The Pardoner’s Prologue

From The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

PardT 329 “Lordynges,” quod he, “in chirches whan I preche,
PardT 330 I peyne me to han an hauteyn speche,
PardT 331 And rynge it out as round as gooth a belle,
PardT 332 For I kan al by rote that I telle.
PardT 333 My theme is alwey oon, and evere was —
PardT 334 Radix malorum est Cupiditas.
PardT 335 “First I pronounce whennes that I come,
PardT 336 And thanne my bulles shewe I, alle and some.
PardT 337 Oure lige lordes seel on my patente,
PardT 338 That shewe I first, my body to warente,
PardT 339 That no man be so boold, ne preest ne clerk,
PardT 340 Me to destourbe of Cristes hooly werk.
PardT 341 And after that thanne telle I forth my tales;
PardT 342 Bulles of popes and of cardynales,
PardT 343 Of patriarkes and bishopes I shewe,
PardT 344 And in Latyn I speke a wordes fewe,
PardT 345 To saffron with my predicacioun,
PardT 346 And for to stire hem to devocioun.
PardT 347 Thanne shewe I forth my longe cristal stones,
PardT 348 Ycrammed ful of cloutes and of bones —
PardT 349 Relikes been they, as wenen they echoon.
PardT 350 Thanne have I in latoun a sholder-boon
PardT 351 Which that was of an hooly Jewes sheep.
PardT 352 ‘Goode men,’ I seye, ‘taak of my wordes keep;
PardT 353 If that this boon be wasshe in any welle,
PardT 354 If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swelle
PardT 355 That any worm hath ete, or worm ystonge,
PardT 356 Taak water of that welle and wassh his tonge,
PardT 357 And it is hool anon; and forthermoore,
PardT 358 Of pokkes and of scabbe, and every soore
PardT 359 Shal every sheep be hool that of this welle
PardT 360 Drynketh a draughte. Taak kep eek what I telle:
PardT 361 If that the good-man that the beestes oweth
PardT 362 Wol every wyke, er that the cok hym croweth,
PardT 363 Fastynge, drynken of this welle a draughte,
PardT 364 As thilke hooly Jew oure eldres taughte,
PardT 365 His beestes and his stoor shal multiplie.
PardT 366 ‘And, sires, also it heeleth jalousie;
PardT 367 For though a man be falle in jalous rage,
PardT 368 Lat maken with this water his potage,
PardT 369 And nevere shal he moore his wyf mystriste,
PardT 370 Though he the soothe of hir defaute wiste,
PardT 371 Al had she taken prestes two or thre.
PardT 372 ‘Heere is a miteyn eek, that ye may se.
PardT 373 He that his hand wol putte in this mitayn,
PardT 374 He shal have multipliyng of his grayn,
PardT 375 Whan he hath sowen, be it whete or otes,
PardT 376 So that he offre pens, or elles grotes.
PardT 377 ‘Goode men and wommen, o thyng warne I yow:
PardT 378 If any wight be in this chirche now
PardT 379 That hath doon synne horrible, that he
PardT 380 Dar nat, for shame, of it yshryven be,
PardT 381 Or any womman, be she yong or old,
PardT 382 That hath ymaked hir housbonde cokewold,
PardT 383 Swich folk shal have no power ne no grace
PardT 384 To offren to my relikes in this place.
PardT 385 And whoso fyndeth hym out of swich blame,
PardT 386 He wol come up and offre a Goddes name,
PardT 387 And I assoille him by the auctoritee
PardT 388 Which that by bulle ygraunted was to me.’
PardT 389 “By this gaude have I wonne, yeer by yeer,
PardT 390 An hundred mark sith I was pardoner.
PardT 391 I stonde lyk a clerk in my pulpet,
PardT 392 And whan the lewed peple is doun yset,
PardT 393 I preche so as ye han herd bifoore
PardT 394 And telle an hundred false japes moore.
PardT 395 Thanne peyne I me to strecche forth the nekke,
PardT 396 And est and west upon the peple I bekke,
PardT 397 As dooth a dowve sittynge on a berne.
PardT 398 Myne handes and my tonge goon so yerne
PardT 399 That it is joye to se my bisynesse.
PardT 400 Of avarice and of swich cursednesse
PardT 401 Is al my prechyng, for to make hem free
PardT 402 To yeven hir pens, and namely unto me.
PardT 403 For myn entente is nat but for to wynne,
PardT 404 And nothyng for correccioun of synne.
PardT 405 I rekke nevere, whan that they been beryed,
PardT 406 Though that hir soules goon a-blakeberyed!
PardT 407 For certes, many a predicacioun
PardT 408 Comth ofte tyme of yvel entencioun;
PardT 409 Som for plesance of folk and flaterye,
PardT 410 To been avaunced by ypocrisye,
PardT 411 And som for veyne glorie, and som for hate.
PardT 412 For whan I dar noon oother weyes debate,
PardT 413 Thanne wol I stynge hym with my tonge smerte
PardT 414 In prechyng, so that he shal nat asterte
PardT 415 To been defamed falsly, if that he
PardT 416 Hath trespased to my bretheren or to me.
PardT 417 For though I telle noght his propre name,
PardT 418 Men shal wel knowe that it is the same,
PardT 419 By signes, and by othere circumstances.
PardT 420 Thus quyte I folk that doon us displesances;
PardT 421 Thus spitte I out my venym under hewe
PardT 422 Of hoolynesse, to semen hooly and trewe.
PardT 423 “But shortly myn entente I wol devyse:
PardT 424 I preche of no thyng but for coveityse.
PardT 425 Therfore my theme is yet, and evere was,
PardT 426 Radix malorum est Cupiditas.
PardT 427 Thus kan I preche agayn that same vice
PardT 428 Which that I use, and that is avarice.
PardT 429 But though myself be gilty in that synne,
PardT 430 Yet kan I maken oother folk to twynne
PardT 431 From avarice and soore to repente.
PardT 432 But that is nat my principal entente;
PardT 433 I preche nothyng but for coveitise.
PardT 434 Of this mateere it oghte ynogh suffise.
PardT 435 “Thanne telle I hem ensamples many oon
PardT 436 Of olde stories longe tyme agoon.
PardT 437 For lewed peple loven tales olde;
PardT 438 Swiche thynges kan they wel reporte and holde.
PardT 439 What, trowe ye, that whiles I may preche,
PardT 440 And wynne gold and silver for I teche,
PardT 441 That I wol lyve in poverte wilfully?
PardT 442 Nay, nay, I thoghte it nevere, trewely!
PardT 443 For I wol preche and begge in sondry landes;
PardT 444 I wol nat do no labour with myne handes,
PardT 445 Ne make baskettes and lyve therby,
PardT 446 By cause I wol nat beggen ydelly.
PardT 447 I wol noon of the apostles countrefete;
PardT 448 I wol have moneie, wolle, chese, and whete,
PardT 449 Al were it yeven of the povereste page,
PardT 450 Or of the povereste wydwe in a village,
PardT 451 Al sholde hir children sterve for famyne.
PardT 452 Nay, I wol drynke licour of the vyne
PardT 453 And have a joly wenche in every toun.
PardT 454 But herkneth, lordynges, in conclusioun:
PardT 455 Youre likyng is that I shal telle a tale.
PardT 456 Now have I dronke a draughte of corny ale,
PardT 457 By God, I hope I shal yow telle a thyng
PardT 458 That shal by reson been at youre likyng.
PardT 459 For though myself be a ful vicious man,
PardT 460 A moral tale yet I yow telle kan,
PardT 461 Which I am wont to preche for to wynne.
PardT 462 Now hoold youre pees! My tale I wol bigynne.”