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The Pardoner
    He and a gentle Pardoner rode together, 
690  A bird from Charing Cross of the same feather, 
Just back from visiting the Court of Rome. 
He loudly sang “Come hither, love, come home!”
The Summoner sang deep seconds° to this song, 
No trumpet ever sounded half so strong. 
695  This Pardoner had hair as yellow as wax, 
Hanging down smoothly like a hank of flax. 
In driblets fell his locks behind his head 
Down to his shoulders which they overspread; 
Thinly they fell, like rat-tails, one by one. 
700  He wore no hood upon his head, for fun; 
The hood inside his wallet had been stowed, 
He aimed at riding in the latest mode; 
But for a little cap his head was bare 
And he had bulging eye-balls, like a hare. 
705  He’d sewed a holy relic° on his cap; 
His wallet lay before him on his lap, 
Brimful of pardons° come from Rome, all hot. 
He had the same small voice a goat has got. 
His chin no beard had harbored, nor would harbor, 
710  Smoother than ever chin was left by barber. 
I judge he was a gelding, or a mare. 
As to his trade, from Berwick down to Ware 
There was no pardoner of equal grace, 
For in his trunk he had a pillow-case 
715  Which he asserted was Our Lady’s veil. 
He said he had a gobbet° of the sail 
Saint Peter had the time when he made bold 
To walk the waves, till Jesu Christ took hold. 
He had a cross of metal set with stones 
720  And, in a glass, a rubble of pigs’ bones. 
And with these relics, any time he found 
Some poor up-country parson to astound, 
In one short day, in money down, he drew 
More than the parson in a month or two, 
725  And by his flatteries and prevarication°
Made monkeys of the priest and congregation.
But still to do him justice first and last
In church he was a noble ecclesiast.°
How well he read a lesson or told a story!
730 But best of all he sang an Offertory,°
For well he knew that when that song was sung
He’d have to preach and tune his honey-tongue
And (well he could) win silver from the crowd.
That’s why he sang so merrily and loud.


735     Now I have told you shortly, in a clause,
The rank, the array, the number, and the cause 
Of our assembly in this company 
In Southwark, at that high-class hostelry 
Known as The Tabard, close beside The Bell.
740  And now the time has come for me to tell 
How we behaved that evening; I’ll begin 
After we had alighted at the Inn, 
Then I’ll report our journey, stage by stage, 
All the remainder of our pilgrimage. 
745  But first I beg of you, in courtesy, 
Not to condemn me as unmannerly 
If I speak plainly and with no concealings 
And give account of all their words and dealings, 
Using their very phrases as they fell. 
750  For certainly, as you all know so well, 
He who repeats a tale after a man 
Is bound to say, as nearly as he can, 
Each single word, if he remembers it, 
However rudely spoken or unfit, 
755  Or else the tale he tells will be untrue, 
The things pretended and the phrases new. 
He may not flinch although it were his brother, 
He may as well say one word as another. 
And Christ Himself spoke broad in Holy Writ, 
760  Yet there is no scurrility° in it, 
And Plato says, for those with power to read, 
“The word should be as cousin to the deed.” 
Further I beg you to forgive it me 
If I neglect the order and degree 
765  And what is due to rank in what I’ve planned. 
I’m short of wit as you will understand.

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