The Man of Lawes Tale

Oure Hoste saw that in heven the brighte sonne
Of his artificial day the arke had ronne
The fourthe part, of half an hour and more;
And though he were not depe expert in lore,
He wist it was the eightetenthe day
Of April, that is messanger to May;
And saw wel that the shade of every tree
Was in the lengthe the same quantitee
That was the body erecte, that causèd it;
And therfore by the shadwe he took his wit,
That Phebus, which that shoon so fair and brighte,
Degrees was five and fourty clombe on highte;
And for that day, as in that latitude,
It was ten of the clok, he gan conclude;
And sodeynly he put his hors aboute.
“Lordynges,” quoth he, “I warne you al the route,
The fourthe party of this day is goon;
Now, for the love of God and of seint Jon,
Lose no tyme, as farforth as ye may,
Lordynges, the tyme passeth, night and day,
And stelith from us, either pryvely slepyng,
Or else thurgh negligence in oure wakyng,
As doth the streem, that torneth never agayn,
Descendyng from the mounteyn into playn.
Wel can Senek and many philosópher
Bywaylen time, more than gold in cofre.
For losse of catel may recovered be,
But losse of tyme it grieveth us, quoth he.
It wil nat come agyn, withoute drede,
Nomore than wil Malkyns maydenhede,
When she hadde lost it in her wantonnesse.
Let us nat waste it thus in ydelnesse.
“Sir Man of Lawe,” quoth he, “so have ye blisse,
Telle us a tale anon, as covenant ys.
Ye be submitted thurgh your free assent
To stonden in this case at my judgement,
Acquyt you then, and hold to youre byheste;
Then have ye doon your devour atte leste.”
“Hoste,” quoth he, “De par Dieux I assente,
To breke covenant is nat myn entent.
Byheste is dette, and I wol holde fayn
Al my byhest, I can no better sayn.
For such lawe as a man giveth a wight,
He shuld himselve it usen as by right.
Thus wil oure text: but non the less certeyn
I can right now non other tale seyn,
That Chaucer, though he knows but foolishly
Of metres and of rymyng certeynly,
Hath seyd them in such English as he can
Of olde tyme, as knoweth many man.
And if he have nought sayd them, leeve brother,
In one bok, he hath seyd them in another.
For he hath told of lovers up and doun,
Mo than Ovide made of mencioun
In his Epistelles, that be so olde.
What shuld I tellen them, since they be tolde?
In youthe he writ of Coys and Alcioun,
And since hath he also spoke of everyon
These noble wyfes, and these lovers eek,
Who-so his large volume wile seeke.
Clepèd the seintes of Cupide;
Ther may he see the large woundes wyde
Of Lucresse, and of Babiloun Tysbee;
The sorrow of Dido for the fals Enee;
The grief of Phillis for hir Demephon;
The pleynt of Dyane and of Ermyon,
Of Adrian, and of Ysyphilee;
The barryn yle stondyng in the see;
The drowned Leandere for his fayre Erro;
The teeres of Eleyn, and eek the wo
Of Bryxseyde, and of Leodomia;
The crueltee of the queen Medea,
The litel children hangyng up above,
For thilke Jason, that was so fals of love.
O Ypermystre, Penollope, and Alceste,
Youre wyfhood he comendeth with the beste.
But certeynly no worde writeth he
Of thilke wikked ensample of Canace,
That loved hir owen brother synfully;
On whiche cursed stories I sey fy!
Or elles of Tyro Appoloneus,
How that the cursed kyng Anteochus
Byreft his doughter of hir maydenhede,
As horrible a tale as man may reede,
When he hir threw upon the pavement.
And therfore he of ful avysement.
Wolde never wryte in non of his sermouns
Of such unkynde abhominaciouns;
Nor I wil non reherse, if that I may.
But of my tale how shal I do this day?
Me were loth to be lykned douteles
To Muses, that men clepen Pyerides.
(Methamorphoseos wot what I mene);
But nontheles I rekke not a bene,
Though I come after him and somwhat lacke,
I speke as prose, and let him rymes make.”
And with that word, he with a sobre cheere
Bygan his tale, as ye shal after heere.

O hateful sad condicion of povert,
With thurst, with cold, with hunger so confoundyd,
To asken help it shameth thee in thin hert,
If thou non aske, with neede so art thou woundyd,
That verray neede unwrappeth al thy woundes hyd;
To save thy lif thou most for indigence
Or stele, or begge, or borrow thyn expens.
Thou blamest Crist, and seyst ful bitterly,
He mis-divideth riches temporal;
And thy neyboúr thou enviest synfully;
And seyst thou hast too litel, and he hath al.
Parfay, sayst thou, som tyme he reckon shal,
Whan that his tayl shal burn in fyres red,
For he nought helpeth the needful in his neede.

Herken what is the sentens of the wyse,
Better to dye than suffre indigence;
Thy nexte neybour wol thee soone despyse,
If thou be pore, farwel thy reverence.
Yet of the wyse man take this senténce,
Alle the dayes of pore men be sicke;
Be war therfore ere thou come to that prikke.
If thou be pore, thy brother hateth thee,
And alle thy frendes flee from thee, allas!
O riche marchaunds, ful of welth be ye,
O noble prudent folk as in this case,
Youre bagges be nat fild with double ace,
But with six five, that helpeth on your chaunce;
At Crystemasse wel mery may ye daunce.

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.