Summary and Analysis The Friar's Prologue and Tale
At the end of the wife of Bath's narration, the Friar wonders whether such heavy academic problems concerning authority and the scriptures shouldn't be left to the proper authorities and offers to tell a tale about a summoner. The Host admonishes the Friar to tell something else, but the Summoner interrupts and says that, if the Friar tells an uncomplimentary tale about a summoner, he will in turn tell an uncomplimentary tale about a friar. The tale the Friar tells is, indeed, uncomplimentary.
An archdeacon (a church official who presided over church courts) uses a crew of spies, including whores, to seek out information about the people living in the parish. With the derogatory information in hand, the archdeacon calls upon the sinners and miscreants and squeezes exorbitant tribute from them so that their names do not appear among those doing evil.
In the employ of the Archdeacon is a summoner who makes his rounds blackmailing the rich and the poor alike. One day, the summoner meets a debonair young yeoman. Discovering that they are both bailiffs, the two men swear to be brothers to their dying day. They each reveal the underhanded means they use to extort money from their victims and agree to enter into a partnership. After exchanging further information, the summoner inquires about the yeoman's name. The yeoman reveals that he is "a fiend, my dwelling is in hell." The summoner says that he made a bargain to join forces with the yeoman, and even if the yeoman is really a fiend, he (the summoner) will honor his word. The two seal the bargain and begin their journey.
The summoner and the demon come upon a farmer whose cart is stuck in the mud. In exasperation, the farmer shouts for the devil to take all — cart, horse, hay, everything. The summoner urges the fiend to do as he is bid, but the fiend explains that, because the curse was not uttered from the heart and in sincerity, he has no power to do so. Later, they go to the home of a rich widow who refuses to pay the summoner's bribes. Again the summoner demands his money; again the woman refuses. When the summoner threatens to take her new frying pan, she cries, "The devil take you and the frying pan." The fiend asks whether she means these words, and she says she does, unless the summoner repents. The summoner refuses, and the fiend drags the summoner off to hell, where all summoners have very special places. The Friar ends his tale by hoping that summoners can someday repent and become good men.
The Friar's Tale and the next one, The Summoner's Tale, belong together as a unit because the Friar tells an uncomplimentary tale about a corrupt summoner, and the Summoner, in his turn, tells an uncomplimentary tale about a corrupt friar. The reader should remember that in spite of the personal animosity between the Friar and the Summoner, the greater quarrel is about the importance and validity of their respective professions.
Although The Friar's Tale is elegantly simple — partly because of the Friar's intellectual simplicity — the tale has its enriching subtleties. For example, Chaucer plays on the medieval word "rebekke," a type of stringed fiddle-like instrument, and "rebekke," slang for "old woman." The word also puns on the biblical name Rebecca (wife of Isaac and mother to Jacob), whose sacred water vessel in the biblical story is reflected in The Friar's Tale by a comically brown cooking pan. Another literary technique is a type of reversal in that the summoner and the demon ride out seeking "prey" with the pun on "pray." The central irony in the tale, of course, is that the foxy summoner out-foxes himself and becomes the "prey" of the demon.
The Friar's Tale is connected to The Wife of Bath's Tale in that the Wife discusses the problem of authority (that is, the husband or the wife), and the Friar deals with the relative authority in terms of the church and demons. In The Wife of Bath's Tale, authority is given over to a woman — a violation of medieval sense of hierarchy. The Friar continues the theme of authority by first describing the evil machinations of his superior, the archdeacon to whom the summoner is supposedly a "vassal." The summoner, in turn, has his own servants and spies in the form of whores and thieves. Likewise, the demon falls into a hierarchy in that he is assigned by a higher power the responsibility of capturing his prey, the soul of the summoner. Then in the episode of the farmer and his cart of hay, the reader learns that the authority of the demon is limited.
usury (usure) charging interest on money lent, a practice forbidden by canon law.
simony (symonye) the sin of using the church for personal financial gain, a frequent violation.
lechery (lecchours) excessive sexual indulgence.
Archbishop Dunstan (924-988) an archbishop of Canterbury who was later canonized.
Virgil, Dante (Virgile, Dant) Virgil has a description of hell in his Aeneid, and Dante has the elaborate, complicated Inferno. The fiend tells the Summoner that he will be better able to describe hell after seeing it than did the two poets.
Once there was dwelling in my country
1302 An erchedeken, a man of heigh degree,
An archdeacon, a man of high rank,
1303 That boldely dide execucioun
That boldly carried out the law
1304 In punysshynge of fornicacioun,
In punishment of fornication,
1305 Of wicchecraft, and eek of bawderye,
Of witchcraft, and also of pandering,
1306 Of diffamacioun, and avowtrye,
Of defamation of character, and adultery,
1307 Of chirche reves, and of testamentz,
Of robbing churches, and of wills,
1308 Of contractes and of lakke of sacramentz,
Of marriage contracts and of failure to take the sacraments,
1309 Of usure, and of symonye also.
Of usury, and of simony also.
1310 But certes, lecchours dide he grettest wo;
But certainly, to lechers did he the greatest woe;
1311 They sholde syngen if that they were hent;
They had to sing out in pain if they were taken;
1312 And smale tytheres weren foule yshent,
And those who paid less than full tithes were severely punished,
1313 If any persoun wolde upon hem pleyne.
If any parson would complain about them.
1314 Ther myghte asterte hym no pecunyal peyne.
There could escape him no monetary punishment (fine).
1315 For smale tithes and for smal offrynge
For small tithes and for small offering
1316 He made the peple pitously to synge,
He made the people piteously to sing out in pain,
1317 For er the bisshop caughte hem with his hook,
For ere the bishop caught them with his crozier,
1318 They weren in the erchedeknes book.
They were in the archdeacon's book.
1319 Thanne hadde he, thurgh his jurisdiccioun,
Then had he, throughout his jurisdiction,
1320 Power to doon on hem correccioun.
Power to have them punished.
1321 He hadde a somonour redy to his hond;
He had a summoner ready at his hand;
1322 A slyer boye nas noon in Engelond;
No one in England was a more clever rascal;
1323 For subtilly he hadde his espiaille,
For deviously he had his network of spies,
1324 That taughte hym wel wher that hym myghte availle.
That showed him well where there might be profit for him.
1325 He koude spare of lecchours oon or two,
He could spare one or two of the lechers,
1326 To techen hym to foure and twenty mo.
To direct him to four and twenty more.
1327 For thogh this Somonour wood were as an hare,
For though this Summoner were mad as a hare,
1328 To telle his harlotrye I wol nat spare;
To tell his wickedness I will not desist;
1329 For we are out of his correccioun.
For we are exempt from his authority.
1330 They han of us no jurisdiccioun,
They have over us no jurisdiction,
1331 Ne nevere shullen, terme of alle hir lyves.
Nor never shall, until the end of all their lives.
1332 "Peter! so been wommen of the styves,"
"By St. Peter! so are women of the brothels,"
1333 Quod the Somonour, "yput out of oure cure!"
Said the Summoner, "put out of our jurisdiction!"
1334 "Pees! with myschance and with mysaventure!"
"Quiet! with bad luck and with misfortune to you!"
1335 Thus seyde oure Hoost, "and lat hym telle his tale.
Thus said our Host, "and let him tell his tale.
1336 Now telleth forth, thogh that the Somonour gale;
Now tell forth, though the Summoner loudly complain;
1337 Ne spareth nat, myn owene maister deere."
And tell everything, my own master dear."
1338 This false theef, this somonour, quod the Frere,
This false thief, this summoner, said the Friar,
1339 Hadde alwey bawdes redy to his hond,
Had always pimps as ready to his hand,
1340 As any hauk to lure in Engelond,
As any hawk to come to the lure in England,
1341 That tolde hym al the secree that they knewe,
Who told him all the secrets that they knew,
1342 For hire acqueyntance was nat come of newe.
For their acquaintance was not come recently.
1343 They weren his approwours prively.
They were secretly his agents.
1344 He took hymself a greet profit therby;
He got himself a great profit in this way;
1345 His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.
His master knew not always what he earned.
1346 Withouten mandement a lewed man
Without an actual summons an ignorant man
1347 He koude somne, on peyne of Cristes curs,
He could summon, on pain of excommunication,
1348 And they were glade for to fille his purs
And they were glad to fill his purse
1349 And make hym grete feestes atte nale.
And make him great feasts at the ale-house.
1350 And right as Judas hadde purses smale,
And just as Judas had small amounts of the apostles' money,
1351 And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
And was a thief, exactly such a thief was he;
1352 His maister hadde but half his duetee.
His master had but half the amount due to him.
1353 He was, if I shal yeven hym his laude,
He was, if I shall give him his due praise,
1354 A theef, and eek a somnour, and a baude.
A thief, and also a summoner, and a pimp.
1355 He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,
He had also wenches in his employ,
1356 That, wheither that sir Robert or sir Huwe,
That, whether sir Robert or sir Huwe,
1357 Or Jakke, or Rauf, or whoso that it were
Or Jakke, or Rauf, or whoever it was
1358 That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.
That lay by them, they told it in his ear.
1359 Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent,
Thus were the wench and he in agreement,
1360 And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,
And he would fetch a forged court order,
1361 And somne hem to chapitre bothe two,
And summon both of them to the archdeacon's court,
1362 And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
And rob the man, and let the wench go.
1363 Thanne wolde he seye, "Freend, I shal for thy sake
Then would he say, "Friend, I shall for thy sake
1364 Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake;
Have her stricken out of our records;
1365 Thee thar namoore as in this cas travaille.
Thou need trouble thyself no more in this case.
1366 I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle."
I am thy friend, where I can help thee."
1367 Certeyn he knew of briberyes mo
Certainly he knew of more ways of stealing
1368 Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
Than is possible to tell in two years.
1369 For in this world nys dogge for the bowe
For in this world is no hunting dog
1370 That kan an hurt deer from an hool yknowe
That can know a hurt deer from a whole one
1371 Bet than this somnour knew a sly lecchour,
Better than this summoner knew a sly lecher,
1372 Or an avowtier, or a paramour.
Or an adulterer, or a concubine.
1373 And for that was the fruyt of al his rente,
And because that was the best part of all his income,
1374 Therfore on it he sette al his entente.
Therefore on it he set all his intention.
1375 And so bifel that ones on a day
And it so befell that once on a day
1376 This somnour, evere waityng on his pray,
This summoner, ever lying in ambush for his prey,
1377 Rood for to somne an old wydwe, a ribibe,
Rode to summon an old widow, an old crone,
1378 Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.
Pretending to have a case against her, for he wanted a bribe.
1379 And happed that he saugh bifore hym ryde
And it happened that he saw before him ride
1380 A gay yeman, under a forest syde.
A gay yeoman, alongside the edge of a forest.
1381 A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
A bow he bore, and arrows bright and keen;
1382 He hadde upon a courtepy of grene,
He had upon him a short jacket of green,
1383 An hat upon his heed with frenges blake.
A hat upon his head with fringes black.
1384 "Sire," quod this somnour, "hayl, and wel atake!"
"Sir," said this summoner, "hail, and well met!"
1385 "Welcome," quod he, "and every good felawe!
"Welcome," said he, "and every good fellow!
1386 Wher rydestow, under this grene-wode shawe?"
Where ridest thou, alongside this green wood?"
1387 Seyde this yeman, "Wiltow fer to day?"
Said this yeoman, "Wilt thou travel far today?"
1388 This somnour hym answerde and seyde, "Nay;
This summoner him answered and said, "Nay;
1389 Heere faste by," quod he, "is myn entente
Here close by," said he, "is my intention
1390 To ryden, for to reysen up a rente
To ride, to collect a rent
1391 That longeth to my lordes duetee."
That belongs to my lord's due income."
1392 "Artow thanne a bailly?" "Ye," quod he.
"Art thou then a bailiff?" "Yes," said he.
1393 He dorste nat, for verray filthe and shame
He dared not, for the true filth and shame
1394 Seye that he was a somonour, for the name.
Of the name, say that he was a summoner.
1395 "Depardieux," quod this yeman, "deere broother,
"By God," said this yeoman, "dear brother,
1396 Thou art a bailly, and I am another.
Thou art a bailiff, and I am another.
1397 I am unknowen as in this contree;
I am unknown in this country;
1398 Of thyn aqueyntance I wolde praye thee,
Of thine acquaintance I would pray thee,
1399 And eek of bretherhede, if that yow leste.
And also of brotherhood, if you wish.
1400 I have gold and silver in my cheste;
I have gold and silver in my chest;
1401 If that thee happe to comen in oure shire,
If thou happen to come in our shire,
1402 Al shal be thyn, right as thou wolt desire."
All shall be thine, just as thou wilt desire."
1403 "Grant mercy," quod this somonour, "by my feith!"
"Great thanks," said this summoner, "by my faith!"
1404 Everych in ootheres hand his trouthe leith,
Each in other's hand pledges his troth,
1405 For to be sworne bretheren til they deye.
To be sworn brothers until they die.
1406 In daliance they ryden forth and pleye.
In pleasant conversation they ride forth and amuse themselves.
1407 This somonour, which that was as ful of jangles
This summoner, who was as full of idle speech
1408 As ful of venym been thise waryangles
As full of venom are these butcherbirds
1409 And evere enqueryng upon every thyng,
And ever inquiring about every thing,
1410 "Brother," quod he, "where is now youre dwellyng
"Brother," said he, "where is now your dwelling
1411 Another day if that I sholde yow seche?"
If I should seek you another day?"
1412 This yeman hym answerde in softe speche,
This yeoman him answered in gentle words,
1413 "Brother," quod he, "fer in the north contree,
"Brother," said he, "far in the north country,
1414 Whereas I hope som tyme I shal thee see.
Where I hope some time I shall thee see.
1415 Er we departe, I shal thee so wel wisse
Ere we depart, I shall thee so well instruct
1416 That of myn hous ne shaltow nevere mysse."
That thou shalt never miss my house."
1417 "Now, brother," quod this somonour, "I yow preye,
"Now, brother," said this summoner, "I you pray,
1418 Teche me, whil that we ryden by the weye,
Teach me, while we ride by the way,
1419 Syn that ye been a baillif as am I,
Since you are a bailiff as am I,
1420 Som subtiltee, and tel me feithfully
Some trickery, and tell me faithfully
1421 In myn office how that I may moost wynne;
In my occupation how I may most profit;
1422 And spareth nat for conscience ne synne,
And spare not for conscience nor sin,
1423 But as my brother tel me, how do ye."
But as my brother tell me, how you do your business."
1424 "Now, by my trouthe, brother deere," seyde he,
"Now, by my troth, brother dear," said he,
1425 "As I shal tellen thee a feithful tale,
"I shall tell thee a true tale,
1426 My wages been ful streite and ful smale.
My wages are very scanty and very small.
1427 My lord is hard to me and daungerous,
My lord is hard to me and niggardly,
1428 And myn office is ful laborous,
And my job is very hard work,
1429 And therfore by extorcions I lyve.
And therefore by extortions I live.
1430 For sothe, I take al that men wol me yive.
For truly, I take all that men will me give.
1431 Algate, by sleyghte or by violence,
In every way, by trickery or by violence,
1432 Fro yeer to yeer I wynne al my dispence.
From year to year I earn all my expenses.
1433 I kan no bettre telle, feithfully."
I can no better tell, truthfully."
1434 "Now certes," quod this Somonour, "so fare I.
"Now certainly," said this Summoner, "I do the same.
1435 I spare nat to taken, God it woot,
I do not desist from taking anything, God knows,
1436 But if it be to hevy or to hoot.
Unless it be too heavy or too hot.
1437 What I may gete in conseil prively,
What I can get in private secretly,
1438 No maner conscience of that have I.
No sort of pangs of conscience for that have I.
1439 Nere myn extorcioun, I myghte nat lyven,
Were it not for my extortion, I could not live,
1440 Ne of swiche japes wol I nat be shryven.
Nor of such tricks will I be confessed.
1441 Stomak ne conscience ne knowe I noon;
Stomach (compassion) nor conscience know I none;
1442 I shrewe thise shrifte-fadres everychoon.
I curse these confessors every one.
1443 Wel be we met, by God and by Seint Jame!
Well are we met, by God and by Saint James!
1444 But, leeve brother, tel me thanne thy name,"
But, dear brother, tell me then thy name,"
1445 Quod this somonour. In this meene while
Said this summoner. Meanwhile
1446 This yeman gan a litel for to smyle.
This yeoman began a little to smile.
1447 "Brother," quod he, "wiltow that I thee telle?
"Brother," said he, "wilt thou that I thee tell?
1448 I am a feend; my dwellyng is in helle,
I am a fiend; my dwelling is in hell,
1449 And heere I ryde aboute my purchasyng,
And here I ride about on my acquisition of profits,
1450 To wite wher men wol yeve me any thyng.
To know whether men will give me any thing.
1451 My purchas is th'effect of al my rente.
What I acquire is the total of all my income.
1452 Looke how thou rydest for the same entente,
Look how thou ridest for the same purpose,
1453 To wynne good, thou rekkest nevere how;
To make a profit, thou carest never how;
1454 Right so fare I, for ryde wolde I now
Right so do I, for I would ride now
1455 Unto the worldes ende for a preye."
Unto the world's end for a prey."
1456 "A!" quod this somonour, "benedicite! What sey ye?
"Ah!" said this summoner, "bless me! What say you?
1457 I wende ye were a yeman trewely.
I supposed you were truly a yeoman.
1458 Ye han a mannes shap as wel as I;
You have a man's shape as well as I;
1459 Han ye a figure thanne determinat
Have you then a definite form
1460 In helle, ther ye been in youre estat?"
In hell, where you are in your usual condition?"
1461 "Nay, certeinly," quod he, "ther have we noon;
"Nay, certainly," said he, "there have we none;
1462 But whan us liketh we kan take us oon,
But when we like we can take us one,
1463 Or elles make yow seme we been shape;
Or else make it seem to you we are so shaped;
1464 Somtyme lyk a man, or lyk an ape,
Sometimes like a man, or like an ape,
1465 Or lyk an angel kan I ryde or go.
Or like an angel can I ride or walk about.
1466 It is no wonder thyng thogh it be so;
It is no wonderful thing though it be so;
1467 A lowsy jogelour kan deceyve thee,
A lousy conjurer can deceive thee,
1468 And pardee, yet kan I moore craft than he."
And by God, yet I know more craft than he."
1469 "Why," quod this somonour, "ryde ye thanne or goon
"Why," said this summoner, "ride you then or walk about
1470 In sondry shap, and nat alwey in oon?"
In various shapes, and not always in one?"
1471 "For we," quod he, "wol us swiche formes make
"Because we," said he, "will make us such forms
1472 As moost able is oure preyes for to take."
As are most suitable for taking our prey."
1473 "What maketh yow to han al this labour?"
"What makes you to have all this labor?"
1474 "Ful many a cause, leeve sire somonour,"
"Very many a cause, dear sir summoner,"
1475 Seyde this feend, "but alle thyng hath tyme.
Said this fiend, "but every thing has its time.
1476 The day is short, and it is passed prime,
The day is short, and it is past nine a.m.,
1477 And yet ne wan I nothyng in this day.
And yet I gained nothing in this day.
1478 I wol entende to wynnyng, if I may,
I will concentrate on profit, if I may,
1479 And nat entende oure wittes to declare.
And not attend to explaining our mental abilities.
1480 For, brother myn, thy wit is al to bare
For, brother mine, thy wit is all too bare
1481 To understonde, althogh I tolde hem thee.
To understand, even though I told them to thee.
1482 But, for thou axest why labouren we --
But, since thou askest why labor we --
1483 For somtyme we been Goddes instrumentz
For sometimes we are God's instruments
1484 And meenes to doon his comandementz,
And means to do his commandments,
1485 Whan that hym list, upon his creatures,
When he wishes, upon his creatures,
1486 In divers art and in diverse figures.
In various methods and in various appearances.
1487 Withouten hym we have no myght, certayn,
Without him we have no power, certainly,
1488 If that hym list to stonden ther-agayn.
If he wishes to stand against us.
1489 And somtyme, at oure prayere, han we leve
And sometimes, at our prayer, have we leave
1490 Oonly the body and nat the soule greve;
Only the body and not the soul to grieve;
1491 Witnesse on Job, whom that we diden wo.
Take the evidence of Job, to whom we did woe.
1492 And somtyme han we myght of bothe two --
And sometimes have we power over both of the two --
1493 This is to seyn, of soule and body eke.
This is to say, of soul and body as well.
1494 And somtyme be we suffred for to seke
And sometimes we are allowed to harass
1495 Upon a man and doon his soule unreste
A man and do his soul distress
1496 And nat his body, and al is for the beste.
And not his body, and all is for the best.
1497 Whan he withstandeth oure temptacioun,
When he withstands our temptation,
1498 It is a cause of his savacioun,
It is a cause of his salvation,
1499 Al be it that it was nat oure entente
Although it was not our intention
1500 He sholde be sauf, but that we wolde hym hente.
He should be saved, but that we wanted to seize him.
1501 And somtyme be we servant unto man,
And sometimes we are servants unto a man,
1502 As to the erchebisshop Seint Dunstan,
As to the archbishop Saint Dunstan,
1503 And to the apostles servant eek was I."
And to the apostles I was also a servant."
1504 "Yet tel me," quod the somonour, "feithfully,
"Yet tell me," said the summoner, "truly,
1505 Make ye yow newe bodies thus alway
Do you make yourself new bodies thus always
1506 Of elementz?" The feend answerde, "Nay.
Of elements?" The fiend answered, "Nay.
1507 Somtyme we feyne, and somtyme we aryse
Sometime we dissemble, and sometimes we arise
1508 With dede bodyes, in ful sondry wyse,
With dead bodies, in very many manners,
1509 And speke as renably and faire and wel
And speak as readily and faire and well
1510 As to the Phitonissa dide Samuel.
As to the Phitonissa (Witch of Endor) did Samuel.
1511 (And yet wol som men seye it was nat he;
(And yet will some men say it was not he;
1512 I do no fors of youre dyvynytee.)
I put no store in your theology.)
1513 But o thyng warne I thee, I wol nat jape:
But one thing I warn thee, I will not deceive you:
1514 Thou wolt algates wite how we been shape;
Thou want especially to know how we are shaped;
1515 Thou shalt herafterward, my brother deere,
Thou shalt hereafter, my brother dear,
1516 Come there thee nedeth nat of me to leere,
Come where thou need not to learn from me,
1517 For thou shalt, by thyn owene experience,
For thou shalt, by thine own experience,
1518 Konne in a chayer rede of this sentence
Be able in a professorial chair to lecture on this subject
1519 Bet than Virgile, while he was on lyve,
Better than Virgil, while he was alive,
1520 Or Dant also. Now lat us ryde blyve,
Or Dante also. Now let us ride quickly,
1521 For I wole holde compaignye with thee
For I will hold company with thee
1522 Til it be so that thou forsake me."
Until it be that thou forsake me."
1523 "Nay," quod this somonour, "that shal nat bityde!
"Nay," said this summoner, "that shall not happen!
1524 I am a yeman, knowen is ful wyde;
I am a yeoman, as is very widely known;
1525 My trouthe wol I holde, as in this cas.
My troth will I keep, in this case.
1526 For though thou were the devel Sathanas,
For though thou were the devil Satan,
1527 My trouthe wol I holde to my brother,
My troth will I hold to my brother,
1528 As I am sworn, and ech of us til oother,
As I am sworn, and each of us to the other,
1529 For to be trewe brother in this cas;
To be true brother in this case;
1530 And bothe we goon abouten oure purchas.
And we both go about our acquisitions.
1531 Taak thou thy part, what that men wol thee yive,
Take thou thy part, whatever men will thee give,
1532 And I shal myn; thus may we bothe lyve.
And I shall mine; thus may we both live.
1533 And if that any of us have moore than oother,
And if one of us have more than the other,
1534 Lat hym be trewe and parte it with his brother."
Let him be true and share it with his brother."
1535 "I graunte," quod the devel, "by my fey."
"I grant," said the devil, "by my faith."
1536 And with that word they ryden forth hir wey.
And with that word they ride forth their way.
1537 And right at the entryng of the townes ende,
And right at the entrance of the town,
1538 To which this somonour shoop hym for to wende,
To which this summoner planned to go
1539 They saugh a cart that charged was with hey,
They saw a cart that was loaded with hay,
1540 Which that a cartere droof forth in his wey.
Which a carter drove forth in his way.
1541 Deep was the wey, for which the carte stood.
Deep in mud was the road, for which the cart stood still.
1542 The cartere smoot and cryde as he were wood,
The carter smote and cried as if he were crazy,
1543 "Hayt, Brok! Hayt, Scot! What spare ye for the stones?
"Giddap, Brok! Giddap, Scot! Why do you stop pulling for the stones?
1544 The feend," quod he, "yow fecche, body and bones,
The fiend," said he, "fetch you, body and bones,
1545 As ferforthly as evere were ye foled,
As surely as ever you were born,
1546 So muche wo as I have with yow tholed!
So much woe as I have with you suffered!
1547 The devel have al, bothe hors and cart and hey!"
The devil have all, both horses and cart and hay!"
1548 This somonour seyde, "Heere shal we have a pley."
This summoner said, "Here shall we have some fun."
1549 And neer the feend he drough, as noght ne were,
And nearer the fiend he drew, as if it were nothing,
1550 Ful prively, and rowned in his ere:
Very discreetly, and whispered in his ear:
1551 "Herkne, my brother, herkne, by thy feith!
"Hearken, my brother, hearken, by thy faith!
1552 Herestow nat how that the cartere seith?
Hearest thou not what the carter says?
1553 Hent it anon, for he hath yeve it thee,
Seize it at once, for he has given it to thee,
1554 Bothe hey and cart, and eek his caples thre."
Both hay and cart, and also his three horses."
1555 "Nay," quod the devel, "God woot, never a deel!
"Nay," said the devil, "God knows, never a bit!
1556 It is nat his entente, trust me weel.
It is not his intention, trust me well.
1557 Axe hym thyself, if thou nat trowest me;
Ask him thyself, if thou not believe me;
1558 Or elles stynt a while, and thou shalt see."
Or else wait a while, and thou shalt see."
1559 This cartere thakketh his hors upon the croupe,
This carter whacks his horses upon the hindquarters,
1560 And they bigonne to drawen and to stoupe.
And they began to pull and to stoop.
1561 "Heyt! Now," quod he, "ther Jhesu Crist yow blesse,
"Giddap! Now," said he, "may Jesus Christ you bless,
1562 And al his handwerk, bothe moore and lesse!
And all his handiwork, both more and less!
1563 That was wel twight, myn owene lyard boy.
That was well pulled, my own dappled boy.
1564 I pray God save thee, and Seinte Loy!
I pray God save thee, and Saint Loy!
1565 Now is my cart out of the slow, pardee!"
Now is my cart out of the mud, by God!"
1566 "Lo, brother," quod the feend, "what tolde I thee?
"Lo, brother," said the fiend, "what told I thee?
1567 Heere may ye se, myn owene deere brother,
Here may you see, my own dear brother,
1568 The carl spak oo thing, but he thoghte another.
The churl spoke one thing, but he thought another.
1569 Lat us go forth abouten oure viage;
Let us go forth on our undertaking;
1570 Heere wynne I nothyng upon cariage."
Here gain I nothing from a tax on horse and cart."
1571 Whan that they coomen somwhat out of towne,
When they came a short way out of town,
1572 This somonour to his brother gan to rowne:
This summoner to his brother began to whisper:
1573 "Brother," quod he, "heere woneth an old rebekke
"Brother," said he, "here dwells an old crone
1574 That hadde almoost as lief to lese hire nekke
Who would be almost as willing to lose her neck
1575 As for to yeve a peny of hir good.
As to give up a penny of her goods.
1576 I wole han twelf pens, though that she be wood,
I will have twelve pence, even if she be driven mad,
1577 Or I wol sompne hire unto oure office;
Or I will summon her unto our court;
1578 And yet, God woot, of hire knowe I no vice.
And yet, God knows, of her know I no vice.
1579 But for thou kanst nat, as in this contree,
But since thou can not, in this country,
1580 Wynne thy cost, taak heer ensample of me."
Earn thy living, learn here by my example."
1581 This somonour clappeth at the wydwes gate.
This summoner knocks at the widow's gate.
1582 "Com out," quod he, "thou olde virytrate!
"Come out," said he, "thou old hag!
1583 I trowe thou hast som frere or preest with thee."
I believe thou hast some friar or priest with thee."
1584 "Who clappeth?" seyde this wyf, "benedicitee!
"Who knocks?" said this wife, "bless me!
1585 God save you, sire, what is youre sweete wille?"
God save you, sir, what is your sweet will?"
1586 "I have," quod he, "of somonce here a bille;
"I have," said he, "here a writ of summons;
1587 Up peyne of cursyng, looke that thou be
Upon pain of excommunication, look that thou be
1588 Tomorn bifore the erchedeknes knee
Tomorrow morning before the archdeacon's knee
1589 T' answere to the court of certeyn thynges."
To answer to the court about certain things."
1590 "Now, Lord," quod she, "Crist Jhesu, kyng of kynges,
"Now, Lord," said she, "Christ Jesus, king of kings,
1591 So wisly helpe me, as I ne may.
Surely help me, since I can not.
1592 I have been syk, and that ful many a day.
I have been sick, and that full many a day.
1593 I may nat go so fer," quod she, "ne ryde,
I can not walk so far," said she, "nor ride,
1594 But I be deed, so priketh it in my syde.
Without being dead, it so pains in my side.
1595 May I nat axe a libel, sire somonour,
May I not ask for a written copy of the charge, sir summoner,
1596 And answere there by my procuratour
And answer there by my representative
1597 To swich thyng as men wole opposen me?"
To such thing as men will bring against me?"
1598 "Yis," quod this somonour, "pay anon -- lat se --
"Yes," said this summoner, "pay at once -- let's see --
1599 Twelf pens to me, and I wol thee acquite.
Twelve pens to me, and I will thee acquit.
1600 I shal no profit han therby but lite;
I shall have no profit thereby but little;
1601 My maister hath the profit and nat I.
My master has the profit and not I.
1602 Com of, and lat me ryden hastily;
Hurry up, and let me ride hastily;
1603 Yif me twelf pens, I may no lenger tarye."
Give me twelve pens, I can no longer tarry."
1604 "Twelf pens!" quod she, "Now, lady Seinte Marie
"Twelve pence!" said she, "Now, lady Saint Marie
1605 So wisly help me out of care and synne,
Surely help me out of care and sin,
1606 This wyde world thogh that I sholde wynne,
Though I should gain this wide world (if I had it),
1607 Ne have I nat twelf pens withinne myn hoold.
I have not twelve pence within my possession.
1608 Ye knowen wel that I am povre and oold;
You know well that I am poor and old;
1609 Kithe youre almesse on me, povre wrecche."
Show your charity on me, poor wretch."
1610 "Nay thanne," quod he, "the foule feend me fecche
"Nay then," said he, "the foul fiend me fetch
1611 If I th' excuse, though thou shul be spilt!"
If I excuse thee, though thou should be dead!"
1612 "Allas!" quod she, "God woot, I have no gilt."
"Alas!" said she, "God knows, I have no guilt."
1613 "Pay me," quod he, "or by the sweete Seinte Anne,
"Pay me," said he, "or by the sweet Saint Anne,
1614 As I wol bere awey thy newe panne
I will carry off thy new pan
1615 For dette which thou owest me of old.
For debt which thou owest me since long ago.
1616 Whan that thou madest thyn housbonde cokewold,
When thou madest thine husband cuckold,
1617 I payde at hoom for thy correccioun."
I paid at our court the fine for thy punishment."
1618 "Thou lixt!" quod she, "by my savacioun,
"Thou lie!" said she, "by my salvation,
1619 Ne was I nevere er now, wydwe ne wyf,
I was never ere now, widow nor wife,
1620 Somoned unto youre court in al my lyf;
Summoned unto your court in all my life;
1621 Ne nevere I nas but of my body trewe!
Nor was I ever anything but true of my body!
1622 Unto the devel blak and rough of hewe
Unto the devil black and rough of appearance
1623 Yeve I thy body and my panne also!"
Give I thy body and my pan also!"
1624 And whan the devel herde hire cursen so
And when the devil heard her so curse
1625 Upon hir knees, he seyde in this manere,
Upon her knees, he said in this manner,
1626 "Now, Mabely, myn owene mooder deere,
"Now, Mabely, my own mother dear,
1627 Is this youre wyl in ernest that ye seye?"
Is this your will in earnest that you say?"
1628 "The devel," quod she, "so fecche hym er he deye,
"The devil," said she, "so fetch him ere he die,
1629 And panne and al, but he wol hym repente!"
And pan and all, unless he will repent!"
1630 "Nay, olde stot, that is nat myn entente,"
"Nay, old slut, that is not my intention,"
1631 Quod this somonour, "for to repente me
Said this summoner, "to repent
1632 For any thyng that I have had of thee.
For any thing that I have had of thee.
1633 I wolde I hadde thy smok and every clooth!"
I would I had thy smock and every bit of your clothing!"
1634 "Now, brother," quod the devel, "be nat wrooth;
"Now, brother," said the devil, "be not angry;
1635 Thy body and this panne been myne by right.
Thy body and this pan are mine by right.
1636 Thou shalt with me to helle yet tonyght,
Thou shalt go with me to hell yet tonight,
1637 Where thou shalt knowen of oure privetee
Where thou shalt know of our secrets
1638 Moore than a maister of dyvynytee."
More than a Master of Divinity."
1639 And with that word this foule feend hym hente;
And with that word this foul fiend seized him;
1640 Body and soule he with the devel wente
Body and soul he with the devil went
1641 Where as that somonours han hir heritage.
Where summoners have their heritage.
1642 And God, that maked after his ymage
And God, that made after his image
1643 Mankynde, save and gyde us, alle and some,
Mankind, save and guide us, one and all,
1644 And leve thise somonours goode men bicome!
And grant that these summoners become good men!
1645 Lordynges, I koude han toold yow, quod this Frere,
Gentlemen, I could have told you, said this Friar,
1646 Hadde I had leyser for this Somnour heere,
Had I had been given time by this Summoner here,
1647 After the text of Crist, Poul, and John,
According to the text of Christ, Paul, and John,
1648 And of oure othere doctours many oon,
And of our other doctors of the Church many a one,
1649 Swiche peynes that youre hertes myghte agryse,
Such pains that your hearts might tremble,
1650 Al be it so no tonge may it devyse,
Even though no tongue can describe it,
1651 Thogh that I myghte a thousand wynter telle
Though I could for a thousand years tell
1652 The peynes of thilke cursed hous of helle.
The pains of that cursed house of hell.
1653 But for to kepe us fro that cursed place,
But to keep us from that cursed place,
1654 Waketh and preyeth Jhesu for his grace
Keep vigil and pray Jesus for his grace
1655 So kepe us fro the temptour Sathanas.
To protect us from the tempter Satan.
1656 Herketh this word! Beth war, as in this cas:
Hearken this word! Beware, as in this case:
1657 "The leoun sit in his awayt alway
"The lion sits in his ambush always
1658 To sle the innocent, if that he may."
To slay the innocent, if he can."
1659 Disposeth ay youre hertes to withstonde
Dispose always your hearts to withstand
1660 The feend, that yow wolde make thral and bonde.
The fiend, who would make you thrall and enslaved.
1661 He may nat tempte yow over youre myght,
He may not tempt you beyond your power,
1662 For Crist wol be youre champion and knyght.
For Christ will be your champion and knight.
1663 And prayeth that thise somonours hem repente
And pray that these summoners themselves repent
1664 Of hir mysdedes, er that the feend hem hente!
Of their misdeeds, ere the fiend seize them!