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‘By seinte Marie,’ seyde this taverner,
‘The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer,
Henne over a myle, with-in a greet village,
Both man and womman, child and hyne, and page.
I trowe his habitacioun be there;
To been avysed greet wisdom it were,
Er that he dide a man a dishonour.’
“By St. Mary,” interrupted the bartender, “the kid is right. This year alone, Death has killed men, women, children, laborers, and wealthier folk alike in a large village just about a mile from here. I reckon Death probably lives there, and we’d be wise to be on guard in case we happen to meet him.”
230‘Ye, Goddes armes,’ quod this ryotour,
‘Is it swich peril with him for to mete?
I shal him seke by wey and eek by strete,
I make avow to Goddes digne bones!
Herkneth, felawes, we three been al ones;
Lat ech of us holde up his hond til other,
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother,
And we wol sleen this false traytour Deeth;
He shal be slayn, which that so many sleeth,
By Goddes dignitee, er it be night.’
“By God’s arms!” said one of the rogues. “Is he really that deadly? Then I swear to God that I’ll search all the streets and hunt him down! My friends, are you thinking what I’m thinking? Let’s all grab hands and take an oath so that the three of us become brothers. We’ll vow to kill this villain Death who has killed so many people. We’ll find him and cut him down before nightfall!”
240Togidres han thise three her trouthes plight,
To live and dyen ech of hem for other,
As though he were his owene y-boren brother.
And up they sterte al dronken, in this rage,
And forth they goon towardes that village,
Of which the taverner had spoke biforn,
And many a grisly ooth than han they sworn,
And Cristes blessed body they to-rente—
‘Deeth shal be deed, if that they may him hente.’
Together the three delinquents swore to live and die for the others just as if they’d been blood brothers from birth. Then they stood up, furious and very drunk, and set out for that village the bartender had told them about. On their way, they swore like sailors to kill Death, and they tore Christ’s body apart with their foul language.