Original Text

Modern Text

‘Iesu Crist, and seynt Benedight,
“St. Benedict and Jesus Christ,
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight,
Save us from the poltergeist,
For nightes verye, the white pater-noster!
Let God above keep us from harm,
300Where wentestow, seynt Petres soster?’
St. Peter’s sister, hear this charm!”
And atte laste this hende Nicholas
Gan for to syke sore, and seyde, ‘allas!
Shal al the world be lost eftsones now?’
At last Nicholas heaved a deep sigh and screamed, “It’s the end of the world!”
This carpenter answerde, ‘what seystow?
What! thenk on God, as we don, men that swinke.’
Startled, the carpenter jumped back, and said, “Huh? What baloney! Keep your mind on God, boy, as we working men do.”
This Nicholas answerde, ‘fecche me drinke;
And after wol I speke in privetee
Of certeyn thing that toucheth me and thee;
I wol telle it non other man, certeyn.’
Nicholas replied, “Get me something to drink. Then I want to talk with you in private about something that concerns just the two of us. This isn’t for anyone else to hear—just you and me.”
310This carpenter goth doun, and comth ageyn,
And broghte of mighty ale a large quart;
And whan that ech of hem had dronke his part,
This Nicholas his dore faste shette,
And doun the carpenter by him he sette.
The carpenter went downstairs, then returned with a quart of ale for Nicholas and himself to share. When they’d finished drinking, Tricky Nicky latched the door shut and sat down beside the carpenter.
He seyde, ‘Iohn, myn hoste lief and dere,
Thou shall upon thy trouthe swere me here,
That to no wight thou shalt this conseil wreye;
For it is Cristes conseil that I seye,
And if thou telle it man, thou are forlore;
320For this vengaunce thou shalt han therfore,
That if thou wreye me, thou shalt be wood!’
‘Nay, Crist forbede it, for his holy blood!’
Quod tho this sely man, ‘I nam no labbe,
Ne, though I seye, I nam nat lief to gabbe.
Sey what thou wolt, I shal it never telle
To child ne wyf, by him that harwed helle!’
“John, my host and my friend,” he began. “You have to promise not to tell another living soul what I’m about to tell you because I’m going to let you in on one of God’s little secrets. Tell this to anyone, and you’ll go crazy and suffer God’s wrath for betraying Him.” “No,” said the foolish carpenter, “I’m no blabbermouth. I swear by Christ not to tell, no matter what anyone says or does to me. My lips are sealed.”