The Canterbury Tales

by: Geoffrey Chaucer

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With him ther rood a gentil PARDONER.
670Of Rouncival, his freend and his compeer,
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome.
Ful loude he song, ‘Com hider, love, to me.’
This somnour bar to him a stif burdoun,
Was never trompe of half so greet a soun.
This pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex,
But smothe it heng, as dooth a strike of flex;
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
And ther-with he his shuldres overspradde;
But thinne it lay, by colpons oon and oon;
680But hood, for Iolitee, ne wered he noon,
For it was trussed up in his walet.
Him thoughte, he rood al of the newe Iet;
Dischevele, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
Swiche glaringe eyen hadde he as an hare.
A vernicle hadde he sowed on his cappe.
His walet lay biforn him in his lappe,
Bret-ful of pardoun come from Rome al hoot.
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot.
No berd hadde he, ne never sholde have,
690As smothe it was as it were late y-shave;
I trowe he were a gelding or a mare.
But of his craft, fro Berwik into Ware,
Ne was ther swich another pardoner.
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
Which that, he seyde, was our lady veyl:
He seyde, he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That sëynt Peter hadde, whan that he wente
Upon the see, til Iesu Crist him hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun, ful of stones,
700And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A povre person dwelling upon lond,
Upon a day he gat him more moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye.
And thus, with feyned flaterye and Iapes,
He made the person and the peple his apes.
But trewely to tellen, atte laste,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste.
Wel coude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
710But alderbest he song an offertorie;
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
He moste preche, and wel affyle his tonge,
To winne silver, as he ful wel coude;
Therefore he song so meriely and loude.
With the summoner rode a PARDONER from the hospital at Rouncivalle near London, a man who sold official pardons to criminals after hearing their confessions to God. He had eyes that popped out of his head like a rabbit’s and a voice that sounded like the bleating of a goat. He didn’t have a beard either, and I don’t think he ever will have one. His face was always as smooth as if he had just shaven. His thin blond hair was as yellow as wax and hung in straight, stringy wisps from his head. Just for fun, he kept his hood packed up in his bag, thinking that without it he’d look cooler and more stylish with his hair falling over his shoulders. Instead, he wore only a cap that had a patch sewn on it, showing that he’d been to Rome to see the veil of St. Veronica with Jesus’ face on it. In fact, he’d just come back from Rome, and the bag he carried on his lap was stuffed full of letters of pardon for him to sell. He and the summoner were close friends and together would belt out rounds of the song “Come here, my love.” Not even a trumpet was half as loud as the summoner. I’m pretty sure the pardoner was either a eunuch or gay. Still, he was one of the most interesting pardoners in all of England. He carried a pillowcase in his bag that he claimed contained a bunch of holy objects, including Mary’s veil, a piece of canvas from the sails of Saint Peter’s fishing boat, a crucifix made of brass and jewels, and even a jar of pig bones. He could make more money in a day charging country bumpkins and priests to see these “relics” than those priests could earn in two months. And so, through flattery and deceit he’d make fools out of the countryfolk and their priests. But, to give him credit, he took churchgoing seriously and could read lessons and stories from the Bible well. And he was best at singing the offertory song because he knew he had to sing loudly and happily if he wanted people to donate their money.