The Friar's Prologue and Tale in the Hengwrt Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales

Original Text: 
Nat. Lib. Wales Peniarth 392. From Geoffrey Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales: A Facsimile and Transcription of the Hengwrt Manuscript, with Variants from the Ellesmere Manuscript, ed. Paul G. Ruggiers, introduction by Donald C. Baker, A. I. Doyle, and M. B. Parkes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979. PR 1866 .R8 1979 Robarts Library
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¶The prologe of the ffreres tale

2 He made alwey / a manere louryng cheere
3 Vp on the Somnour / but for hone{s}tee
4 No vileyns word / as yet to hym spak he
5 But atte la{s}te / he seyde vn to the wyf
6 ¶ Dame quod he god yeue yow right good lyf
7 Ye han heer touched / al {s}o mote I thee
8 In scole matere / greet difficultee
9 Ye han seyd muche thyng/ right wel I seye
10 But dame / here as we ryden by the weye
11 Vs nedeth nat/ to speken / but of game
12 And lete Auctoritees / on goddes name
13 To prechyng/ and to scole of clergye
14 But/ if it like / to this compaignye
15 I wol yow / of a Somnour telle a game
16 Pardee / ye may wel knowe by the name
17 That of a Somn|our| / may no good be {s}ayd
18 I praye / that noon of yow / be ypayd
19 A somnour / is a rennere vp and doun
20 With mandementz / for fornicacioun
21 And is ybet/ at euery townes ende
22 ¶ Oure hoo{s}t tho spak / a sire ye sholde be hende
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23 And curteys / as a man of youre e{s}taat/
24 In compaignye / we wol no debaat/
25 Telleth youre tale / and lat the Somn|our| be
26 ¶ Nay quod the Somn|our| / lat hym seye to me
27 What so hym li{s}t/ whan it comth to my lot/
28 By god / I shal hym quyten euery grot/
29 I shal hym telle / which a gret honour
30 It is / to be a flaterynge lymytour
31 And of / many another maner cryme
32 Which nedeth nat rehercen / for this tyme
33 And his office / I shal hym telle ywys
34 ¶Oure hoo{s}t an{s}werde / pees namoore of this
35 And after this / he seyde vn to the frere
36 Tel forth youre tale / leeue mai{s}ter deere
¶Here endeth the prologe of the ffrere
1 Whilom / ther was dwellynge in my contree
2 An Erchedekne / a man of hy degree
3 That boldely / dide execucio|un|
4 In puny{ss}hynge of ffornicacio|un|
5 Of wicchecraft/ and eek of Bawderye
6 Of diffamacio|un| / and auoutrye
7 Of chirche Reues / and of te{s}tamentz
8 Of contractes / and eek of lakke of sacramentz
9 Of v{s}ure / and of Symonye al{s}o
10 But |cer|tes / lecchours / dide he grette{s}t wo
11 They sholde syngen if that they were hent/
12 And smale tytheres were foule y{s}chent/
13 If any |per|{s}o|un| / wold vp on hem pleyne
14 Ther myghte a{s}terte hym no pecunial peyne
15 ffor smale tithes |&| for smal offryng/
16 he made the peple ful pitu{s}ly to {s}yng/
17 ffor er the by{ss}chop caght hem |with| hys hooc
18 They were in the erchdeknys book/
19 And thanne had he thurgh hys Iuri{s}diccion
20 Power / to do on hem correccion
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21 He hadde a Somn|our| / redy to his hond
22 A slyer boy / nas noon in Engelond
23 ffor subtilly / he hadde his e{s}piaille
24 That taughte hym / wher hym myghte auaille
25 He koude spare / of lecchours / oon or two
26 To techen hym / to foure and twenty mo
27 ffor theigh this Somn|our| / wood were as an hare
28 To telle his harlotrye / I wol nat spare
29 ffor we been / out of his correccio|un|
30 They han of vs / no Iuri{s}diccio|un|
31 Ne neu|uer|e shullen / terme of hir lyues
32 ¶Peter / so been wommen of the Styves
33 Quod the Somnour / yput out of my cure
34 ¶Pees with my{s}chaunce / and with my{s}auenture
35 Thus seyde oure hoo{s}t / and lat hym telle his tale
36 Now telleth forth / thogh |þt| the Somn|our| gale
37 Ne spareth nat/ myn owene may{s}ter deere
38 ¶This fal{s}e theef/ this Somn|our| / quod the frere
39 Hadde alwey / baudes redy to his hond
40 As any hauk/ to lure in Engelond
41 That tolde hym / al the secree |þt| they knewe
42 ffor hire aqueyntance / was nat come of newe
43 They weren / hi{s}e Approwours pryuely
44 He took hym self / a greet |pro|fit ther by
45 His mai{s}ter knew nat alwey / what he wan
46 With outen mandement/ a lewed man
47 He koude somne / on peyne of cri{s}tes curs
48 And they were glade / for to fille his purs
49 And make hym / grete fe{s}tes atte nale
50 And right as Iudas / hadde pur{s}es smale
51 And was a theef/ right swich a theef was he
52 His mai{s}ter / hadde but half his duetee
53 He was / if I shal yeuen hym his laude
54 A theef / and eek a somnour / and a baude
55 He hadde eek wenches / at his retenue
56 That wheither |þt| sir |Robert| / or sir hewe
57 Or Iakke / or Rauf/ or who {s}o that it were
58 That lay by hem / they tolde it in his ere
59 Thus was the wenche and he / of oon a{ss}ent/
60 And he wolde fecche / a feyned mandement/
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61 And somne hem to Chapitre / bothe two
62 And pile the man / and lete the wenche go
63 ¶Thanne wolde he seye / freend I shal for thy sake
64 Do stryke / hir / out of oure lettres blake
65 Thee thar namoore / as in this cas |tra|uaille
66 I am thy freend / ther I thee may auaille
67 Certeyn / he knew of bryberyes mo
68 Than po{ss}ible is / to telle in yeres two
69 ffor in this world / nys dogge for the bowe
70 That kan an hurt deer / from an hool knowe
71 Bet than this Somn|our| / knew a sly lecchour
72 Or an Auouter / or a |per|amour
73 And for that was / the fruyt of al his rente
74 Ther fore on it / he {s}ette al his entente
75 ¶And so bifel / that ones on a day
76 This Somnour / eu|uer|e waityng on his pray
77 ffor to somne an old wydewe / a Ribibe
78 ffeynynge a cau{s}e / for he wolde brybe
79 Happed / that he say / bifore hym ryde
80 A gay yeman / vnder a ffore{s}t syde
81 A bowe he bar / and arwes brighte |&| kene
82 He hadde vp on / a courtepy of grene
83 An hat vp on his heed / with frenges blake
84 ¶Sir quod this Somn|our| / hayl / and wel atake
85 ¶Wel come quod he / and euery good felawe
86 Wher ride{s}tow / vnder this grene shawe
87 Seyde this yeman / wiltow fer to day
88 ¶This Somnour hym an{s}werde / and seyde nay
89 Here fa{s}te by quod he / is myn entente
90 To ryden / for to rey{s}en vp a rente
91 That longeth / to my lordes duetee
92 ¶Artow thanne a Bailly{?.} / ye quod he
93 He dor{s}te nat/ for verray filthe and shame
94 Seye |þt| he was a Somn|our| / for the name
95 ¶De{p+}dieux quod this yeman / deere brother
96 Thow art a bailly / and I am another
97 I am vnknowen / as in this contree
98 Of thyn aqueyntance / I wolde praye thee
99 And eek of bretherhede / if |þt| yow le{s}te
100 I haue gold / and siluer/ in my che{s}te
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101 If that thee happed / to come in oure shire
102 Al shal be thyn / right as thow wolt de{s}ire
103 ¶Graunt |mer|cy quod this Somn|our| / by my feith
104 Euerich in ootheres hond / his trouthe leyth
105 ffor to be sworn bretheren / til they deye
106 In daliaunce / they ryden forth and pleye
107 ¶This Somn|our| / which |þt| was / as ful of Iangles
108 As ful of venym / been thi{s}e waryangles
109 And eu|uer|e enqueryng/ vp on euery thyng/
110 Brother quod he / wher is now youre dwellyng/
111 Another day / if |þt| I sholde yow seche
112 This yeman hym an{s}werde / in softe speche
113 ¶Brother quod he / fer in the North contree
114 Wher as I hope / {s}om tyme I shal thee see
115 Er we departe / I shal thee {s}o wel wi{ss}e
116 That of myn hous / ne shaltow ne|uer|e my{ss}e
117 ¶Now brother quod this Somn|our| / I yow preye
118 Teche me / whil |þt| we ryden by the weye
119 Syn |þt| ye been a Baillyf / as am I
120 Som subtiltee / and tel me feithfully
121 In myn office / how I may moo{s}t wynne
122 And spareth nat/ for con{s}cience ne synne
123 But as my brother / tel me how do ye
124 ¶Now by my trouthe / brother deere / seyde he
125 As I shal tellen thee / a feithful tale
126 My wages been / ful {s}treyte / and ful smale
127 My lord is hard to me / and daungerous
128 And myn office / is ful laborous
129 And therfore / by extorcions I lyue
130 ffor sothe I take / al that men wol me yeue
131 Algate / by sleighte / or by violence
132 ffro yeer to yeer / I wynne al my di{s}pence
133 I kan no bettre tellen / feithfully
134 ¶Now certes quod this Somn|our| / {s}o fare I
135 I spare nat to taken / god it woot/
136 But it be to heuy / or to hoot/
137 What I may gete / in con{s}eil |pri|uely
138 No manere con{s}cience / of that haue I
139 Nere myn extorcio|un| / I myghte na lyuen
140 Ne of swiche Iapes / wol I nat be shryuen
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141 Stomak/ ne Con{s}cience / ne knowe I noon
142 I sherewe / thi{s}e Shryfte{s}fadres eu|uer|ychon
143 Wel be we met/ by god / and by seint Iame
144 But leeue brother / tel me thanne thy name
145 Quod this Somnour / in this mene whyle
146 This yeman / gan a litel for to smyle
147 ¶Brother quod he / woltow |þt| I thee telle
148 I am a feend / my dwellyng/ is in helle
149 And here I ryde / aboute my purcha{s}yng/
150 To wite / wher men wolde yeue me any thyng/
151 My |pur|chas / is theffect of al my rente
152 Looke how thow ryde{s}t/ for the same entente
153 To wynne good / thow rekke{s}t neu|uer|e how
154 Right {s}o fare I / for ryde wold I now
155 Vn to the worldes ende / for a preye
156 ¶A quod this Somn|our| / benedicite what sey ye
157 I wende / ye were a yeman trewely
158 Ye han a mannes shap / as wel as I
159 Han ye a figure thanne / de|ter|mynat
160 In helle ther ye been / in youre e{s}tat
161 ¶Nay |cer|teynly quod he / ther haue we noon
162 But whan vs liketh / we kan take vs oon
163 Or ellis make yow seme / we ben shape
164 Som tyme / lyk a man / or lyk an Ape
165 Or lyk an Aungel / kan I ryde or go
166 It is no wonder thyng/ theigh it be so
167 A lou{s}y Iogelour / kan deceyue thee
168 And pardee yet kan I / moore craft than he
169 ¶Whi quod this Somnour / ryde ye thanne or goon
170 In sondry shap / and nat alwey in oon
171 ¶ffor we quod he / wol vs swiche formes make
172 As moo{s}t able is / oure preyes for to take
173 ¶What maketh yow / to han al this labour
174 ¶fful many a cau{s}e / leue sir Somnour
175 Seyde this feend / but alle thyng hath tyme
176 The day is short / and it is pa{ss}ed pryme
177 And yet/ ne wan I no thyng/ in this day
178 I wol entende / to wynnyng / if I may
179 And nat entende / oure wittes to declare
180 ffor brother myn / thy wit is al to bare
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181 To vnder{s}tonde / al thogh I tolde hem thee
182 But for thow axe{s}t/ why labouren we
183 ffor som tyme / we been goddes In{s}trumentz
184 And meenes / to doon his comandementz
185 Whan that hym li{s}t / vp on his creatures
186 In di|uer|s art/ and in di|uer|{s}e figures
187 With outen hym / we han no myght |cer|tayn
188 If that hym ly{s}t/ to {s}tonde ther agayn
189 And som tyme / at oure preyere / han we leue
190 Oonly the body / and nat the soule greue
191 Witne{ss}e on Iob / whom |þt| we diden wo
192 And som tyme / han we myght of bothe two
193 This is to seyn / of soule and body eke
194 And som tyme / be we suffred for to seke
195 Vp on a man / and do his soule vnre{s}te
196 And nat his body / and al is for the be{s}te
197 Whan he with {s}tandeth / oure temptacio|un|
198 It is / a cau{s}e / of his sauacio|un|
199 Al be it/ that it was / nat oure entente
200 He sholde be sauf/ but |þt| we wolde hym hente
201 And som tyme / be we |{s}8|uant/ vn to man
202 As to the Erchebi{ss}ho|pre| / Seint Dun{s}tan
203 And to the Apo{s}tles / seruant eek was I
204 ¶Yet tel me / quod the Somn|our| feithfully
205 Make ye yow newe bodyes / thus alway
206 Of Elementz{?} / the feend an{s}werde nay
207 Som tyme we feyne / and som tyme we ary{s}e
208 With dede bodyes / in ful {s}ondry wy{s}e
209 And speke as renably / and faire and wel
210 As to the Phitoni{ss}a / dide Samuel
211 And yet wol som men seye / it was nat he
212 I do no fors / of youre dyuynytee
213 But o thyng warne I thee / I wol nat Iape
214 Thow wolt algates wite / how we be shape
215 Thow shalt her afterwardes / my brother deere
216 Come there / thee nedeth nat of me to lere
217 ffor thow shalt/ by thyn owene experience
218 Konne in a chayer / rede of this sentence
219 Bet than Virgile / whil he was on lyue
220 Or Dant al{s}o / now lat vs ryde blyue
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221 ffor I wol holde / compaignye with thee
222 Til it be so / that thow for{s}ake me
223 ¶Nay quod this Somn|our| / that shal nat bityde
224 I am a yeman / knowen is ful wyde
225 My trouhte wol I holde / as in this cas
226 ffor theigh thow were / the deuel Sathanas
227 My trouthe wol I holde / to thee my brother
228 As I am sworn / and ech of vs til oother
229 ffor to be trewe brother / in this cas
230 And bothe we goon / abouten oure purchas
231 Taak thow thy part/ what |þt| men wol thee yeue
232 And I shal myn / thus may we bothe lyue
233 And if that any of vs / haue moore than oother
234 Lat hym be trewe / and parte it with his brother
235 ¶I graunte quod the deuel / by my fey
236 And with that word / they ryden forth hir wey
237 And right at the entryng/ of the townes ende
238 To which this Somnour / shoop hym for to wende
239 They saye a Cart/ that charged was |with| hey
240 Which that a Cartere / droof forth in his wey
241 Deep was the wey / for which the Carte {s}tood
242 This Carter smoot/ and cryde as he were wood
243 Hayt Brok/ hayt Scot/ what spare ye for the stones
244 The feend quod he / yow fecche body and bones
245 As ferforthly / as euere were ye foled
246 So muchel wo / as I haue with yow tholed
247 The deuel haue al / bothe hors / and Cart/ and hey
248 ¶This Somn|our| seyde / heer shul we han a pley
249 And neer the feend he drogh / as noght ne were
250 fful pryuely / and rowned in his ere
251 Herkne my brother / herkne by thy feith
252 Here{s}tow nat/ how |þt| the Cartere seith
253 Hent it anon / for he hath yeue it thee
254 Bothe hey / and Cart/ and eek his caples thre
255 ¶Nay quod the deuel / god woot/ neuer a del
256 It is nat his entente / tru{s}t thow me wel
257 Axe hym thy self / if thow nat trowe{s}t me
258 Or ellys stynt a while / and thow shalt se
259 ¶This Cartere / taketh his hors {^}{{vp}} on the croupe
260 And they bigonne / drawen and to stoupe
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261 Heyt now quod he / ther |Iesu| cri{s}t yow ble{ss}e
262 And al his handes werk/ bothe moore and le{ss}e
263 That was wel twight/ myn owene lyard boy
264 I pray god saue thee / and Seint loy
265 Now is my Cart/ out of the slow pardee
266 ¶Lo brother quod the feend / what tolde I thee
267 Heere may ye se / myn owene deere brother
268 The Carl spak o thyng/ but he thoghte another
269 Lat vs go forth / abouten oure viage
270 Heere wynne I no thyng vp on cariage
271 ¶Whan that {^}{{they}} coomen / {s}om what out of towne
272 This Somnour / to his brother gan to rowne
273 Brother quod he / here woneth an old rebekke
274 That hadde almoo{s}t/ as leef to le{s}e hir nekke
275 As for to yeue a peny / of hir good
276 I wol han .xij. pens / thogh that she be wood
277 Or I wol somne hir / vn to oure office
278 And yet god woot/ of hir knowe I no vice
279 But for thow can{s}t nat/ as in this contree
280 Wynne thy co{s}t/ taak heer en{s}ample of me
281 This Somnour / clappeth at the wydwes gate
282 Com out quod he / thow olde viritrate
283 I trowe thow ha{s}t/ {s}om frere / or pree{s}t with thee
284 ¶Who clappeth seyde this wyf / benedicitee
285 God saue yow sire / what is youre swete wille
286 ¶I haue quod he / of somonce a bille
287 Vp peyne of cur{s}yng/ looke that thow be
288 To morn / bifore the Erchedeknes knee
289 Tan{s}were to the court/ of |cer|teyn thynges
290 ¶Now lord quod she / cri{s}t |Iesu| kyng of kynges
291 So wi{s}ly helpe me / as I ne may
292 I haue been syk/ and that ful many a day
293 I may nat go so fer quod she / ne ryde
294 But I be deed / so priketh it in my syde
295 May I nat axe a libel / {s}ir Somnour
296 And an{s}were there / by my procutour
297 To swich thyng/ as men wole oppo{s}en me
298 ¶Yis quod this Somnour / pay anoon lat see
299 Twelf pens to me / and I wol thee acquyte
300 I shal no |pro|fit han ther by / but lyte
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301 My Mai{s}ter hath the profit / and nat I
302 Com of / and lat me ryden ha{s}tily
303 Yif me .xij. pens / I may no lenger tarye
304 ¶Twelf pens quod she / now lady Seinte Marie
305 So wi{s}ly help me god / out of care and synne
306 This wyde world / thogh that I sholde wynne
307 Ne haue I nat .xij. pens / with Inne myn hoold
308 Ye knowen wel / that I am poure and oold
309 Kythe youre alme{ss}e / on me poure wrecche
310 ¶Nay thanne quod he / the foule feend me fecche
311 If I thexcu{s}e / theigh thow shul be spilt/
312 ¶Allas quod she / god woot I haue no gilt/
313 ¶Pay me quod he / or by the swete Seinte Anne
314 As I wol bere awey / thy newe panne
315 ffor dette / which thow owe{s}t me of oold
316 Whan |þt| thow made{s}t / thyn hou{s}bonde cokewold
317 I payde at hom / for thy correccio|un|
318 ¶Thow lyxt quod she / by my sauacio|un|
319 Ne was I ne|uer|e er now / wydwe ne wyf/
320 Somoned vn to youre court/ in al my lyf /
321 Ne ne|uer|e I nas / but of my body trewe
322 Vn to the deuel / blak/ and row of hewe
323 Yeue I thy body / and my panne al{s}o
324 ¶And whan the deuel / herde hir cur{s}en so
325 Vp on hir knees / he seyde in this manere
326 Now Mabely / myn owene moder deere
327 Is this youre wyl in erne{s}t / |þt| ye seye
328 ¶The deuel quod she / so fecche hym or he deye
329 And panne and al / but he wol hym repente
330 ¶Nay olde stot/ that is nat myn entente
331 Quod this Somnour / for to repente me
332 ffor any thyng/ that I haue had of thee
333 I wolde I hadde thy smok / and euery clooth
334 ¶Now brother quod the deuel / be noght wrooth
335 Thy body and this panne / been myne by right
336 Thow shalt |with| me to helle / yet to nyght/
337 Wher thow shalt knowen / of oure pryuetee
338 Moore / than a mai{s}ter of dyuynytee
339 And with that word / this foule feend hym hente
340 Body and soule / he with the deuel wente
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341 Wher as that Somnours / han hir heritage
342 And god / that made after his ymage
343 Mankynde / saue / and gyde vs alle and some
344 And leue thi{s}e Somn|our|s / good men to bicome
345 ¶Lordynges / I koude han told yow / quod this frere
346 Hadde I had ley{s}er / for this Somn|our| heere
347 After the text / of cri{s}t/ Poul and |Iohan|
348 And of oure othere doctours / many oon
349 Swiche peynes / that youre hertes myghte agry{s}e
350 Al be it {s}o / no tonge may {^}{{it}} deuy{s}e
351 Thogh that I myghte / a thou{s}and wynter telle
352 The peynes / of thilke cur{s}ed hous of helle
353 But for to kepe vs / fro that cur{s}ed place
354 Waketh / and preyeth |Iesu| for his grace
355 So kepe vs / fro the temptour Sathanas
356 Herketh this word / beth war as in this cas
357 The leo|un| sit/ in his awayt alway
358 To sle the Innocent/ if that he may
359 Di{s}po{s}eth ay youre hertes / to with{s}tonde
360 The feend / that yow wolde maken thral and bonde
361 He may nat tempte yow / ouer your myght /
362 ffor cri{s}t/ wol be youre champion and knyght/
363 And prayeth / that this Somn|our|s hem repente
364 Of hir my{s}dedes / er that the feend hem hente
¶Here endeth / the freres tale

Notes

1] Old spelling is retained except for ligatured letters, which are normalized. Expansions of contractions and abbreviations are placed within vertical bars. The original lineation is retained, but not small capitals and the text of signatures, catchwords, and running titles. Irregularities in spacing are ignored. Reference citations are by folio numbers and editorial through-ms and through-tale line numbers. Unusual characters are identified as follows:
{s} : long-s
{ss} : ligatured long-s long-s
{C|} : capitulum
{`,} : comma under opening single quotation mark
{?.} : punctus elevatus
{^} : caret
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Publication Start Year: 
1866
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
1966
Rhyme: 
Special Copyright: 

Assisted by Nancy Misener and Alex Bisset.