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XIV. GENTILESSE.

Moral Balade of Chaucer.

The firste stok, fader of gentilesse—
What man that claymeth gentil for to be,
Must folowe his trace, and alle his wittes dresse
Vertu to sewe, and vyces for to flee.
For unto vertu longeth dignitee,       5
And noght the revers, saufly dar I deme,
Al were he mytre, croune, or diademe.

This firste stok was ful of rightwisnesse,
Trewe of his word, sobre, pitous, and free,
Clene of his goste, and loved besinesse,       10
Ageinst the vyce of slouthe, in honestee;
And, but his heir love vertu, as dide he,
He is noght gentil, thogh he riche seme,
Al were he mytre, croune, or diademe.

Vyce may wel be heir to old richesse;       15
But ther may no man, as men may wel see,
Bequethe his heir his vertuous noblesse;
[ 393 ]That is appropred unto no degree,
But to the firste fader in magestee,
That maketh him his heir, that can him queme,       20
Al were he mytre, croune, or diademe.


1. Cx. first; Harl. ffirste; Ct. firste. T. gentilesse; rest gentilnesse. 3. Cx. om. alle. 4. A. T. suwe; Harl. shew (for sewe); Cx. folowe (!). 5. Cx. vertue; dignyte. 6. Cx. not; rest nouȝt, nought, noȝte. 7. Cx. mytor; A. T. Harl. Add. mytre. Cx. crowne; dyademe. 8. Cx. rightwisnes. 9. A. Ct. Ha. pitous; Cx. pyetous. 10. Cx. besynes. 11. A. Ageinst; T. Ageynst; Cx. Agayn. Cx. om. the. Cx. honeste. 12. Cx. eyer; rest heire, heyre, eyre. 13. Cx. not; Ct. Ha. nought. Cx. though; Add. thogh. 14. Cx. mytor; crowne. 15. Cx. omits heir. Cx. holde; rest olde; but read old. 16. Cx. al; rest as. 17. Cx. eyer.

18. Cx. degre. 19. Cx. first; mageste. 20. Ct. That maketh his heires hem that hym queme (omitting can); A. That maþe his heyre him that wol him qweme; T. That makeþe heos heyres hem þat wol him qweeme; Add. That maketh his eires hem that can him queme; Cx. That makes hem eyres that can hem queme; with other variations. I follow Cx., supplying his, and putting him and heir in the singular; cf. he in l. 21. 21. Cx. crowne mytor.