Than is ther no comparison betwene
Thy wo, and any wo man may sustene.
Thou saw thy child yslain before thin

eyen, And yet now liveth my litel child parfay: Now, lady bright, to whom all woful crien, Thou glory of womanhed, thou faire may, Thou haven of refute, bright sterre of day, Rew on my child, that of thy gentillesse Rewest on every rewful in distresse.

O litel child, alas! what is thy gilt,
That never wroughtest sinne as yet parde ?
Why wol thin harde father have thee spilt?
O mercy, dere constable, (quod she)
As let my litel child dwell here with thee:
And if thou darst not saven him fro blame,
So kisse him ones in his fadres name.

Therwith she loketh backward to the lond, And saide; Farewel, housbond routheles ! And


she rist, and walketh doun the strond Toward the ship, hire foloweth all the prees: And ever she praieth hire child to hold his pees, And taketh hire leve, and with an holy entent She blesseth hire, and into the ship she went.

Vitailled was the ship, it is no drede, Habundantly for hire a ful long space: And other necessaries that shuld nede She had ynow, heried be Goddes grace: For wind and wether, almighty God purchace, And bring hire home, I can no better say, But in the see she driveth forth hire way.

Alla the king cometh home sone after th s Unto his castel, of the which I told,

And asketh wher his wif and his child is;
The constable gan about his herte cold,
And plainly all the matere he him told

ye han herd, I can tell it no better,
And shewed the king his sele and his letter;

And sayde; Lord, as ye commanded me Up peine of deth, so have I don certain. This messager turmented was, til he Moste beknowe, and tellen plat and plain, Fro night to night in what place he had lain : And thus by wit and subtil enquering Imagined was by whom this harm gan spring.

The hand was knowen that the lettre wrote,
And all the venime of this cursed dede;
But in what wise, certainly I n'ot.
The effect is this, that Alla out of drede
His moder slew, that moun men plainly rede,
For that she traitour was to hire ligeance:
Thus endeth this old Donegild with meschance.

The sorwe that this Alla night and day
Maketh for his wif and for his child also,
Ther is no tonge that it tellen may.
But now wol I agen to Custance go,
That fleteth in the see in peine and wo

more, as liked Cristes sonde, Or that hire ship approched to the londe.

Under an hethen castel at the last, (Of which the name in my text I not find) Custance and eke hire child the see up cast. Almighty God, that saved all mankind, Have on Custance and on hire child som mind, That fallen is in hethen hond eftsone In point to spill, as I shal tell you sone.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Doan fro the castel cometh ther many a wight To gauren on this ship, and on Custance: But shortly fro the castel on a night, The lordes steward (God yeve him meschance) A theef, that had reneyed our creance, Came into the ship alone, and said, he wolde Hire lemman be, whether she wolde or n’olde,

Wo was this wretched woman tho begon,
Hire childe cried, and she cried pitously:
But blisful Mary halpe hire right anon,
For with hire strogling wel and mightily
The theef fell over bord al sodenly,
And in the see he drenched for vengeance,
And thus hath Crist unwemmed kept Custance.

O foule lust of luxurie, lo thin ende,
Nat only that thou faintest mannes mind,
But veraily thou wolt his body shende.
Th' ende of thy werk, or of thy lustes blind,
Is complaining: how many may men find,
That not for werk somtime, but for th' entent
To don this sinne, ben other slain or shent.

this weke woman han the strength
Hire to defend again this renegate?
O Golias, unmesurable of length,
How mighte David maken thee so mate?
So yonge, and of armure so desolate,
How dorst he loke upon thy dredful face?
Wel may men seen it was but Goddes grace.

Who yaf Judith corage or hardinesse
To sleen him Holofernes in his tent,
And to deliver out of wretchednesse
The peple of God? I say for this entent,
That right as God spirit of vigour sent


To hem, and saved hem out of meschance,
So sent he might and vigour to Custance.

Forth goth hire ship thurghout the narwe mouth
Of Jubaltare and Septe, driving alway,
Somtime West, and somtime North and South,
And somtime Est, ful many a wery day:
Til Cristes moder (blessed be she ay)
Hath shapen thurgh hire endeles goodnesse
To make an end of all hire hevinesse.
Now let us stint of Custance but a throw,
And speke we of the Romane emperour,
That out of Surrie hath by lettres knowe
The slaughter of cristen folk, and dishonour
Don to his doughter by a false traitour,
I mene the cursed wicked Soudannesse,
That at the fest let sleen both more and lesse.

For which this emperour hath sent anon
His senatour, with real ordinance,
And other lordes, God wote, many on,
On Surriens to taken high vengeance:
They brennen, sleen, and bring hem to meschance
Ful many a day: but shortly this is th’ende,
Homward to Rome they shapen hem to wende.

This senatour repaireth with victorie
To Rome ward, sayling ful really,
And met the ship driving, as saith the storie,
In which Custance sitteth ful pitously:
Nothing ne knew he what she was, ne why
She was in swiche array, ne she wil sey
Of hire estat, though that she shulde dey.

He bringeth hire to Rome, and to his wif
He yaf hire, and hire yonge sone also:

And with the senatour she lad hire lif.
Thus can our lady bringen out of wo
Woful Custance, and many another mo:
And longe time dwelled she in that place,
In holy werkes ever, as was hire grace.

The senatoures wif hire aunte was,
But for all that she knew hire never the more:
I wol no longer tarien in this cas,
But to king Alla, which I spake of yore,
That for his wif wepeth and siketh sore,
I wol returne, and let I wol Custance
Under the senatoures governance.

King Alla, which that had his moder slain, Upon a day fell in swiche repentance, That if I shortly tellen shal and plain, To Rome he cometh to receive his penance, And putte him in the


ordinance In high and low, and Jesu Crist besought, Foryeve his wicked werkes that he had wrought,

The fame anon thurghout the toun is born,
How Alla king shal come on pilgrimage,
By herbergeours that wenten him beforn,
For which the senatour, as was usage,
Rode him againe, and many of his linage,
As wel to shewen his high magnificence,
As to don any king a reverence.

Gret chere doth this noble senatour
To king Alla, and he to him also;
Everich of hem doth other gret honour;
And so befell, that in a day or two
This senatour is to king Alla go
To fest, and shortly, if I shal not lie,
Custances sone went in his compagnie.

« ElőzőTovább »