Previous Previous:
From The Parson's Tale, paragraph 80-81:
About lust
Librarius Homepage
© Librarius
All rights reserved.

From The Canterbury Tales:
The Parson's Tale
Paragraph 82
The ways of the devil to tempt a person to lust

§ 82       This is that oother hand of the devel with fyve fyngres to cacche the peple to his vileynye. The firste fynger is the fool lookynge of the fool womman and of the fool man, that sleeth, right as the basilicok sleeth folk by the venym of his sighte; for the coveitise of eyen folweth the coveitise of the herte. The seconde fynger is the vileyns touchynge in wikkede manere. And therfore seith Salomon that "whoso toucheth and handleth a womman, he fareth lyk hym that handleth the scorpioun that styngeth and sodeynly sleeth thurgh his envenymynge; as whoso toucheth warm pych, it shent his fyngres. The thridde is foule wordes, that fareth lyk fyr, that right anon brenneth the herte. The fourthe fynger is the kissynge; and trewely he were a greet fool that wolde kisse the mouth of a brennynge oven or of a fourneys. And moore fooles been they that kissen in vileynye, for that mouth is the mouth of helle; and namely thise olde dotardes holours, yet wol they kisse, though they may nat do, and smatre hem. Certes, they been lyk to houndes; for an hound, whan he comth by the roser or by othere (bushes), though he may nat pisse, yet wole he heve up his leg and make a contenaunce to pisse. And for that many man weneth that he may nat synne, for no likerousnesse that he dooth with his wyf, certes, that opinion is fals. God woot, a man may sleen hymself with his owene knyf, and make hymselve dronken of his owene tonne. Certes, be it wyf, be it child, or any worldly thyng that he loveth biforn God, it is his mawmet, and he is an ydolastre. Man sholde loven hys wyf by discrecioun, paciently and atemprely; and thanne is she as though it were his suster. The fifthe fynger of the develes hand is the stynkynge dede of leccherie. Certes, the fyve fyngres of glotonie the feend put in the wombe of a man, and with his fyve fingres of lecherie he gripeth hym by the reynes, for to throwen hym into the fourneys of helle. Ther as they shul han the fyr and the wormes that evere shul lasten, and wepynge and wailynge sharp hunger and thurst, and grymnesse of develes, that shullen al totrede hem without repit and withouten ende. Of leccherie, as I seyde, sourden diverse speces, as fornicacioun, that is bitwixe man and womman that been nat maried; and this is deedly synne, and agayns nature. Al that is enemy and destruccioun to nature is agayns nature. Parfay, the resoun of a man telleth eek hym wel that is is deedly synne, for as muche as God forbad leccherie. And Seint Paul yeveth hem the regne that nys dewe to no wight but to hem that doon deedly synne. Another synne of leccherie is to bireve a mayden of hir maydenhede, for he that so dooth, certes, he casteth a mayden out of the hyeste degree that is in this present lif, and bireveth hir thilke precious fruyt that the book clepeth the hundred fruyt. I ne kan seye it noon oother-wewyes in englissh, but in latyn it highte centesimus fructus. Certes, he that so dooth is cause of manye damages and vileynyes, mo than any man kan rekene; right as he somtyme is cause of alle damages that beestes don in the feeld, that breketh the hegge or the closure, thurgh which he destroyeth that may nat been restoored. For certes, namoore may maydenhede be restoored than a arm that is smyten fro the body may retourne agany to wexe. She may have mercy, this woot I wel, if she do penitence; but nevere shal it be that she nas corrupt. And al be it so that I have spoken somwhat of avowtrie, it is good to shewen mo perils that longen to avowtrie, for to eschue that foule synne. Avowtrie in latyn is for to seyn, approchynge of oother mannes bed, thurgh which tho that whilom weren a flessh abowndone hir bodyes to othere persones. Of this synne, as seith the wise man, folwen manye harmes. First, brekynge of feith; and certes, in feith is the keye of cristendom. And whan that feith is broken and lorn, soothly cristendom stant veyn and withouten fruyt. This synne is eek a thefte; for thefte generally is for to reve a wight his thyng agayns his wille. Certes, this is the fouleste thefte that may be, whan a womman steleth hir body from hir housbonde, and yeveth it to hire holour to defoulen hire; and steleth hir soule fro Crist, and yeveth it to the devel. This is a fouler thefte than for to breke a chirche and stele the chalice; for thise avowtiers breken the temple of God spiritually and stelen the vessel of grace, that is the body and the soule, for which Crist shal destroyen hem, as seith Seint Paul. Soothly, of this thefte douted gretly Joseph, whan that his lordes wyf preyed hym of vileynye, whan he seyde, "lo, my lady, how my lord hath take to me under my warde al that he hath in this world, ne no thyng of his thynges is out of my power, but oonly ye, that been his wyf. And how sholde I thanne do this wikkednesse, and synne so horribly agayns God and agayns my lord? God it forbeede!" Allas! al to litel is swich trouthe now yfounde. The thridde harm is the filthe thurgh which they breken the comandement of God, and defoulen the auctour of matrimoyne, that is Crist. For certes, in so muche as the sacrement of mariage is so noble and so digne, so muche is it gretter synne for to breken it; for God made mariage in paradys, in the estaat of innocence, to multiplye mankynde to the service of God. And therfore is the brekynge therof the moore grevous; of which brekynge comen false heires ofte tyme, that wrongfully ocupien folkes heritages. And therfore wol Crist putte hem out of the regne of hevene, that is heritage to goode folk. Of this brekynge comth eek ofte tyme that folk unwar wedden or synnen with hire owene kynrede, and namely thilke harlotes that haunten bordels of thise fool wommen, that mowe be likned to a commune gong, where as men purgen hire ordure. What seve we eek of putours that lyven by the horrible synne of putrie, and constreyne wommen to yelden hem a certeyn rente of hire bodily puterie, ye, somtyme of his owene wyf or his child, as doon thise bawdes? Certes, thise been cursede synnes. Understoond eek that avowtrie is set gladly in the ten comandementz bitwixe thefte and manslaughtre; for it is the gretteste thefte that may be, for it is thefte of body and of soule. And it is lyk to homycide, for it herveth atwo and breketh atwo hem that first were maked o flessh. And therfore, by the olde lawe of God, they sholde by slayn. But nathelees, by the lawe of Jhesu Crist, that is lawe of pitee, whan he seyde to the womman that was founden in avowtrie, and sholde han been slayn with stones, after the wyl of the Jewes, as was hir lawe, "go," quod Jhesu Crist, "and have namoore wyl to synne, or, wille namoore to do synne. Soothly the vengeaunce of avowtrie is awarded to the peynes of helle, but if so be that it be destourbed by penitence. Yet been ther mo speces of this cursed synne; as whan that oon of hem is religious, or elles bothe; or of folk that been entred into ordre, as subdekne, or dekne, or preest, or hospitaliers. And evere the hyer that he is in ordre, the gretter is the synne. The thynges that gretly agreggen hire synne is the brekynge of hire avow of chastitee, whan they receyved the ordre. And forther over, sooth is that hooly ordre is chief of al the tresorie of good, and his especial signe and mark of chastitee, to shewe that they been joyned to chastitee, which that is the moost precious lyf that is. And thise ordred folk been specially titled to God, and of the special meignee of God, for which, whan they doon deedly synne, they been the special traytours of God and of his peple; for they lyven of the peple, to preye for the peple, and while they been suche traitours, here preyer avayleth nat to the peple. Preestes been aungels, as by the dignitee of hir mysterye; but for sothe, Seint Paul seith that Sathanas transformeth hym in an aungel of light. Soothly, the preest that haunteth deedly synne, he may be likned to the aungel of derknesse transformed in the aungel of light. He semeth aungel of light, but for sothe he is aungel of derknesse. Swiche preestes been the sones of helie, as sweweth in the book of kynges, that they weren the sones of Belial, that is the devel. Belial is to seyn, "withouten juge"; and so faren they; hem thynketh they been free, and han no juge, namoore than hath a free bole that taketh which cow that hym liketh in the town. So faren they by wommen. For right as a free bole is ynough for al a toun, right so is a wikked preest corrupcioun ynough for al a parisshe, or for al a contree. Thise preestes, as seith the book, ne konne nat the mysterie of preesthod to the peple, ne God ne knowe they nat. They ne helde hem nat apayd, as seith the book, of soden flessh that was to hem offred, but they tooke by force the flessh that is rawe. Certes, so thise shrewes ne holden hem nat apayed of roosted flessh and sode flessh, with which the peple feden hem in greet reverence, but they wole have raw flessh of folkes wyves and hir doghtres. And certes, thise wommen that consenten to hire harlotrie doon greet wrong to Crist, and to hooly chirche, and alle halwes, and to alle soules; for they bireven alle thise hym that sholde worshipe Crist and hooly chirche, and preye for Cristene soules. And therfore han swiche preestes, and hire lemmanes eek that consenten to hir leccherie, the malisoun of al the court Cristien, til they come to amendement. The thridde spece of avowtrie is somtyme bitwixe a man and his wyf, and that is whan they take no reward in hire assemblynge but oonly to hire flesshly delit, as seith Seint Jerome, and ne rekken of nothyng but that they been assembled; by cause that they been maried, al is good ynough, as thynketh to hem. But in swich folk hath the devel power, as seyde the aungel Raphael to Thobie, for in hire assemblynge they putten Jhesu Crist out of hire herte, and yeven hemself to alle ordure. The fourthe spece is the assemblee of hem that been of hire kynrede, or of hem that been of oon affynytee, or elles with hem with whiche hir fadres or hir kynrede han deled in the synne of lecherie. This synne maketh hem lyk to houndes, that taken no kep to kynrede. And certes, parentele is in two maneres, outher goostly or flesshly; goostly, as for to deelen with his god-sibbes. For right so as he that engendreth a child is his flesshly fader, right so in his god-fader his fader espiritueel. For which a womman may in no lasse synne assemblen with hire godsib than with hire owene flesshly brother. The fifthe spece is thilke abhomynable synne, of which that no man unnethe oghte speke ne write; nathelees it is openly reherced in holy writ. This cursednesse doon men and wommen in diverse entente and in diverse manere; but though that hooly writ speke of horrible synne, certes hooly writ may nat been defouled, namoore than the sonne that shyneth on the mixne. Another synne aperteneth to leccherie, that comth in slepynge, and this synne cometh ofte to hem that been maydenes, and eek to hem that been corrupt; and this synne men clepen polucioun, that comth in foure maneres. Somtyme of langwissynge of body, for the humours been to ranke and to habundaunt in the body of man; somtyme of infermetee, for the fieblesse of the vertu retentif, as phisik maketh mencion; somtyme for surfeet of mete and drynke; and somtyme of vileyns thoghtes that been enclosed in mannes mynde whan he gooth to slepe, which may nat been withoute synne; for which men moste kepen hem wisely, or elles may men synnen ful grevously. § 82        This is that other hand of the devil with five fingers to catch the people to his villainy. The first finger is the foolish looking of the foolish woman and of the foolish man; that slays, just as the basilisk slays people by the poison of his sight, for the desire of the eyes follows the desire of the heart. The second finger is the churlish touching in wicked manner. And therefore says Solomon that "whosoever touches and handles a woman, he fares like him that handles the scorpion that stings and suddenly slays through his poisoning envenoming"; as whosoever touches warm pitch, it injures his fingers. The third is foul words, that fares like fire, that right away burns the heart. The fourth finger is the kissing; and truly he would be a great fool that would kiss the mouth of a burning oven or of a furnace. And greater fools are they that kiss in villainy, for that mouth is the mouth of hell; and namely these old aged lechers, yet will they kiss, though they can not do, and defile themselves. Certainly, they are similar to hounds; for a hound, when he comes by the rosebush or by other (bushes), though he cannot piss, yet will he heave up his leg and make a pretence to piss. And because of that many a man supposes that he can not sin for any lechery that he does with his wife, certainly, that opinion is falls. God knows, a man can slay himself with his own knife, and make himself drunk of his own tun. Certainly, be it wife, be it child, or any worldly thing that he loves before God, it is his idol, and he is an idolater. Man should love his wife by discretion, patiently and moderately, and then is she as though it were his sister. The fifth finger of the devil's hand is the stinking deed of Lechery. Certainly, the five fingers of Gluttony the fiend put in the belly of a man, and with his five fingers of Lechery he grips him by the loins for to throw him into the furnace of hell, where they shall have the fire and the worms that ever shall last, and weeping and wailing, sharp hunger and thirst, and fierceness of devils, that shall all trample them without respite and without end. Of Lechery, as I said, arise diverse species, as fornication, that is between man and woman that are not married, and this is deadly sin and against nature. All that is enemy and destruction to nature is against nature. Indeed, the reason of a man also tells him well that it is deadly sin, forasmuch as God forbad lechery. And Saint Paul gives them the reign that is due to no person but to them that do deadly sin. Another sin of Lechery is to deprive a maiden of her maidenhood (virginity), for he that so does, certainly, he casteth a maiden out of the highest degree that is in this present life and deprives her of that precious fruit that the book calls the hundredfold fruit. I can not say it otherwise in English, but in Latin it is called Centesimus fructus Certainly, he that does so is cause of many damages and villainies, more than any man can reckon; just as he sometimes is cause of all damages that beasts do in the field, that breaks the hedge or the enclosure, through which he destroys what can not be restored. For certainly, no more can maidenhood (virginity) be restored than an arm that is cut from the body can return again to grow. She may have mercy, this know I well, if she do penitence; but never shall it be that she was not corrupted. And although it be so that I have spoken somewhat of adultery, it is good to show more dangers that belong to adultery, for to avoid that foul sin. Adultery in Latin is to say approaching of other man's bed, through which those that once were one flesh yield their bodies to other persons. Of this sin, as says the wise man, follow many harms. First, breaking of faith, and certainly in faith is the key of Christianity. And when faith is broken and lost, truly Christianity stands empty and without fruit. This sin is also a theft, for theft generally is to deprive a person of his property against his will. Certainly, this is the foulest theft that may be, when a woman steals her body from her husband and gives it to her lecher to befoul her, and steals her soul from Christ and gives it to the devil. This is a fouler theft than to break into a church and steal the chalice, for these adulterers break into the temple of God spiritually, and steal the vessel of grace, that is the body and the soul, for which Christ shall destroy them, as says Saint Paul. Truly, of this theft greatly feared Joseph, when his lord's wife prayed him to do villainy, when he said, "Lo, my lady, how my lord has given to me under my custody all that he has in this world, nor nothing of his possessions is out of my power, but only you, that are his wife. And how should I then do this wickedness, and sin so horribly against God and against my lord? God it forbid!" Alas, all too seldom is such faithfulness now found. The third harm is the filth through which they break the commandment of God, and befoul the author of matrimony, that is Christ. For certainly, insomuch as the sacrament of marriage is so noble and so worthy, so much is it greater sin to break it, for God made marriage in paradise, in the state of innocence, to multiply mankind to the service of God. And therefore is the breaking thereof the more grievous; of which breaking come false heirs oftentimes, that wrongfully occupy folk's heritages. And therefore will Christ put them out of the reign of heaven, that is the heritage of good people. Of this breaking comes also oftentimes that people unaware wed or sin with their own kin, and namely those rogues that frequent brothels of these foolish women, that must be likened to a common privy, where men purge their filth. What say we also of pimps that live by the horrible sin of prostitution, and constrain women to yield them a certain rent of their bodily prostitution, yea, sometimes of his own wife or his child, as do these bawds? Certainly, these are cursed sins. Understand also that Adultery is set commonly in the ten commandments between theft and manslaughter; for it is the greatest theft that may be, for it is theft of body and of soul. And it is similar to homicide, for it carves in two and breaks to two them that first were made one flesh. And therefore, by the old law of God, they should be slain. But nonetheless, by the law of Jesus Christ, that is law of pity, when he said to the woman that was found in adultery, and should have been slain with stones, after the will of the Jews, as was their law, "Go," said Jesus Christ, "and have no more desire to sin," or, "will no more to do sin." Truly the vengeance of Adultery is awarded to the pains of hell, unless it so be that it is disturbed by penitence. Yet are there more species of this cursed sin; as when one of them is in a religious order, or else both; or of folk that are entered into holy orders, as subdeacon, or deacon, or priest, or Knights Hospitallers. And ever the higher that he is in holy orders, the greater is the sin. The things that greatly aggravate their sin is the breaking of their avow of chastity, when they received the order. And furthermore, the truth is that holy order is chief of all the treasury of God and his especial sign and mark of chastity is to show that they are joined to chastity, which is the most precious life that is. And these ordained folk are specially dedicated to God, and of the special household of God, for which, when they do deadly sin, they are the special traitors of God and of his people; for they live off the people, to pray for the people, and while they are such traitors, their prayer avails not to the people. Priests are angels, as by the dignity of their profession; but truly, Saint Paul says that Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. Truly, the priest that practices deadly sin, he may be likened to the angel of darkness transformed into the angel of light. He seems angel of light, but truly he is angel of darkness. Such priests be the sons of Helie, kings as shows in the Book of Kings, that they were the sons of Belial, that is, the devil. Belial is to say, "without yoke." And so fare they; it seems to them that they are free and have no yoke, no more than has a bull that runs free and that takes whichever cow that he likes in the town. So fare they concerning women. For just as one free bull is enough for all a town, just so is a wicked priest corruption enough for all a parish, or for all a country. These priests, as says the book, know not the office of priesthood to the people, nor God they know not. They considered themselves not satisfied, as says the book, by cooked meat that was offered to them, but they took by force the meat that is raw. Certainly, so these rascals consider themselves not satisfied by roasted meat and boiled meat, with which the people feed them in great reverence, but rather they will have raw flesh of folk?s wives and their daughters. And certainly, these women that consent to their lechery do great wrong to Christ, and to holy church, and all saints, and to all souls; for they take away all these from him that should worship Christ and holy church and pray for Christian souls. And therefore have such priests, and their lovers also that consent to their lechery, the curse of all the ecclesiastical court, until they come to amendment. The third species of adultery is sometime between a man and his wife, and that is when in their having intercourse they take no regard but only to their fleshly delight, as says Saint Jerome, and reckon of nothing but that they have intercourse; because they are married, all is good enough, as it seems to them. But in such folk the devil has power, as said the angel Raphael to Tobias, for in their intercourse they put Jesus Christ out of their heart and give themselves to all filth. The fourth species is the intercourse of those that are of their relationship by blood, or of those that are related by marriage, or else with them with which their fathers or their kinsmen have dealt in the sin of lechery. This sin makes them similar to hounds, that pay no attention to kinship. And certainly, kinship is in two manners, either spiritual or fleshly; spiritual, as for to deal with the children of one's godparents. For just as he that engenders a child is his fleshly father, just so his godfather is his father spiritual. For which a woman may have intercourse with her spiritual kin in no less sin than with her own fleshly brother. The fifth species is that abominable sin, of which no man hardly ought to speak nor write; nonetheless it is openly narrated in holy writ. This cursedness do men and women in diverse intent and in a variety of ways; but though that holy writ speak of horrible sin, certainly holy writ can not be befouled, no more than the sun that shines on the dung hill. Another sin pertains to lechery, that comes in sleeping, and this sin comes often to them that are maidens, and also to them that are corrupt; and this sin men call pollution, that comes in four manners. Sometimes of weakness of body, for the humors are too profuse and too abundant in the body of man; sometimes of infirmity, for the feebleness of the power to retain fluids, as the science of medicine physic makes mention; sometimes for surfeit of food and drink; and sometimes of churlish thoughts that are enclosed in man's mind when he goes to sleep, which can not be without sin; for which men must guard themselves wisely, or else may men sin very grievously.

Next Next:
From The Parson's Tale, paragraph 83:
The remedy against the sin of Lechery: chastity and continence