The Canterbury tales
Geoffrey Chaucer
F.N. Robinson

The Man of Law's Prologue

O hateful harm, condicion of poverte!
With thurst, with coold, with hunger so confoundid!
To asken help thee shameth in thyn herte;
If thou noon aske, with nede artow so woundid
That verray nede unwrappeth al thy wounde hid!
Maugree thyn heed, thou most for indigence
Or stele, or begge, or borwe thy despence!
Thow blamest crist, and seist ful bitterly,
He mysdeparteth richesse temporal;
Thy neighebor thou wytest synfully,
And seist thou hast to lite, and he hath al.
0parfay, seistow, somtyme he rekene shal,
Whan that his tayl shal brennen in the gleede,
For he noght helpeth needfulle in hir neede.
Herkne what is the sentence of the wise:
Bet is to dyen than have indigence;
Thy selve neighebor wol thee despise.
If thou be povre, farwel thy reverence!
Yet of the wise man take this sentence:
Alle the dayes of povre men been wikke.
Be war, therfore, er thou come to that prikke!
If thou be povre, thy brother hateth thee,
And alle thy freendes fleen from thee, allas!
O riche marchauntz, ful of wele been yee,
O noble, o prudent folk, as in this cas!
Youre bagges been nat fild with ambes as,
But with sys cynk, that renneth for youre chaunce;
At cristemasse myrie may ye daunce!
Ye seken lond and see for yowre wynnynges;
As wise folk ye knowen al th' estaat
Of regnes; ye been fadres of tidynges
And tales, bothe of pees and of debaat.
I were right now of tales desolaat,
Nere that a marchant, goon is many a yeere,
Me taughte a tale, which that ye shal heere.