Canterbury Tales: The Summoner’s Prologue

Author: Geoffrey Chaucer  | Date: 1380


High in his stirrups, then, the summoner stood;

Against the friar his heart, as madman’s would,

Shook like very aspen leaf, for ire.

"Masters," said he, "but one thing I desire;

I beg of you that, of your courtesy,

Since you have heard this treacherous friar lie,

You suffer it that I my tale may tell!

This friar he boasts he knows somewhat of Hell,

And God He knows that it is little wonder;

Friars and fiends are never far asunder.

For, by gad, you have oftentimes heard tell

How such a friar was snatched down into Hell

In spirit, once, and by a vision blown;

And as an angel led him up and down

To show the pains and torments that there were,

In all the place he saw no friar there.

Of other folk he saw enough in woe;

And to the angel then he questioned so:

"’Now, sir,’ said he, ’have friars such a grace

That none of them shall come into this place?’

"’Nay,’ said the angel, ’millions here are thrown!’

And unto Sathanas he led him down.

"’And now has Sathanas,’ said he, ’a tail

Broader than of a galleon is the sail.

Hold up thy tail, thou Sathanas!’ said he,

"’Show forth thine arse and let the friar see

Where is the nest of friars in this place!’

And ere one might go half a furlong’s space,

Just as the bees come swarming from a hive,

Out of the Devil’s arse-hole there did drive

Full twenty thousand friars in a rout,

And through all Hell they swarmed and ran about.

And came again, as fast as they could run,

And in his arse they crept back, every one.

He clapped his tail to and then lay right still.

This friar, when he’d looked at length his fill

Upon the torments of that sorry place,

His spirit God restored, of His high grace,

Into his body, and he did awake;

Nevertheless for terror did he quake

So was the Devil’s arse-hole in his mind,

Which is his future home, and like in kind.

God save all but this cursed friar here;

My prologue ends thus; to my tale give ear.

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Chicago: Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales: The Summoner’s Prologue Original Sources, accessed July 15, 2024,

MLA: Chaucer, Geoffrey. Canterbury Tales: The Summoner’s Prologue, Original Sources. 15 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Chaucer, G, Canterbury Tales: The Summoner’s Prologue. Original Sources, retrieved 15 July 2024, from