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On bothe his armes, til he moste dye.
This Nero hadde eek a custumance
In youthe agein his maister for to ryse,
Which after-ward him thought a gret grevaunce ;
Therfore he made him deye in this wise.
But natheles this Seneca the wise
Ches in a bath to deye in this manere,
Rather than to have another tormentise;
And thus hath Nero slayn his maister deere.
Now fel it so that fortune lust no lenger
The highe pride of Nero to cherice;
For though he were strong, yit was sche strenger,
Sche thoughte thus, " By God! I am to nyce,
To set a man that is ful sad of vice
In high degré, and emperour him calle ;
By God! out of his sete I wil him trice;
Whan he lest weneth, sonnest schal byfalle.
The poeple ros on him upon a night
For heigh defaute, and whan he it aspyed,
Out of his dores anoon he hath him dight
Aloone, and ther he wende have ben allyed,
He knokked fast; and ay the more he cried,
The faster schette thay the dores alle.
Than wist he wel he had himself mysgyed,
And went his way, no lenger durst he calle.
16020 The peple cried, and rumbled up and doun,
16003— tormentise. I have substituted this reading from Tyrwhitt, in place of that of the Harl. MS., tyrannie. The Lansd. MS. has tormentrie.
16009-sad. The Lansd. MS. reads ful filled, which is the reading adopted by Tyrwhitt.
That with his eris herd he how thay sayde,
“Her is this fals traitour, this Neroun ! ”
For fere almost out of his witte he brayde,
And to his goddes pitously he prayde
For socour, but it mighte nought betyde;
For drede of this him thoughte that he dyde,
And ran into a gardyn him to hyde.
And in this gardyn fond he cherlis twaye
Sittynge by a fuyr ful greet and reed.
And to these cherles tuo he gan to praye
To sleen him, and to girden of his heed,
That to his body, whan that he were deed,
Were no despyt y-doon for his defame.
Himself he slough, he couthe no better reed;
Of which fortune thai lough and hadde game.
Was never capitaigne under a king,
That regnes mo put in subjeccioun,
Ne strenger was in feld of alle thing
As in his tyme, ne gretter of renoun,
Ne more pompous in heih presumpcioun,
Than Oliphern, which that fortune ay
kist So licorously, and ladde him up and doun, Til that his heed was of, er he it wist.
Nought oonly that the world had of him awe,
16037-Was never capitaigne. This story is, of course, taken from the book of Judith. Tyrwhitt has committed a singular oversight in his note on line 16037," I cannot find any priest of this name (Eliachim) in the book of Judith. The high priest of Jerusalem is called Joachim in c. iv, which pame would suit the verse better than Eliachim". In the vulgate Latin version of the book of Judith, which, of course, was the one used by Chaucer, the high priest's name is Eliachim.
For lesyng of riches and liberté,
But he made every man reneye his lawe ;
Nabugodonosor was lord, sayde he;
Noon other god schuld honoured be.
Ageinst his heste dar no wight trespace,
Save in Betholia, a strong cité,
Wher Eliachim a prest was of that place.
But tak keep of that dethe of Olipherne :
Amyd his ost he dronke lay on night
Withinne his tente, large as is a berne,
And yit, for all his pomp and al his might,
Judith, a womman, as he lay upright,
Slepying, his heed of smot, and fro his tent
Ful prively sche stal from every wight,
And with his heed unto hir toun sche went.
What needith it of king Antiochius,
To telle his heye real magesté,
His heybe pride, his werke venemous ?
For such another was ther noon as he.
Redeth which that he was in Machabé,
And redith the proude wordes that he sayde,
And why he fel fro his prosperité,
And in an hil how wrecchidly he deyde.
Fortune him hath enhaunced so in pryde,
That verraily he wend he might atteyne
16061-king Antiochius. This story is taken from 2 Maccabees, c. ix.
16070—atteyne. 16057—weyen ech mounteyne. I have not hesitated in correcting the Harl. MS. in this instance by others; the former reads, by an evident error of the scribe, have teyned and weyen whet ech mounteyned.
Unto the sterris upon every syde ;
And in a balaunce
And alle the floodes of the see restreyne.
And Goddes peple had he most in hate ;
Hem wold he slee in torment and in peyne,
Wenyng that God ne might his pride abate.
And for that Nichanor and Thimothé
With Jewes were venquist mightily,
Unto the Jewes such an hate had he,
That he bad graithe his chaar hastily,
And swor, and sayde ful despitously,
Unto Jerusalem he wold eftsoone,
To wreke his ire on it full cruelly;
But of his purpos he was let ful soone.
God, for his manace, him so sore smoot
With invisible wounde incurable,
That in his guttes carf it so and bot,
That his peynes were importable.
And certeynly the wreche was resonable ;
For many a mannes guttes dede he peyne ;
But fro his purpos cursed and dampnable,
For al his smert, he nolde him nought restreyne.
But bad anoon apparailen his host,
And sodeynly, er he was of it ware,
God daunted al his pride and al his bost
For he so sore fel out of his chare,
That it his lymes and his skyn to-tare,
So that he nomore might go ne ryde ;
But in a chare men aboute him bare
Al for-brosed, bothe bak and syde.
The wreche of God him smot so cruely,
That in his body wicked wormes crept,
And therwithal he stonk so orribly,
That noon of al his meyné that him kepte,
Whether that he wook or elles slepte,
Ne mighte nought the stynk of him endure.
In this meschief he weyled and eek wepte,
And knew God lord of every creature.
To al his host and to himself also
Ful wlatsom was the stynk of his carayne ;
No man ne might him bere to ne fro;
And in his stynk and his orrible payne
He starf ful wrecchedly in a mountayne.
Thus hath this robbour and this homicide,
many a man made
and playne, Such guerdoun as that longeth unto pryde. De Alexandro Magno, Philippi regis Macedonie filio.
The story of Alisaurder is so comune,
That every wight that hath discrecioun
Hath herd som-what or al of this fortune;
Thys wyde world as in conclusioun
He wan by strengthe, or for his heigh renoun,
Thay were glad for pees unto him sende.
The pride of man and bost he layd adoun,
Wher so he cam, unto the worldes ende.
Comparisoun yit mighte never be maked
Bitwen him and noon other conquerour ;
For al this world for drede of him hath quaked.
He was of knyghthod and of fredam flour;
Fortune him made the heir of hir honour;