My wit is nought--I cannot learn the way.
And much the less of things that greater be,
That asken help of colours of device
To join the mean with each extremity,
With the nearest virtue to cloak alway the vice;
And as to purpose, likewise it shall fall
To press the virtue that it may not rise;
As drunkenness good fellowship to call;
The friendly foe with his double face
Say he is gentle and courteous therewithal;
And say that favel hath a goodly grace
In eloquence; and cruelty to name
Zeal of justice and change in time and place;
And he that suffer'th offence without blame
Call him pitiful; and him true and plain
That raileth reckless to every man's shame.
Say he is rude that cannot lie and feign;
The lecher a lover; and tyranny
To be the right of a prince's reign.
I cannot, I; no, no, it will not be!
This is the cause that I could never yet
Hang on their sleeves that way, as thou mayst see,
A chip of chance more than a pound of wit.
This maketh me at home to hunt and to hawk,
And in foul weather at my book to sit;
In frost and snow then with my bow to stalk;
No man doth mark whereso I ride or go:
In lusty leas at liberty I walk.
And of these news I feel nor weal nor woe,
Save that a clog doth hang yet at my heel.
No force for that, for it is ordered so,
That I may leap both hedge and dyke full well.