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The Pardoner's Portrait
The Pardoner
From the Ellesmere Manuscript

With hym ther was a gentil PARDONER
Of Rouncivale, his freend and his compeer,
That streight was comen fro the court of Rome.
Ful loude he soong Com hider, love, to me!
This Somonour bar to hym a stif burdoun,
Was nevere trompe of half so greet a soun.
This Pardoner hadde heer as yelow as wex
But smothe it heeng as dooth a strike of flex;
By ounces henge his lokkes that he hadde,
And therwith he hise shuldres overspradde.
But thynne it lay by colpons oon and oon;
But hood, for jolitee, ne wered he noon,
For it was trussed up in his walet.
Hym thoughte he rood al of the newe jet,
Dischevelee, save his cappe, he rood al bare.
Swiche glarynge eyen hadde he as an hare,
A vernycle hadde he sowed upon his cappe;
His walet lay biforn hym in his lappe
Bret-ful of pardoun, comen from Rome al hoot.
A voys he hadde as smal as hath a goot;
No berd hadde he, ne nevere sholde have,
As smothe it was as it were late shave;
I trowe he were a geldyng or a mare.
But of his craft, fro Berwyk unto Ware,
Ne was ther swich another pardoner,
For in his male he hadde a pilwe-beer,
Which that, he seyde, was oure lady veyl;
He seyde he hadde a gobet of the seyl
That Seïnt Peter hadde whan that he wente
Upon the see til Jhesu Crist hym hente.
He hadde a croys of latoun ful of stones,
And in a glas he hadde pigges bones.
But with thise relikes, whan that he fond
A poure person dwellynge upon lond,
Upon a day he gat hym moore moneye
Than that the person gat in monthes tweye;
And thus with feyned flaterye and japes
He made the person and the peple his apes.
But, trewely to tellen atte laste,
He was in chirche a noble ecclesiaste;
Wel koude he rede a lessoun or a storie,
But alderbest he song an Offertorie,
For wel he wiste, whan that song was songe,
He moste preche and wel affile his tonge
To wynne silver, as he ful wel koude;
Therefore he song the murierly and loude.










[AJ Notes:]

669. hym, the Summoner.
        Pardoner: on pardoners and the inherent abuses of the position, see
        Jusserand, Jean Jules. English Wayfaring Life in the Middle Ages, 8th Ed.
        London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1891. pp. 309-326. Link.
670. Rouncivale, either the Hospital of Blessed Mary of Rouncyvalle in London or
        Runceval Hall in Oxford. (Pollard).
        freend, friend.
        compeer, companion.
671. That streight was comen fro, who had come straight from.
672. Ful loude, very loudly.
673. bar to hym a stif burdoun, sang a strong bass in harmony with him. Another meaning of "burdoun"
        is "staff", so the implication is present that the Summoner bore a "stiff staff", i.e. a hard-on,
        for the Pardoner.
674. trompe, trumpet.
        soun, sound.
675. heer as yelow as wex, hair as yellow as wax.
676. smothe, smooth; flat.
        heeng, hung.
        strike of flex, bundle of flax.
677. By ounces, in small pieces.
        henge, hung.
        lokkes, locks.
678. he hise shuldres overspradde, he spread them over his shoulders.
679. thynne, thin.
        by colpons, in strands.
        oon and oon, one by one.
680. for jolitee, for beauty's sake.
        ne wered he noon, he wore none.
681. walet, travel bag.
682. Hym thoughte, he thought.
        rood, rode.
        al of the newe jet, dressed after the latest fashion.
683. Dischevelee, dishevelled; i.e., his hair loose.
        save his cappe, except for his cap.
684. Swiche, such.
685. A vernycle, a Veronica; i.e., a piece of cloth with a copy of a supposed imprint of the face of Jesus
        on St. Veronica's veil, which she offered to him to wipe his sweat while he was carrying the cross to
        Calvary. See the painting St. Veronica with the Holy Kerchief, c1420.
686. biforn, before; in front of.
687. Bret-ful, brimful; filled to the brim.
        al hoot, all hot; as in the modern saying, "hot off the press," though of course at this time
        they would have been hand-written.
688. voys, voice.
        smal, high; squeaky.
        goot, goat.
689. berd, beard.
        ne nevere sholde have, nor was ever likely to have.
690. smothe it, smooth it (his face).
        late shave, lately shaven.
691. I trowe, I trust; I believe.
        geldyng, lit. a gelding (a gelded male horse), i.e. a eunuch; a castrato.
        mare, lit. a female horse; i.e., a girl. Used as a euphemism for a homosexual.
692. of his craft, as to his craft (his profession).
        Berwyk, Berwick.
693. Ne was ther swich, there wasn't one other such.
694. male, bag.
        pilwe-beer, pillowcase.
695. oure lady veyl, Our Lady's (Virgin Mary's) veil.
696. gobet of the seyl, a piece of the sail.
698. see, sea.
        hym hente, took him; seized him.
699. croys of latoun, latten cross; an alloy of copper, tin and other metals; similar to brass.
        ful of stones, covered in (precious or semi-precious) stones.
700. glas, glass jar.
        pigges bones, pig bones.
701. thise, these.
        relikes, relics.
702. poure person, poor parson.
703. Upon a day, in a day.
704. monthes tweye, two months.
705. feyned flaterye and japes, feigned flattery and tricks.
706. person and the peple, the parson and his congregation.
        apes, fools; dupes.
707. trewely, truly.
        atte laste, at last; in the end.
708. chirche, church.
709. koude, could.
710. alderbest, best of all.
        song, sang.
        Offertorie, Offertory; part of the mass during which people would put money into the collection.
711. wel he wiste, well he knew.
712. moste, had to.
        wel affile his tonge, well file his tongue; i.e. sharpen his speech.
714. the murierly, all the more merrily.


Pollard, Alfred W., ed. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Vol I.
London: Macmillan and Co., Ltd., 1907. 35-37.

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Created on November 29, 1998 by Anniina Jokinen. Last updated on February 5, 2023.


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