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Him when the spitefull Brere had espyed,
Causelesse complained, and lowdly cryed
Unto his lord, stirring up sterne strife.
"O, my liege Lord! the god of my life!
Pleaseth you ponder your suppliaunts plaint,
Caused of wrong and cruell constraint,
Which I your poore vassall daylie endure;
And, but your goodnes the same recure,
Am like for desperate doole1 to dye,
Through felonous force of mine enemie."
Greatly aghast with this piteous plea,
Him rested the goodman on the lea,
And badde the Brere in his plaint proceede.
With painted words tho gan this proude weede
(As most usen ambitious folke :)
His coloured crime with craft to cloke.
"Ah, my soveraigne! Lord of creatures all, Thou placer of plants both humble and tall, Was not I planted of thine owne hand, To be the primrose 2 of all thy land; With flowring blossomes to furnish the prime,3 And scarlot berries in sommer time? How falls it then that this faded Oake, Whose bodie is sere, whose braunches broke, Whose naked armes stretch unto the fyre, Unto such tyrannie doth aspire; Hindering with his shade my lovely light, And robbing me of the swete sonnes sight? So beate his old boughes my tender side, That oft the bloud springeth from woundes wyde; Untimely my flowres forced to fall, That bene the honor of your coronall*:
1 dole, grief.
And oft he lets his cancker-wormes light
Upon my braunches, to worke me more spight;
And oft his hoarie locks downe doth cast,
Where-with my fresh flowretts bene defast:
For this, and many more such outrage,
Craving your goodlihead to aswage
The ranckorous rigour of his might,
Nought aske I, but onely to hold my right;
Submitting me to your good sufferance,
And praying to be garded from greevance."
To this the Oake cast him to replie
Well as he couth 1; but his enemie
Had kindled such coles of displeasure,
That the good man noulde 2 stay his leasure,
But home him hasted with furious heate,
Encreasing his wrath with many a threate;
His harmefull hatchet he hent in hand,
(Alas! that it so ready should stand!)
And to the field alone he speedeth,
(Ay little helpe to harme there needeth!)
Anger nould let him speake to the tree,
Enaunter his rage mought cooled be;
But to the roote bent his sturdy stroake,
And made many wounds in the wast Oake.
The axes edge did oft turne againe,
As halfe unwilling to cutte the graine;
Semed, the sencelesse yron dyd feare,
Or to wrong holy eld did forbeare;
For it had bene an auncient tree,
Sacred with many a mysteree,
And often crost with the priestes crewe 5;
And often halowed with holy-water dewe :
1 knew how. 2 would not. 8 seized, took.
But sike1 fancies weren foolerie,
And broughten this Oake to this miserye;
For nought mought they quitten him from decay,
For fiercely the good man at him did lay,
The blocke 2 oft groned under the blow,
And sighed to see his neere overthrow.
In fine, the steele had pierced his pith,
Tho downe to the earth hee fell forthwith.
His wondrous weight made the ground to quake,
Th' earth shranke under him, and seem'd to shake:-
There lyeth the Oake, pitied of none!
Now stands the Brere like a lord alone,
Puffed up with pride and vain pleasaunce:
But all this glee had no continuance,
For eftsoones winter gan to approche,
The blustering Boreas did encroche,
And beate upon the solitarie Brere;
For now no succour was seene him neere.
Now gan hee repent his pride too late,
For naked left and disconsolate
The byting frost nipt his stalke dead,
The watrie wette weighed down his head,
And heaped snow burdened him sore,
That now upright hee can stand no more;
And being down is trod in the durt
Of cattell, and brouzed, and sorely hurt.
Such was th' end of this ambitious Brere.
"At the large foot of a fair hollow tree,
Close to ploughed ground, seated commodiously,
His ancient and hereditary house,
There dwelt a good, substantial country mouse;
Frugal, and grave, and careful of the main,
Yet one who once did nobly entertain.
A city mouse, well-coated, sleek, and gay,
A mouse of high degree, who lost his way,
Wantonly walking forth to take the air,
And arrived early and alighted there
For a day's lodging; the good, hearty host
(The ancient plenty of his hall to boast),
Did all the stores produce that might excite,
With various tastes, the courtier's appetite —
Fitches and beans, peason, and oats, and wheat,
And a large chestnut, the delicious meat
Which Jove himself - were he a mouse would eat;
And for a hautgout 2 there was mixed with these
A rind of bacon, and the coat of cheese,
The precious relics which at harvest, he
Had gathered from the reaper's luxury.
'Freely,' said he, ‘fall on, and never spare;
The bounteous gods will for to-morrow care.'
And, thus at ease, on beds of straw they lay,
And to their genius sacrificed the day;
1 Born in London, 1618. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. Wrote "Poetical Blossomes," "The Mistress," "The Guardian," etc. Died 1667.
2 hautgout (pronounced ho-goo), richness.
Yet the nice guest's epicurean mind
(Tho' breeding made him civil seem, and kind),
Despised this country feast, and still his thought
Upon the pies and cakes of London wrought.
'Your bounty and civility,' said he,
'Which I'm surprised in these rude parts to see,
Shows that the gods have given you a mind
Too noble for the fate that here you find.
Why should a soul so virtuous, and so great
Lose itself thus in an obscure retreat?
Let savage beasts lodge in a country den,
You should see towns, and manners know, and
And taste the generous luxury of the court,
Where all the mice of quality resort.
We all, ere long, must render up our breath:
No cave nor hole can shelter us from death.
Since life is so uncertain and so short,
Let's spend it all in feasting and in sport.
Come, worthy sir, come with me, and partake
All the great things that mortals happy make.'
Alas! what virtues hath sufficient 'larms
T'oppose bright honour and soft pleasure's charms!
What wisdom can their magic force repel?
It draws this reverend hermit from his cell.
"Plainly, the truth to tell, the sun was set
When to the town the weary travelers get,
To a lord's house, as lordly as can be,
Made for the use of pride and luxury.
They come; the gentle courtier at the door
Stops, and will hardly enter in before.
'But 'tis, sir, your command, and, being so,
I'm sworn obedience,' and so in they go.