Lady Fortune and her Wheel.
Boccaccio De Casibus Virorum Illustrium
MSS Hunter 371-372. vol. 1, f. 1r.
The words of Fortune to the people.
Mine high estate, power, and authority|
If ye ne know, ensearch and ye shall spy1
That riches, worship, wealth, and dignity
Joy, rest, and peace, and all things finally
That any pleasure or profit may come by
To man his comfort, aid, and sustenance,
Is all at my devise and ordinance.
Without my favour there is nothing won,
Many a matter have I brought at last
To good conclude that fondly was begun,2
And many a purpose, bounden sure and fast
With wise provision, I have overcast.
Without good hap there may no wit suffice,3
Better 'tis to be fortunate than wise!
And therefore have there some men been ere this
My deadly foes, and written many a book
To my dispraise. And other cause there n'is4
But for me list not friendly on them look.5
Thus like the fox they fare, that once forsook
The pleasant grapes, and 'gan for to defy them
Because he lept and yet could not come by them.6
But let them write, their labour is in vain;
For well ye wot, mirth, honour, and riches7
Much better is than penury and pain.
The needy wretch that ling'reth in distress
Without my help, is ever comfortless,
A very burden, odious and loath
To all the world, and eke to himself both.8
But he that by my favour may ascend
To mighty pow'r and excellent degree,
A commonweal to govern and defend,
O! in how bless'd condition standeth he,
Himself in honour and felicity,
And over that, may farther and encrease
A region whole in joyful rest and peace.
Now in this point there is no more to say,
Each man hath of himself the governance;
Let every wight then follow his own way.9
And he that out of poverty and mischance
List for to live, and will himself enhance
In wealth and riches, come-forth and wait on me;
And he that will be a beggar, let him be.
1. If ye ne know, if you know not.
2. conclude, conclusion; fondly, foolishly.
3. good hap, good luck.
4. n'is, (ne is) = isn't.
5. list, want.
6. See Aesop's fable of the fox and the grapes.
7. wot, know.
8. eke, also.
9. wight, fellow; person.]
Cayley, Arthur, the Younger. Memoirs of sir Thomas More. Vol I.
London: Cadell and Davis, 1808. 49-50.
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