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Pardoner on Gluttony

Excerpt from The Pardoner's Tale in
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Introduction and translation
by Pete Wetherbee


A Pardoner in medieval Europe, though not necessarily in holy orders, was licenced by the Church to grant pardons for sins in return for contributions. The office was widely abused and, as the pardoners were in effect traveling salesmen, they were widely criticized, It was largely the selling of pardons that provoked Martin Luther’s attacks on the corruption of the Church.

Chaucer’s Pardoner is one of the most complicated characters among the pilgrims in the Canterbury Tales. His forceful preaching makes him a successful pardoner, but his open and avowed commitment to acquisition distances him from others, as does his apparently congenital sterility, and this alienation is painful. His rapacity and his cynicism about his profession mask a deep longing for love and fellowship, and a bitter hatred of his role and condition, which he sees as a kind of curse, the signs of an incurable spiritual sickness.

The attack on gluttony and drunkenness in this excerpt from one of his sermons is powerful, but its power is disproportionate to the nature of the sins described: Adam and Eve were not expelled from Paradise because of gluttony. The excess and venom are a symptom of the Pardoner’s hatred of the body, above all his own body, though he pursues the very sins he attacks: the lines on cheap wine and drunken sleep have a flophouse authenticity that suggests both the sordidness of his way of life and his extreme need for human contact.

498 O glotonye, ful of cursednesse!
                 O gluttony, full of cursedness!

499 O cause first of oure confusioun!
                 O first cause of our ruin!

500 O original of oure dampnacioun,
                 O origin of our damnation,

501 Til Crist hadde boght us with his blood agayn!
                 Until Christ had redeemed us with his blood!

502 Lo, how deere, shortly for to sayn,
                 Lo, how dearly, shortly to say,

503 Aboght was thilke cursed vileynye!
                 Was bought that same cursed villainy!

504 Corrupt was al this world for glotonye!
                 Corrupt was all this world for gluttony.

505 Adam oure fader, and his wyf also,
                 Adam our father, and his wife also,

506 Fro Paradys to labour and to wo
                 From Paradise to labor and to woe

507 Were dryven for that vice, it is no drede.
                 Were driven for that vice, there is no doubt.

508 For whil that Adam fasted, as I rede,
                 For while Adam fasted, as I read,

509 He was in Paradys; and whan that he
                 He was in Paradise; and when he

510 Eet of the fruyt deffended on the tree,
                 Ate of the forbidden fruit on the tree,

511 Anon he was out cast to wo and peyne.
                 Immediately he was cast out to woe and pain.

512 O glotonye, on thee wel oghte us pleyne!
                 O gluttony, on thee well ought we complain!

513 O, wiste a man how manye maladyes
                 O, if a man knew how many evils

514 Folwen of excesse and of glotonyes,
                 Follow of excess and gluttony,

515 He wolde been the moore mesurable
                 He would be the more moderate

516 Of his diete, sittynge at his table.
                 Of his diet, sitting at his table.

517 Allas, the shorte throte,* the tendre mouth,
                 (i.e. the brief interval when we taste our food)
                 Alas, the short throat, the tender mouth,

518 Maketh that est and west and north and south,
                Makes that east and west and north and south,

519 In erthe, in eir, in water, men to swynke
                 In earth, in air, in water, men work

520 To gete a glotoun deyntee mete and drynke!
                 To get a glutton dainty food and drink!

521Of this matiere, O Paul, wel kanstow trete:
                 Of this matter, O Paul, well canst thou speak

522 “Mete unto wombe, and wombe eek unto mete
                 “Food unto belly, and belly unto food,

523 Shal God destroyen bothe,” as Paulus seith.
                 (1st Corinthians 6.13)
                 God shall destroy both,” as Paul says.

524 Allas, a foul thyng is it, by my feith,
Alas, a foul thing it is, by my faith,

525 To seye this word, and fouler is the dede,
To say this word, and fouler is the deed,

526 Whan man so drynketh of the white and rede
When man so drinks of the white and red

527 That of his throte he maketh his pryvee
                 That he makes his privy of his throat

528 Thurgh thilke cursed superfluitee.
                 Through that same cursed excess

529 The apostel wepyng seith ful pito
                 The apostle weeping says full piteously,

530 “Ther walken manye of whiche yow toold have I --
                 “There walk many of whom I have told you --

531 I seye it now wepyng, with pitous voys --
                 I say it now weeping, with piteous voice --

532 They been enemys of Cristes croys,
                 They are enemies of Christ’s cross,

533 Of whiche the ende is deeth; wombe is hir god!”
                 (Philippians 3.19)
                 Of which the end is death; belly is their god!”

534 O wombe! O bely! O stynkyng cod,
                 O gut! O belly! O stinking bag,

535 Fulfilled of dong and of corrupcioun!
                 Filled with dung and with corruption!

536 At either ende of thee foul is the soun.
                 At either end of thee foul is the sound.

537 How greet labour and cost is thee to fynde!
                 How great labor and cost it is to feed thee!

538 Thise cookes, how they stampe, and streyne, and grynde,
                 These cooks, how they pound, and strain, and grind,

539 And turnen substaunce into accident
                 And turn substance into accident

540 To fulfille al thy likerous talent!
                 To fulfill all thy gluttonous desire!

541 Out of the harde bones knokke they
                 Out of the hard bones they knock

542 The mary, for they caste noght awey
                 The marrow, for they throw nothing away

543 That may go thurgh the golet softe and swoote.
                 That may go through the gullet softly and sweetly.

544 Of spicerie of leef, and bark, and roote
                 Of seasonings of leaf, and bark, and root

545 Shal been his sauce ymaked by delit,
                 Shall his sauce be made for delight,

546 To make hym yet a newer appetit.
                 To make him yet a newer appetite

547 But, certes, he that haunteth swiche delices
                 But, certainly, he who habitually seeks
                 such delicacies

548 Is deed, whil that he lyveth in tho vices.
                 Is dead, while he lives in those vices.

549 A lecherous thyng is wyn, and dronkenesse
                 A lecherous thing is wine, and drunkenness

550 Is ful of stryvyng and of wrecchednesse.
                 Is full of striving and of wretchedness

551 O dronke man, disfigured is thy face,
                 O drunken man, disfigured is thy face,

552 Sour is thy breeth, foul artow to embrace,
                 Sour is thy breath, foul art thou to embrace,

553 And thurgh thy dronke nose semeth the soun
                 And through thy drunken nose the sound seems

554 As though thou seydest ay “Sampsoun, Sampsoun!”
                 As though thou said always “Sampson, Sampson!”

555 And yet, God woot, Sampsoun drank nevere no wyn.
                 And yet, God knows, Sampson never drank wine.

556 Thou fallest as it were a styked swyn;
                 Thou fallest as if you were a stuck pig;

557 Thy tonge is lost, and al thyn honeste cure,
                 Thy tongue is lost, and all thy care for decency,

558 For dronkenesse is verray sepulture
                 For drunkenness is truly the sepulcher

559 Of mannes wit and his discrecioun.
                 Of man’s wit and his discretion.


Pete Wetherbee

Pete Wetherbee,
formerly known as Buddy Valentino
the sax player, has ( after a long spell
in Auburn prison) recently become
Professor Emeritus of English
at Cornell University.
And Famous all over the world
His terms:
no autographs, no interviews, etc.


This article by Pete Wetherbee
and articles by other authors previously
published in the Metaphysical Times
can be found in the
Stories, Essays and Poems at:
(Visit Pete Wetherbee's Article Archive)




Gluttony and Food Issues

(Guest editor) All You Need

• PETE WETHERBEE Introduction to and translation of: The Pardoner On Gluttony
by Geoffrey Chaucer

Possum Food

Desert Island Dining

The Half Pound Piece of Toast

The Life and Diet of Jim Worms

My Father the Clamcake

Blood on the Dining Room Floor

Little Round Things

Dull Ny Thinger

Eating With the Ancestors
– Curds and Whey



Where Food Goes

Helium Dogs


by Annie Campbell

I’d always had a sweet tooth, but about twenty-six years ago I suddenly developed absolutely insane cravings for desserts. I’d mix double batches of chocolate-chip cookie dough and eat half the batter raw. Then, I’d eat a bunch of mouth-singeing cookies minutes after taking them out of the oven. Harley was lucky if there were a few cookies left for him.

When I went grocery shopping in Wegmans, I’d fill a small bag with cookies and chocolates from the bulk food section, pay for my groceries and devour everything in the bag before I got home. Sometimes I managed to resist and didn’t buy any crap in Wegmans. But then, on the way home my cravings would overtake me and I’d stop at the little store where I usually bought gas. I’d buy myself horrible things like stale cookies, or cup cakes with gross icing on top and goopy-crap inside them, and eat all of it before I pulled into our driveway.

(go to story)

EatingWith the Ancestors

by Nancy Vieira Couto

            Those milk bottles, with a generous amount of cream at the top, reminded me of the milk of my childhood, but I should say right from the start that milk and I have always had a difficult relationship.  I remember that we had three kinds of milk in our tenement: chocolate milk, coffee milk, and plain milk.  Chocolate milk had some sort of cocoa powder stirred into it, while coffee milk was made with Silmo Coffee Syrup, a long-gone product that was once a staple in the New Bedford area.  Of the three, plain milk was the one I liked the least, although it was the simplest to prepare.  My mother would remove the orange cellophane from the top of the milk bottle, rinse the top of the cardboard cap, and give the bottle a vigorous shake.  Then she would remove the cap, pour some milk into a saucepan, and start warming it up.  Of course when my mother poured the warm plain milk over my breakfast Cheerioats, they immediately turned to mush. Truth is, I didn't like Cheerioats much either, and changing the name to Cheerios didn't make them any less mushy.  I didn't know then, and didn't learn until I was in college, that other people enjoyed their cereal with cold milk.

(go to rest of the story)


Where Food Goes
by David S. Warren

So we bought a fruit crusher and new, larger press to use on our pears when they ripened last summer: a mixture of sweet and tart, mostly Asian pears. Some of the cider was consumed when still fresh and sweet, and most is now in the later stages of fermentation.

Meanwhile we had realized that a cider press is about the same thing as a cheese press. Being big cheese eaters,we ordered the basic tools, the coagulants and the fermentation cultures to make most any cheese.

Of course cheese making doesn’t always require a press, or need to be a lot more complicated than letting raw milk go sour. I heard on the radio that in prison, where improvisation is necessary, determined cheese-addicts use Real Lemon concentrated juice to coagulate non-dairy creamer. And there it is: easy cheesy.

We have now read so many recipes for cheese making that we are dazed and confused or maybe confused and dazed. The biggest cheesiest site on the internet has hundreds a recipes - new ones all the time, including some for mozzarella, one of which claims to be an easy thirty minute mozzarella, perfect for kids.

Don’t be fooled. The thirty minute mozzarella took a day and a half; we nearly scalded our hands in the process and never got the stuff to be stretchy as pizza dough, like it is supposed to be. So we don’t suggest you make it your first cheese.

You might want to begin with the prison cheese version, or better than that: try making the simple Portuguese kitchen cheese that Nancy Vieira Couto writes about in this issue of the magazine.

(read the beginning of this article)


Dull Ny Thinger

by Gabreal Orgrease

“Hey, sonny doy, dull ny thinger.”
 “Granpa, no.”
 “I’m not yer Granda ya little tord. Now dull ny thinger.”

 Aubergine Bawcutt, the talking eggplant, is the infamous Catskill ventriloquist Lorne Surlingham’s most famous dummy. Which is not saying a whole lot for dummies or back alley ventriloquists. A fat purple eggplant poked onto the top end of a broomstick, fastened with brass thumbtacks -- white eyes of radish slices with red peel rings, a petite carrot nose and a thin white-green slice for a mouth. The Chef’s Dummy they used to call her in the good old days on the underground circuit. A sort of Ubu Roi take-off in the vegetable and janitorial kingdom that never translated well to television but was a backstage hit at a thousand and twenty-three catered birthday parties.

 “Oh man, grandpa, do you really have to do that? It isn’t funny any more.”

(read this story in its entirety)



Possum Food

by Sue-Ryn Burns

One Saturday shortly after July 4th, when it was fairly quiet and we had released most of the first-litter squirrels and had most of the waterfowl in outside pens, the phone rang. In what can only be considered a moment of temporary insanity, I agreed to take 11 baby Opossums, rescued from a very busy roadside after their mother was killed by a car.
I was of course immediately charmed by the cute little babies. They look like they're wearing opera gloves and their tails are like a fifth hand. Their big pink scalloped ears have black stripes. They each had a widow's peak! They seem to be always in some kind of physical contact with each other – piled up to sleep, sitting on each other, holding paws, or keeping their tails entwined.

(read this entire story here)

by Don Brennan

Sharing food with family and friends, while appreciating life’s blessings, can be a form of mindfulness that allows us to receive more energy from our food.

While enjoying food with Reiki practitioners, it’s not unusual to see people holding their hands above their food to fill it with Reiki before they eat. Most people seem to have the right attitude that this is a blessing and an enhancement of the food. But it’s clear that some are worried that the food might have negative energy within it.

When we experience fear, worry or anger, we cannot practice mindfulness. These feelings disconnect us and take us out of the Now. We feel unloved and unsupported. “Be Grateful,” the third Reiki Principle taught by Usui Sensei, serves as advice to help us become centered. Being grateful means nourishing gratitude in your heart, for no specific reason. It means being grateful for the gift of existence. Gratitude brings you here, into the present moment. When you are present, you are connected with all of life, with all of creation. And all is well.
All is as it should be.
(read this entire article here)


Helium Dogs (go to)

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"Significant Dreatures"

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