Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
The Canterbury Tales
The Prologe of the Mannes Tale of Lawe
O HATEFUL harm! condicion of poverte!
With thurst, with cold, with hunger so confounded!
To asken help thee shameth in thyn herte;
If thou noon aske, with nede artow so wounded,
That verray nede unwrappeth al thy wounde hid!        5
Maugree thyn heed, thou most for indigence
Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy despence!
Thou blamest Crist, and seyst ful bitterly,
He misdeparteth richesse temporal;
Thy neighebour thou wytest sinfully,        10
And seyst thou hast to lyte, and he hath al.
‘Parfay,’ seistow, ‘somtyme he rekne shal,
Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the glede,
For he noght helpeth needfulle in hir nede.’
Herkne what is the sentence of the wyse:—        15
‘Bet is to dyën than have indigence;’
‘Thy selve neighebour wol thee despyse;’
If thou be povre, farwel thy reverence!
Yet of the wyse man tak this sentence:—
‘Alle the dayes of povre men ben wikke;’        20
Be war therfor, er thou come in that prikke!
‘If thou be povre, thy brother hateth thee,
And alle thy freendes fleen fro thee, alas!’
O riche marchaunts, ful of wele ben ye,
O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas!        25
Your bagges been nat filled with ambes as,
But with sis cink, than renneth for your chaunce;
At Cristemasse merie may ye daunce!
Ye seken lond and see for your winninges,
As wyse folk ye knowen al thestaat        30
Of regnes; ye ben fadres of tydinges
And tales, bothe of pees and of debat.
I were right now of tales desolat,
Nere that a marchaunt, goon is many a yere,
Me taughte a tale, which that ye shal here.        35

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