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The town was full of those who carried in their hats the pilgrim's signs. Besides the ordinary insignia of pilgrimage, every shrine had its special signs, which the pilgrim on his return bore conspicuously upon his hat or scrip or hanging round his neck (see Skeat, Notes to Piers Plowman) in token that he had accomplished that particular pilgrimage. Thus the ampull? were the signs of Canterbury; the scallop shell that of St. James of Compostella; the cross keys and the vernicle of Rome—the vernicle was a copy of the handkerchief of St. Veronica, which was miraculously impressed with the face of our Lord. These shrines were cast in lead in the most part. Thus in the supplement to the Canterbury Tales,
Then as manere and custom is, signes there they bought, For men of contre should know whom they had sought; Eche man set his silver in such thing as they liked, And in the meanwhile the miller had y-piked His barns full of signes of Canterbury brought.

Erasmus makes Menedemus ask, 'What kind of attire is this that thou wearest? It is all set over with shells scolloped, full of images of lead and tin, and charms of straw work, and the cuffs are adorned with snakes' eggs instead of bracelets.' To which the reply is that he has been to certain shrines on pilgrimage. The late Dr. Hugo communicated to the Society of Antiquaries a paper in which he enumerated and figured a great many of these signs found in different places, but especially in the river when Old London Bridge was removed. Bells—Campana Thom?—Canterbury Bells—were also hung{158} from the bridles, ringing merrily all the way by way of a charm to keep off evil.

Every day in the summer parties of pilgrims started from one or other of the Inns of Southwark: there was the short pilgrimage and the long pilgrimage: the pilgrimage of a day: the pilgrimage of a month: and the pilgrimage beyond the seas. From Southampton and at Dartmouth sailed the ships of those who were licensed to carry pilgrims to Compostella, which was the shrine of St. Iago: or to Rome: or to Rocamadom in Gascony: or to Jaffa for the Holy Places. The pilgrimage outremer is undoubtedly that which conferred the longest indulgences, the greatest benefits upon the soul, and the highest sanctity upon the pilgrim.

In the matter of short pilgrimages, the South Londoner had a considerable choice. He might simply go to the{159} shrine of St. Erkenwald at Paul's, or to that of Edward the Confessor at Westminster, he might even confine his devotions to the Holy Rood of Bermondsey. If he wished to go a little further afield, there were the shrines of Our Lady of the Oak; of Muswell Hill; or of Willesden. But these were all on the north side of London and belonged to the City rather than to Southwark. For him of the Borough there was the shrine of Crome's Hill, Greenwich, which provided a pleasant outing for the day: it might be prolonged with feasting and drinking to fill up the whole day, so that the whole family could get a holiday combined with religious exercises in good company and return home at night, each happy in the consciousness that so many years were knocked off purgatory.

For the longer pilgrimages there were of course the far distant journeys to Jerusalem, generally over land as far as Venice, and then by a 'personally conducted' voyage, the{160} captain providing escort to and from the Holy Places. There were also pilgrimages to Compostella: to Rome: to Cologne: and other places.

For pilgrimage within the four seas, the pious citizen of South London had surely no choice. For him St. Thomas of Canterbury was the only Saint. There were other Saints, of course, but St. Thomas was his special Saint. No other shrine was possible for him save that of St. Thomas. Not Glastonbury: nor Walsingham: nor Beverley: but Canterbury contained the relics the sight and adoration of which would more effectively assist his soul.

In Erasmus's Dialogue of the Pilgrimage we have an account of what was done and what was shown at the shrines of Our Lady of Walsingham and St. Thomas of Canterbury.

'The church that is dedicated to St. Thomas raises itself up towards heaven with that majesty that it strikes those that behold it at a great distance with an awe of religion, and now with its splendour makes the light of the neighbouring palaces look dim, and as it were obscures the place that was anciently the most celebrated for religion. There are two{161} lofty turrets which stand as it were bidding visitants welcome from afar off, and a ring of bells that make the adjacent country echo far and wide with their rolling sound. In the south porch of the church stand three stone statues of men in armour, who with wicked hands murdered the holy man, with the names of their countries—Tusci, Fusci, and Betri....

'Og. When you are entered in, a certain spacious majesty of place opens itself to you, which is free to every one. Me. Is there nothing to be seen there? Og. Nothing but the bulk of the structure, and some books chained to the pillars, containing the gospel of Nicodemus and the sepulchre of I cannot tell who. Me. And what else? Og. Iron grates enclose the place called the choir, so that there is no entrance, but so that the view is still open from one end of the church to the other. You ascend to this by a great many steps, under which there is a certain vault that opens a passage to the north side. There they show a wooden altar consecrated to the Holy Virgin; it is a very small one, and remarkable for nothing except as a monument of antiquity, reproaching the luxury of the present times. In that place the good man is reported to have taken his last leave of the Virgin, when he was at the point of death. Upon the altar is the point of the sword with which the top of the head of that good prelate was wounded, and some of his brains that were beaten out, to make sure work of it. We most religiously kissed the sacred rust of this weapon out of love to the martyr.

'Leaving this place, we went down into a vault underground; to that there belong two showmen of the relics. The first thing they show you is the skull of the martyr, as it was bored through; the upper part is left open to be kissed, all the rest is covered over with silver. There is also shown you a leaden plate with this inscription, Thomas Acrensis. And there hang up in a great place the shirts of hair-cloth, the girdles, and breeches with which this prelate used to mortify his flesh....{162}

'Og. From hence we return to the choir. On the north side they open a private place. It is incredible what a world of bones they brought out of it, skulls, chins, teeth, hands, fingers, whole arms, all which we having first adored, kissed; nor had there been any end of it had it not been for one of my fellow-travellers, who indiscreetly interrupted the officer that was showing them....

'After this we viewed the table of the altar, and the ornaments; and after that those things that were laid up under the altar; all was very rich, you would have said Midas and Croesus were beggars compared to them, if you beheld the great quantities of gold and silver....

'After this we were carried into the vestry. Good God! what a pomp of silk vestments was there, of golden candlesticks! There we saw also St. Thomas's foot. It looked like a reed painted over with silver; it hath but little of weight, and nothing of workmanship, and was longer than up to one's girdle. Me. Was there never a cross? Og. I saw none. There was a gown shown; it was silk, indeed, but coarse and without embroidery or jewels, and a handkerchief, still having plain marks of sweat and blood from the saint's neck. We readily kissed these monuments of ancient frugality....

'From hence we were conducted up higher; for behind the high altar there is another ascent as into another church. In a certain new chapel there was shewn to us the whole face of the good man set in gold, and adorned with jewels....

'Upon this, out comes the head of the college. Me. Who was he, the abbot of the place? Og. He wears a mitre, and has the revenue of an abbot—he wants nothing but the name; he is called the prior because the archbishop is in the place of an abbot; for in old time every one that was an archbishop of that diocese was a monk. Me. I should not mind if I was called a camel, if I had but the revenue of an abbot. Og. He seemed to me to be a godly and prudent man, and not unacquainted with the Scotch divinity. He opened us the box in which{163} the remainder of the holy man's body is said to rest. Me. Did you see the bones? Og. That is not permitted, nor can it be done without a ladder. But a wooden box covers a golden one, and that being craned up with ropes, discovers an inestimable treasure. Me. What say you? Og. Gold was the basest part. Everything sparkled and shined with very large and scarce jewels, some of them bigger than a goose's egg. There some monks stood about with the greatest veneration. The cover being taken off, we all worshipped. The prior, with a white wand, touched every stone one by one, telling us the name in French, the value of it, and who was the donor of it. The principal of them were the presents of kings....

'Hence he carried us back into a vault. There the Virgin Mary has her residence; it is something dark; it is doubly railed in and encompassed about with iron bars. Me. What is she afraid of? Og. Nothing, I suppose, but thieves. And I never in my life saw anything more laden with riches. Me. You tell me of riches in the dark. Og. Candles being brought in we saw more than a royal sight. Me. What, does it go beyond the Parathalassian virgin in wealth? Og. It goes far beyond in appearance. What is concealed she knows best. These things are shewn to none but great persons or peculiar friends. In the end we were carried back into the vestry. There was pulled out a chest covered with black leather; it was set upon the table and opened. They all fell down on their knees and worshipped. Me. What was in it? Og. Pieces of linen rags.'

At Canterbury, as at Walsingham, the object of the pilgrim was to see the relics, kiss them, saying certain prayers prescribed, and to make offerings at every exhibition of relics. Thus on beholding the precious place containing the milk of the Virgin, the pilgrim recited the following prayer:—

'Virgin Mother, who hast merited to give suck to the Lord of heaven and earth, thy Son Jesus, from thy virgin breasts,{164} we desire that, being purified by His blood, we may arrive at that happy infant state of dovelike innocence in which, being void of malice, fraud, and deceit, we may continually desire the milk of the evangelical doctrine, until we grow up to a perfect man, and to the measure of the fulness of Christ, whose blessed society thou wilt enjoy for evermore, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.'

On being shown the little chapel which was the actual dwelling-place of the Virgin like the Casa Sancta of Loreto, the pilgrim prostrated himself and recited as follows:—

'O thou who only of all women art a mother and a virgin, the most happy of mothers and the purest of virgins, we that are impure do now come to visit and address ourselves to thee that art pure, and reverence thee with our poor offerings, such as they are. Oh that thy Son would enable us to imitate thy most holy life, that we may deserve, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, to conceive the Lord Jesus in the most inward bowels of our minds, and having once conceived Him, never to lose Him. Amen.'

As regards the offerings, it was found necessary to station a priest at each place in order to encourage the pilgrims to give openly in the sight of all, otherwise they would give nothing at all, so great was their piety. Nay, even with this stimulus, there were found some who, while they laid their offering on the altar, by sleight of hand would steal what another had laid down. Since pilgrimage was reduced to the easy performance of a journey with recitals and repetitions of set prayers, one easily imagines that the pilgrims would no more hesitate to steal from the altar than to commit any other offence against morality.

On returning from Canterbury to London the pilgrims were waylaid by roadside beggars who came out and sprinkled them with holy water, and showed them St. Thomas's shoe to kiss. In fact, what with the treasures brought home by pilgrims, presented to archbishops and kings, and sold by{165} pardoners and friars, the whole country was crammed with relics; at the great shrines as shown by Erasmus, there were cupboards filled with holy bones and precious rags; but there were too many: the credulity of the people had been tried too much and too long. Erasmus shows the profound disbelief that he himself, if no other, entertained for the sanctity of the relics.

Thomas à Becket was canonised in 1173. Fifty years afterwards his remains were transferred from their original resting-place by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, to the shrine prepared for them behind the high altar.

Erasmus, whose contempt for pilgrimage is sufficiently indicated by the extracts quoted above, was not alone in his opinions. Indeed, it required no great wisdom to perceive that a religious pilgrimage conducted without the least attention to the religious life was a mockery.

Nor was Erasmus the first to make this discovery. Piers Plowman, long before, had expressed the same contempt for pilgrims:{166}
Pilgrims and Palmers plihten hem togederes For to seche Seint Jeme and seintes at Rome; Wenten forth in heore wey with mony wyse tales, And hedden leve to lye al heore lyf aftir. Ermytes on a hep with hokide staves Wenten to Walsingham, and here wenches aftir.

But there is a more serious indictment still.

In the year 1407, a certain priest named Thorpe, a prisoner for heretical opinions, was allowed to state these opinions to Archbishop Arundel. An account remains, written by the priest himself, of his arguments and of the Archbishop's replies. On the subject of pilgrimage he is very strong.

'Wherefore, Syr, I have prechid and taucht openlie, and so I purpose all my lyfe tyme to do with God's helpe saying that suche fonde people wast blamefully God's goods in ther veyne pilgrimagis, spending their goodes upon vicious hostelers, which ar ofte unclene women of their bodies: and at the leste those goodes with the which thei should doo werkis of mercie after Goddis bidding to pore nedy men and women. Thes poor mennis goodes and their lyvelode thes runners aboute offer to rich priestis, which have mekill more lyvelode than they need: and thus those goodes they waste wilfully and spende them unjustely against Goddis bidding upon straungers, with which they shoulde helpe and releve after Goddis will their poor nedy neighbours at home: ye, and over this foly, ofte tymes diverse men and women of thes runners thus madly hither and thither in to pilgrimage borowe hereto other mennis goodes, ye and sometymes they stele mennis goodes hereto, and they pay them never again. Also, Syr, I know well that when diverse men and women will go thus often after their own willes, and finding out one pilgrimage, they will order with them before to have with them both men and women that can well syng countre songes and some other pilgremis will have with them baggepipes; so that every{167} timme they come to rome, what with the noyse of their synging and with the sounde of their piping and with the jangeling of their Canterbury bellis, and with the barking out of doggis after them, that they make more noise than if the King came there away with all his clarions, and many other minstrellis. And if these men and women be a moneth in their pilgrimage, many of them shall be an half year after great jangelers, tale tellers, and lyers.'

'And the Archbishop said to me, "Leude Losell, Thou seest not ferre ynough in this matter, for thou considerest not the great trauel of pilgremys, therefore thou blamest the thing that is praisable. I say to the that it is right well done that pilgremys have with them both singers and also pypers, that whan one of them that goeth barfoote striketh his toe upon a stone and hurteth hym sore, and makyth him to blede: it is well done that he or his felow begyn then a songe, or else take out of his bosom a baggepipe for to drive away with suche myrthe the hurt of his felow. For with soche solace the trauel and weeriness of pilgremys is lightely and merily broughte forth."'

From the immortal company of pilgrims which left the Tabard Inn, High Street, Southwark, on the 2nd day of April in, or about, the year 1380, it remains for me to show what pilgrims and pilgrimage meant in the fourteenth century. This company met by appointment the night before the day of departure. They did not agree with each other, but they met by chance. At present, when a party starts for Palestine or for a voyage round the Mediterranean, the members do not agree to meet: they find out that a party will start on such a date from such a place, and they join it. Part of the business of the Tabard, and of other inns of Southwark, was to organise and to conduct such a party to Canterbury and back. As the ships licensed to carry pilgrims charged so much for the voyage there and back, including the visit to the shrine, so the Host of the Tabard charged so much for conducting and{168} entertaining the party there and back again. That the company was collected in this manner and not by personal agreement, is shown by their mixed character; and the ready way in which they all journeyed together, travelled together, and talked together shows that society of the fourteenth century was no respecter of persons, or that pilgrimage was a great leveller of rank.

The following is a list of the company:—

1.—A Knight, his Son, and an attendant Yeoman. 2.—A Prioress: an attendant Nun: and three Priests. 3.—A Monk and a Friar. 4.—A Merchant. 5.—A Clerk of Oxford. 6.—A Serjeant at Law. 7.—A Franklin. 8.—A Haberdasher, a Carpenter, a Weaver, a Dyer, and a Tapestry Maker, all clad in the livery of a Fraternity. 9.—A Sailor and a Cook. 10.—A Physician, 11.—The Wife of Bath. 12.—A Town Parson and a Ploughman. 13.—A Reeve, a Miller, a Sompnour, a Pardoner, a Maunciple, and the Poet himself.

With them all went the Host of the Tabard. It is{169} generally supposed that they rode the whole way to Canterbury, which is sixty-six miles, in a single day. Their resting places have, however, been found by Professor Skeat. Allow them sixteen hours for the journey. This means more than four miles an hour without any halt. But so large a company must needs go slowly and stop often. We cannot believe that in the fourteenth century such a company would travel sixty-six miles a day over such roads as then existed, and at a time of year when the winter mud had not yet had time to dry.

It is not without significance that out of the whole number a third should belong to the Church. Among them the Prioress Madame Eglantine is a gentlewoman who might belong to any age: tenderhearted: delicate and dainty: fond of creatures: courteous in her manner: careful in her eating: wearing a brooch,
On whiche was first i-writen a crowned A, And aftir, Amor vincit omnia.

The Monk was a mighty hunter: a big burly man who kept many horses and hounds and loved to hunt the hare.

The Friar was a Limitour, one licensed to hear confessions: a wanton man who married many women 'at his own cost:' he heard confessions, sweetly imposing light penance: he knew all the taverns: he could play and sing: he knew all the rich people in his district: he carried knives and pins as gifts for the women:—a wholly worldly loose living Limitour.

The character of the Town Parson, brother of the Ploughman, is perhaps the most charming of all this wonderful group of portraits.
A good man was ther of religioun, And was a povre Persoun of a toun; But riche he was of holy thoght and werk. He was also a lerned man, a clerk, That Cristes gospel trewely wolde preche; His parisshens devoutly wolde he teche.{170} Benigne he was, and wonder diligent, And in adversitee ful pacient; And swich he was y-preved ofte sythes. Ful looth were him to cursen for his tythes, But rather wolde he yeven, out of doute, Un-to his povre parisshens aboute Of his offring, and eek of his substaunce. He coude in litel thing han suffisaunce. Wyd was his parisshe, and houses fer a-sonder, But he ne lafte nat, for reyn ne thonder, In siknes nor in meschief, to visyte The ferreste in his parisshe, muche and lyte, Up-on his feet, and in his hand a staf. This noble ensample to his sheep he yaf, That first he wroghte, and afterward he taughte; Out of the gospel he tho wordes caughte; And this figure he added eek ther-to, That if gold ruste, what shal iren do? For if a preest be foul, on whom we truste, No wonder is a lewed man to ruste; And shame it is, if a preest take keep, A dirty shepherde and a clene sheep. Wel oghte a preest ensample for to yive, By his clennesse, how that his sheep shold live. He sette nat his benefice to hyre, And leet his sheep encombred in the myre, And ran to London, un-to seynt Poules, To seken him a chauntrie for soules, Or with a bretherhed to been withholde; But dwelte at hoom, and kepte wel his folde, So that the wolf ne made it nat miscarie; He was a shepherde and no mercenarie. And thouth he holy were, and vertuous, He was to sinful man nat despitous, Ne of his speche daunderous ne digne, But in his teching discreet and benigne. To drawen folk to heven by fairnesse, By good ensample, was his bisinesse: But it were any persone obstinat, What-so he were, of heigh or lowe estat,{171} Him wolde he snibben sharply for the nones. A bettre preest, I trowe that nowher noon is. He wayted after no pompe and reverence, Ne maked him a spyced conscience, But Cristes lore, and his apostles twelve, He taughte, and first he folwed it him-selve.

The Sompnour, i.e. Summoner of the Ecclesiastical Courts, was a scorbutic person with an inflamed face: children were afraid of him: he loved strong meat and strong drink. If he found a good fellow anywhere he bade him have no fear of the archdeacon's curse unless his soul were in his purse.

Lastly, there was the Pardoner. He, too, was as jolly as the Monk, the Friar, and the Sompnour. He carried in his wallet pardons from Rome; and relics without end: all the imagination in the nature of certain classes was lavished upon the invention of relics. Thus it required a fine power of imagination to show a bit of canvas as a piece of the sail of St. Peter's boat when Christ called him. This, however, the Pardoner did. Chaucer makes him reveal his own character.
Of avarice and of swiche cursednesse Is al my preching, for to make hem free To yeve hir pense and namely unto me.

It is not without meaning that the poet shows a Monk, a Limitour, and a Pardoner absolutely without the least tinge of religion: the first a man who dresses like a layman and thinks of nothing but of hunting—what, then, of the Rule? The second, and the third, are both corrupt and rotten to the very core. If any proof were wanting that the spiritual life had gone out of the regular orders, these characters of Chaucer supply the proof. The figures in this company have been described, figured, illustrated, annotated a hundred times. They form the most trustworthy presentation of the time which we possess. The Knight is full of chivalry, truth,{172} honour, and courtesy: his son is well bred and lusty, is a lover and a bachelor. The Merchant talks eagerly and much of his profits: the Clerk, a poor scholar, would rather have books than rich robes or musical instruments: the Craftsmen were all well-to-do, in easy circumstances: the Physician was an astrologer, who understood natural magic, i.e. the influence of the stars; and made for his patients images: he knew the cause of every malady and how it was engendered—the profession are still liable to confuse this knowledge with the power of healing the malady: he was dressed in crimson and blue, lined with taffeta and silk—it would be interesting to know when physicians assumed the black dress of the last century. Lastly, his study was but little in the Bible.

The Clerk of Oxford is a portrait finished to the life.
A Clerk ther was of Oxenford also, That un-to logik hadde longe y-go. As lene was his hors as is a rake, And he nas nat right fat, I undertake; But loked holwe, and ther-to soberly. Ful thredbar was his overest courtepy; For he had geten him yet no benefyce, Ne was so worldly for to have offyce. For him was lever have at his beddes heed Twenty bokes, clad in blak or reed, Of Aristotle and his philosophye, Than robes riche, or fithele, or gay sautrye. But al be that he was a philosophre, Yet hadde he but litel gold in cofre; But al that he mighte of his freendes hente, On bokes and on lerninge he it spente, And bisily gan for the soules preye Of hem that yaf him wher-with to scoleye. Of studie took he most cure and most hede. Noght o word spak he more than was nede, And that was seyd in forme and reverence, And short and quik, and ful of hy sentence. Souninge in moral vertu was his speche, And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche. {173}

Would it be possible to find a clearer picture of what in those days we should perhaps call a 'lower middle class' woman than that of the Wyf of Bath? She is dressed in all the splendour that she can afford: she frankly loves fine dress.
A good Wyf was ther of bisyde Bathe, But she was som-del deef, and that was scathe. Of clooth-making she hadde swiche an haunt, She passed hem of Ypres and of Gaunt. In al the parisshe wyf ne was ther noon That to the offring bifore hir sholde goon; And if ther dide, certeyn, so wrooth was she, That she was out of alle charitee. Hir coverchiefs ful fyne were of ground; I dorste swere they weyeden ten pound That on a Sonday were upon hir heed. Hir hosen weren of fyn scarlet reed, Ful streite y-teyd, and shoos ful moiste and newe. Bold was hir face, and fair, and reed of hewe. She was a worthy womman all hir lyve, Housbondes at chirche-dore she hadde fyve, Withouten other companye in youthe; But thereof nedeth nat to speke as nouthe. And thryes hadde she been at Ierusalem; She hadde passed many a straunge streem; At Rome she hadde been, and at Boloigne In Galice at seint Iame, and at Coloigne. She coude muche of wandring by the weye. Gat-tothed was she, soothly for to seye. Up-on an amblere esily she sat, Y-wimpled wel, and on hir heed an hat As brood as is a bokeler or a targe; A foot-mantel aboute hir hipes large, And on hir feet a paire of spores sharpe. In felawschip wel coude she laughe and carpe. Of remedyes of love she knew per-chaunce, For she coude of that art the olde daunce. .   .   .   .   .   .   .

She is frankly sensual and self-indulgent: she likes everything that is pleasant: food, drink, love. Observe also the{174} restlessness of the woman: she can never have enough of pilgrimage: she loves the company: the change: the things that one sees: the people that one meets. She has journeyed three times to Jerusalem and back: once to Rome: once to Bologna: once to St. Iago of Compostella: once to Cologne: apart from the English shrines. We may be quite sure that so good an Englishwoman would not neglect the saints of her own country: after Canterbury she would pilgrimise to Beverley and to Walsingham, and to Glastonbury, and many a local saint's shrine. She had a ready wit and could give reasons for everything, especially for her five marriages and her avowed intentions to take a sixth husband when her fifth should die. Yet, she declared, she honoured holy virgins.
Let them be bred of pur?d whete seed And let us wyves eten barley brede: And yet with barley bred men telle can Our Lord Ihesù refreisshed many man.

Many of this company play and sing. The Prioress herself sings the divine service, intoning it full sweetly by her nose: the Limitour plays on the rote: the Miller plays the bagpipe: the Pardoner could sing 'full loud:' the Knight's son could both sing and play. Music, in fact, as an accomplishment was far more common in the fourteenth than in the nineteenth century.

Chaucer seems to speak of palmers as if they were the same as pilgrims. The latter, however, simply journeyed from home to the shrine and back again: the former was under vows of poverty, and continually travelled from shrine to shrine. The Canterbury Pilgrims were not, therefore, palmers. The first meaning of a palmer was that he could carry a palm in token of having visited the Holy Land.

When the Prioress spoke the French of Stratford le Bow it is not intended that she spoke bad French, but the Anglo-French which was spoken at Court, in the Law Courts, and by English ecclesiastics of higher rank. But why of Stratford{175} le Bow? Because here was a Benedictine nunnery dating from the eleventh century. The beautiful little Parish Church of Bow was formerly the chapel of the nunnery. The Wyf of Bath is 'gat toothed,' i.e. her teeth are wide apart: Professor Skeat has discovered that an old superstition attaches to such teeth, that, like the Wyf of Bath, those who have such teeth will travel far and be lucky. Popular superstitions are so long lived that one has little doubt about Chaucer's meaning. Certainly his Wyf of Bath had travelled far.
From the Stained Window in Lambeth Church

Let us return to the assumption that Chaucer intended the pilgrimage from Southwark to Canterbury should take but one day. Is not this conclusion based upon the fact that the last tale ends a day and the journey at the same time? Is there{176} anything to prove that the pilgrimage could have been concluded in a day there and a day back? Why, I have said that it was sixty-six miles, and the roads were none of the best: the party jogged on, I am sure, picking their way over the rough places and avoiding the quagmires at a steady pace of about three miles an hour, with many stoppages for rest and for refreshment. When Cardinal Morton journeyed from Lambeth to Canterbury for his enthronisation, he took a whole week over the journey, resting for the night at Croydon, Knole, Maidstone, Charing, and Chartham. Surely, if a company of pilgrims could accomplish the distance in a day, the Archbishop would not take so much as six days? Add to these considerations that Chaucer is a perfectly 'sane' writer: his work hangs together: it would have been impossible to get through all those stories with the intervals between and the times for rest in a single day.

Another point occurs. There was at one time—I think—in the early days of pilgrimage—a special service appointed for the departure of pilgrims—a kind of consecration of the pilgrimage. There is no hint of such a service in Chaucer or in any other writer of the time, so far as I know. There is none in the Pilgrimage of Felix Fabri of the sixteenth century. One may suppose, therefore, that the service had been allowed to drop out of use. Indeed, the original character of the pilgrimage as a thing to be approached in an altogether reverential and religious spirit had quite gone out of it even when Chaucer wrote, not to speak of Erasmus.

The Canterbury Tales, if they are supposed to represent the manner of talk among the better class of people at that time, are curiously modern. Witness the description of the Parson and the Parson's Tale, which is a sermon: witness also the contempt and hatred of the poet for the shrines of religion: the impostor with his relics: the Sompnour and the Friar. Chaucer makes the two latter tell stories reflecting on each other, such great love had these ecclesiastics between themselves. The poet through{177} his Parson preaches a noble form of religion without worry over doctrine. The Parson promises, when he begins:
I wol yow telle a mery tale in prose To knitte up al this feeste, and make an ende. And Iesu, for His grace, wit me sende To shewe yow the wey, in this viage, Of thilke parfit glorious pilgrimage That highte Ierusalem celestial—

and preaches a sermon on man's heavenward pilgrimage, taking for his text the passage of Jeremiah, vi. 16: 'Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.'

The priest Thorpe was too hard upon pilgrims. So was Erasmus. The riding all together: the festive meals at the inn: the mixture of men and women of all conditions:{178} the change of thought and scene—could not but be useful and beneficial in the monotonous life of the time. That there were scandals: that on the way there were drinking and revelry, with the 'wanton songs' of which Thorpe complains: that there was an idle parade of pretended relics, and an assumption of virtues and miracles for these relics: we can also very well believe: but on the whole it seems a pity that, when all the relics, with as much wood of the True Cross as would load a big ship, were gathered together and burned, something was not introduced to take the place of pilgrimages and make the people move about and get acquainted with each other.

What, to repeat, said Archbishop Arundel to Thorpe the heretic?

'Leude losell, thou seest not ferre ynough in this matter, for thou considerest not the great trauell of pilgremys, therefore thou blamest that thing that is praisable. I say to the that it is right well done, that pilgremys have with them both syngers and also pypers, that whan one of them that goeth barfoote striketh his toe upon a stone and hurteth hym sore, and maketh hym to blede: it is well done that he or his felow begyn then a songe or else take out of his bosom a baggepipe for to drive away with soche myrthe the hurt of his felow. For with soche solace the trauell and werinesse of pilgremys is lightely and merily broughte forth.'


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