University of Virginia Library



[MS. Trin. Coll. Camb. R. 3. 19, leaves 12–16, 236–237, completed by B.M. Harley 2251, leaves 262–265, 269e–270, back.]

PROLOGUE AND FABLE I. The Tale of the Cok, that founde a precyous stone, groundyd by Isopus, the phylosopher of Rome, that yche man shuld take in gree suche as God sent.


W]isdom ys more in prise, þen gold in cofers,
To hem, þat haue sauour in lettrure.
Olde examples of prudent philosophers
Moche auaylyd to folke þat dyd her cure
To serche out lykenes in nature,
In whyche men myght conceue & clerely see
Notable sentence of gret moralyte.


Vnto purpos þe poete laureate
Callyd Isopus dyd hym occupy


Whylom in Rome to plese þe senate,
Fonde out fables, þat men myght hem apply
To sondry matyrs, yche man for hys party,
Aftyr þeyr lust, to conclude in substaunce,
Dyuerse moralytees set out to þeyr plesaunce.


Som of foules, of bestis and of fyssh,
Thys Isopus founde out exsample pleyne.
Where syluer fayleþ, in a pewter dyssh
Ryall dentees byn oft tymes seyne,
And semblably poetes, in certeyne,
In fables rude includyd gret prudence
And moralytees full notable of sentence.


Vnder blak erþe byn precious stones founde,
Ryche saphyres & charbuncles full ryall,
And, who þat myneþ downe lowe in þe grounde,
Of gold & syluer groweþ þe mynerall;
Perlys whyte, clere & orientall
Ben oft founde in muscle shellys blake,
And out of fables gret wysdom men may take.


For whyche I cast to folow þys poete
And hys fables in Englyssh to translate,
And, þough I haue no rethoryk swete,
Haue me excusyd: I was born in Lydgate;
Of Tullius gardeyn I passyd nat þe gate,
And cause, why: I had no lycence
There to gadyr floures of elloquence.


Yet, as I can, forþe I woll procede
In þys labour & my style dresse
To do plesaunce to þeym, þat shall hit rede,
Requiryng hem of verrey gentylnes
Of her grace to rewe on my rudenes,


Thys compilacion for to take at gree,
Whyche theym to plese translatyd was by me.


And, yef I fall bycause of ignoraunce,
That I erre in my translacion,
Lowly of hert & feyþfull obeysaunce,
I me submyt to þeyr correccion,
Of hem, þat haue more clere inspeccion
In matyrs, þat touche poetry,
Me to reforme þat þey nat deny.


And, as myn auctor doþe at þe cok begyn,
I cast me to folow hym in substaunce,
Fro þe trouþe in sentence nat to twyn,
As God and grace woll yeue me suffysaunce,
Compyle þys lybell for a remembraunce:
To the reders hereaftyr may be founde
The thanke þerof fully to rebounde.


The Cok of kynde haþe a crest rede
Shape lyke a crowne, token of gret noblesse,
By whyche he haþe, whyle hit stont on hys hede,
As clerkis seyn, corage & hardynes,
And of hys berde melancolyk felnes:
Aboute hys nek by mercyall apparayll
Nature haþe yeue hym a stately auentayll.


Thys hardy foule with brest & voyce so clere
Most trewly kepeþ þe tydes of þe nyght,
Of custom namyd comon astrologere
In throwpes smale to make þeyr hertis lyght;
With spores sharpe enarmyd for to fyght
Lyke a champion iustly doþe attende,
As a proud capten, hys broode for to defende;



Beteþ hys wyngis, aforn or he do syng
B[i]t sluggy hertis out of þeyr slepe to wake,
When Lucyfer toward þe dawnyng
Lawgheth in þe oryent & haþe þe west forsake
To chase awey þe myghty clowdys blake:
Towarde Aurora þys foule, who takeþ kepe,
Byddyþ folk ayene awake out of þeyr slepe,


Whos waker callyng þryes tolde in nombre
With treble laudes youe to þe Trinite,
Slouþe auoydyng, clepeþ folk out of þer slombre
(Good hope repeyreþ to all, þat heuy bee),
Comforteþ þe seke in hys infirmite,
Causeþ merchauntis & pylgryms to be glad,
The þeuys swerde hyd vndyr þe shad.


Callyd þe prophete of ioy & all gladnes,
Embassiatour of Phebus fyry lyght,
Whyche put awey by musicall swetnes
The vgly blaknes of þe derk[e] nyght;
For whyche me semeth, me shuld of dew[e] ryght
For .iij. causes preferre þys foule among,
For waker kepyng, for hardynes & song.


Thys foule ys waker ayen þe vyce of slouþe,
In vertu strong & hardy as a lyon,
Stable as a geaunt, opon a grounde of trouþe,
Ayene all vyces þe morall champion,
And with þe entewnes of hys melodious soun
He yeueþ ensample, as he hys voyce doþ reyse,
Howe day & nyght we the lord shall preyse.



And, for because hys brest ys strong & cleere
And on hys tipto dysposeþ for to syng,
He ys of poettis callyd Chaunceleer.
And, as myn auctour remembreþ by wrytyng,
Whylom þys foule in a glad mornyng
Reioysyd hym ayene the son[ne] shene
With all hys flok to walke opon a grene.


He was furst besy for to breke hys faste,
With hys wyues about hym euerychone,
On a small donghyll to fynde a good repaste
Gan scrape & sporne & fast about[e] gone.
Hyd in þe dong hyll he fonde a iacynct stone,
Yet hys labour & hys besy cure
Was for nat elles, but for hys pasture.


He yaue ensample, whyche gretly may auayle,
As he was oonly taught by nature,
To auoyde slouþe by dylygent trauayle,
By honest labour hys lyuelood to procure.
For, who woll þryue, labour must endure;
For idylnes & froward negligence
Makeþ sturdy beggars for lak of þeyr dyspence.


Losengowres, þat fele hem strong ynough,
Whyche haue sauour in slouþe & slogardy,
Haue leuer to beg, þen go at þe plough,
Dyche or delue, þeymsylf to occupy.
Thus idylnes[se] causeþ rob[e]ry
In vacant pepyll, þat to and fro dyd wende:
For þeft arestyd at Tyburn make an ende.



They be no men, but folkis bestiall,
Voyde of reson oonly for lak of grace,
Whyche ete & drynke & labour nat at all.
The cok was besy hys lyuelood to purchase
The long day in many diuerse plase,
Hym & hys broode oonly to forstre, in trouþe,
Suche folke rebukyng, þat lyue in slombre & slouþe.


Vertu gynneþ at occupacion,
Vyces all procede of idelnesse,
Vnto þeues foundres & patroun;
As thryft commeþ of vertuous besynesse,
So of myschyef slouth ys chief maistresse:
Thys ydelnes causeþ folk in dede
To waste þeyr dayes in myschief & in nede.


With scrapyng, spornyng all þe long[e] day
The cok was besy hym & hys broode to fede,
Founde a iacyncte, whyche in þe donghyll lay,
A ryche stone & a precious, as I rede;
Of whyche stone when þe cok toke hede,
Stynt awhyle, sodenly abrayde,
And to þe ston euyn þus he sayde:


“Who þat knew þy nature & þy kynde,
All þe propurtees, whyche of the be tolde,
A ieweller, yef he þe myght fynde,
Wolde for þy vertues close þe in golde.
Euax to the yeueþ praysyng manyfolde,

Euax rex Arabum

Whos lapydary bereþ opynly wytnesse,
Geyn sorow & wo[e] þou bryngest in gladnesse.



“The best iacyncte in Ethiope ys founde
And ys of colour lyke þe saphyre ynde,
Comforteþ men, þat ly in prison bounde,
Makeþ men strong & hardy of hys kynde,
Contract synewes þe iacyncte doþ vnbynde:
Yet for all þy vertuous excellence
Twene þe & me ys no conuenience.


“For me þou shalt in þys place abyde,
With the I haue lyght or nought to done.
Late þese merchantis, þat go so ferr & ryde,
Trete of þy valew, wheþer hit be late or sone,
Deme how þe cherle came furst in þe mone:
Of suche mysteryes I take but lytell hede;
Me lyst nat hewe chyppes aboue myn hede.


“Precyous stones longen to iewellers
And to princes, when þey lyst wel be seyn:
To me more deynte in bernes or garners
A lytell rewarde of corn or good greyn.
To take þys stone to me hit were but veyn:
Set more store (I haue hit of nature)
Among rude chaffe to shrape for my pasture.


“Lyke as folkis of relykis haue deynte,
Theron þey set a valew or a pryce,
Hygh maters profounde & secree
Ne shuld nat without gret auyce
Be shewyd in opyn to hem, þat be nat wyse;
For, as a wyseman in wysdom haþe delyte,
Ryght so a foole of doctrine haþe dyspyte.


“Golde & stones be for a kyngis hede,
Stele ys tryed for platis in armure,


To couer churches couenable ys lede,
Brasse for belles, iren long to endure
(Thus euery þyng foloweþ hys nature),
Pryncys to reygne, knyghtis for batayll,
Plowmen for tylþe, shypmen for to sayll.


“The hert desyreþ to drynke of crystall welles,
The swan to swymme in large brood riueres,
The gentyll faucon with gesse & ryche belles
To cache hys pray lyke to hys desyres,
I with my brode to scrape afore garneres:
Precious stonys noþyng apperteyne
To gese nor fovlys, þat pasture on þe grene.


“Of þeyr nature as folke byn dysposyd,
Diuersely þey make eleccion.
Double of vertu þe saphyr in gold closyd.
Yche man cheseþ lyke hys opinion:
On cheseþ þe best of wysdom & reson,
And anoþer (hys eyen byn so blynde)
Cheseþ þe werst, þe best he lyt behynde.”



Though þys fabyll be boysters & rurall,
Ye may þeryn consider þyngis þre:
Howe þat diligence in especiall
Haþe agayn slouþe caught þe souereynte,
And, where fre choyse haþ hys liberte,
Cheseþ þe werst in ernest or in game,
Who, but hymsylf, þerof ys to blame?


Who foloweþ vertu, vyces doþ eschew,
He cheseþ þe best in myn opinion.


The cok demyd, to hym hit was more dew
Small simple grayne, þen stones of hygh renoun,
Of all tresour chief possessioun.
Suche as God sent, eche man take at gre,
Nat prowde with ryches nor groge with pouerte.


The worldly man laboreth for rychesse,
And on þe worlde he set all hys intent.
The vertuos man to auoyde all ydelnesse
With suffisaunce hold hymsylf content.
Eche man þerfore with suche as God haþ sent,
Thanke þe Lorde, in vertu kepe hem stable,
Whyche ys conclusioun of þys lytyll fable.

FABLE II. The Tale of the Wolfe and the Lambe groundyd opon Isopus, the phylosophor of Rome, ayenst raueyn & tiranny.


R]yght as atwene turment & delyces
There ys in kynde a gret difference,
Ryght so atwene vertues lyfe & vyces
There may be no iust conuenience:
Malyce contrary to pure innocence,
And phylosophers by wrytyng bere recorde,
Twene trowþe & fraude may be non acorde.


Atwene rancour & humble pacience
Ther ys in nature a gret diuision:
A sely shepe make may no resistence
Ageyn þe power of a strong lyon;
A dwerfe to fyght with a champyon
Were to febyll in a felde to endure,
By lykenes agayn nature.



Grete pykes, þat swymme in large stewes,
Smaller fysshe most felly þey deuour.
Who haþe most myght, þe febler gladly sewes:
The pore haþe few hys party to socour.
The rauenous wolf opon þe lambe doþe lour;
Of whyche Isopus in hys booke
Full notably thys example he toke.


The lambe, þe wolf[e], contrary of nature,
Euer diuerse & noþyng oon þey þynke.
Boþe at onys of soden auenture
To a fresshe ryuer þey came downe to drynke:
At þe hede spryng hy opon þe brynke
Stondeþ þe wolfe, a froward beste of kynde;
The sely lambe stood fer abak behynde.


Who þat is froward of condicion
And disposyd to malyce & outrage,
Can sone seke & fynde occasion
Pyke a quarell for to do damage;
And vnto purpose malycious of corage
The furyos wolfe out with hys venym brake,
And euyn þys vnto þe lambe he spake:


“Lyke þy ffadyr, þou art false & double
And hym resemblest of dysposicion,
For he was wont my water here to trouble,
To meue þe þyk, þat lay low doune:
Þat I myght haue no recreacioune
To drynk my fyll of water pure and clere,
He was so contrary to trouble þys ryuere.


“And þou of malyce art com to do þe same,
Sekest occasion by trobly vyolence


Ayenst me & makest þerof a game
To fynde mater and for to do offence.”
The lambe answerd with humble reuerence:
“Thys may nat be; þe preef ys seyn full oft:
I stond beneþe, & ye stond aloft.


“From þe hyll þe ryuer downe dyscendeþ:
For to ascende hit were ageyn nature.
That I stond here hit noþyng yow offendeþ:
The trowble goþe low, aboue hit ys most pure;
The clere ys youres, but I must endure,
Tyll ye haue dronke, and þen at erst begyn,
Take, as hit falleþ, þe þyk with the þyn.


“I may nat chese: þe choyse to yow ys fall.
Hyt were but foly for me with yow to stryue.
Ye shall for me haue your desyres all:
Of your ryght I wyll nat yow depryue.”
But þe wolfe a cause gan contryue
Ageyn the lambe of naturall haterede,
Seyd vnto hym quakyng in hys drede:


“Thy feynyd speche flatteryng & benygne,
I see hit well in myn inward syght,
How þou dost ayene me malygne
To vex me wrongfully, yef þou haddyst myght.
The lawe shall part vs, whyche of vs haþ ryght.”
But he no lenger on þe lawe abood,
Deuouryd þe lambe & aftyr soke hys blood.


The lambe was sleyn, for he seyd soþ.
Thus was law tornyd to rauyne,
Dome execute by þe wolfis tothe;
By whyche lawe Naboth lost hys vyne,

iiio. Regum viijo. cao.

Whylom commaundyd by law, whyche ys dyuyne,
No rauenous beste (þe Byble doþ deuyse)
Shuld be offred to God in sacryfyse.



Herdys be rekles þe lambe for to defende,
Take noon hede on theyr flock to tary;
Ther hounde ys muett, whyche þat shuld attende
To kepe þe wache fro wolues most contrary;
Fewe sheperdys & many mercynary,

Pauci pastores te mercenarii multi.

That falsly entre, as Iohns gospell tolde,
By þe wyndow into Crystis folde.


The lambe ys clyppyd, chese and mylke ys peysyd,
On felle & flesshe ys set a certayn pryse,
For tylþe of lond þe dong ys also preysyd,
Noþyng foryete (sheperdys be so wyse):
The beest ys spoylyd & nat without avyse.
The wolf haþ so ferre þe lambe purchasyd,
That he ys deuouryd & haþ noþyng trespasyd.


The ram in Colches bare a flees of golde;
Therof he was dyspoylyd by Iason,
The body left hoole, lyke as hit ys tolde.
But shepe þese dayes be spoylyd to þe bon;
For þer be wolfes many mo þen oon,
That clyp lamborn at sessions & at shyres
Bare to þe bone, & yet þey haue no sheres.


The sely lambe ys spoylyd to þe bones,
The wolf goþ fre, wheþer hit be ryght or wrong.
When [a] iorrour haþe caught sauour ones
To be forsworn, custom makeþ hym strong.
Si dedero ys now so mery a song,
Haþ founde a practyk by lawe to make a preef
To hang a trew man & saue an errant theef.


With empty hande men may noon hawkis lewre
Nor cache a iorrour, but yef he yeue hym mede.
The pore pleteþ: what ys hys auenture?
Voyde purse causeþ he may nat spede.
The lambe put bak, þe wolf þe daunce doþ lede.


Dyfference atwene þese bestis tweyne
Causyd Isopus þys tale for to feyne.



The wolfe ys lykenyd to folkys rauenous,
The sely lambe resembleþ þe porayle;
The wolfe ys gredy, fell, cruell, dyspituous,
The lambe content with grasse for hys vytayle.
The[i] dey[e] boþe: þe wolfe may nat auayle,
Be hit for houndis caren most corumpable,
The lambe vp seruyd at þe kyngis table.


As men deserue, þey receue þeyr guerdon.
On repentaunte þe tyraunt goþ to hell.
The pore man with small possession
Vertuosly doþ in þe erþe dwell,
Content with lytell doþ trewly by and sell
And of hoole hert can loue God & drede;
When he goþ hens, haþe heuen to hys mede.


To encrese vertu and vyces to confounde
Example here shewyd of gret diuersyte;
By Isopus was þys fable founde,
Where ys rehersyd, toforne as ye may se,
The wolfis felnesse, þe lambes properte;
The lambe commendyd for naturall mekenes
The wolfe rebuked for rauenous felnes.

FABLE III. The Tale of the Frogge and þe Mowse foundyd by Isopus, þe philosophor, groundyd ayenst deceyte.


B]y a decree of Natures law,
Peysyd egally þe balance of reson,


Who þat cast hym deceue hys felaw,
Shall of deceyte receue þe guerdon.
Salary to feynyng ys simulacion.
Who by dyssimelyng & fraude doþ procede,
Lyke a defrauder receue shall hys mede.


Som reioyse þeym in malyce & in fraude
And couertely to hynder þeyr neyghbors.
As men deserue, reporte yeueþ theym þeyr lawde.
Cloþe falsly wouen may kepe no fresshe colours.
The dorre on donghyll, þe bee on holsom floures,
As þey receue, þey bryng home to theyr heue:
The oon doþe damage, þe oþer doþ releue.


Aftyr þeyr naturall disposicions
In man & beste ys shewyd experyence:
Som haue to vertew þeyr inclinacions,
Oone to profyte, anoþer to do offence;
Som man pesyble, som man doþ violence;
Som man delyteþ in trouþe in hys entent,
Anoþer reioyseþ to be fraudulent.


Who þat meneþ treson or falsnes
With a pretence outward or frenshyp or frendlyhede,
Face counterfete of feynyd fals gladnes,
Of all enemyes suche oon ys most to drede,
And Isopus to purpos, as I rede,
Telleþ how a ffrosshe felle & contraryouse,
Dowble of entent, deceuyd haþe þe movse.


Of þys fable þe processe for to tell,
The frosshe of custom abode at a ryuer;
The mowse also soiornyd at a myll,
That stood besyde from all dangere;
And a morow, when Phebus shone full clere,


So as þe frosshe passyd þerbesyde,
The mowse besought hym goodly to abyde.


Lad hym vp to þe myll alofte,
Shewyd hym the hoper, þe trowgh & þe myll stone,
On a corne sak made hym syt softe,
Seyde, he shuld to dyner go anone,
Leyde afore hym greynes many oone:
To shewe hym of gentylnes gret fauourure
The second course he brought in mele & floure.


“See,” quoth þe mowse, “þys ys a mery lyfe.
Here ys my lordshyp & dominacion.
I lyue here esyly out of noyse & stryfe.
Thys cloos all hoole ys in my subieccion.
Suffisaunce ys my possessione.
As I haue appetyte, I dyne late or sone;
For Gyb, þe catte, haþe here noþyng to done.


“As mesemeþ, I am here ryght well easyd.
Better ys quyete, þen troble with ryches.
A poreman, þat ys with lytyll plesyd,
Laboreþ truly, meneþ no falsenes
And ys sequestryd fro worldly besynes,
He may at nyght by many sondry preues
Meryly slepe for any fere of theues.


“Blessyd be pouerte, þat causeþ assurance,
Namely when gladnes doþ hys brydyll lede.
What God sendeþ, hit ys to þeyr plesance,
Thankeþ þe lorde, grogeþ for no nede.
As he fyndeþ, þeron he doþ hym fede.
Thus am I content here in my householde
As well as Cresus was with all hys golde.



“Tresour of Mygdas medelyd was with drede,
Broke slepes, reft hym hys libertees.
The pore man slepeþ fearelese, takeþ noon hede,
Who ryde or go: hys gatis opyn bee.
And I suppose, noman ys more free
Nor more assuryd, to myne opynyon,
Then glad pouert with small possession.


“Salomon wryteþ, howe hit ys bet by halfe
A lompe of brede with reioysyng,
Then at festis to haue a rostyd calfe
With heuy chere, frownyng or grogyng.
Nature ys content with full lytell þyng.
As men seyen & reporte, at þe leste,
Nat many deyntees, but good chere makeþ a feste.


“Where a tyraunt haþ power noon nor myght,
Ys sewre abydyng vnto þe porayll.
Diogenes was with hys towne as lyght,
As Alysaundre with all hys apparayll.
Thys lytyll mylle fynt me my vytayll:
I haue þerin as gret lust and ioy,
As kyng Priamus had in hys towne of Troy.


“The poreman mery in hys cotage,
As ys þe merchaunt in hys stuffyd house;
The plowman glad with bacon & potage,
As in þeyr paleyse byn prynces gloriouse.
And, þough þat I be but a lytell movse,
Ther ys no lorde, mo castelles haþ to kepe,
Then I haue hernes & hooles in to crepe.


“Abyde with me all nyght in þys mylle,
That we togedyr may haue our dalyaunce.


Of greyn & mele þou shalt haue þy fylle.
When frendis mete, ys ioy & plesaunce.
At eue at soper we shall haue a petaunce,
And, when Aurora to-morow doþ apere,
Or we departe, we shall dyne in fere.”


The ffrosshe answeryd & gan hys tale telle:
“I haue had here plente of vytayll,
Of fresshe lycour þys ys a baren mylle.
I prayse no feeste, where good drynke doþ fayll,
And what ys worþe all þe apparayll
Of diuerse deyntees to a mannys lust,
When aftyr mete men gon awey a thrust?


“Good drynke at festes makeþ all þe chere,
Well sesenyd mete, of good drynke habundance.
Here fast[e] by ys a brode ryuere,
Whyche of fresshe watyr haþ all suffisaunce.
Bacus, Thetis be causers of plesaunce,

Bacus god of wyne, Thetis god of water.

And, to discure þe sentence of my þought,
Where þey two fayle, I sey, þe fest ys nought.”


They passyd forþe by a grene mede:
The syluer dew toward þe mornyng
Haþe of þe mowse soylyd so þe wede,
That he haþ lost hys power of rennyng.
Thus were þese wormes contrary of lyuyng:
The frosshe delyteþ to abyde in mory lakys,
The mowse to fede hym on chese & tendyr cakys.


The mowse was wery with þe frosshe to abyde,
But þe frosshe with a false feynyd chere


Seyþe to þe mowse: “Yende on þe oþer syde
Ys myne abydyng vppon þe water clere.
Lat vs go swymme ouer þe ryuere,
And, lyke as I haue vnto þe tolde,
Thow shalt abyde & see þere my householde.”


The mowse answeryd quakyng in hys drede:
“I haue of swymmyng noon experience.”
“No,” quoth þe frosshe, “I shall tey a threde
About þy nek by gret diligence,
The other ende shall for þy defence
At my leg sore be knyt behynde
Ouer þe broke passage for to fynde.”


Thus gan þe ffrosshe couertly to feyne
Of false fraude þe lytell mowse to drowne.
The frosshe by swymmyng dyd hys besy peyne
To make þe mowse lowe to plonge downe.
Forþe goþ þe frosshe, þe mowse for fere gan sowne,
And in þys whyle a kyte, or þey toke hede,
Raught hem boþe vp hangyng by þe þrede.


Fatte was þe ffrosshe, þe mowse sklender & lene;
The frosshe deuouryd because of hys fatnes.
The threde to-brake, þe mowse fell on þe grene,
Fro deþe escapyd: þe frosshe for hys falsnes
Gwerdon receueþ of vnkyndenes.
For conclusion clerk[is] put in mynde,
Lawe & nature pleynyn on folke vnkynde.



Of vyces all, shortly to conclude,
Ther ys no vyce in comparyson
To þe vyce of ingratitude;


For hit ys worse þen pestylence or poyson,
More to be drad, me semeþ, of reson:
Preseruatyf made for pestylence,
But agayn fraude may be no defence.


In þys fable for an exemplary,
For þe party of pure innocence,
The mowse ys but sympyll, nat contrary,
Where þe frosshe by fraude & violence
Vnder colour of frendly dylygence
Was euer besy hys felow to encloy:
The cause out sought hit dyd hymsylf dystroy.


To a deceyuour by ryght, as hit ys founde,
Kynde requyreþ in folkis fraudulent,
Where fraud ys vsyd, fraude mot rebounde,
Gwerdon for fraude most conuenient;
For whyche Isopus in hys fynall entent
Thys fable wrote full soþly in hys wyt:
Who useþ fraude, with fraude shalbe quyt.

FABLE IV. The Tale of þe Hownde and þe Shepe groundyd ayen periure & false wytnes founde by Isopus.


T]he world made diuerse by froward folkis tweyne,
By a false iorrour and a false wytnesse,
Horryble monstres enbrasyd in a cheyne
Trouþe forto assayle & greuosly to oppresse,
Whyche forto clypse þe lyght of ryghtwysnesse
Be nat aferde with hande put forþe toforn
Vppon a boke falsely to be forsworn!


With cancryd lyppes & with tung[e] double
Twene ryght & wrong forþe þey woll procede,


Ryghtfull causes to trauerse & trouble,
To be forsworn on a boke for mede,
Of conscience þey take so lytell hede;
Whyche þyng to preue by exsamples full notable
Of olde Isopus whylom wrote þys fable.


Hauyng thys conceyte, set hit for a grounde;
By maner lyknes rehersyng in sentence,
He wrete þer was whylom a gret hounde,
Whyche toke a quarell by hatefull violence
Agayns a shepe simple of innocence,
Whyche stood alone voyde of all refuge,
Constreynyd by force to apere afore a iuge.

[The Trinity MS. fails here; completing portion from Harley 2251.]


Agenst the sheepe, quakyng in his drede,
Withouten support of any proctour,
This ravenous hound thus wrongely gan procede,
His tale aforsyng like a false iurrour:
How he had lent the sheepe, his neygh[e]bour,
A large lofe, his hunger to releve,
As he was redy by lawe for to preve.


And his quarel more to fortefye,
The sely shepe to bryng[en] in distresse,
He affermed it, and falsly did lye,
Towchyng his loff, that he of kyndenesse
Toke it the sheepe, whan he stoode in distresse
Of mortal hunger, whan plente dide faile,
Likly to dye for lak of vitaile.


Straitly requyreng the iuge in this matiere
To yeve hym audience and to do hym right,
By apparence shewyng ful sad chiere,


As though he ment no falsnesse to no wyght.
The sely sheepe, astonyed in his sight,
Stoode abasshed ful like an innocence;
To help hym-self cowde fynd[e] no diffence.


Towchyng the loff requyred by the hound,
With humble chiere the sheepe did it deny,
Sothly affermyng, levyng on this ground,
Vnto his day he neuer on no party
No loff receyved, and loth he was to ly,
Prayeng the iuge, that he myght frely gon,
For other aunswer plainly cowde he none.


Quod the iuge: “The lawe thow must abide,
Til ther be yoven sentence of iugement;
I may no favour do to nowther side,
But atwene both stande indifferent,
As rightful iuge of hert and hole intent,
Til I may se by lawe to make me strong,
Whiche of the partyes have right or wrong.”


The lawe, first founde on a triew[e] grounde,
May nat declyne from his stabilnesse.
The iuge, abraidyng, axed of the hound,
“Hastow,” quod he, “record or witnesse
This douteful cause to set in sikernesse,
For to stynt[en] al contrauersy
Be triewe report of suche as wil nat ly?”


The hound answerd: “My cause is iust and triewe,
And my-self in lawe here for to aquyte,
I have brought two, that the couenant knewe,
The faithful wolf, in trowth that doth delite,
And with hym comyth the gentil foule, the kyte,
Chose for the nones by report of theyr names,
As folke wele knowe, that dredith sclaundre and shames.


“To offende trewth the wolf doth gretly drede,
He is so stidefast and triew of his nature;


The gentil kyte hath refused al falshede,
He had lever grete hunger to endure,
Lovyng no raveyn vnto his pasture,
Thanne take a chykken, by record of writyng,
To his repast, or any goselyng.”


The hound, to acomplissh thend of his entent,
Agayn the sheepe to susteyne his partye
Witnesse tweyne brought in iugement,
The wolf, the puttok that were ful loth to ly;
And for to stynte the contrauersy
Of this matier, they vpon hem toke
To lay theyr hondis boldly vpon a booke.


Mote they be hanged on high by the halse,
Be-cawse they swore wetyngly vntriewe!
The hound wele wiste his [com]playnt was false,
The sheepe condempned, tristy and pale of hewe,
The twey witnesse, albe it they ne knewe
The matier false, rehersed here to-forn,
Yit drad they nat falsely to be forsworn.


Thus al thre were false by oon assent,
The hound, the wolf, and the cursid kyte,
The sheepe, allas, though he were innocent,
By doome compelled, as Isopos doth write,
To pay the loff, his dettis to acquyte,
Thus constrayned, the lawe dide hym compelle,
At grete myschief his wynter flees to selle.


The ram of Colchos bare a flees of gold,
Whiche was conquered manly by Iason;
But this sheepe, whan he his flees hath sold,
With cold constrayned, wynter cam vpon,
Deyd at myschief, socour had he none;
Be-twene the wolf and the puttok that nought were lost in veyne,
As myn auctour sayth, parted was the kareyne.



The sheepe thus deyd, his body al to-rent,
The ravenous wolf the kareyne did assaile;
The hound recouered his part by iugement;
The false kyte cast hym nat to faile,
To have a repast vpon his adventaile.
Thus in this world by extorcion veriliche
Poore folk be devoured alwey by the riche.


By examples, in stwes long and large,
Of grete fissh devoured bien the smale.
Hardy is the bote that stryvith agenst the barge.
To ouerpresse a pore man the riche set no tale.
A cloth sakke stuffid, shame it is to pike a male.
What nedith the see to borwe of smale rivers,
Or a grete barne to borow of strait garners?


Al suche outrages and inconveniences
Takith origynal of pillage and ravyne;
An extorcioner, to amend his expences,
Can make the poore to bowe and declyne;
Lierne this prouerbe, founde of old doctryne,
“Suche as have no conscience of no maner wronges,
Of other mennys ledir can kut ful large thonges.”


The shepe is ded, the puttok hath his part,
Ioynt from ioynt the wolf hath rent a-sunder,
The hound by dome recouered hath his part,
Suche false practik is vsed here and yonder:
The fiebler playneth, and that is litel wonder.
Al suche raveyne on poraile to theyr distresse
Beganne at false iurrours and at false witnesse.


To a false witnesse, record in Salamon,
Prouerbiorum, .iij. thynges bien compared
A shrew[e]d dart, an hoked arow is oon,


Al for the werre as it is declarid,
Yit vnder trety somtyme they be spared;
But a false witnesse hath this avauntage
With mowth infect alwey to do damage.


Agayne sharpe quarels helpith a pavice,
Agayne arowes may be made defence,
And though a swerd be riche and of grete price,
Somtyme he sparith for to do offence;
But a false iurrour, by mortal violence,
Nat only causith men her bloode to shede,
But makith hem lese theyr lyf and goode for meede.”


Ageyne verray poyson ordeyned is triacle,
As auctours sayne, by craft of medicyne;
But ageyn a iurrour there were no bettir obstacle
Than to geld hym yong, hys venym to declyne,
That no false braunche myght spryng of his lyne,
For the nombre suffisith only of ij. or iij.
To enfecte a shyre or a grete contre.


It is remembred by record of auctours,
As writeth Holcot vpon sapience,
How ther folwith .iij. incomoditees
Of false forsweryng ageyn conscience:
First, rehersith this auctour in sentence,
Vpon a booke whan a false iurrour
Forswerith hym-self, he is to God a traytour.


There-vpon, this matier to conclude,
That false forsweryng is to God treason,
First he makith this simylitude:
That if a man withyn a regioun
Wold countrefete, by false collusioun,
The kynges seale, the people to begile,
What were he worthy to deye by civile?



And semblaly, who can considre wele,
The name of God, ordeyned to impresse,
Is the signacle of the celestial seale,
Yoven to al Cristen of trowth to bere witnesse,
And who that euer mysvsith it in falsenesse,
Holcot affermyth it, for short conclusioun,
That he to God doth opinly treason.


Who with his hand the Holy Booke doth towche,
And to record takith Cristes name,
On Holy Writ, I dare me wele avowche,
If he swere falsely, gretely is to blame,
Hande of periurye to his eternal shame;
God and His werkis he doth vtterly forsake,
And to the fiend for euer he doth hym take.


In His preceptis, whiche that be devyne,
God bad man bere no false witnesse,
And of oure faith to folwe the doctryne.
Periury is enemy to al rightwisnesse;
What man for lucre or for [gret] richesse
Wilbe forsworn, by sentence of clerkis,
Falsly forsakith God and al His werkis.


Who swerith by God, his hand leyd on a booke,
He causith God, auctours doth expresse,
Vnto the record of the charge he toke,
In right or wronge, in trowth or in falsenesse,
To preve his oth Hym takith to wittnesse:
If his causyng to make his party strong,
Falsly concludith, he doth to God grete wrong.


Of periurye the trespas is ful huge,
Wonder perilous in Oure Lordis sight,
For the iurrours first disseyvith the iuge,
Causith his neyghburgh for to lese his right,
His conscience hurt, of grace blent the light,


As a renegat, that hath the Lord forsake,
Lyke to be dampned, but he amendis make.


Isopos iurrours doth discryve,
Callith theym Arpies, houndes infernal,
With ravenous feete, wynged to flee blyve,
Like to Carberos, that receyvith al,
Gredy Tantalus, whos hunger is nat smal;
And be suche peple, who that takith kepe,
As sayth my[n] auctour, devoured was the shepe.


Thus false forsweryng, frawde, and extorcioun,
With false witnesse afore God be dampnable,
But if they make diew satisfaccioun,
Thynges to restore, wherof they bien culpable;
And for suche folkes Isopos wrote this fable,
To this intent, that I have told aforn,
What peril it is falsly to be forsworn.


Late al false iurrours have this in mynde,
Remembre at shyres and at cessions:
Who is forsworn, settith God behynde,
And puttith the fiend in ful possessioun
Of soule and body, vnder his dampcioun,
Toforn his deth, but if he have repentaunce,
Or make restitucioun, or do som penaunce.

Here endith the .iij. fable of Isopos, what perel it is to be forsworn wetyngly, as was the wolf and the kyte for synguler love, that they hadde to the hounde, and to have the sheepe ded and slayn, as iurrours dampne þe triewe and save the false.



[MS. Trin. Coll. R. 3. 19, begins again, leaf 236.]

FABLE V. How the wollffe diseyvyd the crane, Isopus, translatyd by Iohn Lydgat.


In Isopus forther to proced,
Towchynge the vyce of wnkynd[e]nesse,
In this tretes a lytyll fabill I rede
Of engratytude, ioynyd to falsenesse,
How that a wolff, of cursyd frowardnesse
Was to the crane, of malyce, as I fynde,
For a good torne falce founden and wnkynd.


The fable is this: when bestes everychone
Helde a feste and a solempnyte,
Ther was a wolffe strangled with a bone,
And constraynyd by grete adversyte,
Des[es]peyryd relyvyd for to be,
For remede playnly knew he none,
So depe downe enteryd was the bone.


Thorow all the cort surg[e]ons wer sought,
Yf eny were abydynge them a-monge;
At the last the crane was forthe brought,
Bycaws his neke was slender, sharp, & longe,
To serche his throt wher þe bone stode wronge,
For whiche perlows occupacion
The wolff behyte hym a full grete guerdon.


The bone out browght by subtile delygence
Of the crane, by crafft of surgery,
The court all hole being in presence,


Axid his rewarde & his solary,—
The wolffe frowardly his promys gan deny,
Sayd, “It suffisith,”—and gan to make stryffe,—
“Out of his mouthe that he scapid with his lyffe.”


The wolffe denyed that he had be-hyte,
Sowght a-gayne hym froward occacion,
Seyd, he had don hym grete wn-ryght,
And hym deseyvyd by fals colusion,
Whan he his byll putte so low a-downe
In his throt to pyke a-wey the bone;
Other reward of hym gett he none!


Caste on the crane a full cruell loke,
Withe opyn mouthe gan to approche nere,
“When thow,” quod he, “the sayd[e] bone toke
Out of my throt thow were in my daunger,
Thy sharpe beke, neke, eyen, and chere
Atwene my tethe, sharp[e] whet & kene,
Thy lyffe in iubardy, the truthe was welle sene.


“At that tyme thy power was but small,
Ageyne me to holde were or stryff,
For whiche thow art boundyn in speciall
To thanke me thow scapidest withe thy lyff,
Owt of my iawes, sharper than file or knyff,
Stode desolate in many manar wyse,
Streynyd in the bondes full narow of my fraunchyse.”


And semblably, makyng a fals excuse
To pay theyr dewte wnto the poraile,


Takynge ther service & labour to ther vse,
[Gverdounles] to make them to travayle
Yf they aught ax, tyrauntes them assayle,
And of malys constreyne them so for drede,
They not so hardy of them to ax ther mede.


The tyraunt hathe possescions and riches,
The poure travelythe for meate, drynke, & fode,
The ryche dothe the laborar oppresse,
For his labour denyethe hym hys lyflode,
The lambe must suffre, the wolffes bene so wode;
A playne ensample declaryd how men done,
Shewde in the crane that plukkyd away þe bone.



Prayer of princes is a commaundement,
The poure obayethe, they dare none othar do,
Presept of tyrantes is so vyolent,
Who-evar sey nay, nede it muste be so,
Hove they ther lust, they care for no mo;
The wolffe made holle, of very froward pryde,
Sofferyd the crane rewardles to abyde.


The crane was chese to be a surg[i]on,
To save the wolffe, as ye have hard beforne,
Toke out the bone, whiche no man migh[t]e sene,
Whiche thynge accomplyshyd, his labour he had lorne,
The wolffe made hym blow the bokk[e]s horne,—
As it fallythe at preffe, offt[e] sithe,
Fayr behestes makythe foles ofte-tyme blythe.


Isophus, the famous olde poyete,
This fable wrote for a memoryalle,


The accorde wher-of wnlykely & wn-mete
Atwen tyrauntes & folke that bene rurall,
The poure hathe lytell, the extorssionar hathe all,
His body, his lyffe, the laborar enpartythe,
The riche hathe all, & no-thynge he departythe.


The morallyte of this tale out sowght,
The crane is lyke the folke, that for drede
Travayll for tyrantes, & reseve nowght
Bwt fowll rebukes for [a] ffynalle mede;
Thus connselynge, yow that this talle dothe rede,
Whill that yowr hond is in the wolffes mowthe,
Remembre that with tyrauntes merci ys wncothe.


To pley withe tyraunts I holde it is no iape,
To oppres the poure they have no concience,
Fly frome daunger, yf ye may askape,
Thynke on the crane that dyd his delygence
To helpe the wolfe, but he do recompence,
His kyndenes maneshed hym, as I fynde,
This tall applyinge a-gayn folke that be wn-kynde.
Iohn Lydgat, wryten by Iohn Stow.



[From MS. Harley 2251, leaves 269–270, back.]


Agayne the vice also of tiranny
In oo contray or in on regioun,
Oon is to mekil, poetis specifye,


To wast and spoyle bi false extorcyoun,
For whiche Isopos makith mencyoun,
Vnto purpos bryngith in a fabil,
To be rehersed moral and notabil.


The tale is this, convynable and mete,
The moralite remembrid in sentence;
First in Cancro, whan Phebus takith his hete,
Inportable ful ofte is his fervence,
That som while the persynge violence
Of his beames, oft or men take heede,
The soyle consumyth of herbe, grayne, and seede.


In somer season whan Phebus shadde his streames,
The orasont clierly to enlumyne,
It so byfelle, that with his fervent beames
On Tellus lordship brent vp braunche and vyne,
Til a false lust his corage dide inclyne,
Causyng hym to fal in dotage,
To wedde a wif, born of hie parage.


But for to procede for the comowne availe,
He hath his lettres and [his] brief[e]s sent
To goddis, goddessis, beyng of his counsaile,
Of erthe, of see, and of the firmament,
And Saturne ther to be present,
With Parchas sustren, that in the nombre thre
Ben callid of poetis spynners of destyne.


In this matier was grete contrauersye
Atwene the goddes and goddesses of grete prise,
Towchyng this mariage and this straunge ally,
Whether they shal holde to shewe theyr devise;
Til it fel, that a philosophre wise,
Called Theofrast, a man ronne ferre in age,
Gaf sentence as towchyng this mariage.


Ioyned with hym to gyve iugement
Of this alliaunce in especial,


Were assigned by al the hole perlement,
The Romayn poete Cocus Marcial,
Cloto, Lachesis, that spynne the threde smal,
And Antropos, withouten difference,
To gyve hereon a diffinytif sentence.


Among these owmperis was werre none, ne stryf,
But concludyd to accord, al beyng of assent,
That, if so be that Phebus take a wyf,
And procreacioun be vnto hym sent,
By his lynage therth[e] shuld be brent;
This is to sayne, that no erthely creature
Hete of ij. sunnes may nowhile endure.


Thus concludyng, it doth inow suffice,
Vnto heven oo sunne to shyne bright,
Twey sunnes were like in many wise,
To brenne al the erth, by fervence of theyr myght;
And, semblaly, who-so looke aright,
O myghti tiraunt suffisith in a shyre
Al the contrey for to sette a-fuyre.


If he have eyres for to succede,
Folowe theyr fader in successioun,
By tirauntry, than are they more to drede
In theyr ravyne and extorcioun,
By theyr counseil and false convencioun;
For multitude of robbers, where they gon,
Doth more damage, sothly, than doth oon.


Men may at the ie se a pref
Of this matere, old and yong of age,
Lasse is to drede the malice of oo thief,
So sayne merchauntis, ridyng in theyr viage,
But wher many on awaytith on the passage,
Ther standith the parell, as it is often sene,
By whiche example ye wote what I mene.



Oon ageyn oon may make resistence,
Oon ageyn many, the conquest is vnkowth;
Nombre of tirauntis thurgh theyr violence
Pursweth the pore, both est and sowth;
Gredy wolfis, that comyn with open mowth,
Vpon a folde theyr nature can declare
By experience, whether they wil hurt or spare.


By example of Phebus, as to-fore is previd
By an vnkowth moral for liknes,
Whervpon this fable was contryved
By Isopos of grete advisenesse,
Plainly to shewe and opinly to expresse,
If oo tiraunt the people may constrayne,
Than the malice is worse and damagith more of twayne.
Here endith the .vj. fable of Isopos, disclosyng what hurt or hyndryng tirauntis done, where they may have power.

FABLE VII. Thys ffable is of þe hound that bare the chese, gronddyd on Isopus agaynst covetousness, translatyd by Iohn Lydgat, made in Oxforde.


[MS. Trin. Coll. R. 3, 19, leaf 236.]


An olde proverbe hathe bene sayd, and shall,
Towchynge the vyce of grete covetyce—
Who all covetythe, offt he losythe all—
Where-wppon Isophus dothe devyce
A morall fabyll, rehersing in this wyse,
How a grete hownd over a bryge sqware
A large chese in his mouthe he bare.



Castynge his loke downe to the ryver,
By apparence and fals yllusion,
As hym thought, a chese ther did apere,
And was nought els but a reflexion
Of the chese in his posescion;
Wiche to cache, whan he dyd his payne,
Opynynge his mouthe, he lost bothe twayne.


By whiche exsample men may conceyve & lere,
By experience prevyd in many place,
Who all covetythe, faylyth offt in fere,
One man allone may not all purchace,
Nor in armys all the worlde enbrace,
A meane is best withe good governaunce,
To them that be content withe suffisaunce.


Ther is no man that lyvythe more at ease
Than he that can withe lytill be content;
Even contrary, he standithe evar in disseasse
That in his hert with covetyce is blent;
Withe suche fals etykes many a man is shent:
Lyke as the hownd, not content withe one chese,
Desyryd tweyne, bothe he dyd lese.