Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

loft, and brother Robert, indignant that the lord of the manor should be put off with sheep's head, when he had just witnessed such dainty viands hid in the pantry, determines to bring to light the cunning of dame Alison. He coughs loud ; Simon, starting up, asks what sound was this ? and his wife informs him of the arrival of the two friars during his absence :

Yond is friar Robert and aged friar Allane,
That all this day has travelled with great pain;
That when they here arriv'd it was so late,
Curfew was rung, and closed was the gate;
So in our loft I gave them harberye.
The gudeman said-Wife, prudently did ye;
These friars two are hartly welcome hither;

Go call them down that we may drink together. The two friars are not slow to obey the hospitable invitation; and after a kindly meeting honest Simon laments that he has not a more dainty supper to set before them

Yet would I give a crown of gold for me,

For some good meat and drink among us three *. • My excellent friend,' said friar Robert, let me know only what kind of meat or drink you most long for. I was educated in Paris, and acquired in that university some little skill in the occult sciences, which I would gladly use for your profit, and the comfort of this kind landlady, to whom we are indebted for a lodging :

I take on hand, an ye will counsel keep,
That I shall make you taste, before you sleep,
Of the best meat that is in this countrie,
With Gascoign wine if any in it be,-
Nay should it be within a hundred mile,
It shall be here before a little while t.
* Poems, vol. ii. p. 14.

# Ibid, p. 14.

Simon is delighted with the proposal, and friar Robert, at his entreaty, commences his pretended conjurations. He starts upon the floor, opens a little volume which he has in his hand, turns first to the east, next to the west, then to the aumry or pantry, and lastly strikes with his wand the trough or girnel in which friar John lay trembling. After many complicated gestures and incantations, the hooded magician starts up ‘full stoure,' and declares that his work is completed :

Now it is done, and ye shall have plenty
Of bread and wine the best in this countrie;
Therefore, good dame, get up thou speedily,
And march ye strait unto yon aumery,
Then open it, and see ye bring us syne
A pair of bottles filled with Gascoign wine,
They hold a gallon and more, that wot I weil,
Thence also bring the main bread in a creill,
A pair of rabbits, fat and piping hot,
The capons also, rostet well, I wot
Two pair of bonny partridges are there,
And eke of plewers a most dainty pair *.

Dame Alison at once perceives that her practices have been discovered; but, proceeding to the cupboard, and disclosing each savoury dish as it is named by the necromancer, she assumes a wellacted astonishment, whilst honest Simon cannot contain either his wonder or his appetite :

He had great wonder, and swore by the mone,
That friar Robert well his debt had done;
He may be called a man of great science,
That hath so quickly made this purviance,
And brought it here through his great subtilty,
And through his knowledge in philosophy.

* Poems, vol. ii. p. 16.

1

moon,

The innkeeper, however, is hungry, and has no inclination to waste time in empty compliments ; so sitting down without question or debate, he does excellent justice to the capons, plovers, partridges, and washes all down with many a lusty draught of the good Gascoign wine, little careful by what strange and unlawful practices it seemed to be procured; but, on the contrary, wonderfully pleased with that substantial philosophy which had provided him so excellent a repast. Having assuaged his appetite, however, he becomes inquisitive as to the mode by which so extraordinary a feat of necromancy has been performed, and earnestly begs friar Robert to show him his familiar; but he is answered, that were the spirit to appear in its own dreadful shape, it is as much as his senses or his life were worth: he adds, however, that it is possible to make him change himself into some less questionable form, and bids the innkeeper say what that shall be :

Then Simon said in likeness of a frier,
In colour white right as your self it wear,

For white colour to hurt no man will dare. It may not be so,' says friar Robert, ' for it were a despite to our order that so lubbard a fiend should be honoured by bearing our livery; yet since you desire it, he shall assume the likeness a friar, but it shall be a black one.'

But since it pleases you that now are here, Ye shall him see in likeness of a frier, In habit black it was his kind to wear*. Simon then receives directions to take his stand at the door with a stout oak cudgel in his hand,

* Poems, vol. ii. p. 19.

and to hold himself ready to strike with all his might the moment he received his orders, but to be careful not to speak a word. The catastrophe may be readily anticipated. Friar Robert, advancing to the trough, beneath which friar John has lain ensconced during the whole of this adventure, evokes him to make his instant appearance, by the name of Hurlybass.

Ha! how, Sir Hurlybass I conjure thee

That thou uprise, and soon to me appear

In habit black, in likeness of a frier,
Out of this trough-wherein thou now dost ly.
Thou raise thee soon, and make no din or cry,
But tumble up the trough that we may see,
And unto us now show thee openly.
But in this place take care thou no man grieve,
And draw thy lubbard hands within thy sleeve,
And pull the cowl quite o'er thine ugsome face ;
Thou mayest thank heav’n thou gettest so much grace.

*

*

*

*

he rose,

With that the friar beneath the trough that lay,
Raxit him

sone,

but he was in a fray";
And
up

and wist na better wayn,
But from the trough he tumbled oer the stane?.
Syne fra the samyn` where he thought it lang
Unto the door he pressed him to gang.
With heavy cheer and dreary countenance,
For neer before him happened such a chance :
And when friar Robert saw him gangand by",
Full loudly to the gudeman did he cry-
Strike, strike, man, hardily—'tis time for thee :
With that Simon a fellon flap let flie,
And with his cudgel hit him on the neck:
He was so fierce he fell out o'er the sack,
And broke his head upon a mustard stane,
Be this friar John out o'er the stair is gane 6.
fright.

3 stone.

way; 4 Then from the same, going past. gone.

1

2

6

But in sic haste, that mist he has the trap,
And in the mire he fell, such was his hap,
Well forty foot in breadth beneath the stair ;
Yet got he up—with clothing nothing fair,
All drearily upon his feet he stude,
And thro' the mire full smartly than he yude?;
And o’er the wall he clambered hastily,
Which round about was laid with cope stones dry.
Of his escape in heart he was full fain,

I trow he shall be loath to come again*. There are few of Chaucer's tales which are equal, and certainly none of them superior to this excellent piece of satire. I have dwelt upon it the rather, because without the coarseness and licentiousness which infects the poetry of the age, it gives us a fine specimen of its strength and natural painting. The whole management of the story, its quiet comic humour, its variety and natural delineation of human character, the freshness and brilliancy of its colouring, the excellence and playfulness of its satire upon the hypocritical and dissolute lives of many of the monastic orders, and the easy and vigorous versification into which it is thrown, are entitled to the highest praise.

Another beautiful poem of this author is, the • Golden Targe, but our limits will hardly permit us to touch upon it. Its subject is, the Power of Love; and nothing, certainly, can breathe a sweeter or truer spirit of poetry than its opening stanzas.

Brycht as the sterne of day begonth to schyne,
Quhen gon to bed war Vesper and Lucyne,

past.
* Poems, vol. i. pp. 21, 22.

6

1

« AnteriorContinuar »