The Pardoner’s Tale: the Rioters Meet the Old Man

Read by Alfred David
as edited by E. Talbot Donaldson
in The Norton Anthology of English Literature
(ll. 428-461 in Norton; ll. 716-749 in The Riverside Chaucer)

The Pardoner’s Tale: the Rioters Meet the Old Man in MP3 format

The pruddeste of thise riotoures three
Answerde again, “What, carl with sory grace,
Why artou al forwrapped save thy face?
Why livestou so longe in so greet age?”

This olde man gan looke in his visage,
And saide thus, “For I ne can nat finde
A man, though that I walked into Inde,
Neither in citee ne in no village,
That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;
And therefore moot I han myn age stille,
As longe time as it is Goddes wille.

“Ne Deeth, allas, ne wol nat have my lif.
Thus walke I lik a restelees caitif,
And on the ground which is my modres gate
I knokke with my staf bothe erly and late,
And saye, ‘Leve moder, leet me in:
Lo, how I vanisshe, flessh and blood and skin.
Allas, when shal my bones been at reste?
Moder, with you wolde I chaunge my cheste
That in my chambre longe time hath be,
Ye, for an haire-clout to wrappe me.’
But yit to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked is my face.
But sires, to you it is no curteisye
To speken to an old man vilainye,
But he trespasse in word or elles in deede.
In Holy Writ ye may yourself wel rede,
‘Agains an old man, hoor upon his heed,
Ye shall arise.’ Wherfore I yive you reed,
Ne dooth unto an old man noon harm now,
Namore than that ye wolde men dide to you
In age, if that ye so longe abide.
And God be with you wher ye go or ride:
I moot go thider as I have to go.”