The Canterbury Tales: The Man of Law's Prologue
The prologe of the Mannes Tale of Lawe.
O hateful harm, condicion of poverte!
100 With thurst, with coold, with hunger so confoundid!
To asken help thee shameth in thyn herte,
If thou noon aske, so soore artow so woundid
That verray nede unwrappeth al thy wounde hid;
Maugree thyn heed thou most for indigence
105 Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy despence!
Thow blamest Crist, and seist ful bitterly
He mysdeparteth richesse temporal.
Thy neighebore thou wytest synfully,
And seist thou hast to lite and he hath al.
110 "Parfay!" seistow, "somtyme he rekene shal,
Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the gleede,
For he noght helpeth needfulle in hir neede."
Herkne what is the sentence of the wise,
"Bet is to dyen than have indigence."
115 Thy selve neighebor wol thee despise,
If thou be povre, farwel thy reverence!
Yet of the wise man take this sentence,
"Alle dayes of povre men been wikke;"
Be war therfore, er thou come to that prikke.
120 If thou be povre, thy brother hateth thee,
And alle thy freendes fleen from thee; allas,
O riche marchauntz, ful of wele been yee!
O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas!
Youre bagges been nat fild with ambes as,
125 But with sys cynk, that renneth for youre chaunce,
At Cristemasse myrie may ye daunce!
Ye seken lond and see for your wynnynges,
As wise folk ye knowen all th'estaat
Of regnes; ye been fadres of tydynges
130 And tales, bothe of pees and of debaat.
I were right now of tales desolaat
Nere that a marchant, goon is many a yeere,
Me taughte a tale, which that ye shal heere.
The Man of Law's Introduction | The Man of Law's Tale