Geoffrey Chaucer is an English writer and poet who was born in London in the 1340s and died in 1400 in that same city. His most famous work is Canterbury Tales. The Canterbury Tales are, with Sire Gauvain and the Green Knight (from an anonymous person) and Peter the Plowman (by William Langland), the very first great works of English literature. Here is the first tale: the forgiver.
"Messeigneurs, (he said,) when I preach in the churches
330I take great pains to have the verb high,
and to ring my voice as round as a bell:
because I know everything by heart what I'm saying.
My text is still the same and always has been:
" Radix malorum est cupiditas ".
First I announce where I come from,
and then I show my bubbles from first to last.
The seal of our lord lies on my letters patent,
I show it first, to protect myself,
so that no one is bold enough, priest or cleric,
340to tear me away from the holy ministry of Christ;
then after that when I tell my stories;
bubbles of popes and cardinals,
of patriarchs and bishops, this is what I show;
and i say a few words in latin
to uphold my prone,
and excite people to devotion.
When I produce my long crystal stones,
all stuffed with rags and bones;
they are relics of what everyone believes.
350Then I have a shoulder blade in a copper box
having belonged to the sheep of a holy Jew.
“Good people,” I said, “beware of my words:
that if this bone is soaked in a well,
if cow, or calf, or sheep, or beef swells,
a snake has bitten or a viper has stung,
take the water from this well and wash its tongue,
and here he is healed; then in addition,
pustules and scabies and any other ailments
will be healed any sheep that in this well
360take a sip; take care again what I am going to say:
that if the brave man who owns these beasts
wants every week, before the rooster crows,
on an empty stomach, take a sip from this well
as this holy Jew taught our ancestors,
his beasts and his stock will multiply;
and, sirs, its water also cures jealousy;
for is a man angry with jealousy?
with this water we make our soup,
and he will never distrust his wife again,
370did he know the truth about his faults,
had she taken two or three priests.
Here is one more mitten that you can see:
who will pass his hand through this mitten
will see its grain multiply
when he has sown, whether it is wheat or oats,
provided that it offers sols or deniers.
Good people, men and women, of one thing I warn you:
if there is anyone in this church
380who committed a sin so horrible that he
dare not, with shame, confess,
or if he is any woman either young or old,
who made her cuckold husband,
those will have neither the power nor the grace
to make an offering to my relics in this place.
And whoever is safe from such blame,
come forward and make an offering in the name of God,
and I abscond it by authority
which was granted to me by bubble. "
Through these tricks, I won, year after year,
390one hundred marks since I am a forgiver.
I stand like a clerk in my pulpit,
and when the ignorant people are seated,
I preach, as I said above,
and tells a hundred false nonsense again.
Then I struggle to tighten the collar well,
and to the east and to the west, above the people, I make my head go,
like a pigeon perched on a barn.
My hands and my tongue go so fast
how happy it is to see me work.
400It's about greed and abominations like that
that all my sermon carries, to engage them
to yawn their soil, and mainly to me.
Cause my only design is to win
and not to correct sinners.
It doesn't matter to me when they are buried,
may their souls go pick the blackberries from the hedges.
Because, of course, more than one sermon
often comes with bad intentions:
some to please people and flatter them,
410and push themselves forward by hypocrisy;
some out of vain glory, others out of hatred;
because, when I dare not quarrel with a man in any other way,
so i give a stinging sting with my tongue
while preaching, so that he does not avoid
to be falsely defamed, if he
sinned against my brothers or against me.
Because, although I do not say his proper name,
people know who I'm talking about
to certain signs and other circumstances.
420It is the currency for which I am paying that displeases us;
this is how I spit out my venom, under color
of holiness, to appear holy and honest.
But, briefly, I'll tell you my purpose:
I never preach except out of lust;
and so my text is still, and always has been:
" Radix malorum is cupiditas. "
So I can preach against vice itself
that I practice, and that is greed.
But, if I myself am guilty of this sin,
430I can, however, make others leave
avarice and having stinging remorse.
But that is not my main purpose.
I never preach except out of lust;
on this subject, that is enough.
Then I give them over and over again
old stories from days gone by,
for ignorant people love old tales;
these are things they know how to bring back and remember.
What! do you think, as long as I can preach
440by winning gold and silver by what I teach,
that I will live voluntarily in poverty?
No no ! in fact, I never thought of it.
I want to preach and beg in different countries;
I don't want to do my own work,
nor make baskets and make a living from this profession,
because I don't want to beg for nothing.
I don't want to imitate any of the apostles;
I want to have money, wool, cheese and wheat,
were they given by the poorest page,
450or by the poorest widow in a village,
even if his children die of hunger.
Parbleu! I want to drink the juice of the vine,
to have a cheerful bitch in every town.
Hate, look! Messeigneurs, to conclude:
your desire is for me to tell a tale.
But that, I drank a shot of strong beer;
by God I hope to tell you one thing,
which, of course, is to your liking.
Because, if I myself am a very vicious man,
460I can however tell you a moral tale
which I have become accustomed to preaching, for gain.
But be silent! I will start my tale. "
In Flanders, once upon a time there was a gang
young people addicted to follies,
like orgies and a game of chance; haunting brothels and taverns,
where, to the sound of harps, lutes and guitars,
they dance and play dice, day and night,
and eat and drink more than they can hold;
how they sacrifice to the devil
the very temple of the devil, cursedly,
out of abominable superfluity.
Their oaths are so big and so damnable
how terrible it is to hear them sacred;
they tear to pieces the blessed body of Our Lord;
they thought the Jews hadn't torn it up enough!
and each of them laughed at the sin of the other.
And immediately dancers appear
pretty and petite, young fruit sellers,
singers with harps, prostitutes, vendors of forgetting,
480who are true servants of the devil
to kindle and fan the fire of lust,
which is linked to gluttony;
I take Holy Scripture as witness
that lust is in wine and drunkenness.
See how, in his drunkenness, Lot, unnatural,
lay down beside his two daughters, unwittingly;
so drunk he was that he didn't know what he was doing.
Herod - if we read the stories correctly -
when at his feast he was gorged with wine,
490at his table gave the order
to kill John the Baptist completely innocent.
Seneca also says a wise word, surely;
he says he could not find a difference
between man having lost his mind
and a drinker,
except that madness falling on a villain
lasts longer than drunkenness.
O gluttony, full of curses,
O primary cause of our confusion,
500O origin of our damnation,
until Christ redeemed us with his blood!
See, to speak briefly, of what price
this accursed villainy was paid for;
corrupted was this whole world by gluttony.
Adam, our father, and his wife too.
far from Paradise, towards work and misery,
were driven out for this vice, it is certain;
for while Adam fasted, from what I have read,
he was in Paradise; and since he had
510eaten, on the tree, of the forbidden fruit
immediately he was banished into misfortune and suffering.
O gluttony! it is fitting that we accuse you!
Oh ! if man knew how many diseases
follow excesses and gluttony,
it would be more moderate
in his regime, seated at his table.
Alas! short throat and choosy
make that east and west, and north and south,
in the earth, in the air and in the water, men toil
520to provide the glutton with delicate meats and drinks!
On this subject, O Paul, you know how to speak very well.
"Meats for the belly, and belly for the meats,
God will destroy them both ”, as Saint Paul says.
Alas, it's disgusting thing, by my faith,
to utter that word, but more disgusting is the act itself;
when the man drinks so much and white and red,
he makes his throat his latrine
by such abominable superfluity.
The apostle, weeping, said very piteously:
530“There are many that I told you about;
I tell you now crying and in a pitiful voice
that they are enemies of the cross of Christ;
whose end will be perdition, who have their belly for god.
O belly! oh paunch! oh smelly bag
filled with manure and corruption,
what a poisonous noise at each of your ends!
how much labor and money it costs to satisfy you!
These cooks, see them grind and strain and grind,
and change the substance into an accident
540to satisfy all gluttonous appetites;
hard bones they extract
the marrow, because they waste nothing
of that which is sweet and sweet to the throat;
spices, leaves and bark and roots
your sauce should be made deliciously
to give you a whole new appetite.
But, of course, who pursues such delights
is dead, while he lives in these vices.
Wine and drunkenness are lustful
550and full of quarrels and miseries.
O drunkard, your face is disfigured,
your breath smells sour, you are disgusting to kiss,
and through your drunken nose it seems the sound
that we always hear is: samson, samson.
And yet, God knows, Samson never drank wine.
You fall like a shackled pig;
your language is lost and all concern for honesty,
because drunkenness is the real tomb
of the spirit of man and of his prudence.
560Who lets himself be dominated by the drink
does not know how to keep a secret, that is quite certain;
but that, beware of white and red,
and especially white wine from Lépé
that we put on sale in Fish Street or Cheapside.
This Spanish wine slips subtly
in other wines growing nearby ;
it produces when such fumes
that when a man has drunk three mouthfuls of it
and thinks to be at home in Cheapside,
570he is in Spain in the very town of Lepe,
not in La Rochelle, or in the city of Bordeaux;
and it is then that he will say: samson, samson.
But, behold, my lords, one word I beg of you:
it is certain that the glorious exploits
in the victories of the Old Testament,
by the grace of the true God who is omnipotent,
were accomplished in abstinence and prayer.
See in the Bible, that's where you can learn it.
See Attila, the great conqueror,
580who died in his sleep, with shame and dishonor,
endless bleeding from the nose in his intoxication:
a captain must live soberly.
And above all, please consider
what was ordered to Lamuel, -
it is not Samuel, but Lamuel that I am saying, -
read the bible and you will see expressly
whether to give wine to those who judge.
I say no more because that may well be enough.
And now that I've spoken of gluttony,
590now I am going to ban you from gambling.
The game is the real father of lies,
deceit and accursed perjury,
blasphemies against Christ, murder and also loss
good and time; and further
it's a shame and a dishonor
to be considered a vulgar player.
And the higher you are
the more we'll go avoiding you.
That if a prince plays games,
600in any act of government and politics,
according to common opinion
he therefore loses his reputation.
Stilbon, who was a wise ambassador,
was sent to Corinth with great pomp,
of Lacedaemon, to conclude an alliance there.
And when he did, it happened by fortune,
that the greatest of this country
he found them playing dice.
This why, as soon as he could,
610secretly he returned to his country,
and said, "I don't want to lose my name over there,
nor do I want to take upon myself so great a shame
than to ally yourself with dice players.
Send other wise ambassadors,
Because, by my faith, I'd rather die
than to ally yourself with dice players;
for you, who have so much glory and honor,
will not ally yourself with dice players
of my own accord or by treaty with which I would be responsible. "
620This wise philosopher, that's how he spoke.
Hear again that at King Demetrius
king of the Parthians, so says the book,
scornfully sent a pair of golden dice,
for what he had played before,
what he considered his glory and his fame
as worthless and without any price.
Lords can find other kinds
games honest enough to kill the day
Now am I going to talk about false oaths and big oaths,
630say a word or two according to the ancients books.
Big oaths are an abominable thing,
and false oaths are even more reprehensible.
The mighty God forbade to swear at all,
witness Mathieu; but in particular
Saint Jeremiah says, speaking of oaths:
"May your oaths be true and not lying,
and sworn with justice and also with righteousness. "
But swearing in vain is a curse.
Consider that at the first table
640of the venerable commandments of the Most High,
the second commandment is as follows:
“Do not take my name in vain or wrongly. "
Hear, he defends swearing like that before
homicide or many other cursed things.
It comes well in the order I say.
They know well those who understand these commandments
that the second commandment of God is this.
And much more, I will put it bluntly:
the punishment will not depart from the house
650of one who is too outrageous in his oaths.
"By the precious heart of God, and by his nails,
and by the blood of Christ which is in Hailes,
my luck is seven, and yours five and three ;
by the arms of god, if you cheat at the game
this dagger pierces your heart. "
This is the fruit of the two dice of misfortune:
perjury, anger, falsehood, homicide.
Now therefore, for the sake of Christ who died for us
quit your swearing, big and small.
660But, sirs, I will now continue my story.
These three debauchery I'm talking about,
long before the bells rang prime,
had sat down in a tavern to drink;
and as they were there they heard a bell ringing
in front of a body that was carried to its grave,
so that one of them began to call his valet:
"Go quickly, (he said,) and ask right away
what body goes through here,
and see to tell me his name. "
670“Sir, (said the child,) there is no need;
I was told two hours before your arrival here;
it was, pardieu, an old comrade of yours,
which suddenly was slain that night;
he was very drunk, lying at full length on his bench,
when a stealthy thief came called Death,
who in this country kills all the people,
who with his spear split his heart in two,
and went his way without another word.
He killed a thousand in the plague,
680and, master, before coming into his presence,
seems to me that it would be necessary
to beware of such an adversary:
always be ready to meet him,
that's what my mother taught me, I say no more. "
- "By Sainte Marie, (said the innkeeper,)
this child is telling the truth, because he killed this year,
more than a mile from here, in a large village,
man, woman, child, manant and page.
I believe he lives around there.
690To be on guard would be great wisdom
before he can hurt anyone. "
- " What ! by the arms of God, (says our debauchery,)
is it such a danger to meet him?
I will seek him by way and by road,
I vow it by the sacred bones of Christ.
Listen, comrades, the three of us are one;
May each of us reach out to each other,
and let each be a brother to the other,
and we will kill this traitorous felon of Death.
700We will kill him, he who has killed so many,
by the dignity of God, and before it is night. "
And together these three swore their faith
to live and die for each other
as if they were born brothers.
And they went away drunk in their anger,
and off they go to this village
which the innkeeper had spoken of before.
They swore a lot of horrible oaths
and tore the blessed body of Christ to pieces:
710 "They will put Death to death if they will only take him." "
They hadn't gone as long as half a mile,
just as they were about to cross a barrier,
an old and poor man they met.
This old man greeted them very humbly
and spoke thus: “Now, lords, God preserve you! "
The boldest of these three debauchery
"What is this?" ugly looking sad,
why are you so wrapped up except the face?
why do you live so long at such a great age? "
720This old man began to look him in the face
and thus said: "It is because I cannot find
a man, when I walk to India,
neither in cities nor in any village,
who would like to trade their youth for my age,
and that's why I have to keep my age
as long as God wills.
Death itself, alas! don't want to take my life
I walk like this like a restless captive,
and on the floor which is my mother's door
730I strike with my stick morning and evening,
and say, "Dear mother, let me in!"
See how I faint flesh and blood and skin
Alas, when will my bones be at rest?
Mother, I would like you to exchange the trunk for me
who has been in my room for a long time,
Yes Da ! for a sheet of haire in which to wrap myself. "
But she has not yet wanted to do me this favor,
for which my face is all pale and withered.
But, sirs, it is not courteous to you
740to talk harshly to an old man,
if you are not lacking in words or deeds.
In Sacred Scripture you can read yourself:
"In front of an old man with a bald head
you have to get up ”; also I give you this advice,
do no more harm to an old man now
that you wouldn't want us to do
in your old age, if you last until then;
and God be with you, wherever you go on foot or on horseback.
For me, I have to go where I have to go. "
750"No, old boor, pardieu you will not go,
(said the other player immediately 😉
you will not leave so easily, by Saint John!
You spoke at the moment of Death, this traitor,
who in this country occit all our friends.
I give you my faith, as true as you are his spy,
say where he is, or he'll kill you,
by God and by the Blessed Sacrament!
Because in truth you agree with him
to kill us all, young people, old felon thief! "
760“Hey! well, Messires, (said the other,) if you have such desire
to find Death, turn this winding path,
because in this little wood I left it, by my faith,
under a tree and it is there that he dwells;
all your bravado will not make him hide.
Do you see this oak? that's where you'll find it.
God save you who redeemed mankind,
and fine you! So said this old man.
And each of these debauchery ran away,
until he came to that tree and found there
770in fine gold florins, well struck
close to eight bushels it seemed to them;
so no longer went in search of Death,
but each of them was so happy at the sight,
for the florins were so beautiful and so brilliant,
that they sat down beside this precious treasure.
The worst of the three says the first word:
“My brethren,” he said, “beware of what I say;
I have a big mind although I joke and laugh.
This treasure, fortune gave it to us
780so that in joy and jubilation we can live our life,
and since it came easily to us, we will spend it in the same way.
Oh ! by the precious dignity of God! who would have thought
today that we would have such a good time?
If only that gold could get swept away from this place
at home in my house or in yours
(because you know very well that all this gold is ours)
we would then have great happiness
But really during the day you cannot:
people would say that we are staunch thieves,
790and for this treasure of our own they would hang us.
We must take away this night treasure
as cleverly and secretly as possible.
I therefore recommend that we draw a straw
between the three of us and see who will scrape the straw;
and who will have it, with a happy heart
will run to the city and that at the earliest,
and will bring us wine and bread in great secrecy;
and two of us will cleverly guard
this treasure, and, if the other does not linger,
800when it gets dark we will carry this treasure
by mutual agreement where we deem best. "
One of them took the straws in his fist
and told them to shoot to see where the spell fell,
and he fell on the youngest of them all;
and he went straight to the city,
and, as soon as he was gone,
the first spoke thus to the other:
“You know very well that you are my sworn brother;
I'll tell you straight on how to make your profit.
810You know very well that our comrade is gone;
and here is the gold, and there is a lot planted
which must be divided among the three of us.
But yet if I could make it so
that it was divided between the two of us,
would I not have done you a service of friend? "
The other replied: “Don't know how that can be;
he knows the gold is with both of us;
what will we do, what will we say to him? "
"Will it be a secret?" (said the first rascal)
in this case I will tell you in a few words
830what we'll do to get it done. "
"I promise, (said the other,) that of course,
on my faith, I will not betray you. "
"Now that, (said the first,) you know very well that we are two
and that we two will be stronger than one.
Take care when he is seated, and immediately
stand up as if you wanted to play with him;
and I will pierce it through and through
while you will fight with him as if to laugh;
830and with your dagger think of doing the same;
and then all that gold will be distributed,
my dear friend, between you and me;
then we can both fulfill our desires
and play dice all our drunk. "
So these two rascals agreed
to kill the third, as you heard me say.
The youngest, who was going to the city,
very often in his heart rolls and returns
the beauty of these shiny new florins.
840 “O Lord! (he said,) if it could be
that I had the treasure all to myself,
he is not a man living below the throne
of God, who would live as happy as I! "
And finally the demon, our enemy,
took it into his head to buy poison,
enough to kill his two comrades;
because the demon found him in such a state of life
that he had permission to lead him to harm;
and so our man firmly took the resolution
to kill them both and never repent.
850So he goes, not wanting to linger,
to the city, to an apothecary,
and begged him to sell him
poison to kill his rats;
and there was also a polecat in his pen,
who, he said, had killed his capons,
and he would have liked to avenge himself, if he could,
vermin that hurt him at night.
The apothecary replied: "Yes, you will have
860such as (on my soul God save!)
he is not a creature in the whole world
who eats or drinks this jam,
even the size of a grain of wheat,
without immediately losing their life;
yes, she will die, and in less time
that you will not do a mile on foot
so strong and violent is this poison. "
The accursed one took in his hand
a bunch of this poison, and then ran
870in the neighboring street at someone's house
to borrow three large bottles from him;
and, in two, he poured out his poison,
the third he kept it pure for his own drink,
because all night long he was getting ready to sweat
by transporting the gold away from the place.
And when this debauchery (God give him bad luck!)
had filled his three large bottles with wine,
he returned to his comrades.
Is there a need to preach more?
880Because, just as they had planned his death,
all so they killed him immediately.
And when it was done, one spoke thus:
"Now let's sit down, and drink, and cheer up
and then we will bury his body. "
El at these words it happened to him by chance
to take the bottle where the poison was,
he drank and also offered a drink to his friend,
from which they both died immediately.
But, of course, I suppose that Avicennes
890never described, in a canon nor any fen,
more wonderful signs of poisoning
that these two wretches did not have before their end.
So ended these two homicides
and likewise the perfidious poisoner too.
O cursed sin, full of curse!
O homicidal traitors, O wickedness!
O gluttony, lust and play!
O you who blasphemes Christ with villainy
and with great oaths, out of habit and pride!
O cursed sin, full of curse!
900Alas! mankind, how can it be
that towards your creator who shaped you,
and the precious blood of her heart has redeemed you,
you are so felon and so wicked, alas!
Now, good people, God forgive you your faults,
and keep you from the sin of greed.
My holy forgiveness can heal you all
as long as you offer me gold doubles or esterlins,
or even silver brooches, spoons or rings;
bow your head under this holy bubble!
Come, women, offer your wool.
910I'll write your names here on my roll right away;
you will arrive at celestial bliss;
I absolve you by my great power,
you who are going to make an offering, and also make yourself pure and clean
than when you were born. There you go, gentlemen, how I preach;
and Jesus Christ, who is the target of our souls,
thus grant you to receive his forgiveness.
Because it's the best, I don't want to cheat on you.
But, sirs, I forgot a word in my story:
920I have relics and pardons in my bag,
as handsome as a man from England,
which were given to me by the hand of the Pope.
If any of you, out of devotion,
wants to make an offering and have my absolution,
let him come forward and kneel here
and humbly receive my forgiveness;
or take pardons on the way,
brand new and fresh, out of each village,
provided you are always offering new and new
930noble gold and soils which are good and weighty.
It's an honor for all who are here
than having an authorized forgiver
to absolve you, as you ride through the land,
in the adventures that may happen to you:
adventure one or two may fall
horse and break the collar.
Think how safe it is for all of you
that I fell in your company,
I who can absolve you, big and small,
when your soul leaves the body.
940I advise that our host here begins,
for he is deeply rooted in sin.
Come forward, sir host, and first make some offering,
and you shall kiss the relics, each and every one;
yes, for a penny, quickly loosen your purse. "
- "No, no, (said the other,) rather than Christ curse me!"
Leave it, he said, I won't do it, of course!
You would like to make me kiss your old shoes,
and swear it's a relic of a saint,
were they smeared with your foundation!
950But, by the cross that Saint Helena found,
I would rather have your balls in my hand
instead of relics and sanctities;
let me cut them, I'll help you wear them;
they will be embedded in a pork turd. "
The forgiver did not answer a word;
he was so angry he didn't want to say a word.
"Come on, (said our host), I don't want to joke any more
with you, nor with any angry man. "
960But immediately the worthy Knight began
to speak when he saw that everyone was laughing:
“Let's finish this, because that's enough;
Sir Pardonneur, be cheerful and cheerful,
and you, sir host, who are so dear to me,
I beg you, give a kiss to the Forgiver;
and, Forgiver, please come closer,
and as before, let's laugh and joke. "
Immediately they kissed and the ride resumed.