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And after her came jolly June, arrayed
All in green leaves, as he a player were;
Yet in his time he wrought as well as played,
That by his plough irons might right well appear.
Upon a crab he rode, that him did bear
With crooked crawling steps and uncouth pace,
And backward went, as bargemen wont to fare,
Bending their force contrary to their face;
Like that ungracious crew which feigns demurest
Then came hot July boiling like to fire,
That all his garments he had cast away.
Upon a lion raging yet with ire
He boldly rode, and made him to obey:
It was the beast that whilom did forray
The Nemean forest, till the Amphytrionide
Him slew, and with his hide did him array.
Behind his back a scythe, and by his side
Under his belt he bore a sickle circling wide.
The sixth was August, being rich arrayed
In garment all of gold down to the ground;
Yet rode he not, but led a lovely maid
Forth by the lily hand, the which was crowned
With ears of corn, and full her hand was found:
That was the righteous virgin, which of old
Lived here on earth, and plenty made abound,
But after Wrong was loved, and Justice sold,
She left th' unrighteous world, and was to heaven
Next him September marched, eke on foot,
Yet was he heavy laden with the spoil
Of Harvest's riches, which he made his boot,1
And him enriched with bounty of the soil:
In his one hand, as fit for Harvest's toil,
He held a knife-hook; and in th' other hand
A pair of weights with which he did assoil2
Both more and less, when it in doubt did stand,
And equal gave to each as Justice duly scanned.
Then came October, full of merry glee,
For yet his noule 3 was totty of the must,5
Which he was treading in a wine-vat's sea,
And of the joyous oil, whose gentle gust
Made him so frolic and so full of lust:
Upon a dreadful scorpion he did ride,
The same which by Diana's doom unjust
Slew great Orion; and eke by his side
He had his ploughing-share and coulter ready tied.
Next was November; he full gross and fat
As fed with lard, and that right well might see;
For he had been a fatting hogs of late,
That yet his brows with sweat did reek and steam,
And yet the season was full sharp and breem:6
In planting eke he took no small delight,
Whereon he rode not easy was to deem;
For it a dreadful centaur was in sight,
The seed of Saturn and fair Nais, Chiron hight.
1 Spoil or plunder. 2 Weighed out. 3 Head. 4 Tottering,
5 New wine. • Boisterous.
And after him came next the chill December;
Yet he, through merry feasting which he made
And great bonfires, did not the cold remember;
His Saviour's birth his mind so much did glad.
Upon a shaggy-bearded goat he rode,
The same wherewith dan Jove in tender years,
They say, was nourished by th' Idæan maid;
And in his hand a broad deep bowl he bears,
Of which he freely drinks an health to all his peers.
Then came old January, wrapped well
In many words to keep the cold away;
Yet did he quake and quiver, like to quell,
And blow his nails to warm them if he may;
For they were numbed with holding all the day
An hatchet keen, with which he felled wood
And from the trees did lop the needless spray;
Upon an huge great earthpot steane 1 he stood,
From whose wide mouth there flowed forth the Roman
And, lastly, came cold February, sitting
In an old waggon, for he could not ride,
Drawn of two fishes, for the season fitting,
Which through the flood before did softly slide
And swim away; yet had he by his side
His plough and harness fit to till the ground,
And tools to prune the trees, before the pride
Of hasting Prime did make them burgein 2 round
So passed the twelve months forth, and their due
THE TALE OF THE OAKE AND THE BRIAR.
THERE grew an aged tree on the green,
A goodly Oake sometime had it been,
With arms full strong and largely displayed,
But of their leaves they were dis-arrayed;
The body big and mightily pight,'
Thoroughly rooted and of wondrous height:
Whilom had been the king of the field,
And mochel' mast to the husband3 did yield
And with his nuts larded many swine:
But now the gray moss marred his rine ;4
His bared boughs were beaten with storms,
His top was bald and wasted with worms,
His honour decayed, his branches sere.
Hard by his side grew a bragging Brere.
Which proudly thrust into th' element,
And seemed to threat the firmament:
It was embellished with blossomes fair,
And thereto aye wonted to repair
The shepherds' daughters to gather flowers,
To paint their garlands with his colours;
And in his small bushes used to shroud
The sweet nightingale singing so loud;
Which made this foolish Brere wax so bold,
That on a time he cast him to scold
And sneb the gool Oake for he was old.
'Why stand'st there (quoth he) thou brutish block?
Nor for fruit nor for shadow serves thy stock;
Strongly fixed. 2 Much. 3 Husbandman.
Seest how fresh my flowers bene spread,
Dyed in lily white and crimson red,
With leaves engrained in lusty green;
Colours meet to clothe a maiden queen?
Thy waste bigness but cumbers the ground,
And dirks' the beauty of my blossoms round:
The moldy moss which thee accloyeth2
My Cinnamon smell too much annoyeth:
Wherefore soon I rede3 thee hence remove,
Lest thou the price of my displeasure prove.'
So spake this bold brere with great disdain :
Little him answered the Oake again,
But yielded, with shame and grief adawed,*
That of a weede he was overcrawed.
It chanced after upon a day,
The husbandman self to come that way,
Of custom for to surview his ground,
And his trees of state in compass round:
Him when the spiteful brere had espied
Causeless complained and loudly cried
Unto his lord, stirring up stern strife.
'O, my liege Lord! the God of my life!
Pleaseth you ponder your suppliant's plaint
Caused of wrong and cruel constraint,
Which I your poor vassal daily endure:
And, but your goodness the same recure.
Am like for desperate doole to die,
Through felonous force of mine enemy.'
1 Darkens. 2 Coils round. 3 Advise.