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

Et sequitur pars secunda.
(Here follows the second part)

       Ther is a chanoun of religioun
420Amounges us, wolde infecte al a toun,
Thogh it as greet were as was Nynyvee,
Rome, Alisaundre, Troye, and othere three.
His sleightes and his infinite falsnesse
Ther koude no man writen, as I gesse,
425Though that he myghte lyve a thousand yeer.
In al this world of falshede nis his peer;
For in his termes he wol hym so wynde,
And speke his wordes in so sly a kynde,
Whanne he commune shal with any wight,
430That he wol make hym doten anonright,
But it a feend be, as hymselven is.
Ful many a man hath he bigiled er this,
And wole, if that he lyve may a while;
And yet men ride and goon ful many a mile
435Hym for to seke and have his aqueyntaunce,
Noght knowynge of his false governaunce.
And if yow list to yeve me audience,
I wol it tellen heere in youre presence.
       But worshipful chanons religious,
440Ne demeth nat that I sclaundre youre hous,
Although that my tale of a chanoun bee.
Of every ordre som shrewe is, pardee,
And God forbede that al a compaignye
Sholde rewe o singuleer mannes folye.
445To sclaundre yow is no thyng myn entente,
But to correcten that is mys I mente.
This tale was nat oonly toold for yow
But eek for othere mo; ye woot wel how
That among Cristes apostelles twelve
450Ther nas no traytour but Judas hymselve.
Thanne why sholde al the remenant have a blame
That giltlees were? By yow I seye the same,
Save oonly this, if ye wol herke me:
If any Judas in youre covent be,
455Remoeveth hym bitymes, I yow rede,
If shame or los may causen any drede.
And beeth no thyng displesed, I yow preye,
But in this cas herkneth what I shal seye.
       In Londoun was a preest, an annueleer,
460That therinne dwelled hadde mayn a yeer,
Which was so plesaunt and se servysable
Unto the wyf, where as he was at table,
That she wolde suffre hym no thyng for to paye
For bord ne clothyng, wente he never so gaye;
465And spendyng silver hadde he right ynow.
Therof no fors; I wol procede as now,
And telle forth my tale of the chanoun
That broghte this preest to confusioun.
       This false chanon cam upon a day
470Unto this preestes chambre, wher he lay,
Bisechynge hym to lene hym a certeyn
Of gold, and he wolde quite it hym ageyn.
"Leene me a marc," quod he, "but dayes three,
And at my day I wol it quiten thee.
475And if so be that thow me fynde fals,
Another day do hange me by the hals!"
       This preest hym took a marc, and that as swithe,
And this chanoun hym thanked ofte sithe,
And took his leve, and wente forth his weye,
480And at the thridde day broghte his moneye,
And to the preest he took his gold agayn,
Wherof this preest was wonder glad and fayn.
       "Certes," quod he, "no thyng anoyeth me
To lene a man a noble, or two, or thre,
485Or what thyng were in my possessioun,
Whan he so trewe is of condicioun
That in no wise he breke wole his day;
To swich a man I kan never seye nay."
       "What!" quod this chanoun, "sholde I be untrewe?
490Nay, that were thyng yfallen al of newe.
Trouthe is a thyng that I wol evere kepe
Unto that day in which that I shal crepe
Into my grave, and ellis God forbede.
Bileveth this as siker as your crede.
495God thanke I, and in good tyme be it sayd,
That ther was nevere man yet yvele apayd
For gold ne silver that he to me lente,
Ne nevere falshede in myn herte I mente.
And sire," quod he, "now of my pryvetee,
500Syn ye so goodlich han been unto me,
And kithed to me so greet gentillesse,
Somwhat to quyte with youre kyndenesse
I wol yow shewe, and if yow list to leere,
I wol yow teche pleynly the manere
505Yow I kan werken in philosophie.
Taketh good heede, ye shul wel seen at ye
That I wol doon a maistrie er I go."
       "Ye," quod the preest, "ye, sire, and wol ye so?
Marie! Therof I pray yow hertely."
510       "At youre comandement, sire, trewely,"
Quod the chanoun, "and ellis God forbeede!"
       Loo, how this theef koude his service beede!
Ful sooth it is that swich profred servyse
Stynketh, as witnessen thise olde wyse,
515And that, ful soone I wol it verifie
In this chanoun, roote of al trecherie,
That everemoore delit hath and gladnesse -
Swiche feendly thoghtes in his herte impresse -
How Cristes peple he may to meschief brynge.
520God kepe us from his false dissymulynge!
Noght wiste this preest with whom that he delte,
Ne of his harm comynge he no thyng felte.
O sely preest! O sely innocent!
With coveitise anon thou shalt be blent!
525O gracelees, ful blynd is thy conceite,
No thyng ne artow war of the deceite
Which that this fox yshapen hath to thee!
His wily wrenches thou ne mayst nat flee.
Wherfore, to go to the conclusion,
530That refereth to thy confusion,
Unhappy man, anon I wol me hye
To tellen thyn unwit and thy folye,
And eek the falsnesse of that oother wrecche,
As ferforth as that my konnyng wol strecche.
535        This chanon was my lord, ye wolden weene?
Sire hoost, in feith, and by the hevenes queene,
It was another chanoun, and nat hee,
That kan an hundred foold moore subtiltee.
He hath bitrayed folkes many tyme;
540Of his falsnesse it dulleth me to ryme.
Evere whan that I speke of his falshede,
For shame of hym my chekes wexen rede.
Algates they bigynnen for to glowe,
For reednesse have I noon, right wel I knowe,
545In my visage; for fumes diverse
Of metals, whiche ye han herd me reherce,
Consumed and wasted han my reednesse.
Now taak heede of this chanons cursednesse!
       "Sire," quod he to the preest, lat youre man gon
550For quyksilver, that we it hadde anon;
And lat hym bryngen ounces two or three;
And whan he comth, as faste shal ye see
A wonder thyng, which ye saugh nevere er this."
       "Sire," quod the preest, "it shal be doon, ywis."
555He bad his servant fecchen hym this thyng,
And he al redy was at his biddyng,
And wente hym forth, and cam anon agayn
With this quyksilver, shortly for to sayn,
And took thise ounces thre to the chanoun;
560And he hem leyde faire and wel adoun,
And bad the servant coles for to brynge,
That he anon myghte go to his werkynge.
       The coles right anon weren yfet,
And this chanoun took out a crosselet
565Of his bosom, and shewed it to the preest.
"This instrument," quod he, "which that thou seest,
Taak in thy hand, and put thyself therinne
Of this quyksilver an ounce, and heer bigynne,
In name of Crist, to wexe a philosofre.
570Ther been ful fewe to whiche I wolde profre
To shewen hem thus muche of my science.
For ye shul seen heer, by experience,
That this quyksilver I wol mortifye
Right in youre sighte anon, withouten lye,
575And make it as good silver and as fyn
As ther is any in youre purs or myn,
Or elleswhere, and make it malliable;
And elles holdeth me fals and unable
Amonges folk for evere to appeere.
580I have poudre heer, that coste me deere,
Shal make al good, for it is cause of al
My konnyng, which that I yow shewen shal.
Voyde youre man, and lat hym be theroute,
And shette the dore, whils we been aboute
585Oure pryvetee, that no man us espie,
Whils that we werke in this philosophie."
       Al as he bad fulfilled was in dede.
This ilke servant anonright out yede
And his maister shette the dore anon,
590And to hire labour spedily the gon.
This preest, at this cursed chanons biddyng,
Upon the fir anon sette this thyng,
And blew the fir, and bisyed hym ful faste.
And this chanoun into the crosselet caste
595A poudre, noot I wherof that it was
Ymaad, outher of chalk, outher of glas,
Or somwhat elles, was nat worth a flye,
To blynde with this preest; and bad hym hye
The coles for to couchen al above
600The crosselet. "For in tokenyng I thee love,"
Quod this chanoun, "thyne owene handes two
Shul werche al thyng which that shal heer be do."
       "Graunt mercy," quod the preest, and was ful glad,
And couched coles as that the chanoun bad.
605And while he bisy was, this feendly wrecche,
This false chanoun - the foule feend hym fecche! -
Out of his bosom took a bechen cole,
In which ful subtilly was maad an hole,
And therinne put was of silver lemaille
610An ounce, and stopped was, withouten faille,
This hole with wex, to kepe the lemaille in.
And understondeth that this false gyn
Was nat maad ther, but it was maad bifore;
And othere thynges I shal tellen moore
615Herafterward, whiche that he with hym broghte.
Er he cam there, hym to bigile he thoghte,
And so he dide, er that they wente atwynne;
Til he had terved hym, koude he nat blynne.
It dulleth me whan that I of hym speke.
620On his falshede fayn wolde I me wreke,
If I wiste how, but he is heere and there;
He is so variaunt, be abit nowhere.
       But taketh heed now, sires, for goddes love!
He took his cole of which I spak above,
625And in his hand he baar it pryvely.
And whiles the preest couched bisily
The coles, as I tolde yow er this,
This chanoun seyde, "Freend, ye doon amys.
This is nat couched as it oghte be;
630But soone I shal amenden it," quod he.
"Now lat me medle therwith but a while,
For of yow have I pitee, by Seint Gile!
Ye been right hoot; I se wel how ye swete.
Have heere a clooth, and wipe awey the wete."
635And whiles that the preest wiped his face,
This chanoun took his cole - with sory grace! -
And leyde it above upon the myddeward
Of the crosselet, and blew wel afterward,
Til that the coles gonne faste brenne.
640        "Now yeve us drynke," quod the chanoun thenne;
"As swithe al shal be wel, I undertake.
Sitte we doun, and lat us myrie make."
And whan that this chanounes bechen cole
Was brent, al the lemaille out of the hole
645Into the crosselet fil anon adoun;
And as it moste nedes, by resoun,
Syn it so even aboven it couched was.
But therof wiste the preest nothyng, alas!
He demed alle the coles yliche good;
650For of that sleighte he nothyng understood.
And whan this alkamystre saugh his tyme,
"Ris up," quod he, "sire preest, and stondeth by me;
And for I woot wel ingot have ye noon,
Gooth, walketh forth, and brynge us a chalk stoon;
655For I wol make it of the same shap
That is an ingot, if I may han hap.
And bryngeth eek with yow a bolle or a panne
Ful of water, and ye shul se wel thanne
How that oure bisynesse shal thryve and preeve.
660And yet, for ye shul han no mysbileeve
Ne wrong conceite of me in youre absence,
I ne wol nat been out of youre presence,
But go with yow, and come with yow ageyn."
The chambre dore, shortly for to seyn,
665They opened and shette, and wente hir weye.
And forth with hem they carieden the keye,
And coome agayn withouten any delay.
What sholde I tarien al the longe day?
He took the chalk, and shoop it in the wise
670Of an ingot, as I shal yow devyse.
       I seye, he took out of his owene sleeve
A teyne of silver - yvele moot he cheeve! -
Which that ne was nat but an ounce of weighte.
And taaketh heede now of his cursed sleighte!
675       He shoop his ingot, in lengthe and in breede
Of this teyne, withouten any drede,
So slyly that the preest it nat espide,
And in his sleve agayn he gan it hide,
And fro the fir he took up his mateere,
680And in th' yngot putte it with myrie cheere,
And in the water-vessel he it caste,
Whan that hym luste, and bad the preest as faste,
"Loke what ther is, put in thyn hand and grope.
Thow fynde shalt ther silver, as I hope."
685What, devel of helle, sholde it elles be?
Shaving of silver silver is, pardee!
He putte his hand in and took up a teyne
Of silver fyn, and glad in every veyne
Was this preest, whan he saugh that it was so.
690"Goddes blessyng, and his moodres also,
And alle halwes, have ye, sire chanoun,"
Seyde the preest, "and I hir malisoun,
But, and ye vouche-sauf to techen me
This noble craft and this subtilitee,
695I wol be youre in al that evere I may."
       Quod the chanoun, "Yet wol I make assay
The seconde tyme, that ye may taken heede
And been expert of this, and in youre neede
Another day assaye in myn absence
700This disciplyne and this crafty science.
Lat take another ounce," quod he tho,
Of quyksilver, withouten wordes mo,
And do therwith as ye han doon er this
With that oother, which that now silver is."
705       This preest hym bisieth in al that he kan
To doon as this chanoun, this cursed man,
Comanded hym, and faste he blew the fir,
For to come to th' effect of his desir.
And this chanon, right in the meene while,
710Al redy was this preest eft to bigile,
And for a contenaunce in his hand he bar
An holwe stikke - taak kep and be war! -
In the ende of which an ounce, and namoore,
Of silver lemaille put was, as bifore
715Was in his cole, and stopped with wex weel
For to kepe in his lemaille every deel.
And whil this preest was in his bisynesse,
This chanoun with his stikke gan hym dresse
To hym anon, and his poudre caste in
720As he dide er - the devel out of his skyn
Hym terve, I pray to God, for his falshede!
For he was evere fals in thoght and dede -
And with this stikke, above the crosselet,
That was ordeyned with that false jet
725He stired the coles til relente gan
The wex agayn the fir, as every man,
But it a fool be, woot wel it moot nede,
And al that in the stikke was out yede,
And in the crosselet hastily it fel.
730       Now, good sires, what wol ye bet than wel?
Whan that this preest thus was bigiled ageyn,
Supposynge noght but treuthe, sooth to seyn,
He was so glad that I kan nat expresse
In no manere his myrthe and his gladnesse;
735And to the chanoun he profred eftsoone
Body and good. "Ye," quod the chanoun soone,
"Though poure I be, crafty thou shalt me fynde.
I warne thee, yet is ther moore bihynde.
Is ther any coper herinne?" seyde he.
740       "Ye," quod the preest, "sire, I trowe wel ther be."
       "Elles go bye us som, and that as swithe;
Now, goode sire, go forth thy wey and hy the."
       He wente his wey, and with the coper cam,
And this chanon it in his handes nam,
745And of that coper weyed out but an ounce.
       Al to symple is my tonge to pronounce,
As ministre of my wit, the doublenesse
Of this chanoun, roote of alle cursednesse!
He semed freendly to hem that knewe hym noght,
750But he was feendly bothe in werk and thoght.
It weerieth me to telle of his falsnesse,
And nathelees yet wol I it expresse,
To th' entente that men may be war therby,
And for noon oother cause, trewely.
755       He putte this ounce of coper in the crosselet,
And on the fir as swithe he hath it set,
And caste in poudre, and made the preest to blowe,
And in his werkyng for to stoupe lowe,
As he dide er, - and al nas but a jape;
760Right as hym liste, the preest he made his ape!
And afterward in the ingot he it caste,
And in the panne putte it at the laste
Of water, and in he putte his owene hand,
And in his sleve (as ye biforen-hand
765Herde me telle) he hadde a silver teyne.
He slyly took it out, this cursed heyne,
Unwityng this preest of his false craft,
And in the pannes botme he hath it laft;
And in the water rombled to and fro,
770And wonder pryvely took up also
The coper teyne, noght knowynge this preest,
And hidde it, and hym hente by the breest,
And to hym spak, and thus seyde in his game:
"Stoupeth adoun. By God, ye be to balme!
775Helpeth me now, as I dide yow whileer;
Putte in youre hand, and looketh what is theer."
This preest took up this silver teyne anon,
And thanne seyde the chanoun, "Lat us gon
With thise thre teynes, whiche that we han wroght,
780To som goldsmyth, and wite if they been oght.
For, by my feith, I nolde, for myn hood,
But if that they were silver fyn and good,
And that as swithe preeved it shal bee."
       Unto the goldsmyth with thise teynes three
785They wente, and putte thise teynes in assay
Fo fir and hamer; myghte no man seye nay,
But that they weren as hem oghte be.
       This sotted preest, who was gladder than he?
Was nevere brid gladder agayn the day,
790Ne nyghtyngale, in the sesoun of may,
Was nevere noon that luste bet to synge;
Ne lady lustier in carolynge,
Or for to speke of love and wommanhede,
Ne knyght in armes to doon an hardy dede,
795To stonden in grace of his lady deere,
Than hadde this preest this soory craft to leere.
And to the chanoun thus he spak and seyde:
"For love of God, that for us alle deyde,
And as I may deserve it unto yow,
800What shal this receite coste? Telleth now!"
       "By oure Lady," quod this chanon, "it is deere,
I warne yow wel; for save I and a frere,
In Engelond ther kan no man it make."
       "No fors," quod he, "now, sire, for Goddes sake,
805What shal I paye? Telleth me, I preye."
       "Ywis," quod he, it is ful deere, I seye.
Sire, at o word, if that thee list it have,
Ye shul paye fourty pound, so God me save!
And nere the freendshipe that ye dide er this
810To me, ye sholde paye moore, ywis."
       This preest the somme of fourty pound anon
Of nobles fette, and took hem everichon
To this chanoun, for this ilke receite.
Al his werkyng nas but fraude and deceite.
815        "Sire preest," he seyde, "I kepe han no loos
Of my craft, for I wolde it kept were cloos;
And, as ye love me, kepeth it secree.
For, and men knewen al my soutiltee,
By God, they wolden han so greet envye
820To me, by cause of my philosophye,
I sholde be deed; ther were noon oother weye."
       "God it forbeede," quod the preest, "what sey ye?
Yet hadde I levere spenden al the good
Which that I have, and elles wexe I wood,
825Than that ye sholden falle in swich mescheef."
       "For youre good wyl, sire, have ye right good preef,"
Quod the chanoun, "and farwel, grant mercy!"
He wente his wey, and never the preest hym sy
After that day; and whan that this preest shoolde
830Maken assay, at swich tyme as he wolde,
Of this receit, farwel! it wolde nat be.
Lo, thus byjaped and bigiled was he!
Thus maketh he his introduccioun,
To brynge folk to hir destruccioun.
835       Considereth, sires, how that, in ech estaat,
Bitwixe men and gold ther is debaat
So ferforth that unnethes is ther noon.
This multiplying blent so many oon
That in good feith I trowe that it bee
840The cause grettest of scarsetee.
Philosophres speken so mystily
In this craft that men kan nat come therby,
For any wit that men han now-a-dayes.
They mowe wel chiteren as doon thise jayes,
845And in hir termes sette hir lust and peyne,
But to hir purpos shul they nevere atteyne.
A man may lightly lerne, if he have aught,
To multiplie, and brynge his good to naught!
       Lo! swich a lucre is in this lusty game,
850A mannes myrthe it wol turne unto grame,
And empten also grete and hevye purses,
And maken folk for to purchacen curses
Of hem that han hir good therto ylent.
O! fy, for shame! They that han been brent,
855Allas! kan they nat flee the fires heete?
Ye that it use, I rede ye it leete,
Lest ye lese al; for bet than nevere is late.
Nevere to thryve were to long a date.
Though ye prolle ay, ye shul it nevere fynde.
860Ye been as boold as is Bayard the blynde,
That blondreth forth, and peril casteth noon.
He is as boold to renne agayn a stoon
As for to goon bisides in the weye.
So faren ye that multiplie, I seye.
865If that youre eyen kan nat seen aright,
Looke that youre mynde lakke noght his sight.
For though ye looken never so brode and stare,
Ye shul nothyng wynne on that chaffare,
But wasten al that ye may rape and renne.
870Withdraweth the fir, lest it to faste brenne;
Medleth namoore with that art, I mene,
For if ye doon, youre thrift is goon ful clene.
And right as swithe I wol yow tellen heere
What philosophres seyn in this mateere.
875       Lo, thus seith Arnold of the Newe Toun,
As his Rosarie maketh mencioun;
He seith right thus, withouten any lye:
"Ther may no man mercurie mortifie
But it be with his brother knowlechyng."
880How be that he which that first seyde this thyng
Of philosophres fader was, Hermes -
He seith how that the dragon, doutelees,
Ne dyeth nat, but if that he be slayn
With his brother; and that is for to sayn,
885By the dragon, Mercurie, and noon oother
He understood, and brymstoon by his brother,
That out of Sol and Luna were ydrawe.
And therfore, seyde he, - taak heede to my sawe -
Lat no man bisye hym this art for to seche,
890But if that he th' entencioun and speche
Of philosophres understonde kan;
And if he do, he is a lewed man.
For this science and this konnyng," quod he,
"Is of the secree of secrees, pardee.
895       Also ther was a disciple of Plato,
That on a tyme seyde his maister to,
As his book Senior wol bere witnesse,
And this was his demande in soothfastnesse:
"Telle me the name of the privee stoon?"
900        And Plato answerde unto hym anoon,
"Take the stoon that Titanos men name."
       "Which is that?" quod he. "Magnasia is the same,"
Seyde Plato. "Ye, sire, and is it thus?
This is ignotum per ignocius.
905What is Magnasia, good sire, I yow preye?"
       "It is a water that is maad, I seye,
Of elementes foure," quod Plato.
       "Telle me the roote, good sire," quod he tho,
"Of that water, if it be youre wil."
910       "Nay, nay," quod Plato, "certein, that I nyl.
The philosophres sworn were everychoon
That they sholden discovere it unto noon,
Ne in no book it write in no manere.
For unto Crist it is so lief and deere
915That he wol nat that it discovered bee,
But where it liketh to his deitee
Men for t' enspire, and eek for to deffende
Whom that hym liketh; lo, this is the ende.
       Thanne conclude I thus, sith that God of hevene
920Ne wil nat that the philosophres nevene
How that a man shal come unto this stoon,
I rede, as for the beste, lete it goon.
For whoso maketh God his adversarie,
As for to werken any thyng in contrarie
925Of his wil, certes, never shal he thryve,
Thogh that he multiplie terme of his lyve.
And there a poynt; for ended is my tale.
God sende every trewe man boote of his bale!


Heere is ended the Chanouns Yemannes Tale




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