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The lascivious friar


Not far from the city of York there dwelt an honest man who had a very handsome, proper woman to his wife, and which is strange: she was as honest as fair, as the sequel of the story plainly shows.

A certain priest lighting in the town was going up to his chamber, saw this honest woman come into the ale-house for a pot of strong beer for her husband that was newly come from his work. My man, who was so weary before, as he could scarce go up the stairs (as he made his host believe), at this beautiful object was as nimble as Mercury, and went not up so softly, but came down as fast, so magnetic was the beauty of this female. Being came down, the passionate man as that one could not bridle his nature; presently lays her on the lips and calls for a quart of wine, and swears that she must needs drink 'ere she went.

The woman prays to be excused. She could not tarry, and she was loathe to incur her husband's displeasure for any man. But upon much entreaty, resolving to die rather than yield to any baseness, said she would pledge him [a drink] on condition he would then let her go. This hypothetical proposition, though it had no sympathy with his desires, yet rather than he would prevent a future happiness, condescends (though faintly) and begins thus to her in a full bowl:

"Fair mistress, from the bottom of my heart, as one admiring your perfections, I drink to you."

" Sir," quoth she (after she had pledged him), "You are too deep for me, and therefore lest you drown me, farewell." And so, abruptly without further thanks, took her leave.

But my Gentleman, being well read in the theory of her beauty, could not rest satisfied til he had enjoyed the practice. And so once more ascends the stairs, all male-content, where we will leave him to his imploring of the Pope for his redemption out of that Purgatory.

Sub Galli cantum, as soon as the day appeared the next morning, up he rises, and calling for pen, ink and paper writes thus to his adored saint, the woman I mean, he drank with the night before:

The letter and true copy of it:

"Fair mistress, having but a little tasted of your beauty, as one sick of a dropsy, I extremely thirst for more. And therefore, tendering mine own welfare, and presuming of your indulgency, that you will not let me perish for want of drink, I make bold to request your presence once more. And lest you should doubt my payment, I have here enclosed, sent you a small token of my love, which I pray you to accept, and so I rest yours, or not mine own.

This letter was delivered to the Chamberlain, who in all haste (as he was commanded) gives it to the woman, who calling for her husband, shows it to him, and so he reads it. When he had done, and had fully understood the contents, applauding his wife for her constancy, with mutual consent, returns him this answer, as written from his wife:

Her Answer

"Sir, but that the place was neither so convenient, nor the time so opportune for me to have expressed my love to you; truly I could not have smothered the flames of it as I did. But if you please, Sir, to make bold with my house this night, you shall enjoy that which I ever hold as dear as my life, and so I rest yours,

This being come to him, and read, never was poor Mariner in a storm more joyful when he had got his ship in a safe port, than he was of this letter. And therefore, without procrastinating, as soon as ever night was come, he repairs to his beloved, whom he finds all alone, and after some few embraces, she conducts him to a chamber. O the raptures that this man was in! Jason thought not himself more happy in the fruition of Medea, than he by enjoying her company.

But Sodom's Apples, though they appear like gold, when a man would taste of them they vanish into smoke. So it happened to this gaol-like priest, for this bitter Pocanium marred all the sweetness he tasted afore.

Before she would seem to grant, she prayed him to resolve her, if the sin were pardonable or no.

"Tush," quoth he, "Nothing more venial, fear not sweet heart, I warrant thee."

"Well, if it be so, Sir, pray to bed, and I will come to you."

To bed he goes immediately, but before he was scarce warm in rushes her husband with two more, well armed with good whips, and so taking him out of the bed, pulling his shirt over his ears, did so whip his posteriors that my man looked just like the bloody man in our Almanacs, wounded by the twelve signs. While the woman, jeering him, bid them have a care that he got not cold, for he was extremely hot. The priest cried out pitifully, but it would not serve the turn. For when they had done, they tied him to the bed, and made a capon out of him, cutting out his stones, to cool his courage.

Were all Romish priests so handled, they would say marriage were lawful, and no more abuse other men's wives.