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Geoffrey Chaucer >> The Canterbury Tales (page 18)


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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 thegle 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 nothyng 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!"

Hise 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.

Nero

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.
Hise 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;
Therfore 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 faster 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 gardin 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.

De Oloferno

Was nevere capitayn under a kyng
That regnes mo putte in subjeccioun,
Ne strenger was in feeld of alle thyng
As ibn 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 noghy 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.

De Alexandro

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
Wher-so he cam, unto the worldes ende.

Comparison myghte nevere yet been maked
Bitwixen hym and another conquerour,
For al this world for drede of hym hath quaked.
He was of knyghthod and of fredom flour,
Fortune 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 knyghthode 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 worhty 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 thoccident 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 chivalrye
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 thorient 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 thorient conquerour

Title: The Canterbury Tales
Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
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