The Freres Tale
This worthy preacher, I mene this noble Frere,
He made always a maner of angry cheere
Upon the Somnour,
but for honestee
No vileyn worde yit to him spak he.
But atte last he sayd unto the wyf,
Dame, quoth he,
God yive you al good lyf!
Ye have here touchid, so God prosper me,
Upon a mater of gret difficulté.
have sayd moche thing right wel, I say;
But, dame, right as we ryden by the way,
We neede nought but
for to speke of game,
And leeve auctorités, in Goddes name,
To preching and to scoles of clergie.
But if it
like to this good companye,
I wil you of a somnour telle a game;
In faith, ye may wel knowe by the name,
of a somnour may no good be sayd;
I pray that noon be wroth with that is seyd;
A somnour is a runner up
Wyth licenses for fornicacioun,
And is y-bete at every tounes ende.
Our hoste spak, A! sir, ye sholde amende
Your wordes, as a man of your estate,
In company we wil have
Tell on your tale, and let the Somnour be.
Nay, quoth the Somnour, let him say to me
so him list; whan it cometh to my lot,
By God! I shal him quyten every grote.
I shal him tellen, what a gret
It is to be a false flatteryng frere.
And his offis I shal him telle i-wis.
Our host answerde, Pees, no
more of this.
And after this he sayd unto the Frere,
Tell forth your tale, my leve maister deere.
Whilom there was dwellyng in my countree
And archedeken, a man of gret degree,
That boldely did execucioún,
punyshyng of fornicacioún,
Of witchecraft, and eek of bauderye,
Of diffamacioun, and adultery,
plunder, and of testamentes,
Of contractes, and of lak of sacraments,
And eek of many another maner
Which need not be rehersèd at this tyme;
Of usury, and of symony also;
But most to lecchours did
he grettest wo;
Thay shulde syng, to be discoverèd;
And smale tythers thay were punisshèd,
If eny persoun
wold on them compleyne,
Ther might astert him no pecunial peyne.
For smale tythes and for smal offrynge,
made the peple piteously to synge.
For ere the bisshop caught to them in his hook,
They weren in the
And he hadde thurgh his jurediccioún
Power to do to them correccioún.
He had a somnour
redy to his hand,
A slyer boy was noon in Engeland;
Ful prively he had his spyes aboute,
him wher he might get many a grote.
He coude spare the wicked one or tuo,
To fine and punish four and
For though this somnour fierce were as an hare,
To telle his wickednesse I will not spare;
we be out of there correccioún,
They have of us no jurediccioún,
And never shal until thay al be gon.
so be the wommen of the toun,
Quod this Somnour, i-put out of oure care.
Pees! mischief on thee, wolt
thou not him spare?
Thus sayd our host, to tellen forth his tale.
Hold not thy tong, although the Somnour
Spare not a word, myn owne maister deere.
This false theef, the somnour, quoth the frere,
Had alway bawdes redy to his hond,
As eny hauk to lure
That told him al the secrets up and doun,
For there acqueintaunce was in al the toun;
were his own informers prively.
He took himself a gret profyt therby;
His maister knew nat alway what he
Withoute permission, a poore man
He coude summon, on peyne of Cristes curs,
And thay were glad
to fille wel his purs,
And make him grete festis at the ale.
And right as Judas he hadde a purse smale
was a theef, right such a theef was he,
His maister had not half his duetee;
He was (if I shal given him
A theef, a somnour, and eek a shrew.
And he had wenches at his retenue,
That whethir that sir
Robert or sir Hughe,
Or Jak, or Rauf, or who-so that it were,
That lay by them, thay told it in his eere.
were the wenche and he of one assent.
And he wold fecche a feyned commaundement,
And somne them
to chapitre both tuo,
And fine the man, and let the wenche go.
Than wold he say, I shal, frend, for thy
Do strike thy name out of oure lettres blake;
Thou shalt no more as in this cas traváyle;
I am thy frend
where I thee may avayle.
And certeynly he knew of bribours mo
Than possible is to telle in yeres tuo;
in this world no dogge for the bowe,
That can an hurt deer from an whole knowe,
Better than this somnour
knew a leccheour,
Or adulterer, or else a paramour;
And for that was the fruyt of al his rent,
theron he set al his entent.
And so bifel, that once upon a day
This somnour, ever watchyng for his pray,
Rode forth to somne a widew,
lean and olde,
Feynyng a cause, for he wolde winne golde.
And happede that he saw bifore him ryde
gay yeoman under a forest syde;
A bow he bar, and arrows bright and kene,
He had upon a short cote al
An hat upon his hed, with fringes blake.
Sir, quod this somnour, heyl and wel overtake!
quoth he, and every felawe good;
Whider ridest thou under this grene wood?
Sayde this yeoman, Wilt
thou go far to day?
This somnour answered him, and sayde, Nay
Her faste by, quoth he, is myn entent
ryden, for to reysen up a rent
That longith to my lordes duetee.
Art thou a bailif then? I am, quoth