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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 17)


e,
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.

Hercules

Off 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 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,
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.

Nabugodonosor

The myghty trone, the precious tresor
The golrious 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 make 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 expouned
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
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 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.

Balthasar

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 occupyeth his degree,
Thogh he therto hadde neither right ne lawe.

Lordynges, ensample heer-by 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

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 to-rente,
And in hir armes weelde hem at hir wille.


She dorste wilde heestes 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 no moore 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 ther-with, 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, who-so 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.

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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