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Povera e nuda vai, Filosofia.
Naked and poor goest thou, Philosophy.
But the twenty books at the bed's head pay for all.
13“ And gladly wold he lerne and gladly teche.”—The consumma. tion of a real unaffected lover of knowledge. Yet I cannot help being of opinion with Warton, that the three lines beginning “not a word spake he,” are intended to imply a little innocent pedantry. Tyrwhitt supposes the credit of good letters to be concerned in our thinking otherwise. (Moxon's edition of Chau. cer, p. 175.) But Chaucer thought that good letters could bear a little banter, without losing their credit. All purely serious scholars in those times had a tendency to pedantry and formality. Chaucer only escaped it himself by dint of the gayer part of his genius.
13 “ No wher so besy a man as he ther n'as ;
And yet he seměd besier than he was.”
One is never tired of repeating this exquisite couplet. So Lawyer Dowling, in Tom Jones, wishes he could cut himself into I forget how many pieces, in order that he might see to all the affairs which he had to settle.
15“ His barge yclepěd was the Magdelaine.”—This gentle peniten. tial name has a curious effect in connection with a man who had no nicety of conscience. Was it meant to show the frequently irrelevant nature of the names of ships ? or to imply that the rough seaman had a soft corner in his heart for penitents of the fair saint's description? The line about the tempest-shaken beard is an effusion of the finest poetry. It invests the homely man with a sudden grandeur; as though a storm itself had riser in the horizon, dignifying his rude vessel with danger.
THE FRIAR'S TALE;
THE SUMMONER AND THE DEVIL.
A Summoner finds himself riding in company with a Devil, and makes an agreement with him which turns out to be of an unexpected nature.
A Summoner was a church officer, who cited offenders into the ecclesiastical court. The friars and the dignified clergy were at great variance in Chaucer's time; and therefore it is a friar who relates the following amusing and exquisitely complete story, in which I have omitted nothing but a superfluous exor. dium.
-And so befell, that oněs on a day
Sire, quod the Sompnour, haile and wel atake.
Welcome, quod he, and every good felàw.
A summoner, who was ever on the watch for prey, rode forth one morn. ing to cheat a poor old woman, against whom he pretended to have a complaint. His track lay by a forest-side ; and it chanced, that he saw before him, under the trees, a yeoman on horseback, gaily equipped with a bow and arrows. The stranger was in a short green cloak : and he had a hat with a black fringe.
“Good-morrow, sir," quoth the summoner, overtaking him.
“ The same to you,” quoth the yeoman, "and to every other jolly companion. What road are you bound upon to-day through the green wood ? Are you going far?”
* Ribibe was a word for the musical instrument called also a rebec (a sort of guitar). Why it was applied to old women the commentators can not say; Tyrwhitt thinks, perhaps on account of its sharp tone.
This Sompnour him answerd, and saide, Nay,
De par Dieux, quod this yeman, leve brother,
Grand mercy, quod this Sompnour, by my faith.
This Sompnour, which that was as ful of jangles,
This yeman him answerd in softè speche,
“ No," replied the summoner. “My business is close at hand. I'm only going about a rent that's owing to my master.”
“ Oh, what, you are a bailiff, then?" quoth the yeoman.
“ Just so," returned the summoner. He had not the face to own himn. self what he was ; the very name of summoner was such a disgrace.
“ Well now ; that's good," said the stranger; “ for I'm a bailiff myself; and as I am not very well acquainted with this part of the country, I shall be glad of your good offices, if you have no objection to my company. I have plenty of money at home; so if you travel into our parts, you shall want for nothing."
“ Many thanks,” cried the summoner; “I'm yours, with all my heart.”
The new friends gave their hands to one another, and pushed on their horses merrily.
The summoner, who always had an eye to business, and was besides of an inquisitive nature, and as fond of poking his nose into everything as a wood-pecker, lost no time in asking the stranger where he lived, in case he should come to see him. The yeoman, in a tone of singular gentleness, answered, that he should
Brother, quod he, fer in the north contrèe,*
Now brother, quod this Sompnour, I you pray
Now by my trouthě, brother min, said he,
Now certes (quod this Sompnour) so fare l ;
be very glad of his visit; that he lived indeed a great way off, in the north ; but that before they parted, he would instruct him so well in the locality, that it should be impossible for him to miss it.
“Good,” returned the summoner. “And now, as we are of one accord and one occupation, pray let me into a secret or two, how I may prosper in my employment. Don't mince the matter as to conscience or sin, or any of that kind of nonsense ; but tell me plainly how you transact busiDess yourself.
“ Why, to say the truth,” answered the yeoman, “I have a very hard master and very little wages; and so I live by extortion. I take all that people give me, and a good deal more besides. I couldn't make both ends meet else ; and that's the plain fact.”
“ Precisely my case,” cried the summoner. “ I take everything I can lay my hands on, unless it be too heavy or too hot. To the devil with
• The supposed locality of devils.
Stomak ne conscïence know I non;
Brother, quod he, wolt thou that I thee tell ?
A, quod this Sompnour, benedicite! what say ye?
Nay, certainly, quod he, ther have we non;
conscience and repentance, say I. Catch me at confession who can. Well are we met, by the Lord. What is your name, my dear fellow ?"
The yeoman began smiling a little at this question. “Why, if you must know," quoth he,“ my name, betwixt you and me, is Devil. I I am a fiend, and live in hell ; and I am riding hereabouts to see what I can get. Your business and mine is precisely the same. You don't care how you get anything provided you succeed ; nor do I. I'll ride to the world's end, for instance, this very morning, sooner than not meet with a prey.”
“God bless me,” cried the summoner, crossing himself, “ a devil' do you say? I thought you were a man like myself. You have a man's shape. Have you no particular shape then of your own ?"
“Not a bit of it,” quoth the stranger. “ We take what likeness we please; sometimes a man's, sometimes a monkey's; nay, an angel's, if it suits us. And no marvel. For a common juggler can deceive your eyes in such matters; and it is hard if a devil can’i do it better than a juggler."