The Online 
Medieval and Classical Library

Confessio Amantis
Tales of the Seven Deadly Sins


Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #4

Torpor, ebes sensus, scola parua labor minimusque
     Causant quo minimus ipse minora canam:
Qua tamen Engisti lingua canit Insula Bruti
     Anglica Carmente metra iuuante loquar.
Ossibus ergo carens que conterit ossa loquelis
     Absit, et interpres stet procul oro malus.

1      Of hem that writen ous tofore
2      The bokes duelle, and we therfore
3      Ben tawht of that was write tho:
4      Forthi good is that we also
5      In oure tyme among ous hiere
6      Do wryte of newe som matiere,
7      Essampled of these olde wyse
8      So that it myhte in such a wyse,
9      Whan we ben dede and elleswhere,
10     Beleve to the worldes eere
11     In tyme comende after this.
12     Bot for men sein, and soth it is,
13     That who that al of wisdom writ
14     It dulleth ofte a mannes wit
15     To him that schal it aldai rede,
16     For thilke cause, if that ye rede,
17     I wolde go the middel weie
18     And wryte a bok betwen the tweie,
19     Somwhat of lust, somewhat of lore,
20     That of the lasse or of the more
21     Som man mai lyke of that I wryte:
22     And for that fewe men endite
23     In oure englissh, I thenke make
24     A bok for Engelondes sake,
25     The yer sextenthe of kyng Richard.
26     What schal befalle hierafterward
27     God wot, for now upon this tyde
28     Men se the world on every syde
29     In sondry wyse so diversed,
30     That it welnyh stant al reversed,
31     As forto speke of tyme ago.
32     The cause whi it changeth so
33     It needeth nought to specifie,
34     The thing so open is at ije
35     That every man it mai beholde:
36     And natheles be daies olde,
37     Whan that the bokes weren levere,
38     Wrytinge was beloved evere
39     Of hem that weren vertuous;
40     For hier in erthe amonges ous,
41     If noman write hou that it stode,
42     The pris of hem that weren goode
43     Scholde, as who seith, a gret partie
44     Be lost: so for to magnifie
45     The worthi princes that tho were,
46     The bokes schewen hiere and there,
47     Wherof the world ensampled is;
48     And tho that deden thanne amis
49     Thurgh tirannie and crualte,
50     Right as thei stoden in degre,
51     So was the wrytinge of here werk.
52     Thus I, which am a burel clerk,
53     Purpose forto wryte a bok
54     After the world that whilom tok
55     Long tyme in olde daies passed:
56     Bot for men sein it is now lassed,
57     In worse plit than it was tho,
58     I thenke forto touche also
59     The world which neweth every dai,
60     So as I can, so as I mai.
61     Thogh I seknesse have upon honde
62     And longe have had, yit woll I fonde
63     To wryte and do my bisinesse,
64     That in som part, so as I gesse,
65     The wyse man mai ben avised.
66     For this prologe is so assised
67     That it to wisdom al belongeth:
68     What wysman that it underfongeth,
69     He schal drawe into remembrance
70     The fortune of this worldes chance,
71     The which noman in his persone
72     Mai knowe, bot the god al one.
73     Whan the prologe is so despended,
74     This bok schal afterward ben ended
75     Of love, which doth many a wonder
76     And many a wys man hath put under.
77     And in this wyse I thenke trete
78     Towardes hem that now be grete,
79     Betwen the vertu and the vice
80     Which longeth unto this office.
81     Bot for my wittes ben to smale
82     To tellen every man his tale,
83     This bok, upon amendment
84     To stonde at his commandement,
85     With whom myn herte is of accord,
86     I sende unto myn oghne lord,
87     Which of Lancastre is Henri named:
88     The hyhe god him hath proclamed
89     Ful of knyhthode and alle grace.
90     So woll I now this werk embrace
91     With hol trust and with hol believe;
92     God grante I mot it wel achieve.
93     If I schal drawe in to my mynde
94     The tyme passed, thanne I fynde
95     The world stod thanne in al his welthe:
96     Tho was the lif of man in helthe,
97     Tho was plente, tho was richesse,
98     Tho was the fortune of prouesse,
99     Tho was knyhthode in pris be name,
100    Wherof the wyde worldes fame
101    Write in Cronique is yit withholde;
102    Justice of lawe tho was holde,
103    The privilege of regalie
104    Was sauf, and al the baronie
105    Worschiped was in his astat;
106    The citees knewen no debat,
107    The poeple stod in obeissance
108    Under the reule of governance,
109    And pes, which ryhtwisnesse keste,
110    With charite tho stod in reste:
111    Of mannes herte the corage
112    Was schewed thanne in the visage;
113    The word was lich to the conceite
114    Withoute semblant of deceite:
115    Tho was ther unenvied love,
116    Tho was the vertu sett above
117    And vice was put under fote.
118    Now stant the crop under the rote,
119    The world is changed overal,
120    And therof most in special
121    That love is falle into discord.
122    And that I take to record
123    Of every lond for his partie
124    The comun vois, which mai noght lie;
125    Noght upon on, bot upon alle
126    It is that men now clepe and calle,
127    And sein the regnes ben divided,
128    In stede of love is hate guided,
129    The werre wol no pes purchace,
130    And lawe hath take hire double face,
131    So that justice out of the weie
132    With ryhtwisnesse is gon aweie:
133    And thus to loke on every halve,
134    Men sen the sor withoute salve,
135    Which al the world hath overtake.
136    Ther is no regne of alle outtake,
137    For every climat hath his diel
138    After the tornynge of the whiel,
139    Which blinde fortune overthroweth;
140    Wherof the certain noman knoweth:
141    The hevene wot what is to done,
142    Bot we that duelle under the mone
143    Stonde in this world upon a weer,
144    And namely bot the pouer
145    Of hem that ben the worldes guides
146    With good consail on alle sides
147    Be kept upriht in such a wyse,
148    That hate breke noght thassise
149    Of love, which is al the chief
150    To kepe a regne out of meschief.
151    For alle resoun wolde this,
152    That unto him which the heved is
153    The membres buxom scholden bowe,
154    And he scholde ek her trowthe allowe,
155    With al his herte and make hem chiere,
156    For good consail is good to hiere.
157    Althogh a man be wys himselve,
158    Yit is the wisdom more of tuelve;
159    And if thei stoden bothe in on,
160    To hope it were thanne anon
161    That god his grace wolde sende
162    To make of thilke werre an ende,
163    Which every day now groweth newe:
164    And that is gretly forto rewe
165    In special for Cristes sake,
166    Which wolde his oghne lif forsake
167    Among the men to yeve pes.
168    But now men tellen natheles
169    That love is fro the world departed,
170    So stant the pes unevene parted
171    With hem that liven now adaies.
172    Bot forto loke at alle assaies,
173    To him that wolde resoun seche
174    After the comun worldes speche
175    It is to wondre of thilke werre,
176    In which non wot who hath the werre;
177    For every lond himself deceyveth
178    And of desese his part receyveth,
179    And yet ne take men no kepe.
180    Bot thilke lord which al may kepe,
181    To whom no consail may ben hid,
182    Upon the world which is betid,
183    Amende that wherof men pleigne
184    With trewe hertes and with pleine,
185    And reconcile love ayeyn,
186    As he which is king sovereign
187    Of al the worldes governaunce,
188    And of his hyhe porveaunce
189    Afferme pes betwen the londes
190    And take her cause into hise hondes,
191    So that the world may stonde apppesed
192    And his godhede also be plesed.
193    To thenke upon the daies olde,
194    The lif of clerkes to beholde,
195    Men sein how that thei weren tho
196    Ensample and reule of alle tho
197    Whiche of wisdom the vertu soughten.
198    Unto the god ferst thei besoughten
199    As to the substaunce of her Scole,
200    That thei ne scholden noght befole
201    Her wit upon none erthly werkes,
202    Which were ayein thestat of clerkes,
203    And that thei myhten fle the vice
204    Which Simon hath in his office,
205    Wherof he takth the gold in honde.
206    For thilke tyme I understonde
207    The Lumbard made non eschange
208    The bisschopriches forto change,
209    Ne yet a lettre for to sende
210    For dignite ne for Provende,
211    Or cured or withoute cure.
212    The cherche keye in aventure
213    Of armes and of brygantaille
214    Stod nothing thanne upon bataille;
215    To fyhte or for to make cheste
216    It thoghte hem thanne noght honeste;
217    Bot of simplesce and pacience
218    Thei maden thanne no defence:
219    The Court of worldly regalie
220    To hem was thanne no baillie;
221    The vein honour was noght desired,
222    Which hath the proude herte fyred;
223    Humilite was tho withholde,
224    And Pride was a vice holde.
225    Of holy cherche the largesse
226    Yaf thanne and dede gret almesse
227    To povere men that hadden nede:
228    Thei were ek chaste in word and dede,
229    Wherof the poeple ensample tok;
230    Her lust was al upon the bok,
231    Or forto preche or forto preie,
232    To wisse men the ryhte weie
233    Of suche as stode of trowthe unliered.
234    Lo, thus was Petres barge stiered
235    Of hem that thilke tyme were,
236    And thus cam ferst to mannes Ere
237    The feith of Crist and alle goode
238    Thurgh hem that thanne weren goode
239    And sobre and chaste and large and wyse.
240    Bot now men sein is otherwise,
241    Simon the cause hath undertake,
242    The worldes swerd on honde is take;
243    And that is wonder natheles,
244    Whan Crist him self hath bode pes
245    And set it in his testament,
246    How now that holy cherche is went,
247    Of that here lawe positif
248    Hath set to make werre and strif
249    For worldes good, which may noght laste.
250    God wot the cause to the laste
251    Of every right and wrong also;
252    But whil the lawe is reuled so
253    That clerkes to the werre entende,
254    I not how that thei scholde amende
255    The woful world in othre thinges,
256    To make pes betwen the kynges
257    After the lawe of charite,
258    Which is the propre duete
259    Belongende unto the presthode.
260    Bot as it thenkth to the manhode,
261    The hevene is ferr, the world is nyh,
262    And veine gloire is ek so slyh,
263    Which coveitise hath now withholde,
264    That thei non other thing beholde,
265    Bot only that thei myhten winne.
266    And thus the werres thei beginne,
267    Wherof the holi cherche is taxed,
268    That in the point as it is axed
269    The disme goth to the bataille,
270    As thogh Crist myhte noght availe
271    To don hem riht be other weie.
272    In to the swerd the cherche keie
273    Is torned, and the holy bede
274    Into cursinge, and every stede
275    Which scholde stonde upon the feith
276    And to this cause an Ere leyth,
277    Astoned is of the querele.
278    That scholde be the worldes hele
279    Is now, men sein, the pestilence
280    Which hath exiled pacience
281    Fro the clergie in special:
282    And that is schewed overal,
283    In eny thing whan thei ben grieved.
284    Bot if Gregoire be believed,
285    As it is in the bokes write,
286    He doth ous somdel forto wite
287    The cause of thilke prelacie,
288    Wher god is noght of compaignie:
289    For every werk as it is founded
290    Schal stonde or elles be confounded;
291    Who that only for Cristes sake
292    Desireth cure forto take,
293    And noght for pride of thilke astat,
294    To bere a name of a prelat,
295    He schal be resoun do profit
296    In holy cherche upon the plit
297    That he hath set his conscience;
298    Bot in the worldes reverence
299    Ther ben of suche manie glade,
300    Whan thei to thilke astat ben made,
301    Noght for the merite of the charge,
302    Bot for thei wolde hemself descharge
303    Of poverte and become grete;
304    And thus for Pompe and for beyete
305    The Scribe and ek the Pharisee
306    Of Moises upon the See
307    In the chaiere on hyh ben set;
308    Wherof the feith is ofte let,
309    Which is betaken hem to kepe.
310    In Cristes cause alday thei slepe,
311    Bot of the world is noght foryete;
312    For wel is him that now may gete
313    Office in Court to ben honoured.
314    The stronge coffre hath al devoured
315    Under the keye of avarice
316    The tresor of the benefice,
317    Wherof the povere schulden clothe
318    And ete and drinke and house bothe;
319    The charite goth al unknowe,
320    For thei no grein of Pite sowe:
321    And slouthe kepeth the libraire
322    Which longeth to the Saintuaire;
323    To studie upon the worldes lore
324    Sufficeth now withoute more;
325    Delicacie his swete toth
326    Hath fostred so that it fordoth
327    Of abstinence al that ther is.
328    And forto loken over this,
329    If Ethna brenne in the clergie,
330    Al openly to mannes ije
331    At Avynoun thexperience
332    Therof hath yove an evidence,
333    Of that men sen hem so divided.
334    And yit the cause is noght decided;
335    Bot it is seid and evere schal,
336    Betwen tuo Stoles lyth the fal,
337    Whan that men wenen best to sitte:
338    In holy cherche of such a slitte
339    Is for to rewe un to ous alle;
340    God grante it mote wel befalle
341    Towardes him which hath the trowthe.
342    Bot ofte is sen that mochel slowthe,
343    Whan men ben drunken of the cuppe,
344    Doth mochel harm, whan fyr is uppe,
345    Bot if somwho the flamme stanche;
346    And so to speke upon this branche,
347    Which proud Envie hath mad to springe,
348    Of Scisme, causeth forto bringe
349    This newe Secte of Lollardie,
350    And also many an heresie
351    Among the clerkes in hemselve.
352    It were betre dike and delve
353    And stonde upon the ryhte feith,
354    Than knowe al that the bible seith
355    And erre as somme clerkes do.
356    Upon the hond to were a Schoo
357    And sette upon the fot a Glove
358    Acordeth noght to the behove
359    Of resonable mannes us:
360    If men behielden the vertus
361    That Crist in Erthe taghte here,
362    Thei scholden noght in such manere,
363    Among hem that ben holden wise,
364    The Papacie so desguise
365    Upon diverse eleccioun,
366    Which stant after thaffeccioun
367    Of sondry londes al aboute:
368    Bot whan god wole, it schal were oute,
369    For trowthe mot stonde ate laste.
370    Bot yet thei argumenten faste
371    Upon the Pope and his astat,
372    Wherof thei falle in gret debat;
373    This clerk seith yee, that other nay,
374    And thus thei dryve forth the day,
375    And ech of hem himself amendeth
376    Of worldes good, bot non entendeth
377    To that which comun profit were.
378    Thei sein that god is myhti there,
379    And schal ordeine what he wile,
380    Ther make thei non other skile
381    Where is the peril of the feith,
382    Bot every clerk his herte leith
383    To kepe his world in special,
384    And of the cause general,
385    Which unto holy cherche longeth,
386    Is non of hem that underfongeth
387    To schapen eny resistence:
388    And thus the riht hath no defence,
389    Bot ther I love, ther I holde.
390    Lo, thus tobroke is Cristes folde,
391    Wherof the flock withoute guide
392    Devoured is on every side,
393    In lacke of hem that ben unware
394    Schepherdes, whiche her wit beware
395    Upon the world in other halve.
396    The scharpe pricke in stede of salve
397    Thei usen now, wherof the hele
398    Thei hurte of that thei scholden hele;
399    And what Schep that is full of wulle
400    Upon his back, thei toose and pulle,
401    Whil ther is eny thing to pile:
402    And thogh ther be non other skile
403    Bot only for thei wolden wynne,
404    Thei leve noght, whan thei begynne,
405    Upon her acte to procede,
406    Which is no good schepherdes dede.
407    And upon this also men sein,
408    That fro the leese which is plein
409    Into the breres thei forcacche
410    Her Orf, for that thei wolden lacche
411    With such duresce, and so bereve
412    That schal upon the thornes leve
413    Of wulle, which the brere hath tore;
414    Wherof the Schep ben al totore
415    Of that the hierdes make hem lese.
416    Lo, how thei feignen chalk for chese,
417    For though thei speke and teche wel,
418    Thei don hemself therof no del:
419    For if the wolf come in the weie,
420    Her gostly Staf is thanne aweie,
421    Wherof thei scholde her flock defende;
422    Bot if the povere Schep offende
423    In eny thing, thogh it be lyte,
424    They ben al redy forto smyte;
425    And thus, how evere that thei tale,
426    The strokes falle upon the smale,
427    And upon othre that ben grete
428    Hem lacketh herte forto bete.
429    So that under the clerkes lawe
430    Men sen the Merel al mysdrawe,
431    I wol noght seie in general,
432    For ther ben somme in special
433    In whom that alle vertu duelleth,
434    And tho ben, as thapostel telleth,
435    That god of his eleccioun
436    Hath cleped to perfeccioun
437    In the manere as Aaron was:
438    Thei ben nothing in thilke cas
439    Of Simon, which the foldes gate
440    Hath lete, and goth in othergate,
441    Bot thei gon in the rihte weie.
442    Ther ben also somme, as men seie,
443    That folwen Simon ate hieles,
444    Whos carte goth upon the whieles
445    Of coveitise and worldes Pride,
446    And holy cherche goth beside,
447    Which scheweth outward a visage
448    Of that is noght in the corage.
449    For if men loke in holy cherche,
450    Betwen the word and that thei werche
451    Ther is a full gret difference:
452    Thei prechen ous in audience
453    That noman schal his soule empeire,
454    For al is bot a chirie feire
455    This worldes good, so as thei telle;
456    Also thei sein ther is an helle,
457    Which unto mannes sinne is due,
458    And bidden ous therfore eschue
459    That wikkid is, and do the goode.
460    Who that here wordes understode,
461    It thenkth thei wolden do the same;
462    Bot yet betwen ernest and game
463    Ful ofte it torneth other wise.
464    With holy tales thei devise
465    How meritoire is thilke dede
466    Of charite, to clothe and fede
467    The povere folk and forto parte
468    The worldes good, bot thei departe
469    Ne thenken noght fro that thei have.
470    Also thei sein, good is to save
471    With penance and with abstinence
472    Of chastite the continence;
473    Bot pleinly forto speke of that,
474    I not how thilke body fat,
475    Which thei with deynte metes kepe
476    And leyn it softe forto slepe,
477    Whan it hath elles al his wille,
478    With chastite schal stonde stille:
479    And natheles I can noght seie,
480    In aunter if that I misseye.
481    Touchende of this, how evere it stonde,
482    I here and wol noght understonde,
483    For therof have I noght to done:
484    Bot he that made ferst the Mone,
485    The hyhe god, of his goodnesse,
486    If ther be cause, he it redresce.
487    Bot what as eny man accuse,
488    This mai reson of trowthe excuse;
489    The vice of hem that ben ungoode
490    Is no reproef unto the goode:
491    For every man hise oghne werkes
492    Schal bere, and thus as of the clerkes
493    The goode men ben to comende,
494    And alle these othre god amende:
495    For thei ben to the worldes ije
496    The Mirour of ensamplerie,
497    To reulen and to taken hiede
498    Betwen the men and the godhiede.
499    Now forto speke of the comune,
500    It is to drede of that fortune
501    Which hath befalle in sondri londes:
502    Bot often for defalte of bondes
503    Al sodeinliche, er it be wist,
504    A Tonne, whanne his lye arist,
505    Tobrekth and renneth al aboute,
506    Which elles scholde noght gon oute;
507    And ek fulofte a litel Skar
508    Upon a Banke, er men be war,
509    Let in the Strem, which with gret peine,
510    If evere man it schal restreigne.
511    Wher lawe lacketh, errour groweth,
512    He is noght wys who that ne troweth,
513    For it hath proeved ofte er this;
514    And thus the comun clamour is
515    In every lond wher poeple dwelleth,
516    And eche in his compleignte telleth
517    How that the world is al miswent,
518    And ther upon his jugement
519    Yifth every man in sondry wise.
520    Bot what man wolde himself avise,
521    His conscience and noght misuse,
522    He may wel ate ferste excuse
523    His god, which evere stant in on:
524    In him ther is defalte non,
525    So moste it stonde upon ousselve
526    Nought only upon ten ne twelve,
527    Bot plenerliche upon ous alle,
528    For man is cause of that schal falle.
529    And natheles yet som men wryte
530    And sein that fortune is to wyte,
531    And som men holde oppinion
532    That it is constellacion,
533    Which causeth al that a man doth:
534    God wot of bothe which is soth.
535    The world as of his propre kynde
536    Was evere untrewe, and as the blynde
537    Improprelich he demeth fame,
538    He blameth that is noght to blame
539    And preiseth that is noght to preise:
540    Thus whan he schal the thinges peise,
541    Ther is deceipte in his balance,
542    And al is that the variance
543    Of ous, that scholde ous betre avise;
544    For after that we falle and rise,
545    The world arist and falth withal,
546    So that the man is overal
547    His oghne cause of wel and wo.
548    That we fortune clepe so
549    Out of the man himself it groweth;
550    And who that other wise troweth,
551    Behold the poeple of Irael:
552    For evere whil thei deden wel,
553    Fortune was hem debonaire,
554    And whan thei deden the contraire,
555    Fortune was contrariende.
556    So that it proeveth wel at ende
557    Why that the world is wonderfull
558    And may no while stonde full,
559    Though that it seme wel besein;
560    For every worldes thing is vein,
561    And evere goth the whiel aboute,
562    And evere stant a man in doute,
563    Fortune stant no while stille,
564    So hath ther noman al his wille.
565    Als fer as evere a man may knowe,
566    Ther lasteth nothing bot a throwe;
567    The world stant evere upon debat,
568    So may be seker non astat,
569    Now hier now ther, now to now fro,
570    Now up now down, this world goth so,
571    And evere hath don and evere schal:
572    Wherof I finde in special
573    A tale writen in the Bible,
574    Which moste nedes be credible;
575    And that as in conclusioun
576    Seith that upon divisioun
577    Stant, why no worldes thing mai laste,
578    Til it be drive to the laste.
579    And fro the ferste regne of alle
580    Into this day, hou so befalle,
581    Of that the regnes be muable
582    The man himself hath be coupable,
583    Which of his propre governance
584    Fortuneth al the worldes chance.
585    The hyhe almyhti pourveance,
586    In whos eterne remembrance
587    Fro ferst was every thing present,
588    He hath his prophecie sent,
589    In such a wise as thou schalt hiere,
590    To Daniel of this matiere,
591    Hou that this world schal torne and wende,
592    Till it be falle to his ende;
593    Wherof the tale telle I schal,
594    In which it is betokned al.
595    As Nabugodonosor slepte,
596    A swevene him tok, the which he kepte
597    Til on the morwe he was arise,
598    For he therof was sore agrise.
599    To Daniel his drem he tolde,
600    And preide him faire that he wolde
601    Arede what it tokne may;
602    And seide: "Abedde wher I lay,
603    Me thoghte I syh upon a Stage
604    Wher stod a wonder strange ymage.
605    His hed with al the necke also
606    Thei were of fin gold bothe tuo;
607    His brest, his schuldres and his armes
608    Were al of selver, bot the tharmes,
609    The wombe and al doun to the kne,
610    Of bras thei were upon to se;
611    The legges were al mad of Stiel,
612    So were his feet also somdiel,
613    And somdiel part to hem was take
614    Of Erthe which men Pottes make;
615    The fieble meynd was with the stronge,
616    So myhte it wel noght stonde longe.
617    And tho me thoghte that I sih
618    A gret ston from an hull on hyh
619    Fel doun of sodein aventure
620    Upon the feet of this figure,
621    With which Ston al tobroke was
622    Gold, Selver, Erthe, Stiel and Bras,
623    That al was in to pouldre broght,
624    And so forth torned into noght."
625    This was the swevene which he hadde,
626    That Daniel anon aradde,
627    And seide him that figure strange
628    Betokneth how the world schal change
629    And waxe lasse worth and lasse,
630    Til it to noght al overpasse.
631    The necke and hed, that weren golde,
632    He seide how that betokne scholde
633    A worthi world, a noble, a riche,
634    To which non after schal be liche.
635    Of Selver that was overforth
636    Schal ben a world of lasse worth;
637    And after that the wombe of Bras
638    Tokne of a werse world it was.
639    The Stiel which he syh afterward
640    A world betokneth more hard:
641    Bot yet the werste of everydel
642    Is last, whan that of Erthe and Stiel
643    He syh the feet departed so,
644    For that betokneth mochel wo.
645    Whan that the world divided is,
646    It moste algate fare amis,
647    For Erthe which is meynd with Stiel
648    Togedre may noght laste wiel,
649    Bot if that on that other waste;
650    So mot it nedes faile in haste.
651    The Ston, which fro the hully Stage
652    He syh doun falle on that ymage,
653    And hath it into pouldre broke,
654    That swevene hath Daniel unloke,
655    And seide how that is goddes myht,
656    Which whan men wene most upryht
657    To stonde, schal hem overcaste.
658    And that is of this world the laste,
659    And thanne a newe schal beginne,
660    Fro which a man schal nevere twinne;
661    Or al to peine or al to pes
662    That world schal lasten endeles.
663    Lo thus expondeth Daniel
664    The kynges swevene faire and wel
665    In Babiloyne the Cite,
666    Wher that the wiseste of Caldee
667    Ne cowthen wite what it mente;
668    Bot he tolde al the hol entente,
669    As in partie it is befalle.
670    Of gold the ferste regne of alle
671    Was in that kinges time tho,
672    And laste manye daies so,
673    Therwhiles that the Monarchie
674    Of al the world in that partie
675    To Babiloyne was soubgit;
676    And hield him stille in such a plit,
677    Til that the world began diverse:
678    And that was whan the king of Perse,
679    Which Cirus hyhte, ayein the pes
680    Forth with his Sone Cambises
681    Of Babiloine al that Empire,
682    Ryht as thei wolde hemself desire,
683    Put under in subjeccioun
684    And tok it in possessioun,
685    And slayn was Baltazar the king,
686    Which loste his regne and al his thing.
687    And thus whan thei it hadde wonne,
688    The world of Selver was begonne
689    And that of gold was passed oute:
690    And in this wise it goth aboute
691    In to the Regne of Darius;
692    And thanne it fell to Perse thus,
693    That Alisaundre put hem under,
694    Which wroghte of armes many a wonder,
695    So that the Monarchie lefte
696    With Grecs, and here astat uplefte,
697    And Persiens gon under fote,
698    So soffre thei that nedes mote.
699    And tho the world began of Bras,
700    And that of selver ended was;
701    Bot for the time thus it laste,
702    Til it befell that ate laste
703    This king, whan that his day was come,
704    With strengthe of deth was overcome.
705    And natheles yet er he dyde,
706    He schop his Regnes to divide
707    To knyhtes whiche him hadde served,
708    And after that thei have deserved
709    Yaf the conquestes that he wan;
710    Wherof gret werre tho began
711    Among hem that the Regnes hadde,
712    Thurgh proud Envie which hem ladde,
713    Til it befell ayein hem thus:
714    The noble Cesar Julius,
715    Which tho was king of Rome lond,
716    With gret bataille and with strong hond
717    Al Grece, Perse and ek Caldee
718    Wan and put under, so that he
719    Noght al only of thorient
720    Bot al the Marche of thoccident
721    Governeth under his empire,
722    As he that was hol lord and Sire,
723    And hield thurgh his chivalerie
724    Of al this world the Monarchie,
725    And was the ferste of that honour
726    Which tok the name of Emperour.
727    Wher Rome thanne wolde assaille,
728    Ther myhte nothing contrevaille,
729    Bot every contre moste obeie:
730    Tho goth the Regne of Bras aweie,
731    And comen is the world of Stiel,
732    And stod above upon the whiel.
733    As Stiel is hardest in his kynde
734    Above alle othre that men finde
735    Of Metals, such was Rome tho
736    The myhtieste, and laste so
737    Long time amonges the Romeins
738    Til thei become so vileins,
739    That the fals Emperour Leo
740    With Constantin his Sone also
741    The patrimoine and the richesse,
742    Which to Silvestre in pure almesse
743    The ferste Constantinus lefte,
744    Fro holy cherche thei berefte.
745    Bot Adrian, which Pope was,
746    And syh the meschief of this cas,
747    Goth in to France forto pleigne,
748    And preith the grete Charlemeine,
749    For Cristes sake and Soule hele
750    That he wol take the querele
751    Of holy cherche in his defence.
752    And Charles for the reverence
753    Of god the cause hath undertake,
754    And with his host the weie take
755    Over the Montz of Lombardie;
756    Of Rome and al the tirandie
757    With blodi swerd he overcom,
758    And the Cite with strengthe nom;
759    In such a wise and there he wroghte,
760    That holy cherche ayein he broghte
761    Into franchise, and doth restore
762    The Popes lost, and yaf him more:
763    And thus whan he his god hath served,
764    He tok, as he wel hath deserved,
765    The Diademe and was coroned.
766    Of Rome and thus was abandoned
767    Thempire, which cam nevere ayein
768    Into the hond of no Romein;
769    Bot a long time it stod so stille
770    Under the Frensche kynges wille,
771    Til that fortune hir whiel so ladde,
772    That afterward Lombardz it hadde,
773    Noght be the swerd, bot be soffrance
774    Of him that tho was kyng of France,
775    Which Karle Calvus cleped was;
776    And he resigneth in this cas
777    Thempire of Rome unto Lowis
778    His Cousin, which a Lombard is.
779    And so hit laste into the yeer
780    Of Albert and of Berenger;
781    Bot thanne upon dissencioun
782    Thei felle, and in divisioun
783    Among hemself that were grete,
784    So that thei loste the beyete
785    Of worschipe and of worldes pes.
786    Bot in proverbe natheles
787    Men sein, ful selden is that welthe
788    Can soffre his oghne astat in helthe;
789    And that was on the Lombardz sene,
790    Such comun strif was hem betwene
791    Thurgh coveitise and thurgh Envie,
792    That every man drowh his partie,
793    Which myhte leden eny route,
794    Withinne Burgh and ek withoute:
795    The comun ryht hath no felawe,
796    So that the governance of lawe
797    Was lost, and for necessite,
798    Of that thei stode in such degre
799    Al only thurgh divisioun,
800    Hem nedeth in conclusioun
801    Of strange londes help beside.
802    And thus for thei hemself divide
803    And stonden out of reule unevene,
804    Of Alemaine Princes sevene
805    Thei chose in this condicioun,
806    That upon here eleccioun
807    Thempire of Rome scholde stonde.
808    And thus thei lefte it out of honde
809    For lacke of grace, and it forsoke,
810    That Alemans upon hem toke:
811    And to confermen here astat,
812    Of that thei founden in debat
813    Thei token the possessioun
814    After the composicioun
815    Among hemself, and therupon
816    Thei made an Emperour anon,
817    Whos name as the Cronique telleth
818    Was Othes; and so forth it duelleth,
819    Fro thilke day yit unto this
820    Thempire of Rome hath ben and is
821    To thalemans. And in this wise,
822    As ye tofore have herd divise
823    How Daniel the swevene expondeth
824    Of that ymage, on whom he foundeth
825    The world which after scholde falle,
826    Come is the laste tokne of alle;
827    Upon the feet of Erthe and Stiel
828    So stant this world now everydiel
829    Departed; which began riht tho,
830    Whan Rome was divided so:
831    And that is forto rewe sore,
832    For alway siththe more and more
833    The world empeireth every day.
834    Wherof the sothe schewe may,
835    At Rome ferst if we beginne:
836    The wall and al the Cit withinne
837    Stant in ruine and in decas,
838    The feld is wher the Paleis was,
839    The toun is wast; and overthat,
840    If we beholde thilke astat
841    Which whilom was of the Romeins,
842    Of knyhthode and of Citezeins,
843    To peise now with that beforn,
844    The chaf is take for the corn,
845    As forto speke of Romes myht:
846    Unethes stant ther oght upryht
847    Of worschipe or of worldes good,
848    As it before tyme stod.
849    And why the worschipe is aweie,
850    If that a man the sothe seie,
851    The cause hath ben divisioun,
852    Which moder of confusioun
853    Is wher sche cometh overal,
854    Noght only of the temporal
855    Bot of the spirital also.
856    The dede proeveth it is so,
857    And hath do many day er this,
858    Thurgh venym which that medled is
859    In holy cherche of erthly thing:
860    For Crist himself makth knowleching
861    That noman may togedre serve
862    God and the world, bot if he swerve
863    Froward that on and stonde unstable;
864    And Cristes word may noght be fable.
865    The thing so open is at ije,
866    It nedeth noght to specefie
867    Or speke oght more in this matiere;
868    Bot in this wise a man mai lere
869    Hou that the world is gon aboute,
870    The which welnyh is wered oute,
871    After the forme of that figure
872    Which Daniel in his scripture
873    Expondeth, as tofore is told.
874    Of Bras, of Selver and of Gold
875    The world is passed and agon,
876    And now upon his olde ton
877    It stant of brutel Erthe and Stiel,
878    The whiche acorden nevere a diel;
879    So mot it nedes swerve aside
880    As thing the which men sen divide.
881    Thapostel writ unto ous alle
882    And seith that upon ous is falle
883    Thende of the world; so may we knowe,
884    This ymage is nyh overthrowe,
885    Be which this world was signified,
886    That whilom was so magnefied,
887    And now is old and fieble and vil,
888    Full of meschief and of peril,
889    And stant divided ek also
890    Lich to the feet that were so,
891    As I tolde of the Statue above.
892    And this men sen, thurgh lacke of love
893    Where as the lond divided is,
894    It mot algate fare amis:
895    And now to loke on every side,
896    A man may se the world divide,
897    The werres ben so general
898    Among the cristene overal,
899    That every man now secheth wreche,
900    And yet these clerkes alday preche
901    And sein, good dede may non be
902    Which stant noght upon charite:
903    I not hou charite may stonde,
904    Wher dedly werre is take on honde.
905    Bot al this wo is cause of man,
906    The which that wit and reson can,
907    And that in tokne and in witnesse
908    That ilke ymage bar liknesse
909    Of man and of non other beste.
910    For ferst unto the mannes heste
911    Was every creature ordeined,
912    Bot afterward it was restreigned:
913    Whan that he fell, thei fellen eke,
914    Whan he wax sek, thei woxen seke;
915    For as the man hath passioun
916    Of seknesse, in comparisoun
917    So soffren othre creatures.
918    Lo, ferst the hevenly figures,
919    The Sonne and Mone eclipsen bothe,
920    And ben with mannes senne wrothe;
921    The purest Eir for Senne alofte
922    Hath ben and is corrupt fulofte,
923    Right now the hyhe wyndes blowe,
924    And anon after thei ben lowe,
925    Now clowdy and now clier it is:
926    So may it proeven wel be this,
927    A mannes Senne is forto hate,
928    Which makth the welkne to debate.
929    And forto se the proprete
930    Of every thyng in his degree,
931    Benethe forth among ous hiere
932    Al stant aliche in this matiere:
933    The See now ebbeth, now it floweth,
934    The lond now welketh, now it groweth,
935    Now be the Trees with leves grene,
936    Now thei be bare and nothing sene,
937    Now be the lusti somer floures,
938    Now be the stormy wynter shoures,
939    Now be the daies, now the nyhtes,
940    So stant ther nothing al upryhtes,
941    Now it is lyht, now it is derk;
942    And thus stant al the worldes werk
943    After the disposicioun
944    Of man and his condicioun.
945    Forthi Gregoire in his Moral
946    Seith that a man in special
947    The lasse world is properly:
948    And that he proeveth redely;
949    For man of Soule resonable
950    Is to an Angel resemblable,
951    And lich to beste he hath fielinge,
952    And lich to Trees he hath growinge;
953    The Stones ben and so is he:
954    Thus of his propre qualite
955    The man, as telleth the clergie,
956    Is as a world in his partie,
957    And whan this litel world mistorneth,
958    The grete world al overtorneth.
959    The Lond, the See, the firmament,
960    Thei axen alle jugement
961    Ayein the man and make him werre:
962    Therwhile himself stant out of herre,
963    The remenant wol noght acorde:
964    And in this wise, as I recorde,
965    The man is cause of alle wo,
966    Why this world is divided so.
967    Division, the gospell seith,
968    On hous upon another leith,
969    Til that the Regne al overthrowe:
970    And thus may every man wel knowe,
971    Division aboven alle
972    Is thing which makth the world to falle,
973    And evere hath do sith it began.
974    It may ferst proeve upon a man;
975    The which, for his complexioun
976    Is mad upon divisioun
977    Of cold, of hot, of moist, of drye,
978    He mot be verray kynde dye:
979    For the contraire of his astat
980    Stant evermore in such debat,
981    Til that o part be overcome,
982    Ther may no final pes be nome.
983    Bot other wise, if a man were
984    Mad al togedre of o matiere
985    Withouten interrupcioun,
986    Ther scholde no corrupcioun
987    Engendre upon that unite:
988    Bot for ther is diversite
989    Withinne himself, he may noght laste,
990    That he ne deieth ate laste.
991    Bot in a man yit over this
992    Full gret divisioun ther is,
993    Thurgh which that he is evere in strif,
994    Whil that him lasteth eny lif:
995    The bodi and the Soule also
996    Among hem ben divided so,
997    That what thing that the body hateth
998    The soule loveth and debateth;
999    Bot natheles fulofte is sene
1000   Of werre which is hem betwene
1001   The fieble hath wonne the victoire.
1002   And who so drawth into memoire
1003   What hath befalle of old and newe,
1004   He may that werre sore rewe,
1005   Which ferst began in Paradis:
1006   For ther was proeved what it is,
1007   And what desese there it wroghte;
1008   For thilke werre tho forth broghte
1009   The vice of alle dedly Sinne,
1010   Thurgh which division cam inne
1011   Among the men in erthe hiere,
1012   And was the cause and the matiere
1013   Why god the grete flodes sende,
1014   Of al the world and made an ende
1015   Bot Noe5 with his felaschipe,
1016   Which only weren saulf be Schipe.
1017   And over that thurgh Senne it com
1018   That Nembrot such emprise nom,
1019   Whan he the Tour Babel on heihte
1020   Let make, as he that wolde feihte
1021   Ayein the hihe goddes myht,
1022   Wherof divided anon ryht
1023   Was the langage in such entente,
1024   Ther wiste non what other mente,
1025   So that thei myhten noght procede.
1026   And thus it stant of every dede,
1027   Wher Senne takth the cause on honde,
1028   It may upriht noght longe stonde;
1029   For Senne of his condicioun
1030   Is moder of divisioun
1031   And tokne whan the world schal faile.
1032   For so seith Crist withoute faile,
1033   That nyh upon the worldes ende
1034   Pes and acord awey schol wende
1035   And alle charite schal cesse,
1036   Among the men and hate encresce;
1037   And whan these toknes ben befalle,
1038   Al sodeinly the Ston schal falle,
1039   As Daniel it hath beknowe,
1040   Which al this world schal overthrowe,
1041   And every man schal thanne arise
1042   To Joie or elles to Juise,
1043   Wher that he schal for evere dwelle,
1044   Or straght to hevene or straght to helle.
1045   In hevene is pes and al acord,
1046   Bot helle is full of such descord
1047   That ther may be no loveday:
1048   Forthi good is, whil a man may,
1049   Echon to sette pes with other
1050   And loven as his oghne brother;
1051   So may he winne worldes welthe
1052   And afterward his soule helthe.
1053   Bot wolde god that now were on
1054   An other such as Arion,
1055   Which hadde an harpe of such temprure,
1056   And therto of so good mesure
1057   He song, that he the bestes wilde
1058   Made of his note tame and milde,
1059   The Hinde in pes with the Leoun,
1060   The Wolf in pes with the Moltoun,
1061   The Hare in pees stod with the Hound;
1062   And every man upon this ground
1063   Which Arion that time herde,
1064   Als wel the lord as the schepherde,
1065   He broghte hem alle in good acord;
1066   So that the comun with the lord,
1067   And lord with the comun also,
1068   He sette in love bothe tuo
1069   And putte awey malencolie.
1070   That was a lusti melodie,
1071   Whan every man with other low;
1072   And if ther were such on now,
1073   Which cowthe harpe as he tho dede,
1074   He myhte availe in many a stede
1075   To make pes wher now is hate;
1076   For whan men thenken to debate,
1077   I not what other thing is good.
1078   Bot wher that wisdom waxeth wod,
1079   And reson torneth into rage,
1080   So that mesure upon oultrage
1081   Hath set his world, it is to drede;
1082   For that bringth in the comun drede,
1083   Which stant at every mannes Dore:
1084   Bot whan the scharpnesse of the spore
1085   The horse side smit to sore,
1086   It grieveth ofte. And now nomore,
1087   As forto speke of this matiere,
1088   Which non bot only god may stiere.

Explicit Prologus