When ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence and hir benignitee,
Oure Hoste sayde, “As I am faithful man,
And by the precious corpus Madryan
I hadde rather than a barel ale
That good womán my wyf had herd this tale.
For she is no thing of such pacience
As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.
By Goddes boones! whan I bete my knaves,
She bringeth me forth the grete clobbèd staves,
And crieth, “sley the dogges everyone!
And breke of them the bak and eek the bone!”
And if that eny neighebour of myne
Wil nought unto my wyf in chirche inclyne,
Or be so hardy to hir to trespáce,
Whan she comth hom, she rampeth in my face,
And crieth, “false coward, avenge thy wyf!
By corpus bones! I wil have thy knyf,
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spynne.”
Fro day to night right thus she wil bygynne;
“Allas!” she saith, “that ever I was i-shape,
To wedde a mylk-sop or a coward ape,
That wil be over-lad with every wight!
Thou darst nought stonde by thy wyves right.”
This is my lif, unless that I wil fight;
And out at dore anon I must me dight,
And else I am al lost, but-if that I
Be, lik a wilde lion, fool-hardy.
I wot wel she wil make me sley som day
Som neighebor, and thanne runne away.
For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
Al be it that I dar not hir withstonde.
For she is big in armes, by my faith!
That shal he fynde that hire mysdoth or saith.
But let us passe away fro this matére.
My lord sir monk,” quoth he, “be mery of chere,
For ye shal telle a tale trewely.
Lo, Rowchestre here standeth faste bu.
Ryde forth, myn oune lord, brek nought oure game!
But, by my trothe, I knowe not youre name;
Whether shal I calle you my lord dan John,
Or dan Thomas, or else dan Albon?
Of what hous be ye, by your fader kyn?
I vow to God thou hast a ful fair skyn!
It is a gentil pasture where thou gost;
Thou art not like a penitent or goost.
Upon my faith, thou art an officer,
Som worthy sexteyn, or some celerer;
For, by my fader soule, as in my doom,
Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom,
No poore cloysterer, nor no novys,
But a góvernour a wily and a wys;
And therwithal of brawne and eek of bones
A wel faryng persóne for the nonce.
I praye God give him confusioun,
That first thee broughte to religioun!
Thou woldist have been a gret lover aright;
Haddist thou as gret leve as thou hast might.
Allas! why werest thou so wyd a cope?
God gif me sorrow! if I were a pope,
Nought only thou, but every mighty man,
Though he were shorn al broade upon his pan,
Shuld have a wif; for al this world is lorn;
Religioun hath taken up al the corn
Men sowen, and we comon men be shrympes;
Of feble trees ther cometh feble ympes.
But be nought wroth, my lorde, though I play,
Ful oft in game a soth, I have herd say.”
This worthy Monk took al in pacience,
And saide, “I wil do al my diligence,
Als fer as soundeth into honestee,
To telle you a tale, or tuo or three;
And if you list to herken hider-ward,
I wil yow saye the lif of seint Edward,
Or else first tragedis wil I you telle,
Of which I have an hundred in my celle.
Tragedis is to sayn a certeyn storie,
As olde bookes maken us memorie,
Of them that stood in greet prosperitee,
And are y-fallen out of high degree
To miserie, and endith wrecchedly;
And thay be versifyèd comunly
Of sixe feet, which men clepe examétron.
In prose be endited many oon;
In metre eek, in mony a sondry wise;
Lo, this declaryng ought y-nough suffise.
Now herkne, if you likith for to heere;
But first I you biseche in this matére,
Though I by ordre telle not thise thinges,
Be it of popes, emperours, or kynges,
After their age, as men may writen fynde,
But telle them som bifore and som byhynde,
As it now cometh to my rémembraúnce,
Have me excusèd of myn ignoraunce.
“I wil bywaile, in maner of tragedye,
The harm of them that stood in high degree,
And fallen so ther is no remedye
To bring them out of their adversitee;
For certeynly, whan fortune list to flee,
Ther may no man the cours of hir wheel holde;
Let no man truste in blynd prosperitee,
Be war by these ensamples trewe and olde.”
At Lucifer, though he an angil be,
And noght a man, at him wil I bygynne;
For though fortune may non aungel slee,
From high degre yit fel he for his synne
Doun into helle, wher as he yet is inne.
O Lucifer! brightest of aungels alle,
Now art thou Sathanas, thou maist nought wynne
Out of the miserie in which thou art falle.
Lo Adam, in the feld of Damassene
With Goddes oune fynger wrought was he,
And nought bigeten of mannes seed unclene,
And had al paradys, savyng oon tree.
Hadde never worldly man suche a degree
As Adam, til he for mysgovernance
Was dryven out of high prosperitee,
To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce.
Lo Samson, whiche that was annunciate
By the angel, long ere his nativitee,
And was to God Almighty consecrate,
And stood in noblesse whil that he mighte see.
Was never such another as was he,
To speke of strength, and therto hardynesse;
But to his wyfes told he his secree,
Thurgh which he slew himself for wrecchidnesse.
Samson, this noble and myhty champioun,
Withouten wepon save his hondes tueye,
He slew and al to- rente the lyoún
To-ward his weddynge walkinge be the waie.
The false wif coude him wel plese and preie
Til she his counseile knewe, and she, untrewe,
Unto his foos his counsel gan betreye,
And him for-soke, and toke another newe.
Thre hundred foxis took Samson for ire,
And alle their tayles he togider bond;
And sette the foxes tailes alle on fyre,
For he in every tail hath knyt a brond;
And thay brent alle the cornes of that lond,
And alle their olyves and their vynes eeke.
A thousand men he slew eek with his hond,
And hadde no wepon but an asses cheeke.
Whan thay were slayn, so thursted him that he
Was wel nigh ded, for which he gan to preye
That God wolde of his peyne have som pitee,
And send him drynk, and else most he deye.
And out of this asses cheke, that was so dry,
Out of a side-toth sprong anon a welle,
Of which he dronk ynough, shortly to seye;
Thus halp him God, as Judicum can telle.
By verray fors at Algason, on a night,
In spite of Philistiens of that citee,
The gates of the toun he hath up plight,
And on his bak carièd them hath he,
High on an hil, wher al men might them see.
O noble almighty Samson, leef and deere,
Haddest thou nought to wommen told thy secree,
In al the world hadde not been thy peere.
This Samson neyther cyder dronk nor wyn,
Nor on his heed com rasour noon ne shere,
By precept of the messager divyn,
For alle his strengthes in his heres were.
And fully twenty wynter, yer by yere,
He hadde of Israel the governaunce.
But soone shal he wepe many a teere,
For wymmen shal him bringe to meschaunce.
Unto his lemman Dalida he tolde
That in his heres al his strengthe lay;
And falsly to his foomen she him solde,
And slepyng in hir bosom upon a day
She made to clippe or shere his heres away,
And made his foomen al his craft espien.
And whan thay found him in this weak array,
They bound him fast, and put out bothe his eyen.
But ere his heer was clippèd or i-shave,
Ther was no bond with which men might him bynde;
But now is he in prisoun in a cave,
Ther as thay made him at the mille grynde.
O noble Samson, strengest of al mankynde!
O whilom judge in glory and in richesse!
Now mayst thou wepe with thine eyen blynde,
Since thou fro wele art falle in wrecchednesse!
Thend of this caytif was, as I shal say,
His foomen made a fest upon a day,
And made him as there fool bifor them play;
And this was in a temple of gret array;
But atte last he made a foul affray.
For he two pilers shook, and made them falle,
And doun fel temple and al, and ther it lay,
And slew himsilf and eek his fomen alle;
That is to sayn, the princes every one;
And eek thre thousand bodies were ther slayn
With fallyng of the grete temple of stoon.
Of Samson now wil I no more sayn;
Be war by these ensamples, olde and playn,
That no man telle his counseil to his wyf,
Of such thing as he wold have secret fayn,
If that it touche his limbes or his lif.
Of Ercules, the sovereyn conquerour,
Singen his werkes laude and high renoun;
For in his tyme of strength he bar the flour.
He slew and rafte the skyn fro the lioún;
He of Centaures layde the boast adoun;
He Arpies slew, the cruel birddes felle;
The gold appul he raft fro the dragoún;
He drof our Cerbures the hounde of helle;
He slew the cruel tyrant Buserus,
And made his hors to eat him flesh and boon;
He slew the verray serpent venemous;
Of Achiloyus tuo hornes he raft oon;
He slew Cacus within a cave of stoon;
He slew the geaunt Anteus the stronge:
He slew the grisly bore, and that anon;
And bar the hevene upon his necke longe.
Was never wight, since the world bigan,
That slew so many monstres as dede he;
Thurghout the wide world his name ran.
What for his strengthe and for his highe bountee,
And every realme went he for to see;
He was so strong, ther might no man him lette.
At bothe the worldes endes, as saith the Trophe,
In stede of boundes he a piler sette.
A lemman hadde this noble champioun,
That highte Dejanire, fressh as May;
And as these clerkes maken mencioun,
She hath him sent a shirte fresh and gay.
Alas! this shirt, allas and wailaway!
Envenymèd was subtily withalle,
That ere he hadde wered it half a day,
It made his flesh al from his bones falle.
But nontheles som clerkes hir excusen,
That oon that highte Nessus, had it makyd.
Be as be may, I wil nought hir accusen;
But on his bak he wered this shirt al nakyd,
Til that his flesh was for the venym blackèd.
And whan he saw no other remedye,
In hote coles he hath himself i-rakèd;
For with no venym deignèd him to dye.
Thus died this mighty and worthy Ercules.
Lo! who may truste fortune eny throwe?
For he that folweth al this world of press,
Ere he be war, is oft y-layd ful lowe.
Ful wys is he that can himselven knowe!
Be war, for whan that fortune list to glose,
Than waytith she hir man to overthrowe,
By suche way as he wolde least suppose.
The mighty trone, the precious tresór,
The glorious sceptre and royal magestee,
That hadde the king Nabúgodónosóre,
With tonge scarce may descryved be.
He twyce won Jerusalem that citee;
The vessel out of the temple he with him ladde;
At Babiloyne was his sovereyn see,
In which his glorie and his delyt he hadde.
The fairest children of the blood roial
Of Israel he captive took anoon,
And made each -of them for to be his thral;
Amonges othre Daniel was oon,
That was the wisest child of everyoon;
For he the dremes of the king expounèd,
When in Chaldea was ther clerkes noon
That wiste to what end his dremes sounded
This proude king let make a statu of gold,
Sixty cubites long and seven in brede,
To which ymáge bothe yonge and olde
Comaunded he to love and have in drede,
Or in a fornays ful of flames red
He shulde be brent that wolde not obeye.
But never wolde assente to that dede
Danyel nor his yonge felawes twey.
This king of kinges proud was and elate;
He wende God that sit in majestee
Never might him bireve of his estate.
But sodeynly he left his dignitee,
I-lik a beast him semèd for to be,
And eet hay as an oxe, and lay ther-oute
In rayn, with wilde bestes walkyd he,
Til certein tyme was i-come aboute.
And lik an eglis fetheres were his heres,
His hondes like a briddes clowes were,
Til God relessèd him a certeyn yeres.
And gaf him witte, and thanne with many a tere
He thanked God, and ever he is in fear
To do amys or more to trespáce.
And ere that tyme he layd was on his bere,
He knew wel God was ful of might and grace.
His sone, which that highte Balthazar,
That held the realm after his fader day,
He by his fader coude nought be war,
For proud he was of hert and of array;
And eek an ydoláster was he ay.
His high astate assurèd him in pryde;
But fortune cast him doun, and ther he lay,
And sodeynly his realme gan divide.
A fest he made unto his lordes alle
Upon a tyme, and made them blithe be;
And than his officeres gan he calle,
“Go, bringeth forth the vesseles,” quoth he,
“The which my fader in his prosperitee
Out of the temple of Jerusalem byrafte;
And to oure hihe goddis thanke we
Of honours that oure eldres with us lafte!”
His wif, his lordes, and his concubines
Ay dronken, whiles their rioting did last,
Out of this noble vessels sondry wynes.
And on a wal this king his eyen cast,
And saw an hond armless, that wrot ful fast;
For fere of which he quoke and sighèd sore.
This hond, that Balthazar so sore agast,
Wrot, Mene, Tekel, Phares, and no more.
In al the lond magicien was ther non
That coude expounde what this lettre ment.
But Daniel expoundith it anon,
And sayde, “King, God to thy fader sent
Glori and honour, realm, tresor, and rent;
And he was proud, and nothing God ne dredde,
And therfor God gret vengeaunce on him sent,
And him biraft the realme that he hadde.
“He was out cast of mannes compainye,
With asses was his habitacioun,
And ate he hay in wet and eek in drye,
Til that he knew by grace and by resoún
That God of heven hadde dominacioún
Over every realm and every créatúre;
And than hadde God of him compassioun,
And him restored to his realm and his figúre.
“Eke thou that art his sone art proud also,
And knowest al this thing so verrayly,
And art rebél to God and art his of;
Thou dronk eek of his vessel boldely,
Thy wyf eek and thy wenches sinfully
Dronke of the same vessel sondry wynes;
And praisest false goddes cursedly;
Therfore to thee shapen ful grete pain is.
“This hond was sent from God, that on the wal
Wrot, Mene, Tekel, Phares, truste me.
Thy realm is doon, thou weyist nought at al;
Dividid is thy realm, and it shal be
To Meedes and to Perses geven,” quoth he.
And thilke same night, the king was slawe,
And Dárius occupièd his degree,
Though therto neyther had he right nor lawe.
Lordyngs, ensample here-by may ye take,
How that in lordship is no surenesse;
For when fortune wil a man forsake,
She bereth away his realm and his richesse,
And eek his frendes bothe more and lesse.
And what man hath from frendes the fortúne,
Mishap wil make them enemyes, I gesse;
This proverbe is ful sothe and ful comune.
Cenobia, of Pálmire the queene,
As writen Perciens of hir noblesse,
So worthy was in armes and so keene,
That no wight passèd hir in hardynesse,
Nor in lynáge, nor other gentilesse.
Of the kinges blood of Pers she is descendid;
I say not that she hadde most fairnesse,
But of hir shap she might not be amendid.
From hir childhood I fynde that she fledde
Office of wommen, and to woode she wente,
And many a wilde hertes blood she shedde
With arrows brode that she to them sente;
She was so swyft, that she anon them hente.
And when that she was elder, she wolde kille
Leoúns, lepards, and beres al to-rente,
And in hir armes hold them at hir wille.
She dorste wilde bestes dennes seke,
And runnen in the mounteyns al the night,
And slepe under a bussh; and she coude eeke
Wrastille by verray fors and verray might
With eny yong man, were he never so wight.
Ther mighte no thing in hir armes stonde.
She kept hir maydenhed from every wight;
To no man deynèd hir for to be bounde.
But atte last hir frendes have hir maried
To Odenake, a prince of that citee,
Al were it so that she him longe taried.
And ye shal understonde how that he
Hadde suche fantasies as hadde she.
But nontheles, whan thay wedded were,
Thay lyved in joye and in felicitee;
To ech of them was the other leef and deere.
Tuo sones by this Odenak had she,
The which she kept in vertu and honoúr.
But now unto our purpos torne we;
I say, so worshipful a créatúre,
And wys, therwith, and large with mesúre,
So stedfast in the werre and curteys eeke,
Nor more labour might in fight endure,
Was nowher noon in al this world to seeke.
Hir riche array, if it might be y-told,
As wel in vessel as in hir clothing,
She was al clothèd in jewels and in gold;
And eek she lafte nought for hir huntyng
To have of sondry tonges ful knowing;
Whan she hadde leyser and might therto entende,
To lerne bookes was al hir likyng,
How she in vertu might hir lif despende.
And shortly of this story for to trete,
So doughty was hir housbond and eek she,
That they have conquered many realmes grete
In thorient, with many a fair citee
Appurtenant unto the magestee
Of Rome, and with strong hond helden hem faste;
Nor never might their fomen make them flee
Ay while that Odenakes dayes last;
Her batails, who-so lust them for to rede,
Agaynst Sapor the king and other mo,
And how that this processe fel in dede,
Why she conquéred, and what title hadde therto,
And after of hir meschief and hir woo,
How that she was besegèd and i-take,
Let them unto my mayster Petrark go,
That writeth of this y-nough, I undertake.
Whan Odenake was deed, she mightily
The realmes held, and with hir propre hond
Ageinst hir foos she faught ful trewely,
There was not king nor prince in al that lond
That was not glad if he that grace fond
That she wold not upon his lond warraye.
With hir thay made their alliaunce by bond,
To be in peese, and let hir ryde and play.
The emperour of Rome, Claudius,
Nor him bifore the Romayn Galiene,
He dorste never be so córrageous,
Nor noon Ermine, nor Egipciene,
No Surrien, nor noon Arrabiene
Withinne the feld that durste with hir fight
Lest that she wolde them with her hondes sleen,
Or with hir armee putten them to flighte.
In kinges habyt went hir sones tuo,
As heires of their fadres realmes alle;
And Hérmanno and eek Themáleo
Their names were, as Parciens them calle.
But ay fortune hath in hir hony galle;
This mighty queene may no while endure,
Fortune out of hir realme made hir falle
To wrecchednesse and to mysádventure.
Aurilian, whan that the governaunce
Of Rome cam into his hondes tway,
He thought him on this queen to do vengeaunce;
And with his legiouns he took the way
Toward Cenoby; and shortly for to say
He made hir flee, and atte last hir hente,
And feterid hir, and eek hir children tweye,
And won the lond, and home to Rome he wente.
Amonges other thinges that he wan,
Hir car, that shon with gold and ivory,
This grete Romayn, this Aurilian,
Hath with him lad, for that men shulde see;
Bifore this triumphe walkith she,
And gilte cheynes in hir necke hongynge;
Corounèd she was, as aftir hir degree,
And ful of jewels chargid was hir clothynge.
Allas! fortune! she that whilom was
Dredful to many a king and emperour,
Now gazeth al the pepul on hir, alas!
And she that helmyd was in strong vizór,
And won bi force many a toune and toure,
Shal on hir heed now were a kerchief gray;
And she that bar the scepter and the power,
Shal bere a distaf hir coste for to paye.
O noble, O worthi Petro, glori of Spayne,
Whom fortune held so high in majestee,
Well oughte men thy piteous deth complayne;
Thy bastard brother made thee to flee,
And after, at a siege, by subtiltee
Thou were bytrayèd, and lad to his tent,
Wher as he with his oune hond slew thee,
Succedyng in thy lond and in thy rent.
The feld of snow, with the eagle of blak therinne,
Caught by the lioun, like furnace coloured rede,
He brewède al the cursednesse and synne,
The Wikked Nest was werker of this neede.
No warlike Oliver that ay took heede
Of trouthe and honour, but of Brittany
Genilon Oliver, córruptid for mede,
Broughte this worthy king thro for to dye.
O worthy Petro king of Cipres, also,
That Alisaunder won by high maistrýe,
Ful many an hethen wroughtest thou ful wo,
Of which thin oune lieges had envýe;
And for no thing but for thy chivalrie,
Thay in thy bed have slayn thee by the morwe.
Thus can fortune the wheel governe and gye,
And out of joye bringe men into sorwe.
Of Melayn grete Barnabo Viscount,
God of delyt and scourge of Lumbardye,
Why shuld thyn infortúne I nought accounte,
Synce in estaat thou clomben were so hye?
Thy brother sone, that was thy double allie,
For he thy nevew was and sone in lawe,
Withinne his prisoun made thee to dye;
But none know why or how thou wer y-slawe.
Of Hugilin of Pise the langour
Ther may no tonge telle for pitee.
But litel out of Pise stant a tour,
In whiche tour in prisoun put was he;
And with him be his litel children three,
The eldest skarsly fyf yer was of age;
Allas! fortúne! it was gret crueltee
Suche briddes for to put in such a cage.
Damnyd he was to deye in that prisoun,
For Roger, which that bisshop was of Pise,
Had on him made a fals suggestioun;
Thurgh which the peple gan on him arise,
And putten him in prisoun in such wise
As ye have herd, and mete and drynk he hadde
So smal that scarce wel it may suffise,
And therwithal it was ful pore and badde.
And on a day bifel that in that hour
Whan that his mete was wont to be i-brought,
The gayler shut the dores of that tour.
He herd it wel, but yit he saw it nought,
And in his hert anon ther fel a thought
That thay for hungir wolde doon him dyen.
“Alas!” quoth he, “allas! that I was wrought!”
Therwith the teeres felle fro his eyen.
His yongest sone, that three yer was of age,
Unto him sayde, “Fader, why do ye wepe?
Whan wil the gayler bringen oure potáge?
Is ther no morsel bred that ye do kepe?
I am so hongry that I may not sleepe.
Now wolde God that I might slepen ever!
Than shulde not hunger in my wombe crepe.
Ther is no thing save bred that me were lever.”
Thus day by day this child bigan to crie,
Til in his fadres bosom adoun he lay,
And sayde, “Far wel, fader, I must dye!”
And kist his fader, and dyde the same day.
And whan the fader him not helpen may,
For wo his armes tuo he gan to byte,
And sayde, “Fortúne, alas and waylaway!
Their false wiles to my wo I wyte.”
His childer wende that it for hongir was,
That he his armes gnawed, and nought for wo,
And sayden, “Fader, do nought so, allas!
But rather eet the flesh upon us tuo.
Oure flesh thou gave us, oure flesh take us fro,
And ete ynough;” right thus thay to him seyde.
And after that, withinne a day or tuo,
Thay layde them in his lappe adoun and deyde.
Himself despeired eek for honger starf.
Thus ended is this mighty erl of Pise;
For his estate fortune fro him carf.
Of this tragede it ought ynough suffise;
Who-so will here it in a longer wise,
Rede the grete poet of Itaile
That highte Daunte, for he can it devise,
Fro poynt to poynt nought oon word wil he fayle.
Although that Nero were as vicious
As any fiend that lieth ful lowe adoun,
Yit he, as tellith us Suetonius,
This wyde world had in subjeccioun,
Bothe est and west, south and septemtrioun.
Of rubies, sapphires, and of perles white,
Were alle his clothes embroidred up and doun;
For he in gemmis gretly gan delite.
More delycat, more pompus of array,
More proud was never emperour than he.
That ylke cloth that he hadde wered a day,
After that tyme he wolde it never see,
Nettis of gold thred had he gret plentee,
To fisshe in Tyber, whan him list to pleye.
His willes were as lawe in his degree,
For fortune as his frend wold him obeye.
He Rome brente for his delicacie;
The senatours he slew upon a day,
To here how men wolde wepen and wolde crye;
And slew his brother, and by his suster lay,
His modir made he in pitous array,
Her body he let slytten, to byholde
Wher he conceyved was, so waylaway!
That he so litel of his modir tolde.
No tear out of his eyen for that sighte
He wept; but sayde, a fair womman was she.
Gret wonder is how that he coude or mighte
Be domesman upon hir dede beautee.
The wyn to bringen him comaundid he,
And drank anon, non other wo he made.
Whan might is tornèd unto crueltee,
Allas! too deepe wil the venym wade.
In youthe a maister hadde this emperour,
To teche him letterature and curtesye;
For of moralitee he was the flour,
As in his tyme, but if the bokes lye.
And whil his maister had of him maistrie,
He made him be so connyng and so souple,
That longe tyme it was ere tyrranye
Or ony vice dorst on him uncouple.
This Seneca, of which that I devyse,
Bycause that Nero had of him such drede,
For he fro vices wolde the king chastise
Discretly as by word, and nought by dede.
“Sir,” wold he sayn, “an emperour mot neede
Be vertuous and hate tyrannye.”
For which he in a bath made him to bleede
On both his armes, til he moste dye.
This Nero hadde eek of a custumance
In youthe before his maister for to ryse,
Which after-ward he thought a gret grevaunce;
Therfore he made him deyen in this wise.
But nontheles this Seneca the wise
Chose in a bath to deye in this manére,
Rather than to have another tormentise;
And thus hath Nero slayn his maister deere.
Now fel it so that fortune lust no lenger
The highe pride of Nero to cherice;
For though he were strong, yit was she strenger;
She thoughte thus, “By God! I am too nyce,
To set a man that is fulfilled of vice
In high degree, and emperour him calle;
By God! out of his sete I wil him trice:
Whan he least weneth, soonest shal he falle.
The poeple rose on him upon a night
For his defaute, and whan he is aspyed,
Out of his dores anon he hath him dight
Aloone, and where he wende he was allyed,
He knokkede fast; and ay the more he cried,
The faster shutte thay the doores alle.
Than wist he wel he had nowher to hide,
And went his way, no longer durst he calle.
The peple cried, and rumbled up and doun,
That with his eres herd he how thay sayde,
“Wher is this false traitour, this Neroun?”
For fere almost out of his witte he fled,
And to his goddess piteously he prayde
For socour, but it mighte nought betyde;
For drede of this him thoughte that he dyde,
And ran into a gardyn hym to hyde.
And in this gardyn fond he cherles twaye
Down sittyng by a fyr ful greet and reed.
And to these cherles tuo he gan to pray
To slay him, and to girden off his heed,
That to his body, whan that he were deed,
Were no despyt y-don for his defame.
Himself he slew, he coude no better speed;
Of which fortúne thai laughed and hadde game.
Was never capitaine under a king
That realmes mo put in subjeccioun,
Nor strenger was in feld of alle thing
As in his tyme, nor gretter of renoun;
Nor more pompous in heih presumpcioun,
Than Oliphern, which that fortune ay kiste
So wantonly, and ladde him up and doun,
Til that his heed was off ere he it wiste.
Nought oonly that the world had of him awe,
For losyng of richess and libertee,
But he made every man deneye his lawe;
Nabógodónosúr was lord, sayde he;
No other god or king shuld honoured be.
Ageinst his heste dar no wight trespáce,
Save in Betholia, a strong citee,
Wher Eliachim a prest was of that place.
But tak keep of that dethe of Olipherne:
Amyd his host he dronke lay one night
Withinne his tente, large as is a berne;
And yit, for al his pomp and al his might,
Judith, a womman, as he lay upright
Slepying, his heed off smot, and fro his tent
Ful privily she stole from every wight,
And with his heed unto hir toun she wente.
What needith it of king Antiochus,
To telle his heye and royal magestee,
His heyhe pride, his werkes venemous?
For such another was ther noon as he.
Rede which that he was in Machabee,
And rede the proude wordes that he sayde,
And why he fel fro his prosperitee,
And in an hil how wrecchidly he deyde.
Fortune him hath enhauncèd so in pryde,
That verraily he wend he might atteyne
Unto the sterres upon every syde,
And in a balaunce weyen ech mounteyne,
And alle the floodes of the see restreyne.
And Goddes peple had he most in hate;
Them wold he slee in torment and in peyne,
Wenyng that God might not his pride abate.
And for that Nichanor and Thimothee
With Jewes were venquisht mightily,
Unto the Jewes such an hate had he,
That he bad bring his car ful hastily,
And swor, and sayde ful despiteously,
Unto Jerusalem he wold eftsoone,
To wreke his ire on it ful cruelly;
But of his purpos he was let ful soone.
God, for his menace, him so sore smoot
With ínvisíble wounde ay íncuráble,
That in his guttes was the payn so hot,
That wel nigh was his lif then importáble.
And certeynly the deth was resonáble;
For many a mannes guttes dede he peyne;
But fro his purpos cursed and damnáble,
For al his smert, he wolde him nought restreyne.
But bad anon apparailen his host,
And sodeynly, ere he was of it aware,
God dauntede al his pride and al his boast
For he so sore fel out of his car,
That hurte his lymbes and his skyn to-tare,
So that he mighte nomore go or ryde;
But in a chare aboute men did him bare
Al bruised and broken, bothe bak and syde.
The wrath of God him smot so cruely,
That in his body wicked wormes crepte,
And therwithal he stonk so orribly,
That noon of al his servaunts that him kepte,
Whether that he awook or else slepte,
Mighte nought the stynk of his body endure.
In this meschief he weylèd and eek wepte,
And knew God lord of every créatúre.
To al his host and to himself also
Ful loathsome was the stynk of this vilayne;
Nor no man might him beren to or fro;
And in his stynk and in his orrible payne
He starf ful wrecchedly in a mountayne.
Thus hath this robbour and this homicide,
That many a man had made wepe and playne,
Such guerdoun as that longeth unto pryde.
The story of Alisaunder is so comúne,
That every wight that hath discrecioun
Hath herd som-what or al of his fortúne;
Thys wyde world as in conclusioun
He won by strengthe, or for his high renoun,
Thay weren glad for pees unto him sende.
The pride of man and boast he layd adoun,
Wher-so he cam, unto the worldes ende.
Comparisoun yit mighte never be makèd
Bitwen him and noon other conquerour;
For al this world for drede of him hath quakèd.
He was of knyghthod and of fredom flour;
Fortune him made the heir of hir honoúr;
Save wyn and wymmen, no thing might aswage
His high entent in armes and laboúr,
So was he ful of leonyne corage.
What pris were it to him, though I you tolde
Of Dárius, and an hundred thousand mo
Of kynges, princes, dukes, and erles bolde,
Which he conquérèd and brought unto wo?
I say, as fer as men may ryde or go,
The world was his, what shold I more devyse?
For thouhe I write or tolde you evermo
Of his knighthood, it mighte nought suffise.
Twelf yer he regnèd, as saith Machabee;
Philippes son of Macedon he was,
That first was king of Grece that contree.
O worthy gentil Alisaundre, alas!
That ever shulde falle such a case!
Empoysoned of thin oune folk thou were;
Thy Six fortune is torned into an Ace
And right for thee she never wepte a teere
Who shal me give teeres to compleigne
This deth of gentiless and of fraunchise,
Who al the worlde had in his demeine;
And yit him thought it mighte nought suffice,
So ful was his coráge of high emprise.
Allas! who shal me helpe to endite
Fals infortúne, and poysoun to despise,
The whiche two cause of this wo I write.
By wisedom, manhod, and by gret laboúr,
Fro humblehede to royal majestee
Up roos he, Julius the conquerour,
That won al the occident by land and see,
By strengthe of hond or else by tretee,
And unto Rome made them tributarie
And since of Rome the emperour was he,
Til that fortúne wax his adversarie.
O mighty Cesar, that in Thessalie
Against Pompeius, fader thin in lawe,
That of the orient had the chivalrie,
As fer as that the day bigynneth to dawe,
Thrugh thi knighthod thou hast him take and slawe,
Save fewe folk that with Pompeus fledde;
Thurgh which thou puttist al the east in awe;
Thanke fortúne that so wel thee spedde.
But now a litel while I wil bewails
This Pompeus, the noble governour
Of Rome, which that fled from this bataile;
Alas! oon of his men, a fals traitoúr,
His heed off smoot, to wynnen him favoúr
Of Julius, and him the hed he broughte.
Alas! Pompey, of the orient conquerour,
That fortune unto such an end thee broughte.
To Rome agayn repaireth Julius,
With his triumphe laurial ful hye.
But on a tyme Brutus and Cassius,
That ever hadde to his estat envýe,
Ful privily hath made conspiracie
Against this Julius in subtil wise;
And cast the place in which he shulde dye
With daggers bright, as I shal you devyse.
This Julius to the capitoile wente,
Upon a day, as he was wont to goon;
And in the capitoil anon him hente
This false Brutus, and his other foon,
And stikèd him with bodekyns anon
With many a wounde, and thus thay let him lye.
But never groned he at no strook but oon,
Or ellse at tuo, but-if the storie lye.
So manly was this Julius of herte,
And so wel loved estatly honestee,
That though his deedly woundes sore smerte,
His mantil over his hipes castes he,
For no man shulde seen his bare body.
And as he lay adeyinge in a traunce,
And wiste wel that verrayly deed was he
Of honestee yet had he rémembraúnce.
Lucan, to thee this story I recomende,
And to Swetoun and to Valirius also,
That al the story writen word and ende,
How to these grete conqueroúres tuo
Fortune was firste frend and after of.
No man may trust upon hir favour longe,
But watch and wait for hir for evermo,
Witnesse on alle thise conqueroures stronge.
This riche Cresus, whilom king of Lyde,
Of which Cresús Cirus him sore dredde,
Yet was he caught amyddes al his pride,
And to the fyr to brenne him men him ladde.
But such a rayn doun fro the heven shedde,
That slew the fyr and made him to escape.
But to be ware yet grace noon he hadde,
Til fortune on the gallows made him gape.
Whan he escapéd was, he coud nought stente
For to bygynne a newe werre agayn;
He wende wel, for that fortúne him sente
Such hap, that he escaped thurgh the rayn,
That of his foos he mighte not be slayn.
And eek a dream upon a night him lad,
Of which he was so proud and eek so fayn,
That to vengeaunce he al his herte bad.
Upon a tree he was set, as him thoughte,
Wher Jubiter him wasshed bothe bak and side,
And Phebus eek a fair towel him broughte
To drye him with, and therfore wax his pride;
And to his doughter that stood him biside,
Which that he knew in high sciénce abounde,
And bad hir tellen what it signifyde,
And she his dreem right thus began expounde.
“The tree,” quod she, “the gallows is to mene,
And Jubiter betokeneth snow and rayn,
And Phebus with his towel al so clene,
Tho be, the sonne stremes, soth to sayn.
Thou shalt anhangid be, fader, certayn;
Rayn shal thee wash, and sonne shal thee drye.”
Thus warned she him ful plat and ek ful playn
His doughter, which that callèd was Phanie.
And hangèd was Cresus this proude king,
His royal trone might him not availe.
Tragedie is noon other maner thing,
Nor can for other thinges cry or waile,
But for that fortune wil alway assayle
With unware strook the realmes that be proude;
For whan men trusteth hir, than wil she faile,
And cover hir bright face with a clowde.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52