summary: Introduction to the Pardoner’s TaleThe Host reacts to the Physician’s Tale, which has just been told. He is shocked at the death of the young Roman girl in the tale, and mourns the fact that her beauty ultimately caused the chain of events that led her father to kill her. Wanting to cheer up, the Host asks the Pardoner to tell the group a merrier, farcical tale. The Pardoner agrees, but will continue only after he has food and drink in his stomach. Other pilgrims interject that they would prefer to hear a moral story, and the Pardoner again agrees.
Summary: Prologue to the Pardoner’s Tale
My theme is alwey oon, and evere was—After getting a drink, the Pardoner begins his Prologue. He tells the company about his occupation—a combination of itinerant preaching and selling promises of salvation. His sermon topic always remains the same: Radix malorum est Cupiditas, or “greed is the root of all evil.” He gives a similar sermon to every congregation and then breaks out his bag of “relics”—which, he readily admits to the listening pilgrims, are fake. He will take a sheep’s bone and claim it has miraculous healing powers for all kinds of ailments. The parishioners always believe him and make their offerings to the relics, which the Pardoner quickly pockets.
Radix malorum est Cupiditas.
The Pardoner admits that he preaches solely to get money, not to correct sin. He argues that many sermons are the product of evil intentions. By preaching, the Pardoner can get back at anyone who has offended him or his brethren. In his sermon, he always preaches about covetousness, the very vice that he himself is gripped by. His one and only interest is to fill his ever-deepening pockets. He would rather take the last penny from a widow and her starving family than give up his money, and the good cheeses, breads, and wines that such income brings him. Speaking of alcohol, he notes, he has now finished his drink of “corny ale” and is ready to begin his tale.
Summary: The Pardoner’s TaleThe Pardoner describes a group of young Flemish people who spend their time drinking and reveling, indulging in all forms of excess. After commenting on their lifestyle of debauchery, the Pardoner enters into a tirade against the vices that they practice. First and foremost is gluttony, which he identifies as the sin that first caused the fall of mankind in Eden. Next, he attacks drunkenness, which makes a man seem mad and witless. Next is gambling, the temptation that ruins men of power and wealth. Finally, he denounces swearing. He argues that it so offends God that he forbade swearing in the Second Commandment—placing it higher up on the list than homicide. After almost two hundred lines of sermonizing, the Pardoner finally returns to his story of the lecherous Flemish youngsters.
As three of these rioters sit drinking, they hear a funeral knell. One of the revelers’ servants tells the group that an old friend of theirs was slain that very night by a mysterious figure named Death. The rioters are outraged and, in their drunkenness, decide to find and kill Death to avenge their friend. Traveling down the road, they meet an old man who appears sorrowful. He says his sorrow stems from old age—he has been waiting for Death to come and take him for some time, and he has wandered all over the world. The youths, hearing the name of Death, demand to know where they can find him. The old man directs them into a grove, where he says he just left Death under an oak tree. The rioters rush to the tree, underneath which they find not Death but eight bushels of gold coins with no owner in sight.
At first, they are speechless, but, then, the slyest of the three reminds them that if they carry the gold into town in daylight, they will be taken for thieves. They must transport the gold under cover of night, and so someone must run into town to fetch bread and wine in the meantime. They draw lots, and the youngest of the three loses and runs off toward town. As soon as he is gone, the sly plotter turns to his friend and divulges his plan: when their friend returns from town, they will kill him and therefore receive greater shares of the wealth. The second rioter agrees, and they prepare their trap. Back in town, the youngest vagrant is having similar thoughts. He could easily be the richest man in town, he realizes, if he could have all the gold to himself. He goes to the apothecary and buys the strongest poison available, then puts the poison into two bottles of wine, leaving a third bottle pure for himself. He returns to the tree, but the other two rioters leap out and kill him.
The wordes of the Hoost to the Phisicien and Pardoner.
287 Oure Hooste gan to swere as he were wood;
Our Host began to swear as if he was crazy;
288 "Harrow!" quod he, "by nayles and by blood!
"Alas!" said he, "by (Christ's) nails and by (His) blood!
289 This was a fals cherl and a fals justise.
This was a false churl and a false judge.
290 As shameful deeth as herte may devyse
As shameful a death as heart can devise
291 Come to thise juges and hire advocatz!
Come to these judges and their advocates!
292 Algate this sely mayde is slayn, allas!
At any rate, this innocent maid is slain, alas!
293 Allas, to deere boughte she beautee!
Alas, too dearly she paid for her beauty!
294 Wherfore I seye al day that men may see
Therefore I say that every day men may see
295 That yiftes of Fortune and of Nature
That gifts of Fortune and of Nature
296 Been cause of deeth to many a creature.
Are cause of death to many a creature.
297 Hire beautee was hire deth, I dar wel sayn.
Her beauty was her death, I dare well say.
298 Allas, so pitously as she was slayn!
Alas, so pitifully as she was slain!
299 Of bothe yiftes that I speke of now
Of both gifts that I speak of now
300 Men han ful ofte moore for harm than prow.
Men have very often more harm than benefit.
301 But trewely, myn owene maister deere,
But truly, mine own master dear,
302 This is a pitous tale for to heere.
This is a pitiful tale to hear.
303 But nathelees, passe over; is no fors.
But nonetheless, pass over; is does not matter.
304 I pray to God so save thy gentil cors,
I pray to God so save thy gentle body,
305 And eek thyne urynals and thy jurdones,
And also thy vessels for analyzing urine and thy flasks,
306 Thyn ypocras, and eek thy galiones,
Thine ipocras, and also thy galiones (medicines),
307 And every boyste ful of thy letuarie;
And every container full of thy electuaries;
308 God blesse hem, and oure lady Seinte Marie!
God bless them, and our lady Saint Mary!
309 So moot I theen, thou art a propre man,
As I may prosper, thou art a proper man,
310 And lyk a prelat, by Seint Ronyan!
And like a prelate, by Saint Ronyan!
311 Seyde I nat wel? I kan nat speke in terme;
Said I not well? I can not speak in technical terms;
312 But wel I woot thou doost myn herte to erme,
But well I know thou makes mine heart to grieve so,
313 That I almoost have caught a cardynacle.
That I almost have caught a palpitation of the heart.
314 By corpus bones! but I have triacle,
By corpus' bones! unless I have medicine,
315 Or elles a draughte of moyste and corny ale,
Or else a draught of fresh and strong ale,
316 Or but I heere anon a myrie tale,
Or unless I hear right now a merry tale,
317 Myn herte is lost for pitee of this mayde.
My heart is lost for pity of this maid.
318 Thou beel amy, thou Pardoner," he sayde,
Thou fair friend (rascal), thou Pardoner," he said,
319 "Telle us som myrthe or japes right anon."
"Tell us some mirth or comic tales right away."
320 "It shal be doon," quod he, "by Seint Ronyon!
"It shall be done," said he, "by Saint Ronyon!
321 But first," quod he, "heere at this alestake
But first," said he, "here at this ale stake (tavern sign)
322 I wol bothe drynke and eten of a cake."
I will both drink and eat of a cake."
323 But right anon thise gentils gonne to crye,
But right away these gentlefolk began to cry,
324 "Nay, lat hym telle us of no ribaudye!
"Nay, let him tell us of no ribaldry!
325 Telle us som moral thyng, that we may leere
Tell us some moral thing, that we may learn
326 Som wit, and thanne wol we gladly heere."
Some useful knowledge, and then will we gladly hear."
327 "I graunte, ywis," quod he, "but I moot thynke
"I agree, indeed," said he, "but I must think
328 Upon som honest thyng while that I drynke."
About some respectable thing while I drink."
463 In Flaundres whilom was a compaignye
In Flanders once was a company
464 Of yonge folk that haunteden folye,
Of young folk who practiced folly,
465 As riot, hasard, stywes, and tavernes,
Such as debauchery, gambling, brothels, and taverns,
466 Where as with harpes, lutes, and gyternes,
Where with harps, lutes, and guitars,
467 They daunce and pleyen at dees bothe day and nyght,
They dance and play at dice both day and night,
468 And eten also and drynken over hir myght,
And also eat and drink beyond their capacity,
469 Thurgh which they doon the devel sacrifise
Through which they do the devil sacrifice
470 Withinne that develes temple in cursed wise
Within that devil's temple in cursed manner
471 By superfluytee abhomynable.
By abominable excess.
472 Hir othes been so grete and so dampnable
Their oaths are so great and so damnable
473 That it is grisly for to heere hem swere.
That it is grisly to hear them swear.
474 Oure blissed Lordes body they totere --
Our blessed Lord's body they tore in pieces --
475 Hem thoughte that Jewes rente hym noght ynough --
They thought that the Jews did not tear him enough --
476 And ech of hem at otheres synne lough.
And each of them laughed at the other's sin.
477 And right anon thanne comen tombesteres
And right away then come dancing girls
478 Fetys and smale, and yonge frutesteres,
Elegantly shaped and slim, and girls selling fruits,
479 Syngeres with harpes, baudes, wafereres,
Singers with harps, bawds, girls selling wafers,
480 Whiche been the verray develes officeres
Which are the very devil's officers
481 To kyndle and blowe the fyr of lecherye,
To kindle and blow the fire of lechery,
482 That is annexed unto glotonye.
That is joined unto gluttony.
483 The hooly writ take I to my witnesse
The Bible I take as my witness
484 That luxurie is in wyn and dronkenesse.
That lechery is in wine and drunkenness.
485 Lo, how that dronken Looth, unkyndely,
Lo, how that drunken Lot, unnaturally,
486 Lay by his doghtres two, unwityngly;
Lay by his two daughters, unwittingly;
487 So dronke he was, he nyste what he wroghte.
So drunk he was, he knew not what he did.
488 Herodes, whoso wel the stories soghte,
Herod, whoever should seek well the histories (would learn),
489 Whan he of wyn was repleet at his feeste,
When he was filled with wine at his feast,
490 Right at his owene table he yaf his heeste
Right at his own table he gave his command
491 To sleen the Baptist John, ful giltelees.
To slay John the Baptist, full guiltless.
492 Senec seith a good word doutelees;
Seneca says a good word, doubtless;
493 He seith he kan no difference fynde
He says he can find no difference
494 Bitwix a man that is out of his mynde
Between a man that is out of his mind
495 And a man which that is dronkelewe,
And a man that is drunk,
496 But that woodnesse, yfallen in a shrewe,
Except that madness, fallen in an evil person,
497 Persevereth lenger than doth dronkenesse.
Lasts longer than does drunkenness.
498 O glotonye, ful of cursednesse!
O gluttony, full of cursedness!
499 O cause first of oure confusioun!
O first cause of our ruin!
500 O original of oure dampnacioun,
O origin of our damnation,
501 Til Crist hadde boght us with his blood agayn!
Until Christ had bought us with his blood again!
502 Lo, how deere, shortly for to sayn,
Lo, how dearly, shortly to say,
503 Aboght was thilke cursed vileynye!
Was bought that same cursed villainy!
504 Corrupt was al this world for glotonye.
Corrupt was all this world for gluttony.
505 Adam oure fader, and his wyf also,
Adam our fader, and his wife also,
506 Fro Paradys to labour and to wo
From Paradise to labor and to woe
507 Were dryven for that vice, it is no drede.
Were driven for that vice, there is no doubt.
508 For whil that Adam fasted, as I rede,
For while Adam fasted, as I read,
509 He was in Paradys; and whan that he
He was in Paradise; and when he
510 Eet of the fruyt deffended on the tree,
Ate of the forbidden fruit on the tree,
511 Anon he was out cast to wo and peyne.
Immediately he was cast out to woe and pain.
512 O glotonye, on thee wel oghte us pleyne!
O gluttony, on thee well we ought to complain!
513 O, wiste a man how manye maladyes
O, if a man knew how many evils
514 Folwen of excesse and of glotonyes,
Follow of excess and of gluttony,
515 He wolde been the moore mesurable
He would be the more moderate
516 Of his diete, sittynge at his table.
Of his diet, sitting at his table.
517 Allas, the shorte throte, the tendre mouth,
Alas, the short throat, the tender mouth,
518 Maketh that est and west and north and south,
Makes that east and west and north and south,
519 In erthe, in eir, in water, men to swynke
In earth, in air, in water, men work
520 To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drynke!
To get a glutton dainty food and drink!
521 Of this matiere, O Paul, wel kanstow trete:
Of this matter, O Paul, well can thou treat
522 "Mete unto wombe, and wombe eek unto mete,
"Food unto belly, and belly also unto food,
523 Shal God destroyen bothe," as Paulus seith.
God shall destroy both," as Paul says.
524 Allas, a foul thyng is it, by my feith,
Alas, a foul thing it is, by my faith,
525 To seye this word, and fouler is the dede,
To say this word, and fouler is the deed,
526 Whan man so drynketh of the white and rede
When man so drinks of the white and red
527 That of his throte he maketh his pryvee
That he makes his privy of his throat
528 Thurgh thilke cursed superfluitee.
Through that same cursed excess.
529 The apostel wepyng seith ful pitously,
The apostle weeping says full piteously,
530 "Ther walken manye of whiche yow toold have I --
"There walk many of whom I have told you --
531 I seye it now wepyng, with pitous voys --
I say it now weeping, with piteous voice --
532 They been enemys of Cristes croys,
They are enemies of Christ's cross,
533 Of whiche the ende is deeth; wombe is hir god!"
Of which the end is death; belly is their god!"
534 O wombe! O bely! O stynkyng cod,
O gut! O belly! O stinking bag,
535 Fulfilled of dong and of corrupcioun!
Filled with dung and with corruption!
536 At either ende of thee foul is the soun.
At either end of thee the sound is foul.
537 How greet labour and cost is thee to fynde!
How great labor and cost it is to feed thee!
538 Thise cookes, how they stampe, and streyne, and grynde,
These cooks, how they pound, and strain, and grind,
539 And turnen substaunce into accident
And turn substance into outward appearance
540 To fulfille al thy likerous talent!
To fulfill all thy gluttonous desire!
541 Out of the harde bones knokke they
Out of the hard bones they knock
542 The mary, for they caste noght awey
The marrow, for they throw nothing away
543 That may go thurgh the golet softe and swoote.
That may go through the gullet softly and sweetly.
544 Of spicerie of leef, and bark, and roote
Of seasonings of leaf, and bark, and root
545 Shal been his sauce ymaked by delit,
Shall his sauce be made for delight,
546 To make hym yet a newer appetit.
To make him yet a newer appetite.
547 But, certes, he that haunteth swiche delices
But, certainly, he who habitually seeks such delicacies
548 Is deed, whil that he lyveth in tho vices.
Is dead, while he lives in those vices.
549 A lecherous thyng is wyn, and dronkenesse
A lecherous thing is wine, and drunkenness
550 Is ful of stryvyng and of wrecchednesse.
Is full of striving and of wretchedness.
551 O dronke man, disfigured is thy face,
O drunken man, disfigured is thy face,
552 Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace,
Sour is thy breath, foul art thou to embrace,
553 And thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun
And through thy drunken nose the sound seems
554 As though thou seydest ay "Sampsoun, Sampsoun!"
As though thou said always "Sampson, Sampson!"
555 And yet, God woot, Sampsoun drank nevere no wyn.
And yet, God knows, Sampson never drank any wine.
556 Thou fallest as it were a styked swyn;
Thou fallest like a stuck pig;
557 Thy tonge is lost, and al thyn honeste cure,
Thy tongue is lost, and all thy care for decency,
558 For dronkenesse is verray sepulture
For drunkenness is truly the sepulcher
559 Of mannes wit and his discrecioun.
Of man's wit and his discretion.
560 In whom that drynke hath dominacioun
In whom drink has domination
561 He kan no conseil kepe; it is no drede.
He can keep no secrets; there is no doubt.
562 Now kepe yow fro the white and fro the rede,
Now guard yourself from the white and from the red,
563 And namely fro the white wyn of Lepe
And namely from the white wine of Lepe
564 That is to selle in Fysshstrete or in Chepe.
That is for sale in Fishstreet or in Cheapside.
565 This wyn of Spaigne crepeth subtilly
This wine of Spain creeps subtly
566 In othere wynes, growynge faste by,
Into other wines, growing near by,
567 Of which ther ryseth swich fumositee
Of which there rise such bodily vapors
568 That whan a man hath dronken draughtes thre,
That when a man has drunk three drafts,
569 And weneth that he be at hoom in Chepe,
And supposes that he is at home in Cheapside,
570 He is in Spaigne, right at the toune of Lepe --
He is in Spain, right at the town of Lepe --
571 Nat at the Rochele, ne at Burdeux toun --
Not at La Rochelle, nor at Bordeaux town --
572 And thanne wol he seye "Sampsoun, Sampsoun!"
And then will he say "Sampson, Sampson!"
573 But herkneth, lordynges, o word, I yow preye,
But listen, gentlemen, one word, I pray you,
574 That alle the sovereyn actes, dar I seye,
That all the great deeds, I dare say,
575 Of victories in the Olde Testament,
Of victories in the Old Testament,
576 Thurgh verray God, that is omnipotent,
Through true God, who is omnipotent,
577 Were doon in abstinence and in preyere.
Were done in abstinence and in prayer.
578 Looketh the Bible, and ther ye may it leere.
Look in the Bible, and there you can learn it.
579 Looke, Attilla, the grete conquerour,
Consider how Attila, the great conqueror,
580 Deyde in his sleep, with shame and dishonour,
Died in his sleep, with shame and dishonor,
581 Bledynge ay at his nose in dronkenesse.
Bleeding ever at his nose in drunkenness.
582 A capitayn sholde lyve in sobrenesse.
A captain should live in sobriety.
583 And over al this, avyseth yow right wel
And beyond all this, consider right well
584 What was comaunded unto Lamuel --
What was commanded unto Lamuel --
585 Nat Samuel, but Lamuel, seye I;
Not Samuel, but Lamuel, I say;
586 Redeth the Bible, and fynde it expresly
Read the Bible, and find it explicitly
587 Of wyn-yevyng to hem that han justise.
About giving wine to those that have the duty of doing justice.
588 Namoore of this, for it may wel suffise.
No more of this, for it may well suffice.
589 And now that I have spoken of glotonye,
And now that I have spoken of gluttony,
590 Now wol I yow deffenden hasardrye.
Now I will forbid you gambling.
591 Hasard is verray mooder of lesynges,
Dicing is the true mother of lies,
592 And of deceite, and cursed forswerynges,
And of deceit, and cursed perjuries,
593 Blaspheme of Crist, manslaughtre, and wast also
Blasphemy of Christ, manslaughter, and waste also
594 Of catel and of tyme; and forthermo,
Of possessions and of time; and furthermore,
595 It is repreeve and contrarie of honour
It is a disgrace and contrary to honor
596 For to ben holde a commune hasardour.
To be considered a common dice player.
597 And ever the hyer he is of estaat,
And ever the higher he is of estate,
598 The moore is he yholden desolaat.
The more is he considered abandoned (to shame).
599 If that a prynce useth hasardrye,
If a prince plays at dicing,
600 In alle governaunce and policye
In all governance and policy
601 He is, as by commune opinioun,
He is, by common opinion,
602 Yholde the lasse in reputacioun.
Held the less in reputation.
603 Stilboun, that was a wys embassadour,
Stilboun, who was a wise ambassador,
604 Was sent to Corynthe in ful greet honour
Was sent to Corinth in very great honor
605 Fro Lacidomye to make hire alliaunce.
From Sparta to make their alliance.
606 And whan he cam, hym happede, par chaunce,
And when he came, it happened, by chance,
607 That alle the gretteste that were of that lond,
That all the greatest men that were of that land,
608 Pleyynge atte hasard he hem fond.
Playing at dice he found them.
609 For which, as soone as it myghte be,
For which, as soon as it could be,
610 He stal hym hoom agayn to his contree,
He stole home again to his country,
611 And seyde, "Ther wol I nat lese my name,
And said, "There I will not lose my reputation,
612 Ne I wol nat take on me so greet defame,
Nor will I take on me so great infamy,
613 Yow for to allie unto none hasardours.
To ally you unto any dice-players.
614 Sendeth othere wise embassadours;
Send other wise ambassadors;
615 For, by my trouthe, me were levere dye
For, by my troth, I would rather die
616 Than I yow sholde to hasardours allye.
Than I should ally you to dice-players.
617 For ye, that been so glorious in honours,
For you, that are so glorious in honors,
618 Shul nat allyen yow with hasardours
Shall not ally yourselves with dice-players
619 As by my wyl, ne as by my tretee."
By my will, nor by my negotiation."
620 This wise philosophre, thus seyde hee.
This wise philosopher, thus said he.
621 Looke eek that to the kyng Demetrius
Consider also that to the king Demetrius
622 The kyng of Parthes, as the book seith us,
The king of Parthia, as the book tells us,
623 Sente him a paire of dees of gold in scorn,
Sent him a pair of dice of gold in scorn,
624 For he hadde used hasard ther-biforn;
Because he had played at dicing before that;
625 For which he heeld his glorie or his renoun
For which he held his glory or his renown
626 At no value or reputacioun.
At no value or esteem.
627 Lordes may fynden oother maner pley
Lords may find other sorts of play
628 Honest ynough to dryve the day awey.
Respectable enough to pass the time.
629 Now wol I speke of othes false and grete
Now will I speak of oaths false and great
630 A word or two, as olde bookes trete.
A word or two, as old books treat them.
631 Gret sweryng is a thyng abhominable,
Great swearing is an abominable thing,
632 And fals sweryng is yet moore reprevable.
And false swearing is yet more worthy of reproof.
633 The heighe God forbad sweryng at al,
The high God forbad swearing at al,
634 Witnesse on Mathew; but in special
Witness on Matthew; but in special
635 Of sweryng seith the hooly Jeremye,
Of swearing says the holy Jeremiah,
636 "Thou shalt swere sooth thyne othes, and nat lye,
"Thou shall swear truly thine oaths, and not lie,
637 And swere in doom and eek in rightwisnesse";
And in judgement and also in righteousness";
638 But ydel sweryng is a cursednesse.
But idle swearing is a cursed thing.
639 Bihoold and se that in the firste table
Behold and see that in the first three
640 Of heighe Goddes heestes honurable,
Of high God's honorable commandments,
641 Hou that the seconde heeste of hym is this:
How the second of his commands is this:
642 "Take nat my name in ydel or amys."
"Take not my name in vain nor amiss."
643 Lo, rather he forbedeth swich sweryng
Lo, he forbids such swearing rather
644 Than homycide or many a cursed thyng;
Than homicide or many a cursed thing;
645 I seye that, as by ordre, thus it stondeth;
I say that, so far as order is concerned, thus it stands;
646 This knoweth, that his heestes understondeth,
He who understands his commandments knows this,
647 How that the seconde heeste of God is that.
How that is the second command of God.
648 And forther over, I wol thee telle al plat
And furthermore, I will tell thee flatly
649 That vengeance shal nat parten from his hous
That vengeance shall not part from his house
650 That of his othes is to outrageous.
Who of his oaths is too excessive.
651 "By Goddes precious herte," and "By his nayles,"
"By God's precious heart," and "By his nails,"
652 And "By the blood of Crist that is in Hayles,
And "By the blood of Christ that is in Hales Abbey,
653 Sevene is my chaunce, and thyn is cynk and treye!"
Seven is my number, and thine is five and three!"
654 "By Goddes armes, if thou falsly pleye,
"By God's arms, if thou falsely play,
655 This daggere shal thurghout thyn herte go!" --
This dagger shall go throughout thy heart!" --
656 This fruyt cometh of the bicched bones two,
This fruit comes of the two cursed dice,
657 Forsweryng, ire, falsnesse, homycide.
Perjury, anger, falseness, homicide.
658 Now, for the love of Crist, that for us dyde,
Now, for the love of Christ, who for us died,
659 Lete youre othes, bothe grete and smale.
Leave your oaths, both great and small.
660 But, sires, now wol I telle forth my tale.
But, sirs, now will I tell forth my tale.
661 Thise riotoures thre of whiche I telle,
These three rioters of whom I tell,
662 Longe erst er prime rong of any belle,
Long before prime rang of any bell,
663 Were set hem in a taverne to drynke,
Had set themselves in a tavern to drink,
664 And as they sat, they herde a belle clynke
And as they sat, they heard a bell clink
665 Biforn a cors, was caried to his grave.
Before a corpse, which was carried to its grave.
666 That oon of hem gan callen to his knave:
The one of them did call to his servant:
667 "Go bet," quod he, "and axe redily
"Go quickly," he said, "and ask at once
668 What cors is this that passeth heer forby;
What corpse is this that passes by here;
669 And looke that thou reporte his name weel."
And see that thou report his name correctly."
670 "Sire," quod this boy, "it nedeth never-a-deel;
"Sir," said this boy, "that is not at all necessary;
671 It was me toold er ye cam heer two houres.
It was told me two hours before you came here.
672 He was, pardee, an old felawe of youres,
He was, indeed, an old fellow of yours,
673 And sodeynly he was yslayn to-nyght,
And suddenly he was slain last night,
674 Fordronke, as he sat on his bench upright.
Completely drunk, as he sat on his bench upright.
675 Ther cam a privee theef men clepeth Deeth,
There came a stealthy thief men call Death,
676 That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
Who slays all the people in this country,
677 And with his spere he smoot his herte atwo,
And with his spear he struck his heart in two,
678 And wente his wey withouten wordes mo.
And went his way without more words.
679 He hath a thousand slayn this pestilence.
He has slain a thousand (during) this pestilence.
680 And, maister, er ye come in his presence,
And, master, before you come in his presence,
681 Me thynketh that it were necessarie
It seems to me that it would be necessary
682 For to be war of swich an adversarie.
To beware of such an adversary.
683 Beth redy for to meete hym everemoore;
Always be ready to meet him;
684 Thus taughte me my dame; I sey namoore."
Thus taught me my mother; I say no more."
685 "By Seinte Marie!" seyde this taverner,
"By Saint Mary!" said this tavern-keeper,
686 "The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer,
"The child says truth, for he has slain this year,
687 Henne over a mile, withinne a greet village,
Over a mile from here, within a great village,
688 Bothe man and womman, child, and hyne, and page;
Both man and woman, child, and laborer, and servant boy;
689 I trowe his habitacioun be there.
I suppose his habitation is there.
690 To been avysed greet wysdom it were,
It would be great wisdom to be forewarned,
691 Er that he dide a man a dishonour."
Before he did a man any harm."
692 "Ye, Goddes armes!" quod this riotour,
"Yea, God's arms!" said this rioter,
693 "Is it swich peril with hym for to meete?
"Is it such peril to meet with him?
694 I shal hym seke by wey and eek by strete,
I shall seek him by path-way and also by street (everywhere),
695 I make avow to Goddes digne bones!
I make a vow to God's honorable bones!
696 Herkneth, felawes, we thre been al ones;
Listen, fellows, we three are all agreed;
697 Lat ech of us holde up his hand til oother,
Let each of us hold up his hand to other,
698 And ech of us bicomen otheres brother,
And each of us become the others' brother,
699 And we wol sleen this false traytour Deeth.
And we will slay this false traitor Death.
700 He shal be slayn, he that so manye sleeth,
He shall be slain, he who slays so many,
701 By Goddes dignitee, er it be nyght!"
By God's dignity, before it be night!"
702 Togidres han thise thre hir trouthes plight
Together have these three pledged their troths
703 To lyve and dyen ech of hem for oother,
To live and die each of them for other,
704 As though he were his owene ybore brother.
As though he were his own born brother.
705 And up they stirte, al dronken in this rage,
And up they leaped, all drunken in this rage,
706 And forth they goon towardes that village
And forth they go towards that village
707 Of which the taverner hadde spoke biforn.
Of which the tavern-keeper had spoken before.
708 And many a grisly ooth thanne han they sworn,
And many a grisly oath then have they sworn,
709 And Cristes blessed body they torente --
And Christ's blessed body they tore to pieces --
710 Deeth shal be deed, if that they may hym hente!
Death shall be dead, if they can catch him!
711 Whan they han goon nat fully half a mile,
When they have gone not fully half a mile,
712 Right as they wolde han troden over a stile,
Right as they would have stepped over a fence,
713 An oold man and a povre with hem mette.
An old and poor man met with them.
714 This olde man ful mekely hem grette,
This old man full meekly greeted them,
715 And seyde thus, "Now, lordes, God yow see!"
And said thus, "Now, lords, may God look after you!"
716 The proudeste of thise riotoures three
The proudest of these three rioters
717 Answerde agayn, "What, carl, with sory grace!
Answered in reply, "What, churl, bad luck to you!
718 Why artow al forwrapped save thy face?
Why art thou all wrapped up except for thy face?
719 Why lyvestow so longe in so greet age?"
Why live thou so long in such old age?"
720 This olde man gan looke in his visage,
This old man did look in his face,
721 And seyde thus: "For I ne kan nat fynde
And said thus: "Because I can not find
722 A man, though that I walked into Ynde,
A man, though I walked to India,
723 Neither in citee ne in no village,
Neither in city nor in any village,
724 That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
That would change his youth for my age;
725 And therfore moot I han myn age stille,
And therefore I must have my age still,
726 As longe tyme as it is Goddes wille.
As long a time as it is God's will.
727 Ne Deeth, allas, ne wol nat han my lyf.
Nor Death, alas, will not have my life.
728 Thus walke I, lyk a restelees kaityf,
Thus I walk, like a restless wretch,
729 And on the ground, which is my moodres gate,
And on the ground, which is my mother's gate,
730 I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late,
I knock with my staff, both early and late,
731 And seye `Leeve mooder, leet me in!
And say `Dear mother, let me in!
732 Lo how I vanysshe, flessh, and blood, and skyn!
Lo how I waste away, flesh, and blood, and skin!
733 Allas, whan shul my bones been at reste?
Alas, when shall my bones be at rest?
734 Mooder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste
Mother, with you would I exchange my strongbox
735 That in my chambre longe tyme hath be,
That in my chamber long time has been,
736 Ye, for an heyre clowt to wrappe me!'
Yea, for an hair shirt to wrap me!'
737 But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
But yet to me she will not do that favor,
738 For which ful pale and welked is my face.
For which full pale and withered is my face.
739 "But, sires, to yow it is no curteisye
"But, sirs, to you it is no courtesy
740 To speken to an old man vileynye,
To speak rudeness to an old man,
741 But he trespasse in word or elles in dede.
Unless he trespass in word or else in deed.
742 In Hooly Writ ye may yourself wel rede:
In Holy Writ you may yourself well read:
743 `Agayns an oold man, hoor upon his heed,
`In the presence of an old man, gray upon his head,
744 Ye sholde arise;' wherfore I yeve yow reed,
You should rise;' therefore I give you advice,
745 Ne dooth unto an oold man noon harm now,
Do no harm now unto an old man,
746 Namoore than that ye wolde men did to yow
No more than you would want men to do to you
747 In age, if that ye so longe abyde.
In old age, if you live so long.
748 And God be with yow, where ye go or ryde!
And God be with you, wherever you walk or ride!
749 I moot go thider as I have to go."
I must go thither where I have to go."
750 "Nay, olde cherl, by God, thou shalt nat so,"
"Nay, old churl, by God, thou shall not so,"
751 Seyde this oother hasardour anon;
Said this other dice-player quickly;
752 "Thou partest nat so lightly, by Seint John!
"Thou depart not so quickly, by Saint John!
753 Thou spak right now of thilke traytour Deeth.
Thou spoke right now of that same traitor Death.
754 That in this contree alle oure freendes sleeth.
That slays all our friends in this country.
755 Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his espye,
Have here my pledge, as thou art his spy,
756 Telle where he is or thou shalt it abye,
Tell where he is or thou shall pay for it,
757 By God and by the hooly sacrement!
By God and by the holy sacrament!
758 For soothly thou art oon of his assent
For truly thou art in league with him
759 To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!"
To slay us young folk, thou false thief!"
760 "Now, sires," quod he, "if that yow be so leef
"Now, sirs," said he, "if you are so eager
761 To fynde Deeth, turne up this croked wey,
To find Death, turn up this crooked way,
762 For in that grove I lafte hym, by my fey,
For in that grove I left him, by my faith,
763 Under a tree, and there he wole abyde;
Under a tree, and there he will wait;
764 Noght for youre boost he wole him no thyng hyde.
He will not in any way hide himself because of your boast.
765 Se ye that ook? Right there ye shal hym fynde.
Do you see that oak? Right there you shall find him.
766 God save yow, that boghte agayn mankynde,
God save you, He who redeemed mankind,
767 And yow amende!" Thus seyde this olde man;
And amend you!" Thus said this old man;
768 And everich of thise riotoures ran
And every one of these rioters ran
769 Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde
Until he came to that tree, and there they found
770 Of floryns fyne of gold ycoyned rounde
Of fine round florins of coined gold
771 Wel ny an eighte busshels, as hem thoughte.
Well nigh eight bushels, as they thought.
772 No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte,
No longer then after Death they sought,
773 But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
But each of them was so glad of that sight,
774 For that the floryns been so faire and brighte,
Because the florins are so faire and bright,
775 That doun they sette hem by this precious hoord.
That they set themselves down by this precious hoard.
776 The worste of hem, he spak the firste word.
The worst of them, he spoke the first word.
777 "Bretheren," quod he, "taak kep what that I seye;
"Brethren," he said, "take heed of what I say;
778 My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye.
My wit is great, though I jest and play.
779 This tresor hath Fortune unto us yiven
Fortune has given this treasure unto us
780 In myrthe and joliftee oure lyf to lyven,
In mirth and jollity to live our life,
781 And lightly as it comth, so wol we spende.
And as easily as it comes, so will we spend it.
782 Ey, Goddes precious dignitee! Who wende
Ah, God's precious dignity! Who would have supposed
783 To-day that we sholde han so fair a grace?
To-day that we should have such good fortune?
784 But myghte this gold be caried fro this place
But if this gold could be carried from this place
785 Hoom to myn hous, or elles unto youres --
Home to my house, or else unto yours --
786 For wel ye woot that al this gold is oures --
For well you know that all this gold is ours --
787 Thanne were we in heigh felicitee.
Then we would be in great happiness.
788 But trewely, by daye it may nat bee.
But truly, it may not be (done) by day.
789 Men wolde seyn that we were theves stronge,
Men would say that we were arrant thieves,
790 And for oure owene tresor doon us honge.
And for our own treasure have us hanged.
791 This tresor moste ycaried be by nyghte
This treasure must be carried by night
792 As wisely and as slyly as it myghte.
As wisely and as slyly as it can be.
793 Wherfore I rede that cut among us alle
Wherefore I advise that among us all straws
794 Be drawe, and lat se wher the cut wol falle;
Be drawn, and let's see where the lot will fall;
795 And he that hath the cut with herte blithe
And he who has the shortest straw with happy heart
796 Shal renne to the town, and that ful swithe,
Shall run to the town, and that very quickly,
797 And brynge us breed and wyn ful prively.
And very secretly bring us bread and wine.
798 And two of us shul kepen subtilly
And two of us shall carefully guard
799 This tresor wel; and if he wol nat tarie,
This treasure well; and if he will not tarry,
800 Whan it is nyght, we wol this tresor carie,
When it is night, we will carry this treasure,
801 By oon assent, where as us thynketh best."
By mutual agreement, where we think best."
802 That oon of hem the cut broghte in his fest,
That one of them brought the straws in his fist,
803 And bad hem drawe and looke where it wol falle;
And commanded them to draw and see where it will fall;
804 And it fil on the yongeste of hem alle,
And it fell on the youngest of them all,
805 And forth toward the toun he wente anon.
And forth toward the town he went right away.
806 And also soone as that he was gon,
And as soon as he was gone,
807 That oon of hem spak thus unto that oother:
The one of them spoke thus unto that other:
808 "Thow knowest wel thou art my sworen brother;
"Thou knowest well thou art my sworn brother;
809 Thy profit wol I telle thee anon.
Thy profit will I tell thee straightway.
810 Thou woost wel that oure felawe is agon.
Thou knowest well that our fellow is gone.
811 And heere is gold, and that ful greet plentee,
And here is gold, and that a full great quantity,
812 That shal departed been among us thre.
That shall be divided among us three.
813 But nathelees, if I kan shape it so
But nevertheless, if I can arrange things so
814 That it departed were among us two,
That it were divided among us two,
815 Hadde I nat doon a freendes torn to thee?"
Had I not done a good turn to thee?"
816 That oother answerde, "I noot hou that may be.
That other answered, "I know not how that can be.
817 He woot that the gold is with us tweye;
He knows that the gold is with us two;
818 What shal we doon? What shal we to hym seye?"
What shall we do? What shall we say to him?"
819 "Shal it be conseil?" seyde the firste shrewe,
"Shall it be (our) secret plan?" said the first scoundrel,
820 "And I shal tellen in a wordes fewe
"And I shall tell in a few words
821 What we shal doon, and brynge it wel aboute."
What we shall do, and bring it well about."
822 "I graunte," quod that oother, "out of doute,
"I agree," said that other, "without doubt,
823 That, by my trouthe, I wol thee nat biwreye."
That, by my troth, I will not betray thee."
824 "Now," quod the firste, "thou woost wel we be tweye,
"Now," said the first, "thou knowest well we are two,
825 And two of us shul strenger be than oon.
And two of us shall be stronger than one.
826 Looke whan that he is set, that right anoon
Look, when he has set down, right away
827 Arys as though thou woldest with hym pleye,
Arise as though thou would with him play,
828 And I shal ryve hym thurgh the sydes tweye
And I shall stab him through the two sides
829 Whil that thou strogelest with hym as in game,
While thou struggle with him as in game,
830 And with thy daggere looke thou do the same;
And with thy dagger see that thou do the same;
831 And thanne shal al this gold departed be,
And then shall all this gold be divided,
832 My deere freend, bitwixen me and thee.
My dear friend, between me and thee.
833 Thanne may we bothe oure lustes all fulfille,
Then we both can fulfill all our desires,
834 And pleye at dees right at oure owene wille."
And play at dice just as we wish,"
835 And thus acorded been thise shrewes tweye
And thus these two scoundrels are agreed
836 To sleen the thridde, as ye han herd me seye.
To slay the third, as you have heard me say.
837 This yongeste, which that wente to the toun,
This youngest, who went to the town,
838 Ful ofte in herte he rolleth up and doun
Very often in heart he rolls up and down
839 The beautee of thise floryns newe and brighte.
The beauty of these florins new and bright.
840 "O Lord!" quod he, "if so were that I myghte
"O Lord!" he said, "if it would be that I might
841 Have al this tresor to myself allone,
Have all this treasure to myself alone,
842 Ther is no man that lyveth under the trone
There is no man that lives under the throne
843 Of God that sholde lyve so murye as I!"
Of God that should live so merrily as I!"
844 And atte laste the feend, oure enemy,
And at the last the fiend, our enemy,
845 Putte in his thought that he sholde poyson beye,
Put in his thought that he should buy poison,
846 With which he myghte sleen his felawes tweye;
With which he might slay his two fellows;
847 For-why the feend foond hym in swich lyvynge
Because the fiend found him in such a manner of living
848 That he hadde leve him to sorwe brynge.
That he had leave bring him to sorrow.
849 For this was outrely his fulle entente,
For this was utterly his full intention,
850 To sleen hem bothe and nevere to repente.
To slay them both and never to repent.
851 And forth he gooth, no lenger wolde he tarie,
And forth he goes, no longer would he tarry,
852 Into the toun, unto a pothecarie,
Into the town, unto an apothecary,
853 And preyde hym that he hym wolde selle
And prayed him that he would sell him
854 Som poyson, that he myghte his rattes quelle;
Some poison, that he might kill his rats;
855 And eek ther was a polcat in his hawe,
And also there was a polecat in his yard,
856 That, as he seyde, his capouns hadde yslawe,
That, as he said, had slain his capons,
857 And fayn he wolde wreke hym, if he myghte,
And he would gladly revenge himself, if he could,
858 On vermyn that destroyed hym by nyghte.
On vermin that ruined him by night.
859 The pothecarie answerde, "And thou shalt have
The apothecary answered, "And thou shall have
860 A thyng that, also God my soule save,
A thing that, as God may save my soul,
861 In al this world ther is no creature
In all this world there is no creature
862 That eten or dronken hath of this confiture
That has eaten or drunk of this concoction
863 Noght but the montance of a corn of whete,
Only so much as the amount of a seed of wheat,
864 That he ne shal his lif anon forlete;
That he shall not immediately lose his life;
865 Ye, sterve he shal, and that in lasse while
Yea, he shall die, and that in less time
866 Than thou wolt goon a paas nat but a mile,
Than thou will go at a walk but only a mile,
867 This poysoun is so strong and violent."
This poison is so strong and violent."
868 This cursed man hath in his hond yhent
This cursed man has in his hand taken
869 This poysoun in a box, and sith he ran
This poison in a box, and then he ran
870 Into the nexte strete unto a man,
Into the next street unto a man,
871 And borwed [of] hym large botelles thre,
And borrowed [of] him three large bottles,
872 And in the two his poyson poured he;
And in the two he poured his poison;
873 The thridde he kepte clene for his drynke.
The third he kept clean for his drink.
874 For al the nyght he shoop hym for to swynke
For all the night he intended to work
875 In cariynge of the gold out of that place.
In carrying of the gold out of that place.
876 And whan this riotour, with sory grace,
And when this rioter, bad luck to him,
877 Hadde filled with wyn his grete botels thre,
Had filled his three big bottles with wine,
878 To his felawes agayn repaireth he.
He goes back again to his fellows.
879 What nedeth it to sermone of it moore?
What needs it to preach of it more?
880 For right as they hadde cast his deeth bifoore,
For right as they had planned his death before,
881 Right so they han hym slayn, and that anon.
Right so they have him slain, and that immediately.
882 And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon:
And when this was done, thus spoke that one:
883 "Now lat us sitte and drynke, and make us merie,
"Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry,
884 And afterward we wol his body berie."
And afterward we will bury his body."
885 And with that word it happed hym, par cas,
And with that word it happened to him, by chance,
886 To take the botel ther the poyson was,
To take the bottle where the poison was,
887 And drank, and yaf his felawe drynke also,
And drank, and gave his fellow drink also,
888 For which anon they storven bothe two.
For which straightway they died, both of the two.
889 But certes, I suppose that Avycen
But certainly, I suppose that Avicenna
890 Wroot nevere in no canon, ne in no fen,
Wrote never in any authoritative book, nor in any chapter,
891 Mo wonder signes of empoisonyng
More wondrous symptoms of poisoning
892 Than hadde thise wrecches two, er hir endyng.
Than had these two wretches, before their ending.
893 Thus ended been thise homycides two,
Thus ended are these two homicides,
894 And eek the false empoysonere also.
And also the false poisoner as well.
895 O cursed synne of alle cursednesse!
O cursed sin of all cursedness!
896 O traytours homycide, O wikkednesse!
O treacherous homicide, O wickedness!
897 O glotonye, luxurie, and hasardrye!
O gluttony, lechery, and dicing!
898 Thou blasphemour of Crist with vileynye
Thou blasphemer of Christ with churlish speech
899 And othes grete, of usage and of pride!
And great oaths, out of habit and out of pride!
900 Allas, mankynde, how may it bitide
Alas, mankind, how may it happen
901 That to thy creatour, which that the wroghte
That to thy creator, who made thee
902 And with his precious herte-blood thee boghte,
And with his precious heart's blood redeemed thee,
903 Thou art so fals and so unkynde, allas?
Thou art so false and so unnatural, alas?
904 Now, goode men, God foryeve yow youre trespas,
Now, good men, God forgive you your trespass,
905 And ware yow fro the synne of avarice!
And guard yourselves from the sin of avarice!
906 Myn hooly pardoun may yow alle warice,
My holy pardon can cure you all,
907 So that ye offre nobles or sterlynges,
Providing that you offer gold coins or silver pennies,
908 Or elles silver broches, spoones, rynges.
Or else silver brooches, spoons, rings.
909 Boweth youre heed under this hooly bulle!
Bow your head under this holy papal bull!
910 Cometh up, ye wyves, offreth of youre wolle!
Come up, you wives, offer some of your wool!
911 Youre names I entre heer in my rolle anon;
Your names I enter here in my roll immediately;
912 Into the blisse of hevene shul ye gon.
Into the bliss of heaven you shall go.
913 I yow assoille, by myn heigh power,
I absolve you, by my high power,
914 Yow that wol offre, as clene and eek as cleer
You who will offer, as clean and also as clear (of sin)
915 As ye were born. -- And lo, sires, thus I preche.
As you were born. -- And lo, sirs, thus I preach.
916 And Jhesu Crist, that is oure soules leche,
And Jesus Christ, that is our souls' physician,
917 So graunte yow his pardoun to receyve,
So grant you to receive his pardon,