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XII. BALLAD OF GOOD COUNSEL.

Consider wel, with every circumstaunce,
Of what estat so-ever that thou be—
Riche, strong, or mighty of puissaunce,
Prudent or wyse, discrete or avisee,
The doom of folke in soth thou mayst nat flee;       5
What-ever that thou do, trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

For in thy port or in thyn apparayle
If thou be clad or honestly be-seyn,
Anon the people, of malice, wol nat fayle,       10
Without advyce or reson, for to sayn
That thyn array is mad and wrought in vayn;
What! suffre hem spekë!—and trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

Thou wilt to kinges be equipolent,       15
With gretë lordes even and peregal;
And, if thou be to-torn and al to-rent,
Than wol they say, and jangle over-al,
Thou art a slogard, that never thryvë shal;
Yet suffre hem spekë!—and trust right wel this,       20
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.
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If thou be fayr, excelling of beautee,
Than wol they say, that thou art amorous;
If thou be foul and ugly on to see,
They wol afferme that thou art vicious,       25
The peple of langage is so dispitous;
Suffre hem spekë, and trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

And if it fallë that thou take a wyf,
[Than] they wol falsly say, in hir entent,       30
That thou art lykly ever to live in stryf,
Voyd of al rest, without alegëment;
Wyves be maistres, this is hir jugëment;
Yet suffre hem spekë—and trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.       35

And if it so be that, of parfitnesse,
Thou hast avowed to live in chastitee,
Thán wol folk of thy persone expresse
Say thou art impotent t'engendre in thy degree;
And thus, whether thou be chast or deslavee,       40
Suffre hem spekë—and trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wel alway deme amis.

And if that thou be fat or corpulent,
Than wol they say that thou art a glotoun,
A devourour, or ellës vinolent;       45
If thou be lene or megre of fassioun,
Cal thee a nigard, in hir opinioun;
Yet suffre hem spekë—and trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.
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If thou be richë, som wol yeve thee laud,       50
And say, it cometh of prudent governaunce;
And som wol sayen, that it cometh of fraud,
Outher by sleight, or by fals chevisaunce;
To say the worst, folk have so gret plesaunce;
Yet suffre hem sayë—and trust right wel this,       55
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

If thou be sad or sobre of countenaunce,
Men wol say—thou thinkest som tresoun;
And if [that] thou be glad of daliaunce,
Men wol deme it dissolucioun,       60
And calle thy fair speche, adulacioun;
Yet let hem spekë—and trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

Who that is holy by perfeccioun,
Men, of malyce, wol calle him ipocryte;       65
And who is mery, of clene entencioun,
Men say, in ryot he doth him delyte;
Som mourne in blak; som laughe in clothes whyte;
What! suffre them spekë—and trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.       70

Honest array, men deme, †is pompe and pryde,
And who goth poore, men calle him a wastour;
And who goth [mene], men marke him on every syde,
And saye that he is a spye or a gylour;
Who wasteth, men seyn [that] he hath tresour;       75
Wherfore conclude, and trust [right] wel this,
A wikked tonge wil alway deme amis.
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Who speketh mochë, men calle him prudent;
And who debateth, men say, he is hardy;
And who saith litel with gret sentiment,       80
Som men yet wol edwyte him of foly;
Trouth is put down, and up goth flatery;
And who list plainly know the cause of this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

For though a man were al-so pacient       85
As was David, through his humilitee,
Or with Salamon in wysdom as prudent,
Or in knighthode egal with Josuë,
Or manly proved as Judas Machabee,
Yet, for al that—trust right wel this,       90
A wicked tonge wol alway deme amis.

And though a man hadde the high prowesse
Of worthy Hector, Troyes champioun,
The love of Troilus or the kindenesse,
Or of Cesar the famous high renoun,       95
With Alisaundres dominacioun,
Yet, for al that—trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

And though a man of high or low degree
Of Tullius hadde the sugred eloquence,       100
Or of Senek the greet moralitee,
Or of Catoun the foresight or prudence,
Conquest of Charles, Arthurs magnificence,
Yet, for al that—trust right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.       105
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Touching of women the parfit innocence,
Thogh they had of Hestre the mekenes,
Or of Griseldes [the] humble pacience,
Or of Judith the proved stablenes,
Or Policenes virginal clennes,       110
Yit dar I say and truste right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

The wyfly trouthë of Penelope,
Though they it hadde in hir possessioun,
Eleynes beautè, the kindnes of Medee,       115
The love unfeyned of Marcia Catoun,
Or of Alcest the trewe affeccioun,
Yit dar I say and truste right wel this,
A wikked tonge wol alway deme amis.

Than sith it is, that no man may eschewe       120
The swerde of tonge, but it wol kerve and byte,
Ful hard it is, a man for to remewe
Out of hir daunger, so they hem delyte
To hindre or slaundre, and also to bakbyte;
For [this] hir study fynally it is       125
And hir plesaunce, alwey to deme amis.

Most noble princes, cherisshers of vertue,
Remembreth you of high discrecioun,
The first vertue, most plesing to Jesu,
[ 290 ](By the wryting and sentence of Catoun),       130
Is a good tonge, in his opinioun;
Chastyse the révers, and of wysdom do this,
Withdraw your hering from al that deme amis.


From Th. (Thynne's edition, 1532); collated with Ff. (MS. Ff. 1. 6, Camb. Univ. Library). Another copy in H. (Harl. 2251). 1. H. with; Ff. wiht; Th. om. 2. Ff. H. estat; Th. estate. Th. om. that. 3. Th. stronge. 4. Ff. avisee; H. avice; Th. besy. 5. Th. Ff. dome; H. doome. Th. sothe. H. mayst; Th. Ff. may. Th. Ff. flye; H. flee. 6. H. that; rest om. Ff. H. do; Th. doste. Th. om. right. 7. H. Ff. deme; Th. say. 8. Ff. port; Th. porte. Th. thyne. 9. All cladde. Ff. H. or; Th. and. Ff. beseyn; Th. be sayne. 10. Ff. Anon; Th. Anone (and so in other places I correct the spelling by the MSS.). 12. All made. 13. Th. H. om. right. 14. Ff. H. deme; Th. say. 15. Ff. H. wylt; Th. wolde. Ff. H. equipolent; Th. equiuolent. 16. Ff. H. grete; Th. great. 17. Ff. to-torn; Th. H. torn. 19. Ff. H. Thou; Th. That thou. 20. Th. H. om. right. 21. Ff. H. deme; Th. say.

22-35. So in H.; Th. Ff. transpose ll. 21-28 and 29-35. Th. fayre and; Ff. H. om. and. H. excellyng; Ff. Th. excellent. 23. Ff. H. Than; Th. Yet. All amerous. 24. All foule. 26. Ff. H. peple of; Th. peoples. 27. So Ff.; Th. H. Suffre al their speche and truste (H. deme) wel this. 28. Ff. H. deme; Th. say. 29. Ff. And yif hit falle; Th. If it befal. 30. Insert Than; see l. 23. 31. Ff. Thou art euer lykkely to lyue in stryve. 32. Ff. alleggement. 33. Ff. H. be maistres; Th. hem maystren. 34. So Ff.; Th. suffren their speche; om. right. 35. Ff. H. deme; Th. say. 36. H. And if; Ff. And yif; Th. If. H. it; Th. Ff. om. Th. that thou; Ff. H. om. thou. 37. Ff. H. Thou hast; Th. Haue. 39. Ff. H. Say; Th. That. Th. tengendre; Ff. to gendre. 40. Ff. Th. chaste. Ff. dyslave (better deslavee); Th. delauie. 41. Th. H. om. right. 42. Ff. H. deme; Th. say. 43. Th. om. And. 44. Th. H. om. that. 45. Th. H. deuourer; Ff. devowrer (better devourour). 46. Ff. H. lene or megre; Th. megre or leane. 47. Ff. H. her; Th. H. their. 48. Th. H. om. right. 49. Ff. H. deme; Th. say.

50. All the. Th. laude; Ff. H. lawde. 52. Ff. Th. say; H. sayne. H. that; Th. Ff. om. 53. Ff. Outher; Th. H. Or. 55. Th. What; Ff. H. Yit. Ff. Th. say. Th. H. om. right. 56. Ff. H. deme; Th. say. 57. All sadde. 58. Ff. tresone; Th. H. treason. 59. I supply that. 60. Ff. it is; Th. H. om. is. 61. Th. Callyng; Ff. H. And calle. Th. om. thy. 62. Th. H. om. right. 63. Ff. H. deme; Th. say. 64. Ff. H. Who; Th. And who. 65. Th. him an; Ff. H. om. an. 66. Th. who that; Ff. H. om. that. 69. Ff. speke; Th. say. Th. H. om. right. 70. Ff. H. deme; Th. say. 71-77. In H. only. 71. H. in; read is. 72. H. vastour. 73. I insert mene; see note. 75. H. wastith; I insert that. 76. H. coclude(!); H. om. right.

78. Ff. H. men calle him; Th. is holden. 79. Th. And who; Ff. H. Who that. Th. H. say that; Ff. om. that. 80. Th. who that; Ff. H. om. that. 81. Th. men yet; Ff. folke. Ff. H. edwyte; Th. wyte. 82. Ff. H. vp; Th. nowe. 83. H. who; Ff. ho (= who); Th. who that. Ff. H. cause; Th. trouth. 84. So H. Ff.; Th. It is a wicked tonge that alway saythe amys. 85. Ff. also; Th. H. as. 86. Th. om. his. 87. H. wisdom; Th. wisedome; Ff. wysdome. 88. Ff. to; Th. H. with. 91. So Ff. H.; Th. Some wycked tonge of hym wol say amys. 92. Ff. om. a. All had. Ff. H. om. high. 94. Ff. H. kyndenes; Th. kyndnesse. 96. Th. Wyth al; Ff. H. om. al. 98. So Ff.; Th. Some wycked tonge of hym wol say amys. 99. Ff. H. And; Th. Or. 101. H. Senek; Ff. Senec; Th. Seneca. Th. great; Ff. H. om. 102. Ff. or prudence; Th. H. and prouidence. 103. Th. The conquest; Ff. om. The. Ff. Arthurs; Th. H. Arturs. 105. See note to 96.

106-112. Not in Thynne; from Ff. H. 106. H. of; Ff. to. 108. Ff. grecildes; H. Gresieldis; I supply the. 110. H. Polycenes; Ff. Penilops. 113. H. wyfly; Th. wyfely; Ff. wylfulle (!). Th. H. trouth; Ff. trowth; read trouthe. 114. Th. had; Ff. H. hadde. Th. her; Ff. thaire; H. theyr. 115. H. Eleynes; Ff. Eleyons; Th. Holynesse (for Heleynes). Th. kyndenesse; Ff. kyndnes. 116. Ff. H. loue; Th. lyfe (!). Th. Mertia; Ff. H. Marcia. Th. Caton; Ff. H. and catoun. 117. Ff. H. Alcestys (om. the). 119. So Ff.; Th. A wycked tonge wol say of her amys. 120. Ff. suyth; H. sith; Th. sythen. H. it is; Ff. it; Th. it is so (om. that). 121. Ff. wyll (= wol); H. wil; Th. om. 122. Ff. H. om. for. 123. H. hir; Ff. ar; Th. theyr. Ff. so them hem delyte; Th. him for to aquyte. 124. Ff. Tho (for To) hindre sclaunder, and also to bacbyte; Th. Wo to the tonges that hem so delyte. 125. Ff. For thayre study fynaly it ys; Th. To hynder or sclaunder, and set theyr study in this (cf. l. 124). 126. Th. And theyr pleasaunces to do and say amis; H. And theyr plesaunce alwey to deme amys; Ff. has (as usual) A wicked tonge wol alway deme amis. 127. Ff. princesse; Th. princes. 129. Th. and most; Ff. H. om. and. Ff. plesing; Th. pleasyng.

132. H. revers; Th. reuerse; Ff. reuerce. H. wisdom; Th. Ff. wysdome. 133. H. Voydeth (for Withdraw). Ff. deme; Th. saine.