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Bledinge ay at his nose in dronkenesse;
Ne I wol nat take on me so greet defame,3
Loke eek that to the king Demetrius The king of Parthes, as the book seith us,
Sente him a paire of dees of gold in scorn,
And swere in dome, and eek in rightwisnesse;"
But ydel swering is a cursednesse.
Forswering, ire, falsnesse, homicyde.
Now, for the love of Crist that for us dyde, Leveth your othes, bothe grete and smale; But, sirs, now wol I telle forth my tale. 332
Thise ryotoures three, of whiche I telle, Longe erst er pryme16 rong of any belle, Were set hem in a taverne for to drinke; 335 And as they satte, they herde a belle clinke Biforn a cors, was caried to his grave; That oon of hem gan callen to his knave, Go bet,"17 quod he, "and axe redily, What cors is this that passeth heer forby; And look that thou reporte his name wel."
"Sir," quod this boy, "it nedeth neveradel.1 18
It was me told, er ye cam heer, two houres; He was, pardee, an old felawe19 of youres; And sodeynly he was yslayn to-night, 345 For-dronke, 20 as he sat on his bench upright;
Ther cam a privee theef, men clepeth21
That in this contree al the peple sleeth,
How that the seconde heste of him is And, maister, er ye come in his presence,
I trowe his habitacioun be there;
By goddes dignitee, er it be night."
Togidres han thise three her trouthes plight,
To live and dyen ech of hem for other, 375 As though he were his owene yboren brother.
And up they sterte al dronken, in this rage, And forth they goon towardes that village, Of which the taverner had spoke biforn, And many a grisly ooth than han they 380 And Cristes blessed body they to-rente"Deeth shal be deed, if that they may him hente."7
Thou spak right now of thilke traitour Deeth,
425 That in this contree alle our frendes sleeth. Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his aspye,
Tel wher he is, or thou shalt it abye,24 By god, and by the holy sacrament! For soothly thou art oon of his assent,25 To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef!" "Now, sirs," quod he, "if that yow be so leef26
To finde Deeth, turne up this croked wey, For in that grove I lafte him, by my fey, Under a tree, and ther he wol abyde; 435 Nat for your boost28 he wol him no-thing hyde.
1 hence. 2 servant.
4 honorable. 7 seize.
10 bad luck to you.
spy. 24 rue. 27 on account of.
5 of one mind.
8 protect. 9 churl.
11 art thou. 12 wrapped up. 13 looked.
See ye that ook? right ther ye shul him finde.
God save yow, that boghte agayn mankinde,
And yow amende!"-thus seyde this olde
And everich of thise ryotoures ran, Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde
Of florins fyne of golde ycoyned rounde Wel ny an eighte1 busshels, as hem thoughte.
No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte, But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte, For that the florins been so faire and brighte, 446 That doun they sette hem by this precious hord.
The worste of hem he spak the firste word. "Brethren," quod he, "tak kepe2 what I seye;
My wit is greet, though that I bourde3 and pleye.
This tresor hath fortune un-to us yiven,
2 note of. • quickly.
7 it seems best.
This yongest, which that wente un-to the toun,
Ful ofte in herte he rolleth upa and doun 510 The beautee of thise florins newe and brighte.
"O lord!" quod he, "if so were that I mighte
Have al this tresor to my-self allone, Ther is no man that liveth under the trone1
Of god, that sholde live so mery as I!" 515 And atte laste the feend, our enemy, Putte in his thought that he shold poyson beye,2
With which he mighte sleen his felawes
A thing that, al-so god my soule save,
That he ne shal his lyf anon forlete;11
This poyson is so strong and violent." This cursed man hath in his hond yhent14
This poyson in a box, and sith he ran
1 throne. kill. 11 lose.
And whan that this was doon, thus spak that oon,
"Now lat us sitte and drinke, and make us merie,
And afterward we wol his body berie."
5 entirely. 10 amount. 14 seized.