He durste not for verray filth and shame
Say that he was a somnour, for the name.
De par dieux!” quod the yeoman, “lieve brother,
Thou art a bailif and I am another.
I am unknowen, as in this contree;
Of thin acqueintance I wil praye the,
And eek of brotherhood, if it you list.
I have gold and silver in my chest;
If that thee happe to come into oure shire,
Al shal be thin, right as thou wolt desire.”
Graunt mercy,” quoth this sommour, “by my faith!”
Each in the others hand his trothe laith,
For to be sworne bretheren til thay dey.
In daliaúnce forth thay ride and pley.

This somnour, which was as ful of questioún,
As ful of venym is the adder broun,
And ever enquéring upon every thing,
“Brother,” quoth he, “wher now is your dwellyng,
Another day if that I shuld you seeche?”
This yeoman him answered in softe speche:
“Brother,” quoth he, “fer in the north contré
Wheras I hope somtyme I shal thee see
Ere we depart I shal the so wel say,
That to myn hous thou shalt not misse the wey.”
“Now, brother,” quoth this somnour, “I you pray,
Teche me, whil that we ryden by the way,
Since that ye be a baily as am I,
Som subtiltee, and tel me faithfully
In myn office how I may golde wynne.
And spare not for consciens or for synne,
But, as my brother, tel me how do ye.”

“Now, by my trothe, brothir myn,” sayd he,
“As I shal telle thee a faithful tale.
My wages be ful streyt and eek ful smale;
My lord to me is hard and dangerous,
And myn office is ful laborious;
And therfor by extorcioúns I lyve,
Forsoth I take al that men wil me give,
Either by sleight or else by violence
Fro yer to yer I wynne my expense;
I can no better telle faithfully.”

“Now certes,” quoth this somnour, “so fare I;
I spare not to take, God it wot,
Unlesse it be too hevy or too hot.
What I may get in counseil privily,
No more consciens of that have I.
Withoute extorcións, I might not lyven,
And of such japes I wil not be shriven.
Stomak or conscience know I never noon;
I curse thes shrifte-fadres every one.
Wel be we met, by God and by seint Jame!
But, leve brother, telle me thy name,”
Quoth this somnour. And in this mene-while
This yeoman gan a litel for to smyle.
“Brothir,” quoth he, “wolt thou that I thee telle?
I am a feend, my dwellyng is in helle,
And here I ryde about my wandering,
To wite if men wol give me eny thing.
My gathering on erthe is al my rent.
Loke how thou ridest for the same entent
To wynne good, thou rekkist never how,
Right so fare I, for ryde I wolde now
Unto the worldes ende for a prey.”

“A!” quoth the somnour, “bencite, what ye say?
I thought ye were a yeoman trewely.
Ye have a mannes shape as wel as I,
Have ye a figure then determinate
In helle, when ye be in your estate?”

“Nay, certeynly,” quoth he, “ther have we non,
But whan we plesen we can take one on,
Or else we make it seme that we be shape
Som tyme like a man, or like an ape;
Or lik an aungel can I ryde or go;
It is no wonder thing though it be so
A lousy juggelour can decyve thee,
And, parfay, yit know I more craft than he.”

“Why,” quoth this somnour, “ryde ye then or gon
In sondry wyse, and nought alway in one?”
“For,” quoth he, “we wil us in such forme make,
As moste fit oure pray is for to take.”
“What makith you to have al this laboúr?”
“Ful many a cause, lieve sir somnour,”
Sayde this feend. “But al thing hath a tyme;
The day is short, and it is passèd prime,
And yit have I won nothing in this day;
I wol wynne somwhat now and if I may,
And not entende oure thinges to declare;
For, brother myn, thy wit is al too bare
To understond, although I told them thee.
Yet, as thou axid whi laboúre we;
Som tyme we be Goddis instrumentes
And menes to don al his comaundementes,
Whan that he list, upon his créatúres,
In divers acts and in divérs figúres.
Withouten him we have no might certéyn,
If that he pleseth to sende us back agayn.
And som tyme at our prayer have we leeve,
Only the body, and not the soule to greve;
Witnes on Job, to whom we dide ful wo.
And som tyme have we might on bothe tuo,
This is to say on body and soule eeke.
And som tyme be we suffred for to wreak
Upon a man, and do his soule unrest
And not his body, and al is for the best.
When he withstondith oure temptacioún,
It is a cause of his salvacioún,
Al be it so it was nought oure thought
He safe is though we fayn wold have him caughte.
And som tyme we be servaunt unto man,
As to the erchebisshop seynt Dunstán,
And to the apostolis, servaunt eek was I.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.