The firste stok, fader of gentilesse --
What man that desireth gentil for to be
Must folowe his trace, and alle his wittes dresse
Vertu to love and vyces for to flee.
Sometime this world was so steadfast and stable,
That man's word was held obligation;
And now it is so false and deceivable,
That word and work, as in conclusion,
Somtyme the world was so stedfast and stable
That mannes word was obligacioun,
And now it is so fals and deceivable
Here bygynneth the Book of the tales of Caunterbury.
Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Madame, for youre newefangelnesse,
Many a servant have ye put out of grace.
I take my leve of your unstedefastnesse,
For wel I woot, whil ye have lives space,
What shul these clothes thus manyfold,
Lo this hote somers day?
After grete hete cometh cold;
I have gret wonder, be this lighte,
How that I live, for day ne nighte
I may nat slepe wel nigh noght,
YOUR eyen two wol slee me sodenly,
I may the beaute of hem not sustene,
Almighty and all-merciable Queen,
To whom all this world fleeth for succour,