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- The Canterbury Tales - 50/183 -


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 wench 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,<3> 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,<4> 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," <5> 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<6> 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 <7> 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,<8> 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, *apply myself And not intend our thinges to declare: For, brother mine, thy wit is all too bare To understand, although I told them thee. *But for* thou askest why laboure we: *because* For sometimes we be Godde's instruments And meanes to do his commandements, When that him list, upon his creatures, In divers acts and in divers figures: Withoute him we have no might certain, If that him list to stande thereagain.* *against it And sometimes, at our prayer have we leave Only the body, not the soul, to grieve: Witness on Job, whom that we did full woe, And sometimes have we might on both the two, -- This is to say, on soul and body eke, And sometimes be we suffer'd for to seek Upon a man and do his soul unrest And not his body, and all is for the best, When he withstandeth our temptation, It is a cause of his salvation, Albeit that it was not our intent He should be safe, but that we would him hent.* *catch And sometimes be we servants unto man, As to the archbishop Saint Dunstan, And to th'apostle servant eke was I." "Yet tell me," quoth this Sompnour, "faithfully, Make ye you newe bodies thus alway Of th' elements?" The fiend answered, "Nay: Sometimes we feign, and sometimes we arise With deade bodies, in full sundry wise, And speak as reas'nably, and fair, and well, As to the Pythoness<9> did Samuel: And yet will some men say it was not he. I *do no force of* your divinity. *set no value upon* But one thing warn I thee, I will not jape,* jest Thou wilt *algates weet* how we be shape: *assuredly know* Thou shalt hereafterward, my brother dear, Come, where thee needeth not of me to lear.* *learn For thou shalt by thine own experience *Conne in a chair to rede of this sentence,* *learn to understand Better than Virgil, while he was alive, what I have said* Or Dante also. <10> Now let us ride blive,* *briskly For I will holde company with thee, Till it be so that thou forsake me." "Nay," quoth this Sompnour, "that shall ne'er betide. I am a yeoman, that is known full wide; My trothe will I hold, as in this case; For though thou wert the devil Satanas, My trothe will I hold to thee, my brother, As I have sworn, and each of us to other, For to be true brethren in this case, And both we go *abouten our purchase.* *seeking what we Take thou thy part, what that men will thee give, may pick up*


The Canterbury Tales - 50/183

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