Anonymous Olde English
Gernutus The Jew Of Venice - Poem by Anonymous Olde English
The First Part
In Venice towne not long agoe
A cruel Jew did dwell,
Which lived all on usurie,
As Italian writers tell.
Gernutus called was the Jew,
Which never thought to dye,
Nor ever yet did any good
To them in streets that lie.
His life was like a barrow hogge,
That liveth many a day,
Yet never once doth any good
Until men will him slay.
Or like a filthy heap of dung,
That lieth in a whoard;
Which never can do any good,
Till it be spread abroad.
So fares it with the usurper,
He cannot sleep in rest,
For feare the thiefe will him pursue
To plucke him from his nest.
His hearte doth thinke on many a wile,
How to deceive the poore;
His mouth is almost ful of mucke,
Yet still he gapes for more.
His wife must lend a shilling,
For every weeke a penny,
Yet bring a pledge that is double worth,
If that you will have any.
And see, likewise, you keepe your day,
Or else you loose it all;
This was the living of the wife,
Her cow she did it call.
Within that citie dwelt that time
A marchant of great fame,
Which being distressed in his need,
Unto Gernutus came:
Desiring him to stand his friend
For twelve month and a day;
To lend to him an hundred crownes;
And he for it would pay
Whatsoever he would demand of him,
And pledges he should have:
'No' (quoth the Jew with flearing lookes),
'Sir, aske what you will have.
'No penny for the loane of it
For one you shall pay;
You may doe me as good a turne,
Before my dying day.
'But we will have a merry jeast,
For to be talked long:
You shall make me a bond,' quoth he,
'That shall be large and strong:
'And this shall be the forfeyture,
Of your owne fleshe a pound:
If you agree, make you the bond,
And here is a hundred crownes.'
'With right good will!' the marchant says:
And so the bond was made.
When twelve month and a day drew on,
That backe it should be payd,
The marchants ships were all at sea,
And money came not in;
Which way to take, or what to doe
To thinke he doth begin.
And to Gernutus strait he comes,
With cap and bended knee;
And sayde to him, 'Of curtesie,
I pray you beare with mee.
'My day is come, and I have not
The money for to pay:
And little good the forfeyture
Will doe you, I dare say.'
'With all my heart,' Gernutus sayd,
'Commaund it to your minde;
In thinges of bigger waight then this
You shall me ready finde.'
He goes his way; the day once past,
Gernutus doth not slacke
To get a sergiant presently,
And clapt him on the backe.
And layd him into prison strong,
And sued his bond withall;
And when the judgement day was come,
For judgement he did call.
The marchants friends came thither fast,
With many a weeping eye,
For other means they could not find,
But he that day must dye.
The Second Part.
'Of the Jews crueltie: setting foorth the mercfulnesse of the Judge towards the Marchant. To the tune of
Black and Yellow.
Some offered for his hundred crownes
Five hundred for to pay;
And some a thousand, two or three,
Yet still he did denay.
And at the last ten thousand crownes
They offered, him to save:
Gernutus sayd, 'I will no gold,
My forfeite I will have.
'A pound of fleshe is my demand,
And that shall be my hire.'
Then sayd the judge, 'Yet, good my friend,
Let me of you desire
'To take the flesh from such a place,
As yet you let him live:
Do so, and lo! an hundred crownes
To thee here will I give.'
'No, no,' quoth he, 'no, judgement here;
For this it shall be tride;
For I will have my pound of fleshe
From under his right side.'
It grieved all the companie
His crueltie to see,
For neither friend nor foe could helpe
But he must spoyled bee.
The bloudie Jew now ready is
With whetted blade in hand,
To spoyle the bloud of innocent,
By forfeit of his bond.
And as he was about to strike
In him the deadly blow,
'Stay' (quoth the judge) 'thy crueltie;
I charge thee to do so.
'Sith needs thou wilt thy forfeit have,
Which is of flesh a pound,
See that thou shed no drop of bloud,
Nor yet the man confound.
'For if thou doe, like murderer
Thou here shalt hanged be:
Likewise of flesh see that thou cut
No more than longes to thee.
'For if thou take either more or lesse,
To the value of a mite,
Thou shalt be hanged presently,
As is both law and right.'
Gernutus now waxt franticke mad,
And wotes not what to say;
Quoth he at last, 'Ten thousand crownes
I will that he shall pay;
'And so I graunt to set him free.'
The judge doth answere make;
'You shall not have a penny given;
Your forfeyture now take.'
At the last he doth demaund
But for to have his owne:
'No,' quoth the judge, 'doe as you list,
Thy judgement shall be showne.
'Either take your pound of flesh,' quoth he,
'Or cancell me your bond:'
'O cruell judge,' then quoth the Jew,
'That doth against me stand!'
And so with griping grieved mind
He biddeth them fare-well:
'Then' all the people prays'd the Lord,
That ever this heard tell.
Good people, that doe heare this song,
For trueth I dare well say,
That many a wretch as ill as hee
Doth live now at this day;
That seeketh nothing but the spoyle
Of many a wealthey man,
And for to trap the innocent
Deviseth what they can.
From whome the Lord deliver me,
And every Christian too,
And send to them like sentence eke
That meaneth so to doe.
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