Meyran Kraus

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An excerpt from The Parson's Tale concerning the Seven Deadly Sins, anagrammed into paraphrases of seven of Shakespeare's sonnets each of which relates to one of the sins.

[A text sample taken from The Parson's Tale (that is found in 'The Canterbury Tales' written by Geoffrey Chaucer), in which the Seven Deadly Sins are discussed]

"...And therefore, the love for everything that is not fixed or rooted in God, or done principally for than he love God's sake, though a man love it less. God, yet is it venial sin; and it is mortal sin when the love for anything weighs in the heart of man as much as the love for God, or more. "Mortal sin," as Saint Augustine says, "is when a man turns his heart from God, Who, is the truly sovereign goodness and may not change, and gives his heart unto things that may change and pass away." And true it is that if a man give his love, the which he owes all to God, with all his heart, unto a creature, then certainly so much of his love as he gives unto the said creature he takes away from God; and thereby does he sin. For he, who is debtor to God, yields not unto God all of his debt, which is to say, all the love of his heart.

Now since man understands generally what venial sin is, it is fitting to tell especially of sins which many a man perhaps holds not to be sins at all, and for which he shrives not himself; yet, nevertheless, they are sins. Truly, as clerics write, every time a man eats or drinks more than suffices for the sustenance of his body, it is certain that he thereby sins. And, too, when he speaks more than it is necessary it is sin. Also, when he hears not benignly the complaint of the poor. Also, when he is in health of body and will not fast when other folk fast, and that without a reasonable excuse. Also, when he sleeps more than he needs, or when he comes, for that reason, too late to church, or to other places where works of charity are done. Also, when he enjoys his wife without a sovereign desire to procreate children to the honour of God, or when he does it without intention to yield to his wife the duty of his body. Also, when he will not visit the sick and the imprisoned, if he may do so. Also, if he love wife or child or any other worldly thing more than reason requires. Also, if he flatter or blandish more than, of necessity, he ought. Also, if he diminish or withdraw his alms to the poor. Also, if he prepare his food more delicately than is needful, or eat it too hastily or too greedily. Also, if he talk about vain and trifling matters in a church or at God's service, or if he be a user of idle words of folly or of obscenity; for he shall yield up an accounting of it at the day of doom. Also, when he promises or assures one that he will do what he cannot perform. Also, when he, through thoughtlessness or folly, slanders or scorns his neighbour. Also, when he suspects a thing to be evil when he has no certain knowledge of it. These things, and more without number, are sins, as Saint Augustine says.

Now shall men understand that while no earthly man may avoid all venial sins, yet may he keep them down by the burning love that he has to Our Lord Jesus Christ, and by prayer and confession, and by other good deeds. For, as Saint Augustine says: "If a man love God in such manner that all that he ever does is done in the love of God, and truly for the love of God, because he burns with the love of God: behold, then, how much a drop of water falling in a furnace harms or proves troublesome; and just so much vexes the venial sin a man who is perfect in the love of Christ." Men may also keep down venial sins by receiving deservingly the precious body of Jesus Christ; also by receiving holy water; by almsgiving; by general confession of confiteor at mass and at compline; and by the blessings of bishops and of priests, and by other good works.


Now it is a needful thing to tell which are the mortal sins, that is to say, the principal sins; they are all leashed together, but are different in their ways. Now they are called principal sins because they are the chief sins and the trunk from which branch all others. And the root of these seven sins is pride, which is the general root of all evils; for from this root spring certain branches, as anger, envy, acedia or sloth, avarice (or covetousness, for vulgar understanding), gluttony, and lechery. And each of these principal sins has its branches and its twigs, as shall be set forth and declared in the paragraphs following."

Sonnet 25: Pride

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour or proud colours boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of rare highness bars,
Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.
Rich princes' favourites their fair leaves spread
Yet as a hyacinth in Helios' eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
An aching warrior who's hailed for fight,
After his scores of victories once foil'd,
Is from the book of honour banished quite,
Hence all the rest forgot for which he toil'd:
So happy I, that love and am beloved
Where I shall not remove nor be removed.

Sonnet 140: Anger

Be wise as thou art harsh; oh, do not press
My tongue-tied patience with a loose disdain;
Lest sorrow loan me words and words express
The manner of this pity-yearning pain.
If I can teach thee wit, better it were,
Though not to love, yet, love, to tell me so;
As techy ill ones, if their deaths be near,
No news save health from their physicians know;
For if I shall despair, I shall go mad,
So in sheer madness shall speak ill of thee:
Oh, this ill-wresting world is now so bad,
Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be.
That I shall not be so, nor thou belied,
Bear thine eyes straight, though thy vain heart go wide.

Sonnet 29: Envy

When, in disgrace with chance and local eyes,
I all alone cry of my social state
And harry deaf heaven with few boorish cries,
And then reflect on life and curse this fate,
Wishing to be one who is rich in hope,
Honour'd as him, as him with fans possess'd,
Desiring this man's art or that man's scope,
With what I most adore contented least;
Yet in this view myself well-nigh despising,
By chance I think of thee, and then my state,
As a high finch at break of day arising
From sullen ash, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy honed face recall'd, such wealth it brings,
I scorn to change a chair with those of kings.

Sonnet 100: Sloth

Where art thou, Muse, if thou forget'st so long
To call forth that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on a worthless song,
Scorching thy force to loan base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and right redeem
In gentle verses hours so idly spent;
Croon to the ear which doth thy lays esteem
And hands thy pen both art and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love's fine face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And have Time's horrors hated every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time chars life,
So thou prevent'st his scythe and horrid knife.

Sonnet 146: Avarice

Aha! Poor soul, core of my sinful earth,
Feeding all rebel reins that thee array,
Why dost thou crave within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy walls' pale sheen so costly gay?
Why so high cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou on thine archaic palace spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Ingest thy charge? Is this thy body's end?
Ah, soul, live on thy hollow servant's loss,
And have this craving overfill thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, which feeds on men,
And Death once gone, there's no more dying then.

Sonnet 75: Gluttony

So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season'd showers are to the ground;
Oh, for the peace of you I hold the strife
That 'tween a miser and his wealth is found;
Once blithe as an enjoyer and anon
Fearing a filching Age shall steal his treasure,
Once counting best to cherish you alone,
Then cheerful, since all men can see this pleasure;
At times, all full with feasting on your sight,
And later, so clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight,
Save what is had or must from you be took.
Hence do I crave and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

Sonnet 129: Lust

Expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; so, till action, lust
Is lying, carnal, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, intense, coarse, venal, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner and yet hated straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
Laid in an aim to have a hooked one mad;
Mad if in search, if in possession, so;
Had, having, and in hope to have, extreme;
Ah, bliss in proof; once proved - ah, foolish woe;
Before, a frolic planned; behind, a dream.
Of this the world well knows; yet none knows well
To shun a heaven which leads men in this hell.

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Updated: May 10, 2016


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