Wednesday, May 29, 2019


A Nest of Friars

Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Summoner's Prologue," Canterbury Tales III.1689-1706 (tr. Nevill Coghill):
"Hold up thy tail, thou Satan!" then said he,
"Show forth thine arse and let the friar see
The nest ordained for friars in this place!"
Ere the tail rose a furlong into space
From underneath it there began to drive,
Much as if bees were swarming from a hive,
Some twenty thousand friars in a rout
And swarmed all over Hell and round about,
And then came back as fast as they could run
And crept into his arse again, each one.
He clapped his tail on them and then lay still.
And after when the friar had looked his fill
On all the torments in that sorry place
His spirit was restored by Heaven's grace
Back to his body again and he awoke.
But all the same the terror made him choke.
So much the devil's arse was in his mind,
The natural heritage of all his kind.

"Hold up thy tail, thow Sathanas!" quod he,
"Shewe forth thin ers, and lat the frere se        1690
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 hive,
Out of the develes ers ther gonne drive
Twenty thousand freres on a route,        1695
And thurghout helle swarmeden aboute,
And comen again as faste as they may gon
And in his ers they crepten everychon;
He clapte his tail again and lay ful stille.
This frere, whan he looked hadde his fille        1700
Upon the tormentz of this sory place,
His spirit God restored, of his grace,
Unto his body agayn, and he awook.
But natheles for fere yet he quook,
So was the develes ers ay in his minde;        1705
That is his heritage of verray kinde.
Jill Mann ad loc.:
The story about the friars hidden in the devil's tail may be a parody of medieval legends in which a monk or friar, vouchsafed a vision of heaven, laments that he sees none of his own order there; he is then shown a multitude of them beneath the Virgin Mary's mantle, as a sign of her special favour to them (see J.V. Fleming, ChauR, 2 (1967), 95-107).
The reference is to John V. Fleming, "The Summoner's Prologue: An Iconographic Adjustment," Chaucer Review 2.2 (Fall, 1967) 95-107.


<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?