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Thenne said the kynge, Dame, yf he had don to yow suche trespaas as he hath don to other it shold repente yow. Is it wonder that I hate hym. He breketh alway my saufgarde. Haue ye not herde the complayntes that here haue ben shewde of hym, of murdre, of theefte, and of treson? Haue suche trust in hym? Thynke ye that he is thus good and cleer, thenne sette hym vp on the awter and worshipe and praye to hym as to a saynte. But ther is none in alle the world that can saye ony good of hym. Ye maye saye moche for hym, but in thende ye shal fynde hym al nought. He hath nether kyn, ne wyn, ne frende that wylle entreprise to helpe hym, he hath so deseruyd. I haue grete meruaylle of you ; I herde neuer of none that hath felawshipped with hym that euer thanked hym, or saide any good of hym, sauf you now; but alway he hath stryked hem with his tayl. The she ape ansuerd and said, My lord, I loue hym, and haue hym in grete chierte; and also I knowe a good dede that he ones in your presence dyde, wherof ye coude hym grete thanke: though now it be thus torned, yet shal the heuyest weye moste. A man shal love his frende by mesure, and not his enemye hate ouermoche. Stedfastnes and constaunce is fyttyng, and behoueth to the lordes, how someuer the world torneth. Men ought not preyse to moche the daye, tyl euen be come. Good counseyl is good for hym that wil doo ther after.
A PARABLE OF A MAN THAT DELYVERD A SERPENT FROM PERYL
Now two yere passid cam a man and a serpent in to this court, for to haue jugement, whiche was to yow and youres right doubteful. The serpent stode in an hedche where as he supposed to haue gon thorugh, but he was caught in a snare by the necke, that he myght not escape without helpe, but shuld haue lost his lyf there. The man cam forth by, and the serpente called to hym, and cryde, and prayde the man, that he wolde helpe hym out of the snare, or ellis he muste there dye.
The man had pyte of hym, and saide, Yf thou promyse to me that thou wilt not enuenyme me, ne do me none harme ne hurte, I shal helpe the out of this peryl. The serpente was redy, and swore a grete othe that he, now ne neuer, sholde doo hym harme ne hurte. Thenne he vnlosed hym, and delyuerd hym out of the snare, and wente forth to gydre a good whyle, that the serpente had grete hongre, for he had not eten a grete while to fore, and sterte to the man, and wold haue slayn hym. The man sterte away, and was a ferde, and saide, Wilte thou now sle me ? hast thou forgoten the oth that thou madest to me, that thou sholdest not mysdoo ne hurte me? The serpent answerd, I maye doo it good to fore al the world that I doo; the nede of hongre may cause a man to breke his oth. The man saide, yf it may be not bettre, gyue me so longe respyte tyl we mete and fynde that may juge the mater by right. The serpent graunted therto.
Thus they wente to gydre so longe, that they fonde Tyselyn, the rauen, and Slyndpere, his sone. There rehersed they theyr resons. Tiselyn the rauen juged anon that he shold ete the man, he wolde fayn haue eten his parte, and his sone also. The serpent said to the man, How is it now? What thynke ye, haue I not wonne? The man saide, How sholde a robber juge this? he shold haue auayle therby, and also he is allone; ther muste be two or thre at leste to gydre, and that they understande the right and lawe; and that don, late the sentence gon.
I am neuertheles yl on ynough. They agreed and wente forth bothe to gydre so longe that they fonde the beer and the wulf, to whom they tolde theyr mater. And they anon juged that the serpent shold sle the man, for the nede of hongre breketh oth alwaye. The man thenne was in grete doubte and fere, and the serpent cam and caste his venym at hym. But the man lepe a way from hym with grete payne, and said, Ye doo grete wronge that
ye in a wayte to slee me; ye haue no right therto. The serpent sayde, Is it not ynough yet? hit hath ben twyes juged. Ye, sayd the man, that is of them that ben wonte to murdre and robbe. Alle that euer they swere and promyse they hold not. But I appele this mater in to the court to fore our lord the kyng; and that thou mayst not foraske ; and what jugement shal be gyuen there, I shal obeye and suffre, and neuer doo the contrarye.
The bere and the wulf sayden that it shold be so, and that the serpent desired no better. They supposed
yf it shold come to fore you,
there as they wolde. I trowe ye be wel remembrid herof. Tho cam they alle to the court to fore yow,
and the wulues two chyldren cam with theyr fader, whiche were callyd Empty bely, and Neuer full, by cause they wold ete of the man, for they howlyd for grete hongre, wherfore ye commanded them to auoyde your court. The man stode in grete drede, and called vpon your good grace, and tolde how the serpente wold haue taken his lyf from hym, to whom he had sauyd his lyf, and that aboue his oth and promyse, he wold haue deuoured hym. The serpente answerd, I haue not trespaced, and that I report me hoolly on the kyng. For I dyde it to saue my lyf; for nede of lyf, one may breke his oth and promyse.
My lord, that tyme were ye and alle your counseyl herewyth acombryd. For your noble grace sawe the grete sorow of the man, and ye wold not that the man shold for his gentilnes and kyndenes be juged to deth. And on that other, sith hongre and nede to saue the lyf, seketh narowly to be holpen. Ther was none in al the court that coude ne knewe the right hierof. Ther were somme that wolde fayn the man had be holpen. I see them hier stondyng. I wote wel they sayde that they coude not ende this mater.
Thenne commanded ye that Reynard, my neuew, shold come and saye his aduyse in this mater. That tyme was he aboue alle other beleuyd, and herd in the court, and ye bad hym gyue sentence acordyng to the best right, and we alle shal folowe hym; for he knewe the
grounde of the lawe. Reynard said, My lord, it is not possyble to yeue a trewe sentence after theyr wordes, for in here sayeng ben ofte lesynges. But and yf I myght see the serpent in the same paryl and nede that he was in, whan the man loosed hym, and unbonde, thenne wyste I wel what I shold saye, and who that wolde doo otherwise he shold mysdoo agayn right.
Thenne sayd ye, my lord, Reynard, that is wel said, we alle acorde herto, for no man can saye better. Thenne wente the man and the serpent in to the place wher as he fonde the serpent. Reynart bad that the serpent shold be sette in the snare in lyke wyse as he was, and it was don. Thenne sayd ye, my lord, Reynart, how thynketh yow now ? what jugement shal we gyue? Thenne said Reynard the foxe, My lord, now ben they bothe lyke as they were to fore, they haue neyther wonne ne loste. See, my lord, how I juge for a right, also ferre as it shal plese your noble grace. Yf the man wil now lose and vnbynde the serpent vpon the promyse and oth that he to fore made to hym, he may wel doo it; but yf he thynke that he for ony thyng shold be emcombryd or hyndred by the serpent, or for nedeof hongrewold breke his oth and promyse, thenne juge Ithat the man may goo frely where he wyl, and late the serpente abyde stylle bounden, lyke as he myght haue don at the begynnyng; for he wold haue broken his oth and promyse wher as he helpe hym out of suche fereful peryl. Thus thynketh me a ryghtful jugement that the man shal haue his fre choys, lyke as he tofore hadde.
Lo, my lord, this jugement thought yow good, and