The Lawyer's Tale

PROLOGUE

O hateful harm, you state of poverty, Where thirst and cold and hunger so confound! 100 You feel ashamed to ask for charity, But, asking not, your need will be profound, Unwrapping every hidden wound you've bound; Your head will bow as in your indigence You steal or beg or borrow for expense. 105 You blame Lord Jesus, saying bitterly His temporal blessings aren't proportional; You also blame your neighbor wrongfully, You say that you have little, he has all. You say, "He'll pay, by faith, it shall befall 110 That his tail will be burning in the coals Because he doesn't help us needy souls." And listen to the sayings of the wise: "Better to die than live in indigence"; "Your very neighbor soon will you despise." 115 If you are poor, farewell to reverence! And from the wise man too this sapience: "All poor men's days are evil." So beware Lest you should sink to such point of despair! If you are poor, you'll have your brother's spite, 120 And all your friends, alas, will flee from you. O merchants rich, well being's your delight, O noble, prudent folk, we see it's true! Your bags have not been filled with aces two, You're running six-and-five with every chance. 125 How merrily at Christmas you may dance! You earn by land and sea, your wealth accrues, While also you gain knowledge of the state Of kingdoms; you've been bearers, too, of news, Of tales of peace and war. And desolate 130 I'd be right now for stories to relate Had not a merchant taught me, many a year Ago, a tale, and one that you shall hear.

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