The Sompnour in his stirrups high he stood,
Upon this Friar his hearte was so wood, furious
That like an aspen leaf he quoke* for ire: quaked, trembled
"Lordings," quoth he, "but one thing I desire;
I you beseech, that of your courtesy,
Since ye have heard this false Friar lie,
As suffer me I may my tale tell
This Friar boasteth that he knoweth hell,
And, God it wot, that is but little wonder,
Friars and fiends be but little asunder.
For, pardie, ye have often time heard tell,
How that a friar ravish'd was to hell
In spirit ones by a visioun,
And, as an angel led him up and down,
To shew him all the paines that there were,
In all the place saw he not a frere;
Of other folk he saw enough in woe.
Unto the angel spake the friar tho; then
'Now, Sir,' quoth he, 'have friars such a grace,
That none of them shall come into this place?'
'Yes' quoth the angel; 'many a millioun:'
And unto Satanas he led him down.
'And now hath Satanas,' said he, 'a tail
Broader than of a carrack is the sail.
Hold up thy tail, thou Satanas,' quoth he,
'Shew forth thine erse, and let the friar see
Where is the nest of friars in this place.'
And *less than half a furlong way of space immediately
Right so as bees swarmen out of a hive,
Out of the devil's erse there gan to drive
A twenty thousand friars on a rout. in a crowd
And throughout hell they swarmed all about,
And came again, as fast as they may gon,
And in his erse they creeped every one:
He clapt his tail again, and lay full still.
This friar, when he looked had his fill
Upon the torments of that sorry place,
His spirit God restored of his grace
Into his body again, and he awoke;
But natheless for feare yet he quoke,
So was the devil's erse aye in his mind;
That is his heritage, of very kind by his very nature
God save you alle, save this cursed Frere;
My prologue will I end in this mannere.
Notes to the Prologue to the Sompnour's Tale
1. Carrack: A great ship of burden used by the Portuguese; the
name is from the Italian, "cargare," to load
2. In less than half a furlong way of space: immediately;
literally, in less time than it takes to walk half a furlong (110
Lordings, there is in Yorkshire, as I guess,
A marshy country called Holderness,
In which there went a limitour about
To preach, and eke to beg, it is no doubt.
And so befell that on a day this frere
Had preached at a church in his mannere,
And specially, above every thing,
Excited he the people in his preaching
To trentals, and to give, for Godde's sake,
Wherewith men mighte holy houses make,
There as divine service is honour'd,
Not there as it is wasted and devour'd,
Nor where it needeth not for to be given,
As to possessioners, that may liven,
Thanked be God, in wealth and abundance.
"Trentals," said he, "deliver from penance
Their friendes' soules, as well old as young,
Yea, when that they be hastily y-sung, --
Not for to hold a priest jolly and gay,
He singeth not but one mass in a day.
"Deliver out," quoth he, "anon the souls.
Full hard it is, with flesh-hook or with owls *awls
To be y-clawed, or to burn or bake:
Now speed you hastily, for Christe's sake."
And when this friar had said all his intent,
With qui *** patre forth his way he went,
When folk in church had giv'n him what them lest; pleased
He went his way, no longer would he rest,
With scrip and tipped staff, *y-tucked high: with his robe tucked
In every house he gan to pore and pry, up high* peer
And begged meal and cheese, or elles corn.
His fellow had a staff tipped with horn,
A pair of tables all of ivory, writing tablets
And a pointel y-polish'd fetisly, pencil *daintily
And wrote alway the names, as he stood;
Of all the folk that gave them any good,
Askaunce* that he woulde for them pray. see note
"Give us a bushel wheat, or malt, or rey, rye
A Godde's kichel, or a trip of cheese, little cake scrap
Or elles what you list, we may not chese; choose
A Godde's halfpenny, or a mass penny;
Or give us of your brawn, if ye have any;
A dagon of your blanket, leve dame, remnant
Our sister dear, -- lo, here I write your name,--
Bacon or beef, or such thing as ye find."
A sturdy harlot went them aye behind, manservant
That was their hoste's man, and bare a sack,
And what men gave them, laid it on his back
And when that he was out at door, anon
He *planed away the names every one, rubbed out
That he before had written in his tables:
He served them with nifles* and with fables. -- silly tales
"Nay, there thou liest, thou Sompnour," quoth the Frere.
"Peace," quoth our Host, "for Christe's mother dear;
Tell forth thy tale, and spare it not at all."
"So thrive I," quoth this Sompnour, "so I shall." --
So long he went from house to house, till he
Came to a house, where he was wont to be
Refreshed more than in a hundred places
Sick lay the husband man, whose that the place is,
Bed-rid upon a couche low he lay:
"Deus hic,"* quoth he; "O Thomas friend, good day," God be here
Said this friar, all courteously and soft.
"Thomas," quoth he, "God yield it you, full oft reward you for
Have I upon this bench fared full well,
Here have I eaten many a merry meal."
And from the bench he drove away the cat,
And laid adown his potent* and his hat, staff
And eke his scrip, and sat himself adown:
His fellow was y-walked into town
Forth with his knave, into that hostelry servant
Where as he shope him that night to lie. shaped, purposed
"O deare master," quoth this sicke man,
"How have ye fared since that March began?
I saw you not this fortenight and more."
"God wot," quoth he, "labour'd have I full sore;
And specially for thy salvation
Have I said many a precious orison,
And for mine other friendes, God them bless.
I have this day been at your church at mess, mass
And said sermon after my simple wit,
Not all after the text of Holy Writ;
For it is hard to you, as I suppose,
And therefore will I teach you aye the glose. gloss, comment
Glosing is a full glorious thing certain,
For letter slayeth, as we clerkes sayn. scholars
There have I taught them to be charitable,
And spend their good where it is reasonable.
And there I saw our dame; where is she?"
"Yonder I trow that in the yard she be,"
Saide this man; "and she will come anon."
"Hey master, welcome be ye by Saint John,"
Saide this wife; "how fare ye heartily?"
This friar riseth up full courteously,
And her embraceth *in his armes narrow, closely
And kiss'th her sweet, and chirketh as a sparrow
With his lippes: "Dame," quoth he, "right well,
As he that is your servant every deal. whit
Thanked be God, that gave you soul and life,
Yet saw I not this day so fair a wife
In all the churche, God so save me,"
"Yea, God amend defaultes, Sir," quoth she;
"Algates welcome be ye, by my fay." always
"Grand mercy, Dame; that have I found alway.
But of your greate goodness, by your leave,
I woulde pray you that ye not you grieve,
I will with Thomas speak *a little throw: a little while
These curates be so negligent and slow
To ***** tenderly a conscience.
In shrift* and preaching is my diligence confession
And study in Peter's wordes and in Paul's;
I walk and fishe Christian menne's souls,
To yield our Lord Jesus his proper rent;
To spread his word is alle mine intent."
"Now by your faith, O deare Sir," quoth she,
"Chide him right well, for sainte charity.
He is aye angry as is a pismire, ant
Though that he have all that he can desire,
Though I him wrie at night, and make him warm, cover
And ov'r him lay my leg and eke mine arm,
He groaneth as our boar that lies in sty:
Other disport of him right none have I,
I may not please him in no manner case."
"O Thomas, *je vous dis, Thomas, Thomas, I tell you
This maketh the fiend, this must be amended. is the devil's work
Ire is a thing that high God hath defended, forbidden
And thereof will I speak a word or two."
"Now, master," quoth the wife, "ere that I go,
What will ye dine? I will go thereabout."
"Now, Dame," quoth he, "je vous dis sans doute,
Had I not of a capon but the liver,
And of your white bread not but a shiver, *thin slice
And after that a roasted pigge's head,
(But I would that for me no beast were dead,)
Then had I with you homely suffisance.
I am a man of little sustenance.
My spirit hath its fost'ring in the Bible.
My body is aye so ready and penible painstaking
To wake, that my stomach is destroy'd. watch
I pray you, Dame, that ye be not annoy'd,
Though I so friendly you my counsel shew;
By God, I would have told it but to few."
"Now, Sir," quoth she, "but one word ere I go;
My child is dead within these weeke's two,
Soon after that ye went out of this town."
"His death saw I by revelatioun,"
Said this friar, "at home in our dortour. dormitory
I dare well say, that less than half an hour
Mter his death, I saw him borne to bliss
In mine vision, so God me wiss. direct
So did our sexton, and our fermerere, infirmary-keeper
That have been true friars fifty year, --
They may now, God be thanked of his love,
Make their jubilee, and walk above.
And up I rose, and all our convent eke,
With many a teare trilling on my cheek,
Withoute noise or clattering of bells,
Te Deum was our song, and nothing else,
Save that to Christ I bade an orison,
Thanking him of my revelation.
For, Sir and Dame, truste me right well,
Our orisons be more effectuel,
And more we see of Christe's secret things,
Than *borel folk, although that they be kings. laymen
We live in povert', and in abstinence,
And borel folk in riches and dispence
Of meat and drink, and in their foul delight.
We have this worlde's lust* all in despight * pleasure *contempt
Lazar and Dives lived diversely,
And diverse guerdon hadde they thereby. reward
Whoso will pray, he must fast and be clean,
And fat his soul, and keep his body lean
We fare as saith th' apostle; cloth and food clothing
Suffice us, although they be not full good.
The cleanness and the fasting of us freres
Maketh that Christ accepteth our prayeres.
Lo, Moses forty days and forty night
Fasted, ere that the high God full of might
Spake with him in the mountain of Sinai:
With empty womb of fasting many a day stomach
Received he the lawe, that was writ
With Godde's finger; and Eli, well ye wit, know
In Mount Horeb, ere he had any speech
With highe God, that is our live's leech, *physician, healer
He fasted long, and was in contemplance.
Aaron, that had the temple in governance,
And eke the other priestes every one,
Into the temple when they shoulde gon
To praye for the people, and do service,
They woulde drinken in no manner wise
No drinke, which that might them drunken make,