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- The Canterbury Tales - 100/183 -


The emperor of Rome, Claudius, Nor, him before, the Roman Gallien, Durste never be so courageous, Nor no Armenian, nor Egyptien, Nor Syrian, nor no Arabien, Within the fielde durste with her fight, Lest that she would them with her handes slen,* *slay Or with her meinie* putte them to flight. *troops

In kinges' habit went her sones two, As heires of their father's regnes all; And Heremanno and Timolao Their names were, as Persians them call But aye Fortune hath in her honey gall; This mighty queene may no while endure; Fortune out of her regne made her fall To wretchedness and to misadventure.

Aurelian, when that the governance Of Rome came into his handes tway, <15> He shope* upon this queen to do vengeance; *prepared And with his legions he took his way Toward Zenobie, and, shortly for to say, He made her flee, and at the last her hent,* *took And fetter'd her, and eke her children tway, And won the land, and home to Rome he went.

Amonges other thinges that he wan, Her car, that was with gold wrought and pierrie,* *jewels This greate Roman, this Aurelian Hath with him led, for that men should it see. Before in his triumphe walked she With gilte chains upon her neck hanging; Crowned she was, as after* her degree, *according to And full of pierrie her clothing.

Alas, Fortune! she that whilom was Dreadful to kinges and to emperours, Now galeth* all the people on her, alas! *yelleth And she that *helmed was in starke stowres,* *wore a helmet in And won by force townes strong and tow'rs, obstinate battles* Shall on her head now wear a vitremite; <16> And she that bare the sceptre full of flow'rs Shall bear a distaff, *her cost for to quite.* * to make her living*

Although that NERO were so vicious As any fiend that lies full low adown, Yet he, as telleth us Suetonius,<17> This wide world had in subjectioun, Both East and West, South and Septentrioun. Of rubies, sapphires, and of pearles white Were all his clothes embroider'd up and down, For he in gemmes greatly gan delight.

More delicate, more pompous of array, More proud, was never emperor than he; That *ilke cloth* that he had worn one day, *same robe* After that time he would it never see; Nettes of gold thread had he great plenty, To fish in Tiber, when him list to play; His lustes* were as law, in his degree, *pleasures For Fortune as his friend would him obey.

He Rome burnt for his delicacy;* *pleasure The senators he slew upon a day, To heare how that men would weep and cry; And slew his brother, and by his sister lay. His mother made he in piteous array; For he her wombe slitte, to behold Where he conceived was; so well-away! That he so little of his mother told.* *valued

No tear out of his eyen for that sight Came; but he said, a fair woman was she. Great wonder is, how that he could or might Be doomesman* of her deade beauty: *judge The wine to bringe him commanded he, And drank anon; none other woe he made, When might is joined unto cruelty, Alas! too deepe will the venom wade.

In youth a master had this emperour, To teache him lettrure* and courtesy; *literature, learning For of morality he was the flow'r, As in his time, *but if* bookes lie. *unless And while this master had of him mast'ry, He made him so conning and so souple,* *subtle That longe time it was ere tyranny, Or any vice, durst in him uncouple.* *be let loose

This Seneca, of which that I devise,* *tell Because Nero had of him suche dread, For he from vices would him aye chastise Discreetly, as by word, and not by deed; "Sir," he would say, "an emperor must need Be virtuous, and hate tyranny." For which he made him in a bath to bleed On both his armes, till he muste die.

This Nero had eke of a custumance* *habit In youth against his master for to rise;* *stand in his presence Which afterward he thought a great grievance; Therefore he made him dien in this wise. But natheless this Seneca the wise Chose in a bath to die in this mannere, Rather than have another tormentise;* *torture And thus hath Nero slain his master dear.

Now fell it so, that Fortune list no longer The highe pride of Nero to cherice;* *cherish For though he were strong, yet was she stronger. She thoughte thus; "By God, I am too nice* *foolish To set a man, that is full fill'd of vice, In high degree, and emperor him call! By God, out of his seat I will him trice!* *thrust <18> When he least weeneth,* soonest shall he fall." *expecteth

The people rose upon him on a night, For his default; and when he it espied, Out of his doors anon he hath him dight* *betaken himself Alone, and where he ween'd t'have been allied,* *regarded with He knocked fast, and aye the more he cried friendship The faster shutte they their doores all; Then wist he well he had himself misgied,* *misled And went his way, no longer durst he call.

The people cried and rumbled up and down, That with his eares heard he how they said; "Where is this false tyrant, this Neroun?" For fear almost out of his wit he braid,* *went And to his goddes piteously he pray'd For succour, but it mighte not betide For dread of this he thoughte that died, And ran into a garden him to hide.

And in this garden found he churles tway, That satte by a fire great and red; And to these churles two he gan to pray To slay him, and to girdon* off his head, *strike That to his body, when that he were dead, Were no despite done for his defame.* *infamy Himself he slew, *he coud no better rede;* *he knew no better Of which Fortune laugh'd and hadde game. counsel*

Was never capitain under a king, That regnes more put in subjectioun, Nor stronger was in field of alle thing As in his time, nor greater of renown, Nor more pompous in high presumptioun, Than HOLOFERNES, whom Fortune aye kiss'd So lik'rously, and led him up and down, Till that his head was off *ere that he wist.* *before he knew it*

Not only that this world had of him awe, For losing of richess and liberty; But he made every man *reny his law.* *renounce his religion <19> Nabuchodonosor was God, said he; None other Godde should honoured be. Against his hest* there dare no wight trespace, *command Save in Bethulia, a strong city, Where Eliachim priest was of that place.

But take keep* of the death of Holofern; *notice Amid his host he drunken lay at night Within his tente, large as is a bern;* *barn And yet, for all his pomp and all his might, Judith, a woman, as he lay upright Sleeping, his head off smote, and from his tent Full privily she stole from every wight, And with his head unto her town she went.

What needeth it of king ANTIOCHUS <20> To tell his high and royal majesty, His great pride, and his workes venomous? For such another was there none as he; Reade what that he was in Maccabee. And read the proude wordes that he said, And why he fell from his prosperity, And in an hill how wretchedly he died.

Fortune him had enhanced so in pride, That verily he ween'd he might attain Unto the starres upon every side, And in a balance weighen each mountain, And all the floodes of the sea restrain. And Godde's people had he most in hate Them would he slay in torment and in pain, Weening that God might not his pride abate.

And for that Nicanor and Timothee With Jewes were vanquish'd mightily, <21> Unto the Jewes such an hate had he, That he bade *graith his car* full hastily, *prepare his chariot* And swore and saide full dispiteously, Unto Jerusalem he would eftsoon,* *immediately To wreak his ire on it full cruelly But of his purpose was he let* full soon. *prevented


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