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The Friar in Hell

The twenty-first century is the one in which anything can be said, online at any rate. And if you take offence, well too bad, creep. Of course there can be exceptions ... Things were fairly robust in the fourteenth century too. And Chaucer’s summoner here is certainly, if not suggesting that all priests are untrustworthy in certain situations, suggesting that all friars have a close, even intimate, association with the Devil. I don’t think this really needs translating, but a carryk (modern carrack) is a ship like a galleon and sathanas is of course the divil (Satan). I will leave it to you to decide if Geoffrey Chaucer should apologise.

This frere bosteth that he knoweth helle
And God it woot, that it is litel wonder;
Freres and feendes been but lyte asonder.
For, pardee, ye han ofte tyme herd telle
How that a frere ravyshed was to helle
In spirit ones by a visioun;
And as an angel ladde hym up and doun,
To shewen hym the peynes that the were,
In al the place saugh he nat a frere;
Of oother folk he saugh ynowe in wo.
Unto this angel spak the frere tho:
Now, sire, quod he, han freres swich a grace
That noon of hem shal come to this place?
Yis, quod this aungel, many a millioun!
And unto sathanas he ladde hym doun.
 --And now hath sathanas,--seith he,--a tayl
Brodder than of a carryk is the sayl.
Hold up thy tayl, thou sathanas!--quod he;
 --shewe forth thyn ers, and lat the frere se
Where is the nest of freres in this place!
And er that half a furlong wey of space,
Right so as bees out swarmen from an hyve,
 Out of the develes ers ther gonne dryve
Twenty thousand freres on a route,
And thurghout helle swarmed al aboute,
And comen agayn as faste as they may gon,
And in his ers they crepten everychon.
He clapte his tayl agayn and lay ful stille.

27/04/2014