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The Canterbury Tales
Geoffery Chaucer

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


The Pardoner's Tale

Here begins the Pardoner's Tale.

Once there dwelt in Flanders a company of young people who made a habit of folly, such as debauchery, gambling1, brothels, and taverns, where with harps, lutes and citterns2 they danced and played at dice day and night, and ate and drank more than they could, through which they did service to the Devil by unnatural excess within those Devil's temples. [471]

Their oaths were so great and so damnable that it was grisly to hear them swear; they tore our blessed Lord's body into pieces anew (as if the Jews had not torn him enough), and each laughed at the others' sins. And then came graceful and slim dancing girls, young girls selling fruit3, singers with harps, pimps and confectioners, who are all true officers of the Devil to kindle and blow that fire of lust, which is allied to gluttony. I take Holy Scripture as my witness that lechery is in wine and drunkenness. [484]

Lo, how drunken Lot4, against nature, lay with his daughters, unwittingly; he was so drunk he knew not what he did. 487

Herod5 (let any one look up the history), when he was full of wine at his feast, gave the command at his own table to slay the Baptist John, guiltless. [492]

Seneca, doubtless, also says a good word; he says he can find no difference between a man that is out of his mind and a man who is addicted to drink, except that madness, when it attacks a wretched creature, endures longer than drunkenness. O gluttony, full of cursedness! O first cause of our ruin! O origin of our damnation, until Christ redeemed us with His blood! [501]



1 gambling Throughout the tale, the term "gambling" is used for Chaucer's "hasardrye," which refers to gambling in general, but may at times refer to the specific game of dice known as Hazard.
2 citterns Guitar-like instruments.
3 girls selling fruit This is sometimes a metaphor for prostitutes, or at least the occupations at times coincided.
4 Lot See Genesis 19. 30-38.
5 Herod See Matthew 14.1-12.
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