Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Pardoner’s Tale’
By Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400)
(See full text.)

IN Flanders whilom was a company
Of youngè folk, that haunteden folly,
As riot, hazard, stewès, and tavérns;
Whereas with harpès, lutès, and gittérns, 1
They dance and play at dice both day and night,        5
And eat also, and drinken o’er hir might;
Through which they do the devil sacrifice
Within the devil’s temple, in cursed wise,
By superfluity abomináble.
Hir oathès be so great and so damnáble,        10
That it is grisly 2 for to hear hem swear.
Our blessèd Lordès body they to-tear; 3
Hem thoughte 4 Jewès rent him not enough;
And each of hem at otherès sinnè lough. 5
  And right anon then comen tombesteres 6        15
Fetis 7 and small, and youngè fruitesteres, 8
Singers with harpès, bawdès, waferérs, 9
Which be the very devil’s officérs,
To kindle and blow the fire of lechery,
That is annexèd unto gluttony.
*        *        *        *        *
  These riotourès three, of which I tell,
Long erst ere 10 primè rung of any bell,
Were set hem in a tavern for to drink:
And as they sat, they heard a bellè clink
Before a corpse, was carried to his grave:        25
That one of hem gan callen to his knave, 11
“Go bet,” 12 quoth he, “and askè readily,
What corpse is this, that passeth here forby:
And look that thou report his namè well.”
  “Sir,” quoth this boy, “it needeth never a del;        30
It was me told ere ye came here two hours;
He was pardie an old fellów of yours,
And suddenly he was yslain to-night,
Fordrunk 13 as he sat on his bench upright;
There came a privy thief, men clepeth 14 Death,        35
That in this country all the people slayéth,
And with his spear he smote his heart atwo,
And went his way withouten wordès mo.
He hath a thousand slain this pestilénce:
And, master, ere ye come in his presénce,        40
Methinketh that it werè necessary,
For to be ware of such an adversary;
Be ready for to meet him evermore:
Thus taughtè me my dame; I say no more.”
  “By Saintè Mary,” said this tavernér, 15        45
“The child saith sooth, for he hath slain this year
Hence over a mile, within a great villáge,
Both man and woman, child, and hine, 16 and page;
I trow his habitatìón be there:
To be avisèd 17 great wisdóm it were,        50
Ere that he did a man a dishonóur.”
  “Yea, Godès armès,” quoth this riotóur,
“Is it such peril with him for to meet?
I shall him seek by way and eke by street,
I make avow to Godès digne 18 bonès.        55
Hearkeneth, fellówès, we three be all onès: 19
Let each of us hold up his hand till other,
And each of us becomen otherès brother,
And we will slay this falsè traitor Death:
He shall be slain, which that so many slayeth,        60
By Godès dignity, ere it be night.”
  Together have these three hir truthès plight
To live and dien each of hem for other,
As though he were his own yborèn 20 brother.
And up they start all drunken, in this rage,        65
And forth they go towárdès that villáge,
Of which the taverner had spoke beforn,
And many a grisly 21 oath then have they sworn,
And Christès blessed body they to-rent; 22
Death shall be dead, 23 if that they may him hent. 24        70
  When they have gone not fully half a mile,
Right as they would have trodden o’er a stile,
An old man and a poorè with hem met.
This oldè man full meekèly hem gret, 25
And saidè thus: “Now, lordès, God you see.” 26        75
  The proudest of these riotourès three
Answéred again: “What, carl, 27 with sorry grace,
Why art thou all forwrappèd 28 save thy face?
Why livest thou so long in so great age?”
  This oldè man gan look on his viságe,        80
And saidè thus: “For I ne cannot find
A man, though that I walkèd into Ind,
Neither in city, nor in no villáge,
That wouldè change his youthè for mine age;
And therefore mote I have mine agè still        85
As longè time as it is Godès will.
Ne death, alas! ne will not have my life;
Thus walk I like a restèless cáìtiff,
And on the ground, which is my mother’s gate,
I knockè with my staff, both early and late,        90
And sayen, ‘Liefè 29 mother, let me in.
Lo, how I vanish, flesh, and blood, and skin;
Alas! when shall my bonès be at rest?
Mother, with you would I changen my chest,
That in my chamber longè time hath be,        95
Yea, for an hairè clout to wrappè me.’
But yet to me she will not do that grace,
For which full pale and welkèd 30 is my face.
  “But, sirs, to you it is no courtesy
To speaken to an old man villainy,        100
But 31 he trespass in word or else in deed.
In holy writ ye may yourself well read;
‘Against 32 an old man, hoar upon his head,
Ye should arise’: wherefore I give you rede, 33
Ne do unto an old man none harm now,        105
No morè than ye would men did to you
In agè, if that ye so long abide.
And God be with you, where ye go or ride;
I mote go thither as I have to go.”
  “Nay, oldè churl, by God, thou shalt not so,”        110
Saidè this other hazardour anon;
“Thou partest not so lightly, by Saint John.
Thou spake right now of thilkè traitor Death,
That in this country all our friendès slayeth;
Have here my truth, as thou art his espy;        115
Tell where he is, or thou shalt it aby, 34
By God and by the holy sacrament;
For soothly thou art one of his assent
To slay us youngè folk, thou falsè thief.”
  “Now, sirs,” quoth he, “if that you be so lief 35        120
To finden Death, turn up this crooked way,
For in that grove I left him, by my fay,
Under a tree, and there he will abide;
Not for your boast he will him nothing hide.
See ye that oak? right there ye shall him find.        125
God savè you, that bought again mankind,
And you amend!” thus said this oldè man.
  And evereach 36 of these riotourès ran,
Till he came to that tree, and there they found
Of florins fine of gold ycoinèd round,        130
Well nigh an eightè bushels, as hem thought.
No lenger then after Death they sought,
But each of hem so glad was of that sight,
For that the florins be so fair and bright,
That down they set hem by this precious hoard.        135
The worst of hem he spake the firstè word.
  “Brethren,” quoth he, “take keepè 37 what I say;
My wit is great, though that I bourd 38 and play.
This treasure hath fortúne unto us given
In mirth and jollity our life to liven,        140
And lightly as it cometh, so will we spend.
Hey! Godès precious dignity! who wend 39
To-day, that we should have so fair a grace?
But might this gold be carried from this place
Home to mine house, or ellès unto yours,        145
For well ye wot that all this gold is ours,
Then werè we in high felicity.
But trúèly by day it may not be;
Men woulden say that we were thievès strong,
And for our owen treasure do us hong. 40        150
This treasure must ycarried be by night
As wisely and as slily as it might.
Wherefore I rede, 41 that cut 42 among us all
Be draw, and let see where the cut will fall:
And he that hath the cut, with heartè blithe        155
Shall rennè 43 to the town, and that full swith, 44
And bring us bread and wine full privily;
And two of us shall keepen subtlely
This treasure well; and if he will not tarry,
When it is night, we will this treasure carry        160
By one assent, where as us thinketh best.”
  That one of hem the cut brought in his fist,
And bade hem draw and look where it will fall,
And it fell on the youngest of hem all:
And forth towárd the town he went anon.        165
And also 45 soon as that he was agone,
That one of hem spake thus unto that other;
“Thou knowest well thou art my sworen brother;
Thy profit will I tellen thee anon.
Thou wost 46 well that our fellow is agone,        170
And here is gold, and that full great plenty,
That shall departed be among us three.
But nathèless, if I can shape it so,
That it departed were among us two,
Had I not done a friendès turn to thee?”        175
  That other answered, “I not 47 how that may be:
He wot how that the gold is with us tway. 48
What shall we do? what shall we to him say?”
  “Shall it be counsel?” said the firstè shrew;
“And I shall tellen thee in wordès few        180
What we shall do, and bring it well about.”
  “I grantè,” quoth that other, “out of doubt,
That by my truth I shall thee not bewray.”
  “Now,” quoth the first, “thou wost well we be tway,
And two of us shall strenger be than one.        185
Look, when that he is set, thou right anon
Arise, as though thou wouldest with him play;
And I shall rive him through the sidès tway,
While that thou strugglest with him as in game,
And with thy dagger look thou do the same;        190
And then shall all this gold departed be,
My dearè friend, betwixen me and thee:
Then may we both our lustès all fulfill,
And play at dice right at our owen will.”
And thus accorded be these shrewès tway        195
To slay the third, as ye have heard me say.
  This youngest, which that went unto the town,
Full oft in heart he rolleth up and down
The beauty of these florins new and bright.
“O Lord!” quoth he, “if so were that I might        200
Have all this treasure to myself alone,
There is no man that liveth under the throne
Of God, that shouldè live so merry as I.”
And the last the fiend, our enemy,
Put in his thought that he should poison bey, 49        205
With which he mightè slay his fellows twaye.
Forwhy 50 the fiend found him in such livíng,
That he had leavè him to sorrow bring.
For this was utterly his full intent
To slay hem both, and never to repent.        210
  And forth he goeth, no lenger would he tarry,
Into the town unto a ’pothecary,
And prayèd him that he him wouldè sell
Some poison, that he might his rattès quell,
And eke there was a polecat in his haw 51        215
That, as he said, his capons had yslawe; 52
And fain he wouldè wreak 53 him if he might,
On vermin, that destroyèd him by night.
  The ’pothecary answéred, “And thou shalt have
A thing that, also 54 God my soulè save,        220
In all this world there nis no créàtúre,
That eaten or drunk hath of this cónfectúre,
Naught but the mountance 55 of a corn of wheat,
That he ne shall his life anon forlete; 56
Yea, sterve 57 he shall, and that in lessè while,        225
Than thou wilt go a pace 58 not but a mile:
This poison is so strong and violent.”
  This cursèd man hath in his hand yhent 59
This poison in a box, and sith he ran
Into the nextè street unto a man,        230
And borrowed of him largè bottles three;
And in the two his poison pourèd he;
The third he kept clean for his owen drink,
For all the night he shope 60 him for to swink 61
In carrying the gold out of that place.        235
  And when this riotour, with sorry grace,
Had filled with wine his greatè bottles three,
To his fellóws again repaireth he.
  What needeth it to sermon of it more?
For right as they had cast his death before,        240
Right so they have him slain, and that anon.
And when that this was done, thus spake that one;
“Now let us sit and drink, and make us merry,
And afterward we will his body bury.”
And with that word it happèd him par cas, 62        245
To take the bottle there the poison was,
And drank, and gave his fellow drink also,
For which anon they storven 63 bothè two.
  But certes I suppose that Avicen
Wrote never in no canon, n’ in no fen, 64        250
Mo wonder signès of empoisoning,
Than had these wretches two ere hir endíng.
Thus ended be these homicidès two,
And eke the false empoisoner also.
Note 1. Guitars. [back]
Note 2. Dreadful. [back]
Note 3. Tear in pieces. [back]
Note 4. It seemed to them. [back]
Note 5. Laughed. [back]
Note 6. Female dancers. [back]
Note 7. Neat. [back]
Note 8. Female fruit-sellers. [back]
Note 9. Sellers of wafer-cakes. [back]
Note 10. Long first before. [back]
Note 11. Servant. [back]
Note 12. Quickly. [back]
Note 13. Excessively drunk. [back]
Note 14. Call. [back]
Note 15. Innkeeper. [back]
Note 16. Peasant. [back]
Note 17. Watchful. [back]
Note 18. Worthy. [back]
Note 19. At one. [back]
Note 20. Born. [back]
Note 21. Dreadful. [back]
Note 22. Tear in pieces. [back]
Note 23. Die. [back]
Note 24. Seize. [back]
Note 25. Greeted. [back]
Note 26. Keep in sight, protect. [back]
Note 27. Churl. [back]
Note 28. Completely wrapped up. [back]
Note 29. Dear. [back]
Note 30. Withered. [back]
Note 31. Unless. [back]
Note 32. To meet. [back]
Note 33. Advice. [back]
Note 34. Suffer for. [back]
Note 35. Desirous. [back]
Note 36. Each one. [back]
Note 37. Heed. [back]
Note 38. Joke. [back]
Note 39. Thought. [back]
Note 40. Cause us to be hanged. [back]
Note 41. Advise. [back]
Note 42. Lot. [back]
Note 43. Run. [back]
Note 44. Quickly. [back]
Note 45. As. [back]
Note 46. Knowest. [back]
Note 47. Know not. [back]
Note 48. Two. [back]
Note 49. Buy. [back]
Note 50. Because. [back]
Note 51. Farm-yard. [back]
Note 52. Slain. [back]
Note 53. Revenge. [back]
Note 54. As. [back]
Note 55. Amount. [back]
Note 56. Give up. [back]
Note 57. Die. [back]
Note 58. At a footpace. [back]
Note 59. Seized. [back]
Note 60. Purposed. [back]
Note 61. Labor. [back]
Note 62. By chance. [back]
Note 63. Died. [back]
Note 64. ‘Fen’; the name of the sections of Avicenna’s great work entitled ‘Canon.’ [back]

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