this crowe, as is a snow-whyt swan,
And countrefete the speche of every man
He coude, whan he shulde
tell a tale.
Ther is withinne this world no nightingale
That coude by a thousandth part so wel
mery that it was mervaile.
Now had this Phebus in his hous a wyf,
Which that he lovèd more than his lif,
night and day did evermor diligence
Hir for to please, and do hir reverence;
Save only, if the soth that
I shal sayn,
Jalous he was, and wold have kept hir fayn,
For him were loth deceivèd for to be;
And so is
every wight in such degree;
But al for nought for it availeth nought.
A good wyf, that is clene of werk and
Schuld not be kept under no key certágn;
And trewely the labour is in vayn
To kepe a shrewe, for
it wil nought be;
This hold I for a verray certainty,
To spille labour for to kepe wyves;
Thus olde clerkes
writen in there Iyves.
But now to purpos, as I first bigan.
This worthi Phebus doth al that he can
To pleasen hir, wenyng by
And for his manhood and his governaúnce,
That no man shuld han put him fro hir loove.
God it woot, no man so strong can prove
As to destroy a thing, the which natúre
Hath naturelly set in a
Tak any brid, and put him in a cage,
And do al thin entent, and thy coráge,
To foster it tenderly with
mete and drynk,
And eek with alle the deyntees thou canst think,
And keep it al so kyndly as thou may;
his cage of gold be never so gay,
Yit hath this brid, by twenty thousand fold,
Far rather in a forest, wyld
Go eten wormes, and such wrecchidnes.
For ever this brid wil do his busyness
To scape out
of his cage whan that he may;
His libertee the brid desireth aye.
Let take a cat, and foster him wel with
And tender fleish, and mak his bed of silk,
And let him see a mous go by the wal,
Anon he wayveth
mylk and fleish, and al,
And every deyntee which is in that hous,
Such appetit hath he to ete the mous.
heer hath nature his dominacioun,
And appetit will pass discrescioun.
Also a she wolf hath a vilayns kynde;
lowest wolf of al that she may fynde,
Or lest of reputacioun, him wol she take
In tyme whan hir list to
have a mate.
Alle these ensamples tel I for those men
That be untrewe; I speke not of wommen.
have ever a lecherous appetit
On lower thing to párforme there delit
Than on her wyves, be thayt never
Nor never so trewe, nor so debonaire.
Flesh is so fickel, God give it mischaunce,
That we can
in no thinge have plesaúnce
That longeth unto vertu eny while.
This Phebus, which that thought upon no
Deceyvèd was for al his jolitee;
For under him another hadde she,
A man of litil reputacioun,
worth to Phebus in comparisoun.
Mor harm it is; it happeth ofte so;
Of which ther cometh bothe harm and
And so bifel whan Phebus was absént,
His wif anon hath for hir lemman sent.
Her lemman? certes,
this is a knavish speche;
Forgive it me, and that I you biseche.
The wise Plato saith, as ye may rede,
word must neede accorde with the dede,
If men shal telle propurly a thing,
The word must wel accord
with the thing werkyng.
I am a boystous man, right thus say I;
There is no difference trewely
Bytwix a wyf
that is of high degree,
If of hir body díshonést she be
And one the poorest wenche, other then this,
If so be
that thay werke bothe amys,
But that the gentil in estat above
She shal be clepèd his lady as in love;
for that other is a pore womman,
She shal be cleped his wenche and his lemman;
And, God it wot, my
goode lieve brother,
Men layn the one as lowe as lieth that other.
Right so betwixe a cruel gret tiraúnt
an outlaw, or ese a thef erraúnt,
The same I say, there is no difference,
(To Alisaunder told was this senténce)
for the tiraunt is of greter might
By force of soldiers for to slay doun right,
And brenne hous and home,
and make ruin,
Lo, therfor is he cleped a capitayn;
And, for an outlawe hath but soldiers few,
And not so
gret distruccioún may do,
Nor bringe a contree to so gret meschief,
Men clepen him an outlawe or a theef.
for I am a man not texted wel,
I will to you no more ensaumples tel;
I wol go to my tale, as I bigan.
Whan Phebus wyf hadde sent for hir lemman,
Anon thay wroughten al her stelthy love.
This white crow,
that hung in cage above,
Bihild there werk, and sayde never a word.
And whan that hom was come Phebus
This crowe sang, Cuckow, cuckow, cuckow!
What? brid, quod Phebus, what song singest
Never were thou wont to merily to synge,
But to myn hert it was a réjoysýnge
To here thi vois? allas!
what song is this?
By God, quoth he, I synge not amys.
Phebus, quoth he, for al thy worthyness,
al thy beautee and thy gentiless,
For alle thy songes, and thy menstralcie,
For al thy watching, blinded is
By one of litel reputacioun,
Nought worth to thee as in comparisoun
The value of a gnat, so may
For on thy bed thy wif I saw him swyve.
What will ye more? the crowe anon him tolde,
tokens, and by wordes bolde,
How that his wyf had doon hir treacherie,
Him to gret shame, and to gret
And told him oft he saw it with his ee.
This Phebus gan away-ward for to flee;
He thought would
brast in tuo this sorrowful herte.
His bowe he bent, and sett therin a dart;
And in his ire he hath his wif
This is theffect, ther is no more to sayn.
For sorrow of which he brak his menstralcye,