THE LAWYER’S PROLOGUE
O Hateful evil! State of Poverty!
With thirst, with cold, with hunger so confounded!
To ask help shameth thy heart’s delicacy;
If none thou ask, by need thou art so wounded
That need itself uncovereth all the wound hid!
Spite of thy will thou must, for indigence,
Go steal, or beg, or borrow thine expense.
Thou blamest Christ, and thou say’st bitterly,
He misdistributes riches temporal;
Thy neighbour dost thou censure, sinfully,
Saying thou hast too little and he hath all.
“My faith,” sayest thou, “sometime the reckoning shall
Come on him, when his tail shall burn for greed,
Not having helped the needy in their need.”
Hear now what is the judgment of the wise:
“Better to die than live in indigence;”
“Thy very pauper neighbours thee despise.”
If thou be poor, farewell thy reverence!
Still of the wise man take this full sentence:
“The days of the afflicted are all sin.”
Beware, therefore, that thou come not therein!
“If thou be poor, thy brother hateth thee,
And all thy friends will flee from thee, alas!”
O wealthy merchants, full of weal ye be,
O noble, prudent folk in happier case!
Your dice-box doth not tumble out ambsace,
But with six-cinq ye throw against your chance;
And so, at Christmas, merrily may ye dance!
Ye search all land and sea for your winnings,
And, as wise folk, ye know well the estate
Of all realms; ye are sires of happenings
And tales of peace and tales of war’s debate.
But I were now of tales all desolate,
Were ‘t not a merchant, gone this many a year,
Taught me the story which you now shall hear.
HERE ENDS THE LAWYER’S PROLOGUE
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