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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Shorter Poems


 This wrecched worldes transmutacioun,
 As wele or wo, now povre and now honour,
 Withouten ordre or wys discrecioun
 Governed is by Fortunes errour.
 But natheles, the lak of hir favour
 Ne may nat don me singen though I dye,
 Jay tout perdu mon temps et mon labour;
 For fynally, Fortune, I thee defye.
 Yit is me left the light of my resoun
10 To knowen frend fro fo in thy mirour.
 So muchel hath yit thy whirling up and doun
 Ytaught me for to knowen in an hour.
 But trewely, no force of thy reddour
 To him that over himself hath the maystrye.
 My suffisaunce shal be my socour,
 For fynally Fortune, I thee defye.
 O Socrates, thou stidfast champioun,
 She never mighte be thy tormentour;
 Thou never dreddest hir oppressioun,
20 Ne in hir chere founde thou no savour.
 Thou knewe wel the deceit of hir colour,
 And that hir moste worshipe is to lye.
 I knowe hir eek a fals dissimulour,
 For fynally, Fortune, I thee defye!
 No man is wrecched but himself it wene,
 And he that hath himself hath suffisaunce.
 Why seystow thanne I am to thee so kene,
 That hast thyself out of my governaunce?
 Sey thus: "Graunt mercy of thyn haboundaunce
30 That thou hast lent or this." Why wolt thou stryve?
 What wostow yit how I thee wol avaunce?
 And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve.
 I have thee taught divisioun bitwene
 Frend of effect and frend of countenaunce;
 Thee nedeth nat the galle of noon hyene,
 That cureth eyen derked for penaunce;
 Now seestow cleer that were in ignoraunce.
 Yit halt thyn ancre and yit thou mayst arryve
 Ther bountee berth the keye of my substaunce,
40 And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve.
 How many have I refused to sustene
 Sin I thee fostred have in thy plesaunce.
 Woltow than make a statut on thy quene
 That I shal been ay at thyn ordinaunce?
 Thou born art in my regne of variaunce,
 Aboute the wheel with other most thou dryve.
 My lore is bet than wikke is thy grevaunce,
 And eek thou hast thy beste frend alyve.
 Thy lore I dampne; it is adversitee.
50 My frend maystow nat reven, blind goddesse;
 That I thy frendes knowe, I thanke it thee.
 Tak hem agayn, lat hem go lye on presse.
 The negardye in keping hir richesse
 Prenostik is thou wolt hir tour assayle;
 Wikke appetyt comth ay before syknesse.
 In general, this reule may nat fayle.
 Thou pinchest at my mutabilitee
 For I thee lente a drope of my richesse,
 And now me lyketh to withdrawe me.
60 Why sholdestow my realtee oppresse?
 The see may ebbe and flowen more or lesse;
 The welkne hath might to shyne, reyne, or hayle;
 Right so mot I kythen my brotelnesse.
 In general, this reule may nat fayle.
 Lo, th' execucion of the majestee
 That al purveyeth of his rightwysnesse,
 That same thing "Fortune" clepen ye,
 Ye blinde bestes ful of lewednesse.
 The hevene hath propretee of sikernesse,
70 This world hath ever resteles travayle;
 Thy laste day is ende of myn intresse.
 In general, this reule may nat fayle.
 Princes, I prey you of your gentilesse
 Lat nat this man on me thus crye and pleyne,
 And I shal quyte you your bisinesse
 At my requeste, as three of you or tweyne,
 And but you list releve him of his peyne,
 Preyeth his beste frend of his noblesse
 That to som beter estat he may atteyne.

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