The Persones Tale
The sonne fro the south line is descendid
So lowe, that it was nought to my sight
Degrees nyne and twenty as in hight.
Foure on the clokke it was, so as I gesse,
For eleven foote, or litil more or lesse,
My shadow was at thilk tyme of the yere,
Of which feet as my lengthe parted were
In sixe feet equal of proporcioun.
Therwith the mones exaltacioun,
In mena Libra, alway gan ascende,
As we were entryng at a cownes ende.
For which our Host, as he was wont to gye,
As in this case, our joly compainye,
Sayd in this wise: Lordyngs, every one,
Now lakketh us no tales mo than oon,
Fulfillèd is my sentens and decré;
I trowe that we have herd of ech degré
Almost fulfillèd is myn ordynaunce;
I pray to God so geve him right good chaunce,
That tellith to us his tale lustily.
Sir prest, quoth he, art thou a vicary?
Or art a parsoun? say soth, by thy fay.
Be what thou be, breke thou nought oure play;
For every man, save thou, hath told his tale.
Unbocle, and tell us one withoute faile,
For trewely me thinketh by thy chier,
Thou sholdist wel knyt up a gret matier.
Tel us a fable anon, for Goddes sake!
This Persoun to oure oste quikly spake:
Upon this word we have assented soone.
Jer. 6°. State super vias, et videte et interrogate de semitis antiquis quæ sit via bona, et ambulate in eâ, et invenietis refrigerium animabus vestris, etc.
Owre swete Lord God of heven, that no man wil perische, but wol that we comen alle to the knowleche of him, and to the blisful lif that is durable, admonisheth us by the prophet Jeremye, that saith in this wise: Stond upon the weyes, and see the axe of olde pathes, that is to sayn, of old sentence, which is the good way, and walk in that weie, and ye shul fynde refresshyng for youre soules, etc. Many be the wayes spirituels that leden folk to oure Lord Jhesu Christ, and to the regne of glorie; of whiche weyes, ther is a ful noble way, and ful convenient, which may not faile to man nor to womman, that thrugh synne hath mysgon fro the righte way of Jerusalem celestial; and this wey is cleped penitence. Of which men shulden gladly herken and enquere with al there herte, to wyte what is penitence, and whens it is cleped penitence, and in what maner, and in how many maneres been the actiones or workynges of penaunce, and how many species be of penitences, and whiche thinges apperteyne and byhoven to penitence, and whiche thinges destourben penitence.
Seint Ambrose saith, that penitence is the pleynyng of man for the gilt that he hath doon, and no more to do ony thing for which he ought to pleyn. And som doctour saith, penitence is the lamentynge of man that sorweth for his synne, and peyneth himself for he hath mysdoon. Penitence, with certeyn circumstaunces, is verray repentaunce of man, that holdeth himself in sorwe and in wo for his giltes; and for he shal be verray penitent, he shal first bywaile the synnes that he hath do, and stedfastly purpose in his hert to have schrifte of mouth, and to doon satisfaccioun, and never to do thing for which he oughte more to bywayle or to complayne, and to continue in goode werkes, or elles his repentaunce may nought avayle. For, as saith saint Isidre, he is a japere and a gabbere, and no verray repentaunt, that eftsoone doth
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