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Whan she hath lost it in hire wantonnesse.
devoir at the lest. Hoste, quod he, de par dieux jeo assente, To breken forword is not min entente. Behest is dette, and I wold hold it fayn All my
behest, I can no better sayn. For swiche lawe as man yeveth another wight, He shuld himselven usen it by right. Thus wol our text: but natheles certain I can right now no thrifty tale sain, But Chaucer (though he can but lewedly On metres and on riming craftily) Hath sayd hem, in swiche English as he can, Of olde time, as knoweth many a man. And if he have not sayd hem, leve brother, In o book, he hath sayd hem in another. For he hath told of lovers up and doun, Mo than Ovide made of mentioun In his Epistolis, that ben ful olde. What shuld I tellen hem, sin they ben tolde? In youthe he made of Ceys and Alcyon, And sithen hath he spoke of everich on Thise noble wives, and thise lovers eke. Who so that wol his large volume seke Cleped the seintes legende of Cupide: Ther may
he se the large woundes wide Of Lucrece, and of Babylon Thisbe; The swerd of Dido for the false Enee;
The tree of Phillis for hire Demophon;
But certainly no word ne writeth he
THE MAN OF LAWES TALE.
O SCATHFUL harm, condition of poverte,
Thou blamest Crist, and sayst ful bitterly,
Herken what is the sentence of the wise,
If thou be poure, thy brother hateth thee,
Ye seken lond and see for your winninges, As wise folk ye knowen all th’estat Of regnes, ye ben fathers of tidinges, And tales, both of pees and of debat: I were right now of tales desolat, N'ere that a marchant, gon in many a yere, Me taught a tale, which that ye shull here.
IN SURRIE whilom dwelt a compagnie Of chapmen rich, and therto sad and trewe, That wide where senten hir spicerie, Clothes of gold, and satins riche of hewe. Hir chaffare was so thriftly and so newe, That every wight hath deintee to chaffare With hem, and eke to sellen hem hir ware.
Now fell it, that the maisters of that sort Han shapen hem to Rome for to wende, Were it for chapmanhood or for disport, Non other message wold they thider sende, But comen hemself to Rome, this is the ende: And in swiche place as thought hem avantage For hir entente, they taken hir herbergage.
Sojourned han these marchants in that toun A certain time, as fell to hir plesance: And so befell, that the excellent renoun Of the emperoures doughter dame Custance Reported was, with every circumstance, Unto these Surrien marchants, in swiche wise Fro day to day, as I shal you devise,
This was the commun vois of every man: Our emperour of Rome, God him se, A doughter hath, that sin the world began, To reken as wel hire goodnesse as beaute,
N'as never swiche another as is she :
In hire is high beaute withouten pride,
And al this vois was soth, as God is trewe,
Now fell it, that these marchants stood in grace Of him that was the Soudan of Surrie: For whan they came from any strange place He wold of his benigne curtesie Make hem good chere, and besily espie Tidings of sundry regnes, for to lere The wonders that they mighte seen or here.
Amonges other thinges specially These marchants han him told of dame Custance So gret noblesse, in ernest seriously, That this Soudan hath caught so gret plesance To han hire figure in his remembrance, That all his lust, and all his besy cure Was for to love hire, while his lif may
dure. Paraventure in thilke large book, Which that men clepe the heven, ywriten was