I wrote a section on John Gower in the book and deleted the one on Chaucer because I found Gower's uses of the parables of Jesus more intriguing and important (although Gower's works quickly moved into the shadows of Chaucer's, which is another reason to write about Gower: to shed some light on texts that are often overlooked in contrast to Chaucer's).
Chaucer, though, uses the parables in interesting ways as well, including the rich man and Lazarus parable. The Canterbury Tales uses the parables in both positive and negative ways. The Summoner’s Tale, for example, includes the Rich Man and Lazarus parable in a morally dubious way. This story is told in response to the previous story, The Friar’s Tale, in which a friar relates a story against a summoner, a minor church official whose duties included notifying people who had to appear before a church (not civil) court. In The Friar’s Tale, the summoner is corrupt. He colludes with a bailiff—who is actually the devil in disguise—to extort money from people. At the end of the story, the devil takes the summoner to hell, after the summoner tries to extort a bribe from a poor widow.
“Hold up thy tail, thou Sathanas!” said he,“Show forth thine arse and let the friar seeWhere is the nest of friars in this place!”And ere one might go half a furlong's space,Just as the bees come swarming from a hive,Out of the Devil's arse-hole there did driveFull twenty thousand friars in a rout,And through all Hell they swarmed and ran about.And came again, as fast as they could run,
And in his arse they crept back, every one.
And may now, God be thanked for mercy shown,Observe their jubilee and walk alone.And I rose up and did my brothers seek,With many a tear down trickling on my cheek,And without noise or clashing of the bells;Te deum was our song and nothing else,Save that to Christ I said an orison,And thanked Him for the vision he had shownFor, sir and dame, trust me full well in all,Our orisons are more effectual,And more we see of Christ's own secret thingsThan folk of the laity, though they were kings.We live in poverty and abstinenceAnd laymen live in riches and expenseOf meat and drink, and in their gross delight.This world's desires we hold in great despite.Dives and Lazarus lived differently,And different recompense they had thereby.Whoso would pray, he must fast and be clean,Fatten his soul and keep his body lean.We fare as says the apostle; clothes and foodSuffice us, though they be not over-good.The cleanness and the fasting of us friarsResult in Christ's accepting all our prayers.
Therefore we mendicants, we simple friars,Are sworn to poverty and continence,To charity, meekness, and abstinence,To persecution for our righteousness,To weeping, pity, and to cleanliness.And therefore may you see that all our prayers-I speak of us, we mendicants, we friars-Are to the High God far more acceptableThan yours, with all the feasts you make at table.
This sick man, he went well-nigh mad for ire;He would have had that friar set afireFor the hypocrisy that he had shown."Such things as I possess and are my own,"Said he, "those may I give you and no other.
"Lo, hear my oath! In me shall truth not lack.""Now then, come put your hand right down my back,"Replied this man, "and grope you well behind;For underneath my buttocks shall you findA thing that I have hid in privity.""Ah," thought the friar, "this shall go with me!"And down he thrust his hand right to the cleft,In hope that he should find there some good gift.And when the sick man felt the friar hereGroping about his hole and all his rear,Into his hand he let the friar a fart.There is no stallion drawing loaded cartThat might have let a fart of such a sound.
I have today been to your church, at Mass,And preached a sermon after my poor wit,Not wholly from the text of holy writ,For that is hard and baffling in the main;And therefore all its meaning I'll explain.Glosing's a glorious thing, and that's certain,For letters kill, as scholars say with pain.