The Canterbury Tales
: The Monk's Tale
The Monk's Prologue
Heere bigynneth the Monkes Tale
I wol biwaille in manere of tragedie
The harm of hem that stoode in heigh degree,
And fillen so, that ther nas no remedie
To brynge hem out of hir adversitee.
For certein, whan that Fortune list to flee,
Ther may no man the cours of hire withholde;
Lat no man truste on blynd prosperitee;
Be war of thise ensamples, trewe and olde.
At Lucifer, though he an aungel were,
And nat a man, at hym wol I biginne,
For though Fortune may noon aungel dere,
From heigh degree yet fel he for his synne
Doun into helle, where he yet is inne.
O Lucifer, brightest of angels alle,
Now artow Sathanas, that mayst nat twynne
Out of miserie, in which that thou art falle.
de Casibus Virorum Illustrium.
Loo Adam, in the feeld of Damyssene,
With Goddes owene fynger wroght was he,
And nat bigeten of mannes sperme unclene,
And welte all Paradys, savynge o tree.
Hadde nevere worldly man so heigh degree
As Adam, til he, for mysgovernaunce,
Was dryven out of hys hye prosperitee
To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce.
Loo Sampson, which that was annunciat
By th' angel, longe er his nativitee,
And was to God almyghty consecrat,
And stood in noblesse whil he myghte see,
Was nevere swich another as was hee,
To speke of strengthe and therwith hardynesse;
But to hise wyves toolde he his secree,
Thurgh which he slow hymself for wrecchednesse.
Sampsoun, this noble almyghty champioun,
Withouten wepene, save his handes tweye,
He slow and al torente the leoun
Toward his weddyng walkynge by the weye.
His false wyf koude hym so plese and preye
Til she his conseil knew, and she untrewe
Unto hise foos his conseil gan biwreye,
And hym forsook, and took another newe.
Thre hundred foxes took Sampson for ire,
And alle hir tayles he togydre bond,
And sette the foxes tayles alle on fire;
For he on every tayl had knyt a brond,
And they brende alle the cornes in that lond,
And alle hir olyveres, and vynes eke.
A thousand men he slow eek with his hond,
And hadde no wepene but an asses cheke.
Whan they were slayn, so thursted hym, that he
Was wel ny lorn, for which he gan to preye
That God wolde on his peyne han som pitee,
And sende hym drynke, 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 anon, shortly to seye,
Thus heelp hym God, as Judicum can telle.
By verray force at Gazan, on a nyght,
Maugree Philistiens of that citee,
The gates of the toun he hath up plyght,
And on his bak ycaryed hem hath he
Hye on an hille, that men myghte hem see.
O noble almyghty Sampson, lief and deere,
Had thou nat toold to wommen thy secree,
In all this world ne hadde been thy peere.
This Sampson nevere ciser drank, ne wyn,
Ne on his heed cam rasour noon, ne sheere,
By precept of the messager divyn,
For alle hise strengthes in hise heeres weere.
And fully twenty wynter, yeer by yeere,
He hadde of Israel the governaunce.
But soone shal he wepen many a teere,
For wommen shal hym bryngen to meschaunce!
Unto his lemman Dalida he tolde
That in hise heeres al his strengthe lay,
And falsly to hise fooman she hym solde;
And slepynge in hir barme upon a day
She made to clippe or shere hise heres away,
And made hise foomen al this craft espyn.
And whan that they hym foond in this array,
They bounde hym faste, and putten out hise eyen.
But er his heer were clipped or yshave,
Ther was no boond with which men myght him bynde;
But now is he in prison in a cave,
Where as they made hym at the queerne grynde.
O noble Sampson, strongest of mankynde,
O whilom juge in glorie and in richesse,
Now maystow wepen with thyne eyen blynde,
Sith thou fro wele art falle in wrecchednesse!
The ende of this caytyf was as I shal seye;
Hise foomen made a feeste upon a day,
And made hym as hir fool biforn 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, -
And slow hymself, and eek his foomen alle.
This is to seyn, the prynces everichoon,
And eek thre thousand bodyes, were ther slayn
With fallynge of the grete temple of stoon.
Of Sampson now wol I namoore sayn:
Beth war by this ensample oold and playn
That no men telle hir conseil til hir wyves
Of swich thyng as they solde han secree fayn,
If that it touche hir lymmes or hir lyves.
Of Hercules the sovereyn conquerour
Syngen hise werkes laude and heigh renoun;
For in his tyme of strengthe he was the flour.
He slow and rafte the skyn of the leoun,
He of Centauros leyde the boost adoun,
He Arpies slow, the crueel bryddes felle,
He golden apples refte of the dragoun,
He drow out Cerberus, the hound of helle.
He slow the crueel tyrant Busirus,
And made his hors to frete hym, flessh and boon;
He slow the firy serpent venymus,
Of Acheloys 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 anon,
And bar the hevene on his nekke longe.
Was nevere wight, sith that this world bigan,
That slow so manye monstres as dide he.
Thurghout this wyde world his name ran,
What for his strengthe, and for his heigh bountee,
And every reawme wente he for to see.
He was so stroong that no man myghte hym lette;
At bothe the worldes endes, seith Trophee,
In stide of boundes he a pileer sette.
A lemman hadde this noble champioun,
That highte Dianira, fressh as May,
And as thise clerkes maken mencioun,
She hath hym sent a sherte fressh and gay.
Allas, this sherte, allas, and weylaway!
Envenymed was so subtilly withalle,
That er that he had wered it half a day
It made his flessh al from hise bones falle.
But nathelees somme clerkes hire 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,
Til that his flessh was for the venym blaked;
And whan he saugh noon oother remedye,
In hoote coles he hath hym-selven raked,
For with no venym deigned hym to dye.
Thus starf this worthy myghty Hercules.
Lo, who may truste on Fortune any throwe?
For hym that folweth al this world of prees,
Er he be war, is ofte yleyd ful lowe.
Ful wys is he that kan hymselven knowe.
Beth war, for whan that Fortune list to glose,
Thanne wayteth she her man to overthrowe,
By swich a wey, as he wolde leest suppose.
The myghty trone, the precious tresor
The glorious ceptre and roial magestee
That hadde the kyng Nabugodonosor,
With tonge unnethe may discryved bee.
He twyes wan Jerusalem the citee;
The vessel of the temple he with hym ladde.
At Babiloigne was his sovereyn see,
In which his glorie and his delit he hadde.
The faireste children of the blood roial
Of Israel he leet do gelde anoon,
And maked ech of hem to been his thral.
Amonges othere, Daniel was oon,
That was the wiseste child of everychon;
For he the dremes of the kyng expowned
Wheras in Chaldeye clerk ne was ther noon
That wiste to what fyn hise dremes sowned.
This proude kyng leet maken a statue of gold
Sixty cubites long, and sevene in brede,
To which ymage bothe yonge and oold
Comanded he to loute and have in drede,
Or in a fourneys ful of flambes rede
He shal be brent, that wolde noght obeye.
But nevere wolde assente to that dede
Daniel, ne hise yonge felawes tweye.
This kyng of kynges proud was and elaat;
He wende, that God that sit in magestee
Ne myghte hym nat bireve of his estaat;
But sodeynly he loste his dignytee,
And lyk a beest hym semed for to bee,
And eet hey as an oxe and lay theroute;
In reyn; with wilde beestes walked hee
Til certein tyme was ycome aboute.
And lik an egles fetheres wex his heres,
Hise nayles lyk a briddes clawes weere,
Til God relessed hym a certeyn yeres,
And yaf hym wit, and thanne, with many a teere,
He thanked God; and evere his lyf in feere
Was he to doon amys, or moore trespace,
And til that tyme he leyd was on his beere,
He knew that God was ful of myght and grace.
His sone which that highte Balthasar,
That heeld the regne after his fader day,
He by his fader koude noght be war,
For proud he was of herte and of array;
And eek an ydolastre he was ay.
His hye estaat assured hym in pryde;
But Fortune caste hym doun and ther he lay,
And sodeynly his regne gan divide.
A feeste he made unto hise lordes alle
Upon a tyme, and bad hem blithe bee,
And thanne hise officeres gan he calle,
"Gooth, bryngeth forth the vesseles," quod he,
"Whiche that my fader, in his prosperitee,
Out of the temple of Jerusalem birafte,
And to oure hye goddes thanke we
Of honour, that oure eldres with us lafte."
Hys wyf, hise lordes, and hise concubynes
Ay dronken, whil hire appetites laste,
Out of thise noble vessels sondry wynes.
And on a wal this kyng hise eyen caste,
And saugh an hand armlees that wroot ful faste,
For feere of which he quook and siked soore.
This hand, that Balthasar so soore agaste,
Wroot Mame, techel, phares, and na moore.
In al that land magicien was noon
That koude expounde what this lettre mente.
But Daniel expowned it anon,
And seyde, "Kyng, God to thy fader lente
Glorie and honour, regne, tresour, rente;
And he was proud, and nothyng God ne dradde,
And therfore God greet wreche upon hym sente,
And hym birafte the regne that he hadde.
He was out-cast of mannes compaignye,
With asses was his habitacioun,
And eet hey as a beest in weet and drye,
Til that he knew by grace and by resoun
That God of hevene hath domynacioun
Over every regne and every creature,
And thanne hadde God of hym compassioun
And hym restored his regne and his figure.
Eek thou that art his sone art proud also,
And knowest alle thise thynges verraily,
And art rebel to God and art his foo.
Thou drank eek of hise vessels boldely,
Thy wyf eek, and thy wenches, synfully
Dronke of the same vessels sondry wynys,
And heryest false goddes cursedly;
Therfore to thee yshapen ful greet pyne ys.
This hand was sent from God, that on the wal
Wroot Mane techel phares, truste me!
Thy regne is doon, thou weyest noght at al,
Dyvyded is thy regne, and it shal be
To Medes and to Perses yeve," quod he.
And thilke same nyght this kyng was slawe
And Darius occupieth his degree,
Thogh he therto hadde neither right ne lawe.
Lordynges, ensample heerby may ye take
How that in lordshipe is no sikernesse;
For whan Fortune wole a man forsake,
She bereth awey his regne and his richesse,
And eek hise freendes, bothe moore and lesse,
For what man that hath freendes thurgh Fortune
Mishap wol maken hem enemys, as I gesse;
This proverbe is ful sooth and ful commune.
Cenobia, of Palymerie queene,
As writen Persiens of hir noblesse,
So worthy was in armes, and so keene,
That no wight passed hir in hardynesse,
Ne in lynage, ne in oother gentillesse.
Of kynges blood of Perce is she descended.
I seye nat that she hadde moost fairnesse,
But of hire shap she myghte nat been amended.
From hir childhede I fynde that she fledde
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
Leouns, leopardes, and beres al torente,
And in hir armes weelde hem at hir wille.
She dorste wilde beestes dennes seke,
And rennen in the montaignes al the nyght
And slepen under the bussh, and she koude eke
Wrastlen by verray force and verray myght
With any yong man, were he never so wight;
Ther myghte nothyng in hir armes stonde.
She kepte hir maydenhod from every wight,
To no man deigned hir for to be bonde.
But atte laste hir freendes han hir maried
To Odenake, a prynce of that contree,
Al were it so that she hem longe taried.
And ye shul understonde how that he
Hadde swiche fantasies as hadde she.
But nathelees, whan they were knyt infeere,
They lyved in joye and in felicitee,
For ech of hem hadde oother lief and deere;
Save o thyng, that she wolde nevere assente
By no wey that he sholde by hir lye
But ones, for it was hir pleyn entente
To have a child the world to multiplye;
And also soone as that she myghte espye
That she was nat with childe with that dede,
Thanne wolde she suffre hym doon his fantasye
Eft-soone and nat but oones, out of drede.
And if she were with childe at thilke cast,
Namoore sholde he pleyen thilke game
Til fully fourty dayes weren past;
Thanne wolde she ones suffre hym do the same.
Al were this Odenake wilde or tame,
He gat namoore of hir, for thus she seyde,
It was to wyves lecheie and shame
In oother caas, it that men with hem pleyde.
Two sones by this Odenake hadde she,
The whiche she kepte in vertu and lettrure,
But now unto oure tale turne we;
I seye, so worshipful a creature,
And wys therwith, and large with mesure,
So penyble in the werre, and curteis eke,
Ne moore labour myghte in werre endure,
Was noon, though al this world men wolde seke.
Hir riche array ne myghte nat be told
As wel in vessel as in hir clothyng;
She was al clad in perree and in gold,
And eek she lafte noght for noon huntyng
To have of sondry tonges ful knowyng,
Whan that she leyser hadde; and for to entende
To lerne bookes was al hire likyng,
How she in vertu myghte hir lyf dispende.
And shortly of this proces for to trete,
So doghty was hir housbonde and eek she,
That they conquered manye regnes grete
In the orient, with many a faire citee,
Apertenaunt unto the magestee
Of Rome, and with strong hond held hem ful faste,
Ne nevere myghte hir foomen doon hem flee,
Ay whil that Odenakes dayes laste.
Hir batailles, whoso list hem for to rede,
Agayn Sapor the kyng and othere mo,
And how that al this proces fil in dede,
Why she conquered, and what title had therto,
And after of hir meschief and hire wo,
How that she was biseged and ytake,
Lat hym unto my maister Petrak go,
That writ ynough of this, I undertake.
Whan Odenake was deed, she myghtily
The regnes heeld; and with hir propre hond
Agayn hir foos she faught so cruelly
That ther nas kyng ne prynce in al that lond
That he nas glad, if he that grace fond
That she ne wolde upon his lond werreye.
With hir they makded alliance by bond
To been in pees, and let hire ride and pleye.
The Emperour of Rome, Claudius
Ne hym bifore, the Romayn Galien,
Ne dorste nevere been so corageus,
Ne noon Ermyn, ne noon Egipcien,
Ne Surrien, ne noon arabyen,
With-inne the feeldes that dorste with hir fighte,
Lest that she wolde hem with hir handes slen,
Or with hir meignee putten hem to flighte.
In kynges habit wente hir sones two
As heires of hir fadres regnes alle,
And Hermanno, and Thymalao
Hir names were, as Persiens hem calle.
But ay Fortune hath in hir hony galle;
This myghty queene may no while endure.
Fortune out of hir regne made hir falle
To wrecchednesse and to mysaventure.
Aurelian, whan that the governaunce
Of Rome cam into hise handes tweye,
He shoope upon this queene to doon vengeaunce,
And with hise legions he took his weye
Toward Cenobie, and shortly for to seye,
He made hir flee and atte last hir hente,
And fettred hir, and eek hir children tweye,
And wan the land, and hoom to Rome he wente.
Amonges othere thynges that he wan,
Hir chaar, that was with gold wroght and perree,
This grete Romayn, this Aurelian,
Hath with hym lad for that men sholde it see.
Biforen his triumphe walketh shee,
With gilte cheynes on hir nekke hangynge;
Coroned was she, after hir degree,
And ful of perree charged hir clothynge.
Allas, Fortune! she that whilom was
Dredful to kynges and to emperoures,
Now gaureth al the peple on hir, allas!
And she that helmed was in starke shoures
And wan by force townes 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 costes for to quyte.
De Petro Rege Ispannie
O noble, O worthy Petro, glorie of Spayne!
Whom Fortune heeld so hye in magestee,
Wel oghten men thy pitous deeth complayne;
Out of thy land thy brother made thee flee,
And after at a seege by subtiltee
Thou were bitraysed, and lad unto his tente
Where as he with his owene hand slow thee,
Succedynge in thy regne and in thy rente.
The feeld of snow, with th'egle of blak therinne
Caught with the lymerod, coloured as the gleede,
He brew this cursednesse and al this synne
The wikked nest was werker of this nede,
Noght Charles Olyvver, that took ay heede
Of trouthe and honour, but of Armorike
Genyloun Olyver, corrupt for meede,
Broghte this worthy kyng in swich a brike.
De Petro Rege de Cipro
O worthy Petro, kyng of Cipre, also,
That Alisandre wan by heigh maistrie,
Ful many an hethen wroghtestow ful wo,
Of which thyne owene liges hadde envye,
And for no thyng but for thy chivalrie
They in thy bed han slayn thee by the morwe.
Thus kan Fortune hir wheel governe and gye,
And out of joye brynge men to sorwe.
De Barnabo de Lumbardia
Off Melan grete Barnabo Viscounte,
God of delit and scourge of Lumbardye,
Why sholde I nat thyn infortune acounte,
Sith in estaat thow cloumbe were so hye?
Thy brother sone, that was thy double allye
For he thy nevew was, and sone-in-lawe,
Withinne his prisoun made thee to dye,
But why, ne how, noot I that thou were slawe.
De Hugelino Comite de Pize
Off the Erl Hugelyn of Pyze the langour
Ther may no tonge telle for pitee.
But litel out of Pize stant a tour,
In whiche tour in prisoun put was he,
And with hym been his litel children thre,
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 dyen in that prisoun,
For Roger, which that Bisshop was of Pize,
Hadde on hym maad a fals suggestioun,
Thurgh which the peple gan upon hym rise,
And putten hym to prisoun in swich wise
As ye han herd, and mete and drynke he hadde
So smal that wel unnethe it may suffise,
And therwithal 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;
He herde it wel, but he spak right noght-
And in his herte anon ther fil a thoght,
That they for hunger wolde doon hym dyen.
"Allas," quod he, "allas, that I was wroght!"
Therwith the teeris fillen from hise eyen.
His yonge sone, that thre yeer was of age,
Unto hym seyde, "Fader, why do ye wepe?
Whanne wol the gayler bryngen our potage?
Is ther no morsel breed that ye do kepe?
I am so hungry that I may nat slepe.
Now wolde God that I myghte slepen evere!
Thanne sholde nat hunger in my wombe crepe,
Ther is nothyng but breed that me were levere."
Thus day by day this child bigan to crye,
Til in his fadres barm adoun it lay,
And seyde, "Farewel, fader, I moot dye!"
And kiste his fader, and dyde the same day.
And whan the woful fader deed it say,
For wo hise armes two he gan to byte,
And seyde, "Allas, Fortune and weylaway!
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 ete the flessh upon us two.
Oure flessh thou yaf us, take our flessh us fro,
And ete ynogh," right thus they to hym seyde;
And after that withinne a day or two
They leyde hem in his lappe adoun, and deyde.
Hymself, despeired, eek for hunger starf,
Thus ended is this myghty Erl of Pize.
From heigh estaat Fortune awey hym carf,
Of this tragedie it oghte ynough suffise.
Whoso wol here it in a lenger wise,
Redeth the grete poete of Ytaille
That highte Dant, for he kan al devyse
Fro point to point, nat o word wol he faille.
Al though that Nero were vicius
As any feend that lith in helle adoun,
Yet he, as telleth us Swetonius,
This wyde world hadde in subjeccioun,
Bothe Est and West, South and Septemtrioun;
Of rubies, saphires, and of peerles white
Were alle hise clothes brouded up and doun,
For he in gemmes greetly gan delite.
Moore delicaat, moore pompous of array,
Moore proud was nevere emperour than he.
That ilke clooth that he hadde wered o day,
After that tyme he nolde it nevere see.
Nettes of gold-threed hadde he greet plentee,
To fisshe in Tybre, whan hym liste pleye.
His lustes were al lawe in his decree,
For Fortune as his freend hym wolde obeye.
He Rome brende for his delicasie;
The senatours he slow upon a day,
To heere how men wolde wepe and crie;
And slow his brother, and by his suster lay.
His mooder made he in pitous array,
For he hir wombe slitte, to biholde
Wher he conceyved was, so weilaway
That he so litel of his mooder tolde!
No teere out of hise eyen for that sighte
Ne cam; but seyde, "A fair womman was she."
Greet wonder is how that he koude or myghte
Be domesman of hir dede beautee.
The wyn to bryngen hym comanded he,
And drank anon; noon oother wo he made,
Whan myght is joyned unto crueltee,
Allas, to depe wol the venym wade!
In yowthe a maister hadde this emperour
To techen hym lettrure and curteisye,
For of moralitee he was the flour,
As in his tyme, but if bookes lye.
And whil this maister hadde of hym maistrye,
He maked hym so konnyng and so sowple,
That longe tyme it was, er tirannye
Or any vice dorste on hym uncowple.
This Seneca, of which that I devyse
By cause Nero hadde of hym swich drede,
For he fro vices wolde hym chastise
Discreetly as by word, and nat by dede -
"Sire," wolde he seyn, "an emperour moot nede
Be vertuous and hate tirannye."-
For which he in a bath made hym to blede
On bothe hise armes, til he moste dye.
This Nero hadde eek of acustumaunce
In youthe agayns his maister for to ryse,
Which afterward hym thoughte greet grevaunce;
Therefore he made hym dyen in this wise,
But nathelees, this Seneca the wise
Chees in a bath to dye in this manere,
Rather than han anoother tormentise,
And thus hath Nero slayn his maister deere.
Now fil it so, that Fortune liste no lenger
The hye pryde of Nero to cherice;
For though that he was strong, yet was she strenger;
She thoughte thus, "By God, I am to nyce
To sette a man that is fulfild of vice
In heigh degree, and emperour hym calle.
By God, out of his sete I wol hym trice,
Whan he leest weneth, sonnest shal he falle."
The peple roos upon hym on a nyght
For his defaute, and whan he it espied
Out of hise dores anoon he hath hym dight
Allone, and ther he wende han been allied
He knokked faste, and ay the moore he cried,
The fastere shette they the dores alle.
For drede of this hym thoughte that he dyed,
And wente his wey; no lenger dorste he calle.
The peple cride, and rombled up and doun,
That with his erys herde he how they seyde,
"Where is this false tiraunt, this Neroun?"
For fere almoost out of his wit he breyde,
And to his goddes pitously he preyde
For socour, but it myghte nat bityde.
For drede of this hym thoughte that he deyde,
And ran into a gardyn hym to hyde.
And in this gardyn foond he cherles tweye,
That seten by a fyr greet and reed,
And to thise cherles two he gan to preye
To sleen hym and to girden of his heed,
That to his body whan that he were deed
Were no despit ydoon, for his defame.
Hymself he slow, he koude no bettre reed,
Of which Fortune lough and hadde a game.
Was nevere capitayn under a kyng
That regnes mo putte in subjeccioun,
Ne strenger was in feeld of alle thyng
As in his tyme, ne gretter of renoun,
Ne moore pompous in heigh presumpcioun,
Than Oloferne, which Fortune ay kiste
So likerously, and ladde hym up and doun
Til that his heed was of er that he wiste.
Nat oonly that this world hadde hym in awe
For lesynge of richesse or libertee,
But he made every man reneyen his lawe.
"Nabugodonosor was god," seyde hee,
"Noon oother god sholde adoure bee."
Agayns his heeste no wight dorste trespace,
Save in Bethulia, a strong citee,
Where Eliachim a preest was of that place.
But taak kepe of the deeth of Oloferne;
Amydde his hoost he dronke lay a-nyght,
Withinne his tente, large as is a berne;
And yet, for al his pompe and al his myght
Judith, a womman, as he lay upright
Slepynge, 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 kyng Anthiochus
To telle his hye roial magestee,
His hye pride, hise werkes venymous?
For swich another was ther noon as he,
Rede which that he was in Machabee,
And rede the proude wordes that he seyde,
And why he fil fro heigh prosperitee,
And in an hill how wrecchedly he deyde.
Fortune hym hadde enhaunced so in pride
That verraily he wende he myghte attayne
Unto the sterres upon every syde,
And in balance weyen ech montayne,
And alle the floodes of the see restrayne.
And Goddes peple hadde he moost in hate;
Hem wolde he sleen in torment and in payne,
Wenynge that God ne myghte his pride abate.
And for that Nichanore and Thymothee
Of Jewes weren venquysshed myghtily,
Unto the Jewes swich an hate hadde he
That he bad greithen his chaar ful hastily,
And swoor, and seyde, ful despitously,
Unto Jerusalem he wolde eft-soone,
To wreken his ire on it ful cruelly;
But of his purpos he was let ful soone.
God for his manace hym so soore smoot
With invisible wounde, ay incurable,
That in hise guttes carf it so and boot
That hise peynes weren importable.
And certeinly, the wreche was resonable,
For many a mannes guttes dide he peyne,
But from his purpos cursed and dampnable
For al his smert he wolde hym nat restreyne;
But bad anon apparaillen his hoost,
And sodeynly, er he was of it war,
God daunted al his pride and al his boost,
For he so soore fil out of his char,
That it hise lemes and his skyn totar,
So that he neyther myghte go ne ryde,
But in a chayer men aboute hym bar
Al forbrused, bothe bak and syde.
The wreche of God hym smoot so cruelly
That thurgh his body wikked wormes crepte;
And therwithal he stank so horribly
That noon of al his meynee that hym kepte
Wheither so he wook or ellis slepte,
Ne myghte noght for stynk of hym endure.
In this meschief he wayled and eek wepte,
And knew God lord of every creature.
To all his hoost and to hymself also
Ful wlatsom was the stynk of his careyne,
No man ne myghte hym bere to ne fro,
And in this stynk and this horrible peyne
He starf ful wrecchedly in a monteyne.
Thus hath this robbour and this homycide,
That many a man made to wepe and pleyne,
Swich gerdoun as bilongeth unto pryde.
The storie of Alisaundre is so commune
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
They weren glad for pees unto hym sende.
The pride of man and beest he leyde adoun
Wherso he cam, unto the worldes ende.
Comparison myghte nevere yet been maked
Bitwixe hym and another conquerour,
For al this world for drede of hym hath quaked.
He was of knyghthod and of fredom flour,
ortune hym made the heir of hir honour.
Save wyn and wommen nothyng myghte aswage
His hye entente in armes and labour,
So was he ful of leonyn corage.
What pris were it to hym, though I yow tolde
Of Darius, and an hundred thousand mo,
Of kynges, princes, erles, dukes bolde,
Whiche he conquered and broghte hem into wo?
I seye, as fer as man may ryde or go,
The world was his, what sholde I moore devyse?
For though I write or tolde yow everemo,
Of his knyghthod it myghte nat suffise.
Twelf yeer he regned, as seith Machabee,
Philippes sone of Macidoyne he was,
That first was kyng in Grece the contree.
O worthy gentil Alisandre, allas,
That evere sholde fallen swich a cas!
Empoysoned of thyn owene folk thou weere;
Thy sys Fortune hath turned into aas
And yet for thee ne weep she never a teere.
Who shal me yeven teeris to compleyne
The deeth of gentillesse and of franchise,
That al the world weelded in his demeyne?
And yet hym thoughte it myghte nat suffise,
So ful was his corage of heigh emprise.
Allas, who shal me helpe to endite
False Fortune, and poyson to despise,
The whiche two of al this wo I wyte?
De Julio Cesare
By wisedom, manhede, and by gret labour
From humble bed to roial magestee
Up roos he, Julius the conquerour,
That wan al th'occident by land and see
By strengthe of hand, or elles by tretee,
And unto Rome made hem tributarie;
And sitthe of Rome the emperour was he,
Til that Fortune weex his adversarie.
O myghty Cesar, that in Thessalie
Agayn Pompeus, fader thyn in lawe,
That of the Orient hadde al the chivalrie
As fer as that the day bigynneth dawe,
Thou thurgh thy knyghthod hast hem take and slawe,
Save fewe folk that with Pompeus fledde,
Thurgh which thou puttest al th'orient in awe,
Thanke Fortune, that so wel thee spedde!
But now a litel while I wol biwaille
This Pompeus, this noble governour
Of Rome, which that fleigh at this bataille,
I seye, oon on hise men, a fals traitour,
His heed of-smoot to wynnen hym favour
Of Julius, and hym the heed he broghte;
Allas, Pompeye, of th'orient conquerour,
That Fortune unto swich a fyn thee broghte!
To Rome agayn repaireth Julius,
With his triumphe lauriat ful hye;
But on a tyme Brutus Cassius
That evere hadde of his hye estaat envye,
Ful prively hath maad conspiracye
Agayns this Julius in subtil wise,
And caste the place in which he sholde dye
With boydekyns, as I shal yow devyse.
This Julius to the Capitolie wente
Upon a day, as he was wont to goon;
And in the Capitolie anon hym hente
This false Brutus and his othere foor,
And stiked hym with boydekyns anoon
With many a wounde; and thus they lete hym lye.
But nevere gronte he at no strook but oon,
Or elles at two, but if his storie lye.
So manly was this Julius of herte
And so wel lovede estaatly honestee,
That though hise deedly woundes soore smerte,
His mantel over hise hypes caste he,
For no man sholde seen his privetee.
And as he lay of diyng in a traunce,
And wiste verraily that deed was hee,
Of honestee yet hadde he remembraunce.
Lucan, to thee this storie I recomende,
And to Sweton, and to Valerius also,
That of this storie writen word and ende,
How that to thise grete conqueroures two
Fortune was first freend, and sitthe foo.
No man ne truste upon hire favour longe
But have hir in awayt for evere moo!
Witnesse on alle thise conqueroures stronge.
This riche Cresus whilom kyng of Lyde,
Of whiche Cresus Cirus soore hym dradde,
Yet was he caught amyddes al his pryde,
And to be brent men to the fyr hym ladde.
But swich a reyn doun fro the welkne shadde
That slow the fyr, and made hym to escape;
But to be war no grace yet he hadde,
Til Fortune on the galwes made hym gape.
Whanne he escaped was, he kan nat stente
For to bigynne a newe werre agayn;
He wende wel, for that Fortune hym sente
Swich hap that he escaped thurgh the rayn,
That of hise foos he myghte nat be slayn;
And eek a sweven upon a nyght he mette,
Of which he was so proud and eek so fayn
That in vengeance he al his herte sette.
Upon a tree he was, as that hym thoughte,
Ther Jupiter hym wessh bothe bak and syde,
And Phebus eek a fair towaille hym broughte,
To dryen hym with; and therfore wax his pryde,
And to his doghter that stood hym bisyde,
Which that he knew in heigh science habounde,
He bad hir telle hym what it signyfyde,
And she his dreem bigan right thus expounde.
"The tree," quod she, "the galwes is to meene,
And Juppiter bitokneth snow and reyn,
And Phebus with his towaille so clene,
Tho been the sonne stremes for to seyn.
Thou shalt anhanged be, fader, certeyn;
Reyn shal thee wasshe, and sonne shal thee drye."
Thus warned hym ful plat and ful pleyn,
His doghter, which that called was Phanye.
Anhanged was Cresus, the proude kyng,
His roial trone myghte hym nat availle.
Tragedies is noon oother maner thyng,
Ne kan in syngyng crye ne biwaille,
But for that Fortune alwey wole assaille
With unwar strook the regnes that been proude;
For whan me trusteth hire, thanne wol she faille,
And covere hir brighte face with a clowde.
Heere stynteth the Knyght the Monk
of his tale.
| The Nim's Priest's Prologue