Against Friars

Preest ne monk ne yet canòun
Ne no man of religioun
Given hem so to devocioun
As don these holy freres.
For some given hem to chivalry,
Some to riot and ribaudery;
But freres given hem to grete study,
And to grete prayères.
Who-so kepes their rule al
Both in word and dede,
I am ful siker that he shal
Have heven-blis to mede.

Men may see by their contenaunce
That they are men of grete penàunce,
And also that their sustenaunce
Simple is and waike.
I have lived now fourty yeres,
And fatter men about the neres
Yet saw I never than are these freres,
In contreys ther they raike.
Mete-less so megre are they made,
And penaunce so puttes hem down,
That echone is an hors-lade
When he shal trusse of town.

Allas, that ever it shuld be so,
Suche clerkes as they about shuld go
Fro town to town by two and two
To seeke their sustenaunce!
By God that al this world wan,
He that that ordre first bigan,
Me think, certes, it was a man
Of simple ordinaunce.
For they have nought to live by
They wandren here and there,
And dele with divers mercery,
Right as they pedlers were.

They dele with purses, pinnes, and knives,
With girdles, gloves, for wenches and wives;
But ever bacward the husband thrives
Ther they are haunted till:
For when the good-man is fro hame,
And the frere comes to our dame,
He spares nawther for sinne ne shame
That he ne dos his will.
If they no help of houswives had,
When husbandes are not inne,
The freres welfare were ful bad,
For they shuld brew ful thinne.

Some freres beren pelùre aboute
For grete ladys and wenches stoute,
To reverce with their clothes withoute—
Al after that they ere—
For some vaire, and some grise,
For some bugee, and for some bise;
And also many a divers spise
In bagges about they bere.
Al that for women is plesand
Ful redy, certes, have they;
But litel give they the husband
That for al shal pay.

Trantes they can, and many jape:
For some can with a pound of sape
Get him a kirtel and a cape
And somwhat els therto!
Wherto shuld I othes swere?
Ther is no pedler that pak can bere
That half so dere can sell his gere
Than a frere can do.
For if he give a wife a knife
That cost but penys two,
Worthe ten knives, so mot I thrife,
He wil have er he go. . . .

They say that they distroye sinne,
And they maintene men most ther-inne:
For had a man slain al his kinne,
Go shrive him at a frere,
And for less than a pair of shoone
He wil assoil him, clene and soone,
And say the sin that he has doone
His soule shal never dere.
It semes sooth that men sayn of thaim
In many divers londe,
That caitife cursed Caim
First this ordre fonde.

Now see the sooth wheder it be swa,
That frere Carmes come of a K,
The frere Austìnes come of A,
Frere Iacobines of I,
Of M comen the frere Menòurs:
Thus grounded Caim these four ordòurs
That fillen the world ful of erròurs
And of ypocrisy.
All wickednes that men can tell
Regnes hem among;
Ther shal no soule have roume in hell,
Of freres ther is such throng. . . .

Ful wisely can they preche and say,
But as they preche no thing do thay.
I was a frere ful many a day;
Therfor the sooth I wate.
But when I saw that their living
Acorded not to their preching,
Off I cast my frere clothing,
And wightly went my gate.
Other leve ne took I none
Fro hem when I went,
But took hem to the devel echone—
The prior and the convènt.

Out of the ordre though I be gone,
Apostata ne am I none:
Of twelve monethes me wanted one,
And odde days nine or ten.
Away to wende I made me boun
Or time come of professioun;
I went my way thurghout the toun
In sight of many men.
Lord God, that with paines ill
Mankinde bought so dere,
Let never man after me have will
For to make him frere!
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