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Then often feather'd her with wanton play,
And trod her twenty times ere prime of day :
And took by turns and gave so much delight,
Her sisters pin'd with envy at the sight.
He chuck'd again, when other corns he found,
And scarcely deign’d to set a foot to ground.
But swagger'd like a lord about his hall,
And his seven wives came running at his call.
'Twas now the month in which the world began
(If March beheld the first created man):
And since the vernal equinox, the sun,
In Aries twelve degrees, or more, had run ;
When casting up his eyes against the light,
Both month, and day, and hour, he measur'd right;
And told more truly, than th’Ephemeris :
For art may err, but nature cannot miss.
Thus numbering times and seasons in his breast, His second crowing the third hour confess’d. Then turning, said to Partlet, See, my dear, How lavish nature has adorn’d the year; How the pale primrose and blue violet spring, And birds essay their throats disus'd to fing: All these are ours ; and I with pleasure see Man strutting on two legs, and aping me : An unfledg’d creature, of a lumpish frame, Endow'd with fewer particles of Aame : Our dame sits couring o'er a kitchen fire, I draw fresh air, and nature's works admire : And ev’n this day in more delight abound, Than, since I was an egg, I ever found.
The time shall come when Chanticleer shall with
His words unsaid, and hate his boasted bliss :
The crested bird fall by experience know,
Jove made not him his master-piece below ;
And learn the latter end of joy is woe.
The vessel of his bliss to dregs is run,
And Heaven will have him taste his other tun.
Ye wise, draw near, and hearken to my tale,
Which proves that oft the proud by flattery fall:
The legend is as true I undertake
As Tristran is, and Launcelot of the lake :
Which all our ladies in such reverence hold,
As if in book of martyrs it were told.
A fox full-fraught with seeming fanctity,
That fear'd an oath, but, like the devil, would lie ;
Who look'd like Lent, and had the holy leer,
And durst not fin before he said his prayer ;
This pious cheat, that never suck'd the blood,
Nor chew'd the flesh of lambs, but when he cou'd;
Had país'd three summers in the neighbouring wood:
And musing long, whom next to circumvent,
On Chanticleer his wicked fancy bent:
And in his high imagination cast,
By stratagem to gratify his taste.
The plot contriv’d, before the break of day, Saint Reynard through the hedge had made his way , The pale was next, but proudly with a bound He leapt the fence of the forbidden ground: Yet, fearing to be seen, within a bed Of coleworts he conceal'd his wily head ;
Then sculk'd till afternoon, and watch'd his time,
(As murderers use) to perpetrate his crime. :
O hypocrite, ingenious to destroy,
O traitor, worse than Simon was to Troy ;
O vile subverter of the Gallic reign,
More false than Gano was to Charlemaign!
O Chanticleer, in an unhappy hour
Didlt thou forsake the safety of thy bower :
Better for thee thou hadít believ'd thy dream,
And not that day descended from the beam!
But here the doctors eagerly dispute :
Some hold predestination absolute:
Some clerks maintain, that Heaven at first foresees,
And in the virtue of foresight decrees.
If this be so, then prescience binds the will,
And mortals are not free to good or ill :
For what he first foresaw, he must ordain,
Or its eternal prescience may be vain :
As bad for us as prescience had not been :
For first, or last, he's author of the fin.
And who says that, let the blaspheining man
Say worse ev'n of the devil, if he can.
For how can that eternal Power be just
To punish man, who fins because he must?
Or, how can he reward a virtuous deed,
Which is not done by us; but first decreed.
I cannot bolt this matter to the bran,
As Bradwardin and holy Austin can ;
If prescience can determine actions fo
That we must do, because he did foreknow,
Or that, foreknowing, yet our choice is free,
Not forc'd to sin by strict necessity;
This strict necessity they simple call,
Another fort there is conditional.
The first fo binds the will, that things foreknown
By spontaneity, not choice, are done.
Thus galley-slaves tug willing at their oar,
Content to work, in prospect of the shore ;
But would not work at all if not constrain'd before.
That other does not liberty constrain,
But man may either act, or may refrain.
Heaven made us agents free to good or ill,
And forc'd it not, though he foresaw the will.
Freedom was first bestow'd on human race,
And prescience only held the second place.
If he could make such agents wholly free,
I not dispute, the point 's too high for me ;
For heaven's unfathom'd power what man can sound,
Or put to his omnipotence a bound ?
He made us to his image, all agree;
That image is the foul, and that inuít be,
Or not the maker's imagz, or be free.
But whether it were better man had been
By nature bound to good, not free to fin,
I wave, for fear of splitting on a rock.
The tale I tell is only of a cock;
Who had not run the hazard of his life,
Had he believ'd his dream, and not his wife :
For women, with a mischief to their kind,
Pervert, with bad advice, our better mind.
A woman's counsel brought us first to woe,
And made her man his paradise forego,
Where at heart's ease he liv'd; and might have been
As free from sorrow as he was from fin.
For what the devil had their sex to do,
That, born to folly, they presum’d to know,
And could not see the serpent in the grass ?
But I myself presuine, and let it pass.
Silence in times of suffering is the best,
'Tis dangerous to disturb an hornet’s nest.
In other authors you may find enough,
But all they say of dames is idle stuff.
Legends of lying wits together bound,
The wife of Bath would throw them to the ground;
These are the words of Chanticleer, not mine,
I honour dames, and think their sex divine,
Now to continue what my tale begun ;
Lay madam Partlet balking in the sun,
Breast-high in fand: her sisters, in a row,
Enjoy'd the beams above, the warmth below.
The cock, that of his flesh was ever free,
Sung merrier than the mermaid in the sea :
And so befel, that as he cast his eye,
Among the coleworts on a butterfly,
He saw false Reynard where he lay full low :
I need not swear he had no list to crow :
But cry'd, cock, cock, and gave a sudden start,
As fore disinay'd and frighted at his heart;
For birds and beasts, inform‘d by nature, know
Kinds opposite to theirs, and fly their foe.