Poems » gilbert white » the friar s prologue and tale in the hengwrt manuscript of the canterbury tales


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¶The prologe of the ffreres tale

 This worthy lymytour / this noble frere
 He made alwey / a manere louryng cheere
 Vp on the Somnour / but for hone{s}tee
 No vileyns word / as yet to hym spak he
 But atte la{s}te / he seyde vn to the wyf
 ¶ Dame quod he god yeue yow right good lyf
 Ye han heer touched / al {s}o mote I thee
 In scole matere / greet difficultee
 Ye han seyd muche thyng/ right wel I seye
 But dame / here as we ryden by the weye
 Vs nedeth nat/ to speken / but of game
 And lete Auctoritees / on goddes name
 To prechyng/ and to scole of clergye
 But/ if it like / to this compaignye
 I wol yow / of a Somnour telle a game
 Pardee / ye may wel knowe by the name
 That of a Somn|our| / may no good be {s}ayd
 I praye / that noon of yow / be ypayd
 A somnour / is a rennere vp and doun
 With mandementz / for fornicacioun
 And is ybet/ at euery townes ende
 ¶ Oure hoo{s}t tho spak / a sire ye sholde be hende

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 And curteys / as a man of youre e{s}taat/
 In compaignye / we wol no debaat/
 Telleth youre tale / and lat the Somn|our| be
 ¶ Nay quod the Somn|our| / lat hym seye to me
 What so hym li{s}t/ whan it comth to my lot/
 By god / I shal hym quyten euery grot/
 I shal hym telle / which a gret honour
 It is / to be a flaterynge lymytour
 And of / many another maner cryme
 Which nedeth nat rehercen / for this tyme
 And his office / I shal hym telle ywys
 ¶Oure hoo{s}t an{s}werde / pees namoore of this
 And after this / he seyde vn to the frere
 Tel forth youre tale / leeue mai{s}ter deere

¶Here endeth the prologe of the ffrere

 Whilom / ther was dwellynge in my contree
 An Erchedekne / a man of hy degree
 That boldely / dide execucio|un|
 In puny{ss}hynge of ffornicacio|un|
 Of wicchecraft/ and eek of Bawderye
 Of diffamacio|un| / and auoutrye
 Of chirche Reues / and of te{s}tamentz
 Of contractes / and eek of lakke of sacramentz
 Of v{s}ure / and of Symonye al{s}o
 But |cer|tes / lecchours / dide he grette{s}t wo
 They sholde syngen if that they were hent/
 And smale tytheres were foule y{s}chent/
 If any |per|{s}o|un| / wold vp on hem pleyne
 Ther myghte a{s}terte hym no pecunial peyne
 ffor smale tithes |&| for smal offryng/
 he made the peple ful pitu{s}ly to {s}yng/
 ffor er the by{ss}chop caght hem |with| hys hooc
 They were in the erchdeknys book/
 And thanne had he thurgh hys Iuri{s}diccion
 Power / to do on hem correccion

{{Folio 74v}}

 He hadde a Somn|our| / redy to his hond
 A slyer boy / nas noon in Engelond
 ffor subtilly / he hadde his e{s}piaille
 That taughte hym / wher hym myghte auaille
 He koude spare / of lecchours / oon or two
 To techen hym / to foure and twenty mo
 ffor theigh this Somn|our| / wood were as an hare
 To telle his harlotrye / I wol nat spare
 ffor we been / out of his correccio|un|
 They han of vs / no Iuri{s}diccio|un|
 Ne neu|uer|e shullen / terme of hir lyues
 ¶Peter / so been wommen of the Styves
 Quod the Somnour / yput out of my cure
 ¶Pees with my{s}chaunce / and with my{s}auenture
 Thus seyde oure hoo{s}t / and lat hym telle his tale
 Now telleth forth / thogh |þt| the Somn|our| gale
 Ne spareth nat/ myn owene may{s}ter deere
 ¶This fal{s}e theef/ this Somn|our| / quod the frere
 Hadde alwey / baudes redy to his hond
 As any hauk/ to lure in Engelond
 That tolde hym / al the secree |þt| they knewe
 ffor hire aqueyntance / was nat come of newe
 They weren / hi{s}e Approwours pryuely
 He took hym self / a greet |pro|fit ther by
 His mai{s}ter knew nat alwey / what he wan
 With outen mandement/ a lewed man
 He koude somne / on peyne of cri{s}tes curs
 And they were glade / for to fille his purs
 And make hym / grete fe{s}tes atte nale
 And right as Iudas / hadde pur{s}es smale
 And was a theef/ right swich a theef was he
 His mai{s}ter / hadde but half his duetee
 He was / if I shal yeuen hym his laude
 A theef / and eek a somnour / and a baude
 He hadde eek wenches / at his retenue
 That wheither |þt| sir |Robert| / or sir hewe
 Or Iakke / or Rauf/ or who {s}o that it were
 That lay by hem / they tolde it in his ere
 Thus was the wenche and he / of oon a{ss}ent/
 And he wolde fecche / a feyned mandement/

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 And somne hem to Chapitre / bothe two
 And pile the man / and lete the wenche go
 ¶Thanne wolde he seye / freend I shal for thy sake
 Do stryke / hir / out of oure lettres blake
 Thee thar namoore / as in this cas |tra|uaille
 I am thy freend / ther I thee may auaille
 Certeyn / he knew of bryberyes mo
 Than po{ss}ible is / to telle in yeres two
 ffor in this world / nys dogge for the bowe
 That kan an hurt deer / from an hool knowe
 Bet than this Somn|our| / knew a sly lecchour
 Or an Auouter / or a |per|amour
 And for that was / the fruyt of al his rente
 Ther fore on it / he {s}ette al his entente
 ¶And so bifel / that ones on a day
 This Somnour / eu|uer|e waityng on his pray
 ffor to somne an old wydewe / a Ribibe
 ffeynynge a cau{s}e / for he wolde brybe
 Happed / that he say / bifore hym ryde
 A gay yeman / vnder a ffore{s}t syde
 A bowe he bar / and arwes brighte |&| kene
 He hadde vp on / a courtepy of grene
 An hat vp on his heed / with frenges blake
 ¶Sir quod this Somn|our| / hayl / and wel atake
 ¶Wel come quod he / and euery good felawe
 Wher ride{s}tow / vnder this grene shawe
 Seyde this yeman / wiltow fer to day
 ¶This Somnour hym an{s}werde / and seyde nay
 Here fa{s}te by quod he / is myn entente
 To ryden / for to rey{s}en vp a rente
 That longeth / to my lordes duetee
 ¶Artow thanne a Bailly{?.} / ye quod he
 He dor{s}te nat/ for verray filthe and shame
 Seye |þt| he was a Somn|our| / for the name
 ¶De{p+}dieux quod this yeman / deere brother
 Thow art a bailly / and I am another
 I am vnknowen / as in this contree
 Of thyn aqueyntance / I wolde praye thee
 And eek of bretherhede / if |þt| yow le{s}te
 I haue gold / and siluer/ in my che{s}te

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 If that thee happed / to come in oure shire
 Al shal be thyn / right as thow wolt de{s}ire
 ¶Graunt |mer|cy quod this Somn|our| / by my feith
 Euerich in ootheres hond / his trouthe leyth
 ffor to be sworn bretheren / til they deye
 In daliaunce / they ryden forth and pleye
 ¶This Somn|our| / which |þt| was / as ful of Iangles
 As ful of venym / been thi{s}e waryangles
 And eu|uer|e enqueryng/ vp on euery thyng/
 Brother quod he / wher is now youre dwellyng/
 Another day / if |þt| I sholde yow seche
 This yeman hym an{s}werde / in softe speche
 ¶Brother quod he / fer in the North contree
 Wher as I hope / {s}om tyme I shal thee see
 Er we departe / I shal thee {s}o wel wi{ss}e
 That of myn hous / ne shaltow ne|uer|e my{ss}e
 ¶Now brother quod this Somn|our| / I yow preye
 Teche me / whil |þt| we ryden by the weye
 Syn |þt| ye been a Baillyf / as am I
 Som subtiltee / and tel me feithfully
 In myn office / how I may moo{s}t wynne
 And spareth nat/ for con{s}cience ne synne
 But as my brother / tel me how do ye
 ¶Now by my trouthe / brother deere / seyde he
 As I shal tellen thee / a feithful tale
 My wages been / ful {s}treyte / and ful smale
 My lord is hard to me / and daungerous
 And myn office / is ful laborous
 And therfore / by extorcions I lyue
 ffor sothe I take / al that men wol me yeue
 Algate / by sleighte / or by violence
 ffro yeer to yeer / I wynne al my di{s}pence
 I kan no bettre tellen / feithfully
 ¶Now certes quod this Somn|our| / {s}o fare I
 I spare nat to taken / god it woot/
 But it be to heuy / or to hoot/
 What I may gete / in con{s}eil |pri|uely
 No manere con{s}cience / of that haue I
 Nere myn extorcio|un| / I myghte na lyuen
 Ne of swiche Iapes / wol I nat be shryuen

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 Stomak/ ne Con{s}cience / ne knowe I noon
 I sherewe / thi{s}e Shryfte{s}fadres eu|uer|ychon
 Wel be we met/ by god / and by seint Iame
 But leeue brother / tel me thanne thy name
 Quod this Somnour / in this mene whyle
 This yeman / gan a litel for to smyle
 ¶Brother quod he / woltow |þt| I thee telle
 I am a feend / my dwellyng/ is in helle
 And here I ryde / aboute my purcha{s}yng/
 To wite / wher men wolde yeue me any thyng/
 My |pur|chas / is theffect of al my rente
 Looke how thow ryde{s}t/ for the same entente
 To wynne good / thow rekke{s}t neu|uer|e how
 Right {s}o fare I / for ryde wold I now
 Vn to the worldes ende / for a preye
 ¶A quod this Somn|our| / benedicite what sey ye
 I wende / ye were a yeman trewely
 Ye han a mannes shap / as wel as I
 Han ye a figure thanne / de|ter|mynat
 In helle ther ye been / in youre e{s}tat
 ¶Nay |cer|teynly quod he / ther haue we noon
 But whan vs liketh / we kan take vs oon
 Or ellis make yow seme / we ben shape
 Som tyme / lyk a man / or lyk an Ape
 Or lyk an Aungel / kan I ryde or go
 It is no wonder thyng/ theigh it be so
 A lou{s}y Iogelour / kan deceyue thee
 And pardee yet kan I / moore craft than he
 ¶Whi quod this Somnour / ryde ye thanne or goon
 In sondry shap / and nat alwey in oon
 ¶ffor we quod he / wol vs swiche formes make
 As moo{s}t able is / oure preyes for to take
 ¶What maketh yow / to han al this labour
 ¶fful many a cau{s}e / leue sir Somnour
 Seyde this feend / but alle thyng hath tyme
 The day is short / and it is pa{ss}ed pryme
 And yet/ ne wan I no thyng/ in this day
 I wol entende / to wynnyng / if I may
 And nat entende / oure wittes to declare
 ffor brother myn / thy wit is al to bare

{{Folio 76v}}

 To vnder{s}tonde / al thogh I tolde hem thee
 But for thow axe{s}t/ why labouren we
 ffor som tyme / we been goddes In{s}trumentz
 And meenes / to doon his comandementz
 Whan that hym li{s}t / vp on his creatures
 In di|uer|s art/ and in di|uer|{s}e figures
 With outen hym / we han no myght |cer|tayn
 If that hym ly{s}t/ to {s}tonde ther agayn
 And som tyme / at oure preyere / han we leue
 Oonly the body / and nat the soule greue
 Witne{ss}e on Iob / whom |þt| we diden wo
 And som tyme / han we myght of bothe two
 This is to seyn / of soule and body eke
 And som tyme / be we suffred for to seke
 Vp on a man / and do his soule vnre{s}te
 And nat his body / and al is for the be{s}te
 Whan he with {s}tandeth / oure temptacio|un|
 It is / a cau{s}e / of his sauacio|un|
 Al be it/ that it was / nat oure entente
 He sholde be sauf/ but |þt| we wolde hym hente
 And som tyme / be we |{s}8|uant/ vn to man
 As to the Erchebi{ss}ho|pre| / Seint Dun{s}tan
 And to the Apo{s}tles / seruant eek was I
 ¶Yet tel me / quod the Somn|our| feithfully
 Make ye yow newe bodyes / thus alway
 Of Elementz{?} / the feend an{s}werde nay
 Som tyme we feyne / and som tyme we ary{s}e
 With dede bodyes / in ful {s}ondry wy{s}e
 And speke as renably / and faire and wel
 As to the Phitoni{ss}a / dide Samuel
 And yet wol som men seye / it was nat he
 I do no fors / of youre dyuynytee
 But o thyng warne I thee / I wol nat Iape
 Thow wolt algates wite / how we be shape
 Thow shalt her afterwardes / my brother deere
 Come there / thee nedeth nat of me to lere
 ffor thow shalt/ by thyn owene experience
 Konne in a chayer / rede of this sentence
 Bet than Virgile / whil he was on lyue
 Or Dant al{s}o / now lat vs ryde blyue

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 ffor I wol holde / compaignye with thee
 Til it be so / that thow for{s}ake me
 ¶Nay quod this Somn|our| / that shal nat bityde
 I am a yeman / knowen is ful wyde
 My trouhte wol I holde / as in this cas
 ffor theigh thow were / the deuel Sathanas
 My trouthe wol I holde / to thee my brother
 As I am sworn / and ech of vs til oother
 ffor to be trewe brother / in this cas
 And bothe we goon / abouten oure purchas
 Taak thow thy part/ what |þt| men wol thee yeue
 And I shal myn / thus may we bothe lyue
 And if that any of vs / haue moore than oother
 Lat hym be trewe / and parte it with his brother
 ¶I graunte quod the deuel / by my fey
 And with that word / they ryden forth hir wey
 And right at the entryng/ of the townes ende
 To which this Somnour / shoop hym for to wende
 They saye a Cart/ that charged was |with| hey
 Which that a Cartere / droof forth in his wey
 Deep was the wey / for which the Carte {s}tood
 This Carter smoot/ and cryde as he were wood
 Hayt Brok/ hayt Scot/ what spare ye for the stones
 The feend quod he / yow fecche body and bones
 As ferforthly / as euere were ye foled
 So muchel wo / as I haue with yow tholed
 The deuel haue al / bothe hors / and Cart/ and hey
 ¶This Somn|our| seyde / heer shul we han a pley
 And neer the feend he drogh / as noght ne were
 fful pryuely / and rowned in his ere
 Herkne my brother / herkne by thy feith
 Here{s}tow nat/ how |þt| the Cartere seith
 Hent it anon / for he hath yeue it thee
 Bothe hey / and Cart/ and eek his caples thre
 ¶Nay quod the deuel / god woot/ neuer a del
 It is nat his entente / tru{s}t thow me wel
 Axe hym thy self / if thow nat trowe{s}t me
 Or ellys stynt a while / and thow shalt se
 ¶This Cartere / taketh his hors {^}{{vp}} on the croupe
 And they bigonne / drawen and to stoupe

{{Folio 77v}}

 Heyt now quod he / ther |Iesu| cri{s}t yow ble{ss}e
 And al his handes werk/ bothe moore and le{ss}e
 That was wel twight/ myn owene lyard boy
 I pray god saue thee / and Seint loy
 Now is my Cart/ out of the slow pardee
 ¶Lo brother quod the feend / what tolde I thee
 Heere may ye se / myn owene deere brother
 The Carl spak o thyng/ but he thoghte another
 Lat vs go forth / abouten oure viage
 Heere wynne I no thyng vp on cariage
 ¶Whan that {^}{{they}} coomen / {s}om what out of towne
 This Somnour / to his brother gan to rowne
 Brother quod he / here woneth an old rebekke
 That hadde almoo{s}t/ as leef to le{s}e hir nekke
 As for to yeue a peny / of hir good
 I wol han .xij. pens / thogh that she be wood
 Or I wol somne hir / vn to oure office
 And yet god woot/ of hir knowe I no vice
 But for thow can{s}t nat/ as in this contree
 Wynne thy co{s}t/ taak heer en{s}ample of me
 This Somnour / clappeth at the wydwes gate
 Com out quod he / thow olde viritrate
 I trowe thow ha{s}t/ {s}om frere / or pree{s}t with thee
 ¶Who clappeth seyde this wyf / benedicitee
 God saue yow sire / what is youre swete wille
 ¶I haue quod he / of somonce a bille
 Vp peyne of cur{s}yng/ looke that thow be
 To morn / bifore the Erchedeknes knee
 Tan{s}were to the court/ of |cer|teyn thynges
 ¶Now lord quod she / cri{s}t |Iesu| kyng of kynges
 So wi{s}ly helpe me / as I ne may
 I haue been syk/ and that ful many a day
 I may nat go so fer quod she / ne ryde
 But I be deed / so priketh it in my syde
 May I nat axe a libel / {s}ir Somnour
 And an{s}were there / by my procutour
 To swich thyng/ as men wole oppo{s}en me
 ¶Yis quod this Somnour / pay anoon lat see
 Twelf pens to me / and I wol thee acquyte
 I shal no |pro|fit han ther by / but lyte

{{Folio 78r}}

 My Mai{s}ter hath the profit / and nat I
 Com of / and lat me ryden ha{s}tily
 Yif me .xij. pens / I may no lenger tarye
 ¶Twelf pens quod she / now lady Seinte Marie
 So wi{s}ly help me god / out of care and synne
 This wyde world / thogh that I sholde wynne
 Ne haue I nat .xij. pens / with Inne myn hoold
 Ye knowen wel / that I am poure and oold
 Kythe youre alme{ss}e / on me poure wrecche
 ¶Nay thanne quod he / the foule feend me fecche
 If I thexcu{s}e / theigh thow shul be spilt/
 ¶Allas quod she / god woot I haue no gilt/
 ¶Pay me quod he / or by the swete Seinte Anne
 As I wol bere awey / thy newe panne
 ffor dette / which thow owe{s}t me of oold
 Whan |þt| thow made{s}t / thyn hou{s}bonde cokewold
 I payde at hom / for thy correccio|un|
 ¶Thow lyxt quod she / by my sauacio|un|
 Ne was I ne|uer|e er now / wydwe ne wyf/
 Somoned vn to youre court/ in al my lyf /
 Ne ne|uer|e I nas / but of my body trewe
 Vn to the deuel / blak/ and row of hewe
 Yeue I thy body / and my panne al{s}o
 ¶And whan the deuel / herde hir cur{s}en so
 Vp on hir knees / he seyde in this manere
 Now Mabely / myn owene moder deere
 Is this youre wyl in erne{s}t / |þt| ye seye
 ¶The deuel quod she / so fecche hym or he deye
 And panne and al / but he wol hym repente
 ¶Nay olde stot/ that is nat myn entente
 Quod this Somnour / for to repente me
 ffor any thyng/ that I haue had of thee
 I wolde I hadde thy smok / and euery clooth
 ¶Now brother quod the deuel / be noght wrooth
 Thy body and this panne / been myne by right
 Thow shalt |with| me to helle / yet to nyght/
 Wher thow shalt knowen / of oure pryuetee
 Moore / than a mai{s}ter of dyuynytee
 And with that word / this foule feend hym hente
 Body and soule / he with the deuel wente

{{Folio 78v}}

 Wher as that Somnours / han hir heritage
 And god / that made after his ymage
 Mankynde / saue / and gyde vs alle and some
 And leue thi{s}e Somn|our|s / good men to bicome
 ¶Lordynges / I koude han told yow / quod this frere
 Hadde I had ley{s}er / for this Somn|our| heere
 After the text / of cri{s}t/ Poul and |Iohan|
 And of oure othere doctours / many oon
 Swiche peynes / that youre hertes myghte agry{s}e
 Al be it {s}o / no tonge may {^}{{it}} deuy{s}e
 Thogh that I myghte / a thou{s}and wynter telle
 The peynes / of thilke cur{s}ed hous of helle
 But for to kepe vs / fro that cur{s}ed place
 Waketh / and preyeth |Iesu| for his grace
 So kepe vs / fro the temptour Sathanas
 Herketh this word / beth war as in this cas
 The leo|un| sit/ in his awayt alway
 To sle the Innocent/ if that he may
 Di{s}po{s}eth ay youre hertes / to with{s}tonde
 The feend / that yow wolde maken thral and bonde
 He may nat tempte yow / ouer your myght /
 ffor cri{s}t/ wol be youre champion and knyght/
 And prayeth / that this Somn|our|s hem repente
 Of hir my{s}dedes / er that the feend hem hente

¶Here endeth / the freres tale