William Langland's The vision of Piers Plowman
William Langland

Passus 14

"I have but oon hool hater,' quod Haukyn, "1 am the lasse to blame
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Though it be soiled and selde clene--I slepe therinne o nyghtes;
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And also I have an houswif, hewen and children--
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Uxorem duxi, et ideo non possum venire--
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That wollen bymolen it many tyme, maugree my chekes. Page  163
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It hath be laved in Lente and out of Lente bothe
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With the sope of siknesse, that seketh wonder depe,
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And with the losse of catel, that looth me w[ere]
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For to agulte God or any good man, by aught that I wiste;
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And was shryven of the preest, that [for my synnes gaf me]
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To penaunce, pacience, and povere men to fede,
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Al for coveitise of my Cristendom in clennesse to kepen it.
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And kouthe I nevere, by Crist! kepen it clene an houre,
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That I ne soiled it with sighte or som ydel speche,
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Or thorugh werk or thorugh word, or wille of myn herte,
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That I ne flobre it foule fro morwe til even.'
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"And I shal kenne thee,' quod Conscience, "of Contricion to make
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That shal clawe thi cote of alle kynnes filthe--
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Cordis contricio &c;
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Dowel shal wasshen it and wryngen it thorugh a wis confessour--
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Oris confessio &c;
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Dobet shal beten it and bouken it as bright as any scarlet,
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And engreynen it with good wille and Goddes grace to amende the,
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And sithen sende thee to Satisfaccion for to sonnen it after:
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Satisfaccio.
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"And Dobest kepe[th] clene from unkynde werkes.
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Shal nevere my[te] bymolen it, ne mothe after biten it,
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Ne fend ne fals man defoulen it in thi lyve.
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Shal noon heraud ne harpour have a fairer garnement
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Than Haukyn the Actif man, and thow do by my techyng,
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Ne no mynstrall be moore worth amonges povere and riche
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Than Haukyn wi[l] the wafrer, which is Activa Vita.'
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"And I shal purveie thee paast,' quod Pacience, "though no plough erye,
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And flour to fede folk with as best be for the soule;
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Though nevere greyn growed, ne grape upon vyne,
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Alle that lyveth and loketh liflode wolde I fynde,
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And that ynogh--shal noon faille of thyng that hem nedeth. Page  164
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We sholde noght be to bisy abouten oure liflode:
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Ne soliciti sitis &c; Volucres celi Deus pascit &c; Pacientes vincunt &c;
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Thanne laughed Haukyn a litel, and lightly gan swerye,
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"Whoso leveth yow, by Oure Lord, I leve noght he be blessed!'
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"No?' quod Pacience paciently, and out of his poke hente
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Vitailles of grete vertues for alle manere beestes,
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And seide, " Lo! here liflode ynogh, if oure bileve be trewe.
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For lent nevere was lif but liflode were shapen,
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Wherof or wherfore or wherby to libbe.
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" First the wilde worm under weet erthe,
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Fissh to lyve in the flood, and in the fir the criket,
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The corlew by kynde of the eyr, moost clennest flessh of briddes,
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And bestes by gras and by greyn and by grene rootes,
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In menynge that alle men myghte the same
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Lyve thorugh leel bileve and love, as God witnesseth:
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Quodcumque pecieritis a patre in nomine meo &c; Et alibi, Non
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in solo pane vivit homo, set in omni verbo, quod procedit de ore Dei;'
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But I lokede what liflode it was that Pacience so preisede;
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And thanne was it a pece of the Paternoster-- Fiat voluntas tua.
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"Have, Haukyn,' quod Pacience, "and et this whan the hungreth,
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Or whan thow clomsest for cold or clyngest for droughte;
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And shul nevere gyves thee greve ne gret lordes wrathe,
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Aison ne peyne--for pacientes vincunt.
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By so that thow be sobre of sighte and of tonge,
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In [ond]ynge and in handlynge and in alle thi fyve wittes,
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Darstow nevere care for corn ne lynnen cloth ne wollen,
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Ne for drynke, ne deeth drede, but deye as God liketh,
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Or thorugh hunger or thorugh hete--at his wille be it.
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For if thow lyvest after his loore, the shorter lif the bettre:
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Si quis amat Christum mundum non diligit istum.Page  165
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"For thorugh his breeth beestes woxen and abrood yeden:
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Dixit et facta sunt, &c.
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Ergo thorugh his breeth mowen [bothe] men and beestes lyven,
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As Holy Writ witnesseth whan men seye hir graces:
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*Aperis tu manum tuam, et imples omne animal benediccione.
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"It is founden that fourty wynter folk lyvede withouten tulying,
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And out of the flynt sprong the flood that folk and beestes dronken;
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And in Elyes tyme hevene was yclosed,
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That no reyn ne roon--thus rede men in bokes,
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That manye wyntres men lyveden and no mete ne tulieden.
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"Sevene slepe, as seith the book, sevene hundred wynter,
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And lyveden withouten lifiode--and at the laste thei woken.
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And if men lyvede as mesure wolde, sholde nevere moore be defaute
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Amonges Cristene creatures, if Cristes wordes ben trewe.
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Ac unkyndenesse caristiam maketh amonges Cristen peple,
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And over-plentee maketh pryde amonges poore and riche;
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Ac mesure is so muche worth it may noght be to deere;
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For the meschief and the meschaunce amonges men of Sodome
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Weex thorugh plentee of payn and of pure sleuthe:
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Ociositas et habundancia panis peccatum turpissimum nutrivit.
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For thei mesured noght hemself of that thei ete and dronke,
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Diden dedly synne that the devel liked,
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Vengeaunce fil upon hem for hir vile synnes;
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[So] thei sonken into helle, the citees echone.
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" Forthi mesure we us wel and make oure feith oure sheltrom;
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And thorugh feith cometh contricion, conscience woot wel,
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Which dryveth awey dedly synne and dooth it to be venial.
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And though a man myghte noght speke, contricion myghte hym save, Page  166
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And brynge his soule to blisse, by so that feith bere witnesse
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That whiles he lyvede he bilevede in the loore of Holy Chirche.
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Ergo contricion, feith and conscience is kyndeliche Dowel,
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And surgiens for dedly synnes whan shrift of mouthe failleth.
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Ac shrift of mouth moore worthi is, if man be ynliche contrit,
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For shrift of mouthe sleeth synne be it never so dedly--
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Per confessionem to a preest peccata occiduntur--
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Ther contricion dooth but dryveth it doun into a venial synne,
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As David seith in the Sauter, et quorum tecta sunt peccata.
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Ac satisfaccion seketh out the roote, and bothe sleeth and voideth,
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And as it nevere [n]adde ybe, to noghte bryngeth dedly synne,
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That it nevere eft is sene ne soor, but semeth a wounde yheeled.'
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"Where wonyeth Charite?' quod Haukyn. "I wiste nevere in my lyve
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Man that with hym spak, as wide as I have passed.'
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"Ther parfit truthe and poore herte is, and pacience of tonge--
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There is Chante the chief, chaumbrere for God hymselve.'
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"Wheither paciente poverte,' quod Haukyn, "be moore plesaunt to Oure Dright
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Than richesse rightfulliche wonne and resonably despended?'
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" Ye--quis est ilie?' quod Pacience, " quik--laudabimus eum !
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Though men rede of richesse right to the worldes ende,
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I wiste nevere renk that riche was, that whan he rekene sholde,
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Whan he drogh to his deeth day, that he ne dredde hym soore,
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And that at the rekenyng in arrerage fel, rather than out of dette.
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Ther the poore dar plede, and preve by pure reson
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To have allowaunce of his lord; by the lawe he it cleymeth:
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Joye, that nevere joye hadde, of rightful jugge he asketh,
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And seith, ""Lo! briddes and beestes, that no blisse ne knoweth,
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And wilde wormes in wodes, thorugh wyntres thow hem grevest,
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And makest hem wel neigh meke and mylde fer defaute,
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And after thew sedet hem somer, that is hir soveyn joye, Page  167
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And blisse to alle that ben, bothe wilde and tame.'
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"Thanne may boggeris, as beestes, after boote waiten,
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That al hir lif han lyved in langour and in defaute.
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But God sente hem som tyme som manere joye
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Outher here or elliswhere, kynde wolde it nevere;
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For to wrotherhele was he wroght that nevere was joye shapen!
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"Aungeles that in helle now ben hadden joye som tyme,
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And Dives in deyntees lyvede and in douce vie;
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Right so reson sheweth that tho men that [riche were]
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And hir makes also lyvede hir lif in murthe.
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"Ac God is of a wonder wille, by that kynde wit sheweth,
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To yyve many men his mercymonye er he it have deserved.
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Right so fareth God by some riche: ruthe me it thynketh--
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For thei han hir hire heer, and hevene, as it were,
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And greet likynge to lyve withouten labour of bodye,
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And whan he dyeth, ben disalowed, as David seith in the Sauter:
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Dormierunt et nichil in venerunt; et alibi, Velud sompnum surgencium,
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Domine, in civitate tua, et ad nichilum rediges &c.
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Allas, that richesse shal reve and robbe mannes soule
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From the love of Oure Lord at his laste ende!
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" Hewen that han hir hire afore arn everemoore nedy;
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And selden deyeth he out of dette that dyneth er he deserve it
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And til he have doon his devoir and his dayes journee.
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For whan a werkman hath wroght, than may men se the sothe--
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What he were worthi for his werk, and what he hath deserved,
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And noght to fonge bifore, for drede of disalowyng.
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"So I seye by yow riche--it semeth noght that ye shulle
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Have hevene in youre here-beyng and hevene therafter, Page  168
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Right as a servaunt taketh his salarie bifore, and siththe wolde clayme moore,
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As he that noon hadde, and hath hire at the laste.
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It may noght be, ye riche men, or Mathew on God lyeth:
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De deliciis ad delicias aifficile est transire !
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"Ac if ye riche have ruthe, and rewarde wel the poore,
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And lyven as lawe techeth, doon leaute to hem alle,
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Crist of his curteisie shal conforte yow at the laste
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And rewarden alle double richesse that rewful hertes habbeth.
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And as an hyne that hadde his hire er he bigonne,
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And whan he hath doon his devoir wel, men dooth hym oother bountee--
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Yyveth hym a cote above his covenaunt--right so Crist yyveth hevene
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Bothe to riche and to noght riche that rewfulliche libbeth;
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And alle that doon hir devoir wel han double hire for hir travaille--
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Here forgifnesse of hir synnes, and hevene blisse after.
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"Ac it is but selde yseien, as by holy seintes bokes,
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That God rewarded double reste to any riche wye.
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For muche murthe is amonges riche, as in mete and clothyng,
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And muche murthe in May is amonges wilde beestes,
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And so forth while somer lasteth hir solace dureth.
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Ac beggeris aboute Midsomer bredlees thei soupe,
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And yet is wynter for hem worse, for weetshoed thei gauge,
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Afurst soore and afyngred, and foule yrebuked
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And arated of riche men, that ruthe is to here . . .
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Now, Lord, sende hem somer, and som maner joye,
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Hevene after hir hennes goyng, that here han swich defaute!
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For alle myghtestow have maad noon mener than oother,
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And yliche witty and wise, if thee wel hadde liked.
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And have ruthe on thise riche men that rewarde noght thi prisoners;
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Of the good that thow hem gyvest ingrati ben manye;
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Ac God, of thi goodnesse, gyve hem grace to amende.
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For may no derthe be hem deere, droghte ne weet,
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Ne neither hete ne hayll, have thei hir heele;
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Of that thei wilne and wolde wanteth hem noght here.
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"Ac poore peple, thi prisoners, Lord, in the put of meschief-- Page  169
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Conforte tho creatures that muche care suffren
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Thorugh derthe, thorugh droghte, alle hir dayes here,
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Wo in wynter tymes for wantynge of clothes,
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And in somer tyme selde soupen to the fulle;
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Conforte thi carefulle, Crist, in thi riche--
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For how thow confortest alle creatures clerkes bereth witnesse:
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Convertimini ad mi et salvi eritis.
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"Thus in genere of gentries Jesu Crist seide
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To robberis and to reveris, to riche and to poore,
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To hores, to harlotes, to alle maner peple,
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Thou taughtest hem in the Trinite to taken bapteme
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And be clene thorugh that cristnyng of alle kynnes synne,
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And if us fille thorugh folie to falle in synne after,
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Confession and knowlichynge and cravynge thi mercy
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Shulde amenden us as manye sithes as man wolde desire.
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Ac if the pouke wolde plede herayein, and punysshe us in conscience,
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We sholde take the acquitaunce as quyk and to the queed shewen it--
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Pateat &c: Per passionem Domini--
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And putten of so the pouke, and preven us under borwe.
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Ac the parchemyn of this patente of poverte be moste,
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And of pure pacience and parfit bileve.
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Of pompe and of pride the parchemyn decourreth,
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And principalliche of alle peple; but thei be poore of herte.
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Ellis is al on ydel, al that evere we wr[ogh]ten--
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Paternostres and penaunce and pilgrimage to Rome, Page  170
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But oure spences and spendynge sprynge of a trewe welle;
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Ellis is al oure labour lost--lo, how men writeth
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ln fenestres at the freres!--if fals be the foundement.
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Forthi Cristene sholde be in commune riche, noon coveitous for hymselve.
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" For sevene synnes ther ben, that assaillen us evere;
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The fend folweth hem alle and fondeth hem to helpe,
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Ac with richesse tho ribaudes rathest men bigileth.
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For ther that richesse regneth, reverences folweth,
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And that is plesaunt to pride, in poore and in riche.
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And the riche is reverenced by reson of his richesse
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Ther the poore is put bihynde, and paraventure kan moore
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Of wit and of wisdom, that fer awey is bettre
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Than richesse or reautee, and rather yherd in hevene.
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For the riche hath muche to rekene, and right softe walketh;
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The heighe wey to heveneward ofte richesse letteth--
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Ita inpossibile diviti &c--
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Ther the poore preesseth bifore, with a pak at his rugge--
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Opera enim iilorum sequuntur illos--
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Batauntliche, as beggeris doon, and boldeliche he craveth
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For his poverte and his pacience a perpetuel blisse:
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Beati pauperes: quoniam ipsorum est regnum celorum.
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"And pride in richesse regneth rather than in poverte:
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Or in the maister or in the man som mansion he haveth.
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Ac in poverte ther pacience is, Pride hath no mygte,
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Ne none of the sevene synnes sitten ne mowe ther longe,
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Ne have power in poverte, if pacience it folwe.
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For the poore is ay prest to plese the riche, Page  171
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And buxom at his biddyng for his broke loves;
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And buxomnesse and boost ben everemoore at werre,
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And either hateth oother in alle maner werkes.
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If Wrathe wrastle with the poore he hath the worse ende,
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For if thei bothe pleyne, the poore is but feble,
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And if he chide or chatre, hym cheveth the worse,
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For lowliche he loketh and lovelich is his speche
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That mete or money of othere men moot asken.
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"And if Glotonie greve poverte, he gadereth the lasse.
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For his rentes wol naught reche no riche metes to bigge;
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And though his glotonye be to good ale, he goth to cold beddyng,
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And his heved unheled, unesiliche ywrye--
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For whan he streyneth hym to strecche, the strawe is his shetes.
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So for his Glotome and his greete Sleuthe he hath a grevous penaunce,
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That is welawo whan he waketh and wepeth for colde--
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And som tyme for his synnes--so he is nevere murie
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Withoute mournynge amonge and meschief to bote.
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"And though Coveitise wolde cacche the poore, thei may noght come togideres
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And by the nekke, namely, hir noon may hente oother.
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For men knowen wel that Coveitise is of a kene wille,
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And hath hondes and armes of a long lengthe,
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And Poverte nys but a petit thyng, apereth noght to his navele--
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And lovely layk was it nevere bitwene the longe and the shorte.
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And though Avarice wolde angre the poore, he hath but litel myghte,
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Fer Poverte hath but pokes to putten in hise goodes, Page  172
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Ther Avarice hath almaries and yren-bounden cofres.
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And wheither be lighter to breke? Lasse boost it maketh--
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A beggeris baggethan an yren-bounde cofre !
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" Lecherie loveth hym noght, for he yyveth but litel silver,
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Ne dooth hym noght dyne delicatly ne drynke wyn ofte.
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A straw for the stuwes! lt stoode noght, I trowe,
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Hadde thei noon [haunt] but of poore men--hir houses stoode untyled!
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"And though Sleuthe suwe Poverte, and serve noght God to paie,
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Meschief is his maister, and maketh hym to thynke
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That God is his grettest help and no gorne ellis,
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And he his servaunt, as he seith, and of his sute bothe.
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And wheither he be or be noght, he bereth the signe of poverte,
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And in that secte Oure Saveour saved al mankynde.
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Forthi al poore that pacient is, may [asken and cleymen],
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After hir endynge here, heveneriche blisse.
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"Muche hardier may he asken, that here myghte have his wille
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In lond and in lordshipe and likynge of bodie,
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And for Goddes love leveth al and lyveth as a beggere.
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And as a mayde for mannes love hire moder forsaketh,
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Hir fader and alle hire frendes, and folweth hir make--
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Muche is that maide to love of [a man] that swich oon taketh,
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Moore than a maiden is that is maried thorugh brocage,
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As by assent of sondry parties and silver to boote,
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Moore for coveitise of good than kynde love of bothe--
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So it fareth by ech a persone that possession forsaketh
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And put hym to be pacient, and poverte weddeth, Page  173
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The which is sib to God hymself, and so neigh is poverte.'
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"Have God-my trouthe,' quod Haukyn, "l here ye preise faste poverte.
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What is poverte, Pacience,' quod he, "proprely to mene?'
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" Paupertas.' quod Pacience, " est odibile bonum--
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Remocio curarum, possessio sine calumpnia, donum Dei,
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sanitatis mater, absque sollicitudine semita, sapiencie
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temperatrix, negocium sine dampno, incerta fortuna,
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absque sollicitudine felicitas.'
     14.275
"I kan noght construe al this,' quod Haukyn, "ye moste kenne me this on Englis
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" In Englissh,' quod Pacience, "it is wel hard, wel to expounen,
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Ac somdeel I shal seyen it, by so thow understonde.
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Poverte is the firste point that Pride moost hateth;
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Thanne is it good by good skile--al that agasteth pride.
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Right as contricion is confortable thyng, conseience woot wel,
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And a sorwe of hymself, and a solace to the soule,
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So poverte propreliche penaunce [is to the body
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And joye also to the soule], pure spiritual helthe,
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And contricion confort, and cura animarum:
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Ergo paupertas est odibile bonum.
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"Selde sit poverte the sothe to declare,
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Or as justice to jugge men enjoyned is no poore,
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Ne to be mair above men, ne mynystre under kynges; Page  174
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Selde is any poore yput to punysshen any peple;
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Remocio curarum.
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Ergo poverte and poore men parfournen the comaundement-- Page  121
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Nolite iudicare quemquam.
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"Selde is poore right riche but of rightful heritage:
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Wynneth he noght with wightes false ne with unseled mesures,
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Ne borweth of hise neighebores but that he may wel paie:
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Possessio sine calumpnia.
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"The ferthe is afor-tune that florissheth the soule
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With sobretee fram alle synne and also yit moore;
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It afaiteth the flessh fram folies ful manye--
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A collateral confort, Cristes owene yifte:
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Donum Dei.
     14.297
"The fifte is moder of [myght and of mannes] hele,
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A frend in alle fondynges, [of foule yveles leche],
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And for the lewde evere yliche a lemman of alle clennesse:
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Sanitatis mater.
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"The sixte is a path of pees--ye, thorugh the paas of Aulton
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Poverte myghte passe withouten peril of robbyng!
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For ther that Poverte passeth pees folweth after,
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And ever the lasse that he [led]eth, the [light]er he is of herte--
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Cantabit paupertas coram latrone viator--
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And an hardy man of herte among an heep of theves;
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Forthi seith Seneca Paupertas est absque sollicitudine semita.
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"The seventhe is welle of wisedorn and fewe wordes sheweth,
     14.307
For lordes alloweth hym litel or listneth to his reson.
     14.308
He tempreth the tonge to trutheward, that no tresor coveiteth:
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Sapiencie temperatrix.
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"The eightethe is a lele labour and looth to take moore Page  175
     14.310
Than he may [sothly] deserve, in somer or in wynter,
     14.311
And if he chaffareth, he chargeth no losse mowe he charite wynne:
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Negocium sine dampno.
     14.312
"The nynthe is swete to the soule, no sugre is swetter;
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For pacience is payn for poverte hymselve,
     14.314
And sobretee swete drynke and good leche in siknesse.
     14.315
Thus lered me a lered man for Oure Lordes love, Seint Austyn--
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A blessed lif withouten bisynesse for body and for soule:
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Absque sollicitudine feiicitas.
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Now God, that alle good gyveth, graunte his soule reste
     14.318
That thus first wroot to wissen men what Poverte was to mene!'
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"Allas,' quod Haukyn the Actif Man tho, "that after my cristendom
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I ne hadde be deed and dolven for Dowelis sake!
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So hard it is,' quod Haukyn, "to lyve and to do synne.
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Synne seweth us evere,' quod he, and sory gan wexe,
     14.323
And wepte water with hise eighen and weyled the tyme
     14.324
That evere he dide dede that deere God displesed--
     14.325
Swouned and sobbed and siked ful ofte
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That evere he hadde lond or lordshipe, lasse other moore,
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Or maistrie over any man mo than of hymselve..
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" I were noght worthi, woot God,' quod Haukyn, " to werien any clothes,
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Ne neither sherte ne shoon, save for shame one
     14.330
To covere my careyne', quod he, and cride mercy faste,
     14.331
And wepte and wailede--and therwith I awakede.
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