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‘Lordings,’ quod he, ‘in chirches whan I preche,
I peyne me to han an hauteyn speche,
And ringe it out as round as gooth a belle,
For I can al by rote that I telle.
My theme is alwey oon, and ever was—
Radix malorum est Cupiditas.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the Pardoner began, “whenever I give a sermon in church, I try really hard to speak out in a loud voice that resonates like a bell. I know all my sermons by heart and they’re all centered on the same theme: Radix malorum est cupiditas—the love of money is the root of all evil.
First I pronounce whennes that I come,
And than my bulles shewe I, alle and somme.
Our lige lordes seel on my patente,
10That shewe I first, my body to warente,
That no man be so bold, ne preest ne clerk,
Me to destourbe of Cristes holy werk;
And after that than telle I forth my tales,
Bulles of popes and of cardinales,
Of patriarkes, and bishoppes I shewe;
And in Latyn I speke a wordes fewe,
To saffron with my predicacioun,
And for to stire men to devocioun.
Than shewe I forth my longe cristal stones,
20Y-crammed ful of cloutes and of bones;
Reliks been they, as wenen they echoon.
Than have I in latoun a sholder-boon
Which that was of an holy Iewes shepe.
“Good men,” seye I, “tak of my wordes kepe;
If that this boon be wasshe in any welle,
If cow, or calf, or sheep, or oxe swelle
That any worm hath ete, or worm y-stonge,
Tak water of that welle, and wash his tonge,
And it is hool anon; and forthermore,
30Of pokkes and of scabbe, and every sore
Shal every sheep be hool, that of this welle
Drinketh a draughte; tak kepe eek what I telle.
If that the good-man, that the bestes oweth,
Wol every wike, er that the cok him croweth,
Fastinge, drinken of this welle a draughte,
As thilke holy Iewe our eldres taughte,
His bestes and his stoor shal multiplye.
And, sirs, also it heleth Ialousye;
For, though a man be falle in Ialous rage,
40Let maken with this water his potage,
And never shal he more his wyf mistriste,
Though he the sooth of hir defaute wiste;
Al had she taken preestes two or three.
“The first thing I do when I preach is I tell people where I come from, and then I show all my letters authorizing me to preach and issue church pardons. These are letters that the pope himself has signed. I always start by showing the pope’s official seal that’s on my passport in order to protect myself from priests and government official who want to arrest me or stop me from doing Christ’s holy work. After that, I tell my stories. I show all my letters signed by the pope, cardinals, and various bishops, and I sprinkle a few Latin sayings in here and there to spice up my sermons and make them sound holy. Then I pull out all my boxes crammed full of old cloth and bones, which everyone assumes to be holy relics. I’ve also got a piece of bone from the shoulder of a Jew’s sheep that I keep in a brass box. ‘Ladies and gentlemen,’ I say, ‘Listen carefully. Put this bone in a well so that when your cow or calf or sheep or ox gets worms or is bitten by a snake, you can wash its tongue with the special well water and heal it. Furthermore, any sheep that has the pox or scabies that drinks from this well will be cured. And if an honest farmer drinks some of this well water before dawn, before breakfast, just as this Jew taught our ancestors, then all his farm animals will multiply. This water will also get rid of jealousy. If you make soup from it, you’ll never doubt your wife’s faithfulness again, even if you have reason to suspect she’s cheating on you or if she’s had an affair with two or three priests.