The Somnours Tale

The prologe of the Somnours Tale.

This Somnour in his stiropes hye stood ;

Up -on this Frere his herte was so wood,

That lyk an aspen leef he quook for yre.

‘ Lordinges,’ quod he, ‘ but o thing I desyre ;

I yow biseke that, of your curteisye,

Sin ye han herd this false Frere lye,

As suffereth me I may my tale telle !

This Frere bosteth that he knoweth helle,

And god it woot, that it is litel wonder ;

Freres and feendes been but lyte a-sonder.

For pardee, ye han ofte tyme herd telle,

How that a frere ravisshed was to helle

In spirit ones by a visioun ;

And as an angel ladde him up and doun,

To shewen him the peynes that ther were,

In al the place saugh he nat a frere ;

Of other folk he saugh y-nowe in wo.

Un-to this angel spak the frere tho :

” Now, sir,” quod he, ” han freres swich a grace

That noon of hem shal come to this place ? “

: ‘ Yis,” quod this angel, ” many a millioun ! “

And un-to Sathanas he ladde him doun.

” And now hath Sathanas,” seith he, ” a tayl

Brodder than of a carrik is the sayl.

Hold up thy tayl, thou Sathanas ! ” quod he,

” Shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere see

Wher is the nest of freres in this place ! “

And, er that half a furlong-wey of space,

Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve,

Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve

Twenty thousand freres in a route,

And thurgh-out helle swarmeden aboute

And comen agayn, as faste as they may gon,

And in his ers they crepten everichon.

He clapte his tayl agayn, and lay ful stille.

This frere, whan he loked hadde his fille

Upon the torments of this sory place,

His spirit god restored of his grace

Un-to his body agayn, and he awook ;

But natheles, for fere yet he quook,

So was the develes ers ay in his minde,

That is his heritage of verray kinde.

God save yow alle, save this cursed Frere ;

My prologe wol I ende in this manere.’

Here endeth the Prologe of the Somnours Tale.

Here biginneth the Somonour his Tale.

Lordinges, ther is in Yorkshire, as I gesse,

A mersshy contree called Holdernesse,

In which ther wente a limitour aboute,

To preche, and eek to begge, it is no doute.

And so bifel, that on a day this frere

Had preched at a chirche in his manere,

And specially, aboven every thing,

Excited he the peple in his preching

To trentals, and to yeve, for goddes sake,

Wher-with men mighten holy houses make,

Ther as divyne service is honoured,

Nat ther as it is wasted and devoured,

Ne ther it nedeth nat for to be yive,

As to possessioners, that mowen live,

Thanked be god, in wele and habundaunce.

‘ Trentals,’ seyde he, ‘ deliveren fro penaunce

Hir freendes soules, as wel olde as yonge,

Ye, whan that they been hastily y-songe ;

Nat for to holde a preest joly and gay,

He singeth nat but o masse in a day ;

Delivereth out,’ quod he, ‘ anon the soules ;

Ful hard it is with fleshhook or with oules

To been y-clawed, or to brenne or bake ;

Now spede yow hastily, for Cristes sake.’

And whan this frere had seyd al his entente,

With qui cum patre forth his wey he wente.

Whan folk in chirche had yeve him what hem leste,

He wente his wey, no lenger wolde he reste,

With scrippe and tipped staf, y-tukked hye ;

In every hous he gan to poure and prye,

And beggeth mele, and chese, or elles corn.

His felawe hadde a staf tipped with horn,

A peyre of tables al of y vory,

And a poyntel polisshed fetisly,

And wroot the names alwey, as he stood,

Of alle folk that yaf him any good,

Ascaunces that he wolde for hem preye.

‘ Yeve us a busshel whete, malt, or reye,

A goddes kechil, or a trip of chese,

Or elles what yow list, we may nat chese ;

A goddes halfpeny or a masse -peny,

Or yeve us of your brawn, if ye have eny ;

A dagon of your blanket, leve dame,

Our suster dere, lo ! here I write your name ;

Bacon or beef, or swich thing as ye finde.’

A sturdy harlot wente ay hem bihinde,

That was hir hostes man, and bar a sak,

And what men yaf hem, leyde it on his bak.

And whan that he was out at dore anon,

He planed awey the names everichon

That he biforn had writen in his tables ;

He served hem with nyfles and with fables.

‘ Nay, ther thou lixt, thou Somnour,’ quod the Frere.

‘ Pees,’ quod our Host, ‘ for Cristes moder dere ;

Tel forth thy tale and spare it nat at al.’

So thryve I, quod this Somnour, so I shal. —

So longe he wente hous by hous, til he

Cam til an hous ther he was wont to be

Refresshed more than in an hundred placis.

Sik lay the gode man, whos that the place is ;

Bedrede up-on a couche lowe he lay.

‘ Deus hie,’ quod he, ‘ Thomas, freend, good day,’

Seyde this frere curteisly and softe.

‘ Thomas,’ quod he, ‘ god yelde yow ! ful ofte

Have I up-on this bench faren ful weel.

Here have I eten many a mery meel ; ‘

And fro the bench he droof awey the cat,

And leyde adoun his potente and his hat,

And eek his scrippe, and sette him softe adoun.

His felawe was go walked in-to toun,

Forth with his knave, in-to that hostelrye

Wher-as he shoop him thiike night to lye.

‘ O dere maister,’ quod this syke man,

‘ How han ye fare sith that March bigan ?

I saugh yow noght this fourtenight or more.’

* God woot,’ quod he, ‘ laboured have I ful sore ;

And specially, for thy savacioun

Have I seyd many a precious orisoun

And for our othere frendes, god hem blesse !

I have to-day been at your chirche at messe,

And seyd a sermon after my simple wit,

Nat al after the text of holy writ ;

For it is hard to yow, as I suppose,

And therfore wol I teche yow al the glose.

Glosinge is a glorious thing, certeyn,

For lettre sleeth, so as we clerkes seyn.

Ther have I taught hem to be charitable,

And spende hir good ther it is resonable,

And ther I saugh our dame ; a ! wher is she ? ‘

‘ Yond in the yerd I trowe that she be,’

Seyde this man, ‘ and she wol come anon.’

‘ Ey, maister ! wel-come be ye, by seint John !

Seyde this wyf, ‘ how fare ye hertely ? ‘

The frere aryseth up ful curteisly,

And hir embraceth in his armes narwe,

And kiste hir swete, and chirketh as a sparwe

With his lippes : ‘ dame,’ quod he, ‘ right weel,

As he that is your servant every deel.

Thanked be god, that yow yaf soule and lyf,

Yet saugh I nat this day so fair a wyf

In al the chirche, god so save me ! ‘

‘ Ye, god amende defautes, sir,’ quod she,

‘ Algates wel-come be ye, by my fey ! ‘

‘ Graunt mercy, dame, this have I founde alwey.

But of your grete goodnesse, by your leve,

I wolde prey yow that ye nat yow greve,

I wol with Thomas speke a litel throwe.

Thise eurats been ful necligent and slowe

To grope tendrely a conscience.

In shrift, in preching is my diligence,

And studie in Petres wordes, and in Poules.

I walke, and fisshe Cristen mennes soules,

To yelden Jesu Crist his propre rente ;

To sprede his word is set al myn entente.’

‘ Now, by your leve, o dere sir,’ quod she,

‘ Chydeth him weel, for seinte Trinitee.

He is as angry as a pissemyre,

Though that he have al that he can desyre.

Though I him wrye a-night and make him warm,

And on hym leye my leg outher myn arm,

He groneth lyk our boor, lyth in our sty.

Other desport right noon of him have I ;

I may nat plese him in no maner cas.’

‘ O Thomas ! Je vous dy, Thomas ! Thomas !

This maketh the feend, this moste ben amended.

Ire is a thing that hye god defended,

And ther-of wol I speke a word or two.’

‘ Now maister,’ quod the wyf, ‘ er that I go,

What wol ye dyne ? I wol go ther-aboute.’

‘ Now dame,’ quod he, ‘ Je vous dy sanz doute,

Have I nat of a capon but the livere,

And of your softe breed nat but a shivere,

And after that a rosted pigges heed,

(But that I nolde no beest for me were deed),

Thanne hadde I with yow hoomly suffisaunce.

I am a man of litel sustenaunce.

My spirit hath his fostring in the Bible.

The body is ay so redy and penyble

To wake, that my stomak is destroyed.

I prey yow, dame, ye be nat anoyed,

Though I so freendly yow my conseil shewe ;

By god, I wolde nat telle it but a fewe.’

‘ Now, sir,’ quod she, * but o word er I go ;

My child is deed with-inne thise wykes two,

Sone after that ye wente out of this toun.’

‘ His deeth saugh I by revelacioun,’

Seith this frere, ‘ at hoom in our dortour.

I dar wel seyn that, er that half an hour

After his deeth, I saugh him born to blisse

In myn avisioun, so god me wisse !

So dide our sexteyn and our fermerer,

That han been trewe freres fifty yeer ;

They may now, god be thanked of his lone,

Maken hir jubilee and walke allone.

And up I roos, and al our covent eke,

With many a tere trikling on my cheke,

Withouten noyse or clateringe of belles ;

Te deum was our song and no-thing elles,

Save that to Crist I seyde an orisoun,

Thankinge him of his revelacioun.

For sir and dame, trusteth me right weel,

Our orisons been more effectueel,

And more we seen of Cristes secree thinges

Than burel folk, al-though they weren kinges.

We live in povert and in abstinence,

And burel folk in richesse and despence

Of mete and drinke, and in hir foul delyt.

We han this worldes lust al in despyt.

Lazar and Dives liveden diversly,

And diverse guerdon hadden they ther-by.

Who-so wol preye, he moot faste and be clene,

And fatte his soule and make his body lene.

We fare as seith th’apostle ; cloth and fode

Suffysen us, though they be nat ful gode.

The clennesse and the fastinge of us freres

Maketh that Crist accepteth our preyeres.

Lo, Moyses fourty dayes and fourty night

Fasted, er that the heighe god of might

Spak with him in the mountain of Sinay.

With empty wombe, fastinge many a day,

Receyved he the lawe that was writen

With goddes finger ; and Elie, wel ye witen,

In mount Oreb, er he hadde any speche

With hye god, that is our lyves leche,

He fasted longe and was in contemplaunce.

Aaron, that hadde the temple in governaunce,

And eek the othere preestes everichon,

In-to the temple whan they sholde gon

To preye for the peple, and do servyse,

They nolden drinken, in no maner wyse,

No drinke, which that mighte hem dronke make,

But there in abstinence preye and wake,

Lest that they deyden ; tak heed- what I seye.

But they be sobre that for the peple preye,

War that I seye ; namore ! for it suffyseth.

Our lord Jesu, as holy writ devyseth,

Yaf us ensample of fastinge and preyeres.

Therfor we mendinants, we sely freres,

Been wedded to poverte and continence,

To charitee, humblesse, and abstinence,

To persecucion for right wisnesse,

To wepinge, misericorde, and clennesse.

And therfor may ye see that our preyeres —

I speke of us, we mendinants, we freres —

Ben to the hye god more acceptable

Than youres, with your festes at the table.

Fro Paradys first, if I shal nat lye,

Was man out chaced for his glotonye ;

And chaast was man in Paradys, certeyn.

But herkne now, Thomas, what I shal seyn.

I ne have no text of it, as I suppose,

But I shall finde it in a maner glose,

That specially our swete lord Jesus

Spak this by freres, whan he seyde thus :

” Blessed be they that povre in spirit been.”

And so forth al the gospel may ye seen,

Wher it be lyker our professioun,

Or hirs that swimmen in possessioun.

Fy on hir pompe and on hir glotonye !

And for hir lewednesse I hem diffye.

Me thinketh they ben lyk Jovinian,

Fat as a whale, and walkinge as a swan ;

Al vinolent as hotel in the spence.

Hir preyer is of ful gret reverence ;

Whan they for soules seye the psalm of Davit,

Lo, ” buf ! ” they seye, ” cor meum eructavitf”

Who folweth Cristes gospel and his fore,

But we that humble been and chast and pore,

Werkers of goddes word, not auditours ?

Therfore, right as an hauk up, at a sours,

Up springe th in -to their, right so prayeres

Of charitable and chaste bisy freres

Maken hir s6urs to goddes eres two.

Thomas ! Thomas ! so mote I ryde or go,

And by that lord that clepid is seint Yve,

Nere thou our brother, sholdestou nat thryve !

In our chapitre praye we day and night

To Crist, that he thee sende hele and might,

Thy body for to welden hastily.’

‘ God woot,’ quod he, ‘ no-thing ther-of fele I

As help me Crist, as I, in fewe yeres,

Han spended, up-on dyvers maner freres,

Ful many a pound ; yet fare I never the bet.

Certeyn, my good have I almost biset.

Farwel, my gold ! for it is al ago ! ‘

The frere answerde, ‘ O Thomas, dostow so ?

What nedeth yow diverse freres seche ?

What nedeth him that hath a parfit leche

To sechen othere leches in the toun ?

Your inconstance is your confusioun.

Holde ye than me, or elles our covent,

To praye for yow ben insufficient ?

Thomas, that jape nis nat worth a myte ;

Your maladye is for we han to lyte.

” A ! yif that covent half a quarter otes !

” A ! yif that covent four and twenty grotes ! “

” A ! yif that frere a peny, and lat him go ! “

Nay, nay, Thomas ! it may no-thing be so.

What is a ferthing worth parted in twelve ?

Lo, ech thing that is oned in him-selve

Is more strong than whan it is to-scatered.

Thomas, of me thou shalt nat been y-flatered ;

Thou woldest han our labour al for noght.

The hye god, that al this world hath wroght,

Seith that the werkman worthy is his hyre.

Thomas ! noght of your tresor I desyre

As for my-self, but that al our covent

To preye for yow is ay so diligent,

And for to builden Cristes owene chirche.

Thomas ! if ye wol lernen for to wirche,

Of buildinge up of chirches may ye finde

If it be good, in Thomas lyf of Inde. .

Ye lye heer, ful of anger and of yre,

With which the devel set your herte a-fyre,

And chyden heer this sely innocent,

Your wyf , that is so meke and pacient.

And therfor, Thomas, trowe me if thee leste,

Ne stryve nat with thy wyf, as for thy beste ;

And ber this word awey now, by thy feith,

Touchinge this thing, lo, what the wyse seith :

” With -in thyn hous ne be thou no leoun ;

To thy subgits do noon oppressioun ;

Ne make thyne aqueyntances nat to flee.”

And Thomas, yet eft-sones I charge thee,

Be war from hir that in thy bosom slepeth ;

War fro the serpent that so slyly crepeth

Under the gras, and stingeth subtilly.

Be war, my sone, and herkne paciently,

That twenty thousand men han lost hir lyves,

For stryving with hir lemmans and hir wyves.

Now sith ye han so holy and meke a wyf,

What nedeth yow, Thomas, to maken stryf ?

Ther nis, y-wis, no serpent so cruel,

Whan man tret on his tayl, ne half so fel,

As womman is, whan she hath caught an ire ;

Vengeance is thanne al that they desyre.

Ire is a sinne, oon of the grete of sevene,

Abhominable un-to the god of hevene ;

And to him -self it is destruction.

This every lewed viker or person

Can seye, how Ire engendreth homicyde.

Ire is, in sooth, executour of pryde.

I coude of Ire seye so muche sorwe,

My tale sholde laste til to-morwe.

And therfor preye I god bothe day and night,

An irous man, god sende him litel might 1

It is greet harm and, certes, gret pitee,

To sette an irous man in heigh degree.

Whilom ther was an irous potestat,

As seith Senek, that, duringe his estaat,

Up-on a day out riden knightes two,

And as fortune wolde that it were so,

That oon of hem cam hoom, that other noght.

Anon the knight bifore the juge is broght,

That seyde thus, ” thou hast thy felawe slayn,

For which I deme thee to the deeth, certayn.”

And to another knight comanded he,

” Go lede him to the deeth, I charge thee.”

And happed, as they wente by the weye

Toward the place ther he sholde deye,

The knight cam, which men wenden had be deed.

Thanne thoughte they, it was the beste reed,

To lede hem bothe to the juge agayn.

They seiden, ” lord, the knight ne hath nat slayn

His felawe ; here he standeth hool alyve.”

” Ye shul be deed,” quod he, ” so moot I thryve !

That is to seyn, bothe oon, and two, and three ! “

And to the firste knight right thus spak he,

” I dampned thee, thou most algate be deed.

And thou also most nedes lese thyn heed,

For thou art cause why thy felawe deyth.”

And to the thridde knight right thus he seyth,

” Thou hast nat doon that I comanded thee.”

And thus he dide don sleen hem alle three.

Irous Cambyses was eek dronkelewe,

And ay delyted him to been a shrewe.

And so bifel, a lord of his meynee,

That lovede vertuous moralitee,

Seyde on a day bitwix hem two right thus :

” A lord is lost, if he be vicious ;

And dronkenesse is eek a foul record

Of any man, and namely in a lord.

Ther is ful many an eye and many an ere

Awaiting on a lord, and he noot where.

For goddes love, drink more attemprely ;

Wyn maketh man to lesen wrecchedly

His minde, and eek his limes everichon.”

” The revers shaltou se,” quod he, ” anon ;

And preve it, by thyn owene experience,

That wyn ne dooth to folk no swich offence.

Ther is no wyn bireveth me my might

Of hand ne foot, ne of myn eyen sight ” —

And, for despyt, he drank ful muchel more

An hondred part than he had doon bifore ;

And right anon, this irous cursed wrecche

Leet this knightes sone bifore him fecche,

Comandinge him he sholde bifore him stonde.

And sodeynly he took his bowe in honde,

And up the streng he pulled to his ere,

And with an arwe he slow the child right there :

” Now whether have I a siker hand or noon ? “

Quod he, “is al my might and minde agoon ?

Hath wyn bireved me myn eyen sight ? “

What sholde I telle th’answere of the knight ?

His sone was slayn, ther is na-more to seye.

Beth war therfor with lordes how ye pleye.

Singeth Placebo, and I shal, if I can,

But-if it be un-to a povre man.

To a povre man men sholde hise vyces telle,

But nat to a lord, thogh he sholde go to helle.

Lo irous Cirus, thilke Percien,

How he destroyed the river of Gysen,

For that an hors of his was dreynt ther-inne,

Whan that he wente Babiloigne to winne.

He made that the river was so smal,

That wommen mighte wade it over-al.

Lo, what seyde he, that so wel teche can ?

” Ne be no felawe to an irous man.

Ne with no wood man walke by the weye,

Lest thee repente ; ” ther is na-more to seye.

Now Thomas, leve brother, lef thyn ire ;

Thou shalt me finde as just as is a squire.

Hold nat the develes knyf ay at thyn herte ;

Thyn angre dooth thee al to sore smerte ;

But she we to me al thy confessioun.’ i

‘ Nay,’ quod the syke man, ‘ by Seint Simoun !

I have be shriven this day at my curat ;

I have him told al hoolly myn estat ;

Nedeth na-more to speke of it,’ seith he,

4 But if me list of myn humilitee.’

‘ Yif me thanne of thy gold, to make our cloistre,’

Quod he, ‘ for many a muscle and many an oistre,

Whan other men han ben ful wel at eyse,

Hath been our fode, our cloistre for to reyse.

And yet, god woot, unnethe the fundement

Parfourned is, ne of our pavement

Nis nat a tyle yet with-inne our wones ;

By god, we owen fourty pound for stones !

Now help, Thomas, for him that harwed helle !

For elles moste we our bokes selle.

And if ye lakke our predicacioun,

Than gooth the world al to destruccioun.

For who -so wolde us fro this world bireve,

So god me save, Thomas, by your leve,

He wolde bireve out of this world the sonne.

For who can teche and werchen as we conne ?

And that is nat of litel tyme,’ quod he ;

‘ But sith that Elie was, or Elisee,

Han freres been, that finde I of record,

In charitee, y-thanked be our lord.

Now Thomas, help, for seinte Charitee ! ‘

And doun anon he sette him on his knee.

This syke man wex wel ny wood for ire ;

He wolde that the frere had been on-fire

With his false dissimulacioun.

Swich thing as is in my possessioun,’

Quod he, ‘ that may I yeven, and non other.

Ye sey me thus, how that I am your brother ? ‘

Ye, certes,’ quod the frere, ‘ trusteth weel ;

I took our dame our lettre with our seel.’

‘ Now wel,’ quod he, ‘ and som-what shal I yive

Un-to your holy covent whyl I live,

And in thyn hand thou shalt it have anoon ;

On this condicioun, and other noon,

That thou departe it so, my dere brother,

That every frere have also muche as other.

This shaltou swere on thy professioun,

With-outen fraude or cavillacioun.’

‘ I swere it,’ quod this frere, ‘ upon my feith ! ‘

And ther-with-al his hand in his he leith :

8 Lo, heer my feith ! in me shal be no lak.’

‘ Now thanne, put thyn hand doun by my bak,’

Seyde this man, ‘ and grope wel bihinde ;

Bynethe my buttok ther shaltow finde

A thing that I have hid in privetee.’

‘ A ! ‘ throghte this frere, ‘ this shal go with me ! ‘

And doun his hand he launcheth to the clifte,

In hope for to finde ther a yifte.

And whan this syke man felte this frere

Aboute his tuwel grope there and here,

Amidde his hand he leet the frere a fart.

Ther nis no capul, drawinge in a cart,

That mighte have lete a fart of swich a soun.

The frere up stirte as doth a wood leoun :

‘ A ! false cherl,’ quod he, ‘ for goddes bones,

This hastow for despyt doon, for the nones !

Thou shalt abye this fart, if that I may ! ‘

His meynee, whiche that herden this affray,

Cam lepinge in, and chaced out the frere ;

And forth he gooth, with a ful angry chere,

And fette his felawe, ther-as lay his stoor.

He looked as it were a wilde boor ;

He grinte with his teeth, so was he wrooth.

A sturdy pas doun to the court he gooth,

Wher-as ther woned a man of greet honour,

To whom that he was alwey confessour ;

This worthy man was lord of that village.

This frere cam, as he were in a rage,

Wher-as this lord sat eting at his bord.

Unnethes mighte the frere speke a word,

Til atte laste he seyde : ‘ god yow see ! ‘

This lord gan loke, and seide, ‘ ben’ cite !

What, frere John, what maner world is this ‘:

I see wel that som thing ther is amis.

Ye loken as the wode were ful of thevis,

Sit doun anon, and tel me what your greef is,

And it shal been amended, if I may.’

‘ I have,’ quod he, ‘ had a despyt this day,

God yelde yow ! adoun in your village,

That in this world is noon so povre a page,

That he nolde have abhominacioun

Of that I have receyved in your toun.

And yet ne greveth me no-thing so sore,

As that this olde cherl, with lokkes hore,

Blasphemed hath our holy covent eke.’

‘ Now, maister,’ quod this lord, ‘ I yow biseke.’

‘ No maister, sire,’ quod he, ‘ but servitour,

Thogh I have had in scole swich honour.

God lyketh nat that ” Raby ” men us calle,

Neither in market ne in your large halle.’

‘ No fors,’ quod he, ‘ but tel me al your grief.’

‘ Sire,’ quod this frere, ‘ an odious meschief

This day bitid is to myn ordre and me,

And so per consequens to ech degree

Of holy chirche, god amende it sone ! ‘

‘ Sir,’ quod the lord, ‘ ye woot what is to done.

Distempre yow noght, ye be my confessour ;

Ye been the salt of the erthe and the savour.

For goddes love your pacience ye holde ;

Tel me your grief : ‘ and he anon him tolde,

As ye han herd biforn, ye woot wel what.

The lady of the hous ay stille sat,

Til she had herd al what the frere sayde :

‘ Ey, goddes moder,’ quod she, ‘ blisful mayde !

Is ther oght elles ? telle me feithfully.’

‘ Madame,’ quod he, ‘ how thinketh yow her- by ?’

How that me thinketh ? ‘ quod she ; ‘ so god me speede,

I seye, a cherl hath doon a cherles dede.

What shold I seye ? god lat him never thee !

His syke heed is ful of vanitee,

I hold him in a maner frenesye.’

‘ Madame,’ quod he, ‘ by god I shal nat lye ;

But I on other weyes may be wreke,

I shal diffame him over-al ther I speke,

This false blasphemour, that charged me

To parte that wol nat departed be,

To every man y-liche, with meschaunce ! ‘

The lord sat stille as he were in a traunce,

And in his herte he rolled up and doun,

‘ How hadde this cherl imaginacioun

To she we swich a problem e to the frere ?

Never erst er now herde I of swich matere ;

I trowe the devel putte it in his minde.

In ars-metryke shal ther no man finde,

Biforn this day, of swich a questioun.

Who sholde make a demonstracioun,

That every man sholde have y-liche his part

As of the soun or savour of a fart ?

nyce proude cherl, I shrewe his face !

Lo, sires,’ quod the lord, with harde grace,

‘ Who ever herde of swich a thing er now ?

To every man y-lyke ? tel me how.

It is an inpossible, it may nat be !

Ey, nyce cherl, god lete him never thee !

The rumblinge of a fart, and every soun,

Nis but of eir reverberacioun,

And ever it wasteth lyte and lyte awey.

Ther is no man can demen, by my fey,

If that it were departed equally.

What, lo, my cherl, lo, yet how shrewedly

Un-to my confessour to-day he spak !

1 holde him certeyn a demoniak !

Now ete your mete, and lat the cherl go pleye,

Lat him go honge himself, a devel weye ! ‘

Now stood the lordes squyer at the bord,

That carf his mete, and herde, word by word,

Of alle thinges of which I have yow sayd.

My lord,’ quod he, ‘ be ye nat yvel apayd ;

I coude telle, for a goune-clooth,

To yow, sir frere, so ye be nat wrooth,

How that this fart sholde even deled be

Among your covent, if it lyked me.’

‘ Tel,’ quod the lord, ‘ and thou shalt have anon

A goune-cloth, by god and by Seint John ! ‘

‘ My lord,’ quod he, whan that the weder is fair,

With-outen wind or perturbinge of air,

Lat bringe a cartwheel here in-to this halle,

But loke that it have his spokes alle.

Twelf spokes hath a cartwheel comunly.

And bring me than twelf freres, woot ye why ?

For thrittene is a covent, as I gesse.

The confessour heer, for his worthinesse,

Shal parfourne up the nombre of his covent.

Than shal they knele doun, by oon assent,

And to every spokes ende, in this manere,

Ful sadly leye his nose shal a frere.

Your noble confessour, ther god him save,

Shal holde his nose upright, under the nave.

Than shal this cherl, with bely stif and toght

As any tabour, hider been y-broght ;

And sette him on the wheel right of this cart,

Upon the nave, and make him lete a fart.

And ye shul seen, up peril of my lyf,

By preve which that is demonstratif,

That equally the soun of it wol wende,

And eek the stink, un-to the spokes ende ;

Save that this worthy man, your confessour,

By-cause he is a man of greet honour,

Shal have the firste fruit, as reson is ;

The noble usage of freres yet is this,

The worthy men of hem shul first be served ;

And certeinly, he hath it weel deserved.

He hath to-day taught us so muchel good

With preching in the pulpit ther he stood,

That I may vouche-sauf, I sey for me,

He hadde the firste smel of fartes three,

And so wolde al his covent hardily ;

He bereth him so faire and holily.’

The lord, the lady, and ech man, save the frere,

Seyde that Jankin spak, in this matere,

As wel as Euclide or [as] Ptholomee.

Touchinge this cherl, they seyde, subtiltee

And heigh wit made him speken as he spak ;

He nis no fool, ne no demoniak.

And Jankin hath y-wonne a newe goune. —

My tale is doon ; we been almost at toune.

Here endeth the Somnours Tale