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This worthy monk took al in pacience,
And seyde, I wol doon al my diligence,
As fer as souneth in-to honestee,
To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.
And if yow list to herkne hiderward,
I wol yow seyn the lyf of seint Edward;
Or elles first Tragedies wol I telle
Of whiche I haue an hundred in my celle.
*Tragedie is for 2 to seyn a certeyn storie,
As olde bokes maken vs memorie,
Of him that stood in greet prosperitee
And is y-fallen out of heigh degree
Into miserie, and endeth wrecchedly.
And they ben versifyed comounly
Of six feet, which men clepe exametron.
In prose eek ben endyted many oon,
And eek in metre, in many a sondry wyse.
Lo! this declaring oughte ynough suffise.
Now herkneth, if yow lyketh for to here;
But first I yow biseke in this matere,
Though I by ordre telle nat thise thinges,
Be it of popes, emperours, or kinges,
After hir ages, as men writen fynde,
But telle hem som bifore and som bihynde,
As it now comth vn-to my remembraunce;
Haue me excused of myn ignoraunce.
1 E. omits yow; the rest have it.
Cp. Pt. In. for; the rest omit it.
GROUP B. THE MONKES TALE.
Heere bigynneth the Monkes Tale, de casibus virorum
I wol biwayle in maner of Tragedie
The harm of hem that stode in heigh degree
And fillen so that ther nas no remedie
To bringe hem out of her aduersitee;
For certein, whan that fortune list to flee,
Ther may no man the cours of hir withholde ;
Lat no man truste on blynd prosperitee;
Be war by thise ensamples trewe and olde.
At Lucifer, though he an angel were,
And nat a man, at him I wol biginne;
For, though fortune may non angel dere,
From heigh degree yet fel he for his sinne
Doun in-to helle, wher he yet is inne.
O Lucifer ! bryghtest of angels alle,
Now artow Sathanas, that maist nat twinne
Out of miserie, in which that thou art falle.
Lo Adam, in the felde of Damascene,
With goddes owen finger wrought was he,
[And nat a sone of sinful man unclene),
And welte al Paradys, sauing o tree.
Had neuer worldly man so heigh degree
As Adam, til he for misgouernaunce
Was driue out of his heigh prosperitee
To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce.
1 E. Pt. of; the rest by.
Lo Sampson, which that was annunciat
By thangel, longe er his natiuitee,
And was to god almyghty consecrat,
And stood in noblesse, whyl he myghte see.
Was neuer swich another as was he,
To speke of strengthe, and therwith hardinesse; 3210
But to his wyues tolde he his secree,
Through which he slow hym-self, for wrecchednesse.
Sampson, this noble myghty champioun,
Withouten wepen saue his hondes tweye,
He slow and al to-rente the leoun,
Toward his wedding walking by the weye.
His false wyf coude him so plese and preye
Til she his conseil knew, and she vntrewe
Vn-to his foos his conseil gan biwreye,
And him forsook, and took another newe.
Three hundred foxes took Sampson for Ire,
And alle her tayles he togider bond,
And sette the foxes tayles alle on fire,
For he on euery tayl had knit a brond;
And they brende alle the cornes in that lond,
And alle her oliueres and vynes eek.
A thousand men he slow eek with his hond,
And had no wepen but an asses cheek.
Whan they were slayn, so thursted him that he
Was wel ny lorn, for which he gan to preye
That god wolde on his peyne han som pitee,
And sende him drinke, or elles moste he deye ;
1 Hl. Cp. thangel; Hn. Pt. Ln. the aungel ; E. Cm. angel. VOL. II.
And of this asses cheke, that was dreye,
Out of a wang-tooth sprang anon a welle,
Of which he drank ynow 1, shortly to seye,
Thus halp him god, as Iudicum can telle.
By verray force, at Gazan, on a nyght,
Maugre Philistiens of that citee,
The gates of the toun he hath vp-plyght,
And on his bak ycaried hem hath he
Hye on an hille, that men myghte hem see.
O noble almyghty Sampson, leue and dere,
Had thou nat told to wommen thy secree,
In al this worlde ne hadde been thy pere !
This Sampson neuer sicer 2 drank ne wyn,
Ne on his heed cam rasour noon ne shere,
By precept of the messager diuyn,
For alle his strengthes in his heres were ;
And fully twenty winter, yeer by yere,
He hadde of Israel the gouernaunce.
But sone shal he wepen many a tere,
For wommen shal him bringen to meschaunce.
Vn-to his lemman Dalida he tolde
That in his heres al his strengthe lay,
And falsly to his foomen she him solde.
And sleping in hir barme vp-on a day
She made to clippe or shere his heer : awey,
And made his foomen al his“ craft espyen;
And whan that they him fonde in this array,
They bounde him faste, and putten out his yën.
1 E. anon; the rest ynogh, ynough, ynouhe, &c.
? Hn. ciser (for sicer); Hl. siser; Cm. Pt. Ln. sythir ; Cp. cyder.
3 E, HI. heres; the rest heer, here. 4 E. Hn, this; the rest his.
But er his heer were 1 clipped or yshaue,
Ther was no bond with which men myght him bynde;
But now is he in prisoun in a caue,
Wher as they made him at the querne grynde.
O noble Sampson, strongest of mankynde,
O whylom Iuge in glorie and in richesse,
Now maystow wepen with thyn yën blynde,
Sith thou fro wele art falle in wrecchednesse.
Thende of this caytif was as I shal seye;
His foomen made a feste vpon a day,
And made him as her fool bifore 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 him-self, and eek his foomen alle.
This is to seyn, the princes euerichoon,
And eek three thousand bodies were ther slayn
With falling of the grete temple of stoon.
Of Sampson now wol I no more seyn.
Beth war by this ensample old and playn
That no men telle her conseil to her wyues
Of swich thing as they wolde han secree fayn,
If that iť touche her limmes or her lyues.
Of Hercules the souereyn conquerour
Singen his workes laude and hy renoun;
1 E. were; the rest was; see l. 3328. 2 E. Cm. a; the rest hire, here.
3 E. the ; the rest two.