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purpoos. I here there synge pype, lawhe, playe, and alle mirth, and I here that these prelates, and riche curates, preche and saye al other wyse, then they thynke and doo. There learne I to lye. The lesynges ben moste vsed in the lordes courtes, certaynly lordes, ladyes, prestis, and clerkes, maken most lesynges. Men dar not telle to the lordes now the trouthe. Ther is defaute, I must flatre and lye also, or ellis I shold be shette wythout the dore. I haue ofte herde men saye trouthe and rightfully, and haue theyr reson made wyth a lesynge lyke to theyr purpose, and brought it in and wente thurgh by cause their mater shold seme the fayrer: the lesyng oftymes cometh vnauysed, and falleth in the mater vnwetyngly, and so whan she is wel cladde, it goth forth thurgh with that other.
Dere neuew, thus muste men now lye here, and there saye soth, flatre, and menace, praye, and curse, and seke euery man vpon his feblest and wekest. Who otherwyse wyll now haunte and vse the world, than deuyse a lesyng in the fayrest wise, and that bywymple with kerchieuis aboute in suche wise that men take it for a trouthe, he is not ronne away fro his maister. Can he that subtylte in suche wise that he stamer not in his wordes, and may thenne be herrde, neuew, this man may doo wonder ; he may were skarlet and gryse; he wynneth in the spyrituel lawe, and temporal also, and wheresommeuer he hath to doo. Now ben ther many
false shrewis that have grete enuye that they have so grete fordele; and wene that they canne also wel lye ; and take on them to lye and to telle it
forth. He wolde fayn ete of the fatte morsellis, but he is not bileiud ne herd. And many ben ther that be so plompe and folisshe, that whan they wene beste to prononce
and shewe their mater and conclude, they falle besyde and oute therof, and can not thenne helpe hem self, and leue theyr mater wythout tayl or heed, and he is acompted for a fool. And many mocke them ther with. But who can gyue to his lesynge a conclusion, and prononce it without tatelyng, lyke as it were wreton to fore hym, and that he can so blynde the peple, that his lesynge shal better be bileuid than the trouthe, that is the man.
What connyng is it to saye the trouth that is good to doo. How lawhe thise false subtyl shrewis that gyue counseyl to make thise lesynges, and sette them forth; and maken vnright goo aboue right; and make billes, and sette in thynges that neuer were thought ne sayd, and teche men see thurgh their fyngres, and alle for to wynne money; and late their tonges to hyre for to mayntene and strengthe their lesynges, alas, neuewe ! this is an euyl connyng of whiche lyf, scathe, and hurte may come therof.
I saye not but that otherwhyle, men muste jape, bourde, and lye, in smale thyngis, for who so sayth alway trouthe, he may not now goo nowher thurgh the world. Ther ben many that playe Placebo. Who so alle way sayth trouth, shal fynde many lettynges in his way. Men may wel lye whan it is nede, and after amende it by counseyl: for alle trespaces ther is mercy. Ther is no man so wyse but he dooleth other whyle.
Grymbert sayde, Wel, dere eme, what thynge shal you lette. Ye knowe al thyng at the narewest. Ye shulde brynge me hastely in dotyng, your resons passen my vnderstandyng. What nede haue ye to shryue you? ye shulde yourself by right be the preest, and lete me, and other sheep come to you for to be shryuen. Ye knowe the state of the world in suche wyse as no man may halte to fore you.
Wyth suche maner talkynge, the cam walkyng in to the court. The foxe sorowed somwhat in his herte. Neuertheles he bare it out and stryked forth thrugh alle the folke til he cam in to the place where the kynge hym self was. And Grymbert was alway by the foxe and sayde, Eme be not a ferde ; and make good chere. Who that is hardy thauenture helpeth hym. Oftymes one day is better than somtyme an hole yere.
The foxe sayde, Neuewe, ye say trouthe. God thanke you, ye comforte me wel. And forth he wente and lokyd grymly here and there as who saith, What wylle ye? Here come I. He sawe there many of his kynne standyng, whiche yoned hym but lytyl good, as the otter, beuer, and other to the nombre of x. whome I shal name afterward. And somme were there that loued hym. The foxe cam in and fyl doun on his knees to fore the kyng and began his wordes and sayde.
HOW REYNART THE FOXE EXCUSED HYM TO FORE THE KYNGE.
God, fro whom nothyng may be hyd, and aboue allo
thyng is myghty, saue my lorde the kynge, and my lady the quene, and gyue hym grace to knowe who hath right, and who hath wronge. For ther lyue many in the world, that seme otherwise outward than they be withinne, I wolde that God shewde openly euery mans mysdedes, aud alle theyr trespaces stoden wreton in theyr forehedes ; and it coste me more than I now saye. And that ye, my lord the kynge, knewe as moche as I doo, how I dispose me bothe erly and late in your seruyse. And therfore am I complayned on of the euyl shrewys, and wyth lesynges am put out of your grace, and consayte, and wold charge me with grete offencis, wythout deseruyng, ayenst al right. Wherfore I crye out, Harowe on them, that so falsely haue belyed me ; and brought me in suche trouble. How be it, I hope and knowe you bothe, my lord and my lady, for so wyse and discrete, that ye be not ledde nor bileue suche lesyngis, ne false talis, out of the right waye ;
haue not be woned so to doo. Therfore, dere lorde, I biseche you to considere by your wysedom alle thynge by right, and lawe; is it in deede, or in speche, do euery man right. I desire no better. He that is gylty, and founde fawty, late hym be punsshyd; men shal wel knowe er I departe out of this courte, who that I am. I can not flatre, I wil allewey shewe openly my heed.
HOW THE KYNGE ANSWERD VPON REYNARTS EXCUSE.
ALLE they, that were in the palays, weren alle stylle, and wondred that the foxe spack so stoutly. The
kynge sayde, Ha, Reynart, how wel can ye your falacye and salutacion doon; but your fayr wordes may not helpe you. I thynke wel that he shal this daye for your werkis be hanged by your necke. I wil not moche chyde wyth you. But I shal shorte your payne. That ye loue vs wel, that haue ye wel shewde on the cony, and on Corbant the roeck. Your falsenes, and your false inuencions, shal without longe taryeng make you to deye. A pot may goo so longe to water, that at the laste it cometh tobroken hoom. I thynke your potte, that so ofte hath deceyued vs, shal now hastly be broken.
Reynart was in grete fere of thise wordes. He wold wel he had ben at Coleyn, whan he come thedyr. Thenne, thoughte he, I muste her thurgh, how that I doo. My lorde, the kynge, seyd he, it were wel reson that
wordes alle out. Thaugh I were dampned to the deth, yet ought ye to here my wordes out. I haue yet here to fore tyme gyuen to you many a good counseyl and prouffytable. And in nede alwey haue byden by you where other beestis haue wyked and goon theyr way. Yf now the euyl beestis with false maters, haue to fore you wyth wronge belyed me and I myght not come to myn excuse, ought I not thenne to playne. I haue to fore this seen that I shold be herde by fore another ; yet myght thise thyngis wel chaunge and come in theyr olde state.
Olde good dedes ought to be remembrid. I see here many of my lygnage and frendes standyng, that seme they sette now lytyl by me, whichę neuertheles shold sore deere