The canterbury tales, p.68
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       The Canterbury Tales, p.68

           Geoffrey Chaucer

  As any feend2464 that lith ful lowe adoun,

  2465 Yet he, as telleth us Swetonius,

  This wide world hadde in subjeccioun,

  Bothe Est and West, South and Septemtrioun2467.

  Of rubies, saphires, and of perles white

  Were alle hise clothes brouded2469 up and doun,

  2470 For he in gemmes greetly gan delite.

  Moore delicat, moore2471 pompous of array,

  Moore proud was nevere emperour than he.

  That ilke clooth that he hadde wered o day2473,

  After that time he nolde it nevere see.

  2475 Nettes of gold threed hadde he greet plentee,

  To fisshe in Tibre2476 whan him liste pleye.

  Hise lustes2477 were al lawe in his decree,

  For Fortune as his freend him wolde obeye.

  He Rome brende2479 for his delicacye.

  2480 The senatours he slow upon a day,

  To heere how that men wolde wepe and crye,

  And slow his brother, and by his suster lay.

  His moder made he in pitous array2483,

  For he hire wombe slitte, to biholde

  2485 Where he conceived was; so weilaway,

  That he so litel of his moder tolde2486!

  No teere out of hise eyen for that sighte

  Ne cam, but seide, ‘A fair womman was she!’

  Greet wonder is how that he koude or mighte

  2490 Be domesman2490 of hire dede beautee.

  The win to bringen him comanded he,

  And drank anoon; noon oother wo he made2492.

  Whan might is joined unto crueltee,

  Allas, to depe wol the venim wade2494!

  2495 In youthe a maister2495 hadde this emperour,

  To teche him letterure2496 and curteisye,

  For of moralitee he was the flour

  As in his time, but if2498 bookes lie.

  And whil this maister hadde of him maistrye,

  2500 He maked him so konning2500 and so souple

  That longe time it was er tyrannye

  Or any vice dorste in him uncouple2502.

  This Seneca, of which that I devise,

  Bicause Nero hadde of him swich drede2504,

  2505 For he fro vices wolde him ay chastise,

  Discretly, as by word and nat by dede –

  ‘Sire,’ wolde he seyn, ‘an emperour moot nede2507

  Be vertuous and hate tyrannye’ –

  For which he in a bath made him to blede

  2510 On bothe hise armes, til he moste die.

  This Nero hadde eek of acustumance2511

  In youthe agains2512 his maister for to rise,

  Which afterward him thoughte a greet grevance2513;

  Therefore he made him dien in this wise.

  2515 But nathelees this Seneca the wise

  Chees2516 in a bath to die in this manere,

  Rather than han another tormentise2517.

  And thus hath Nero slain his maister deere.

  Now fil it so, that Fortune liste no lenger

  2520 The hye pride of Nero to cherice2520,

  For though that he was strong, yet was she strenger.

  She thoghte thus: ‘By God, I am to nice2522

  To sette a man that is fulfild of vice

  In heigh degree, and emperour him calle!

  2525 By God, out of his sete2525 I wol him trice;

  Whan he leest weneth2526, sonnest shal he falle.’

  The peple roos upon him on a night

  For his defaute2528, and whan he it espied,

  Out of his dores anon he hath him dight2529

  2530 Allone, and there2530 he wende han been allied

  He knokked faste2531, and ay the moore he cried,

  The fastere shette they the dores alle.

  Tho wiste he wel he hadde himself misgyed2533,

  And wente his wey; no lenger dorste he calle2534.

  2535 The peple cried and rombled2535 up and doun,

  That with his eris herde he how they seide:

  ‘Where is this false tyraunt, this Neroun?’

  For fere2538 almoost out of his wit he breide,

  And to hise goddes pitously he preyde

  2540 For socour, but it mighte noght bitide2540.

  For drede of this, him thoughte that he deide,

  And ran into a gardin, him to hide.

  And in this gardin foond2543 he cherles tweye,

  That seten by a fir, greet and reed,

  2545 And to thise cherles two he gan to preye

  To sleen him, and to girden of2546 his heed,

  That to his body, whan that he were deed,

  Were no despit2548 ydoon for his defame.

  Himself he slow; he koude no bettre reed2549,

  2550 Of2550 which Fortune lough, and hadde a game.

  De Oloferno

  Was nevere capitain under a king

  That regnes mo2552 putte in subjeccioun,

  Ne strenger was in feeld of alle thing

  As in his time, ne gretter of renoun,

  2555 Ne moore pompous2555 in heigh presumpcioun

  Than Oloferne, which2556 Fortune ay kiste

  So likerously2557, and ladde him up and doun,

  Til that his heed was of2558 er that he wiste.

  Nat oonly that this world hadde him in awe

  2560 For lesinge2560 of richesse or libertee,

  But he made every man reneye his lawe2561.

  Nabugodonosor was god, seide he;

  Noon oother god sholde adoured be.

  Agains his heste no wight dorste trespace2564,

  2565 Save in Bethulia, a strong citee,

  Where Eliachim a preest was of that place.

  But tak kepe2567 of the deeth of Oloferne:

  Amidde his hoost he dronke lay a-night,

  Withinne his tente, large as is a berne2569;

  2570 And yet, for al his pompe and al his might,

  Judith, a womman, as he lay upright2571

  Slepinge, his heed of smoot2572, and from his tente

  Ful prively she stal2573 from every wight,

  And with his heed unto hir toun she wente.

  De Rege Antiocho illustri

  2575 What nedeth it of King Anthiochus

  To telle his hye royal magestee,

  His hye pride, hise werkes venimus?

  For swich another was ther noon as he.

  Rede which that2579 he was in2582 Machabee,

  2580 And rede the proude wordes that he seide,

  And why he fil fro heigh prosperitee,

  And in an hill how wrecchedly he deide.

  Fortune him hadde enhaunced2583 so in pride

  That verraily he wende he mighte attaine2584

  2585 Unto the sterres upon every side,

  And in balance2586 weyen ech montaine,

  And alle the floodes of the see restraine.

  And Goddes peple hadde he moost in hate;

  Hem wolde he sleen in torment and in paine,

  2590 Weninge2590 that God ne mighte his pride abate.

  And for that2591 Nichanore and Thimothee

  Of2592 Jewes weren venquisshed mightily,

  Unto the Jewes swich an hate hadde he

  That he bad greithe his chaar2594 ful hastily,

  2595 And swoor and seide ful despitously2595

  Unto Jerusalem he wolde eftsoone2596,

  To wreke his ire2597 on it ful cruelly –

  But of his purpos he was let2598 ful soone.

  God for his manace2599 him so soore smoot

  2600 With invisible wounde ay incurable,

  That in hise guttes carf2601 it so and boot

  That hise peines weren inportable2602.

  And certeinly the wreche2603 was resonable,

  For many a mannes guttes dide he peine.

  2605 But from his purpos cursed and dampnable,

  For al his smert2606, he wolde him nat restreine,

  But bad anon apparaillen his hoost2607.
r />   And sodeinly, er he was of it war2608,

  God daunted al his pride and al his boost;

  2610 For he so soore2610 fil out of his char

  That it hise limes and his skin totar2611,

  So that he neither mighte go2612 ne ride,

  But in a chaier2613 men aboute him bar,

  Al forbrused2614, bothe bak and side.

  2615 The wreche of God him smoot so cruelly

  That thurgh his body wikked wormes crepte,

  And therwithal he stank so horribly

  That noon of al his meinee2618 that him kepte,

  Wheither so2619 he wook or ellis slepte,

  2620 Ne mighte noght the stink of him endure.

  In this meschief he wailed and eek wepte,

  And knew2622 God lord of every creature.

  To al his hoost, and to himself also,

  Ful wlatsom2624 was the stink of his careine;

  2625 No man ne mighte him bere to ne fro.

  And in this stink and this horrible peine

  He starf2627 ful wrecchedly, in a monteine.

  Thus hath this robbour and this homicide2628,

  That many a man made to wepe and pleine,

  2630 Swich gerdon2630 as bilongeth unto pride.

  De Alexandro

  The storye of Alisaundre is so commune

  That every wight that hath discrecioun2632

  Hath herd somwhat or al of his fortune.

  This wide world, as in conclusioun,

  2635 He wan2635 by strengthe, or for his hye renoun

  They weren glad for pees unto him sende.2636

  The pride of man and beest he leide adoun2637

  Whereso he cam, unto the worldes ende.

  Comparisoun mighte nevere yet ben maked

  2640 Bitwixe him and another conquerour;

  For al this world for drede of him hath quaked.

  He was of knighthod and of fredom2642 flour;

  Fortune him made the heir of hire honour.

  Save win and wommen, nothing mighte aswage2644

  2645 His hye entente2645 in armes and labour,

  So was he ful of leonin2646 corage.

  What pris2647 were it to him, thogh I yow tolde

  Of Darius, and an hundred thousand mo,

  Of kinges, princes, dukes, erles bolde,

  2650 Whiche he conquered, and broghte hem into wo?

  I seye, as fer as man may ride or go,

  The world was his; what sholde I moore devise?2652

  For thogh I write2653 or tolde yow everemo

  Of his knighthode, it mighte nat suffise.

  2655 Twelf yeer he regned, as seyth Machabee;

  Philippes sone of Macidoine2656 he was,

  That first was king in Grece the contree.

  O worthy, gentil Alisandre, allas,

  That evere sholde fallen swich a cas!

  2660 Empoisoned of thin owene folk thou weere.

  Thy sis2661 Fortune hath turned into aas,

  And yet for thee ne weep2662 she nevere a teere.

  Who shal me yeven teeris to compleine2663

  The deeth of gentilesse and of franchise2664,

  2665 That al the world welded in his demeine2665,

  And yet him thoughte it mighte nat suffise,

  So ful was his corage2667 of heigh emprise?

  Allas, who shal me helpe to endite2668

  False Fortune, and poison to despise?

  2670 – The whiche two of al this wo I wite2670.

  De Julio Cesare

  By wisdom, manhede, and by greet labour,

  From humble bed to royal magestee

  Up roos he Julius the conquerour,

  That wan al th’Occident2674 by land and see,

  2675 By strengthe of hond, or elles by tretee2675,

  And unto Rome made hem tributarye;

  And sith of Rome the emperour was he,

  Til that Fortune weex2678 his adversarye.

  O mighty Cesar, that in Thessalye

  2680 Again2680 Pompeus, fader thin in lawe,

  That of th’Orient hadde al the chivalrye

  As fer as that the day biginneth dawe2682,

  Thow thurgh thy knighthod2683 hast hem take and slawe,

  Save fewe folk that with Pompeus fledde,

  2685 Thurgh which thow puttest al th’Orient in awe;

  Thanke Fortune, that so wel thee spedde2686!

  But now a litel while I wol biwaille

  This Pompeus, this noble governour

  Of Rome, which that fleigh2689 at this bataille.

  2690 I seye, oon of hise men, a fals traitour,

  His heed of smoot2691, to winnen him favour

  Of Julius, and him the heed he broghte.

  Allas, Pompeye, of th’Orient conquerour,

  That Fortune unto swich a fin2694 thee broghte!

  2695 To Rome again repaireth2695 Julius

  With his triumphe, lauriat2696 ful hye.

  But on a time2697, Brutus Cassius,

  That evere hadde of his hye estat2698 envye,

  Ful prively2699 hath maad conspiracye

  2700 Agains this Julius in subtil wise,

  And caste2701 the place in which he sholde die

  With boidekins2702, as I shal yow devise.

  This Julius to the Capitolie wente

  Upon a day, as he was wont to goon,

  2705 And in the Capitolie anon him hente2705

  This false Brutus and hise othere foon2706,

  And stiked2707 him with boidekins anoon

  With many a wounde, and thus they lete him lie.

  But nevere gronte2709 he at no strook but oon,

  2710 Or elles at two, but if his storye lie.

  So manly was this Julius of herte,

  And so wel lovede estatly honestee2712,

  That thogh hise deedly woundes soore smerte2713,

  His mantel over his hipes casteth he,

  2715 For2715 no man sholde seen his privetee.

  And as he lay of-dying2716 in a traunce,

  And wiste verraily that deed was he,

  Of honestee yet hadde he remembraunce.

  Lucan, to thee this storye I recomende,

  2720 And to Swetoun, and to Valerius also,

  That of this storye writen word and ende2721,

  How that to thise grete conquerours two

  Fortune was first freend, and sitthe2723 foo.

  No man ne truste2724 upon hire favour longe,

  2725 But2725 have hire in await for everemo;

  Witnesse on alle thise conqueroures stronge.


  This riche Cresus, whilom2727 king of Lyde,

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