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IX. THE FORMER AGE.

A blisful lyf, a paisible and a swete
Ledden the peples in the former age;
They helde hem payed of fruites, that they ete,
Which that the feldes yave hem by usage;
They ne were nat forpampred with outrage;       5
Unknowen was the quern and eek the melle;
They eten mast, hawes, and swich pounage,
And dronken water of the colde welle.

Yit nas the ground nat wounded with the plough,
But corn up-sprong, unsowe of mannes hond,       10
The which they gniden, and eete nat half y-nough
No man yit knew the forwes of his lond;
No man the fyr out of the flint yit fond;
Un-korven and un-grobbed lay the vyne;
No man yit in the morter spyces grond       15
To clarre, ne to sause of galantyne.

No mader, welde, or wood no litestere
Ne knew; the flees was of his former hewe;
No flesh ne wiste offence of egge or spere;
No coyn ne knew man which was fals or trewe;       20

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No ship yit karf the wawes grene and blewe;
No marchaunt yit ne fette outlandish ware;
No trompes for the werres folk ne knewe,
No toures heye, and walles rounde or square.

What sholde it han avayled to werreye?       25
Ther lay no profit, ther was no richesse,
But cursed was the tyme, I dar wel seye,
That men first dide hir swety bysinesse
To grobbe up metal, lurkinge in darknesse,
And in the riveres first gemmes soghte.       30
Allas! than sprong up al the cursednesse
Of covetyse, that first our sorwe broghte!

Thise tyraunts putte hem gladly nat in pres,
No wildnesse, ne no busshes for to winne
Ther poverte is, as seith Diogenes,       35
Ther as vitaile is eek so skars and thinne
That noght but mast or apples is ther-inne.
But, ther as bagges been and fat vitaile,
Ther wol they gon, and spare for no sinne
With al hir ost the cite for tassaile.       40

Yit were no paleis-chaumbres, ne non halles;
In caves and [in] wodes softe and swete
Slepten this blissed folk with-oute walles,
On gras or leves in parfit quiete.
No doun of fetheres, ne no bleched shete       45
Was kid to hem, but in seurtee they slepte;
Hir hertes were al oon, with-oute galles,
Everich of hem his feith to other kepte.

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Unforged was the hauberk and the plate;
The lambish peple, voyd of alle vyce,       50
Hadden no fantasye to debate,
But ech of hem wolde other wel cheryce;
No pryde, non envye, non avaryce,
No lord, no taylage by no tyrannye;
Humblesse and pees, good feith, the emperice,       55
[Fulfilled erthe of olde curtesye.]

Yit was not Iupiter the likerous,
That first was fader of delicacye,
Come in this world; ne Nembrot, desirous
To reynen, had nat maad his toures hye.       60
Allas, allas! now may men wepe and crye!
For in our dayes nis but covetyse
[And] doublenesse, and tresoun and envye,
Poysoun, manslauhtre, and mordre in sondry wyse.       64

Finit Etas prima.Chaucers.


1. I. Blysful; paysyble. 2. I. poeples; Hh. peplis. 3. I. paied of the; Hh. paied with the (but omit the). I. fructes; Hh. frutes. 4. I. Whiche. 5. I. weere; Hh. were. I. Hh. owtrage. 6. I. Onknowyn. I. quyerne; Hh. qwerne. I. ek. 7. I. swych pownage. 9. I. grownd; wownded; plowh. 11. I. gnodded; Hh. knoddyd; read gniden; see note. I. I-nowh. 12. I. knewe; Hh. knew. 13. I, owt; flynt; fonde. 15. I. spices. 16. I. sawse; Hh. sause. I. galentyne; Hh. galantine. 17. I. madyr; Hh. madder. Hh. wellyd (wrongly), I. wod; Hh. woode. 18. I. knewh. I. fles; Hh. flese (for flees). I. is (for his); Hh. hys. 19. I. flessh; wyste. 20. I. knewh. Hh. was; I. is.

22. I. owt-. 23. I. inserts batails (Hh. batayllys) after No. 24. I. towres; rownde. 26. I. profyt; rychesse. 27. I. corsed; Hh. cursyd. 28. I. fyrst; Hh. first. I. dede; bysynesse. 29. I. lurkynge. Hh. derknesse; I. dirkenesse. 30. I. Ryuerys fyrst gemmys sowhte. 31. I. cursydnesse. 32. Hh. couetyse; I. coueytyse. I. fyrst owr; browhte. 33. I. Thyse tyrauntz. Both put. 34. I. inserts places (Hh. place of) after No. I. wynne. 36. I. vitayle; ek. 37. I nat (for noght); Hh. nowt. 39. I. synne. 40. I. Cyte. I. forto asayle; Hh. for to asayle. 41. Hh. were; I. was. 42. I. kanes. I. Hh. om. 2nd in; which I supply. 43. I. Sleptin; blyssed; with-owte. 44. Hh. On; I. Or. I. parfyt Ioye reste and quiete (!); Hh. parfite Ioy and quiete (!). 45. I. down. 46. I. kyd. I. surte; Hh. surt. 47. I. weere; on; -owte. 48. I. Euerych; oother.

49. I. hawberke. 50. I. lambyssh. I. poeple; Hh. pepyl. Hh. voyd; I. voyded. Hh. vice; I. vyse. 51. I. fantesye. 52. I. eche; oother. 53. I. pride. 54. I. tyranye. 55. Hh. Humblesse; I. Vmblesse. I. pes. 56. Not in the MSS.; I supply it. Koch suggests—Yit hadden in this worlde the maistrye. 57. I. Iuppiter; Hh. Iupiter. I. lykerous. 58. I. fyrst; fadyr; delicasie. 59. I. desyrous. 60. I. regne; towres. 61. Hh. men; which I. omits. 62. I. owre. 63. I. Hh. omit first And, which I supply. I. Hh. Dowblenesse. 64. I. Poyson and manslawtre; Hh. Poysonne manslawtyr. Finit, &c.; in Hh. only.