Matthew Brown Composer


The Words of the Host of the Host to the Physician and the Pardoner

The Words of the Host to the Physician and the Pardoner



The Words of the Host to the Physician and the Pardoner appears in the sixth fragment of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. These Tales were told by Pilgrims as they travelled from London to Canterbury to visit the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The stories were often used to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English Society, provoking much discussion from the 14th century onwards, particularly about issues of social class.

My composition is loosely based on a small scale chamber wok which I once wrote for an organisation in the South East of England known as Refugee Tales.

Refugee Tales are working to to change the policy of indefinite detention in the UK asylem system, experienced by thousands every year. The Canterbury Tales are a significant inspirational model.

The chamber version was performed at Chilham Village Hall in June 2015 by Charlotte Ashley (soprano) and the Leon Quartet. Charlotte is a member of the Marian Consort and also first cousin to Karen Jolliffe from the quartet. Since this performance I was determined to adapt and orchestrate the music for soprano and string orchestra, which I eventually did in 2017-2018. I was lucky enough to meet Russian soprano soloist Daria Papysheva at RNCM. Daria works with many composers inside and outside the college, and has achieved remarkable success at International Competition Festivals.


Our Host began to swear as if he were mad;

“Help! Alas! By the nails and cross of Christ,

this was a false churl and a false justice!

May as shameful a death as a heart can devise come to these judges and their lawyers!

But all the same, this poor maiden is slain, alas!

She bought her beauty at too high a price;

therefore I say, as we may see,

the gifts of Fortune and Nature are the cause of death to many creatures.

Her beauty was her death, I dare well say.

Alas, how pitifully she was slain!

From both these gifts I spoke of now,

people often have more harm than profit.

But nonetheless pass it over; it does not matter.

I pray to God to save your gentle body,

and your urinals and chamber pots,

as well as your Hippocrates and your Galens,

and every box full of your syrup-medicine.

God bless them and our Lady, Blessed Mary!

As I live and prosper, you are a proper fellow

and like a prelate, by Saint Rowan.

Did I not say it well!

I cannot speak like a scholar,

but I know well that you so made my heart ache,

so that I have nearly had a heart attack.

By Christ’s bones!

Unless I take medicine,

or else a draught of fresh malt ale,

or hear a merry tale right away,

my heart is done for,

in pity for this maid.

“You there, you Pardoner,” he said,

“tell us at once some mirth or sport.”

“By Saint Ronan, it shall be done,” he said,

“but first I will drink and eat a bit of bread here at this ale-house.”

But immediately the gentle people began to call out,

“No, do not let him tell some ribald or coarse joke;

tell us some moral thing that we may learn some wisdom,

and that we will gladly listen.

“I agree, certainly,” he said, “but I must

have some time to think up some virtuous thing

while I drink.”


Geoffrey Chaucer