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Custance and eke hire child the fee

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caft. Almighty God, that saved all mankind, Have on Cuftance and on hire child som mind, That fallen is in Hethen hond eftfone In point to spill, as I shal tell you sone. 5330

Doun fro the caftel cometh ther many a wight To

gauren on this ship and on Cüstance:
But shortly fro the caftel on a night,
The lordes steward, (God yeve him meschance)
A theef that had reneyed our creance, 5335
Came into the ship alone, and said he wolde
Hire lemman be whether she wolde or n'olde.

Wo was this wretched woman tho begoni;
Hire child cried, and she cried pitously;
But blisful Mary halpe hire right anon,

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For with hire strogling wel and mightily
The theef fell over bord al sodenly,
And in the see he drenched for vengeance;
And thus hath Crist unwemmed kept Cuftance.

O foule luft of luxurie ! lo thin ende, 5345 Nat only that thou fainteft mannes mind, But veraily thou wolt his body shende. Th’ende of thy werk, or of thy lustes blind, Is complaining : how many may men find That not for werk somtime, but for th'entent 5350 To don this signe, ben eyther fiain or Thent ?

5.5345. O foule luft] O extrema libidinis turpitudo, quæ "non folum mentem effeminat, fet etiam corpus enervat:

femper secuntur dolor et pænitentia post," Sc. Marg.C. 1,

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How may this weke woman han the strength Hire to defend again this renegate? O Golias! unmefurable of length, How mighte David maken thee so mate? 5355 So yonge, and of armure so desolate, How dorst he loke upon thy dredful face? Wel may men seen it was but Goddes grace.

Who yaf Judith corage or hardineffe To seen hinn Holofernes in his tent, And to deliver out of wretchednesse The peple of God? I say for this entent, That right as God spirit of vigour sent To hem, and saved hem out of meschance, So fent he might and vigour to Custance. 5365

Forth goth hire fip thurghout the narwe mouth Of Jubaltare and Septe, driving alway, Somtime west, and somtime north and south, And somtime eft, ful many a wery day, Til Cristes moder (bleffed be she ay)

5370 Hath shapen thurgh hire endeles goodnesse To make an end of all hire hevineffe.

Now let us sint of Custance but a throw, And speke we of the Romane emperour, That out of Surrie hath by lettres knowe 5375 The slaughter of Cristen folk, and dishonour Don to his doughter by a false traitour, I mene the cursed wicked Soudanneile, That at the felt let sleen both more and leffe.

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For which this emperour hath sent anon His fenatour, with real ordinance, And other lordes, God wote, many on, On Surriens to taken high vengeance: They brennen, fleen, and bring hem to meschance, Ful many a day: but shortly this is th’ende, 5385 Homward to Rome they shapen hem to wende.

This senatour repairech with victorio To Rome ward, sayling ful really, And met the ship driving, as faith the storie, In which Curtance fitteth ful pitously: 5390 Nothing ne knew he what she was, ne why She was in swiche array, ne she wil sey Of hire estat, though that she fhulde dey.

He bringeth hire to Rome, and to his wif He yaf hire, and hire yonge sonne also, 5395 And with the senatour she lad hire lif. Thus can our Lady bringen out of wo Woful Custance, and many another mo: And longe time dwelled she in that place Jo holy werkes ever, as was hire grace. 5400

'The fenatoures wif hire aunte was, But for all that she knew hire never the more: I wol no longer tarien in this cas, But to King Alla, which I spake of yore, That for his wif wipeth and fiketh fore, 5405 I wol returne, and let I wol Custance Under the senatoures governance.

King Alla, which that had his moder slain, Upon a day fell in swiche repentance, That if I shortly tellen ihal and plain, 5410 To Rome he cometh to receive his penance, And putte him in the Popes ordinance In high and low, and Jefu Crist besought Foryeve his wicked werkes that he had wrought.

The fame anon thurghout the toun is born, 5415 How Alla king Mal come on pilgrimage, By herbergeours that wenten him beforn, For which the senatour, as was usage, Rode him againe, and many of his linage, As wel to thewen his high magnificence 5420 As to don any king a reverence.

Gret chere doth this noble senatour To King Alla, and he to him alfo : Everich of hem doth other gret honour; And so befell that in a day or two

5425 This senatour is to King Alla go To fest, and shortly, if I shal not lie, Custances sone went in his compagnie.

Som men wold sain at requeste of Cuftance This fenatour hath lad this child to feste:

5430 I may not tellen every circumstance; Be as be may ther was he at the lefte: But soth is this, that at his mothers hefte Beforn Alla, during the metes space, The child stood, loking in the kinges face. 5435

*This Alla king hath of this child gret wonder,
And to the senatour he said anon,
Whos is that faire child that stondeth yonder?
I n'ot, quod he, by God, and by Seint John;
A moder he hath, but fader hath he non 5440
That I of wote: but shortly in a stound
He told Alla how that this child was found,

But God wot, quod this fenatour allo,
So vertuous a liver in all my lif
Ne saw I never as fhe, ne herd of mo

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Of wordly woman, maiden, widewe or wif:
I dare welfayn hire hadde lever a knif
Thurghout hire breft than ben a woman wikke;
Ther is no man coude bring hire to that prikke.

Now was this child as like unto Custance 5450
As possible is a creature to be:
This Alla hath the face in remembrance
Of Dame Custance, and theron mused he,
If that the childes moder were aught she
That is his wif, and prively he sighte, 5455
And sped him fro the table that he mighte.

Parfay, thought he, fantome is in min hed;
I ought to deme of skilful jugement
That in the falte see my wif is ded.
And afterward he made his argument;
What wot I if that Crift have hider fent
My wif by fee, as wel as he hire lent
To my contree, fro thennes that she went ?
Volume II.

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