Previous Previous:
From The Friar's Tale, lines 68-73:
The interruption of the Summoner
Librarius Homepage
© Librarius
All rights reserved.

From The Canterbury Tales:
The Friar's Tale
lines 74-119: The summoner's trade and practice

       This false theef, this somonour, quod the Frere,
75Hadde alwey bawdes redy to his hond,
As any hauk to lure in Engelond,
That tolde hym al the secree that they knewe;
For hire acqueyntace was nat come of newe.
They weren his approwours prively.
80He took hymself a greet profit therby;
His maister knew nat alwey what he wan.
Withouten mandement a lewed man
He koude somne, on peyne of Cristes curs,
And they were glade for to fille his purs,
85And make hym grete feestes atte nale.
And right as Judas hadde purses smale,
And was a theef, right swich a theef was he;
His maister hadde but half his duetee.
He was, if I shal yeven hym his laude,
90A theef, and eek a somnour, and baude.
He hadde eek wenches at his retenue,
That, wheither that sir Robert or sir Huwe,
Or Jakke, or Rauf, or whoso that it were
That lay by hem, they tolde it in his ere.
95Thus was the wenche and he of oon assent;
And he wolde fecche a feyned mandement,
And somne hem to chapitre bothe two,
And pile the man, and lete the wenche go.
Thanne wolde he seye, 'Freend, I shal for thy sake
100Do striken hire out of oure lettres blake;
Thee thar namoore as in this cas travaille.
I am thy freend, ther I thee may availle.'
Certeyn he knew of briberyes mo
Than possible is to telle in yeres two.
105For in this world nys dogge for the bowe
That kan an hurt deer from an hool yknowe
Bet than this somnour knew a sly lecchour,
Or an avowtier, or a paramour.
And for that was the fruyt of al his rente,
110Therfore on it he sette al his entente.
And so bifel that ones on a day
This somnour, evere waityng on his pray,
Rood for to somne an old wydwe, a ribibe,
Feynynge a cause, for he wolde brybe.
115And happed that he saugh bifore hym ryde
A gay yeman, under a forest syde,
A bowe he bar, and arwes brighte and kene;
He hadde upon a courtepy of grene,
An hat upon his heed with frenges blake.
       This false thief, then, this summoner, said the friar
75Had always panders ready to his hand,
For any hawk to lure in all England,
Who told him all the scandal that they knew;
For their acquaintances were nothing new.
They were all his informers privily;
80And he took to himself great gain thereby;
His master knew not how his profits ran.
Without an order, and an ignorant man,
Yet would he summon, on pain of Christ's curse,
Those who were glad enough to fill his purse
85And feast him greatly at the taverns all.
And just as Judas had his purses small
And was a thief, just such a thief was he.
His master got but half of every fee.
He was, if I'm to give him proper laud,
90A thief, and more, a summoner, and a bawd.
He'd even wenches in his retinue,
And whether 'twere Sir Robert, or Sir Hugh,
Or Jack, or Ralph, or whosoever 'twere
That lay with them, they told it in his ear;
95Thus were the wench and he in partnership.
And he would forge a summons from his scrip,
And summon to the chapter-house those two
And rob the man and let the harlot go.
Then would he say: "My friend, and for your sake,
100Her name from our blacklist will I now take;
Trouble no more for what this may entail;
I am your friend in all where 'twill avail."
He knew more ways to rob and blackmail you
Than could be told in one year or in two.
105For in this world's no dog trained to the bow
That can a hurt deer from a sound one know
Better than this man knew a sly lecher,
Or fornicator, or adulterer.
And since this was the fruit of all his rent,
110Therefore on it he fixed his whole intent.
And so it happened that once upon a day
This summoner, ever lurking for his prey,
Rode out to summon a widow, an old rip,
Feigning a cause, for her he planned to strip.
115It happened that he saw before him ride
A yeoman gay along a forest's side.
A bow he bore, and arrows bright and keen;
He wore a short coat of the Lincoln green,
And hat upon his head, with fringes black.

Next Next:
From The Friar's Tale, lines 120-169:
The summoner meets a yeoman and they ride along