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- Playful Poems - 6/35 -

And then he swore on ale and bread, How that the giant should be dead, Whatever should betide!

27. His boots were glazed right curiously, His sword-sheath was of ivory, His helm all brassy bright; His saddle was of jet-black bone, His bridle like the bright sun shone, Or like the clear moons light,

28. His spear was of the cypress tree, That bodeth battle right and free; The point full sharp was ground; His steed it was a dapple grey, That goeth an amble on the way, Full softly and full round.

29. Lo! lordlings mine, here ends one fytte Of this my tale, a gallant strain; And if ye will hear more of it, I'll soon begin again.


1. Now hold your speech for charity, Both gallant knight and lady free, And hearken to my song Of battle and of chivalry, Of ladies' love and minstrelsy, All ambling thus along.

2. Men speak much of old tales, I know; Of Hornchild, Ipotis, also Of Bevis and Sir Guy; Of Sire Libeaux, and Pleindamour; But Sire Thopas, he is the flower Of real chivalry.

3. Now was his gallant steed bestrode, And forth upon his way he rode, As spark flies from a brand; Upon his crest he bare a tower, And therein stuck a lily flower: Save him from giant hand.

4. He was a knight in battle bred, And in no house would seek his bed, But laid him in the wood; His pillow was his helmet bright, - His horse grazed by him all the night On herbs both fine and good.

5. And he drank water from the well, As did the knight Sir Percival, So worthy under weed; Till on a day -

[Here Chaucer is interrupted in his Rime.]


"No more of this, for Heaven's high dignity!" Quoth then our Host, "for, lo! thou makest me So weary of thy very simpleness, That all so wisely may the Lord me bless, My very ears, with thy dull rubbish, ache. Now such a rime at once let Satan take. This may be well called 'doggrel rime,'" quoth he. "Why so?" quoth I; "why wilt thou not let me Tell all my tale, like any other man, Since that it is the best rime that I can?" "Mass!" quoth our Host, "if that I hear aright, Thy scraps of rhyming are not worth a mite; Thou dost nought else but waste away our time:- Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer rhyme."


There lived, sirs, in my country, formerly, A wondrous great archdeacon,--who but he? Who boldly did the work of his high station In punishing improper conversation, And all the slidings thereunto belonging; Witchcraft, and scandal also, and the wronging Of holy Church, by blinking of her dues In sacraments and contracts, wills and pews; Usury furthermore, and simony; But people of ill lives most loathed he: Lord! how he made them sing if they were caught. And tithe-defaulters, ye may guess, were taught Never to venture on the like again; To the last farthing would he rack and strain. For stinted tithes, or stinted offering, He made the people piteously to sing. He left no leg for the good bishop's crook; Down went the black sheep in his own black book; For when the name gat there, such dereliction Came, you must know, sirs, in his jurisdiction.

He had a Sumner ready to his hand; A slyer bully filched not in the land; For in all parts the villain had his spies To let him know where profit might arise. Well could he spare ill livers, three or four, To help his net to four-and-twenty more. 'Tis truth. Your Sumner may stare hard for me; I shall not screen, not I, his villainy; For heaven be thanked, laudetur Dominus, They have no hold, these cursed thieves, on us; Nor never shall have, let 'em thieve till doom.

["No," cried the Sumner, starting from his gloom, "Nor have we any hold, Sir Shaven-crown, On your fine flock, the ladies of the town." "Peace, with a vengeance," quoth our Host, "and let The tale be told. Say on, thou marmoset, Thou lady's friar, and let the Sumner sniff."]

"Well," quoth the Friar; "this Sumner, this false thief, Had scouts in plenty ready to his hand, Like any hawks, the sharpest in the land, Watching their birds to pluck, each in his mew, Who told him all the secrets that they knew, And lured him game, and gat him wondrous profit; Exceeding little knew his master of it. Sirs, he would go, without a writ, and take Poor wretches up, feigning it for Christ's sake, And threatening the poor people with his curse, And all the while would let them fill his purse, And to the alehouse bring him by degrees, And then he'd drink with them, and slap his knees For very mirth, and say 'twas some mistake. Judas carried the bag, sirs, for Christ's sake, And was a thief; and such a thief was he; His master got but sorry share, pardie. To give due laud unto this Satan's imp, He was a thief, a Sumner, and a pimp.

Wenches themselves were in his retinue; So whether 'twas Sir Robert, or Sir Hugh, Or Jack, or Ralph, that held the damsel dear, Come would she then, and tell it in his ear: Thus were the wench and he of one accord; And he would feign a mandate from his lord, And summon them before the court, those two, And pluck the man, and let the mawkin go. Then would he say, "Friend, for thine honest look, I save thy name, this once, from the black book; Thou hear'st no further of this case."--But, Lord! I might not in two years his bribes record. There's not a dog alive, so speed my soul, Knoweth a hurt deer better from a whole Than this false Sumner knew a tainted sheep, Or where this wretch would skulk, or that would sleep, Or to fleece both was more devoutly bent; And reason good; his faith was in his rent.

And so befell, that once upon a day, This Sumner, prowling ever for his prey, Rode forth to cheat a poor old widowed soul, Feigning a cause for lack of protocol, And as he went, he saw before him ride A yeoman gay under the forest side. A bow he bare, and arrows bright and keen; And he was clad in a short cloak of green, And wore a hat that had a fringe of black.

"Sir," quoth this Sumner, shouting at his back, "Hail, and well met."--"Well met," like shouteth he; "Where ridest thou under the greenwood tree? Goest thou far, thou jolly boy, to-day?" This bully Sumner answered, and said, "Nay, Only hard-by, to strain a rent."--"Hoh! hoh! Art thou a bailiff then?"--"Yea, even so." For he durst not, for very filth and shame, Say that he was a Sumner, for the name. "Well met, in God's name," quoth black fringe; "why, brother, Thou art a bailiff then, and I'm another; But I'm a stranger in these parts; so, prythee, Lend me thine aid, and let me journey with thee. I've gold and silver, plenty, where I dwell; And if thou hap'st to come into our dell, Lord! how we'll do our best to give thee greeting!" "Thanks," quoth the Sumner; "merry be our meeting."

Playful Poems - 6/35

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