23. THE CANON’S YEOMAN’S TALE
554 Whan ended was the lyf of Seinte Cecile,
555 Er we hadde riden fully fyve mile,
556 At Boghtoun under Blee us gan atake
557 A man that clothed was in clothes blake,
558 And undernethe he hadde a whyt surplys.
559 His hakeney, that was al pomely grys,
560 So swatte that it wonder was to see;
561 It semed as he had priked miles three.
562 The hors eek that his yeman rood upon
563 So swatte that unnethe myghte it gon.
564 Aboute the peytrel stood the foom ful hye;
565 He was of foom al flekked as a pye.
566 A male tweyfoold on his croper lay;
567 It semed that he caried lite array.
568 Al light for somer rood this worthy man,
569 And in myn herte wondren I bigan
570 What that he was til that I understood
571 How that his cloke was sowed to his hood,
572 For which, whan I hadde longe avysed me,
573 I demed hym som chanoun for to be.
574 His hat heeng at his bak doun by a laas,
575 For he hadde riden moore than trot or paas;
576 He hadde ay priked lik as he were wood.
577 A clote-leef he hadde under his hood
578 For swoot and for to keep his heed from heete.
579 But it was joye for to seen hym swete!
580 His forheed dropped as a stillatorie
581 Were ful of plantayne and of paritorie.
582 And whan that he was come, he gan to crye,
583 “God save,” quod he, “this joly compaignye!
584 Faste have I priked,” quod he, “for youre sake,
585 By cause that I wolde yow atake,
586 To riden in this myrie compaignye.”
587 His yeman eek was ful of curteisye,
588 And seyde, “Sires, now in the morwe-tyde
589 Out of youre hostelrie I saugh yow ryde,
590 And warned heer my lord and my soverayn,
591 Which that to ryden with yow is ful fayn
592 For his desport; he loveth daliaunce.”
593 “Freend, for thy warnyng God yeve thee good chaunce,”
594 Thanne seyde oure Hoost, “for certein it wolde seme
595 Thy lord were wys, and so I may wel deme.
596 He is ful jocunde also, dar I leye!
597 Can he oght telle a myrie tale or tweye,
598 With which he glade may this compaignye?”
599 “Who, sire? My lord? Ye, ye, withouten lye,
600 He kan of murthe and eek of jolitee
601 Nat but ynough; also, sire, trusteth me,
602 And ye hym knewe as wel as do I,
603 Ye wolde wondre how wel and craftily
604 He koude werke, and that in sondry wise.
605 He hath take on hym many a greet emprise,
606 Which were ful hard for any that is heere
607 To brynge aboute, but they of hym it leere.
608 As hoomly as he rit amonges yow,
609 If ye hym knewe, it wolde be for youre prow.
610 Ye wolde nat forgoon his aqueyntaunce
611 For muchel good, I dar leye in balaunce
612 Al that I have in my possessioun.
613 He is a man of heigh discrecioun;
614 I warne yow wel, he is a passyng man.”
615 “Wel,” quod oure Hoost, “I pray thee, tel me than,
616 Is he a clerk, or noon? Telle what he is.”
617 “Nay, he is gretter than a clerk, ywis,”
618 Seyde this Yeman, “and in wordes fewe,
619 Hoost, of his craft somwhat I wol yow shewe.
620 “I seye, my lord kan swich subtilitee —
621 But al his craft ye may nat wite at me,
622 And somwhat helpe I yet to his wirkyng —
623 That al this ground on which we been ridyng,
624 Til that we come to Caunterbury toun,
625 He koude al clene turnen up-so-doun,
626 And pave it al of silver and of gold.”
627 And whan this Yeman hadde this tale ytold
628 Unto oure Hoost, he seyde, “Benedicitee!
629 This thyng is wonder merveillous to me,
630 Syn that thy lord is of so heigh prudence,
631 By cause of which men sholde hym reverence,
632 That of his worshipe rekketh he so lite.
633 His overslope nys nat worth a myte,
634 As in effect, to hym, so moot I go,
635 It is al baudy and totore also.
636 Why is thy lord so sluttissh, I the preye,
637 And is of power bettre clooth to beye,
638 If that his dede accorde with thy speche?
639 Telle me that, and that I thee biseche.”
640 “Why?” quod this Yeman, “wherto axe ye me?
641 God help me so, for he shal nevere thee!
642 (But I wol nat avowe that I seye,
643 And therfore keepe it secree, I yow preye.)
644 He is to wys, in feith, as I bileeve.
645 That that is overdoon, it wol nat preeve
646 Aright, as clerkes seyn; it is a vice.
647 Wherfore in that I holde hym lewed and nyce.
648 For whan a man hath over-greet a wit,
649 Ful oft hym happeth to mysusen it.
650 So dooth my lord, and that me greveth soore;
651 God it amende! I kan sey yow namoore.”
652 “Ther-of no fors, good Yeman,” quod oure Hoost;
653 “Syn of the konnyng of thy lord thow woost,
654 Telle how he dooth, I pray thee hertely,
655 Syn that he is so crafty and so sly.
656 Where dwelle ye, if it to telle be?”
657 “In the suburbes of a toun,” quod he,
658 “Lurkynge in hernes and in lanes blynde,
659 Whereas thise robbours and thise theves by kynde
660 Holden hir pryvee fereful residence,
661 As they that dar nat shewen hir presence;
662 So faren we, if I shal seye the sothe.”
663 “Now,” quod oure Hoost, “yit lat me talke to the.
664 Why artow so discoloured of thy face?”
665 “Peter!” quod he, “God yeve it harde grace,
666 I am so used in the fyr to blowe
667 That it hath chaunged my colour, I trowe.
668 I am nat wont in no mirour to prie,
669 But swynke soore and lerne multiplie.
670 We blondren evere and pouren in the fir,
671 And for al that we faille of oure desir,
672 For evere we lakken oure conclusioun.
673 To muchel folk we doon illusioun,
674 And borwe gold, be it a pound or two,
675 Or ten, or twelve, or manye sommes mo,
676 And make hem wenen, at the leeste weye,
677 That of a pound we koude make tweye.
678 Yet is it fals, but ay we han good hope
679 It for to doon, and after it we grope.
680 But that science is so fer us biforn,
681 We mowen nat, although we hadden it sworn,
682 It overtake, it slit awey so faste.
683 It wole us maken beggers atte laste.”
684 Whil this Yeman was thus in his talkyng,
685 This Chanoun drough hym neer and herde al thyng
686 Which this Yeman spak, for suspecioun
687 Of mennes speche evere hadde this Chanoun.
688 For Catoun seith that he that gilty is
689 Demeth alle thyng be spoke of hym, ywis.
690 That was the cause he gan so ny hym drawe
691 To his Yeman, to herknen al his sawe.
692 And thus he seyde unto his Yeman tho:
693 “Hoold thou thy pees and spek no wordes mo,
694 For if thou do, thou shalt it deere abye.
695 Thou sclaundrest me heere in this compaignye,
696 And eek discoverest that thou sholdest hyde.”
697 “Ye,” quod oure Hoost, “telle on, what so bityde.
698 Of al his thretyng rekke nat a myte!”
699 “In feith,” quod he, “namoore I do but lyte.”
700 And whan this Chanon saugh it wolde nat bee,
701 But his Yeman wolde telle his pryvetee,
702 He fledde awey for verray sorwe and shame.
703 ” A!” quod the Yeman, “heere shal arise game;
704 Al that I kan anon now wol I telle.
705 Syn he is goon, the foule feend hym quelle!
706 For nevere heerafter wol I with hym meete
707 For peny ne for pound, I yow biheete.
708 He that me broghte first unto that game,
709 Er that he dye, sorwe have he and shame!
710 For it is ernest to me, by my feith;
711 That feele I wel, what so any man seith.
712 And yet, for al my smert and al my grief,
713 For al my sorwe, labour, and meschief,
714 I koude nevere leve it in no wise.
715 Now wolde God my wit myghte suffise
716 To tellen al that longeth to that art!
717 But nathelees yow wol I tellen part.
718 Syn that my lord is goon, I wol nat spare;
719 Swich thyng as that I knowe, I wol declare.
720 With this Chanoun I dwelt have seven yeer,
721 And of his science am I never the neer.
722 Al that I hadde I have lost therby,
723 And, God woot, so hath many mo than I.
724 Ther I was wont to be right fressh and gay
725 Of clothyng and of oother good array,
726 Now may I were an hose upon myn heed;
727 And wher my colour was bothe fressh and reed,
728 Now is it wan and of a leden hewe —
729 Whoso it useth, soore shal he rewe! —
730 And of my swynk yet blered is myn ye.
731 Lo, which avantage is to multiplie!
732 That slidynge science hath me maad so bare
733 That I have no good, wher that evere I fare;
734 And yet I am endetted so therby
735 Of gold that I have borwed, trewely,
736 That whil I lyve I shal it quite nevere.
737 Lat every man be war by me for evere!
738 What maner man that casteth hym therto,
739 If he continue, I holde his thrift ydo.
740 For so helpe me God, therby shal he nat wynne,
741 But empte his purs and make his wittes thynne.
742 And whan he thurgh his madnesse and folye
743 Hath lost his owene good thurgh jupartye,
744 Thanne he exciteth oother folk therto,
745 To lesen hir good as he hymself hath do.
746 For unto shrewes joye it is and ese
747 To have hir felawes in peyne and disese.
748 Thus was I ones lerned of a clerk.
749 Of that no charge; I wol speke of oure werk.
750 Whan we been there as we shul exercise
751 Oure elvysshe craft, we semen wonder wise,
752 Oure termes been so clergial and so queynte.
753 I blowe the fir til that myn herte feynte.
754 What sholde I tellen ech proporcion
755 Of thynges whiche that we werche upon —
756 As on fyve or sixe ounces, may wel be,
757 Of silver, or som oother quantitee —
758 And bisye me to telle yow the names
759 Of orpyment, brent bones, iren squames,
760 That into poudre grounden been ful smal;
761 And in an erthen pot how put is al,
762 And salt yput in, and also papeer,
763 Biforn thise poudres that I speke of heer;
764 And wel ycovered with a lampe of glas;
765 And of muche oother thyng which that ther was;
766 And of the pot and glasses enlutyng
767 That of the eyr myghte passe out nothyng;
768 And of the esy fir, and smart also,
769 Which that was maad, and of the care and wo
770 That we hadde in oure matires sublymyng,
771 And in amalgamyng and calcenyng
772 Of quyksilver, yclept mercurie crude?
773 For alle oure sleightes we kan nat conclude.
774 Oure orpyment and sublymed mercurie,
775 Oure grounden litarge eek on the porfurie,
776 Of ech of thise of ounces a certeyn —
777 Noght helpeth us; oure labour is in veyn.
778 Ne eek oure spirites ascencioun,
779 Ne oure materes that lyen al fix adoun,
780 Mowe in oure werkyng no thyng us availle,
781 For lost is al oure labour and travaille;
782 And al the cost, a twenty devel waye,
783 Is lost also, which we upon it laye.
784 Ther is also ful many another thyng
785 That is unto oure craft apertenyng.
786 Though I by ordre hem nat reherce kan,
787 By cause that I am a lewed man,
788 Yet wol I telle hem as they come to mynde,
789 Thogh I ne kan nat sette hem in hir kynde:
790 As boole armonyak, verdegrees, boras,
791 And sondry vessels maad of erthe and glas,
792 Oure urynales and oure descensories,
793 Violes, crosletz, and sublymatories,
794 Cucurbites and alambikes eek,
795 And othere swiche, deere ynough a leek —
796 Nat nedeth it for to reherce hem alle —
797 Watres rubifiyng, and boles galle,
798 Arsenyk, sal armonyak, and brymstoon;
799 And herbes koude I telle eek many oon,
800 As egremoyne, valerian, and lunarie,
801 And othere swiche, if that me liste tarie;
802 Oure lampes brennyng bothe nyght and day,
803 To brynge aboute oure purpos, if we may;
804 Oure fourneys eek of calcinacioun,
805 And of watres albificacioun;
806 Unslekked lym, chalk, and gleyre of an ey,
807 Poudres diverse, asshes, donge, pisse, and cley,
808 Cered pokkets, sal peter, vitriole,
809 And diverse fires maad of wode and cole;
810 Sal tartre, alkaly, and sal preparat,
811 And combust materes and coagulat;
812 Cley maad with hors or mannes heer, and oille
813 Of tartre, alum glas, berme, wort, and argoille,
814 Resalgar, and oure materes enbibyng,
815 And eek of oure materes encorporyng,
816 And of oure silver citrinacioun,
817 Oure cementyng and fermentacioun,
818 Oure yngottes, testes, and many mo.
819 I wol yow telle, as was me taught also,
820 The foure spirites and the bodies sevene,
821 By ordre, as ofte I herde my lord hem nevene.
822 The firste spirit quyksilver called is,
823 The seconde orpyment, the thridde, ywis,
824 Sal armonyak, and the ferthe brymstoon.
825 The bodyes sevene eek, lo, hem heere anoon:
826 Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe,
827 Mars iren, Mercurie quyksilver we clepe,
828 Saturnus leed, and Juppiter is tyn,
829 And Venus coper, by my fader kyn!
830 This cursed craft whoso wole excercise,
831 He shal no good han that hym may suffise,
832 For al the good he spendeth theraboute
833 He lese shal; therof have I no doute.
834 Whoso that listeth outen his folie,
835 Lat hym come forth and lerne multiplie;
836 And every man that oght hath in his cofre,
837 Lat hym appiere and wexe a philosophre.
838 Ascaunce that craft is so light to leere?
839 Nay, nay, God woot, al be he monk or frere,
840 Preest or chanoun, or any oother wyght,
841 Though he sitte at his book bothe day and nyght
842 In lernyng of this elvysshe nyce loore,
843 Al is in veyn, and parde, muchel moore.
844 To lerne a lewed man this subtiltee —
845 Fy! Spek nat therof, for it wol nat bee.
846 And konne he letterure or konne he noon,
847 As in effect, he shal fynde it al oon.
848 For bothe two, by my savacioun,
849 Concluden in multiplicacioun
850 Ylike wel, whan they han al ydo;
851 This is to seyn, they faillen bothe two.
852 Yet forgat I to maken rehersaille
853 Of watres corosif, and of lymaille,
854 And of bodies mollificacioun,
855 And also of hire induracioun;
856 Oilles, ablucions, and metal fusible —
857 To tellen al wolde passen any bible
858 That owher is; wherfore, as for the beste,
859 Of alle thise names now wol I me reste,
860 For, as I trowe, I have yow toold ynowe
861 To reyse a feend, al looke he never so rowe.
862 A! Nay! Lat be; the philosophres stoon,
863 Elixer clept, we sechen faste echoon;
864 For hadde we hym, thanne were we siker ynow.
865 But unto God of hevene I make avow,
866 For al oure craft, whan we han al ydo,
867 And al oure sleighte, he wol nat come us to.
868 He hath ymaad us spenden muchel good,
869 For sorwe of which almoost we wexen wood,
870 But that good hope crepeth in oure herte,
871 Supposynge evere, though we sore smerte,
872 To be releeved by hym afterward.
873 Swich supposyng and hope is sharp and hard;
874 I warne yow wel, it is to seken evere.
875 That futur temps hath maad men to dissevere,
876 In trust therof, from al that evere they hadde.
877 Yet of that art they kan nat wexen sadde,
878 For unto hem it is a bitter sweete —
879 So semeth it — for nadde they but a sheete
880 Which that they myghte wrappe hem inne a-nyght,
881 And a brat to walken inne by daylyght,
882 They wolde hem selle and spenden on this craft.
883 They kan nat stynte til no thyng be laft.
884 And everemoore, where that evere they goon,
885 Men may hem knowe by smel of brymstoon.
886 For al the world they stynken as a goot;
887 Hir savour is so rammyssh and so hoot
888 That though a man from hem a mile be,
889 The savour wole infecte hym, trusteth me.
890 Lo, thus by smellyng and threedbare array,
891 If that men liste, this folk they knowe may.
892 And if a man wole aske hem pryvely
893 Why they been clothed so unthriftily,
894 They right anon wol rownen in his ere,
895 And seyn that if that they espied were,
896 Men wolde hem slee by cause of hir science.
897 Lo, thus this folk bitrayen innocence!
898 Passe over this; I go my tale unto.
899 Er that the pot be on the fir ydo,
900 Of metals with a certeyn quantitee,
901 My lord hem tempreth, and no man but he —
902 Now he is goon, I dar seyn boldely —
903 For, as men seyn, he kan doon craftily.
904 Algate I woot wel he hath swich a name;
905 And yet ful ofte he renneth in a blame.
906 And wite ye how? Ful ofte it happeth so
907 The pot tobreketh, and farewel, al is go!
908 Thise metals been of so greet violence
909 Oure walles mowe nat make hem resistence,
910 But if they weren wroght of lym and stoon;
911 They percen so, and thurgh the wal they goon.
912 And somme of hem synken into the ground —
913 Thus han we lost by tymes many a pound —
914 And somme are scatered al the floor aboute;
915 Somme lepe into the roof. Withouten doute,
916 Though that the feend noght in oure sighte hym shewe,
917 I trowe he with us be, that ilke shrewe!
918 In helle, where that he is lord and sire,
919 Nis ther moore wo, ne moore rancour ne ire.
920 Whan that oure pot is broke, as I have sayd,
921 Every man chit and halt hym yvele apayd.
922 Somme seyde it was long on the fir makyng;
923 Somme seyde nay, it was on the blowyng —
924 Thanne was I fered, for that was myn office.
925 “Straw!” quod the thridde, “ye been lewed and nyce.
926 It was nat tempred as it oghte be.”
927 “Nay,” quod the fourthe, “stynt and herkne me.
928 By cause oure fir ne was nat maad of beech,
929 That is the cause and oother noon, so thee ‘ch!”
930 I kan nat telle wheron it was long,
931 But wel I woot greet strif is us among.
932 “What,” quod my lord, “ther is namoore to doone;
933 Of thise perils I wol be war eftsoone.
934 I am right siker that the pot was crased.
935 Be as be may, be ye no thyng amased;
936 As usage is, lat swepe the floor as swithe,
937 Plukke up youre hertes and beeth glad and blithe.”
938 The mullok on an heep ysweped was,
939 And on the floor ycast a canevas,
940 And al this mullok in a syve ythrowe,
941 And sifted, and ypiked many a throwe.
942 “Pardee,” quod oon, “somwhat of oure metal
943 Yet is ther heere, though that we han nat al.
944 And though this thyng myshapped have as now,
945 Another tyme it may be well ynow.
946 Us moste putte oure good in aventure.
947 A marchant, pardee, may nat ay endure,
948 Trusteth me wel, in his prosperitee.
949 Somtyme his good is drowned in the see,
950 And somtyme comth it sauf unto the londe.”
951 “Pees!” quod my lord, “the nexte tyme I wol fonde
952 To bryngen oure craft al in another plite,
953 And but I do, sires, lat me han the wite.
954 Ther was defaute in somwhat, wel I woot.”
955 Another seyde the fir was over-hoot —
956 But, be it hoot or coold, I dar seye this,
957 That we concluden everemoore amys.
958 We faille of that which that we wolden have,
959 And in oure madnesse everemoore we rave.
960 And whan we been togidres everichoon,
961 Every man semeth a Salomon.
962 But al thyng which that shineth as the gold
963 Nis nat gold, as that I have herd told;
964 Ne every appul that is fair at eye
965 Ne is nat good, what so men clappe or crye.
966 Right so, lo, fareth it amonges us:
967 He that semeth the wiseste, by Jhesus,
968 Is moost fool, whan it cometh to the preef;
969 And he that semeth trewest is a theef.
970 That shul ye knowe, er that I fro yow wende,
971 By that I of my tale have maad an ende.
972 Ther is a chanoun of religioun
973 Amonges us, wolde infecte al a toun,
974 Thogh it as greet were as was Nynyvee,
975 Rome, Alisaundre, Troye, and othere three.
976 His sleightes and his infinite falsnesse
977 Ther koude no man writen, as I gesse,
978 Though that he myghte lyve a thousand yeer.
979 In al this world of falshede nis his peer,
980 For in his termes he wol hym so wynde,
981 And speke his wordes in so sly a kynde,
982 Whanne he commune shal with any wight,
983 That he wol make hym doten anonright,
984 But it a feend be, as hymselven is.
985 Ful many a man hath he bigiled er this,
986 And wole, if that he lyve may a while;
987 And yet men ride and goon ful many a mile
988 Hym for to seke and have his aqueyntaunce,
989 Noght knowynge of his false governaunce.
990 And if yow list to yeve me audience,
991 I wol it tellen heere in youre presence.
992 But worshipful chanons religious,
993 Ne demeth nat that I sclaundre youre hous,
994 Although that my tale of a chanoun bee.
995 Of every ordre som shrewe is, pardee,
996 And God forbede that al a compaignye
997 Sholde rewe o singuleer mannes folye.
998 To sclaundre yow is no thyng myn entente,
999 But to correcten that is mys I mente.
1000 This tale was nat oonly toold for yow,
1001 But eek for othere mo; ye woot wel how
1002 That among Cristes apostelles twelve
1003 Ther nas no traytour but Judas hymselve.
1004 Thanne why sholde al the remenant have a blame
1005 That giltlees were? By yow I seye the same,
1006 Save oonly this, if ye wol herkne me:
1007 If any Judas in youre covent be,
1008 Remoeveth hym bitymes, I yow rede,
1009 If shame or los may causen any drede.
1010 And beeth no thyng displesed, I yow preye,
1011 But in this cas herkneth what I shal seye.
1012 In Londoun was a preest, an annueleer,
1013 That therinne dwelled hadde many a yeer,
1014 Which was so plesaunt and so servysable
1015 Unto the wyf, where as he was at table,
1016 That she wolde suffre hym no thyng for to paye
1017 For bord ne clothyng, wente he never so gaye,
1018 And spendyng silver hadde he right ynow.
1019 Therof no fors; I wol procede as now,
1020 And telle forth my tale of the chanoun
1021 That broghte this preest to confusioun.
1022 This false chanon cam upon a day
1023 Unto this preestes chambre, wher he lay,
1024 Bisechynge hym to lene hym a certeyn
1025 Of gold, and he wolde quite it hym ageyn.
1026 “Leene me a marc,” quod he, “but dayes three,
1027 And at my day I wol it quiten thee.
1028 And if so be that thow me fynde fals,
1029 Another day do hange me by the hals!”
1030 This preest hym took a marc, and that as swithe,
1031 And this chanoun hym thanked ofte sithe,
1032 And took his leve, and wente forth his weye,
1033 And at the thridde day broghte his moneye,
1034 And to the preest he took his gold agayn,
1035 Wherof this preest was wonder glad and fayn.
1036 “Certes,” quod he, “no thyng anoyeth me
1037 To lene a man a noble, or two, or thre,
1038 Or what thyng were in my possessioun,
1039 Whan he so trewe is of condicioun
1040 That in no wise he breke wole his day;
1041 To swich a man I kan never seye nay.”
1042 “What!” quod this chanoun, “sholde I be untrewe?
1043 Nay, that were thyng yfallen al of newe.
1044 Trouthe is a thyng that I wol evere kepe
1045 Unto that day in which that I shal crepe
1046 Into my grave, and ellis God forbede.
1047 Bileveth this as siker as your Crede.
1048 God thanke I, and in good tyme be it sayd,
1049 That ther was nevere man yet yvele apayd
1050 For gold ne silver that he to me lente,
1051 Ne nevere falshede in myn herte I mente.
1052 And sire,” quod he, “now of my pryvetee,
1053 Syn ye so goodlich han been unto me,
1054 And kithed to me so greet gentillesse,
1055 Somwhat to quyte with youre kyndenesse
1056 I wol yow shewe, and if yow list to leere,
1057 I wol yow teche pleynly the manere
1058 How I kan werken in philosophie.
1059 Taketh good heede; ye shul wel seen at ye
1060 That I wol doon a maistrie er I go.”
1061 “Ye,” quod the preest, “ye, sire, and wol ye so?
1062 Marie, therof I pray yow hertely.”
1063 ” At youre comandement, sire, trewely,”
1064 Quod the chanoun, “and ellis God forbeede!”
1065 Loo, how this theef koude his service beede!
1066 Ful sooth it is that swich profred servyse
1067 Stynketh, as witnessen thise olde wyse,
1068 And that ful soone I wol it verifie
1069 In this chanoun, roote of al trecherie,
1070 That everemoore delit hath and gladnesse —
1071 Swiche feendly thoghtes in his herte impresse —
1072 How Cristes peple he may to meschief brynge.
1073 God kepe us from his false dissymulynge!
1074 Noght wiste this preest with whom that he delte,
1075 Ne of his harm comynge he no thyng felte.
1076 O sely preest! O sely innocent!
1077 With coveitise anon thou shalt be blent!
1078 O gracelees, ful blynd is thy conceite,
1079 No thyng ne artow war of the deceite
1080 Which that this fox yshapen hath to thee!
1081 His wily wrenches thou ne mayst nat flee.
1082 Wherfore, to go to the conclusion,
1083 That refereth to thy confusion,
1084 Unhappy man, anon I wol me hye
1085 To tellen thyn unwit and thy folye,
1086 And eek the falsnesse of that oother wrecche,
1087 As ferforth as that my konnyng wol strecche.
1088 This chanon was my lord, ye wolden weene?
1089 Sire hoost, in feith, and by the hevenes queene,
1090 It was another chanoun, and nat hee,
1091 That kan an hundred foold moore subtiltee.
1092 He hath bitrayed folkes many tyme;
1093 Of his falsnesse it dulleth me to ryme.
1094 Evere whan that I speke of his falshede,
1095 For shame of hym my chekes wexen rede.
1096 Algates they bigynnen for to glowe,
1097 For reednesse have I noon, right wel I knowe,
1098 In my visage; for fumes diverse
1099 Of metals, whiche ye han herd me reherce,
1100 Consumed and wasted han my reednesse.
1101 Now taak heede of this chanons cursednesse!
1102 “Sire,” quod he to the preest, “lat youre man gon
1103 For quyksilver, that we it hadde anon;
1104 And lat hym bryngen ounces two or three;
1105 And whan he comth, as faste shal ye see
1106 A wonder thyng, which ye saugh nevere er this.”
1107 “Sire,” quod the preest, “it shal be doon, ywis.”
1108 He bad his servant fecchen hym this thyng,
1109 And he al redy was at his biddyng,
1110 And wente hym forth, and cam anon agayn
1111 With this quyksilver, shortly for to sayn,
1112 And took thise ounces thre to the chanoun;
1113 And he hem leyde faire and wel adoun,
1114 And bad the servant coles for to brynge,
1115 That he anon myghte go to his werkynge.
1116 The coles right anon weren yfet,
1117 And this chanoun took out a crosselet
1118 Of his bosom, and shewed it to the preest.
1119 “This instrument,” quod he, “which that thou seest,
1120 Taak in thyn hand, and put thyself therinne
1121 Of this quyksilver an ounce, and heer bigynne,
1122 In name of Crist, to wexe a philosofre.
1123 Ther been ful fewe to whiche I wolde profre
1124 To shewen hem thus muche of my science.
1125 For ye shul seen heer, by experience,
1126 That this quyksilver I wol mortifye
1127 Right in youre sighte anon, withouten lye,
1128 And make it as good silver and as fyn
1129 As ther is any in youre purs or myn,
1130 Or elleswhere, and make it malliable;
1131 And elles holdeth me fals and unable
1132 Amonges folk for evere to appeere.
1133 I have a poudre heer, that coste me deere,
1134 Shal make al good, for it is cause of al
1135 My konnyng, which that I yow shewen shal.
1136 Voyde youre man, and lat hym be theroute,
1137 And shette the dore, whils we been aboute
1138 Oure pryvetee, that no man us espie,
1139 Whils that we werke in this philosophie.”
1140 Al as he bad fulfilled was in dede.
1141 This ilke servant anonright out yede,
1142 And his maister shette the dore anon,
1143 And to hire labour spedily they gon.
1144 This preest, at this cursed chanons biddyng,
1145 Upon the fir anon sette this thyng,
1146 And blew the fir, and bisyed hym ful faste.
1147 And this chanoun into the crosselet caste
1148 A poudre, noot I wherof that it was
1149 Ymaad, outher of chalk, outher of glas,
1150 Or somwhat elles, was nat worth a flye,
1151 To blynde with this preest; and bad hym hye
1152 The coles for to couchen al above
1153 The crosselet. “For in tokenyng I thee love,”
1154 Quod this chanoun, “thyne owene handes two
1155 Shul werche al thyng which that shal heer be do.”
1156 “Graunt mercy,” quod the preest, and was ful glad,
1157 And couched coles as the chanoun bad.
1158 And while he bisy was, this feendly wrecche,
1159 This false chanoun — the foule feend hym fecche! —
1160 Out of his bosom took a bechen cole,
1161 In which ful subtilly was maad an hole,
1162 And therinne put was of silver lemaille
1163 An ounce, and stopped was, withouten faille,
1164 This hole with wex, to kepe the lemaille in.
1165 And understondeth that this false gyn
1166 Was nat maad ther, but it was maad bifore;
1167 And othere thynges I shal tellen moore
1168 Herafterward, whiche that he with hym broghte.
1169 Er he cam there, hym to bigile he thoghte,
1170 And so he dide, er that they wente atwynne;
1171 Til he had terved hym, koude he nat blynne.
1172 It dulleth me whan that I of hym speke.
1173 On his falshede fayn wolde I me wreke,
1174 If I wiste how, but he is heere and there;
1175 He is so variaunt, he abit nowhere.
1176 But taketh heede now, sires, for Goddes love!
1177 He took his cole of which I spak above,
1178 And in his hand he baar it pryvely.
1179 And whiles the preest couched bisily
1180 The coles, as I tolde yow er this,
1181 This chanoun seyde, “Freend, ye doon amys.
1182 This is nat couched as it oghte be;
1183 But soone I shal amenden it,” quod he.
1184 “Now lat me medle therwith but a while,
1185 For of yow have I pitee, by Seint Gile!
1186 Ye been right hoot; I se wel how ye swete.
1187 Have heere a clooth, and wipe awey the wete.”
1188 And whiles that the preest wiped his face,
1189 This chanoun took his cole — with sory grace! —
1190 And leyde it above upon the myddeward
1191 Of the crosselet, and blew wel afterward
1192 Til that the coles gonne faste brenne.
1193 “Now yeve us drynke,” quod the chanoun thenne;
1194 ” As swithe al shal be wel, I undertake.
1195 Sitte we doun, and lat us myrie make.”
1196 And whan that this chanounes bechen cole
1197 Was brent, al the lemaille out of the hole
1198 Into the crosselet fil anon adoun;
1199 And so it moste nedes, by resoun,
1200 Syn it so evene above couched was.
1201 But therof wiste the preest nothyng, alas!
1202 He demed alle the coles yliche good,
1203 For of that sleighte he nothyng understood.
1204 And whan this alkamystre saugh his tyme,
1205 “Ris up,” quod he, “sire preest, and stondeth by me;
1206 And for I woot wel ingot have ye noon,
1207 Gooth, walketh forth, and bryngeth a chalk stoon;
1208 For I wol make it of the same shap
1209 That is an ingot, if I may han hap.
1210 And bryngeth eek with yow a bolle or a panne
1211 Ful of water, and ye shul se wel thanne
1212 How that oure bisynesse shal thryve and preeve.
1213 And yet, for ye shul han no mysbileeve
1214 Ne wrong conceite of me in youre absence,
1215 I ne wol nat been out of youre presence,
1216 But go with yow and come with yow ageyn.”
1217 The chambre dore, shortly for to seyn,
1218 They opened and shette, and wente hir weye.
1219 And forth with hem they carieden the keye,
1220 And coome agayn withouten any delay.
1221 What sholde I tarien al the longe day?
1222 He took the chalk and shoop it in the wise
1223 Of an ingot, as I shal yow devyse.
1224 I seye, he took out of his owene sleeve
1225 A teyne of silver — yvele moot he cheeve! —
1226 Which that ne was nat but an ounce of weighte.
1227 And taaketh heede now of his cursed sleighte!
1228 He shoop his ingot in lengthe and in breede
1229 Of this teyne, withouten any drede,
1230 So slyly that the preest it nat espide,
1231 And in his sleve agayn he gan it hide,
1232 And fro the fir he took up his mateere,
1233 And in th’ yngot putte it with myrie cheere,
1234 And in the water-vessel he it caste,
1235 Whan that hym luste, and bad the preest as faste,
1236 “Loke what ther is; put in thyn hand and grope.
1237 Thow fynde shalt ther silver, as I hope.”
1238 What, devel of helle, sholde it elles be?
1239 Shaving of silver silver is, pardee!
1240 He putte his hand in and took up a teyne
1241 Of silver fyn, and glad in every veyne
1242 Was this preest, whan he saugh it was so.
1243 “Goddes blessyng, and his moodres also,
1244 And alle halwes, have ye, sire chanoun,”
1245 Seyde the preest, “and I hir malisoun,
1246 But, and ye vouche-sauf to techen me
1247 This noble craft and this subtilitee,
1248 I wol be youre in al that evere I may.”
1249 Quod the chanoun, “Yet wol I make assay
1250 The seconde tyme, that ye may taken heede
1251 And been expert of this, and in youre neede
1252 Another day assaye in myn absence
1253 This disciplyne and this crafty science.
1254 Lat take another ounce,” quod he tho,
1255 “Of quyksilver, withouten wordes mo,
1256 And do therwith as ye han doon er this
1257 With that oother, which that now silver is.”
1258 This preest hym bisieth in al that he kan
1259 To doon as this chanoun, this cursed man,
1260 Comanded hym, and faste blew the fir,
1261 For to come to th’ effect of his desir.
1262 And this chanon, right in the meene while,
1263 Al redy was this preest eft to bigile,
1264 And for a contenaunce in his hand he bar
1265 An holwe stikke — taak kep and be war! —
1266 In the ende of which an ounce, and namoore,
1267 Of silver lemaille put was, as bifore
1268 Was in his cole, and stopped with wex weel
1269 For to kepe in his lemaille every deel.
1270 And whil this preest was in his bisynesse,
1271 This chanoun with his stikke gan hym dresse
1272 To hym anon, and his poudre caste in
1273 As he dide er — the devel out of his skyn
1274 Hym terve, I pray to God, for his falshede!
1275 For he was evere fals in thoght and dede —
1276 And with this stikke, above the crosselet,
1277 That was ordeyned with that false jet,
1278 He stired the coles til relente gan
1279 The wex agayn the fir, as every man,
1280 But it a fool be, woot wel it moot nede,
1281 And al that in the stikke was out yede,
1282 And in the crosselet hastily it fel.
1283 Now, good sires, what wol ye bet than wel?
1284 Whan that this preest thus was bigiled ageyn,
1285 Supposynge noght but treuthe, sooth to seyn,
1286 He was so glad that I kan nat expresse
1287 In no manere his myrthe and his gladnesse;
1288 And to the chanoun he profred eftsoone
1289 Body and good. “Ye,” quod the chanoun soone,
1290 “Though poure I be, crafty thou shalt me fynde.
1291 I warne thee, yet is ther moore bihynde.
1292 Is ther any coper herinne?” seyde he.
1293 “Ye,” quod the preest, “sire, I trowe wel ther be.”
1294 “Elles go bye us som, and that as swithe;
1295 Now, goode sire, go forth thy wey and hy the.”
1296 He wente his wey, and with the coper cam,
1297 And this chanon it in his handes nam,
1298 And of that coper weyed out but an ounce.
1299 Al to symple is my tonge to pronounce,
1300 As ministre of my wit, the doublenesse
1301 Of this chanoun, roote of alle cursednesse!
1302 He semed freendly to hem that knewe hym noght,
1303 But he was feendly bothe in werk and thoght.
1304 It weerieth me to telle of his falsnesse,
1305 And nathelees yet wol I it expresse,
1306 To th’ entente that men may be war therby,
1307 And for noon oother cause, trewely.
1308 He putte this ounce of coper in the crosselet,
1309 And on the fir as swithe he hath it set,
1310 And caste in poudre, and made the preest to blowe,
1311 And in his werkyng for to stoupe lowe,
1312 As he dide er — and al nas but a jape;
1313 Right as hym liste, the preest he made his ape!
1314 And afterward in the ingot he it caste,
1315 And in the panne putte it at the laste
1316 Of water, and in he putte his owene hand,
1317 And in his sleve (as ye biforen-hand
1318 Herde me telle) he hadde a silver teyne.
1319 He slyly took it out, this cursed heyne,
1320 Unwityng this preest of his false craft,
1321 And in the pannes botme he hath it laft;
1322 And in the water rombled to and fro,
1323 And wonder pryvely took up also
1324 The coper teyne, noght knowynge this preest,
1325 And hidde it, and hym hente by the breest,
1326 And to hym spak, and thus seyde in his game:
1327 “Stoupeth adoun. By God, ye be to blame!
1328 Helpeth me now, as I dide yow whileer;
1329 Putte in youre hand, and looketh what is theer.”
1330 This preest took up this silver teyne anon,
1331 And thanne seyde the chanoun, “Lat us gon
1332 With thise thre teynes, whiche that we han wroght,
1333 To som goldsmyth and wite if they been oght,
1334 For, by my feith, I nolde, for myn hood,
1335 But if that they were silver fyn and good,
1336 And that as swithe preeved it shal bee.”
1337 Unto the goldsmyth with thise teynes three
1338 They wente and putte thise teynes in assay
1339 To fir and hamer; myghte no man seye nay,
1340 But that they weren as hem oghte be.
1341 This sotted preest, who was gladder than he?
1342 Was nevere brid gladder agayn the day,
1343 Ne nyghtyngale, in the sesoun of May,
1344 Was nevere noon that luste bet to synge;
1345 Ne lady lustier in carolynge,
1346 Or for to speke of love and wommanhede,
1347 Ne knyght in armes to doon an hardy dede,
1348 To stonden in grace of his lady deere,
1349 Than hadde this preest this soory craft to leere.
1350 And to the chanoun thus he spak and seyde:
1351 “For love of God, that for us alle deyde,
1352 And as I may deserve it unto yow,
1353 What shal this receite coste? Telleth now!”
1354 “By oure Lady,” quod this chanon, “it is deere,
1355 I warne yow wel; for save I and a frere,
1356 In Engelond ther kan no man it make.”
1357 “No fors,” quod he, “now, sire, for Goddes sake,
1358 What shal I paye? Telleth me, I preye.”
1359 “Ywis,” quod he, “it is ful deere, I seye.
1360 Sire, at o word, if that thee list it have,
1361 Ye shul paye fourty pound, so God me save!
1362 And nere the freendshipe that ye dide er this
1363 To me, ye sholde paye moore, ywis.”
1364 This preest the somme of fourty pound anon
1365 Of nobles fette, and took hem everichon
1366 To this chanoun for this ilke receite.
1367 Al his werkyng nas but fraude and deceite.
1368 “Sire preest,” he seyde, “I kepe han no loos
1369 Of my craft, for I wolde it kept were cloos;
1370 And, as ye love me, kepeth it secree.
1371 For, and men knewen al my soutiltee,
1372 By God, they wolden han so greet envye
1373 To me by cause of my philosophye
1374 I sholde be deed; ther were noon oother weye.”
1375 “God it forbeede,” quod the preest, “what sey ye?
1376 Yet hadde I levere spenden al the good
1377 Which that I have, and elles wexe I wood,
1378 Than that ye sholden falle in swich mescheef.”
1379 “For youre good wyl, sire, have ye right good preef,”
1380 Quod the chanoun, “and farwel, grant mercy!”
1381 He wente his wey, and never the preest hym sy
1382 After that day; and whan that this preest shoolde
1383 Maken assay, at swich tyme as he wolde,
1384 Of this receit, farwel! It wolde nat be.
1385 Lo, thus byjaped and bigiled was he!
1386 Thus maketh he his introduccioun,
1387 To brynge folk to hir destruccioun.
1388 Considereth, sires, how that, in ech estaat,
1389 Bitwixe men and gold ther is debaat
1390 So ferforth that unnethes is ther noon.
1391 This multiplying blent so many oon
1392 That in good feith I trowe that it bee
1393 The cause grettest of swich scarsetee.
1394 Philosophres speken so mystily
1395 In this craft that men kan nat come therby,
1396 For any wit that men han now-a-dayes.
1397 They mowe wel chiteren as doon jayes,
1398 And in hir termes sette hir lust and peyne,
1399 But to hir purpos shul they nevere atteyne.
1400 A man may lightly lerne, if he have aught,
1401 To multiplie, and brynge his good to naught!
1402 Lo! swich a lucre is in this lusty game,
1403 A mannes myrthe it wol turne unto grame,
1404 And empten also grete and hevye purses,
1405 And maken folk for to purchacen curses
1406 Of hem that han hir good therto ylent.
1407 O, fy, for shame! They that han been brent,
1408 Allas, kan they nat flee the fires heete?
1409 Ye that it use, I rede ye it leete,
1410 Lest ye lese al; for bet than nevere is late.
1411 Nevere to thryve were to long a date.
1412 Though ye prolle ay, ye shul it nevere fynde.
1413 Ye been as boold as is Bayard the blynde,
1414 That blondreth forth and peril casteth noon.
1415 He is as boold to renne agayn a stoon
1416 As for to goon bisides in the weye.
1417 So faren ye that multiplie, I seye.
1418 If that youre eyen kan nat seen aright,
1419 Looke that youre mynde lakke noght his sight.
1420 For though ye looken never so brode and stare,
1421 Ye shul nothyng wynne on that chaffare,
1422 But wasten al that ye may rape and renne.
1423 Withdraweth the fir, lest it to faste brenne;
1424 Medleth namoore with that art, I mene,
1425 For if ye doon, youre thrift is goon ful clene.
1426 And right as swithe I wol yow tellen heere
1427 What philosophres seyn in this mateere.
1428 Lo, thus seith Arnold of the Newe Toun,
1429 As his Rosarie maketh mencioun;
1430 He seith right thus, withouten any lye:
1431 “Ther may no man mercurie mortifie
1432 But it be with his brother knowlechyng”;
1433 How [be] that he which that first seyde this thyng
1434 Of philosophres fader was, Hermes;
1435 He seith how that the dragon, doutelees,
1436 Ne dyeth nat but if that he be slayn
1437 With his brother; and that is for to sayn,
1438 By the dragon, Mercurie, and noon oother
1439 He understood, and brymstoon by his brother,
1440 That out of Sol and Luna were ydrawe.
1441 ” And therfore,” seyde he — taak heede to my sawe —
1442 “Lat no man bisye hym this art for to seche,
1443 But if that he th’ entencioun and speche
1444 Of philosophres understonde kan;
1445 And if he do, he is a lewed man.
1446 For this science and this konnyng,” quod he,
1447 “Is of the secree of the secretes, pardee.”
1448 Also ther was a disciple of Plato,
1449 That on a tyme seyde his maister to,
1450 As his book Senior wol bere witnesse,
1451 And this was his demande in soothfastnesse:
1452 “Telle me the name of the privee stoon.”
1453 And Plato answerde unto hym anoon,
1454 “Take the stoon that Titanos men name.”
1455 “Which is that?” quod he. “Magnasia is the same,”
1456 Seyde Plato. “Ye, sire, and is it thus?
1457 This is ignotum per ignocius.
1458 What is Magnasia, good sire, I yow preye?”
1459 “It is a water that is maad, I seye,
1460 Of elementes foure,” quod Plato.
1461 “Telle me the roote, good sire,” quod he tho,
1462 “Of that water, if it be youre wil.”
1463 “Nay, nay,” quod Plato, “certein, that I nyl.
1464 The philosophres sworn were everychoon
1465 That they sholden discovere it unto noon,
1466 Ne in no book it write in no manere.
1467 For unto Crist it is so lief and deere
1468 That he wol nat that it discovered bee,
1469 But where it liketh to his deitee
1470 Men for t’ enspire, and eek for to deffende
1471 Whom that hym liketh; lo, this is the ende.”
1472 Thanne conclude I thus, sith that God of hevene
1473 Ne wil nat that the philosophres nevene
1474 How that a man shal come unto this stoon,
1475 I rede, as for the beste, lete it goon.
1476 For whoso maketh God his adversarie,
1477 As for to werken any thyng in contrarie
1478 Of his wil, certes, never shal he thryve,
1479 Thogh that he multiplie terme of his lyve.
1480 And there a poynt, for ended is my tale.
1481 God sende every trewe man boote of his bale!