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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale

Heere bigynneth the Chanouns Yeman his Tale

       With this Chanoun I dwelt have seven yeer,
And of his science am I never the neer.
Al that I hadde I have lost therby,
170And, God woot, so hath many mo than I.
Ther I was wont to be right fressh and gay
Of clothyng and of oother good array,
Now may I were an hose upon myn heed;
And wher my colour was bothe fressh and reed
175Now is it wan and of a leden hewe -
Whoso it useth, soore shal he rewe! -
And of my swynk yet blered is myn ye.
Lo, which avantage is to multiplie!
That slidynge science hath me maad so bare
180That I have no good, wher that evere I fare;
And yet I am endetted so therby,
Of gold that I have borwed, trewely,
That whil I lyve I shal it quite nevere.
Lat every man be war by me for evere!
185What maner man that casteth hym therto,
If he continue, I holde his thrift ydo.
For so helpe me God, therby shal he nat wynne,
But empte his purs, and make his wittes thynne.
And whan he, thurgh his madnesse and folye,
190Hath lost his owene good thurgh jupartye,
Thanne he exciteth oother folk therto,
To lesen hir good, as he hymself hath do.
For unto shrewes joye it is and ese
To have hir felawes in peyne and disese.
195Thus was I ones lerned of a clerk.
Of that no charge, I wol speke of oure werk.
       Whan we been there as we shul exercise
Oure elvysshe craft, we semen wonder wise,
Oure termes been so clerigal and so queynte.
200I blowe the fir til that myn herte feynte.
What sholde I tellen ech proporcion
Of thynges whiche that we werche upon -
As on fyve or sixe ounces, may wel be,
Of silver, or som oother quantitee -
205And bisye me to telle yow the names
Of orpyment, brent bones, iren squames,
That into poudre grounden been ful smal;
And in an erthen pot how put is al,
And salt yput in, and also papeer,
210Biforn thise poudres that I speke of heer;
And wel ycovered with a lampe of glas;
And of muche oother thyng which that ther was;
And of the pot and glasses enlutyng,
That of the eyr myghte passe out nothyng;
215And of the esy fir, and smart also,
Which that was maad, and of the care and wo
That we hadde in oure matires sublymyng,
And in amalgamyng and calcenyng
Of quyksilver, yclept mercurie crude?
220For alle oure sleightes we kan nat conclude.
Oure orpyment and sublymed mercurie,
Oure grounden litarge eek on the porfurie,
Of ech of thise of ounces a certeyn --
Noght helpeth us, oure labour is in veyn.
225Ne eek oure spirites ascencioun,
Ne oure materes that lyen al fix adoun,
Mowe in oure werkyng no thyng us availle,
For lost is al oure labour and travaille;
And al the cost, a twenty devel waye,
230Is lost also, which we upon it laye.
       Ther is also ful many another thyng
That is unto oure craft apertenyng.
Though I by ordre hem nat reherce kan,
By cause that I am a lewed man,
235Yet wol I telle hem as they come to mynde,
Thogh I ne kan nat sette hem in hir kynde:
As boole armonyak, verdegrees, boras,
And sondry vessels maad of erthe and glas,
Oure urynales and oure descensories,
240Violes, crosletz, and sublymatories,
Cucurbites and alambikes eek,
And othere swiche, deere ynough a leek.
Nat nedeth it for to reherce hem alle, --
Watres rubifyng, and boles galle,
245Arsenyk, sal armonyak and brymstoon;
And herbes koude I telle eek many oon,
As egremoyne, valerian, and lunarie,
And othere swiche, if that me liste tarie;
Oure lampes brennyng bothe nyght and day,
250To brynge aboute oure purpos, if we may;
Oure fourneys eek of calcinacioun,
And of watres albificacioun;
Unslekked lym,chalk, and gleyre of an ey,
Poudres diverse, asshes, donge, pisse, and cley,
255Cered pokkets, sal peter, vitriole,
And diverse fires maad of wode and cole;
Sal tartre, alkaly, and sal preparat,
And combust materes and coagulat;
Cley maad with hors of mannes heer, and oille
260Of tartre, alum glas, berme, wort, and argoille,
Resalgar, and oure materes enbibyng,
And eek of oure materes encorporyng,
And of oure silver citrinacioun,
Oure cementyng and fermentacioun,
265Oure yngottes, testes, and many mo.
       I wol yow telle, as was me taught also,
The foure spirites and the bodies sevene,
By ordre, as ofte I herde my lord hem nevene.
       The firste spirit quyksilver called is,
270The seconde orpyment, the thridde, ywis,
Sal armonyak, and the ferthe brymstoon.
The bodyes sevene eek, lo! hem heere anoon:
Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe,
Mars iren, Mercurie quyksilver we clepe,
275Saturnus leed, and Juppiter is tyn,
And Venus coper, by my fader kyn!
       This cursed craft whoso wole excercise,
He shal no good han that hym may suffise;
For al the good he spendeth theraboute
280He lese shal; therof have I no doute.
Whoso that listeth outen his folie,
Lat hym come forth and lerne multiplie;
And every man that oght hath in his cofre,
Lat hym appiere, and wexe a philosophre.
285Ascaunce that craft is so light to leere?
Nay, nay, God woot, al be he monk or frere,
Preest or chanoun, or any oother wyght,
Though he sitte at his book bothe day and nyght
In lernyng of this elvysshe nyce loore,
290Al is in veyn, and parde! muchel moore.
To lerne a lewed man this subtiltee -
Fy! spek nat therof, for it wol nat bee;
And konne he letterure, or konne he noon,
As in effect, he shal fynde it al oon.
295For bothe two, by my savacioun,
Concluden in multiplicacioun
Ylike wel, whan they han al ydo;
This is to seyn, they faillen bothe two.
       Yet forgat I to maken rehersaille
300Of watres corosif, and of lymaille,
And of bodies mollificacioun,
And also of hire induracioun;
Oilles, ablucions, and metal fusible, -
To tellen al wolde passen any bible
305That owher is; wherfore, as for beste,
Of alle thise names now wol I me reste.
For, as I trowe, I have yow toold ynowe
To reyse a feend, al looke he never so rowe.
       A! Nay! Lat be; the philosophres stoon,
310Elixer clept, we sechen faste echoon;
For hadde we hym, thanne were we siker ynow.
But unto God of hevene I make avow,
For al oure craft, whan we han al ydo,
And al oure sleighte, he wol nat come us to.
315He hath ymaad us spenden muchel good,
For sorwe of which almoost we wexen wood,
But that good hope crepeth in oure herte,
Supposynge evere, though we sore smerte,
To be releeved by hym afterward.
320Swich supposyng and hope is sharp and hard;
I warne yow wel, it is to seken evere.
That futur temps hath maad men to dissevere,
In trust therof, from al that evere they hadde.
Yet of that art they kan nat wexen sadde,
325For unto hem it is a bitter sweete, -
So semeth it, - for nadde they but a sheete,
Which that they myghte wrappe hem inne a-nyght,
And a brat to walken inne by daylyght,
They wolde hem selle and spenden on this craft.
330They kan nat stynte til no thyng be laft.
And everemoore, where that evere they goon
Men may hem knowe by smel of brymstoon.
For al the world they stynken as a goot;
Hir savour is so rammyssh and so hoot
335That though a man from hem a mile be,
The savour wole infecte hym, trusteth me.
And thus by smel, and by threedbare array,
If that men liste, this folk they knowe may.
And if a man wole aske hem pryvely
340Why they been clothed so unthriftily,
They right anon wol rownen is his ere,
And seyn that if that they espied were,
Men wolde hem slee by cause of hir science.
Lo, thus this folk bitrayen innocence!
345        Passe over this; if go my tale unto.
Er that the pot be on the fir ydo,
Of metals with a certeyn quantitee,
My lord hem tempreth, and no man be he -
Now he is goon, I dar seyn boldely -
350For, as men seyn, he kan doon craftily.
Algate I woot wel he hath swich a name,
And yet ful ofte he renneth in a blame.
And wite ye how? Ful ofte it happeth so,
The pot tobreketh, and farewel, al is go!
355Thise metals been of so greet violence,
Oure walles mowe nat make hem resistence,
But if they weren wroght of lym and stoon;
They percen so, and thurgh the wal they goon.
And somme of hem synken into the ground -
360Thus han we lost by tymes many a pound -
And somme are scatered al the floor aboute;
Somme lepe into the roof. Withouten doute,
Though that the feend noght in oure sighte hym shewe,
I trowe he with us be, that ilke shrewe!
365In helle, where that he lord is and sire,
Nis ther moore wo, ne moore rancour ne ire.
Whan that oure pot is broke, as I have sayd,
Every man chit, and halt hym yvele apayd.
       Somme seyde it was long on the fir makyng;
370Somme seyde nay, it was on the blowyng, -
Thanne was I fered, for that was myn office.
"Straw!" quod the thridde, "ye been lewed and nyce.
It was nat tempred as it oghte be.
"Nay," quod the fourthe, "stynt and herkne me.
375By cause oure fir ne was nat maad of beech,
That is the cause, and oother noon, so th'eech!"
I kan nat telle wheron it was long,
But wel I woot greet strif is us among.
       "What," quod my lord, "ther is namoore to doone;
380Of thise perils I wol be war eftsoone.
I am right siker that the pot was crased.
Be as be may, be ye no thyng amased;
As usage is, lat swepe the floor as swithe,
Plukke up youre hertes, and beeth glad and blithe."
385       The mullok on an heep ysweped was,
And on the floor ycast a canevas,
And al this mullok in a syve ythrowe,
And sifted, and ypiked mayn a throwe.
       "Pardee," quod oon, "somwhat of oure metal
390Yet is ther heere, though that we han nat al.
Although this thyng myshapped have as now,
Another tyme it may be well ynow.
Us moste putte oure good in aventure.
A marchant, pardee, may nat ay endure,
395Trusteth me wel, in his prosperitee.
Somtyme his good is drowned in the see,
And somtyme comth it sauf unto the londe."
       "Pees!" quod my lord, the nexte tyme I wol fonde
To bryngen oure craft al in another plite,
400And but I do, sires, lat me han the wite.
Ther was defaute in somwhat, wel I woot."
       Another seyde the fir was over-hoot, -
But, be it hoot or coold, I dar seye this,
That we concluden everemoore amys.
405We faille of that which that we wolden have,
And in oure madnesse everemoore we rave.
And whan we been togidres everichoon,
Every man semeth a Salomon.
But al thyng which that shineth as the gold
410Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told;
Ne every appul that is fair at eye
Ne is nat good, what so men clappe or crye.
Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us:
He that semeth the wiseste, by Jhesus!
415Is moost fool, whan it cometh to the preef;
And he that semeth trewest is the theef.
That shul ye knowe, er that I fro yow wende,
By that I of my tale have maad an ende.


Explicit prima pars.
(Here ends the first part)




Next:
The Canon's Yeoman's Tale, Second Part (ll. 419-928)