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From The Monk's Tale, lines 519-574:
De Hugelino Comite de Pize
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From The Canterbury Tales:
The Monk's Tale
lines 575-662: Nero


Nero

575        Al though that Nero were vicius
As any feend that lith in helle adoun,
Yet he, as telleth us Swetonius,
This wyde world hadde in subjeccioun,
Bothe Est and West, South and Septemtrioun;
580Of rubies, saphires, and of peerles white
Were alle hise clothes brouded up and doun,
For he in gemmes greetly gan delite.
575       Though viciousness had Nero in overplus,
As ever fiend that's low in torment thrown.
Yet he, as tells us old Suetonius,
This whole wide world held subject; aye, did own,
East, west, south, north, wherever Rome was known.
580Of rubies, sapphires, and of great pearls white
Were all his garments broidered up and down,
For he in jewels greatly did delight.

Moore delicaat, moore pompous of array,
Moore proud was nevere emperour than he.
585That ilke clooth that he hadde wered o day,
After that tyme he nolde it nevere see.
Nettes of gold-threed hadde he greet plentee,
To fisshe in Tybre, whan hym liste pleye.
His lustes were al lawe in his decree,
590For Fortune as his freend hym wolde obeye.
More delicate, more pompous of array,
More proud was never emperor than he;
585That toga which he wore on any day,
After that time he nevermore would see.
Nets of gold thread he had in great plenty
To fish in Tiber when he pleased to play.
His lusts were all the laws in his decree,
590For Fortune was his friend and would obey.

He Rome brende for his delicasie;
The senatours he slow upon a day,
To heere how men wolde wepe and crie;
And slow his brother, and by his suster lay.
595His mooder made he in pitous array,
For he hir wombe slitte, to biholde
Wher he conceyved was, so weilaway
That he so litel of his mooder tolde!
He burned Rome for his delicate profligacy;
Some senators he slew upon a day
Only to learn how men might weep and cry;
He killed his brother and with his sister lay.
595His mother put he into piteous way,
For he her belly ripped up just to see
Where he had been conceived; alack-a-day,
That but so little for her life cared he!

No teere out of hise eyen for that sighte
600Ne cam; but seyde, "A fair womman was she."
Greet wonder is how that he koude or myghte
Be domesman of hir dede beautee.
The wyn to bryngen hym comanded he,
And drank anon; noon oother wo he made,
605Whan myght is joyned unto crueltee,
Allas, to depe wol the venym wade!
No tear out of his two eyes for that sight
600Came, but he said: "A woman fair was she."
Great wonder is it how he could or might
Pass judgment thus upon her dead beauty.
Wine to be brought him then commanded he
And drank straightway; no other sign he made.
605When power is combined with cruelty,
Alas, too deep its venom will pervade!

In yowthe a maister hadde this emperour
To techen hym lettrure and curteisye,
For of moralitee he was the flour,
610As in his tyme, but if bookes lye.
And whil this maister hadde of hym maistrye,
He maked hym so konnyng and so sowple,
That longe tyme it was, er tirannye
Or any vice dorste on hym uncowple.
A master had, in youth, this emperor,
To teach him letters and all courtesy,
For of morality he was the flower
610In his own time, unless the old books lie;
And while this master held his mastery,
So well he taught him wiles and subtle ways
That before could tempt him vice or tyranny
Was, it is said, the length of many days.

615 This Seneca, of which that I devyse
By cause Nero hadde of hym swich drede,
For he fro vices wolde hym chastise
Discreetly as by word, and nat by dede -
"Sire," wolde he seyn, "an emperour moot nede
620Be vertuous and hate tirannye."-
For which he in a bath made hym to blede
On bothe hise armes, til he moste dye.
615This Seneca, of whom I do apprise,
By reason Nero held him in such dread,
Since he for vices spared not to chastise,
Discreetly, though, by word and not by deed-
"Sir," would he say, "an emperor must need
620Be virtuous and hate all tyranny"-
For which, in bath, did Nero make him bleed
From both his arms until he had to die.

This Nero hadde eek of acustumaunce
In youthe agayns his maister for to ryse,
625Which afterward hym thoughte greet grevaunce;
Therefore he made hym dyen in this wise,
But nathelees, this Seneca the wise
Chees in a bath to dye in this manere,
Rather than han anoother tormentise,
630And thus hath Nero slayn his maister deere.
This Nero had, though, out of arrogance,
Been wont, in youth, against the rod to rise,
625Which afterward he thought a great grievance;
Wherefore he made him perish in this wise.
Nevertheless, this Seneca the wise
Chose in a bath to die, as you did hear,
Rather than suffer in some other guise;
630And thus did Nero slay his master dear.

Now fil it so, that Fortune liste no lenger
The hye pryde of Nero to cherice;
For though that he was strong, yet was she strenger;
She thoughte thus, "By God, I am to nyce
635To sette a man that is fulfild of vice
In heigh degree, and emperour hym calle.
By God, out of his sete I wol hym trice,
Whan he leest weneth, sonnest shal he falle."
Now it befell that Fortune cared no longer
To Nero's high pride to be accomplice;
For though he might be strong, yet she was stronger;
She thought thus: "By God, I am none too nice,
635Setting a man who is but filled with vice
In high degree, emperor over all.
By God, up from his seat I will him trice;
When he least thinks of it, then shall he fall."

The peple roos upon hym on a nyght
640For his defaute, and whan he it espied
Out of hise dores anoon he hath hym dight
Allone, and ther he wende han been allied
He knokked faste, and ay the moore he cried,
The fastere shette they the dores alle.
645For drede of this hym thoughte that he dyed,
And wente his wey; no lenger dorste he calle.
The people rose against him, on a night,
640For all his faults; and when he it espied,
Out of the doors he went and took to flight
Alone; and where he thought he was allied
He knocked; but always, and the more he cried
The faster did they bar the doors, aye all;
645Then learned he well he'd been his own worst guide,
And went his way, nor longer dared to call.

The peple cride, and rombled up and doun,
That with his erys herde he how they seyde,
"Where is this false tiraunt, this Neroun?"
650For fere almoost out of his wit he breyde,
And to his goddes pitously he preyde
For socour, but it myghte nat bityde.
For drede of this hym thoughte that he deyde,
And ran into a gardyn hym to hyde.
The people cried and rumbled up and down,
And, having ears, he heard the thing they said:
"Where's this false tyrant Nero, where's he flown?"
650For fear almost out of his wits he strayed,
And to his gods, then, piously he prayed
For succour, but no help might him betide.
For fear of this he wished himself unmade,
And ran into a garden, there to hide.

655And in this gardyn foond he cherles tweye,
That seten by a fyr greet and reed,
And to thise cherles two he gan to preye
To sleen hym and to girden of his heed,
That to his body whan that he were deed
660Were no despit ydoon, for his defame.
Hymself he slow, he koude no bettre reed,
Of which Fortune lough and hadde a game.
655And in this garden were two fellows, yea,
Who sat before a great fire and a red,
And to those fellows he began to pray
That they would slay him and strike off his head,
But of his body, after he was dead,
660They should do nothing to its further shame.
Himself he slew, no better counsel sped,
Whereat Dame Fortune laughed and made a game.




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From The Monk's Tale, lines 663-686:
De Oloferno
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