The Summoner and His Tale

The Sumpnour

The Summoner and His Tale

"A Somonour was ther with us in that place,
That hadde a fyr-reed cherubynnes face,
For saucefleem he was, with eyen narwe.
As hoot he was and lecherous as a sparwe,
With scalled browes blake and piled berd.
Of his visage children were aferd. 
Ther nas quyk-silver, lytarge, ne brymstoon,
Boras, ceruce, ne oille of tartre noon,
Ne oynement that wolde clense and byte,
That hym myghte helpen of his whelkes white,
Nor of the knobbes sittynge on his chekes." (623-633)

The Summoner's Tale describes a friar who comes to preach to a man named Thomas and his wife.  Thomas is ill, and the couple has just lost a child; the friar delivers a long-winded lecture on the need to give alms to holy friars, who live in great poverty.  Irritated, Thomas tells the friar that he has a precious treasure which he will share: he is sitting on it, and he tells the friar to reach around behind Thomas to claim it.  When the friar does, Thomas farts loudly.  The friar goes to the village lord, enraged, to ask how is supposed to split a fart among the twelve members of his order.  They eventually devise a system by which each friar might put his nose at the spoke of a cart wheel, so as to receive equal share in the fart.