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1889 Whan ended was my tale of Melibee,
1890 And of Prudence and hire benignytee,
1891 Oure Hooste seyde, ” As I am feithful man,
1892 And by that precious corpus Madrian,
1893 I hadde levere than a barel ale
1894 That Goodelief, my wyf, hadde herd this tale!
1895 For she nys no thyng of swich pacience
1896 As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.
1897 By Goddes bones, whan I bete my knaves,
1898 She bryngeth me forth the grete clobbed staves,
1899 And crieth, ‘Slee the dogges everichoon,
1900 And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon!’
1901 ” And if that any neighebor of myne
1902 Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
1903 Or be so hardy to hire to trespace,
1904 Whan she comth hoom she rampeth in my face,
1905 And crieth, ‘False coward, wrek thy wyf!
1906 By corpus bones, I wol have thy knyf,
1907 And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne!’
1908 Fro day to nyght right thus she wol bigynne.
1909 ‘ Allas,’ she seith, ‘that evere I was shape
1910 To wedden a milksop, or a coward ape,
1911 That wol been overlad with every wight!
1912 Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right!’
1913 “This is my lif, but if that I wol fighte;
1914 And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
1915 Or elles I am but lost, but if that I
1916 Be lik a wilde leoun, fool-hardy.
1917 I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
1918 Som neighebor, and thanne go my way;
1919 For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
1920 Al be it that I dar nat hire withstonde,
1921 For she is byg in armes, by my feith:
1922 That shal he fynde that hire mysdooth or seith —
1923 But lat us passe awey fro this mateere.
1924 “My lord, the Monk,” quod he, “be myrie of cheere,
1925 For ye shul telle a tale trewely.
1926 Loo, Rouchestre stant heer faste by!
1927 Ryde forth, myn owene lord, brek nat oure game.
1928 But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat youre name.
1929 Wher shal I calle yow my lord daun John,
1930 Or daun Thomas, or elles daun Albon?
1931 Of what hous be ye, by youre fader kyn?
1932 I vowe to God, thou hast a ful fair skyn;
1933 It is a gentil pasture ther thow goost.
1934 Thou art nat lyk a penant or a goost:
1935 Upon my feith, thou art som officer,
1936 Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
1937 For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
1938 Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom;
1939 No povre cloysterer, ne no novys,
1940 But a governour, wily and wys,
1941 And therwithal of brawnes and of bones
1942 A wel farynge persone for the nones.
1943 I pray to God, yeve hym confusioun
1944 That first thee broghte unto religioun!
1945 Thou woldest han been a tredefowel aright.
1946 Haddestow as greet a leeve as thou hast myght
1947 To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
1948 Thou haddest bigeten ful many a creature.
1949 Allas, why werestow so wyd a cope?
1950 God yeve me sorwe, but, and I were a pope,
1951 Nat oonly thou, but every myghty man,
1952 Though he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
1953 Sholde have a wyf; for al the world is lorn!
1954 Religioun hath take up al the corn
1955 Of tredyng, and we borel men been shrympes.
1956 Of fieble trees ther comen wrecched ympes.
1957 This maketh that oure heires been so sklendre
1958 And feble that they may nat wel engendre.
1959 This maketh that oure wyves wole assaye
1960 Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye
1961 Of Venus paiementz than mowe we;
1962 God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
1963 But be nat wrooth, my lord, though that I pleye.
1964 Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye!”
1965 This worthy Monk took al in pacience,
1966 And seyde, “I wol doon al my diligence,
1967 As fer as sowneth into honestee,
1968 To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.
1969 And if yow list to herkne hyderward,
1970 I wol yow seyn the lyf of Seint Edward;
1971 Or ellis, first, tragedies wol I telle,
1972 Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
1973 Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,
1974 As olde bookes maken us memorie,
1975 Of hym that stood in greet prosperitee,
1976 And is yfallen out of heigh degree
1977 Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly.
1978 And they ben versified communely
1979 Of six feet, which men clepen exametron.
1980 In prose eek been endited many oon,
1981 And eek in meetre in many a sondry wyse.
1982 Lo, this declaryng oghte ynogh suffise.
1983 “Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere.
1984 But first I yow biseeke in this mateere,
1985 Though I by ordre telle nat thise thynges,
1986 Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
1987 After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
1988 But tellen hem som bifore and som bihynde,
1989 As it now comth unto my remembraunce,
1990 Have me excused of myn ignoraunce.”

The Tale

1991 I wol biwaille in manere of tragedie
1992 The harm of hem that stoode in heigh degree,
1993 And fillen so that ther nas no remedie
1994 To brynge hem out of hir adversitee.
1995 For certein, whan that Fortune list to flee,
1996 Ther may no man the cours of hire withholde.
1997 Lat no man truste on blynd prosperitee;
1998 Be war by thise ensamples trewe and olde.
1999 At Lucifer, though he an angel were
2000 And nat a man, at hym wol I bigynne.
2001 For though Fortune may noon angel dere,
2002 From heigh degree yet fel he for his synne
2003 Doun into helle, where he yet is inne.
2004 O Lucifer, brightest of angels alle,
2005 Now artow Sathanas, that mayst nat twynne
2006 Out of miserie, in which that thou art falle.
2007 Loo Adam, in the feeld of Damyssene
2008 With Goddes owene fynger wroght was he,
2009 And nat bigeten of mannes sperme unclene,
2010 And welte al paradys savynge o tree.
2011 Hadde nevere worldly man so heigh degree
2012 As Adam, til he for mysgovernaunce
2013 Was dryven out of hys hye prosperitee
2014 To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce.
2015 Loo Sampsoun, which that was annunciat
2016 By th’ angel longe er his nativitee,
2017 And was to God Almyghty consecrat,
2018 And stood in noblesse whil he myghte see.
2019 Was nevere swich another as was hee,
2020 To speke of strengthe, and therwith hardynesse;
2021 But to his wyves toolde he his secree,
2022 Thurgh which he slow hymself for wrecchednesse.
2023 Sampsoun, this noble almyghty champioun,
2024 Withouten wepen save his handes tweye,
2025 He slow and al torente the leoun,
2026 Toward his weddyng walkynge by the weye.
2027 His false wyf koude hym so plese and preye
2028 Til she his conseil knew; and she, untrewe,
2029 Unto his foos his conseil gan biwreye,
2030 And hym forsook, and took another newe.
2031 Thre hundred foxes took Sampson for ire,
2032 And alle hir tayles he togydre bond,
2033 And sette the foxes tayles alle on fire,
2034 For he on every tayl had knyt a brond;
2035 And they brende alle the cornes in that lond,
2036 And alle hire olyveres, and vynes eke.
2037 A thousand men he slow eek with his hond,
2038 And hadde no wepen but an asses cheke.
2039 Whan they were slayn, so thursted hym that he
2040 Was wel ny lorn, for which he gan to preye
2041 That God wolde on his peyne han some pitee
2042 And sende hym drynke, or elles moste he deye;
2043 And of this asses cheke, that was dreye,
2044 Out of a wang-tooth sprang anon a welle,
2045 Of which he drank ynogh, shortly to seye;
2046 Thus heelp hym God, as Judicum can telle.
2047 By verray force at Gazan on a nyght,
2048 Maugree Philistiens of that citee,
2049 The gates of the toun he hath up plyght,
2050 And on his bak ycaryed hem hath hee
2051 Hye on an hill whereas men myghte hem see.
2052 O noble, almyghty Sampsoun, lief and deere,
2053 Had thou nat toold to wommen thy secree,
2054 In al this world ne hadde been thy peere!
2055 This Sampson nevere ciser drank ne wyn,
2056 Ne on his heed cam rasour noon ne sheere,
2057 By precept of the messager divyn,
2058 For alle his strengthes in his heeres weere.
2059 And fully twenty wynter, yeer by yeere,
2060 He hadde of Israel the governaunce.
2061 But soone shal he wepe many a teere,
2062 For wommen shal hym bryngen to meschaunce!
2063 Unto his lemman Dalida he tolde
2064 That in his heeris al his strengthe lay,
2065 And falsly to his foomen she hym solde.
2066 And slepynge in hir barm upon a day,
2067 She made to clippe or shere his heres away,
2068 And made his foomen al his craft espyen;
2069 And whan that they hym foond in this array,
2070 They bounde hym faste and putten out his yen.
2071 But er his heer were clipped or yshave,
2072 Ther was no boond with which men myghte him bynde;
2073 But now is he in prison in a cave,
2074 Where-as they made hym at the queerne grynde.
2075 O noble Sampsoun, strongest of mankynde,
2076 O whilom juge, in glorie and in richesse!
2077 Now maystow wepen with thyne eyen blynde,
2078 Sith thou fro wele art falle in wrecchednesse.
2079 The ende of this caytyf was as I shal seye.
2080 His foomen made a feeste upon a day,
2081 And made hym as hire fool biforn hem pleye;
2082 And this was in a temple of greet array.
2083 But atte laste he made a foul affray,
2084 For he two pilers shook and made hem falle,
2085 And doun fil temple and al, and ther it lay —
2086 And slow hymself, and eek his foomen alle.
2087 This is to seyn, the prynces everichoon,
2088 And eek thre thousand bodyes, were ther slayn
2089 With fallynge of the grete temple of stoon.
2090 Of Sampson now wol I namoore sayn.
2091 Beth war by this ensample oold and playn
2092 That no men telle hir conseil til hir wyves
2093 Of swich thyng as they wolde han secree fayn,
2094 If that it touche hir lymes or hir lyves.
2095 Of Hercules, the sovereyn conquerour,
2096 Syngen his werkes laude and heigh renoun;
2097 For in his tyme of strengthe he was the flour.
2098 He slow and rafte the skyn of the leoun;
2099 He of Centauros leyde the boost adoun;
2100 He Arpies slow, the crueel bryddes felle;
2101 He golden apples rafte of the dragoun;
2102 He drow out Cerberus, the hound of helle;
2103 He slow the crueel tyrant Busirus
2104 And made his hors to frete hym, flessh and boon;
2105 He slow the firy serpent venymus;
2106 Of Acheloys two hornes he brak oon;
2107 And he slow Cacus in a cave of stoon;
2108 He slow the geant Antheus the stronge;
2109 He slow the grisly boor, and that anon;
2110 And bar the hevene on his nekke longe.
2111 Was nevere wight, sith that this world bigan,
2112 That slow so manye monstres as dide he.
2113 Thurghout this wyde world his name ran,
2114 What for his strengthe and for his heigh bountee,
2115 And every reawme wente he for to see.
2116 He was so stroong that no man myghte hym lette.
2117 At bothe the worldes endes, seith Trophee,
2118 In stide of boundes he a pileer sette.
2119 A lemman hadde this noble champioun,
2120 That highte Dianira, fressh as May;
2121 And as thise clerkes maken mencioun,
2122 She hath hym sent a sherte, fressh and gay.
2123 Allas, this sherte — allas and weylaway! —
2124 Envenymed was so subtilly withalle
2125 That er that he had wered it half a day
2126 It made his flessh al from his bones falle.
2127 But nathelees somme clerkes hire excusen
2128 By oon that highte Nessus, that it maked.
2129 Be as be may, I wol hire noght accusen;
2130 But on his bak this sherte he wered al naked
2131 Til that his flessh was for the venym blaked.
2132 And whan he saugh noon oother remedye,
2133 In hoote coles he hath hymselven raked,
2134 For with no venym deigned hym to dye.
2135 Thus starf this worthy, myghty Hercules.
2136 Lo, who may truste on Fortune any throwe?
2137 For hym that folweth al this world of prees
2138 Er he be war is ofte yleyd ful lowe.
2139 Ful wys is he that kan hymselven knowe!
2140 Beth war, for whan that Fortune list to glose,
2141 Thanne wayteth she her man to overthrowe
2142 By swich a wey as he wolde leest suppose.
2143 The myghty trone, the precious tresor,
2144 The glorious ceptre, and roial magestee
2145 That hadde the kyng Nabugodonosor
2146 With tonge unnethe may discryved bee.
2147 He twyes wan Jerusalem the citee;
2148 The vessel of the temple he with hym ladde.
2149 At Babiloigne was his sovereyn see,
2150 In which his glorie and his delit he hadde.
2151 The faireste children of the blood roial
2152 Of Israel he leet do gelde anoon,
2153 And maked ech of hem to been his thral.
2154 Amonges othere Daniel was oon,
2155 That was the wiseste child of everychon,
2156 For he the dremes of the kyng expowned,
2157 Whereas in Chaldeye clerk ne was ther noon
2158 That wiste to what fyn his dremes sowned.
2159 This proude kyng leet maken a statue of gold,
2160 Sixty cubites long and sevene in brede,
2161 To which ymage bothe yong and oold
2162 Comanded he to loute, and have in drede,
2163 Or in a fourneys, ful of flambes rede,
2164 He shal be brent that wolde noght obeye.
2165 But nevere wolde assente to that dede
2166 Daniel ne his yonge felawes tweye.
2167 This kyng of kynges proud was and elaat;
2168 He wende that God, that sit in magestee,
2169 Ne myghte hym nat bireve of his estaat.
2170 But sodeynly he loste his dignytee,
2171 And lyk a beest hym semed for to bee,
2172 And eet hey as an oxe, and lay theroute
2173 In reyn; with wilde beestes walked hee
2174 Til certein tyme was ycome aboute.
2175 And lik an egles fetheres wax his heres;
2176 His nayles lyk a briddes clawes weere;
2177 Til God relessed hym a certeyn yeres,
2178 And yaf hym wit, and thanne with many a teere
2179 He thanked God, and evere his lyf in feere
2180 Was he to doon amys or moore trespace;
2181 And til that tyme he leyd was on his beere
2182 He knew that God was ful of myght and grace.
2183 His sone, which that highte Balthasar,
2184 That heeld the regne after his fader day,
2185 He by his fader koude noght be war,
2186 For proud he was of herte and of array,
2187 And eek an ydolastre was he ay.
2188 His hye estaat assured hym in pryde;
2189 But Fortune caste hym doun, and ther he lay,
2190 And sodeynly his regne gan divide.
2191 A feeste he made unto his lordes alle
2192 Upon a tyme and bad hem blithe bee;
2193 And thanne his officeres gan he calle:
2194 “Gooth, bryngeth forth the vesseles,” quod he,
2195 “Whiche that my fader in his prosperitee
2196 Out of the temple of Jerusalem birafte;
2197 And to oure hye goddes thanke we
2198 Of honour that oure eldres with us lafte.”
2199 Hys wyf, his lordes, and his concubynes
2200 Ay dronken, whil hire appetites laste,
2201 Out of thise noble vessels sondry wynes.
2202 And on a wal this kyng his eyen caste
2203 And saugh an hand, armlees, that wroot ful faste,
2204 For feere of which he quook and siked soore.
2205 This hand that Balthasar so soore agaste
2206 Wroot Mane, techel, phares, and namoore.
2207 In all that land magicien was noon
2208 That koude expoune what this lettre mente;
2209 But Daniel expowned it anoon,
2210 And seyde, “Kyng, God to thy fader lente
2211 Glorie and honour, regne, tresour, rente;
2212 And he was proud and nothyng God ne dradde,
2213 And therfore God greet wreche upon hym sente,
2214 And hym birafte the regne that he hadde.
2215 “He was out cast of mannes compaignye;
2216 With asses was his habitacioun,
2217 And eet hey as a beest in weet and drye
2218 Til that he knew, by grace and by resoun,
2219 That God of hevene hath domynacioun
2220 Over every regne and every creature;
2221 And thanne hadde God of hym compassioun,
2222 And hym restored his regne and his figure.
2223 “Eek thou, that art his sone, art proud also,
2224 And knowest alle thise thynges verraily,
2225 And art rebel to God, and art his foo.
2226 Thou drank eek of his vessels boldely;
2227 Thy wyf eek, and thy wenches, synfully
2228 Dronke of the same vessels sondry wynys;
2229 And heryest false goddes cursedly;
2230 Therefore to thee yshapen ful greet pyne ys.
2231 “This hand was sent from God that on the wal
2232 Wroot Mane, techel, phares, truste me;
2233 Thy regne is doon; thou weyest noght at al.
2234 Dyvyded is thy regne, and it shal be
2235 To Medes and to Perses yeven,” quod he.
2236 And thilke same nyght this kyng was slawe,
2237 And Darius occupieth his degree,
2238 Thogh he therto hadde neither right ne lawe.
2239 Lordynges, ensample heerby may ye take
2240 How that in lordshipe is no sikernesse,
2241 For whan Fortune wole a man forsake,
2242 She bereth awey his regne and his richesse,
2243 And eek his freendes, bothe moore and lesse.
2244 For what man that hath freendes thurgh Fortune,
2245 Mishap wol maken hem enemys, I gesse;
2246 This proverbe is ful sooth and ful commune.
2247 Cenobia, of Palymerie queene,
2248 As writen Persiens of hir noblesse,
2249 So worthy was in armes and so keene
2250 That no wight passed hire in hardynesse,
2251 Ne in lynage, ne in oother gentillesse.
2252 Of kynges blood of Perce is she descended.
2253 I seye nat that she hadde moost fairnesse,
2254 But of hir shap she myghte nat been amended.
2255 From hire childhede I fynde that she fledde
2256 Office of wommen, and to wode she wente,
2257 And many a wilde hertes blood she shedde
2258 With arwes brode that she to hem sente.
2259 She was so swift that she anon hem hente;
2260 And whan that she was elder, she wolde kille
2261 Leouns, leopardes, and beres al torente,
2262 And in hir armes weelde hem at hir wille.
2263 She dorste wilde beestes dennes seke,
2264 And rennen in the montaignes al the nyght,
2265 And slepen under a bussh, and she koude eke
2266 Wrastlen, by verray force and verray myght,
2267 With any yong man, were he never so wight.
2268 Ther myghte no thyng in hir armes stonde.
2269 She kepte hir maydenhod from every wight;
2270 To no man deigned hire for to be bonde.
2271 But atte laste hir freendes han hire maried
2272 To Odenake, a prynce of that contree,
2273 Al were it so that she hem longe taried.
2274 And ye shul understonde how that he
2275 Hadde swiche fantasies as hadde she.
2276 But natheless, whan they were knyt in-feere,
2277 They lyved in joye and in felicitee,
2278 For ech of hem hadde oother lief and deere,
2279 Save o thyng: that she wolde nevere assente,
2280 By no wey, that he sholde by hire lye
2281 But ones, for it was hir pleyn entente
2282 To have a child, the world to multiplye;
2283 And also soone as that she myghte espye
2284 That she was nat with childe with that dede,
2285 Thanne wolde she suffre hym doon his fantasye
2286 Eft-soone, and nat but oones, out of drede.
2287 And if she were with childe at thilke cast,
2288 Namoore sholde he pleyen thilke game
2289 Til fully fourty [wikes] weren past;
2290 Thanne wolde she ones suffre hym do the same.
2291 Al were this Odenake wilde or tame,
2292 He gat namoore of hire, for thus she seyde:
2293 It was to wyves lecherie and shame,
2294 In oother caas, if that men with hem pleyde.
2295 Two sones by this Odenake hadde she,
2296 The whiche she kepte in vertu and lettrure.
2297 But now unto oure tale turne we.
2298 I seye, so worshipful a creature,
2299 And wys therwith, and large with mesure,
2300 So penyble in the werre, and curteis eke,
2301 Ne moore labour myghte in werre endure,
2302 Was noon, though al this world men sholde seke.
2303 Hir riche array ne myghte nat be told,
2304 As wel in vessel as in hire clothyng.
2305 She was al clad in perree and in gold,
2306 And eek she lafte noght, for noon huntyng,
2307 To have of sondry tonges ful knowyng,
2308 Whan that she leyser hadde; and for to entende
2309 To lerne bookes was al hire likyng,
2310 How she in vertu myghte hir lyf dispende.
2311 And shortly of this storie for to trete,
2312 So doghty was hir housbonde and eek she,
2313 That they conquered manye regnes grete
2314 In the orient, with many a fair citee
2315 Apertenaunt unto the magestee
2316 Of Rome, and with strong hond held hem ful faste,
2317 Ne nevere myghte hir foomen doon hem flee,
2318 Ay whil that Odenakes dayes laste.
2319 Hir batailles, whoso list hem for to rede,
2320 Agayn Sapor the kyng and othere mo,
2321 And how that al this proces fil in dede,
2322 Why she conquered and what title had therto,
2323 And after, of hir meschief and hire wo,
2324 How that she was biseged and ytake —
2325 Lat hym unto my maister Petrak go,
2326 That writ ynough of this, I undertake.
2327 Whan Odenake was deed, she myghtily
2328 The regnes heeld, and with hire propre hond
2329 Agayn hir foos she faught so cruelly
2330 That ther nas kyng ne prynce in al that lond
2331 That he nas glad, if he that grace fond,
2332 That she ne wolde upon his lond werreye.
2333 With hire they maden alliance by bond
2334 To been in pees, and lete hire ride and pleye.
2335 The Emperour of Rome, Claudius
2336 Ne hym bifore, the Romayn Galien,
2337 Ne dorste nevere been so corageus,
2338 Ne noon Ermyn, ne noon Egipcien,
2339 Ne Surrien, ne noon Arabyen,
2340 Withinne the feeld that dorste with hire fighte,
2341 Lest that she wolde hem with hir handes slen,
2342 Or with hir meignee putten hem to flighte.
2343 In kynges habit wente hir sones two,
2344 As heires of hir fadres regnes alle,
2345 And Hermanno and Thymalao
2346 Hir names were, as Persiens hem calle.
2347 But ay Fortune hath in hire hony galle;
2348 This myghty queene may no while endure.
2349 Fortune out of hir regne made hire falle
2350 To wrecchednesse and to mysaventure.
2351 Aurelian, whan that the governaunce
2352 Of Rome cam into his handes tweye,
2353 He shoop upon this queene to doon vengeaunce.
2354 And with his legions he took his weye
2355 Toward Cenobie, and shortly for to seye,
2356 He made hire flee, and atte laste hire hente,
2357 And fettred hire, and eek hire children tweye,
2358 And wan the land, and hoom to Rome he wente.
2359 Amonges othere thynges that he wan,
2360 Hir chaar, that was with gold wroght and perree,
2361 This grete Romayn, this Aurelian,
2362 Hath with hym lad, for that men sholde it see.
2363 Biforen his triumphe walketh shee,
2364 With gilte cheynes on hire nekke hangynge.
2365 Coroned was she, as after hir degree,
2366 And ful of perree charged hire clothynge.
2367 Allas, Fortune! She that whilom was
2368 Dredeful to kynges and to emperoures,
2369 Now gaureth al the peple on hire, allas!
2370 And she that helmed was in starke stoures
2371 And wan by force townes stronge and toures,
2372 Shal on hir heed now were a vitremyte;
2373 And she that bar the ceptre ful of floures
2374 Shal bere a distaf, hire cost for to quyte.
2375 O noble, O worthy Petro, glorie of Spayne,
2376 Whom Fortune heeld so hye in magestee,
2377 Wel oghten men thy pitous deeth complayne!
2378 Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee,
2379 And after, at a seege, by subtiltee,
2380 Thou were bitraysed and lad unto his tente,
2381 Where as he with his owene hand slow thee,
2382 Succedynge in thy regne and in thy rente.
2383 The feeld of snow, with th’ egle of blak therinne,
2384 Caught with the lymrod coloured as the gleede,
2385 He brew this cursednesse and al this synne.
2386 The wikked nest was werker of this nede.
2387 Noght Charles Olyver, that took ay heede
2388 Of trouthe and honour, but of Armorike
2389 Genylon-Olyver, corrupt for meede,
2390 Broghte this worthy kyng in swich a brike.
2391 O worthy Petro, kyng of Cipre, also,
2392 That Alisandre wan by heigh maistrie,
2393 Ful many an hethen wroghtestow ful wo,
2394 Of which thyne owene liges hadde envie,
2395 And for no thyng but for thy chivalrie
2396 They in thy bed han slayn thee by the morwe.
2397 Thus kan Fortune hir wheel governe and gye,
2398 And out of joye brynge men to sorwe.
2399 Off Melan grete Barnabo Viscounte,
2400 God of delit and scourge of Lumbardye,
2401 Why sholde I nat thyn infortune acounte,
2402 Sith in estaat thow cloumbe were so hye?
2403 Thy brother sone, that was thy double allye,
2404 For he thy nevew was and sone-in-lawe,
2405 Withinne his prisoun made thee to dye —
2406 But why ne how noot I that thou were slawe.
2407 Off the Erl Hugelyn of Pyze the langour
2408 Ther may no tonge telle for pitee.
2409 But litel out of Pize stant a tour,
2410 In which tour in prisoun put was he,
2411 And with hym been his litel children thre;
2412 The eldest scarsly fyf yeer was of age.
2413 Allas, Fortune, it was greet crueltee
2414 Swiche briddes for to putte in swich a cage!
2415 Dampned was he to dyen in that prisoun,
2416 For Roger, which that bisshop was of Pize,
2417 Hadde on hym maad a fals suggestioun,
2418 Thurgh which the peple gan upon hym rise
2419 And putten hym to prisoun in swich wise
2420 As ye han herd, and mete and drynke he hadde
2421 So smal that wel unnethe it may suffise,
2422 And therwithal it was ful povre and badde.
2423 And on a day bifil that in that hour
2424 Whan that his mete wont was to be broght,
2425 The gayler shette the dores of the tour.
2426 He herde it wel, but he spak right noght,
2427 And in his herte anon ther fil a thoght
2428 That they for hunger wolde doon hym dyen.
2429 ” Allas!” quod he, ” Allas, that I was wroght!”
2430 Therwith the teeris fillen from his yen.
2431 His yonge sone, that thre yeer was of age,
2432 Unto hym seyde, “Fader, why do ye wepe?
2433 Whanne wol the gayler bryngen oure potage?
2434 Is ther no morsel breed that ye do kepe?
2435 I am so hungry that I may nat slepe.
2436 Now wolde God that I myghte slepen evere!
2437 Thanne sholde nat hunger in my wombe crepe;
2438 Ther is no thyng, but breed, that me were levere.”
2439 Thus day by day this child bigan to crye,
2440 Til in his fadres barm adoun it lay,
2441 And seyde, “Farewel, fader, I moot dye!”
2442 And kiste his fader, and dyde the same day.
2443 And whan the woful fader deed it say,
2444 For wo his armes two he gan to byte,
2445 And seyde, ” Allas, Fortune, and weylaway!
2446 Thy false wheel my wo al may I wyte.”
2447 His children wende that it for hunger was
2448 That he his armes gnow, and nat for wo,
2449 And seyde, “Fader, do nat so, allas!
2450 But rather ete the flessh upon us two.
2451 Oure flessh thou yaf us, take oure flessh us fro,
2452 And ete ynogh” — right thus they to hym seyde,
2453 And after that, withinne a day or two,
2454 They leyde hem in his lappe adoun and deyde.
2455 Hymself, despeired, eek for hunger starf;
2456 Thus ended is this myghty Erl of Pize.
2457 From heigh estaat Fortune awey hym carf.
2458 Of this tragedie it oghte ynough suffise;
2459 Whoso wol here it in a lenger wise,
2460 Redeth the grete poete of Ytaille
2461 That highte Dant, for he kan al devyse
2462 Fro point to point; nat o word wol he faille.
2463 Although that Nero were as vicius
2464 As any feend that lith ful lowe adoun,
2465 Yet he, as telleth us Swetonius,
2466 This wyde world hadde in subjeccioun,
2467 Bothe est and west, [south], and septemtrioun.
2468 Of rubies, saphires, and of peerles white
2469 Were alle his clothes brouded up and doun,
2470 For he in gemmes greetly gan delite.
2471 Moore delicaat, moore pompous of array,
2472 Moore proud was nevere emperour than he;
2473 That ilke clooth that he hadde wered o day,
2474 After that tyme he nolde it nevere see.
2475 Nettes of gold threed hadde he greet plentee
2476 To fisshe in Tybre, whan hym liste pleye.
2477 His lustes were al lawe in his decree,
2478 For Fortune as his freend hym wolde obeye.
2479 He Rome brende for his delicasie;
2480 The senatours he slow upon a day
2481 To heere how that men wolde wepe and crie;
2482 And slow his brother, and by his suster lay.
2483 His mooder made he in pitous array,
2484 For he hire wombe slitte to biholde
2485 Where he conceyved was — so weilaway
2486 That he so litel of his mooder tolde!
2487 No teere out of his eyen for that sighte
2488 Ne cam, but seyde, ” A fair womman was she!”
2489 Greet wonder is how that he koude or myghte
2490 Be domesman of hire dede beautee.
2491 The wyn to bryngen hym comanded he,
2492 And drank anon — noon oother wo he made.
2493 Whan myght is joyned unto crueltee,
2494 Allas, to depe wol the venym wade!
2495 In yowthe a maister hadde this emperour
2496 To teche hym letterure and curteisye,
2497 For of moralitee he was the flour,
2498 As in his tyme, but if bookes lye;
2499 And whil this maister hadde of hym maistrye,
2500 He maked hym so konnyng and so sowple
2501 That longe tyme it was er tirannye
2502 Or any vice dorste on hym uncowple.
2503 This Seneca, of which that I devyse,
2504 By cause Nero hadde of hym swich drede,
2505 For he fro vices wolde hym ay chastise
2506 Discreetly, as by word and nat by dede —
2507 “Sire,” wolde he seyn, “an emperour moot nede
2508 Be vertuous and hate tirannye –“
2509 For which he in a bath made hym to blede
2510 On bothe his armes, til he moste dye.
2511 This Nero hadde eek of acustumaunce
2512 In youthe agayns his maister for to ryse,
2513 Which afterward hym thoughte a greet grevaunce;
2514 Therefore he made hym dyen in this wise.
2515 But natheless this Seneca the wise
2516 Chees in a bath to dye in this manere
2517 Rather than han another tormentise;
2518 And thus hath Nero slayn his maister deere.
2519 Now fil it so that Fortune liste no lenger
2520 The hye pryde of Nero to cherice,
2521 For though that he were strong, yet was she strenger.
2522 She thoughte thus: “By God! I am to nyce
2523 To sette a man that is fulfild of vice
2524 In heigh degree, and emperour hym calle.
2525 By God, out of his sete I wol hym trice;
2526 Whan he leest weneth, sonnest shal he falle.”
2527 The peple roos upon hym on a nyght
2528 For his defaute, and whan he it espied,
2529 Out of his dores anon he hath hym dight
2530 Allone, and ther he wende han been allied
2531 He knokked faste, and ay the moore he cried
2532 The fastere shette they the dores alle.
2533 Tho wiste he wel, he hadde himself mysgyed,
2534 And wente his wey; no lenger dorste he calle.
2535 The peple cried and rombled up and doun,
2536 That with his erys herde he how they seyde,
2537 “Where is this false tiraunt, this Neroun?”
2538 For fere almoost out of his wit he breyde,
2539 And to his goddes pitously he preyde
2540 For socour, but it myghte nat bityde.
2541 For drede of this hym thoughte that he deyde,
2542 And ran into a gardyn hym to hyde.
2543 And in this gardyn foond he cherles tweye
2544 That seten by a fyr, greet and reed.
2545 And to thise cherles two he gan to preye
2546 To sleen hym and to girden of his heed,
2547 That to his body, whan that he were deed,
2548 Were no despit ydoon for his defame.
2549 Hymself he slow, he koude no bettre reed,
2550 Of which Fortune lough, and hadde a game.
2551 Was nevere capitayn under a kyng
2552 That regnes mo putte in subjeccioun,
2553 Ne strenger was in feeld of alle thyng,
2554 As in his tyme, ne gretter of renoun,
2555 Ne moore pompous in heigh presumpcioun
2556 Than Oloferne, which Fortune ay kiste
2557 So likerously, and ladde hym up and doun
2558 Til that his heed was of, er that he wiste.
2559 Nat oonly that this world hadde hym in awe
2560 For lesynge of richesse or libertee,
2561 But he made every man reneyen his lawe.
2562 “Nabugodonosor was god,” seyde hee;
2563 “Noon oother god sholde adoured bee.”
2564 Agayns his heeste no wight dorst trespace,
2565 Save in Bethulia, a strong citee,
2566 Where Eliachim a preest was of that place.
2567 But taak kep of the deth of Oloferne:
2568 Amydde his hoost he dronke lay a-nyght,
2569 Withinne his tente, large as is a berne,
2570 And yet, for al his pompe and al his myght,
2571 Judith, a womman, as he lay upright
2572 Slepynge, his heed of smoot, and from his tente
2573 Ful pryvely she stal from every wight,
2574 And with his heed unto hir toun she wente.
2575 What nedeth it of kyng Anthiochus
2576 To telle his hye roial magestee,
2577 His hye pride, his werkes venymus?
2578 For swich another was ther noon as he.
2579 Rede which that he was in Machabee,
2580 And rede the proude wordes that he seyde,
2581 And why he fil fro heigh prosperitee,
2582 And in an hill how wrecchedly he deyde.
2583 Fortune hym hadde enhaunced so in pride
2584 That verraily he wende he myghte attayne
2585 Unto the sterres upon every syde,
2586 And in balance weyen ech montayne,
2587 And alle the floodes of the see restrayne.
2588 And Goddes peple hadde he moost in hate;
2589 Hem wolde he sleen in torment and in payne,
2590 Wenynge that God ne myghte his pride abate.
2591 And for that Nichanore and Thymothee
2592 Of Jewes weren venquysshed myghtily,
2593 Unto the Jewes swich an hate hadde he
2594 That he bad greithen his chaar ful hastily,
2595 And swoor, and seyde ful despitously
2596 Unto Jerusalem he wolde eftsoone
2597 To wreken his ire on it ful cruelly;
2598 But of his purpos he was let ful soone.
2599 God for his manace hym so soore smoot
2600 With invisible wounde, ay incurable,
2601 That in his guttes carf it so and boot
2602 That his peynes weren importable.
2603 And certeinly the wreche was resonable,
2604 For many a mannes guttes dide he peyne.
2605 But from his purpos cursed and dampnable,
2606 For al his smert, he wolde hym nat restreyne,
2607 But bad anon apparaillen his hoost;
2608 And sodeynly, er he was of it war,
2609 God daunted al his pride and al his boost.
2610 For he so soore fil out of his char
2611 That it his limes and his skyn totar,
2612 So that he neyther myghte go ne ryde,
2613 But in a chayer men aboute hym bar,
2614 Al forbrused, bothe bak and syde.
2615 The wreche of God hym smoot so cruelly
2616 That thurgh his body wikked wormes crepte,
2617 And therwithal he stank so horribly
2618 That noon of al his meynee that hym kepte,
2619 Wheither so he wook or ellis slepte,
2620 Ne myghte noght the stynk of hym endure.
2621 In this meschief he wayled and eek wepte,
2622 And knew God lord of every creature.
2623 To al his hoost and to hymself also
2624 Ful wlatsom was the stynk of his careyne;
2625 No man ne myghte hym bere to ne fro.
2626 And in this stynk and this horrible peyne,
2627 He starf ful wrecchedly in a monteyne.
2628 Thus hath this robbour and this homycide,
2629 That many a man made to wepe and pleyne,
2630 Swich gerdoun as bilongeth unto pryde.
2631 The storie of Alisaundre is so commune
2632 That every wight that hath discrecioun
2633 Hath herd somwhat or al of his fortune.
2634 This wyde world, as in conclusioun,
2635 He wan by strengthe, or for his hye renoun
2636 They weren glad for pees unto hym sende.
2637 The pride of man and beest he leyde adoun,
2638 Wherso he cam, unto the worldes ende.
2639 Comparisoun myghte nevere yet been maked
2640 Bitwixe hym and another conquerour;
2641 For al this world for drede of hym hath quaked.
2642 He was of knyghthod and of fredom flour;
2643 Fortune hym made the heir of hire honour.
2644 Save wyn and wommen, no thing myghte aswage
2645 His hye entente in armes and labour,
2646 So was he ful of leonyn corage.
2647 What pris were it to hym, though I yow tolde
2648 Of Darius, and an hundred thousand mo
2649 Of kynges, princes, dukes, erles bolde
2650 Whiche he conquered, and broghte hem into wo?
2651 I seye, as fer as man may ryde or go,
2652 The world was his — what sholde I moore devyse?
2653 For though I write or tolde yow everemo
2654 Of his knyghthod, it myghte nat suffise.
2655 Twelf yeer he regned, as seith Machabee.
2656 Philippes sone of Macidoyne he was,
2657 That first was kyng in Grece the contree.
2658 O worthy, gentil Alisandre, allas,
2659 That evere sholde fallen swich a cas!
2660 Empoysoned of thyn owene folk thou weere;
2661 Thy sys Fortune hath turned into aas,
2662 And for thee ne weep she never a teere.
2663 Who shal me yeven teeris to compleyne
2664 The deeth of gentillesse and of franchise,
2665 That al the world weelded in his demeyne,
2666 And yet hym thoughte it myghte nat suffise?
2667 So ful was his corage of heigh emprise.
2668 Allas, who shal me helpe to endite
2669 False Fortune, and poyson to despise,
2670 The whiche two of al this wo I wyte?
2671 By wisedom, manhede, and by greet labour,
2672 From humble bed to roial magestee
2673 Up roos he Julius, the conquerour,
2674 That wan al th’ occident by land and see,
2675 By strengthe of hand, or elles by tretee,
2676 And unto Rome made hem tributarie;
2677 And sitthe of Rome the emperour was he
2678 Til that Fortune weex his adversarie.
2679 O myghty Cesar, that in Thessalie
2680 Agayn Pompeus, fader thyn in lawe,
2681 That of the orient hadde al the chivalrie
2682 As fer as that the day bigynneth dawe,
2683 Thou thurgh thy knyghthod hast hem take and slawe,
2684 Save fewe folk that with Pompeus fledde,
2685 Thurgh which thou puttest al th’ orient in awe.
2686 Thanke Fortune, that so wel thee spedde!
2687 But now a litel while I wol biwaille
2688 This Pompeus, this noble governour
2689 Of Rome, which that fleigh at this bataille.
2690 I seye, oon of his men, a fals traitour,
2691 His heed of smoot, to wynnen hym favour
2692 Of Julius, and hym the heed he broghte.
2693 Allas, Pompeye, of th’ orient conquerour,
2694 That Fortune unto swich a fyn thee broghte!
2695 To Rome agayn repaireth Julius
2696 With his triumphe, lauriat ful hye;
2697 But on a tyme Brutus Cassius,
2698 That evere hadde of his hye estaat envye,
2699 Ful prively hath maad conspiracye
2700 Agayns this Julius in subtil wise,
2701 And caste the place in which he sholde dye
2702 With boydekyns, as I shal yow devyse.
2703 This Julius to the Capitolie wente
2704 Upon a day, as he was wont to goon,
2705 And in the Capitolie anon hym hente
2706 This false Brutus and his othere foon,
2707 And stiked hym with boydekyns anoon
2708 With many a wounde, and thus they lete hym lye;
2709 But nevere gronte he at no strook but oon,
2710 Or elles at two, but if his storie lye.
2711 So manly was this Julius of herte,
2712 And so wel lovede estaatly honestee,
2713 That though his deedly woundes soore smerte,
2714 His mantel over his hypes caste he,
2715 For no man sholde seen his privetee;
2716 And as he lay of diyng in a traunce,
2717 And wiste verraily that deed was hee,
2718 Of honestee yet hadde he remembraunce.
2719 Lucan, to thee this storie I recomende,
2720 And to Swetoun, and to Valerius also,
2721 That of this storie writen word and ende,
2722 How that to thise grete conqueroures two
2723 Fortune was first freend, and sitthe foo.
2724 No man ne truste upon hire favour longe,
2725 But have hire in awayt for everemoo;
2726 Witnesse on alle thise conqueroures stronge.
2727 This riche Cresus, whilom kyng of Lyde,
2728 Of which Cresus Cirus soore hym dradde,
2729 Yet was he caught amyddes al his pryde,
2730 And to be brent men to the fyr hym ladde.
2731 But swich a reyn doun fro the welkne shadde
2732 That slow the fyr, and made hym to escape;
2733 But to be war no grace yet he hadde,
2734 Til Fortune on the galwes made hym gape.
2735 Whanne he escaped was, he kan nat stente
2736 For to bigynne a newe werre agayn.
2737 He wende wel, for that Fortune hym sente
2738 Swich hap that he escaped thurgh the rayn,
2739 That of his foos he myghte nat be slayn;
2740 And eek a sweven upon a nyght he mette,
2741 Of which he was so proud and eek so fayn
2742 That in vengeance he al his herte sette.
2743 Upon a tree he was, as that hym thoughte,
2744 Ther Juppiter hym wessh, bothe bak and syde,
2745 And Phebus eek a fair towaille hym broughte
2746 To dryen hym with; and therfore wax his pryde,
2747 And to his doghter, that stood hym bisyde,
2748 Which that he knew in heigh sentence habounde,
2749 He bad hire telle hym what it signyfyde,
2750 And she his dreem bigan right thus expounde:
2751 “The tree,” quod she, “the galwes is to meene,
2752 And Juppiter bitokneth snow and reyn,
2753 And Phebus, with his towaille so clene,
2754 Tho been the sonne stremes for to seyn.
2755 Thou shalt anhanged be, fader, certeyn;
2756 Reyn shal thee wasshe, and sonne shal thee drye.”
2757 Thus warned hym ful plat and ek ful pleyn
2758 His doghter, which that called was Phanye.
2759 Anhanged was Cresus, the proude kyng;
2760 His roial trone myghte hym nat availle.
2761 Tragedies noon oother maner thyng
2762 Ne kan in syngyng crie ne biwaille
2763 But that Fortune alwey wole assaille
2764 With unwar strook the regnes that been proude;
2765 For whan men trusteth hire, thanne wol she faille,
2766 And covere hire brighte face with a clowde.

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