THE SIMONIE: FOOTNOTES1 Why war and vengeance and manslaughter has come into the land
2 Why animals are so starved, why wheat has become so expensive
3 You who will wait, listen and you will hear / The reason
4 The palace is off-limits to him, he dare not enter in
5 And though the pope bid him come in, yet shall he stand outside
6 He dare not show himself there for fear of being slain
7 If Simony should meet with him, he will challenge him
8 Even if he is such a clerk, if he comes without silver
9 Unless he sweats before he goes, all his journey is lost
10 Either he shall sing Si dedero [If I give], or he shall gain nothing at all
11 No matter how much of a scoundrel he is, his needs shall be taken care of
12 For Avarice and Simony have the world as their own
13 And because every clerk revealed the foul deeds of the other
14 Since Saint Thomas B Becket was slain and bereft of his crown
15 These other [churchmen] are too torpid, and feebly know how to operate
16 Some work for the king, and gather treasure in heaps
17 And the offices of generosity of Holy Church they allow to lie asleep
18 There are all too many of these, if it be God's will
19 Every [archdeacon] strives to work most cursedly
20 For as soon as a parson is dead and placed in the earth
21 Everybody nowadays may see that this is how it is
22 He ponders how he may most schemingly work
23 No poor person shall get along well there, not in the evening nor in the morning
24 A mirror and a kerchief to bind his crook with
25 But the bishop will be blamed that allowed things to happen this way
26 For although the bishop knows about it, who could attest to it
27 Who doesn't know a farthing's worth of wisdom, [and] with difficulty sings a mass
28 For I think it is just that a priest who is ignorant fares thus
29 He speaks good English, but he doesn't know what he said
30 Furnishes himself with a fun-loving wench of the latest fashion
31 Religion is in ill repute and fares worse and worse
32 His people are not welcome, whether they arrive early or late
33 The gate-keeper is commanded to detain them outside the gate
34 Unless he has [a] hood and furred cap, he is not esteemed
35 But indeed smugness in prosperity has blinded them all
36 And now the greatest part has gone to comfort and gluttony
37 Woe be to that one friar who cares to come there
38 You all know what I mean-- you who know anything good
39 He shall be helped very well to lead a wicked life
40 And bring a chest crammed full with roots and rinds / Worth nothing
41 It shall be an expensive leek, when all's said and done
42 He causes the wife to boil a capon and a slice of beef
43 As the order [of knighthood] requires as well as a friar
44 And now no knight will stay to speak churlish things
45 And thus knighthood is debased and has become wholly crippled
46 And thus knights are collected from non-noble blood
47 Those who should be like gentlemen are nothing like them
48 They walk off the beaten track, nor do they desist for slander
49 The fittest should remain at home for ten or twelve shillings
50 He would have little need to rob from such poor people
51 Among justices, sheriffs, escheators, and the chancellor, / and among lesser men
52 They buy lands and possessions, none may withstand them
53 And may truth be sent into this land, for treachery has endured too long
54 Every [bailiff and beadle] seeks how he may most oppress poor men
55 The poor men generally are summoned to the court of assizes
56 And speak a word or two on your behalf, and do little good for you
57 And when he turns his back on you, he makes a face at you
58 Everything they may acquire in this way they think they have won / With their reason
59 And once there were merchants who honorably bought and sold; / And now is that custom abrogated, and has not been observed for a long time
60 There was in England a game that lasted two years
61 That they would never cease until all the world should be accursed
62 In this way God can make scarcity where formerly there was plenty
63 And then their complexion paled, which before laughed so loudly
64 Who would not for kinship spare one relative or another
65 Pride urged them so vigorously that they never would have peace / Until they had created in this land such a rage
66 But while these great lords thus were thrown on a heap
67 We all know we are to blame for the lamentable situation that we are in
68 Then they themselves think they must fare the better, for they themselves need more
69 It is a pity to speak of it, whoever rightly dares to judge
70 And half of what they take from wretched poor men is stolen
71 He sweats many a drop of sweat, and no matter how hard he toils
72 One may for twelve pence at a court session do forty shilling's worth of wrong
73 These husbandmen curse and widows weep and cry to God for vengeance / Very soon
74 For all the problems must be attributed to lords who allow things to proceed in this way. / They should support the poor people, but they do nothing on their behalf
75 Of those who so scorn God and His followers, I can say no more
76 Yet those who come think that fraud yields the best results over time
77 But may the bones be burned of such fomenters of strife
78 So that we may know our sins with sorrow and oral confession / And always to serve God better, for of that I have now / Told you
THE SIMONIE: NOTES1 Whii werre. In the Bodley MS (B) the equivalent of these opening lines occurs at lines 19-24. B opens with: "Lordyngis leve and dere, lisneþ to me a stounde / Of a new þefte that nwlich was yfounde," and continues for sixteen lines with text not found elsewhere.
9 Treuthe. Truth/Troth is personified in this stanza and the next. He/him in lines 10-11 and 15-18 refer to this personification. For the various meanings of this term in legal contexts, see Alford, Glossary, s.v. Treuthe.
18 shaken his berd. "challenge him"; or, perhaps, "cuckold him." See Whiting, Proverbs, § B118, and line 534 below.
24 Si dedero. Singing "Si dedero" (a venality satire trope) means, in effect, to pay the piper, to bribe; the sense is, "If I give, I receive; if I don't give, I receive nothing." See note to Addresses to the Commons line 21 (in Jakke Trewman's testimony). This trope also appears in the works of Rutebeuf. See Yunck, The Lineage of Lady Meed, p. 198.
38 Seint Thomas. Thomas à Becket, archbishop of Canterbury appointed by king Henry II, was assassinated in Canterbury cathedral in 1170. Henry II did public penance for his murder. Thomas was at first a popular saint, but by the later Middle Ages all classes came to venerate his memory and the site where he was struck down. Hence Canterbury became a major pilgrimage center and tourist attraction after Jerusalem, Rome, and St. James of Compostela.
45-47 Summe . . . Ful stille. The poet complains that clerks (once educated for holy orders) enter the civil bureaucracy for economic advantage, depriving the Church of their talents.
74 wid haukes and wid houndes. Hawking and hunting with hounds were symbols of the worldly, secular life. See line 2 of "Were beþ þey biforen vs weren" from The Sayings of St. Bernard (Index § 3310): "Houndes ladden and hauekes beren" (EL XIII, ed. Carleton Brown, p. 85); and Walter, of Chaucer's Clerk's Tale, who spends his time hawking and hunting (immersed in his "lust present") while neglecting his realm's welfare (IV.78-81). The author of The Simonie links parsons with avarice for benefices (lines 55-90) and priests with illicit sexual activity (lines 109-20).
88 rat on the rouwe-bible. Wordplay: he "reads on the ribible" (= rebeck, an early type of violin), with a pun on "Bible" ("and on other bok / No mo").
104-08 As bi a jay . . . no betir than a jay. With this might be compared Chaucer's description of the Summoner in the General Prologue of The Canterbury Tales:
A fewe termes hadde he, two or thre,See also UR 1-9 (about a chough rather than a jay), and Whiting, Proverbs, §§ J18, J19.
That he had lerned out of some decree--
No wonder is, he herde it al the day;
And eek ye knowen wel how that a jay
Kan clepen "Watte" as wel as kan the pope. (I.639-43)
115 croune . . . crok. "Crown of acolite for the crumpled crook" (?). The sense of the line seems to be that the "wantoune prestes" mock prelates, with perhaps an allusion to Christ's crown of thorns.
117 kembeth the croket. The croket is a rolled hair fashion introduced into the court of Henry III, which flourished into the late fourteenth century. See PlT line 306 and note.
118 newe jet. A phrase Chaucer uses for the Pardoner's dress: "Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet" (I.682). See MED s.v. get n.1 (a) and (b) and Above all thing thow arte a kyng 10 and note.
119 Sanz doute. A French phrase appropriate for courtly literature but highly ironic in this context.
120 clateren cumpelin. To "clatter [=make noise] compline" is a euphemism for their bedroom activity "whan the candel is oute." Compline is the last monastic hour of the day. In Malory, Lancelot clatters so loudly in his sleep after making love to Elayne, that Guenevere hears him in the next room and knows what has happened. The Gawain-poet uses the verb clatered to describe the noise of the ax being ground on the gryndelston (line 2201; cf. 731). MED cites this phrase as an example of compline sense 3: "Used humorously with reference to chatting and snoring." The other cited example is Chaucer's Reeve's Tale (I.4171).
121-22 thise abbotes . . . contrefeten knihtes. In the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales Chaucer depicts the monk -- "A manly man, to been an abbot able" (I.167) -- as "An outridere, that lovede venerie [hunting]" (line 166).
123 religious. MS religiouns.
126 a-mis. Supplied in a different hand; so Wr and Br.
142-44 The porter . . . His men. On this motif of the hostile doorkeeper, see Beati qui esuriunt line 78 and note.
147 He hath forsake. Ironic, with a change of pronoun from "monekes" (line 145) and "Hii" (line 146) to "He" (line 147).
153 Where shal . . . leres? Compare Preste, Ne Monke, Ne Yit Chanoun: "I have lyved now fourty yers, / And fatter men about the neres / Yit sawe I never than are these frers" (lines 17-19). Compare also the Dominican friar in his refectory (mess hall): PPC lines 219-26.
183 Hit nis . . . louweth. "It is not only for the calf that the cow lows." That is, the cow moos for other reasons. On this phrase as proverbial, see Whiting, Proverbs, § C9.
193 officials. An official was "an officer subordinate to an archbishop or bishop, especially a bishop's chancellor, who presided over consistory court; a canon-law judge" (Alford, Glossary, s.v. Official).
195 Mak a present . . . dwelle. The dean was "a church official invested with juris-diction over a subdivision of an archdeaconry." Alford (Glossary, s.v. Dene) cites William Holdsworth's A History of English Law: "It was the duty of Rural Deans to report on the manners of the clergy and laity: this rendered them necessary attendants at the episcopal visitation . . . and gave them at one time a small jurisdiction." Of such local officials, Scott L. Waugh states: "The village represented the basic level of governance. For most people, the manorial court was the primary jurisdiction and the lord's officials the paramount authority. Chaucer's reeve, for example, was feared more than the plague by those beneath him. Church officials were equally dreaded, though less conspicuous. Responsible for supervising churches, priests, and parishioners, archdeacons and rural deans were hated for their hypocritical, corrupt meddling in villagers' lives, as Chaucer's Friar's Tale reveals. One or more constables were elected by the village and were responsible for keeping order. They watched suspicious persons, organized the pursuit of wrongdoers whenever the hue and cry was raised, arrested criminals, and seized felons' chattels." England in the Reign of Edward III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 154. The author of the Apocalipsis Goliae characterizes the dean as the "archdeacon's dog": "Decanus canis est archidiaconi" (Die Apokalypse des Golias, ed. Karl Strecker [Rome: Regenberg, 1928], stanza 49).
211 And yit ther is. In B this stanza is preceded by a stanza not found in the other MSS which reads (in Ross's transcription):
And as I seide first, hit is a gret mischaunce,The three folios prior to the stanza are missing in B. 211-40 B follows these five stanzas on "false fisiciens" with a sixth stanza, not in A, which reads (Ross's transcription):
Þat þat synne reygnet so þorow þat synfol soffraunce.
Þe bischop feyneþ on his side and takeð a prive mede,
And sely denys and officialis dare not seie fore drede
Þus is Englond schent fore synne, sykerliche.
C includes a version of the stanza.
He maket hym merie þe ferst, as mery as he can,
And loke þat he fare wel his hors and his man.
A-morwe he taket þe uryne and schaket aen þe sonne.
"Dame," he seis, "drede þe not. Þe maister is wonne,"
But þus he fereð a-wey þe silver and þe wif be skikket.
221 And. So Wr and Br. MS ad.
228 Hit . . . i-wrouht. "It shall be expensive enough whan all is said and done." The phrase dere on a lek is reminiscent of a proverbial expression found in Chaucer: deere ynough a leek (CT VIII.795). The leek was thought to be worthless. See the note on this proverb in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Benson, p. 949.
254 also wel as a frere. Knights should wear dress appropriate for their vocations, as do friars (or as friars should do).
264 is. So Wr and Br; lacking in MS but needed for the sense.
277 Godes soule . . . sworn. A reference to swearing on God and God's body. See the Pardoner's disquisition on swearing and oaths in the Pardoner's Tale VI.629-59.
280 contrefaiture, counterfeit quality. The false knight goes from a seemingly harmless imitation to outright sin such that he angers God and pays the devil most of all (line 282).
283-88 B follows this stanza with a unique stanza after which the arrangement of stanzas differs radically from A and P. The stanza reads in Ross's transcription and emendation:
285 turmentours. A reference to the dress of Christ's tormentors in mystery plays, which were staged by clerks.
Sily man to conterfeyte, fondist in his wise,
But litel fondyng is maket toward Godis service,
Where half þe bisnesse do to God þat is do to þe [fend],
To goderele al þe worle but Crist, my lef frend
Þe most deel of þe worle is blent, fore overal hit is [blynde].
profit; world; beloved
292 mot-hall. "The annals of Edward's reign are filled with complaints against the King's officers . . . . In 1321, a charge was leveled against Hugh Despenser the Younger, who put his own officers into the King's household, where he was chamberlain (Annales paulini, in Stubbs . . . , pp. 292-97). This might be the basis for the reference in A and P to the moot-hall in the chamber" (Ross, p. 183, note 81). For various uses of the moot hall in PP and other works, see Alford, Glossary, s.v. Mothalle.
294 i-whited. "Silvered," i.e., bribed, crossed with silver.
295 If the king. In this section on petty justices, the poet regards the king as a victim along with the poor. The king's army suffers through bribery in the conscription process; and he loses tax monies. This was a common complaint in fourteenth-century literature. See, e.g., Against the King's Taxes, a macaronic poem (Anglo-Norman French and Latin) from MS Harley 2253, lines 16-20, in Anglo-Norman Political Songs, ed. Isabel S. T. Aspin, Anglo-Norman Texts 11 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1953), p. 109. See also note to lines 313-24 below.
303 for-pinched, to-toilled, and to-twiht. Wr glosses these colorful terms as "pinched to pieces," "laboured away," and "twitted away" respectively. The idea, as in Taxe Has Tenet Us Alle, is that "The kyng therof hade smalle" (line 3).
309 girles. Although the word need not denote females, but only youth, here the signification seems to mean "young females."
313-24 Topos of the "king's ignorance." See Truthe, Reste, and Pes note to lines 45-46.
321 Thurfte him . . . ner. "Should he dare not seek wealth so far away, he might find it nearer to hand." This seems to be a criticism of Edward II's foreign policy.
325 come he . . . pore: no matter how poor he was before assuming high office.
328 ben inserted above the line with a karat. Wr and Br print in brackets.
330 Theih pleien . . . wele. "They use the king's silver for their own pleasures, and produce wood, or tallies, instead of contributing to the prosperity of the people" (Wr).
337-38 baillifs and bedeles . . . greve. See also Beati qui esuriunt line 111 and note; Song of the Husbandman lines 37-56 and note to line 13; and Gode Spede the Plough line 37. For an account of an early fourteenth-century bailiff charged with bedeviling tenants, see the case of the poor tenants of Bocking manor, who drew up a petition of grievance against John le Doo, bailiff who, by not agreeing to customary fines (amercements), "of his own conceit, increased their burdens twofold or even threefold and by such means has vexed the tenants and brought them to destruction, against all reason and the Great Charter that Holy Church ought to uphold." As quoted in Dobson, The Peasants' Revolt of 1381, p. 79.
345 He wole . . . hod. "He will take forty pence to put on his hood," i.e., to begin his official duties.
355-60 And sumtime . . . i-smite. Ross mentions "numerous contemporary complaints against tradesmen's offences," including "the King's ordinances which were directed against certain tradesmen, notably brewers, whose prices were too high" (p. 186, note 111).
362 That he . . . haft. That he is somewhat loose in the handle, i.e., unstable, unreliable. See MED s.v. haft (b). Whiting identifies the phrase as proverbial (Proverbs, § H10). C reads: "That he nis a party lose in the haft" (line 140); B "Þat he is more þan halfendel los in þe haft" (line 211).
363-65 For falsnesse . . . Ne in herte. These traditional sentiments about the failure of truth in the modern era are reminiscent of Chaucer's short poems "Truth," "Gentilesse," and especially "Lak of Stedfastnesse."
366 And tharfore . . . smerte. C "For sothe thei nyl sese ar God make hem to smert"; B "Þerfore is no wonþer þow al þe worle smerte."
373-78 So that . . . muchele miht. Although complaints against the weather were widespread in Latin and vernacular verse, this verse paragraph may allude to "the terrible storms and shortages of 1315-16" (see Ross's quotations from contemporary chroniclers on pp. 186-87, note 119).
382 sustenaunce. So A and B; C frute.
384 i-liche wicke. B "unwrast and wikke."
385-90 Lacking in C and B.
385-86 Men . . . betre. The idea in these lines (and in the verse paragraph) is that people have become too proud in times of plenty. Langland develops this idea in Piers Plowman passus 5 and 6 (B text). It is also a prominent feature of Wynnere and Wastoure. C omits this stanza.
391-96 C concludes with this stanza, whose final four lines read: "Whan bestes beth i-storve and corne waxeth dere, / And honger and pestilence in ech lond, as e mow ofte here / Overal; -- / But if we amende us, it will wel wers befal. Explicit" (lines 465-68).
392 a derthe. Perhaps a reference to the great famine of 1315. For the importance of famines in literature and history, see R. W. Frank, "The 'Hungry Gap,' Crop Failure, and Famine: The Fourteenth-Century Agricultural Crisis and Piers Plowman," in Yearbook of Langland Studies 4 (1990), 87-104.
409 Tho. Although there is no large letter in A, in B the scribe left a space for a large letter in the equivalent stanza. Ross comments: "MS leaves a space here for a large capital which was never added. The scribe evidently felt that this stanza marked a divisional point in the poem, as indeed it does. The Auchinleck MS offers corresponding lines once again, beginning with this stanza" (p. 189).
415 astint. So Wr and Br; MS astin. B a stynt (line 283).
469 assisours. An assizer was "one of those who constituted the assize or inquest, whence the modern jury originated; a sworn recognitor (OED)" (Alford, Glossary, s.v. Sisour). Alford cites PP B.20.161: "Hir sire was a Sysour þat neuere swoor truþe, / Oon Tomme two-tonge, atteynt at each a queste [inquest]"; and Jacob's Well: "False cysourys gon vp-on qwestys, & puttyn a man fro his ryt thrugh a false verdyte, & wytnessen aens trewthe."
hundred. An administrative division of a county containing one hundred homesteads and having its own court.
476 A ceases with this line. Lines 465-end are supplied from B and checked against Ross's transcription.
483 breth (= bread). The scribe of B regularly spells final -d as þ (-th). See also wretchethe, wretched, line 486; a-paith, apaid, line 500; methe, meed, line 507; lewthe, lewd (=ignorant), line 525; wikketh, wicked, line 531; blisseth bloth, blessed blood, line 541.
494 mercyment. Says Skeat in his note to Piers Plowman B 1.159: "Blount, in his Law Dict., says -- 'There is a difference between amerciaments and fines: these [i.e. the latter], as they are taken for punishments, are punishments certain, which grow expressly from some statute; but amerciaments are arbitrarily imposed by affeerors."' Alford defines Merciment as "A penalty imposed 'at the mercy' of the court (as distinct from a statutory fine), an amercement." See Glossary, s.v. Merciment.
495 at a. B: ata.
schillingwerd. B: schilligwerd. Ross emends to schilli[n]werd.
496 han. Ross mistranscribes as him. Have and hað are the more common forms of the verb to have in B, but see lines 508 and 525 where han is the recurrent form in B. See also lines 13, 30, 241, 394, 428, 445, 446, 496.
497 at mele. B: at m. Ross's emendation to suit the rhyme. The phrase is ambiguous and could mean "on such occasions," or "for their supper," with a pun reaching back to what "bakers" and "brewers" provide.
514 The words of this are blotted after with.
517-40 These lines appear as the antepenultimate and the penultimate stanzas of B. Ross in his edition transposes these stanzas to his lines 325-60. I retain the lines according to their position in B because they seem to develop the thought of the previous stanzas.
534 See note to line 18.
536 for hunger . . . strecchen. The meaning seems to be that they achieve death because of hunger (after first lying down in the street like beggars). See MED s.v. strecchen 5 (c).
[Symonye and Covetise, or On the Evil Times of Edward II]
(Auchinleck MS fols. 328r-334v; and MS Bodley 48 fols. 325v-331r)
Whii werre and wrake in londe and manslauht is i-come, 1
Whii hungger and derthe on eorthe the pore hath undernome,
Whii bestes ben thus storve, whii corn hath ben so dere, 2
Ye that wolen abide, listneth and ye mowen here
I nelle liyen for no man, herkne who so wile.
God greteth wel the clergie, and seith theih don amis,
And doth hem to understonde that litel treuthe ther is;
For at the court of Rome, ther Treuthe sholde biginne,
Him is forboden the paleis, dar he noht com therinne 4
And thouh the Pope clepe him in, yit shal he stonde theroute. 5
Alle the Popes clerkes han taken hem to red,
If Treuthe come amonges hem, that he shal be ded.
There dar he noht shewen him for doute to be slain, 6
Among none of the cardinaus dar he noht be sein,
If Symonie may mete wid him he wole shaken his berd. 7
Voiz of clerk is sielde i-herd at the court of Rome;
Ne were he never swich a clerk, silverles if he come, 8
Though he were the wiseste that evere was i-born,
But if he swete ar he go, al his weye is lorn 9
Or he shal singe Si dedero, or al geineth him noht. 10
For if there be in countré an horeling, a shrewe,
Lat him come to the court hise nedes for to shewe,
And bring wid him silver and non other wed,
Be he nevere so muchel a wrecche, hise nedes sholden be spede 11
For Coveytise and Symonie han the world to wille. 12
And erchebishop and bishop, that ouhte for to enquere
Off alle men of Holi Churche of what lif theih were,
Summe beth foles hemself, and leden a sory lif,
Therfore doren hii noht speke for rising of strif
And that everich biwreied other of here wrecchede werkes. 13
But certes Holi Churche is muchel i-brouht ther doune,
Siththen Seint Thomas was slain and smiten of his croune. 14
He was a piler ariht to holden up Holi Churche,
Thise othere ben to slouwe, and feintliche kunnen worche, 15
Therfore in Holi Churche hit fareth the more amis.
But everi man may wel i-wite, who so take yeme,
That no man may wel serve tweie lordes to queme.
Summe beth in ofice wid the king, and gaderen tresor to hepe, 16
And the fraunchise of Holi Churche hii laten ligge slepe 17
Al to manye ther beth swiche, if hit were Godes wille. 18
And thise ersedeknes that ben set to visite Holi Churche,
Everich foundeth hu he may shrewedelichest worche; 19
He wol take mede of that on and that other,
And late the parsoun have a wyf, and the prest another,
Coveytise shal stoppen here mouth, and maken hem al stille.
For sone so a parsoun is ded and in eorthe i-don, 20
Thanne shal the patroun have giftes anon;
The clerkes of the cuntré wolen him faste wowe,
And senden him faire giftes and presentes i-nowe,
And the bishop;
And there shal Symonye ben taken bi the cop.
Coveytise upon his hors he wole be sone there,
And bringe the bishop silver, and rounen in his ere
That alle the pore that ther comen, on ydel sholen theih worche,
For he that allermost may give, he shal have the churche,
Everich man nu bi dawe may sen that thus hit is. 21
And whan this newe parsoun is institut in his churche,
He bithenketh him hu he may shrewedelichest worche; 22
Ne shal the corn in his berne ben eten wid no muis,
But hit shal ben i-spended in a shrewede huis;
If he may,
Al shal ben i-beten out or Cristemesse day.
And whan he hath i-gadered markes and poundes,
He priketh out of toune wid haukes and wid houndes
Into a straunge contré, and halt a wenche in cracche;
And wel is hire that first may swich a parsoun kacche
And thus theih serven the chapele, and laten the churche stonde.
He taketh al that he may, and maketh the churche pore,
And leveth thare behinde a theef and an hore,
A serjaunt and a deie that leden a sory lif;
Al so faire hii gon to bedde as housebonde and wif,
Shal there no pore lif fare the bet nouther on even ne on morwe. 23
And whan he hath the silver of wolle and of lomb,
He put in his pautener an honne and a komb,
A myrour and a koeverchef to binde wid his crok, 24
And rat on the rouwe-bible and on other bok
But unthank have the bishop that lat hit so go. 25
For thouh the bishop hit wite, that hit bename kouth, 26
He may wid a litel silver stoppen his mouth;
He medeth wid the clerkes, and halt forth the wenche,
And lat the parish for-worthe - the devel him adrenche
For his werk!
And sory may his fader ben, that evere made him clerk.
And if the parsoun have a prest of a clene lyf,
That be a god consailler to maiden and to wif,
Shal comen a daffe and putte him out for a litel lasse,
That can noht a ferthing worth of god, unnethe singe a masse 27
And thus shal al the parish for lac of lore spille.
For riht me thinketh hit fareth bi a prest that is lewed, 28
As bi a jay in a kage, that himself hath bishrewed:
God Engelish he speketh, ac he wot nevere what; 29
No more wot a lewed prest in boke what he rat
Thanne is a lewed prest no betir than a jay.
But everi man may wel i-wite, bi the swete Rode,
Ther beth so manye prestes, hii ne muwe noht alle be gode.
And natheles thise gode men fallen oft in fame,
For thise wantoune prestes that pleien here nice game,
Hii gon wid swerd and bokeler as men that wode fihte.
Summe bereth croune of acolite for the crumponde crok,
And ben ashamed of the merke the bishop hem bitok;
At even he set upon a koife, and kembeth the croket,
Adihteth him a gay wenche of the newe jet, 30
And there hii clateren cumpelin whan the candel is oute.
And thise abbotes and priours don agein here rihtes;
Hii riden wid hauk and hound, and contrefeten knihtes.
Hii sholde leve swich pride, and ben religious.
And nu is pride maister in everich ordred hous;
Religioun is evele i-holde and fareth the more a-mis. 31
For if there come to an abey to pore men or thre,
And aske of hem helpe par seinte charité,
Unnethe wole any don his ernde other yong or old,
But late him coure ther al day in hunger and in cold,
Loke what love ther is to God, whom theih seien that hii serve!
But there come another and bringe a litel lettre,
In a box upon his hepe, he shal spede the betre;
And if he be wid eny man that may don the abot harm,
He shal be lad into the halle, and ben i-mad full warm
Aboute the mawe.
And Godes man stant ther-oute - sory is that lawe!
Thus is God nu served thurwout religioun;
There is He al to sielde i-sein in eny devocioun.
His meyné is unwelcome, comen hii erliche or late; 32
The porter hath comaundement to holde hem widoute the gate, 33
In the fen.
Hu mihte theih loven that Loverd, that serven thus His men?
This is the penaunce that monekes don for ure Lordes love:
Hii weren sockes in here shon, and felted botes above.
He hath forsake for Godes love bothe hunger and cold;
But if he have hod and cappe fured, he nis noht i-told 34
Ac certes wlaunknesse of wele hem hath al ablent. 35
Religioun was first founded duresce for to drie,
And nu is the moste del i-went to eise and glotonie. 36
Where shal men nu finde fattere or raddere of leres?
Or betre farende folk than monekes, chanons, and freres?
In uch toun
I wot non eysiere lyf than is religioun.
Religioun wot, red I, uch day what he shal don.
He ne carez noht to muche for his mete at non;
For hous-hire ne for clothes he ne carez noht;
But whan he cometh to the mete, he maketh his mawe touht
Off the beste;
And anon therafter he fondeth to kacche reste.
And yit there is another ordre, Menour and Jacobin,
And freres of the Carme, and of Seint Austin,
That wolde preche more for a busshel of whete
Than for to bringe a soule from helle out of the hete
And thus is coveytise loverd bothe est and west.
If a pore man come to a frere for to aske shrifte,
And ther come a ricchere and bringe him a gifte,
He shal into the freitur and ben i-mad ful glad,
And that other stant theroute, as a man that were mad
Yit shal his ernde ben undon til that other morwe.
And if there be a riche man that evel hath undernome,
Thanne wolen thise freres al day thider come;
And if hit be a pore lyf in poverte and in care,
Sorwe on that o frere that kepeth come thare 37
Alle wite ye, gode men, hu the gamen goth.
And if the riche man deie that was of eny mihte,
Thanne wolen the freres for the cors fihte.
Hit nis noht al for the calf that kow louweth,
Ac hit is for the grene gras that in the medewe grouweth
Alle wite ye what I mene, that kunnen eny god. 38
For als ich evere brouke min hod under min hat,
The frere wole to the direge, if the cors is fat.
Ac bi the feith I owe to God, if the cors is lene,
He wole wagge aboute the cloistre and kepen hise fet clene
Hu mihte theih faire forsake that hii ne ben coveytouse?
And officials and denes that chapitles sholden holde,
Theih sholde chastise the folk, and theih maken hem bolde.
Mak a present to the den ther thu thenkest to dwelle,
And have leve longe i-nouh to serve the fend of helle
For have he silver, of sinne taketh he nevere yeme.
If a man have a wif, and he ne love hire noht,
Bringe hire to the constorie ther treuthe sholde be souht,
And bringge tweye false wid him and him self the thridde,
And he shal ben to-parted so faire as he wole bidde
From his wif.
He shal ben holpen wel i-nouh to lede a shrewede lyf. 39
And whan he is thus i-deled from his rihte spouse,
He taketh his neiheboures wif and bringeth hire to his house;
And whiles he hath eny silver the clerkes to sende,
He may holde hire at his wille to his lives ende
And but that be wel i-loked, curs in here bile.
And yit ther is another craft that toucheth the clergie,
That ben thise false fisiciens that helpen men to die;
He wole wagge his urine in a vessel of glaz,
And swereth that he is sekere than evere yit he was,
"Dame, for faute of helpe, thin housebonde is neih slain."
Thus he wole afraien al that ther is inne,
And make many a lesing, silver for to winne.
Ac afterward he fondeth to comforte the wif,
And seith, "Dame, for of thin I wole holde his lyf,"
Thouh he wite no more than a gos wheither he wole live or die.
Anon he wole biginne to blere the wives eighe;
He wole aske half a pound to bien spicerie.
The viii shillinges sholen up to the win and the ale,
And bringe rotes and rindes bret ful a male
Off noht; 40
Hit shal be dere on a lek, whan hit is al i-wrouht. 41
He wole preisen hit i-nohw, and sweren, as he were wod,
For the king of the lond the drink is riche and god;
And geve the gode man drinke a god quantité,
And make him worse than he was - evele mote he the,
That so geteth the silver, and can noht don his werk!
He doth the wif sethe a chapoun and piece beof, 42
Ne tit the gode man noht therof, be him nevere so leof;
The best he piketh up himself, and maketh his mawe touht,
And geveth the gode man soupe, the lene broth that nis noht
That so serveth eny man, Godes curs in his cheke!
And thilke that han al the wele in freth and in feld,
Bothen eorl and baroun and kniht of o sheld,
Alle theih beth i-sworn Holi Churche holde to rihte.
Therfore was the ordre mad for Holi Churche to fihte,
And nu ben theih the ferste that hit sholen assaile.
Hii brewen strut and stuntise there as sholde be pes;
Hii sholde gon to the Holi Lond and maken there her res,
And fihte there for the Croiz, and shewe the ordre of knihte,
And awreke Jhesu Crist wid launce and speir to fihte
And nu ben theih liouns in halle, and hares in the feld.
Knihtes sholde weren weden in here manere,
After that the ordre asketh also wel as a frere. 43
Nu ben theih so degysed and diverseliche i-diht,
Unnethe may men knowe a gleman from a kniht,
So is mieknesse driven adoun, and pride is risen on heih.
Thus is the ordre of kniht turned up-so-doun,
Also wel can a kniht chide as any skolde of a toun.
Hii sholde ben also hende as any levedi in londe,
And for to speke alle vilanie nel nu no kniht wonde 44
And thus knihtshipe is acloied and waxen al fot-lame. 45
Knihtshipe is acloied and deolfulliche i-diht;
Kunne a boy nu breke a spere, he shal be mad a kniht.
And thus ben knihtes gadered of unkinde blod, 46
And envenimeth that ordre that shold be so god
Ac o shrewe in a court many man may shende.
And nu nis no squier of pris in this middel erd,
But if that he bere a babel and a long berd,
And swere Godes soule, and vuwe to God and hote;
But sholde he for everi fals uth lese kirtel or kote,
He sholde stonde starc naked twye o day or eve.
Godes soule is al day sworn, the knif stant a-strout,
And thouh the botes be torn, yit wole he maken hit stout;
The hod hangeth on his brest, as he wolde spewe therinne,
Ac shortliche al his contrefaiture is colour of sinne,
To wraththe God and paien the fend hit serveth allermost.
A newe taille of squierie is nu in everi toun:
The raye is turned overthuert that sholde stonde adoun.
Hii ben degised as turmentours that comen from clerkes plei;
Hii ben i-laft wid pride, and cast nurture awey
Gentille men that sholde ben, ne beth hii none i-liche. 47
And justises, shirreves, meires, baillifs, if I shal rede aricht,
Hii kunnen of the faire day make the derke niht;
Hii gon out of the heie wey, ne leven hii for no sklaundre, 48
And maken the mot-hall at hom in here chaumbre,
For be the hond i-whited, it shal go god i-nouh.
If the king in his werre sent after mihti men,
To helpe him in his nede, of sum toun .ix. or .x.,
The stiffeste sholden bileve at hom for .x. shillinges or .xii., 49
And sende forthe a wrecche that may noht helpe himselve
Thus is the king deceyved, and pore men shent for mede.
And if the king in his lond maketh a taxacioun,
And everi man is i-set to a certein raunczoun,
Hit shal be so for-pinched, to-toilled, and to-twiht,
That halvendel shal gon in the fendes fliht
Ther beth so manye parteners may no tunge telle.
A man of .xl. poundes-worth god is leid to .xii. pans rounde;
And also much paieth another that poverte hath brouht to grounde,
And hath an hep of girles sittende aboute the flet.
Godes curs moten hii have, but that be wel set
That the pore is thus i-piled, and the riche forborn!
Ac if the king hit wiste, I trowe he wolde be wroth,
Hou the pore beth i-piled, and hu the silver goth;
Hit is so deskatered bothe hider and thidere,
That halvendel shal ben stole ar hit come togidere,
An if a pore man speke a word, he shal be foule afrounted.
Ac were the king wel avised, and wolde worche bi skile,
Litel nede sholde he have swiche pore to pile; 50
Thurfte him noht seke tresor so fer, he mihte finde ner,
At justices, at shirreves, cheiturs, and chaunceler,
And at les; 51
Swiche mihte finde him i-nouh, and late pore men have pes.
For who so is in swich ofice, come he nevere so pore,
He fareth in a while as thouh he hadde silver ore;
Theih bien londes and ledes, ne may hem non astonde. 52
What sholde pore men ben i-piled, when swiche men beth in londe
Theih pleien wid the kinges silver, and breden wod for wele.
Ac shrewedeliche for sothe hii don the kinges heste;
Whan everi man hath his part, the king hath the leste,
Everi man is aboute to fille his owen purs;
And the king hath the leste part, and he hath al the curs,
And sende treuthe into this lond, for tricherie dureth to longe. 53
And baillifs and bedeles under the shirreve,
Everich fondeth hu he may pore men most greve. 54
The pore men beth over al somouned on assise; 55
And the riche sholen sitte at hom, and ther wole silver rise
Godes curs moten hii have, but that be wel don!
And countours in benche that stondeth at the barre,
Theih wolen bigile the in thin hond, but if thu be warre.
He wole take .xl. pans for to doun his hod,
And speke for the a word or to, and don the litel god, 56
And have he turned the bak, he makketh the a mouwe. 57
Attourneis in cuntré theih geten silver for noht;
Theih maken men biginne that they nevere hadden thouht.
And whan theih comen to the ring, hoppe if hii kunne.
Al that theih muwen so gete, al thinketh hem i-wonne
Wid skile. 58
Ne triste no man to hem, so false theih beth in the bile.
And sumtime were chapman that treweliche bouhten and solde;
And nu is thilke assise broke, and nas noht yore holde.
Chaffare was woned to be meintened wid treuthe,
And nu is al turned to treccherie, and that is muchel reuthe
That alle manere godnesse is thus adoun i-smite.
Unnethe is nu eny man that can eny craft
That he nis a party los in the haft;
For falsnesse is so fer forth over al the londe i-sprunge, 59
That wel neih nis no treuthe in hond, ne in tunge,
Ne in herte.
And tharfore nis no wonder thouh al the world it smerte.
Ther was a gamen in Engelond that durede yer and other: 60
Erliche upon the Monenday uch man bishrewed other;
So longe lastede that gamen among lered and lewed
That nolde theih nevere stinten, or al the world were bishrewed, 61
And therfore al that helpe sholde fareth the more amis.
So that for that shrewedom that regneth in the lond,
I drede me that God us hath for-laft out of His hond,
Thurw wederes that he hath i-sent cold and unkinde.
And yit ne haveth no man of Him the more minde
Unnethe is any man aferd of Godes muchele miht.
God hath ben wroth wid the world, and that is wel i-sene;
For al that whilom was murthe is turned to treie and tene.
He sente us plenté i-nouh, suffre whiles we wolde,
Off alle manere sustenaunce grouwende upon mode
And evere ageines His godnesse we weren i-liche wicke.
Men sholde noht sumtime finde a boy for to bere a lettre,
That wolde eten eny mete, but it were the betre.
For beof ne for bakoun, ne for swich stor of house,
Unnethe wolde eny don a char, so were theih daungerouse
And siththen bicom ful reulich that thanne weren so ranke.
For tho God seih that the world was so over gart,
He sente a derthe on eorthe, and made hit ful smarte.
A busshel of whete was at foure shillinges or more,
And so men mihte han i-had a quarter noht yore
So can God make wane, ther rathere was won. 62
And thanne gan bleiken here blé, that arst lowen so loude, 63
And to waxen al hand-tame that rathere weren so proude.
A mannes herte mihte blede for to here the crie
Off pore men that gradden, "Allas, for hungger I die
This auhte make men aferd of Godes muchele miht.
And after that ilke wante com eft wele i-nouh,
And plenté of alle gode grouwende on uch a bouh.
Tho god yer was agein i-come, and god chep of corn,
Tho were we also muchele shrewes, as we were beforn,
Also swithe we forgeten His wreche and His lore.
Tho com ther another sorwe that spradde over al the lond.
A thusent winter ther bifore com nevere non so strong.
To binde alle the mene men in mourning and in care
The orf deiede al bidene, and maden the lond al bare
Com nevere wrecche into Engelond that made men more agaste.
And tho that qualm was astint of beste that bar horn,
Tho sente God on eorthe another derthe of corn,
That spradde over al Engelond bothe north and south,
And made seli pore men afingred in here mouth
And yit unnethe any man dredeth God the more.
And wid that laste derthe com ther another shame,
That ouhte be god skile maken us alle tame.
The fend kidde his maistri, and arerede a strif,
That everi lording was bisi to sauve his owen lyf,
And his good.
God do bote theron, for His blessede blod!
Gret nede hit were to bidde that the pes were brouht,
For the lordinges of the lond, that swich wo han i-wrouht,
That nolde spare for kin that o kosin that other; 64
So the fend hem prokede uch man to mourdren other
That al Engelond i-wis was in point to spille.
Pride prikede hem so faste, that nolde theih nevere have pes
Ar theih hadden in this lond maked swich a res 65
That the beste blod of the lond shamliche was brouht to grounde,
If hit betre mihte a ben; allas, the harde stounde
That of so gentille blod i-born swich wreche was i-kid.
Allas, that evere sholde hit bifalle that in so litel a throwe,
Swiche men sholde swich deth thole, and ben i-leid so lowe.
Off eorles ant of barouns baldest hii were;
And nu hit is of hem bicome riht as theih nevere ne were
God loke to the soules, that hii ne be noht lorn!
Ac whiles thise grete lordinges thus han i-hurled to hepe, 66
Thise prelatz of Holi Churche to longe theih han i-slepe.
Al to late theih wakeden, and that was muchel reuthe;
Theih weren ablent wid coveytise, and mihte noht se the treuthe
Theih dradden more here lond to lese, than love of Jhesu Crist.
For hadde the clergie harde holden to-gidere,
And noht flecched aboute nother hider ne thidere,
But loked where the treuthe was, and there have bileved,
Thanne were the barnage hol, that nu is al to-dreved
Ac certes Engelond is shent thurw falsnesse and thurw pride.
Pride hath in his paunter kauht the heie and the lowe,
So that unnethe can eny man God Almihti knowe.
Pride priketh aboute, wid nithe and wid onde;
Pes and love and charité hien hem out of londe
That God wole for-don the world we muwe be sore agaste.
Alle wite we wel it is oure gilt, the wo that we beth inne; 67
But no man knoweth that hit is for his owen sinne.
Uch man put on other the wreche of the wouh;
But wolde uch man renczake himself, thanne were al wel i-nouh
But nu can uch man demen other, and himselve nouht.
And thise assisours that comen to shire and to hundred,
Damneth men for silver, and that nis no wonder.
For whan the riche justise wol do wrong for mede,
Thanne thinketh hem theih muwen the bet, for theih ham more nede 68
Ac so is al this world ablent, that no man douteth sinne.
But bi seint Jame of Galice, that many man hath souht,
The pilory and the cucking-stol beth i-mad for noht,
Fore whenne is al a-contith and y-cast to the hepe,
Bred and ale is the derer and nevere the beter chepe
So is trecherie a-bove, and treuthe is al tosquat.
Hit is rewthe to speke therof, ho-so right durste deme: 69
Of bedeles and of bayleffes that hath the townes to yeme,
That suffer such falsnesse reyne in breth and ale,
And thow the pouer hem pleyne, ne mow they get no bale,
And haulf is stole that they take of wretchethe pouer men. 70
A sely workman in a toun that lyve in trewthe fre
And hath a wif or children, peraunter to or thre,
He sueteth many a suetes drope, and swynk he never so sore 71
Alday fore a peny or fore a peny more,
At eve whan he setteth hit, half is stole alas!
Thes bakers and this brewers beth so bolde in here yifte
That fore a litel mercyment or fore a symple gifte,
On may fore xij d. at a court do xlti schillingwerd schame, 72
But how so ever hit falle, the pouer han al the grame
Now God amende pouermen that can wel dight and dele.
That riot reyneth now in londe everiday more and more,
The lordis beth wel a-paith therwith and lisneth to here lore,
But of the pouer mannes harm, therof is now no speche.
This bondes warien and widous wepen and crie to God for wreche
So fast, 73
How myghte hit be but such men mystymeth ate last.
Fore al is long on lordis that suffre thus hit go.
They scholde mayntene the porayle, and they do noght therto, 74
But take methe and sle the fole in as moche as they may.
The pore han her purgatorie; the riche kepe her day
That so scorneth God and Hise, can I non other telle. 75
How myghte hit be but God hem wreke of schame that never doth
That clerk ne knyght, hie ne lowe, loveth right no soth.
Now noght this sely chepmen in that they bye or selle
Or with hepe or with croc . . .
Yit thynket hem that cometh with wrong yeldeth best the wile. 76
But crafty Kyng of kende that ever set al thyng,
He sey how al misfarde and how they ledde the kyng.
He sente bote of bale and awrak here deth,
But thus seth men falsnesse, how hit to grounde geth
Fore hit may never be les, that wrong wil hom wende.
But covetise overcombreth so al that now lyve
That ho-so were riche ynow and hadde aght to gyve,
He may han at his wille the lewthe and the clerk,
And make a fals fondement and schende al the werk
But such baret breweres, ybrent be here bones! 77
That fore alle the hard happes that God on erthe schewes,
Unnethe is eny the warrer that ne wile be schrewes.
Flaterers and fals, wikketh and unwrast,
Of al the wreche that is come, be we noght agast
And therfore hath this schamnesse thus schak us be the berd.
But alther ferst grevaunce fel to the pouer wrecchen
That lay doun be the strete - for hunger dethe they strecchen.
On men fel the ferst wo: such was here hap,
And seththe on the riche cam the after-clap
And yit is to drede ther wile come more.
But Lord, fore that blisseth bloth that ran out of Thi side,
Graunt us rightfol lif to lede wile we here abide,
So that we mow oure giltis knowe with sorwe and schrifte of mouthe,
And ever to serve God the bet, for that I haf yow seith nowthe
And come to Hym that fore us was to the Jwes sold.
Explicit Symonye and Covetise
famine; earth; seized
won't lie; listen whoever
they do wrong
where; originate (see note)
Voice; seldom heard
are fools themselves; lead
they dare say nothing
it goes worse
know; takes heed
the pleasure of two lords
bribes from one (person) or
in vain; they
most of all
barn; by; mice
rides; with; (see note)
foreign; holds; bed
well for her
reads; ribible; (see note)
No other (book)
takes bribes; supports
go to ruin; drown
lack; teaching; be destroyed
cursed; (see note)
they may not
They walk around; shield
crumpled; (see note)
cap; combs the locket; (see note)
Without doubt; (see note)
"recite compline"; (see note)
act contrary to their rights; (see note)
by Saint Charity
Scarcely; errand whether
too seldom seen
They wear; shoes
ruddier complected [men]; (see note)
no more comfortable
From the best [food]
tries to nap
fight over the body
as I; hold
deans; chapters; (see note)
dean where; (see note)
consistory court where
two false people with
Without just cause
unless; well-looked after; their
alarm; those who
for you; preserve
lie; (see note)
deceive the wife
eight; pay for
may he ill prosper
touches; glad (lief)
For a sick person
strife and foolishness
hindered; grievously disposed
If a boy knows how
one churl; ruin
worth; middle earth
Unless; wears; bauble
sticks out; (see note)
boots; strut around
most of all
style; (see note)
In a ditch
They know how
hall of justice; (see note)
war; (see note)
belabored; reproached; (see note)
floor; (see note)
But; knew it; (see note)
half; stolen before
Need; near; (see note)
Why; (see note)
But cursedly; bidding
beadles; (see note)
To be shown
forty; (see note)
Attorneys; doing nothing
widespread; (see note)
injure; (see note)
Early; Monday; cursed
cursedness; (see note)
once; vexation; sorrow
Of; growing; earth; (see note)
equally wicked; (see note)
servant; (see note)
eat any food unless
beef; pork; provisions
when; saw; proud; (see note)
famine; painful; (see note)
growing on every bough
When; market for wheat
Quickly; punishment; teaching
Then; sorrow; (see note)
cattle died straightaway
when; plague; ceased; (see note)
provide a remedy
So that; about to die
they would not
baronage united ; separated
have been; time
short a time
earls; barons; boldest
look after; lost
held close together
rides; with discord; envy
destroy; must; afraid
Each; blame; wickedness
peaceful justice; bribery
Just; blinded; fears
utterly put down
rain; bread; (see note)
though; poor; redress
by chance two
puts it down
fee; (see note)
happens; have; harm; (see note)
On such occasions (or, For supper); (see note)
poor men; dig; delve
wanton behavior reigns
are ruined at the end
have their suffering
nature; ordained; (see note)
saw; went wrong
remedy of destruction; avenged
comes home to roost
have; ignorant man
shame; beard; (see note)
it may be feared
on our behalf; Jews
Go To Above All Thing Thou Arte a Kyng
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