This worthy limitour, this noble Frere,
He made always a manner louring cheer countenance
Upon the Sompnour; but for honesty courtesy
No villain word as yet to him spake he:
But at the last he said unto the Wife:
"Dame," quoth he, "God give you right good life,
Ye have here touched, all so may I the, *thrive
In school matter a greate difficulty.
Ye have said muche thing right well, I say;
But, Dame, here as we ride by the way,
Us needeth not but for to speak of game,
And leave authorities, in Godde's name,
To preaching, and to school eke of clergy.
But if it like unto this company,
I will you of a Sompnour tell a game;
Pardie, ye may well knowe by the name,
That of a Sompnour may no good be said;
I pray that none of you be *evil paid; dissatisfied
A Sompnour is a runner up and down
With mandements* for fornicatioun, mandates, summonses
And is y-beat at every towne's end."
Then spake our Host; "Ah, sir, ye should be hend *civil, gentle
And courteous, as a man of your estate;
In company we will have no debate:
Tell us your tale, and let the Sompnour be."
"Nay," quoth the Sompnour, "let him say by me
What so him list; when it comes to my lot,
By God, I shall him quiten every groat! pay him off
I shall him telle what a great honour
It is to be a flattering limitour
And his office I shall him tell y-wis".
Our Host answered, "Peace, no more of this."
And afterward he said unto the frere,
"Tell forth your tale, mine owen master dear."
Notes to the Prologue to the Friar's tale
1. On the Tale of the Friar, and that of the Sompnour which
follows, Tyrwhitt has remarked that they "are well engrafted
upon that of the Wife of Bath. The ill-humour which shows
itself between these two characters is quite natural, as no two
professions at that time were at more constant variance. The
regular clergy, and particularly the mendicant friars, affected a
total exemption from all ecclesiastical jurisdiction, except that
of the Pope, which made them exceedingly obnoxious to the
bishops and of course to all the inferior officers of the national
hierarchy." Both tales, whatever their origin, are bitter satires
on the greed and worldliness of the Romish clergy.
Whilom there was dwelling in my country once on a time
An archdeacon, a man of high degree,
That boldely did execution,
In punishing of fornication,
Of witchecraft, and eke of bawdery,
Of defamation, and adultery,
Of churche-reeves, and of testaments, churchwardens
Of contracts, and of lack of sacraments,
And eke of many another manner crime, sort of
Which needeth not rehearsen at this time,
Of usury, and simony also;
But, certes, lechours did he greatest woe;
They shoulde singen, if that they were hent; caught
And smale tithers were foul y-shent, troubled, put to shame
If any person would on them complain;
There might astert them no pecunial pain.
For smalle tithes, and small offering,
He made the people piteously to sing;
For ere the bishop caught them with his crook,
They weren in the archedeacon's book;
Then had he, through his jurisdiction,
Power to do on them correction.
He had a Sompnour ready to his hand,
A slier boy was none in Engleland;
For subtlely he had his espiaille, espionage
That taught him well where it might aught avail.
He coulde spare of lechours one or two,
To teache him to four and twenty mo'.
For, -- though this Sompnour wood be as a hare, -- furious, mad
To tell his harlotry I will not spare,
For we be out of their correction,
They have of us no jurisdiction,
Ne never shall have, term of all their lives.
"Peter; so be the women of the stives," stews
Quoth this Sompnour, "y-put out of our cure." care
"Peace, with mischance and with misaventure,"
Our Hoste said, "and let him tell his tale.
Now telle forth, and let the Sompnour gale, whistle; bawl
Nor spare not, mine owen master dear."
This false thief, the Sompnour (quoth the Frere),
Had always bawdes ready to his hand,
As any hawk to lure in Engleland,
That told him all the secrets that they knew, --
For their acquaintance was not come of new;
They were his approvers privily. informers
He took himself at great profit thereby:
His master knew not always what he wan. won
Withoute mandement, a lewed man ignorant
He could summon, on pain of Christe's curse,
And they were inly glad to fill his purse,
And make him greate feastes at the nale. alehouse
And right as Judas hadde purses smale, small
And was a thief, right such a thief was he,
His master had but half *his duety. what was owing him
He was (if I shall give him his laud)
A thief, and eke a Sompnour, and a bawd.
And he had wenches at his retinue,
That whether that Sir Robert or Sir Hugh,
Or Jack, or Ralph, or whoso that it were
That lay by them, they told it in his ear.
Thus were the ***** and he of one assent;
And he would fetch a feigned mandement,
And to the chapter summon them both two,
And pill* the man, and let the wenche go. plunder, pluck
Then would he say, "Friend, I shall for thy sake
Do strike thee out of oure letters blake; black
Thee thar no more as in this case travail; need
I am thy friend where I may thee avail."
Certain he knew of bribers many mo'
Than possible is to tell in yeare's two:
For in this world is no dog for the bow,
That can a hurt deer from a whole know,
Bet than this Sompnour knew a sly lechour, better
Or an adult'rer, or a paramour:
And, for that was the fruit of all his rent,
Therefore on it he set all his intent.
And so befell, that once upon a day.
This Sompnour, waiting ever on his prey,
Rode forth to summon a widow, an old ribibe,
Feigning a cause, for he would have a bribe.
And happen'd that he saw before him ride
A gay yeoman under a forest side:
A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen,
He had upon a courtepy of green, short doublet
A hat upon his head with fringes blake. black
"Sir," quoth this Sompnour, "hail, and well o'ertake."
"Welcome," quoth he, "and every good fellaw;
Whither ridest thou under this green shaw?" shade
Saide this yeoman; "wilt thou far to-day?"
This Sompnour answer'd him, and saide, "Nay.
Here faste by," quoth he, "is mine intent
To ride, for to raisen up a rent,
That longeth to my lorde's duety."
"Ah! art thou then a bailiff?" "Yea," quoth he.
He durste not for very filth and shame
Say that he was a Sompnour, for the name.
"De par dieux," quoth this yeoman, "leve* brother, dear
Thou art a bailiff, and I am another.
I am unknowen, as in this country.
Of thine acquaintance I will praye thee,
And eke of brotherhood, if that thee list. please
I have gold and silver lying in my chest;
If that thee hap to come into our shire,
All shall be thine, right as thou wilt desire."
"Grand mercy," quoth this Sompnour, "by my faith." great thanks
Each in the other's hand his trothe lay'th,
For to be sworne brethren till they dey. die
In dalliance they ride forth and play.
This Sompnour, which that was as full of jangles, chattering
As full of venom be those wariangles, * butcher-birds
And ev'r inquiring upon every thing,
"Brother," quoth he, "where is now your dwelling,
Another day if that I should you seech?" *seek, visit
This yeoman him answered in soft speech;
Brother," quoth he, "far in the North country,
Where as I hope some time I shall thee see
Ere we depart I shall thee so well wiss, inform
That of mine house shalt thou never miss."
Now, brother," quoth this Sompnour, "I you pray,
Teach me, while that we ride by the way,
(Since that ye be a bailiff as am I,)
Some subtilty, and tell me faithfully
For mine office how that I most may win.
And *spare not for conscience or for sin, conceal nothing
But, as my brother, tell me how do ye."
Now by my trothe, brother mine," said he,
As I shall tell to thee a faithful tale:
My wages be full strait and eke full smale;
My lord is hard to me and dangerous, *niggardly
And mine office is full laborious;
And therefore by extortion I live,
Forsooth I take all that men will me give.
Algate by sleighte, or by violence, whether
From year to year I win all my dispence;
I can no better tell thee faithfully."
Now certes," quoth this Sompnour, "so fare I; do
I spare not to take, God it wot,
But if* it be too heavy or too hot. unless
What I may get in counsel privily,
No manner conscience of that have I.
N'ere* mine extortion, I might not live, were it not for
For of such japes will I not be shrive. tricks *confessed
Stomach nor conscience know I none;
I shrew* these shrifte-fathers every one. curse *confessors
Well be we met, by God and by St Jame.
But, leve brother, tell me then thy name,"
Quoth this Sompnour. Right in this meane while
This yeoman gan a little for to smile.
"Brother," quoth he, "wilt thou that I thee tell?
I am a fiend, my dwelling is in hell,
And here I ride about my purchasing,
To know where men will give me any thing.
My purchase is th' effect of all my rent what I can gain is my
Look how thou ridest for the same intent sole revenue
To winne good, thou reckest never how,
Right so fare I, for ride will I now
Into the worlde's ende for a prey."
"Ah," quoth this Sompnour, "benedicite! what say y'?
I weened ye were a yeoman truly. thought
Ye have a manne's shape as well as I
Have ye then a figure determinate
In helle, where ye be in your estate?" at home
"Nay, certainly," quoth he, there have we none,
But when us liketh we can take us one,
Or elles make you seem that we be shape believe
Sometime like a man, or like an ape;
Or like an angel can I ride or go;
It is no wondrous thing though it be so,
A lousy juggler can deceive thee.
And pardie, yet can I more craft than he." skill, cunning
"Why," quoth the Sompnour, "ride ye then or gon
In sundry shapes and not always in one?"
"For we," quoth he, "will us in such form make.
As most is able our prey for to take."
"What maketh you to have all this labour?"
"Full many a cause, leve Sir Sompnour,"
Saide this fiend. "But all thing hath a time;
The day is short and it is passed prime,
And yet have I won nothing in this day;
I will intend to winning, if I may, &nbs