Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SEVEN SAGES OF ROME: 11, by ANONYMOUS

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THE SEVEN SAGES OF ROME: 11, by            
First Line: When all from out the hall had gone / the emperor sought his bower anon
Last Line: And none shall free him from his bale.' / here endeth the eleventh tale
Subject(s): Merlin

When all from out the hall had gone
The Emperor sought his bower anon,
The Empress did he find therein
Sorry of cheer, of mournful mien;
"Lady," he quoth: "what aileth thee?"
She answered: "Sire, 't is naught to thee,
Wilt not avenge me of my foe,
Therefore I think from thee to go
Unto my kin, who hold me dear,
And never more to come thee near,
Liever were I to wend my way
Than dwell in dole by night and day!"
He answered: "Have I done amiss
Speak, and I'll right the wrong, I wis!"
She quoth: "It profits naught, by Heaven,
Thy ruin shall be thy Masters seven,
To whom thou lendest ear alway
Aye sparing him who shall thee slay.
To thee may well befall such thing
As fell to Herod's lot, the king,
Who lost his sight for evil rede
'T were well if thou this tale wouldst heed!"
"Lady," he quoth: "I pray of thee
That self-same tale now tell to me."
"Yea Sire," she said: "with right good cheer
God send thee grace to rightly hear!"

"Once Sire, there lived in high estate
An Emperor of honour great,
Herod, I trow, that monarch's name,
A mighty prince of noble fame;
And seven clerks had he always
Like these, whom ye for wisdom praise,
And whatsoe'er was in his thought
After their rede he ever wrought.
The seven clerks, they made decree,
Stablished a custom, wrongfully,
That who so dreamed in any night,
And gat him to the clerks, forthright,
Bringing with him a crown of gold,
And to the clerks his vision told,
That they thereto would take intent,
And tell him what the dream had meant.
And some was false, and some was true,
Yet many folk to them they drew,
Burghers, and peasants, high and low,
The meaning of their dream would know.
And nobles came from divers lands
Each brought a besant in his hand --
They wrought this craft for many a day
Till richer than their lord were they.

"The Emperor, upon a day,
Thought he would wend him forth to play,
Out of the gate he fain would ride
With him his men on either side,
Sudden he waxed blind as a stone --
Unto his clerks he sent anon,
And asked them what had made him blind?
But ne'er a reason might they find;
For four-score days they asked respite,
Within that time they hoped they might,
By lore of books, find reason why
Their lord waxed blind thus suddenly.
The Emperor gat him home again --
The clerks, they wrought with mickle pain
Within their books the cause to find
Why thus the Emperor was blind.

"The clerks soon after on a day,
Met with an old man in the way,
To him they now recount their tale,
And he quoth: 'Masters, without fail,
No man may help ye, more or less,
Saving a child, who 's fatherless,
True counsel shall he give to ye,
But I wot not where he may be.'
The Masters would no longer bide,
To seek that child they forth would ride,
And some rode East, and some rode West,
Where'er they thought to find him best,
A fortnight thus they fruitless ride,
Seeking the child on every side.
At last their way led thro' a town
Where children sported up and down,
They saw one boy who smote another,
Calling him 'Blockhead, Devil's Brother,
Thou art a son of Devil's blood,
Evil dost work, and never good,
Fatherless blockhead, I thee call!'
Thereto agreed the children all.
Two of the Masters right well heard
The children's striving, word by word;
Then Merlin saw he was espied,
And straitly sware his fellows lied,
He saith: 'Now here two clerks I see,
In many a place they seek for me,
To rome, methinks, they 'ld have me go
Judgment on certain points to show.'
The Masters came unto that child,
And spake to him in accents mild:
'Child, tell us what shall be thy name?'
'Merlin,' he answered at that same.
With that, a goodman of that land
Came with a besant in his hand
To Merlin gave it presently --
He quoth: 'Full hasty Sir, shalt be
The meaning of thy dream to know
That may full well misfortune show;
But since thou profferest such meed
Ready am I thy dream to read.
There, in thy midden, didst thou see
A well spring forth with waters free,
And of that water sweet, I think,
Thou, and thy neighbours oft did drink.
This is the meaning. -- In that mould
Shalt find a hoard of good red gold,
Which in thy midden hid doth lie,
Thither we'll go, the truth to try.'
Then with that man they all would go,
For all were fain the truth to know;
Their way unto the place they made --
The child bade bring forth pick and spade,
A hole they delved, deep in the ground,
There, as he said, a hoard they found,
For good red gold the hole did fill,
The good-man bade take at their will,
His fellow towns-men, all and each
With that same treasure were made rich;
The Masters took gold at their will,
But Merlin, he refused it still.
To Rome their way the Masters make,
The little lad with them they take;
Then, as they went upon their way,
They asked the child if he could say
Or any certain reason find
Wherefore the Emperor was blind?
Merlin he quoth: 'Assuredly,
I well can tell the reason why --'
Then were the Masters blithe and gay,
Swiftly to Rome they took their way,
And ere the term was at an end
Safely to court their way they wend.
Then to the Emperor thus they say:
'Sir, we be come on this set day.'
He saith: 'An answer do ye bring?'
'Nay, Sire' they quoth, 'by Heaven's King,
But Sire, a child we here have brought
Who well may tell ye all your thought.'
The Emperor said: 'Ye surety stand
For this, upon your life and land?'
'Yea, Sire,' they said, 'our all we'll stake
That he an answer true shall make.'
The Emperor quoth: 'Tell, if thou may.'
The child spake: 'Swiftly go thy way
Unto thy chamber, there, aright,
I'll say why thou hast lost thy sight.'
Into his chamber went anon
The Emperor, and his clerks each one,
Upon his bed he sat him there
And bade the child the truth declare.
Quoth Merlin to the Emperor:
'Beneath thy bed, in this same bower,
Beneath the ground, yea, deep adown,
Lieth a boiling calderon,
That bubbles sevenfold, day and night,
And Sire, that has thee reft of sight,
For while these bubbles boiling rise
The sight is banished from thine eyes;
But might a man those bubbles stay
Thine eyes were fair and bright alway.'

"The Emperor marvelled much at this,
And bade them move his bed, I wis,
Full deep they digged at that same
Until they to the caldron came,
The seven bubbles boiling see,
And know the lad spake veritie.
Then quoth the Emperor straightway:
'Child, I will do thy will alway,
Some reason canst thou find, I ween,
Of what this calderon may mean?'
The child quoth: 'Yea Sire, without doubt,
But bid thy Masters stay without,
The tale to end then shall ye know.'
The Emperor bade them forth to go,
No man of them might longer stay --
The child began his tale straightway;
'Those seven bubbles shall ye know
Thy seven Masters soothly show,
For they have stablished customs new
The which ye shall full sorely rue.
If any man dream, night or day,
That they shall come to them straightway,
And bring a besant in that stead
That so their dream be rightly read.
The dream at will they read alway
And thus thy clerks the folk betray,
And for this sin, Sire, do I find,
Thou of thine eyes be waxen blind.'
The Emperor quoth: 'If it be so
Tell me what it were best to do?'
The lad quoth: 'Sire, I trow't were best
By one of them the truth to test,
If ye the oldest Master slay
The largest bubble sure shall stay.'
The Emperor bade his men off-smite
The oldest Master's head, forthright,
And even as that deed was done
The largest bubble ceased anon.
With that the Emperor, straightway,
Bade men the Masters all to slay;
Then cold and calm the water grew,
And joy henceforth the Emperor knew,
Merlin, he washed his eyes that tide,
Then could he see to walk and ride:
The Emperor thus regained his sight,
His seven Masters lost their might.

"Sir, so they blind thee, and beguile,
Thy Masters seven, with cunning wile,
For if thou follow this their rede
An evil road they will thee lead,
As Herod, for his trusting came
Well nigh unto an end of shame."
The Emperor quoth: "Nay, Lady fair,
Such shame shall never be my share,
Sooner shall they to death be dight!"
"Certes," she quoth, "there art thou right!"
"Lady, I pledge me in this stead
To-morrow shall my son be dead,
And none shall free him from his bale."
Here endeth the eleventh tale.

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