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"By seinte Marie," said this taverner,

"The child seith sooth, for he hath slayn this yeer,
Henne over a myle, with-in a greet village,
Both man and womman, child and hyne, and page.
I trowe his habitacioun be there;
To been avysed greet wisdom it were,
Er that he dide a man a dishonour."
"Ye, goddes armes," quod this ryotour,
"Is it swich peril with him for to mete?
I shal him seke by wey and eke by strete,
I make avow to Goddes digne bones!
Herkneth, felawes, we three been al ones;
Lat ech of us hold up his hond til other,
And ech of us bicomen otheres brother,
And we wol sleen this false traytour Deeth;
He shal be slayn, which that so many sleeth,
By Goddes dignitee, er it be night."

Togidres han thise three her trouthes plight,
To live and dyen ech of hem, for other,

As though he were his owene y-boren brother.

"By Saint Mary," said this taverner, "the child speaks truth; for he hath slain this year, in a large village about a mile hence, both man and woman, child and servant, and page. I believe his habitation is there; it would be great wisdom to be well advised before he caused a man trouble."

"By God's arms," said this rioter, "is it so perilous to meet him? I shall seek him in the highways and the byways, I hereby vow to God's noble bones! Listen, comrades, we three are all of one mind; let each of us hold up his hand to the other, and each of us become the other's brother, and we will slay this false traitor Death, he who slays so many shall himself be slain, by God's dignity, before night."

These three pledged their words to live and die for each other as though he were his own blood brother. They started

And up they sterte al dronken, in this rage,
And forth they goon towardes that village,
Of which the taverner had spoke biforn,


And many a grisly ooth than han they sworn,
And Cristes blessed body they to-rente-

"Deeth shal be deed, if that they may him hente."


Whan they han goon nat fully half a myle,
Right as they wolde han troden over a style,
An old man and a povre with hem mette.
This olde man ful mekely hem grette,

And seyde thus, "Now lordes, God you see!"

The proudest of thise ryotoures three
Answerde agayn, "What? carl, with sory grace,
Why artow al forwrapped save thy face?
Why livestow so longe in so greet age?"


This olde man gan loke in his visage,
And seyde thus, "For I ne can nat finde
A man, though that I walked in-to Inde,

Neither in citee nor in no village,

That wolde chaunge his youthe for myn age;

up all drunk in this rage, and went forth towards the village of which the taverner spoke before; and they swore many a terrible oath, and tore Christ's blessed body to pieces "Death shall be dead if they can catch him."

When they had gone not quite a mile, just as they were going to get over a stile, a poor old man met them. This old man greeted them very meekly, and said, "God save you, sirs!"

The proudest of these rioters answered, "You churl curse you! why are you all wrapped up except your face? why do you live so long at so great an age?"

This old man looked in his face, and said, "Because even if I walk to India I can not find in city or village a man who is willing to exchange his youth for my old age; and therefore






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And therefore moot I han myn age stille,
As longe time as it is Goddes wille.

"Ne deeth, allas! ne wol nat han my lyf;
Thus walk I, lyk a restelees caityf,

And on the ground, which is my modres gate,
I knokke with my staf, bothe erly and late,
And seye, 'Leve moder, leet me in !
Lo, how I vanish, flesh, and blood, and skin!
Allas! whan shul my bones been at reste?
Moder, with yow wolde I chaunge my cheste,
That in my chambre longe tyme hath be,
Ye! for an heyre clout to wrappe me!'
But yet to me she wol nat do that grace,
For which ful pale and welked is my face.
"But, sirs, to yow it is no curteisye
To speken to an old man vileinye,
But he trespasse in worde, or elles in dede.
In holy writ ye may your-self wel rede,

Agayns an old man, hoor upon his heed,

Ye sholde aryse;' wherfor I yeve yow reed,

I must keep my age as long as it is God's will.

"Even death, alas! will not have my life; so I keep going, like a restless wretch, and on the ground, which is my mother's gate, I knock with my staff early and late, saying, 'Dear mother [Earth], let me in! Lo, how I waste away, - flesh, and blood, and skin! Alas! when shall my bones be at rest? Mother, I'd like to exchange the chest that hath been a long time in my chamber for a hairy shroud to wrap me in!' But yet she will not do me that favor, because of which my face is very pale and withered.

"But, sirs, it is not courteous of you to speak rudely to an old man, unless he do you wrong in word or deed. In Holy Writ you yourselves may read, 'In the presence of an old man, hoary-headed, you should rise;' wherefore I counsel you, do no harm to an old man now, any more than you would

Ne dooth un-to an old man noon harm now,
Na-more than ye wolde men dide to yow

In age, if that ye so longe abyde;


And God be with yow, wher ye go or ryde.

I moot go thider as I have to go."

"Nay, olde cherl, by God, thou shalt nat so," Seyde this other hasardour anon;


"Thou partest nat so lightly, by Seint John!
Thou spak right now of thilke traitour Deeth,
That in this contree alle our frendes sleeth.
Have heer my trouthe, as thou art his aspye,
Tel wher he is, or thou shalt it abye,
By God, and by the holy sacrament !
For soothly thou art oon of his assent,
To sleen us yonge folk, thou false theef !”


"Now, sirs," quod he, "if that yow be so leef To finde Deeth, turne up this croked wey,


For in that grove I lafte him, by my fey,

Under a tree, and ther he wol abyde;

Nat for your boost he wol hym no-thing hyde.

that men do to you in old age, if you linger so long; and God be with you, wherever you go. I must be going."

"Nay, old churl, by God, thou shalt not do so," said the second gambler; "thou shalt not go so easily, by Saint John! thou didst speak just now of that traitor Death, who slays all our friends in this country. Have here my true word: as thou art his spy, tell me where he is, or thou shalt pay dearly for it, by God, and by the holy sacrament! For truly thou art one of his conspiracy to slay us young people, thou false thief!"

"Now, sirs," quoth he, "if you are so anxious to find Death, turn up this crooked road; for upon my word, I left him under a tree in that grove, and there he is going to stay; he will not hide anything because of your boasting. See





ye that ook? right ther ye shal him finde.
God save yow, that boghte agayn mankinde,
And yow amende !"- Thus seyde this olde man.
And everich of thise ryotoures ran,

Til he cam to that tree, and ther they founde
Of florins fyne of golde y-coined rounde
Wel ny an eighte busshels, as hem thoughte.
No lenger thanne after Deeth they soughte,
But ech of hem so glad was of that sighte,
For that the florins been so faire and brighte,
That doun they sette hem by this precious hord.
The worste of hem he spake the firste word.

"Brethren," quod he, "tak kepe what I seye;
My wit is greet, though that I bourde and pleye.
This tresor hath fortune un-to us yiven,
In mirthe and jolitee our lyf to liven,
And lightly as it comth, so wol we spende.
Ey! Goddes precious dignitee! who wende
To-day, that we sholde han so fair a grace?

But mighte this gold be caried fro this place

that oak? right there will you find him. May God, who redeemed mankind, preserve you and reform you!" Thus spoke the old man. So each of these rioters ran till he came to the tree; and there they found nearly eight bushels, as they guessed, of fine, round gold florins. No longer did they seek Death, but each of them was so glad at the sight (for each of the florins was so bright and beautiful) that they sat down by the precious hoard. The worst of them spoke first.

"Brethren," said he, "take heed of what I say; I have a lot of sense, although I jest and trifle. Fortune hath given us this treasure in order that we may live a jolly, mirthful life; and let us spend it as freely as it has come. Eh! God's precious dignity! who would have thought this morning that we should be so lucky? But if this gold could be carried

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