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Saturday, December 29, 2012

the Canterbury carol

Back in 2003, a friend in a newsgroup (who I haven't met) queried:

Where could I find the "Canterbury Carol"?

This was the sort of challenge that, for some obscure reason, I felt like picking up and running with. As it turns out, I made some errors, conflating or expanding the MONK count somehow, so until that gets fixed, this is a work in progress. 2013 will be its tenth year as such. Anyway, fire up your plainchant (I had in mind a tune similar to Veni, Veni, Emmanuel's beginning) and have something near to hand for when you get thirsty.

Pilgrims, nine and twenty number we,
Traveling in such a company.
To Canterbury now we all do come
To shrive our sins at Thomas Becket's tomb.

A KNIGHT I am, whose warlike chivalry
Does serve our peaceful Lord of Galilee.
To heathen foes the fight I'd gladly press
To show them Jesu's grace and gentleness.

I am his YEOMAN, clad in brightest green.
My bow is long, my arrows true and keen.
How dull is e'en the sharpest shining sword
When laid beside our savior's holy word.

A PRIORESS am I, and it is thence
For Jesus' sake I make my journey hence
His blood redeem-ed Adam's shameful fall
His is the love alone that conquers all.

I am a NUN, and keeping to my friend
I'll travel on until the jouney's end.
My chapel I make on the open road,
And roods I find abundant in each wode.

We are three PRIESTS who travel in the sun.
A trinity we be, who preach as one.
Together, we make light work of our load,
And save such souls as we might, on the road.

A MONK I be, and forward now I ride;
My calling is not one found safe inside
I wander widely round the earthly sod
And hunt with love for souls to bring to God.

I am a FRERE, indeed a merry man
I find my pleasant joys where best I can;
To men I freely God's forgiveness give
For after all, a man of God must live.

A MERCHANT I, and reckon fully well
The worth of every good and ware I sell.
Yet all this world's wealth would not reckoned be
A farthing's worth in God's own currency.

A CLERK I am, from Oxford's noble halls;
I leave the shadows of its ivied walls
And travel hence with one important goal,
By Jesu's love to cleanse my mortal soul.

I labor as a SERGEANT of the law.
Before God's might, I meekly stand in awe.
His son did bring us, with his humble birth
A greater law than all that's found on earth.

Although a FRANKLIN wealthy I may be,
Yet in my soul I feel but poverty
The sweetest riches of this world I'd give
In Jesu's better world one day to live.

In stylish HABERDASHER's livery,
I garb in cloth men's frames most fittingly.
My greatest hope is that one day I'll don
A fairer raiment, when from earth I'm gone.

A CARPENTER, I hack and hew rough wood
And hope my work comes out the way it should.
But now I ride for days past field and floss
To honor Him nailed on a wooden cross.

A WEAVER am I, toiling at my loom
And as I work, my mind is on the tomb
Tho' warp and woof of life be in my eye
I pray I might be shuttled to the sky.

A DYER I, I live by staining cloth
With industry I strive, abjuring sloth.
And now on holy pilgrimage I fly,
That my soul may be stainless when I die.

An ARRAS-MAKER, I craft tapestries
Of heavenly and earthly majesties
The first to help me stand on Judgment Day;
The other pays my bills along the way.

Sweet friend, I pray you, do not scorn the COOK,
Whose recipe for life comes from a Book.
Who seeks his soul to leaven ere he dies,
That from the dirt to heaven he may rise.

A SHIPMAN, I have roamed the mighty seas
Yet now I go to pray upon my knees
And pardon seek for all those times I failed
And thoughtlessly and sinningly I sailed.

PHYSICIAN am I; man of many parts.
Philosophy I read, and healing arts.
Yet now I seek the healing of my soul,
And being with the Lord shall be my goal.

A humble WIFE am I, upon this path
Five husbands I have had, who lived in Bath.
A pilgrimage I take, so when I have died
The Prince of Peace may claim me for his bride.

A PARSON, I do preach upon the rock.
I seek to find the best way for my flock
I guide them not for profit nor for pelf,
Nor bid them go where I'd not go myself.

As PLOWMAN I must walk behind my ox
And watch to spare the colter blade from rocks.
I pray to God my soul to Heav'n may go,
And see my friends and neighbors there also.

A MILLER stout, my wheel grinds for an hour
And from its movement, grain is ground to flour.
So too, from even one of my great size,
My sins be ground away, and I may rise.

I am a MANCIPLE from inn of court,
No man has managed yet to sell me short.
This pilgrimage I take, while I have breath:
For I could win in life, yet lose in death.


As REEVE, I am the steward to my lord,
And from my skills, fine goods I can afford.
Yet though I forecast crops with great success,
I would my soul not wager on a guess.

My living as a SUMMONER is sweet,
I never want for cheer or drink or meat.
I blush not that I take whate'er I can;
For God knows, you can't cheat an honest man.

A PARDONER, I know the Bible well
Choice relics from it I am pleased to sell
Saint's toe bones I can let all have who pay
And they're all glad to have them, anyway.

As POET, I have dragged this out too long,
And yet I'll put myself into the song.
I earned the right by riding on this road,
And trust that God will lighten my soul's load.

©2012 by Kip Williams.

I've indicated some places where the chorus may be interposed. You can skip them! Or you can sing it after every verse, if you like. If you sing while walking, you may be at Canterbury when you finish.

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