed lordes body they to-tere;
Hem thoughte Iewes rente him noght y-nough;        475
And ech of hem at otheres sinne lough.
And right anon than comen tombesteres
Fetys and smale, and yonge fruytesteres,        (150)
Singers with harpes, baudes, wafereres,
Whiche been the verray develes officeres        480
To kindle and blowe the fyr of lecherye,
That is annexed un-to glotonye;
The holy writ take I to my witnesse,
That luxurie is in wyn and dronkenesse.

  Lo, how that dronken Loth, unkindely,        485
Lay by his doghtres two, unwitingly;
So dronke he was, he niste what he wroghte.

  Herodes, (who-so wel the stories soghte),        (160)
Whan he of wyn was replet at his feste,
Right at his owene table he yaf his heste        490
To sleen the Baptist Iohn ful giltelees.

  Senek seith eek a good word doutelees;
He seith, he can no difference finde
Bitwix a man that is out of his minde
And a man which that is dronkelewe,        495
But that woodnesse, y-fallen in a shrewe,
Persevereth lenger than doth dronkenesse.
O glotonye, ful of cursednesse,        (170)
O cause first of our confusioun,
O original of our dampnacioun,        500
Til Crist had boght us with his blood agayn!
Lo, how dere, shortly for to sayn,
Aboght was thilke cursed vileinye;
Corrupt was al this world for glotonye!

  Adam our fader, and his wyf also,        505
Fro Paradys to labour and to wo
Were driven for that vyce, it is no drede;
For whyl that Adam fasted, as I rede,        (180)
He was in Paradys; and whan that he
Eet of the fruyt defended on the tree,        510
Anon he was out-cast to wo and peyne.
O glotonye, on thee wel oghte us pleyne!
O, wiste a man how many maladyes
Folwen of excesse and of glotonyes,
He wolde been the more mesurable        515
Of his diete, sittinge at his table.
Allas! the shorte throte, the tendre mouth,
Maketh that, Est and West, and North and South,        (190)
In erthe, in eir, in water men to-swinke
To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drinke!        520
Of this matere, o Paul, wel canstow trete,
'Mete un-to wombe, and wombe eek un-to mete,
Shal god destroyen bothe,' as Paulus seith.
Allas! a foul thing is it, by my feith,
To seye this word, and fouler is the dede,        525
Whan man so drinketh of the whyte and rede,
That of his throte he maketh his privee,
Thurgh thilke cursed superfluitee.        (200)

  The apostel weping seith ful pitously,
'Ther walken many of whiche yow told have I,        530
I seye it now weping with pitous voys,
That they been enemys of Cristes croys,
Of whiche the ende is deeth, wombe is her god.'
O wombe! O bely! O stinking cod,
Fulfild of donge and of corrupcioun!        535
At either ende of thee foul is the soun.
How greet labour and cost is thee to finde!
Thise cokes, how they stampe, and streyne, and grinde,        (210)
And turnen substaunce in-to accident,
To fulfille al thy likerous talent!        540
Out of the harde bones knokke they
The mary, for they caste noght a-wey
That may go thurgh the golet softe and swote;
Of spicerye, of leef, and bark, and rote
Shal been his sauce y-maked by delyt,        545
To make him yet a newer appetyt.
But certes, he that haunteth swich delyces
Is deed, whyl that he liveth in tho vyces.        (220)

  A lecherous thing is wyn, and dronkenesse
Is ful of stryving and of wrecchednesse.        550
O dronke man, disfigured is thy face,
Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace,
And thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun
As though thou seydest ay 'Sampsoun, Sampsoun';
And yet, god wot, Sampsoun drank never no wyn.        555
Thou fallest, as it were a stiked swyn;
Thy tonge is lost, and al thyn honest cure;
For dronkenesse is verray sepulture        (230)
Of mannes wit and his discrecioun.
In whom that drinke hath dominacioun,        560
He can no conseil kepe, it is no drede.
Now kepe yow fro the whyte and fro the rede,
And namely fro the whyte wyn of Lepe,
That is to selle in Fish-strete or in Chepe.
This wyn of Spayne crepeth subtilly        565
In othere wynes, growing faste by,
Of which ther ryseth swich fumositee,
That whan a man hath dronken draughtes three,        (240)
And weneth that he be at hoom in Chepe,
He is in Spayne, right at the toune of Lepe,        570
Nat at the Rochel, ne at Burdeux toun;
And thanne wol he seye, 'Sampsoun, Sampsoun.'

  But herkneth, lordings, o word, I yow preye,
That alle the sovereyn actes, dar I seye,
Of victories in the olde testament,        575
Thurgh verray god, that is omnipotent,
Were doon in abstinence and in preyere;
Loketh the Bible, and ther ye may it lere.        (250)

  Loke, Attila, the grete conquerour,
Deyde in his sleep, with shame and dishonour,        580
Bledinge ay at his nose in dronkenesse;
A capitayn shoulde live in sobrenesse.
And over al this, avyseth yow right wel
What was comaunded un-to Lamuel—
Nat Samuel, but Lamuel, seye I—-        585
Redeth the Bible, and finde it expresly
Of wyn-yeving to hem that han Iustyse.
Na-more of this, for it may wel suffyse.        (260)

  And now that I have spoke of glotonye,
Now wol I yow defenden hasardrye.        590
Hasard is verray moder of lesinges,
And of deceite, and cursed forsweringes,
Blaspheme of Crist, manslaughtre, and wast also
Of catel and of tyme; and forthermo,
It is repreve and contrarie of honour        595
For to ben holde a commune hasardour.
And ever the hyër he is of estaat,
The more is he holden desolaat.        (270)
If that a prince useth hasardrye,
In alle governaunce and policye        600
He is, as by commune opinioun,
Y-holde the lasse in reputacioun.

  Stilbon, that was a wys embassadour,
Was sent to Corinthe, in ful greet honour,
Fro Lacidomie, to make hir alliaunce.        605
And whan he cam, him happede, par chaunce,
That alle the grettest that were of that lond,
Pleyinge atte hasard he hem fond.        (280)
For which, as sone as it mighte be,
He stal him hoom agayn to his contree,        610
And seyde, 'ther wol I nat lese my name;
Ne I wol nat take on me so greet defame,
Yow for to allye un-to none hasardours.
Sendeth othere wyse embassadours;
For, by my trouthe, me were lever dye,        615
Than I yow sholde to hasardours allye.
For ye that been so glorious in honours
Shul nat allyen yow with hasardours        (290)
As by my wil, ne as by my tretee.'
This wyse philosophre thus seyde he.        620

  Loke eek that, to the king Demetrius
The king of Parthes, as the book seith us,
Sente him a paire of dees of gold in scorn,
For he hadde used hasard ther-biforn;
For which he heeld his glorie or his renoun        625
At no value or reputacioun.
Lordes may finden other maner pley
Honeste y-nough to dryve the day awey.        (300)

  Now wol I speke of othes false and grete
A word or two, as olde bokes trete.        630
Gret swering is a thing abhominable,
And false swering is yet more reprevable.
The heighe god forbad swering at al,
Witnesse on Mathew; but in special
Of swering seith the holy Ieremye,        635
'Thou shalt seye sooth thyn othes, and nat lye,
And swere in dome, and eek in rightwisnesse;'
But ydel swering is a cursednesse.        (310)
Bihold and see, that in the firste table
Of heighe goddes hestes honurable,        640
How that the seconde heste of him is this—
'Tak nat my name in ydel or amis.'
Lo, rather he forbedeth swich swering
Than homicyde or many a cursed thing;
I seye that, as by ordre, thus it stondeth;        645
This knowen, that his hestes understondeth,
How that the second heste of god is that.
And forther over, I wol thee telle al plat,        (320)
That vengeance shal nat parten from his hous,
That of his othes is to outrageous.        650
'By goddes precious herte, and by his nayles,
And by the blode of Crist, that it is in Hayles,
Seven is my chaunce, and thyn is cink and treye;
By goddes armes, if thou falsly pleye,
This dagger shal thurgh-out thyn herte go'—        655
This fruyt cometh of the bicched bones two,
Forswering, ire, falsnesse, homicyde.
Now, for the love of Crist that for us dyde,        (330)
Leveth your othes, bothe grete and smale;
But, sirs, now wol I telle forth my tale.        660

  Thise ryotoures three, of whiche I telle,
Longe erst er pryme rong of any belle,
Were set hem in a taverne for to drinke;
And as they satte, they herde a belle clinke
Biforn a cors, was caried to his grave;        665
That oon of hem gan callen to his knave,
'Go bet,' quod he, 'and axe redily,
What cors is this that passeth heer forby;        (340)
And look that thou reporte his name wel.'

  'Sir,' quod this boy, 'it nedeth never-a-del.        670
It was me told, er ye cam heer, two houres;
He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres;
And sodeynly he was y-slayn to-night,
For-dronke, as he sat on his bench upright;
Ther cam a privee theef, men clepeth Deeth,        675
That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
And with his spere he smoot his herte a-two,
And wente his wey with-outen wordes mo.        (350)
He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence:
And, maister, er ye come in his presence,        680
Me thinketh that it were necessarie
For to be war of swich an adversarie:
Beth redy for to mete him evermore.
Thus taughte me my dame, I sey na-more.'
'By seinte Marie,' seyde this taverner,        685
'The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer,
Henne over a myle, with-in a greet village,
Both man and womman, child and hyne, and page.        (360)
I trowe his habitacioun be there;
To been avysed greet wisdom it were,        690
Er that he dide a man a dishonour.'
'Ye, goddes armes,' quod this ryotour,
'Is it swich peril with him for to mete?
I shal him seke by wey and eek by strete,
I make avow to goddes digne bones!        695
Herkneth, felawes, we three been al ones;
Lat ech of us holde up his hond til other,        (370)
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother,
And we wol sleen this false traytour Deeth;
He shal be slayn, which that so many sleeth,        700
By goddes dignitee, er it be night.'

  Togidres han thise three her trouthes plight,
To live and dyen ech of hem for other,
As though he were his owene y-boren brother.
And up they sterte al dronken, in this rage,        705
And forth they goon towardes that village,
Of which the taverner had spoke biforn,
And many a grisly ooth than han they sworn,        (380)
And Cristes blessed body they to-rente—
'Deeth shal be deed, if that they may him hente.'        710

  Whan they han goon nat fully half a myle,
Right as they wolde han troden over a style,
An old man and a povre with hem mette.
This olde man ful mekely hem grette,
And seyde thus, 'now, lordes, god yow see!'        715

  The proudest of thise ryotoures three
Answerde agayn, 'what? carl, with sory grace,
Why artow al forwrapped save thy face?        (390)
Why livestow so longe in so greet age?'

  This olde man gan loke in his visage,        720
And seyde thus, 'for I ne can nat finde
A man, though that I walked in-to Inde,
Neither in citee nor in no village,
That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
And therfore moot I han myn age stille,        725
As longe time as it is goddes wille.

  Ne deeth, allas! ne wol nat han my lyf;
Thus walke I, lyk a restelees caityf,        (400)
And on the ground, which is my modres gate,
I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late,        730
And seye, "leve moder, leet me in!
Lo, how I vanish, flesh, and blood, and skin!
Allas! whan shul my bones been at reste?
Moder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste,
That in my chambre longe tyme hath be,        735
Ye! for an heyre clout to wrappe me!"
But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked is my face.        (410)

  But, sirs, to yow it is no curteisye
To speken to an old man vileinye,        740
But he trespasse in worde, or elles in dede.
In holy writ ye may your-self wel rede,
"Agayns an old man, hoor upon his heed,
Ye sholde aryse;" wherfor I yeve yow reed,
Ne dooth un-to an old man noon harm now,        745
Na-more than ye wolde men dide to yow
In age, if that ye so longe abyde;
And god be with yow, wher ye go or ryde.        (420)
I moot go thider as I have to go.'

  'Nay, olde cherl, by god, thou shall nat so,'        750
Seyde this other hasardour anon;
'Thou partest nat so lightly, by seint Iohn!
Thou spak right now of thilke traitour Deeth,
That in this contree alle our frendes sleeth.
Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his aspye,        755
Tel wher he is, or thou shalt it abye,
By god, and by the holy sacrament!
For soothly thou art oon of his assent,        (430)
To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!'

  'Now, sirs,' quod he, 'if that yow be so leef        760
To finde Deeth, turne up this croked wey,
For in that grove I lafte him, by my fey,
Under a tree, and ther he wol abyde;
Nat for your boost he wol him no-thing hyde.
See ye that ook? right ther ye shul him finde.        765
God save yow, that boghte agayn mankinde,
And yow amende!'—thus seyde this olde man.
And everich of thise ryotoures ran,        (440)
Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde
Of florins fyne of golde y-coyned rounde        770
Wel ny an eighte busshels, as hem thoughte.
No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte,
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
For that the florins been so faire and brighte,
That doun they sette hem by this precious hord.        775
The worste of hem he spake the firste word.

  'Brethren,' quod he, 'tak kepe what I seye;
My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye.        (450)
This tresor hath fortune un-to us yiven,
In mirthe and Iolitee our lyf to liven,        780
And lightly as it comth, so wol we spende.
Ey! goddes precious dignitee! who wende
To-day, that we sholde han so fair a grace?
But mighte this gold be caried fro this place
Hoom to myn hous, or elles un-to youres—        785
For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures—
Than were we in heigh felicitee.
But trewely, by daye it may nat be;        (460)
Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge,
And for our owene tresor doon us honge.        790
This tresor moste y-caried be by nighte
As wysly and as slyly as it mighte.
Wherfore I rede that cut among us alle
Be drawe, and lat se wher the cut wol falle;
And he that hath the cut with herte blythe        795
Shal renne to the toune, and that ful swythe,
And bringe us breed and wyn ful prively.
And two of us shul kepen subtilly        (470)
This tresor wel; and, if he wol nat tarie,
Whan it is night, we wol this tresor carie        800
By oon assent, wher-as us thinketh best.'
That oon of hem the cut broughte in his fest,
And bad hem drawe, and loke wher it wol falle;
And it fil on the yongeste of hem alle;
And forth toward the toun he wente anon.        805
And al-so sone as that he was gon,
That oon of hem spak thus un-to that other,
'Thou knowest wel thou art my sworne brother,        (480)
Thy profit wol I telle thee anon.
Thou woost wel that our felawe is agon;        810
And heer is gold, and that ful greet plentee,
That shal departed been among us three.
But natheles, if I can shape it so
That it departed were among us two,
Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?'        815

  That other answerde, 'I noot how that may be;
He woot how that the gold is with us tweye,
What shal we doon, what shal we to him seye?'        (490)

  'Shal it be conseil?' seyde the firste shrewe,
'And I shal tellen thee, in wordes fewe,        820
What we shal doon, and bringe it wel aboute.'

  'I graunte,' quod that other, 'out of doute,
That, by my trouthe, I wol thee nat biwreye.'

  'Now,' quod the firste, 'thou woost wel we be tweye,
And two of us shul strenger be than oon.        825
Look whan that he is set, and right anoon
Arys, as though thou woldest with him pleye;
And I shal ryve him thurgh the sydes tweye        (500)
Whyl that thou strogelest with him as in game,
And with thy dagger look thou do the same;        830
And than shal al this gold departed be,
My dere freend, bitwixen me and thee;
Than may we bothe our lustes al fulfille,
And pleye at dees right at our owene wille.'
And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye        835
To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.

  This yongest, which that wente un-to the toun,
Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun        (510)
The beautee of thise florins newe and brighte.
'O lord!' quod he, 'if so were that I mighte        840
Have al this tresor to my-self allone,
Ther is no man that liveth under the trone
Of god, that sholde live so mery as I!'
And atte laste the feend, our enemy,
Putte in his thought that he shold poyson beye,        845
With which he mighte sleen his felawes tweye;
For-why the feend fond him in swich lyvinge,
That he had leve him to sorwe bringe,        (520)
For this was outrely his fulle entente
To sleen hem bothe, and never to repente.        850
And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
Into the toun, un-to a pothecarie,
And preyed him, that he him wolde selle
Som poyson, that he mighte his rattes quelle;
And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe,        855
That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde y-slawe,
And fayn he wolde wreke him, if he mighte,
On vermin, that destroyed him by nighte.        (530)

  The pothecarie answerde, 'and thou shalt have
A thing that, al-so god my soule save,        860
In al this world ther nis no creature,
That ete or dronke hath of this confiture
Noght but the mountance of a corn of whete,
That he ne shal his lyf anon forlete;
Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse whyle        865
Than thou wolt goon a paas nat but a myle;
This poyson is so strong and violent.'

  This cursed man hath in his hond y-hent        (540)
This poyson in a box, and sith he ran
In-to the nexte strete, un-to a man,        870
And borwed [of] him large botels three;
And in the two his poyson poured he;
The thridde he kepte clene for his drinke.
For al the night he shoop him for to swinke
In caryinge of the gold out of that place.        875
And whan this ryotour, with sory grace,
Had filled with wyn his grete botels three,
To his felawes agayn repaireth he.        (550)

  What nedeth it to sermone of it more?
For right as they had cast his deeth bifore,        880
Right so they han him slayn, and that anon.
And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon,
'Now lat us sitte and drinke, and make us merie,
And afterward we wol his body berie.'
And with that word it happed him, par cas,        885
To take the botel ther the poyson was,
And drank, and yaf his felawe drinke also,
For which anon they storven bothe two.        (560)

  But, certes, I suppose that Avicen
Wroot never in no canon, ne in no fen,        890
Mo wonder signes of empoisoning
Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir ending.
Thus ended been thise homicydes two,
And eek the false empoysoner also.

  O cursed sinne, ful of cursednesse!        895
O traytours homicyde, o wikkednesse!
O glotonye, luxurie, and hasardrye!
Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileinye        (570)
And othes grete, of usage and of pryde!
Allas! mankinde, how may it bityde,        900
That to thy creatour which that thee wroghte,
And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte,
Thou art so fals and so unkinde, allas!

  Now, goode men, god forgeve yow your trespas,
And ware yow fro the sinne of avaryce.        905
Myn holy pardoun may yow alle waryce,
So that ye offre nobles or sterlinges,
Or elles silver broches, spones, ringes.        (580)
Boweth your heed under this holy bulle!
Cometh up, ye wyves, offreth of your wolle!        910
Your name I entre heer in my rolle anon;
In-to the blisse of hevene shul ye gon;
I yow assoile, by myn heigh power,
Yow that wol offre, as clene and eek as cleer
As ye were born; and, lo, sirs, thus I preche.        915
And Iesu Crist, that is our soules leche,
So graunte yow his pardon to receyve;
For that is best; I wol yow nat deceyve.        (590)

  But sirs, o word forgat I in my tale,
I have relikes and pardon in my male,        920
As faire as any man in Engelond,
Whiche were me yeven by the popes hond.
If any of yow wol, of devocioun,
Offren, and han myn absolucioun,
Cometh forth anon, and kneleth heer adoun,        925
And mekely receyveth my pardoun:
Or elles, taketh pardon as ye wende,
Al newe and fresh, at every tounes ende,        (600)
So that ye offren alwey newe and newe
Nobles and pens, which that be gode and trewe.        930
It is an honour to everich that is heer,
That ye mowe have a suffisant pardoneer
Tassoille yow, in contree as ye ryde,
For aventures which that may bityde.
Peraventure ther may falle oon or two        935
Doun of his hors, and breke his nekke atwo.
Look which a seuretee is it to yow alle
That I am in your felaweship y-falle,        (610)
That may assoille yow, bothe more and lasse,
Whan that the soule shal fro the body passe,        940
I rede that our hoste heer shal biginne,
For he is most envoluped in sinne.
Com forth, sir hoste, and offre first anon,
And thou shalt kisse the reliks everichon,
Ye, for a grote! unbokel anon thy purs.'        945

 'Nay, nay,' quod he, 'than have I Cristes curs!
Lat be,' quod he, 'it shal nat be, so theech!
Thou woldest make me kisse thyn old breech,        (620)
And swere it were a relik of a seint,
Thogh it were with thy fundement depeint!        950
But by the croys which that seint Eleyne fond,
I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond
In stede of relikes or of seintuarie;
Lat cutte hem of, I wol thee helpe hem carie;
They shul be shryned in an hogges tord.'        955

  This pardoner answerde nat a word;
So wrooth he was, no word ne wolde he seye.

  'Now,' quod our host, 'I wol no lenger pleye        (630)
With thee, ne with noon other angry man.'
But right anon the worthy knight bigan,        960
Whan that he saugh that al the peple lough,
'Na-more of this, for it is right y-nough;
Sir pardoner, be glad and mery of chere;
And ye, sir host, that been to me so dere,
I prey yow that ye kisse the pardoner.        965
And pardoner, I prey thee, drawe thee neer,
And, as we diden, lat us laughe and pleye.'        (639)
Anon they kiste, and riden forth hir weye.        [T. 12902.

Here is ended the Pardoners Tale.

[View the original manuscript here].

                  Our Host began to swear as if he was crazy,
                  "Alas!" said he, "by (Christ's) nails and by (His) blood! [0]
                  This was a false churl and a false judge.
                  As shameful a death as heart can devise     290
                  Come to these judges and their advocates!
                  At any rate, this innocent maid is slain, alas!
                  Alas, too dearly she paid for her beauty! [1]
                  Therefore I say that every day men may see
                  That gifts of Fortune [2] and of Nature [3]     295
                  Are cause of death to many a creature.
                  Her beauty was her death, I dare well say.
                  Alas, so pitifully as she was slain!
                  Of both gifts that I speak of now
                  Men have very often more harm than benefit.     300
                  But truly, mine own master dear,
                  This is a pitiful tale to hear.
                  But nonetheless, pass over; it does not matter.
                  I pray to God so save thy gentle body,
                  And also thy vessels for analyzing urine and thy flasks,     305
                  Thine ipocras, and also thy galiones (medicines), [4]     
                  And every container full of thy electuaries;
                  God bless them, and our lady Saint Mary [5]!
                  As I may prosper, thou art a proper man,
                  And like a prelate, by Saint Ronyan!     310
                  Said I not well? I can not speak in technical terms;
                  But well I know thou makes mine heart to grieve so,
                  That I almost have caught a palpitation of the heart.
                  By corpus' bones [6]! unless I have medicine,
                  Or else a draught of fresh and strong ale,     315
                  Or unless I hear right now a merry tale,     
                  My heart is lost for pity of this maid.
                 Thou fair friend (rascal), thou Pardoner [7]," he said,
                  "Tell us some mirth or comic tales right away."
                 "It shall be done," said he, "by Saint Ronyon!     320
                  But first," said he, "here at this ale stake (tavern sign)
                  I will both drink and eat of a cake."
But right away these gentlefolk began to cry,
                  "Nay, let him tell us of no ribaldry!
                  Tell us some moral thing, that we may learn     325
                  Some useful knowledge, and then will we gladly hear."     
                  "I agree, indeed," said he, "but I must think
                  About some respectable thing while I drink."

Here follows the Prologue of the Pardoner's Tale.
Greed is the root of evils: Paul's Epistle to Timothy, chapter 6 [8].

                 "Gentlemen," he said, "in churches when I preach,
                 I take pains to have a loud voice,     330
                 And ring it out as round as goes a belle,
                 For I know all by rote that I tell.
                 My theme is always the same, and ever was --
                 'Greed is the root of all evil.'
First I pronounce from whence I come,     335
                 And then my papal bulls [9] I show, each and every one.
                 Our liege lord's [10] seal on my letter of authorization,
                 I show that first, to protect my body,
                 So that no man be so bold, neither priest nor clerk,
                 To hinder me from (doing) Christ's holy work.     340
                 And after that then I tell forth my tales;
                 Indulgences of popes and of cardinals,
                 Of patriarchs and bishops I show,
                 And in Latin I speak a few words,
                 With which to add spice to my preaching,     345
                 And to stir them to devotion.
                 Then I show forth my long crystal stones [11],
                 Crammed full of rags and of bones --
                 Relics they are, as suppose they each one.
                 Then I have mounted in latten (brass-like alloy) a shoulder-bone [12]
                 Which was of a holy Jew's sheep.    351
                "Good men," I say, "take heed of my words;
                 If this bone be washed in any well,
                 If cow, or calf, or sheep, or ox [13] swell
                 That any worm has eaten, or worm stung,    355
                 Take water of that well and wash its tongue,
                 And it is whole right away; and furthermore,
                 Of pocks and of scab, and every sore
                 Every sheep shall be whole that of this well
                 Drinks a draft. Take heed also what I say:    360
                 If the householder who owns the beasts
                 Will every week, before the cock crows,
                 Fasting, drink of this well a draft,
                 As that same holy Jew taught our elders,
                 His beasts and his possessions shall multiply.   365
                And, sirs, it also heals jealousy;
                 For though a man be fallen in jealous rage,
                 Have his potage made with this water,
                 And he shall never more mistrust his wife,
                 Though he knew the truth of her misdeed,    370
                 Although she had taken two or three priests".
"Here is a mitten also, that you may see,
                 He that will put his hand in this mitten,
                 He shall have multiplying of his grain,
                 When he has sown, be it wheat or oats,    375
                 Providing that he offer pennies, or else fourpences.
Good men and women, one thing I warn you,
                 If any person be in this church now,
                 Who has done such horrible sin, that he
                 Dare not, for shame, be confessed of it,    380
                 Or any woman, be she young or old,
                 Who has made her husband cuckold,
                 Such folk shall have no power nor no grace
                 To offer to my relics in this place.
                 And whoever finds himself out of such blame,    385
                 He will come up and offer in God's name,
                 And I will absolve him by the authority
                 Which by papal bull was granted to me."

                 "By this trick have I won, year after year,
                 An hundred marks [14] since I was pardoner.    390
                 I stand like a clerk in my pulpit,
                 And when the ignorant people are set down,
                 I preach as you have heard before
                 And tell a hundred more false tales.
                 Then I take pains to stretch forth the neck,    395
                 And east and west upon the people I nod,
                 As does a dove sitting on a barn.
                 My hands and my tongue go so quickly
                 That it is joy to see my business.
                 Of avarice and of such cursedness    400
                 Is all my preaching, to make them generous
                 To give their pennies, and namely unto me.
                 For my intention is only to make a profit,
                 And not at all for correction of sin.
                 I care not a bit, when they are buried,    405
                 Though their souls go picking blackberries! [15]
                 For certainly, many a sermon
                 Comes often times from an evil intention;
                 Some for pleasure of folk and flattery,
                 To be advanced by hypocrisy,    410
                 And some for vain glory, and some for hate.
                 For when I dare debate no other ways,
                 Then I will sting him with my sharp tongue
                 In preaching, so that he shall not escape
                 To be defamed falsely, if he    415
                 Has trespassed to my brethren or to me.
                 For though I tell not his proper name,
                 Men shall well know that it is the same,
                 By signs, and by other details. [16]
                 Thus I repay folk who make trouble for us pardoners;    420
                 Thus I spit out my venom under hue
                 Of holinesses, to seem holy and true.

                 "But shortly my intention I will tell:
                 I preach of nothing but for greed.
                 Therefore my theme is yet, and ever was,    425
                 "Greed is the root of all evil."
                 Thus I can preach against that same vice
                 Which I use, and that is avarice.
                 But though myself be guilty of that sin,
                 Yet I can make other folk to turn away    430
                 From avarice and bitterly to repent.
                 But that is not my principal intention;
                 I preach nothing but for greed.
                 Concerning this matter this ought to be enough.

                 "Then I tell them illustrative [17] tales many a one    435
                 Of old stories from long time ago.
                 For ignorant people love old tales;
                 Such things they can well repeat and hold in memory.
                 What, do you suppose, that while I can preach,
                 And win gold and silver because I teach,    440
                 That I will live in poverty voluntarily?
                 Nay, nay, I never thought it, truly!
                 For I will preach and beg in various lands;
                 I will not do any labor with my hands,
                 Nor make baskets and live thereby, [18]    445
                 Because I will not beg idly.
                 I will imitate none of the apostles; [19]
                 I will have money, wool, cheese, and wheat,
                 Although it were given by the poorest servant boy,
                 Or by the poorest widow in a village,    450
                 Even though her children should die of hunger.
                 Nay, I will drink liquor of the vine
                 And have a pretty wench in every town.
                 But listen, gentlemen, in conclusion:
                 Your desire is that I shall tell a tale.    455
                 Now I have drunk a draft of strong ale,
                 By God, I hope I shall tell you a thing
                 That shall, for good reason, be to your liking.
                 For though myself be a very vicious man,
                 Yet I can tell you a moral tale,    460
                 Which I am accustomed to preach in order to profit.
                 Now hold your peace! My tale I will begin.

Here begins the Pardoners Tale.

                 In Flanders [20] once was a company
                 Of young folk who practiced folly,
                Such as debauchery, gambling, brothels, and taverns,    465
                 Where with harps, lutes, and guitars,
                 They dance and play at dice both day and night,
                 And also eat and drink beyond their capacity,
                 Through which they do the devil sacrifice
                 Within that devil's temple in cursed manner    470
                 By abominable excess.
                 Their oaths are so great and so damnable
                 That it is grisly to hear them swear.
                 Our blessed Lord's body they tore in pieces --
                 They thought that the Jews did not tear him enough --    475
                 And each of them laughed at the other's sin.
                 And right away then come dancing girls
                 Elegantly shaped and slim, and girls selling fruits,
                 Singers with harps, bawds, girls [21] selling wafers,
                 Which are the very devil's officers    480
                 To kindle and blow the fire of lechery,
                 That is joined unto gluttony.
                 The Bible [22] I take as my witness
                 That lechery is in wine and drunkenness.

                 Lo, how that drunken Lot [23], unnaturally,    485
                 Lay by his two daughters, unwittingly;
                 So drunk he was, he knew not what he did.

                 Herod, whoever should seek well the histories (would learn),
                 When he was filled with wine at his feast,
                 Right at his own table he gave his command    490
                 To slay John the Baptist, full guiltless [24].

                 Seneca [25] says a good word, doubtless;
                 He says he can find no difference
                 Between a man that is out of his mind
                 And a man that is drunk,    495
                 Except that madness, fallen in an evil person,
                 Lasts longer than does drunkenness.
                 O gluttony, full of cursedness!
                 O first cause of our ruin!
                 O origin of our damnation,    500
                 Until Christ had bought us with his blood again!
                 Lo, how dearly, shortly to say,
                 Was bought that same cursed villainy!
                 Corrupt was all this world for gluttony.

                 Adam our father, and his wife also,    505
                 From Paradise to labor and to woe
                 Were driven for that vice, there is no doubt.
                 For while Adam fasted, as I read [26],
                 He was in Paradise; and when he
                 Ate of the forbidden fruit on the tree,    510
                 Immediately he was cast out to woe and pain [27].
                 O gluttony, on thee well we ought to complain!
                 O, if a man knew how many evils
                 Follow of excess and of gluttony,
                 He would be the more moderate    515
                 Of his diet, sitting at his table.
                 Alas, the short throat, the tender mouth,
                 Makes that east and west and north and south,
                 In earth, in air, in water, men work
                 To get a glutton dainty food and drink!    520
                 Of this matter, O Paul, well can thou treat
                 "Food unto belly, and belly also unto food,
                 God shall destroy both," as Paul says. [28]
                 Alas, a foul thing it is, by my faith,
                 To say this word, and fouler is the deed,    525
                 When man so drinks of the white and red
                 That he makes his privy of his throat
                 Through that same cursed excess.

                 The apostle weeping says full piteously,
                 "There walk many of whom I have told you --    530
                 I say it now weeping, with piteous voice --
                 They are enemies of Christ's cross,
                 Of which the end is death; belly is their god!" [29]
                 O gut! O belly! O stinking bag,
                 Filled with dung and with corruption!    535
                 At either end of thee the sound is foul.
                 How great labor and cost it is to feed thee!
                 These cooks, how they pound, and strain, and grind,
                 And turn substance into outward appearance
                 To fulfill all thy gluttonous desire!    540
                 Out of the hard bones they knock
                 The marrow, for they throw nothing away
                 That may go through the gullet softly and sweetly.
                 Of seasonings of leaf, and bark, and root
                 Shall his sauce be made for delight,    545
                 To make him yet a newer appetite.
                 But, certainly, he who habitually seeks such delicacies
                 Is dead, while he lives in those vices. [30]

                 A lecherous thing is wine, and drunkenness
                 Is full of striving and of wretchedness.    550
                 O drunken man, disfigured is thy face,
                 Sour is thy breath, foul art thou to embrace,
                 And through thy drunken nose the sound seems
                 As though thou said always "Sampson, Sampson!" [31]
                 And yet, God knows, Sampson never drank any wine.    555
                 Thou fallest like a stuck pig;
                 Thy tongue is lost, and all thy care for decency,
                 For drunkenness is truly the sepulcher
                 Of man's wit and his discretion.
                 In whom drink has domination    560
                 He can keep no secrets; there is no doubt.
                 Now guard yourself from the white and from the red,
                 And namely from the white wine of Lepe [32]
                 That is for sale in Fishstreet or in Cheapside. [33]
                 This wine of Spain creeps subtly    565
                 Into other wines, growing near by, [34]
                 Of which there rise such bodily vapors [35]
                 That when a man has drunk three drafts,
                 And supposes that he is at home in Cheapside,
                 He is in Spain, right at the town of Lepe --    570
                 Not at La Rochelle, nor at Bordeaux town -- [36]
                 And then will he say "Sampson, Sampson!"

                 But listen, gentlemen, one word, I pray you,
                 That all the great deeds, I dare say,
                 Of victories in the Old Testament,    575
                 Through true God, who is omnipotent,
                 Were done in abstinence and in prayer.
                 Look in the Bible, and there you can learn it.

                 Consider how Attila [37], the great conqueror,
                 Died in his sleep, with shame and dishonor,    580
                 Bleeding ever at his nose in drunkenness.
                 A captain should live in sobriety.
                 And beyond all this, consider right well
                 What was commanded unto Lamuel --
                 Not Samuel, but Lamuel, I say;    585
                 Read the Bible [38], and find it explicitly
                 About giving wine to those that have the duty of doing justice.
                 No more of this, for it may well suffice.

                 And now that I have spoken of gluttony,
                 Now I will forbid you gambling.    590
                 Dicing is the true mother of lies,
                 And of deceit, and cursed perjuries,
                 Blasphemy of Christ, manslaughter, and waste also
                 Of possessions and of time; and furthermore,
                 It is a disgrace and contrary to honor    595
                 To be considered a common dice player.
                 And ever the higher he is of estate,
                 The more is he considered abandoned (to shame).
                 If a prince plays at dicing,
                 In all governance and policy    600
                 He is, by common opinion,
                 Held the less in reputation.

                 Stilboun [39], who was a wise ambassador,
                 Was sent to Corinth in very great honor
                 From Sparta to make their alliance.    605
                 And when he came, it happened, by chance,
                 That all the greatest men that were of that land,
                 Playing at dice he found them.
                 For which, as soon as it could be,
                 He stole home again to his country,    610
                 And said, "There I will not lose my reputation,
                 Nor will I take on me so great infamy,
                 To ally you unto any dice-players.
                 Send other wise ambassadors;
                 For, by my troth, I would rather die    615
                 Than I should ally you to dice-players.
                 For you, that are so glorious in honors,
                 Shall not ally yourselves with dice-players
                 By my will, nor by my negotiation."
                 This wise philosopher, thus said he.    620

                 Consider also that to the king Demetrius
                 The king of Parthia, as the book [40] tells us,
                 Sent him a pair of dice of gold in scorn,
                 Because he had played at dicing before that;
                 For which he held his glory or his renown    625
                 At no value or esteem.
                 Lords may find other sorts of play.
                 Respectable enough to pass the time.

                 Now will I speak of oaths false and great
                 A word or two, as old books treat them.    630
                 Frequent swearing is an abominable thing,
                 And false swearing is yet more worthy of reproof.
                 The high God forbad swearing at al,
                 Witness on Matthew; [41] but in special
                 Of swearing says the holy Jeremiah, [42]    635
                 "Thou shall swear truly thine oaths, and not lie,
                 And in judgement and also in righteousness";
                 But idle swearing is a cursed thing.
                 Behold and see that in the first three
                 Of high God's honorable commandments,    640
                 How the second of his commands is this:
                 "Take not my name in vain nor amiss."
                 Lo, he forbids such swearing rather
                 Than homicide or many a cursed thing;
                 I say that, so far as order is concerned, thus it stands;    645
                 He who understands his commandments knows this,
                 How that is the second command of God. [43]
                 And furthermore, I will tell thee flatly
                 That vengeance shall not part from his house
                 Who of his oaths is too excessive.    650
                 "By God's precious heart," and "By his nails,"
                 And "By the blood of Christ that is in Hales Abbey, [44]
                 Seven is my number, and thine is five and three!" [45]
                 "By God's arms, if thou falsely play,
                 This dagger shall go throughout thy heart!" --    655
                 This fruit comes of the two cursed dice,
                 Perjury, anger, falseness, homicide.
                 Now, for the love of Christ, who for us died,
                 Leave your oaths, both great and small.
                 But, sirs, now will I tell forth my tale.    660

                 These three rioters of whom I tell,
                 Long before prime rang of any bell [46],
                 Had set themselves in a tavern to drink,
                 And as they sat, they heard a bell clink
                 A corpse, was being carried to its grave.    665
                 Then one of them called to his servant:
                 "Go quickly," he said, "and ask at once
                 What corpse is this that passes by here;
                 And see that thou report his name correctly."

                 "Sir," said this boy, "that is not at all necessary;    670
                 It was told me two hours before you came here.
                 He was, indeed, an old fellow of yours,
                 And suddenly he was slain last night,
                 Completely drunk, as he sat on his bench upright.
                 There came a stealthy thief men call Death, [47]    675
                 Who slays all the people in this country,
                 And with his spear he struck his heart in two,
                 And went his way without more words.
                 He has slain a thousand (during) this pestilence.
                 And, master, before you come in his presence,    680
                 It seems to me that it would be necessary
                 To beware of such an adversary.
                 Always be ready to meet him;
                 Thus taught me my mother; I say no more."
                 "By Saint Mary!" said this tavern-keeper,    685
                 "The child says truth, for he has slain this year,
                 Over a mile from here, within a great village,
                 Both man and woman, child, and laborer, and servant boy;
                 I suppose his habitation is there.
                 It would be great wisdom to be forewarned,    690
                 Before he did a man any harm."
                 "Yea, God's arms!" said this rioter,
                 "Is it such peril to meet with him?
                 I shall seek him by path-way and also by street (everywhere),
                 I make a vow to God's honorable bones!    695
                 Listen, fellows, we three are all agreed;
                 Let each of us hold up his hand to other,
                 And each of us become the others' brother,
                 And we will slay this false traitor Death.
                 He shall be slain, he who slays so many,    700
                 By God's dignity, before it be night!"

                 Together have these three pledged their troths
                 To live and die each of them for other,
                 As though he were his own born brother.
                 And up they leaped, all drunken in this rage,    705
                 And forth they go towards that village
                 Of which the tavern-keeper had spoken before.
                 And many a grisly oath then have they sworn,
                 And Christ's blessed body they tore to pieces --
                 Death shall be dead, if they can catch him!    710

                 When they have gone not fully half a mile,
                 Right as they would have stepped over a fence,
                 An old and poor man met with them.
                 This old man full meekly greeted them,
                 And said thus, "Now, lords, may God look after you!"    715

                 The proudest of these three rioters
                 Answered in reply, "What, churl, bad luck to you!
                 Why art thou all wrapped up except for thy face?
                 Why live thou so long in such old age?"

                 This old man did look in his face,    720
                 And said thus: "Because I cannot find
                 A man, though I walked to India [48],
                 Neither in city nor in any village,
                 That would change his youth for my age;
                 And therefore I must have my age still,    725
                 As long a time as it is God's will.

                 Nor Death, alas, will not have my life.
                 Thus I walk, like a restless wretch,
                 And on the ground, which is my mother's gate,
                 I knock with my staff, both early and late,    730
                 And say "Dear mother, let me in!
                 Lo how I waste away, flesh, and blood, and skin!
                 Alas, when shall my bones be at rest?
                 Mother, with you would I exchange my strongbox
                 That in my chamber long time has been,    735
                 Yea, for an hair shirt to wrap me!"
                 But yet to me she will not do that favor,
                 For which full pale and withered is my face.

                 But, sirs, to you it is no courtesy
                 To speak rudeness to an old man,    740
                 Unless he trespass in word or else in deed.
                 In Holy Writ you may yourself well read: [49]
                "In the presence of an old man, gray upon his head,
                 You should rise;" therefore I give you advice,
                 Do no harm now unto an old man,    745
                 No more than you would want men to do to you
                 In old age, if you live so long.
                 And God be with you, wherever you walk or ride!
                 I must go thither where I have to go [50].

                 "Nay, old churl, by God, thou shall not so,"    750
                 Said this other dice-player quickly; [51]
                 "Thou depart not so quickly, by Saint John!
                 Thou spoke right now of that same traitor Death.
                 That slays all our friends in this country.
                 Have here my pledge, as thou art his spy,    755
                 Tell where he is or thou shall pay for it,
                 By God and by the holy sacrament! [52]
                 For truly thou art in league with him
                 To slay us young folk, thou false thief!"

                 "Now, sirs," said he, "if you are so eager    760
                 To find Death, turn up this crooked way,
                 For in that grove I left him, by my faith,
                 Under a tree, and there he will wait;
                 He will not in any way hide himself because of your boast.
                 Do you see that oak? Right there you shall find him.    765
                 God save you, He who redeemed mankind,
                 And amend you!" Thus said this old man;
                 And every one of these rioters ran
                 Until he came to that tree, and there they found
                 Of fine round florins [53] of coined gold    770
                 Well near eight bushels [54], as they thought.
                 No longer then after Death they sought,
                 But each of them was so glad of that sight,
                 Because the florins are so faire and bright,
                 That they set themselves down by this precious hoard.    775
                 The worst of them, he spoke the first word.

                 "Brethren," he said, "take heed of what I say;
                   My wit is great, though I jest and play.
                   Fortune has given this treasure unto us
                   In mirth and jollity to live our life,    780
                   And as easily as it comes, so will we spend it.
                   Ah, God's precious dignity! Who would have supposed
                   To-day that we should have such good fortune?
                   But if this gold could be carried from this place
                   Home to my house, or else unto yours --    785
                   For well you know that all this gold is ours --
                   Then we would be in great happiness.
                   But truly, it may not be (done) by day.
                   Men would say that we were arrant thieves,
                   And for our own treasure have us hanged.    790
                   This treasure must be carried by night
                   As wisely and as slyly as it can be.
                   Wherefore I advise that among us all straws
                   Be drawn, and let's see where the lot will fall;
                   And he who has the shortest straw with happy heart    795
                   Shall run to the town, and then very quickly,
                   And very secretly bring us bread and wine [55].
                   And two of us shall carefully guard
                   This treasure well; and if he will not tarry,
                   When it is night, we will carry this treasure,    800
                   By mutual agreement, where we think best."
                   Then one of them brought the straws in his fist,
                   And commanded them to draw and see where it will fall;
                   And it fell on the youngest of them all,
                   And forth toward the town he went right away.    805
                   And as soon as he was gone,
                   The one of them spoke thus unto that other:
                   "Thou knowest well thou art my sworn brother;
                   Thy profit will I tell thee straightway.
                   Thou knowest well that our fellow is gone.    810
                   And here is gold, and that a full great quantity,
                   That shall be divided among us three.
                   But nevertheless, if I can arrange things so
                   That it were divided among us two,
                   Had I not done a good turn to thee?"    815

                     That other answered, "I know not how that can be.
                     He knows that the gold is with us two;
                     What shall we do? What shall we say to him?"

                 "Shall it be (our) secret plan?" said the first scoundrel,
                 "And I shall tell in a few words    820
                 What we shall do, and bring it well about."

                 "I agree," said that other, "without doubt,
                 That, by my troth, I will not betray thee."

                 "Now," said the first, "thou knowest well we are two,
                 And two of us shall be stronger than one.    825
                 Look, when he has sat down, right away
                 Arise as though thou would with him play,
                 And I shall stab him through the two sides
                 While thou struggle with him as in game,
                 And with thy dagger see that thou do the same;    830
                 And then shall all this gold be divided,
                 My dear friend, between me and thee.
                 Then we both can fulfill all our desires,
                 And play at dice just as we wish,"
                 And thus these two scoundrels are agreed    835
                 To slay the third, as you have heard me say.

                 This youngest, who went to the town,
                 Very often in heart he rolls up and down [56]
                 The beauty of these florins new and bright.
                 "O Lord!" he said, "if it would be that I might    840
                 Have all this treasure to myself alone,
                 There is no man that lives under the throne
                 Of God that should live so merrily as I!"
                 And at the last the fiend, our enemy,
                 Put in his thought that he should buy poison,    845
                 With which he might slay his two fellows;
                 Because the fiend found him in such a manner of living
                 That he had to bring him to sorrow [57].
                 For this was utterly his full intention,
                 To slay them both and never to repent.    850
                 And forth he goes, no longer would he tarry,
                 Into the town, unto an apothecary,
                 And prayed him that he would sell him
                 Some poison, that he might kill his rats;
                And also there was a polecat in his yard,    855
                 That, as he said, had slain his capons,
                 And he would gladly revenge himself, if he could,
                 On vermin that ruined him by night.

                 The apothecary answered, "And thou shall have
                 A thing that, as God may save my soul,    860
                In all this world there is no creature
                 That has eaten or drunk of this concoction
                 Only so much as the amount of a seed of wheat,
                 That he shall not immediately lose his life;
                 Yea, he shall die, and that in less time    865
                 Than thou will go at a walk but only a mile,
                 This poison is so strong and violent."

                 This cursed man has in his hand taken
                 This poison in a box, and then he ran
                 Into the next street unto a man,    870
                 And borrowed [from] him three large bottles,
                 And in the two he poured his poison;
                 The third he kept clean for his drink.
                 For all the night he intended to work
                 In carrying of the gold out of that place.    875
                 And when this rioter, bad luck to him,
                 Had filled his three big bottles with wine,
                 He goes back again to his fellows.

                 What needs it to preach of it more?
                 For right as they had planned his death before,    880
                 Right so they have him slain, and that immediately.
                 And when this was done, thus spoke that one:
                 "Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry,
                 And afterward we will bury his body."
                 And with that word it happened to him, by chance,    885
                 To take the bottle where the poison was,
                 And drank, and gave his fellow drink also,
                 For which straightway they died, both of the two.

                 But certainly, I suppose that Avicenna [58]
                 Wrote never in any authoritative book, nor in any chapter,    890
                 More wondrous symptoms of poisoning
                 Than had these two wretches, before their ending.
                 Thus ended are these two homicides,
                 And also the false poisoner as well.

                 O cursed sin of all cursedness!    895
                 O treacherous homicide, O wickedness!
                 O gluttony, lechery, and dicing!
                 Thou blasphemer of Christ with churlish speech
                 And great oaths, out of habit and out of pride!
                 Alas, mankind, how may it happen    900
                 That to thy creator, who made thee
                 And with his precious heart's blood redeemed thee,
                 Thou art so false and so unnatural, alas?

                 Now, good men, God forgive you your trespass,
                 And guard yourselves from the sin of avarice!    905
                 My holy pardon can cure you all,
                 Providing that you offer gold coins or silver pennies,
                 Or else silver brooches, spoons, rings.
                 Bow your head under this holy papal bull!
                 Come up, you wives, offer some of your wool!    910
                 Your names I enter here in my roll [59] immediately;
                 Into the bliss of heaven you shall go.
                 I absolve you, by my high power,
                 You who will offer, as clean and also as clear (of sin).
                 As you were born. -- And lo, sirs, thus I preach.    915
                 And Jesus Christ, that is our souls' physician,
                 So grant you to receive his pardon,
                 For that is best; I will not deceive you.

                 But, sirs, one word I forgot in my tale:
                 I have relics and pardons in my bag,    920
                 As fine as any man in England,
                 Which were given to me by the pope's hand.
                 If any of you will, of devotion,
                 Offer and have my absolution,
                 Come forth straightway, and kneel down here,    925
                 And meekly receive my pardon;
                 Or else take pardon as you travel,
                 All new and fresh at every mile's end,
                 Providing that you offer, again and again,
                 Gold coins or silver pennies, which are good and true [60].    930
                 It is an honor to every one that is here
                 That you may have a pardoner with sufficient power
                 To absolve you in the countryside as you ride,
                 For accidents that may happen.
                 Perhaps there may fall one or two    935
                 Down off his horse and break his neck in two.
                 Look what a safeguard is it to you all
                 That I happen to be in your fellowship,
                 Who can absolve you, both more and less (every one), [61]
                 When the soul shall from the body pass.    940
                 I advise that our Host here shall begin,
                 For he is most enveloped in sin.
                 Come forth, sir Host, and offer first right now,
                 And thou shall kiss the relics every one,
                 Yea, for a fourpence coin! [62] Unbuckle thy purse right now."    945

                 "Nay, nay!" he said, "then I will have Christ's curse!
                 Let it be," he said, "it shall not be, as I may prosper!
                 Thou would make me kiss thine old underpants,
                 And swear it was a relic of a saint,
                 Though it were stained by thy fundament!    950
                 But, by the cross that Saint Helen found, [63]
                 I would rather have thy testicles in my hand
                 Instead of relics or a container for relics.
                 Have them cut off, I will help thee carry them;
                 They shall be enshrined in a hog's turd!"    955

                 This Pardoner answered not a word;
                 So angry he was, no word would he say.

                 "Now," said our Host, "I will no longer joke
                 With thee, nor with any other angry man."
                 But immediately the worthy Knight began,    960
                 When he saw that all the people laughed,
                 "No more of this, for it is right enough!
                 Sir Pardoner, be glad and merry of cheer;
                 And you, sir Host, who are so dear to me,
                 I pray you that you kiss the Pardoner.    965
                 And Pardoner, I pray thee, draw thyself nearer,
                 And, as we did, let us laugh and play."
                 At once they kissed, and rode forth their way.

Here ends the Pardoner's Tale.


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