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Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century



Detail from Master of Berry's MS of Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium
Master of Berry, MS of Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium.
Glasgow University Library, Dept. of Special Collections.

from The Falls of Princes


Let no man boast of cunning nor virtú,
    Of treasure, riches, nor of sapience,
Of worldly support; for all com'th of Jesu
    Counsel, comfórt, discretion, and prudence.
Provision for sight and Providence,
    Like as the Lord of Gracé list dispose;
Some man hath wisdom, some man eloquence;—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

Wholesome in smelling be the sweté flowres
    Full delectáble outward to the sight;
The thorn is sharp, covered with fresh coloúrs,
    All is not gold that outward sheweth bright;
A stockfish bone in darkness giveth light;
    Tween fair and foul as God list to dispose;
A differencé betwix day and night:—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

Flowers open upon everiché green
    When the lauerock messenger of day
Salu'th the uprist of the sonné sheen
    Most amorously in April and May.
And Aurora again the morrow gray
    Causeth the daisy her crown to unclose,
Worldly gladness is melléd with affray:—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

Atween cuckowé and the nightingale
    There is a manner of strange difference;
On freshé branches singeth the woodwale,
    Jays in music have small experience;
Chattering pies when they come in presénce
    Most malapert their verdit to purpose;
All thing hath favour, briefly in sentence,
    Of soft or sharp, like a midsummer rose.

The royal Lion let call a parlement
    All beast about him everyché one;
The Wolf of malice, being there presént,
    Upon the Lamb complained against reason,—
Saidé he made his water unwholesóme
    His tender stomach to hinder and indispose,—
Raveners reign, the innocent is borne down—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

All worldly thing braideth upon time;
    The sonné changeth, so doth the pale moon;
Th' aureate number in calendars set for prime;
    Fortúne is double, doth favour for no boon;
And who that hath with that queen to doon
    Contrariously she will his change dispose,
Who sitteth highest most like to fall soon,—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

The golden chair of Phoebus in the air
    Chaseth mistis black that they dare not appear,
At whose uprist mountains be made so fair
    As they were newly gilt with his beams clear;
The night doth follow, appalleth all his cheer,
    When Western waves his streamés overclose.
Reckon all beauty, all freshness that is here,—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

Constraint of coldé maketh flowrés dare,1
    With winter frosts that they dare not appear;
All clad in russet the soil of green is bare,
    Tellus and Jove be dulléd of their cheer.
By revolution and turning of the year
    A gery 2 March his stondis doth disclose;
Now rain, now storm, now Phoebus bright and clear,—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

Where is now David the most worthy king
    Of Juda and Israel most famous and notáble?
And where is Salamon most sovereign and cunning,
    Richest of building, of treasure incomparáble,
Face of Absolon, most fairé, most aimáble?
    Reckon up each one, of truth makeé no glose;
Reckon of Jonathas of friendship immutáble,—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

Where is Julius, proudest in his empire
    With his triumphés most imperial?
Where is Pyrrhus, that was lord and sire
    Of Ind in his estaté royal?
And where is Alexander that conquered all,
    Failéd laisér his testament to dispose?
Nabigodonoser or Sardanapal?—
    All stant in change like a midsummer rose.

Where is Tullíus with hís sugared tongue?
    Or Chrysostemus with his golden mouth?
The aureate ditties that be read and sung,
    Of Omerus in Greece, both north and south,
The tragediés divers and and uncouth
    Of moral Senec the misteries to unclose,
By many an example is full couth—
    All stant on change like a midsummer rose.

Where ben of France all the douze piere 3
    Which in Gaule had the governance;
Vowés of peacock, with all their proud cheer,
    The Worthy Nine with all their high bobbaunce;
Trojan knightés greatest of alliánce;
    The Fleece of Gold, conqueréd in Colchós;
Rome and Cartháge most sovereign of puissance—
    All stant on change like a midsummer rose.

Put in a sum all martial policy!
    Complete in Afric and bounds of Carthage,
The Theban Legion example of chivalry,
    At Rodomus river was expert in their couráge;
Ten thousand knightes born of great parage,
    The martyrdom read in metre and prose;
The golden crownés made in the heavenly stage,
    Fresher than lilies or any summer rose.

The remembránce of every famous knight,
    Ground cónsidéred built on righteousness,
Rase out each quarrel that's not built on right:
    Withouté truth what vaileth high noblesse?
Laurear of martyrs founded on holiness
    White was made red their triumphs to disclose;
The whité lilye was their chaste cleanness
    Their bloody sufferance was no summer rose.

It was the rose of the bloody field
    Rose of Jericho that grew in Bethlem,
The fine roses pourtrayéd in the shield
    'Splayed in the banner at Jerusalem.
The sun was clipse and dark in every reme
    When Christ Jesu five wellis list unclose,
Toward Paradisé, calléd the red stream,
    Of whose five wounds print in your heart a rose.













1 Maketh flowrés dare, makes them unable to stir. Bird-catchers were said to "dare larks" by use of a mirror.
2 Gery, changeable. From French "girer," to turn.
3 The douze piere. The twelve peers of Charlemagne, set forth in old romance.

Cassell's Library of English Literature. Henry Morley, ed.
London: Cassell & Co., 1883. 115-117.

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