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The Canterbury Tales
Geoffery Chaucer

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Translation of "The Pardoner's Prologue" courtesy Gerard NeCastro, University of Maine at Machias.


The Pardoner's Prologue

The Words of the Host to the Physician and the Pardoner.

Our Host began to swear as if he were mad; "Help! Alas! By the nails and cross of Christ, this was a false churl and a false justice! May as shameful a death as a heart can devise come to these judges and their lawyers! But all the same, this poor maiden is slain, alas! She bought her beauty at too high a price; therefore I say, as we may see, the gifts of Fortune or Nature are the cause of death to many creatures. [296]

Her beauty was her death, I dare well say. Alas, how pitifully she was slain! From both these gifts I spoke of now, people often have more harm than profit. But truly, my own dear master, this is a piteous tale to hear. But nonetheless pass it over; it does not matter. I pray God to save your gentle body, and your urinals1 and chamber pots, as well as your Hippocrateses and your Galens2, and every box full of your syrup-medicine. God bless them and our Lady, Blessed Mary! As I live and prosper, you are a proper fellow and like a prelate3, by Saint Ronan4. [310]

Did I not say it well? I cannot speak like a scholar, but I know well that you so made my heart ache, so that I have nearly had a hear attack. By Christ's bones! Unless I take medicine, or else a draught of fresh malt ale, or hear a merry tale right away, my heart is done for, in pity for this maid. [317]



1 urinals Clear flasks used to observe urine, by which the physician could analyze the patient's illness. Chamber pots were, of course, used for the collection of bodily fluids.
2 Hippocrateses and your Galens The two physicians of greatest authority in the Middle Ages. Hippocrates, ca. 460-370 BC, "the father of medicine," radically changed medicine in ancient Greece. Galen, 129-216 AD, Greek Physician whose works were the most widely followed throughout the Middle Ages.
3 prelate A dignitary or officer of the Church.
4 Saint Ronan A Scottish saint.
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