Chaucer, CT, Tales of the Prioress and the Monk

Index to this series

In the selection from the Canterbury Tales taken up here,

  • the Prioress tells an unchristian tale of piety;
  • the Host wishes Rome would not put monks under a vow of celibacy;
  • the Monk tells a miniature Canterbury Tales; all of his tales are tragedies, but with various sources, Hebraic, classical, and contemporary.

Andrea Mantegna, Judith with the Head of Holofernes
Andrea Mantegna or Follower (Possibly Giulio Campagnola)
Judith with the Head of Holofernes, c. 1495/1500
Widener Collection
National Gallery of Art, Washington

In some nominal sense at least, the tales of the Prioress and the Monk have a common theme, Judaism; they also have a common character, Satan.

I call the Prioress’s Tale unchristian for being antisemitic. One might rather say antisemitism is baked into Christianity, the way slavery is baked into the Constitution of the United States.

In an unnamed great city of Asia, a little boy hears a song, the “Alma Redemptoris,” and resolves to learn it before anything else, even though he may be beaten for neglecting his official studies.

The boy sings the song while walking through the Jewish quarter of town. Satan induces the Jews to hire a hit-man to cut the boy’s throat and throw him in a pit.

The boy’s widowed mother looks for her son, but no Jew admits to knowing where he is. Jesus leads her to the body, which still sings the song.

The local provost has the Jews arrested, drawn with wild horses, and hanged.

Mother Mary came to the boy and laid a grain on his tongue, saying he could sing the song till somebody took the grain away, and then she would take him away.

When the abbot finds the grain on the tongue, the boy gives up the ghost.

Such is the Prioress’s Tale.

The Monk explains to the Host,

I wol yow seyn the lyf of seint Edward;
Or elles first Tragedies wol I telle
Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.

The Monk says no more of St Edward, but says what he means by tragedy:

Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,
As olde bokes maken us memorie,
Of him that stood in greet prosperitee
And is y-fallen out of heigh degree
Into miserie, and endeth wrecchedly.

His first stanza is slightly more precise:

I WOL biwayle in maner of Tragedie
The harm of hem that stode in heigh degree,
And fillen so that ther nas no remedie
To bringe hem out of hir adversitee;
For certein, whan that fortune list to flee,
Ther may no man the cours of hir withholde;
Lat no man truste on blind prosperitee;
Be war by thise ensamples trewe and olde.

Do not trust fortune, because she may fail. The Monk ends by saying she will fail:

Tragedie is noon other maner thing,
Ne can in singing crye ne biwaille,
But for that fortune alwey wol assaille
With unwar strook the regnes that ben proude;
For when men trusteth hir, than wol she faille,
And covere hir brighte face with a cloude.

It’s not clear, however, that pride goes before the fall in each of the tragedies that the Monk recounts. Several of them are from the Hebrew Bible:

  • Lucifer (the morning star of Isaiah 14:12) falls to hell and becomes Satan for his unspecified sin.
  • Adam is driven from Paradise for “misgovernance.” The Monk does not mention Eve, much less blame her for the Fall.
  • Sampson slays himself by telling his secret to his wives.
    • The Monk does not name the first secret, which is the answer to the riddle, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”
    • The second secret, told to Delilah, is that Sampson’s strength is in his hair.
  • Nebuchadnezzar has a spell of being like a beast, but then is restored and praises God.
  • To his son Belshazzar, Daniel recalls that spell of wretchedness when he interprets the writing on the wall. Belshazzar shall lose his realm to the Medes and Persians. He does.
  • Holofernes thinks Nebuchadnezzar is god, but Judith decapitates him.
  • Antiochus plans to make Jerusalem a sepulcher for her people, but is wounded and diseased so that he stinks and ultimately dies. The second book of Maccabees has him repenting first, but the Monk does not mention this.

Here are the rest:

  • Hercules, whom Monk blames for nothing, is poisoned by the shirt given him for unspecified reasons by his sweetheart, Dianira.
  • Zenobia of Palmyra, also blamed for nothing, is willing to marry Odaenathus, but sleeps with him only for procreation (and bears two sons). Together they expand their realm; widowed, Zenobia keeps it until Emperor Aurelian of Rome defeats her.
  • Pedro of Castile, betrayed, is killed by his own brother.
  • King Peter of Cyprus is killed in his own bed.
  • Bernabò Visconti of Lombardy is killed, for unknown reasons, by the man who is both his nephew and son-in-law.
  • Ugolino of Pisa starves to death with his children in prison. The Monk says he was betrayed, and mentions that the whole story is in Dante, who tells us in the Inferno that Ugolino himself, though none of his children, was a traitor.
  • Nero had Seneca for a master, but could not learn virtue, but does as he lists, till the people rebel, and he asks two churls to kill him.
  • Alexander is conquering the world, till for no good reason the face of his die turns from six to one.
  • Julius Caesar likewise turns from friend to foe of Fortune
  • Croesus escapes death by burning, but “cannot stent for to begin a new war again.” He has a dream though, which his daughter interprets as predicting his hanging; and she is right.


Bihold the mery wordes of the Host to the Shipman and to the lady Prioresse.

Robinson treats these merry words

  • in the text as a conclusion of the Shipman’s Tale;
  • in his notes as the Introduction to the Prioress’s Tale.

With an asterisk he gives the line numbers, which start with 1625, that Skeat gives unadorned, without parentheses; Robinson’s own unadorned numbers start with 435. Thus the last line of the Prioress’s Tale (which ends with “Amen”) is *1880 and 690. That makes 256 lines.

‘WEL seyd, by corpus dominus,’ quod our hoste,  1625
‘Now longe moot thou sayle by the coste,
Sir gentil maister, gentil marineer!
God yeve this monk a thousand last quad yeer!
A ha! felawes! beth ware of swiche a Iape!
The monk putte in the mannes hood an ape,  1630
And in his wyves eek, by seint Austin!
Draweth no monkes more un-to your in.’


‘But now passe over, and lat us seke aboute,
Who shal now telle first, of al this route,  (10)
Another tale;’ and with that word he sayde,  1635
As curteisly as it had been a mayde,
‘My lady Prioresse, by your leve,
So that I wiste I sholde yow nat greve,
I wolde demen that ye tellen sholde
A tale next, if so were that ye wolde.  1640
Now wol ye vouche-sauf, my lady dere?’


‘Gladly,’ quod she, and seyde as ye shal here.  (18)



The Prologe of the Prioresses Tale.

Domine, dominus noster.

O LORD our lord, thy name how merveillous
Is in this large worlde y-sprad—quod she:—
For noght only thy laude precious  1645
Parfourned is by men of dignitee,
But by the mouth of children thy bountee
Parfourned is, for on the brest soukinge
Som tyme shewen they thyn heryinge.


Wherfor in laude, as I best can or may,  1650
Of thee, and of the whyte lily flour
Which that thee bar, and is a mayde alway,  (10)
To telle a storie I wol do my labour;
Not that I may encresen hir honour;
For she hir-self is honour, and the rote  1655
Of bountee, next hir sone, and soules bote.—


O moder mayde! o mayde moder free!
O bush unbrent, brenninge in Moyses sighte,
That ravisedest doun fro the deitee,
Thurgh thyn humblesse, the goost that in thalighte,  1660
Of whos vertu, whan he thyn herte lighte,
Conceived was the fadres sapience,  (20)
Help me to telle it in thy reverence!


Lady! thy bountee, thy magnificence,
Thy vertu, and thy grete humilitee  1665
Ther may no tonge expresse in no science;
For som-tyme, lady, er men praye to thee,
Thou goost biforn of thy benignitee,
And getest us the light, thurgh thy preyere,
To gyden us un-to thy sone so dere.  1670


My conning is so wayk, o blisful quene,
For to declare thy grete worthinesse,
That I ne may the weighte nat sustene,
But as a child of twelf monthe old, or lesse,
That can unnethes any word expresse,  1675
Right so fare I, and therfor I yow preye,
Gydeth my song that I shal of yow seye.



Here biginneth the Prioresses Tale.

Ther was in Asie, in a greet citee,
Amonges cristen folk, a Iewerye,

Sustened by a lord of that contree  1680
For foule usure and lucre of vilanye,
Hateful to Crist and to his companye;  (40)
And thurgh the strete men mighte ryde or wende,
For it was free, and open at either ende.

Is Asia what we call Asia Minor, and has it any other great city but Constantinople?

A litel scole of cristen folk ther stood  1685
Doun at the ferther ende, in which ther were
Children an heep, y-comen of cristen blood,
That lerned in that scole yeer by yere
Swich maner doctrine as men used there,
This is to seyn, to singen and to rede,  1690
As smale children doon in hir childhede.


Among thise children was a widwes sone,  (50)
A litel clergeon, seven yeer of age,

That day by day to scole was his wone,
And eek also, wher-as he saugh thimage  1695
Of Cristes moder, hadde he in usage,
As him was taught, to knele adoun and seye
His Ave Marie, as he goth by the weye.


Thus hath this widwe hir litel sone y-taught
Our blisful lady, Cristes moder dere,  1700
To worshipe ay, and he forgat it naught,
For sely child wol alday sone lere;  (60)
But ay, whan I remembre on this matere,
Seint Nicholas stant ever in my presence,
For he so yong to Crist did reverence.  1705


This litel child, his litel book lerninge,
As he sat in the scole at his prymer,
He Alma redemptoris herde singe,
As children lerned hir antiphoner;
And, as he dorste, he drough him ner and ner,  1710
And herkned ay the wordes and the note,
Til he the firste vers coude al by rote.  (70)


Noght wiste he what this Latin was to seye,
For he so yong and tendre was of age;
But on a day his felaw gan he preye  1715
Texpounden him this song in his langage,
Or telle him why this song was in usage;

This preyde he him to construe and declare
Ful ofte tyme upon his knowes bare.


His felaw, which that elder was than he,  1720
Answerde him thus: ‘this song, I have herd seye,
Was maked of our blisful lady free,  (80)
Hir to salue, and eek hir for to preye
To been our help and socour whan we deye.

I can no more expounde in this matere;  1725
I lerne song, I can but smal grammere.’


‘And is this song maked in reverence
Of Cristes moder?’ seyde this innocent;
‘Now certes, I wol do my diligence
To conne it al,
er Cristemasse is went;  1730
Though that I for my prymer shal be shent,
And shal be beten thryes in an houre,
I wol it conne, our lady for to honoure.’

He will give the song priority over other studies, and expects to be beaten for this?

His felaw taughte him homward prively,
Fro day to day, til he coude it by rote,  1735
And than he song it wel and boldely
Fro word to word, acording with the note;
Twyës a day it passed thurgh his throte,
To scoleward and homward whan he wente;
On Cristes moder set was his entente.  1740


As I have seyd, thurgh-out the Iewerye
This litel child, as he cam to and fro,  (100)
Ful merily than wolde he singe, and crye
O Alma redemptoris ever-mo.

The swetnes hath his herte perced so  1745
Of Cristes moder, that, to hir to preye,
He can nat stinte of singing by the weye.


Our firste fo, the serpent Sathanas,
That hath in Iewes herte his waspes nest,
Up swal, and seide, ‘o Hebraik peple, allas  1750
Is this to yow a thing that is honest,
That swich a boy shal walken as him lest  (110)
In your despyt, and singe of swich sentence,
Which is agayn your lawes reverence?’

Has the mythology of Satan any other function than as a way to disown evil?

Fro thennes forth the Iewes han conspyred  1755
This innocent out of this world to chace;
An homicyde ther-to han they hyred,
That in an aley hadde a privee place;
And as the child gan for-by for to pace,
This cursed Iew him hente and heeld him faste,  1760
And kitte his throte, and in a pit him caste.


I seye that in a wardrobe they him threwe  (120)
Wher-as these Iewes purgen hir entraille.
O cursed folk of Herodes al newe,
What may your yvel entente yow availle?  1765
Mordre wol out, certein, it wol nat faille,
And namely ther thonour of god shal sprede,
The blood out cryeth on your cursed dede.


‘O martir, souded to virginitee,
Now maystou singen, folwing ever in oon  1770
The whyte lamb celestial,’ quod she,
‘Of which the grete evangelist, seint Iohn,  (130)
In Pathmos wroot, which seith that they that goon
Biforn this lamb, and singe a song al newe,
That never, fleshly, wommen they ne knewe.’  1775

Robinson calls the “quod she” a “trifling oversight,” which “betrays the fact that the tale was written with the teller in mind.”

This povre widwe awaiteth al that night
After hir litel child, but he cam noght;
For which, as sone as it was dayes light,
With face pale of drede and bisy thoght,
She hath at scole and elles-wher him soght,  1780
Til finally she gan so fer espye
That he last seyn was in the Iewerye.  (140)


With modres pitee in hir brest enclosed,
She gooth, as she were half out of hir minde,
To every place wher she hath supposed  1785
By lyklihede hir litel child to finde;
And ever on Cristes moder meke and kinde
She cryde, and atte laste thus she wroghte,
Among the cursed Iewes she him soghte.


She frayneth and she preyeth pitously  1790
To every Iew that dwelte in thilke place,
To telle hir, if hir child wente oght for-by.  (150)
They seyde, ‘nay’; but Iesu, of his grace,
Yaf in hir thought,
inwith a litel space,
That in that place after hir sone she cryde,  1795
Wher he was casten in a pit bisyde.


O grete god, that parfournest thy laude
By mouth of innocents, lo heer thy might!
This gemme of chastitee, this emeraude,
And eek of martirdom the ruby bright,  1800
Ther he with throte y-corven lay upright,
He ‘Alma redemptoris’ gan to singe
So loude, that al the place gan to ringe.


The Cristen folk, that thurgh the strete wente,
In coomen, for to wondre up-on this thing,  1805
And hastily they for the provost sente;
He cam anon with-outen tarying,
And herieth Crist that is of heven king,
And eek his moder, honour of mankinde,
And after that, the Iewes leet he binde.  1810

Herien: praise, worship.

This child with pitous lamentacioun
Up-taken was, singing his song alway;  (170)
And with honour of greet processioun
They carien him un-to the nexte abbay.
His moder swowning by the bere lay;  1815
Unnethe might the peple that was there
This newe Rachel bringe fro his bere.


With torment and with shamful deth echon
This provost dooth thise Iewes for to sterve
That of this mordre wiste,
and that anon;  1820
He nolde no swich cursednesse observe.
Yvel shal have, that yvel wol deserve.  (180)
Therfor with wilde hors he dide hem drawe,
And after that he heng hem by the lawe.

Are the particular accomplices or accessories being identified, or is this collective punishment, even genocide?

Up-on his bere ay lyth this innocent  1825
Biforn the chief auter, whyl masse laste,
And after that, the abbot with his covent
Han sped hem for to burien him ful faste;
And whan they holy water on him caste,
Yet spak this child, whan spreynd was holy water,  1830
And song—‘O Alma redemptoris mater!


This abbot, which that was an holy man  (190)
As monkes been, or elles oghten be,
This yonge child to coniure he bigan,
And seyde, ‘o dere child, I halse thee,  1835
In vertu of the holy Trinitee,
Tel me what is thy cause for to singe,
Sith that thy throte is cut, to my seminge?’


‘My throte is cut un-to my nekke-boon,’
Seyde this child, ‘and, as by wey of kinde,  1840
I sholde have deyed, ye, longe tyme agoon,
But Iesu Crist, as ye in bokes finde,  (200)
Wil that his glorie laste and be in minde,
And, for the worship of his moder dere,
Yet may I singe “O Alma” loude and clere.’  1845


‘This welle of mercy, Cristes moder swete,
I lovede alwey, as after my conninge;
And whan that I my lyf sholde forlete,
To me she cam, and bad me for to singe
This antem verraily in my deyinge,
As ye han herd, and, whan that I had songe,
Me thoughte, she leyde a greyn up-on my tonge. (210)


‘Wherfor I singe, and singe I moot certeyn
In honour of that blisful mayden free,
Til fro my tonge of-taken is the greyn;  1855
And afterward thus seyde she to me,
“My litel child, now wol I fecche thee
Whan that the greyn is fro thy tonge y-take;

Be nat agast, I wol thee nat forsake.”’


This holy monk, this abbot, him mene I,  1860
His tonge out-caughte, and took a-wey the greyn,
And he yaf up the goost ful softely.  (220)
And whan this abbot had this wonder seyn,
His salte teres trikled doun as reyn,
And gruf he fil al plat up-on the grounde,  1865
And stille he lay as he had been y-bounde.

Gruf: face down, groveling.

The covent eek lay on the pavement
Weping, and herien Cristes moder dere,
And after that they ryse, and forth ben went,
And toke awey this martir fro his bere,  1870
And in a tombe of marbul-stones clere
Enclosen they his litel body swete;  (230)
Ther he is now, god leve us for to mete.


O yonge Hugh of Lincoln, slayn also
With cursed Iewes, as it is notable,  1875
For it nis but a litel whyle ago;
Preye eek for us, we sinful folk unstable,
That, of his mercy, god so merciable
On us his grete mercy multiplye,  (237)
For reverence of his moder Marye. Amen.  1880


Here is ended the Prioresses Tale.


The mery wordes of the Host to the Monk.

WHAN ended was my tale of Melibee,
And of Prudence and hir benignitee,  3080
Our hoste seyde, ‘as I am faithful man,
And by the precious corpus Madrian,
I hadde lever than a barel ale
That goode lief my wyf hadde herd this tale!
For she nis no-thing of swich pacience  3085
As was this Melibeus wyf Prudence.

By goddes bones! whan I bete my knaves,
She bringth me forth the grete clobbed staves,  (10)
And cryeth, “slee the dogges everichoon,
And brek hem, bothe bak and every boon.”  3090
And if that any neighebor of myne
Wol nat in chirche to my wyf enclyne,
Or be so hardy to hir to trespace,
Whan she comth hoom, she rampeth in my face,
And cryeth, “false coward, wreek thy wyf,  3095
By corpus bones! I wol have thy knyf,
And thou shalt have my distaf and go spinne!”
Fro day to night right thus she wol biginne;—  (20)
“Allas!” she seith, “that ever I was shape
To wedde a milksop or a coward ape,  3100
That wol be overlad with every wight!
Thou darst nat stonden by thy wyves right!”
This is my lyf, but-if that I wol fighte;
And out at dore anon I moot me dighte,
Or elles I am but lost, but-if that I  3105
Be lyk a wilde leoun fool-hardy.
I woot wel she wol do me slee som day
Som neighebor, and thanne go my wey.  (30)
For I am perilous with knyf in honde,
Al be it that I dar nat hir withstonde,  3110
For she is big in armes, by my feith,
That shal he finde, that hir misdooth or seith.

But lat us passe awey fro this matere.’

One should read the Tale of Melibee to see how the foregoing fits it!

My lord the Monk,’ quod he, ‘be mery of chere;
For ye shul telle a tale trewely.  3115
Lo! Rouchestre stant heer faste by!
Ryd forth, myn owene lord, brek nat our game,
But, by my trouthe, I knowe nat your name,  (40)
Wher shal I calle yow my lord dan Iohn,
Or dan Thomas, or elles dan Albon?  3120
Of what hous be ye, by your fader kin?
I vow to god, thou hast a ful fair skin,
It is a gentil pasture ther thou goost;
Thou art nat lyk a penaunt or a goost.
Upon my feith, thou art som officer,  3125
Som worthy sexteyn, or som celerer,
For by my fader soule, as to my doom,
Thou art a maister whan thou art at hoom;  (50)
No povre cloisterer, ne no novys,
But a governour, wyly and wys.  3130
And therwithal of brawnes and of bones
A wel-faring persone for the nones.
I pray to god, yeve him confusioun
That first thee broghte un-to religioun;
Thou woldest han been a trede-foul aright.
Haddestow as greet a leve, as thou hast might
To parfourne al thy lust in engendrure,
Thou haddest bigeten many a creature.  (60)
Alas! why werestow so wyd a cope?
God yeve me sorwe! but, and I were a pope,  3140
Not only thou, but every mighty man,
Thogh he were shorn ful hye upon his pan,
Sholde have a wyf; for al the world is lorn!
Religioun hath take up al the corn
Of treding, and we borel men ben shrimpes!
Of feble trees ther comen wrecched impes.
This maketh that our heires been so sclendre
And feble, that they may nat wel engendre.  (70)
This maketh that our wyves wol assaye
Religious folk, for ye may bettre paye  3150
Of Venus payements than mowe we;

God woot, no lussheburghes payen ye!
But be nat wrooth, my lord, for that I pleye;
Ful ofte in game a sooth I have herd seye.

To tread something is to walk on it.

  1. This is what the rooster does to the hen in copulation.
  2. Thus threshing corn by treading it suggests copulation.

The Host would seem to use treading in both of these subsidiary ways.

Robinson coyly renders trede-foul as “treader of fowls,” but context suggests the Don Juan. I note the understanding that copulation and procreation go together like a horse and carriage; there’s no notion of practicing even coitus interruptus.

The Grolier International Dictionary traces “tread” to the Indo-European root *der-¹, meaning “run, walk, step” and giving us also trap, caltrop, tramp, trot, teeter, and, from Greek, words in -drome as well as dromedary. Beekes traces δρόμος “run, race, course” to δραμεῖν “[to] run,” from the Indo-European root *drem-.

The OED defines burel as “course woolen cloth,” quoting the Wife of Bath:

This is to seye, if I be gay, sir shrewe,
I wol renne out, my borel for to shewe.

The adjective borel that the Host uses is apparently what the OED defines under borrel as meaning

1. Belonging to the laity.
2. Unlearned, rude; rough.

The adjective is conjectured to be just burel, used attributively.

Lussheburghes: “spurious coins.”

This worthy monk took al in pacience,  3155
And seyde, ‘I wol doon al my diligence,
As fer as souneth in-to honestee,
To telle yow a tale, or two, or three.  (80)
And if yow list to herkne hiderward,
I wol yow seyn the lyf of seint Edward;  3160
Or elles first Tragedies wol I telle
Of whiche I have an hundred in my celle.
Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,
As olde bokes maken us memorie,
Of him that stood in greet prosperitee  3165
And is y-fallen out of heigh degree
Into miserie, and endeth wrecchedly.

And they ben versifyed comunly  (90)
Of six feet, which men clepe exametron.
In prose eek been endyted many oon,  3170
And eek in metre, in many a sondry wyse.
Lo! this declaring oughte y-nough suffise.’

Were we supposed to hear of St Edward later?

‘Now herkneth, if yow lyketh for to here;
But first I yow biseke in this matere,
Though I by ordre telle nat thise thinges,  3175
Be it of popes, emperours, or kinges,
After hir ages, as men writen finde,
But telle hem som bifore and som bihinde,  (100)
As it now comth un-to my remembraunce;
Have me excused of myn ignoraunce.




Here biginneth the Monkes Tale, de Casibus Virorum Illustrium.

I WOL biwayle in maner of Tragedie
The harm of hem that stode in heigh degree,
And fillen so that ther nas no remedie
To bringe hem out of hir adversitee;
For certein, whan that fortune list to flee,  3185
Ther may no man the cours of hir withholde;
Lat no man truste on blind prosperitee;
Be war by thise ensamples trewe and olde.



At Lucifer, though he an angel were,
And nat a man, at him I wol biginne;  3190
For, thogh fortune may non angel dere,  (11)
From heigh degree yet fel he for his sinne
Doun in-to helle, wher he yet is inne.
O Lucifer! brightest of angels alle.
Now artow Sathanas, that maist nat twinne  3195
Out of miserie, in which that thou art falle.

What was the sin?


Lo Adam, in the feld of Damassene,
With goddes owene finger wroght was he,
And nat bigeten of mannes sperme unclene,
And welte al Paradys, saving o tree.
Had never worldly man so heigh degree  (21)
As Adam, til he for misgovernaunce
Was drive out
of his hye prosperitee
To labour, and to helle, and to meschaunce.

Eve is not mentioned, either as Adam’s downfall, or as a tragic figure herself. Contrast with the story of Sampson!


Lo Sampson, which that was annunciat  3205
By thangel, longe er his nativitee,
And was to god almighty consecrat,
And stood in noblesse, whyl he mighte see.
Was never swich another as was he,
To speke of strengthe, and therwith hardinesse;  3210
But to his wyves tolde he his secree,  (31)
Through which he slow him-self,
for wrecchednesse.

This first stanza summarizes the story to be told in the remaining stanzas, which themselves summarize Judges 13–6. I am going to quote all four of these chapters in the Wyclif translation. I don’t know that the Monk’s summary is unfair; but the Monk focuses on the treachery of women, rather than of the men with whom they are connected. The message is not to trust women; but why trust men either?

The first three lines of the stanza above are a summary of the beginning and end of Judges 13, here in its entirety:

1 And eft the sones of Israel diden yuel in the siyt of the Lord, which bitook hem in to the hondis of Filisteis fourti yeer.
2 Forsothe a man was of Saraa, and of the kynrede of Dan, Manue bi name, and he hadde a bareyn wijf.
3 To which wijf an aungel of the Lord apperide, and seide to hir, Thou art bareyn, and with out fre children; but thou schalt conseyue, and schalt bere a sone.
4 Therfor be thou war, lest thou drynke wyn, and sydur, nethir ete thou ony vnclene thing;
5 for thou schalt conceyue and schalt bere a sone, whos heed a rasour schal not towche; for he schal be a Nazarei of God fro his yong age, and fro the modris wombe; and he schal bigynne to delyuere Israel fro the hond of Filisteis.
6 And whanne sche hadde come to hir hosebonde, sche seide to hym, The man of God cam to me, and hadde an aungel cheer, and he was ful ferdful, that is, worschipful and reuerent; and whanne Y hadde axide hym, who he was, and fro whannus he cam, and bi what name he was clepid, he nolde seie to me;
7 but he answeride this, Lo! thou schalt conseyue, and schalt bere a sone; be thou war, that thou drynke not wyn ne sidur, nether ete ony vncleene thing; for the child schal be a Nazarey, that is, hooli of the Lord, fro his yonge age and fro the modris wombe til to the dai of his deeth.
8 Therfor Manue preide the Lord, and seide, Lord, Y biseche, that the man of God, whom thou sentist, come eft, and teche vs, what we owen to do of the child, that schal be borun.
9 And the Lord herde Manue preiynge; and the aungel of the Lord apperide eft to his wijf sittynge in the feeld; forsothe Manue, hir hosebonde, was not with hir. And whanne sche hadde seyn the aungel,
10 sche hastide, and ran to hir hosebonde, and telde to hym, and seide, Lo! the man whom Y siy bifore, apperide to me.
11 Which roos, and suede his wijf; and he cam to the man, and seide to hym, Art thou he, that hast spoke to the womman? And he answeride, Y am.
12 To whom Manue seide, Whanne thi word schal be fillid, what wolt thou, that the child do, ethir fro what thing schal he kepe hym silf?
13 And the aungel of the Lord seide to Manue, Absteyne he hym silf fro alle thingis which Y spak to thi wijf.
14 And ete he not what euer thing cometh forth of the vyner, drynke he not wyn, and sidur, ete he not ony vncleene thing and fille he; and kepe that, that Y comaundide to hym.
15 Therfor Manue seide to the aungel of the Lord, Y biseche, that thou assente to my preieris, and we aray to thee a kide of the geet.
16 To whom the aungel of the Lord answeride, Thouy thou constreynest me, Y schal not ete thi looues; forsothe if thou wolt make brent sacrifice, offre thou it to the Lord. And Manue wiste not, that it was an aungel of the Lord.
17 And Manue seide to hym, What name is to thee, that if thi word be fillid, we onoure thee?
18 To whom he answeride, Whi axist thou my name, which is wondurful?
19 Therfor Manue took a kide of the geet, and fletynge sacrifices, and puttide on the stoon, and offryde to the Lord that doith wondirful thingis. Forsothe he and his wijf bihelden.
20 And whanne the flawme of the auter stiede in to heuene, the aungel of the Lord stiede togidere in the flawme. And whanne Manue and his wijf hadden seyn this, thei felden lowe to erthe.
21 And the aungel of the Lord apperide no more to hem. And anoon Manue vndurstood, that he was an aungel of the Lord.
22 And he seide to his wijf, We schulen die bi deeth, for we sien the Lord.
23 To whom the womman answeride, If the Lord wolde sle vs, he schulde not haue take of oure hondis brent sacrifices, and moiste sacrifices, but nether he schulde haue schewid alle thingis to vs, nether he schulde haue seid tho thingis, that schulen come.
24 Therfor sche childide a sone, and clepide his name Sampson; and the child encreesside, and the Lord blesside hym.
25 And the spirit of the Lord bigan to be with hym in the castels of Dan, bitwixe Saraa and Escahol.

What the Monk leaves out for now:

  • Being consecrate to God is here being a Nazirite, which means not having your hair cut, not drinking, and eating nothing unclean. (We shall hear about this in a later stanza.)
  • The annunciation is first to Sampson’s mother alone, who recognizes the angel only as a man of God who is like an angel. She is told that she must adhere to the dietary retrictions just mentioned. Sampson’s father, Manoa, wants to hear more from the man of God, who tells him that the dietary restrictions will fall to the boy as well.
  • There is additional information about the angel:
    • The angel will not accept a kid, which should instead be sacrificed to the Lord; nor will he tell his name.
    • Manoa makes a burnt sacrifice of the kid, and the visitor ascends with the flames, thus revealing his angelic identity.
    • Manoa expects to die now, for having seen the Lord; his wife knows this makes no sense.

Sampson, this noble almighty champioun,
Withouten wepen save his hondes tweye,
He slow and al to-rente the leoun,  3215
Toward his wedding walking by the weye.
His false wyf coude him so plese and preye
Til she his conseil knew, and she untrewe
Un-to his foos his conseil gan biwreye,

And him forsook, and took another newe.  3220

This information comes from Judges 14:

1 Therfor Sampson yede doun in to Thannatha, and he siy there a womman of the douytris of Filisteis;
2 and he stiede, and telde to his fadir and to his modir, and seide, Y siy a womman in Thannatha of the douytris of Filistees, and Y biseche, that ye take hir a wijf to me.
3 To whom his fadir and modir seiden, Whether no womman is among the douytris of thi britheren and in al my puple, for thou wolt take a wijf of Filisteis, that ben vncircumcidid? And Sampson seide to his fadir, Take thou this wijf to me, for sche pleside myn iyen.
4 Forsothe his fadir and modir wisten not, that the thing was don of the Lord; and that he souyte occasiouns ayens Filisteis; for in that tyme Filisteis weren lordis of Israel.
5 Therfor Sampson yede doun with his fadir and modir in to Thannatha; and whanne thei hadden come to the vyneris of the citee, a fers and rorynge whelp of a lioun apperide, and ran to Sampson.
6 Forsothe the spirit of the Lord felde in to Sampson, and he to-rente the lioun, as if he to-rendide a kide in to gobetis, and outerli he hadde no thing in the hond; and he nolde schewe this to the fadir and modir.
7 And he yede doun, and spak to the womman, that pleside hise iyen.
8 And aftir summe daies he turnede ayen to take hir in to matrimonye; and he bowide awey to se the careyn of the lioun; and lo! a gaderyng of bees was in the mouth of the lioun, and a coomb of hony.
9 And whanne he hadde take it in hondis, he eet in the weie; and he cam to his fadir and modir, and yaf part to hem, and thei eeten; netheles he nolde schewe to hem, that he hadde take hony of the mouth of the lioun.
10 And so his fadir yede doun to the womman, and made a feeste to his sone Sampson; for yonge men weren wont to do so.
11 Therfor whanne the citeseyns of that place hadden seyn hym, thei yauen to hym thretti felowis, whiche schulen be with hym.
12 To whiche Sampson spak, Y schal putte forth to you a probleme, that is, a douyteful word and priuy, and if ye asoilen it to me with ynne seuen daies of the feeste, Y schal yyue to you thretti lynnun clothis, and cootis of the same noumbre; sotheli if ye moun not soyle,
13 ye schulen yyue to me thretti lynnun clothis, and cootis of the same noumbre. Whiche answeriden to hym, Sette forth the probleme, that we here it.
14 And he seide to hem, Mete yede out of the etere, and swetnesse yede out of the stronge. And bi thre daies thei myyten not assoile the proposicioun, that is, the resoun set forth.
15 And whanne the seuenthe dai cam, thei seiden to the wijf of Sampson, Glose thin hosebonde, and counseile hym, that he schewe to thee what the probleme signyfieth. That if thou nylt do, we schulen brenne thee and the hous of thi fadir. Whether herfor ye clepiden vs to weddyngis, that ye schulden robbe vs?
16 And sche schedde teerys at Sampson, and pleynede, and seide, Thou hatist me, and louest not, therfor thou nylt expowne to me the probleme, which thou settidist forth to the sones of my puple. And he answeride, Y nolde seie to my fadir and modir, and schal Y mow schewe to thee?
17 Therfor bi seuene dayes of the feest sche wepte at hym; at the laste he expownede in the seuenthe dai, whanne sche was diseseful to hym. And anoon sche telde to hir citeseyns.
18 And thei seiden to hym in the seuenthe dai bifor the goyng doun of the sunne, What is swettere than hony, and what is strengere than a lioun? And he seide to hem, If ye hadden not erid in my cow calf, that is, my wijf, ye hadden not founde my proposicioun.
19 Therfor the spirit of the Lord felde in to hym; and he yede doun to Ascalon, and killyde there thretti men, whose clothis he took awey, and he yaf to hem that soiliden the probleme; and he was ful wrooth, and stiede in to the hows of his fadir.
20 Forsothe his wijf took an hosebonde, oon of the frendis and keperis of hir.

Left out is what the “counsel” is: the meaning of the riddle, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” The strong eater is the lion slain by Sampson, and in the carcass of which, bees made a hive yielding sweet honey.

Three hundred foxes took Sampson for ire,  (41)
And alle hir tayles he togider bond,
And sette the foxes tayles alle on fire,
For he on every tayl had knit a brond;
And they brende alle the cornes in that lond,  3225
And alle hir oliveres and vynes eek.
A thousand men he slow eek with his hond,
And had no wepen but an asses cheek.

The three hundred foxes and the one thousand slain men represent revenge for

  • the giving of Sampson’s wife to another man by her father, who offers Sampson her sister, younger and fairer;
  • the Philistine men’s coming to Judah and getting the men there to bind Sampson and hand him over.

All is in the first 17 verses of Judges 15:

1 Forsothe aftir sum del of tyme, whanne the daies of wheete heruest neiyiden, Sampson cam, and wolde visite his wijf, and he brouyte to hir a kide of geet; and when he wolde entre in to hir bed bi custom, the fadir of hir forbeed hym, and seide,
2 Y gesside that thou haddist hatid hir, and therfor Y yaf hir to thi freend; but sche hath a sistir, which is yongere and fairere than sche, be sche wijf to thee for hir.
3 To whom Sampson answeride, Fro this day no blame schal be in me ayens Filistees, for Y schal do yuels to you.
4 And he yede, and took thre hundrid foxis, and ioynede the tailis of hem to tailis, and boond brondis in the myddis,
5 whiche he kyndlid with fier, and leet hem, that thei schulden renne aboute hidur and thidur; which yeden anoon in to the cornes of Filisteis, bi whiche kyndlid, bothe cornes borun now to gidere, and yit stondynge in the stobil, weren brent, in so myche that the flawme wastide vyneris, and places of olyue trees.
6 And Filisteis seiden, Who dide this thing? To whiche it was seid, Sampson, hosebonde of the douytir of Thannathei, for he took awey Sampsones wijf, and yaf to another man, wrouyte this thing. And Filisteis stieden, and brenten bothe the womman and hir fadir.
7 To whiche Sampson seide, Thouy ye han do this, netheles yit Y schal axe veniaunce of you, and than Y schal reste.
8 And he smoot hem with greet wounde, so that thei wondriden, and puttiden the hyndrere part of the hipe on the thiy; and he yede doun, and dwellide in the denne of the stoon of Ethan.
9 Therfor Filisteis stieden in to the lond of Juda, and settiden tentis in the place, that was clepid aftirward Lethi, that is, a cheke, wher the oost of hem was spred a brood.
10 And men of the lynage of Juda seiden to hem, Whi stieden ye ayens vs? Whiche answeriden, We comen that we bynde Sampson, and yelde to hym tho thingis whiche he wrouyte in vs.
11 Therfor thre thousynde of men of Juda yeden doun to the denne of the flynt of Ethan; and thei seiden to Sampson, Woost thou not, that Filisteis comaunden to vs? Why woldist thou do this thing? To whiche he seide.
12 As thei diden to me, Y dide to hem. Thei seien, We comen to bynde thee, and to bitake thee in to the hondis of Filisteis. To whiche Sampson answeride, Swere ye, and biheete ye to me, that ye sle not me.
13 And thei seiden, We schulen not sle thee, but we schulen bitake thee boundun. And thei bounden him with twei newe cordis, and token fro the stoon of Ethan.
14 And whanne thei hadden come to the place of cheke, and Filisteis criynge hadden runne to hym, the spirit of the Lord felde in to hym, and as stikis ben wont to be wastid at the odour of fier, so and the bondis, with whiche he was boundun, weren scaterid and vnboundun.
15 And he took a cheke foundun, that is, the lowere cheke boon of an asse, that lay, and he killyde with it a thousinde men; and seide,
16 With the cheke of an asse, that is, with the lowere cheke of a colt of femal assis, Y dide hem awey, and Y killide a thousynde men.
17 And whanne he songe these wordis, and hadde fillid, he castide forth fro the hond the lowere cheke; and he clepide the name of that place Ramath Lethi, which is interpretid, the reisyng of a cheke.

Whan they were slayn, so thursted him that he
Was wel ny lorn, for which he gan to preye  3230
That god wolde on his peyne han som pitee,  (51)
And sende him drinke, or elles moste he deye;
And of this asses cheke, that was dreye,
Out of a wang-tooth sprang anon a welle,
Of which he drank y-nogh, shortly to seye,  3235
Thus heelp him god, as Iudicum can telle.

Liber Iudicum is the Book of Judges. This stanza comes from the remainder of Judges 15:

18 And he thristide greetly, and criede to the Lord, and seide, Thou hast youe in the hond of thi seruaunt this grettest helthe and victory; and lo! Y die for thyrst, and Y schal falle in to the hondis of vncircumcidid men.
19 Therfor the Lord openyde a wang tooth in the cheke boon of the asse, and watris yeden out therof, bi whiche drunkun he refreischide the spirit, and resseuede strengthis; therfor the name of that place was clepid the Welle of the clepere of the cheke til to present dai.
20 And he demyde Israel in the daies of Filistiym twenti yeer.

By verray force, at Gazan, on a night,
Maugree Philistiens of that citee,
The gates of the toun he hath up-plight,
And on his bak y-caried hem hath he  3240
Hye on an hille, that men mighte hem see.  (61)
O noble almighty Sampson, leef and dere,
Had thou nat told to wommen thy secree,
In al this worlde ne hadde been thy pere!

Except for the general lament about women, we have here the first three verses of Judges 16:

1 Also Sampson yede in to Gazam, and he siy there a womman hoore, and he entride to hir.
2 And whanne Filisteis hadden seyn this, and it was pupplischid at hem, that Sampson entride in to the citee, thei cumpassiden hym, whanne keperis weren set in the yate of the citee; and thei abididen there al nyyt with silence, that in the morewtid thei schulen kille Sampson goynge out.
3 Forsothe Sampson slepte til to the myddis of the nyyt; and fro thennus he roos, and took bothe the closyngis, ethir leeues, of the yate, with hise postis and lok; and he bar tho leeues, put on the schuldris, to the cop of the hil that biholdith Ebron.

This Sampson never sicer drank ne wyn,  3245
Ne on his heed cam rasour noon ne shere,
By precept of the messager divyn,
For alle his strengthes in his heres were;
And fully twenty winter, yeer by yere,
He hadde of Israel the governaunce.  3250
But sone shal he wepen many a tere,  (71)
For wommen shal him bringen to meschaunce!

The discipline of Sampson was told in Chapter 13; that he “deemed” Israel for twenty years, 15:17.

Un-to his lemman Dalida he tolde
That in his heres al his strengthe lay,
And falsly to his fo-men she him solde.
And sleping in hir barme up-on a day
She made to clippe or shere his heer awey,
And made his fo-men al his craft espyen;
And whan that they him fonde in this array,
They bounde him faste, and putten out his yen.  3260

But er his heer were clipped or y-shave,  (81)
Ther was no bond with which men might him binde;
But now is he in prisoun in a cave,
Wher-as they made him at the querne grinde.
O noble Sampson, strongest of mankinde,  3265
O whylom Iuge in glorie and in richesse,
Now maystow wepen with thyn yen blinde,
Sith thou fro wele art falle in wrecchednesse.

The story continues in the first 21 verses of Judges 16. The Monk leaves out the three false explanations of his strength that Sampson gives first. That Sampson’s prison is a cave seems to be the Monk’s addition:

4 After these thingis Sampson louyde a womman that dwellide in the valey of Soreth, and sche was clepid Dalida.
5 And the princes of Filisteis camen to hir, and seiden, Disseyue thou hym, and lerne thou of hym, in what thing he hath so greet strengthe, and how we mowen ouercome hym, and turmente hym boundun; that if thou doist, we schulen yyue to thee ech man a thousynde and an hundrid platis of siluer.
6 Therfor Dalida spak to Sampson, Y biseche, seie thou to me, wher ynne is thi gretteste strengthe, and what is that thing, with which thou boundun maist not breke?
7 To whom Sampson answeride, If Y be boundun with seuene coordis of senewis not yit drye and yit moiste, Y schal be feble as othere men.
8 And the princis of Filisteis brouyten to hir seuene coordis, as he hadde seide; with whiche sche boond him,
9 while buyschementis weren hid at hir, and abididen in a closet the ende of the thing. And sche criede to hym, Sampson, Filisteis ben on thee! Which brak the boondis, as if a man brekith a threed of herdis, writhun with spotle, whanne it hath take the odour of fier; and it was not knowun wher ynne his strengthe was.
10 And Dalida seide to hym, Lo! thou hast scorned me, and thou hast spok fals; nameli now schewe thou to me, with what thing thou schuldist be boundun.
11 To whom he answeride, If Y be boundun with newe coordis, that weren not yit in werk, I schal be feble, and lijk othere men.
12 With whiche Dalida boond him eft, and criede, Sampson, Filistees ben on thee! the while buyschementis weren maad redi in closet. Which brak so the boondis as thredis of webbis.
13 And Dalida seide eft to hym, Hou long schalt thou disseyue me, and schalt speke fals? Schew thou to me, with what thing thou schalt be boundun. To whom Sampson answeryde, he seide, If thou plattist seuene heeris of myn heed with a strong boond, and fastnest to the erthe a naile boundun a boute with these, Y schal be feble.
14 And whanne Dalida hadde do this, sche seide to hym, Sampson, Filisteis ben on thee! And he roos fro sleep, and drow out the nail, with the heeris and strong boond.
15 And Dalida seide to hym, Hou seist thou, that thou louest me, sithen thi soule is not with me? Bi thre tymes thou liedist to me, and noldist seie to me, wher ynne is thi moost strengthe.
16 And whanne sche was diseseful to hym, and cleuyde to hym contynueli bi many daies, and yaf not space to reste, his lijf failide, and was maad wery til to deeth.
17 Thanne he openyde the treuthe of the thing, and seide to hir, Yrun stiede neuere on myn heed, for Y am a Nazarei, that is, halewid to the Lord, fro the wombe of my modir; if myn heed be schauun, my strengthe schal go awei fro me, and Y schal faile, and Y schal be as othere men.
18 And sche siy that he knowlechide to hir al his wille, ether herte; and sche sente to the princes of Filisteis, and comaundide, Stie ye yit onys, for now he openyde his herte to me. Whiche stieden, with the money takun which thei bihiyten.
19 And sche made hym slepe on hir knees, and bowe the heed in hir bosum; and sche clepide a barbour, and schauede seuene heeris of hym; and sche bigan to caste hym awei, and to put fro hir; for anoon the strengthe yede awei fro him.
20 And sche seide, Sampson, Filisteis ben on thee! And he roos fro sleep, and seide to his soule, Y schal go out, as and Y dide bifore, and Y schal schake me fro boondis; and he wiste not, that the Lord hadde goon awei fro hym.
21 And whanne Filisteis hadden take hym, anoon thei diden out hise iyen, and ledden hym boundun with chaynes to Gaza, and maden hym closid in prisoun to grynde.

Thende of this caytif was as I shal seye;
His fo-men made a feste upon a day,  3270
And made him as hir fool bifore hem pleye,  (91)
And this was in a temple of greet array.
But atte laste he made a foul affray;
For he two pilers shook, and made hem falle,
And doun fil temple and al, and ther it lay,  3275
And slow him-self, and eek his fo-men alle.

This is to seyn, the princes everichoon,
And eek three thousand bodies wer ther slayn
With falling of the grete temple of stoon.
Of Sampson now wol I na-more seyn.  3280
Beth war by this ensample old and playn  (101)
That no men telle hir conseil til hir wyves
Of swich thing as they wolde han secree fayn,

If that it touche hir limmes or hir lyves.

The remainder of Judges 16:

22 And now hise heeris bigunnen to growe ayen;
23 and the princes of Filisteis camen togidere to offre grete sacrifices to Dagon, her god, and to ete, seiynge, Oure god hath bitake oure enemy Sampson in to oure hondis.
24 And the puple seynge also this thing preiside her god, and seide the same thingis, Our god hath bitake oure aduersarie in to oure hondis, which dide awey oure lond, and killide ful many men.
25 And thei weren glad bi feestis, for thei hadden ete thanne; and thei comaundiden, that Sampson schulde be clepid, and schulde pleie bifor hem; which was led out of prisoun, and pleiede bifor hem; and thei maden hym stonde bitwixe twei pileris.
26 And he seide to the child gouernynge hise steppis, Suffre thou me, that Y touche the pilers on whiche al the hows stondith, that Y be bowid on tho, and reste a litil.
27 Sotheli the hows was ful of men and of wymmen, and the princes of the Filisteis weren there, and aboute thre thousynde of euer either kynde, biholdynge fro the roof and the soler Sampson pleynge.
28 And whanne the Lord was inwardli clepid, he seide, My Lord God, haue mynde on me, and, my God, yelde thou now to me the formere strengthe, that Y venge me of myn enemyes, and that Y resseyue o veniaunce for the los of tweyne iyen.
29 And he took bothe pilers, on whiche the hows stood, and he helde the oon of tho in the riythond, and the tother in the left hond; and seide,
30 My lijf die with Filesteis! And whanne the pileris weren schakun togidere strongli, the hows felde on alle the princes, and on the tother multitude, that was there; and he diynge killide many moo, than he quyk hadde slayn bifore.
31 Forsothe hise britheren and al the kinrede camen doun, and token his bodi, and birieden bitwixe Saraa and Escahol, in the sepulcre of his fadir Manue; and he demyde Israel twenti yeer.


Of Hercules the sovereyn conquerour  3285
Singen his workes laude and heigh renoun;
For in his tyme of strengthe he was the flour.
He slow, and rafte the skin of the leoun;
He of Centauros leyde the boost adoun;
He Arpies slow, the cruel briddes felle;  3290
He golden apples rafte of the dragoun;  (111)
He drow out Cerberus, the hound of helle:


He slow the cruel tyrant Busirus,
And made his hors to frete him, flesh and boon;
He slow the firy serpent venimous;  3295
Of Achelois two hornes, he brak oon;
And he slow Cacus in a cave of stoon;
He slow the geaunt Antheus the stronge;
He slow the grisly boor, and that anoon,
And bar the heven on his nekke longe.  3300


Was never wight, sith that the world bigan,  (121)
That slow so many monstres as dide he.
Thurgh-out this wyde world his name ran,
What for his strengthe, and for his heigh bountee,
And every reaume wente he for to see.  3305
He was so strong that no man mighte him lette;
At bothe the worldes endes, seith Trophee,
In stede of boundes, he a piler sette.

Robinson passes along some speculations about “Trophee.”

A lemman hadde this noble champioun,
That highte Dianira,
fresh as May;  3310
And, as thise clerkes maken mencioun,  (131)
She hath him sent a sherte fresh and gay.
Allas! this sherte, allas and weylaway!
Envenimed was so subtilly with-alle,
That, er that he had wered it half a day,  3315
It made his flesh al from his bones falle.


But nathelees somme clerkes hir excusen
By oon that highte Nessus, that it maked;

Be as be may, I wol hir noght accusen;
But on his bak this sherte he wered al naked,  3320
Til that his flesh was for the venim blaked.  (141)
And whan he sey noon other remedye,
In hote coles he hath him-selven raked,
For with no venim deyned him to dye.


Thus starf this worthy mighty Hercules;  3325
Lo, who may truste on fortune any throwe?
For him that folweth al this world of prees,
Er he be war, is ofte y-leyd ful lowe.
Ful wys is he that can him-selven knowe.
Beth war, for whan that fortune list to glose,  3330
Than wayteth she hir man to overthrowe  (151)
By swich a wey as he wolde leest suppose.

What has self-knowledge to do with the story?

Nabugodonosor (Nebuchadnezzar).

The mighty trone, the precious tresor,
The glorious ceptre and royal magestee
That hadde the king Nabugodonosor,  3335
With tonge unnethe may discryved be.
He twyes wan Ierusalem the citee;
The vessel of the temple he with him ladde.
At Babiloyne was his sovereyn see,
In which his glorie and his delyt he hadde.  3340

On Nebuchadnezzar’s twice winning Jerusalem, see 2 Kings 24–5.

The fairest children of the blood royal  (161)
Of Israel he leet do gelde anoon,
And maked ech of hem to been his thral.
Amonges othere Daniel was oon,
That was the wysest child of everichoon;  3345
For he the dremes of the king expouned,
Wher-as in Chaldey clerk ne was ther noon
That wiste to what fyn his dremes souned.

The dream and Daniel’s interpretation are in Daniel 2.

This proude king leet make a statue of golde,
Sixty cubytes long, and seven in brede,  3350
To which image bothe yonge and olde  (171)
Comaunded he to loute, and have in drede;
Or in a fourneys ful of flambes rede
He shal be brent, that wolde noght obeye.
But never wolde assente to that dede  3355
Daniel, ne his yonge felawes tweye.

Either the source is Daniel 3, or this and the Monk’s account have a common source. The Monk’s account differs from the Bible’s in that:

The Bible texts themselves vary though. In the Septuagint and hence the Vulgate and Wyclif, Daniel 3 has 100 verses; but 24–90 “were unknown to the Aramaic text, it seems, even in the time of St Jerome,” and they do not appear in the King James Version, where, moreover, verses 98–100 have become the first three verses of chapter 4.

1 Nabugodonosor, the kyng, made a goldun ymage, in the heiythe of sixti cubitis, and in the breede of sixe cubitis; and he settide it in the feeld of Duram, of the prouynce of Babiloyne.
2 Therfor Nabugodonosor sente to gadere togidere the wise men, magistratis, and iugis, and duykis, and tirauntis, and prefectis, and alle princes of cuntreis, that thei schulden come togidere to the halewyng of the ymage, which the kyng Nabugodonosor hadde reisid.
3 Thanne the wise men, magistratis, and iugis, and duykis, and tirauntis, and beste men, that weren set in poweris, and alle the princes of cuntreis, weren gaderid togidere, that thei schulden come togidere to the halewyng of the ymage, which the kyng Nabugodonosor hadde reisid. Forsothe thei stoden in the siyt of the ymage, which Nabugodonosor hadde set; and a bedele criede myytili,
4 It is seid to you, puplis, kynredis, and langagis;
5 in the our in which ye heren the soun of trumpe, and of pipe, and of harpe, of sambuke, of sawtre, and of symphonye, and of al kynde of musikis, falle ye doun, and worschipe the goldun ymage, which the kyng Nabugodonosor made.
6 Sotheli if ony man fallith not doun, and worschipith not, in the same our he schal be sent in to the furneis of fier brennynge.
7 Therfor aftir these thingis, anoon as alle puplis herden the sown of trumpe, of pipe, and of harpe, of sambuke, and of sawtre, of symphonye, and of al kynde of musikis, alle puplis, lynagis, and langagis fellen doun, and worschipiden the golden ymage, which the kyng Nabugodonosor hadde maad.
8 And anoon in that tyme men of Caldee neiyiden, and accusiden the Jewis,
9 and seiden to the kyng Nabugodonosor, Kyng, lyue thou with outen ende.
10 Thou, kyng, hast set a decree, that ech man that herith the sown of trumpe, of pipe, and of harpe, of sambuke, and of sawtree, and of symphonye, and of al kynde of musikis, bowe doun hym silf, and worschipe the goldun ymage; forsothe if ony man fallith not doun,
11 and worschipith not, be he sent in to the furneis of fier brennynge.
12 Therfor men Jewis ben, Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago, whiche thou hast ordeynede on the werkis of the cuntrei of Babiloyne. Thou kyng, these men han dispisid thi decree; thei onouren not thi goddis, and thei worshipen not the goldun ymage, which thou reisidist.
13 Thanne Nabugodonosor comaundide, in woodnesse and in wraththe, that Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago schulden be brouyt; whiche weren brouyt anoon in the siyt of the kyng.
14 And the kyng Nabugodonosor pronounside, and seide to hem, Whether verili Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago, ye onouren not my goddis, and worschipen not the golden ymage, which Y made?
15 Now therfor be ye redi, in what euer our ye heren the sown of trumpe, of pipe, of harpe, of sambuke, of sawtree, and of symphonye, and of al kynde of musikis, bowe ye doun you, and worschipe the ymage which Y made; that if ye worschipen not, in the same our ye schulen be sent in to the furneis of fier brennynge; and who is God, that schal delyuere you fro myn hond?
16 Sidrac, Misaac, and Abdenago answeriden, and seiden to the king Nabugodonosor, It nedith not, that we answere of this thing to thee.
17 For whi oure God, whom we worschipen, mai rauysche vs fro the chymenei of fier brennynge, and mai delyuere fro thin hondis, thou kyng.
18 That if he nyle, be it knowun to thee, thou kyng, that we onouren not thi goddis, and we worschipen not the goldun ymage, which thou hast reisid.
19 Thanne Nabugodonosor was fillid of woodnesse, and the biholdyng of his face was chaungid on Sidrac, Misaac, and Abdenago. And he comaundide, that the furneis schulde be maad hattere seuenfold, than it was wont to be maad hoot.
20 And he comaundide to the strongeste men of his oost, that thei schulden bynde the feet of Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago, and sende hem in to the furneis of fier brennynge.
21 And anoon tho men weren boundun, with brechis, and cappis, and schoon, and clothis, and weren sent in to the myddis of the furneis of fier brennynge;
22 for whi comaundement of the kyng constreinede. Forsothe the furneis was maad ful hoot; certis the flawme of the fier killid tho men, that hadden sent Sidrac, Misaac, and Abdenago in to the furneis.
23 Sotheli these thre men, Sidrac, Misaac, and Abdenago, fellen doun boundun in the mydis of the chymenei of fier brennynge.

91 Thanne kyng Nabugodonosor was astonyed, and roos hastily, and seide to hise beste men, Whether we senten not thre men feterid in to the myddis of the fier? Whiche answeriden the kyng, and seiden, Verili, kyng.
92 The kyng answeride, and seide, Lo! Y se foure men vnboundun, and goynge in the myddis of the fier, and no thing of corrupcioun is in hem; and the licnesse of the fourthe is lijk the sone of God.
93 Thanne the kyng Nabugodonosor neiyide to the dore of the furneis of fier brennynge, and seide, Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago, the seruauntis of hiy God lyuynge, go ye out, and come ye. And anoon Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago, yeden out of the myddis of the fier.
94 And the wise men, and magistratis, and iugis, and miyti men of the kyng, weren gaderid togidere, and bihelden tho men, for the fier hadde had no thing of power in the bodies of hem, and an heer of her heed was not brent; also the breechis of hem weren not chaungid, and the odour of fier hadde not passid bi hem.
95 And Nabugodonosor brac out, and seide, Blessid be the God of hem, that is, of Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago, that sente his aungel, and delyueride hise seruauntis, that bileuyden in to hym, and chaungiden the word of the kyng, and yauen her bodies, that thei schulden not serue, and that thei schulden not worschipe ony god, outakun her God aloone.
96 Therfor this decree is set of me, that ech puple, and langagis, and lynagis, who euer spekith blasfemye ayen God of Sidrac, and of Mysaac, and of Abdenago, perische, and his hous be distried; for noon other is God, that mai saue so.
97 Thanne the kyng auaunside Sidrac, Mysaac, and Abdenago, in the prouynce of Babiloyne; and sente in to al the lond a pistle, conteynynge these wordis.

This king of kinges proud was and elaat,
He wende that god, that sit in magestee,
Ne mighte him nat bireve of his estaat:
But sodeynly he loste his dignitee,
And lyk a beste him semed for to be,  (181)
And eet hay as an oxe, and lay ther-oute;
In reyn with wilde bestes walked he,
Til certein tyme was y-come aboute.

And lyk an egles fetheres wexe his heres,  3365
His nayles lyk a briddes clawes were;
Til god relessed him a certein yeres,
And yaf him wit; and than with many a tere
He thanked god, and ever his lyf in fere
Was he to doon amis, or more trespace,
And, til that tyme he leyd was on his bere,  (191)
He knew that god was ful of might and grace.

Daniel 4:

26 After the ende of twelue monethis he walkide in the halle of Babiloyne;
27 and the kyng answeride, and seide, Whether this is not Babiloyne, the greet citee, which Y bildide in to the hous of rewme, in the miyt of my strengthe, and in the glorie of my fairnesse?
28 Whanne the word was yit in the mouth of the kyng, a vois felle doun fro heuene, Nabugodonosor, kyng, it is seid to thee, Thi rewme is passid fro thee,
29 and thei schulen caste thee out fro men, and thi dwellyng schal be with beestis and wielde beestis; thou schalt ete hey, as an oxe doith, and seuene tymes schulen be chaungid on thee, til thou knowe, that hiy God is Lord in the rewme of men, and yyueth it to whom euere he wole.
30 In the same our the word was fillid on Nabugodonosor, and he was cast out fro men, and he eet hey, as an oxe doith, and his bodi was colouryd with the deew of heuene, til hise heeris wexiden at the licnesse of eglis, and hise nailis as the nailis of briddis.
31 Therfor after the ende of daies, Y, Nabugodonosor, reiside myn iyen to heuene, and my wit was yoldun to me; and Y blesside the hiyeste, and Y heriede, and glorifiede hym that lyueth with outen ende; for whi his power is euerlastynge power, and his rewme is in generacioun and in to generacioun.
32 And alle the dwelleris of erthe ben arettid in to noyt at hym; for bi his wille he doith, bothe in the vertues of heuene, and in the dwelleris of erthe, and noon is, that ayenstondith his hond, and seith to hym, Whi didist thou so?
33 In that tyme my wit turnede ayen to me, and Y cam fulli to the onour and fairnesse of my rewme, and my figure turnede ayen to me; and my beste men and my magistratis souyten me, and Y was set in my rewme, and my greet doyng was encreessid grettir to me.
34 Now therfor Y Nabugodonosor herie, and magnefie, and glorifie the kyng of heuene; for alle hise werkis ben trewe, and alle his weies ben domes; and he may make meke hem that goon in pride.

Balthasar (Belshazzar).

His sone, which that highte Balthasar,
That heeld the regne after his fader day,
He by his fader coude nought be war,  3375
For proud he was of herte and of array;
And eek an ydolastre was he ay.
His hye estaat assured him in pryde.
But fortune caste him doun,
and ther he lay,
And sodeynly his regne gan divyde.  3380

The text henceforth follows Daniel 5 pretty closely, with some elisions and amplifications to be noted.

A feste he made un-to his lordes alle  (201)
Up-on a tyme, and bad hem blythe be,
And than his officeres gan he calle—
‘Goth, bringeth forth the vessels,’ [tho] quod he,
‘Which that my fader, in his prosperitee,  3385
Out of the temple of Ierusalem birafte,
And to our hye goddes thanke we
Of honour, that our eldres with us lafte.’

1 Balthasar, the kyng, made a greet feeste to hise beste men a thousynde, and ech man drank aftir his age.
2 Forsothe the kyng thanne drunkun comaundide, that the goldun and siluerne vessels schulden be brouyt forth, whiche Nabugodonosor, his fadir, hadde borun out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, that the kyng, and hise beste men, hise wyues, and councubyns schulden drynke in tho vessels.

His wyf, his lordes, and his concubynes
Ay dronken, whyl hir appetytes laste,  3390
Out of thise noble vessels sundry wynes;  (211)
And on a wal this king his yën caste,
And sey an hond armlees, that wroot ful faste,
For fere of which he quook and syked sore.
This hond, that Balthasar so sore agaste,  3395
Wroot Mane, techel, phares, and na-more.

The quotation of the words themselves is out of the Biblical sequence.

3 Thanne the goldun vessels and siluerne, whiche he hadde borun out of the temple that was in Jerusalem, weren brouyt forth; and the kyng, and hise beste men, and hise wyues, and concubyns, drunken in tho vessels.
4 Thei drunken wyn, and herieden her goddis of gold, and of siluer, of bras, and of irun, and of tree, and of stoon.
5 In the same our fyngris apperiden, as of the hond of a man, writynge ayens the candilstike, in the pleyn part of the wal of the kyngis halle; and the kyng bihelde the fyngris of the hond writynge.
6 Thanne the face of the kyng was chaungid, and hise thouytis disturbliden hym; and the ioyncturis of hise reynes weren loosid, and hise knees weren hurtlid to hem silf togidere.

In al that lond magicien was noon
That coude expoune what this lettre mente;
But Daniel expouned it anoon,
And seyde, ‘king, god to thy fader lente  3400
Glorie and honour, regne, tresour, rente:  (221)
And he was proud, and no-thing god ne dradde,
And therfor god gret wreche up-on him sente,
And him birafte the regne that he hadde.’

The Monk omits the role of the queen in identifying Daniel, and also Daniel’s renouncing of any honorarium for his interpretation.

7 Therfor the kyng criede strongli, that thei schulden brynge yn astronomyens, Caldeis, and dyuynouris bi lokyng of auteris. And the kyng spak, and seide to the wise men of Babiloyne, Who euer redith this scripture, and makith opyn the interpretyng therof to me, schal be clothid in purpur; and he schal haue a goldun bie in the necke, and he schal be the thridde in my rewme.
8 Thanne alle the wise men of the kyng entriden, and miyten not rede the scripture, nether schewe to the kyng the interpretyng therof.
9 Wherof kyng Balthasar was disturblid ynow, and his cheer was chaungid, but also hise beste men weren disturblid.
10 Forsothe the queen entride in to the hous of feeste, for the thing that hadde bifeld to the king, and beste men; and sche spak, and seide, Kyng, lyue thou withouten ende. Thi thouytis disturble not thee, and thi face be not chaungid.
11 A man is in thi rewme, that hath the spirit of hooli goddis in hym silf, and in the daies of thi fadir kunnyng and wisdom weren foundun in hym; for whi and Nabugodonosor, thi fadir, made him prince of astronomyens, of enchaunteris, of Caldeis, and of dyuynouris bi lokyng on auteris; sotheli thi fadir, thou kyng, dide this;
12 for more spirit, and more prudent, and vndurstondyng, and interpretyng of dremes, and schewyng of priuytees, and assoilyng of boundun thingis weren foundun in hym, that is, in Danyel, to whom the kyng puttide the name Balthasar. Now therfor Daniel be clepid, and he schal telle the interpretyng. Therfor Daniel was brouyt in bifor the kyng. To whom the forseid kyng seide,
13 Art thou Danyel, of the sones of caitifte of Juda, whom my fader, the kyng, brouyte fro Judee?
14 Y haue herd of thee, that thou hast in thee the spirit of goddis, and more kunnyng, and vndurstondyng, and wisdom be foundun in thee.
15 And now wise men, astronomyens, entriden in my siyt, to rede this scripture, and to schewe to me the interpretyng therof; and thei myyten not seie to me the vndurstondyng of this word.
16 Certis Y haue herde of thee, that thou maist interprete derk thingis, and vnbynde boundun thingis; therfor if thou maist rede the scripture, and schewe to me the interpretyng therof, thou schalt be clothid in purpur, and thou schalt haue a goldun bie aboute thi necke, and thou schalt be the thridde prince in my rewme.
17 To whiche thingis Danyel answeride, and seide bifore the kyng, Thi yiftis be to thee, and yyue thou to another man the yiftis of thin hous; forsothe, kyng, Y schal rede the scripture to thee, and Y schal schewe to thee the interpretyng therof.
18 O! thou kyng, hiyeste God yaf rewme, and greet worschipe, and glorie, and onour, to Nabugodonosor, thi fadir.
19 And for greet worschip which he hadde youe to thilke Nabugodonosor, alle puplis, lynagis, and langagis, trembliden and dredden hym; he killide whiche he wolde, and he smoot whiche he wolde, and he enhaunside whiche he wolde, and he made low which he wolde.
20 Forsothe whanne his herte was reisid, and his spirit was maad obstynat in pride, he was put doun of the seete of his rewme;

‘He was out cast of mannes companye,  3405
With asses was his habitacioun,
And eet hey as a beste in weet and drye,
Til that he knew, by grace and by resoun,
That god of heven hath dominacioun
Over every regne and every creature;  3410
And thanne had god of him compassioun,  (231)
And him restored his regne and his figure.’

Daniel is not so explicit about Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration.

21 and his glorie was takun awei, and he was cast out fro the sones of men; but also his herte was set with beestis, and his dwellyng was with wielde assis; also he eet hei as an oxe doith, and his bodi was colourid with the deew of heuene, til he knewe, that the hiyeste hath power in the rewme of men, and he schal reise on it whom euer he wole.

‘Eek thou, that art his sone, art proud also,
And knowest alle thise thinges verraily,
And art rebel to god, and art his fo.  3415
Thou drank eek of his vessels boldely;
Thy wyf eek and thy wenches sinfully
Dronke of the same vessels sondry wynes,
And heriest false goddes cursedly;
Therfor to thee y-shapen ful gret pyne is.’  3420

22 And thou, Balthasar, the sone of hym, mekidest not thin herte, whanne thou knewist alle these thingis;
23 but thou were reisid ayens the Lord of heuene, and the vessels of his hous weren brouyt bifore thee, and thou, and thi beste men, and thi wyues, and thi concubyns, drunken wyn in tho vessels; and thou heriedist goddis of siluer, and of gold, and of bras, and of irun, and of tree, and of stoon, that seen not, nether heren, nether feelen; certis thou glorifiedist not God, that hath thi blast, and alle thi weies in his hond.

‘This hand was sent from god, that on the walle  (241)
Wroot mane, techel, phares, truste me;
Thy regne is doon, thou weyest noght at alle;
Divyded is thy regne, and it shal be
To Medes and to Perses yeven,’ quod he.  3425
And thilke same night this king was slawe,
And Darius occupyeth his degree,
Thogh he therto had neither right ne lawe.

24 Therfor the fyngur of the hond was sent of hym, which hond wroot this thing that is writun.
25 Sotheli this is the scripture which is discryued, Mane, Techel, Phares.
26 And this is the interpretyng of the word. Mane, God hath noumbrid thi rewme, and hath fillid it;
27 Techel, thou art weied in a balaunce, and thou art foundun hauynge lesse;
28 Phares, thi rewme is departid, and is youun to Medeis and Perseis.
29 Thanne, for the kyng comaundide, Daniel was clothid in purpur, and a goldun bie was youun aboute in his necke; and it was prechid of hym, that he hadde power, and was the thridde in the rewme.
30 In the same niyt Balthasar, the kyng of Caldeis, was slayn;
31 and Daryus of Medei was successour in to the rewme, and he was two and sixti yeer eld.

Lordinges, ensample heer-by may ye take
How that in lordshipe is no sikernesse;  3430
For whan fortune wol a man forsake,  (251)
She bereth awey his regne and his richesse,
And eek his freendes, bothe more and lesse;
For what man that hath freendes thurgh fortune,
Mishap wol make hem enemys,
I gesse:  3435
This proverbe is ful sooth and ful commune.


Cenobia (Zenobia).

Cenobia, of Palimerie quene,
As writen Persiens of hir noblesse,
So worthy was in armes and so kene,
That no wight passed hir in hardinesse,  3440
Ne in linage, ne in other gentillesse.  (261)
Of kinges blode of Perse is she descended;
I seye nat that she hadde most fairnesse,
But of hir shape she mighte nat been amended.


From hir childhede I finde that she fledde  3445
Office of wommen, and to wode she wente;

And many a wilde hertes blood she shedde
With arwes brode that she to hem sente.
She was so swift that she anon hem hente,
And whan that she was elder, she wolde kille  3450
Leouns, lepardes, and beres al to-rente,  (271)
And in hir armes welde hem at hir wille.

Is it madness to hunt, or only if you are a woman?

She dorste wilde beestes dennes seke,
And rennen in the montaignes al the night,
And slepen under a bush, and she coude eke  3455
Wrastlen by verray force and verray might
With any yong man, were he never so wight;
Ther mighte no-thing in hir armes stonde.
She kepte hir maydenhod from every wight,
To no man deigned hir for to be bonde.  3460


But atte laste hir frendes han hir maried  (281)
To Odenake,
a prince of that contree,
Al were it so that she hem longe taried;
And ye shul understonde how that he
Hadde swiche fantasyes as hadde she.  3465
But nathelees, whan they were knit in-fere,
They lived in Ioye and in felicitee;
For ech of hem hadde other leef and dere.

Taried could mean annoyed or delayed.

Save o thing, that she never wolde assente
By no wey, that he sholde by hir lye  3470
But ones,
for it was hir pleyn entente  (291)
To have a child, the world to multiplye;
And al-so sone as that she mighte espye
That she was nat with childe with that dede,
Than wolde she suffre him doon his fantasye  3475
Eft-sone, and nat but ones, out of drede.


And if she were with childe at thilke cast,
Na-more sholde he pleyen thilke game
Til fully fourty dayes weren past;
Than wolde she ones suffre him do the same.  3480
Al were this Odenake wilde or tame,  (301)
He gat na-more of hir, for thus she seyde,
‘It was to wyves lecherye and shame
In other cas, if that men with hem pleyde.’


Two sones by this Odenake hadde she,  3485
The whiche she kepte in vertu and lettrure;
But now un-to our tale turne we.
I seye, so worshipful a creature,
And wys therwith, and large with mesure,
So penible in the werre, and curteis eke,  3490
Ne more labour mighte in werre endure,  (311)
Was noon, thogh al this world men sholde seke.


Hir riche array ne mighte nat be told
As wel in vessel as in hir clothing;
She was al clad in perree and in gold,  3495
And eek she lafte noght, for noon hunting,
To have of sondry tonges ful knowing,
Whan that she leyser hadde, and for to entende
To lernen bokes was al hir lyking,
How she in vertu mighte hir lyf dispende.


And, shortly of this storie for to trete,  (321)
So doughty was hir housbonde and eek she,
That they conquered many regnes grete

In the orient, with many a fair citee,
Apertenaunt un-to the magestee   3505
Of Rome, and with strong hond helde hem ful faste;
Ne never mighte hir fo-men doon hem flee,
Ay whyl that Odenakes dayes laste.


Hir batailes, who-so list hem for to rede,
Agayn Sapor the king and othere mo,  3510
And how that al this proces fil in dede,  (331)
Why she conquered and what title had therto,
And after of hir meschief and hir wo,
How that she was biseged and y-take,
Let him un-to my maister Petrark go,  3515
That writ y-nough of this, I undertake.


When Odenake was deed, she mightily
The regnes heeld, and with hir propre honde
Agayn hir foos she faught so cruelly,
That ther nas king ne prince in al that londe  3520
That he nas glad, if that he grace fonde,  (341)
That she ne wolde up-on his lond werreye;

With hir they made alliaunce by bonde
To been in pees, and lete hir ryde and pleye.


The emperour of Rome, Claudius,  3525
Ne him bifore, the Romayn Galien,
Ne dorste never been so corageous,
Ne noon Ermyn, ne noon Egipcien,
Ne Surrien, ne noon Arabien,
Within the feld that dorste with hir fighte  3530
Lest that she wolde hem with hir hondes slen,  (351)
Or with hir meynee putten hem to flighte.


In kinges habit wente hir sones two,
As heires of hir fadres regnes alle,
And Hermanno, and Thymalao   3535
Her names were, as Persiens hem calle.
But ay fortune hath in hir hony galle;
This mighty quene may no whyl endure.
Fortune out of hir regne made hir falle
To wrecchednesse and to misaventure.  3540


Aurelian, whan that the governaunce  (361)
Of Rome cam in-to his hondes tweye,
He shoop up-on this queen to do vengeaunce,
And with his legiouns he took his weye
Toward Cenobie, and, shortly for to seye,  3545
He made hir flee, and atte laste hir hente,
And fettred hir, and eek hir children tweye,

And wan the lond, and hoom to Rome he wente.


Amonges othere thinges that he wan,
Hir char, that was with gold wrought and perree,  3550
This grete Romayn, this Aurelian,  (371)
Hath with him lad, for that men sholde it see.
Biforen his triumphe walketh she
With gilte cheynes on hir nekke hanging;
Corouned was she, as after hir degree,  3555
And ful of perree charged hir clothing.


Allas, fortune! she that whylom was
Dredful to kinges and to emperoures,
Now gaureth al the peple on hir, allas!
And she that helmed was in starke stoures,  3560
And wan by force tounes stronge and toures,  (381)
Shal on hir heed now were a vitremyte;
And she that bar the ceptre ful of floures
Shal bere a distaf, hir cost for to quyte. [T. 14380.

Vitremite is illustrated only by this passage in the Middle English Dictionary.

(Nero follows in T.)

De Petro Rege Ispannie.

O noble, o worthy Petro, glorie of Spayne, [T. 14685.
Whom fortune heeld so hy in magestee,  3566
Wel oughten men thy pitous deeth complayne!
Out of thy lond thy brother made thee flee;
And after, at a sege, by subtiltee,
Thou were bitrayed, and lad un-to his tente,  3570
Wher-as he with his owene hond slow thee,  (391)
Succeding in thy regne and in thy rente.


The feeld of snow, with thegle of blak ther-inne, [T. 14693.
Caught with the lymrod, coloured as the glede,
He brew this cursednes and al this sinne.  3575
The ‘wikked nest’ was werker of this nede;
Noght Charles Oliver, that ay took hede
Of trouthe and honour, but of Armorike
Genilon Oliver, corrupt for mede,
Broghte this worthy king in swich a brike.  3580


De Petro Rege de Cipro.

O worthy Petro, king of Cypre, also,  (401)
That Alisaundre wan by heigh maistrye,
Ful many a hethen wroghtestow ful wo,
Of which thyn owene liges hadde envye,

And, for no thing but for thy chivalrye,  3585
They in thy bedde han slayn thee by the morwe.
Thus can fortune hir wheel governe and gye,
And out of Ioye bringe men to sorwe. [T. 14708.


De Barnabo de Lumbardia.

Of Melan grete Barnabo Viscounte,
God of delyt, and scourge of Lumbardye,  3590
Why sholde I nat thyn infortune acounte,  (411)
Sith in estaat thou clombe were so hye?
Thy brother sone, that was thy double allye,
For he thy nevew was, and sone-in-lawe,
With-inne his prisoun made thee to dye;  3595
But why, ne how, noot I that thou were slawe.


De Hugelino, Comite de Pize.

Of the erl Hugelyn of Pyse the langour
Ther may no tonge telle for pitee;
But litel out of Pyse stant a tour,
In whiche tour in prisoun put was he,  3600
And with him been his litel children three.
The eldeste scarsly fyf yeer was of age.
Allas, fortune! it was greet crueltee
Swiche briddes for to putte in swiche a cage!


Dampned was he to deye in that prisoun,  3605
For Roger, which that bisshop was of Pyse,
Hadde on him maad a fals suggestioun,
Thurgh which the peple gan upon him ryse,

And putten him to prisoun in swich wyse
As ye han herd, and mete and drink he hadde  3610
So smal, that wel unnethe it may suffyse,  (431)
And therwith-al it was ful povre and badde.


And on a day bifil that, in that hour,
Whan that his mete wont was to be broght,
The gayler shette the dores of the tour.
He herde it wel,—but he spak right noght,
And in his herte anon ther fil a thoght,
That they for hunger wolde doon him dyen.
‘Allas!’ quod he, ‘allas! that I was wroght!’
Therwith the teres fillen from his yën.  3620


His yonge sone, that three yeer was of age,  (441)
Un-to him seyde, ‘fader, why do ye wepe?
Whan wol the gayler bringen our potage,
Is ther no morsel breed that ye do kepe?
I am so hungry that I may nat slepe.  3625
Now wolde god that I mighte slepen ever!
Than sholde nat hunger in my wombe crepe;
Ther is no thing, save breed, that me were lever.’


Thus day by day this child bigan to crye,
Til in his fadres barme adoun it lay,  3630
And seyde, ‘far-wel, fader, I moot dye,’  (451)
And kiste his fader, and deyde the same day.
And whan the woful fader deed it sey,
For wo his armes two he gan to byte,
And seyde, ‘allas, fortune! and weylaway  3635
Thy false wheel my wo al may I wyte!’


His children wende that it for hunger was
That he his armes gnow, and nat for wo,
And seyde, ‘fader, do nat so, allas!
But rather eet the flesh upon us two;
Our flesh thou yaf us, tak our flesh us fro  (461)
And eet y-nough:’ right thus they to him seyde,
And after that, with-in a day or two,
They leyde hem in his lappe adoun, and deyde.


Him-self, despeired, eek for hunger starf;  3645
Thus ended is this mighty Erl of Pyse;
From heigh estaat fortune awey him carf.
Of this Tragedie it oghte y-nough suffyse.
Who-so wol here it in a lenger wyse,
Redeth the grete poete of Itaille,  3650
That highte Dant,
for he can al devyse  (471)
Fro point to point, nat o word wol he faille. [T. 14772.

The story is told in Inferno XXXII and XXXIII, where Dante visits the Ninth Circle, for traitors, and in particular the Second Ring, for traitors to homeland or party. Count Ugolino was betrayed by Archbishop Ruggiero. Dante allows that Ugolino himself had betrayed Pisa, which however need not have punished his sons along with him.


Al-though that Nero were as vicious [T. 14381.
As any feend that lyth ful lowe adoun,
Yet he, as telleth us Swetonius,  3655
This wyde world hadde in subieccioun,
Both Est and West, South and Septemtrioun;
Of rubies, saphires, and of perles whyte
Were alle his clothes brouded up and doun;
For he in gemmes greetly gan delyte.  3660


More delicat, more pompous of array,  (481)
More proud was never emperour than he;
That ilke cloth, that he had wered o day,
After that tyme he nolde it never see.
Nettes of gold-thred hadde he gret plentee  3665
To fisshe in Tybre, whan him liste pleye.
His lustes were al lawe in his decree,
For fortune as his freend him wolde obeye.


He Rome brende for his delicacye;
The senatours he slow up-on a day.  3670
To here how men wolde wepe and crye;  (491)
And slow his brother, and by his sister lay.
His moder made he in pitous array;
For he hir wombe slitte, to biholde
Wher he conceyved was;
so weilawey   3675
That he so litel of his moder tolde!


No tere out of his yën for that sighte
Ne cam, but seyde, ‘a fair womman was she.’
Gret wonder is, how that he coude or mighte
Be domesman of hir dede beautee.  3680
The wyn to bringen him comaunded he,  (501)
And drank anon; non other wo he made.
Whan might is Ioyned un-to crueltee,
Allas! to depe wol the venim wade!


In youthe a maister hadde this emperour,  3685
To teche him letterure and curteisye,
For of moralitee he was the flour,
As in his tyme, but-if bokes lye;
And whyl this maister hadde of him maistrye,
He maked him so conning and so souple  3690
That longe tyme it was er tirannye  (511)
Or any vyce dorste on him uncouple.


This Seneca, of which that I devyse,
By-cause Nero hadde of him swich drede,
For he fro vyces wolde him ay chastyse  3695
Discreetly as by worde and nat by dede;—
‘Sir,’ wolde he seyn, ‘an emperour moot nede
Be vertuous, and hate tirannye’—
For which he in a bath made him to blede

On bothe his armes, til he moste dye.  3700


This Nero hadde eek of acustumaunce  (521)
In youthe ageyn his maister for to ryse,
Which afterward him thoughte a greet grevaunce;
Therfor he made him deyen in this wyse.
But natheles this Seneca the wyse  3705
Chees in a bath to deye in this manere
Rather than han another tormentyse;
And thus hath Nero slayn his maister dere.


Now fil it so that fortune list no lenger
The hye pryde of Nero to cheryce;
For though that he were strong, yet was she strenger;  (531)
She thoughte thus, ‘by god, I am to nyce
To sette a man that is fulfild of vyce
In heigh degree, and emperour him calle.
By god, out of his sete I wol him tryce;  3715
When he leest weneth, sonest shal he falle.’


The peple roos up-on him on a night
For his defaute,
and whan he it espyed,
Out of his dores anon he hath him dight
Alone, and, ther he wende han ben allyed,  3720
He knokked faste, and ay, the more he cryed,  (541)
The faster shette they the dores alle;

Tho wiste he wel he hadde him-self misgyed,
And wente his wey, no lenger dorste he calle.


The peple cryde and rombled up and doun,  3725
That with his eres herde he how they seyde,
‘Wher is this false tyraunt, this Neroun?’
For fere almost out of his wit he breyde,
And to his goddes pitously he preyde
For socour, but it mighte nat bityde.  3730
For drede of this, him thoughte that he deyde,  (551)
And ran in-to a gardin, him to hyde.


And in this gardin fond he cherles tweye
That seten by a fyr ful greet and reed,
And to thise cherles two he gan to preye  3735
To sleen him,
and to girden of his heed,
That to his body, whan that he were deed,
Were no despyt y-doon, for his defame.
Him-self he slow, he coude no better reed,
Of which fortune lough, and hadde a game.  3740


De Oloferno (Holofernes).

Was never capitayn under a king  (561)
That regnes mo putte in subieccioun,

Ne strenger was in feeld of alle thing,
As in his tyme, ne gretter of renoun,
Ne more pompous in heigh presumpcioun  3745
Than Oloferne, which fortune ay kiste
So likerously, and ladde him up and doun
Til that his heed was of, er that he wiste.


Nat only that this world hadde him in awe
For lesinge of richesse or libertee,  3750
But he made every man reneye his lawe.  (571)
‘Nabugodonosor was god,’ seyde he,
‘Noon other god sholde adoured be.’

Ageyns his heste no wight dar trespace
Save in Bethulia, a strong citee,  3755
Wher Eliachim a prest was of that place.


But tak kepe of the deeth of Olofern;
Amidde his host he dronke lay a night,
With-inne his tente, large as is a bern,
And yit, for al his pompe and al his might,  3760
Iudith, a womman, as he lay upright,  (581)
Sleping, his heed of smoot,
and from his tente
Ful prively she stal from every wight,
And with his heed unto hir toun she wente.

See the Apocryphal Book of Judith!

De Rege Anthiocho illustri.

What nedeth it of King Anthiochus  3765
To telle his hye royal magestee,
His hye pryde, his werkes venimous?
For swich another was ther noon as he.
Rede which that he was in Machabee,
And rede the proude wordes that he seyde,  3770
And why he fil fro heigh prosperitee,  (591)
And in an hil how wrechedly he deyde.


Fortune him hadde enhaunced so in pryde
That verraily he wende he mighte attayne
Unto the sterres, upon every syde,  3775
And in balance weyen ech montayne,
And alle the flodes of the see restrayne.
And goddes peple hadde he most in hate,
Hem wolde he sleen in torment and in payne,
Wening that god ne mighte his pryde abate.  3780


And for that Nichanor and Thimothee  (601)
Of Iewes weren venquisshed mightily,
Unto the Iewes swich an hate hadde he
That he bad greithe his char ful hastily,
And swoor, and seyde, ful despitously,  3785
Unto Ierusalem he wolde eft-sone,
To wreken his ire on it ful cruelly;
But of his purpos he was let ful sone.

2 Maccabees 9:

1 In the same tyme Antiok turnede ayen vnonestli fro Perses.
2 For he hadde entrid into that citee, that is seid Persibolis, and he temptide for to robbe the temple, and oppresse the citee; but for multitude ran togidere to armeris, thei weren turned in to fliyt; and so it bifelle, that Antiok after fliyt viliche turnede ayen.
3 And whanne he cam aboute Ebathana, he knew what thingis weren don ayens Nycanor and Tymothe.
4 Forsothe he was enhaunsid in wraththe, and demede that he myyte turne in to Jewis the wrong of hem, that hadden dryuun hym. And therfor he bad the chare for to be led in haste, doynge iourney with out ceessyng; for whi heuenli doom constreynede hym, for that he spak so proudli, that he schal come to Jerusalem, and to make it a gaderyng of sepulcre of Jewis.

God for his manace him so sore smoot
With invisible wounde, ay incurable,  3790
That in his guttes carf it so and boot  (611)
That his peynes weren importable.
And certeinly, the wreche was resonable,
For many a mannes guttes dide he peyne;
But from his purpos cursed and dampnable  3795
For al his smert he wolde him nat restreyne;

5 But the Lord God of Israel, that biholdith alle thingis, smoot hym with a wounde incurable and inuisible; for as he endide this same word, an hard sorewe of entrails took hym, and bittere turmentis of inward thingis.
6 And sotheli iustli ynowy, for he that hadde turmentid the entrails of othere men, with many and newe turmentis, thouy he in no maner ceesside of his malice.

But bad anon apparaillen his host,
And sodeynly, er he of it was war,
God daunted al his pryde and al his bost.
For he so sore fil out of his char,  3800
That it his limes and his skin to-tar,  (621)
So that he neither mighte go ne ryde,
But in a chayer men aboute him bar,
Al for-brused, bothe bak and syde.

7 Forsothe ouer this he was fillid with pride, and brethide fier in soule ayens Jewis, and comaundynge the nede for to be hastid, it bifelle, that he goynge in fersnesse fallide doun of the chare, and that the membris weren trauelid with the greuouse hurtlyng togidere of bodi.
8 And he that semyde to hym silf for to comaunde also to wawis of the see, and ouer mannus maner was fillid with pride, and for to weie in balaunce the hiythis of hillis, was maad low to erthe, and was borun in a beere, and witnesside in him silf the opyn vertu of God;

The wreche of god him smoot so cruelly  3805
That thurgh his body wikked wormes crepte;
And ther-with-al he stank so horribly,
That noon of al his meynee that him kepte,
Whether so he wook or elles slepte,
Ne mighte noght for stink of him endure.  3810
In this meschief he wayled and eek wepte,  (631)
And knew god lord of every creature.

9 so that wormes buyliden out of the bodi of the vnpitouse man, and the quyke fleischis of hym fletiden out in sorewis. Also with the sauour of hym, and stynkynge, the oost of hym was greuyd;
10 and no man myyte bere hym, for vnsuffryng of stynk, that a litil bifore demyde hym for to touche the sterris of heuene.

To al his host and to him-self also
Ful wlatsom was the stink of his careyne;
No man ne mighte him bere to ne fro.  3815
And in this stink and this horrible peyne
He starf ful wrecchedly in a monteyne.
Thus hath this robbour and this homicyde,
That many a man made to wepe and pleyne,
Swich guerdon as bilongeth unto pryde.  3820

The Monk passes over the repentance of Antiochus to his wretched death on a mountain.

11 Therfor herbi he was led doun fro greuouse pride, and bigan for to come to knowyng of hym silf, and was warned bi Goddis veniaunce, for bi alle momentis his sorewis token encreessis.
12 And whanne he myyte not thanne suffre his stynk, thus he seide, It is iust for to be suget to God, and that a deedli man feele not euene thingis to God.
13 Forsothe the cursid man preiede the Lord of these thingis, of whom he schulde not gete merci.
14 And now he desirith to yelde fre the citee, to which he cam hastynge, for to drawe doun it to erthe, and for to make a sepulcre of thingis borun togidere.
15 And now he bihetith to make the Jewis euene to men of Athenys, whiche Jewis he seide that he schulde not haue worthi, yhe, of sepulture, but to bitake to foulis and wielde beestis, for to be to-drawun, and for to distrie with litle children;
16 also to ourne with beste yiftis the hooli temple, which he robbide bifore, and to multiplie hooli vessels, and to yyuynge of his rentis costis perteynynge to sacrifices;
17 ouer these thingis and that he schal be maad a Jewe, and to walke bi ech place of the lond, and to preche the power of God.
18 But, for sorewis ceesiden not, the iust doom of God hadde aboue come on hym, he disperide, and wroot to Jewis, bi maner of bisechyng, a pistle, conteynynge thes thingis.
19 To the beste citeseyns, Jewis, moost heelthe, and welfare, and to be riche, ether in prosperite, the kyng and prince Antiok.
20 If ye faren wel, and youre sones, and alle thingis ben to you of sentence, we don moost thankyngis.
21 And Y am ordeyned in sikenesse, and sotheli Y am myndeful benygneli of you, and Y turnede ayen fro places of Persis, and am cauyt with greuouse infirmyte, and Y ledde nedeful for to haue cure for comyn profit; and Y dispeire not of my silf,
22 but Y haue myche hope to ascape sikenesse.
23 For Y biholde that also my fadir, in what tymes he ledde oost in hiyere places, schewide, who after hym schulde resseyue prinshod; if that ony contrarie thing bifelle,
24 or hard thing were teld, these that weren in cuntreis, schulden wite to whom the summe, ether charge, of thingis was left, and schulden not be troblid.
25 To these thingis Y bihelde of next, that alle the myyti men and neiyboris aspien tymes, and abiden comynge, and Y haue ordeyned my sone Antiok kyng, whom Y, rennynge ayen ofte in to hiye rewmes, comendide to many of you, and Y wroot to hym what thingis ben suget.
26 Therfor Y preie you, and axe, that ye ben myndeful of benefices opynli and priueli, and that ech of you kepe feith to me, and to my sone.
27 For Y triste, that he schal do myldely, and manli, and sue my purpos, and be tretable to you.
28 Therfor the manquellere and blasfemere was smytun worst, and as he hadde tretid othere, he diede in pilgrimage in mounteyns, in wretchidful deth.
29 Forsothe Filip, his euene soukere, translatide, ether bar ouer, the bodi; which dredde the sone of Antiok, and wente to Tolome Filomethore, in to Egipt.

De Alexandro.

The storie of Alisaundre is so comune,  (641)
That every wight that hath discrecioun
Hath herd somwhat or al of his fortune.
This wyde world, as in conclusioun,
He wan by strengthe, or for his hye renoun  3825
They weren glad for pees un-to him sende.

The pryde of man and beste he leyde adoun,
Wher-so he cam, un-to the worldes ende.


Comparisoun might never yit be maked
Bitwixe him and another conquerour;  3830
For al this world for drede of him hath quaked,  (651)
He was of knighthode and of fredom flour;
Fortune him made the heir of hir honour;
Save wyn and wommen, no-thing mighte aswage
His hye entente in armes and labour;
So was he ful of leonyn corage.


What preys were it to him, though I yow tolde
Of Darius, and an hundred thousand mo,
Of kinges, princes, erles, dukes bolde,
Whiche he conquered, and broghte hem in-to wo?  3840
I seye, as fer as man may ryde or go,  (661)
The world was his,
what sholde I more devyse?
For though I write or tolde you evermo
Of his knighthode, it mighte nat suffyse.


Twelf yeer he regned, as seith Machabee;  3845
Philippes sone of Macedoyne he was,
That first was king in Grece the contree.
O worthy gentil Alisaundre, allas!
That ever sholde fallen swich a cas!
Empoisoned of thyn owene folk thou were;  3850
Thy sys fortune hath turned into as,
And yit for thee ne weep she never a tere!

Sys and as are apparently six and ace on a die.

Who shal me yeven teres to compleyne
The deeth of gentillesse and of fraunchyse,
That al the world welded in his demeyne,
And yit him thoughte it mighte nat suffyse?
So ful was his corage of heigh empryse.
Allas! who shal me helpe to endyte
False fortune, and poison to despyse,
The whiche two of al this wo I wyte?  3860

Wyte: blame.

De Iulio Cesare.

By wisdom, manhede, and by greet labour  (681)
Fro humble bed to royal magestee,
Up roos he, Iulius the conquerour,

That wan al thoccident by lond and see,
By strengthe of hond, or elles by tretee,  3865
And un-to Rome made hem tributarie;
And sitthe of Rome the emperour was he,
Til that fortune wex his adversarie.


O mighty Cesar, that in Thessalye
Ageyn Pompeius, fader thyn in lawe,  3870
That of thorient hadde al the chivalrye  (691)
As fer as that the day biginneth dawe,
Thou thurgh thy knighthode hast hem take and slawe,
Save fewe folk that with Pompeius fledde,
Thurgh which thou puttest al thorient in awe.  3875
Thanke fortune, that so wel thee spedde!


But now a litel whyl I wol biwaille
This Pompeius, this noble governour
Of Rome, which that fleigh at this bataille;
I seye, oon of his men, a fals traitour,  3880
His heed of smoot, to winnen him favour  (701)
Of Iulius,
and him the heed he broghte.
Allas, Pompey, of thorient conquerour,
That fortune unto swich a fyn thee broghte!


To Rome ageyn repaireth Iulius  3885
With his triumphe, laureat ful hye,
But on a tyme Brutus Cassius,
That ever hadde of his hye estaat envye,
Ful prively hath maad conspiracye
Ageins this Iulius,
in subtil wyse,  3890
And cast the place, in whiche he sholde dye  (711)
With boydekins, as I shal yow devyse.


This Iulius to the Capitolie wente
Upon a day, as he was wont to goon,
And in the Capitolie anon him hente  3895
This false Brutus, and his othere foon,

And stikede him with boydekins anoon
With many a wounde, and thus they lete him lye;
But never gronte he at no strook but oon,
Or elles at two,
but-if his storie lye.  3900


So manly was this Iulius at herte  (721)
And so wel lovede estaatly honestee,
That, though his deedly woundes sore smerte,
His mantel over his hippes casteth he,
For no man sholde seen his privitee.
And, as he lay on deying in a traunce,
And wiste verraily that deed was he,
Of honestee yit hadde he remembraunce.


Lucan, to thee this storie I recomende,
And to Sweton, and to Valerie also,  3910
That of this storie wryten word and ende,  (731)
How that to thise grete conqueroures two
Fortune was first freend, and sithen fo.

No man ne truste up-on hir favour longe,
But have hir in awayt for ever-mo.  3915
Witnesse on alle thise conqueroures stronge.

The “great conquerors two” are Alexander and Julius?


This riche Cresus, whylom king of Lyde,
Of whiche Cresus Cyrus sore him dradde,
Yit was he caught amiddes al his pryde,
And to be brent men to the fyr him ladde.  3920
But swich a reyn doun fro the welkne shadde  (741)
That slow the fyr, and made him to escape;

But to be war no grace yet he hadde,
Til fortune on the galwes made him gape.


Whan he escaped was, he can nat stente  3925
For to biginne a newe werre agayn.

He wende wel, for that fortune him sente
Swich hap, that he escaped thurgh the rayn,
That of his foos he mighte nat be slayn;
And eek a sweven up-on a night he mette,  3930
Of which he was so proud and eek so fayn,  (751)
That in vengeaunce he al his herte sette.

Sweven: dream.

Up-on a tree he was, as that him thoughte,
Ther Iuppiter him wesh, bothe bak and syde,
And Phebus eek a fair towaille him broughte  3935
To drye him with, and ther-for wex his pryde;
And to his doghter, that stood him bisyde,
Which that he knew in heigh science habounde,
He bad hir telle him what it signifyde,
And she his dreem bigan right thus expounde.  3940


‘The tree,’ quod she, ‘the galwes is to mene,  (761)
And Iuppiter bitokneth snow and reyn,
And Phebus, with his towaille so clene,
Tho ben the sonne stremes for to seyn;
Thou shalt anhanged be, fader, certeyn;  3945
Reyn shal thee wasshe, and sonne shal thee drye;’
Thus warned she him ful plat and ful pleyn,
His doughter, which that called was Phanye.


Anhanged was Cresus, the proude king,
His royal trone mighte him nat availle.—  3950
Tragedie is noon other maner thing,  (771)
Ne can in singing crye ne biwaille,
But for that fortune alwey wol assaille
With unwar strook the regnes that ben proude;

For when men trusteth hir, than wol she faille,  3955
And covere hir brighte face with a cloude.


Explicit Tragedia.

Here stinteth the Knight the Monk of his Tale.

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