“No more of this, for Goddes dignitee!”
Quoth then our Hoste, “for thou makest me
So wery of thy very foolishnesse,
That, al-so wisly God my soule blesse,
Myn eeres aken for thy sorry speche.
Now may the devel such a ryme fetch.
This may wel be rym dogerel,” quoth he.
“Why so?” quoth I, “why wilt thou staye me
More of my tale than another man,
Since that it is the beste rym I can?”
“By God!” quoth he, “thou shalt cease utterly
Thy sorry rymyng is not worth a flye;
Thou dost nought else but spendist al our tyme.
Sir, at one word, thou shalt no longer ryme.
Let see if thou canst tellen ought in gest,
Or telle in prose som what atte lest,
In which ther be som merthe or else doctrine.”
“Gladly,” quoth I, “by Goddes swete pain,
I wol you telle a litel thing in prose,
That oughte plese yow, as I suppose,
Or else ye certes be too daungerous.
It is a moral tale vertuous,
Al be it told som tyme in sondry wise
Of sondry folk, as I shal you devyse.
As thus, ye wot that every evaungelist,
That telleth us the peyne of Jhesu Crist,
Ne saith nat alle thing as his felawes doth;
But nonetheless their sentence is al soth,
And alle accorden as in their sentence,
Al be ther in their tellyng difference.
For some of them say more, and some say lesse,
When thay his piteous passioun expresse; —
I mene of Mark, Mathew, Luk and Johan; —
But douteles their sentence is al one.
Therfore, lordynges alle, I you biseche,
If you think that I varye as in my speche,
As thus, though that I telle some what more
Of proverbes, than ye al have herd bifore
Comprehended in this litel tretys here,
To enforcen with theffect of my matere,
And though I not the same wordes say
As ye have herd, yet to you alle I pray,
Blameth me nought; for, in my ful sentence,
Shul ye no wher fynde any difference
From al the sentence of this tretys lite,
After the which this litil tale I write.
And therfor herken what I shal you say,
And let me tellen al my tale, I pray.”
A yong man called Melibeus, mighty and riche, bygat upon his wif, that called was Prudens, a doughter which that called was Sophie. Upon a day byfel, that for his desport he is went into the feldes him to play. His wif and his doughter eek hath he laft in-with his hous, of which the dores were fast shut. Thre of his olde foos have it espyed, and setten laddres to the walles of his hous, and by the wyndowes be entred, and beetyn his wyf, and woundid his doughter with fyve mortal woundes, in fyve sondry places, that is to sayn, in her feet, in her hondes, in her eeres, in her nose, and in her mouth; and lafte her for deed, and went away.
When Melibeus retourned was into his hous, and saw al this meschief, he, lik a man mad, rendyng his clothes, gan wepe and crie. Prudens his wyf, as ferforth as she dorste, bisought him of his wepyng to stynte. But not forthi he gan to crie ever lenger the more.
This noble wyf Prudence remembred hir upon the sentens of Ovide, in his book that cleped is the Remedy of Love, wher as he seith: He is a fool that destourbeth the moder to wepe in the deth of hir childe, til she have i-wept hir fille, as for a certeyn tyme; and than shal man doon his diligence as with amyable wordes hire to recomforte and pray hir of hir wepyng to stinte. For which resoun this noble wif Prudens suffred hir housbonde for to wepe and crie, as for a certeyn space; and whan she saw hir tyme, she sayd him in this wise: “Allas! my lord,” quoth she, “why make ye youre self for to be like a fool? Forsothe it apperteyneth not to a wys man, to make such sorwe. Your doughter, with the grace of God, shal cured be and escape. And al were it so that she right now were deed, ye ne oughte nought as for hir deth youre silf destroye. Senec saith, The wise man shal not take too gret discomfort for the deth of his children, but certes he shulde suffren it in pacience, as wel as he abydeth the deth of his owne persone.”
This Melibeus answerde anon and sayde: “What man,” quoth he, “shuld of his wepynge stynte, that hath so gret a cause for to wepe? Jhesu Crist, oure Lord, him self wepte for the deth of Lazarus his frend.” Prudens answerde: “Certes, wel I wot, attemperel wepyng is no thing forbidden to him that sorwful is, amonges folk in sorwe, but it is rather graunted him to wepe. The apostel Poule unto the Romayns writeth, A man shal rejoyce with them that maken joye, and wepe with such folk as wepen. But though attemperel wepyng be graunted, outrageous wepynge certes is forbidden. Mesure of wepynge shulde be conserved, after the lore of Crist that techeth us Senec; Whan that thi frend is deed, quoth he, let nought thin eyen too moyste be of teres, nor too moche drye; although the teeres come to thine eyen, let them rot falle. And whan thou hast for-gon thy frend, do diligence to gete another frende; and this is more wisedom than to wepe for thy frend, which that thou hast lost, for therein is no remedy. And therfore if ye governe you by sapience, put away sorwe out of youre hert. Remembre you that Jhesus Sirac saith, A man that is joyous and glad in herte, it him conserveth florishinge in his age; but sothly sorweful herte maketh his boones drye. He saith eek thus, that sorwe in herte sleth ful many a man. Salamon saith, that right as mothes in shepes fleece annoyeth the clothes, and the smale wormes on the tre the fruyte, right so annoyeth sorwe the herte. Wherfore us oughte as wel in the deth of oure children, as in the losse of oure goodes temporales, have pacience. Remembre you upon the pacient Jop, whan he hadde lost his children and his temporal substance, and in his body endured and recyved ful many a grevous tribulacioun, yit sayde he thus: Oure Lord it sent unto me, oure Lord it hath raft from me; right so as oure Lord wil, right so be it doon; i-blessed be the name of oure Lord!” To these forsayde thinges answerith Melibeus unto his wif Prudens: “Alle thine wordes ben soth,” quoth he, “and therto profytable, but sothly myn herte is so troubled with this sorwe, that I know not what to do.” “Let calle,” quoth Prudence, “they trewe frendes alle, and thy linage, whiche that be trewe and wise; tell them youre grevaunce, and herken what they say in counseilynge, and you governe after there sentence. Salomon saith, Werke al thi thing by counseil, and thou shalt never rewe.”
Than, by the counseil of his wyf Prudens, this Melibeus let calle a gret congregacioun of peple, as surgiens, phisiciens, olde, and yonge, and some of his olde enemyes recounsiled (as by their appearance) to his love and to his grace; and therwithal ther come some of his neighebours, that deden him reverence more for drede than for love, as happeth ofte. Ther comen also ful many subtil flaterers, and wise advoketes lerned in the lawe. And whan these folk togidere assemblid were, this Melibeus in sorwful wyse shewed hem his case, and by the maner of his speche, it semede that in herte he bar a cruel ire, redy to do vengeance upon his foos, and sodeynly desirede that the werre shulde bygynne; but natheles yit axed he their counseil in this matier. A chirurgien, by licens and assent of suche as were wyse, up ros, and to Melibeus sayde, as ye may hiere.
“Sir,” quoth he, “as to us chirurgiens appertieneth, that we do to every wight the beste that we can, wher as we ben withholde, and to oure pacient we do no damage; wherfore it happeth many tyme and ofte, that whan tweye have each wounded other, one same surgien heleth them bothe; where unto oure art it is not perteyned to norishe werre, nor parties to supporte. But certes, as to curing of youre doughter, al be it so that she perilously be woundid, we shullen do so tentyf business fro day to night, that with the grace of God she shal be hool and sound, as soone as it is possible.” Almost right in the same wise the phisiciens answerden, save that thay sayden a fewe wordes more; that ryght as maladies be cured by their contraries, right so shal men cure werre by vengeaunce. His neygheboures ful of envy, his feyned freendes that seemede recounsiled, and his flatereres, maden semblaunt of wepyng, and added moche to this matiere, in preisyng gretly Melibe of might, of power, of riches, and of frendes, despisinge the power of his adversaries; and sayden clearly, that he anon shulde wreke him on his adversaries be bygynnynge of werre.
Up roos thanne an advocate that was wys, by leve and by counseil of othere that were wise, and sayde: “Lordynges, the need for whiche we be assemblit in this place is ful hevy thing, and an high matier, bycause of the wrong and of the wikkednes that hath ben doon, and eek by resoun of the grete damages that in tyme comyng be possible to falle for the same, and eek bycause of the grete richesse and power of the partes bothe; for the whiche resouns, it were a ful gret peril to erren in these materes. Wherfore, Melibeus, this is oure sentence; we counseile you, aboven alle thinges, that right anoon thou do diligence in kepyng of thy body in such a wyse that thou wante no spy nor watch thy body for to save. And after that, we counseile that in thin hous thou sette suffisaunt garisoun, so that thay may as wel thy body as thin hous defende. But certes for to move werre, and sodeynly for to do vengeance, we may not deme in so litel tyme that it were profitable. Wherfore we axen leysir and a space to have deliberacioun in this case to judge; for the comune proverbe saith this; he that soone judgeth, soone shal repente. And eek men sayn, that that judge is wys, that soone understondeth a matier, and judgeth by leysir. For al be it so that alle taryinge is anoyful, still it is no reproef in gevynge of judgement, nor of venguance takyng, whan it is suffisaunt and resonable. And that shewed oure Lord Jhesu Crist by ensample, for whan that the womman that was i-take in advoutrie, was brought in his presence to knowen what shulde be doon of hir persone, al be it that he wist him self what that he wolde answere, yit wolde he not answere sodenyly, but he wolde have deliberacioun, and in the ground wrot twice. And by these causes we axe deliberacioun; and we shul thanne by the grace of God counseile the thing that shal be profytable.” Upstarten thenne the yonge folkes anoon at once, and the moste parte of that companye have skorned these olde wise men, and bygonne to make noyse and sayden: “Right so as whil that iren is hot men sholden smyte, right so shulde men wreke there wronges, whil that they be freishe and newe;” and with lowde vois thay cryde, “Werre, werre.”
Uproos then oon of these olde wise, and with his hond made countenaunce that men shulde holde them stille, and given him audience. “Lordyngs,” quoth he, “ther is ful many a man that crieth ‘werre, werre,’ that wot ful litel what werre amounteth. Werre at his bygynnyng hath so greet an entre and so large, that every wight way entre whan him liketh, and lightly fynde werre; but certes what ende shal falle therof, it is not lightly to knowe. For sothly whan that werre is once bygonne, ther is ful many a child unbore of his moder that shal die yong, bycause of thilke werre, or elles lyve in sorwe and deye in wrecchidnes; and therfore, ere that eny werre be bygonne, men moste have gret counseil and gret deliberacioun.” And whan this olde man wende to enforce his tale by resouns, wel nigh alle at once bygonne thay to rise, for to breke his tale, and beden him ful ofte his wordes to abrigge. For sothly he that precheth to them that liste not to heere his wordes, his sermoun them anoyeth. For Jhesus Sirac saith, that musik in wepyng is a noyous thing. This is to say, as moche avayleth to speke to-fore folk to whiche his speche annoyeth, as it is to synge byfore them whiche wepith. And whan this wise man saw he wanted audience, al shamefast he sette him doun agayn. For Salamon saith, Ther as thou may have noon audience, enforce thee not to speke. “I see wel,” quoth this wise man, “that the comune proverbe is soth, that good counseil faileth, whan it is most neede.” Yit hadde this Melibeus in his counseil many folk, that prively in his eere counseled him the contrarie in general audience.
Whan Melibeus hadde herd that the grettest party of his counseil were accorded that he shulde make werre, anoon he consentede to there counseilyng, and fully affermed there sentence. Thanne dame Prudence, whan that she saw that hir housbonde shaped him to wreke him of his enemyes, and to begin werre, she in ful humble wise, whan she saw hire tyme, sayde him these wordes; “My lord,” quoth she, “I yow biseche as hertily as I dar and kan, haste you nought too faste, and for alle guerdouns give me audience. For Peres Alfons saith, Who that doth to thee either good or harm, haste thee nought to quyten him, for in this wise thy freend wil abyde, and thin enemy shal the lenger lyve in drede. The proverbe saith, He hastith wel that wisly can abyde; and in wikked haste is no profyt.” This Melibeus answerde unto his wyf Prudens; “I purpose not,” quoth he, “to werke by thy counseil, for many causes and resouns; for certes every wight wolde holde me thanne a fool; this is to sayn, if I for thy counseil wolde chaunge thinges that affermed ben by so many wise. Secoundly, I say that alle wommen be wikked, and noon good of them alle. For of a thousand men, saith Salomon, I fond oon good man; but certes of alle wommen good womman fond I never noon. And also certes, if I governede me by thy counseil, it shulde seme that I hadde given to thee over me the maistry; and God forbeede it so were. For Jhesus Syrac saith, that if a wif have maistrie, she is contrarious to hir housbond. And Salomon saith, Never in thy lif to thy wyf, nor to thy child, nor to thy freend, geve no power over thi self; for better it were that thy children axen of thy persone thinges that been needful to them, than thou see thi self in the hondes of thy children. And also, if I wolde werke by thy counselynge, certes it moste som tyme be secré, til it were tyme that it moste be knowe; and this may not be.”
Whan dame Prudence, ful debonerly and with gret pacience, hadde herd al that hir housbonde likede for to seye, thanne axede she of him licence for to speke, and sayde in this wise; “My lord,” quoth she, “as to youre firste resoun, certes it may lightly be answered; for I say it is no foly to chaunge counsel whan the thing is chaungid, or elles whan the thing semeth otherwise than it was biforn. And moreover I say, though that ye have sworn and promised to parforme youre emprise, and natheles ye do not parforme thilke same emprise by juste cause, men shulde not saye therfore that ye were a lyere, nor for-sworn; for the book seith, that the wise man maketh no lying, whan he torneth his corrage to the better. And al be it so that youre emprise be establid and ordeyned by gret multitude of people, yet thar ye not accomplise thilke same ordinaunce except you like; for the trouthe of a thing, and the profyt, ben rather founde in fewe folk that ben wise and ful of resoun, than by gret multitude of folk, ther every man crieth and clatereth what that him liketh; sothely such multitude is not honest. And to the secounde resoun, wheras ye sayn, that alle wommen ben wikke; save youre grace, certis ye despise alle wommen in this wise, and he that alle despysith, saith the book, alle despleseth. And Senec saith, Who-so wil have sapience, shal no man desprayse, but he shal gladly teche the science that he can, withoute presumpcioun or pryde; and suche thinges as he nought can, he shal not ben aschamed to lerne them, and enquere of lasse folk than himself. And, sire, that ther hath be ful many a good womman maie lihtly be proved. Certes, sire, oure Lorde Jhesu Crist nolde nevere have descended to be borne of womman, if alle wommen hadde ben wikke. And after that, for the grete bounté that is in wommen, oure Lord Jhesu Crist, whan he was risen fro deth to lyve, apprede rather to a womman than to his apostles. And though that Salamon say, he fond never good womman, it folwith nought therfore, that alle wommen ben wikke; for though that he fonde noone goode wommen, certes many another man hath founden many a womman ful goode and trewe. Or elles paraventure thentent of Salamon was this, as in sovereyn bounté he fond no womman; this is to saye, that ther is no wight that hath soverein bounté, save God aloone, as he him-self recordeth in his Evaungelie. For ther is no creature so good, that he wanteth not som-what of the perfeccioun of God that is his makere. Youre thridde resoun is this; ye seyn that if ye governede you by counsel of me, it shulde seme that ye hadde geven me the maystry and the lordshipe over youre persone. Sire, save youre grace, it is not so; for if so were that no man shulde be counseiled but by them that hadde maystrie and lordshipe of his persone, men wolde nought be counseiled so ofte; for sothly thilke man that axeth counseil of a purpos, yet hath he free chois whether he wil werke by that purpos or noon. And as to youre ferthe resoun, ther ye sayn that the janglerie of wommen can hyde thinges that they wot not of; as who saith, that a womman can nought hyde that that she wot; sire, these wordes ben understonde of wommen that ben jangelers and wikke; of whiche wommen men sayn that thre thinges dryven a man out of his oune hous; that is to saye, smoke, droppyng of reyn, and wikked wyfes. Of suche wommen saith Salomon, that it were better to a man to dwelle in desert, than with a womman that is riotous. And, sire, by youre leve, that am not I; for ye have ful ofte assayed my grete silence and my grete pacience, and eek how wel that I can hyde and hele thinges that be secrely to hyde. And sothly, as to youre fyfte resoun, wher as ye sayn, that in wikkede counseil wommen vanquisscheth men, God wot thilke resoun stont here in no stede; for understond now, ye axen counseil to do wickidnes; and if ye wile wirke wickidnes, and youre wyf restreyne thilke wicked purpos, and overcome you by resoun and by good counseil, certes youre wyf oweth rather be preised than y-blamed. Thus shulde ye understonde the philosopher that seith, In wicked counseil wommen vanquyschen their housbondes. And ther as ye blame alle wymmen and there resouns, I shal shewe by many resouns and ensamples that many a womman hath ben ful good, and yit be, and there counseiles ful holsome and profitable. Eke some men had sayd, that the counseilyng of wommen is either too dere, or too litel of pris. But al be it so that ful many a womman is badde, and hir counseil vile and not worth, yet have men founde many a ful good womman, and ful discret and wys in counseilyng. Lo, Jacob, by counseil of his moder Rebecca, wan the blessyng of his fader Ysaak, and the lordshipe of alle his bretheren. Judith, by hir goode counseil, delyverede the citee of Bethulie, in which she dwellide, out of the honde of Olophernus, that hadde it byseged, and wolde it al destroye. Abigayl deliverede Nabal hir housbond fro David the king, that wolde have i-slayn him, and appesede the ire of the kyng by hir witte, and by hir good counseilynge. Hester by good counseil enhaunsede gretly the people of God, in the regne of Assuerus the kyng. And the same bounté in good counseilyng of many a good womman maye men rede and telle. And moreover, whan oure Lord hadde creat Adam oure first fader, he sayde in this wise; Hit is not goode to be a man aloone; make we to him an help semblable to him-self. Here may ye se that if that a womman were not good, and hir counseil good and profytable, oure Lord God of heven wolde neither have wrought them, nor called them help of man, but rather confusioun of man. And ther sayde oones a clerk in tuo versus, What is better than gold? Jasper. And what is better than jasper? Wisedom. And what is better than wisedom? Womman. And what is better than a good womman? No thing. And, sir, by many other resouns maye ye see, and many wommen ben goode, and eke there counseile goode and profitable. And therfore, if ye wil truste to my counseil, I shal restore you youre doughter hool and sound; and eek I wil doon you so moche, that ye shul have honour in this cause.”
Whan Melibe had herd these wordes of his wif Prudens, he seide thus: “I see wel that the word of Salomon is soth; he seith, that the wordes that ben spoken discretly by ordinaunce been honycombes for thay geven swetnes to the soule, and holesomenesse to the body. And, wyf, bycause of thy swete wordes, and eek for I have assayed and proved thi grete sapiens and thi grete trouthe, I wil governe me by thy counseile in alle thinges.”
“Now, sire,” quod dame Prudens, “and syn ye vouchen sauf to be governed by my counseilyng, I wil enforme you how ye shul governe youre-self, in chesyng of youre counseil. Ye shul first in alle youre werkes mekely biseche to the high God, that he wol be your counseilour; and shape you to that entent that he give you counseil and confort, as taughte Toby his sone. At alle tymes thou shalt blesse God, and pray him to dresse thy wayes; and loke that alle thi counseiles be in him for evermore. Seint Jame eek saith: If eny of yow have neede of sapiens, axe it of God. And aftirward, thanne shul ye take counseil in youreself, and examine wel your thoughtes, of suche thinges as you thinkith that is best for youre profyt. And thanne shul ye dryve fro youre herte those thre thinges that ben contrarie to good counseil; that is to say, ire, coveytise, and hastynes. First, he that axeth counseil of himself, certes, he moste be withoute ire, for many cause. The first is this: he that hath gret ire and wrath in him-self, he weneth alwey he may do thing that he may not doo. And secoundly, he that is irous and wroth, he may not wel deme; and he that may not wel deme, may nought wel counseile. The thridde is this: that he that is irous and wroth, as saith Senec, may not speke but blameful thinges, and with his vicious wordes he stireth other folk to anger and to ire. And eek, sire, ye moste dryve coveitise out of youre herte. For thapostle saith that coveytise is roote of alle harmes. And trust wel, that a coveitous man ne can not deme ne thinke, but oonly to fulfille the ende of his coveitise; and certes that may never ben accomplished; for ever the more abundaunce that he hath of riches, the more he desireth. And, sire, ye moste also dryve out of your herte hastynes; for certes ye maye nought deme for the beste a sodein thought that falleth in youre herte, but ye moste avyse you on it ful ofte. For as ye herde here biforn, the comune proverbe is this; that he that soone demeth, soone repentith. Sire, ye ben not alway in lik disposicioun, for certis som thing that som tyme semeth to yow that it is good for to doo, another tyme it semeth to you the contrarie. Whan ye have taken counseil in youre-selven, and have demed by good deliberacioun such thing as yow semeth best, thanne counsel I you that ye kepe it secré. Betreye nought youre counseil to no persone, but it so be that ye wene surely, that thurgh youre bytreyinge youre condicioun shal be to yow the more profytable. For Jhesus Syrac saith, Neither to thi foo nor to thi freend discovere not thy secre ne thy foly; for they wile give you audience and lokyng and supportacioun in thi presence, and scorn in thin absence. Another clerk saith, that skarsly shalt thou fynde eny persone that may kepe counseil secreely. The book saith: Whil thou kepist thi counsail in thin herte, thou kepest it in thi prisoun; and whan thou bytreyest thi counseil to any wight, he holdeth thee in his snare. And therfore yow is bettêr hyde your counseil in youre herte, than prayen him to whom ye have bytreyed youre counseil, that he wil kepe it clos and stille. For Seneca seith: If so be that thou maist not thin owne counseil hyde, how darst thou preyen any other wight thi counseil secreely to kepe? But natheles, if thou wene surely that thy bytreying of thy counseil to a persone wol make thy condicioun stonde in the better plite, thanne shalt thou telle him thy counseil in this wise. First, thou shalt make no semblaunt wher thee were rather werre or pees, or this or that; nor shewe him not thi wille and thin entent; for truste wel that comunly these counseilours ben flaterers, namely the counselours of grete lordes, for thay enforcen them alway rather to sepek plesaunt wordes enclynyng to the lordes lust than wordes that be trewe and profytable. And therfore, men saye, that the riche man hath selden good counseil, but-if he have it of him-self. And after that thou shalt consider thy frendes and thy enemyes. And as touching thy frendes, thou shalt consider which of them be most faithful and most wise, and eldest and most approved in counsaylinge; and of them shalt thou axe thy counsail, as the case requireth.
“I say, that first ye shul clepe to your counseil youre frendes that be trewe. For Salomon saith, that right as the hert of a man delitith in savour that is sweet, right so the counseil of trew frendes geveth swetnes to the soule. He saith also, ther may no thing be likened to the trew freend; for certes gold nor silver be nought so moche worth as the goode wil of a trew freend. And eek he sayde, that a trew frend is a strong defens; who that it fyndeth, certes he fyndeth a gret tresour. Thanne shul ye eek considere if that youre trew frendes be discrete and wyse; for the book saith, Axe thi counseil alwey of them that be wyse. And by this same resoun shul be clepe to youre counseil of youre frendes that be of age, such as have seen sightes and be expert in many thinges, and be approvyd in counseylinges. For the book saith, that in olde men is the sapience, and in longe tyme the prudence. And Tullius saith, that grete things be not ay accompliced by strengthe, nor by sleight of body, but by good counseil, by auctorité of persons, and by science; the whiche thre thinges been not feble by age, but certis thay enforce and encrese day by day. And thanne shul ye kepe this for a general rule. First shul ye clepe to youre counseil a fewe of youre frendes that be especial. For Salomon saith, Many frendes have thou, but among a thousand choose thee oon to be thy counseilour. For al be it so, that thou first telle thy counseil but to a fewe, thou mayst afterward telle it to mo folk, if it be neede. But loke alwey that thy counseilours have thilke thre condiciouns that I have sayd bifore; that is to saye, that thay be trew, and olde, and of wys experiens. And werke nought alwey in every need by oon counseilour alloone; for som tyme byhoveth it be counseiled by many. For Salomon saith, Salvacioun of thinges is wher there be many counseilors.
“Now since I have told yow of which folk ye shul be counseiled, now wille I telle yow which counseil ye ought eschewe. First, ye shal eschewe the counseil of fooles; for Salomon seith, Take no counseil of a fool, for he can not counseile but after his oune lust and his affeccioun. The book seith, that the propreté of a fool is this: he troweth lightly harm of every wight, and lightly troweth alle goodness in him- self. Thou shalt eschewe eeke the counseil of alle flaterers, suche as enforcen them rathere to prayese youre persone by flaterie, than for to telle yow the sothfastnesse of thinges. Wherfore Tullius saith, Amonges alle pestilences that be in frendshipe the grettest is flaterie. And therfore is it more neede that thou eschewe and drede flaterers, more than eny other peple. The book saith, Thou shalt rather drede and flee fro the swete wordes of flaterers, then fro the egre wordes of thy frend that saith thee thi true things. Salamon saith, that the wordes of a flaterer is a snare to cacche in innocents. He saith also, He that speketh to his frend wordes of swetnesse and of plesaunce, setteth a nette byfore his feet to cacchen him. And therfore saith Tullius, Encline not thin eeres to flaterers, ne tak no counseil of the wordes of flaterers. And Catoun saith, Avyse thee wel, and eschewe wordes of swetnes and of plesaunce. And eek thou shalt eschewe the counselyng of thin olde enemyes that be reconsiled. The book saith, that no wight retorneth safly into the grace of his olde enemyes. And Ysope saith, Trust not to them, with which thou hast had som tyme werre or enmyté, nor telle not them thy counseil. And Seneca telleth the cause why; it may not be, saith he, that wher a greet fyr hath longe tyme endured, that there remaineth not som vapour of hete. And therfore saith Salomon, In thin olde enemy truste thou nevere. For surely, though thin enemy be reconsiled, and make thee cheer of humilité, and lowteth to thee his heed, trust him never; for certes he makith thilke feyned humilité more for his profyt, than for eny love of thi persone; bycause he demyth to have victorie over thi persone by such feyned countynaunce, the whiche victorie he might nought have by stryf and werre. And Petir Alfons saith: Make no felashipe with thine olde enemyes, for if thou do them bounté, they wile perverten it into wikkednes. And eek thou most eschewe the counseilynge of them that ben thy servaunts, and beren thee gret reverence; for paraventure thai say it more for drede than for love. And therfore saith a philosophre in this wise: Ther is no wight parfytly trew to him that he too sore dredeth. And Tullius saith, Ther is no might so gret of eny emperour that longe may endure, but-if he have more love of the peple than drede. Thow shalt also eschewe the counseil of folk that be dronkelewe, for thay can no counseil hyde. For Salomon saith, Ther regneth no priveté where is dronkenesse. Ye shul also have in suspect the counseil of such folk as counseileth you oon thing prively, and counseile yow the contrarie trarie openly. For Cassiodorie saith, It is a maner to hindre, whan he shewith to doon oon thing openly, and werkith prively the contrarie. Thou shalt also eschewe the counseil of wikked folkes; for the book saith, The counseilyng of wikked folk is alway ful of fraude. And David saith, Blisful is that man that hath not folwed the counseilyng of wikked men or shrewes. Thow shalt also eschewe the counseilynge of yonge folk, for there counseil is nought rype.
“Now, sire, syn I have shewed yow of what folk ye shul take youre counsail, and of whiche folk ye shullen eschewe the counseil, now shal I teche yow how ye shul examyne youre counseil after the doctrine of Tullius. In the examynyng of youre counseiloures, ye shul considre many thinges. Althirfirs ye shul considre that in thilke thing that thou proposist, and upon what thing thou wilt have counseil, that verray trouthe be sayd and considerid; this is to sayn, telle trewely thy tale, For he that saith fals, may not wel be counseled in that cas of which he lyeth. And after this, thou shalt considere the thinges that accorden to that purpos for to do by thy counseil, if resoun accorde therto, and eke if thy might may accorde therto, and if the more part and the better part of thy counseilours accorde therto or noon. Thanne shalt thou considere what thing shal folwe of that consailynge; as hate, pees, werre, grace, profyt, or damage, and many other thinges; and in alle these thinges thou shalt choose the beste, and weyve alle other thinges. Thanne shalt thou considre of what roote engendered is the matier of thy counseil, and what fruyt it may conceive and engendre. Thow shalt also consider al these causes, from whens thai ben sprongen. And whan ye have examined youre counseil, as I have said, and which party is the better and more profitable, and have approved by many wise folk and olde, than shalt thow considre, if thou maist parforme it and make of it a good ende. For resoun wol nought that any man shulde bygynne a thing, but-if he mighte parforme it and make therof a good ende; nor no wight shulde take upon him so hevy a charge, that he might not bere it. For the proverbe saith, He that moche embrasith destreyneth litel. And Catoun seith, Assay to do such thing as thou hast power to doon, lest that thy charge oppresse thee so sore, that it bihove thee to wayve thing that thou hast bygonne. And if so be that thou be in doute, whether thou maist parforme a thing or noon, choose rather to suffre than bygynne. And Petre Alfons saith, If thou hast might to doon a thing, of which thou most repente, it is better nay than yee; this is to sayn, that thee is better holde thy tonge stille than to speke. Than may ye understonde by strenger resouns, that if thou hast power to parforme a werk, of which thou shalt repente, thanne is it better that thou suffre than bigynne. Wel seyn thay that forbid every wight to assaie thing of which he is in doute, whethir he may parforme it or noon. And after whan ye have examyned youre counseil, as I have sayd biforn, and knowen wel ye may parforme youre emprise, conferme it thanne firmly til it be at an ende.
“Now is it tyme and resoun that I shewe yow whanne, and wherfore, that ye maye chaunge youre counseil withouten reproef. Sothly, a man may chaunge his purpos and his counseil, if the cause cesseth, or whan a newe cause bytydeth. For the lawe seith, upon thinges that newely bityde, newe counseil bihoveth. And Seneca seith, If thy counseil be comen to the eeres of thin enemy, chaunge thy counsail. Thow maist also chaunge thy counseil, if so be that thou fynde that by errour, or by other processe, harm or damage may bytyde. Also thou chaunge thy counseil, if that it be dishonest, or elles cometh of dishonesté; for the lawes sayn, that alle the hestes that ben dishoneste ben of no valieu; and eek, if it so be that it be impossible, or may not goodly be parformed or kept. And take this for a general reule, that every counseil that is affermed or strengthed so strongly that it may not be chaunged for no condicioun that may bitide, I say that thilke counseil is wikked.”
This Melibeus, whan he had herd the doctrine of his wyf dame Prudens, answerde in this wise. “Dame,” quoth he, “yit as into this tyme ye have wel and covenably taught me, as in general, how I shal governe me in the choosynge and in the withholdynge of my counseiloures; but now wold I fayn ye wolde condescende as in especial, and telle me what semeth or how liketh yow oure counseiloures that we have chosen in oure present neede.”
“My Lord,” quoth she, “I byseke yow in al humblesce, that ye wile not wilfully repplye against my resouns, nor distempre youre herte, though I say or speke thing that yow displesith; for God wot that, as in myn entent, I speke it for youre beste, for youre honour, and for your profyt eek, and sothly I hope that your benignité wol take it into pacience. For truste me wel,” quoth she, “that youre counseil as in this case schulde not (as for to speke propurly) be called a counseilyng, but a mocioun or a movynge of foly, in which counseil ye have erred in many a sondry wise. First and forward, ye have erred in the gaderyng of youre counseilours; for ye shulde first have cleped a fewe folkes, if it hadde be neede. But certes ye have sodeinly cleped to your counseil a gret multitude of people, ful chargeous and ful anoyous for to hiere. Also ye have erred, for where ye shulde oonly have clepid to youre counseil youre trewe frendes, olde and wise, ye have i-cleped straunge folk, yonge folk, false flatereres, and enemyes reconsiled, and folk that doon yow reverence withoute love. Eke also ye have erred, for ye have brought with yow to youre counseil ire, coveitise, and hastynes, the whiche thre thinges ben contrarious to every counsail honest and profitable; the whiche thre thinges ye have nought destroyed, neyther in youre self nor in youre counseiloures, as ye oughte. Also ye have erred, for ye have shewed to youre counseilours youre talent and youre affeccioun to make werre, and for to doon vengeaunce anoon, and thay have espyed by youre wordes to what thinge ye ben enclined; and therfore have thay counseiled yow rather to youre talent than to youre profyt. Ye have erred also, for it semeth that yow sufficeth to have been counseiled by these counseilours only, and with litel avys, wher-as in so gret and so high a neede, it hadde be necessarious mo counseilours and more deliberacioun to parforme youre emprise. Ye have erred also, for ye have maked no divisioun bytwixe youre counsailours; this is to seyn, bitwix youre frendes and youre feyned counseilours; nor ye have nought i-knowe the wille of youre frendes, olde and wise, but ye have cast alle there wordes in an hochepoche, and enclyned youre herte to the more part and to the gretter nombre, and there be ye condescendid; and syn ye wot wel men shal alway fynde a gretter nombre of fooles than of wyse men, and therfore the counsailes that ben at congregaciouns and multitudes of folk, ther as men taken more reward to the nombre than to the sapience of persones, ye se wel that in suche counseilynges fooles have maystrie.”
Melibeus answerde agayn and sayde: “I graunte wel that I have erred; but there as thou hast told me to- forn, that he is nought to blame that chaungeth his counseilours in certeyn cases, and for certeyn juste causes, I am al redy to chaunge my counseilours right as thou wilt devyse. The proverbe saith, that for to do synne is mannysch, but certes for to persevere longe in synne is werk of the devyl.”
To this sentence anoon answerde dame Prudens, and saide: “Examine,” quoth she, “youre counsail, and let us see which of them hath spoke most resonably, and taught you best counsail. And for as moche as the examinacioun is necessarie, let us byginne at the surgiens and at the phisiciens, that first speken in this matiere. I say you that the surgiens and the phisiciens have sayd yow in youre counseil discretly, as them ought; and in there speche sayden ful wisely, that to the office of hem appendith to doon to every wight honour and profyt, and no wight to annoy, and after there craft to do gret diligence unto the cure of them which that they have in there governaunce. And, sire, right as thay answerde wisely and discretly, right so rede I that they be highly and soveraignly guerdoned for there noble speche, and eek for they shullen do the more ententyf besynes in the curyng of youre doughter dere. For al be it so that thai be youre frendes, therfore shul ye nought suffre that thay schul serve yow for nought, but ye oughte the rathere to guerdoune them and shewe them youre largesse. And as touchynge the proposiciouns whiche the phisiciens have shewed you in this caas, this is to sayn, that in maladyes oon contrarie is cured by another contrarie, I wolde fayn knowe thilke text and how thay understonde it, and what is youre entente.” “Certes,” quod Melibeus, “understonden it is in this wise; that right as thay have done me a contrarie, right so shold I do them another; for right as thay have venged them on me and doon me wrong, right so shal I venge me upon them, and doon them wrong; and thanne have I cured oon contrarie by another.” “Lo, lo,” quoth dame Prudence, “how lightly is every man enclyned to his oune plesaunce and to his oune desir! Certes,” quoth she, “the wordes of the phisiciens shulde nought have ben understonde sone in that wise; for certes wikkednesse is no contrarie to wickednesse, nor vengauns to vengeaunce, nor wrong to wrong, but thai ben semblable; and therfore on vengeaunce is nought cured by another vengeaunce, nor oon wrong by another wrong, but everych of them encreseth and engreggith other. But certes the wordes of the phisiciens shul ben understonde in this wise; for good and wikkednesse ben tuo contraries, and pees and werre, vengeaunce and sufferaunce, discord and accord, and many other thinges; but, certes, wikkednes shal be cured by goodnesse, discord by accord, werre by pees, and so forth of other thinges. And herto accordith seint Paul the apostil in many places; he saith, Yeld nought harm for harm, nor wikked speche for wikked speche; but do wel to him that doth the harm, and blesse him that seith the harme. And in many other places he admonisheth pees and accord. But now wil I speke to yow of the counseil, which was given to yow by the men of lawe, and the wise folk, and the olde folk, that sayde alle by oon accord as ye have herd byfore, that over alle thinges ye shal do youre diligence to kepe youre persone, and to preserve youre house; and seyden also, that in this yow aughte for to wirche ful avysily and with gret deliberacioun. And, sire, as to the firste poynt, that touchede to the kepinge of youre persone, ye shul understonde, that he that hath werre, shal evermore devoutly and mekely prayen biforn alle thinges, that Jhesu Crist wil of his mercy have him in his proteccioun, and ben his soverayn helpyng at his neede; for certes in this world ther is no wight that may be counseiled or kept sufficauntly, withoute the kepinge of oure lord Jhesu Crist. To this sentence accordeth the prophete David, that seith: If God kepe not the citee, in vain wakith he that kepith hit. Now, sire, thanne shul ye committe the keping of youre persone to youre trewe frendes, that ben approved and y-knowe, and of them shul ye axen help, youre persone to kepe. For Catoun saith: If thou have neede of help, axe it of thy freendes, for ther is noon so good a phisicien at neede as is a trewe frend. And after this than shal ye kepe you fro alle straunge folkes, and fro lyeres, and have alway in suspect there compainye. For Pieres Alfons saith: Take no compaignie in the way of a straunge man, but so be that thou knowe him of a lenger tyme; and if so be he falle into thy compaignye peraventure withouten thin assent, enquere thanne, as subtilly as thou maist, of his conversacioun, and of his lyf bifore, and feyne thy way, and say that thou wilt go thider as thou wolt nought goon; and if he bere a spere, hold the on the right syde, and if he bere a swerd, holde the on the left syde. And so after this, thanne shul ye kepe you wisely from al such peple as I have sayd bifore, and them and there counseil eschiewe. And after this, thanne shul ye kepe yow in such manere, that for eny presumpcioun of youre strengthe, that ye despise not the might of youre adversarie so lite, that ye lete the kepinge of youre persone for youre presumpcioun; for every wis man dredeth his enemy. And Salomon saith, Wel is he that of alle hath drede; for certes he that thurgh hardynes of his herte, and thurgh the hardinesse of himself, hath too gret presumpcioun, him shal evyl bitide. Thanne shal ye evermore counterwayte embusshements and alle espial. For Senec saith, that the wise man that dredith harmes, eschieweth harmes, nor fallith into noone perils, that perils eschieweth. And al be it so that the seme that thou art in sure place, yit shalt thou alway do thy diligence in kepyng of thy persone; this is to saye, be not negligent to kepe thy persone, nought oonly fro thy gretteste enemyes, but fro thy lest enemyes. Senec saith: A man that is wel avysed, he dredith his lest enemy. Ovide seith, that the litel wesil wol sle the grete bole and the wilde hert. And the book saith, a litel thorn wol prikke a king ful sore, and an hound wol holde the wilde boore. But natheles, I say not that ye shul be so moche a coward, that ye doute where is no neede or drede. The book saith, that som folk have gret lust to diceyve, but yit thay dreden them to be deceyved. Yet shal ye drede to ben empoisoned. And kepe the fro the companye of scorners; for the book saith, with scorners make no compainye, but flee them and there wordes as venym.
“Now as to the secounde poynt, where as youre wise counseilours warnede yow to preserve youre hous with gret diligence, I wolde fayn wite how that ye understoode thilke wordes, and what is your sentence.” Melibeus answerde and saide: “Certes, I understonde it in this wise, that I shal preserve myn hous with toures, suche as have castiles and other maner edifices, and armure, and artilries; by suche thinges I may my persone and myn hous so kepen and edifien and defenden, that myn enemyes shul be in drede myn hous to approche.”
To this sentence answerde dame Prudence: “Warmstroynge,” quoth she, “of heihe toures and grete edifices, is with grete costages and grete travaile; and whan that thay ben accomplished, yit beth thay nought worth a straw, but-if they be defended by trewe frendes, that be olde and wise. And understond that the grettest strength or garnisoun that the riche man may have, as well to kepe his persone as his goodes, is that he be biloved by his subjects and with his neighebours. For thus saith Tullius, that ther is a maner garnisoun that no man may vanquisshe nor discomfite, and that is a lord to be biloved with his citezeins and of his peple.
“Now thanne as to youre thridde poynt, where as youre olde and wyse counseillours sayde, ye oughte nought sodeinly nor hastily procede in this neede, but that ye oughte purveyen yow and apparaile yow in this case with greet diligence and gret deliberacioun; trewely, I trowe, that thay sayden soth and right wisely. For Tullius saith: ‘In every nede, ere thou bigynne it, apparaile thee with gret diligence.’ Thanne say, I that in vengeance takinge, in werre, in bataile, and in warmstoringe of thin hous, ere thou bygynne, I rede that thou apparaille thee therto, and do it with gret deliberacioun. For Tullius saith, that long apparaylyng byfore the bataille maketh short victorie. And Cassidorus saith, the garnisoun is strenger whan it is long tyme avysed.
“But now let us speke of the counseil that was accorded by youre neighebours, suche as doon you reverence withoute love, youre olde enemyes recounsiled, youre flatereres, that counseile yow certeyn thinges pryvely, and openly counseile yow the contrarie, the younge also, that counsaile yow to make werre and venge yow anoon. And certes, sire, as I have sayd byforn, ye have gretly erred to have cleped such maner folk to youre counseil, whiche be now repreved by the resouns byfore sayd. But natheles let us now descende to the purpos special. Ye shul first procede after the doctrine of Tullius. Certes, the trouthe of this matier or this counseil nedeth nought diligently enquere, for it is wel wist whiche it ben that doon to yow this trespas and vilonye, and how many trespasoures, and in what maner thay have to yow doon al this wrong and al this vilonye. And after that shul ye examyne the secounde condicioun, which Tullius addith therto in this matier. Tullius put a thing, which that he clepeth consentynge; this is to sayn, who ben thay, and whiche ben thay, and how many that consentide to this matiere, and to thy counsail in thy wilfulnesse, to do hasty vengeaunces. And let us considere also who ben those, and how many ben those, that consentiden to youre adversaries. And certes, as to the first poynt, it is wel known whiche folk ben thay that consentide to youre first wilfulnes. For trewly, alle those that consentide yow to make sodeyn werre, be nought youre frendes. Let us considre whiche ben those that ye holde so gretly youre frendes, as to youre persone; for al be it so that ye be mighty and riche, certes ye be alloone; for certes ye have no childe but a doughter, nor ye have no bretheren, nor cosins germayns, nor noon other nigh kyndrede, wherfore that youre enemyes for drede shulden stynte for to plede with you, and destroy youre persone. Ye knowe also, that youre richesses mooten in divers parties be departed; and whan every wight hath his part, thay wol take but litel reward to venge thy deth. But thyne enemyes ben thre, and have many children, bretheren, cosynes, and othere nigh kyndrede; and though it so were ye hadde slayn of hem tuo or thre, yet dwellen there y-nowe to venge there deth and sle thi persone. And though so were that youre kyndrede were more sure and stedefast than the kyndrede of youre adversaries, yit natheles youre kyndrede nis but a fer kyndrede, and litel sib to yow, and the kyn of youre enemyes ben nigh sibbe to them. And certes, as in that, there condicioun is bet than youres. Thanne let us considere also if the counseilynge of them that counseilede yow to take sodein vengeance, whethir it accorde to resoun. And certes, ye knowe wel, nay; for as by right and resoun, ther may no man take vengeaunce upon no wight, but the judge that hath jurediccioun of it, whan it is y-graunted him to take thilke vengeaunce hastily, or attemperelly, as the lawe requireth. And yit moreover of thilke word that Tullius clepith consentynge, thou shalt considre, if thy might and thy power may consente and suffice to thy wilfulnes and to thy counseilours. And certes, thou maist wel saye, that nay; for certainly, as for to speke properly, we maye doo no thing but oonly oon thing which we maye do rightfully; and certes rightfully maye ye take no vengeance, as of youre owne auctorité. Than may ye see that youre power consentith not, nor accordith not, with youre wilfulnesse.
“Let us now examyne the thridde poynt, that Tullius clepeth consequente. Thou shalt understonde, that the vengeance that thou purposiddest for to take, is consequent, and thereof folweth another vengeaunce, peril, and werre, and other damages withoute nombre, of whiche we be not war, as at this tyme. And as touching the fourthe poynt, that Tullius clepeth engendrynge, thou shalt considre that this wrong which that is doon to thee, is engendred of the hate of thin enemyes, and of the vengeaunce takinge up that wolde engendre another vengeaunce, and moche sorwe and wastyng of riches, as I sayde. Now, sire, as to the poynt that Tullius clepith causes, whiche that is the laste poynt, thou shalt understonde that the wrong that thou hast receyved hath certeyn causes, whiche that clerkes calle oriens, and efficiens, and causa longinqua, and causa propinqua, this is to saye, the far cause, and the nigh cause. For the far cause is almighty God, that is cause of alle thinges; the nere cause is thi thre enemyes; the cause accidental was hate; the causes material been the fyve woundes of thy doughter; the cause formal is the maner of there werkyng, that brought in laddres and clombe in at thin wyndowes; the cause final was for to sle thy doughter; it failed nought in as moche as was in them. But for to speke of the fer cause, as to what ende thay shal come, or what shal finally betyde of them in this cause, can I not deme, but by conjectinge and by supposyng, for we shul suppose, that thay shul come to a wikked ende, bycause that the book of Decrees saith: Selden, or with gret peyne, ben causes i-brought to a good ende, whan thay ben evyl bygonne.
“Now, sire, if men wolde axe me, why that God suffrede men to do yow this wrong and vilonye, certes I can not wel answere, as for no sothfastnes. For the apostil saith, that the sciences and the judgments of oure Lord God almyghty ben ful deepe, ther may no man comprehende ne serchen them sufficiauntly. Natheles, by certeyn presumpciouns and conjectinges, I holde and bilieve, that God, which that is ful of justice and of rightwisnesse, hath suffred this to betyde, by juste cause resonable. Thy name, Melibe, is to say, a man that drynketh hony. Thou hast y-dronke so moche hony of sweete temperel richesses and delices and honours of this world, that thou art dronke, and hast forgot Jhesu Crist thy creatour; thou hast not doon him such honour and reverence as thee oughte to doone, nor thou hast nought wel taken keep to the wordes of Ovide, that saith, Under the hony of thy goodes of thy body is hid the venym that sleeth thi soule. And Salamon saith, If thou have founde hony, ete of it that sufficeth; for if thou ete of it out of mesure, thou shalt spewe, and be nedy and povere. And peraventure Crist hath thee in despit, and hath torned away fro thee his face and his eeres of misericorde; and also he hath suffred that thou hast ben punysshed in the maner that thou hast i-trepassed. Thou hast doon synne ageinst oure Lord Crist, for certes the thre enemyes of mankinde, that is to saye, thy flessche, the feend, and the world, thou hast y-suffred them to entre into thin herte wilfully, by the wyndow of thy body, and hast nought defended thiself sufficiently agayns ther assautis, and there temptaciouns, so that they have woundid thi soule in fyve places, this is to sayn, the dedly synnes that ben entred into thin herte by thy fyve wittes; and in the same maner oure Lord Crist hath wolde and suffred, that thy thre enemyes ben entred into thin hous by the wyndowes, and have i-wounded thi doughter in the forsayde maner.”
“Certes,” quoth Melibeus, “I see wel that ye enforce yow moche by wordes to overcome me, in such manere, that I shal not venge me on myn enemyes, shewynge me the perils and the yveles that mighten falle of this vengeaunce. But whose wolde considre in alle vengeaunces the perils and the yveles that mighten folwe of vengeaunces takynge, a man wolde never take vengeaunce, and that were harm; for by vengeaunce takynge be wikked men destruyed and dissevered fro the goode men. And thay that have wille to wikkednes, restreinen ther wikked purpos, whan thay seen the punysshyng and the chastisyng of trespasours.
“And yit say I more, that right so as a sengle persone synneth in taking of vengeaunce, right so the judge synneth if he doo no vengeaunce on him that it hath deserved. For Senec saith thus: That maister, he saith, is good that reproveth shrewes. And as Cassoder saith: A man dredeth to doon outrage, whan he woot and knoweth that it displeseth to the judges and the soveraynes. And another saith: The judge that dredeth to demen right, maketh shrewes. And seint Poul thappostoil saith in his epistil, whan he writeth to the Romayns: The judges bere not the spere withoute cause, but thay beren it to punysshe the shrewes and mysdoers, and for to defende with the goode men. If ye wol take vengeaunce on youre enemyes, ye shal retourne or have recours to the judges, that have jurediccioun upon them, and he shal punissche them, as the law axeth and requireth.” “Ah!” quoth Melibeus, “this vengeaunce liketh me no thing. I bythenke me now, and take heed, how Fortune hath norisshed me fro my childhode, and hath holpe me to passen many a strayt passage; now wol I aske her that she shal, with Goddes help, helpe me my shame for to venge.”
“Certes,” quoth Prudence, “if ye wil wirche by my counseil, ye shul not assaye Fortune by no maner way, nor ye shul not lene ne bowe unto hire, after the word of Senec; for thinges that beth follyly done, and that be done in hope of Fortune, shul never come to good ende. And as the same Senek saith: The more cleer and the more shynynge that Fortune is, the more brutil, and the sooner breketh she. So trust nought in hire, for she is nought stedefast nor stable: for when thou wenest or trowest to be most seur of hir help, she wol fayle and deceyve thee. And wher as ye saye, that Fortune hath norisshed yow fro youre childhode, I say that in so moch ye shul the lasse truste in hire and in hire witte. For Senek saith: What man that is norisshed by Fortune, she maketh him a gret fool. Now since ye desire and axe vengeaunce, and the vengeaunce that is doon after the lawe and beforne the judge liketh yowe nought, and the vengeaunce that is doon in hope of Fortune, is perilous and uncerteyn, thanne have ye noon other remedye, but for to have recours unto the soveraigne judge, that vengith alle vilonies and wronges; and he shal venge yow, after that himself witnesseth, where as he saith: Leve the vengeaunce to me, and I shal yelde it.” Melibeus answerd: “If I venge me nought of the vilonye that men have doon unto me, I shal somne or warne them that han doon to me that vilonye, and alle othere, to doo me another vilonye. For it is writen: If thou tak no vengeaunce of an old vilonye, thou somnest thin adversarie do thee a newe vilonye. And also, for my suffraunce, men wolde do me so moche vilonye, that I mighte neither bere it ne susteyne it; and so shulde I be put over lowe. For men say, in moche sufferynge shal many thinges falle unto thee, whiche thou shalt nought be able to suffre.” “Certes,” quoth Prudence, “I graunte yow wel, that over mochil suffraunce is nought good, but yit folwith it nought thereof, that every persone to whom men doon vilonye, take of it vengeaunce. For it appertieneth and longeth al oonly to the judges, for thay shul venge the vilonyes and the injuries; and therfore the auctoritees that ye have sayd above been oonly understonden in the judges; for whan thay suffre too moch the wronges and the vilonyes that ben doon withoute punysshyng, thay somne not a man oonly to doo newe wronges, but thay comaunde hit. Also the wise man saith: The judge that correcteth not the synnere, comaundith and byddith him doon another synne. And the judges and sovereignes mighten in there lond so moch suffren of the shrewes and mysdoeres, that thay shulde by such suffraunce, by proces of tyme, wexen of such power and might, that thay shulde put out the judges and the sovereignes from there places, and atte laste do them lese there lordshipes. But lete us now putte, that ye have leve to venge yow; I say ye ben nought of might nor power as now to venge you; for if ye wolde make comparisoun as to the might of youre adversaries, ye shulde fynde in many thinges, that I have i-shewed yow ere this, that there condicioun is bettre than youres, and therfore say I, that it is good as now, that ye suffre, and be pacient.
“Forthermore ye knowe wel that after the comune sawe, it is a madnesse, a man to stryve with a strenger or a more mighty man than himselven is; and for to stryve with a man of evene strengthe, that is to saye, with as strong a man as he is, it is peril; and for to stryve with a weykere, it is a folye; and therfore shulde a man fle stryvynge as moche as he mighte. For Salamon seith: it is a gret worshipe, a man to kepe him fro noyse and stryfe. And if it so bifalle or happe that a man of gretter might and strengthe than thou art do the grevaunce, studie and busye the rather to stille the same grevaunce, than for to venge thee. For Senec saith, he putteth him in a gret peril that stryveth with a gretter man than he him selven is. And Catoun saith: If a man of heiher estat or degré, or more mighty then thou, do thee anoye or grevaunce, suffre him; for he that hath oones don thee a grievaunce, may another tyme relieve thee and helpe thee.
“Yit sette I a case, ye have bothe might and licence for to venge yow, I say ther ben ful many thinges that shulde restreine yow of vengeaunce takynge, and make yow to encline to suffre, and to have pacience of the wronges that have ben doon to yow. First and forward, ye wol considre the defaultes that ben in youre owne persone, for whiche defaultes God hath suffred yow to have this tribulacioun, as I have sayd yow herbyfore. For the poete saith, We oughten paciently to suffre the tribulacioun that cometh to us, whan that we thenken and consideren, that we have deserved to have them. And seint Gregorie saith, that whan a man considereth wel the nombre of his defaultes, and of his synnes, the peynes and the tribulaciouns that he suffereth semen the lasse unto him. And in as moche as him thenkith his synnes the more hevy and grevous, in so moche his peyne is the lighter and the more esier unto him. Also ye oughten to encline and bowe youre herte, to take the pacience of oure Lord Jhesu Christ, as saith seint Peter in his Epistles. Jhesu Christ, he seith, hath suffred for us, and given ensample unto every man to folwe him; for he ded never synne, ne never cam a vileyns worde out of his mouth. Whan men cursed him, he cursed them not; and whan men beete him, he menased them not. Also the gret pacience which that seintes that ben in Paradys have had in tribulaciouns that thay have had and suffred withoute desert or gilt, oughte moche to stire you to pacience. Forthermore, ye shul enforce yow to have pacience, consideringe that the tribulaciouns of this world but litel while enduren, and soon passed ebn and goon, and the joye that a man secheth to have by pacience in tribulaciouns is durable; after that the apostil seith in his Epistil: the joye of God, he saith, is durable, that is to say, evermore lastynge. Also trow and biliev stedefastly, that he is not wel norished and taught, that can nought have pacience, or wil nought receyve pacience. For Salamon saith, that the doctrine and the witte of a man is i-knowe by pacience. And in another place he seith: He that hath pacience governeth him by gret prudence. And the same Salamon seith, that the wrathful and the angry man maketh noyses, and the pacient man attempereth and stilleth him. He seith also: It is more worth to be pacient than for to be right strong. And he that may have his lordshipe of his oune herte, is more worth and more to preise than he that by his force and by his strengthe taketh grete citees. And therfore saith seint Jame in his Epistil, that pacience is a gret vertu of perfeccioun.”
“Certes,” quoth Melibe, “I graunte yowe, dame Prudence, that pacience is a grete vertue of perfeccione; but every man may not have the perfeccioun that ye seekyn, nor I am not of the nombre of right parfyte men; for myn herte may never be in pees, unto the tyme it be venged. And al be it so, that it was a gret peril to myne enemyes to don me a vilonye in takinge vengeaunce upon me, yit tooken thay noon heede of the peril, but fulfilden there wikked desir and their corrage; and therfore me thenketh men oughten nought repreve me, though I putte me in a litel peril for to venge me, and though I do a gret excesse, that is to saye, that I venge oon outrage by another.”
“A!” quoth dame Prudence, “ye saye youre wille and as yow likith; but in noon case in the world a man schulde nought doon outrage nor excesse for to venge him. For Cassidore saith, as evel doth he that avengith him by outrage, as he that doth the outrage. And therfore ye shul venge yow after the ordre of right, that is to sayn, by the lawe, and nought by excesse, nor by outrage. And also if ye wile venge yow of the outrage of youre adversaries, in other maner than right comaundeth, ye synnen. And therefore saith Senec, that a man shal never venge shrewednes by shrewednes. And if ye saye that right axeth a man to defende violence by vyolence, and fightyng by fightynge; certes, ye saye soth, whan the defence is doon anoon withouten intervalle, or withouten taryinge or dilay, for to defenden him, and nought for to venge him. And it bihoveth a man putte such attemperance in his defence, that men have no cause ne matiere to repreven him that defendith him, of excesse and outrage. Pardé! ye knowe wel, that ye make no defence as now for to defende yow, but for to venge yow; and so semeth it, that ye have no wille to do youre wille attemperelly; and therfore me thenkith that pacience is good. For Salamon saith, that he that is not pacient shal have gret harm.” “Certes,” quoth Melibeus, “I graunte you wel, that whan a man is inpacient and wroth of that that toucheth him nouht, and that that apperteineth nouht to him, thouh it harme him it is no wondere. For the lawe saith, that he is coupable that entremettith him or mellith him with such thing, as aperteyneth not unto him. Dan Salamon saith, He that entremetteth him of the noyse or stryf of another man, is lik him that takith the straunge hound by the eeres; for right as he that takith a straunge hound by the eeres is other while biten by the hound, right in the same wise, it is resoun that he have harm, that by his impacience melleth him of the noise of another man, where it apperteyneth not to him. But ye shul knowe wel, that this dede, that is to sayn, myn disease and my grief, toucheth me right nigh. And therfore, though I be wroth, it is no mervayle; and (savynge your grace) I can not see that it mighte gretly harme me, though I toke vengeaunce, for I am richer and more mighty than myne enemyes been; and wel knowe ye, that by money and by havynge of grete possessiouns, ben alle the thinges of this world governede. And Salamon saith, that alle thinges obeyen to moneye.”
Whan Prudence had herd hir husbonde to avaunten him of his riches and of his monye, and dispreisynge the pouer of his adversaries, then she spak and sayde in this wyse: “Certes, deere sire, I graunte yow that ye ben riche and mighty, and that richesse is good to them that wel have geten it, and that wel conne use it. For right as the body of a man may not be withoute the soule, no more may a man lyve withoute temperel goodes, and by richesse may a man gete him greet frendshipe. And therfore saith Pamphilles: If a neet-hurdes doughter, he saith, be riche, she may choose of a thousand men, which she wol take to hir housbonde; for of a thousand men oon wil not forsake hir nor refuse hire. And this Pamphilles seith also: If thou be right happy, that is to sayn, if thou be right riche, thanne shalt thou fynde a gret nombre of felawes and frendes; and if thy fortune chaunge, that thou waxe pore, fare wel frendshipe, for thou shalt ben aloone withouten eny companye, but if it be the compainye of pore folk. And yit saith this Pamphillus moreover, that they that ben thral and bonde of linage, shullen ben maad worthy and noble by richesse. And right so as by richesse ther come many goodes, right so by povert comen ther many harmes and yvels; for grete poverté constreyneth a man to done mony yvels. And therfore clepeth Cassidore povert the moder of ruyne, that is to sayn, the moder of overthrowyng or fallynge doun. And therfore seith Pieres Alphons: Oon of the grettest adversites of this world, is whan a freeman by kyn or burthe is constreined by povert to eten the almes of his enemyes. And the same seith Innocent in oon of his bookes, that sorweful and unhappy is the condicioun of a povere begger, for if he axe nought his mete, he deyeth for hungir, and if he axe, he deyeth for shame; and algates the necessité constreineth hym to axe. And therfore saith Salamon, that bettre it is to deye, than to have such povert. And as the same Salamon saith; Bettir is to deye on bitter deth, than for to lyve in such a wyse.
“By these resouns that I have sayd unto yow, and by many another resoun that I knowe and coude say, I graunte yow that richesses be goode to them that gete them wel, and to them that them wel usen; and therfore wol I shewe yow how ye shulde bere yow in getyng of riches, and in what maner ye shulde use them. First, ye shulde gete them withoute gret desir, by good leysir, gently, and nought over hastily; for a man that is too desirynge for to gete riches, abandoneth him first to thefte and to alle othere yveles.
And therfore saith Salamon: He that hastith him too bisyly to waxe riche, shal be noon innocent. He saith also, that the riches that hastily cometh to a man, soone and lightly goth and passeth fro a man, but that richesse that cometh alway litel and litel, waxeth alway and multiplieth. And, sire, ye shal gete richesse by youre witte, and by youre travayle, unto youre profyt, and that withoute wrong or harm doynge to eny other persone. For the lawe saith, that no man maketh himself riche, that doth harm to another wight; that is to saye, that nature defendeth and forbedith by right, that no man make him-self riche unto the harm of another persone. Tullius saith, that no sorwe nor drede of deth, nor no thing that may falle to a man, is so moche ageinst nature, as for a man to encrese his oune profyt to the harm of another man. And though the grete men and riche men gete richesse more lightly than thou, yit shalt thou not be ydil nor slowe to thy profyt, for thou shalt in alle wise flee ydilnes. For Salamon saith, that ydelnesse techith a man to do many yveles. And the same Salamon saith, that he that travaileth and besieth him to til the lond, shal ete the breed; but he that is ydil, and casteth him to no busynesse ne occupacioun, shal falle into povert, and deye for hunger. And he that is ydel and slough, can never fynde him tyme for to do his profyt. For ther is a versifiour saith, the ydel man excuseth him in wynter, because of the grete colde, and in somer by enchesoun of the grete hete. For these causes, saith Catoun, wake, and encline yow nought over moche for to slepe, for over moche reste norisheth and causeth many vices. And therfore saith seint Jerom: Do some goode deedes, that the devel, which that is oure enemy, ne fynde yow unoccupied; for the devel takith not lightly unto his werkes suche as he fyndeth occupied in goode werkes. Thanne thus in getynge of riches ye moot flee ydelnesse. And afterward ye shul use the richesses, the whiche ye have geten by youre witte and by youre travaile, in such a maner, that men holde yow not skarce nor too sparynge, nor too fool large, that is to say, over large a spender. For right as men blamen an averous man, bycause of his skarseté and chyncherie, in the same manere is he to blame, that spendeth over largely. And therfore saith Catoun: Use, he saith, thi richesses that thou hast y-geten in such a manere, that men have no mater nor cause to calle thee neither wrecche ne chynche; for it is gret shame to a man to have a pover herte and a riche purse. He saith also: The goodes that thou hast i-geten, use them by mesure, that is to saye, spende them mesurably; for thay that folily wasten and spenden the goodes that thay have, whan thay have no more propre of here oune, thay shape them to take the goodes of another man. I say thanne ye shul flee avarice, usynge your richesse in such manere, that men say nouht that youre richesse be buried, but that ye have them in youre might and in youre weldynge. For the wise man reproveth the averous man, and saith thus in tuo versus: Wherto and why burieth a man his goodes by his gret avarice, and knowith wel, that needes most he deye, for deth is the ende of every man, as in this present lif? And for what cause or enchesoun joyneth he him, or knetteth him so fast unto his goodes, that alle his wittes may nought dissever him, or departe him fro his goodes, and knowith wel, or oughte knowe wel, that whan he is deed, he shal no thing bere with him out of this world? And therfore seith seint Austyn, that the averous man is likned unto helle, that the more that it swolwith, the more it desireth to swolwe and devoure. And as wel as ye wolde eschewe to be cleped an averous man or chinche, as wel shulde ye kepe yow and governe yow, in such a wise, that men clepe yow nought fool large. Therfore saith Tullius: The goodes, he saith, of thin hous shulde nought be hidde ne kepte so clos, but that thay might be opened bu pité and by kindness; that is to sayn, to give them part that have gret neede; nor thy goodes shul not be so open, to be every mannes goodes.
“Aftirward, in getynge of youre richesses, and in usynge them, ye shul alway have thre thinges in youre herte, that is to say, oure lord God, conscience, and good name. First, ye shul have God in youre herte, and for no riches ye shul in no manere doo no thing which mighte displese God that is your creatour and youre maker. For after the word of Salamon, it is better to have litil good with love of God, than to have mochil good and tresor, and lose the love of his lord God. And the prophete saith: Better is to be a good man, and have litel good and tresore, than to be holden a shrewe, and have gret riches. And yit say I forthermore, that ye shuln alway doon youre businesse to gete yow riches, so that ye gete them with good conscience. And the apostil seith, ther is nothing in this world of which we shuln have so gret joye, as whan oure conscience bereth us good witnes. And the wise man seith: The substaunce of a man is ful good, whan synne is not in his conscience. Afterward, in getynge of youre richesses, and in usynge of them, thou most have gret busynesse and gret diligence, that youre good name be alway kept and conserved. For Salamon saith: Better it is, and more aveilith a man, for to have a good name, than for to have get riches. And therfore he saith in another place: Do gret diligence, saith Salamon, in kepynge of thy frend, and of thy good name, for it shal lenger abyde with thee, than eny tresor, be it never so precious. And certes, he shulde nought be cleped a gentil man, that after God and good conscience, alle thinges left, doth not his diligence and busynesse to kepe his good name. And Cassidore saith, that it is signe of a good man and a gentil, or of a gentil herte, whan a man loveth or desireth to have a good name. And therfore saith seint Augustyn, that ther be tuo thinges that be necessarie and needful; and that is good conscience and good name; that is to sayn, good conscience in thin oune persone in-ward, and good name of thin neghebor out-ward. And he that trusteth him so moche in his good conscience, that he despiseth and settith at nought his good name or loos, and rekketh nought though he kepe not his good name, is but a cruel churl.
“Sire, now have I shewed yow how ye shulde doon in getyng of good and riches, and how ye shulde use them; I see wel that for the trust that ye have in youre riches, ye wolde move werre and bataile. I counseile yow that ye bygynne no werre in trust of youre riches, for thay suffisen not werres to mayntene. And therfore saith a philosophre: That man that desireth and wol algate have werre, shal never have sufficeaunce; for the richere that he is, the gretter dispense most he make, if he wol have worshippe or victorie. And Salamon saith: The gretter riches that a man hath, the mo despendours he hath. And, deere sire, al be it so that for youre riches ye may have moche folk, yit byhoveth it not nor it is not good to bygynne werre, when ye may in other maner have pees unto youre worshipe and profyt; for the victorie of batailles that be in this world, lith not in gret nombre or multitude of poeple, nor in vertu of man, but it lith in the wille and in the hond of oure lord God almighty. And Judas Machabeus, which was Goddes knight, whan he shulde fighte ageinst his adversaries, that hadde a gretter nombre and a gretter multitude of folk and strengere than was the poeple of this Machabe, yit he reconforted his litel poeple, and sayde ryght in this wise: As lightly, quoth he, may oure lord God almighty give victory to fewe folk, as to mony folke; for the victorie of batailles cometh nought by the grete nombre of poeple, but it cometh fro oure lord God of heven. And, dere sire, for as moche as ther is no man certeyn, if it be worthi that God give him victorie or nought, after that that Salamon saith, therfore every man shulde gretly drede werres to bygynne. And bycause that in batailles falle many mervayles and periles, and happeth other while, that as soone is the grete man slayn as the litel man; and, as it is written in the secounde book of Kynges, the deedes of batayles be aventurous, and no thing certeyn, for as lightly is oon hurt with a spere as another; and for ther is gret peril in werre, therfore shulde a man flee and eschewe werre in as moche as a man may goodly. For sothly Salamon saith: He that loveth peril, shal falle in peril.”
After that dame Prudens hadde spoke in this maner, Melibe answerde and sayde: “I see wel, dame, that by youre faire wordes and by youre resouns, that ye have shewed me, that the werre liketh yow no thing; but I have not yit herd youre counseil, how I shal doo in this neede.” “Certes,” quoth she, “I counseile yow that ye accorde with youre adversaries, and that ye have pees with them. For seint Jame saith in his Epistles, that by concord and pees, the smale ryches wexen grete, and by debaat and discord the gret richesses fallen doun. And ye knowe wel, that oon of the moste grettest and soveraign thinges that is in this world, is unité and pees. And therfore saith oure lord Jhesu Crist to his aposteles in this wise: Wel happy and blessed be thay that loven and purchacen pees, for thay ben called children of God.” “A!” quoth Melibe, “now see I wel, that ye loven not myn honour, ne my worshipe. And ye knowe wel that myne adversaries have bygonne this debate and quarrel by there outrage, and ye see wel that thay require nor praye me not of pees, nor thay askyn nought to be recounseild; wol ye thanne that I goo and meke me unto them, and crie them mercy? For sothe that were not my worshipe; for right as men seyn, that over gret pryde engendreth dispisyng, so fareth it by to gret humbleté or mekenes.” Thanne bygan dame Prudence to make semblant of wrath, and sayde: “Certes, sire, save youre grace, I love youre honour and youre profyt as I doo myn owne, and ever have doon; ye may noon other seyn; and yit if I hadde sayd, ye sholde have purchaced pees and the reconciliacioun, I hadde not moche mystake in me, or seyd amys. For the wise man saith: The discencioun bigynneth by another man, and the reconsilynge bygynneth by thyself. And the prophete saith: Flee shame and shrewednesse and doo goodnesse; seeke pees and folwe it, as moche as in thee is. Yet seith he not, that ye shul rather pursewe to youre adversaries for pees, than thei shul to yow; for I knowe wel that ye be so hard-herted, that ye wil doo no thing for me; and Salamon saith: He that is over hard-herted, atte laste he shal myshappe and mystyde.”
Whan Melibe hadde seyn dame Prudence make semblaunce of wrath, he sayde in this wise: “Dame, I pray yow that ye be not displesed of thinges that I say, for ye know wel that I am angry and wroth, and that is no wonder; and thay that be wroth, wot not wel what thay doon, nor what thay saye. Therfore the prophete saith, that troublit eyen have no cleer sight. But saye and counsiale me forth as yow liketh, for I am redy to doo right as ye wol desire. And if ye reprove me of my folye, I am the more holde to love yow and to prayse yow. For Salamon saith, that he that reproveth him that doth folie, he shal fynde gretter grace than he that deceyveth him by swete wordes.” Thanne sayde dame Prudens: “I make no semblant of wrath nor of anger, but for youre grete profyt. For Salamon saith: He is more worth that reproveth or chydeth a fool for his folie, shewynge him semblant of wrath, than he that supporteth him and prayseth him in his mysdoyng and laugheth at his folie. And this same Salamon saith afterward, that by the sorweful visage of a man, that is to sayn, by sory and hevy countenaunce of a man, the fool correcteth himself and amendeth.” Thanne sayde Melibeus: “I shal not conne answere to so many faire resouns as ye putten to me and shewen; saye shortly your wille and youre counseil, and I am al redy to fulfille and parfourme it.”
Thanne dame Prudence discovered al hire counsail and hire wille unto him and sayde: “I counseil yow,” quoth she, “above alle thinges, that ye make pees bitwen God and yow, and be reconsiled unto him and to his grace; for as I have sayd yow herbiforn, God hath suffred yow have this tribulacioune and disease for youre synnes; and if ye do as I say yow, Gow wol sende youre adversaries unto yow, and make them falle, at youre feet, al ready to doo youre wille and youre comaundment. For Salamon saith: Whan the condicioun of man is plesant and likyng to God, he chaungeth the hertes of the mannes adversaries, and constreineth them to biseke him of pees and of grace. And I pray yow let me speke with youre adversaries in privé place, for thay shul not knowe it by youre wille or youre assent; and thanne, whan I knowe there wille and there entent, I may counseile yow the more seurly.”
“Dame,” quoth Melibeus, “do youre wille and youre likyng, for I putte me holly in youre disposicioun and ordinaunce.” Thanne dame Prudence, whan she saw the good wille of hir housbond, she delibered and took avis by hirself, thenkynge how she mighte bringe this neede unto good conclusioun and to a good ende. And whan she saw hir tyme, she sente for these adversaries to come unto hire into a privé place, and shewed wysly unto them the grete goodes that comen of pees, and the grete harmes and perils that be in werre; and sayde to them, in goodly manere, how that they aughte to have gret repentaunce of the injurie and wrong that thay hadde doon to Melibe hire lord, and unto hire and hire doughter. And whan thay herden the goodly wordes of dame Prudence, they were so surprised and ravysshed, and hadden so gret joye of hire, that wonder was to telle. “A! lady,” quoth thay, “ye have shewed unto us the blessyng of swetnes, after the sawe of David the prophete; for the recounsilyng, which we be nought worthy to have in no manere, but we oughten require it with gret contricioun and humilité, ye of youre grete goodnes have presented unto us. Now we see wel, that the science of Salamon is ful trewe: he saith, that swete wordes multplien and encrescen frendes, and maken shrewes to be debonaire and meke. Certes,” quoth thay, “we putten oure deede, and al oure matier and cause, al holly in youre good wille, and be redy to obeye to the speche and to the comaundement of my lord Melibe. And therfore, deere and benigne lady, we praye yow and byseke yow, as meekely as we conne and maye, that it like to yowre grete goodnes to fulfille in deede yowre goodliche wordes. For we considere and knowleche wel that we have offended and greved my lord Melibe out of resoun and out of mesure, so ferforth that we ben nought of power to make him amendes; and therfore we oblige us and bynde us and oure frendes, for to do al his wille and his comaundementz. But peradventure he hath such hevynes and such wrath to usward, bycause of oure offence, that he wol enjoyne us such peyne as we mowe not bere nor susteyne; and therfore, noble lady, we biseke to youre wommanly pité to take such avysement in this neede, that we, nor oure frendes, be not disherited and destroyed thurgh oure folye.” “Certes,” quoth dame Prudence, “it is an hard thing, and right a perilous that a man put him al utterly in the arbitracioun and judgement and the might and power of his enemyes. For Salamon saith: Beleeve me and give credence to that that I shal say: I say, quoth he, ye poeple, ye folke, and ye governours of holy chirche, to thy sone, to thi wyf, to thy frend, to thy brother, geve thou never might nor maystry of thy body, whil thou lyvest. Now, since he forbiddeth that a man shulde not give to his brother, nor to his frend, the might of his body, by a strenger resoun he defendeth and forbedith a man to give his body to his enemye. But natheles, I counseile yow that ye mystruste nought my lord; for I wot wel and knowe verraily, that he is debonaire and meke, large, curteys, and no thing desirous nor coveytous of good nor richesse: for ther is no thing in this world that he desireth, save oonly worshipe and honour. Forthermore I knowe, and am right seure, that he wol no thing doo in this neede withoute counsail of me; and I shal so worche in this cause, that by the grace of oure lord God ye shul be recounsiled unto us.” Thanne sayde thay, with oon voys: “Worshipful lady, we putte us and oure goodes al fully in youre wille and disposicioun, and ben redy to come, what day that it like yow and unto youre noblesse to limite us or assigne us, for to make oure obligacioun and bond, as strong as it liketh to youre goodnes, that we mowe fulfille the wille of yow and of my lord Melibe.” Whan dame Prudence had herd the answeres of thise men, she bad hem go agayn pryvely, and she retournede to hir lord Melibe, and tolde him how she fond his adversaries ful repentant, knowlechinge ful lowely there synnes and trespasses, and how thay were redy to suffre alle peyne, requiring and praying him of mercy and pité.
Thanne saide Melibeus, “He is wel worthy to have pardoun and foryevenes of his synne, that excusith not his synne, but knowlecheth and repentith him, axinge indulgence. For Senek saith: Ther is the remissioun and forgevenesse, wher as the confessioun is; for confessioun is neighbor to innocence. And he saith in another place, He that hath shame of his synne, knowlechith it. And therfore I assente and conferme me to have pees, but it is good that we doo it nought withoute assent and the wille of oure frendes.” Thanne was Prudence right glad and jolyf, and sayde: “Certes, sire,” quoth she, “ye ben wel and goodly avysed; for right as by the counsail and assent and help of youre frendes, ye have to be stired to venge yow and make werre, right so withoute there counseil shul ye nought acorde yow ne have pees with youre adversaries. For the lawe saith: “Ther nys no thing so good by way of kinde, as thing to be unbounde by him that it was bounde.” And thanne dame Prudence, withoute delay or taryinge, sente anoon messageres for here kyn and for here olde frendes, whiche that were trewe and wyse; and tolde them by ordre, in the presence of Melibe, of this matier, as it is above expressed and declared; and praide them that thay wolde give there avys and counseil what best were to doon in this matiere. And whan Melibeus frendes hadde take there avys and deliberacioun of the forsayde matier, and hadden examyned it by greet besynes and gret diligence, they gate him ful counsail to have pees and reste, and that Melibeus shulde with good hert receyve his adversaries to forgivenes and mercy.
And whan dame Prudence had herd thassent of hir lord Melibeus, and counseil of his frendes accorde with hire wille and hire entencioun, she was wonderly glad in herte, and sayde: “Ther is an olde proverbe that saith, the goodnesse that thou maist do this day abyde not nor delaye it nough unto to morwe; and therfore I counseile yow ye sende youre messageres, whiche that be discrete and wise, unto youre adversaries, tellynge them on youre bihalve, that if thay wol trete of pees and of accord, that thay shape them withoute dilay or taryinge to come unto us.” Which thing was parformed in dede; and whan these trespasours and repentynge folk of there folies, that is to sayn, the adversaries of Melibe, hadden herd what the messangeres sayden unto them, thay were right glad and jolif, and answerden ful mekely and benignely, yeldynge graces and thankinges to there lord Melibe, and to al his compainye; and prepared them without delay to go with the messangeres, and obeye them to the comaundement of there lord Melibe. And right anoon thay token there way to the court of Melibe, and token with them some of there trewe frendes, to make faith for them, and for to ben there sureties. And whan thay were comen to the presence of Melibeus, he seyde them thise wordes: “It stondith thus,” quoth Melibeus, “and soth it is, that ye causeles, and withouten skile and resoun, have doon gret injuries and wronges to me, and to my wyf Prudence, and to my doughter also, for ye have entred into myn hous by violence, and have doon such outrage, that alle men knowe welle that ye have deserved the deth; and therfore wil I knowe and wite of yow, whether ye wol putte the punyschment and the chastisement and the vengeaunce of this outrage, in the wille of me and of my wyf, dame Prudence, or ye wil not.” Thanne the wisest of them thre answerde for hem alle, and sayde: “Sire,” quoth he, “we knowe wel, that we be unworthy to come to the court of so gret a lord and so worthy as ye be, for we have so gretly mystake us, and have offendid and giltid in such a wise ageins youre highe lordshipe, that trewely we have deserved the deth. But yit for the greete goodnes and debonaireté that al the world witnesseth of youre persone, we submitten us to the hihe excellence and benignité of youre gracious lordshipe, and be redy to obeye to alle youre comaundements, bisekynge yow that of youre merciable pité ye wol considre oure grete repentaunce and lowe submissioun, and graunte us forgivenes of oure outrage, trespas, and offence. For wel we knowen, that youre liberal grace and mercy strechen forthere into goodnesse than doth oure outrage, gilt, and trespas, into wikkednes; al be it that cursedly and damnably we have offended ageinst youre highe lordshipe.” Thanne Melibe took them up fro the ground ful benignely, and receyved there obligaciouns, and there bondes, by there othes upon there pledges and sureties, and assigned them a certeyn day to retourne unto his court for to accepte and receyve the sentence and judgement that Melibe wolde comaunde to be doon on hem, by these causes aforn sayde; which thing ordeyned, every man retourned home to his hous. And whan that dame Prudence saw hire tyme, she axed hire lord Melibe, what vengeance he thoughte to take upon his adversaries. To which Melibeus answerd and saide: “Certes,” quoth he, “I thenke and purpose me fully to disherite them of al that ever thay have, and for to putte hem in exil for evermore.”
“Certes,” quod dame Prudence, “this were a cruel sentence, and moche ageinst resoun. For ye ben riche y-nough, and have noon neede of other mennes good; and ye mighte lightly gete yow a coveitous name, which is a vicious thing, and oughte to be eschewed of every man; for after the sawe of thapostil, covetise is roote of alle harmes. And therfore it were bettre for yow to lose so moche good of youre oune, than for to take of there good in this manere. For bettir it is to lose good with worshipe, than it is to wynne good with vilonye and shame. And every man oughte to do his diligence and his busynesse, to gete him a good name. And yit shal he not only besy hym is kepynge of his gode name, but he shulde also enforce him alway to do som thing, by which he way renew his good name; for it is writen, that the olde goode name of a man is soone done or goon and passed, whan it is not newed ne renoveled. And as touchinge that ye sayn, that ye wol exile youre adversaries, that thinketh me moche ageinst resoun, and out of mesure; considerith the power that thay have given to yow upon there body and on them-self. And it is writen, that he is worthy to lose his privelege, that mysuseth the might and the power that is geve to him. And yit I sette the caas, ye mighte enjoyne them that peyne by right and lawe (which I trowe yé mowe nought do), I say, ye mighte nought putte it to execucioun peraventure, and thanne were it likly to torne to the werre, as it was biforn. And therfore if ye wol that men do yow obeissaunce, ye moste deme more curteisly, that is to sayn, ye moste yive more esyere sentence and judgement. For it is writen: He that most curteysly comaundeth, to him men most obeyen. And therfore I pray yow, that in this necessité and in this neede ye caste yow to overcome youre herte. For Senek saith, he that overcometh his herte, overcometh twyes. And Tullius saith: Ther is no thing so comendable in a gret lord, as whan he is debonaire and meeke, and appesith him lightly. And I pray yow, that ye wol forbere now to do vengeaunce, in such a manere, that youre goode name may be kept and conserved, and that men mowe have cause and matiere to prayse yow of pité and of mercy, and that ye have noon cause to repente yow of thing that ye doon. For Senec saith: He overcometh in an evel manere, that repenteth him of his victorie. Wherfore I pray you let mercy be in youre herte, to theffect and thentent, and God almighty have mercy and pité upon yow in his laste judgement. For seint Jame saith in his Epistil: judgement withoute mercy shal be doon to him, that hath no mercy upon another wight.”
Whan Melibe had herd the grete skil and resouns of dame Prudens, and hir wys informacioun and techynge, his herte gan enclyne to the wille of his wyf, consideryng hir trewe entent, conformed him anoon and consented fully to werke after hir reed and counseil, and thankid God, of whom procedeth al goodnes, that him sente a wif of so gret discrecioun. And whan the day cam that his adversaries shulden appere in his presence, he spak to them ful goodly, and sayde in this wise: “Al be it so, that of youre pryde and high presumpcioun and folye, and of youre negligence and unconnynge, ye have mysborne yow, and trespassed unto me, yit forasmoche as I see and biholde youre humilité, that ye be sory and repentaunt of youre giltes, it constreineth me to do yow grace and mercy. Wherfore I receyve yow to my grace, and forgeve you outerly alle the offenses, injuries, and wronges, that ye have don to me and agayns me and myne, to this effect and to this ende, that God of his endeles mercy wole at the tyme of oure dyinge forgive us oure giltes, that we have trespased to him in this wrecchid world; for douteles if we be sory and repentaunt of the synnes and giltes whiche we have trespassed inne in the sight of oure lord God, he is so free and so merciable, that he wil forgive us oure giltes, and bringe us to the blisse that never hath ende.” Amen.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52