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I am a boystous man, right thus say I;
Ther is no difference trewely
Bytwix a wyf that is of heigh degré,
(If of hir body dishonest sche be)
And a pore wenche, other then this,
(If so be thay werke bothe amys)
But that the gentil in estat above
Sche schal be cleped his lady as in love ;
And, for that other is a pore womman,
Sche schal be cleped his wenche and his lemman ;
And God it wot, my goode lieve brother,
Men layn that oon as lowe as lith that other.
Right so bitwixe a titleles tirant
And an outlawe, or a thef erraunt,
The same I say, there is no difference,
(To Alisaunder told was this sentence)
But, for the tiraunt is of greter might
By force of meyné for to sle doun right,
And brenne hous and home, and make al playn,
Lo, therfor is he cleped a capitayn ;
And, for an outlawe hath so smal meyné,
And may not doon so gret an harm as he,
Ne bringe a contré to so gret meschief,
Men clepen him an outlawe or a theef.
But, for I am a man not texted wel,
I wil not telle of textes never a del;
I wol go to my tale, as I bigan.
Whan Phebus wyf had sent for hir lemman,
17155--a titleles. This is Tyrwhitt's reading; the Harl. MS. las atticles, which is evidently corrupt, and the Lansd. a tillos.
Anon thay wroughten al her wil volage.
This white crow, that heng alway in cage,
Bihild her werk, and sayde never a word.
And whan that hom was come Phebus the lord,
This crowe song, “ cuckow, cuckow, cuckow !”
“What? brid," quod Phebus, “what song syngistow now?
Ne were thou wont so merily to synge,
That to myn hert it was a rejoysynge
To here thi vois ? allas ! what song is this ?”
" By God," quod he, “ I synge not amys.
Phebus," quod he, "for al thy worthynes,
For al thy beauté, and thy gentiles,
For alle thy songes, and thy menstralcie,
For al thy waytyng, blered is thin ye,
With oon of litel reputacioun,
Nought worth to the as in comparisoun
The mountauns of a gnat, so mot I thrive;
For on thy bed thy wif I saugh him swyve.”
What wol ye more ? the crowe anoon him tolde,
By sadde toknes, and by wordes bolde,
How that his wyf had doon hir leccherie
Him to gret schame, and to gret vilonye ;
And told him oft he saugh it with his yen.
This Phebus gan away-ward for to wryen;
Him thought his sorwful herte brast on tuo.
His bowe he bent, and sett therin a flo;
And in his ire he hath his wif i-slayn;
This is theffect, ther is no more to sayn.
For sorw of which he brak his menstralcye,
Bothe harp and lute, gitern, and sauterie;
And eek he brak his arwes, and his bowe;
And after that thus spak he to the crowe;
“Traytour," quod he, “with tunge of scorpioun,
Thow hast me brought to my confusioun;
Allas that I was born! why nere I deed ?
O dere wyf, O gemme of lustyhed,
That were to me so sad, and eek so trewe,
Now list thou deed, with face pale of hewe,
Ful gulteles, that dorst I swere y-wis.
O racle hond, to do so foule amys.
O trouble wit, О ire recheles,
That unavysed smytest gulteles.
O wantrust, ful of fals suspeccioun,
Wher was thy wit and thy discrecioun ?
O, every man be ware of raclenesse,
Ne trowe no thing withoute gret witnesse.
Smyt nought to soone, er that thou wite why,
And be avysed wel and sobrely,
Upon your ire for suspeccioun.
Allas! a thousand folk hath racle ire
Fordoon, or Dun hath brought hem in the myre.
Allas ! for sorw I wil myselven sle.”
And to the crowe,
“O false theef,” sayd he,
“I wil the quyt anoon thy false tale.
Thow songe whilom, as any nightyngale,
Now schaltow, false thef, thy song forgoon,
17222-Dun. See before, 1. 16937. It is said that this proverbial expression arose from a popular game, which was in use at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and is alluded to in the early dramatists. Dun, of conrse, is the name of a horse.
And eek thy white fetheres, everichoon,
Ne never in al thy lyf ne schaltow speke;
Thus schal men on a fals theef ben awreke.
Thou and thin ofspring ever schuln be blake,
Ne never sweete noyse schul ye make,
But ever crye agayn tempest and rayn,
In tokenyng, that thurgh the my wyf was slayn.”
And to the crowe he stert, and that anoon,
And puld his white fetheres everychoon,
And made him blak, and raft him al his song,
And eek his speche, and out at dore hiro slong
Unto the devel, which I him bytake ;
And for this cause ben alle crowes blake.
Lordyngs, by this ensample, I yow pray,
Beth war, and taketh kepe what ye say ;
Ne tellith never man in al youre lif,
How that another man hath dight his wyf;
He wol yow hatin mortelly certeyn.
Daun Salamon, as wise clerkes seyn,
Techeth a man to kepe his tonge wel ;
But, as I sayd, I am nought tixted wel.
But natheles thus taughte me my dame :
“My sone, thenk on the crowe, in Goddes name.
My son, keep wel thy tonge, and kep thy frend;
A wicked tonge is worse than a feend;
My sone, fro a feend men may hem blesse.
My sone, God of his endeles goodnesse
Wallid a tonge with teeth, and lippes eek,
For man schal him avyse what he speek.
My sone, ful ofte for to mochil speche
Hath many a man be spilt, as clerkes teche ;
But for a litil speche avisily
Is no man schent, to speke generally.
My sone, thy tonge scholdest thou restreigne
At alle tyme, but whan thou dost thy peyne
To speke of God in honour and prayere.
The firste vertue, sone, if thou wilt lere,
Is to restreigne and kepe wel thy tonge ;
Thus lerne clerkes, whan that thay ben yonge.
My sone, of mochil speking evel avised,
Ther lasse speking had y-nough suffised,
Cometh mochil harm; thus was me told and taught;
In mochel speche synne wantith nought.
17270 Wost thou wherof a racle tonge serveth ? Right as a swerd for-kutteth and for-kerveth An arm atuo, my dere sone, right so A tonge cutteth frendschip al atuo. A jangler is to God abhominable. Red Salomon, so wys and honurable, Red David in his Psalmes, reed Senek. My sone, spek not, but with thy heed thou bek, Dissimul as thou were deed, if that thou heere A jangler speke of perilous mateere. The Flemyng saith, and lere it if the lest, That litil jangling causeth mochil rest. My sone, if thou no wikked word hast sayd,
17264—The firste verlue. This is taken from Cato de Moribus, lib. i, dist. 3,
Virtutem primam esse puta compescere linguam. Cato was one of the first books put into the hands of young scholars, which explains the remarks here made in I. 17266.