Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
 
The Canterbury Tales
The Monkes Tale
 
Here biginneth the Monkes Tale, de Casibus Virorum Illustrium.

I WOL biwayle in maner of Tragedie
The harm of hem that stode in heigh degree,
And fillen so that ther nas no remedie
To bringe hem out of hir adversitee;
For certein, whan that fortune list to flee,        5
Ther may no man the cours of hir withholde;
Lat no man truste on blind prosperitee;
Be war by thise ensamples trewe and olde.
 
LUCIFER.
At Lucifer, though he an angel were,
And nat a man, at him I wol biginne;        10
For, thogh fortune may non angel dere,
From heigh degree yet fel he for his sinne
Doun in-to helle, wher he yet is inne.
O Lucifer! brightest of angels alle,
Now artow Sathanas, that maist nat twinne        15
Out of miserie, in which that thou art falle.
 
ADAM.
Lo Adam, in the feld of Damassene,
With goddes owene finger wroght was he,
And nat bigeten of mannes sperme unclene,
And welte al Paradys, saving o tree.        20
Had never worldly man so heigh degree
As Adam, til he for misgovernaunce
Was drive out of his hye prosperitee
To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce.
 
SAMPSON.
Lo Sampson, which that was annunciat
        25
By thangel, longe er his nativitee,
And was to god almighty consecrat,
And stood in noblesse, whyl he mighte see.
Was never swich another as was he,
To speke of strengthe, and therwith hardinesse;        30
But to his wyves tolde he his secree,
Through which he slow him-self, for wrecchednesse.
 
Sampson, this noble almighty champioun,
Withouten wepen save his hondes tweye,
He slow and al to-rente the leoun,        35
Toward his wedding walking by the weye.
His false wyf coude him so plese and preye
Til she his conseil knew, and she untrewe
Un-to his foos his conseil gan biwreye,
And him forsook, and took another newe.        40
 
Three hundred foxes took Sampson for ire,
And alle hir tayles he togider bond,
And sette the foxes tayles alle on fire,
For he on every tayl had knit a brond;
And they brende alle the cornes in that lond,        45
And alle hir oliveres and vynes eek.
A thousand men he slow eek with his hond,
And had no wepen but an asses cheek.
 
Whan they were slayn, so thursted him that he
Was wel ny lorn, for which he gan to preye        50
That god wolde on his peyne han som pitee,
And sende him drinke, or elles moste he deye;
And of this asses cheke, that was dreye,
Out of a wang-tooth sprang anon a welle,
Of which he drank y-nogh, shortly to seye,        55
Thus heelp him god, as Iudicum can telle.
 
By verray force, at Gazan, on a night,
Maugree Philistiens of that citee,
The gates of the toun he hath up-plight,
And on his bak y-caried hem hath he        60
Hye on an hille, that men mighte hem see.
O noble almighty Sampson, leef and dere,
Had thou nat told to wommen thy secree,
In al this worlde ne hadde been thy pere!
 
This Sampson never sicer drank ne wyn,        65
Ne on his heed cam rasour noon ne shere,
By precept of the messager divyn,
For alle his strengthes in his heres were;
And fully twenty winter, yeer by yere,
He hadde of Israel the governaunce.        70
But sone shal he wepen many a tere,
For wommen shal him bringen to meschaunce!
 
Un-to his lemman Dalida he tolde
That in his heres al his strengthe lay,
And falsly to his fo-men she him solde.        75
And sleping in hir barme up-on a day
She made to clippe or shere his heer awey,
And made his fo-men al his craft espyen;
And whan that they him fonde in this array,
They bounde him faste, and putten out his yën.        80
 
But er his heer were clipped or y-shave,
Ther was no bond with which men might him binde;
But now is he in prisoun in a cave,
Wher-as they made him at the querne grinde.
O noble Sampson, strongest of mankinde,        85
O whylom Iuge in glorie and in richesse,
Now maystow wepen with thyn yën blinde,
Sith thou fro wele art falle in wrecchednesse.
 
Thende of this caytif was as I shal seye;
His fo-men made a feste upon a day,        90
And made him as hir fool bifore hem pleye,
And this was in a temple of greet array.
But atte laste he made a foul affray;
For he two pilers shook, and made hem falle,
And doun fil temple and al, and ther it lay,        95
And slow him-self, and eek his fo-men alle.
 
This is to seyn, the princes everichoon,
And eek three thousand bodies wer ther slayn
With falling of the grete temple of stoon.
Of Sampson now wol I na-more seyn.        100
Beth war by this ensample old and playn
That no men telle hir conseil til hir wyves
Of swich thing as they wolde han secree fayn,
If that it touche hir limmes or hir lyves.
 
HERCULES.
Of Hercules the sovereyn conquerour
        105
Singen his workes laude and heigh renoun;
For in his tyme of strengthe he was the flour.
He slow, and rafte the skin of the leoun;
He of Centauros leyde the boost adoun;
He Arpies slow, the cruel briddes felle;        110
He golden apples rafte of the dragoun;
He drow out Cerberus, the hound of helle:
 
He slow the cruel tyrant Busirus,
And made his hors to frete him, flesh and boon;
He slow the firy serpent venimous;        115
Of Achelois two hornes, he brak oon;
And he slow Cacus in a cave of stoon;
He slow the geaunt Antheus the stronge;
He slow the grisly boor, and that anoon,
And bar the heven on his nekke longe.        120
 
Was never wight, sith that the world bigan,
That slow so many monstres as dide he.
Thurgh-out this wyde world his name ran,
What for his strengthe, and for his heigh bountee,
And every reaume wente he for to see.        125
He was so strong that no man mighte him lette;
At bothe the worldes endes, seith Trophee,
In stede of boundes, he a piler sette.
 
A lemman hadde this noble champioun,
That highte Dianira, fresh as May;        130
And, as thise clerkes maken mencioun,
She hath him sent a sherte fresh and gay.
Allas! this sherte, allas and weylaway!
Envenimed was so subtilly with-alle,
That, er that he had wered it half a day,        135
It made his flesh al from his bones falle.
 
But nathelees somme clerkes hir excusen
By oon that highte Nessus, that it maked;
Be as be may, I wol hir noght accusen;
But on his bak this sherte he wered al naked,        140
Til that his flesh was for the venim blaked.
And whan he sey noon other remedye,
In hote coles he hath him-selven raked,
For with no venim deyned him to dye.
 
Thus starf this worthy mighty Hercules;        145
Lo, who may truste on fortune any throwe?
For him that folweth al this world of prees,
Er he be war, is ofte y-leyd ful lowe.
Ful wys is he that can him-selven knowe.
Beth war, for whan that fortune list to glose,        150
Than wayteth she hir man to overthrowe
By swich a wey as he wolde leest suppose.
 
NABUGODONOSOR (NEBUCHADNEZZAR).
The mighty trone, the precious tresor,
The glorious ceptre and royal magestee
That hadde the king Nabugodonosor,        155
With tonge unnethe may discryved be.
He twyes wan Ierusalem the citee;
The vessel of the temple he with him ladde.
At Babiloyne was his sovereyn see,
In which his glorie and his delyt he hadde.        160
 
The fairest children of the blood royal
Of Israel he leet do gelde anoon,
And maked ech of hem to been his thral.
Amonges othere Daniel was oon,
That was the wysest child of everichoon;        165
For he the dremes of the king expouned,
Wher-as in Chaldey clerk ne was ther noon
That wiste to what fyn his dremes souned.
 
This proude king leet make a statue of golde,
Sixty cubytes long, and seven in brede,        170
To which image bothe yonge and olde
Comaunded he to loute, and have in drede;
Or in a fourneys ful of flambes rede
He shal be brent, that wolde noght obeye.
But never wolde assente to that dede        175
Daniel, ne his yonge felawes tweye.
 
This king of kinges proud was and elaat,
He wende that god, that sit in magestee,
Ne mighte him nat bireve of his estaat:
But sodeynly he loste his dignitee,        180
And lyk a beste him semed for to be,
And eet hay as an oxe, and lay ther-oute;
In reyn with wilde bestes walked he,
Til certein tyme was y-come aboute.
 
And lyk an egles fetheres wexe his heres,        185
His nayles lyk a briddes clawes were;
Til god relessed him a certein yeres,
And yaf him wit; and than with many a tere
He thanked god, and ever his lyf in fere
Was he to doon amis, or more trespace,        190
And, til that tyme he leyd was on his bere,
He knew that god was ful of might and grace.
 
BALTHASAR (BELSHAZZAR).
His sone, which that highte Balthasar,
That heeld the regne after his fader day,
He by his fader coude nought be war,        195
For proud he was of herte and of array;
And eek an ydolastre was he ay.
His hye estaat assured him in pryde.
But fortune caste him doun, and ther he lay,
And sodeynly his regne gan divyde.        200
 
A feste he made un-to his lordes alle
Up-on a tyme, and bad hem blythe be,
And than his officeres gan he calle—
‘Goth, bringeth forth the vessels,’ [tho] quod he,
‘Which that my fader, in his prosperitee,        205
Out of the temple of Ierusalem birafte,
And to our hye goddes thanke we
Of honour, that our eldres with us lafte.’
 
His wyf, his lordes, and his concubynes
Ay dronken, whyl hir appetytes laste,        210
Out of thise noble vessels sundry wynes;
And on a wal this king his yën caste,
And sey an hond armlees, that wroot ful faste,
For fere of which he quook and syked sore.
This hond, that Balthasar so sore agaste,        215
Wroot Mane, techel, phares, and na-more.
 
In al that lond magicien was noon
That coude expoune what this lettre mente;
But Daniel expouned it anoon,
And seyde, ‘king, god to thy fader lente        220
Glorie and honour, regne, tresour, rente:
And he was proud, and no-thing god ne dradde,
And therfor god gret wreche up-on him sente,
And him birafte the regne that he hadde.
 
He was out cast of mannes companye,        225
With asses was his habitacioun,
And eet hey as a beste in weet and drye,
Til that he knew, by grace and by resoun,
That god of heven hath dominacioun
Over every regne and every creature;        230
And thanne had god of him compassioun,
And him restored his regne and his figure.
 
Eek thou, that art his sone, art proud also,
And knowest alle thise thinges verraily,
And art rebel to god, and art his fo.        235
Thou drank eek of his vessels boldely;
Thy wyf eek and thy wenches sinfully
Dronke of the same vessels sondry wynes,
And heriest false goddes cursedly;
Therfor to thee y-shapen ful gret pyne is.        240
 
This hand was sent from god, that on the walle
Wroot mane, techel, phares, truste me;
Thy regne is doon, thou weyest noght at alle;
Divyded is thy regne, and it shal be
To Medes and to Perses yeven,’ quod he.        245
And thilke same night this king was slawe,
And Darius occupyeth his degree,
Thogh he therto had neither right ne lawe.
 
Lordinges, ensample heer-by may ye take
How that in lordshipe is no sikernesse;        250
For whan fortune wol a man forsake,
She bereth awey his regne and his richesse,
And eek his freendes, bothe more and lesse;
For what man that hath freendes thurgh fortune,
Mishap wol make hem enemys, I gesse:        255
This proverbe is ful sooth and ful commune.
 
CENOBIA (ZENOBIA).
Cenobia, of Palimerie quene,
As writen Persiens of hir noblesse,
So worthy was in armes and so kene,
That no wight passed hir in hardinesse,        260
Ne in linage, ne in other gentillesse.
Of kinges blode of Perse is she descended;
I seye nat that she hadde most fairnesse,
But of hir shape she mighte nat been amended.
 
From hir childhede I finde that she fledde        265
Office of wommen, and to wode she wente;
And many a wilde hertes blood she shedde
With arwes brode that she to hem sente.
She was so swift that she anon hem hente,
And whan that she was elder, she wolde kille        270
Leouns, lepardes, and beres al to-rente,
And in hir armes welde hem at hir wille.
 
She dorste wilde beestes dennes seke,
And rennen in the montaignes al the night,
And slepen under a bush, and she coude eke        275
Wrastlen by verray force and verray might
With any yong man, were he never so wight;
Ther mighte no-thing in hir armes stonde.
She kepte hir maydenhod from every wight,
To no man deigned hir for to be bonde.        280
 
But atte laste hir frendes han hir maried
To Odenake, a prince of that contree,
Al were it so that she hem longe taried;
And ye shul understonde how that he
Hadde swiche fantasyes as hadde she.        285
But nathelees, whan they were knit in-fere,
They lived in Ioye and in felicitee;
For ech of hem hadde other leef and dere.
 
Save o thing, that she never wolde assente
By no wey, that he sholde by hir lye        290
But ones, for it was hir pleyn entente
To have a child, the world to multiplye;
And al-so sone as that she mighte espye
That she was nat with childe with that dede,
Than wolde she suffre him doon his fantasye        295
Eft-sone, and nat but ones, out of drede.
 
And if she were with childe at thilke cast,
Na-more sholde he pleyen thilke game
Til fully fourty dayes weren past;
Than wolde she ones suffre him do the same.        300
Al were this Odenake wilde or tame,
He gat na-more of hir, for thus she seyde,
‘It was to wyves lecherye and shame
In other cas, if that men with hem pleyde.’
 
Two sones by this Odenake hadde she,        305
The whiche she kepte in vertu and lettrure;
But now un-to our tale turne we.
I seye, so worshipful a creature,
And wys therwith, and large with mesure,
So penible in the werre, and curteis eke,        310
Ne more labour mighte in werre endure,
Was noon, thogh al this world men sholde seke.
 
Hir riche array ne mighte nat be told
As wel in vessel as in hir clothing;
She was al clad in perree and in gold,        315
And eek she lafte noght, for noon hunting,
To have of sondry tonges ful knowing,
Whan that she leyser hadde, and for to entende
To lernen bokes was al hir lyking,
How she in vertu mighte hir lyf dispende.        320
 
And, shortly of this storie for to trete,
So doughty was hir housbonde and eek she,
That they conquered many regnes grete
In the orient, with many a fair citee,
Apertenaunt un-to the magestee        325
Of Rome, and with strong hond helde hem ful faste;
Ne never mighte hir fo-men doon hem flee,
Ay whyl that Odenakes dayes laste.
 
Hir batailes, who-so list hem for to rede,
Agayn Sapor the king and othere mo,        330
And how that al this proces fil in dede,
Why she conquered and what title had therto,
And after of hir meschief and hir wo,
How that she was biseged and y-take,
Let him un-to my maister Petrark go,        335
That writ y-nough of this, I undertake.
 
When Odenake was deed, she mightily
The regnes heeld, and with hir propre honde
Agayn hir foos she faught so cruelly,
That her nas king ne prince in al that londe        340
That he nas glad, if that he grace fonde,
That she ne wolde up-on his lond werreye;
With hir they made alliaunce by bonde
To been in pees, and lete hir ryde and pleye.
 
The emperour of Rome, Claudius,        345
Ne him bifore, the Romayn Galien,
Ne dorste never been so corageous,
Ne noon Ermyn, ne noon Egipcien,
Ne Surrien, ne noon Arabien,
Within the feld that dorste with hir fighte        350
Lest that she wolde hem with hir hondes slen,
Or with hir meynee putten hem to flighte.
 
In kinges habit wente hir sones two,
As heires of hir fadres regnes alle,
And Hermanno, and Thymalaö        355
Her names were, as Persiens hem calle.
But ay fortune hath in hir hony galle;
This mighty quene may no whyl endure.
Fortune out of hir regne made hir falle
To wrecchednesse and to misaventure.        360
 
Aurelian, whan that the governaunce
Of Rome cam in-to his hondes tweye,
He shoop up-on this queen to do vengeaunce,
And with his legiouns he took his weye
Toward Cenobie, and, shortly for to seye,        365
He made hir flee, and atte laste hir hente,
And fettred hir, and eek hir children tweye,
And wan the lond, and hoom to Rome he wente.
 
Amonges othere thinges that he wan,
Hir char, that was with gold wrought and perree,        370
This grete Romayn, this Aurelian,
Hath with him lad, for that men sholde it see.
Biforen his triumphe walketh she
With gilte cheynes on hir nekke hanging;
Corouned was she, as after hir degree,        375
And ful of perree charged hir clothing.
 
Allas, fortune! she that whylom was
Dredful to kinges and to emperoures,
Now gaureth al the peple on hir, allas!
And she that helmed was in starke stoures,        380
And wan by force tounes stronge and toures,
Shal on hir heed now were a vitremyte;
And she that bar the ceptre ful of floures
Shal bere a distaf, hir cost for to quyte.
 
DE PETRO REGE ISPANNIE.
O noble, o worthy Petro, glorie of Spayne,
        385
Whom fortune heeld so hy in magestee,
Wel oughten men thy pitous deeth complayne!
Out of thy lond thy brother made thee flee;
And after, at a sege, by subtiltee,
Thou were bitrayed, and lad un-to his tente,        390
Wher-as he with his owene hond slow thee,
Succeding in thy regne and in thy rente.
 
The feeld of snow, with thegle of blak ther-inne,
Caught with the lymrod, coloured as the glede,
He brew this cursednes and al this sinne.        395
The ‘wikked nest’ was werker of this nede;
Noght Charles Oliver, that ay took hede
Of trouthe and honour, but of Armorike
Genilon Oliver, corrupt for mede,
Broghte this worthy king in swich a brike.        400
 
DE PETRO REGE DE CIPRO.
O worthy Petro, king of Cypre, also,
That Alisaundre wan by heigh maistrye,
Ful many a hethen wroghtestow ful wo,
Of which thyn owene liges hadde envye,
And, for no thing but for thy chivalrye,        405
They in thy bedde han slayn thee by the morwe.
Thus can fortune hir wheel governe and gye,
And out of Ioye bringe men to sorwe.
 
DE BARNABO DE LUMBARDIA.
Of Melan grete Barnabo Viscounte,
God of delyt, and scourge of Lumbardye,        410
Why sholde I nat thyn infortune acounte,
Sith in estaat thou clombe were so hye?
Thy brother sone, that was thy double allye,
For he thy nevew was, and sone-in-lawe,
With-inne his prisoun made thee to dye;        415
But why, ne how, noot I that thou were slawe.
 
DE HUGELINO, COMITE DE PIZE.
Of the erl Hugelyn of Pyse the langour
Ther may no tonge telle for pitee;
But litel out of Pyse stant a tour,
In whiche tour in prisoun put was he,        420
And with him been his litel children three.
The eldeste scarsly fyf yeer was of age.
Allas, fortune! it was greet crueltee
Swiche briddes for to putte in swiche a cage!
 
Dampned was he to deye in that prisoun,        425
For Roger, which that bisshop was of Pyse,
Hadde on him maad a fals suggestioun,
Thurgh which the peple gan upon him ryse,
And putten him to prisoun in swich wyse
As ye han herd, and mete and drink he hadde        430
So smal, that wel unnethe it may suffyse,
And therwith-al it was ful povre and badde.
 
And on a day bifil that, in that hour,
Whan that his mete wont was to be broght,
The gayler shette the dores of the tour.        435
He herde it wel,—but he spak right noght,
And in his herte anon ther fil a thoght,
That they for hunger wolde doon him dyen.
‘Allas!’ quod he, ‘allas! that I was wroght!’
Therwith the teres fillen from his yën.        440
 
His yonge sone, that three yeer was of age,
Un-to him seyde, ‘fader, why do ye wepe?
Whan wol the gayler bringen our potage,
Is ther no morsel breed that ye do kepe?
I am so hungry that I may nat slepe.        445
Now wolde god that I mighte slepen ever!
Than sholde nat hunger in my wombe crepe;
Ther is no thing, save breed, that me were lever.’
 
Thus day by day this child bigan to crye,
Til in his fadres barme adoun it lay,        450
And seyde, ‘far-wel, fader, I moot dye,’
And kiste his fader, and deyde the same day.
And whan the woful fader deed it sey,
For wo his armes two he gan to byte,
And seyde, ‘allas, fortune! and weylaway!        455
Thy false wheel my wo al may I wyte!’
 
His children wende that it for hunger was
That he his armes gnow, and nat for wo,
And seyde, ‘fader, do nat so, allas!
But rather eet the flesh upon us two;        460
Our flesh thou yaf us, tak our flesh us fro
And eet y-nough:’ right thus they to him seyde,
And after that, with-in a day or two,
They leyde hem in his lappe adoun, and deyde.
 
Him-self, despeired, eek for hunger starf;        465
Thus ended is this mighty Erl of Pyse;
From heigh estaat fortune awey him carf.
Of this Tragedie it oghte y-nough suffyse.
Who-so wol here it in a lenger wyse,
Redeth the grete poete of Itaille,        470
That highte Dant, for he can al devyse
Fro point to point, nat o word wol he faille.
 
NERO.
Al-though that Nero were as vicious
As any feend that lyth ful lowe adoun,
Yet he, as telleth us Swetonius,        475
This wyde world hadde in subieccioun,
Both Est and West, South and Septemtrioun;
Of rubies, saphires, and of perles whyte
Were alle his clothes brouded up and doun;
For he in gemmes greetly gan delyte.        480
 
More delicat, more pompous of array,
More proud was never emperour than he;
That ilke cloth, that he had wered o day,
After that tyme he nolde it never see.
Nettes of gold-thred hadde he gret plentee        485
To fisshe in Tybre, whan him liste pleye.
His lustes were al lawe in his decree,
For fortune as his freend him wolde obeye.
 
He Rome brende for his delicacye;
The senatours he slow up-on a day.        490
To here how men wolde wepe and crye;
And slow his brother, and by his sister lay.
His moder made he in pitous array;
For he hir wombe slitte, to biholde
Wher he conceyved was; so weilawey!        495
That he so litel of his moder tolde!
 
No tere out of his yën for that sighte
Ne cam, but seyde, ‘a fair womman was she.’
Gret wonder is, how that he coude or mighte
Be domesman of hir dede beautee.        500
The wyn to bringen him comaunded he,
And drank anon; non other wo he made.
Whan might is Ioyned un-to crueltee,
Allas! to depe wol the venim wade!
 
In youthe a maister hadde this emperour,        505
To teche him letterure and curteisye,
For of moralitee he was the flour,
As in his tyme, but-if bokes lye;
And whyl this maister hadde of him maistrye,
He maked him so conning and so souple        510
That longe tyme it was er tirannye
Or any vyce dorste on him uncouple.
 
This Seneca, of which that I devyse,
By-cause Nero hadde of him swich drede,
For he fro vyces wolde him ay chastyse        515
Discreetly as by worde and nat by dede;—
‘Sir,’ wolde he seyn, ‘an emperour moot nede
Be vertuous, and hate tirannye’—
For which he in a bath made him to blede
On bothe his armes, til he moste dye.        520
 
This Nero hadde eek of acustumaunce
In youthe ageyn his maister for to ryse,
Which afterward him thoughte a greet grevaunce;
Therfor he made him deyen in this wyse.
But natheles this Seneca the wyse        525
Chees in a bath to deye in this manere
Rather than han another tormentyse;
And thus hath Nero slayn his maister dere.
 
Now fil it so that fortune list no lenger
The hye pryde of Nero to cheryce;        530
For though that he were strong, yet was she strenger;
She thoughte thus, ‘by god, I am to nyce
To sette a man that is fulfild of vyce
In heigh degree, and emperour him calle.
By god, out of his sete I wol him tryce;        535
When he leest weneth, sonest shal he falle.’
 
The peple roos up-on him on a night
For his defaute, and whan he it espyed,
Out of his dores anon he hath him dight
Alone, and, ther he wende han ben allyed,        540
He knokked faste, and ay, the more he cryed,
The faster shette they the dores alle;
Tho wiste he wel he hadde him-self misgyed,
And wente his wey, no lenger dorste he calle.
 
The peple cryde and rombled up and doun,        545
That with his eres herde he how they seyde,
‘Wher is this false tyraunt, this Neroun?’
For fere almost out of his wit he breyde,
And to his goddes pitously he preyde
For socour, but it mighte nat bityde.        550
For drede of this, him thoughte that he deyde,
And ran in-to a gardin, him to hyde.
 
And in this gardin fond he cherles tweye
That seten by a fyr ful greet and reed,
And to thise cherles two he gan to preye        555
To sleen him, and to girden of his heed,
That to his body, whan that he were deed,
Were no despyt y-doon, for his defame.
Him-self he slow, he coude no better reed,
Of which fortune lough, and hadde a game.        560
 
DE OLOFERNO (HOLOFERNES).
Was never capitayn under a king
That regnes mo putte in subieccioun,
Ne strenger was in feeld of alle thing,
As in his tyme, ne gretter of renoun,
Ne more pompous in heigh presumpcioun        565
Than Oloferne, which fortune ay kiste
So likerously, and ladde him up and doun
Til that his heed was of, er that he wiste.
 
Nat only that this world hadde him in awe
For lesinge of richesse or libertee,        570
But he made every man reneye his lawe.
‘Nabugodonosor was god,’ seyde he,
‘Noon other god sholde adoured be.’
Ageyns his heste no wight dar trespace
Save in Bethulia, a strong citee,        575
Wher Eliachim a prest was of that place.
 
But tak kepe of the deeth of Olofern;
Amidde his host he dronke lay a night,
With-inne his tente, large as is a bern,
And yit, for al his pompe and al his might,        580
Iudith, a womman, as he lay upright,
Sleping, his heed of smoot, and from his tente
Ful prively she stal from every wight,
And with his heed unto hir toun she wente.
 
DE REGE ANTHIOCHO ILLUSTRI.
What nedeth it of King Anthiochus
        585
To telle his hye royal magestee,
His hye pryde, his werkes venimous?
For swich another was ther noon as he.
Rede which that he was in Machabee,
And rede the proude wordes that he seyde,        590
And why he fil fro heigh prosperitee,
And in an hil how wrechedly he deyde.
 
Fortune him hadde enhaunced so in pryde
That verraily he wende he mighte attayne
Unto the sterres, upon every syde,        595
And in balance weyen ech montayne,
And alle the flodes of the see restrayne.
And goddes peple hadde he most in hate,
Hem wolde he sleen in torment and in payne,
Wening that god ne mighte his pryde abate.        600
 
And for that Nichanor and Thimothee
Of Iewes weren venquisshed mightily,
Unto the Iewes swich an hate hadde he
That he bad greithe his char ful hastily,
And swoor, and seyde, ful despitously,        605
Unto Ierusalem he wolde eft-sone,
To wreken his ire on it ful cruelly;
But of his purpos he was let ful sone.
 
God for his manace him so sore smoot
With invisible wounde, ay incurable,        610
That in his guttes carf it so and boot
That his peynes weren importable.
And certeinly, the wreche was resonable,
For many a mannes guttes dide he peyne;
But from his purpos cursed and dampnable        615
For al his smert he wolde him nat restreyne;
 
But bad anon apparaillen his host,
And sodeynly, er he of it was war,
God daunted al his pryde and al his bost.
For he so sore fil out of his char,        620
That it his limes and his skin to-tar,
So that he neither mighte go ne ryde,
But in a chayer men aboute him bar,
Al for-brused, bothe bak and syde.
 
The wreche of god him smoot so cruelly        625
That thurgh his body wikked wormes crepte;
And ther-with-al he stank so horribly,
That noon of al his meynee that him kepte,
Whether so he wook or elles slepte,
Ne mighte noght for stink of him endure.        630
In this meschief he wayled and eek wepte,
And knew god lord of every creature.
 
To al his host and to him-self also
Ful wlatsom was the stink of his careyne;
No man ne mighte him bere to ne fro.        635
And in this stink and this horrible peyne
He starf ful wrecchedly in a monteyne.
Thus hath this robbour and this homicyde,
That many a man made to wepe and pleyne,
Swich guerdon as bilongeth unto pryde.        640
 
DE ALEXANDRO.
The storie of Alisaundre is so comune,
That every wight that hath discrecioun
Hath herd somwhat or al of his fortune.
This wyde world, as in conclusioun,
He wan by strengthe, or for his hye renoun        645
They weren glad for pees un-to him sende.
The pryde of man and beste he leyde adoun,
Wher-so he cam, un-to the worldes ende.
 
Comparisoun might never yit be maked
Bitwixe him and another conquerour;        650
For al this world for drede of him hath quaked,
He was of knighthode and of fredom flour;
Fortune him made the heir of hir honour;
Save wyn and wommen, no-thing mighte aswage
His hye entente in armes and labour;        655
So was he ful of leonyn corage.
 
What preys were it to him, though I yow tolde
Of Darius, and an hundred thousand mo,
Of kinges, princes, erles, dukes bolde,
Whiche he conquered, and broghte hem in-to wo?        660
I seye, as fer as man may ryde or go,
The world was his, what sholde I more devyse?
For though I write or tolde you evermo
Of his knighthode, it mighte nat suffyse.
 
Twelf yeer he regned, as seith Machabee;        665
Philippes sone of Macedoyne he was,
That first was king in Grece the contree.
O worthy gentil Alisaundre, allas!
That ever sholde fallen swich a cas!
Empoisoned of thyn owene folk thou were;        670
Thy sys fortune hath turned into as,
And yit for thee ne weep she never a tere!
 
Who shal me yeven teres to compleyne
The deeth of gentillesse and of fraunchyse,
That al the world welded in his demeyne,        675
And yit him thoughte it mighte nat suffyse?
So ful was his corage of heigh empryse.
Allas! who shal me helpe to endyte
False fortune, and poison to despyse,
The whiche two of al this wo I wyte?        680
 
DE IULIO CESARE.
By wisdom, manhede, and by greet labour
Fro humble bed to royal magestee,
Up roos he, Iulius the conquerour,
That wan al thoccident by lond and see,
By strengthe of hond, or elles by tretee,        685
And un-to Rome made hem tributarie;
And sitthe of Rome the emperour was he,
Til that fortune wex his adversarie.
 
O mighty Cesar, that in Thessalye
Ageyn Pompeius, fader thyn in lawe,        690
That of thorient hadde al the chivalrye
As fer as that the day biginneth dawe,
Thou thurgh thy knighthode hast hem take and slawe,
Save fewe folk that with Pompeius fledde,
Thurgh which thou puttest al thorient in awe.        695
Thanke fortune, that so wel thee spedde!
 
But now a litel whyl I wol biwaille
This Pompeius, this noble governour
Of Rome, which that fleigh at this bataille;
I seye, oon of his men, a fals traitour,        700
His heed of smoot, to winnen him favour
Of Iulius, and him the heed he broghte.
Allas, Pompey, of thorient conquerour,
That fortune unto swich a fyn thee broghte!
 
To Rome ageyn repaireth Iulius        705
With his triumphe, laureat ful hye,
But on a tyme Brutus Cassius,
That ever hadde of his hye estaat envye,
Ful prively hath maad conspiracye
Ageins this Iulius, in subtil wyse,        710
And cast the place, in whiche he sholde dye
With boydekins, as I shal yow devyse.
 
This Iulius to the Capitolie wente
Upon a day, as he was wont to goon,
And in the Capitolie anon him hente        715
This false Brutus, and his othere foon,
And stikede him with boydekins anoon
With many a wounde, and thus they lete him lye;
But never gronte he at no strook but oon,
Or elles at two, but-if his storie lye.        720
 
So manly was this Iulius at herte
And so wel lovede estaatly honestee,
That, though his deedly woundes sore smerte,
His mantel over his hippes casteth he,
For no man sholde seen his privitee.        725
And, as he lay on deying in a traunce,
And wiste verraily that deed was he,
Of honestee yit hadde he remembraunce.
 
Lucan, to thee this storie I recomende,
And to Sweton, and to Valerie also,        730
That of this storie wryten word and ende,
How that to thise grete conqueroures two
Fortune was first freend, and sithen fo.
No man ne truste up-on hir favour longe,
But have hir in awayt for ever-mo.        735
Witnesse on alle thise conqueroures stronge.
 
CRESUS.
This riche Cresus, whylom king of Lyde,
Of whiche Cresus Cyrus sore him dradde,
Yit was he caught amiddes al his pryde,
And to be brent men to the fyr him ladde.        740
But swich a reyn doun fro the welkne shadde
That slow the fyr, and made him to escape;
But to be war no grace yet he hadde,
Til fortune on the galwes made him gape.
 
Whan he escaped was, he can nat stente        745
For to biginne a newe werre agayn.
He wende wel, for that fortune him sente
Swich hap, that he escaped thurgh the rayn,
That of his foos he mighte nat be slayn;
And eek a sweven up-on a night he mette,        750
Of which he was so proud and eek so fayn,
That in vengeaunce he al his herte sette.
 
Up-on a tree he was, as that him thoughte,
Ther Iuppiter him wesh, bothe bak and syde,
And Phebus eek a fair towaille him broughte        755
To drye him with, and ther-for wex his pryde;
And to his doghter, that stood him bisyde,
Which that he knew in heigh science habounde,
He bad hir telle him what it signifyde,
And she his dreem bigan right thus expounde.        760
 
‘The tree,’ quod she, ‘the galwes is to mene,
And Iuppiter bitokneth snow and reyn,
And Phebus, with his towaille so clene,
Tho ben the sonne stremes for to seyn;
Thou shalt anhanged be, fader, certeyn;        765
Reyn shal thee wasshe, and sonne shal thee drye;’
Thus warned she him ful plat and ful pleyn,
His doughter, which that called was Phanye.
 
Anhanged was Cresus, the proude king,
His royal trone mighte him nat availle.—        770
Tragedie is noon other maner thing,
Ne can in singing crye ne biwaille,
But for that fortune alwey wol assaille
With unwar strook the regnes that ben proude;
For when men trusteth hir, than wol she faille,        775
And covere hir brighte face with a cloude.

Explicit Tragedia.

Here stinteth the Knight the Monk of his Tale.
 
 
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