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Iudith, a womman, as he lay vpryghte,
Sleping, his heed of smoot and from his tente
Ful priuely she stal from euery wyghte,
And with his heed vnto hir toun she wente.
The storie of Alisaundre is so comune,
That euery wyght that hath discrecioun
Hath herd somwhat or al of his fortune.
This wyde world, as in conclusioun,
He wan by strengthe, or for his hy renoun
They weren glad for pees vn-to him sende.
The pryde of man and beste he leyde adoun,
Wher-so he cam, vn-to the worldes ende.
Comparisoun myght neuer yit be maked
Bitwixe him and another conquerour;
For al this world for drede of him hath quaked,
He was of knyghthode and of fredom flour;
Fortune him maad the heir of hir honour;
Saue wyn and wommen, no thing? myghte aswage
His hy entente in armes and labour;
3835 So was he ful of leonyn corage.
What preys 3 were it to him, though I
Of Darius, and an hundred thousand mo,
Of kinges, princes, erles, dukes bolde,
Whiche he conquered, and broughte hem in-to wo? 3840
I seye, as fer as man may ryde or go,
The world was his, what sholde I more deuyse?
1 E. Hn. Cm. omit was.
? E. man; the rest thing. 3 Cm. preys; E. Hn. pris ; Cp. Pt. Ln. Hl. pite.
For though I writ or tolde you euermo
Of his knyghthode, it myghte nat suffyse.
Twelf yeer he regned, as seith Machabee;
Philippes sone of Macedoyne he was,
That first was king in Grece the contree.
O worthy gentil Alisaundre, allas !
That euer sholde fallen swich a cas !
Empoisoned of thyn owen folk thou were;
Thy sys fortune hath turned into as,
And yit for thee ne weep she neuer a tere!
Who shal me yiuen teres to compleyne
The deeth of gentillesse and of fraunchyse,
That al the world welded in his demeyne,
And yit him thoughte it myghte nat suffyse?
So ful was his corage of hye empryse,
Allas! who shal me helpe to endyte
False fortune, and poison to despyse,
The whiche two of al this wo I wyte?
By wisdom, manhode, and by greet2 labour
Fro humble bed 3 to roial magestee,
Vp roos he, Iulius the conquerour,
That wan al thoccident by londe and see,
By strengthe of hond, or elles by tretee,
And vn-to Rome made hem tributarie;
And sith of Rome the emperour was he,
Til that fortune wex his aduersarie.
1 E. Hn. Cm. omil yit.
* E. Cp. Pt. Ln. omit greet. 3 E. Hn. Cm. humble bed; Pt. Cp. Ln. Hl. humblehede.
O myghty Cesar, that in Thessalye
Ageyn Pompeius, fader thyn in lawe,
That of thorient hadde al the chiualrye
As fer as that the day biginneth dawe,
Thou thurgh thy knyghthode hast hem take and slawe,
Saue fewe folk that with Pompeius fledde,
Thurgh which thou puttest al thorient in awe.
Thanke fortune, that so wel thee spedde !
But now a litel whyl I wol biwaille
This Pompeius, this noble gouernour
Of Rome, which that fley at this bataille;
I seye, oon of his men, a fals traitour,
His heed of smoot, to winnen him fauour
Of Iulius, and him the heed he broughte.
Allas, Pompey, of thorient conquerour,
That fortune vnto swich a fyn thee broughte!
To Rome ageyn repaireth Iulius
With his triumphe, laureat ful hye,
But on a tyme Brutus Cassius?,
That euer hadde of his hye estaat envye,
Ful priuely hath maad conspiracye
Ageins this Iulius, in subtil wyse,
And cast the place, in whiche he sholde dye
With boydekins, as I shal yow deuyse.
This Iulius to the Capitolie wente
Vpon a day, as he was wont to goon,
And in the Capitolie anon him hente
This false Brutus, and his othere foon,
1 So in the MSS.; observe hath in l. 3889.
And stikede him with boydekins anoon
wounde, and thus they lete him lye ; But neuer gronte he at no strook but oon, Or elles at two, but if his storie lye.
Lucan, to thee this storie I recomende,
And to Sweton, and to Valerie also,
That of this storie wryten ord' and ende,
How that to thise grete conqueroures two
Fortune was first frend, and sithen foo.
No man ne truste vp-on hir fauour longe,
But haue hir in awayt for euer-moo.
Witnesse on alle thise conqueroures stronge.
This riche Cresus, whylom king of Lyde,
Of whiche Cresus Cyrus sore him dradde,
Yit was he caught amiddes al his pryde,
And to be brent men to the fyr him ladde.
But swich a reyn doun fro the welkne shadde
That slow the fyr, and made him to escape ;
But to be war no grace yet he hadde,
Til fortune on the galwes made him gape.
Whan he escaped was, he can nat stente
For to biginne a newe werre ageyn.
He wende wel, for that fortune him sente
Swich hap, that he escaped thurgh the reyn,
That of his foos he myghte nat be sleyn;
And eek a sweuen vp-on a nyghte he mette,
Of which he was so proud and eek so fayn,
That in vengeaunce he al his herte sette.
Vp-on a tree he was, as that him thoughte,
Ther Iuppiter him wesh, bothe bak and syde,
And Phebus eek a fair towaille him broughte
To drye him with, and ther-for wex his pryde ;
And to his doughter, that stood him bisyde,
Which that he knew in hy science habounde,
He bad hir telle him what it signifyde,
And she his dreem bigan ryght thus expounde.
* The tree,' quod she, 'the galwes is to mene,
And Iuppiter bitokneth snow and reyn,
And Phebus, with his towaille so clene,
Tho ben the sonne stremes for to seyn;
Thou shalt anhanged be, fader, certeyn;
Reyn shal thee wasshe, and sonne shal thee drye;'
Thus warned she 2 him ful plat and ful pleyn,
His doughter, which that called was Phanye.
Anhanged was Cresus, the proude king,
His roial trone myghte him nat auaille,
Tragedie is noon other maner thing,
Ne can in singing crye ne biwaille,
But for 4 that fortune alwey wol assaille
With vnwar strook the regnes that ben proude ;
For when men trusteth hir, than wol she faille,
And couere hir bryghte face as with a cloude.
Heere stynteth the Knyght the Monk of his tale.
1 E. bemes; the rest stremes. 2 Pt. Ln. Hl. she ; which the rest omit.
3 Cm. Tragedy is; so Cp. Pt.; Ln. Tregedrye in ; E. Hn. Tragedies; HI. Tregedis.
+ Cm. for; which the rest omit.