The canterbury tales, p.66
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.66

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  I pray to God yeve him confusioun

  That first thee broghte unto religioun!

  1945 Thou woldest han been a tredefoul1945 aright;

  Haddestow as greet a leve1946 as thow hast might

  To parfourne al thy lust1947 in engendrure,

  Thow haddest1948 bigeten many a creature.

  Allas, why werestow1949 so wid a cope?

  1950 God yeve me sorwe but, and1950 I were a pope,

  Nat oonly thow, but every mighty man,

  Thogh he were shore1952 ful hye upon his pan,

  Sholde have a wif, for al the world is lorn1953!

  Religioun hath take up al the corn1954

  1955 Of treding, and we borel men1955 been shrimpes1956.

  Of feble trees ther comen wrecched impes;

  This maketh1957 that oure heires beth so sklendre

  And feble that they may nat wel engendre.

  This maketh that oure wives wole assaye1959

  1960 Religious folk, for ye mowe bettre paye

  Of Venus paiementz1961 than may we.

  God woot, no lussheburghes1962 payen ye!

  But be nat wrooth, my lord, thogh that I pleye1963;

  Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye.’

  1965 This worthy Monk took al in pacience,

  And seide, ‘I wol doon al my diligence1966,

  As fer1967 as sowneth into honestee,

  To telle yow a tale, or two or three.

  And if yow list to herkne hiderward,

  1970 I wol yow seyn1970 the lif of Seint Edward –

  Or ellis, first, tragedies wol I telle,

  Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.

  “Tragedye” is to seyn a certein storye,

  As olde bokes maken us memorye1974,

  1975 Of him that stood in greet prosperitee,

  And is yfallen out of heigh degree1976

  Into miserye, and endeth wrecchedly.

  And they ben versified comunly

  Of sixe feet1979, whiche men clepe “exametron”;

  1980 In prose eek been endited1980 many oon,

  And eek in metre, in many a sondry wise.

  Lo, this declaring1982 oghte inogh suffise.

  ‘Now herkneth, if yow liketh for to heere!

  But first I yow biseke1984 in this matere,

  1985 Though I by ordre telle nat thise thinges,

  Be it of popes, emperours, or kinges,

  After hir ages1987, as men writen finde,

  But telle hem som bifore1988, and som bihinde,

  As it now comth unto my remembraunce,

  1990 Have me excused of min ignoraunce.’


  Heere biginneth the Monkes Tale De casibus virorum illustrium1990.

  I wol biwaille, in manere of tragedye,

  The harm of hem that stoode in heigh degree,

  And fillen1993 so that ther nas no remedye

  To bringe hem out of hire adversitee.

  1995 For certein, whan that Fortune list1995 to flee,

  Ther may no man the cours of hire withholde.

  Lat no man truste on blind prosperitee!

  Be war by thise ensamples1998 trewe and olde.


  At Lucifer, thogh he an aungel were,

  2000 And nat a man, at him wol I biginne;

  For thogh Fortune may noon aungel dere2001,

  From heigh degree yet fel he, for his sinne,

  Doun into helle, whereas he yet is inne.

  O Lucifer, brightest of aungels alle,

  2005 Now artow Sathanas2005, that mayst nat twinne

  Out of miserye in which that thou art falle.


  Lo, Adam, in the feeld of Damissene

  With Goddes owene finger wroght2008 was he,

  And nat bigeten of mannes sperme unclene,

  2010 And welte2010 al Paradis, saving o tree.

  Hadde nevere worldly man so heigh degree

  As Adam, til he for misgovernaunce2012

  Was drive out of his hye prosperitee

  To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce2014.


  2015 Lo, Sampson, which that was anunciat2015

  By th’aungel, longe er his nativitee2016,

  And was to God almighty consecrat2017,

  And stood in noblesse whil he mighte se,

  Was nevere swich another as was he,

  2020 To speke of strengthe, and therwith hardinesse2020.

  But to his wives tolde he his secree2021,

  Thurgh which he slow2022 himself for wrecchednesse.

  Sampson, this noble almighty champioun,

  Withouten wepne2024 save hise hondes tweye

  2025 He slow and al to-rente2025 the leoun,

  Toward his wedding walkinge by the weye.

  His false wif koude him so plese and preye2027

  Til she his conseil2028 knew; and she untrewe

  Unto his foos his conseil gan biwreye2029,

  2030 And him forsook, and took another newe.

  Thre hundred foxes took Sampson for ire,

  And alle hir tailes he togidre bond,

  And sette the foxes tailes alle on fire,

  For he on every tail had knit a brond2034;

  2035 And they brende alle the cornes2035 in that lond,

  And alle hire oliveris2036, and vines eke.

  A thousand men he slow eek with his hond,

  And hadde no wepne but an asses cheke2038.

  Whan they were slain, so thursted him2039 that he

  2040 Was wel ny lorn2040, for which he gan to preye

  That God wolde on his peine2041 have som pitee

  And sende him drinke, or elles moste he deye.

  And of this asses cheke that was dreye,

  Out of a wang-tooth2044, sprang anon a welle,

  2045 Of which he drank inogh2045, shortly to seye.

  Thus heelp2046 him God, as Iudicum kan telle.

  By verray force, at Gazan on a night,

  Maugree Philistiens of that citee,

  The gates of the toun he hath up plight2049,

  2050 And on his bak ycaried hem hath he

  Hye on an hill, wheras men mighte hem se.

  O noble almighty Sampsoun, leef2052 and deere,

  Had thow nat toold to wommen thy secree,

  In al this world ne hadde been thy peere!

  2055 This Sampsoun nevere ciser2055 drank ne win,

  Ne on his heed cam rasour2056 noon ne shere,

  By precept of the messager divin,

  For alle hise strengthes in hise heres were.

  And fully twenty winter, yeer by yere,

  2060 He hadde of Israel2060 the governaunce.

  But soone shal he wepe many a teere,

  For wommen shul him bringen to meschaunce.

  Unto his lemman2063 Dalida he tolde

  That in his heeris al his strengthe lay,

  2065 And falsly to his foomen2065 she him solde;

  And slepinge in hir barm2066, upon a day,

  She made to clippe2067 or shere his heer away,

  And made his foomen al this craft2068 espyen.

  And whan that they him fond in this array2069,

  2070 They bounde him faste2070 and putten out his eyen.

  But er his heer was clipped or yshave,

  Ther was no bond with which men mighte him binde.

  But now is he in prisoun in a cave,

  Whereas they made him at the querne2074 grinde.

  2075 O noble Sampsoun, strengest of mankinde,

  O whilom2076 juge, in glorye and in richesse!

  Now maystow wepen with thine eyen blinde,

  Sith thow fro wele2078 art falle in wrecchednesse.

  The ende of this caitif2079 was as I shal seye:

  2080 His foomen made a feste upon a day,

  And made him as hire fool bifore hem pleye;

  And this was in a temple of greet array2082.

  But atte laste, he made a fo
ul affray2083,

  For he two pilers2084 shook and made hem falle;

  2085 And doun fil temple and al, and there it lay,

  And slow himself, and eek his foomen alle.

  This is to seyn, the princes everychon,

  And eek thre thousand bodies, were ther slain

  With falling of the grete temple of stoon.

  2090 Of Sampson now wol I namoore sayn.

  Beth war2091 by this ensample old and plain

  That no men telle hir conseil til2092 hir wives,

  Of swich thing as they wolde han secree fain2093,

  If that it touche2094 hir limes or hir lives.


  2095 Of Hercules, the soverein conquerour,

  Singen his werkes laude2096 and heigh renoun,

  For in his time of strengthe he was the flour.

  He slow and rafte2098 the skin fro the leoun;

  He of Centauros leide the boost adoun2099;

  2100 He Arpies slow, the cruel briddes felle2100;

  He golden apples rafte of2102 the dragoun;

  He drow out Cerberus, the hound, of helle.

  He slow the cruel tyrant Busirus,

  And made his hors to frete2104 him, flessh and bon;

  2105 He slow the firy serpent venimus;

  Of Achilois two hornes he brak2106 oon,

  And he slow Cakus in a cave of stoon;

  He slow the geant Antheus the stronge;

  He slow the grisly2109 boor, and that anoon,

  2110 And bar the hevene on his nekke longe.

  Was nevere wight2111, sith that this world bigan,

  That slow so manye monstres as dide he.

  Thurghout this wide world his name ran,

  What for his strengthe and for his heigh bountee2114,

  2115 And every reawme2115 wente he for to se;

  He was so strong that no man mighte him lette2116.

  At bothe the worldes endes, seyth Trophee,

  In stede of boundes2118 he a piler sette.

  A lemman hadde this noble champioun

  2120 That highte2120 Dianira, fressh as May;

  And, as thise clerkes maken mencioun,

  She hath him sent a sherte, fressh and gay.

  Allas! this sherte – allas and weilaway! –

  Envenimed2124 was so subtilly withalle

  2125 That, er that he hadde wered it half a day,

  It made his flessh al from his bones falle.

  But nathelees, somme clerkes hire excusen,

  By oon that highte Nessus, that it maked.

  Be as be may2129, I wol hire noght accusen;

  2130 But on his bak this sherte he wered al naked

  Til that his flessh was for the venim blaked2131.

  And whan he say noon oother remedye,

  In hote coles he hath himselven raked,

  For with no venim deigned him to die2134.

  2135 Thus starf2135 this worthy mighty Hercules.

  Lo, who may truste on Fortune any throwe2136?

  For him that folweth al this world of prees2137,

  Er he be war2138, is ofte yleid ful lowe.

  Ful wis is he that kan himselven knowe!

  2140 Beth war, for whan that Fortune list to glose2140,

  Thanne waiteth2141 she hir man to overthrowe

  By swich a wey as he wolde leest suppose.


  The mighty trone, the precious tresor,

  The glorious ceptre, and royal majestee

  2145 That hadde the king Nabugodonosor

  With tonge unnethe2146 may discrived be.

  He twies wan Jerusalem the citee;

  The vessel of the temple he with him ladde2148.

  At Babiloigne2149 was his soverein see,

  2150 In which his glorye and his delit he hadde.

  The faireste children of the blood royal

  Of Israel he leet do gelde2152 anon,

  And maked ech of hem to been his thral2153.

  Amonges othere2154 Daniel was oon,

  2155 That was the wiseste child of everychoon;

  For he the dremes of the king expowned2156,

  Wheras2157 in Chaldeye clerk ne was ther noon

  That wiste to what fin2158 his dremes sowned.

  This proude king leet make2159 a statue of gold,

  2160 Sixty cubites2160 long and sevene in brede,

  To which image bothe yonge and old

  Comanded he to loute2162, and have in drede,

  Or in a fourneis2163, ful of flambes rede,

  He shal be brend2164 that wolde noght obeye.

  2165 But nevere wolde assente to that dede

  Daniel, ne hise yonge felawes tweye.

  This king of kinges proud was and elat2167.

  He wende2168 that God that sit in magestee

  Ne mighte him nat bireve2169 of his estat.

  2170 But sodeinly he loste his dignitee2170,

  And lik a beest him semed for to be,

  And eet hey2172 as an oxe, and lay theroute.

  In rein with wilde beestes walked he,

  Til certein time was ycome aboute.

  2175 And lik an egles fetheres wax2175 hise heres;

  Hise nailes lik a briddes clawes weere,

  Til God relessed2177 him a certein yeres,

  And yaf him wit2178; and thanne with many a teere

  He thanked God, and evere his lif2179 in feere

  2180 Was he to doon amis or moore trespace2180;

  And til that time he leid was on his beere2181,

  He knew that God was ful of might and grace.


  His sone, which that highte Balthasar,

  That heeld the regne2184 after his fader day,

  2185 He by his fader koude noght be war2185,

  For proud he was of herte and of array2186,

  And eek an idolastre2187 was he ay.

  His hye estat assured him2188 in pride;

  But Fortune caste him doun, and ther he lay,

  2190 And sodeinly his regne gan divide.

  A feste he made unto hise lordes alle

  Upon a time, and made hem blithe be,

  And thanne hise officeres gan he calle:

  ‘Gooth bringeth forth2194 the vesseles’, quod he,

  2195 ‘Whiche that my fader in his prosperitee

  Out of the temple of Jerusalem birafte2196,

  And to oure hye goddes thanke we

  Of2198 honour that oure eldres with us lafte.’

  His wif, hise lordes, and hise concubines

  2200 Ay dronken2200, whil hire appetites laste,

  Out of thise noble vessels sondry wines.

  And on a wal this king hise eyen caste,

  And say2203 an hand, armlees, that wroot ful faste,

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