Modern English version
see also Book 1, Book 2, Book 3, Book 4, Book 5, Book 6, Book 7, and Book 8
© Copyright 2005 Richard Brodie
(Middle English text from MacAulay)
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Motivation and Intent
Dedication to Richard II
Dedication to Henry IV
Division and Decline
Teal for second recension rearrangements, substitutions, and/or additions
In the third recension
Dedication to Richard II
is replaced with
Dedication to Henry IV.
|Motivation and Intent|
Of hem that writen ous tofore
The bokes duelle, and we therfore
Ben tawht of that was write tho:
Forthi good is that we also
In oure tyme among ous hiere
Do wryte of newe som matiere,
Essampled of these olde wyse
So that it myhte in such a wyse,
Whan we ben dede and elleswhere,
Beleve to the worldes eere
In tyme comende after this.
Bot for men sein, and soth it is,
That who that al of wisdom writ
It dulleth ofte a mannes wit
To him that schal it aldai rede,
For thilke cause, if that ye rede,
I wolde go the middel weie
And wryte a bok betwen the tweie,
Somwhat of lust, somewhat of lore,
That of the lasse or of the more
Som man mai lyke of that I wryte:
who wrote before our lives
Their precious legacy survives;
From what was written then, we learn,
And so it’s well that we in turn,
In our allotted time on earth
Do write anew some things of worth,
Like those we from these sages cite,
So that such in like manner might,
When we have left this mortal sphere,
Remain for all the world to hear
In ages following our own.
But it is so that men are prone
To say that when one only reads
Of wisdom all day long, one breeds
A paucity of wit, and so
If you agree I’ll choose to go
Along a kind of middle ground
Sometimes I’ll write of things profound,
And sometimes for amusement’s sake
A lighter path of pleasure take
So all can something pleasing find.
|Dedication to Richard II|
And for that fewe men endite
In oure englissh, I thenke make
A bok for king Richardes sake,
To who belongeth my ligeance
With al my hertes obeissance
In al that evere a liege man
Unto his king may doon or can:
So ferforth I me recomande
To him, which al me may comande
Preyende unto the hihe regne
Which causeth every king to regne,
That his corone longe stonde.
I thenke and have it understonde
As it bifel upon a tyde,
As thing which scholde tho betyde,
Under the toun of newe Troye,
Which tok of Bruit his ferste joye,
In Temse whan it was flowende
As I be bote cam rowende,
So as fortune hir tyme sette
My liege lord par chaunce I mette;
And so befel, as I cam nyh,
Out of my bot, whan he me syh,
He bad me come in to his barge.
And whan I was with him at large,
Amonges othre thinges seid
He hath this charge upon me leid,
And bad me doo my besynesse
That to his hihe worthinesse
Som newe thing I scholde boke,
That he himself it mihte loke
After the forme of my writynge.
And thus upon his comandynge
Myn herte is wel the more glad
To write so as he me bad;
And eek my fere is wel the lasse
That nonenvye schal compasse
Without a resonable wite
To feyne and blame that I write.
A gentil herte his tunge stilleth,
That it malice non distilleth,
But preyseth that is to be preised;
But he that hath his word unpeysed
And handleth (onwrong) every thing,
I preye un to the hevene king
For suche tunges he me schilde.
And natheles this world is wilde
Of such jangling, and what befalle,
My kinges heste schal nought falle,
That I, in hope to deserve
His thonk, ne shal his wil observe;
And elles were I nought excused,
For that thing may nought be refused
Which that a kin himselve bit.
Forthi the symplesce of my wit
I thenke if that it myhte avayle
In his service to travaile:
Though I seknesse have upon honde,
And longe have had, yit wol I fonde,
So as I made my beheste,
To make a bok after his heste,
And write in such a maner wise,
Which may be wisdom to the wise
And pley to hem that lust to pleye.
But in proverbe I have herd seye
That who that wel his werk begynneth
The rather a good end he wynneth;
And thus the prologe of my bok
After the world that whilom tok,
And eek somdel after the newe,
I wol begynne for to newe.
Since these days men are disinclined
To write in English, I shall make
A poem for king Richard's sake,
To whom I my allegiance owe,
And to whom I all honor show
In every way one loyal to
His king can undertake to do:
So henceforth I applaud with praise
Him whom I honor in all ways,
And pray to him who does ordain
All kings and causes them to reign,
That he his crown may long retain.
I often call that time to mind,
And wonder if it was designed
As something that was meant to be,
When I was rowing toward the sea,
Beside the town of London, pride
Of Britain, down the Thames, and spied
The royal barge, by fortune led,
And by her hand, unseen, unsaid,
I chanced to come upon my lord,
Who motioned me his barge to board
Out of my boat, when he espied
Me coming closer. I complied,
And when I was with him inside,
And for a while with him I stayed,
Upon me he this challenge laid,
That I my talents should employ
On something which he would enjoy,
Some great new literary deed,
That he might look upon and read
Exemplary of my own style.
And this assignment brought a smile
Unto my face, for I felt blessed
And glad to honor his request;
And too my fear was well allayed
That I with envy might be paid
With no just reason, out of spite
To try and trash what I would write.
He has a kindly heart and tongue,
From which no malice would be flung,
But rather praise, where praise is due;
Since critics may concoct a brew
Of stricture for most anything,
I pray that from such tongues the king
Of heaven will my work protect.
But in this world such disrespect
Is common when it comes to art;
My king's command may they not thwart
That my hope his thanks to obtain
Shall not thereby have been in vain;
From all else I might be excused,
But one thing may not be refused
And that is what a king decrees.
Thus with humility I seize
Upon this chance my king to serve,
That I might his esteem deserve.
I'm not sure how long I'll survive
My sickness, yet I still will strive,
The promise that I made to keep,
By his commandment, ere I sleep,
And in a way across to come,
Which may instructive be to some,
While some may find it fun instead.
In proverbs I have heard it said
A project that starts off well penned,
Will in the winner's circle end;
Thus in the prologue of my book
At olden times we'll take a look,
And finally we shall peruse
Things that of late have made the news.
|Dedication to Henry IV|
And for that fewe men endite
In oure englissh, I thenke make
A bok for Engelondes sake,
The yer sextenthe of kyng Richard.
What schal befalle hierafterward
God wot, for now upon this tyde
Men se the world on every syde
In sondry wyse so diversed,
That it welnyh stant al reversed,
As forto speke of tyme ago.
The cause whi it changeth so
It needeth nought to specifie,
The thing so open is at ije
That every man it mai beholde:
And natheles be daies olde,
Whan that the bokes weren levere,
Wrytinge was beloved evere
Of hem that weren vertuous;
For hier in erthe amonges ous,
If noman write hou that it stode,
The pris of hem that weren goode
Scholde, as who seith, a gret partie
Be lost: so for to magnifie
The worthi princes that tho were,
The bokes schewen hiere and there,
Wherof the world ensampled is;
And tho that deden thanne amis
Thurgh tirannie and crualte,
Right as thei stoden in degre,
So was the wrytinge of here werk.
Thus I, which am a burel clerk,
Purpose forto wryte a bok
After the world that whilom tok
Long tyme in olde daies passed:
Bot for men sein it is now lassed,
In worse plit than it was tho,
I thenke forto touche also
The world which neweth every dai,
So as I can, so as I mai.
Thogh I seknesse have upon honde
And longe have had, yit woll I fonde
To wryte and do my bisinesse,
That in som part, so as I gesse,
The wyse man mai ben avised.
For this prologe is so assised
That it to wisdom al belongeth:
What wysman that it underfongeth,
He schal drawe into remembrance
The fortune of this worldes chance,
The which noman in his persone
Mai knowe, bot the god al one.
Whan the prologe is so despended,
This bok schal afterward ben ended
Of love, which doth many a wonder
And many a wys man hath put under.
And in this wyse I thenke trete
Towardes hem that now be grete,
Betwen the vertu and the vice
Which longeth unto this office.
Bot for my wittes ben to smale
To tellen every man his tale,
This bok, upon amendment
To stonde at his commandement,
With whom myn herte is of accord,
I sende unto myn oghne lord,
Which of Lancastre is Henri named:
The hyhe god him hath proclamed
Ful of knyhthode and alle grace.
So woll I now this werk embrace
With hol trust and with hol believe;
God grante I mot it wel achieve.
Since these days men are disinclined
To write in English, I shall make
A book of verse for England’s sake,
Now in King Richard’s sixteenth year.
What shall hereafter come I fear
God only knows, for it is clear
Men see the world, in every way,
Has changed so much from yesterday,
That things have upside down been turned,
As far as kingdoms are concerned.
On causes why things change so much
I do not think I need to touch,
It is so obvious, so clear,
At least it should to all appear.
In former times to me it seemed,
A time when books were more esteemed,
Writing was held in high regard
By those whose virtue was not marred;
For if no one, you will agree,
Had written down a history,
The reputations of the just
Would surely have been lost, you must
Concede; and so to praise on earth
The princes that there were of worth,
These books can their examples show,
And of their deeds we all may know;
And likewise those whose deeds were vile
The the authors of these works compile
A chronicle of cruelties
Appropriate to their degrees.
Thus I, who am a humble clerk,
Propose to undertake this work
About the world as once it was
In olden days long passed, because
By contrast I desire to show
How modern man has sunk so low;
A world I also will review
Which daily does itself renew,
As I am able, and allowed.
Though I’ve been long beneath a cloud
Of sickness, yet will I attempt
To write and not myself exempt
From duty, that I might devise
A work that will instruct the wise.
For I this prologue shall confine
To wisdom’s realm: who shall incline
Among the wise to know it all,
It shall to memory recall
This world’s haphazard vagaries,
To which no man discerns those keys
That only God can comprehend.
When of this prologue to the end
I’ve come, I’ll then proceed to speak
Of love, which on the wise can wreak
Full many a sorry sad demise.
I plan by this means to advise
With due respect to those now great,
How virtue and how vice relate
To what pertains to their estate.
But since my wit is wanting so
Of each man’s story all to know,
This book may be amended by
Command of him with whose heart I
Do find myself in full accord,
Thus it I send to my own lord,
Henry who of Lancaster came.
Our God on high doth him proclaim
Possessed of chivalry and grace.
So will I now this work embrace
With trust, believing I may be
Allowed to live its end to see.
If I schal drawe in to my mynde
The tyme passed, thanne I fynde
The world stod thanne in al his welthe:
Tho was the lif of man in helthe,
Tho was plente, tho was richesse,
Tho was the fortune of prouesse,
Tho was knyhthode in pris be name,
Wherof the wyde worldes fame
Write in Cronique is yit withholde;
Justice of lawe tho was holde,
The privilege of regalie
Was sauf, and al the baronie
Worschiped was in his astat;
The citees knewen no debat,
The poeple stod in obeissance
Under the reule of governance,
And pes, which ryhtwisnesse keste,
With charite tho stod in reste:
Of mannes herte the corage
Was schewed thanne in the visage;
The word was lich to the conceite
Withoute semblant of deceite:
Tho was ther unenvied love,
Tho was the vertu sett above
And vice was put under fote.
Now stant the crop under the rote,
The world is changed overal,
And therof most in special
That love is falle into discord.
And that I take to record
Of every lond for his partie
The comun vois, which mai noght lie;
Noght upon on, bot upon alle
It is that men now clepe and calle,
And sein the regnes ben divided,
In stede of love is hate guided,
The werre wol no pes purchace,
And lawe hath take hire double face,
So that justice out of the weie
With ryhtwisnesse is gon aweie:
And thus to loke on every halve,
Men sen the sor withoute salve,
Which al the world hath overtake.
Ther is no regne of alle outtake,
For every climat hath his diel
After the tornynge of the whiel,
Which blinde fortune overthroweth;
Wherof the certain noman knoweth:
The hevene wot what is to done,
Bot we that duelle under the mone
Stonde in this world upon a weer,
And namely bot the pouer
Of hem that ben the worldes guides
With good consail on alle sides
Be kept upriht in such a wyse,
That hate breke noght thassise
Of love, which is al the chief
To kepe a regne out of meschief.
For alle resoun wolde this,
That unto him which the heved is
The membres buxom scholden bowe,
And he scholde ek her trowthe allowe,
With al his herte and make hem chiere,
For good consail is good to hiere.
Althogh a man be wys himselve,
Yit is the wisdom more of tuelve;
And if thei stoden bothe in on,
To hope it were thanne anon
That god his grace wolde sende
To make of thilke werre an ende,
Which every day now groweth newe:
And that is gretly forto rewe
In special for Cristes sake,
Which wolde his oghne lif forsake
Among the men to yeve pes.
But now men tellen natheles
That love is fro the world departed,
So stant the pes unevene parted
With hem that liven now adaies.
Bot forto loke at alle assaies,
To him that wolde resoun seche
After the comun worldes speche
It is to wondre of thilke werre,
In which non wot who hath the werre;
For every lond himself deceyveth
And of desese his part receyveth,
And yet ne take men no kepe.
Bot thilke lord which al may kepe,
To whom no consail may ben hid,
Upon the world which is betid,
Amende that wherof men pleigne
With trewe hertes and with pleine,
And reconcile love ayeyn,
As he which is king sovereign
Of al the worldes governaunce,
And of his hyhe porveaunce
Afferme pes betwen the londes
And take her cause into hise hondes,
So that the world may stonde apppesed
And his godhede also be plesed.
If I reflect and bring to mind
How things once were, then I shall find
The world then was with riches rife.
Then all men lived a healthy life,
Then was abundance all around,
Then strength and virtue did abound,
Then chivalry was unrestrained,
Whose worldwide reputation reigned,
As in the chronicles we read;
The law then justice guaranteed,
And royalty in safety dwelt
Both honor and respect were felt
By nobles and their retinue;
The cities no contention knew,
And all the people showed, we saw,
A reverence for the rule of law,
And peace, which was by justice kissed,
With charity did then exist.
A man’s heart’s courage one could trace
Within the features of his face.
Men spoke as truly they believed
Their words were on their face received.
Then love unenvied reigned it seemed,
Then virtue was by all esteemed,
And vice by everyone was spurned.
Now upside down has all been turned.
The world in all respects has changed,
And in particular estranged
Are those who were in harmony.
I know, for in all lands I see
In records kept from east to west,
Its truth the people all attest;
In all lands, not just one, unrest
Is rampant, and a hue and cry
Goes up, as disaffection’s high.
Instead of love the rule is hate,
War unto peace will not abate,
And justice wears a double face,
The law no longer does embrace
A fair impartiality.
And thus on every side we see
No salve to soothe the bleeding sores
Around a world that sin adores.
To all dominions this applies,
For there’s no clime that Fate denies,
According to her turning wheel,
A chance misfortune’s curse to feel.
Men have no safety anymore.
God only knows what is in store,
But we who lack security
Must live our lives in doubt, for we
Are at the mercy of those who
The nations lead - may they pursue
Good counsel in all things to guide
Them righteously as they preside,
That hate may not usurp the place
Of love, which is the foremost grace
That keeps a kingdom from decay.
For if we let our focus stay
On him who is the head then would
His subjects bow down as they should,
And he accept their loyalty,
To make them glad, wholeheartedly,
For counsel sage it’s good to hear.
Although one man’s head may be clear,
His wisdom is by twelve surpassed;
Might all agree, down to the last,
To pray that God would move apace
And condescend to send His grace
To cause that waxing war to wane,
That does each day momentum gain.
For such is greatly to be rued
And should for Christ’s sake be eschewed,
Since He would His own life forsake
And thus teach all men peace to make.
But nonetheless men now maintain
That love no more does earth contain,
A patchwork thus there is of peace
Wars and contention do not cease.
If all the trials we assess,
Then they who reason would profess,
In light of what all men express,
Must throw their hands up at this strife,
Where none knows where despair’s most rife.
For every land itself believes
That it the greater grief receives,
And yet men no precautions take.
But Thou Lord who for us did ache,
From whom no counsel may be kept,
On this world in war overswept,
Redress those grievances men have;
To true and simple hearts a salve
Of love harmonious apply;
As sovereign king who reigns on high
O’er all the governments on earth,
Do, from Thine elevated berth,
Establish peace between the lands
And take their cause into Thy hands,
That reconciled the world may be,
At one with Thy divinity.
To thenke upon the daies olde,
The lif of clerkes to beholde,
Men sein how that thei weren tho
Ensample and reule of alle tho
Whiche of wisdom the vertu soughten.
Unto the god ferst thei besoughten
As to the substaunce of her Scole,
That thei ne scholden noght befole
Her wit upon none erthly werkes,
Which were ayein thestat of clerkes,
And that thei myhten fle the vice
Which Simon hath in his office,
Wherof he takth the gold in honde.
For thilke tyme I understonde
The Lumbard made non eschange
The bisschopriches forto change,
Ne yet a lettre for to sende
For dignite ne for Provende,
Or cured or withoute cure.
The cherche keye in aventure
Of armes and of brygantaille
Stod nothing thanne upon bataille;
To fyhte or for to make cheste
It thoghte hem thanne noght honeste;
Bot of simplesce and pacience
Thei maden thanne no defence:
The Court of worldly regalie
To hem was thanne no baillie;
The vein honour was noght desired,
Which hath the proude herte fyred;
Humilite was tho withholde,
And Pride was a vice holde.
Of holy cherche the largesse
Yaf thanne and dede gret almesse
To povere men that hadden nede:
Thei were ek chaste in word and dede,
Wherof the poeple ensample tok;
Her lust was al upon the bok,
Or forto preche or forto preie,
To wisse men the ryhte weie
Of suche as stode of trowthe unliered.
Lo, thus was Petres barge stiered
Of hem that thilke tyme were,
And thus cam ferst to mannes Ere
The feith of Crist and alle goode
Thurgh hem that thanne weren goode
And sobre and chaste and large and wyse.
Bot now men sein is otherwise,
Simon the cause hath undertake,
The worldes swerd on honde is take;
And that is wonder natheles,
Whan Crist him self hath bode pes
And set it in his testament,
How now that holy cherche is went,
Of that here lawe positif
Hath set to make werre and strif
For worldes good, which may noght laste.
God wot the cause to the laste
Of every right and wrong also;
But whil the lawe is reuled so
That clerkes to the werre entende,
I not how that thei scholde amende
The woful world in othre thinges,
To make pes betwen the kynges
After the lawe of charite,
Which is the propre duete
Belongende unto the presthode.
Bot as it thenkth to the manhode,
The hevene is ferr, the world is nyh,
And veine gloire is ek so slyh,
Which coveitise hath now withholde,
That thei non other thing beholde,
Bot only that thei myhten winne.
And thus the werres thei beginne,
Wherof the holi cherche is taxed,
That in the point as it is axed
The disme goth to the bataille,
As thogh Crist myhte noght availe
To don hem riht be other weie.
In to the swerd the cherche keie
Is torned, and the holy bede
Into cursinge, and every stede
Which scholde stonde upon the feith
And to this cause an Ere leyth,
Astoned is of the querele.
That scholde be the worldes hele
Is now, men sein, the pestilence
Which hath exiled pacience
Fro the clergie in special:
And that is schewed overal,
In eny thing whan thei ben grieved.
Bot if Gregoire be believed,
As it is in the bokes write,
He doth ous somdel forto wite
The cause of thilke prelacie,
Wher god is noght of compaignie:
For every werk as it is founded
Schal stonde or elles be confounded;
Who that only for Cristes sake
Desireth cure forto take,
And noght for pride of thilke astat,
To bere a name of a prelat,
He schal be resoun do profit
In holy cherche upon the plit
That he hath set his conscience;
Bot in the worldes reverence
Ther ben of suche manie glade,
Whan thei to thilke astat ben made,
Noght for the merite of the charge,
Bot for thei wolde hemself descharge
Of poverte and become grete;
And thus for Pompe and for beyete
The Scribe and ek the Pharisee
Of Moises upon the See
In the chaiere on hyh ben set;
Wherof the feith is ofte let,
Which is betaken hem to kepe.
In Cristes cause alday thei slepe,
Bot of the world is noght foryete;
For wel is him that now may gete
Office in Court to ben honoured.
The stronge coffre hath al devoured
Under the keye of avarice
The tresor of the benefice,
Wherof the povere schulden clothe
And ete and drinke and house bothe;
The charite goth al unknowe,
For thei no grein of Pite sowe:
And slouthe kepeth the libraire
Which longeth to the Saintuaire;
To studie upon the worldes lore
Sufficeth now withoute more;
Delicacie his swete toth
Hath fostred so that it fordoth
Of abstinence al that ther is.
And forto loken over this,
If Ethna brenne in the clergie,
Al openly to mannes ije
At Avynoun thexperience
Therof hath yove an evidence,
Of that men sen hem so divided.
And yit the cause is noght decided;
Bot it is seid and evere schal,
Betwen tuo Stoles lyth the fal,
Whan that men wenen best to sitte:
In holy cherche of such a slitte
Is for to rewe un to ous alle;
God grante it mote wel befalle
Towardes him which hath the trowthe.
Bot ofte is sen that mochel slowthe,
Whan men ben drunken of the cuppe,
Doth mochel harm, whan fyr is uppe,
Bot if somwho the flamme stanche;
And so to speke upon this branche,
Which proud Envie hath mad to springe,
Of Scisme, causeth forto bringe
This newe Secte of Lollardie,
And also many an heresie
Among the clerkes in hemselve.
It were betre dike and delve
And stonde upon the ryhte feith,
Than knowe al that the bible seith
And erre as somme clerkes do.
Upon the hond to were a Schoo
And sette upon the fot a Glove
Acordeth noght to the behove
Of resonable mannes us:
If men behielden the vertus
That Crist in Erthe taghte here,
Thei scholden noght in such manere,
Among hem that ben holden wise,
The Papacie so desguise
Upon diverse eleccioun,
Which stant after thaffeccioun
Of sondry londes al aboute:
Bot whan god wole, it schal were oute,
For trowthe mot stonde ate laste.
Bot yet thei argumenten faste
Upon the Pope and his astat,
Wherof thei falle in gret debat;
This clerk seith yee, that other nay,
And thus thei dryve forth the day,
And ech of hem himself amendeth
Of worldes good, bot non entendeth
To that which comun profit were.
Thei sein that god is myhti there,
And schal ordeine what he wile,
Ther make thei non other skile
Where is the peril of the feith,
Bot every clerk his herte leith
To kepe his world in special,
And of the cause general,
Which unto holy cherche longeth,
Is non of hem that underfongeth
To schapen eny resistence:
And thus the riht hath no defence,
Bot ther I love, ther I holde.
Lo, thus tobroke is Cristes folde,
Wherof the flock withoute guide
Devoured is on every side,
In lacke of hem that ben unware
Schepherdes, whiche her wit beware
Upon the world in other halve.
The scharpe pricke in stede of salve
Thei usen now, wherof the hele
Thei hurte of that thei scholden hele;
And what Schep that is full of wulle
Upon his back, thei toose and pulle,
Whil ther is eny thing to pile:
And thogh ther be non other skile
Bot only for thei wolden wynne,
Thei leve noght, whan thei begynne,
Upon her acte to procede,
Which is no good schepherdes dede.
And upon this also men sein,
That fro the leese which is plein
Into the breres thei forcacche
Her Orf, for that thei wolden lacche
With such duresce, and so bereve
That schal upon the thornes leve
Of wulle, which the brere hath tore;
Wherof the Schep ben al totore
Of that the hierdes make hem lese.
Lo, how thei feignen chalk for chese,
For though thei speke and teche wel,
Thei don hemself therof no del:
For if the wolf come in the weie,
Her gostly Staf is thanne aweie,
Wherof thei scholde her flock defende;
Bot if the povere Schep offende
In eny thing, thogh it be lyte,
They ben al redy forto smyte;
And thus, how evere that thei tale,
The strokes falle upon the smale,
And upon othre that ben grete
Hem lacketh herte forto bete.
So that under the clerkes lawe
Men sen the Merel al mysdrawe,
I wol noght seie in general,
For ther ben somme in special
In whom that alle vertu duelleth,
And tho ben, as thapostel telleth,
That god of his eleccioun
Hath cleped to perfeccioun
In the manere as Aaron was:
Thei ben nothing in thilke cas
Of Simon, which the foldes gate
Hath lete, and goth in othergate,
Bot thei gon in the rihte weie.
Ther ben also somme, as men seie,
That folwen Simon ate hieles,
Whos carte goth upon the whieles
Of coveitise and worldes Pride,
And holy cherche goth beside,
Which scheweth outward a visage
Of that is noght in the corage.
For if men loke in holy cherche,
Betwen the word and that thei werche
Ther is a full gret difference:
Thei prechen ous in audience
That noman schal his soule empeire,
For al is bot a chirie feire
This worldes good, so as thei telle;
Also thei sein ther is an helle,
Which unto mannes sinne is due,
And bidden ous therfore eschue
That wikkid is, and do the goode.
Who that here wordes understode,
It thenkth thei wolden do the same;
Bot yet betwen ernest and game
Ful ofte it torneth other wise.
With holy tales thei devise
How meritoire is thilke dede
Of charite, to clothe and fede
The povere folk and forto parte
The worldes good, bot thei departe
Ne thenken noght fro that thei have.
Also thei sein, good is to save
With penance and with abstinence
Of chastite the continence;
Bot pleinly forto speke of that,
I not how thilke body fat,
Which thei with deynte metes kepe
And leyn it softe forto slepe,
Whan it hath elles al his wille,
With chastite schal stonde stille:
And natheles I can noght seie,
In aunter if that I misseye.
Touchende of this, how evere it stonde,
I here and wol noght understonde,
For therof have I noght to done:
Bot he that made ferst the Mone,
The hyhe god, of his goodnesse,
If ther be cause, he it redresce.
Bot what as eny man accuse,
This mai reson of trowthe excuse;
The vice of hem that ben ungoode
Is no reproef unto the goode:
For every man hise oghne werkes
Schal bere, and thus as of the clerkes
The goode men ben to comende,
And alle these othre god amende:
For thei ben to the worldes ije
The Mirour of ensamplerie,
To reulen and to taken hiede
Betwen the men and the godhiede.
To contemplate the days long past,
Now forto speke of the comune,
It is to drede of that fortune
Which hath befalle in sondri londes:
Bot often for defalte of bondes
Al sodeinliche, er it be wist,
A Tonne, whanne his lye arist,
Tobrekth and renneth al aboute,
Which elles scholde noght gon oute;
And ek fulofte a litel Skar
Upon a Banke, er men be war,
Let in the Strem, which with gret peine,
If evere man it schal restreigne.
Wher lawe lacketh, errour groweth,
He is noght wys who that ne troweth,
For it hath proeved ofte er this;
And thus the comun clamour is
In every lond wher poeple dwelleth,
And eche in his compleignte telleth
How that the world is al miswent,
And ther upon his jugement
Yifth every man in sondry wise.
Bot what man wolde himself avise,
His conscience and noght misuse,
He may wel ate ferste excuse
His god, which evere stant in on:
In him ther is defalte non,
So moste it stonde upon ousselve
Nought only upon ten ne twelve,
Bot plenerliche upon ous alle,
For man is cause of that schal falle.
And natheles yet som men wryte
And sein that fortune is to wyte,
And som men holde oppinion
That it is constellacion,
Which causeth al that a man doth:
God wot of bothe which is soth.
The world as of his propre kynde
Was evere untrewe, and as the blynde
Improprelich he demeth fame,
He blameth that is noght to blame
And preiseth that is noght to preise:
Thus whan he schal the thinges peise,
Ther is deceipte in his balance,
And al is that the variance
Of ous, that scholde ous betre avise;
For after that we falle and rise,
The world arist and falth withal,
So that the man is overal
His oghne cause of wel and wo.
That we fortune clepe so
Out of the man himself it groweth;
And who that other wise troweth,
Behold the poeple of Irael:
For evere whil thei deden wel,
Fortune was hem debonaire,
And whan thei deden the contraire,
Fortune was contrariende.
So that it proeveth wel at ende
Why that the world is wonderfull
And may no while stonde full,
Though that it seme wel besein;
For every worldes thing is vein,
And evere goth the whiel aboute,
And evere stant a man in doute,
Fortune stant no while stille,
So hath ther noman al his wille.
Als fer as evere a man may knowe,
Ther lasteth nothing bot a throwe;
The world stant evere upon debat,
So may be seker non astat,
Now hier now ther, now to now fro,
Now up now down, this world goth so,
And evere hath don and evere schal:
Now, speaking of the third estate,
We ought to fear that awful fate
We’ve seen in sundry lands of late.
As often when the bonds are weak
The heated vessel springs a leak
And breaks, its contents, unconstrained,
Which were supposed to be contained,
Begin to spill and make a mess;
Or when a dike is under stress,
Before men realize, a crack
Appears. To hold the water back
All hands are to the limit strained.
Without law, heresy’s unchained,
A fool the opposite suggests,
For history to this attests.
And thus with universal voice
In places where the people’s choice
Is their opinion to express
How all affairs are in a mess,
All men upon the world’s malaise
Pontificate in different ways.
But sins seen as a moral blot,
In which no others should be caught,
A man might in himself excuse.
His God will always justice choose,
And act in righteous rectitude,
So likewise let us be imbued
With virtue, and let that include
Not ten or twelve, but everyone,
For it’s by man all things are done.
But nonetheless some men will write
Attempting fortune to indict,
And some men claim it’s in the stars
And blame the sun, the moon, or Mars
For all the sins that men commit.
The Lord perceives the truth of it.
The world by nature is unclean,
And as though by a blind man seen
Opinions false are judged as true.
Men blame what’s not to blame, and too
Praise that for which no praise is due.
Thus when the pros and cons they weigh,
Deceit is in their balance tray,
And their conclusions all are skewed.
We can do better, I’d conclude.
For as we fall and as we rise.
The fortune of the world complies,
So in the end it’s men who sow
The seeds of their own weal and woe.
What is attributed to fate
Men’s actions actually create
And if you think that’s not the case,
Just look at Jacob’s holy race:
As long as they went by the Book,
Fate on them smilingly did look,
But when it’s laws they disobeyed,
They witnessed their good fortune fade.
So in the end this well explains
Why in this world confusion reigns
And no perfection can persist,
Though we might think it should exist;
Vain are all things in this world found,
And ever turns the wheel around,
And ever man remains perplexed,
And knows not what is coming next,
No man can always have his way.
As far as any man can say,
There’s nothing that for long abides;
Always dispute the world divides.
Secure may one’s estate be? No!
Now here now there, no to now fro,
Now up now down does this world sway,
For all time it shall be this way.
Wherof I finde in special
A tale writen in the Bible,
Which moste nedes be credible;
And that as in conclusioun
Seith that upon divisioun
Stant, why no worldes thing mai laste,
Til it be drive to the laste.
And fro the ferste regne of alle
Into this day, hou so befalle,
Of that the regnes be muable
The man himself hath be coupable,
Which of his propre governance
Fortuneth al the worldes chance.
The hyhe almyhti pourveance,
In whos eterne remembrance
Fro ferst was every thing present,
He hath his prophecie sent,
In such a wise as thou schalt hiere,
To Daniel of this matiere,
Hou that this world schal torne and wende,
Till it be falle to his ende;
Wherof the tale telle I schal,
In which it is betokned al.
As Nabugodonosor slepte,
A swevene him tok, the which he kepte
Til on the morwe he was arise,
For he therof was sore agrise.
To Daniel his drem he tolde,
And preide him faire that he wolde
Arede what it tokne may;
And seide: "Abedde wher I lay,
Me thoghte I syh upon a Stage
Wher stod a wonder strange ymage.
His hed with al the necke also
Thei were of fin gold bothe tuo;
His brest, his schuldres and his armes
Were al of selver, bot the tharmes,
The wombe and al doun to the kne,
Of bras thei were upon to se;
The legges were al mad of Stiel,
So were his feet also somdiel,
And somdiel part to hem was take
Of Erthe which men Pottes make;
The fieble meynd was with the stronge,
So myhte it wel noght stonde longe.
And tho me thoghte that I sih
A gret ston from an hull on hyh
Fel doun of sodein aventure
Upon the feet of this figure,
With which Ston al tobroke was
Gold, Selver, Erthe, Stiel and Bras,
That al was in to pouldre broght,
And so forth torned into noght."
And in particular I find
A Bible tale about mankind
Which teaches us a certain law;
But one conclusion can one draw
And that is, that it’s by design
That all things to demise incline,
Until the end of every thing.
And from the reign of earth’s first king
Unto this day, if we would know
Why kingdoms come and kingdoms go,
The cause with man does surely lie,
For it’s his governance whereby
Some kingdoms live while others die.
From God Almighty’s prescient mind,
In whose eternal sight we find
All things from the beginning known,
To Daniel have been clearly shown,
As you will very shortly hear;
In visions did to him appear
The earth’s decline, until at last
This world’s allotted time has passed;
Listen as I this tale unfold,
In which by symbols all is told.
As Nebuchadnezzar slept one night
He had a dream; till morning’s light
When he arose it left him not,
For it much terror to him brought.
To Daniel he his dream rehearsed,
And prayed, as with him he conversed,
That he it’s meaning might explain;
And said, “As I in bed had lain,
Upon a pedestal I thought
I saw an image that was wrought
Of many substances, behold
The head and neck were made of gold;
The arms, the shoulders, and the breast
Of silver were; as to the rest,
Clear from the waist down to the knees,
It’s only solid brass one sees;
The legs of solid steel were made,
But feet of steel were, I’m afraid,
Impure and cracked, with clay alloyed,
As in the potter’s trade employed;
When strong and feeble intersect,
It may well not long stand erect.
Then without hands I saw a stone
Cut from a hill, which then was thrown
Quite unexpectedly and crashed
Into the feet; the stone was dashed
To pieces, all the silver, brass,
Gold, steel, and clay into a mass
Of rubble turned, the statue high
Did on the ground in ruin lie.”
This was the swevene which he hadde,
That Daniel anon aradde,
And seide him that figure strange
Betokneth how the world schal change
And waxe lasse worth and lasse,
Til it to noght al overpasse.
The necke and hed, that weren golde,
He seide how that betokne scholde
A worthi world, a noble, a riche,
To which non after schal be liche.
Of Selver that was overforth
Schal ben a world of lasse worth;
And after that the wombe of Bras
Tokne of a werse world it was.
The Stiel which he syh afterward
A world betokneth more hard:
Bot yet the werste of everydel
Is last, whan that of Erthe and Stiel
He syh the feet departed so,
For that betokneth mochel wo.
Whan that the world divided is,
It moste algate fare amis,
For Erthe which is meynd with Stiel
Togedre may noght laste wiel,
Bot if that on that other waste;
So mot it nedes faile in haste.
The Ston, which fro the hully Stage
He syh doun falle on that ymage,
And hath it into pouldre broke,
That swevene hath Daniel unloke,
And seide how that is goddes myht,
Which whan men wene most upryht
To stonde, schal hem overcaste.
And that is of this world the laste,
And thanne a newe schal beginne,
Fro which a man schal nevere twinne;
Or al to peine or al to pes
That world schal lasten endeles.
Lo thus expondeth Daniel
The kynges swevene faire and wel
In Babiloyne the Cite,
Wher that the wiseste of Caldee
Ne cowthen wite what it mente;
Bot he tolde al the hol entente,
As in partie it is befalle.
Of gold the ferste regne of alle
Was in that kinges time tho,
And laste manye daies so,
Therwhiles that the Monarchie
Of al the world in that partie
To Babiloyne was soubgit;
And hield him stille in such a plit,
Til that the world began diverse:
And that was whan the king of Perse,
Which Cirus hyhte, ayein the pes
Forth with his Sone Cambises
Of Babiloine al that Empire,
Ryht as thei wolde hemself desire,
Put under in subjeccioun
And tok it in possessioun,
And slayn was Baltazar the king,
Which loste his regne and al his thing.
And thus whan thei it hadde wonne,
The world of Selver was begonne
And that of gold was passed oute:
And in this wise it goth aboute
In to the Regne of Darius;
And thanne it fell to Perse thus,
That Alisaundre put hem under,
Which wroghte of armes many a wonder,
So that the Monarchie lefte
With Grecs, and here astat uplefte,
And Persiens gon under fote,
So soffre thei that nedes mote.
And tho the world began of Bras,
And that of selver ended was;
Bot for the time thus it laste,
Til it befell that ate laste
This king, whan that his day was come,
With strengthe of deth was overcome.
And natheles yet er he dyde,
He schop his Regnes to divide
To knyhtes whiche him hadde served,
And after that thei have deserved
Yaf the conquestes that he wan;
Wherof gret werre tho began
Among hem that the Regnes hadde,
Thurgh proud Envie which hem ladde,
Til it befell ayein hem thus:
The noble Cesar Julius,
Which tho was king of Rome lond,
With gret bataille and with strong hond
Al Grece, Perse and ek Caldee
Wan and put under, so that he
Noght al only of thorient
Bot al the Marche of thoccident
Governeth under his empire,
As he that was hol lord and Sire,
And hield thurgh his chivalerie
Of al this world the Monarchie,
And was the ferste of that honour
Which tok the name of Emperour.
Wher Rome thanne wolde assaille,
Ther myhte nothing contrevaille,
Bot every contre moste obeie:
Tho goth the Regne of Bras aweie,
And comen is the world of Stiel,
And stod above upon the whiel.
As Stiel is hardest in his kynde
Above alle othre that men finde
Of Metals, such was Rome tho
The myhtieste, and laste so
Long time amonges the Romeins
Til thei become so vileins,
That the fals Emperour Leo
With Constantin his Sone also
The patrimoine and the richesse,
Which to Silvestre in pure almesse
The ferste Constantinus lefte,
Fro holy cherche thei berefte.
Bot Adrian, which Pope was,
And syh the meschief of this cas,
Goth in to France forto pleigne,
And preith the grete Charlemeine,
For Cristes sake and Soule hele
That he wol take the querele
Of holy cherche in his defence.
And Charles for the reverence
Of god the cause hath undertake,
And with his host the weie take
Over the Montz of Lombardie;
Of Rome and al the tirandie
With blodi swerd he overcom,
And the Cite with strengthe nom;
In such a wise and there he wroghte,
That holy cherche ayein he broghte
Into franchise, and doth restore
The Popes lost, and yaf him more:
And thus whan he his god hath served,
He tok, as he wel hath deserved,
The Diademe and was coroned.
Of Rome and thus was abandoned
Thempire, which cam nevere ayein
Into the hond of no Romein;
Bot a long time it stod so stille
Under the Frensche kynges wille,
Til that fortune hir whiel so ladde,
That afterward Lombardz it hadde,
Noght be the swerd, bot be soffrance
Of him that tho was kyng of France,
Which Karle Calvus cleped was;
And he resigneth in this cas
Thempire of Rome unto Lowis
His Cousin, which a Lombard is.
And so hit laste into the yeer
Of Albert and of Berenger;
Bot thanne upon dissencioun
Thei felle, and in divisioun
Among hemself that were grete,
So that thei loste the beyete
Of worschipe and of worldes pes.
Bot in proverbe natheles
Men sein, ful selden is that welthe
Can soffre his oghne astat in helthe;
And that was on the Lombardz sene,
Such comun strif was hem betwene
Thurgh coveitise and thurgh Envie,
That every man drowh his partie,
Which myhte leden eny route,
Withinne Burgh and ek withoute:
The comun ryht hath no felawe,
So that the governance of lawe
Was lost, and for necessite,
Of that thei stode in such degre
Al only thurgh divisioun,
Hem nedeth in conclusioun
Of strange londes help beside.
And thus for thei hemself divide
And stonden out of reule unevene,
Of Alemaine Princes sevene
Thei chose in this condicioun,
That upon here eleccioun
Thempire of Rome scholde stonde.
And thus thei lefte it out of honde
For lacke of grace, and it forsoke,
That Alemans upon hem toke:
And to confermen here astat,
Of that thei founden in debat
Thei token the possessioun
After the composicioun
Among hemself, and therupon
Thei made an Emperour anon,
Whos name as the Cronique telleth
Was Othes; and so forth it duelleth,
Fro thilke day yit unto this
Thempire of Rome hath ben and is
To thalemans. And in this wise,
As ye tofore have herd divise
How Daniel the swevene expondeth
Of that ymage, on whom he foundeth
The world which after scholde falle,
Come is the laste tokne of alle;
Upon the feet of Erthe and Stiel
So stant this world now everydiel
Departed; which began riht tho,
Whan Rome was divided so:
And that is forto rewe sore,
For alway siththe more and more
The world empeireth every day.
Wherof the sothe schewe may,
At Rome ferst if we beginne:
The wall and al the Cit withinne
Stant in ruine and in decas,
The feld is wher the Paleis was,
The toun is wast; and overthat,
If we beholde thilke astat
Which whilom was of the Romeins,
Of knyhthode and of Citezeins,
To peise now with that beforn,
The chaf is take for the corn,
As forto speke of Romes myht:
Unethes stant ther oght upryht
Of worschipe or of worldes good,
As it before tyme stod.
And why the worschipe is aweie,
If that a man the sothe seie,
The cause hath ben divisioun,
Which moder of confusioun
Is wher sche cometh overal,
Noght only of the temporal
Bot of the spirital also.
The dede proeveth it is so,
And hath do many day er this,
Thurgh venym which that medled is
In holy cherche of erthly thing:
For Crist himself makth knowleching
That noman may togedre serve
God and the world, bot if he swerve
Froward that on and stonde unstable;
And Cristes word may noght be fable.
The thing so open is at ije,
It nedeth noght to specefie
Or speke oght more in this matiere;
Bot in this wise a man mai lere
Hou that the world is gon aboute,
The which welnyh is wered oute,
After the forme of that figure
Which Daniel in his scripture
Expondeth, as tofore is told.
Of Bras, of Selver and of Gold
The world is passed and agon,
And now upon his olde ton
It stant of brutel Erthe and Stiel,
The whiche acorden nevere a diel;
So mot it nedes swerve aside
As thing the which men sen divide.
Thapostel writ unto ous alle
And seith that upon ous is falle
Thende of the world; so may we knowe,
This ymage is nyh overthrowe,
Be which this world was signified,
That whilom was so magnefied,
And now is old and fieble and vil,
Full of meschief and of peril,
And stant divided ek also
Lich to the feet that were so,
As I tolde of the Statue above.
The meaning of this vision he
Would know, and Daniel knew the key:
He said the figure was a sign
Of earth’s eventual decline
As ever lower it descends
Until in worthlessness it ends.
The neck and head of solid gold
Symbolic were; this token told
Of how the world, at first refined,
To stay that way was not designed.
The silver, less rare in the earth,
Depicts a world of lesser worth;
And then the midriff made of brass
Betokens a worse world. Alas,
The steel which formed the legs and heels
Suggests a world that no love feels.
But yet of all the very worst,
The last, with clay through steel dispersed,
Which made the feet divided so,
Of disaccord was apropos.
For when the world is full of hate,
Distress is everybody’s fate,
For when there’s steel that’s mixed with clay
It may not long together stay,
Each one the other does consume;
And thus they seal each other’s doom.
The stone, which from its hilly height
Rolled down and did that image smite,
And turned it to a pile of rock,
Young Daniel did that dream unlock,
And said that signified God’s power;
When men imagine that they tower
Above all things, He’ll bring them low.
This wicked world He’ll overthrow,
And then a brand new world will start,
From which men never shall depart;
In peace or pain eternally
That everlasting world shall be.
Lo thus did Daniel well explain
All things the king’s dream did contain.
In Babylon one could not find
Chaldeans wise whose wit combined
Could fathom or make sense of it;
But he expounded every bit,
As we have partly seen unfold.
That king did reign in days extolled
As that first noble time of gold,
Which did endure for many days,
And every kingdom in that phase
Found in the land in days of yore
To Babylon allegiance swore;
And pledged their loyalty, until
The world with change began to fill.
And that was when the Persian lord
Named Cyrus, like a lion roared
And with his son Cambyses came
To Babylon to stake his claim,
And carry out his conq’ring aim
Unto his rule to subjugate
And to enslave the golden state;
And Balthazar the king was slain,
Who lost all things, his life and reign.
And when the Persians thus had won,
The world of silver was begun
And that of gold was left behind.
And thus the star of Persia shined
Until the reign of Darius
When its rule did unravel thus:
Great Alexander threw them down
With wondrous armies of renown,
So that dominion fell to Greece,
And she did rule the world in peace,
With Persia suff’ring as she put
The Persian empire 'neath her foot.
Thus was the world of brass begun,
The silver Persian world was done;
And it continued for a while,
Till on this king did fortune’s smile
Turn to a frown; the day arrived
When death came. To those who survived
He had arranged, before he died,
That they his kingdom should divide.
So to those who him well had served,
He gave, as their good deeds deserved,
All of the conquests he had won;
Whereon great battles were begun
Among those several kings who reigned,
With Pride and Envy they campaigned,
Till it again befell them thus:
The noble Caesar, Julius,
Who ruled in Rome then as the king,
His armies strong began to bring
Unto the Persians and the Greeks
Whom he subdues, and then he seeks
Not only all the east, but all
The western territories fall
Into the sphere of his empire
Of which he was sole lord and sire,
And all the world, through prowess in
Campaigns of warfare, he did win,
But General he was not called,
As Emperor he was installed.
When Rome would subjugate some land,
Their might was worthless to withstand,
But every country was subdued.
Thus did the reign of brass conclude,
And then commenced the world of steel,
Which took control of Fortune’s wheel.
And as of metals men regard
That next to steel none is as hard,
So was the Roman Empire’s strength,
And in duration was its length
Among the Romans unsurpassed
Till they became depraved at last,
And Leo, that false ruler keen
On plundering, with Constantine
His son, the legacy of Christ,
Which for Sylvester well sufficed
From that first Constantine as claim,
And from the church to steal the same.
But Adrian who was the Pope,
And saw this mischief, in the hope,
Of courting the great Constantine
Did pray that he would intervene
And for the sake of Christ and for
His own soul’s sake the church restore
And make it’s holy cause his own.
So Charles in reverence for God’s throne
In this great cause drew out his sword,
And marched his army for the Lord
Across the Alps and to the door
Of Rome, where on oppression sore
With bloody sword down hard he bore
And by his strength the city fell
Into his hands; he did expel
The foul usurpers, and the church
Did liberate. Upon his perch
The Pope he placed, his wealth restored.
And thus when he had served the Lord,
He took, as he was worthy found,
The diadem and he was crowned.
Thus came the empire to an end
No Roman ever would pretend
Again that title to attain;
Things for a while like this remain
Subjected to the French king’s will,
Till Fortune, her whims to fulfill,
Allowed the Lombards to accede.
By peaceful means this was agreed
By that French the king known as “the Bald”,
The one who was Charles Calvus called;
The empire did at his command
Devolve into his cousin’s hand
Who was that Lombard, Luitprand.
This family did its rule assert
Till Berenger and Adelbert;
But then dissension did arise
Which finally led to their demise,
As into strife those who were great
Descended till it was their fate
To lose their peace and power too,
For there’s a proverb that is true,
Quite seldom do we find that wealth
Can keep its own estate in health,
The Lombards show that this is so;
The feuds and fights they had did flow
From Envy, and with Greed they grew,
Where each promoted his own view,
Which led to mobs assembling there,
Within the cities and elsewhere:
True equity could boast no friend,
Law’s governance was at an end;
Since for these factions was the need
For goods and soldiers great indeed
As their resources they did burn,
They ultimately had to turn
To foreign immigrants for aid.
And thus a fatal choice they made,
Which left their power insecure,
Some German princes to procure;
Just one small favor they would ask,
That after they assumed the task
Of ruling, Rome would whole remain.
And thus not long did they retain
Control, but did relinquish it;
To German rule they did submit.
And to consolidate their grip,
That from their hands it might not slip,
Their right to rule and be obeyed,
Citing the compact they had made,
They to themselves did arrogate
And did an emperor instate,
Whose name from history we know
As Otto; and it has been so
From then until the present day
That Rome has under German sway
Continued. And it’s in this way,
As heretofore has been explained
How Daniel to the king maintained
That in his dream the image stood
For kingdoms in this world that would
Collapse, we finally see the feet
Of steel and clay, a sign replete
With glaring parallels of how
The world is so commingled now,
With Rome in such a sorry state.
And this is something sad to hate,
For now we see in every way
Things go from bad to worse each day.
To bring this truthful lesson home,
It’s well that we begin with Rome.
That town that did with commerce hum
To ruin and decay has come,
A field where once the palace stood,
A wasted town oe’rgrown with wood;
And more, if we consider well
How once its citizens did dwell
As freemen in a noble way,
Contrasting that time with today
Is to compare the chaff with corn,
As Rome’s departed might we mourn.
Few structures standing now are left
Of church and business haunts bereft
The city stands, which once were reared.
And why true worship disappeared,
The cause is, if the truth be told,
Disunity has taken hold,
This mother of confusion reigns
Which every civic virtue drains,
Not just the temporal alone,
Religious things away are blown.
We see from what has there transpired,
The church, whose deeds were once admired,
Does now a mixture vile contain
Of holy things with things profane.
For Christ himself this truth declares
That when with God the world one pairs
And tries to serve them both, it leads
To trouble, as one’s faith recedes;
Christ's doctrine is no fairy tale.
So clear it is that it won't fail,
There is no need for me to try
Explaining all the reasons why;
But this is how a person learns
The manner in which this world turns,
Which now is well nigh all worn out,
According to that dream about
Which Daniel did in holy writ
Expound, as he deciphered it.
Through gold and silver, steel and brass
The world has gone, and now alas
On brittle toes It stands today
With steel all mixed with common clay,
An instability innate;
So must it soon disintegrate,
As men could easily foresee.
Paul, the apostle, said that we
Would in our day the end behold
Of this world; and as things unfold,
We see the image overthrown,
By which mankind’s fate was made known,
That stood in glory in its prime,
But now is feeble; in our time
With mischief and with peril fraught
It stands divided. Is it not
Just like the feet alloyed with clay
As heretofore I did portray?
|Division and Decline|
And this men sen, thurgh lacke of love
Where as the lond divided is,
It mot algate fare amis:
And now to loke on every side,
A man may se the world divide,
The werres ben so general
Among the cristene overal,
That every man now secheth wreche,
And yet these clerkes alday preche
And sein, good dede may non be
Which stant noght upon charite:
I not hou charite may stonde,
Wher dedly werre is take on honde.
Bot al this wo is cause of man,
The which that wit and reson can,
And that in tokne and in witnesse
That ilke ymage bar liknesse
Of man and of non other beste.
For ferst unto the mannes heste
Was every creature ordeined,
Bot afterward it was restreigned:
Whan that he fell, thei fellen eke,
Whan he wax sek, thei woxen seke;
For as the man hath passioun
Of seknesse, in comparisoun
So soffren othre creatures.
Lo, ferst the hevenly figures,
The Sonne and Mone eclipsen bothe,
And ben with mannes senne wrothe;
The purest Eir for Senne alofte
Hath ben and is corrupt fulofte,
Right now the hyhe wyndes blowe,
And anon after thei ben lowe,
Now clowdy and now clier it is:
So may it proeven wel be this,
A mannes Senne is forto hate,
Which makth the welkne to debate.
And forto se the proprete
Of every thyng in his degree,
Benethe forth among ous hiere
Al stant aliche in this matiere:
The See now ebbeth, now it floweth,
The lond now welketh, now it groweth,
Now be the Trees with leves grene,
Now thei be bare and nothing sene,
Now be the lusti somer floures,
Now be the stormy wynter shoures,
Now be the daies, now the nyhtes,
So stant ther nothing al upryhtes,
Now it is lyht, now it is derk;
And thus stant al the worldes werk
After the disposicioun
Of man and his condicioun.
Forthi Gregoire in his Moral
Seith that a man in special
The lasse world is properly:
And that he proeveth redely;
For man of Soule resonable
Is to an Angel resemblable,
And lich to beste he hath fielinge,
And lich to Trees he hath growinge;
The Stones ben and so is he:
Thus of his propre qualite
The man, as telleth the clergie,
Is as a world in his partie,
And whan this litel world mistorneth,
The grete world al overtorneth.
The Lond, the See, the firmament,
Thei axen alle jugement
Ayein the man and make him werre:
Therwhile himself stant out of herre,
The remenant wol noght acorde:
And in this wise, as I recorde,
The man is cause of alle wo,
Why this world is divided so.
Division, the gospell seith,
On hous upon another leith,
Til that the Regne al overthrowe:
And thus may every man wel knowe,
Division aboven alle
Is thing which makth the world to falle,
And evere hath do sith it began.
It may ferst proeve upon a man;
The which, for his complexioun
Is mad upon divisioun
Of cold, of hot, of moist, of drye,
He mot be verray kynde dye:
For the contraire of his astat
Stant evermore in such debat,
Til that o part be overcome,
Ther may no final pes be nome.
Bot other wise, if a man were
Mad al togedre of o matiere
Ther scholde no corrupcioun
Engendre upon that unite:
Bot for ther is diversite
Withinne himself, he may noght laste,
That he ne deieth ate laste.
Bot in a man yit over this
Full gret divisioun ther is,
Thurgh which that he is evere in strif,
Whil that him lasteth eny lif:
The bodi and the Soule also
Among hem ben divided so,
That what thing that the body hateth
The soule loveth and debateth;
Bot natheles fulofte is sene
Of werre which is hem betwene
The fieble hath wonne the victoire.
And who so drawth into memoire
What hath befalle of old and newe,
He may that werre sore rewe,
Which ferst began in Paradis:
For ther was proeved what it is,
And what desese there it wroghte;
For thilke werre tho forth broghte
The vice of alle dedly Sinne,
Thurgh which division cam inne
Among the men in erthe hiere,
And was the cause and the matiere
Why god the grete flodes sende,
Of al the world and made an ende
Bot Noe with his felaschipe,
Which only weren saulf be Schipe.
And over that thurgh Senne it com
That Nembrot such emprise nom,
Whan he the Tour Babel on heihte
Let make, as he that wolde feihte
Ayein the hihe goddes myht,
Wherof divided anon ryht
Was the langage in such entente,
Ther wiste non what other mente,
So that thei myhten noght procede.
And thus it stant of every dede,
Wher Senne takth the cause on honde,
It may upriht noght longe stonde;
For Senne of his condicioun
Is moder of divisioun
And tokne whan the world schal faile.
For so seith Crist withoute faile,
That nyh upon the worldes ende
Pes and acord awey schol wende
And alle charite schal cesse,
Among the men and hate encresce;
And whan these toknes ben befalle,
Al sodeinly the Ston schal falle,
As Daniel it hath beknowe,
Which al this world schal overthrowe,
And every man schal thanne arise
To Joie or elles to Juise,
Wher that he schal for evere dwelle,
Or straght to hevene or straght to helle.
In hevene is pes and al acord,
Bot helle is full of such descord
That ther may be no loveday:
Forthi good is, whil a man may,
Echon to sette pes with other
And loven as his oghne brother;
So may he winne worldes welthe
And afterward his soule helthe.
Thus when of love there is a dearth
And all divided is the earth,
Unceasingly ill must it fare.
And if one looks round everywhere,
A man may see divisions rife,
So commonplace are wars and strife
At large among the Christian folk,
That each man does revenge provoke,
Yet all day long these clerics preach:
There can be no good deeds, they teach,
Which are on charity not based.
How charity can be embraced
I know not, what with war’s alarm.
But man’s the cause of all this harm,
Who reason’s power does display;
This truth to graphically portray,
That image does the likeness bear
Not of some beast, but man, God’s heir.
Thus were all creatures, from the start,
For man’s dominion set apart,
But afterwards that was revoked.
When man fell, all those to him yoked
Fell to, and shared his sickness some;
As man to sickness did succumb
So likewise animals were from
Disease and suff’ring not immune.
Just so those orbs celestial, moon
And sun, each other both eclipse.
Wroth when man into sinning slips,
The purest air on high for sin
Is often fouled to God’s chagrin,
Right now the winds blow high and wide,
And then we see when they subside,
Now it is cloudy, now it clears.
From this it obvious appears,
That from man’s sin we should recoil,
Which makes the very heavens roil.
To look at other things it’s clear
That each thing does, in its own sphere,
To this ambivalence attest,
As winds that blow first east then west.
The sea now ebbs, and now it flows,
The land now withers, now it grows,
Now garnished are the trees in green,
Now are they bare, with no leaves seen,
Now bloom the lusty summer flowers,
Now come the stormy winter showers,
Now are the nights, and now the days,
So nothing ever constant stays,
Now things are clear, and now obscure,
Like this the world’s pursuits endure
As men to this or that incline
And as events with fate combine.
Accordingly Pope Gregoire can,
In his Moralia, that man
A microcosm is maintain,
This he sublimely does explain.
For man, adroit in reason’s ways,
An angel’s trait divine displays,
And like a beast he feelings knows,
And like a vegetable he grows;
The stones exist and so does he.
Thus all man’s qualities we see
Remind us that this life of his
A world in miniature is,
And when his world disaster courts,
The world at large is out of sorts.
The land, the sea, the sky make war
Against the man, and judgment pour
Upon his head, and just so long
As he’s off track his remnant throng
Have no desire for harmony.
And in this way I guarantee
That man’s the cause of every woe,
And why this world’s divided so.
Division, which the Gospel spurns,
Each house against all others turns,
Until a kingdom’s overthrown.
Thus may it very well be known,
Division is, above all things,
That which will cause the fall of kings,
And ever has this been the case.
Reflecting on the human race,
We see man’s body is composed
Of things to disaccord disposed
Of cold, of hot, of moist, of dry,
It’s this which makes him tend to die,
For this contrariness of states
Internal dissidence creates,
And till one part of life is drained,
No final peace may be attained.
But on the other hand if men
Were of a single substance, then
Without conflicted fabric they
Would not be subject to decay
But unified would ever be.
But since there’s this diversity
Within himself, he can’t endure,
He’ll ultimately die, impure.
Much more than this though, in a man
A fundamental split we can
Observe, which leads to endless strife,
As long as he has any life.
For soul and body ever are
Opposed and in a state of war;
Those things for which the body yearns
The soul condemns as wrong, and spurns;
But nonetheless we often see
In wars between them, victory
Is by the weak contestant won.
But if one thinks about it, none,
Aware of how it’s always been
Can help but rue that war which in
The midst of Paradise began.
For there we very clearly can
Observe what pox on man was wrought;
For of that battle forth was brought
The vice of every deadly sin,
Through which divisiveness came in
Among men here upon the earth,
And caused of goodness such a dearth
That God the mighty flood did send
Which made the wicked world to end
Except for Noah and his own,
Who in an ark survived, alone.
And then a sinful enterprise
Did Nimrod launch, and to the skies
The Tower of Babel did arise,
For he imagined he could fight
Against the God of Heaven’s might,
For which summarily their speech
Was so confounded that they each
The other’s meaning could not know,
So they no higher up could go.
And thus it is with every scheme
Where man conceives a sinful dream,
It will for long not stand up straight;
For in this kind of sinful state
Disunity will soon arise
In token of the world's demise.
For so says Jesus Christ, I fear,
That when this world’s denouement’s near
Accord and peace will disappear
And all beneficence shall cease
Among mankind, and hate increase;
And when these signs we start to see,
The stone will roll down suddenly,
As unto Daniel it was shown,
By which this world is overthrown,
And every man shall then rise up
To drink a sweet, or bitter cup,
And be forever sent to dwell,
Directly unto heav’n or hell.
In heav’n there’s harmony and peace;
In hell though, conflicts never cease,
There is no time that’s set aside
When man can put away his pride,
And come to terms with every other,
And love each man as his own brother,
So with what world’s wealth he may win,
In Heav’n he’ll heal his soul of sin.
Bot wolde god that now were on
An other such as Arion,
Which hadde an harpe of such temprure,
And therto of so good mesure
He song, that he the bestes wilde
Made of his note tame and milde,
The Hinde in pes with the Leoun,
The Wolf in pes with the Moltoun,
The Hare in pees stod with the Hound;
And every man upon this ground
Which Arion that time herde,
Als wel the lord as the schepherde,
He broghte hem alle in good acord;
So that the comun with the lord,
And lord with the comun also,
He sette in love bothe tuo
And putte awey malencolie.
That was a lusti melodie,
Whan every man with other low;
And if ther were such on now,
Which cowthe harpe as he tho dede,
He myhte availe in many a stede
To make pes wher now is hate;
For whan men thenken to debate,
I not what other thing is good.
Bot wher that wisdom waxeth wod,
And reson torneth into rage,
So that mesure upon oultrage
Hath set his world, it is to drede;
For that bringth in the comun drede,
Which stant at every mannes Dore:
Bot whan the scharpnesse of the spore
The horse side smit to sore,
It grieveth ofte. And now nomore,
As forto speke of this matiere,
Which non bot only god may stiere.
So were it goode as at this tide
That everich man upon his side
Besoghte and preide for the pes,
Whiche is the cause of al encress
Of worshipe, and of worldes welthe,
Of hertes rest, of Soule helthe;
Withouten pes stant no thing goode,
Forthi to Crist, which sched his blod,
For pes beseketh alle men.
Amen, amen, amen, amen.
God grant that we should have a king