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The Canterbury Tales and Other Works of Chaucer (Middle English), by Geoffery Chaucer, [14th cent.], at

The Shorter Poems

Lak of Stedfastnesse

 Somtyme the world was so stedfast and stable
 That mannes word was obligacioun,
 And now it is so fals and deceivable
 That word and deed, as in conclusioun,
 Ben nothing lyk, for turned up-so-doun
 Is al this world for mede and wilfulnesse,
 That al is lost for lak of stedfastnesse.
 What maketh this world to be so variable
 But lust that folk have in dissensioun?
10 For among us now a man is holde unable,
 But if he can by som collusioun
 Don his neighbour wrong or oppressioun.
 What causeth this but wilful wrecchednesse,
 That al is lost for lak of stedfastnesse?
 Trouthe is put doun, resoun is holden fable,
 Vertu hath now no dominacioun;
 Pitee exyled, no man is merciable.
 Through covetyse is blent discrecioun.
 The world hath mad a permutacioun
20 Fro right to wrong, fro trouthe to fikelnesse,
 That al is lost for lak of stedfastnesse.
 O prince, desyre to be honourable,
 Cherish thy folk and hate extorcioun.
 Suffre nothing that may be reprevable
 To thyn estat don in thy regioun.
 Shew forth thy swerd of castigacioun,
 Dred God, do law, love trouthe and worthinesse,
 And wed thy folk agein to stedfastnesse.

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