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ECCLESIASTICAL CHARACTERS OF
IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY.
THER was also a Nonne, a Prioresse,
That of hire smiling was full simple and coy;
Hire gretest othe n'as but by Seint Eloy;
And she was cleped' Madame Eglantine.
Ful wel she sange the service devine,
Entuned in hire nose ful swetely;
And Frenche she spake ful fayre and fetisly
After the schole of Stratford attè Bowe,
For Frenche of Paris was to hire unknowe.
At metè was she wel ytaughte withalle;
She lette no morsel from her lippès fall,
Ne wette hire fingres in hire saucè depe.
Wel coude she carie a morsel, and wel kepe,
Thattè no drope ne fell upon
In curtesie was sette ful moche hire lest.'
Hire over lippè wiped she so clene,
That in hire cuppe was no ferthing sene
Of gresè, when she dronken hadde hire draught.
Ful semèly after her mete she raught."
And sikerly she was of grete disport,
And ful plèsant, and amiable of port,
And peined' hire to contrefeten chere
Of court, and ben estatelich of manère,
And to ben holden digne of reverence.
But for to speken of hire conscience,
She was so charitable and so piteous,
She wolde wepe if that she saw a mous
Caughte in a trappe, if it were ded or bledde.
Of smalè houndès hadde she, that she fedde
With rosted flesh, and milk, and wastel brede.
But sore wept she if on of hem were dede,
Or if men smote it with a yerde smert,
And all was conscience and tendre herte.
Ful semely hire wimple ypinched was;
Hire nose tretis ;' hire eyen grey as glass ;
Hire mouth ful smale, and therto soft and red;
But sikerly she hadde a fayre forehed.
It was almost a spannè brode I trowe;
For hardily she was not undergrowe.'
Ful fetise & was hire cloke, as I was ware.
Of smale corall about hire arm she bare
A pair of bedès, gauded all with grene;
And thereon heng a broche of gold ful shene,
On whiche was first ywritten a crouned A,
And after, Amor vincit omnia.
Another Nonne also with hire hadde she,
That was hire chapelleine, and Preestès thre.
A Monk ther was, a fayre for the maistrie,
An outrider, that loved venerie;'
A manly man, to ben an abbot able,
Ful many a deintè hors hadde he in stable :
And whan he rode, men might his bridel here
Gingèling in a whistling wind as clere, 1 Took pains.
And eke as loude, as doth the chapell belle,
Ther as this lord was keeper of the celle.
The reule of Seint Maure and of Seint Beneit,
Because that it was olde and somdele streit,
This ilkè monke lette oldè thingès pace,
And held after the newè worlde the trace.
He yave' not of the text a pulled hen,
That saith, that hunters ben not holy men;
Ne that a monk, when he is rekkěles,"
Is like to a fish that is waterles;
This is to say, a monk out of his cloistre.
This ilké text held he not worth an oistre.
And I say his opinion was good.
What shulde he studie, and make himselven wood
Upon a book in cloistre alway to pore,
Or swinken with his hondès, and laboure,
As Austin bit?' how shal the world be served ?
Let Austin have his swink to him reserved.
Therfore he was a prickasoure a right:
Greihoundes he hadde as swift as foul of flight
Of pricking and of hunting for the hare
Was all his lust, for no coste wolde he spare.
I saw his sleves purfiled' at the hond
With gris, and that the finest of the lond.
And for to fasten his hood under his chinne,
He had of gold ywrought a curious pinne;
A love-knotte in the greter end ther was.
His hed was balled, and shone as any glas,
And eke his face, as it hadde been anoint.
He was a lord ful fat and in good point.
eyen stepe,' and rolling in his bed, That stemed as a fornëis cf led. His botès souple, his hors in gret estat; Now certainly he was a fayre prelàt. ? Mr. Tyrwhitt supposes that this should be righelles, i. c. out of the 7 Wrought
He was not pale as a forpined gost.
A fat swan loved he best of any rost.
His palfrey was as broune as is a bery.
A Frere there was, a wanton and a mery,
A Limitour,' a ful solempnè man.
In all the ordres foure as none that can'
So much of daliance and fayre langage.
He hadde ymade ful many a mariage
Of yongè wimmen, at his own cost,
Until his ordre he was a noble post.
Ful wel beloved, and familiar was he,
With frankeleins over all in his contrée,
And eke with worthy wimmen of the toun:
For he had power of confession
And saide himselfè, more than a curat,
For of his ordre he was licentiat.
Ful swetely herde he confession,
And plesant was his absolution.
He was an esy man to give penance,
There as he wiste to han a good pitànce:
For unto a poure' ordre for to give
Is signè that a man is well yshrive."
For if he gave, he dorstèo make avant,
He wistè that a man was repentant.
For many a man so hard is of his herte,
He may not wepe although him soré smerte.
Therefore in stede of weeping and praières,
Men mote give silver to the pourè freres.
His tippet was ay farsed’ ful of knives,
And pinnès, for to given fayrè wives.
And certainly he hadde a mery note.
Well coude he singe and plaien on a rote.'
I A Limitour was a Friar who had a licence to beg within a certain district. · Knew. 3 Havo. 4 Poor.
• Shriven. • Durst make a boast.
8 A stringed instrument.
Of yeddinges' he bare utterly the pris.
His nekke was white as the flour de lis.
Therto he strong was as a champioun,
And knew wel the tavernès in every toun,
And every hosteler and gay tapstère,
Better than a lazar or a beggère,
For unto swiche a worthy man as he
Accordeth nought, as by his facultè,
To haven' with sike lazars acquaintance,
It is not honest, it may not avance,
As for to delen with swiche pouràille,
But all with riche, and sellers of vitaille.
And over all, ther as profit shuld arise,
Curteis he was, and lowly of servise.
Ther n'as no man no whar so vertuous.
He was the best beggèr in all his hous :
And gave a certain fermè' for the grant,
Non of his bretheren came in his haunt.
For though a widewe hadde but a shoo,
(So plesant was his in principio)
Yet wold he have a ferthing or he went.
His pourchas' was wel better than his rent.
And rage he coude as it hadde ben a whelp,
In lovèdayes, there coude he mochel help.
For ther was he nat like a cloisterere,
With thredbare cope, as is a poure scholere,
But he was like a maister or a pope.
Of double worsted was his semicope,'
That round was as a belle out of the presse.
Somewhat he lisped for his wantonnesse,
To make his English swete upon his tongue ;
And in his harping, whan that he hadde songe
His eyen twinkeled in his hed aright,
As don the sterrès on a frosty night.
This worthy limitour was cleped Hubèrd.
3 Poor people. • Days appointed for the amicable settlement of differences.