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That out of Rome was sent a senatour,
For to conqueren regnes and honour
Unto the toune of Home, as was usaunce,
To have the worlde at hir obeysaunce,
And sooth to seye, Antonius was his name.
So fil yt, as Fortune hym oght1 a shame,
Whanne he was fallen in prosperitee,
Rebel unto the toune of Rome ys hee.
And over al this, the suster of Cesar"
He lafte hir falsly, er that she was war,
And wold algates han another wyf,
For which he took with Rome and Cesar stryf.
Natheles, forsooth this ilke senatour,
Was a ful worthy gentil werreyour,
And of his deeth it was ful gret damage.
But Love had brought this man in swich a rage,
And him so narwe bounden in his laas,
Alle for the love of Cleopataras,
That al the worlde he sette at noo value;
Hym thoghte ther was nothing to him so due
As Cleopataras for to love and serve;
Hym roghte nat in armes for to sterve
In the defence of hir and of hir ryghte.
This noble queene ek loved so this knyghte,
Thurgh his desert and for his chivalrye,
As certeynly, but yf that bookes lye,
He was of persone, and of gentilesse,
And of discrecion, and of hardynesse,
Worthy to any wight that liven may;
And she was faire, as is the rose in May.
And to maken shortly is the beste,
She wax his wif, and hadde him as hir leste.
The weddyng and the feste to devyse,
To me that have ytake swich emprise,
Of so many a storye for to make,
Yt were to longe, lest that I sholde slake
i That is,' As Fortune owed him a shameful reverse.' 'Octavia, sister of Augustus, whom Antony repudiated to marry Cleopatra.
Of thing that beryth more effect and charge
For men may overlade a shippe or barge.
And forthy, to effect than wol I skyppe,
And al the remenaunt I wol let yt slyppe.
Octavyan, that woode was of this dedc,
Shoop him an ooste on Antony to lede,
Al outerly for his distruccion,
With stoute Romaynes, crewel as lyon;
To shippe they wente, and thus I let hem sayle.
Antonius, that was war, and wol nat fayle
To meten with thise Romaynes, yf he may,
Took eke his rede, and booth upon a day
His wyf and he and al hys oost forthe went
To shippe anoon, no lenger they ne stent,
And in the see hit happed hem to mete.
Up gooth the trumpe, and for to shoute and shete,
And paynen hem to sette on with the sonne;
With grisly soun out gooth the grete gonne,1
And hertely they hurtelen al attones,
And fro the toppe doune cometh the grete stones.
In gooth the grapenel so ful of crokes,
Amonge the ropes, and the sheryng hokes;
In with the polax preseth he and he;
Byhynde the maste begynneth he to fle,
And out agayne, and dryveth hym over borde;
He styngeth hym upon hys speres orde;
He rent2 the sayle with hokes lyke a sithe;
He bryngeth the cuppe, and biddeth hem be blit.
He poureth pesen4 upon the hacches slidre,
With pottes ful of lyme,5 they goon togedre.
1 A ludicrous anachronism.
2 The third pers. sing, pres. indie, of to rende. The other form, used indifferently, is rendeth.
3 One is represented as going for drink to refresh the combatants.
* Slider is here an adjective, meaning slippery. Another sailor ponrs pease or peesen, a form still used in Norfolk and Suffolk, the usual food of mariners, upon the hatches to make them slippery, that the enemy might not be able to board the vessel.
5 Probably quick lime, to set fire to the vessel.
And thus the longe day in fight they spende
Til at the last, as every thing hath ende,
Antony is shent, and put ys to the flyght,
And al hys folke to-goo, that best goo myght
Fleeth ek the quene with al hir purpre sayle,
For strokes which that went as thik as hayle;
No wonder was, she myght it nat endure.
And whan that Antony saugh that aventure,
'Alas,' quod he, 'the day that I was borne!
My worshippe in this day thus have I lorne!'
And for dispeyre out of hys wytte he sterte,
And roof hymselfe anoon thurghout the herte,
Er that he ferther went out of the place.1
Hys wyf, that koude of Cesar have no grace,
To Egipte is fled, for drede and for distresse.
But herkeneth ye that speken of kyndenesse.
Ye men that falsly sweren many an oothe,
That ye wol dye yf that your love be wroothe,
Here may ye seene of women which a trouthe.
This woful Cleopatra had made swich routhe,
That ther nys tonge noon that may yt telle.
But on the morwe she wol no lenger dwelle,
But made hir subtil werkmen make a shryne
Of alle the rubees and the stones fyne
In al Egipte that she koude espye;
And put ful the shryne of spicerye,
And let the corps enbawme; and forth she fette
This dede corps, and in the shryne yt shette.
And next the shryne a pitte than dooth she grave,
And all the serpentes that she myghte have,
She put hem in that grave, and thus she seyde:—
'Now, love, to whom my sorweful herte obeyde,
So ferforthely, that fro that blysf'ul houre
That I yow swor to ben al frely youre;
1 This is historically incorrect. When the queen's galleys fled at the battle of Actium, Antony followed her to Egypt; and it was not until his allies had all deserted him that he stabbed himself.
(I mene yow, Antonius, my knyght,)
That never wakyng in the day or nyght.
Ye nere out of myn hertes retnembraunce,
For wele or woo, for carole, or for daunce;
And in my self this covenaunt made I thoo,
That ryght swich as ye felten wele or woo,
As ferforth as yt in my powere laye,
Unreprovable unto my wifhood aye,
The same wolde I felen, life or dethe;
And thilke covenaunt while me lasteth brethe
I woll fulfille; and that shal wel be seene,
Was never unto hir love a trewer queene.'
And wyth that worde, naked, with ful good herte,
Amonge the serpents in the pit she sterte.
And ther she ehees to han hir buryinge.
Anoon the neddres gonne hir for to stynge,
And she hir deeth receveth with good chere,
For love of Antony that was hir so dere.
And this is storial, sooth it ys no fable.
Now er I fynd a man thus trewe and stable,
And wolde for love his deeth so frely take,
I preye God lat oure hedes nevere ake!
EXPLICIT LEGENDA CLEOPATRE MARTYRIS.
INCIPIT LEGENDA TESBE BABILON, MARTIRIS-1
A T Babiloyne whylome fil it thus,
A* The whiche toune the queene Simyramus
Leet dichen al about, and walles make
Ful hye, of harde tiles wel ybake:
Ther were dwellynge in this noble toune,
Two lordes, which that were of grete renoune,
And woneden so neigh upon a grene,
That ther nas but a stoon wal hem betwene,
As ofte in grette tounes ys the wone. u-.iL'^ .
And sooth to seyne, that o man had a sone,
Of al that londe oon the lustieste;
That other had a doghtre, the faireste
That esteward in the worlde was tho dwellynge.
The name of everyche gan to other sprynge,
By wommen that were neygheboi'es aboute:
For in that countre yit, wythouten doute,
Maydenes ben ykept for jelousye
Ful streyte, leste they diden somme folye.
This yonge man was cleped Piramus,
Tesbe hight the maide, (Naso1 seith thus).
And thus by reporte was hir name yshove,
That as they woxe in age, wax hir love.
And certeyne, as by reson of hir age,
Ther myghte have ben betwex hem mariage,
But that hir fadres nolde yt not assente,
And booth in love ylike soore they brente,
That noon of al hir frendes myghte yt lette.
But prevely sommetyme yit they mette
Be sleight, and spoken somme of hir desire,
As wrie the glede and hotter is the fire ;2
N Forbeede a love, and it is ten times so woode.
This wal, which that bitwixe hem bothe stoode,
Was cloven atwoo, right fro the toppe adoune,
Of olde tyme, of his foundacioun.
But yit this clyft was so narwe and lite
Yt was nat seene, deere ynough a myte;
But what is that that love kannot espye?.
Ye lovers twoo, yf that I shal nat lye,
Ye founden first this litel narwe clifte,
And with a soune as softe as any shryfte,"
1 Publius Ovidius Naso. 3 That Is,' Since, if you cover up the firebrand, [scil. with ashes,] the fire throws out all the more heat.' 3 That is,' A voice as low as that with which one utters his confes