Now is Mede the mayde and no mo of hem alle,
With bedeles and baillies brought bifore the Kyng.
The Kyng called a clerk - l kan noght his name -
To take Mede the maide and maken hire at ese.
I shal assayen hire myself and soothliche appose
What man of this world that hire were levest.
And if she werche bi wit and my wil folwe
I wol forgyven hire this gilt, so me God helpe!'
Curteisly the clerk thanne, as the Kyng highte,
Took Mede bi the myddel and broghte hire into chambre.
Ac ther was murthe and mynstralcie Mede to plese;
That wonyeth at Westmynstre worshipeth hire alle.
Gentilliche with joye the justices somme
Busked hem to the bour ther the burde dwellede,
Conforted hyre kyndely by Clergies leve,
And seiden, " Mourne noght, Mede, ne make thow no sorwe,
For we wol wisse the Kyng and thi wey shape
To be wedded at thi wille and wher thee leef liketh
For al Conscienees cast or craft, as I trowe.'
Mildely Mede thanne merciede hem alle
Of hire grete goodnesse - and gaf hem echone
Coupes of clene gold and coppes of silver,
Rynges with rubies and richesses manye,
The Ieeste man of hire meynee a moton of golde.
Thanne laughte thei leve thise lordes at Mede.
With that comenclerkes to conforten hire the same,
And beden hire be blithe - "For we beth thyne owene
For to werche thi wille the while thow myght laste.'
Hendiliche heo thanne bihighte hem the same -
To loven hem lelly and lordes to make,
And in the consistorie at the court do callen hire names.
" Shal no lewednesse lette the clerke that I lovye,
That he ne worth first avaunced for I am biknowen
Ther konnynge clerkes shul clokke bihynde.'
Thanne cam ther a confessour coped as a frere;
To Mede the mayde [mekeliche he loutede]
And seide ful softely, in shrift as it were,
"Theigh lewed men and lered men hadde leyen by thee bothe.
And Falshede hadde yfolwed thee alle thise fifty wynter,
I shal assoille thee myself for a seem of whete,
And also be thi bedeman, and bere wel thyn er[ende],
Amonges knyghtes and clerkes, Conscience to torne.
Thanne Mede for hire mysdedes to that man kneled,
And shrof hire of hire sherewednesse - shamelees, I trowe;
Tolde hym a tale and took hym a noble
For to ben hire bedeman and hire brocour als.
Thanne he assoiled hire soone and sithen he seide,
" We have a wyndow in werchynge, wole stonden us ful hye;
Woldestow glaze that gable and grave therinne thy name,
Sykir sholde thi soule be hevene to have.'
" Wiste I that,' quod the womman,-I wolde noght spare
For to be youre frend, frere, and faile yow nevere
While ye love lordes that lecherie haunten
And lakketh noght ladies that loven wel the same.
It is a freletee of flessh - ye fynden it in bokes -
And a cours of kynde. wherof we comen alle.
Who may scape the sclaundre, the scathe is soone amended;
It is synne of the sevene sonnest relessed.
Have mercy,' quod Mede, of men that it haunteth
And I shal covere youre kirk, youre cloistre do maken,
Wowes do whiten and wyndowes glazen,
Do peynten and portraye [who paied] for the makynge,
That every segge shall see I am suster of youre house.'
Ac God to alle good folk swich gravynge defendeth -
To writen in wyndowes of hir wel dedes -
An aventure pride be peynted there, and pomp of the world;
For God knoweth thi conscience and thi kynde wille,
And thi cost and thi coveitise and who the catel oughte.
Forthi I lere yow lordes, leveth swiche w[rityng]es -
To writen in wyndowes of youre wel dedes
Or to greden after Goddes men whan ye [gyve] doles,
On aventure ye have youre hire here and youre hevene als.
Nesciat sinsitra quid faciat dextra
Lat noght thi left half, late ne rathe,
Wite what thow werchest with thi right syde -
For thus bit the Gospel goode men doon hir almesse.
Maires and maceres, that menes ben bitwene
The kyng and the comune to kepe the lawes,
To punysshe on pillories and on pynynge stooles
Brewesters and baksters, bochiers and cokes -
For thise are men on this molde that moost harm wercheth
To the povere peple that parcelmele buggen.
For thei poisone the peple pryveliche and ofte,
Thei richen thorugh regratrie and rentes hem biggen
With that the povere peple sholde putte in hire wombe.
For toke thei on trewely, thei tymbred nought so heighe,
Ne boughte none burgages - be ye ful certeyne!
Ac Mede the mayde the mair h[eo] bisought[e]
Of alle swiche selleris silver to take,
Or presents withouten pens - as pieces of silver,
Rynges or oother richesse the regratiers to mayntene.
" For my love,' quod that lady, love hem echone,
And suffre hem to selle somdel ayeins reson.'
Salamon the sage a sermon he made
For to amenden maires and men that kepen lawes,
And tolde hem this teme that I telle thynke
Ignis devorabit tabernacula eorum qui libenter accipiunt munera, &c.
Among thise lettrede leodes this Latyn is to mene
That fir shall falle and [for]brenne al to bloo askes
The houses and the homes of hem that desireth
Yiftes or yeresyeves because of hire offices.
The Kyng fro counseil cam, and called after Mede,
And ofsente hire as swithe with sergeaunts manye
That broughte hire to boure with blisse and with joye.
Curteisly the Kyng thanne comsed to telle;
To Mede the mayde he melleth thise wordes
" Unwittily, womman, wroght hastow ofte;
Ac worse wroghtest thow nevere than tho thow Fals toke.
But I forgyve thee that gilt, and graunte thee my grace;
Hennes to thi deeth day do so na moore!
I have a knyght, Conscience, cam late fro biyonde;
If he wilneth thee to wif, wiltow hym have?'
"Ye, Iord,' quod that lady, " Lord forbede it ellis!
But I be holly at youre heste, lat hange me soone!'
Thanne was Conscience called to come and appere
Bifore the Kyng and his conseil, as clerkes and othere.
Knelynge Conseience to the Kyng louted,
To wite what his wille were and what he do sholde.
"Woltow wedde this womman,' quod the Kyng, "if I wole assente?
For she is fayn of thi felaweshipe, for to be thi make.'
Quod Conscience to the-Kyng, "Crist it me forbede!
Er I wedde swich a wif, wo me bitide!
For she is frele of hire feith, fikel of hire speche,
And maketh men mysdo many score tymes.
In trust of hire tresor she t[en]eth ful manye
Wyves and widewes wantounnesse she techeth,
And lereth hem lecherie that loveth hire yiftes.
Poure fader she felled thorugh false biheste,
And hath apoisoned popes and peired Holy Chirche.
Is noght a bettre baude, by Hym that me made,
Bitwene hevene and helle, in erthe though men soghte!
For she is tikel of hire tail, talewis of tonge,
As commune as the cartwey to [knaves and to alle] -
To monkes, to mynstrales, to meseles in hegges;
Sisours and somonours, swiche men hire preiseth,
Sherreves of shires were shent if she ne were -
For she dooth men lese hire lond and hire lif bothe.
She leteth passe prisoners and paieth for hem ofte,
And gyveth the gailers gold and grotes togidres
To unfettre the Fals - fle where hym liketh;
And taketh the trewe bi the top and tieth hym faste,
And hangeth hym for hatrede that harm[e]de nevere.
"To be cursed in consistorie she counteth noght a russhe
For she copeth the commissarie and coteth hise clerkes.
She is assoiled as soone as hireself liketh;
She may neigh as muche do in a monthe ones
As youre secret seel in sixe seore dayes!
She is pryvee with the Pope - provisours it knoweth,
For Sire Symonie and hirselve seleth hire bulles.
She blesseth thise bisshopes, theigh thei be lewed;
Provendreth persones and preestes she maynteneth
To h[old]e lemmans and lotebies alle hire lif daies
And bryngen forth barnes ayein forbode lawes.
"Ther she is wel with the kyng, wo is the reaume -
For she is favorable to Fals and defouleth truthe ofte.
By Jesus! with hire jeweles youre justice she shendeth
And lith ayein the lawe and letteth hym the gate,
That feith may noght have his forth, hire floryns go so thinke.
She ledeth the lawe as hire list and lovedaies maketh,
And doth men lese thorugh hire love that lawe myghte wynne -
The maze for a mene man, though he mote evere!
Lawe is so lordlich, and looth to maken ende
Withouten presents or pens he pleseth wel fewe.
"Barons and burgeises she bryngeth in sorwe,
And al the comune in care that coveiten lyve in truthe,
For clergie and coveitise she coupleth togidres.
This is the lif of that lady - now Lord yyve hire sorwe,
And alle that maynteneth hire men, meschaunee hem bitide!
For povere men may have no power to pleyne though thei smerte,
Swich a maister is Mede among men of goode.'
Thanne mournede Mede and mened hire to the Kynge
To have space to speke, spede if she myghte.
The Kyng graunted hire grace with a good wille
"Excuse thee if thow kanst; I kan namoore seggen,
For Conscience accuseth thee, to congeien thee for evere.'
"Nay, lord,' quod that lady, "leveth hym the werse
Whan ye witen witterly wher the wrong liggeth.
Ther that meschief is gret, Mede may helpe.
And thow knowest, Conscience, I kam noght to chide,
Ne to deprave thi persone with a proud herte.
Wel thow woost, wernard, but if thow wolt gabbe,
Thow hast hanged on myn half ellevene tymes,
And also griped my gold, and gyve it where thee liked.
ow wrathest thee now, wonder me thynketh !
Yet I may, as I myghte, menske thee with yiftes
And mayntene thi manhode moore than thow knowest.
"Ac thow hast famed me foule bifore the Kyng here;
For killed I nevere no kyng, ne counseiled therafter,
Ne dide as thow demest - I do it on the Kynge.
In Normandie was he noght noyed for my sake -
Ac thow thiself, soothly, shamedest hym ofte
Crope into a cabane for cold of thi nayles,
Wendest that wynter wolde han ylasted evere,
And dreddest to be ded for a dym cloude,
And hyedest homward for hunger of thi wombe.
Withouten pite, pilour, povere men thow robbedest
And bere hire bras at thi bak to Caleis to selle,
Ther I lafte with my lord his lif for to save.
I made his men murye and mournynge lette;
I batred hem on the bak and boldede hire hertes,
And dide hem hoppe for hope to have me at wille.
Hadde I ben marchal of his men, by Marie of hevene!
I dorste have leyd my lif and no lasse wedde,
He sholde have be lord of that lond in lengthe and in brede,
And also kyng of that kith his kyn for to helpe -
The leeste brol of his blood a barones piere!
Cowardly thow, Conscience, conseiledest hym thennes -
To leven his lordshipe for a litel silver,
That is the richeste reaume that reyn overhoveth.
"It bicometh to a kyng that kepeth a reaume
To yeve [men mede] that mekely hym serveth -
To aliens and to alle men, to honouren hem with yiftes;
Mede maketh hym biloved and for a man holden.
Emperours and erles and alle manere lordes
Thorugh yiftes han yonge men to yerne and to ryde.
The Pope and alle prelates presents underfongen
And medeth men hemselven to mayntene hir lawes,
Servaunts for hire servyce, we seeth wel the sothe,
Taken mede of hir maistres, as thei mowe acorde.
Beggeres for hir biddynge bidden men mede.
Mynstrales for hir myrthe mede thei aske.
The Kyng hath mede of his men to make pees in londe.
Men that [kenne clerkes] craven of hem mede.
Preestes that prechen the peple to goode
Asken mede and massepens and hire mete [also].
Alle kyn crafty men craven mede for hir prentices.
Marchaundise and mede mote nede go togideres
No wight, es I wene, withouten Mede may libbe!
Quod the Kyng to Conscience, "By Crist, as me thynketh,
Mede is worthi the maistrie to have!-
"Nay,' quod Conscience to the Kyng and kneled to the erthe,
"Ther are two manere of medes, my Iord, by youre leve.
That oon God of his grace graunteth in his blisse
To tho that wel werchen while thei ben here.
The Prophete precheth therof and putte it in the Sauter
Domine, quis habitabit in tabernaculo tuo?
Lord, who shal wonye in thi wones with thyne holy seintes
Or resten in thyne holy hilles? - This asketh David.
And David assoileth it hymself, as the Sauter telleth
Qui ingreditur sine macula et operatur iusticiam.
Tho that entren of o colour and of one wille,
And han ywroght werkes with right and with reson,
And he that useth noght the lyf of usurie
And enformeth povere men and pursueth truthe
Qui pecuniam suam non dedit ad usuram, et munera super innocentem &c.
And alle that helpen the innocent and holden with the rightfulle,
Withouten mede doth hem good and the truthe helpeth -
Swiche manere men, my lord, shul have this firste mede
Of God at a gret nede, whan thei gon hennes.
"Ther is another mede mesurelees, that maistres desireth
To mayntene mysdoers mede thei take,
And therof seith the Sauter in a salmes ende -
In quorum manibus iniquitates sunt; dextra eorum repleta est muneribus
And he that gripeth hir gold, so me God helpe,
Shal abien it bittre, or the Book lieth!
Preestes and persons that plesynge desireth,
That taken mede and moneie for masses that thei syngeth,
Taken hire mede here as Mathew us techeth
Amen, amen, receperunt mercedem suam.
That laborers and lewede [leodes] taken of hire maistres,
It is no manere mede but a mesurable hire.
In marchaundise is no mede, I may it wel avowe
It is a permutacion apertly - a penyworth for another.
"Ac reddestow nevere Regum, thow recrayed Mede,
Whi the vengeaunce fel on Saul and on his children?
God sente to Saul by Samuel the prophete
That Agag of Amalec and al his peple after
Sholden deye for a dede that doon hadde hire eldres.
"Forthi,' seide Samuel to Saul, "God hymself hoteth thee
To be buxom at his biddynge, his wil to fulfille.
Weend to Amalec with thyn oost, and what thow fyndest there - sle it
Burnes and beestes - bren hem to dethe!
Widwes and wyves, wommen and children,
Moebles and unmoebles, and al thow myght fynde -
Bren it, bere it noght awey, be it never so riche;
For mede ne for monee, loke thow destruye it!
Spille it and spare it noght - thow shalt spede the bettre.''
And for he coveited hir catel and the kyng spared,
Forbar hym and his beestes bothe as the Bible witnesseth
Otherwise than he was warned of the prophete,
God seide to Samuel that Saul sholde deye,
And al his seed for that synne shenfulliche ende.
Swich a meschief Mede made the kyng to have
That God hated hym for evere and alle his heires after.
"The culorum of this cas kepe I noght to shewe;
On aventure it noyed me, noon ende wol I make,
For so is this world went with hem that han power
That whoso seith hem sothest is sonnest yblamed!
"I, Conseience, knowe this, for Kynde Wit it me taughte -
That Reson shal regne and reaumes governe,
And right as Agag hadde, happe shul somme
Samuel shal sleen hym and Saul shal be blamed,
And David shal be diademed and daunten hem alle,
And oon Cristene kyng kepen [us] echone.
Shal na moore Mede be maister as she is nouthe,
Ac love and lowenesse and leautee togideres -
Thise shul ben raaistres on moolde [trewe men] to save.
And whoso trespaseth ayein truthe or taketh ayein his wille,
Leaute shal don hym lawe, and no lif ellis.
Shal no sergeant for his service were a sik howve,
Ne no pelure in his [paviloun] for pledynge at the barre.
" Mede of mysdoeres maketh manye lordes,
And over lordes Iawes [led]eth the reaumes.
Ac kynde love shal come yit and Conscience togideres
And make of lawe a laborer; swich love shal arise
And swich pees among the peple and a parfit truthe
That Jewes shul wene in hire wit, and wexen wonder glade,
That Moyses or Messie be come into this erthe,
And have wonder in hire hertes that men beth so trewe.
"Alle that beren baselard, brood swerd or launce,
Ax outher hachet or any wepene ellis,
Shal be demed to the deeth but if he do it smythye
into sikel or to sithe, to shaar or to kultour -
Conflabunt gladios suos in vomeres, &c -
Ech man to pleye with a plow, pykoise or spade,
Spynne, or sprede donge, or spille hymself with sleuthe;
Preestes and persons with Plucebo to hunte,
And dyngen upon David eche day til eve.
Huntynge or haukyng if any of hem use,
His boost of his benefice worth bynomen hym after.
"Shal neither kyng ne knyght, constable ne meire
Over[carke] the commune ne to the court sompne,
Ne putte hem in panel to doon hem plighte hir truthe;
But after the dede that is doon oon doom shal rewarde
Mercy or no mercy as Truthe [moste] acorde.
" Kynges court and commune court, consistorie and chapitle -
Al shal be but oon court, and oon b[ur]n be justice
That worth Trewe-tonge, a tidy man that tened me nevere.
Batailles shul none be, ne no man bere wepene,
And what smyth that any smytheth be smyte therwith to dethe!
Non levabit gens contra gentem gladium &c.
"And er this fortune falle, fynde men shul the worste,
By sixe sonnes and a ship and half a shef of arwes;
And the myddel of a moone shal make the Jewes torne,
And Sarsynes for that sighte shul synge Gloria in excelsis &c -
For Makometh and Mede myshappe shul that tyme;
For Melius est bonum nomen quam divicie multe.'
Also wroth as the wynd weex Mede in a while.
" I kan no Latyn?' quod she. "Clerkes wite the sothe!
Se what Salomon seith in Sapience bokes
That thei that yyven yiftes the victorie wynneth,
And muche worshipe have therwith, as Holy Writ telleth -
Honorem adquiret qui dat munera, &c.'
" I leve wel, lady,' quod Conscience, "that thi Latyn be trewe.
Ac thow art lik a lady that radde a lesson ones,
Was omnia probate, and that plesed hire herte -
For that lyne was no lenger at the leves ende.
Hadde she loked that other half and the leef torned,
She sholde have founden fele wordes folwynge therafter
Quod bonum est tenete - Truthe that text made.
And so [mys]ferde ye, madame - ye kouthe na moore fynde
Tho ye loked on Sapience, sittynge in youre studie.
This text that ye han told were [tidy] for lordes,
Ac yow failed a konnynge clerk that kouthe the leef han torned.
And if ye seche Sapience eft, fynde shul ye that folweth.
A ful teneful text to hem that taketh mede
And that is Animam autem aufert accipientium &c.
And that is the tail of the text of that tale ye shewed -
That theigh we wynne worshipe and with mede have victorie,
The soule that the soude taketh by so muche is bounde.-