Now was ther then a justice in the toun,
That governour was of that regioún.
And so bifel, this judge his eyen caste
Upon this mayde, consideryng hir ful faste,
As she cam forby where the judge stood.
Anon his herte chaungèd and his mood,
So was he caught with beautee of this mayde,
And to him-self ful privily he sayde,
“This mayde shal be myn for any man.”
Anon the feend into his herte ran,
And taughte him sodeinly, that by a slighte
This mayde to his purpos wynne he mighte.
For certes, by no fors, nor by no mede,
Him thought he was not able for to speede;
For she was strong of frendes, and eek she
Confermèd was in such soveráyne bountee
That wel he wist he might hir never wynne,
As for to make hir with hir body synne.
For which with great deliberacioun
He sent after a clerk was in the toun,
The which he knew for subtil and for bold.
This judge unto the clerk his tale hath told
In secret wyse, and made him to assure,
He shulde telle it to no créatúre;
And if he dede he shulde lose his heed.
When that al plotted was this cursed deed,
Glad was the judge, and made him goode cheere,
And gaf him giftes precious and deere.

When shapen was al this conspiracye
Fro poynt to poynt, how that his lecherie
Parformèd sholde be ful subtilly,
As ye shul here after-ward openly,
Hom goth this clerk, that highte Claudius.
This false judge, that highte Apius,—
(So was his name, for it is no fable,
But knowen for a storial thing notáble;
The story is al soth it is no doute),—
This false judge goth now fast aboute
To hasten his delit al that he may.
And so bifel, soone after on a day
This false judge, as telleth us the story,
As he was wont, sat in his consistory,
And gaf his doomes upon sondry case;
This false clerk com forth a ful good pace,
And saide, “Lord, if that it be your wille,
So do me right upon this piteous bille,
In which I pleyne upon Virginius.
And if he wile seyn it is nought thus,
I wil it prove and fynde good witnesse,
That soth is that my bille wil expresse.”
The judge answerd, “Of this in his absence
I may not give diffinityf sentence.
Let do him calle, and I wil gladly here;
Thou shalt have alle right, and no wrong heere.”
Virginius com to wit the judges wille,
And right anon was red this cursed bille;
The sentence of it was as ye shul heere.

“To you, my lord sir Apius so deere,
Sheweth youre pore servaunt Claudius,
How that a knight callèd Virginius,
Ageins the lawe, agens alle equytee,
Holdeth, expresse ageinst the wille of me,
My servaunt, which that is my thral by right,
Which fro myn hous was stolen on a night
Whiles she was ful yong, that wil I preve
By witnesse, lord, so that ye you not greve;
She is his doughter nought, what-so he say,
Wherfore to you, my lord the judge, I pray,
Yelde me my thralle, if that it be your wille.”
Lo, this was al the sentence of the bille.

Virginius gan upon the clerk byholde;
But hastily, ere he his tale tolde,
He wolde have provèd it, as shold a knight,
And eek by witnessyng of many a wight,
That al was fals that sayde his adversarie;
This cursed judge wolde no lenger tarye,
Nor heere a word more of Virginius,
But gaf his judgement, and saide thus;
“I deme anon this clerk his servaunt have.
Thou shalt no lenger in thin hous hir save.
Go bringe hir forth, and put hir in oure warde.
This clerk shal have his thral; thus I awarde.”

And when this worthy knight Virginius,
Thurgh the assent of this judge Apius,
Moste by force his deere doughter give
Unto the judge, in lecchery to lyve,
He goth him hom, and sette him in his halle,
And leet anon his deere doughter calle;
And with a face deed as asshen colde,
Upon hir humble face he gan byholde,
With fadres pitee stiking thrugh his herte,
Though wolde he from his purpos not depart.
“Doughter,” quoth he, “Virginia be thy name,
Ther be tuo weyes, eyther deth or shame,
That thou most suffre, alas that I was bore!
For never thou deservedest wherfore
To deyen with a swerd or with a knyf.
O deere doughter, ender of my lif,
Which I have fostred up with such plesaúnce,
That never wert out of my rémembraúnce;
O doughter, which that art my laste wo,
And in this lif my laste joye also,
O gemme of chastitee, in pacience
Tak thou thy deth, for this is my sentence;
For love and not for hate thou must be deed,
My piteous hond must smyten off thin hed.
Allas that ever Apius thee saw!
Thus hath he falsly judgèd of the law.”
And told hir al the case, as ye bifore
Have herd, it nedeth nought to telle it more.

“Mercy, my deere fader,” quoth this mayde.
And with that word she bothe hir armes layde
Aboute his nekke, as she was wont to do,
The teeres brast out of hir eyen tuo,
And sayde: “Goode fader, shal I dye?
Is ther no grace? is ther no remedye?”
“No, certeyn, deere doughter myn,” quoth he.
“Than geve me leve, fader myn,” quoth she,
“My deth for to compleyne a litel space;
For pardy, Jephthah gaf his doughter grace
For to compleyne, er he hir slew, allas!
And God it wot, no thing was hir trespás,
But that she ran hir fader first to see,
To welcome him with gret solemnitee.”
And with that word aswoun she fel anon,
And after,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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